A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1774 – Johnny Appleseed. This was a real guy! His name was John Chapman and he did wander around the country, planting apple trees. As a kid, I loved this story, but as an adult, I wondered where the hell he got the money from. The fact is he was subsidized by the cider industry – very interesting.
1957 – The first performance of West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s total rip of Romeo and Juliet. It was a massive success on Broadway and in London. It was made into a movie in 1961 and won 10 Academy Awards. Elvis Presley was originally asked to play Tony, but he declined and the role was given to Richard Beymer who disappeared right after the movie and didn’t reappear again until 1990, on Twin Peaks.
1962 – The Beverly Hillbillies, the much laughed at television show, that laughed all the way to the bank, premiered on CBS. Although these days nobody admits ever having watched the show, it consistently had a huge audience throughout its entire 9 year run on CBS. It was the first of the “fish out of water” situation comedies that get resurrected every generation and have been successful ever since.
1820 – Daniel Boone, the first in a line of real American heroes. He was followed by Davy Crockett (1786 – 1836), Kit Carson (1809-1868) and Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917). After that, the frontier was closed and people settled down and started going to the movies. Through the rest of the 20th century American heroes were made of fiction and celluloid finally culminating in Indiana Jones. And in the 21st Century they have died out altogether.
2003 – Robert Palmer, a singer whose limited range and abilities came together, at exactly the right time, with the emerging giant MTV and the stylish art of Patrick Nagel to produce the hit “Addicted to Love” (1985). Palmer and his managers knew a good thing when they saw it and repeated the combination with “Simply Irresistible” in 1988.