Monday, April 05, 2010

Remembering... Howard Hughes

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While a more standard news outlet might report that on this day in 1976 Howard Hughes died, there's very little that's standard about the Pop Culture Institute; here we'd be more likely to debate precisely when the handsome and dashing aviator known as Howard Hughes died and was replaced by the agoraphobic Howard Hughes who was scared witless of germs. Nevertheless, it's a debate which could continue for years...
As long ago as the early 1930s Hughes was displaying symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder with regards to the size of peas on his dinner plate; as a film producer he was a micro-managing control freak (even more than usual), often overlooking the quality of the picture as a whole in favour of fixating on some minor flaw in costuming, for instance, as he did during production of The Outlaw. By 1947 he'd taken to locking himself away from the world, surrounded only by a few flunkies to whom he issued variable and complicated instructions; for the most part he would spend the last 30 years of his life in such a reclusive state, using his vast wealth to insulate himself from everyone and everything.
Certainly, he'd survived numerous plane crashes - including that of the XF-11 in July 1946 - which left Hughes addicted to various pain medications, but he may also have been susceptible to a hereditary mental illness which, given the judgements and pharmaceuticals of the day, no one at the time could have done anything to allay...

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