Albany's William Kennedy has national recognition with his portrayals of underlife in old-Albany including the Pulitzer Award for Ironweed.
On Wednesday August 1 400 filled the Great Hall of the Canfield Casino to hear Kennedy travel up the thirty miles from Albany to tell tales of the Saratoga he knew.
Susan Arbetter, radio host was there to moderate a conversation with Kennedy - but the conversation proved to be all Kennedy and his reminisces and thoughts of a different Saratoga.
A Saratoga that owed much to the Lad from Tipperary as Kennedy characterized John Morrissey who shaped our Saratoga.
Ole Smoke, a moniker hung on Morrissey after he was burnt in a bare knuckle boxing match had made forays to Gold Rush California and spent time working for Tammany Hall finally came to Saratoga to build a gaming house.
Morrissey with racing blue bloods Travers, Jerome and Hunter established the first thoroughbred racing in Saratoga in 1863 across from the present track. In 1864 racing moved across Union Avenue to its present location./
Gambling and gamblers were part of the Saratoga scene. Kennedy mentioned the story of the New York State Police Commandant who when asked about Saratoga said that we didn't go there.
Arnold Rothstein would be a fixture in Saratoga in the twenties (he was the man who fixed the Black Sox). His mansion on Union Avenue is now a bed & breakfast. (If you watch HBO you'll see Arnold in Boardwalk Empire.)
That whole period came to an end with the Kefauver Hearings - and Governor Dewey saying No More.
That was Saratoga sixty years ago.
Great presentation and free courtesy of the Alfred Z Solomon Foundation.