Monday, October 04, 2010

John Cleese Remembers The Late Graham Chapman

This is John Cleese's eulogy for his colleague Dr. Graham Chapman, delivered in the Great Hall at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London; Chapman died on this day in 1989.

Graham Chapman - one of the founding members of Monty Python - was one of the first celebrities to come out, and as early as 1972 gave financial and moral support to the publication Gay News. Chapman was survived by his partner of 23 years, David Sherlock, and their son John Tomiczek.
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Remembering... Buster Keaton

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn into a family of vaudevillians on this day in 1895, Buster Keaton learned young how to take a fall; it was a skill that would serve him well.

Initially reluctant to enter the world of moving pictures, he nevertheless crafted some of the finest comedic moments ever witnessed on the silent screen.
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In Memoriam: Damon Runyon

It's a long way from Manhattan to Manhattan, especially when the former is in Kansas and the latter is in New York; it's even longer when, like Damon Runyon, you get there via Pueblo, Colorado - which means you've been going in the wrong direction altogether!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketArriving in New York City in 1910 gave Runyon unique access to a subculture that was then beginning to form on and around Broadway; comprised of equal parts theatrical types and thugs, he proceeded to memorialize his acquaintances as the most theatrical of thugs.

The greatest of these were eventually given immortality in a show called Guys and Dolls, first on the very street that had given them life in 1950, and then in a film version from 1955.

Alas, he never lived to see it, as he died in December 1946.

Runyon, born this day in 1884, was the very picture of a hard-bitten journalist from the era. He is credited with revolutionizing the coverage of baseball (for which he was even elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967), wrote the story of FDR's first inaugural in 1933 for the United Press himself, and is even said to have dubbed boxer James J. Braddock the Cinderella Man.

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Happy Birthday Jackie Collins

Whenever the topic of my 'guilty pleasures' comes up, the novels of Jackie Collins are inevitably at the top of a short list which also contains the music of Kid Rock, Three's Company, and fried Spam.

Now, I don't believe in guilt, so I don't feel guilty for occasionally reading one of her potboilers, but I think most of my friends would be shocked to discover that between reading five kilo biographies and litt-rich-ah* I will occasionally cleanse my palate with a book which is all about fun.

I'm not sure then if reading Jackie Collins is the guilty pleasure or shocking my friends; either way, thanks for all the fun Jackie!

* That is to say 'literature' spoken with a very snooty accent.
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The Death of Janis Joplin

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Janis Joplin gave rock and roll the blues, infusing the idiom with deeper rhythms and themes than it had previously known, and along the way gave the women who love to rock someone to look up to, artistically at least. When she succumbed to an unusually pure dose of heroin (on this day in 1970) she'd been on a drinking binge, having been unlucky in love for the last time. Arising out of the hippie counterculture of the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, Janis Joplin was in every way the antithesis of the way the music industry wanted women to be. She was loud when women (even hippie women) were expected to be seen and not heard, she was sexually aggressive instead of passive, blunt-spoken and ballsy.

Yet as blues divas go, she was right on the money. Hard-drinking, hard-loving, and - tragically - short-lived... She died during the recording of her album Pearl, the day after recording Mercedes Benz in one take, the day before she was to have recorded the lyrics to Buried Alive in the Blues.
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POPnews - October 4th

[It took Gutzon Borglum and then his son Lincoln Borglum a total of 14 years to carve Mount Rushmore, during which time Jeff Daniels, Nick Nolte, Robin Williams, and Sam Waterston must have gotten pretty bored, judging by their facial expressions in the finished product.]

1209 - Otto IV was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Innocent III.

1363 - At the end of the Battle of Lake Poyang the Chinese rebel forces of Zhu Yuanzhang defeated those of his rival, Chen Youliang, in one of the largest naval battles in history.

1636 - The Swedish Army, led by Johan Banér, defeated those of Saxony and the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Wittstock.

1777 - At the Battle of Germantown, a rag-tag militia under George Washington was repelled by the British soldiers (and Hessian mercenaries) of Sir William Howe.

1779 - The Fort Wilson Riot took place when an angry mob marched on the house of James Wilson, who barricaded himself inside with 35 of his colleagues.

1824 - Mexico enacted its new constitution, making it a republic.

1830 - Belgium gained its independence from The Netherlands.

1876 - Texas A&M University opened as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, becoming the state's first public institution of higher education.

1883 - The Orient Express made its initial run between Paris and Istanbul.

1910 - As a prelude to revolution, warships battered the royal palace in Lisbon, causing King Manuel II and his family to flee into exile in the United Kingdom; the following day Portugal's First Republic was declared with the writer Teófilo Braga as President.

1918 - An explosion killed more than 100 and destroyed the T.A. Gillespie Company Shell Loading Plant in Sayreville, New Jersey; fires and explosions continued for three days, forcing massive evacuations and spreading ordnance over a wide area, pieces of which were still being found in 2007.

1927 - Gutzon Borglum began work on Mount Rushmore.

1931 - Chester Gould's iconic comic strip Dick Tracy first appeared.

1950 - Snoopy made his first appearance in Charles Schulz's iconic comic strip Peanuts two days after the strip debuted, although he wouldn't be named until November 10th.

1957 - Sputnik 1 - the first man-made object to orbit the Earth - was launched; it remained aloft for 22 days until its battery power was expended, after which it burnt up falling to Earth.

1965 - Paul VI became the first Pope to visit the US when he arrived in New York City.

1966 - Basutoland became independent from the United Kingdom, and was renamed Lesotho.

1967 - Omar Ali Saifuddin III of Brunei abdicated in favour of his son, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who reigns to this day.

2004 - SpaceShipOne captured the Ansari X Prize.
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