History, Bitter & Twisted October 23


1959 – Sam Raimi a television producer and film director.  On TV he produced Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the much more successful Xena: Warrior Princess.  He has done a number of pretty good movies including A Simple Plan and The Quick and the Dead.  His biggest hits so far, though, are Spiderman, Spiderman II and Spiderman III.  He can also claim to have directed one of the best kisses in the history of Hollywood.

1959 – Weird Al Yankovic, an icon of the 80s.  Weird Al reinvented himself in the 21st Century and has had substantial hits with “Don’t Download this Song” and “White and Nerdy.”  He is perhaps the only parody songwriter ever to last more than an album or two.  He began his career with “My Bologna” (a parody of “My Sharona,” by The Knack) and “Another One Rides the Bus” (a parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”)  Most musicians take Al’s parodies as good fun but a few, like Prince, get cranky about them.  Al has sold millions of albums and CDs and anybody who was older than 12 in 1980 can quote at least one of his songs.

1958 – On October 23rd, Johan and Peewit were having an adventure, drawn by the Belgian artist Peyo in the comic book Spirou.  They were on a quest to recover The Flute with Six Holes.  On the way, they discovered a bunch of little blue guys called Schtroumpfs.  Almost immediately, the Schtroumpfs popularity replaced Johan and Peewit as the main attraction.  Within a year, the Schtroumpfs were getting their own stories in Spirou.  Soon they were appearing all over Europe.  In 1981, the Schtroumpfs jumped the Atlantic and showed up as a Saturday morning cartoon, called The Smurfs.  There seem to be millions of the little buggers.  They’re everywhere – on baby clothes, on key chains, in garage sales.   There doesn’t seem to be an end to them.  But the real question is since there is only one female of the species – Smurfette – where do Smurfs come from?

2001 – Apple launched the iPod and the entire world went “Wow!”  Suddenly, everything that came before it was obsolete.  No invention in history has ever been so complete or immediate.  It brought Apple back into the Big Leagues of the digital revolution and led to piles of imitators.  Its success also put the development of the iPad on the fast track.  This is a wonderful device which is, unfortunately, way too awkward to actually use.


1939 – Zane Grey was the original western writer.  He was one of the first authors to make a million selling books, and his Riders of the Purple Sage is still the all-time, best-selling western novel.  Despite what everybody says, Grey did not invent the Old West.  It was always there; Grey just romanticized it.  Actually, he was simply carrying on the tradition started by the “Dime Novels” and authors such as Ned Buntline.  Grey’s stories have been adapted for radio, television, movies and comic books.  There is a nasty rumour that his novel The Lone Star Ranger was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger.  This is a lie.

1957 – Christian Dior, a fashion designer who got his start in World War II Paris, designing clothes for wealthy Germans and their collaborator mistresses.  In 1947, he presented his own line of fashion which was immediately dubbed the “New Look”, the first of over a million “new looks” in the fashion industry.  In 1947, however, Dior’s look actually was new and it propelled him and his House into the mainstream of Parisian fashion.  Today, along with Yves St. Laurent and a few others, Dior, as it is now called, sits at the top end of the fashion world and most designs are arbitrated from there.  Dior also makes perfumes which smell more or less the same as every other overpriced fragrance.

Time Flies September 16


1925 – B.B. (Riley) King, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, who was suddenly recognized as a Rock and Roll legend when he became the opening act for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour even though he’d been a successful Blues musician for over 20 years.

1387 – Henry V, the English king who beat the French at the Battle of Agincourt but probably never said “Once more into the breach…”  and may not have even have been born on September 16th .  However, Shakespeare turned him into a great king, and Lawrence Olivier and Kenneth Branaugh made great movies out of him.

 1630 – Legend has it that the village of Shawmut Massachusetts changed its name to Boston.  Good thing, too, otherwise we’d be cheering for the Shawmut Bruins and booing the Shawmut Red Sox.

1984 – Miami Vice premiered on NBC.  The first entry in the “new” style MTV cop shows, it influenced most of the TV crime dramas which followed it.  It also convinced Miami to preserve its historical neon electric Art Deco architecture and inspired a whole generation of unattractive men to wander around with a half-a-day’s growth of beard on their grubby little faces.


1498 – Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.  In his day, Torquemada hunted heretics the way nerds hunt movie anomalies.  He worked on the simple principle that you were guilty until you confessed, and — to this day — still holds the World Record for “Most People Burned at the Stake.”

2003 – Sheb Wooley, the original Weird Al Yankovic.  He wrote and performed the one-hit-wonder, “One-eyed, One-horned, Flying Purple People Eater.”