Monday, 17 October 2016

Today's the Day - 18th October

Herman Melville
On this day in 1851, The Whale by Herman Melville was published in Britain in 3 volumes. Later to become the story of Moby-Dick, it was published in just a single volume in the USA approx. 3 weeks later.

The novel was a commercial failure and out of print at the time of the author's death in 1891, but during the 20th century, its reputation as a “Great American Novel” was established.

The English edition had an initial print of only 500 copies – significantly fewer than his other books while only 3,200 copies of the novel were sold during Melville’s lifetime.

Birthdays and anniversaries on this day:

Erin (or is it Joanie?)
Legendary American singer-songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry was born in 1926.

Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated of US President John F Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Erin Moran, who played the part of Joanie Cunningham in the 1970’s TV smash hit Happy Days, celebrates her 56th birthday today.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Today's the Day - 17th October

On this day 60 years ago, Britain’s first nuclear power station, Calder Hall in Cumbria, was officially opened.
A clock at Calder Hall registering power
transferred to the National Grid
Opened by the Queen, it actually began operating in August of the same year, becoming the first nuclear power station in the world to generate power on an industrial scale.

The first nuclear power station in the world began operations on an experimental basis 2 years previously in the Soviet Union, but the output generated was significantly lower than that at Calder Hall.

The town of Workington, situated 15 miles up the coast from Calder Hall, became the first town in the world to receive heat, light and power from nuclear energy, and within 4 hours nuclear-powered electricity had reached London.

Birthdays and anniversaries today include:

Rita Hayworth
US actor and dancer Rita Hayworth was born on this day in 1918. She died in 1987 aged 68 with Alzheimer's disease being a contributing factor.

Actor Guy Henry, better known as Henrik Hanssen in BBC’s Holby City is 56 today.

South African golfer Ernie Els, nicknamed “The Big Easy” celebrates his 47th.

Today's the Day - 16th October

100 years ago today, Margaret Higgins Sanger and colleagues opened the first American birth control clinic in New York City. It resulted in their immediate arrest and jailing for the distribution of “obscene material”, although the convictions were later overturned.

Sanger believed that women deserved an equal footing in society and that to lead healthier lives, should be able to determine themselves when to bear children. She also wanted to put an end to back-alley abortions which, even though they were illegal at the time, were commonplace.

She didn’t totally disagree with abortions per se, but considered that contraception was the most practical way to avoid them.

Davina, 49 today
In 1921 Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Happy birthday today goes to:
Dan Biggar (27)

English TV presenter Davina McCall (49)

South-African cricketer Jacques Kallis (41)

Welsh Rugby Union outside-half Dan Biggar (27)

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Charlie's Angels at 40

It takes some believing but on Thursday 22nd September, it will be 40 years to the day since TV classic Charlie’s Angels first aired on American TV.

The original TV show ran for 5 seasons, producing 110 episodes and making mega-stars of the three angels namely Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith. 

It detailed the adventures of three beautiful women working in a private detective agency in Los Angeles, owned by a secretive millionaire by the name of Charlie.

Despite initially gaining mixed reviews from critics, the world loved it and the show quickly gained a top 10 rating.

Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson was originally offered the part of Kelly Garrett on the back of her performance in The Rookies, but the role of Sabrina Duncan appealed to her more and she successfully requested a change.

Farrah Fawcett
Farrah Fawcett was next to be cast as Jill Monroe and similarly to Jackson she did not need to audition for the role. 

Producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg were so impressed with her performance in the big screen blockbuster Logan’s Run (1976), that they offered her the part on the back of it.

Jaclyn Smith was one of hundreds of actresses who auditioned for the role of Kelly Garrett and won through mainly due to her on-screen chemistry with the other two leading ladies.

Jaclyn Smith
Indeed, Spelling and Goldberg originally intended for the three to be made up from a blonde, a brunette and a redhead, but changed their minds upon seeing how well Smith blended in with the other two.

Unbelievably the show was originally to be called “The Alley Cats” with the three lady private eyes living in alleys, wearing whips and chains!

But Jackson, who had some control over the development of the series, was shocked at the idea and begged the producers to think again. You do wonder about the longevity of the series had it ended up going down that route.

Kate Jackson also came up with the idea of calling them "Angels" after seeing a picture of three angels hanging on the wall in Spelling’s office, and soon enough the name of “Harry’s Angels” came to light. 

But with TV company ABC not wanting any confusion with their other major series at the time Harry O, the Angels very soon became the property of Charlie.

Over its 5 year run the show had a number of high profile cast changes with Jaclyn Smith being the only lead actor to remain throughout. 

Cheryl Ladd as Kris Monroe, Shelley Hack as Tiffany Welles and Tanya Roberts as Julie Rogers all joined the series to mixed success and reviews.

Original cast reunited at the 2006 Emmy awards  

40 years down the line and Kate Jackson is now 67 years of age and is later remembered for going on to star in TV's Scarecrow and Mrs King in the early 1980’s. 

It was in this series, made by her own production company, where she developed an interest in producing and directing. 

After suffering breast cancer in the late 80’s, she has gone on to dedicate herself to speaking on the subject.

Jaclyn Smith (always my favourite Angel if I’m honest) has appeared in a number of TV movies and had a recurring role in the TV series The District. 

She actually reprised the Kelly Garrett role for a cameo in the first of the big screen adaptations Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle – the only original Angel to feature in either version.

Now 70, she also battled breast cancer in 2003 and featured in a documentary about the illness in 2010.

Sadly Farrah Fawcett is no longer with us, passing away from cancer in June 2009 at the age of 62.

Diagnosed with anal cancer 3 years previously, she featured in a 2 hour documentary outlining her battle entitled Farrah’s Story, filmed by herself and friend Alana Stewart (ex wife of both Rod Stewart and George Hamilton IV). 

She died with long-term partner Ryan O’Neal and Alana Stewart at her bedside.

Happy birthday Angels – it sure was fun!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Monday, Monday: Mama Cass Would be 75 Today.

The wonderful Mama Cass Elliott would have been 75 today.

Born Ellen Naomi Cohen in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, she was a member of the Mamas and the Papas singing quartet.

There are differing stories as to where she adopted the name of Cass. It is thought that she took the name while at High School as a tribute to actress Peggy Cass, although it has also been said that her father nicknamed her Cass after the Trojan prophetess of the same name. The Elliott surname was to honour a friend who had died in a road accident.

The Mamas and the Papas has numerous hits including Monday, Monday and California Dreaming and after they broke up she went on to develop a successful solo career.

A rather large lady, she was certainly proof that you didn’t need to have film star looks or be as skinny as a rake to be successful. Standing at 5ft 5ins tall and weighing approx. 18 stone, she often went on a variety of crash diets, presumably weakening her body in the process.

She passed away at the very young age of 32 after performing 2 sold out shows at the London Palladium. She returned to the Mayfair flat she had been borrowing (owned by Harry Nilsson), the same flat where drummer Keith Moon would die 4 years later – see post “Moon the Loon at 70”

With Johnny Cash
Her passing was finally attributed to heart failure, although for many years there was an urban legend that she had choked to death (a half eaten sandwich was found at the scene).

Another star who left us far too early, she had an amazing contralto voice and who knows the fame she may have achieved had she lived.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Michael Schumacher - Formula One Debut

Michael Schumacher
Thursday 25th August was the the 25th anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s debut in Formula One.

The seven time World Champion, now regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time, made his bow as a 22-year-old unknown at the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa

After learning the ropes, initially in karting events where he gained his licence in Luxembourg at the age of 12 (the minimum age in his native Germany was 14), he went on to race in German Formula Ford, Formula K├Ânig and Formula Three, progressing into the World Sportscar championship.

Bertrand Gachot
He made his debut in Formula One for the Jordan-Ford team, replacing the imprisoned at the time Bertrand Gachot, who was serving a 2 month sentence after spraying a London taxi cab driver with CS gas in a traffic altercation.

The Race

At the time Schumacher was a contracted Mercedes driver, but after impressing the powers that be at a Silverstone test drive the week before the race, he was given the drive and promptly went on to learn the intricacies of the Spa track by cycling around it on a fold-up bike he had brought with him.

Testing the Jordan 191 car
He qualified in 7th place on the grid, but sadly when the race came he retired on the first lap when his clutch failed. The late Ayrton Senna went on to win the race, with his McLaren-Honda team mate, Austrian Gerhard Berger following up just behind.

Skiing Accident

In December 2013 Schumacher was skiing with his son in the French Alps when he fell and hit his head on a rock. He was airlifted to hospital and placed in a medically induced coma.

In November 2014, it was reported that he was paralysed and in a wheelchair; was unable to speak and had memory problems. 

In a later interview with his manager, she stated that he was slowly improving “considering the severity of the injury he had sustained”.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"Moon the Loon" at 70!

Tuesday 23rd August 2016 would have been the 70th birthday of Keith Moon, former drummer of British rock band The Who.

Affectionately known as “Moon the Loon”,  he was renown for his madcap antics and eccentric behaviour, which included driving a Lincoln Continental into a Holiday Inn swimming pool on his 20th birthday (this has often been wrongly reported as being his 21st birthday, being probably due to the legal age of drinking in the US being 21).

As a drummer he had few peers. Voted the 2nd greatest drummer in history by a Rolling Stone poll, he played the skins similarly to his lifestyle, with a sense of wild abandon that blew the minds of fans and admirers alike.

But he is mainly remembered for his life of excessive drinking and partying which eventually took it’s toll. He regularly smashed his drum kit on stage, and became infamous for trashing hotel rooms along with the obligatory throwing the TV out of the window. He was also fascinated with blowing up toilets with explosives (cherry bombs). Is it any wonder that many hotel chains refused to accept him on their guest list.

 Keith Moon drum solo

Moon died on 7th September 1978 at the age of 32 from an overdose of the prescription drug Heminevrin. 

Used to combat alcoholism or withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, he was given 100 tablets to use “as he pleased” but to take no more than 3 a day. 

32 were found in his system with just 6 digested (certainly enough to kill an adult).

He died at a flat in London’s Mayfair, rented to him by musician and singer Harry Nilsson. 

Spookily that same flat was also the location for “Mama” Cass Elliot’s death 4 years previously and Nilsson was concerned about letting it to Moon, considering it to be cursed. 

Fellow Who member Pete Townsend wrongly assured him that “lightning would not strike in the same place twice”. Sadly it did.