Day in History 21 August – Ettore Bugatti

On this day in 1947, Italian-born and French naturalized citizen automobile designer and manufacturer, founder of the Bugatti automobile company, Ettore Bugatti died in Paris at the age of 65.  Born Ettore Isidoro Arco Bugatti on 15 September 1881 in Milan, Italy.  Bugatti cars are well-known for their high-performance and the beauty of their designs. Bugatti was married to Barbara Maria Guiseppina Mascherpa.  The Final Footprint – Bugatti is interred with his wife in the family plot in Cimetière Dorlisheim near Molsheim in the Bas-Rhin département of the Alsace region of France.

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Day in History 20 August – Joe Rosenthal – Jules Laforgue

On this day in 2006, photographer, war correspondant and Pulitzer Prize recipient, honorary Marine, Joe Rosenthal died of natural causes in his sleep at a center for assisted living in Novato, a suburb of San Francisco at the age of 94.  Born Joseph John Rosenthal on 9 October 1911 in Washington, D.C.  His parents were Russian immigrants.  Best known for his iconic World War II photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  Of the six men depicted in the picture, three (Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, and Michael Strank) were killed during the battle; the three survivors (John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes) became celebrities upon their identification in the photo.  The picture was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial, located adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington, D.C.  Clint Eastwood‘s film Flags of Our Fathers(2006) depicts the life stories of the flag raisers and the events that led to the photograph.

Bay Area facing east from the Golden Gate

The Final Footprint – Rosenthal was cremated and his cremains were scattered in the San Francisco Bay area.

Laforgue_portrait_paintingOn this day in 1887, innovative Franco-Uruguayan poet, often referred to as a Symbolist poet, Jules Laforgue died in Paris of tuberulosis at the age of 27.  Born on 16 August 1860 in Montevideo, Uruguay, to French parents.  In 1885, he wrote L’Imitation de Notre-Dame la Lune, in my opinion, his masterpiece.  The Final Footprint – His final resting place is the Cimètiere de Bagneux, Hauts-de-Seine Ile-de-France Region, France.

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Day in History 19 August – John Wesley Hardin

On this day in 1895, outlaw, gambler and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin died in El Paso, Texas at the age of 42.  He was shot in the back of the head by John Selman.  Born on 26 May 1853 in Bonham, Texas.  Hardin was apparently acquainted with Wild Bill Hickok.  Hardin married twice; Jane Bowen and Carolyn Jane “Callie” Lewis.  The Final Footprint – Hardin is interred in Concordia Cemetery in El Paso.  His grave is enclosed by a wrought iron fence and marked by a flat granite marker and a Texas state historical marker.  Hardin’s legacy as an outlaw has made him a colorful character and subject in books, films and music including: in Larry McMurty‘s novel Streets of Laredo (1993); as portrayed by Rock Hudson in The Lawless Breed (1953); as portrayed by Randy Quaid in the television mini-series adaptation of McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo (1995); Johnny Cash wrote and recorded a song called “Hardin Wouldn’t Run”; Bob Dylan recorded an album called John Wesley Harding (1967) with a title track of the same name, both misspelled; and Hardin is mentioned in Michael Martin Murphey‘s song “Rhymes of the Renegades”.

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Day in History 18 August – Honoré de Balzac

Balzac on an 1842 daguerreotype by Louis-Auguste Bisson

On this day in 1850 French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac died in Paris at the age of 51.  Born 20 May 1799 in Tours, Indre-et-Loire, France.  Perhaps best for known for his sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon.  Balzac influenced the writers and popular culture of his time and beyond.  Balzac might be as well-known for his literary legacy as he is for his tumultuous love life.  At twenty-three, he fell for Mme. Berny, a woman nearly twice his age known as “la Dilecta,” whose creative and intellectual influence on Balzac had a profound impact on shaping his budding voice.  When the two split up in 1832, he entered a troubled relationship with the Marquise de Castries, whom he later portrayed rather unflatteringly in The Duchesse of Langeais.  That year, he received a fan letter from Countess Ewelina Hańska, a married Polish noblewoman to whom he came to refer to as “The Foreigner.”  They embarked upon an intense correspondence, which quickly escalated into a passionate bond, which lasted seventeen years.  The two met twice, once in Switzerland the following year, and once in Vienna in 1835, and the two vowed to marry once Ewelina’s husband died.  Though the Count passed away in 1842, Balzac’s poor finances prevented the couple from marrying.  In March of 1850, when he was already fatally ill, the two finally wed, five months before Balzac died in Paris.  The Final Footprint – Balzac is interred at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris.  Victor Hugo served as a pallbearer and eulogist and Alexandre Dumas attended the funeral.  His grave is marked by a large stone monument topped by a bronze bust of Balzac.  He became the subject of a monumental statue by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, which stands near the intersection of Boulevard Raspail and Boulevard Montparnasse.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Georges Bizet, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Eugène Delacroix, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas,  Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.

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Day in History 17 August – Conrad Aiken – Lorenzo Da Ponte – Ira Gershwin

On this day in 1973 novelist and poet, Pulitzer Prize recipient, Poet Laureate, Conrad Aiken died in Savannah, Georgia at the age of 84.  Born Conrad Potter Aiken on 5 August 1889 in Savannah.  A good source for information on Aiken’s life is his autobiographical novel Ushant (1952).  In this book he writes of his various affairs and marriages, his attempted suicide and fear of insanity, and his friendships with T.S. Eliot (who appears in the book as The Tsetse), Ezra Pound (Rabbi Ben Ezra), and others.  He was a graduate of Harvard.  Aiken married three times; Jessie McDonald (1912-1929 divorce), Clarissa Lorenz (1930) and Mary Hoover (1937-1973 his death).  The Final Footprint – Aiken is interred in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah.  His wife Mary was interred next to him upon her death in 1992.  Their graves are marked with an engraved granite bench with two epitaphs; GIVE MY LOVE TO THE WORLD and COSMOS MARINER DESTINATION UNKNOWN.  The grave was made famous by its mention in John Berendt‘s non-fiction book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994), one of my favorite books.  The book was subsequently made into a 1997 movie, directed by Clint Eastwood and based loosely on Berendt’s story.

Lorenzo_da_PonteOn this day in 1838, Venetian opera librettist and poet Lorenzo Da Ponte died in New York at the age of 89.  Born Emanuele Conegliano in Ceneda, in the Republic of Venice (now Vittorio Veneto, Italy) on 10 March 1749.  He was Jewish by birth, the eldest of three sons.  In 1764, his father, the widower Geronimo Conegliano, converted himself and his family to Roman Catholicism in order to remarry.  Emanuele, as was the custom, took the name of Lorenzo Da Ponte from the Bishop of Ceneda who baptised him.  He wrote the librettos for 28 operas by 11 composers, including three of Mozart’s greatest operas, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte.  The Final Footprint – An enormous funeral ceremony was held in New York’s old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street.  Some sources state that Da Ponte is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, but that cemetery did not exist before 1848.  Other sources say Da Ponte was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, as a rural cemetery in Kings County, New York.  Calvary Cemetery does contain a stone marker to serve as a memorial to Da Ponte.  Other notable final footprints at Green-Wood include; Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ebbets, and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Ira_gershwinOn this day in 1983, lyricist, Academy Award nominee, Pulitzer Prize recipient, Ira Gershwin died in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 86.  Born Israel Gershowitz on 6 December 1896 in New York City.  He collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century.  iraGershwin_best_800The Final Footprint – He is entombed in the George Gershwin Private Mausoleum at Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York with his brother George.  Notable songs he wrote lyrics for include:

  • “But Not For Me”
  • “Embraceable You”
  • “I Can’t Get Started”
  • “I Got Rhythm”
  • “Nice Work if You Can Get It”
  • “The Man I Love”
  • “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”
  • “Someone to Watch Over Me”
  • “‘S Wonderful”
  • “The Man That Got Away”
  • “Strike Up the Band”

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Day in History 16 August – Elvis – Robert Johnson – Babe Ruth – Margaret Mitchell – Bela Lugosi

On this day in 1977, singer, actor, American icon, the King of Rock and Roll, the King, Elvis Presley died from a heart attack, that may have been brought on by prescription drug abuse, at his Graceland home in Memphis at the age of 42.  Or if you prefer, he went away on that day.  One of my daughters likes to quote a line from the film Men in Black (1997), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith; “No, Elivs is not dead, he just went home.”  Born Elvis Aaron Presley on 8 January 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.  What can be said that has not already been said?  Certainly he is one of my favorite singers.  In my opinion, Elvis has to be considered as one of the most important figures of 20th-century popular culture.  My favorite songs sung by Elvis include; “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Hound Dog”, “Hard Headed Woman”, “Suspicious Minds”, “Way Down”, “Guitar Man”, “A Little Less Conversation”, “Burning Love”, “Viva Las Vegas”, and “Promised Land”.  My favorite movies featuring Elvis inlcude; Love Me Tender (1956) and King Creole (1958).  Elvis married Priscilla Ann Beaulieu on 1 May 1967 in the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.  Their divorce was finalized on 9 October 1973.  Questions surround Elvis:  Did Colonel Tom Parker’s tight control derail Elvis’ acting career?  Was Elvis his own worst enemy?  Did those around him enable and encourage his destructive tendencies?  Did he really die that day or was the whole thing staged so he could finally get away?  Upon learning of Elvis’ death, did Parker really say. “This changes nothing!”  The Final Footprint – Elvis was initially entombed in a private room, in a crypt next to his mother, in the mausoleum at Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown, Memphis.  Following an attempt to steal the singer’s body, the remains of both Elvis and his mother were reburied in Graceland’s Meditation Garden.  His grave is marked by a full ledger flat bronze on granite marker.  The inscriptions reads:  HE WAS A PRECIOUS GIFT FROM GOD WE CHERISHED AND LOVED DEARLY.  HE HAD A GOD-GIVEN TALENT THAT HE SHARED WITH THE WORLD AND WITHOUT A DOUBT, MOST WIDELY ACCLAIMED, CAPTURING THE HEARTS OF YOUNG AND OLD ALIKE.  HE WAS ADMIRED NOT ONLY AS AN ENTERTAINER BUT AS THE GREAT HUMANITARIAN THAT HE WAS, FOR HIS GENEROSITY AND HIS KIND FEELINGS FOR HIS FELLOW MAN.  HE REVOLUTIONIZED THE THE FIELD OF MUSIC AND RECEIVED ITS’ HIGHEST AWARDS.  HE BECAME A LIVING LEGEND IN HIS OWN TIME, EARNING THE RESPECT AND LOVE OF MILLIONS.  GOD SAW THAT HE NEEDED SOME REST AND CALLED HIM HOME TO BE WITH HIM.  WE MISS YOU, SON AND DADDY.  I THANK GOD HE GAVE US YOU AS OUR SON.  His father and his paternal grandmother were interred at Graceland upon their deaths.  Elvis has inspired many artistic and cultural works.  He has been portrayed in films by many including: Kurt Russell as the voice of Elvis in the film Forrest Gump (1994) based on the Winston Groom novel and featuring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise; and Val Kilmer as the Ghost of Elvis, the mentor, in Quentin Tarrantino‘s True Romance (1993) with Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt.

Robert_JohnsonOn this day in 1938, blues singer, songwriter and musician, Robert Johnson died near Greenwood, Mississippi of an unknown cause at the age of 27, thus becoming a member of the 27 Club or Forever 27 Club, a term used to refer to popular musicians who have died at the age of 27 and includes, Rolling Stone Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse.  Born Robert Leroy Johnson in Hazlehurst, Mississippi possibly on 8 May 1911.  His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians.  Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and untimely death have given rise to much legend, including the Faustian myth that he sold his soul at a crossroads to achieve success.  As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime and his records sold poorly during his lifetime.  It was only after the reissue of his recordings in 1961 on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers that his work reached a wider audience.  Johnson is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly of the Mississippi Delta blues style.  He is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”  Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986.  robertjohnsonTombstoneRobert_JohnsonThe Final Footprint –  The exact location of his grave is officially unknown.  Johnson may have been buried in the graveyard of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church near Morgan City, not far from Greenwood, in an unmarked grave.  A one-ton cenotaph in the shape of an obelisk, listing all of Johnson’s song titles, with a central inscription by Peter Guralnick, was placed at this location in 1990, paid for by Columbia Records and numerous smaller contributions made through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund.  In 1990 a small marker with the epitaph “Resting in the Blues” was placed in the cemetery of Payne Chapel near Quito by an Atlanta rock group named the Tombstones, after they saw a photograph in Living Blues magazine of an unmarked spot alleged by one of Johnson’s ex-girlfriends to be Johnson’s burial site.  More recent research by Stephen LaVere (including statements from Rosie Eskridge, the wife of the supposed gravedigger) indicates that the actual grave site is under a big pecan tree in the cemetery of the Little Zion Church, north of Greenwood along Money Road.  Sony Music has placed a marker at this site.

Babe_Ruth2On this day in 1948, baseball player, 2x All-Star, 7x World Series Champion, AL MVP, New York Yankees #3 retired, home run king, baseball Hall of Famer, the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, American Icon, Babe Ruth died in New York City at age 53 from cancer. Born George Herman Ruth on 6 February 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland.  He was a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher and outfielder who played for 22 seasons on three teams, from 1914 through 1935.  He was known for his hitting brilliance setting career records in his time for home runs (714, since broken), slugging percentage (.690), runs batted in (RBI) (2,213, since broken), bases on balls (2,062, since broken), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.164).  Ruth originally entered the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox as a starting pitcher, but after he was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919, he converted to a full-time right fielder. He subsequently became one of the American League’s most prolific hitters and with his home run hitting prowess, he helped the Yankees win seven pennants and four World Series titles.  Ruth retired in 1935 after a short stint with the Boston Braves, and the following year, he became one of the first five players to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Ruth was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season (1927), a mark not surpassed until another Yankee right fielder, Roger Maris, hit 61 in 1961.  Ruth’s lifetime record of 714 home runs stood until 1974, when it was surpassed by Hank Aaron.  Unlike many power hitters, Ruth also hit for a high batting average: his .342 lifetime average is the tenth highest in baseball history, and in one season (1923) he batted .393, a Yankee record.  Ruth dominated the era in which he played.  He led the league in home runs during a season twelve times, slugging percentage and OPS thirteen times each, runs scored eight times, and RBIs six times.  Ruth is credited with changing baseball itself.  The popularity of the game exploded in the 1920s, largely due to his influence.  Ruth ushered in the “live-ball era”, as his big swing led to escalating home run totals that not only excited fans, but helped baseball evolve from a low-scoring, speed-dominated game to a high-scoring power game.  He has since become regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture.  Ruth’s legendary power and charismatic personality made him a larger than life figure in the “Roaring Twenties” and one of the first sports celebrity superstars whose fame transcended sports.  Off the field, he was famous for his charity contributions which included helping children to learn and play baseball, and for his often reckless lifestyle.  Perhaps the greatest baseball player and hitter of all time.  Ruth married two times; Margaret Helen Woodford (1914 – 1929 her death) and Clara Mae “Claire” Merritt Hodgson (1928 – 1948 his death).  Babe_Ruth_800graveThe Final Footprint – His body lay in repose in Yankee Stadium.  An estimated 77,000 people filed past to pay him tribute.  His funeral was two days later at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, outside of which a crowd estimated at 75,000 waited.  Ruth was then buried in the Cemetery of the Gate of Heaven in Hawthorne, New York.  At his death, the New York Times called Babe Ruth, “a figure unprecedented in American life. A born showman off the field and a marvelous performer on it, he had an amazing flair for doing the spectacular at the most dramatic moment.”  The Yankees added a monument to Monument Park at Yankee Stadium to honor Ruth.  Monument Park is an open-air museum containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the Yankees.  Other notable Yankees whose final footprints include memorialization in Monument Park; Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, George Steinbrenner, Casey Stengel, Thurman Munson, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Mel Allen and Bob Sheppard.  Other notable final footprints at Gate of Heaven include; James Cagney, Billy Martin, Sal Mineo, and Dutch Schultz.

Margaret_Mitchell_NYWTSOn this day in 1949, author of Gone with the Wind (1936), Pulitzer Prize recipient, Margaret Mitchell died at Grady Hospital five days after being struck by a speeding automobile as she crossed Peachtree Street at 13th Street in Atlanta with her husband, John Marsh, while on her way to see a movie.  She was 48.  Born Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell on 8 November 1900 in Atlanta.  Mitchell began writing Gone with the Wind in 1926 to pass the time while recovering from an auto-crash injury that refused to heal.  In April 1935, Harold Latham of Macmillan, an editor who was looking for new fiction, read what she had written and saw that it could be a best-seller.  After Latham agreed to publish the book, Mitchell worked for another six months checking the historical references, and rewrote the opening chapter several times.  Mitchell and her husband John Marsh, a copy editor by trade, edited the final version of the novel.  Mitchell wrote the book’s final moments first, and then wrote the events that led up to it.  The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction.  It depicts the experiences of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, Gerald O’Hara, who must use every means at her disposal to come out of the poverty she finds herself in after the war.  On 15 December 1939 an estimated one million people came to Atlanta for the premiere of David O. Selznick‘s epic film based on Mitchell’s novel.  The film was immensely popular, becoming the highest-earning film made up to that point and has become ingrained in popular culture.  It has placed in the top ten of the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 American films since the list’s inception in 1998, and in 1989, Gone with the Wind was selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry.  The Final Footprint – Mitchell is interred in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.  GWTW ranked as the second most favorite book by American readers, just behind the Bible, according to a 2008 Harris Poll.  As of 2010, more than 30 million copies have been printed in the United States and abroad.  The book routinely appears on best English-Language novels lists.  Another notable final footprint at Oakland is that of Bobby Jones.

belaLugosi_BelaOn this day in 1956, actor Béla Lugosi died of a heart attack while lying on a couch in his Los Angeles home, at the age of 73.  Born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Lugos, Kingdom of Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania) on 20 October 1882.  Lugosi is famous for starring in the first talking film version of Dracula and for his roles in various other horror films.  He had been playing small parts on the stage in his native Hungary before making his first film in 1917, but had to leave the country after the failed Hungarian Revolution, and arrived in America as a seaman on a merchant ship.  In 1927, he appeared as Count Dracula in a Broadway adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel.  He would appear in the classic 1931 Dracula film by Universal Pictures.  Lugosi married five times; Ilona Szmick (1917 – 1920 divorce), Ilona von Montagh (1921 – 1924 divorce), Beatrice Weeks (1929 – 1929 divorce), Lillian Arch (1933 – 1953 divorce), Hope Lininger (1955 – 1956 his death).  Bela_Lugosi's_graveThe Final Footprint – Lugosi was interred wearing one of the Dracula Cape costumes in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.  Holy Cross Cemetery is a Roman Catholic cemetery at 5835 West Slauson Avenue in Culver City, operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  Other notable final footprints at Holy Cross include; actor John Candy, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, John Ford, the voice of the Los Angeles Lakers Chick Hearn, Rita Hayworth, Al Martino, actress Audrey Meadows, Ricardo Montalbán, actor Chris Penn, Jo Stafford, and Sharon Tate.

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Day in History 15 August – MacBeth – Will Rogers – Grazia Deledda

Imagined 19th century portrait of MacBeth

On this day in 1057, The Red King, MacBeth, King of Scotland was mortally wounded or killed by the future Malcolm III on the north side of the Mounth after retreating with his men over the Cairnamounth Pass to take his last stand at the battle at Lumphanan; or perhaps he was wounded and died at Scone, sixty miles to the south.  MacBeth was born possibly in 1005, the son of Findláech mac Ruaidrí, Mormaer, or King, of Moray, a high lordship in High Medieval Scotland.  MacBeth became king in 1040 when Duncan, King of Scotland led an army into Moray, where he was killed by Macbeth on 15 August 1040 at Pitgaveny (then called Bothnagowan) near Elgin.  MacBeth is perhaps best known as the subject of Shakespeare’s play MacBeth.  One of my very favorite plays.  One of my sons has MacBeth as one of his middle names.  The Final Footprint – MacBeth is interred in Saint Orans Chapel Cemetery Iona Argyll and Bute, Scotland.  The play MacBeth served as inspiration for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera MacBeth (1847).  Numerous films have been made based on MacBeth and the play is often in production throughout the world.  In My Defens God Me Defend!

Will_Rogers_-_1940s_-_colorOn this day in 1935, cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor, Oklahoma’s Favorite Son, Will Rogers died at the age of 55 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in Point Barrow, Alaska.  Born William Penn Adair Rogers on the Dog Iron Ranch in “White House on the Verdigris River”, in Indian Territory, near present-day Oologah, Oklahoma on 4 November 1879.  He was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s.  He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 “talkies”), wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure.  By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people.  He was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era, and was the top-paid Hollywood movie star at the time.  His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was readily appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended.  His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.” Another widely quoted Will Rogers comment was “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”  Rogers even provided an epitaph on his most famous epigram:

When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident [sic] like.” I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.

Willrogersmemorial1The Final Footprint – Rogers is entombed at the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma.

Grazia_Deledda_1926On this day in 1936, Italian writer whose works won her the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1926, Grazia Deledda died in Rome at the age of 64.  Born on 27 September 1871 in Nuoro, Sardinia. Among her better-known works are Elias Portolu (1903),  Canne al Vento (Reeds in the Wind) (1913), and Cosima (1937).  The Final Footprint – Her final resting place is in the Cimitero Comunale Monumentale Campo Verano in Rome.

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Day in History 14 August – Enzo Ferrari – Dorothy Stratten – Bruno Kirby

On this day in 1988 race car driver and entrepeneur, il Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari died in Maranello, Itlay at the age of 90.  Born Enzo Anselmo Ferrari on 18 February 1898 in Modena, Italy.  Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team and subsequently the Ferrari car manufacturer.  Ferrari was married to Laura Dominica Garello from 1932 until her death.  The Final Footprint – Ferrari is entombed in the Ferrari family private room in Cimitero
di San Cataldo in
Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

Dorothy_Stratten_1979On this day in 1980, model and actress, Playboy Playmate of the Month for August 1979, Playmate of the Year in 1980, Dorothy Stratten was murdered at age twenty by her estranged husband/manager Paul Snider, who committed suicide the same day.  Born Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten in a Salvation Army hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia on 28 February 1960.  Dorothy_Stratten_grave_at_Westwood_Village_Memorial_Park_Cemetery_in_Brentwood,_CaliforniaThe Final Footprint – Stratten is interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (a Dignity Memorial property) in Los Angeles.  Her death inspired two motion pictures; Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story (1981) in which Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten and Bruce Weitz played Snider and Bob Fosse‘s Star 80 (1983) starring Mariel Hemingway as Stratten and Eric Roberts as Snider.  Other notable final footprints at Westwood include; Ray Bradbury, Sammy Cahn, Truman Capote, James Coburn, Rodney Dangerfield, Janet Leigh, Farrah Fawcett, Brian Keith, Don Knotts, Burt Lancaster, Peter Lawford, Peggy Lee, Jack Lemmon, Karl Malden, Dean Martin, Walter Matthau, Marilyn Monroe, Carroll O’Connor, Roy Orbison, George C. Scott, Dorothy Stratten, Natalie Wood and Frank Zappa.

220px-Brunokirby1On this day in 2006 actor Bruno Kirby died from complications related to leukemia in Los Angeles at the age of 57.  Born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu, Jr. in New York City on 28 April 1949.  Kirby portrayed a younger version of Pete Clemenza in Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather Part IIThe Final Footprint – Kirby was cremated.

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Day in History 13 August – Mickey Mantle – Eugène Delacroix – Jules Massenet – H. G. Wells – Phil Rizzuto

On this day in 1995, baseball Hall of Famer, 20x All-Star, 7x World Series Champion, 3x AL MVP, The Mick, Mickey Mantle died at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas at the age of 63.  Born Mickey Charles Mantle on 20 October 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma.  Perhaps the greatest switch-hitter in the history of baseball and, in my opinion, one the the greatest players.  On Mickey Mantle Day, 8 June 1969, the Yankees retired his uniform Number 7.  Mantle was married to Merlyn Johnson (1951-1995 his death).  The Final Footprint – Mantle is entombed in the mausoelum, St. Matthew, above the crypt where his sons Mickey, Jr. and Billy are entombed, at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park, a Dignity Memorial property in Dallas.  His bronze crypt plate has the inscription; “A magnificent New York Yankee, true teammate and Hall of Fame centerfielder with legendary courage.  The most popular player of his era.  A loving husband, father and friend for life.”  The Yankees added a monument to Monument Park at Yankee Stadium to honor Mantle.  Monument Park is an open-air museum containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the Yankees.  Other notable Yankees whose final footprints include memorialization in Monument Park include; Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, George Steinbrenner, Casey Stengel, Thurman Munson, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto (see below), Billy Martin, Mel Allen and Bob Sheppard.  Other notable final footprints at Sparkman-Hillcrest include businessman H.L. Hunt and Tom Landry.

Eugene_delacroixOn this day in 1863, artist Eugène Delacroix died in Paris at the age of 65.  Born Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix on 26 April 1798 at Charenton-Saint-Maurice in Île-de-France, near Paris.  Generally regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school.  Delacroix’s use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of colour profoundly appear to have shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic may have inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement.  Delacroix may have taken for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with an emphasis on colour and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modelled form.  Dramatic and romantic content characterized the central themes of his maturity, and led him not to the classical models of Greek and Roman art, but to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic.  Friend and spiritual heir to Théodore Géricault, Delacroix was also apparently inspired by Lord Byron, with whom he shared a strong identification with the “forces of the sublime”, of nature in often violent action.  Yet, it appears that Delacroix was not sentimental and his Romanticism was that of an individualist.  In the words of Baudelaire, “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible.”  eugeneDelacroixgrave-p1000397The Final Footprint -Delacroix was entombed in Père Lachaise.  Père Lachaise is in the 20th arrondissement and is notable for being the first garden cemetery, as well as the first municipal cemetery.  It is also the site of three World War I memorials.  The cemetery is on Boulevard de Ménilmontant.  The Paris Métro station Philippe Auguste on line 2 is next to the main entrance, while the station called Père Lachaise, on both lines 2 and 3, is 500 metres away near a side entrance.  Many tourists prefer the Gambetta station on line 3, as it allows them to enter near the tomb of Oscar Wilde and then walk downhill to visit the rest of the cemetery.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Georges Bizet, Honoré de Balzac, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas,  Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.


Jules_Massenet_portraitOn this day in 1912, French composer best known for his operas, Jules Massenet died in Paris at the age of 70, after suffering from cancer.  Born Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet on 12 May 1842 in Montaud, then an outlying hamlet and now a part of the city of Saint-Étienne, in the Loire.  His compositions were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he ranks as one of the greatest melodists of his era.  Soon after his death, Massenet’s style went out of fashion, and many of his operas fell into almost total oblivion.  Apart from Manon and Werther, his works were rarely performed.  However, since the mid-1970s, many operas of his such as Thaïs and Esclarmonde have undergone periodic revivals.  The Final Footprint – He is interred in the Cimetiere d’Egreville Seine-et-Marne, Ile-de-France Region, France.

H_G_Wells_pre_1922On this day in 1946, writer, “The Father of Science Fiction”, H. G. Wells died of unspecified causes at his home at 13 Hanover Terrace, Regent’s Park, London, aged 79.  Some reports also say he died of a heart attack at the flat of a friend in London.  Born Herbert George Wells at Atlas House, 46 High Street, Bromley, in the county of Kent, on 21 September 1866.  Perhaps best known for his work in the science fiction genre, he was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing textbooks and rules for war games.  His most notable science fiction works include The War of the Worlds (1898), The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897) and The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896).  In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel Mary Wells; the couple agreed to separate in 1894 when he fell in love with one of his students, Amy Catherine “Jane” Robbins whom he married in 1895.  The marriage lasted until her death in 1927.  With Jane’s consent, Wells had affairs with a number of women, including the American birth control activist Margaret Sanger and novelist Elizabeth von Arnim.  In 1909 he had a daughter with the writer Amber Reeves, and in 1914, a son (Anthony West) by the novelist and feminist Rebecca West.  In Experiment in Autobiography (1934), Wells wrote: “I was never a great amorist, though I have loved several people very deeply.”  The Final Footprint – Wells was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 16 August 1946, his ashes scattered at sea.  GGC was the first crematorium to be opened in London, and one of the oldest crematoria in Britain.  The crematorium, the Philipson Family mausoleum, designed by Edwin Lutyens, the wall, along with memorials and gates, the Martin Smith Mausoleum, and Into The Silent Land statue are all Grade II listed buildings.  The gardens are included in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.  GGC is in Hoop Lane, off Finchley Road, Golders Green, London NW11, ten minutes’ walk from Golders Green tube station. It is directly opposite the Golders Green Jewish Cemetery.  The crematorium is secular, accepts all faiths and non-believers; clients may arrange their own type of service or remembrance event and choose whatever music they wish.  Other notable cremations at GGC include; Kingsley Amis, Neville Chamberlain, T. S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Vivien Leigh, Keith Moon, Peter Sellers, Bram Stoker, and Amy Winehouse.

Phil_Rizzuto_1953On this day in 2007, baseball player, philrizzutoYankeesRetired10_svgshortstop, New York Yankee, 5x All-Star, 7x World Series Champion, AL MVP, #10 retired, Member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, radio and television sports announcer for the Yankees, the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto died in his sleep , three days short of the 51st anniversary of his last game as a Yankee.  Born Philip Francis Rizzuto on 25 September 1917 in Brooklyn.  He had been in declining health for several years and was living at a nursing home in West Orange, New Jersey for the last months of his life.  At the time of his death, Rizzuto was the oldest living member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, at 89.  The Final Footprint – Rizzuto was cremated.  The Yankees added a monument to Monument Park at Yankee Stadium to honor Mantle.  Monument Park is an open-air museum containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the Yankees.  Other notable Yankees whose final footprints include memorialization in Monument Park include; Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, George Steinbrenner, Casey Stengel, Thurman Munson, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Mel Allen and Bob Sheppard.

Have you planned yours yet?

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Day in History 12 August – Henry Fonda – Cleopatra – William Blake – Ian Fleming – Lauren Bacall

On this day in 1982 U.S Navy veteran, Oscar and Tony winning actor, father of actor Peter Fonda and actress Jane Fonda, grandfather of actress Bridget Fonda, Henry Fonda died at his Los Angeles home from heart disease at the age of 77.  Born Henry Jaynes Fonda on 16 May 1905 in Grand Island, Nebraska.  My favortie Fonda roles include: as Meredith in A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966) with Joanne Woodward and Jason Robards; as Frank in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (C’era una volta il West) (1968) with Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale; as Norman Thayer, Jr. in On Golden Pond (1981) with Katherine Hepburn and Jane Fonda.  Fonda was married five times; Margaret Sullavan (1931-1932 divorce), Frances Ford Seymour (1936-1950 her death), Susan Blanchard (1950-1956 divorce), Afdera Franchetti (1957-1961 divorce), and Shirlee Mae Adams (1965-1982 his death).  The Final Footprint – Fonda was cremated.

cleopatra-VII_-Altes-Museum-Berlin1On this day in 30 B.C., the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra killed herself, according to tradition, by inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her.  Born probably in 69 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt.  She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Ptolemaic Egypt after Alexander the Great‘s death during the Hellenistic period.  The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents such as the Rosetta Stone.  By contrast, Cleopatra did learn to speak Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of an Egyptian goddess, Isis.  Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes, and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler.  As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne.  She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name.  After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus).  With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus (her unions with her brothers had produced no children.)  After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian‘s forces, Antony committed suicide.  Cleopatra committed suicide nine days after Antony’s death.  She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh by his supporters, but soon killed on Octavian’s orders.  Egypt became the Roman province of AegyptusThe Final Footprint – The site of Cleopatra and Antony’s mausoleum is uncertain, though the Egyptian Antiquities Service believes it is in or near the temple of Taposiris Magna, southwest of Alexandria.  To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture.  Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet’s opera Cléopâtre and the 1963 film Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Antony.  In most depictions, Cleopatra is portrayed as a great beauty, and her successive conquests of the world’s most powerful men are taken as proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal.

William_Blake_by_Thomas_PhillipsOn this day in 1827, painter, poet and printmaker William Blake died at his home in Soho, London at the age of 69.  Born on 28 November 1757 at 28 Broad Street (now Broadwick St.) in Soho.  Apparently unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.  It is possible that his prophetic poetry is in proportion to its merits, the least read body of poetry in the English language.  His visual artistry is now highly regarded.  Blake produced a diverse and symbolically rich oeuvre.  Perhaps considered mad by contemporaries for his idiosyncratic views, he is held in high regard by later critics for his expressiveness and creativity, and for the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work.  His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of the Romantic movement and “Pre-Romantic”.  Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England (indeed, to all forms of organised religion), Blake appears to have been influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American Revolutions.  The singularity of Blake’s work makes him difficult to classify.  The 19th-century scholar William Rossetti characterised him as a “glorious luminary”, and “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors”.  Blake met Catherine Boucher in 1782 when he was recovering from a relationship that had culminated in a refusal of his marriage proposal.  He recounted the story of his heartbreak for Catherine and her parents, after which he asked Catherine, “Do you pity me?”  When she responded affirmatively, he declared, “Then I love you.”  Blake married Catherine on 18 August 1782 in St Mary’s Church, Battersea.  I find most interesting, his critical views of the marriage laws of his day.  Blake generally railed against traditional Christian notions of chastity as a virtue.  In part due to Catherine’s apparent inability to bear children, he directly advocated bringing a second wife into the house.  His poetry suggests that external demands for marital fidelity reduce love to mere duty rather than authentic affection, and decries jealousy and egotism as a motive for marriage laws.  Poems such as “Why should I be bound to thee, O my lovely Myrtle-tree?” and “Earth’s Answer” seem to advocate multiple sexual partners.  In his poem “London” he speaks of “the Marriage-Hearse” plagued by “the youthful Harlot’s curse”, the result alternately of false Prudence and/or Harlotry.  Visions of the Daughters of Albion can be read as a tribute to free love since the relationship between Bromion and Oothoon is held together only by laws and not by love.  For Blake, law and love are opposed, and he castigates the “frozen marriage-bed”.  williamblakeFinsbury_bunhill_blake_1The Final Footprint – On the day of his death, Blake worked relentlessly on his Dante‘s Divine Comedy illustration series.  Eventually, it is reported, he ceased working and turned to his wife, who was in tears by his bedside.  Blake is said to have cried, “Stay Kate! Keep just as you are – I will draw your portrait – for you have ever been an angel to me.”  Having completed this portrait (now lost), Blake laid down his tools and began to sing hymns and verses.  At six that evening, after promising his wife that he would be with her always, Blake died.  A female lodger in the house, present at his expiration, apparently said, “I have been at the death, not of a man, but of a blessed angel.”  George Richmond gives the following account of Blake’s death in a letter to Samuel Palmer:

He died … in a most glorious manner. He said He was going to that Country he had all His life wished to see & expressed Himself Happy, hoping for Salvation through Jesus Christ – Just before he died His Countenance became fair. His eyes Brighten’d and he burst out Singing of the things he saw in Heaven.

He was buried five days after his death, on the eve of his 45th wedding anniversary at the Dissenter’s burial ground in Bunhill Fields, where his parents were interred.  Catherine believed she was regularly visited by Blake’s spirit.  She continued selling his illuminated works and paintings, but entertained no business transaction without first “consulting Mr. Blake”.  On the day of her death, in October 1831, she was as calm and cheerful as her husband, and called out to him “as if he were only in the next room, to say she was coming to him, and it would not be long now”.  Since 1965, the exact location of William Blake’s grave had been lost as gravestones were taken away to create a lawn.  Blake’s grave is commemorated by a stone that reads “Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757–1827 and his wife Catherine Sophia 1762–1831”.  The memorial stone is situated approximately 20 metres away from the actual grave, which is not marked.  Members of the group Friends of William Blake have rediscovered the location and intend to place a permanent memorial at the site.  Bunhill Fields is a former burial ground in the London Borough of Islington, north of the City of London, now managed as a public garden by the City of London Corporation.  It is about 4 hectares (9.9 acres) in extent, although historically it was much larger.  It was in use as a burial ground from 1665 until 1854, by which date approximately 123,000 interments were estimated to have taken place.  Over 2,000 monuments remain.  It was particularly favoured by Nonconformists.  Other notable final footprints at Bunhill include; John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe.

Ian_Fleming,_headshotOn this day in 1964, English author, journalist and naval intelligence officer, Ian Fleming died at the age of 56 in Canterbury from a heart attack.  Born Ian Lancaster Fleming on 28 May 1908 in Mayfair, London.  Perhaps best known for his James Bond series of spy novels. Fleming moved through a number of jobs before he started writing.  While working for Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during the Second World War, Fleming was involved in planning Operation Goldeneye and in the planning and oversight of two intelligence units, 30 Assault Unit and T-Force.  His wartime service and his career as a journalist provided much of the background, detail and depth of the James Bond novels.  Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952.  Eleven Bond novels and two short-story collections followed between 1953 and 1966.  The novels revolve around Bond, an officer in the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6.  Bond is also known by his code number, 007, and was a commander in the Royal Naval Reserve. The Bond stories rank among the best-selling series of fictional books of all time.  He was married to Ann Charteris, who was divorced from the second Viscount Rothermere as a result of her affair with Fleming.  Fleming and Charteris had a son, Caspar.  Ian_fleming_graveThe Final Footprint – Fleming was buried in the churchyard of Sevenhampton village, near Swindon.  His last recorded words were an apology to the ambulance drivers for having inconvenienced them, saying “I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.”  In October 1975, Fleming’s son Caspar, aged 23, committed suicide by drug overdose and was buried with his father.  Fleming’s widow, Ann, died in 1981 and was buried with her husband and their son.  Bond has appeared in film twenty-five times, to date, and been portrayed by seven actors, including; Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.

Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall 1945 (cropped).jpg

Bacall in March 1945

On this day in 2014, actress and singer Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske in The Bronx, September 16, 1924) died at her apartment in The Dakota, the Upper West Side building overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, at the age of 89 from a stroke. She received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009, “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.”

Bacall began her career as a model, before making her debut as a leading lady with Humphrey Bogart in the film To Have and Have Not in 1944. She continued in the film noir genre with appearances with Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), and starred in the romantic comedies How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. She co-starred with John Wayne in his final film, The Shootist (1976). Bacall also worked on Broadway in musicals, earning Tony Awards for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). Her performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination.

On May 21, 1945, Bacall married actor Humphrey Bogart, 25 years her senior. Their wedding and honeymoon took place at Malabar Farm, Lucas, Ohio, the country home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, a close friend of Bogart. The wedding was held in the Big House. They remained married until Bogart’s death from esophageal cancer in 1957. Pressed by an interviewer to talk about her marriage to Bogart, and asked about her notable reluctance to do so, she replied that “being a widow is not a profession”.

On July 4, 1961, Bacall married Jason Robards in Ensenada, Mexico. The couple divorced in 1969.

The Final Footprint – Reportedly, Bacall was cremated and her cremains were scattered over Martha’s Vineyard.

Have you planned yours yet?

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