No One Stands a Chance in Colonel Chinn’s Cave House

In a state known for it’s characters, it truly takes someone special to build a reputation like the one of Colonel George M. Chinn (1902–1987) . Growing up in Mundy’s Landing in Kentucky MaverickMercer County, Kentucky, Chinn earned the nickname “Double Chinn,” thanks to his robust physical frame and family’s surname. Robust not only in stature but in personality, Chinn had highly diverse interests and accomplishments, and he was influential not only in Kentucky, but across the world. He played on the 1921 Centre College national championship football team, was personal bodyguard to Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler, and served in the armed forces during both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, becoming an accomplished ordinance engineer and designer of the M-19 automatic grenade launcher.

Yet one of Chinn’s most lasting and notorious legacies is his cave house. During prohibition, he blasted a cave into the limestone cliffs of the Kentucky River and used it as an illegal watering hole and gambling den called “Chinn’s Cave House.” Unsurprisingly, the cave did cause Chinn a few legal headaches but, as the excerpt below from historian Carlton Jackson’s Kentucky Maverick reveals, this twentieth-century renaissance man always had a trick up his sleeve. Continue reading

Blueberry Bourbon Beer Punch Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book University Press of Kentucky

We’re not ‘Blue’ about this Bourbon Punch

Yesterday, we brought you a suggested menu from The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook for your 4th of July cookout. Today, let’s talk signature cocktails! There’s no better place to turn than The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book for martinis, cocktails, and punches featuring every Kentuckian’s favorite spirit. For an on-theme 4th of July punch, we’re recommending the refreshing (and blue!) Blueberry Bourbon Beer Punch. Or, if you’re looking for a drink with more “sparkle,” check out last year’s recipe: The Kentucky Sparkler.

Blueberry Bourbon Beer Punch

From The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book by Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler.

Don’t chuckle over this seemingly unlikely combination of ingredients until you’ve tried it. It’s summer in a glass.

  • 2 bottles cold Wild Blue™ blueberry lager
  • 1 can (12-ounce) frozen Minute Maid™ pink lemonade (defrosted, but no water added)
  • 2 ounces blueberry-infused bourbon (Lightly crush 1/3 of a full pint of blueberries and combine with remaining whole berries and bourbon. Shake and let steep 3 days. Strain, label, date, and refrigerate.)
  • 10 ounces water
  • 2 lemons cut into wedges
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Into a 1 1/2 – 2 quart glass pitcher, pour the bottles of beer. Add lemonade, bourbon, and water; stir. After the foam subsides, squeeze and drop in the lemon wedges. Stir. Add ice and blueberries. Stir again. Serve over ice.

Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book University Press of Kentucky

4th of July

Food + Friends + Fireworks + Fun = A 4th of July Celebration

In The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, Maggie Green offers up not only delicious, seasonal recipes using fresh, local ingredients, but also provides menus to make holiday planning easy. For a classic, Kentucky-proud celebration, Maggie’s menu includes:

  • Ale-8 One Slow Cooker Pork Barbecue with Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
  • Sweet and Sour Creamy Coleslaw
  • Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Nina’s Potato Salad
  • Sweet Bourbon Baked Beans
  • Buttermilk Black-‘n’-Blue Berry Cobbler
  • and Fresh Herbed Lemonade, Sweet Iced Tea, or mix ’em up in an Arnold Palmer

You’ll find a personal favorite of ours below, or a printable version of the recipes on Maggie’s menu here. For more great meals (and recipes), The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook is available wherever fine books are sold.

Succulent Pork Barbecue

Every Kentucky cook needs a good pork barbecue recipe up his or her sleeve, and I have learned several juicy tips over the years.

First, a bit of terminology: the best meat for pork barbecue is an economical, rectangular roast from the top part of the pig’s shoulder called Boston butt, Boston roast, fresh pork butt, or Boston-style butt. (Don’t ask me why a pork shoulder is called a butt.) Pork shoulder is sold bone-in or boneless, in sizes ranging from 4 to 8 pounds. I consider this cut the chicken thigh of a pig—the meat is moist, dark, and distinctive. The well-exercised muscles in the shoulder crisscross around a bone and are supported by collagen and tendons, with fat marbled throughout. Because of this hodgepodge of muscle, tendon, and collagen, the meat has to be coaxed into tenderness. Given enough time to cook, though, it shreds easily for the best pulled pork barbecue around.

The flavor varies, depending on the method of cooking—smoked, oven-roasted, or slow cooked—but the end result will be fork-tender goodness. What does fork tender mean? Poke a fork in the cooked pork and twist: the meat shouldn’t feel tight, and it readily falls apart.

Ale-8 One Slow Cooker Pork Barbecue

Nothing holds a candle to home-smoked meat, but this slow-cooked version works in a pinch—a large pinch piled high on a bun, that is. It uses Kentucky’s own soft drink, Ale-8 One. This spicy soda, bottled in Winchester since 1926, is sold around the state. If Ale-8 One isn’t available, substitute a spicy ginger ale. Just like a true, wood-fired smoking process, low and slow is the rule. For best results, start early in the morning or let the pork slow-cook overnight. In my (oblong) slow cooker set on low, the pork takes about 11 hours to reach a fork-tender state. Check the tenderness of the meat after about 10 hours to gauge how quickly or slowly your slow cooker cooks.

Makes about 12 servings

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • One 4- to 4.-pound pork shoulder or Boston butt pork roast
  • One 12-ounce can Ale-8 One
  • 2 tablespoons Barbecue Dry Rub
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, or the barbecue sauce of your choice

Place half the onion in the bottom of a slow cooker. Lay the pork shoulder on top of the onion. Pour the soda over the pork and sprinkle with the dry rub and remaining onion. Cover and cook on low for 11 hours. At this point, the meat should be fork tender, which happens when the internal temperature reaches about 200 degrees F. If it’s not fork tender, turn the meat over, cover, and cook for 1 to 2 more hours. When the pork is done, place it on a platter and shred and chop the meat. Keep the meat warm, and serve the barbecue sauce warm on the side. Alternatively, discard the juice from the slow cooker and place the meat back in it. Mix in the barbecue sauce and warm before serving.

Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

This sweet sauce, flavored with bourbon, is inspired by a recipe I developed for Barbara Smith.

Makes about 4 cups.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • One 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup Kentucky bourbon
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup Kentucky sorghum or molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, chili sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, sorghum, vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool and store in glass jars in the refrigerator.

Kentucky Fresh Cookbook Maggie Green

Robert Crane Bob Crane Sex Celebrity and My Father's Unsolved Murder

Bob Crane’s Murder Thirty-Seven Years Later: His Son, Robert, Remembers

On June 29, 1978, thirty-seven years ago today, Bob Crane, the erstwhile star of Hogan’s Heroes was found murdered in an apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona. Still one of Hollywood’s most famous unsolved murders, Robert Crane, Bob’s eldest son, still works to reconcile the loving father he knew with the man who was front-page tabloid news. In an essay for The Daily Beast, Robert recalls his father’s journey from  Hogan’s Heroes, to sex addiction, to murder.

Excerpted from The Daily Beast, May 31, 2015

On Thursday, June 29, 1978, I was 27 years and two days old. I had just interviewed Chevy Chase, the hottest star in Hollywood at the time, for an article I was doing for Playboy’s new Euro-hip Oui magazine. I was spiraling up in a thermal of great possibilities when I encountered a nasty downdraft.

I received a call that Thursday afternoon from my dad’s business manager who said there was a rumor my dad had been shot. He hadn’t. But someone had crept into the apartment where he was staying in Scottsdale, Arizona, while doing a dinner theater gig, and bashed his head in with a blunt object while he slept. My dad was two weeks shy of his fiftieth birthday.

Read the full article online.

Crane Sex Celebrity and My Fathers Unsolved Murder Bob Crane Robert’s memoir, Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder was released earlier this Spring.  In this poignant memoir, Robert Crane discusses that terrible day and how he has lived with the unsolved murder of his father. But this storyline is just one thread in his tale of growing up in Los Angeles, his struggles to reconcile the good and sordid sides of his celebrity father, and his own fascinating life.

Crane began his career writing for Oui magazine and spent many years interviewing celebrities for Playboy—stars such as Chevy Chase, Bruce Dern, Joan Rivers, and even Koko the signing gorilla. As a result of a raucous encounter with the cast of Canada’s SCTV, he found himself shelving his notepad and tape recorder to enter the employ of John Candy—first as an on-again, off-again publicist; then as a full-time assistant, confidant, screenwriter, and producer; and finally as one of Candy’s pallbearers.

Through disappointment, loss, and heartbreak, Crane’s humor and perseverance shine. Beyond the big stars and behind-the-scenes revelations, this riveting account of death, survival, and renewal in the shadow of the Hollywood sign makes a profound statement about the desire for love and permanence in a life where those things continually slip away. By turns shocking and uplifting, Crane is an unforgettable and deeply human story.

Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Joseph Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz Robert Crane University Press of Kentucky

Bogart, Ava, Dad and Me: Growing Up as Hollywood Royalty

9780813161235Yes, we know, Father’s Day was yesterday. But, we have one more story for you that’s too good to not share!

All dad’s are certainly ‘cool’—in their own special ways—but when you’re the son of famed director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra) and the nephew of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, stories about your family are just a bit ‘cooler.’

Tom Mankiewicz was genuine Hollywood royalty. He grew up in Beverly Hills and New York; spent summers on his dad’s film sets; dined with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; and traveled the world writing for Brando, Sinatra, and Connery. A member of one of Hollywood’s most elite cinema families, Tom “Mank” Mankiewicz was destined for a career in film.

In his memoir, My Life as a Mankiewicz (Paperback $19.95), Mank describes one very memorable summer on set with his father in Rome:

Dad made The Barefoot Contessa in Italy in 1953, directing his own screenplay. It was the first film he made for his recently formed independent production company (Figaro) and starred Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner. Dad was nominated for his writing. Edmond O’Brien won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Dad and Mother had decided to take me to Rome with them. I was going on twelve.
[ . . . ]
I remember one cold, cold night when the film was shooting in a cemetery. I’d been dressed for the day in shirt sleeves, and the wardrobe man got me a jacket. I was still shivering. Humphrey Bogart walked by and noticed: “Are you cold, Tommy?”
“I sure am.”
“Here, try some of this.” Bogart pulled out a flask, took off the top, and filled it with a thimbleful of scotch.
I’d never had a drink of hard liquor in my life, only an occasional sip of wine at home. But what the hell, he was Humphrey Bogart. I downed it, just like they do in the movies. My throat started burning. I coughed. And then, son of a bitch, my chest did feel warmer. Bogart grinned.
In a half hour he passed by again. “Still cold?”
“A little bit.”
He filled the top again. I drank.
Later on Dad came by to take me home. “Ready?”
I looked up at him with a stupid smile. “Yesss . . .” The smile remained plastered on my face.
Dad looked around, zeroing in on Bogart. “He’s drunk. It has to be you, you prick.”
“Christ, Joe, the kid was cold. I was just trying to help out.”
To this day I have the singular honor of having received my first real drink from Humphrey Bogart.
On another late afternoon I found myself sitting near the set with Ava Gardner and several cast and crew members. Ava was described in the film as “The World’s Most Beautiful Animal.” She was certainly all of that at the time. A huge celebrity, constantly pursued by a gaggle of paparazzi, she had recently divorced Frank Sinatra and was currently keeping company with Luis Miguel Dominguin, the most charismatic matador of his day. Part artist in the bull ring, part rock star, he was impossibly handsome with zero body fat and a thin scar running down the side of his face. Sinatra had come to Rome in an attempt to get Ava back, but left empty handed.
During this particular week, Dominguin was fighting in Spain and Ava had time on her hands after shooting. “I want to go to the movies tonight,” she announced. “What’s at the Fiametta?” (The Fiametta was a little theater that ran American films in English, the only cinema in Rome to do so.)
“Who wants to take me to the movies?”
She looked around. Silence. “Anybody?” Silence. Clearly, the prospect of escorting a publicity magnet to a public venue was too intimidating to those sitting there.
“Tommy, how about you? Want to take me to the movies tonight?”
“Sure,” I said.
She grinned. “Great. It’s a date. I’ll send my car to pick you up at Joe’s.” She smiled at me and walked off.
A while later Dad had wrapped and was ready to take me home. “Guess what, Dad? I’m taking Ava Gardner to the movies tonight.”
His face darkened. “Like hell you are.”
“Why not? She asked me to.”
“Because I’m not going to have my twelve-year-old son’s picture in a hundred magazines escorting Ava Gardner in Rome for the evening. When you’re older you’ll understand how truly bizarre that’s going to look.”
My eyes misted over. I was about to cry. Dad noticed, softening. As usual, he solved the problem. That night, the public relations man on the film escorted Ava to the movies. I went with them. It was fine with me since secretly I knew I was the one who was really taking her.
Just a note, though it doesn’t really apply to a twelve-year-old and Ava Gardner. Actresses, especially beautiful or publicly famous ones, are quite intimidating to most men. At the end of a marriage or a publicized affair, you’d be surprised how often their phone doesn’t ring. Many guys are too scared to call. “Oh, she’d never go out with me. I’m not rich enough, good looking enough, famous enough, etc.” The truth is that most actresses are simply women with a fragile public occupation. They’re just as insecure and sometimes more so than anyone else. There is, after all, a certain pressure on them to be seen as publicly desirable, which sometimes forces them to make terrible personal choices in their lives. I’ve known several who got married just because they thought it looked good and relieved them of the need to date men in order to stay in the news.
I remember going to Disneyland in the late seventies with Kate Jackson and her little niece. She’d been somewhat known for a TV series called The Rookies, but now was one of Charlie’s Angels, which made her as instantly recognizable as anyone in show business. Suddenly, restaurants you couldn’t get into before are holding their best table for you. Going to be a little late? Don’t worry about it. Disneyland called out security to escort us, no waiting in line, as hundreds of fans screamed at and for her. Kate, a very private person, seemed almost scared. “You know, Mank,” she said, “I’m still little Skater (her father’s nickname for her) Jackson from Alabama. I haven’t changed. Everyone else has.”
I never knew where Dad went those nights he left our Rome apartment. All he would offer by way of explanation was: “Somewhere down by the train station where I can sleep.” A few weeks before the end of shooting, Bogie and Betty Bacall invited me to have Sunday brunch with them in their suite at the luxurious Excelsior Hotel on the Via Veneto. I arrived at the appointed time, picked up the house phone in the lobby, and asked for Mr. Bogart. He answered. “We’re in 675, you know, just a couple of doors down from where Joe keeps his suite.”
I could hear Betty’s voice in the background, warning him: “Bogie . . .”
“Come on up,” he said quickly.
It was a wonderful brunch. They were both so kind to me and such fun. When Betty wrote her autobiography By Myself, she inscribed a copy to me: “Tom. Remember Rome . . . Love, Betty.” By the way, the Excelsior Hotel is kind of near the train station. Say . . . two miles away.
Father's Day Reads University Press of Kentucky

Happy Father’s Day! Books on Dad Written by their Children

Oh, Dads…a seemingly limitless source of bad jokes (have you heard this one? What do you call an Alligator wearing a vest? An investigator!), bear hugs, and well-meaning advice. Some Dads are goofy, some serious, and my Dad will probably spend all day watching the U.S. Open, yelling at golf balls to “Get in there!” If I were to write a book about my Dad, it would include his terrible scrambled eggs recipe and endless battle against the rabbits that eat the flowers in his yard. Below are a few of our favorite books written by children about their fathers…I promise, the stories are much more interesting than scrambled eggs.

More Information:

Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder

Hitchcock’s Partner in Suspense

Voice of the Wildcats

Dalton Trumbo

My Life as a Mankiewicz

Portrait of a Father

My Father, Daniel Boone

Celebrating Belle Brezing’s 155th Birthday

Historian Thomas D. Clark often claimed that Lexington, Kentucky, long entertained an “infatuation” with the town’s alluring and notorious brothel keeper, Belle Brezing. Today, on Belle’s 155th birthday, that sense of allure continues to draw people into her fold just as it did over a century ago.

Last year, former Lexington Herald-Leader turf writer Maryjean Wall added fuel to the flame of this tantalizing true story of vice and power in the Gilded Age South with her book, Madame Belle: Sex, Money, and Influence in a Southern Brothel. After years on the streets and in an upscale bordello run out of a former residence of Mary Todd Lincoln, Belle Brezing borrowed enough money to set up her own brothel. She leveraged that first house and her early connections with wealthy patrons to purchase the more suitably ostentatious 59 Megowan Street. Here, on any twilit evening in Lexington, it was common to see fashionable international travelers, horsemen, and civic leaders mounting the five steps to the elegant house.

From the time Belle closed her business until her death in 1940, the once-enterprising madam lived out her retirement as a recluse in her crumbling, ivy-covered mansion. Upon her passing, though, evidence of Belle’s notoriety was made clear when the Lexington Herald’s entire run of nineteen thousand newspaper copies containing its remembrance of Belle sold out by ten that Tuesday morning. News of Belle’s death also reached national levels with an obituary in Time magazine. Her renown was further secured for future generations when she was widely credited as Margaret Mitchell’s inspiration for Madam Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind.

Along with Wall’s book, Belle’s presence is still very much felt around Lexington, particularly downtown on Market Street where you could enjoy a nice bourbon at Belle’s Cocktail House. If you can think of a better way to celebrate her birthday, we’d love to hear it.

Until then, here’s an excerpt from Wall’s Madame Belle to tide you over: Continue reading