Revisiting An Old Rugby Story—And Keeping Track Of History As We Head Into The Future
Can you imagine football players in their 50s and 60s? Playing for the jersey, not for money.
When you have been around 50 years, as this magazine has been as of last April, it is hard to come up with stories, about places or institutions, that you have not done at least once before. But then, the magazine's audience turns over several times over 50 years, so why not revisit a subject we have covered before.
And so it is this month, with Gary Greenberg's piece about the great sport of rugby. We last covered rugby in 1977. One of the million people who hung out at Nick's Lounge in Fort Lauderdale was the late Keith Lawrence, a voluble Brit who had the nickname Captain Bligh and who fancied rugby. He fancied it enough to start his own team, and helped organize a league of South Florida teams. The games were spirited, the players' girlfriends were striking and the parties after games were memorable. Rugby songs are traditionally bawdy.
“Four and twenty virgins
Went down from Inverness....”
The descendants of that team and league are still around. Captain Bligh apparently has gone on, but his son Toby Lawrence is still active in the sport. At least that's what Greenberg writes. He should know. He is one of the many men who still plays the game. Rugby is a rough sport, played without the armor of football. Can you imagine football players in their 50s and 60s? Playing for the jersey, not for money.
This story reminds us of our New Year's vow, which is to better organize the magazines' archives. We never planned it this way, but Gulfstream Media Group's magazines have become publications of record—a history of an era and its people. We get requests for stories, or photos, that appeared years ago. It can take hours just to find the right issue, if it exists. We are not alone. The Palm Beach Post recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and it did not have a single copy of its first issue. It featured one from a few years later.
One story that has gotten repeated requests since it first ran in 1982 was about the notorious drug runner, Ken Burnstine. The late Gaeton Fonzi wrote a three-part series on Burnstine six years after his death in the crash of his World War II fighter plane which he air raced. Burnstine had been a respected developer. He had an Ivy League background and built the Kenann Building, the round structure at Oakland Park Boulevard and U.S. 1 in Fort Lauderdale. He was also president of his temple. But when he got in financial trouble, he began to run dope. He was a near genius in that craft. When arrested after years of investigation, he turned federal informant. He was scheduled for a trial, which could bring down dozens of associates, when he died.
There were published reports that he had actually faked his death—that the body in the plane was not his, and that he had been spotted living in Europe. Fonzi's article blew up that rumor, but suggested that Burnstine's plane may have been sabotaged by people who wanted him dead. Fonzi also discovered that the man had intelligence connections and may have been helping the CIA in its Latin American machinations.
We have gotten periodic requests for that story during the last 30 years. Two came late last year—one from a man writing a book in which Burnstine is a minor figure. The second was a relative of a pilot killed in a crash of one of Burnstine's pot planes. He was hoping his relative might turn out to have been working for the CIA, and not as just a common drug smuggler.
Anyway, Fonzi's series was titled “Ken Burnstine Is Still Dead.” Four decades later, he still is. And we have the magazines to prove it.