Monday, January 10, 2011

The House of Grimaldi: The Death of Honoré II

It was under the rule of Honoré II that the Lords of Monaco became Princes, which titular distinction they still hold today; other than that, an eerie resemblance to Ron Jeremy and a brief biographical outline are about all that we know about the first royal Grimaldi. Yet within those few details of a life is enough excitement for several Hollywood films - or else one European one...

PhotobucketBorn on Christmas Eve 1597 to Hercule, Lord of Monaco, and Maria Landi, Honoré's father was murdered when the boy was just six, at which time he ascended to the throne of Monaco under the stewardship of his uncle Frederico Landi, prince of Val di Taro; his uncle's loyalty to the Spanish meant that Monaco would be occupied by Spanish troops, which occupation would endure until 1614.

Monaco's traditional allegiance with France was later upheld by Honoré II, who sought the support and protection of Louis XIII, resulting in the Treaty of Péronne in 1641; as a result of this, Honoré lost his Spanish titles, for which he was compensated with the title Duke of Valentinois, a title still borne by the Princes of Monaco today.

In February 1616 Honore married Ippolita Trivulzio, which marriage resulted in the births of at least four children: Louis, Maria Ippolita, Giovanna Maria, and Teresa Maria. Honoré II died on this day in 1662, at which time he was succeeded by his son, who became Louis I.
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"We Belong" by Pat Benatar

In the video for We Belong, from her 1984 album Tropico, Pat Benatar is great with child; a rare ballad for the leather-lunged Queen of Stadium Rock, the song was her last major hit. Still, it's a pretty good swan song for a career that entailed thousands of concert appearances and millions of records sold; which makes it the ideal song to finish out a hat trick of videos for her birthday.
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In Memoriam: Sal Mineo

His breakthrough role in the film Rebel Without A Cause (1955) is haunting still, likely because his own tragic end contributed in its way to the film's reputed 'curse'; like Mineo himself, his costars James Dean and Natalie Wood also met untimely deaths.

PhotobucketBorn in The Bronx on this day in 1939, Sal Mineo began attending acting and dancing schools at a young age with the support of his mother; he appeared on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' play The Rose Tattoo (1950) and opposite Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I (1951).

Following the success of Rebel it was easy for Hollywood to typecast him, and he subsequently played a string of juvenile delinquents, even though his character in that film was no delinquent himself. Late in his career he was still being typecast, more often than not as outright criminals.

Mineo recorded a string of songs in the mid-Fifties - two of which went as high as the Top 40 - and later he further demonstrated his musical abilities by playing the drummer Gene Krupa in the 1957 movie The Gene Krupa Story. As suddenly as his star had risen, though, so did it fall; his last film role came after a long respite from Hollywood (during which time he appeared in plays and on television) when he played Dr. Milo in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971).

Mineo was murdered in February 1976 during a botched mugging; his killer, Lionel Ray Williams, was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 1990.
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The Late, Great Paul Lynde

These twinks today have it so easy; they have so damn many role models it isn't even funny. When I was earning my fairy wings in the Seventies all we had were Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde; fortunately for all concerned, though, both of them were hilariously funny.

PhotobucketWhile I loved them both like the gay uncles I never had (and one day hope to become) Lynde was by far my favourite, probably because he was more overtly bitchy; it took me a long time to get over that predilection. There are those who might say I have a long time yet - these are the real bitches.

In addition to his portrayal of Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, Lynde became notorious for his appearances on Hollywood Squares, in which he was so camp they could have changed his name to KOA. His caustic one-liners are today the stuff of legend.

When he died, on this day in 1982, his body was discovered by Paul Barresi, a man who would later have as great an impact on my adult life as Paul Lynde had on my childhood. Lynde was only 55 at the time, but the coroner who examined him said his heart was that of a man in his 80s; a lifetime of drinking (and, it was rumoured, amyl nitrate) meant that one of the funniest men of the 20th Century likely self-medicated himself to death.
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"Shadows Of The Night" by Pat Benatar

From Pat Benatar's 1982 rock/New Wave hybrid album Get Nervous, it's Shadows of the Night, with its cool WWII-era inspired video, costarring the then-unknown actors Judge Reinhold and Bill Paxton; keeping in mind, this video was released two years before Jonathan Demme's film Swing Shift, starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, with which it shares an ethos.
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Remembering... Paul Henreid

In the 1942 film Now, Voyager - a perennial favourite of ours here at the Pop Culture Institute - suave European Paul Henreid romanced the plain Boston spinster right out of Bette Davis and left in her place a soigne Back Bay socialite; in the process he committed one of the greatest moments in the American cinema to celluloid. By lighting two cigarettes at the same time and handing one to her, he made a necessarily chaste scene - especially in light of that era's repressive on-screen censorship - undeniably erotic...

PhotobucketLater that year he played Victor Laszlo, the hero Ingrid Bergman would have forsaken for the cad played by Humphrey Bogart but - in the end, and due entirely to Bogie's sacrifice - didn't, in Casablanca. It was a role with which Henreid was already familiar, having escaped deportation from England to his homeland (and almost certain incarceration) thanks to the intercession of his colleague Conrad Veidt.

Few careers in Hollywood have opened with that kind of one-two punch; while none of his subsequent work would be as beloved as these two roles, his success in them afforded Henreid - born in Austria on this day in 1908 - that most priceless of assets: star quality.

Which is not to say that Henreid wasn't admired right up until his death in March 1992; he's one of the few people to have received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for film and another for television.
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Pop History Moment: The London Underground Opens


It was on this day in 1863 when, thanks to the efforts of Charles Pearson, Londoners first began minding the gap...

The original portion of the Underground (popularly known as the Tube), ran between Paddington and Farringdon; it's still in service today as part of the Hammersmith and City line, and is coloured salmon on current maps.

30-40,000 passengers were carried that first day, on steam-powered trains which ran every ten minutes; electric trains were first introduced in 1890. From those humble beginnings, the London Underground has grown into the longest in the world, with 400 km (250 miles) of track serving a similarly record-setting 270 stations, which between them see 1 billion passengers every year*. Understandably, with that many users, the tube map itself has become as iconic as the symbol you see above.

*Only the systems in Paris and Moscow see more.
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"Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar

It was one of the MTV era's first smash hits, a story video so perfectly melded with a solid pop-rock song that even today, if played at any venue where Gen-Xers are assembled, all will fall into its dance steps as if by habit.

Love is a Battlefield featured the first electronic elements of any Pat Benatar song, signalling the deep inroads European pop had made into the world of American rock; originally appearing on her 1983 album Live from Earth both the song and the video were so popular as to be ubiquitous.

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Happy Birthday Pat Benatar


Every so often there's an event here at the Pop Culture Institute that gets me as excited as Dick Cheney at a Halliburton shareholders' meeting; today it's the birthday of a woman whose incendiary voice and incandescent stage presence blazed a trail for women in music...

The 1970s was the era of cock rock: big hair, tight clothes, soaring falsettos... And those were the men! In the midst of it all - 1977 to be exact - came a diminutive Polish-Irish hybrid from Staten Island who showed everyone (regardless of chromosomes) how it was done.

In 1979 Pat Benatar's debut single Heartbreaker raced up the charts; that first album, In the Heat of the Night, also yielded the single We Live For Love. The hits continued: 1980's Crimes of Passion gave us Treat Me Right, You Better Run, Hell Is For Children, a cover of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights, and a single so blazing it still has the power to wow: Hit Me with Your Best Shot.

Having not merely overcome her sophomore slump but kicked it to death, Benatar and her guitarist husband Neil Giraldo continued to churn out the hits; 1981's Precious Time featured Fire & Ice and Promises in the Dark, and 1982's Get Nervous Anxiety (Get Nervous), Looking For a Stranger, Little Too Late, as well as that year's ubiquitous Shadows of the Night.

In 1983 Benatar brought her live show to all those who couldn't get to it, with the album Live from Earth, which featured 2 studio tracks, including her masterwork Love is a Battlefield; that single also appeared in 1984's Tropico, along with We Belong.

By the time her seventh album in seven years - aptly entitled Seven the Hard Way - appeared it was time for Benatar to pull back. After promoting the singles Sex as A Weapon and Invincible (which was far more memorable than the movie it was written for, The Legend of Billie Jean) Benatar took three years off to rest and spend time with her young family.

Since then she's released five more albums, only one of which charted any singles - All Fired Up, from the 1989 compilation album Best Shots, was big in the UK - even as they charted new territory for her artistically. Currently she lives in a remote location on Maui, where she farms organically with her husband and two daughters, Haley and Hana.
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POPnews - January 10th

[Even though some of his adventures are unavailable due to the censorious nature of political correctness, those Tintin books still being reprinted continue to delight fans more than eighty years after they first began appearing.]

49 BCE - Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, sparking both a civil war and a cliché.

681 CE - Pope Agatho died; he was succeeded by Leo II who, although he'd been elected shortly after his predecessor's death, wouldn't be crowned until August of the following year.

1276 - Pope Gregory X died; he was succeeded by Innocent V eleven days later.

1475 - Moldavia's Prince Stephen III defeated the Ottoman Empire's Hadân Suleiman Pasha at the Battle of Vaslui, near the town of Vaslui in what is now eastern Romania.

1645 - Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud was beheaded at the Tower of London for opposing Puritanism and for his support of King Charles I.

1662 - Monaco's ruling Prince Honoré II died; he was succeeded by his son, Louis I.

1776 - Thomas Paine published his famous pamphlet Common Sense.

1810 - The marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais was annulled.

1842 - Sir Charles Bagot arrived in Kingston to become Governor-General of what was then the newly-created Province of Canada, succeeding Lord Sydenham; although ordered by the British government to resist the colonist's demand for responsible government, Bagot did allow Robert Baldwin and Sir Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine to form a ministry on the basis of their parliamentary majority.

1863 - The London Underground, the world's oldest underground railway, opened between London Paddington station and Farringdon station.

1901 - The first great Texas oil gusher was discovered at Spindletop in Beaumont.

1922 - Arthur Griffith was elected President of the Irish Free State.

1927 - Fritz Lang's cinematic masterpiece, Metropolis, had its world premiere in Berlin.

1929 - The comic book character Tintin, by Hergé, made his debut in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.

1942 - Elizabeth Monk and Suzanne Pilon became the first female lawyers in Quebec.

1957 - HM The Queen invited Chancellor of the Exchequer Harold Macmillan to become Prime Minister of Great Britain following the resignation of Sir Anthony Eden over his mishandling of the Suez Crisis.

1962 - As part of its Apollo Project, NASA announced plans to build the C-5 rocket booster, which later became better known as the Saturn V moon rocket, and which would be used to launch all 17 Apollo moon missions.

1971 - Masterpiece Theatre premiered on PBS.

1982 - The Freezer Bowl - the NFL's coldest game in terms of wind chill, at -37°F - was won by the Cincinnati Bengals who defeated the San Diego Chargers 27-7 and advanced to Super Bowl XVI.
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