Thursday, July 08, 2010

Remembering... Dick Sargent

At the risk of offending diehard Bewitched fans - and let's face it, is there any other kind? - I have to say I always kind of preferred Dick Sargent as Darrin Stephens over Dick York, even as a kid. Not that I had any problem with Dick York per se... It's just that there was something about Sargent I liked better*.

PhotobucketIn the early 1990s that certain something became clear when Sargent came out of the closet as part of National Coming Out Day in 1991; he was later co-Grand Marshal of the Orange County Pride Parade with his former co-star and one of the loveliest people to have ever appeared on American television, Elizabeth Montgomery.

Although originally cast as Darrin in 1964, Sargent was then unable to get out of an existing contract at Universal, at which time he was replaced by York; the tables turned in 1969 when York hurt his back and was unable to continue as the perennial fall guy (which in many cases involved literally falling in addition to falling victim to Endora's many magical traps or Uncle Arthur's many pranks).

Dick Sargent died on this day in 1994, following a long battle with prostate cancer; he was survived by his longtime partner Albert Williams, despite having appeared on the quiz show Tattletales in the 1970s alongside 'girlfriend' Fannie Flagg, who is herself gay and who has since made something of a name for herself as a novelist. At least all those years of lying to stay in the closet paid off for one of them...

*Even at a young age I knew what I liked best when it came to Dick.
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"Cum On Feel The Noize" by Quiet Riot

Today's birthday boy Carlos Cavazo wasn't one of the original members of Quiet Riot - the LA-based band whose biggest hit (commercially, at least) was 1983's Cum on Feel the Noize - but his brother Tony had been in the band briefly, and suggested his brother as a replacement for the band's former lead guitarist Randy Rhoads, who died in March 1982.

Cum on Feel the Noize was a monster hit off the band's 1983 album Metal Health, their version easily besting Slade, who originated the song; its success made Metal Health the first heavy metal album to top the pop charts in the US, and even unseated The Police's Synchronicity from the exalted #1 spot, an event which is today considered a watershed moment in that decade's culture war - the triumph of Heavy Metal over New Wave.
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In Memoriam: Kathe Kollwitz

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThroughout her artistic career, Kathe Kollwitz - born on this day in 1867 - concerned herself with the suffering inherent in the human condition. Her works usually depicted the victims of poverty, famine, and war.

After her son Peter died in World War I she spent the next 15 years, wracked by depression, making him a suitable memorial; The Grieving Parents was finally installed at the Belgian cemetery of Roggevelde in 1932, then later moved to the war cemetery at Vladslo, which is also in Belgium.

Though she and her husband were questioned by the Gestapo in 1936, likely because of their socialist leanings, her fame may have saved them. She died in April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war in Europe.
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Pop History Moment: Our Lady of Kazan Was Discovered

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On this day in 1579 Our Lady of Kazan, the most venerated of the Russian Orthodox ikons, was discovered by workmen in the city of Kazan - reportedly after the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a little girl named Matrona and directed her to show them where to look for it.

Over the years the ikon has been credited with sparing Russia from various invasions; it was subsequently stolen in June 1904, and has never been recovered, although copies exist in many Russian cathedrals. In an odd twist of fate some might find ironic, a dozen years after its theft Russia was overrun by Bolsheviks, the country's first invasion since the ikon was discovered...
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"Sexxx-laws" by Beck

Birthday wishes go out today to Beck who, despite his membership in a certain pseudo-religion I am hesitant to name*, still manages to interest me - musically at least.

Taken from his 1999 album Midnite Vultures, Sexx Laws combines pointed social commentary with a smoking banjo solo... In other words, it's got everything I'm looking for in a song, and pointed social commentary besides.

The video was directed by Beck himself, and features an early appearance by Jack Black; my first exposure to the song, though, was when it was featured in a dance-off at the end of one of the more bizarre instalments of the bizarre sitcom Strangers With Candy. It's also been featured in an episode of Matt Groening's great animated sitcom Futurama entitled Bendin' in the Wind - an episode in which Beck (or at least his voice) appeared.

*At the risk of offending any Thetans.

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Pop History Moment: St. John's Devastated By Fire


On this day in 1892 the city of St. John's, Newfoundland, was devastated by what came to be known as the Great Fire of 1892. It all began just after 5 PM, when a pipe dropped in Timothy O'Brien's stable at Freshwater Road at the top of Carter's Hill started a conflagration that would eventually destroy most of the buildings in that city from its outskirts to its principal thoroughfare, Water Street.

Among the thousands of homes and shops destroyed that day was the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, shown at the centre of the above photo, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott; believing the churchyard's stone walls to be an effective barrier against the advancing flames, much of the city's aristocracy had sheltered themselves and their belongings in the church, only to later see them destroyed. The city's rival Roman Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist survived the fire almost unscathed, mainly due to its location at the highest point of land above St. John's Harbour as well as its more durable* construction and crew of dedicated firefighters.

Despite the fact that St. John's was then (as now) principally constructed of wood, owing to its damp climate and normally cool temperatures the conditions for a fire almost never exist there; they have, however, existed occasionally in the past, and inevitably whenever they have a fire has broken out. On the fateful day in question, a rare wind from the north-west** blew sparks from the O'Brien farm out over the rooftops of the town, where it hadn't rained in a month; while work on the water mains had been completed by 3 PM earlier that day, there wasn't enough pressure in them by the time the fire got out of hand to quell the flames.

By the following morning the fire had run out of fuel, and finally went out; in total, though, less than $5,000,000 of the total estimated losses of $13,000,000 were covered by insurance, compounding the devastation for many of the 12,000 people rendered homeless by the blaze. Much of the city's relief eventually came from an international outpouring of compassion by people from Canada, Great Britain, and the United States.

*Stone and brick, rather than wood.
**The city's prevailing wind is from the East, which in this case would have blown the sparks away from populated areas.
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POPnews - July 8th

[Known to the French as Fort Carillon, Fort Ticonderoga* was built at a narrows near the southern end of Lake Champlain where the rapids of the La Chute River empty; strategically placed 6 km (3.5 miles) between Lake Champlain and Lake George, it was used to control crucial trade routes between the English-held Hudson River Valley and the French-held Saint Lawrence River valley, and as such came into play frequently during the French and Indian War and, to a lesser extent, the American Revolution.]

1283 - During the War of the Sicilian Vespers a fleet commanded by the Aragonese admiral Roger of Lauria defeated the Neapolitan navy at Grand Harbour in the Battle of Malta.

1579 - Our Lady of Kazan, a holy icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, was discovered underground by builders in the Tatarstan city of Kazan; the men had been led there by a small girl named Matrona, who claimed to have had a Marian apparition in which the Theotokos directed her to its location.

1663 - England's King Charles II granted John Clarke a royal charter to Rhode Island.

1709 - During the Great Northern War at the Battle of Poltava Russia's Tsar Peter I defeated Sweden's Charles XII, thus effectively ending Sweden's role as a major power in Europe.

1716 - At the Battle of Dynekilen, during the Great Northern War, Danish-Norwegian forces led by Peter Tordenskjold defeated a larger Swedish force under the command of Olof Strömstierna, taking many of the larger ships captive while scuttling others.

1758 - French forces led by Louis-Joseph de Montcalm and Francis de Gaston, Chevalier de Levis held Fort Carillon - at Ticonderoga, New York, during the Battle of Carillon - against the British forces of James Abercrombie and George Howe (who died two days earlier, during the first day of the siege).

1760 - In a last ditch effort to keep its North American colonies following the country's defeat in the French and Indian War France sent the frigate Le Machault (along with five merchant vessels) to relieve New France, where instead they were defeated by the Royal Navy's John Byron at Chaleur Bay following the 5-day Battle of Restigouche.

1853 - Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay's Uraga Harbor with the intention of opening up Japan to Western trade; after meeting with officials of the Tokugawa Shogunate he was directed to Nagasaki, which at the time was the only Japanese port open to trade with foreigners.

1859 - Sweden's King Charles XV (also known as Norway's Karl IV) ascended to the throne of Sweden-Norway.

1864 - The Shinsengumi sabotaged the Choshu-han shishi's planned attack on Kyoto at Ikedaya, an event known as Ikedaya Jiken, which saved the city from certain destruction.

1874 - The North West Mounted Police began their famous March West, in a group commanded by Col. George Arthur French and comprised of 22 officers, 287 men – called constables and sub-constables – 310 horses, 67 wagons, 114 ox-carts, 18 yoke of oxen, 50 cows and 40 calves. Also along was the artist Henri Julien, working for the Canadian Illustrated News, who sketched the trek from Dufferin in Manitoba to Fort Whoop-Up in western Alberta.

1889 - The first issue of the Wall Street Journal was published.

1896 - William Jennings Bryan delivered his Cross of Gold speech (advocating bimetalism) at that year's Democratic National Convention, which was held in Chicago.

1898 - The shooting death of crime boss Soapy Smith released Skagway from his iron grip.

1932 - Apparently the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level of the Great Depression, bottoming out at 41.22.

1966 - King Mwambutsa IV Bangiriceng of Burundi was deposed by his son Prince Charles Ndizi.

1982 - Several members of Iraq's Dawa Party attacked the presidential motorcade in an assassination attempt against Saddam Hussein in Dujail.

1999 - Allen Lee Davis became the last person executed by electric chair in Florida for the May 1982 murder of Nancy Weiler, her unborn child and two daughters, Kristina (9) and Katherine (5).

2004 - American Marine Michael Brown was convicted on Okinawa for 'attempting an indecent act' and 'destruction of property', and was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years, for the attempted rape of a Filipina bartender named Victoria Nakamine.

*With which I am clearly obsessed, having last posted a picture of Fort Ticonderoga here on May 10th.
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