Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 17, 2017

The Mighty Atom

Filed under: Catskills,Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 2:48 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, NOVEMBER 17, 2017

When I was about ten years old, my mother took me to see the Mighty Atom’s legendary strong man act at the Panoramic Health Farm, a bungalow colony he owned in Woodridge, New York—my home town that was described by the leftist PM newspaper as a utopia in the Catskills in 1947.

I watched in awe as the 62-year old, 5’4”, 145-pound bearded man with shoulder-length hair perform the stunts that had been part of his repertory since the 1920s such as bending nails with his teeth and an iron bar across his nose. In his prime, he could pull a fire engine with his hair or twist horseshoes into a pretzel. In fact, until his death at the age of 84 in 1977, he continued to perform. The new documentary “The Mighty Atom” that became available as VOD (iTunes, Amazon and Google Play) on November 14th points out that on the day he died, he walked from room to room in the hospital performing for fellow patients to lift their spirits. After his last tour through the wards, he laid down on his bed and passed on.

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2 Comments »

  1. Enjoyed your piece. I own the Congregation Anshei shul in Glen Wild and Church of the LGM. Big fan of Harvey Pekar and our home turf. Contact any time for a tour. MO

    Comment by Mike Osterhout — November 17, 2017 @ 4:49 pm

  2. It occurs to me that the Mighty Atom, Sid Caesar, Harry Houdini, et al. were people more than they were ideologues. (I use ‘people’ here as subjective humanist expression rather than as classification). Regardless of ideological affinities, it seems they were motivated by a ‘worldly joy’. By ‘worldly joy’ I don’t mean simple carnal joy as many might attribute to ‘worldly’, but a joy of their own extant and the world’s extants. ( Here, the ‘world’s extants’ encompasses both man-made constructs and natural constructs. )
    They exhibit characteristics such as; 1. joy despite circumstance, 2. welcomeness of other people and other opportunities 3. confidence of social mobility. There are no doubt other personal characteristics which I’m missing but I don’t believe the promotion of declarative ideologies – such as Marxism, Communism,etc. – is one of them. How does one reconcile individual joy of this sort with the pronouncing, amalgamational of political ideology? Without such reconciliation, either individuals are superseded by ‘the people’ or ‘the people’ themselves become nothing more than pinions to a political economic machine.
    If the only answer is curtly described as, ‘the difference between socio-cultural and political economic is at play’ then it would seem focusing on the socio-cultural would hold as much promise for man as would focusing on the political economic.

    Comment by grsjr — November 18, 2017 @ 4:34 pm


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