Today I am one of the blogs sharing my review for the blog blitz for The Little Gate-Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer.
Mace Bugen might have been an achondroplastic dwarf, 43 inches tall with an average size head and torso set on small, twisted legs—but that didn’t mean he was an idiot or a pushover. In truth, he was smarter than most; over the years, he learned to effectively turn what society in those days called a handicap into a powerful tool he could use to his advantage.
“When I was a kid,” he once said, “I’d ask myself, Why is that guy on the football team? Why can’t I be on the team? Why didn’t God give me the height so I could be the hero?”
“Then at some point I figured it out: I gotta do something special to let ’em know I’m me.”
In The Little Gate Crasher: The Life And Photos Of Mace Bugen, I remember my amazing great-Uncle Mace Bugen through his journey as a first-generation Jewish-American kid in working class Philipsburg, NJ to becoming the first celebrity selfie-artist—way ahead of his time.
Featuring vintage photos of Mace with his exploits, The Little Gate Crasher captures three decades of American pop culture, seen through the unique lens of Mace and his gate-crashing exploits.
Underneath his antics, we meet a complex man who continually defies others expectations and meets life on his own terms. Mace becomes a successful businessman and devoted son to his aging parents. But in his gate-crashing antics, we best get to see Mace’s unique combination of guile, cunning and sense of entitlement, which he used to engineer photos of himself with some of the biggest celebrities of his day. If people were going to stare at him all of his life, he would give them something to see.
The Little Gate Crasher features over 50 vintage photos of Mace with celebrities, athletes and politicians, including Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Muhammed Ali, Richard Nixon, Jane Russel, Joe DiMaggio and more.
The Little Gate Crasher: The Life and Photos of Mace Bugen
Author: Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer
Published: April 18, 2016
Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: August 26, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
You see a picture of Mace Bugen and think “I know him from somewhere!” He’s one of those faces you won’t forget, and not just because of his size. Mace was an achondroplastic dwarf who did not let his small stature get the best of him, instead of blaming his height, he accepted it! His size was the equivalent to a four year old. He was ahead of his time taking what we now know of as selfies with some of the biggest celebrities, politicians and sports figures of his time! Sometimes the celebrities were willing participants; sometimes the pictures are blurry in his creative ‘photo-bomb’ attempts to get photos. He even got a photo with Former President Nixon and the man who would later develop the polio vaccine: Dr. Jonas Salk.
This book is more than just a picture book of a man with celebrities: we learn about him, his family (which includes the author) and his life in this biography. The author, Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is his great-niece and she put her heart and soul into this book. Mace may have been short in stature but his personality and antics were larger than life. This should be a book everyone should have, it would make a perfect coffee table book.
Moishe Morris “Mace” Bugen
June 12, 1915- October 31, 1982
About the Author:
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is an experienced educator, author and speaker. At Jewish Learning Venture, she works as Director of Whole Community Inclusion and leads disability awareness programs for the Philadelphia Jewish community. Her most recent book The Little Gate Crasher, a memoir of her Great-Uncle, who overcame society’s prejudices about dwarfism to lead a remarkable life, was one of the national book selections for 2017 Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month. Gabby writes for and edits The New York Jewish Week’s The New Normal: Blogging Disability and is also a featured Philly parenting blogger for WHYY’s newsworks. Gabby holds a B.F.A. in theatre and creative writing from Emerson College and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
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Author: Nellie Bly
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
Nellie Bly, posing as “Nellie Brown,” went undercover to investigate the deplorable conditions of insane asylums. Her memoirs of this event form the basis of “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” which forever changed the way the world looks at treatment and housing of the insane.
It’s about time I read a non-fiction book! And I picked a great one! As it says in my bio, I LOVE anything about asylums, mad-houses, or psychiatric hospitals. For some reason, the historian in me geeks out and the little seen horror freak comes out. Don’t ask me why, I’ve tried to explain it, but I can’t, I just love them. In These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, her main character, Jo Montfort, looks up to Nellie Bly as a journalist and a woman who works for change. That intrigued me, so I found Bly’s account and read it in 24 hours. It was inspiring, maddening, and heart breaking all at once.
Nellie actually faked insanity to be committed to the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. That may sound romantic to the rest of us, but during 1887, it was a nightmare. Her assignment was to give an accurate account of the plight of the insane from beginning to end. The thing that annoyed me the most was the commitment process. She saw a couple of doctors who asked her a short list of questions and then declared her a hopeless case of insanity. Though thankfully, they admitted that her pulse and heartbeat didn’t evidence insanity . . . yes that was indeed sarcasm.
Even at Bellevue Hospital, the conditions were primitive, at best. No heat, no extra clothing. The asylum on Blackwell’s Island was even worse. The food was minimum and mostly spoiled. The nurses beat and bullied the patients. But the most surprising thing to me, was the daily activities of the patients. From 6 AM-8 PM, they sat on hard benches, not allowed to talk, to move, to slouch. 14 hours of sitting straight and quiet was their main “treatment”. Anyone would be insane after a couple days of that! Fortunately, Nellie’s story incited a slew of changes in the treatment of the insane in New York State. “The committee of appropriation provides $1,000,000 more than was ever before given, for the benefit of the insane.” So thankfully the most basic of problems were addressed with the publication of this story. But modern day mental health still has way too many problems.
My husband is a Physician Assistant at the Emergency Department so he sees his fair share of insane patients coming through. I always press him about the process that each patient and doctor and policeman have to go through to get someone committed to a psych ward. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone trying to commit suicide or even admitting that they want to. But those people usually only stay for a night. They are then released after consulting psychiatrist. There are other more serious cases that have to go through the court system. As long as one doctor signs off on a commitment order, that patient can be committed to a short term psychiatric facility. When I asked about any long term facilities, Ivan informed me that there are none. The modern mental health system is dependent on pharmaceuticals. When I asked about those patients who won’t take their medication or those for whom medication doesn’t help, he just shrugged. We’ve discussed mental health many times and he always shows such frustration for the current process.
People can still be committed by family members who just can’t be bothered to care for their loved ones or are trying to take advantage of them. There are still people walking the streets who legitimately belong under 24 hour psychiatric supervision. And there are no longer any long term facilities available for those who need them. Sadly, there are still too many changes that need to be made and problems to be fixed. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone in the mental health system and to most medical professionals. Anyone who enjoys history would also enjoy this book.
Kim recently reviewed Santa Claus is for Real and it piqued my interest so much that I had to read it! I listened to the short audiobook that is also narrated by the author. I also loved this one. It’s a perfect read at Christmas!
Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing
Author: Charles Edward Hall
Published: October 14, 2014
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: December 16-18, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 5 Stars
Description from Amazon:
A heartwarming true-life fable from the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Santa—including his personal journey of discovering the magic of Christmas. Every year, over a million people attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, where they have the pleasure of seeing Charles Edward Hall don a traditional red suit and become the world’s most famous Santa Claus—a role he has played for twenty-seven straight years. But Hall wasn’t always such a jolly old soul. Believe it or not, this Santa was once a Scrooge. For the first time, Charles tells the inspiring story of his own transformation, from a wide-eyed child who once caught a glimpse of Santa through a frosty windowpane, to a young man who lost his faith in jolly old Saint Nick. It wasn’t until fate intervened, in the form of an unexpected role, a stage malfunction, and hundreds of letters from children, that Charles rediscovered his Christmas spirit. Ultimately, he realized Radio City was his life’s work, and that Santa isn’t just a role. He lives in the hearts of the millions who attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and everyone who embraces the Christmas spirit. Santa Claus, in other words, is real. When Charles needed him most, Santa was there, with kind words and a special gift. As this delightful true-life fable proves, he is there for everyone. All it takes is a good heart, an honest joy, and a belief in the magic of Christmas.
Santa Claus is for Real is a truly magical journey that Charles Edward Hall takes us on. This is also his journey as he narrates the audiobook and it was perfect! Hall has been Santa at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since 1987. As children, we see the magic of Christmas which includes Santa. There is just something about that man with the long white beard and red outfit that fascinates children. As adults we become busy in our everyday lives and we can forget how special this time of year can be. This has been a difficult year and it just did not feel like Christmastime for me. Then I listened to this audiobook and it changed everything! It was the perfect read for me and I found the Christmas spirit. Everyone needs to read this book or listen to the audio version. We all need to believe in Santa Claus.
Thank you Charles Edward Hall for your story and I would love to one day be able to go to NYC at Christmas time.
Santa Claus is for Real is recommended.[Top]