I have met some very cool and interesting people in my short time here on Planet Earth. As the great poet of our generation, Billy Joel, once said, “So many faces in and out of my life / Some will last / Some will be just now and then.” One of those people who lasted is the author of a seminal text in my field of research, Sandow the Magnificant.
Today marks Sandow’s 140 birthday. As such, my friend sent me this email and picture:
Today is April 2, Eugen Sandow's 140th birthday. I've attached a greeting, and I'm sending it to a few people who might appreciate it. The image may be silly, but the intent is serious: to remind us of Sandow and his contributions to both the world in general and our lives in particular.
Happy Birthday to the man who inspired many of us and enriched all of our lives.
CA can’t seem to let it go, nor does it seem that he has ever heard the old saying that it is better to have someone think you a fool than open your mouth and prove it, he tries to get the last word in. I let him have it as I’ve lost any interest in trying to help him improve his site.
Sorry Jo Cose, on this we absolutely don't agree. Good luck to you as well.
At this point, I have become bored with this and try to end it gracefully. This is the final email I will send to CA:
True objectivity in historical research is impossible. There is no way to separate yourself from your opinions. Every scholar accepts that and does their best to present their prejudices and biases up front so there is no confusion as to where they are coming from. What you choose NOT to discuss is as much a personal judgment as what you DO choose to discuss.
I’m not sure how saying that cheating was involved is “clearly” a judgment call or a critique. I have copious sources that prove that both Sampson and Sandow cheated those two nights in 1889. Facts are not critique, they are facts. It would be my opinion to say that Sandow was a cheater, or that he enjoyed cheating, or that he wanted to beat Sampson so badly that he cheated. These are all opinions and my personal critique of the events; they cannot be substantiated.
The bottom line is that the site is your website, and only you should decide what goes on it and what doesn’t go on it. I respect that. But remember, there is a lot of personal judgment on your site by what you choose not to include.
If you ever decide to include a section on Sampson, please let me know. He is an extremely important person in Sandow's life, and should not be overlooked. He is also important to the history of strongmen as he typified a subgenre of the vaudevillian strongman. I would be happy to write something, but bear in mind that it will not hide anything to make anyone look pure, innocent or a victim. I don’t worship these guys, I study them as historical figures.
Good luck with the site.
Hi Jo Cose,
It all goes back to one thing. You call Sandow a "cheater."
Using that word makes your story a critique. It's clearly a judgement call. I want there to be as little personal judgement in the Sandow website as possible. From the dozens of letters I get every week, I can tell you that the site is viewed by hundreds of museums, scholars, students, and the media every day. The writings on the site should allow the reader to draw their own conclusions, not dictate them.
Unfortunately, DC has now gotten involved. Here is his contribution.
Hi Jo Cose,
My goodness, what a tempest you've stirred up! I tried to expalin to CA that you were the world's expert on CAS, and that your little caption was accurate. His objection came with the word "cheating" because (I suppose) it casts doubts on Sandow's character. Personally, I see nothing wrong with your explanation, but I'm not the webmaster . . .
I tried to explain my point of view to CA. Here's what I wrote:
As for Jo Cose, I know that he is an honest historian who has done much work on the life and somewhat tarnished career of Charles A. Sampson. I think that your objection to the word "cheating" is understandable because it implies that ES was involved in something immoral or illegal. Personally, I think it's really important to keep in mind that ES was a showman who often played fast and loose with the truth, but lots of theater people did so, too -- for instance, is it "cheating" for a magician to say that a rabbit has "magically appeared" out of a top hat? Of course not; it's part of the act. Is it cheating to claim that a strongman lifted a ton with his little finger? That's not quite so clear (although all reasonable people would realize the impossibility of such a claim).
Best to you,
I'm sorry CA, I'm a little confused...what do you mean by taking sides? Who thinks there is still a controversy over whether or not Sampson used trickery and that Sandow out-tricked the trickster? There is no controversy. Both Sandow and Sampson cheated throughout thier careers. Likewise both cheated at the challenge bouts in Oct/Nov 1889 in London; clearly, however, Sandow cheated better. These are just plain documented fact (this is also what the first chapter of my thesis is all about). Nor is there any need to worry about dishonoring Sampson, he did that himself just fine.
As far as "positives" about Sampson, there really aren't any. THAT is what makes him so interesting. He was a complete fraud, he was a cheat, he was a theif. He was exposed time and time again on stage and in the newspapers for being a fraud, and yet, he still managed to sell out theatres wherever he played. This is all why I am fascinated by his career. He raises all kinds of questions: Why did people still come to see him? How did his style of performance fit into the growing interest in physical culture? What does his being exposed say about the the rise of investigative reporting? How did he use advertising to overcome bad press (and is there even such a thing as bad press if he was still getting into the papers and selling tickets)? Were people really niave or were they more willing to suspend their disbelief at the turn of the century? The questions are really endless...that is why I go to the Library of Congress whenever I can and research him, why I went to London on two separate occasions to do research on him, and why I am going to France in the winter. He is, to me anyway, the most interesting strongman in the history of strongmen.
Anyway, I'm still willing to send you a pic or two of Sampson to add to your website, but if you are looking for only positive things about him, I don't think I will be able to provide you with that. The facts just don't support it.
Hello again Jo Cose. I am not going to take sides on this issue. To me, it's a moot point to dishonor a man over a hundred years after a fact that seems still in controversy. If you have some interesting postivies to write about Sampson and what made a great strongman on his own merits, I would be happy to publish it.
I hate to correct DC, but Sampson actually used a large unattractive male assistant (Cyclops) to cheat his way through his performances. It was in fact Sandow who used the attactive accomplice (don't forget that it was Sandow, not Sampson, who won).
Hello Jo Cose,
I wrote to DC, Sandow's biographer and told him the story of Sandow vs. Sampson... here is what he wrote to me........
"Jo Cose is right about the Sampson match; Sandow did win it by trickery, but many consider his opponent to have been an even greater trickster. Thus, to beat him at his own game was quite a coup. Rather than saying that Sampson "used women and cheating" to win, I would have said he used "a pretty accomplice and subtle trickery" or something like that."
ahh, one of the many interesting things in Sandow's life.
If you'll recall, Sandow was whipped by a young woman named Lurline (The Water Queen) while he was performing in NYC at the Casino. Part of that attack was because of her assistance during the Sandow/Sampson bout. Apparently she was trying to blackmail him and was going to expose the truth of how he beat Sampson. They actually went to court and she threatened to expose him as a fraud and was going to bring Atilla to America. They settled out of court.
During the bout, one of the feats was to break chains by flexing their biceps. Sampson's arms were bigger than Sandow's and therefore Sandow was unable to use the chains Sampson provided.
Being the showmen that he and Atilla were, they were well prepared. Earlier, Sandow had had chains made. So, when the time came, he pulled out the chains and said something to the effect of "Never fear, I'm prepared." Like Sampson, Sandow offered the audience the opportunity to test the chains. He passed them around the theatre and let people pull and tug on them to test them.
The last person to test the chain was a young, attractive woman (our Lurline). She, through some slieght of hand, switched the original chain for a gaffed one, which Sandow used. It was rigged to be easily broken.
Hope that clears it up :)