Blasts from the Past

They had their 15 minutes - or maybe longer - and then they vanished. Their names are as much a part of Boston's storied history as baked beans, the Big Dig, and the 2004 World Series. We picked out ones whom we thought you might be curious about today. Oh, and if you're wondering about Whitey, sorry, no word yet. We e-mailed him. It bounced back.

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By James Sullivan, James Horrigan, And Janice O'leary
November 25, 2007


The Boston College wide receiver who caught Doug Flutie's legendary "Hail Mary" pass to beat Miami in 1984, Gerard Phelan has been working for the financial communications firm Bowne & Co. for almost 20 years. He married college sweetheart and cheerleading captain Lisa Pacella. Their three children are budding athletes. Son Alex is a quarterback at Xaverian Brothers in Westwood, older daughter Taylor is pursuing track and soccer, and younger daughter Hannah recently finished second in the state on the balance beam. Phelan, 44, still sees Flutie "five, six, seven times a year." Their police escort after the Miami game remains a cherished memory: "I felt like one of the Beatles."


A Boston University dropout who played in several local bands (including the Grass Menagerie with Willie Alexander), Doug Yule joined the infamous Velvet Underground in 1968. New York's Velvets played Boston so much that they considered it a second home. "In fact, for a long time, even New Yorkers thought we were from Boston," says Yule, who assumed leadership upon Lou Reed's departure. After souring on the music business, he built ski chalets in New Hampshire and became a cabinetmaker, which led to his current passion, building violins. The peripatetic Yule, now 60, recently moved to Seattle, where he plays fiddle in three old-timer groups. Each violin he crafts, he says, "teaches you something new."


"When things go wrong, don't walk away," went the opening lyrics of Robin Lane and the Chartbusters' biggest hit, which earned the band a video appearance in the inaugural hour of MTV in 1981. More than a quarter-century later, Lane is still working to get people to confront their emotions. For six years now, she has run A Woman's Voice, a workshop that encourages abuse victims to express themselves by writing songs about their experience. "Most of them don't think they can write a song, and they're totally nervous," says Lane, who is in her late 50s and lives in Western Massachusetts. "When we finish, they're jumping up and down." Once married to Andy Summers of The Police, she's been writing her memoirs, studying psychology, and performing living room concerts for fans and supporters of the workshop. Though the Chartbusters still do occasional shows, she says she doesn't miss the music industry. "When I was younger, I never thought I'd quit," she says. "But it can break your heart." This year, she healed another wound when she met the son she gave up for adoption 38 years ago. Not surprisingly, he's a musician.


At 68, Bob Gamere, the well-traveled sportscaster and former host of Candlepins for Cash, is "semi-retired," though he's been doing some announcing at Boston University track meets and was until recently calling horse races at the Brockton Fair. "You do the things they ask you to do," he says. A long-distance runner, he still pounds the pavement with the Somerville Road Runners, though he skipped the Marathon this year. Two of his sons are in local media - Geoffrey ("Geespin") is a DJ on JAM'N 94.5, and Patrick is a NESN videographer. The third, Andrew, coaches football and basketball at a Connecticut boarding school. Gamere, a flamboyant figure whose troubles got him fired from several TV gigs, still gets stopped by people who appeared on Candlepins, which ran from 1973 to 1980. "Fourteen thousand people bowled on the show, and they all expect me to remember them," he says with a laugh. "I say, 'Yeah, you won nine dollars.' I'm usually right on, or close to it."


Long before the idea of gay marriage seemed a possibility, Elaine Noble made history in 1974 as the first openly gay state legislator in the nation. Today, Noble, 64, sells real estate on the Florida panhandle, where she and her partner raise their two horses, a Fox Trotter and a Tennessee Walker. "My dream was to have a place where I could walk down to my own barn and take care of my own animals. I've got it." But she still keeps an eye on Massachusetts politics and thinks about buying a condo on the Cape. "I miss my friends," she says, "but I don't miss the winters." As for her feelings about the Bay State forging a path on gay marriage, she says: "My first reaction is, 'About time.' Paying state and federal taxes with little or no spousal benefits seems quite unfair. I am proud of Massachusetts for paving the way." Whether she'll walk the aisle remains unclear. "Would my partner and I wish to marry? On good days, yes. When she talks so 'creatively' to the wide screen when her beloved Georgia Bulldogs are playing, I am not so sure."


Still seen around Castle Island with his 14 grandchildren, former mayor Ray Flynn's got Southie in his blood. But he calls the invitation to serve as grand marshal of New York's 2007 St. Patrick's Day parade "an extraordinary honor, an incredible experience, almost indescribable."

Flynn, 68, is shopping around a screenplay of The Accidental Pope, the novel he co-wrote with Robin Moore in 2001. Flynn has spoken recently in New Jersey and California, as well as in Dublin and Rome, where he met with Pope Benedict XVI, a friend he knew as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger while US envoy to the Vatican from 1993 to 1997.


It's not the way a ballplayer wants to be remembered, but that's the way life goes for Bryce Florie, the Red Sox reliever who was hit in the face by a line smash off the bat of then-Yankee Ryan Thompson during the 2000 pennant race. After a brief return to the Sox, he blew out his elbow in the Marlins system and underwent "Tommy John" surgery. Still, he perseveres. Florie, 37, spent this summer as a player-coach with the fledgling Macon Music of the independent South Coast League. "When I came into camp, I was way behind," he says from his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. "I battled through and got some outs, and I saw my velocity getting better and better." He hopes to catch on with a minor league team next spring and take another run at the majors. He doesn't stay in touch with his former Boston teammates, a colorful bunch that included Nomar, Carl Everett, Jose Offerman, and Rich "El Guapo" Garces. "Baseball is a crazy thing. You're friends for a year or two, then everyone does their own thing." The line drive, he says, is a thing of the past. "I've had plenty of those. I still wear the glasses, just in case."


Her name's been on ballots with mixed results, but Marjorie Clapprood - the mother of two, grandmother of six, and former state representative and radio personality - may be winning the greatest battle of her life, a fight against leukemia, diagnosed in 1998. She'd been in remission since 2003, but this summer, 58-year-old Clapprood received a bone-marrow transplant from older sister Maureen Ruscetti. Aside from "the typical stuff that you get with chemotherapy" and watching "my gorgeous blond hair go down the drain," she's just passed "the first real benchmark of a successful transplant": the 100-day mark. Clapprood and her husband, Chris Spinazzola, live in Sharon.


One of the most prominent artists of the Black Arts Movement and founder of the African American Master Artist-in-Residence Program at Northeastern University, Dana Chandler retired from his long professorship at Simmons College a few years ago. He now lives in Gallup, New Mexico, where his youngest son, Dana James, is making his own art and studying Native-American history. For years one of Boston's most outspoken activists, Chandler, now 56, was a ferocious watchdog. "I can remember saying things to people like Kevin White, that you're really screwing things up," he says with a chuckle. "Those might not have been the exact words I used."


Boston's original rocker has lived in California since the early '60s, when he was a teen idol with the Top 10 hit "Palisades Park." The Revere native, married to his "East Boston girl" for 52 years, flew back a lot lately to see his beloved Red Sox and to promote his new rally song, "Down at Fenway Park." It started out as a "Palisades" remake, 66-year-old Freddy Cannon says, until he got a "nasty" e-mail from "Palisades" songwriter and former Gong Show host Chuck Barris, a Yankee fan. When he's not deep-sea fishing, Boom Boom still whips up the oldies crowds. "That's what I am - a rock 'n' roll act," he says. "I don't sing pretty songs."


President of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, since 2002, Colin Diver made recent headlines by refusing to allow a national magazine to include the progressive liberal arts institution in its annual college rankings. It was not his first experience in the public eye. He was one of the key people profiled, along with his wife and sons, by J. Anthony Lukas in the famous book on Boston's desegregation battle, Common Ground. Having taught at Harvard, Penn, and BU, it took Diver awhile to get used to the "West Coast sensibility."

Reed and Portland are "laidback, more free spirited," he says, and "you obey traffic signals, both as a driver and as a pedestrian." Most of all, at Reed College, Diver found, "you don't wear your ambition on your sleeve. You have to be a little apologetic for being ambitious." A member of the board at alma mater Amherst, Diver gets to Massachusetts at least four times a year. He's thankful for the new nonstop service on Alaska Airlines between Portland and Boston. When the 63-year-old Diver and his wife, Joan, visit the South End, the couple stay at a B & B "literally next door to the house we owned" on West Newton Street. After having bought the town house in 1970 for $27,000 and sold it in 1977 for $65,000, the Divers winced when it went on the market not long ago for $2.9 million.


Though she was happy to leave "that whole limelight thing" behind, Christina Cotter, then girlfriend of The Perfect Storm fisherman Bobby Shatford, says she knows the blockbuster book (1997) and movie (2000) about the Andrea Gail did some good. "That was a great time, in a strange way," she says. "People got to see what the whole fishing industry is about, the risks people take." Still doing nurse's aide work, she has a new boyfriend, a woodworker. They recently moved into a log cabin in the White Mountains together. "It's a totally different lifestyle from living near the ocean," she says.


It's been 14 years since he served in public office, but Bruce Bolling, 62, bumps into people "every now and then who still think I'm a city councilor." That doesn't surprise the lifelong Roxbury resident, former mayoral candidate, and first African-American president of the Boston City Council. "I'm still involved in the community," says Bolling, since 1994 the executive director of MassAlliance, which provides training and technical assistance to minority- and women-owned contracting businesses. He's also a leader in the Boston Campaign for Proficiency, "a grass-roots community effort" intended "to reduce the achievement gap with minority students." Bolling has two grown daughters and a 3-year-old grandson. He and his wife, political consultant Joyce Ferriabough, have a son, Bruce Jr., 13, a freshman at Boston Latin Academy. Neither will be surprised if Bolling's namesake takes up the family business. If so, he would be one of a third generation of Bollings to seek office. The younger Bolling had a letter published in the Globe earlier this year asking Governor Deval Patrick to make combating teen violence a priority. He told his father he might run for governor or US senator. "So I said, 'Listen, get a good education, because that's the foundation to being able to achieve anything.' "


She lost her 2002 bid for governor, but few expected we'd heard the last from Democrat Shannon O'Brien. The 48-year-old Whitman resident earned two local Emmy nominations for her 2003-2004 work as a consumer reporter on WB56, but found she missed "running an organization, using my management skills and leading a team." So today she is CEO of the Boston-area Girl Scouts organization, and, no surprise, the first female state treasurer is now sought by national media as an expert on all things Mitt Romney. As her former gubernatorial opponent's presidential campaign has "gained traction," O'Brien, an unabashed supporter of Hillary Clinton, is pleased that "the whole flip-flopper mantle has really taken on a little more speed and momentum." When she's not critiquing Romney's platform, the former captain of the Yale women's soccer team and her husband, lobbyist Emmet Hayes, enjoy watching their 8-year-old daughter, Regan, play Whitman youth soccer and get started in Girl Scouting with a local Brownie troop. Will she run for office again? O'Brien cites her "passion for public service" and says she "wouldn't rule it out right now, but I wouldn't rule it in."


In 1975, two years after the Roe v. Wade decision, physician Kenneth Edelin was convicted of manslaughter for performing an abortion. The conviction was overturned in 1976, and Edelin was free to practice medicine at Boston Medical Center, then Boston City Hospital. He flourished there for 30 years, focusing his practice on delivering healthcare to some of the city's poorest women. He also became chairman of the ob/gyn department at Boston University's medical school. Now Edelin, 68, has turned those turbulent years in the '70s into a book, just published. Broken Justice: A True Story of Race, Sex and Revenge in a Boston Courtroom tells the story of Edelin's arrival in Boston as a resident in 1971 up until the overturning of his conviction. "It took me 30 years to write this book," he says, "but it was very intense in the last two to three years. I took a course at Harvard for doctors who want to write." Edelin also became dean of minority affairs at BU medical school, in hopes of influencing future physicians, "so they recognize the importance of sensitivity to differences in their patients, both cultural and economic." BU's medical school has started a scholarship in his name. He retired in June 2006 and splits his time between homes in Florida and Martha's Vineyard. Despite his tough times in Boston, he still misses the city. "It's a very vibrant place," he says, "even though I had some intensely negative experiences there."


In A Civil Action, John Travolta portrayed Jan Schlichtmann, the lawyer who pressed a case charging deadly pollution by two corporate giants in Woburn in the 1980s. Schlichtmann and the eight Woburn families involved lost their nine-year battle (though an $8 million settlement was paid), but Schlichtmann, 56, continues to wage the war. Now he wins the skirmishes. From the office he built on his Beverly waterfront property, he represents "people waking up to an environmental nightmare." In 2001, he won a case in New Jersey similar to the Woburn case without even going to trial, after a health study connected childhood cancers to chemicals found in ground water from dumping by two companies. A study released in 1996 also linked the polluted ground water and the incidents of cancer in Woburn, which came too late for the case. But Schlichtmann says receiving that confirmation "makes their tragedy have meaning." He says that not a month goes by without his hearing from someone in the world who has learned about the story and been touched by it. These days, he's representing the folks affected by the explosion in Danvers last year, and he says he's still applying lessons learned on the Woburn case. "All the families involved formed a trust, so they are a single, legal entity. It's an electrifying concept." His three young kids stay on top of him. "They have a great sensitivity to the environment," he says. "They're always pointing out the sins of their father, telling me what I'm doing wrong with the household recycling."


Former Celtic Hank Finkel, who had the impossible task of following Bill Russell at center, is still a fixture on the sylvan streets of Lynnfield, though he's no longer running. These days, at 65, he walks. "I've had too much trouble with my lower back and my hips," the 7-footer says. "They're loaded with arthritis." While he still folds himself into the desk chair from which he operates his one-man office-furniture business in Woburn, he prefers to get out on the road. "It's the only way you're going to make money - gotta knock on doors," he says. "High Henry," as announcer Johnny Most called him, still gets together with Dave Cowens, the other Celtics center, whom he battled every day in practice. "We tell old war stories," says Finkel. "He's hilarious."


The former head of Fleet Bank who sold the company to Bank of America in 2003, Chad Gifford, 65, still has an office - with an enviable view - downtown, even though he is now chairman emeritus. "I'm having fun," he says. "It's very different work now, a different job really. There is no such thing as 9 to 5 when you're running a big company. It's more like 24/7. You're constantly thinking of issues within the company. That's all disappeared." Gifford was with the same bank for 38 years as it assumed different names - Bank of Boston and BankBoston before Fleet. Now he divides his time between the boards of Bank of America, NSTAR, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Boston Plan for Excellence, a support program for improving the city's public schools. He's made time to see more of his four children and six grandchildren. And he's inseparable from his dachshunds, especially Polly. He travels between his homes in Winchester, Boston, Nantucket, and Florida and devotes weekends to sailing his boat. "My golf's as crummy as it's always been," he says, "There's just so damn much to enjoy out there." Before, he never had time to read the paper. Now he spends an hour a day with it. "It makes you more thoughtful about your own priorities and how we, as a country, seem to have our priorities screwed up."


A stray bullet hit Hawa Barry while she was riding the Orange Line home to Lynn in 2003 from her job as a hairdresser, and her story touched the city in myriad ways. She was 30 and pregnant at the time the bullet struck her at the Mass. Ave. T stop, and though Barry survived the shooting, her unborn son, just days away from birth, did not. At the same time, she and her husband, Mamadou Bailo Bah, were fighting to stay in the country as refugees seeking political asylum from Guinea in West Africa. They've won their legal battle and remain in the United States, now living in Jamaica Plain. She has recovered from the shooting by focusing on her 3-year-old fraternal twins. "They are everything to her now," says Bah. "We are able to enjoy life again."

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