Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pop History Moment: 'The Golden Girls' Debuts

It was on this day in 1985 when television viewers first got a glimpse into the lives of four women sharing a house together in Miami...  Over the next seven years the exploits of Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan), Rose Nylund (Betty White), and Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) made it one of the most consistently popular shows on TV; in addition to strong performances by its four leads, the series also featured the talents of Herb Edelman as Dorothy's philandering ex-husband, Stan*.

The years have not diminished its viewers' enthusiasm, and it would be safe to say that The Golden Girls is today one of the most popular programs to have ever aired.  Proof that the show's success was due to its entire ensemble came with the short run of a spin-off, The Golden Palace, which lasted only the 1992-3 season** without the anchor of Dorothy's commonsense.  Two other spin-offs - Empty Nest and its spin-off Nurses - were more successful; most successful of all was the character of Sophia Petrillo, whom Getty portrayed in a total of five different series (the fifth was Blossom!)

*Edelman appeared in just 27 of the show's 180 episodes, but it was enough to make him its most prolific guest star; TV veteran Harold Gould actually played two of Rose's boyfriends - Arnie Peterson in 1 episode and Miles Webber in 14.
** The Golden Palace - which co-starred Cheech Marin and Don Cheadle - had been greenlighted for a second season, but was cancelled the day before NBC announced its new season.

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Gratuitous Brunette: Ben Cohen


At the risk of having him step on my neck, I first decided to name professional rugby player Ben Cohen as today's Gratuitous Brunette in 2008, on his thirtieth birthday. It went so well that first year, in fact, that I've just let it ride!

In point of fact, Cohen has been known to embrace his substantial gay following, alas just not in the fun way; still, following him is its own reward, since given how good he looks from the front he looks even better from behind. Besides which, I really need to up the sports coverage here, despite the fact that I know nothing about sports; the fact that Ben Cohen is a genuine pop culture icon helps.

Having spent the bulk of his career playing for the Northampton Saints, Cohen now plays for Brive in France, despite the fact that he's got a Jewish name - even though he's only culturally (rather than religiously) Jewish. The French - it needs to be said - are well known for their anti-Semitism; just ask Bernard-Henri Lévy.
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"Tears Dry On Their Own" by Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse's song Tears Dry on Their Own - the fourth single from her second album Back to Black - features a sample of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's classic 1967 Motown hit Ain't No Mountain High Enough (which itself was written by Ashford & Simpson); so subtle is that sample used by producer Salaam Remi that even after learning it was in there I still can't hear it, which makes a nice change from the sort of sampling the likes of P. Diddy practice wherein the listener is hit over the head repeatedly with the same line 200 times in three minutes.

The video was directed by photograstar David LaChapelle.
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"You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse

The second single off Amy Winehouse's second album Back to Black, You Know I'm No Good is actually my favourite of her songs so far for obvious reasons; the video was directed by Phil Griffin, who also directed the video for Rehab. Not only has it featured before on the Pop Culture Institute, I've also posted it as the official anthem of my other blog, Self-Loathario.

Interestingly enough, the song has also been remixed by Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah, and appears on his album More Fish.

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"Rehab" by Amy Winehouse

Although Amy Winehouse shot to instant fame with the song Rehab - off her 2006 album Back to Black - it was actually her second album; like many of my favourite songs of all time, the first time I heard it I felt like I'd been listening to it my whole life.

The change in Winehouse's sound from her first album, 2003's Frank - which, to be fair, was hugely popular in the UK - can be attributed to the input of super producer Mark Ronson; my wish on this, her birthday, is to hear her third album - whenever, wherever...
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Happy Birthday Amy Winehouse


Street cred is all well and good, but I have to shake my head in wonder at people whose first five instincts aren't self-preservation; the troubled singer about whom I've spent at least two of the last three years fretting isn't some trailer park pop tart but rather soul survivor Amy Winehouse, who today has officially made it through another year - although it's still too touch and go for my liking. When your drug use gives you emphysema, that's officially rock bottom; hopefully it means our girl has nowhere left to go but up.

Two years ago she didn't even attend her own birthday party; according to published reports* she stayed home and sulked because the drinking and drugs have left her looking too rough to go out in public. As indeed they have. Once again, the solution seems too obvious to mention.

I say this as a fan, Amy Winehouse: I some day want to be toasting your twentieth album, not wistfully playing your first two - 2003's Frank and 2006's Back to Black - over and over while wondering what might have been. Do I make myself clear?

*And unlike blogs, the newspapers never make mistakes.

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Pop History Moment: The Death of Princess Grace

25 years before a certain blonde beauty married an older royal gentleman in London, a similar story was being played out in Monaco...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketGlamourous Grace Kelly, the Oscar-winning beauty with a string of acclaimed movie roles under her belt, wowed 'em in the tiny Mediterranean principality; throughout the quarter century of her marriage, too, she continued to impress people the world over with her poise. She was called Her Serene Highness as a matter of deference, but it suited her like no other title could have; Grace Kelly's serenity, it seems, was inborn.

On this day in 1982, as Princess Grace, she met her untimely end...

The previous day she and her youngest child, 17 year-old Princess Stephanie, had been coming back from the Grimaldi family retreat at Roc Agel along the Corniche moyenne when Princess Grace had a stroke behind the wheel; the Land Rover she was driving veered off the road and plunged 100 feet down a ravine.

Both princesses were taken to hospital, where the younger one was treated for a cervical fracture and released - although not in time to attend her mother's funeral; her mother, sadly, was removed from life support the following day and she died shortly thereafter.

Princess Grace was later buried in Monaco's St. Nicholas Cathedral; more than 20 years later she was joined by her widower, Rainier III, who was said to have mourned her daily.

If there's a bright side to the tragedy, it's that the good works she'd begun in her lifetime continue to this day, through the Princess Grace Foundation.
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POPnews: September 14th

[US President William McKinley's assassination at the hands of Leon Czolgosz resulted in the tightening of security around the Chief Executive, which no one had thought of before since 'being proactive' had yet to be invented.]

81 CE - Domitian became Roman Emperor upon the death of his brother Titus.

1180 - The Battle of Ishibashiyama saw Japan's Minamoto no Yoritomo lead the Minamoto against the Taira (with the assistance of the Miura) in one of the bloodier engagements of the Genpei War; for the record, the Taira's Oba Kagechika was victorious.

1607 - The so-called Flight of the Earls from Ireland's Lough Swilly, in County Donegal, refers to the departure of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell from the village of Rathmullan along with some ninety members of many prominent Gaelic families on board a French ship bound for the Continent. Some historians have argued that this particularly extreme action was forced upon the Irish nobility by the fallout from the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland, others that it was a strategic mistake that cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster.

1682 - Bishop Gore School, one of the oldest in Wales, was founded in Swansea; one of its illustrious alumni is Dylan Thomas, whose poetry was first published in the school magazine.

1752 - The British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar, thereby skipping eleven days (the previous day of this year in England was September 2nd).

1812 - Following the Battle of Borodino during the Napoleonic Wars, French grenadiers entered Moscow; the Fire of Moscow began as soon as Russian troops left the city, and would leave three-quarters of the city in ruins.

1829 - The Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Adrianople with Russia, thus ending the Russo-Turkish War.

1862 - The Battle of South Mountain - itself part of the Maryland Campaign - was fought; not only would it give Union generals George B. McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, and William B. Franklin a victory over the Confederacy's Robert E. Lee, the Maryland Campaign is today considered a turning point in Union fortunes during the American Civil War.

1901 - President William McKinley died, eight days after being shot; he was succeeded by his Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt.

1926 - The Liberal Party's William Lyon Mackenzie King defeated Arthur Meighen's Conservatives in a Canadian general election, winning 128 seats to the Conservatives' 91, with 46.1% of the popular vote. The Progressives won 20 seats, with the remaining 6 being divvied up between minor parties.

1944 - Maastricht became the first Dutch city to be liberated by Allied forces.

1948 - The groundbreaking ceremony for United Nations headquarters was held in New York City.

1951 - British Prime Minister Clement Attlee opened the largest oil refinery in Europe, at Fawley on Southampton Water; it remains the largest oil refinery in the UK to this day.

1959 - The Soviet Union's Luna 2 probe crashed onto the Moon, becoming the first man-made object to reach it.

1960 - OPEC was founded.

1975 - Elizabeth Ann Seton - the first American saint - was canonized by Pope Paul VI.

1981 - Marcus Sarjeant - the would-be assassin who'd fired six blanks at the Queen on June 13th - was jailed for five years by Lord Lane; he was released from Grendon psychiatric prison in October 1984 at the age of 20, changed his name, and has endeavoured to make a new life for himself. At least he hasn't tried it again, which seems to make a case for rehabilitation.

1982 - Bachir Gemayel, President-elect of Lebanon, was assassinated; his brother, Amine Gemayel, was later elected in his place, and served as President from 1982 to 1988 instead. Habib Shartouni is considered responsible for the slaying, which was accomplished by means of a bomb planted in Kataeb Party headquarters.

1994 - Major League Baseball canceled its season due to a strike.
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