Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Assassination of King Faisal


On this day in 1975 Saudi Arabia's King Faisal died following a gun attack by his half-brother's son Faisal bin Musa'id during a majlis, a kind of mass audience in which the King opens his palace to his subjects to hear their grievances; despite the efforts of doctors to keep him alive he'd been shot point-blank, and died soon after.

As for the King's assailant, he attempted to flee but was captured, imprisoned, tried, declared insane, and executed in fairly short order. The reason he gave for shooting the King was his brother's having been killed by members of the Saudi Defense Force during a demonstration in 1965.

King Faisal was succeeded by his half-brother Khalid, who reigned until his own death in June 1982.
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Happy Birthday Sarah Jessica Parker

Of course, to me she will always be Carrie Bradshaw, one of the few writer characters on TV you actually saw writing; but I first saw her in Square Pegs, so in my own little twisted pop culture way Patty Greene will always be Carrie Bradshaw in high school...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn the intervening years SJP made memorable turns in movies such as when she ran amok amok amok in Hocus Pocus and was so charming in Steve Martin's winsome L.A. Story, in which she played SanDeE*, likely the only character in the history of film with an asterisk in her name. And of course, who could forget her performance under the villainous tutelage of Maggie Smith in The First Wives Club, playing a second wife?

She's had a lot on her plate since I first published these birthday wishes three years ago; in addition to wife-and-motherhood - celebrating a thirteenth anniversary with Matthew Broderick in May and little James' eighth birthday in October as well as the arrival of twin daughters Marion and Tabitha (delivered by surrogate) in June 2009 - she's already finished a second much-anticipated Sex and the City movie following the monster success of the first one in 2008.

On a more cruel note, 2007 also saw her winning the un-coveted title of Maxim magazine's Unsexiest Woman on the Planet; Mrs. Broderick spoke out against the award, an unusual move for a celebrity put into such a position. The Pop Culture Institute would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sarah Jessica Parker for somehow managing to maintain her individuality in a profession where many of her contemporaries seem determined to morph into each other; although we're a little peeved that she had her signature mole removed, we're also sure she had her reasons.
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Pop History Moment: The Scottsboro Nine Are Arrested


On this day in 1931 nine black men (Haywood Patterson, Clarence Norris, Andy Wright, Roy Wright, Willie Roberson, Charles Weems, Ozie Powell, Olen Montgomery, and Eugene Williams) were accused of raping two white women on a Southern Railroad freight train, somewhere between Chattanooga and Memphis...

What actually happened will likely never be known, but the picture that emerges from various testimonies is that among the many illegal passengers in that boxcar was a similar group of white youths, out to make trouble, and a pair of white prostitutes named Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. After the white group was ousted by the black one it seems the two women wanted to show their gratitude, and did so in their best manner.

Unbeknownst to them, the white youths complained to the stationmaster, who wired ahead to the next stop - which was Paint Rock, Arkansas - and all were taken into custody; before the day was out, they'd been taken to nearby Scottsboro, and by nightfall the National Guard was protecting the jail from an ever-growing lynch mob.

The ensuing trials - for there were many - kept the Depression-era public well entertained; along with the Lindbergh Baby trial, the cases of Sacco & Vanzetti and Leopold & Loeb in the 1920s, and numerous tales of outlawry from John Dillinger to Bonnie & Clyde the general lawlessness and cruelty of the times makes for a fascinating study. Thought to have at least partially inspired Harper Lee's masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, the convoluted story of what happened next to the Scottsboro Nine (also known as the Scottsboro Boys) is better illuminated in James Goodman's book Stories of Scottsboro than I could ever hope to do in the space allotted to me here...
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"Come On And Get My Love" by Cathy Dennis (with D-Mob)

Birthday wishes go out today to Cathy Dennis, the British singer-songwriter and Simon Fuller acolyte who scored a major dance floor sensation of her own in 1990 with D Mob, providing guest vocals for the single C'mon and Get My Love; the song provided my friends and me with some superlative cardio for the two months or so it held the DJ's attention at Top Drawer, which is the club in Ottawa I used to frequent, way back in the day.

Taken from the album Move To This, it got as high as #15 on the UK singles chart, and even higher - #10 - in the US on Billboard's Hot 100.

She's had much better luck as a songwriter, with seven of her compositions attaining the #1 spot in the UK, including Toxic (recorded by someone named Britney Spears) and Can't Get You out of My Head, which made Kylie Minogue a big deal in the United States again after twenty years of massive success everywhere in the English-speaking world but there.
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Pop History Moment: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

On this day in 1911 as many as 141 young women employed as seamstresses by Max Blanck and Isaac Harris at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company died when their workplace caught fire; the death toll would eventually climb to 148, as a few of the survivors later succumbed to smoke inhalation in hospital.

PhotobucketLocated on the top three floors of the ten-story Asch Building at the corner of Washington and Greene streets (east of Washington Square) in Manhattan - theirs is the uppermost sign on the corner of the building in foreground of the photo - the sweat shop employed as many as 500 women, most of them under the age of 25 and some as young as 12, for wages of $6-7 per week. As well as seamstresses, the company also employed floor walkers, who kept an eye out for theft, in addition to guarding locked exit doors and occasionally sexually harassing the workers.

The fire broke out on the eighth floor of undetermined causes; some said it was a carelessly discarded cigarette, others an ember from one of the stoves used to heat the presser's irons, and still others from the heat of the irons themselves - not for nothing were these called sweatshops, as even in the middle of summer stoves were kept blazing. What is known is that the fire spread quickly, due to the amount of flammable fabric, tissue paper, and chemicals stored on the site.

Early on in the evacuation the building's single flimsy fire escape buckled under the weight of those attempting to flee; more than 60 young women trapped on the 9th floor chose to break the windows (which had been nailed shut) and throw themselves to their deaths rather than being burned alive, horrifying onlookers who'd begun to gather on the street below. Others pried open elevator doors only to tumble to their death; one survivor was later found nearly drowned in a puddle of water at the bottom of the shaft.

The litter of bodies on the street made the fire department's job even more difficult; they'd showed up promptly, ready to do their brave duty, but as they had only six story ladders their efforts to bring the fire under control were severely hampered. In the meantime Blanck and Harris had fled to the comparative safety of the building's roof while on the street below Frances Perkins - FDR's future Secretary of Labor - was among those in the crowd watching the tragedy unfold.

No sooner was the fire doused than a firestorm of controversy began to rage in the Press; the catastrophe highlighted several deficiencies of the era, from labour laws to safety codes. The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union gained the most political clout from the tragedy, as situations of this nature only serve to prove the shortcomings inherent in unregulated laissez-faire capitalism. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory wasn't the first of its kind, but the outrage it prompted insured that it was one of the last, at least in the United States.

The Asch Building survived the blaze; renamed the Brown Building, it's currently serving as the chemistry building for New York University, having been entered into the National Register of Historic Places and made a National Historical Landmark in 1991, as well as a New York City Landmark in 2003. Two plaques on the front of 23-29 Washington Place commemorate the victims of this terrible event. The fire has served as the basis for both fiction and nonfiction books, as well as poetry, and inspired both a 1979 movie - The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal - and the 1986 musical Rags.

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POPnews - March 25th

[On this day in 1957 Allen Ginsberg (pictured above, with his longtime lover Peter Orlovsky in a raggedy toque) stared down the forces of censorship and won both the public relations battle and the latest skirmish in the war on freedom of expression over his poem Howl with the able assistance of attorney Jake Ehrlich. The story of the trial and the issues it raised is rumoured to be receiving the celluloid treatment, with über-hunky Jon Hamm as Ehrlich.]

1199 - England's King Richard I (better known as Richard the Lionhearted) was wounded by a crossbow bolt while attempting to suppress a revolt by Aimar V of Limoges at the castle of Chalus-Chabrol in France; the King's injury resulted in his agonizing death from gangrene eleven days later.

1306 - Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland by Isabella MacDuff.

1655 - Saturn's largest moon, Titan, was discovered by Christian Huygens.

1802 - The Treaty of Amiens was signed as a 'Definitive Treaty of Peace' between France and United Kingdom; as a 'treaty of peace' it broke down almost instantly, which is what made it so 'definitive'.

1807 - The Slave Trade Act became law, abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire; it was an important step in the abolition of slavery throughout British territory, which occurred in 1833 with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act.

1811 - Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University College, Oxford, for his publication of the pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism; Shelley's friend (and future biographer) Thomas Jefferson Hogg was also expelled for his involvement in the matter.

1894 - Coxey's Army, led by Jacob Coxey, departed Massillon, Ohio, for Washington, DC; protesting the widespread economic recession brought on by the Panic of 1893, it is thought that their story was later adapted allegorically by L. Frank Baum in his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

1908 - Brazilian football club Clube Atletico Mineiro was founded in Belo Horizonte.

1918 - The Belarusian People's Republic was established.

1941 - The Kingdom of Yugoslavia joined the Axis powers when Prince Paul - that country's regent - signed the Tripartite Pact; his actions inspired a coup, and two days later the 18-year-old King Peter II seized power.

1949 - An extensive campaign known as the March deportation was conducted in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to force collectivization by way of terror; all told, Stalinist authorities deported more than 92,000 people from the Baltic states to remote areas of the Soviet Union.

1957 - US Customs officials seized 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl as obscene, bringing charges against its publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his business, San Francisco's iconic City Lights Bookstore, for publishing it.

1958 - Canada's legendary jet fighter, the Avro Arrow, made its debut flight.

1969 - During their honeymoon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their first Bed-In for Peace in the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam; a publicity stunt designed to exploit media interest in their recent marriage, it lasted until the end of March.

1975 - Saudi Arabia's King Faisal was shot and killed by his nephew Faisal bin Musa'id, who was immediately captured, declared mentally ill, found guilty of regicide, and beheaded in Riyadh in June; the King was succeeded by his half-brother Khalid.

1979 - The first fully functional space shuttle orbiter, Columbia, was delivered to the John F. Kennedy Space Center to be prepared for its first launch.

1988 - The Candle Demonstration in Bratislava was the first mass demonstration of the 1980s against the communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia; it is commemorated today in Slovakia as the Struggle for Human Rights Day.

1990 - A fire set by Julio González at the illegal Happy Land social club in the Bronx killed 87 people, many of them Hondurans celebrating Carnival.

2006 - During the Capitol Hill massacre Kyle Aaron Huff killed six people before taking his own life at a party in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood; it was one of the largest crime scenes that city had ever seen.
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