Day in History 24 February – Don Knotts – Harold Ramis

On this day in 2006, five years ago, comedic actor, Don Knotts, died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from pulmonary and respiratory complications related to lung cancer at the age of 81.  Born Jesse Donald Knotts on 21 July 1924 in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Perhaps best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on the 1960’s television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, a role which earned him five Emmy Awards. He also played landlord Ralph Furley on the 1970’s television sitcom Three’s CompanyThe Andy Griffith Show was televised by CBS between 3 October 1960 and 1 April 1968.  Andy Griffith portrayed a widowed sheriff in the fictional small town of Mayberry, North Carolina.  In addition to the character Fife, the show featured his spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier), and his young son, Opie (Ron Howard, billed as Ronny).  The show was a major hit, never placing lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings and ending its final season at number one and spawned a spin-off series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1964), a sequel series, Mayberry R.F.D. (1968), and a reunion telemovie, Return to Mayberry (1986).  Reruns currently air across the United States, and the complete series is available on DVD.  The opening theme song, “The Fishin’ Hole”, was composed by Earle Hagen.  Rare is the person who has not whistled that tune.  Knotts and Griffith formed a lifelong friendship.  Knotts was married three times; Kathryn Metz 1(947–1964 divorce); Loralee Czuchna (1974–1983 divorce); and Frances Yarborough from (2002-2006 his death).  He graduated from the University of West Virginia.  The Final Footprint – Knotts is interred at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary ( a Dignity Memorial property).  His grave is marked by a montage flat bronze on granite marker with the inscription; HE SAW THE POIGNANCY IN PEOPLE’S PRIDE AND PAIN AND TURNED IT INTO SOMETHING HILARIOUS AND ENDEARING.  His statue stands in a memorial park on Don Knotts Boulevard in Morgantown.  Other notable final footprints at Westwood include; Ray Bradbury, Sammy Cahn, Truman Capote, James Coburn, Rodney Dangerfield, Janet Leigh, Farrah Fawcett, Brian Keith, Burt Lancaster, Peter Lawford, Peggy Lee, Jack Lemmon, Karl Malden, Dean Martin, Walter Mathau, Marilyn Monroe, Carroll O’Connor, Roy Orbison, George C. Scott, Dorothy Stratten, Natalie Wood and Frank Zappa.

HaroldRamisOct2009On this day in 2012, actor, director and writer Harold Ramis died from complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis at his home on Chicago’s North Shore, at age 69.  Born Harold Allen Ramis on 21 November 1944 in Chicago.  Perhaps his best-known film acting roles are as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (1984) and Russell Ziskey in Stripes (1981); he also co-wrote both films.  As a writer-director, his films include the comedies Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993) and Analyze This (1999).  Ramis was the original head writer of the television series SCTV, on which he also performed, and one of three screenwriters of the film National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978).  His films have influenced subsequent generations of comedians and comedy writers.  Ramis was married twice; Anne Plotkin (1967 – 1984 separated, later divorced) and Erica Mann (1989 – 2014 his death).  The Final Footprint – A private funeral was held for Ramis with family, friends, and several collaborators in attendance including Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, and John Belushi‘s widow, Judith Jacklin Belushi.  Ramis is interred at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights.

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Day in History 23 February – John Keats

Portrait by William Hilton, National Portrait Gallery, London

On this day in 1821, English Romantic poet, John Keats, died in a villa on the Spanish Steps in Rome, today the Keats-Shelley Memorial House museum, at the age of 25 from tuberculosis.  Born on 31 October 1795 in central London.  Keats, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley were the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, even though his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.  After his death, his reputation grew to the extent that by the end of the 19th century, he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets.  Keats has had a significant influence on a diverse range of later poets and writers.  The poetry of Keats is characterized by sensual imagery.  His poems and letters are some of the most popular and most analyzed in English literature.  Certainly, one of my favorite poets.  His great, unconsummated love was Fanny Brawne.  Keats wrote her hundreds of notes and letters.  He wrote to her; “I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks; …your loveliness, and the hour of my death“.   And again; “My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you — I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving — I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. […] I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion — I have shudder’d at it — I shudder no more — I could be martyr’d for my Religion — Love is my religion — I could die for that — I could die for you.” (Letter, 13 October 1819).  My favorite Keats poem is La Belle Dame sans Merci (The Beautiful Lady without Pity) where love and death both stalk.  The Final Footprint – Keats is interred in the Protestant Cemetery (Italian: Cimitero protestante), officially called the Cimitero acattolico (“Non-Catholic Cemetery”) and often referred to as the Cimitero degli Inglesi (“Englishmen’s Cemetery”), a cemetery in Rome, located near Porta San Paolo.  Shelley’s cremated remains are interred there as well.   Keats’ last request was to be placed under a unnamed tombstone which contained only the words (in pentameter), “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”  His friends, Joseph Severn and Charles Armitage Brown, erected the stone, which under a relief of a lyre with broken strings, contains the epitaph:  “This Grave / contains all that was Mortal / of a / Young English Poet / Who / on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart / at the Malicious Power of his Enemies / Desired / these Words to be / engraven on his Tomb Stone: / Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821″

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Day in History 22 February – Amerigo Vespucci – Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot – Andy Warhol

Marble statue outside the Uffizi in Florence

On this day in 1512, explorer, navigator and cartographer, Amerigo Vespucci, died in Seville, Spain at the age of 57 from an unknown cause.  Born on 9 March 1454 in Florence.  One of the early explorers of the New World.  The Americas are generally believed to have derived their name from the feminized Latin version of his first name.  The Final Footprint – Vespucci is entombed in the Chiesa di Ognissanti (All-Saints Church), a Franciscan church in Florence, founded by the lay order of the Umiliati.  The church was dedicated to all the saints and martyrs, known and unknown.


Jean-Baptiste-Camille_Corot_c1850On this day in 1875,  landscape and portrait painter as well as a printmaker in etching, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot died in his home, rue du Faubourg-Poissionnière, Paris, 10th arr. of a stomach disorder aged 78.  Born in Paris on 16 July 1796, in a house at 125 Rue du Bac, now demolished.  In my opinion, Corot is a pivotal figure in landscape painting and his vast output simultaneously references the Neo-Classical tradition and anticipates the plein-air innovations of Impressionism.  The Final Footprint – Corot is entombed at Père Lachaise Cemetery.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Honoré de Balzac, Georges Bizet, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Amedeo Modigliani, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde and Richard Wright.


 Camille Corot – A Woman Reading, 1869/1870, Metropolitan Museum of Art

La Trinité-des-Monts, seen from the Villa Medici, 1825–1828, oil on canvas. Paris: Musée du Louvre.

The Bridge at Narni, 1826, oil on paper. Paris: Musée du Louvre. A product of one of the artist’s youthful sojourns to Italy, and in Kenneth Clark’s words “as free as the most vigorous Constable”. 

View of the Forest of Fontainebleau (1830) 


Venise, La Piazzetta, 1835

Plaque on the home of Camille Corot where he died, rue du Faubourg-Poissionnière, Paris, 10th arr.

 St Sebastian Succoured by Holy Women, between 1851 and 1873 oil on canvas, The Walters Art Museum 

 Ville d’Avray, ca. 1867, oil on canvas. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art.

Bornova, İzmir, 1873 

The Little Bird Nesters (1873-1874) detail 

Monk Reading Book, 1850-1855

Andy_Warhol_by_Jack_MitchellOn this day in 1987 artist Andy Warhol died in New York City at New York Hospital from a sudden post-operative cardiac arrhythmia following gall bladder surgery, at the age of 58.  Born Andrej Varhola, Jr. on 6 August 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Warhol was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art.  His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s.  After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist.  The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives.  It is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist.  His art used many types of media, including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music.  He was also a pioneer in computer-generated art using Amiga computers that were introduced in 1984, two years before his death.  He founded Interview Magazine and was the author of numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. Warhol managed and produced the Velvet Underground, a rock band which had a strong influence on the evolution of punk rock music.  His studio, The Factory, was a famous gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons.  Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films.  He coined the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame”.  andyWarhol's_graveThe Final Footprint – Warhol’s body was taken back to Pittsburgh by his brothers for burial.  The wake was at Thomas P. Kunsak Funeral Home and was an open-coffin ceremony.  The coffin was a solid bronze casket with gold plated rails and white upholstery.  Warhol was dressed in a black cashmere suit, a paisley tie, a platinum wig, and sunglasses.  He was posed holding a small prayer book and a red rose.  The funeral liturgy was held at the Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church on Pittsburgh’s North Side.  The eulogy was given by Monsignor Peter Tay.  Yoko Ono and John Richardson were speakers.  The coffin was covered with white roses and asparagus ferns.  After the liturgy, the coffin was driven to St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, a south suburb of Pittsburgh.  At the grave, the priest said a brief prayer and sprinkled holy water on the casket.  Before the coffin was lowered, Paige Powell dropped a copy of Interview magazine, an Interview T-shirt, and a bottle of the Estee Lauder perfume “Beautiful” into the grave.  Warhol was buried next to his mother and father.  A memorial service was held in Manhattan for Warhol on 1 April 1987, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

Triple Elvis
Andy Warhol Triple Elvis.jpg

Painting from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Artist Andy Warhol
Year 1963

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Day in History 21 February – James I King of Scots – Malcolm X

On this day in 1437, James I, King of Scots, was assassinated in a failed coup by his kinsman and former ally Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl, at the Blackfriars monastery on the outskirts of Perth, Scotland.  Born in Dunfermline Palace about July 1394; the son of Robert III of Scotland and Annabella Drummond.  On 4 April 1406 Robert III died and the 12 year old prince became the uncrowned king of Scots.  James was crowned on 21 May 1424.  He ruled with a firm hand, achieving numerous legal and financial reforms, including remodeling the Scottish parliament after its English counterpart, and renewing the Auld Alliance with France.  His actions, although very effective, upset many, namely the descendents of his grandfather, Robert II‘s second marriage (James was descended from the first marriage). Conflict arose between the two factions over who should be on the throne.  The main conspirators in the regicide, Walter of Atholl, his grandson Robert Stewart and Robert Graham were executed.  James was married to Joan Beaufort.  James was succeeded on the throne by his son James II.  A king named James would rule Scotland for 136 years through James I’s descendents; James II through James V.  James V was succeeded by his only surviving legitimate child, Mary, Queen of Scots.  Mary would be succeeded by the final James, her son James I of England, James VI, King of Scots.  In My Defens, God Me Defend!

Royal Standard

Seal of Perth Charterhouse

The Final Footprint – James is interred in the ruins at Perth Charterhouse or Perth Priory, known in Latin as Domus Vallis Virtutis (“House of the Valley of Virtue”), a monastic house of Carthusian monks based at Perth.

Malcolm X
Malcolm X in March 1964

Malcolm X in March 1964

On this day in 1965, African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X was assassinated by gunshots in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom at the age of 39. Born Malcolm Little on 19 May 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. In my opinion, one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.

His father was killed when he was six and his mother was placed in a mental hospital when he was thirteen, after which he lived in a series of foster homes. In 1946, at age twenty, he went to prison for larceny and breaking and entering. While in prison, he became a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI), changing his birth name to Malcolm X. After his parole in 1952 he quickly rose to become one of the organization’s most influential leaders, serving as the public face of the controversial group for a dozen years. In his autobiography, Malcolm X wrote proudly of some of the social achievements the Nation made while he was a member, particularly its free drug rehabilitation program. The Nation promoted black supremacy, advocated the separation of black and white Americans, and rejected the civil rights movement for its emphasis on integration.

By March 1964, Malcolm X had grown disillusioned with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammad. Expressing many regrets about his time with them, which he had come to regard as largely wasted, he embraced Sunni Islam. After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, which included completing the Hajj, he also became known as el-Hajj Malik el-ShabazzHe repudiated the Nation of Islam, disavowed racism and founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. He continued to emphasize Pan-Africanism, black self-determination, and black self-defense.

In 1955, Betty Sanders met Malcolm X after one of his lectures, then again at a dinner party; soon she was regularly attending his lectures. In 1956 she joined the Nation of Islam, changing her name to Betty X. One-on-one dates were contrary to the Nation’s teachings, so the couple courted at social events with dozens or hundreds of others, and Malcolm X made a point of inviting her on the frequent group visits he led to New York City’s museums and libraries.

Malcolm X proposed during a telephone call from Detroit in January 1958, and they married two days later. 

Elijah Muhammad is speaking at a podium and people are listening intently

Cassius Clay (in dark suit) watches Elijah Muhammad speak, 1964

Malcolm X is holding a camera and taking a picture of Clay, who is sitting at a luncheonette counter

Malcolm X photographs Cassius Clay after Clay became the world heavyweight champion (1964). 

Malcolm X before a 1964 press conference

Malcolm X before a 1964 press conference

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King speak to each other thoughtfully as others look on

Malcolm X’s only meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., March 26, 1964 

Malcolm X in 1964

Malcolm X, after his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca 

Malcolm X, carrying a rifle, peers out the window

Malcolm X guards his family in an iconic Ebony photo.

An overturned chair in front of a mural, on which several chalk circles have been drawn around bullet-holes

The Audubon Ballroom stage after the murder. Circles on backdrop mark bullet holes.


The Final Footprint

The public viewing, February 23–26 at Unity Funeral Home in Harlem, was attended by some 14,000 to 30,000 mourners. For the funeral on February 27, loudspeakers were set up for the overflow crowd outside Harlem’s thousand-seat Faith Temple of the Church of God in Christ, and a local television station carried the service live.

Actor and activist Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy, describing Malcolm X as “our shining black prince … who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so”:

There are those who will consider it their duty, as friends of the Negro people, to tell us to revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial and bold young captain‍—‌and we will smile. Many will say turn away‍—‌away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter and an enemy of the black man‍—‌and we will smile. They will say that he is of hate‍—‌a fanatic, a racist‍—‌who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him … And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.

Malcolm X was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Friends took up the gravediggers’ shovels to complete the burial themselves. Other notable Final Footprints at Ferncliff include: Aaliyah,  Joan Crawford, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Thelonious Monk, and Ed Sullivan.

Malcolm X is surrounded by reporters with microphones, while a television camera captures the scene

Malcolm X at a 1964 press conference

A painted mural shows the faces of Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, and Frederick Douglass

Mural on Philadelphia row houses

Portrait of Malcolm X by the artist Robert Templeton

Portrait of Malcolm X by Robert Templeton, from the collection Lest We Forget: Images of the Black Civil Rights Movement

Denzel Washington played the title role in the 1992 motion picture Malcolm X.

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Day in History 20 February – Admiral Nimitz – Hunter S. Thompson – Sandra Dee

On this day in 1966, Fleet Admiral, five-star admiral, Chester Nimitz, died in his naval quarters, Quarters One on Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay, California at the age of 82.  Born Chester William Nimitz on 24 February 1883 in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Nimitz held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CinCPac), for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA), for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II.  He was the leading U.S. Navy authority on submarines, as well as Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation in 1939.  Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) from 1945 until 1947.  He was the United States’ last surviving Fleet Admiral.  Nimitz was married to Catherine Vance Freeman (1913 – 1966 his death).   The Final Footprint – Nimitz is interred in Golden Gate National Cemetery, a U. S. National Cemetery located in San Bruno, California.  His grave is marked by an upright marble VA marker.  USS Nimitz, the first of her class of ten nuclear-powered supercarriers, was commissioned in 1975 and remains in service.  Fifteen medal of honor recipients are interred in Golden Gate National Cemetery.

Hunter_S__Thompson,_1988_cropOn this day in 2005, journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot at his home, Owl Farm near Woody Creek, Colorado, at the age of 67.  Born Hunter Stockton Thompson on 18 July 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Thompson traveled frequently, including stints in California, Puerto Rico and Brazil, before settling in Aspen, Colorado, in the early 1960s.  He became internationally known with the publication of Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967).  Thompson had spent a year living and riding with the Angels, experiencing their lives and hearing their stories first hand.  With the publication in 1970 of “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” he became a counter cultural figure, with his own brand of New Journalism he termed “Gonzo”, an experimental style of journalism where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories.  The work he perhaps remains best known for is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972), a rumination on the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement.  It was first serialized in Rolling Stone, a magazine with which Thompson would be long associated, and was released as a film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Terry Gilliam in 1998.  Politically minded, Thompson ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, in 1970, on the Freak Power ticket.  He was well known for his inveterate hatred of Richard Nixon, whom he claimed represented “that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character” and whom he characterized in what might be his greatest contribution to American Literature, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.  Thompson’s output notably declined from the mid-1970s, as he struggled with the consequences of fame, and he complained that he could no longer merely report on events as he was too easily recognized. He was also known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs; his love of firearms, and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism, and remarked that, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”  The Final Footprint – On 20 August 2005, in a private ceremony, Thompson’s ashes were fired from a cannon.  This was accompanied by red, white, blue and green fireworks-all to the tune of Norman Greenbaum‘s “Spirit in the Sky” and Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”  The cannon was placed atop a 153-foot (47 m) tower which had the shape of a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button, a symbol originally used in his 1970 campaign for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado.  Apparently, the funeral was funded by Depp.  He told the Associated Press, “All I’m doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true.  I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out.”  Other notable attendees included U.S. Senator John Kerry, former U.S. Senator George McGovern, 60 Minutes correspondents Ed Bradley and Charlie Rose, actors Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, and Josh Hartnett, singers Lyle Lovett, and John Oates.

Sandra Dee
Sandra Dee 1961.png

Dee in 1961

On this day in 2005, actress Sandra Dee died at age 62 of complications from kidney disease, brought on by a lifelong struggle with anorexia nervosa at the Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California. Born Alexandra Zuck on April 23, 1942 in Bayonne, New Jersey.  Dee began her career as a child model, working in commercials before transitioning to film in her teenage years. Best known for her portrayal of ingénues, Dee earned a Golden Globe Award as one of the year’s most promising newcomers for her performance in Robert Wise’s Until They Sail (1958). She became a teenage star for her subsequent performances in Imitation of Life and Gidget (both 1959), which made her a household name.

Dee married Bobby Darin in 1960. They met while filming Come September, which was released in 1961. She and Darin divorced in 1967. Bobby Darin died at age 37 in 1973. She never remarried.

Pop culture references:

  • One of the popular songs of the Broadway musical and movie Grease (1978) is “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, in which the rebellious Rizzo satirizes new girl Sandra Dumbrowski (Sandra Dee Olson in the film) and her clean-cut image, likened to Sandra Dee’s (the character’s name is thus a play on the real-life actress). According to a family friend, Dee “always had a big laugh about it.”
  • Dee’s life with Bobby Darin was dramatized in the film Beyond the Sea (2004), in which Kevin Spacey played Darin and Dee was played by Kate Bosworth.
  • She is referenced in the Rodney Crowell song “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” (“I live with Angel she’s a roadhouse queen, makes Texas Ruby look like Sandra Dee”)
  • She is also referenced in the Badly Drawn Boy song “One Last Dance” (“To this day I’m lovin’ you, we know what we wanna do. I am your Troy Donahue and you are my Sandra Dee”)
  • In the movie Kissing Jessica Stein, a character mentions her by saying: “I took out an ad for Christ’s sake. And I ended up with the Jewish Sandra Dee.”
  • The Mötley Crüe song Come On And Dance (1981) references her: “Electric love/Like Sandra Dee.”

In Imitation of Life trailer (1959)

The Final Footprint

 Tomb of Sandra Dee, at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

She is entombed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills. Other notable final footprints at Hollywood Hills include Gene Autry, Carrie Fisher, Bobby Fuller, Al, Jarreau, Lemmy Kilmister, Strother Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Debbie Reynolds.

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Day in History 19 February – Bon Scott – Harper Lee

bonscottOn this day in 1980, Scottish-born Australian rock musician, lead singer and lyricist of Australian heavy rock band AC/DC, Bon Scott, died in a parked car at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich, South London, at the age of 33.  The official cause of death was listed as acute alcohol poisoning.  Born Ronald Belford Scott on 9 July 1946 in Kirriemuir, Scotland.  His family moved to Melbourne, Australia when he was six.  Scott became the lead singer of AC/DC in 1974.  The band went on to release some of the best heavy rock albums, in my opinion, including; Let There Be Rock, Powerage, If You Want Blood You’ve Got It and Highway to Hell.  After Scott’s death, the remaining members of AC/DC, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd briefly considered disbanding.  However, they decided that Scott would have wanted them to continue and, with the blessings of Scott’s family, the band hired Brian Johnson as the new vocalist and lyricist.  Five months after Scott’s death, AC/DC finished the work they began with Scott and released Back in Black as a tribute to him with two tracks from the album, “Hells Bells” and “Back in Black”, dedicated to his memory.  As of 2011, that album is the second best-selling album in history, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  One of my all-time favorite bands.  The Final FootprintScott was cremated and his cremains were interred in Fremantle Cemetery in Fremantle, Australia.  The site of the interment is marked by a plaque inscribed; LOVED SON OF ISA AND CHICK BROTHER OF DEREK GRAEME AND VALARIE CLOSE TO OUR HEARTS HE WILL ALWAYS STAY LOVED AND REMEMBERED EVERY DAY.  A bronze statue of Scott by Greg James, was installed at Fisherman’s Wharf in Fremantle, Western Australia.  On 6 May 2006, the town of Kirriemuir in Scotland held a service and unveiled a Caithness stone slab commemorating Scott.  The memorial is inscribed; with his name and birth and death dates and LET THERE BE ROCK – SONG WRITER AND LEAD SINGER WITH AC/DC THE WORLD’S GREATEST ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LEGEND. 

Harper Lee
HarperLee 2007Nov05.jpg

Lee on November 5, 2007

On this day in 2016, novelist Harper Lee died in her sleep in Monroeville, Alabama at the age of 89. Born Nelle Harper Lee on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. Perhaps best known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. In 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. She was also known for assisting her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Capote was the basis for the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The plot and characters of To Kill a Mockingbird are loosely based on Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The novel deals with the irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s, as depicted through the eyes of two children, Scout and Dill.

Another novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s and published in July 2015 as a “sequel”, though it was later confirmed to be To Kill a Mockingbird‘s first draft.

A black and white photograph of Alan J. Pakula seated next to Harper Lee in director's chairs watching the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird

Film producer Alan J. Pakula with Lee, who spent three weeks watching the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird

Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007

The Final Footprint

On February 20, her funeral was held at First United Methodist Church in Monroeville. The service was attended by close family and friends. She is interred in Hillcrest Cemetery in Monroeville. 

Harper Lee was portrayed by Catherine Keener in the film Capote (2005), by Sandra Bullock in the film Infamous (2006), and by Tracey Hoyt in the TV movie Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story(1998). In the adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel Other Voices, Other Rooms (1995), the character of Idabel Thompkins, who was inspired by Capote’s memories of Lee as a child, was played by Aubrey Dollar.

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Day in History 18 February – Michelangelo – John B. Stetson – Dale Earnhardt

Michelango_Portrait_by_VolterraOn this day in 1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance, Il Divino (“the divine one”), Michelangelo died in Rome at the age of 88.  Born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on 6 March 1475 in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany.  In my opinion, Michelangelo exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art.  Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his fellow Italian Leonardo da Vinci.  Michelangelo was generally considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and ever since then, in my opinion, he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time.  A number of his works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence.  His output in every field during his long life was prodigious; when the sheer volume of correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences that survive is also taken into account, he might be the best-documented artist of the 16th century.  Two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, were sculpted before he turned thirty.  Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered the Mannerist style at the Laurentian Library.  At the age of 74 he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Michelangelo transformed the plan, the western end being finished to Michelangelo’s design, the dome being completed after his death with some modification.  One of the qualities most admired by his contemporaries was his terribilità, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur, and it was the attempts of subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo’s impassioned and highly personal style that resulted in Mannerism, the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance.  Michelangelo never married.  Michelangelo_Tomb_Santa_CroceThe Final Footprint –  His body was taken from Rome for interment at the Basilica di Santa Croce, fulfilling the maestro’s last request to be buried in his beloved Florence.  The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence, and a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is situated on the Piazza di Santa Croce.  Other notable final footprints at Santa Croce include; Vittorio Alfieri, Ugo Foscolo,  Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei, and Gioacchino Rossini.


  • The Madonna of the Steps (1490–92)

  • The Taddei Tondo (1502)

  • Madonna and Child. Brügge, Belgium (1504)

  • The Doni Tondo (1504–06)

    • Angel by Michelangelo, early work (1494–95)

    • Bacchus by Michelangelo, early work (1496–97)

    • Dying slave Louvre (1513)

    • Bound slave, known a Atlas (1530–34)

      The Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508–12)


      • The Drunkenness of Noah

      • The Deluge (detail)

      • The Creation of Adam (1510)

      • The First day of Creation

        • Ignudo (1511)

        • Studies for The Libyan Sibyl

        • The Libyan Sibyl (1511)

        • The Prophet Jeremiah (1511)

          • The Battle of the Centaurs (1492)

          • Copy of the lost Battle of Cascina by Bastiano da Sangallo

          • The Last Judgement, detail of the Redeemed. (see whole image above)

          • Crucifixion of St Peter

            • Statue of Victory (1534), Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

            • The Pieta of Vittoria Colonna (c. 1540)

            • Michelangelo and Tiberio Calcagni, Pieta Firenze (c. 1550-61)

            • The Rondanini Pieta (1552–64)


John_Batterson_Stetson_Cabinet_CardOn this day in 1906, U.S. hatter, hat manufacturer, the inventor of the cowboy hat, John B. Stetson died in DeLand, Florida at the age of 75.  Born John Batterson Stetson on 5 May 1830 in Orange, New Jersey.  He founded the John B. Stetson Company.  The company’s hats are now commonly referred to simply as Stetsons.  His father, Stephen Stetson, was a hatter.  As a youth, he worked with his father until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and his doctor predicted he had only a short time to live.  Given this dire prognosis, he left the hat-making business to explore the American West, afraid this would be his only chance to see it.  There he met drovers, bullwhackers and cowboys.  The former hat-maker turned a critical eye to the flea-infested coonskin caps favored by many of the gold seekers, and wondered whether fur-felt would work for a lightweight, all-weather hat suitable for the West.  In 1865 Stetson moved to Philadelphia to enter the hat-making craft he had learned from his father and began manufacturing hats there suited to the needs of the Westerners.  Stetson made a western hat for each hat dealer in the Boss of the Plains style he hadjohnbstetson1800s_Boss_of_the_plains_5 invented, during a trek to Pike’s Peak in Colorado.  These lightweight hats were natural in color with four inch crowns and brims; a plain strap was used for the band.  Thanks to the time he had spent with cowboys and Western settlers, Stetson knew firsthand that the headwear they wore (such as coonskin caps, sea captain hats, straw hats, and wool derbies) was impractical.  Made from waterproof felt, the new hat was durable.  The wide brim provided protection from the hot sun.  Noted one observer, “It kept the sun out of your eyes and off your neck. It was an umbrella. It gave you a bucket (the crown) to water your horse and a cup (the brim) to water yourself. It made a hell of a fan, which you need sometimes for a fire but more often to shunt cows this direction or that.   The hat achieved instant popularity; the first real cowboy hat.  Stetson went on to build the Carlsbad, easily identified by its main crease down the front.  His hat was called a Stetson, because he had his name John B. Stetson Company embossed in gold in every hatband.  The Stetson soon became the most well known hat in the West.  All the high-crowned, wide-brimmed, soft felt western hats that followed are intimately associated with the cowboy image created by Stetson.  The Stetson Cowboy hat was the symbol of the highest quality.  The company also made hats for law enforcement departments, such as the Texas Rangers.  Stetson’s Western-style hats were worn by employees of the National Park Service, U.S. Cavalry soldiers, and many U.S. Presidents.  The cowboy hat is truly an example of form following function.  Today’s cowboy hat has remained basically unchanged in construction and design.  I am the proud owner of a Stetson.  The Final Footprint – Stetson is entombed in the Stetson Family private mausoleum in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.


DaleEarnhardtSunglassesDriversSuitOn this day in 2001, 7-time Winston Cup Champion, “The Intimidator”, Dale Earnhardt, died in a last lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida, at the age of 49.  Born Ralph Dale Earnhardt on 29 April 1951 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  Earnhardt drove the #3 car for most of his career, spanning the early 1980s until his death in 2001.  Although he had other sponsors during his career, his #3 is associated in fans’ minds with his last sponsor, GM Goodwrench, and his last color scheme, a predominantly black car with bold red and silver trim.  The black and red #3 continues to be one of the most famous logos in North American motor racing.  Earnhardt was inducited in the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  The hall of fame building is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Final Footprint – Earnhardt is interred at his farm in Mooresville, North Carolina.   A memorial was created at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The memorial is a black silhouette of a race car with the inscription Earnhardt Pride – In Memory of Dale Sr.

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Day in History 17 February – Molière – Geronimo – Thelonious Monk

Molière_Mignard_ChantillyOn this day in 1673, playwright and actor Molière (portrait by Pierre Mignard) died at his home in Paris from tuberculosis at the age of 51.  Born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin on 15 January 1622 in Paris.  In my opinion, one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature.  Among Molière’s best-known works are The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, Tartuffe, The Miser, The Imaginary Invalid, and The Bourgeois Gentleman.  Though he received the adulation of the court and Parisians, Molière’s satires attracted criticism from moralists and the Catholic Church.  Tartuffe and its attack on perceived religious hypocrisy roundly received condemnations from the Church, while Don Juan was banned from performance.  Molière’s hard work in so many theatrical capacities took its toll on his health and, by 1667, he was forced to take a break from the stage. Molière married Armande Béjart, a famous stage actor at the time.  Her mother, Madeleine, had a relationship with Molière which perhaps continued after her marriage to him.

During a production of his final play, The Imaginary Invalid, Molière was seized by a coughing fit and a haemorrhage while playing the hypochondriac Argan.  Molière insisted on completing his performance.  Afterwards he collapsed again with another, larger haemorrhage before being taken home, where he died a few hours later, without receiving the last rites because two priests refused to visit him while a third arrived too late.  The superstition that green brings bad luck to actors is said to originate from the colour of the clothing he was wearing at the time of his death. molieregraveThe Final Footprint – Under French law at the time, actors were not allowed to be buried in the sacred ground of a cemetery.  However, Armande, asked the King if her spouse could be granted a “normal” funeral at night.  The King agreed and Molière’s body was buried in the part of the cemetery reserved for unbaptised infants.  In 1792 his remains were brought to the museum of French monuments and in 1817 transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, close to those of La Fontaine.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Honoré de Balzac, Georges Bizet, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Amedeo Modigliani, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde and Richard Wright.


geronimoEdward_S__Curtis_Geronimo_Apache_cp01002vOn this day in 1909 prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache, Geronimo died of pneumonia as a prisoner of the United States at Fort Sill, Oklahoma at the age of 79.  Born June 1829, near Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Gila River in the modern-day state of Arizona, then part of Mexico, though the Apache disputed Mexico’s claim.  His grandfather (Mahko) had been chief of the Bedonkohe Apache.  Geronimo fought against Mexico and Texas for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars.  “Geronimo” was the name given to him during a battle with Mexican soldiers.  Geronimo’s Chiricahua name is often rendered as Goyathlay or Goyahkla in English.  After a Mexican attack on his tribe, where soldiers killed his mother, wife, and his three children in 1858, Geronimo joined a number of revenge attacks against the Mexicans.  In 1886, after a lengthy pursuit, Geronimo surrendered to Texan faux-gubernatorial authorities as a prisoner of war.  At an old age, he became a celebrity, appearing at fairs, but he was never allowed to return to the land of his birth.  The Final Footprint – On his deathbed, he reportedly confessed to his nephew that he regretted his decision to surrender.  His last words were reported to be said to his nephew, “I should have never surrendered.  I should have fought until I was the last man alive.”  He was buried at Fort Sill in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery.  Other notable final footprints at Fort Sill include; Kiowa Chief Satanta, and Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. 


Thelonious_Monk_Mintons_Playhouse_New_York_N_Y__ca__Sept__1947_William_P__Gottlieb_061911On this day in 1982, jazz pianist, composer, Thelonious Monk died in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of 64 from a stroke.  Born Thelonious Sphere Monk on 10 October 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  In my opinion, one of the giants of American music.  Known for his distinctive style in suits, hats and sunglasses.  Monk made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including “Epistrophy”, “‘Round Midnight”, “Blue Monk”, “Straight, No Chaser” and “Well, You Needn’t”.  The Final Footprint – Monk is interred in Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum, Hartsdale, New York.  His daughter Barbara “Booboo” and his wife Francis “Nellie” were later interred with him.  Their graves are marked by a flat bronze marker.  Other notable Final Footprints at Ferncliff include:  Aaliyah,  Joan Crawford, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Malcolm X, and Ed Sullivan.  In addition, John Lennon and Nelson Rockefeller were cremated at Ferncliff.

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Day in History 16 February – Texas John Slaughter – Lesley Gore

On this day in 1922, rancher, gambler, Texas Ranger, Texas John Slaughter, died in Douglas, Arizona at the age of 80.  Born John Horton Slaughter on 2 October 1841 in Sabine Parish, Arizona.  Noted for carrying a pearl handled .44 pistol.  The Wonderful World of Disney television series, Texas John Slaughter ran from 1958 to 1961 and starred Tom Tryon in the title role.  The beginning theme song for the series included the lines: “Texas John Slaughter made ’em do what they oughta, and if they didn’t, they died.”  Slaughter married two times; Eliza Adeline Harris (1871 – 1877 her death) and Cora Viola Howell, a great-granddaughter of Daniel Boone (1878 – 1922 his death).  The Final Footprint – Slaughter is interred in Calvary Cemetery, Douglas, Arizona.  His wife Cora was interred next to him following her death in 1941.  Their graves are marked by a large upright granite monument.

Lesley Gore
Leslie Gore Batman 1967.JPG

Gore as a Batman guest star, 1967

On this day in 2015, singer, songwriter, actress, and activist Lesley Gore died from lung cancer in at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan at the age of 68. Born Lesley Sue Goldstein on May 2, 1946 in Brooklyn. At the age of 16 she recorded the pop hit “It’s My Party”, and followed it up with other hits including “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “She’s a Fool”, “You Don’t Own Me”, “Maybe I Know” and “California Nights”.

Gore also worked as an actress and composed songs with her brother, Michael Gore, for the 1980 film Fame, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She hosted an LGBT-oriented public television show, In the Life, on American TV in the 2000s, and was active until 2014.

In a 2005 interview with After Ellen, she stated she had been in a relationship with luxury jewelry designer Lois Sasson since 1982. She stated that although the music business was “totally homophobic,” she never felt she had to pretend she was straight. “I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do,” she said. “I didn’t avoid anything, I didn’t put it in anybody’s face.”

The Final Footprint 

Gore had been working on a memoir and a Broadway show based on her life at the time of her death. At the time of her death, Gore and Sasson had been together for 33 years.

Her New York Times obituary stated that with her songs, all recorded before she was 18, such as “the indelibly defiant” 1964 hit “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore made herself “the voice of teenage girls aggrieved by fickle boyfriends, moving quickly from tearful self-pity to fierce self-assertion.”

Her funeral was held on February 19, 2015, in Manhattan and she was cremated.

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Day in History 15 February – Nat King Cole

On this day in 1965, musician, jazz pianist, singer, song writer, Nat King Cole, died at St, John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 45 from lung cancer.  Born Nathaniel Adams Cole on 17 March, St. Patrick’s Day, 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Cole’s first hit was “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, a song he co-wrote with Irving Mills.  Johnny Mercer invited him to record the song for Capitol Records.  Cole married two times; Nadine Robinson, Maria Hawkins Ellington (1948 – 1965 his death).  If you have not listened to Cole sing Irving Gordon‘s “Unforgettable” with a beautiful woman by your side, you have not lived.  One of my very favorite singers.  The Final Footprint – Cole is entombed in the Freedom Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Heritage, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.  Other notable Final Footprints at Forest Lawn Glendale include;  L. Frank Baum, Humphrey Bogart, Lon Chaney, Dorothy Dandridge, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Harlow, Sam Cooke, Walt Disney, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Michael Jackson, Carole Lombard, Casey Stengel, Jimmy Stewart, and Spencer Tracy.

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