Day in History 14 May – Rita Hayworth – Frank Sinatra


Rita_Hayworth-publicityOn this day in 1987, dancer and actress, beauty icon, Rita Hayworth died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 68 in New York City.  Born Margarita Carmen Cansino on 17 October 1918 in Brooklyn.  Hayworth achieved fame during the 1940s as one of the era’s top stars.  Appearing first as Rita Cansino, she agreed to change her name to Rita Hayworth and her natural dark brown hair color to dark red to attract a greater range of roles.  Her appeal led to her being featured on the cover of Life magazine five times, beginning in 1940.  She appeared in a total of 61 films over 37 years.  Hayworth married five times, apparently none of them happily; Edward C. Judson (1937–1942 divorce), Orson Welles
(1943–1948 divorce), Prince Aly Khan (1949–1953 divorce), Dick Haymes (1953–1955 divorce), James Hill (1958–1961 divorce).  Rita_Hayworth's_graveThe Final Footprint – A funeral service was held on 19 May 1987, at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.  Pallbearers included actors Ricardo Montalbán, Glenn Ford, Don Ameche, agent Budd Burton Moss, and the choreographer Hermes Pan.  She was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City.  Her headstone includes the inscription: “To yesterday’s companionship and tomorrow’s reunion.”  Hayworth’s pin-up poster is portrayed in Stephen King‘s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982), and was later brought to the screen in the film The Shawshank Redemption (1994) directed by Frank Darabont (which itself features a video clip of Hayworth in Gilda, shown as a film the prisoners are watching).  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, Bela Lugosi, Al Martino, actress Audrey Meadows, Ricardo Montalbán, actor Chris Penn, singer Jo Stafford and Sharon Tate.


Frank_Sinatra_laughingOn this day in 1998, legendary and iconic singer and actor; Academy Award winner, Grammy Award winner, producer, director, conductor, member of the Rat Pack, Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, The Voice, Frankie, Frank Sinatra died at 10:50 P.M. on a Thursday at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with his wife Barbara by his side, at the age of 82.  Born Francis Albert Sinatra on 12 December 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Oh my, where to begin.  This could take awhile.  Sinatra is perhaps my favorite entertainer.

Sinatra was the only child of Italian immigrants Natalie Della “Dolly” Garaventa and Antonino Martino “Marty” Sinatra and was raised Catholic.  His mother was from Northern Italy and his father was Sicilian.  He left high school without graduating.

Sinatra began his musical career in the swing era first with bandleader Harry James and then with bandleader Tommy Dorsey.  Sinatra became unhappy with his contract with Dorsey which awarded Dorsey one-third of Sinatra’s lifetime earnings from entertainment.  Dorsey let Sinatra out of his contract which sparked rumours of Sinatra’s involment with the Mafia.  A newspaper reported that Chicago mob boss, Sam Giancana coerced Dorsey.  The incident was later fictionalized in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.  Sinatra went on to become a successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, becoming the idol of the “bobby soxers”.  His career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1954 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (for his performance as Private Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity (1953).  This incident was later fictionalized in The Godfather as well.  Sinatra received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role as Frankie Machine in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and he recevied critical acclaim for his performance as Captain Bennett Marco in The Manchurian Candidate.

Sinatra was an original member of the Holmby Hills Rat Pack along with, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Sid Luft, Humphrey Bogart, Swifty Lazar, Nathaniel Benchley, David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, and Jimmy Van Heusen.  The 1960’s version of the Rat Pack included Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford.  Reportedly Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, Juliet Prowse, and Shirley MacLaine were often referred to as the “Rat Pack Mascots”.  This version of the Rat Pack did not use that term to describe themselves.  They referred to the group as The Summit or The Clan.

My favorite Sinatra albums include; In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy, Ring-A-Ding-Ding, Sinatra at the Sands, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, and September of My Years.  Sinatra was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.  Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  Sinatra was married four times:  Nancy Barbato (1939-1951 divorce), Ava Gardner (1951-1957 divorce), Mia Farrow (1966-1968 divorce, and Barbara Blakeley Marx (1976-1998 his death).  The Final Footprint – Sinatra is interred in Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California.  His grave is marked with an individual engraved flat granite marker.  The inscription reads:  THE BEST IS YET TO COME and the term of endearment BELOVED HUSBAND AND FATHER.

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Day in History 13 May – Gary Cooper – Bob Wills

On this day in 1961, Academy Award-winning actor, Coop, Gary Cooper died from cancer in Los Angeles at the age of 60.  Born Frank James Cooper on 7 May 1901 in Helena, Montana.  His career comprised more than a 100 films.  My favorite movies with Cooper include; as Will Cane in High Noon (1952) with Grace Kelly, as Lou Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees (1942), as Robert Jordan in the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) with Ingrid Bergman, as Howard Roark in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (1949) and as Frank Flannagan in Love in the Afternoon (1957) with Audrey Hepburn.  Cooper married once; Veronica “Rocky” Balfe (1933-1961 his death).  Cooper allegedly had affairs with famous co-stars Marlene Dietrich, Kelly and Patricia NealThe Final Footprint – Cooper was initially interred in the Grotto Section of Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California.  In May 1974 his body was removed from Holy Cross Cemetery, when his widow Veronica remarried and moved to New York, and relocated to Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Southampton, New York, on Long Island.  His grave is marked by an individual bronze marker.  Veronica was buried next to him when she died in 2000.  For his contribution to the film industry, Cooper has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6243 Hollywood Blvd.  In 1966, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Bob_Wills_photograph_-_Cropped-150x150On this day in 1975, musician, songwriter, and bandleader of the Texas Playboys; co-founder of Western Swing, the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills died in Fort Worth, Texas at the age of 70 from a stroke.  Born James Robert Wills on a farm near Kosse, Texas on 6 March 1905.  Wills formed several bands and played radio stations around the South and West until he formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 with Wills on fiddle, Tommy Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills (his brother), and Kermit Whalin, who played steel guitar and bass, later adding Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, pianist Al Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section that expanded the band’s sound.  Wills favored jazz-like arrangements and the band found national popularity into the 1940s with such hits as “Steel Guitar Rag”, “New San Antonio Rose”, “Smoke on the Water”, “Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima”, and “New Spanish Two Step”.  In 1950, he had two top ten hits, “Ida Red Likes the Boogie” and “Faded Love”.  The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Wills in 1968 and the Texas State Legislature honored him for his contribution to American music.  In 1972, Wills accepted a citation from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in Nashville.  He was recording an album with Merle Haggard in 1973 when a stroke left him comatose until his death in 1975.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1999.  I love to hear Bob holler.  The Final Footprint – Wills is interred in Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  His grave is marked by a flat bronze on granite marker.


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Day in History 12 May – Adam Petty

On this day in 2000, professional racing driver, great-grandson of Lee Petty, grandson of Richard Petty, son of Kyle Petty, Adam Petty died when his Busch series car crashed during a practice run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire, at the age of 19.  Born Adam Kyler Petty on 10 July 1980 and raised in High Point, North Carolina.

President George W. Bush is joined at Adam’s Race Shop on the grounds of Victory Junction Gang Camp, Inc., in Randleman, N.C., by NASCAR drivers Kyle Petty, Richard Petty, Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson

The Final Footprint – Adam was cremated and his cremains were returned to his family.  In October 2000 five months after Adam’s death, his family partnered with Paul Newman and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp to begin the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp for terminally and chronically ill children, in Randleman, North Carolina, as a memorial to Adam.  The camp has received support from many NASCAR drivers, teams, and sponsors, including Cup Series sponsor Sprint, which has placed a replica of Adam’s 1998 car in the camp.  The Victory Junction Gang camp began operation in 2004, and is an official charity of NASCAR.  I have been fortunate enough to spend a weekend at Victory Junction.  Enough good things cannot be said about this wonderful place and what it means to the kids and families who visit.  Thank you to the Petty family and all those involved in creating and maintaining VJ.  More importantly, thank you Adam.

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Day in History 11 May – Bob Marley

On this day in 1981, singer-songwriter and musician, Bob Marley died from cancer at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Miami (now University of Miami Hospital) at the age of 36.  Born Robert Nesta Marley on 6 February 1945 in the village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica.

He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers (1963–1981).  Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited with helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement to a worldwide audience.  His best-known hits include “I Shot the Sheriff”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Stir It Up”, “Jamming”, “Redemption Song”, “One Love” and, together with The Wailers, “Three Little Birds”, as well as the posthumous releases “Buffalo Soldier” and “Iron Lion Zion”.  The compilation album Legend (1984), released three years after his death, is reggae’s best-selling album, going ten times Platinum (Diamond) in the U.S.  Marley was married once to Rita Constantia Anderson (1966-1981 his death).  Marley has evolved into a global symbol, which has been endlessly merchandised through a variety of mediums. 

The Final Footprint – Marley is entombed, either with his red Gibson Les Paul or with a Fender Stratocaster, in the Bob Marley Mausoleum in Nine Mile, Saint Ann, Jamaica.  Marley received a state funeral in Jamaica on 21 May 1981, which combined elements of Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Rastafari tradition.

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Day in History 10 May – Joan Crawford – Shel Silverstein

On this day in 1977, Academy Award winning actress, Joan Crawford died at her New York apartment from a heart attack at the age of 72.  Born Lucille Fay LeSueur on 23 March 1905 in San Antonio, Texas.  Crawford became one of Hollywood’s most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States.  In 1931, she starred opposite Clark Gable in Possessed.  They began an affair during the production, that lasted for many years.  Crawford won her Oscar for the title role in Mildred Pierce (1945).  She was married four times; Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1929-1933 divorce), Franchot Tone (1935-1939 divorce), Phillip Terry (1942-1946 divorce) and Alfred Steele (1955-1959 his death).  The Final Footprint – Crawford was cremated.  Her cremains were entombed in a crypt next to her husband, Alfred Steele, in the Ferncliff Mausoleum, Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.  A funeral service was held at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel (a Dignity Memorial property) in Manhattan.  Crawford’s hand and footprints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.  She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.  In NovembeRrer 1978, a year and a half after Crawford’s death, her adopted daughter, Christina published Mommie Dearest, which contained allegations that Crawford was emotionally and physically abusive to Christina and her brother Christopher.  The book was made into a movie of the same name in 1981 with Faye Dunaway as Crawford.  Other notable funerals at Frank E. Campbell include; Aaliyah, Irving Berlin, Lord Buckley, James Cagney, Oleg Cassini, Montgomery Clift, Frank Costello, Malcolm Forbes, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, George Gershwin, Jim Henson, Peter Jennings, Bat Masterson, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Heath Ledger, John Lennon, Norman Mailer, Notorious B.I.G., Les Paul, Ayn Rand, Igor Stravinsky, Ed Sullivan, Arturo Toscanini, Rudolf Valentino, Luther Vandross and Tennessee Williams. Other notable Final Footprints at Ferncliff include:  Aaliyah, Judy Garland, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Thelonious Monk, and Ed Sullivan.  In addition, John Lennon and Nelson Rockefeller were cremated at Ferncliff.


th-6On this day in 1999, poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter, and author of children’s books, Shel Silverstein died from a heart attack in Key West at the age of 68.  Born Sheldon Allan Silverstein on 25
September 1932 in Chicago.  I remember him best for the songs he wrote including; “A Boy Named Sue”, “Put Another Log on the Fire”, “One’s on the Way”, “25 Minutes to Go“, “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone'”, “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball,” “Sylvia’s Mother”, “The Things I Didn’t Say”, “Rosalie’s Good Eats Café”, “The Mermaid”, “The Winner”, “Warm and Free” and “Tequila Sheila”, he co-wrote with Baxter Taylor “Marie Laveau”, “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan“, and “Queen of the Silver Dollar”. The Final Footprint – Silverstein is interred in Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois.  Other notable final footprints at Westlawn include Jack Ruby and Gene Siskel.

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Day in History 9 May – Lena Horne

On this day in 2010, Grammy Award winning singer, Tony Award winning actress, civil rights activist and dancer, Lena Horne died in New York City of heart failure at the age of 92.  Born Lena Mary Calhoun Horne on 30 June 1917 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Horne married twice; Louis Jordan (1937-1944 divorce) and Lennie Hayton (1947-1971 his death).  Lena Horne; great voice, great beauty, trail blazer.    The Final Footprint – Horne was cremated and her cremains were returned to her family.  Horne’s funeral took place at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue in New York City.  Thousands gathered to mourn her, including singers Leontyne Price, Dionne Warwick, Jessye Norman, and actresses Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Leslie Uggams, Lauren Bacall, and Vanessa L. Williams.

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Day in History 8 May – Gustave Flaubert – Paul Gauguin – Bud Shrake

Gustave_Flaubert_youngOn this day in 1880, novelist Gustave Flaubert died in Croisset, France of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 58.  Born on 12 December 1821, in Rouen, in the Seine-Maritime department of Upper Normandy, in northern France.  In my opinion, one of the greatest novelists in Western literature.  He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary (1857), for his Correspondence, and for his scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics.  Flaubert was a notorious perfectionist and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste (“the precise word”).  When it was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, the novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors.  The resulting trial, held in January 1857, made the story notorious.  After Flaubert’s acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller when it was published as a single volume in April 1857.  Flaubert’s masterpiece is now considered a seminal work of realism and one of the most influential novels ever written.  From 1846 to 1854, Flaubert had a relationship with the poet Louise Colet; his letters to her survive.  Flaubert never married.  The Final Footprint – Flaubert is entombed in the Flaubert family vault in Rouen Cemetery, Rouen, France.  Madame Bovary has been adapted into five films with a sixth one due out in 2014.


Paul_Gauguin_1891On this day in 1903, leading Post-Impressionist artist, Paul Gauguin died of syphilis in Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia at the age of 54.  Born Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin on 7 June 1848 in Paris.  In my opinion, one of the most influential artists to ever live.  He married a Danish woman, Mette-Sophie Gad.  Gauguin was friends with Vincent van Gogh, with whom in 1888 he spent nine weeks painting in Arles.  He was also friends with Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne and painted with each of them.  He made several attempts to find a tropical paradise where he could ‘live on fish and fruit’ and paint in his increasingly primitive style and frolic with the nubile native girls (see the gallery below).  His travels took him to Martinique, the Panama Canal, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands.   The Final Footprint – Gauguin is interred in Calvary Cemetery (Cimetière Calvaire), Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.  Gauguin’s life inspired W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Moon and SixpenceMario Vargas Llosa based his 2003 novel The Way to Paradise on Gauguin’s life.  Gauguin is also the subject of at least two operas: Federico Elizalde‘s Paul Gauguin (1943); and Gauguin (a synthetic life) by Michael Smetanin and Alison CroggonDéodat de Séverac wrote his Elegy for piano in memory of Gauguin.

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  • Portrait of Madame Gauguin, c. (1880-1881)

  • Garden in Vaugirard, or the Painter’s Family in the Garden in Rue Carcel, (1881)

  • Still-Life with Fruit and Lemons, c. (1880)

  • The Swineherd, Brittany, (1888)

  • Les Alyscamps, (1888)

  • Vision After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the angel), (1888)

  • Night Café at Arles, (Mme Ginoux), (1888)

  • Still-Life with Japanese Woodcut, (1889)

  • Tahitian Women on the Beach, (1891)

  • Woman with a Flower, (1891)

  • The Moon and the Earth (Hina tefatou), (1893)

  • Annah, the Javanese, (1893)

  • Watermill in Pont-Aven, (1894)

  • The Midday Nap, (1894)

  • Maternity, (1899)

  • Two Tahitian Women, (1899), oil on canvas,

  • Cruel Tales (Exotic Saying), (1902)

  • The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa , (1902)

  • Riders on the Beach, (1902)

  • Landscape on La Dominique (Hiva OAU), (1903)

  • Self-portraits

  • Self-portrait, 1875-1877, Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Self-portrait, 1889, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

  • Self-portrait, 1889-1890, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

  • Self-portrait, 1893, Musée d’Orsay

  • Self-Portrait, c. 1893, The Detroit Institute of Arts

  • Self-portrait, 1896, São Paulo Museum of Art

  • Self-Portrait (for my friend Daniel), 1896, Musée d’Orsay

  • Self Portrait, 1902, Kunstmuseum Basel

    Bud_shrake_2007On this day in 2009,  journalist, sportswriter, novelist, biographer and screenwriter, Bud Shrake died at St. David’s Hospital in Austin, of complications from lung cancer at the age of 77.  Born Edwin A. Shrake, Jr. in Fort Worth on 6 September 1931.  Shrake co-wrote a series of golfing advice books with legendary golf coach Harvey Penick, including Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, a golf guide that became the best-selling sports book in publishing history.  Called a “lion of Texas letters” by the Austin American-Statesman, Shrake was a member of the Texas Film Hall of Fame, and received the Lon Tinkle lifetime achievement award from the Texas Institute of Letters and the Texas Book Festival Bookend Award.  Shrake married twice and was Texas Governor Ann Richards’ companion for 17 years, until her death in 2006.  As the “first gentleman of Texas,” he escorted Richards to her inaugural ball and to other social events, and organized card games inside the Texas governor’s mansion.  Shrake was raised in Fort Worth’s Travis Avenue Baptist Church, but that did not stop him from obtaining ordination by the Universal Life Church and officiating at the wedding of friends such as writer Gary CartwrightThe Final Footprint – The staff at the Austin Country Club lowered its club flag to half staff in recognition of Shrake’s death.  At Shrake’s funeral, Ray Benson sang Willie Nelson‘s “I Still Can’t Believe You’re Gone” while Nelson sang “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”.  Cartwright called Shrake “my friend, compadre and mentor for 50 years. Every success I enjoyed owed directly or indirectly to Bud Shrake.”  At the graveside service, Jerry Jeff Walker played two songs: Charles John Quarto and Shake Russell‘s “Dare of an Angel” and the Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn standard “My Buddy.”  Shrake’s hearse bore the Mad Dog Productions sign in the back window.  Shrake is interred next to Richards in the Texas State Cemetery.  Other notable final footprints at Texas State Cemetery include; Stephen F. Austin, John B. Connally, Nellie Connally, J. Frank Dobie, Barbara Jordan, Tom Landry (cenotaph), James A. Michener (cenotaph), Ann Richards, Big Foot Wallace, and Walter Prescott Webb.

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Day in History 7 May – Seattle Slew

On this day in 2002 Thoroughbred race horse who won the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in 1977, the tenth of eleven horses to accomplish the feat, Seattle Slew died in his sleep, 25 years to the day he won the Kentucky Derby, at the age of 28.  Foaled on 15 February 1974 at Ben Castleman‘s White Horse Acres Farm near Lexington, Kentucky.  A descendant of the great sire Nearco through his son, Nasrullah, Seattle Slew was sired by Bold Reasoning and out of My Charmer.  He was named Champion 2-Year-Old of 1976.  The big nearly-black colt swept through the Triple Crown races and was named Champion 3-Year-Old of 1977 and Eclipse Award American Horse of the Year.  Seattle Slew is the only Belmont Stakes winner to sire a Belmont Stakes winner, A.P. Indy (whose damsire was the great Secretariat), who in turn sired Belmont Stakes winner, Rags to RichesThe Final Footprint – Seattle Slew is buried in a courtyard at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms near Lexington, Kentucky.  Three Chimneys Farm erected a statue of Seattle Slew near the stallion barn in his honor.

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Day in History 6 May – Henry David Thoreau – L. Frank Baum – Marlene Dietrich

henry_David_Thoreau_-_RestoredOn this day in 1862,  author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau died from complications of tuberculosis at his home in Concord, Massachusetts at the age of 44.  Born David Henry Thoreau in Concord on 12 July 1817.  Perhaps best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.  Thoreau’s books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes.  His literary style interweaves close natural observation, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and “Yankee” love of practical detail.  He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life’s true essential needs.  He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending abolitionist John Brown.  henrydavidthoreayGrave_of_Henry_David_ThoreauThe Final Footprint –  Bronson Alcott planned the funeral service and read selections from Thoreau’s works, and Ellery Channing presented a hymn.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the eulogy spoken at his funeral.  Originally buried in the Dunbar family plot, he and members of his immediate family were eventually moved to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.  Other notable final footprints at Sleepy Hollow include; Amos Bronson Alcott (Transcendentalist, philosopher, educator), Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women and others), William Ellery Channing (Transcendentalist, poet), Ralph Waldo Emerson (Transcendentalist, essayist, lecturer, poet), and Nathaniel Hawthorne (author of The Scarlet Letter and others.)


lfrankBaum_1911On this day in 1919, author L. Frank Baum died from a stroke in Hollywood at the age of 62.  Born Lyman Frank Baum on 15 May 1856 in Chittenango, New York.  Perhaps best known for writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  He wrote 55 novels in total including thirteen Oz sequels, and nine other fantasy novels.  In his writings, he anticipated television, augmented reality, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work).  Baum married Maud Gage (1882 – 1919 his death).  They had four children.  The Final Footprint– The day after his stroke, Baum slipped into a coma but briefly awoke and reportedly spoke his last words to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.  Following early film treatments in 1910 and 1925 and Baum’s own venture The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, Metro Goldwyn Mayer made the story into the now classic movie The Wizard of Oz (1939), starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale.  The film was given an all-a-dream ending which differs from the book.  A completely new Tony Award-winning Broadway musical with an African-American cast, The Wiz, was staged in 1975 with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy.  It was the basis for a 1978 film by the same title starring Diana Ross as an adult Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.  The Wizard of Oz continues to inspire new versions, such as Disney’s Return to Oz (1985), The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, Tin Man (a re-imagining of the story televised in late 2007 on the Sci Fi Channel), and a variety of animated productions.  Today’s most successful Broadway show, Wicked, provides a backstory to the two Oz witches used in the classic MGM film.  Gregory Maguire, author of the novel, Wicked, on which the musical is based, chose to honor Baum by naming his main character Elphaba, a phonetic take on Baum’s initials.  The film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) serves as an homage to MGM’s film, and stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams.  Other notable Final Footprints at Forest Lawn Glendale include; Humphrey Bogart, Lon Chaney, Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jean Harlow, Sam Cooke, Walt Disney, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Michael Jackson, Carole Lombard, Casey Stengel, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Spencer Tracy.


marlenedietrichOn this day in 1992, Oscar nominated actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich died of renal failure in Paris at the age of 90.  Born Maria Magdalene Dietrich on 27 December 1901 in Schöneberg, a district of Berlin, Germany.  She appeared in over 70 movies and was known for her galmour and her beauty.  She became a U. S. citizen in 1939.  Dietrich raised war bonds and performed in USO tours and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the US in 1947.  She said that this was her proudest accomplishment.  She was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government as recognition for her wartime work.  Dietrich married once to Rudolf Sieber (1897-1976 his death).  Dietrich allegedly had affairs with writer Erich Maria Remarque, Gary Cooper, Yul Brynner, George Bernard Shaw and John F. Kennedy.  The Final Footprint –  Dietrich was interred at the Städtischer Friedhof III, Berlin-Schöneberg, Stubenrauchstraße 43–45, in Friedenau Cemetery, near her mother’s grave and not far away from the house where she was born.  Her grave is marked with the inscription: “Hier steh ich an den Marken meiner Tage” (Here I stand at the mile-stone of my days), a paraphrased line from the sonnet Abschied vom Leben (Farewell from Life) by Theodor Korner.

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Day in History 5 May – Napoleon

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

On this day in 1821, military and political leader, Emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 51.  Born on 15 August 1769 in Casa Buonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica.  The Corsican Buonapartes originated from minor Italian nobility.  Napoleon trained as an artillery officer in mainland France.  He  rose to prominence under the French First Republic and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France.  In 1799, he staged a coup d’état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later the French Senate proclaimed him emperor.  In the first decade of the 19th century, the French Empire under Napoleon engaged in a series of conflicts, the Napoleonic Wars, involving every major European power.  After a streak of victories, France secured a dominant position in continental Europe, and Napoleon maintained the French sphere of influence through the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.  Napoleon’s campaigns are studied at military academies throughout much of the world.  The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon’s fortunes.  His Grande Armée was badly damaged in the campaign and never fully recovered.  In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig; the following year the Coalition invaded France, forced Napoleon to abdicate and exiled him to the island of Elba.  Less than a year later, he escaped Elba and returned to power, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.  Napoleon spent the last six years of his life in confinement by the British on the island of Saint Helena. An autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer, although it has been conjectured he was poisoned with arsenic. Napoleon married twice; Joséphine de Beauharnais (1796-1810 divorce) and Marie Louise (1810-1821 his death).  He had one biological child, a son who died without issue.  The Final Footprint – Napoleon was initially entombed on St. Helena in the Valley of the Willows.  In 1840, King of the French Louis Philippe I obtained permission from the British to return Napoleon’s remains to France.  The remains were transported aboard the frigate Belle-Poule, which had been painted black for the occasion, and on 29 November she arrived in Cherbourg.  The remains were transferred to the steamship Normandie, which transported them to Le Havre, up the Seine to Rouen and on to Paris.  On 15 December, a state funeral was held.  The hearse proceeded from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Élysées, across the Place de la Concorde to the Esplanade des Invalides and then to the cupola in St Jérôme’s Chapel, where it stayed until the tomb designed by Louis Visconti was completed.  In 1861, Napoleon’s remains were entombed in a porphyry sarcophagus in the crypt under the dome at Les Invalides, the burial sight for some of France’s war heroes including a memorial to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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