Monday, April 26, 2010
Starring birthday gal Carol Burnett as her most famous creation, Eunice Higgins, the series of sketches that eventually turned into Mama's Family was originally called simply The Family. The show-within-a-show was a popular feature of The Carol Burnett Show during its eleven-year run; Carol is joined here by sketch regulars Vicki Lawrence as 'Mama' Thelma Harper and Harvey Korman as Ed Higgins with special guest star Betty White as Eunice's stuck-up sister Ellen Harper.
Perennially put-upon loser Eunice gives as good as she gets as she joins Mama and Ed in cleaning out the attic; after Ellen arrives each uncovered treasure is seemingly accompanied by an emotional skeleton. By the time they're done spatting it's like the dust won't ever settle!
Surely, the moral of the story is: We're only as sick as our secrets.
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Carol Burnett is one of the most beloved entertainers alive today; much of that affection was accrued during the eleven seasons she starred in The Carol Burnett Show on CBS, and for many years after that in syndicated reruns. Even though the show went off the air in 1978, those of us who remember it still can't help but raise a chuckle remembering its countless moments of TV magic.
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On this day in 1937 the Basque town of Guernica was bombed by Fascist Italy's Aviazione Legionaria and the Condor Legion of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe in an action code named Operation Rügen; the action - later depicted in the painting by Pablo Picasso shown above - was one of the most reviled atrocities of the Spanish Civil War.
Three quarters of the town's buildings were utterly destroyed by 28 bombers during the raid, and virtually none escaped damage; the most reliable casualty figures place the dead at 1,654 with 889 wounded out of a population of 5-7,000.
Picasso first exhibited the massive mural (349 × 776 cm or 137.4 × 305.5 inches) he made to commemorate the victims at the Paris International Exposition in July 1937; following the Exposition the painting toured Europe, then was sent to America. For many years, Picasso kept it in his Paris apartment, but it had been a popular attraction at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for awhile when, in 1974, it was defaced by artist Tony Shafrazi, who spray-painted the words 'KILL LIES ALL' in red on it. The lacquered surface was quickly repaired, with no permanent damage to the work.
Picasso had been insistent prior to his 1973 death that he did not want the painting returned to Spain until Spain had itself returned to democracy; in 1981 MoMA reluctantly returned the work to Spain following the November 1975 death of Francisco Franco. Originally shown in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, since 1992 it has hung in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
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[While rewards were paid for the capture of his accomplices George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell, no one ever claimed the money set aside to bring Abraham Lincoln's assassin to justice; for this reason, numerous fanciful stories have circulated that John Wilkes Booth didn't actually die on this day in 1865 as history records. While the official report on the matter is a pretty dry read, for something wetter - downright juicy even! - try Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, by James Swanson, one of the Pop Culture Institute's most highly recommended books.]
1336 - Italian sonneteer Petrarch made an ascent of Mt. Ventoux accompanied by his brother; he later claimed to have been the first person to climb the mountain since antiquity, which he was not. Ironically, that honour rightly belongs to the French priest Jean Buridan, whose scientific studies into impetus and inertia were some of the most important made in the Middle Ages, and whose own impetus to climb the mountain easily overrode whatever inertia he might have felt toward the task.
1478 - As part of the Pazzi Conspiracy Francesco de' Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini attacked Lorenzo de' Medici and killed his brother Giuliano during High Mass in the Duomo of Florence.
1607 - English colonists bound for Virginia's Jamestown Settlement made landfall at Cape Henry.
1865 - Twelve days after US President Abraham Lincoln was shot (and 11 days after he died) Union cavalry troopers led by Lieutenant Edward P. Doherty cornered his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, in a tobacco barn at Garrett's Farm near Bowling Green, Virginia. With him was an accomplice, David Herold, who surrendered almost immediately. Despite setting fire to the barn in order to flush him out, the wounded Booth (he broke his leg fleeing from Ford's Theatre the night he shot Lincoln) would not be budged. Booth was eventually shot in the neck by Boston Corbett (shown, at right) in almost the same place Booth had shot Lincoln - behind the left ear; paralyzed, Booth was taken to the Garrett farmhouse, where he died three hours later on their porch, mumbling the words 'Useless, useless...'.
1925 - Paul von Hindenburg defeated Wilhelm Marx in the second round of the German presidential election to become the first directly elected head of state of the Weimar Republic.
1933 - The Geheime Staatspolizei - better known as the Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany - was established.
1937 - The Spanish town of Guernica was bombed by the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion and Italy's Aviazione Legionaria; code named Operation Rügen, it was one of the gravest atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War.
1946 - Father Divine, a controversial religious leader who claimed to be God, married the much-younger Edna Rose Ritchings; theirs remains a celebrated anniversary in the International Peace Mission movement.
1962 - A computer error caused NASA's Ranger 4 spacecraft to crash into the dark side of the moon, rendering the device unable to perform any of its necessary tasks.
1964 - Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.
1966 - An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 destroyed Tashkent.
1970 - The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization entered into force.
1982 - A shooting spree in which 57 people were killed by former South Korean police officer Woo Bum-kon began in Gyeongsangnam-do.
1986 - A nuclear reactor accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine caused the worst nuclear disaster in history.
1991 - Seventy tornadoes broke out in the central United States; before the outbreak's end Andover, Kansas, would record the year's only F5 tornado.
1994 - An Airbus A300-600R carrying China Airlines Flight 140 crashed at Japan's Nagoya Airport killing everyone on board, with a death toll amounting to 264.
2002 - Robert Steinhäuser infiltrated Gutenberg-Gymnasium in the German town of Erfurt, managing to kill 17 at the school before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot.
2005 - Under international pressure, Syria withdrew the last of its 14,000 troop military garrison in Lebanon, ending its 29-year military domination of that country.
2007 - Hong Kong's Queen's Pier was officially closed by the government, after a bitter struggle by conservationists, in order to facilitate land reclamation in the city's central business district.
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