Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pop History Moment: "The Mickey Mouse Club" Debuts

It was on this day in 1955 that The Mickey Mouse Club made its television debut on ABC; although the brainchild of Walt Disney, it was Bill Walsh who steered the series in its early years, assisted by Hal Adelquist.  Hosted by Jimmie Dodd (who also wrote the show's iconic theme song, Mickey Mouse March) the show would go on to feature dozens of talented teenagers as Mouseketeers, including Tommy Cole, Darlene Gillespie, Bobby Burgess, Doreen Tracey, Cubby O'Brien, Karen Pendleton, Lonnie Burr, Sharon Baird, and especially Annette Funicello.

In one form or another, the show would run until March 1996, and more than achieved its initial purpose - which was to raise funds for the building of Disneyland.

share on: facebook

"Take Your Mama" by Scissor Sisters

Although born in Arizona on this day in 1978, Jake Shears was brought up in Seattle; while attending Los Angeles' Occidental College but visiting Lexington, Kentucky, Shears was introduced to Scott Hoffman. Years later, in New York City, the two met again and formed Scissor Sisters.

Take Your Mama was the band's follow-up to its first single, a cover version of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb; both songs - along with Laura, Mary, and Filthy/Gorgeous - appeared on the band's eponymous debut album.
share on: facebook

Remembering... James Herriot

When I was a kid in the 70s, the work of James Herriot was everywhere. Whether in their original form or in compendium, those paperback books never failed to transport me to rural Yorkshire, to the time during and after World War II. They are at least partly responsible for the rampant Anglophilia infecting me to this day...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn Alf Wight in Sunderland on this day in 1916, the man who became James Herriot was raised in Glasgow, before returning to England and establishing his veterinary practice in Thirsk. Wight wrote his first book, If They Could Only Talk, in 1969, and followed it with ten more before his death in February 1995. He used a pen name because he was still a practicing vet when he started writing them, and at that time vets were forbidden to advertise; apparently there was some concern at the time that writing books about his experiences would be breaking this rule.

To this day the works of James Herriot remain as heart-warming and wholesome as ever, their ongoing popularity a testament to the man who wrote them.
share on: facebook

Happy Birthday Gore Vidal

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Gore Vidal's job - above and beyond that of writer - has always been making the same American establishment which spawned him uncomfortable; love him or hate him (often simultaneously), his assertive progressivism stands as a beacon in an age of retrogressive sentimentality such as ours...

For famously standing up to fascist windbag William F. Buckley, Jr. in 1968 (he was one of the first to challenge Buckley on his vitriolic homophobia) Vidal deserves every accolade; for revisiting American history with a clear eye he deserves every medal and honour his country can give him. Read as a series Burr (1973), 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990), and The Golden Age (2000) comprise the most ambitious realization of American history in fiction ever attempted.

While his assertion that 'there are no homosexual people, only homosexual acts' hasn't won him any friends among the capital-g Gays, among post-gays he remains an icon. Whatever he may feel about his own relationships with women (including an affair with Anaïs Nin), he lived with Howard Austen from 1951 until Austen's death in 2005. Vidal only recently hit the news by suggesting that America was headed for a totalitarian regime; he was a few years late on that - given the attempts made by the Bush Administration to do that very thing - but as ever his insights got people talking.
share on: facebook

"Dirty, Low-Down and Bad" by Keb' Mo'

Blues musician Keb' Mo' (born Kevin Moore on this day in 1951) bears an eerie resemblance both visually and vocally to blues great Robert Johnson; in 1998 he played his hero in a documentary entitled Can't You Hear the Wind Howl? Like a lot of people, though, I first discovered him when he made an appearance on Touched By an Angel.

Keb' Mo's eponymous first album from 1994 yielded the song you see above; the three-time Grammy winner's eighth studio album, Suitcase, was released in 2006.  Meanwhile, 2009's Live and Mo' featured six live performances and 4 new studio recordings.

share on: facebook

Gratuitous Brunette: Clive Owen

When these birthday wishes were first posted on this day in 2007, expectations were running high at the Pop Culture Institute for the then-forthcoming Elizabeth: The Golden Age, starring Cate Blanchett as the ginger virgin/firebrand herself and birthday boy Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh. Those expectations were both met and exceeded by the film.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhether playing roles from the past, present, or future, Clive Owen is obviously a man for all times.

Educated at RADA alongside the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Jane Horrocks, Owen burst into the public consciousness with a role as a soft-spoken hot guy in the film Croupier.

Further roles as soft-spoken hot guys followed: King Arthur, Gosford Park, and Closer; eager to demonstrate his range, he played a hot, soft-spoken guy in Sin City and Children of Men.

The best thing about him, I guess, is he's got such range...
share on: facebook

Impressions of A. Y. Jackson

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As a founding member of the Group of Seven, A. Y. Jackson (born this day in 1882) is partially responsible for the introduction of Impressionism to the depiction of the vast Canadian wilderness, which until then had been thought too rugged to paint by the effete cultural elites of Southern Ontario.

Wounded at the Battle of Sanctuary Wood in June 1917 he turned to making a record of the Great War while recovering from his injuries. The above scene, entitled House of Ypres, was done in 1917.

Whether capturing scenes of Nature's beauty or the devastation caused by man, A. Y. Jackson surely ranks as one of the finest painters ever produced by Canada.
share on: facebook

"Let's Twist Again" by Chubby Checker

Born Ernest Evans on this day in 1941, Chubby Checker did yeoman service trying to teach white people to dance... Yet in many ways, he was a victim of his success; his smash hit The Twist - itself a cover version of the song originated by Hank Ballard - and its follow-up obscured the breadth of his talent.

At one time Chubby Checker even had five albums - not songs, albums! - in the Top 12 at once, a feat which has never been surpassed!
share on: facebook

In Memoriam: Eleanora Duse

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Although famed as an actress, little remains of those stellar performances given by Eleanora Duse - born on this day in 1858 - save a few reminiscences in a scattering of memoirs. She toured the world, playing everywhere to ecstatic crowds, but died a few years before the various innovations of Mr. Edison might have captured some of her magic for posterity.

In July 1923, near the end of her life, Duse became the first woman featured on the cover of Time magazine, a photo of which is shown above.
share on: facebook

POPnews - October 3rd

[Artist Kota Ezawa's take on the OJ Simpson Verdict is elegance
itself, whereas most people's
reaction to the verdict has been
anything but elegant - my own very much included.]

1283 - Dafydd ap Gruffydd - prince of Gwynedd in Wales - became the first prominent person executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered, after being dragged through the streets of Shrewsbury on orders from England's King Edward I. His executioner, a man named Geoffrey, was paid 20 shillings (or £1) to carry out the arduous, gruesome task.

1739 - The Treaty of Nissa was signed by the Ottoman Empire and Russia at the end of the Russo-Turkish War.

1835 - The Staedtler Company was founded, in the German city of Nuremburg.

1849 - American author Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious in a gutter in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances - not that there's anything mysterious about finding someone drunk and unconscious in a gutter in Baltimore - just that in his case there was; it was the last time he would be seen in public before his death.

1863 - US President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

1873 - Captain Jack and his companions were hanged for their part in the Modoc War.

1908 - The newspaper Pravda was founded in Vienna by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles, to be smuggled into Russia.

1918 - Bulgaria's Tsar Boris III acceded to the throne upon the abdication of his father Ferdinand I.

1929 - The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, or 'Land of the South Slavs'.

1932 - Iraq gained its independence from Great Britain.

1942 - A German V-2 rocket launched at Peenemünde became the first man-made object in space.

1951 - The Shot Heard 'Round the World - one of the greatest moments in the history of Major League Baseball - occurred when the New York Giants' Bobby Thomson hit a game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off of the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, to win the National League pennant after being down 14 games.

1952 - It was announced in the United Kingdom that tea rationing would end after 12 years.

1955 - Captain Kangaroo, starring Bob Keeshan, debuted on CBS on the same day The Mickey Mouse Club debuted on ABC.

1957 - Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems was ruled not obscene, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, City Lights Bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti managed to convince Judge Clayton Horn of the work's 'redeeming social importance'.

1962 - As part of NASA's Project Mercury, Sigma 7 was launched from Cape Canaveral, with astronaut Wally Schirra aboard for a six-orbit, nine-hour flight around the world in space.

1964 - The first-ever Buffalo Wings were made, at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.

1990 - East and West Germany were reunited; the anniversary of the event is celebrated as German Unity Day.

1995 - O. J. Simpson was found not guilty of the brutal murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
share on: facebook