Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, Yes to be inducted into Rock Hall

The late rapper Tupac Shakur and Seattle-based rockers Pearl Jam lead a class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees that also include folkie Joan Baez and 1970s favorites Journey, Yes and Electric Light Orchestra.

The rock hall also said it would give a special award to Nile Rodgers, whose disco-era band Chic failed again to make the cut after its 11th time nominated.

Baez will be inducted only months after her 1960s paramour, Bob Dylan, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The hall’s 32nd annual induction ceremony will take place on April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. HBO will show highlights later, with SiriusXM doing a radio broadcast.

Shakur was shot and killed after attending a boxing match in Las Vegas in 1996, a murder that has spawned conspiracy theories but remains unsolved. “Changes,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” and “Life Goes On” are among his best-known songs. Only 25 when he died, Shakur left behind a trove of music that was released posthumously.

Pearl Jam exploded in popularity from the start in the early 1990s behind songs like “Alive,” “Jeremy” and “Even Flow.” After Nirvana, it is the second band with roots in Seattle’s grunge rock scene to make the hall. Behind singer Eddie Vedder and other original members Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Pearl Jam remains active and is a popular live act.

Vedder is no newcomer to rock hall ceremonies, having given induction speeches for Neil Young and the Ramones.

Baez was a political activist and mainstay of the folk movement, performing at the first Newport Folk Festival at age 19 in 1959. She was known primarily as an interpreter of others’ songs, introducing Dylan to a wider audience at the beginning of his career. Their affair ended badly in 1965, for which Dylan later apologized.

Baez’s own “Diamonds and Rust” in 1975 was one of her biggest hits.

Journey’s 1981 song “Don’t Stop Believin”” was given new life by being featured in the closing scene of HBO’s “The Sopranos” and became a favorite of a new generation. Its 6.8 million iTunes sales makes it the most-bought song on that platform from the pre-digital era, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Former singer Steve Perry, estranged from the band for many years, offers some potential rock hall drama: will he show up for his induction? Founding member Neal Schon was quoted in Billboard recently saying that there are so many non-rock artists in the hall that “I don’t really care about being there.” He did allow that it would be nice for fans of the band, never a critical favorite.

Britain’s Yes, known for its complex compositions, was a leader of the 1970s progressive rock movement. Yes’ hits include “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” and its fans have waged a vociferous campaign to see them honored. Founding bass player Chris Squire, the one constant in many years of personnel changes, died in June 2015.

Electric Light Orchestra got its start melding classical influences to Beatles-influenced pop, and charted with “Evil Woman,” “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” The band essentially exists now in leader Jeff Lynne’s imagination and home studio and had a mildly successful comeback a year ago.

Chic, led by Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards, has become the rock hall’s version of Susan Lucci and her long quest to win a Daytime Emmy. While Shakur, Baez, Pearl Jam and ELO were elected this year in their first time on the ballot, Chic has endured years of disappointment.

The hall’s award for musical excellence to songwriter and guitarist Rodgers is no consolation prize. When disco cooled, Rodgers became one of the hottest producers in the business, behind the boards for some of the ‘80s most indelible albums: David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and the B-52’s “Cosmic Thing.”

The scariest haunted house this election year? ‘Doomocracy’

Artist Pedro Reyes thinks American politics are pretty darn terrifying, especially this election year, and he wants to scare the wits out of you with his “Doomocracy” exhibition.

Alternately called “The Haunted House of Political Horrors,” the satirical, performance-based installation that opened this month has visitors navigate a series of rooms that deal with scary things like gun violence, climate change and painkillers addiction.

“When I think of Frankenstein, I think of genetic engineering and the food industry,” said the artist, whose primary home is in Mexico City. “When I think of vampires, I think of banks and the financial sector, or if you think of zombies, you can think of how people are addicted to prescription drugs.”

Spread over three floors of the sprawling Brooklyn Army Terminal, it’s timed for both Halloween and the general elections — “a perfect recipe to do something with a haunted house with the most scary things you can find today, which is politics,” he said. “Monsters are fantasy, but the scary things we’re dealing with for this project are real.”

As Reyes began considering how “these metaphors of scary things” could be staged, he appropriated the haunted house format — walking through a maze of horrors — for an “intense theatrical experience” in which groups of 12 people walk from room to room encountering short skits performed by actors and audience members cast in roles.

The experience starts in front of a monumental effigy Reyes created of the Statue of Liberty as a Trojan Horse, representing “this idea of how war has been normalized … in the name of freedom.”

Visitors are then whisked in a minivan to another building to begin a tour of 14 darkened rooms.

One room is a commentary on the diabetes epidemic and the food industry. It simulates a funeral parlor dominated by a coffin in the shape of a pink-frosted Twinkie while a man plays junk-food jingles on an electric organ. The undertaker explains to prospective customers — the audience — the new trend in fashioning coffins in the shape of people’s favorite sugary foods.

In another room, the setting is a corporate boardroom where a bailout unfolds; the audience votes on whether to get a big bonus or save the company.

The project provides a “space for catharsis for all the things that you fear every day,” Reyes said.

Katie Hollander, executive director of Creative Time, which is presenting the project, explained how it came about.

“As the political climate continues to heat up and became in some ways more and more absurd we felt it was a project that needed to be realized,” she said. “People are really struggling to understand the complexities and absurdities of this particular election and feel that our candidates and elected officials aren’t necessarily tackling the big issues of our time.”

In a fake polling place, audience members fill out referendum ballots. In the next room, they’re in for a bit of a shock (which won’t be disclosed here). In fact, during a press preview, some rooms were off-limits in the interest of creating an aura of mystery. When asked if any skits involved actors in the role of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Reyes would say only that visitors were in for a surprise at the end.

“Doomocracy” runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to midnight through Nov. 6. Advance ticket purchase is necessary for the two-hour experience.

Clinton signs lease for Brooklyn space

Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed a lease in a Brooklyn, New York, building for what is expected to house her presidential campaign headquarters.

A person familiar with the plans says Clinton has signed the lease for two floors in an office in New York’s Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. The person spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to speak publicly about internal planning.

Clinton is expected to announce her presidential campaign in the coming weeks. The decision to sign the lease likely sets off a 15-day period in which presidential candidates are required to make their intentions known.

The building also houses the U.S. attorney’s office of Loretta Lynch, who has been nominated to be President Barack Obama’s next attorney general.

The lease was first reported by Politico.

Go For the Food: Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit

To New Yorkers like me, going to Coney means hopping on a Coney Island-bound subway train to an amusement park at the beach. But on a trip to Detroit, I learned that “coney” means something entirely different.

In Michigan and a few other places, coney is a generic term for hot dogs topped with onions, mustard and chili.

Brooklyn’s Coney Island has its own hot dog culture thanks to Nathan’s Famous, which has been selling dogs there since 1916. But chili is not a typical New York topping for a dog — we mostly stick to mustard and sauerkraut. Still, I try to sample local cuisine wherever I go, and in Detroit that means trying coneys sold by two long-time rivals: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.

The stores stand side by side on West Lafayette Boulevard in Detroit’s downtown, which is in the very early stages of attempting a revival following finalization of the city’s bankruptcy. Streets are clean, there’s abundant private security, and cheap real estate is attracting investors and entrepreneurs. Lafayette and American are near many downtown attractions, including the famous sculpture of boxer Joe Louis’ fist, the historic Westin Book Cadillac hotel, the Riverwalk and Campus Martius Park. It felt perfectly safe as I arrived for my taste-test, and yet, my visit was marked by a series of memorable moments that you wouldn’t expect at, say, a suburban diner or trendy cafe.

For starters, in the foodie world, photographing your meal is so routine that it generally attracts no attention. But when I began photographing my coney at Lafayette, I got a long, bewildered look from the pair of somewhat scruffy gentlemen seated next to me. And when I asked our server for a receipt, he looked at me blankly, then tossed his notepad on the table, muttering, “Write it yourself.” Believe it or not, this all added to the charm of the place.

The dog itself at Lafayette was a surprise to my palate. The flavors were stronger than I’d expected — quite a bite to the onions and chili. On the advice of my dining companion, a 20-something Michigan native who recently moved to Detroit, I also had a Vernors ginger ale, a brand that originated in Detroit in the 19th century. It was fantastic, better than big-name brands and artisanal sodas. We also shared some good french fries.

But boy, was I full when we went to American for the second dog. Our near-dread at another round must have been apparent from our expressions, because the woman who came to take our order took one look at us and said something like, “You’re doing a comparison, aren’t you?”

We nodded guiltily.

“You should have come here first!” she scolded, then added: “Actually it’s good you came here second. You’ll leave with a better taste in your mouth!”

Turns out this wasn’t just a waitress — this was American’s co-owner, the brassy and dynamic Grace Keros, whose grandfather, a Greek immigrant, began selling hot dogs from a pushcart on the site in 1917. His brother opened Lafayette next door in 1924, but Lafayette is no longer owned by the family, and Keros wants it known that the dogs and chili are completely different.

Everyone I met in Detroit seemed to agree, saying that by tradition, locals only ever go to one place or the other. But in the name of investigative journalism, I had to try both, even though I wasn’t really psyched for the second round. But a funny thing happened on the way to my stomach: I liked it. To my palate, American’s coney had a slightly milder flavor, a bit more like the dogs I’m used to, dare I say, at the REAL Coney Island in Brooklyn. Not that Lafayette was bad, mind you — and as a non-local, I’m not pledging lifelong allegiance to either place. I later learned that Anthony Bourdain visited Detroit in 2013 and declared the best coneys to be at a spot called Duly’s, but there was no way I could handle a third.

When I later circled back to take exterior photos, a man was pacing back and forth outside both stores, raging incoherently at the skies. I dared not enrage him further by whipping out my camera, so I had to come back a third time for pictures. It seemed like a fitting coda to an only-in-Detroit adventure.

If You Go…

AMERICAN CONEY ISLAND: 114 W. Lafayette, Detroit; 313-961-7758, http://www.americanconeyisland.com/home.htm .

LAFAYETTE CONEY ISLAND: 118 W. Lafayette, Detroit, 313-964-8198.

Brooklyn offers urban cool in Democratic convention bid

Brooklyn, at long last out of the shadow of Manhattan, has become its own urban brand, emanating youthful energy, gritty cool and liberal politics, a combination backers hope will make it the edgy choice to host the 2016 Democratic convention.

Brooklyn’s rise as a national symbol of liberalism — embodied by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who calls the borough home — coincides with the revival of the left wing of the Democratic Party. And de Blasio’s decision to center his city’s bid in Brooklyn offers powerful political symbolism and risks for the party’s chosen candidate.

If the Democrats spurn a recent trend to have conventions in swing states and opt for deep-blue Brooklyn, the choice allows their eventual nominee to connect with the borough’s offbeat image and liberal values. And while that could produce a dynamic televised spectacle and energize the party’s base, it could also alienate some undecided voters.

“Brooklyn is really the heart of cool, has tons of cachet and would really fire up some Democrats,” said Tobe Berkovitz, media professor at Boston University. “But I’m not sure Brooklyn has much allure if you’re a suburban voter from outside Cincinnati.”

Brooklyn, home to 2.6 million people, was viewed for generations as merely a support system for its glamorous neighbor across the East River. Manhattan’s glitzy offices and culture were made possible by Brooklyn’s industrial infrastructure and low-lying brownstone neighborhoods that often housed new immigrants.

But Brooklyn is having a moment. Crime has fallen and rents have risen. As acclaimed restaurants and art galleries have opened, tour buses now frequent the borough’s thoroughfares. Brooklyn’s cultural touchstones have evolved from Ralph Kramden to Spike Lee, Jay Z and the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

The city wants to harness that hipness as part of its bid to fire up the party faithful and the media. The convention would be centered at the Nets’ new home, the sparkling Barclays Center. De Blasio administration officials say the borough’s other trendy venues, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park, could also hold events and parties.

The other boroughs will also play a role, according to the proposal de Blasio’s administration will submit to the Democratic National Committee. One idea being floated, literally, is a media party that would start on the Staten Island ferry and continue in a minor league ballpark on the banks of New York Harbor. The administration will also target young voters by launching a crowd-sourcing campaign soon on social media websites to help select an unofficial logo and slogan for Brooklyn 2016.

“We believe it’s the perfect home,” said Peter Ragone, a senior adviser to the mayor. “We believe New York looks like what America is about to look like.”

The most recent convention in New York was in 2004, when Republicans gathered against the backdrop of Sept. 11. The last time the Democrats were in the city was 1992, when Bill Clinton was nominated at Madison Square Garden.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has a home in New York’s suburbs and represented the state in the U.S. Senate, is considered an early favorite to capture the 2016 nomination. Some pundits feel Clinton could benefit from the association with Brooklyn.

She was bested by Barack Obama in getting youth and liberal support in 2008; perhaps tellingly, the Clintons have appeared with de Blasio several times during his first months in office, including attending his inauguration. A spokesman for the former secretary of state didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Some of Brooklyn’s logistics could be challenging, however. Because the borough has only 3,500 hotel rooms (enough to house a tenth of the expected attendees), many convention-goers will likely stay in Manhattan, which could create a strain on the city’s mass transit system. But the de Blasio administration believes the city’s practice in hosting large events will lead to a seamless experience.

Some Brooklynites who live near the arena aren’t so sure.

“Add all the security to the traffic we already have and that’s not going to be fun at all,” said Cheryl Richards, 43.

But others believe the attention is only good for the ascendant borough.

“It’ll be all positive: It’ll create jobs, make money and bring attention to Brooklyn,” said Dan Cross, 41.

Five other cities — Philadelphia, Phoenix, Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama — submitted bids for the convention, and the DNC is expected to make its pick by early next year. Although parties in recent years have opted for swing states (In 2012, Democrats went for Charlotte while Republicans picked Tampa), most pundits don’t think convention geography matters much on Election Day.

“There is little to no evidence in political science research that the location of a presidential nominating convention increases or decreases the party’s chances of winning the presidency,” said Wendy Schiller, political science professor at Brown University.

Jason Collins to finish season with the Nets

Jason Collins has been signed for the rest of the season by the Brooklyn Nets.

The NBA’s first openly gay player had finished his second 10-day contract, which meant the Nets had to sign him for the remainder of the season if they wanted to keep him.

Collins has added five points, six rebounds and six steals in eight games since signing his first deal on Feb. 23.

He’s been a reliable veteran big man on a team that has lost center Brook Lopez for the season and has recently been without Kevin Garnett because of back spasms.

Collins is playing his 13th season in the league, including six previous seasons with the Nets.

New York activists release video of alleged anti-gay police violence

The New York City Anti-Violence Project on June 10 released a 3-minute video said to show anti-gay violence by the New York City Police Department.

The incident occurred in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn on June 3.

The AVP, in a news release, said, three gay men – Josh Williams, Ben Collins and Antonio Maenza – reported they were walking past the 79th Precinct when an NYPD officer accused one of the men of public urination and attacked him, throwing him against a police car.

The AVP said other police officers joined in the assault, throwing the man to the ground and pepper spraying him while he was in handcuffs.

The man was handcuffed tightly, causing lacerations. He also was restrained at the hospital where he was treated.

The two other men also were arrested, according to the AVP, which planned to hold a news conference on June 11 at 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan.

AVP will be joined by the survivors, their lawyer, additional survivors of anti-LGBTQ police violence and community partners, including the LGBT Justice Project of Make the Road NY, Streetwise and Safe, the Safe OUTside the System Collective of the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, Communities United for Police Reform, Campaign to Stop the False Arrests, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, the LGBT Advisory Panel to NYPD Commission Kelly, City Council Member Daniel Dromm.

AVP, according to the release, also reached out to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the Office of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the NYPD.

The AVP, in an annual report released earlier this month, said about 40 percent of LGBT people who interact with the NYPD report police misconduct and that reports of misconduct rose from 2008 to 2012.

The AVP also has reported a series of hate crimes against LGBT people in New York in recent weeks, which has prompted calls for self-defense training in the community and also Friday night safety walks in LGBT neighborhoods.

On the Web…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ArQTF0ZJZY

‘42’ – Here’s to you Jackie Robinson

There’s a scene in “42” in which Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball, endures intolerably cruel racial slurs from the Philadelphia Phillies’ manager.

It’s early in the 1947 season. Each time the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first baseman comes up to bat, manager Ben Chapman emerges from the dugout, stands on the field and taunts him with increasingly personal and vitriolic attacks. It’s a visible struggle, but No. 42 maintains his composure before a crowd of thousands.

As a viewer, it’s uncomfortable to watch – although as writer-director Brian Helgeland points out, “if anything, the language we have in that scene was cleaned up from what it was.”

Such hatred may seem archaic, an ugly episode in our nation’s history that we’d rather forget. But remembering Robinson’s accomplishments is more important than ever, say people involved with “42” and baseball historians alike. And because he was such an inspiring cultural figure, it’s more important than ever to get his story right.

Helgeland, an Oscar winner for his “L.A. Confidential” screenplay who previously directed “Payback” and “A Knight’s Tale,” said he felt “an enormous amount of pressure” to be faithful to Robinson’s story, both because of his significance and because his life had been written about so extensively. That included recreating games right from the box scores. So when Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) homers during a crucial pennant-race game off a pitcher who’d dinged him earlier in the year, it’s a dramatic moment, but it also actually happened.

“It’s always a tricky thing because it’s a movie, and even in this movie we’re trying to tell two years in two hours,” he said. “You’re obviously not seeing every moment, but the discipline I applied to the script was trying to make sure every moment was documented.”

Helgeland began working on the film two years ago, with the blessing of Robinson’s widow, Rachel, because he felt Robinson “deserves a great, big movie.” Robinson himself starred in the 1950 biography “The Jackie Robinson Story,” which also details how Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey (played here by a feisty Harrison Ford) had the courage to sign the fleet-footed Negro League player, despite receiving discouragement from around the league and death threats from fans.

“People would say to me, ‘You’re making another Jackie Robinson movie?’ and I’d say, ‘What was the other one you saw?’” Helgeland said. “(Racism is) always going to be a relevant thing. It’s not a thing that’s ever going to be eradicated. Society has to stay on guard about it and not get complacent about it.”

Boseman, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Robinson, grew up playing basketball but said he learned of Robinson’s importance around the same time he first learned of Martin Luther King Jr.’s crucial role in fighting for civil rights. Robinson’s uniform number has been retired throughout the league – only New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera still wears it, and he’s retiring after this season – but every year on April 15, everyone in baseball wears No. 42.

“The story is relevant because we still stand on his shoulders. He started something – I would even say maybe he didn’t even start it, it started before him. But he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him,” Boseman said.

Still, it’s a challenge to depict the life of someone who was so inspirational without deifying him. In “42,” which opens April 12, Robinson shows grace in the face of nearly incessant bigotry. That’s why Rickey chooses him of all the talented black baseball players at the time: He had the skills, but he also had the strength not to fight back.

“He would get his revenge on the base paths a little but he didn’t shy away from contact when he was barreling into the catcher, those kinds of things,” Helgeland said.

“You want to humanize him. The romance with the wife (played by Nicole Beharie) does that. The fact that he doesn’t quite get along with (journalist and guide) Wendell Smith does that, which I think was the case in real life,” he said. “You kind of need to go for this vibe: It’s the actor and the director trying to have a feel for what feels real and right in the moment.”

Baseball historian Howard Bryant, author and senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine, said he understands that some changes occur in making a film with historical origins, as was the widely publicized case with several 2012 Oscar contenders, including best picture “Argo.” But he said Hollywood can’t take liberties with stories like Robinson’s.

“It would lose its credibility for me. I would lose respect for it if it were a Hollywood show,” said Bryant, whose books include “Shut Out,” about the role racism played in the Boston Red Sox’ struggles. “We have a special talent in this country for scrubbing history, and I’m hoping that’s not what happens to a story like Jackie Robinson’s.”

Bryant points out that Major League Baseball has been slow to diversify and still has a long way to go. In 2012, 8.8. percent of players were black, with only two black managers and two black general managers, according to the annual report by Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. 

“These stories are more important than ever as we throw around very loaded, misleading terms such as post-racial. I think it’s even more important in something like Jackie Robinson’s case because it wasn’t that long ago,” Bryant said. “Jackie Robinson died in ‘72 before the major leagues had integrated in the front office. Jackie Robinson died before there was a black major league manager.” (Frank Robinson became the first black manager of an American League team – Cleveland Indians in 1975 – and the first in the National League – San Francisco Giants in 1981).

“The four most important teams in baseball history – the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals and Dodgers – in terms of history, in terms of success, none of them has ever had a black manager, Bryant said. “We’re not just talking about race. We’re not just talking about baseball. It’s an example of how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. There is this feeling that on April 15, 1947, everything was fine. It was just a start.”

Former major leaguer Dmitri Young, who played 13 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals and now coaches kids in suburban Los Angeles, thinks young people today have no idea what Robinson endured. He hopes a movie like “42” can change that, and can show black kids that baseball is a great game to play.

“I think most people know that on Jackie Robinson Day, everyone wears 42, but they don’t know the significance behind it. … MLB did it right when they let everyone wear 42 so they can experience that day. When I was playing, they’d pick one black player on each team and say, ‘That’s the guy,’” Young said. “When they let in all the races, that’s what America is all about.”

‘42’ – Here’s to you Jackie Robinson

There’s a scene in “42” in which Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball, endures intolerably cruel racial slurs from the Philadelphia Phillies’ manager.

It’s early in the 1947 season. Each time the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first baseman comes up to bat, manager Ben Chapman emerges from the dugout, stands on the field and taunts him with increasingly personal and vitriolic attacks. It’s a visible struggle, but No. 42 maintains his composure before a crowd of thousands.

As a viewer, it’s uncomfortable to watch – although as writer-director Brian Helgeland points out, “if anything, the language we have in that scene was cleaned up from what it was.”

Such hatred may seem archaic, an ugly episode in our nation’s history that we’d rather forget. But remembering Robinson’s accomplishments is more important than ever, say people involved with “42” and baseball historians alike. And because he was such an inspiring cultural figure, it’s more important than ever to get his story right.

Helgeland, an Oscar winner for his “L.A. Confidential” screenplay who previously directed “Payback” and “A Knight’s Tale,” said he felt “an enormous amount of pressure” to be faithful to Robinson’s story, both because of his significance and because his life had been written about so extensively. That included recreating games right from the box scores. So when Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) homers during a crucial pennant-race game off a pitcher who’d dinged him earlier in the year, it’s a dramatic moment, but it also actually happened.

“It’s always a tricky thing because it’s a movie, and even in this movie we’re trying to tell two years in two hours,” he said. “You’re obviously not seeing every moment, but the discipline I applied to the script was trying to make sure every moment was documented.”

Helgeland began working on the film two years ago, with the blessing of Robinson’s widow, Rachel, because he felt Robinson “deserves a great, big movie.” Robinson himself starred in the 1950 biography “The Jackie Robinson Story,” which also details how Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey (played here by a feisty Harrison Ford) had the courage to sign the fleet-footed Negro League player, despite receiving discouragement from around the league and death threats from fans.

“People would say to me, ‘You’re making another Jackie Robinson movie?’ and I’d say, ‘What was the other one you saw?’” Helgeland said. “(Racism is) always going to be a relevant thing. It’s not a thing that’s ever going to be eradicated. Society has to stay on guard about it and not get complacent about it.”

Boseman, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Robinson, grew up playing basketball but said he learned of Robinson’s importance around the same time he first learned of Martin Luther King Jr.’s crucial role in fighting for civil rights. Robinson’s uniform number has been retired throughout the league – only New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera still wears it, and he’s retiring after this season – but every year on April 15, everyone in baseball wears No. 42.

“The story is relevant because we still stand on his shoulders. He started something – I would even say maybe he didn’t even start it, it started before him. But he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him,” Boseman said.

Still, it’s a challenge to depict the life of someone who was so inspirational without deifying him. In “42,” which opens April 12, Robinson shows grace in the face of nearly incessant bigotry. That’s why Rickey chooses him of all the talented black baseball players at the time: He had the skills, but he also had the strength not to fight back.

“He would get his revenge on the base paths a little but he didn’t shy away from contact when he was barreling into the catcher, those kinds of things,” Helgeland said.

“You want to humanize him. The romance with the wife (played by Nicole Beharie) does that. The fact that he doesn’t quite get along with (journalist and guide) Wendell Smith does that, which I think was the case in real life,” he said. “You kind of need to go for this vibe: It’s the actor and the director trying to have a feel for what feels real and right in the moment.”

Baseball historian Howard Bryant, author and senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine, said he understands that some changes occur in making a film with historical origins, as was the widely publicized case with several 2012 Oscar contenders, including best picture “Argo.” But he said Hollywood can’t take liberties with stories like Robinson’s.

“It would lose its credibility for me. I would lose respect for it if it were a Hollywood show,” said Bryant, whose books include “Shut Out,” about the role racism played in the Boston Red Sox’ struggles. “We have a special talent in this country for scrubbing history, and I’m hoping that’s not what happens to a story like Jackie Robinson’s.”

Bryant points out that Major League Baseball has been slow to diversify and still has a long way to go. In 2012, 8.8. percent of players were black, with only two black managers and two black general managers, according to the annual report by Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. 

“These stories are more important than ever as we throw around very loaded, misleading terms such as post-racial. I think it’s even more important in something like Jackie Robinson’s case because it wasn’t that long ago,” Bryant said. “Jackie Robinson died in ‘72 before the major leagues had integrated in the front office. Jackie Robinson died before there was a black major league manager.” (Frank Robinson became the first black manager of an American League team – Cleveland Indians in 1975 – and the first in the National League – San Francisco Giants in 1981).

“The four most important teams in baseball history – the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals and Dodgers – in terms of history, in terms of success, none of them has ever had a black manager, Bryant said. “We’re not just talking about race. We’re not just talking about baseball. It’s an example of how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. There is this feeling that on April 15, 1947, everything was fine. It was just a start.”

Former major leaguer Dmitri Young, who played 13 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals and now coaches kids in suburban Los Angeles, thinks young people today have no idea what Robinson endured. He hopes a movie like “42” can change that, and can show black kids that baseball is a great game to play.

“I think most people know that on Jackie Robinson Day, everyone wears 42, but they don’t know the significance behind it. … MLB did it right when they let everyone wear 42 so they can experience that day. When I was playing, they’d pick one black player on each team and say, ‘That’s the guy,’” Young said. “When they let in all the races, that’s what America is all about.”