Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Arrest of Frances Farmer

On this day in 1942 wild child and Hollywood actress Frances Farmer was arrested in Santa Monica; she did not go peacefully...

PhotobucketFarmer was pulled over by Santa Monica Police, driving with her lights on high despite a wartime blackout; reports have her as being drunk and disorderly at the time, as well as unable to produce a driver's license, at which time she was taken into custody and spent the night in jail. She was eventually fined $500 and given a 180-day suspended sentence; upon payment of half the fine she was put on probation.

Alas, her brush with the law wasn't the wake-up call it could have been, but merely a sign of the worsening of a mental illness (not helped at all by the concomitant abuse of alcohol) that would dominate the rest of her life...

For all its inaccuracies, the 1982 film Frances, starring Jessica Lange, remains the biopic of choice when considering the life of Frances farmer in pop cultural terms.
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A Public Service Announcement by John Lithgow

And finally, a cleansing dose of sincerity...

Birthday wishes to John Lithgow, and a word about a cause near to both our hearts: child literacy.
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"Walk Like A Man" by Divine

This is my all-time favourite Divine song, but until I first posted it here in 2007 I'd never seen the video.  All I can say is, me liiiike...

Of course, now I've seen it dozens of times, approaching what may be a lethal dose - I won't know until I can find the WHMIS sheet - but all I can say about that is 'What a way to go!'

Featuring scenes from Paul Bartel's 1985 epic parody oater Lust in the Dust, Walk Like A Man was written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio and originally recorded by The Four Seasons!  It appeared on Divine's album Maid in England.

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Divine By Name, Divine By Nature

What is it about a person's contradictions that render them most memorable? Is it that complexity breeds fascination, or is it merely that the more varied a person's appeal is the more varied their fan base will be?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhatever it was, Harris Glenn Milstead (born this day in 1945) had it in abundance. As himself he is inevitably described by those who knew him as gentle, soft-spoken, and unfailingly generous; which makes his appearances as Divine all the more shocking, because Divine is, simply put, the filthiest thing ever seen in the American cinema, bar none*.

Visually, of course, Divine was the creation of John Waters and Van Smith, the hairdresser on many of Waters' earliest and trashiest films. Emotionally - even though the words belonged to John Waters - Divine was all Milstead. As trite as it is, there is truth to the stereotype that even the most sensitive person, when bullied, will act out against ill-treatment given the chance. For that reason alone, Divine ought to serve as a beacon to fat sissy-boys everywhere, as he always has for me...

*And all the more fabulous for it!
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Blast From The Past: John Waters on "Letterman"

John Waters is always hilarious; he's so verbally deft and loquacious, I could listen to him talk all day; if you have a couple of hours to kill one Sunday afternoon, you owe it to yourself to check him out in all his glory - say, on one of his commentary tracks... Try Cecil B. Demented (2000).

You'll learn so much your ears will hurt.

Here then is the man himself, talking with vintage Letterman (c.1986) - back when Dave was still a real prick; watch and marvel as Letterman is manipulated by a better conversationalist. The highlight is their discussion, early in the interview, of Divine.
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POPnews - October 19th

[Napoleon's invasion of Russia didn't go so well - for Napoleon, that is; for Russian culture, though, it proved a boon - being responsible for both Tolstoy's War and Peace and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture plus the above painting of the French dictator's calamitous retreat from Moscow by Adolph Northen.]

1216 - England's King John died; he was succeeded by his 9 year-old son Henry III, whose early reign would be guided by the regency of William Marshal.

1469 - Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella of Castile; famed as the sponsors of Christopher Columbus, their marriage would forge the modern nation of Spain under their grandson Charles I of Spain, who later became Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V.

1781 - At Yorktown, Virginia, representatives of British commander Lord Cornwallis handed over Cornwallis' sword and formally surrendered in person to George Washington and the comte de Rochambeau, ending the American Revolutionary War.

1812 - Napoleon retreated from Moscow.

1813 - The Battle of Leipzig concluded, giving Napoleon one of the worst defeats of his military career.

1864 - At the Battle of Cedar Creek the Union Army under Philip Sheridan destroyed its Confederate rival under Jubal Early.

1914 - The First Battle of Ypres began in Belgium during the terrible conflict known at the time as the Great War, which we now know as World War I.

1917 - Love Field opened in Dallas, Texas; the smaller of two airports now serving the city was the only one in town until 1974. Love Field would later become famous for the role it played in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963.

1921 - António Granjo, the Prime Minister of Portugal, was one of three politicians killed during a coup in Lisbon, since known as Noite Sangrenta; the other two were Machado Santos and Carlos da Maia.

1943 - Streptomycin, the first antibiotic remedy for tuberculosis, was isolated by Albert Schatz, a graduate student, in the laboratory of Selman Abraham Waksman at Rutgers University.

1954 - The first ascent of Cho Oyu - the sixth-highest peak on Earth - was made by Herbert Tichy, Joseph Jöchler, and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama as part of an Austrian expedition.

1960 - The first partial embargo was put on Cuban goods by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

1974 - Niue became a self-governing colony of New Zealand.

1983 - Maurice Bishop, Prime Minister of Grenada, was overthrown and executed in a military coup d'état led by Bernard Coard.

1985 - The first Blockbuster Video opened in Dallas.

1986 - Samora Machel, President of Mozambique and a prominent leader of FRELIMO, died along with 33 others when their Tupolev 134 plane crashed into the Lebombo Mountains.

1987 - On the so-called Black Monday the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 22%, or 508 points, to 1738.74 in one day.

1989 - The convictions of the so-called Guildford Four were overturned by the Court of Appeal; by then the four - Paul Michael Hill, Gerard 'Gerry' Conlon, Patrick 'Paddy' Armstrong, and Carole Richardson - had already spent 15 years in prison owing to a miscarriage of justice.

2005 - Saddam Hussein went on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity by the Iraqi Special Tribunal.
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