Monday, July 05, 2010

The History of Sex: Porfirio Rubirosa

Aside from having one of the best names in history - a name so sexy not even an unaccented voice like mine can wreck it, so you can imagine how hot it would sound whispered in your ear by a Hispanic gigolo - Porfirio Rubirosa had a highly publicized reputation as a lothario; in his hey-day, which likely began in his early teens and continued until his death, Rubirosa bedded some of the most famous and beautiful women in the world, many of whom were both.

PhotobucketBorn in January 1909 in the Dominican Republic, Rubirosa's climb began when he climbed into the bed of Flor de Oro Trujillo, daughter of Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo, in 1934; although soon divorced (on account of Rubirosa's numerous infidelities), he remained in the service of his country and his ex-father-in-law as 'Ambassador plenipotentiary' until Trujillo's assassination in May 1961.

What we all really want to know about though, is his cock. Within his lifetime, pepper grinders the world over were nicknamed 'rubirosas' in his honour by his jet-set buddies. No less a penis expert than Truman Capote described it thusly: 'an 11-inch cafe au lait sinker as thick as a man's wrist', which makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Length and girth - a deadly combination...

As to its victims, they included Dolores Del Rio, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Soraya Esfandiary, Veronica Lake, Kim Novak, Eva Peron, Doris Duke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Barbara Hutton, and Danielle Darrieux among many hundreds of others; while in most cases these relationships ended badly, while they were going they went exceptionally well, since he was reportedly an expert swordsman as well, which well-endowed men often aren't*.

The death of a truly exceptional cock is always a tragic one; the end came for Rubirosa's when he crashed his Ferrari near Paris' Bois de Boulogne on this day in 1965. Clearly, he'd been reaching for the gear shift and missed - an honest mistake - and realized his error too late, by which time all the blood had rushed out of his brain. Thanks to gossipy women and the gay dudes who love them, however, the name Porfirio Rubirosa will continue to resonate forever as one of the greatest lovers in the history of sex.

*Because they don't need to be!


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"Walking In Memphis" by Marc Cohn

Birthday wishes go out today to Marc Cohn, whose 1991 hit Walking in Memphis climbed record charts around the world; the song has also been covered by another singer with a famously husky voice - namely Cher.  Alas, Cohn was the victim of the Grammy Curse* and has been little heard from since...

Cohn has, however, made news for reasons other than his musical prowess; in August 2005 he was shot in the head as part of an attempted carjacking.  The story, horrifying as it was, probably got picked up because a) it took place in the middle of the summer**, and b) Cohn is married to ABC television journalist Elizabeth Vargas.  Fortunately Cohn's injuries were minor and he continues to perform and tour to this day.

*Winning Best New Artist for 1991.
**Which is known - somewhat inappropriately in this case - as the 'silly season', a time of the year when few newsworthy occurrences take place.
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Remembering... Carole Landis

Like many beautiful young people running after the fame and adulation promised by Hollywood, Carole Landis was also running from something much worse - namely her own past. As hard as it may be for those who believe in the power of beauty to comprehend, beauty is as much a curse as it is a gift - which is a lesson Carole Landis would spend her entire life learning the hard way...

PhotobucketBorn in Wisconsin on New Year's Day 1919, Landis never knew the man she thought was her father, Alfred Ridste, who walked out on the family before Carole was born; the man who actually might have been Carole's father, Charles Fenner, eventually became her stepfather. The youngest of five children, two of Carole's brothers died in childhood - one was scalded, the other shot - which may have had something to do with the climate of abuse in the household. Landis herself was molested from an early age, likely by one of a series of putative 'uncles' courting her mother.

With her sunny good looks and friendly disposition, Landis alternated between winning beauty contests and making feminist statements as a teenager, such as trying to start a girls' football team at her high school. By the mid-1930s she'd escaped (or thought she had) and found herself singing in nightclubs in San Francisco; her first film appearance came shortly thereafter in 1937, although like fully half of the entries in her filmography, she was unbilled for her performance.

Unsatisfied with just being a pretty girl in a sweater*, Landis managed to get a contract with 20th Century Fox, and not just because she was sleeping with Darryl F. Zanuck either, although after their relationship ended the good parts she'd gotten in the early 1940s evaporated, and she was back to making B-movies. Having dated a string of Hollywood notables - Franchot Tone, Charlie Chaplin, and George Montgomery to name just three - Landis threw herself into the war effort, even traveling overseas to perform for the troops; during one trip she nearly died of amoebic dysentery and malaria. She later wrote a book about her experiences, which was later made into the movie Four Jills in a Jeep, which costarred such other USO notables as Mitzi Mayfair, Kay Francis, and Martha Raye.

By the early-1940s it might have seemed like Landis had finally beaten back her demons; depression, though, is a wily foe. Treating it is as individual as those who live with the condition, a concept scarcely given credence today, and one which certainly wouldn't have even occurred to anyone then. Landis had previously attempted suicide in 1944 and 1946, and her attempt on this day in 1948 might have failed as well if only her then-boyfriend Rex Harrison hadn't wasted so much time attempting damage control. When he found her she was still alive, albeit with a weak pulse; by the time he'd wasted half an hour looking through her address book for the phone number of her doctor the Seconal she'd taken had done their work, and she was gone.

Carole Landis was buried at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, and was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In pop culture terms, though, her most enduring memorial came when Jacqueline Susann based the character Jennifer North - from her 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls - on Landis; in the 1967 movie version Jennifer North was played by another Hollywood beauty with an entirely different tragedy on her horizon, Sharon Tate.

*Despite being awfully good at it, as the photo shows.

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Happy Birthday Bill Watterson


Even though Bill Watterson* only drew Calvin and Hobbes for ten years, what a decade it was!

At a time when the comics page was at its most moribund** the antics of bratty six-year old Calvin and his imaginary friend/stuffed tiger Hobbes could be counted on to brighten any day. The amusing scrapes they frequently found themselves in were belied by their philosophical perspective on them; small wonder, since Watterson named Calvin for John Calvin and Hobbes for Thomas Hobbes, both of whom were philosophers - although surely the two never once went tobogganing together!

Watterson cited Charles Schulz as among his prime influences, and there is definitely some similarity between the combination of antics and angst found in Calvin and Hobbes in Peanuts as well; unlike his idol, though, Watterson refused to allow Calvin to exist in any other medium - no Saturday morning cartoon, no Happy Meal Toys, major motion pictures, or television ads. In fact, Watterson has never had kind words for fellow cartoonist Jim Davis, who whored his strip Garfield out to such an extreme that it probably did, in the end, lessen the strip's impact.

Still, for someone with a major knick-knack fetish like myself, a few Calvin and Hobbes figurines would fit nicely into the menagerie of Peanuts, Muppets, and Smurfs which coat the shelves of the Pop Culture Institute like so many barnacles. Nevertheless, I appreciate his decision, and turn to the books again and again whenever I'm in need of the wisdom of a little kid with a big imagination. In fact, one of these days I may even take the plunge and splash out on The Complete Calvin and Hobbes - a 10.2 kilo (22.5 pound) behemoth containing every single strip***.

*Who was born on this day in 1958.
**Which is, let's face it, more often than not.
***Despite the poor reviews the book has received for the quality (indeed, for the lack thereof) of its binding.

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"Cabo Verde" by Cesaria Evora

In honour of Cape Verde's independence day*, the Pop Culture Institute is proud to feature the work of one of that tiny country's greatest exports: Cesária Évora. The song she sings here, Cabo Verde, is from her 1991 album Mar Azul, and its video shows images of both Évora and her stark homeland.

I had the pleasure of seeing her perform this, and many others besides, live at the Vancouver Jazz Festival in July 2000. It was an evening both electric and laid-back; normally, the elaborate interior of the Orpheum sends me so spinny you could run a generator off me, but that night I kept my cool and was rewarded in kind with an evening of sweet dusky vocals that are themselves the essence of cool. So carried away was I that when, in the middle of the show, the Barefoot Diva took her trademark smoke break onstage I found myself, along with the rest of the capacity crowd, applauding her despite how I feel about cigarettes**.

Some five years later our paths crossed again when she was a guest in the hotel where I was working; I'm ashamed to say the couple of times I found myself in her presence I just stood there grinning like a dumb-ass. I don't know if she's been back since, but if she hasn't I'm sure it's my fault. I imagine she still has nightmares about the enormous grinning bellhop; I know I would.

**I don't like them.
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Pop History Moment: John Guy Sails For Newfoundland

On this day in 1610 John Guy sailed from Bristol* with 39 colonists, intent on creating the first permanent colony and plantation in Newfoundland on behalf of Britain's Society of Merchant Venturers. He'd already received his charter from James I in 1607, and explored the coastline of Conception Bay - scouting for a town site - in 1608.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe colonists arrived in August, too late in the year to do much but build their homes and ride out the winter, but survive it they did; in fact, Cuper's Cove was only the second New World colony (after the Jamestown Settlement) to survive for more than a year after its establishment. It was also there where, in March 1613, the first white baby in Newfoundland was born to the wife of Nicholas Guy.

Steadily occupied for the rest of the century, the site was abandoned early in the 18th Century; today a village known as Cupids - home to some 800 people - stands near where Guy's original colony stood.

*Where he'd once served on the Common Council and as sheriff before being named Governor of Newfoundland by the London and Bristol Company.

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POPnews - July 5th

[Although she lived just six years, Dolly the sheep's brief life raised all sorts of ethical questions about cloning, in addition to raising hopes that such a technique might one day be used to bring species such as the Pyrenean ibex back from extinction - which in itself is bound to raise a whole other set of issues... Aside from that the only ethical issue I have with Dolly is in regards to her name; since the cell used to replicate her was taken from a mammary gland, the first cloned mammal in history was named after the famously busty entertainer and humanitarian Dolly Parton - which I think says more about Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and their colleagues at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute than I dare to!]

1687 - Isaac Newton published his three-volume Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which he'd written over the previous two years.

1775 - The Second Continental Congress adopted the Olive Branch Petition, a letter written to George III in a last-ditch effort to prevent bloodshed in the looming American Revolution; it was sent three days later, and when it was received by the King six weeks after that it was discarded and its requests ignored.

1809 - The Battle of Wagram began, near Vienna, pitting the Duke of Teschen against the Corsican Over-Compensator himself; when it ended the following day it had become the largest battle yet of the Napoleonic Wars, and ended the War of the Fifth Coalition.

1811 - Venezuela's Congress declared independence from Spain by ratifying a document written by Juan Germán Roscio, precipitating the Venezuelan War of Independence, which lasted until the Spanish were soundly defeated by José Prudencio Padilla at the Battle of Lake Maracaibo in July 1823. Today is celebrated as Independence Day in Venezuela.

1814 - During the War of 1812 American Major General Jacob Brown defeated British General Phineas Riall at the Battle of Chippawa.

1830 - France invaded Algeria, thereby inflicting 132 years of French colonial rule on that North African country.

1833 - Admiral Charles Napier defeated the navy of the Portuguese usurper Dom Miguel at the third Battle of Cape St. Vincent.

1934 - At an incident which came to be known as Bloody Thursday police opened fire on striking longshoremen in San Francisco, killing Nicholas Bordois and Howard Sperry.

1937 - Spam, the luncheon meat, was first offered for sale by the Hormel Foods Corporation.

1946 - The bikini was introduced during a fashion show at Piscine Molitor in Paris; allegedly invented by engineer Louis Réard and designer Jacques Helm, there are depictions of similar garments from Ancient Rome.

Photobucket1947 - Larry Doby signed a contract with Bill Veeck and the Cleveland Indians, making him the first black player in the American League... Unfortunately for Doby Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League just 11 weeks earlier, which pretty much stole all of Doby's thunder. Doby was, however, the first black man to hit a home run during a World Series game - which he did in 1948, the year Cleveland trounced the Boston Braves. Previously a member of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues, Doby ended his American playing career in June 1959 with the Chicago White Sox, passing through the locker room of the Detroit Tigers along the way; following his retirement from the majors state-side, Doby played with the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball in Nagoya, Japan. He also coached for the Montreal Expos and the Indians, and later served as manager for the White Sox in 1978 - ironically making him the second black manager in the majors, following a different Robinson (Frank Robinson) into the record books! Doby was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.

1950 - The Knesset passed the Law of Return, granting all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel.

1954 - India's Andhra Pradesh High Court was established.

1962 - Following the Algerian War of Independence that country declared its own independence from France, two days after French President Charles de Gaulle had declared it for them and 132 years to the day after the French initially invaded.

1970 - During a stopover en route from Montreal to Los Angeles Air Canada Flight 621 crashed near Toronto International Airport, killing 109 people.

1975 - Cape Verde gained its independence from Portugal following the fall of the latter's dictator António de Oliveira Salazar - whose hardline approach to the independence of Portugese colonies caused the majority of them to be lost anyway following his ouster.

1977 - During a military coup in Pakistan, that country's first democratically elected Prime Minister - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto - was overthrown.

1989 - Oliver North was sentenced by US District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours community service for his part in the Iran-Contra Affair.

1996 - Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.
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