Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Memoriam: Truman Capote

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How to put all the pieces of Truman Capote together so they fit...

That the beautiful brazen youth who started writing three hours a day when he was 11 could be so knowing in his early works is a testament to his precocity; that the adult Capote could be so comfortable in his sexuality at a time when most of his fellows still conducted their lives in shadow makes him a kind of paragon for those of us who are openly ourselves today.

But for all that he's a paragon, surely he's also a cautionary tale; as booze and drugs took his beauty, bitterness crept in, leaving behind a brittle, bitchy parody...

Oh well, at least his talent went last, leaving in it's wake a dozen masterworks of fiction and reportage, including a sublime fairy-tale of New York City in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and In Cold Blood, which represents no less than an entirely new genre (now rather dully called creative nonfiction) which is so omnipresent these days I may be doing it now without even knowing it.

Born on this day in 1924, Truman Capote died in August 1984 following a long battle with both alcoholism and an even greater monster: himself.
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"Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

Here are Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers in action on The Frankie Laine Show, which was their first national television appearance. I love that there's a bit of banter beforehand, and that it looks like they're all having such fun...

Incidentally, The Teenagers were one of the first integrated groups; three of them were black and two Hispanic. Nothing unusual about that today, but in 1956 it represented a bold step forward.
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Remembering... Frankie Lymon

Frankie Lymon was famous young, as lead singer of The Teenagers; what we know now (that either wasn't known then or else was and was nonetheless disregarded) is that youth and fame are usually a lethal cocktail, as they certainly were in this case...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhen their first single Why Do Fools Fall In Love? became a smash hit in 1956 the Harlemite was just 14, a precocious entertainer and songwriter who had a natural rapport with audiences and a kind of poise when dealing with showbiz veterans that is almost eerie to behold.

In that year alone the group charted 7 singles between the Pop and R&B charts (although none of them were as successful as that first one), and the group morphed from The Teenagers to Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. Early in 1957, Lymon went solo, which was career suicide; typically, it was a greedy record executive's idea, and in his zeal for ever more golden eggs, George Goldner ended up killing the goose.

Addicted to heroin by the age of 15, Frankie Lymon was found dead of an overdose of the drug in May 1968, aged only 25. Incredibly, legal problems dogged his estate (mainly involving songwriting credits, royalties, and which of his three wives was entitled to what); they weren't settled until 1992.
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Happy Birthday Fran Drescher

As she has admitted to Larry King, Fran Drescher's whole life has been about taking negative events and turning them into positives...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketGoodness knows, she's certainly had ample opportunities.

In 1985 she and a friend were raped at gunpoint during a home invasion, which her then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson was forced to witness; she later saw her assailants sent to prison for it, and after much counseling and soul-seeking claims to be at peace with an event that would ruin almost anyone else's life.

Obviously, Fran is not almost anyone else, and her positive approach paid massive dividends; less than a decade later was the star of a smash-hit TV series called The Nanny which is one of the funniest shows in recent memory. The show made her a household name and, for better or worse, put her voice into many American homes.

Then, shortly after The Nanny went off the air, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer; detected early, it is now gone. Along with her return to TV (in the short-lived Living with Fran) she's written two volumes of memoirs and is currently engaged in lobbying Congress in aid of her charitable appeal Cancer Schmancer.

In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I am a fan of hers on Facebook, and enjoy following the lady's activities now as much as I ever have...
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Now Showing: "The Flintstones" Original Intro

Until I originally posted it here on this day in 2008, I'd never seen this original opening to Season 1 of The Flintstones; since then I've availed myself of the first season of the classic Hanna-Barbera sitcom on DVD, and have had 'a gay old time' reliving all those classic moments I first watched as a kid. Although I must claim a preference for the brevity of the more classic intro, this is definitely an eye-opener. I especially love that it shows so much more of Bedrock than the later, more familiar opener.

The Flintstones, of course, made its television debut on this day in 1960, and was the first animated series in American prime-time to last more than three seasons until The Simpsons attained (and, indeed, surpassed) this landmark in 1992.
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Pop History Moment: The Death of James Dean


Even though he had just two feature films - Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden - to his credit (and had just completed work on his third, Giant, eight days earlier) James Dean's career was off to a roaring start on this day in 1955 when he got off to a roaring start of his own; en route to a car race in Salinas at the wheel of his newly bought Porsche 550 Spyder - one of only 90 in existence, customized by Batmobile designer George Barris and named 'Little Bastard' by Dean's friend and vocal coach Bill Hickman - the 24-year-old actor met his untimely end.

Dean was traveling in a sort of convoy with his friends Lance Reventlow (who drove ahead in a station wagon with Bill Hickman and photographer Stanford Roth, who'd planned to photograph Dean at the races) and Rolf Wütherich; at about four in the afternoon Dean and Wütherich were heading west on U.S. Route 466 (later State Route 46) near Cholame when they were hit head on by Donald Turnupseed. Turnupseed suffered a few cuts and facial lacerations, Wütherich was thrown free of the car and suffered a broken jaw among his injuries, but Dean was badly injured. He was taken by ambulance to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital where he died at one minute to six that evening. His last words were reportedly 'That guy's gotta stop... He'll see us.'

His death sent Dean's already burgeoning cult of personality into the kind of overdrive he'd only experienced in life in his Porsche; even now, half a century later, aspects of his brief life from his sexuality to his apathy towards acting are endlessly discussed seemingly at every opportunity. For what it's worth, while there is some talk of a curse on Dean's car, at least there's never been any talk of a conspiracy surrounding his death. He is buried in Fairmount, Indiana (where he was raised) has been memorialized at various locations including the junction where he was fatally injured, and references to him are peppered throughout pop culture - from songs by the Eagles and the Goo Goo Dolls to Robert Altman's 1981 play-cum-1982 film Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, both of which were written by Ed Graczyk.

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POPnews - September 30th

[Here Luciana Serra camps it up as Queen of the Night, performing the so-called Queen of the Night aria (aka Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen or "Hell's vengeance boils in my heart") from Mozart's opera, The Magic Flute.]

653 CE - Having served as Archbishop of Canterbury since being consecrated by Paulinus of York at Lincoln in 627 CE, Saint Honorius died; he was succeeded by Deusdedit, who in March 655 CE became the first British-born Anglo-Saxon to hold the post.

1399 - Henry IV proclaimed himself King of England after deposing his cousin Richard II.

1744 - France's Prince of Conti alongside Spain's Infante Felipe and the Marquis de la Mina defeated the forces of King Charles Emmanuel III of the Kingdom of Sardinia at the Battle of Madonna dell'Olmo.

- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's last opera, The Magic Flute, debuted at Vienna's Theater auf der Wieden; the first woman to assay the now legendary role of Queen of the Night was the composer's sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer.

1888 - Jack the Ripper claimed two more victims - Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes.

1901 - Hubert Cecil Booth patented the first electric vacuum cleaner.

1906 - Writers Manuel Curros Enríquez and Xosé Fontenla Leal founded the Real Academia Galega, the Galician language's foremost authority, with Manuel Murguía as its first president; because the Galician culture was still considered illegal in Spain at the time, the Academy was forced to open in the Cuban capital of Havana.

1938 - Britain, France, Germany, and Italy signed the Munich Agreement - which Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain famously stated would bring about 'peace for our time' but which the majority of historians today would excoriate as an inexcusable act of appeasement towards a totalitarian regime.  As it turns out, ceding the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Hitler was akin to chumming shark-infested waters, and because of it within a year Europe would be embroiled in World War II...

1947 - The New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers faced off at Yankee Stadium in the first game of the first televised World Series; the Yankees would go on to win the game 5-3 and the series 4-3.

1949 - The Berlin Airlift ended.

1954 - The US Navy submarine USS Nautilus was commissioned under the command of Eugene P. Wilkinson as the world's first to be powered by a nuclear reactor; the Nautilus - actually the fourth US Navy vessel to have been given that name officially - had been launched by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower on January 21st.

1962 - César Chávez founded the United Farm Workers with Dolores Huerta.

1965 - General Suharto rose to power after an alleged coup by the Communist Party of Indonesia; in response, Suharto and his army massacred over a million Indonesians suspected of being communists.

1967 - BBC Radio 1 was launched; its first programme was presented by Tony Blackburn.

1989 - During the so-called Revolutions of 1989 West Germany's Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher made a speech from the balcony of the German embassy in Prague confirming that thousands of refugees from East Germany who'd been bivouacking in the embassy's gardens would be given passage to West Germany.

1990 - The Dalai Lama unveiled the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights in Ottawa; alas, if Stephen Harper succeeds in attaining a majority government it's slated to be turned into urinals, reflecting his government's opinion of human rights.

1991 - The democratically elected government of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced from office by a military junta led by Raoul Cédras.

1994 - Aldwych tube station (originally Strand Station) of the London Underground closed after eighty-eight years of service.

2005 - Controversial drawings of the prophet Muhammed were published in Denmark by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten; as much as I believe in my own right to republish them here, I'm too young to die. The link to Wikipedia will have to do.
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