Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Mickey" by Toni Basil

Birthday wishes go out today to esteemed choreographer Toni Basil, who took her brand global in 1982 with the release of Word of Mouth (which is still only available on vinyl!)

The album yielded a smash hit single, Mickey; written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn as Kitty, and originally recorded in 1979 by the UK's Racey, the song was renamed because of Basil's crush on Micky Dolenz of The Monkees*.

*Basil had been choreographer on The Monkees' movie, Head, in 1968.
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Happy Birthday Your Highness

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Maybe she shouldn't have been disinherited...

You see, Her Highness is the oldest child of King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, and was once poised to be Queen of Norway in her own right. That is, until her brother Haakon Magnus was born. Now he's the Crown Prince and Martha Louise is... Well, something of a tearaway, as Princesses go. For instance, she married a writer, Ari Behn, which is never the way to become respectable. Mr. Behn is also friends with - and voted for - Norway's Labour Party, which had all the snobs in Oslo all agog.

Wait. It gets better. When the Princess started an entertainment company and began paying income tax, her father removed the Royal from her title. It was done after consulting with her, or so they say - just like when all her royal patronages were revoked. That's when she moved to New York, where a woman* doesn't need a title to be a Princess (or at least act like one).  While there she published a children's book entitled Why Kings and Queens Don't Wear Crowns.

Then in August 2007 she and a partner opened Astarte Education in Oslo, a school promising to teach people how to speak with angels for $2100 a semester. Ever since, calls for her to renounce her royal titles and claim to the throne (she's currently fourth in line) have escalated.

Something tells me we haven't heard the last from Mrs. Behn; her latest royal duties were the birth of her third daughter, Emma Tallulah Behn, in September 2008 and attendance at the wedding of Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling in June 2010.

*Or a man, for that matter...

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In Memoriam: Paul Muni

Paul Muni and Warner Bros. were made for each other...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThroughout the 1930s Muni was the top leading man the studio had, and in role after role his performances gave a face and voice to the social messages which the studio not only held dear but sought to publicize via their films. Every socially-conscious actor in Hollywood today owes him a debt of gratitude for blazing their trail, while every neocon blogger in the world should give thanks to him for giving them so much in the way of progressive politics to whine about.

Muni's movies were the kind that got legislation passed: from his pre-Code classics Scarface (1932) and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932), to later fare such as Bordertown (1935) and The Life of Emile Zola (1937) just had that effect on people.

Muni often played a man wrongly accused, or else a good man trapped by circumstance in a world awash with corruption; and when he played a villain (as he did in Scarface), it was clear that it wasn't some inherent evil that drove his character to a life of crime, but a society which rewarded (rather than punished) such a choice.

Muni also excelled at that old Hollywood standby, the biopic; his research was meticulous and his performances masterful. He was nominated for an Oscar for playing Zola, and won in 1937 for his portrayal of Louis Pasteur.

Born on this day in 1895, Paul Muni died in August 1967.

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"We Are All On Drugs" by Weezer

Birthday wishes go out today to Matt Sharp, founding member and former bassist for Weezer; currently, when not performing solo he appears with The Rentals and probably mopes around because Rivers Cuomo is so much cuter than him.

We Are All on Drugs is the second single from Weezer's second album Make Believe nestling, as it does in their discography, between Beverly Hills and Perfect Situation.
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Pop History Moment: Gay Man Saves President's Life

[In the photo above Oliver 'Bill' Sipple appears at the extreme left of the frame, while Sara Jane Moore's face is just visible to the right of that pole intersecting the frame. I don't know who the lady in the hat and the stripey top is, but she's got the right idea: get the Hell outta there!]

On this day in 1975 a gay man did a heroic thing, and among those who remember it, many - most of them Christians - are still trying to come to terms with such a possibility; after all, aren't gay men all supposed to be flighty, effeminate twits, synonymous with stupidity? I mean, 'that's so gay' doesn't exactly mean 'that's so brave', now does it?

A n y w a y... US President Gerald Ford had just arrived outside San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel on this day in 1975 when Sara Jane Moore pointed a gun at him from a distance of about 40 feet; fortunately retired Vietnam vet Oliver Sipple grabbed her arm, deflecting the shot and, while slightly injuring a fellow bystander, probably saved the President's life. Sipple then tried to wrestle her to the ground in order to prevent her from firing a second time, following which the Secret Service took over. Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme had also tried to kill the President just 17 days earlier with (fortunately) similar results; that killing was prevented by Secret Service agent Larry Buendorf without any shots being fired.

In the aftermath of the assassination attempt, Sipple sought to fade back into anonymity - and might have done so too, had it not been for crusading gay politician Harvey Milk, who tried to use Sipple's heroism for political ends. While the idea of making a gay male hero out of a hero who just happens to be gay may have suited Milk's own 70s-style militancy, and even have been the right thing to do, it was Sipple himself who was forced to live with the consequences. For a time after the revelation he was estranged from his parents, who'd disowned him when they found out he was gay*, whereupon began Sipple's descent into madness and addiction.

Oliver Sipple died in February 1989, aged 47, President Ford in December 2006 at 93; Sara Jane Moore - then 77 - was paroled in December 2007 as posing no further threat to the American public. A year before her release she recanted, claiming she'd been 'blinded by her radical political views' - the sell-out...

*They were later reconciled.

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POPnews: September 22nd

[Currently called the Duke of York's Picture House, Britain's
oldest extant cinema now shows art house and repertory films.

66 CE - Roman Emperor Nero created a legion which, following his death in 69 CE during the Year of the Four Emperors, was officially named I Italica, or 'Italian First'. They remained in existence for much of the next five centuries, and were stationed at the Danube when Goths overran what remained of the Western Roman Empire.

1236 - Lithuanian Samogitians and Semigallians under Vykintas defeated the Livonian Brothers of the Sword in Battle of Šiauliai (or The Battle of the Sun); the Livonian commander, Volkwin, died in battle.

1499 - Although the foundation of Switzerland is traditionally measured from August 1st, 1291, it was the Treaty of Basel (signed on this day) that awarded the Swiss their independence from the Holy Roman Empire following the Battle of Dornach.

1598 - Writer Ben Jonson was indicted for manslaughter when he killed an actor, Gabriel Spenser, during a duel in what is now Hoxton. Jonson was incarcerated in Newgate Prison, where he converted to Roman Catholicism; he later avoided a death sentence because he was literate.

1692 - Based solely on the testimony of a group of young girls Martha Corey was hanged during the Salem witch trials, three days after her husband Giles Corey was ordered to be crushed to death by the same judicial body...  Despite their early tragic deaths at the hands of a bunch of paranoid religious zealots, the Coreys attained a kind of immortality when they were made main characters in Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible.

1761 - England's King George III was crowned alongside his consort Queen Charlotte at Westminster Abbey.

1774 - Pope Clement XIV died; he was succeeded by Pius VI in February 1775.

1776 - Nathan Hale was hanged by the British for spying; whether or not he ever uttered his famous last words - 'I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country' - they became a rallying cry for Patriot forces.

1851 - The city of Des Moines, Iowa, was incorporated as Fort Des Moines.

1869 - Richard Wagner's opera Das Rheingold premiered at the National Theatre in München.

1910 - The Duke of York's Cinema opened in Brighton; that it is still in use today makes it the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.

1919 - The steel strike of 1919, led by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, began in Pennsylvania and spread across the United States before collapsing in January 1920.

1927 - Jack Dempsey lost the Long Count boxing match to Gene Tunney at Chicago's Soldier Field.

1955 - British television network ITV went on the air, effectively turning the BBC's media monopoly into a media oligarchy.

1960 - The Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali after the withdrawal of Senegal from the Mali Federation; the newly renamed nation then gained its independence from France.

1970 - Tunku Abdul Rahman resigned as Prime Minister of Malaysia in favour of Tun Abdul Razak.

1975 - Sara Jane Moore was thwarted in her attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford by Oliver Sipple; admiration for Sipple in GOP ranks was later quashed when it was revealed - by no less than Harvey Milk - that the Vietnam vet was gay.

- Iraq invaded Iran, precipitating the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.

1985 - The Plaza Accord was signed in New York City.

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