Friday, April 09, 2010

Pop History Moment: Marian Anderson Lets Freedom Ring

Owing entirely to their policy of official segregation, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for noted operatic soprano Marian Anderson to give a recital at Constitution Hall in the spring of 1939; even though Anderson's manager Sol Hurok had been trying to book his client into one of DC's premiere musical venues for three years - and been rebuffed every time - somehow this refusal seemed to incite a little more umbrage in people.

For one thing, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt got wind of it, and resigned her membership forthwith - an entirely courageous move, especially in those days; in due time she would be joined by thousands of others - a major embarrassment for the organization, which had hitherto been a pillar of the establishment...

On this day in 1939 Marian Anderson sang instead at the Lincoln Memorial, at an open air concert planned by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes; Mrs. Roosevelt was there in the front row for this concert, though, along with 75,000 attendees in person and untold millions more on the radio. Anderson's recital ended with a rousing rendition of My Country, 'Tis of Thee. The concert not only had the intended benefit of highlighting the depth of American racism, it would have at least one unintended benefit as well, as it inspired the future good works of a certain 10-year old named Martin Luther King, Jr.

Proof of Anderson's classiness came when she later accepted the DAR's apology with the words 'You lose a lot of time hating people', and they finally invited her to perform - albeit for a whites-only audience - at a concert for war relief in 1942; although the District of Columbia abandoned its official policy of segregation following World War II the DAR would not follow suit until 1952.
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Happy Birthday Jenna Jameson

When I started the Pop Culture Institute, it was my intention to make history interesting for the masses, and to examine both the past and present through what a more pretentious person would call an 'entertainment lens'* but which I prefer to call 'pop culture'**; well, any educator will tell you that they learn as much or more from the process of teaching as they manage to impart, which has certainly been my experience here.

PhotobucketThe main thing blogging has taught me is that the vast majority of people don't give as much as a gnat's dump about history. Thousands of words a week I publish, most of which comes and goes without being seen, let alone commented on - nothing! Longtime readers will recall that I used to be bitter about this, but I haven't been since I learned an even more important lesson...

What people really care about is sex. Which is why the mere mention of a porn star's name gives my traffic a noticeable bump***; not just major porn stars like our birthday gal Jenna Jameson here, either, but even obscure gay porn stars who died twenty years ago.

Jameson, of course, has proven to be one of the adult film industry's highest profile ambassadors as porn has made its inexorable trek from dirty little secret to the mainstream over the past couple of decades. Best known for her girl-on-girl work - which, like everything else I write about on here, I extensively researched - Jameson was also one of the first porn stars to embrace the Internet, which she did with her now-ex-husband Jay Grdina (better known by his nom de porn Justin Sterling).

When Jameson really went mainstream, though, was upon the publication of her memoirs, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale in August 2004; that led to a hosting gig on Playboy TV's Jenna's American Sex Star in November 2005. For obvious reasons, she remains tabloid fodder to this day...

*Movies, books, television - crap like that...
**Thus this blog is not called the Entertainment Lens Institute, or some similar abomination.
***Heh heh heh...
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"The Masochism Tango" by Tom Lehrer

In honour of Tom Lehrer's birthday I watched half a dozen performances by the man himself in his hey-day in search of the ideal song of his to post here; it is just such tasks which make research my single favourite part of blogging... Well, that and being able to do it in your underwear.

I eventually chose The Masochism Tango because there was something in the lyrics which spoke to me; admittedly, it mostly spoke to the masochist part of me - and it didn't so much speak as taunt - but there you have it. The song originally appeared on Lehrer's establishment offending 1959 album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, alongside such fellow classics as Oedipus Rex, The Elements, and Poisoning Pigeons in the Park - although he'd been performing it for some years before that in his cabaret act.
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Pop History Moment: The Marriage of Charles and Camilla


On this day in 2005 The Prince of Wales wed his longtime mistress Camilla Parker Bowles at a much smaller event in Windsor than accompanied his first marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales in July 1981.

Immediately upon the announcement of the impending nuptials a series of constitutional snarls arose, regarding what titles Mrs. Parker-Bowles would have (both now and in the the future), and even whether a member of the royal family could marry in a civil ceremony (since they are technically the property of the State). It turns out that the royals are covered by the Human Rights Act 1998 - which is only fair, since they are the smallest minority community in the UK - and that legislation cleared the way for the marriage.

The couple's stated desire to have the ceremony at Windsor Castle would have opened the floodgates for all sorts of people to marry there, so during the planning stage the venue was changed to the Guildhall in Windsor, which is just outside the gates of the majestic castle. Finally, the date of the wedding had to be postponed one day to allow for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

All of which could have been avoided by simply allowing them to marry when they first met in 1969. Still, the various compromises which have allowed them to be together - for instance, her use of the title Duchess of Cornwall now rather than Princess of Wales, and her future use of the title Princess Consort rather than Queen - seem to have outraged everyone, indicating that they are, in fact, compromises*.

*The word 'compromise' being Latin for 'nobody gets what they want'.

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POPnews - April 9th

[The Mercury Seven - Alan Shepard Jr., Virgil (Gus) Grissom, Leroy Cooper Jr. (L to R, back row) and Walter (Wally) Schirra Jr., Donald (Deke) Slayton, John Glenn Jr., Malcolm Carpenter (L to R, front row) - looking somewhat like the Andromeda Five, here pose for their only photograph together in uniform even though Slayton and Glenn aren't wearing their proper space boots but rather spray-painted work boots! My question is... Why not just put them in the back row, rather than front and center?]

715 CE - Pope Constantine died; he was succeeded by Gregory II on May 19th.

1024 - Pope Benedict VIII died; he was succeeded by John XIX on April 12th. Most interestingly, the new pope and his predecessor had been brothers, both being sons of Gregory I, Count of Tusculum, and his countess, Maria. As if that weren't interesting enough*, John XIX would be succeeded upon his death in October 1032 by his teenaged nephew, who reigned as Benedict IX.

*And chances are it wasn't...

1241 - At the Battle of Liegnitz Mongol forces under Baidar, Kadan, and Orda Khan defeated the Polish and German armies of Henry II the Pious.

1413 - Henry V was crowned King of England following the death of his father, Henry IV.

1440 - Christopher of Bavaria was appointed King of Denmark, and would eventually become King of both Sweden and Norway as well.

1682 - Robert Cavelier de La Salle discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River, claimed it for France, and named it Louisiana.

1865 - Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the more than 25,000 troops of the Army of Northern Virginia led by Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, effectively ending the American Civil War.

1867 - The treaty with Russia which authorized the Alaska Purchase was passed in the US Senate by a single vote.

1909 - The US Congress passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.

1937 - The Kamikaze arrived at London's Croydon Airport - making it the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe, which it did in 51 hours, 17 minutes and 23 seconds.

1948 - Popular presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán's assassination provoked the Bogotazo, a series of violent riots in Bogotá and a decade-long spasm of violence in the rest of Colombia - a period now known as La Violencia. The man murdered by the mob for the crime - Juan Roa Sierra - may have been an innocent bystander.

1959 - NASA announced the selection of America's first seven astronauts, who would serve their country in the Mercury Program; the press quickly dubbed them the Mercury Seven.

1965 - The Houston Astrodome opened, and the first indoor baseball game was played.

1975 - The first game of the Philippine Basketball Association, the second oldest professional basketball league in the world, was held at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

1989 - During the April 9 Tragedy in Tbilisi a series of peaceful anti-Soviet demonstrations and hunger strikes, demanding the restoration of Georgian sovereignty was dispersed by the Soviet army, resulting in 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries. A memorial to the tragedy was later erected on the city's Rustaveli Avenue.

1991 - Georgia declared its independence from the Soviet Union, following an attack on a peaceful demonstration by occupying troops, two years to the day after a similar tragedy; the day is still observed as there as the Day of National Unity.

1999 - Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, the President of Niger, was assassinated at the culmination of a coup as he was boarding a helicopter at the airport in the capital city, Niamey; he was succeeded by the leader of the coup, Daouda Malam Wanké.

2002 - The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother took place at Westminster Abbey, and in untold millions of living rooms around the Commonwealth and the world.

2003 - Baghdad fell to American forces during their invasion of Iraq.
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