History, Bitter & Twisted October 12


1537 – King Edward VI of England, the long-awaited male heir to the English throne, was a terrible disappointment.  Henry VIII had defied God and the Pope, changed a whole country’s religion and killed at least one wife to get him.  Despite all that Edward never actually ruled England.  He was crowned when he was 9, spent the next few years being sick and finally died in 1553.  The best that can be said about the guy is his half-sister was Elizabeth I.

1875 – Aleister Crowley, a rich Victorian nutbar, the prototype of all nutbars who came after him.  Once called, “the wickedest man alive” the best that can be said of Crowley is that he may have been the “weirdest man alive.”  He loudly proclaimed that he was a warlock and practiced white, black and, probably, after he bought a house in Scotland, plaid magic.  He spent his life travelling the world and indulging himself in sex, drugs and the Edwardian equivalent of rock n’ roll.  He gathered and discarded disciples (mostly upper class women) the way you and I change our socks.  A con artist of the first order, this charlatan didn’t even have the excuse that he was conning people out of their money.  I know I’ve sugar-coated it, but this guy was a git.

1492 – Christopher Columbus became the first tourist in North America.  He loved it, even though he’d originally planned to go somewhere else.  He immediately organized a number of excursions to return to what was then called the “New World.”   Everybody loved the place.  Unfortunately, things got out of hand and before anybody in the “New World” knew it, they were being overwhelmed by a couple of hundred years of illegal immigration.


1978 – Nancy Spungen was the punk wave girlfriend of the absolute Emperor of Punk — Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols.  Nancy was found stabbed to death on the bathroom floor of their Chelsea Hotel room in New York.  There was speculation and rumour, but in the end, it was probably Sid who killed her in a drug-soaked rage.  It was the quintessential punk rock romance.   

In a different time and in a different place (September 5th, 1951 in Mexico City) Beat writer William Burroughs and his common-law wife Joan Vollmer were hanging out, drinking heavily, smoking dope and (likely) doing heroin.  According to one version of events, Joan put an empty glass on her head and Bill tried to shoot it off, William Tell style.  He missed.  Joan died later that day from a gunshot to the head.

Plus ca change…..

2002 – Ray Conniff is still the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion of Elevator Music.  Even as Walmart and Generic Gigantic Mall are turning to less lobotomizing lullabies, Ray and his “Million and One Strings” are still sucking the life out of us, every time we travel vertically through our world.  One of my biggest fears is future historians are going to think we liked this stuff.