HBO’s Series – Show Me a Hero: Parts 5 & 6

Long ago I saw a film called The Way We Were. This was not some small time indie – no this was the full-blown Hollywood love story. Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford starred and headlined this film. Though, on its surface, it was a romance between two people, two different people, it was really about all of us. What drove us at a point in our lives when we thought that what we cared most about was all that really mattered. Looking back, the phrase rang true – the way we were.

In Show Me a Hero, the HBO miniseries created by David Simon and directed by Paul Haggis, we sat through the first two-thirds of this six-part series, and watched as what apparently all that mattered in Yonkers, New York, in the late 80’s until 1994, was the color of your neighbor’s skin.

I pointed out the story line switches between seemingly unconnected various minority characters seemed both jarring and unexpected. We were asked to absorb stereotypical characters of the political persuasion, And we were tasked with feeling repulsed by characters who cloaked racism in terms relating to property values.

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It was both difficult and disappointing. I mean it was hard and unsettling to absorb that some Caucasian residents of Yonkers referred to the black people of Yonkers in a variety of unsavory ways: Those people – they don’t want what we want…or they live like animals, or what others yelled from passing cars, N—— go home!

Or politicians who placed harmony in the community well behind grasping and keeping power.

Yeah, then factor in the fact that much of this was set in City Hall meeting rooms, bars, court rooms, judges chambers, or in the streets. As well as the homes of the pols, the white majority, and the black minority.

Nick Wasicsko was a City Council member, a lawyer, and a former cop, who ran on a platform opposing the federally mandated housing, got elected Mayor of Yonkers. But once in office, he saw that opposing Judge Sand would be both impossible, and cost prohibitive. So he switched gears and eventually plans were not only submitted and Yonkers was going to put in 200 units of low-income housing.

But things were far from over. Another City Council Member, One Hank Spallone, who had always been against the housing, vowed to continue to fight. So he won the next Yonkers Mayoral election. Mayors in Yonkers serve only two-year terms. Spallone was in and Wasicsko was out.

But Spallone was destined to be unable to overturn or overcome the law. So construction began.

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Show Me a Hero: New HBO Series from David Simon – Episode 1.4

By now, after watching the first 2/3rds of HBO’s Show Me a Hero, I think I am more accustomed to the show’s beats and measures. This must be the case as in my review of the previous segment, I took pains to point out that the switches in the story flow were somewhat jarring and that’s aside from being unexpected. But if you are ready for them – then we must get to talking about things like predictability.

And speaking of predictable – the show has gone way too far in the direction.

Of course Mayor Nick Wasicsko was defeated in the election for his second term. Of course his opponent, the gas-bag otherwise known as Hank Spallone, was the new mayor elect. And to the surprise of no-one, except those who voted him in, Spallone who had campaigned on a platform/vow to fight the housing initiative all the way to the Supreme Court, would be unable to deliver.

As Nick Wasicsko had said – The Supremes had already ruled against both hearing appeals and overturning lower court decisions. But Nick’s words fell on deaf ears of an electorate that was more than willing to elect some one who said what they wanted to hear. Even if he was just mouthing empty promises and platitudes.

When Mary Dorman asked Spallone – what’s the difference between you and Wasicsko, all Spallone could do was to say, Come on… Mary…you know me…!

Back in the world of the side stories – Billie Rowan met the guy, John Santos, and partied. And got pregnant. He of course, was far from being a beacon of truth and honesty, ended up in jail on a robbery charge.

Doreen, the one with a little baby and a dead husband became a crack-head. And worse, because even when she hadn’t any money, she got the rock by going around the corner with the dealer.

The lady whose vision was failing, Norma, was finally able to get an in-house aide to come around, paid for of course by the city’s social services – but the girl was scared of the project and the scary people who lived there. She would not leave until Norma’s adult son arrived home to walk her out of the building.

Carmen Febles, the young Dominican woman who left then returned to New York, to work and earn a living, was finally able save enough money to fly her kids back to New York. Her story has success written all over it. That’s got to mean, she’ll be a part of the tragedy that has yet to happen.

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Show Me a Hero: New HBO Series from David Simon – Episode 1.3

Where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna hide
When the people find out
That you lied?

Those are some of the lyrics to the song that closed Episode 3 of HBO’s Show Me a Hero Series. The song is called When the People Find Out and it was sung by Stevie Earl and The Dukes.

Clearly it is a reference to the Yonkers Mayor Nick Wasicsko who ran for Yonkers Mayor on a platform that began and ended with his opposition to the Federal Mandate that Yonkers had to put up 200 low-income public housing units. The then sitting Mayor, Angelo Martinelli, may not have been in favor of the public housing project, but he refused to appeal the decision made by Judge Sand as he saw it as a losing and costly proposition. In his view, it would less costly to simply agree and submit the plans rather than fight against it.

Needless to say – it cost Martinelli another term as Mayor, and Wasicsko ran off with the election becoming the youngest Mayor in America. So when we left Part II, Wasicsko was the Mayor, the city of Yonkers was in chaos over the situation, and the City Council Chambers was often a scene not of passionate but polite debate, but most of the time bordered on being somewhere between unruly and nearly riotous.

The City had dithered and delayed, postponed and put off acceding to the Judge’s ruling and was now facing oblivion that began with lay-offs starting with non-essential city jobs to the loss of police, firefighters, and eventually even the city faced a loss of water, as the fines were about to strangle the city.

Dire times indeed.

The Yonkers Board of Directors had been brought in to cut costs, or said another way to scare the living daylights out of the recalcitrant City Council Members that had so far refused to sign off and come into compliance.

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