A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1934 – Sophia Loren, undoubtedly the sexiest grandma on the planet. She has been in the spotlight for six decades as an actress, a business woman, an author and a singer. She was the first person to market her own perfume, Sophia. She has won an Oscar for Best Actress, served a short prison term for tax evasion, written cookbooks and designed jewellery. Her marriage to Carlo Ponti was annulled to avoid criminal charges of bigamy (they remarried after Ponti’s divorce was final) and her latest adventures include the movie Nine, a promise to do a strip tease if her favourite soccer team S.S.C. Napoli won the Serie B championship and an incredible (even with airbrushing) cheesecake photo appearance on the Pirelli Calendar 2007.
1519 – Ferdinand Magellan, with five ships and 234 men, set sail from Spain, going west to the Spice Islands. The voyage ended 3 years later when one ship and 18 crewmen returned to Spain from the east. Magellan has been honoured ever since as the first man to circumnavigate the globe — except… he didn’t do it. Magellan was killed in the Philippines, and it was his navigator, Juan Sebastian Elcano, who decided, after a year or so at sea, that Spain had to be closer if they just kept sailing west. Obviously it worked, but Magellan got credit for it. Rumour has it that, unfortunately, Elcano was a Basque, and the Spanish didn’t much like them — even in those days.
1973 – The Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs took place at the Houston Astrodome in front of a huge (for the time) worldwide audience of 50 million. Billie Jean had been goaded into the match by self-proclaimed tennis hustler 55-year-old Bobby Riggs, who’d been yipping about how bad women’s tennis was for years. King, who was at the top of her game, beat the old bugger in straight sets, and he was never heard of again.
1863 – Jakob Grimm, who, with his brother Wilhelm, wrote Kinder-und Hausmachen or Children’s and Household Tales in 1812. They are the Brothers Grimm, and their book, in its many incarnations, is called Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Oddly enough, the abundant references to sex and violence in the original had to be toned down for children in subsequent editions. These days, even some of the toned-down versions are considered unsuitable for kids by the politically correct crowd, and many of the stories are out of favour.
1973 – Jim Croce, a spectacular musical talent. In the two or so years before his death, he recorded three albums with a number of hit songs, including, “Bad Bad, Leroy Brown”, “Time in a Bottle”, “Operator” and “I Have a Name.” He was killed, flying from Louisiana to Texas, when the pilot of the airplane had a heart attack during take-off.