Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Bye Bye Birdie" by Ann-Margret

Perennial sex-kitten Ann-Margret - who today turns 69 - was a smash in the 1963 film Bye Bye Birdie, which is about a teen idol who's drafted to serve in Vietnam; inspiration for the stage musical (which had itself inspired the movie) was the March 1958 induction of Elvis Presley, an act which had teenage girls around the world in a conniption for months.
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Gratuitous Brunette: Penélope Cruz


Although I can't say I've ever knowingly watched one of her films*, over the years I've nevertheless gotten to know Penélope Cruz in the usual manner - namely, from the tabloids and by watching her in interviews.  Whatever I've seen has impressed me - or at least impressed me enough to award her the singular honour of Gratuitous Brunette on this, the occasion of her birthday**.

Admittedly the whole 'relationship with Tom Cruise' thing was a bit weird, but then I've already said too much...  Cruz has often been outspoken about the effect the tabloid press has on people's ethics.  I'd probably agree with her if I'd ever had any ethics to begin with!  When you're a puny outlet in the brave new world of new media you gather your information in any way you can, and I don't see her beating my door down to offer me an exclusive interview.

A n y w a y...  When not lighting up the silver screen Cruz busies herself with extensive charity works and within the fashion world, especially at the boutique she owns - called Amarcord - in the tony Salamanca district of her hometown, Madrid; additionally Cruz has modeled for Mango, Ralph Lauren and L'Oreal.

*I haven't.  I checked.  But that's not to say I wouldn't...  Several of them have been directed by Pedro Almodóvar and one is a Woody Allen movie!  Something tells me, though, I'll probably see her in Sex and the City 2 first...
**I promise, this is a legitimate post and not filler...  Honest!
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Pop History Moment: Mussolini's Downfall


On this day in 1945 Benito Mussolini - for 21 years the Fascist dictator of Italy - along with his mistress Clara Petacci and an entourage of 15 were all shot and killed* in the village of Giulino di Mezzegra while attempting to escape to Spain; the following day the corpses of Mussolini and Petacci were hung on meathooks from a gas station in Milan's Piazzale Loreto, during which time they were stabbed, shot, pelted with rocks, spat upon, and generally desecrated by the crowds.

Il Duce was secretly buried in an unmarked grave at Musocco, Milan's municipal cemetery. On Easter Sunday 1946 his body was located and dug up by neo-fascist Domenico Leccisi (along with two friends), who took it on the lam for four months; it was found that August in a steamer trunk in Certosa di Pavia. Weekend at Benito's was over.

After 10 years in legal limbo - reasonably short in Italian terms - his remains were entombed at his birthplace of Predappio, the only posthumous honour he was given. Unless you count the reacharound of his epitaph, that is:

Here lies one of the most intelligent animals who ever appeared on the face of the earth.

Uh... Yeah. Just not smart enough to avoid being strung up by an angry mob, apparently.

The entire ghoulish story is related in Sergio Luzzato's book, The Body of Il Duce: Mussolini's Corpse and the Fortunes of Italy.

*According to his own self, by
Walter Audisio.

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"Blow The Whistle" by Too Short

Birthday wishes go out to Too Short, the Oakland-based rapper who's been spittin' rhymes since 1980; although influential in the rise of gangsta rap, his own work is principally sexual (as opposed to criminal) in nature - he's been known to criticize crack, for instance, and rarely uses the n-word. Unlike many rappers who rave about pimping - he was even interviewed by the Hughes Brothers for their 1999 documentary American Pimp - the only ho he's ever pimped is himself; given that 'hip-hop' and 'longevity' are often mutually exclusive terms, I'd say he's done pretty well.

Blow the Whistle
is the title track from his 16th album, released in 2006.

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In Memoriam: Odette Sansom

Many of the greatest heroes of World War II served in the French Resistance; still reeling from the massive losses it suffered during World War I, France had neither the manpower nor the will to fight off the Germans yet again, less than a generation after their previous onslaught. Also, given the improvements in aviation, Paris would have certainly been struck as hard as both London and Berlin - an unthinkable brutality. Nevertheless, despite their capitulation to Nazi rule French opposition to Hitler's onslaught was as vigourous as it was effective...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1912, Odette Sansom was just one of those heroes; married and living in England at the outset of hostilities, she trained under Colonel Maurice Buckmaster as part of the Special Operations Executive. Operating in the south of France with her supervisor (and future husband) Peter Churchill, she supplied him with funds and worked as a radio operator under the alias Lise.

They were betrayed by a double agent named Hugo Bleicher in April 1942; tortured by the Gestapo at Fresnes prison near Paris, she stuck to her cover story that she was married to Peter Churchill and that he was Winston Churchill's nephew (which he was not). Condemned to death in June 1943 she was sent to Ravensbrück, but survived the concentration camp and later testified at a war crimes tribunal against the guards there.

In addition to being the only woman to have received Britain's George Cross while alive, Sansom was also made an MBE and a chevalier in the French Légion d'honneur. The 1950 film Odette, in which Sansom was played by Anna Neagle, dramatized her wartime activities; Sansom died in March 1995, aged 82.
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POPnews - April 28th

[Thailand's King Bhumibol has had the great good fortune throughout the five decades of his reign to have mastered the art of kingship, to have earned the adoration of his people and, most importantly, to have married the right woman. Queen Sirikit has been more than a consort, though; in December 1956 she served as the country's regent as well - only the second woman to do so, after Queen Saovabha, wife of Chulalongkorn - during the King's service as a monk, which is a customary rite of passage for Buddhist males in Thailand. As well, her unwavering understanding of the country's Muslim minority has earned her as much respect as has her ever-present smile...]

1192 - Conrad of Montferrat, King of Jerusalem, was assassinated in Tyre, two days after his claim to the throne was confirmed by election; the killing was carried out by Hashshashin - possibly under orders from England's King Richard I...

1253 - Nichiren, a Japanese Buddhist monk, propounded the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for the first time, declaring it to be the essence of Buddhism, and in effect founding Nichiren Buddhism.

1611 - The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas - the Catholic University of the Philippines, and the largest Catholic university in the world, affectionately known as 'Ustê' - was established in Manila by archbishop Miguel de Benavides of the Order of Preachers.

1788 - Maryland became the seventh US state.

1789 - The crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied, following which Captain William Bligh and 18 sailors were set adrift; the rebel crew returned to Tahiti briefly and then set sail for Pitcairn Island. The story of the Mutiny on the Bounty has been captivating the imagination of readers and movie-goers alike ever since...

1920 - Azerbaijan was added to the Soviet Union following the establishment of the Azerbaijan SSR.

1930 - The first night game in organized baseball history took place in Independence, Kansas, at which the Independence Producers lost 13-3 to the Muskogee Chiefs, their Western Association rival.

1947 - Thor Heyerdahl and five crew mates set out from Peru on the Kon-Tiki to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia; the expedition was later the basis for a wildly successful book, from which was made an Oscar-winning documentary.

1949 - Former First Lady of the Philippines Aurora Quezon was assassinated while en route to dedicate a hospital in memory of her late husband; her daughter and 10 others were also killed.

1950 - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej married Sirikit after a quiet 10-month engagement in Lausanne.

1952 - The US occupation of Japan ended.

1967 - Expo 67 opened to the public in Montreal, having been ceremonially opened the previous day by Canadian Governor-General Roland Michener.

1969 - Charles de Gaulle resigned as President of France.

1977 - The Red Army Faction trial ended, with Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe found guilty of four counts of murder and more than 30 counts of attempted murder.

1978 - Afghanistan's President Mohammed Daoud Khan was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by pro-communist rebels.

1987 - American engineer Ben Linder was killed in an ambush by US-funded Contras in northern Nicaragua.

1988 - Flight attendant Clarabelle 'C.B.' Lansing was blown out of Aloha Flight 243 and fell to her death over Maui when part of the plane's fuselage ripped open in mid-flight; Lansing was later played by Nancy Kwan in the TV-movie Miracle Landing, which starred Connie Sellecca.

1996 - Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree in Tasmania - now known as the Port Arthur Massacre - killing 35 people and seriously injuring 37 more.

2001 - Billionaire and former NASA employee Dennis Tito became the world's first space tourist.

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