July, 2012 Archives


One Man Follows His Passion…and Sticks With It

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In this short film, I present the SS United States as the story of one man’s courageous quest to follow his passion, and stick with it. Images courtesy of the Frank O. Braynard Collection and the Mariners’ Museum. A production by History Making Productions, producers of the acclaimed new documentary Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.


The 56th Anniversary of the “Andrea Doria” Disaster

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The wreck of the SS Andrea Doria soon after plunging to the bottom of the North Atlantic, July 26, 1956.

Footage of the SS Andrea Doria when she was the most luxurious liner on the New York-Cote d’Azur-Genoa route. Completed in 1953, she was a symbol of the rebirth of the post-war Italian economy, and furnished with the best modern art and furniture the nation had to offer.

Four years after the maiden voyage of the SS United States in 1952, the world witnessed one of the worst shipwrecks in history: the sinking of the Italian luxury liner SS Andrea Doria. Rammed by another liner in dense fog off Nantucket on the night of July 25, 1956, she rolled over and sank the next morning. The disaster claimed 50 lives on both ships. The Andrea Doria was outfitted with the latest safety equipment, including the best radar. Yet unlike the SS United States she was unstable in rough weather and could only float with 2 of her compartments flooded. The disaster spelled the beginning of the end of the age of great transatlantic liners. Two years later (1958) the first transatlantic commercial jet roared across the skies.

Footage of the Andrea Doria’s final moments broadcast around the world…


Steven Ujifusa featured on WHYY’s “Radio Times”

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Steven Ujifusa discusses A Man and His Ship with Tracey Matisak on WHYY’s NPR-syndicated show Radio Times.

Click HERE to listen to the interview.


“A Man and his Ship” Book Release and Conversation

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Harris Steinberg of PennPraxis introduces Matt Golas and me at the Independence Seaport Museum.

Signing books after the event.

A Man and His Ship Book Release and Conversation

The Independence Seaport Museum

July 19, 2012

Sponsored by PlanPhilly, Simon & Schuster, and the Independence Seaport Museum

To see the PlanPhilly feature, click HERE.


Philadelphia Inquirer Feature: “‘A Man and His Ship’ Tells the Story of the SS ‘United States’”

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‘A Man and His Ship’ tells the story of the SS United States

July 19, 2012|By Tirdad Derakhshani and INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Click HERE to read the feature.

Author Speaking Events and Media Appearances for July 2012

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Click to hear the famous triple whistles of the SS "United States"!


WKYW-AM News Radio: Interview by John McDevitt

WRDV-FM “I Hear America Talking”: Interview by Ralph Collier

Metro Radio Networks “Dimensions”: Interview by Paul Perrello

WKYW-AM/WOGL-FM/WPHT-AM “Philadelphia Agenda”: Interview by Brad Segall (to air on WOGL 98.1FM from 6:30-7:00, Sunday, July 22)


11:00am-12noon, Monday, July 23 - WHYY “Radio Times”: Interview by Tracey Matisak


“SS United States Day”

3:00-6:00pm, Wednesday, July 18

Location: New York Mercantile Exchange

World Financial Center

One North End Avenue

New York, NY 10282.

Sponsored by the SS United States Conservancy.

Register HERE.

Steven Ujifusa will be the featured speaker at the afternoon portion of the SS United States Conservancy’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the ship’s maiden voyage. Guests will enjoy a delicious array of appetizers designed and prepared by downtown’s famous Compass/Lackmann Culinary Service with Marianne Walker herself, tailoring the variety of hors d’oeuvres to evoke flavors of an around-the-world cruise. The event’s highlight will be Steven Ujifusa discussing his soon-to-be-released Simon & Schuster book about William Francis Gibbs’s quest to design the SS United States. Signed copies of A Man And His Ship will be available for purchase.

Attire: business casual

Cost: $40 for Conservancy members/$50 for non-Conservancy members.

A Man and His Ship Book Release and Conversation

5:00-7:00pm, Thursday, July 19

Location: Independence Seaport Museum

211 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19106

To be broadcast on CSPAN-2 Book TV

Tickets are free. Register HERE.

PlanPhilly, Simon & Schuster, Steven Ujifusa and Independence Seaport Museum present Behind PlanPhilly: ”A Man and His Ship” Book Release and Conversation. This will be Simon & Schuster’s official launch event of Ujifusa’s book, A Man and His Ship, which tells the story of the ship through its architect, William Francis Gibbs.  PlanPhilly will lead a conversation with Ujifusa about the book and the ship’s place in history.

5:00pm-6:00pm: Networking

6:00-6:30pm: Conversation with Steven Ujifusa and Matt Golas, PlanPhilly Managing Editor

6:30-7:00pm: Audience Q&A and Wrap-Up

Tickets: FREE

Copies of A Man and His Ship will be available for sale at the event.

Light refreshments will be served.


Classic Fifties Cocktails in 2012

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Bluecoat American Dry Gin and Penn1681 at the July 10 book party, which took place at the historic Orpheus Club of Philadelphia.

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.”

- The Balance and Columbian Repository, 1803 (published in Hudson, New York).

During the 1950s, the American cocktail was enjoying a golden age, and the enjoyment of fine spirits was an integral part of life aboard a transatlantic liner.  Aboard the SS United States, passengers in first class flocked to the chic and modern Navajo Cocktail Lounge, located on the port side, with circular windows overlooking the promenade deck.  Done in midnight blue, the space boasted luminous enamel “sand paintings” by artist Peter Ostuni which were illuminated at night. Snow white linens covered the table tops. The ship’s bartenders received the same level of training as those at the Ritz-Carlton or the Waldorf-Astoria.

Navajo Lounge, S.S United States

It was here in the Navajo Lounge that the Commodore would host special receptions for VIP passengers, who savored now-classic cocktails such as the Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, and Gimlet.

For the July 10 book launch for A Man and His Ship, Philadelphia Distilling graciously donated bottles of Penn1681 Rye Vodka and Bluecoat American Dry Gin for use in cocktails that would have been served aboard the SS United States.  Philadelphia Distilling is the first craft distillery in Pennsylvania since Prohibition, and produces its classic spirits in small batches using the best of traditional techniques and modern technology.  Like the SS United States, Philadelphia Distilling revives the spirit of an age when “made in America” meant the best.

Philadelphia Distilling’s spirits have garnered rave reviews. ForbesLife described Bluecoat American Dry Gin as having a “silky, expansive mouthful with flavors of juniper berries, crushed orange and lime peels…that not only linger but keep opening up. Clean and brisk…”  The Philadelphia Inquirer described Penn 1681 Rye Vodka as “stand[ing] apart from its commercial competitors with its earthy, peppery finish.”

The organizers and servers for the July 10 book party created a fantastic 1950s SS United States classic cocktail menu using gin and vodka generously provided by Philadelphia Distilling. These were the cocktails known and loved by passengers such as John and Jackie Kennedy, Vincent and Brooke Astor, Milton Berle, Cary Grant, and Rita Hayworth.

The July 10, 2012 SS "United States" cocktail menu. Graphics by Jonathan Crowell.

Mix one of these, put on a recording of the Benny Goodman Sextet, turn the lights down, and imagine yourself relaxing in the cocktail lounge of the finest, fastest ocean liner ever built!

Ironically, the ship’s designer William Francis Gibbs was virtually tee-total.  His only occasional indulgence was half of a whiskey “Old Fashioned.”


The Largest Wine Cellar Afloat

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Vermeil Wine's Proprietary Red Wine and Sauvignon Blanc at the Philadelphia book launch party for "A Man and His Ship," which took place at the historic Orpheus Club.

A 1950s advertisement that appeared in The New Yorker boasted that the SS United States had the largest wine cellar afloat. The ship was a showcase for both American and European cuisine, wine, and spirits, and only the best was served onboard.  Like the Waldorf-Astoria or any fine hotel ashore, the SS United States boasted an expert wine steward (sommelier) to help passengers make appropriate selections from the wine list.

The wonderful wine at the July 10 Philadelphia A Man and His Ship book party was generously provided by Vermeil Wines, a joint venture of Paul Smith’s OnThEdge Winery and former NFL coach Dick Vermeil.  Vermeil, recent winner of the SS United States Conservancy’s National Flagship Award, is the NFL coach of champions, most famous for taking the Philadelphia Eagles and bringing them to their first Super Bowl in history (1980).

In a recent public service announcement on behalf of the Conservancy, Vermeil stated that the ship’s faded red, white, and blue funnels, “still stand strong,” and that, “they symbolize the ingenuity, passion, and determination of the American dream.”  To watch Vermeil speak about the importance of preserving the SS United States on YouTube, click here.

Dick Vermeil: award-winning winemaker and former head coach of the St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles

A native of California’s Napa Valley, Vermeil grew up steeped in winemaking culture.  In his post-coaching career, he is avidly pursuing his passion for producing fine American wines at his family’s property in Calistoga, California with the same verve that took his football teams to the championships.

Vermeil thanks his father Jean Louis Vermeil II and his grandfather, Albert Vermeil, “for instilling in me a deep appreciation for wine. Grandfather Al Vermeil made all the Vermeil Family wines with grapes from the very same properties that produce the Vermeil wine of today.”

On July 10, Vermeil’s acclaimed Proprietary Red Wine and Sauvignon Blanc was paired with hors d’oeuvres that would have been served aboard the SS United States in the 1950s: blue point oysters on the half shell, vichyssoise, pickled herring in wine sauce, and smoked salmon.

It was a perfect combination, one that left guests leaving happy and would have made the Big Ship’s famous chef Otto Bismarck proud indeed.

Below are descriptions from Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.

Thanks Coach Vermeil and Vermeil Wines for your generosity!  To learn more about Vermeil Wines, click here.

XXXIV Proprietary Red Wine Calistoga Napa Valley 2009

90 Opaque ruby. Pungent aromas of dried cherry, cassis, licorice and botanical herbs, with subtle vanilla and cracked pepper accents that build with air. Sappy, palate-staining dark fruit flavors gain sweetness with air while retaining a spicy edge. Shows very good energy and clarity on the finish, which features suave floral pastille and licorice qualities. I find this wine quite approachable now, although it has the depth to age.

Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2010

88. Light, bright gold. Aromas of candied lemon, fig, anise, and honey, with a spicy overtone. Juicy, refreshingly bitter orchard and citrus fruit flavors provide good palate coverage and become more tangy with air. Closes smooth and gently sweet, with good energy and cling. In a fruit-driven style for sauvignon blanc, with a little of the herbal character one often gets for the variety.


The Legend of the SS “United States”

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To Mark Perry (aka “The Shipgeek”): this short film gave me so much inspiration over the past few years.  And I hope it inspires (and moves) others, as well.

This is the story of the SS United States, one of the greatest design and construction projects in American history, in film and music.

Thank you.



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My grandparents Joseph and Judith Follmann boarding an ocean liner, c.1960. Note the Pan-Am bag in my grandmother's right hand. Former ships photographer Joe Rota identified the steward greeting them on the right, so there is a strong chance this was taken during one of their two trips aboard the SS "United States." From the author's family collection.

A Man and His Ship is dedicated to my grandmother Judith Follmann.

World traveler, woman of culture, and the inspiration for this book.