Day in History 12 October – Anatole France – John Denver

Anatole_France_young_yearsOn this day in 1924, French poet, journalist, and novelist Anatole France died in Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire, France at the age of 80.  Born François-Anatole Thibault on 16 April 1844 in Paris.  He was a successful novelist, with several best-sellers.  Ironic and skeptical, he was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters.  France was a member of the Académie française, and won the Nobel Prize for Literaturein recognition of his literary achievements.  He is also believed to be the model for narrator Marcel’s literary idol Bergotte in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.  In 1877, Anatole France married Valérie Guérin de Sauville (1877 – 1893 divorce).  France’s relations with women were always turbulent, and in 1888 he began a relationship with Madame Arman de Caillavet, who conducted a celebrated literary salon of the Third Republic.  The affair lasted until shortly before her death in 1910.  After his divorce, he had many liaisons, notably with Mme. Gagey, who committed suicide in 1911.  France married again, Emma Laprévotte in 1920.  The Final Footprint – France is buried in the Neuilly-sur-Seine community cemetery.  The Neuilly-sur-Seine community cemeteries in the Hauts-de-Seine département of France are in the western suburbs of Paris, between Paris and La Défense.  The first is called cimetière ancien (Old Cemetery) and is to be found in Neuilly; the second (New Cemetery) is to be found in Nanterre, near La Défense, but belongs to Neuilly. It is called cimetière nouveau.

On this day in 1997, singer/songwriter, actor, activist, poet John Denver died at the age of 53 when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, California, while making a series of touch-and-go landings at the nearby Monterey Peninsula Airport.  Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.  on 31 December 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico.  My all time favorite John Denver song is Wild Montana Skies.  Oh, to be there now astride a fine, stout horse.  JohnDenverMemorialPacificGroveThe Final Footprint – Upon announcement of Denver’s death, Colorado governor Roy Romer ordered all state flags to be lowered to half staff in his honor.  Funeral services were held at Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colorado, on 17 October 1997, being officiated by Pastor Les Felker, a retired Air Force chaplain.  Later, Denver’s ashes were scattered in the Rocky Mountains.  Further tributes were made at the following Grammys and Country Music Association Awards.  On 23 September 2007, nearly ten years after his death, his brother Ron witnessed the dedication of a plaque placed near the crash-site in Pacific Grove, California, commemorating the singer.

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Day in History 11 October – Jean Cocteau – MacGregor Christner

jeanCocteau_1923On this day in 1963, French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau died of a heart attack at his chateau in Milly-la-Forêt, Essonne, France, at the age of 74.  It is said that upon hearing of the death of his friend, the French singer Édith Piaf the previous day, Cocteau choked so badly that his heart failed.  Born Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau on 5 July 1889 in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines, a village near Paris.  Perhaps best known for his novel Les Enfants terribles (1929), and the films Blood of a Poet (1930), Les Parents terribles (1948), Beauty and the Beast (1946), and Orpheus (1949).  His circle of associates, friends and lovers included Pablo Picasso, Jean Marais, Yul Brynner, Marlene Dietrich, and Coco Chanel.  Marais was his muse and lover for over 25 years.  jeancocteauMilly_La_Forêt-Sépulture_de_Jean_CocteauThe Final Footprint – He is buried beneath the floor of the Chapelle Saint Blaise Des Simples in Milly-la-Forêt.  The epitaph on his gravestone set in the floor of the chapel reads: “I stay with you” (“Je reste avec vous”).











On this day in 2003, father, grandfather, friend, U. S. Army Veteran, golfer, hunter, Texas Longhorn fan, Dallas Cowboy fan, music lover, cowboy, my Dad, Poppa Mac, Mac, MacGregor Christner died in San Antonio, Texas at the age of 70.  Born MacGregor Vaughan Christner on 23 January 1933 in Austin, Texas.  His mother named him after one of his paternal great-grandfathers, McGregor DeGarmeaux.  Vaughan is his mother’s maiden name.  I proudly bear his name and one of his grandsons has MacGregor as a middle name.  I learned much from him.  Those that know me and have seen me outside with my hat have seen evidence of that.  I inherited his love of music and his receding hairline.  I always thought he looked a little like Clint Eastwood.  My heroes have always been Cowboys.

“Seeing is believing.” For many, those words simply represent a motto. But for MacGregor Vaughan Christner, it summarized in every way who he was. He was modest, quiet and observant, taking in everything around him and always thinking before acting. He was a realist, someone who was efficient and practical in everything he did. He was a friendly person who truly cared about those around him.

Mac was born on 23 January 1933 at Breckinridge Hospital in Austin, Texas. He was the son of James Blaine Christner and Donna Ruby Vaughan Christner. Raised in Shamrock, Texas, he was brought up to be tolerant and trustworthy. His mother named him after his paternal Great Grandfather McGregor DeGarmo. As a child, he learned to be conscientious, responsible and punctual. These were all traits that he would carry with him throughout his life.

As a young boy, Mac was always aware of how others around him felt and this quality served him well. With a deep capacity to tolerate the feelings of others, Mac was generally able to avoid conflicts. It seemed as if Mac was the family member who was always working to keep stress at bay. Preferring a quiet environment where he could concentrate, Mac also had the ability to relate well with his family and friends. Mac was raised with two siblings. He had one older brother, John Hal, and one younger brother Tom Henry. Mac was constantly involved in activities with his family. Mac and his siblings had the typical rivalries while growing up but they deeply cared for each other and shared many life experiences over the years.

Growing up, Mac was one of those children who didn’t need to be in the center of a whirlwind of activity. He was content to entertain himself. Mac was never pushy when it came to games and other activities, but rather, he was able to enjoy the pure fun these could bring. In just about everything he did as a child, Mac was intent on pleasing both the adults and the other children around him. Mac took part in a number of activities as a child. He took part in working on the family’s dairy farm. He was a member of Future Farmers of America. In his spare time he liked hunting and fishing. Mac’s memorable achievements included competing in FFA events.

Mac enjoyed learning. He always had a great memory and was particularly skilled at retaining factual information. Mac was generally quiet in class, learning best through observation. He often showed great concentration and was competent at completing the tasks at hand. Good with details, Mac was painstaking and accurate in his efforts. All of these talents culminated in a successful high school career. He graduated from Shamrock High School in 1951. Mac enjoyed some courses more than others, having favorite subjects and teachers. His favorite class in high school was math.

He attended Texas A&M University in 1951 but left before graduation to join the Army. Mac was a member of the Corp of Cadets.

Most folks would say that Mac was shy until they got to know him. Those who were privileged to know him well learned that he was a solid, good friend. Mac was reluctant to generalize about people, and he based his friendships on his personal experiences. Because of this, Mac best trusted those people that he truly knew. He was concerned about how those around him felt, and he always seemed to uncover the positive side of people. He could relate to others and had the ability to see their point of view, to “walk a mile in their shoes,” as the saying goes. The friends that he made, Mac kept. While growing up, some of his best friends were his brothers John Hal and Tom. Later in life, he became friends with Mary Gibson, Mark Frankenberry, Mike Gomez and most of the people in Wheeler, Texas.

Mac was a good father to his children. He had “old fashioned” parental values and could handle typical family conflicts in a fair and calm manner. Because he trusted emotions, Mac was reluctant to force issues and used gentle persuasion to resolve situations. In this way he seemed to radiate an aura of warmth and caring to those around him, always thinking before acting. In addition, Mac was a master planner. No matter how hectic life around him might be, he seemed to know and track everyone’s schedule. Mac was blessed with two sons, MacGregor Vaughan Jr. and Jeff. He was also blessed with twelve grandchildren, Lea, Kathryn Azile Vaughan, Kevin, Kate, Darcie, Jeremy MacGregor Faulkner, Darius Charles MacBeth, Quentin George DeGarmeaux, Shaylee Nicole Carson, Chesney, Emily and Katie.

If you gave Mac a deadline, he would meet it. At work, Mac was always on task. Without hesitation, Mac could adhere to any assignment and see it through to its completion. His primary occupation was a cowboy. He was employed with Brainard Cattle Company and Christner Brother’s Ranch. He was able to quickly grasp concrete ideas and could organize and plan the best way to accomplish things with remarkable consistency. Mac was good at staying on track and was considerate in listening to what others had to say. In this way, Mac had at true gift for being able to come up with practical resolutions to difficult problems.

Mac was an Army veteran. He seemed to thrive on the routines offered up by the military. Being a literal thinker with a calm exterior helped him handle the rigors of the military. He was stationed in El Paso during the Korean Conflict. Through his hard work and dedication, he achieved the rank of staff sergeant.

Mac liked to experience things first hand, in addition to simply learning about them. This quality influenced Mac’s choice of leisure time activities. A methodical and patient worker, Mac preferred to set aside uninterrupted time to work on his hobbies. His favorite pursuits were water skiing, golf, riding motorcycles, fishing and working on cars.

Mac loved music and movies. His favorite artists included Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Hank Jr., Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Jeff Walker. His favorite actors included John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Sophia Loren.

While thorough and measured in his approach to things, Mac often liked to physically do things rather than just think about them. He was like that with sports. Recreational sports included golf, fishing and water skiing. He was an expert mechanic and could fix anything that had a motor. He also enjoyed watching his favorite teams whenever he got the opportunity. Tops on his list were Longhorn football, the Dallas Cowboys, golf (Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw) and auto racing. He enjoyed a cold Coors beer when appropriate and loved to relax in his swimming pool.

Due to his excellent organizational skills, Mac was a welcome addition to the professional and community organizations to which he belonged. Mac could bring established, successful methods to the discussion table, along with a generous helping of common sense. Mac was good at making and keeping schedules and never got bogged down in unnecessary details. In high school, Mac was a member of the Future Farmers of America. In college, Mac joined the Corp of Cadets. Throughout his later years, Mac was an active member of the VFW, American Motorcycle Association, NRA, Texas Exes and the Longhorn Foundation.

Mac was active in the community. He was practical and grounded and based his decisions on first hand experience. He was responsible and liked working to achieve results rather than just chattering about possibilities. Mac was a member of the Wheeler Volunteer Ambulance Service.

Anyone who traveled or went on vacation with Mac had smooth sailing. It was often taken for granted that he was the trip planner. He would start early and examine all of the possibilities, selecting the best and most effective options. Favorite vacations included Lake Travis, Red River, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Mac had His bird dog Ben Bird, who was his best friend for 10 years. Mac was as loyal to his pets as they were to him.

Mac passed away on 11 October 2003 at the Veterans Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Mac fought a brave lonely battle against Alzheimers. He was predeceased by his parents, his brother Tom Henry and a granddaughter Natalie Kate. He was survived by his children MacGregor Vaughan and Jeff, his 11 grandchildren and his brother John Hal. One of his grandsons proudly carries MacGregor as his middle name. Services were held at the McIntire-Christner Ranch in Texas. Mac was laid to rest in McIntire-Christner Cemetery.

It is said that some people can’t see the forest for the trees. Mac was able to focus on each individual tree, tending to its needs, thus making the forest stronger as a whole. Mac was a trustworthy, pragmatic and sympathetic person, the kind of man to whom everyone was drawn. He was thorough and practical. Mac Christner was very literal with his words. You always knew where you stood with Mac. He will be missed.

The Final Footprint –  Daddy was buried in McIntyre-Christner Cemetery on the McIntyre-Christner Ranch in Roberts County in the Texas Panhandle.  His grave is marked by a full ledger granite marker.  Miss you Poppa.

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Day in History 10 October – Jack Daniel – Édith Piaf – Yul Brynner

JackdanielOn this day in 1911, distiller and the founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery, Jack Daniel died from blood poisoning in Lynchburg, Tennessee at the age of 62.  The infection allegedly set up originally in a toe, which Daniel injured in kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open early one morning at work (he apparently had trouble remembering the combination).  This incident was the subject of a marketing poster used on the London Underground in January 2006, with the line “Moral: Never go to work early.”  A common joke that is told during the tour of the distillery is that all Jack had to do to cure his infection was to dip his toe in a glass of his own whiskey to clean it.  Born Jasper Newton Daniel on 5 September 1850 in Lynchburg.  Daniel never married.  Prior to his death he gave the distillery to his nephew and bookkeeper, Lem Motlow.  The Final Footprint – Daniel is interred in the Lynchburg City Cemetery.  Jack Daniel’s is a brand of sour mash Tennessee whiskey that is one of the highest selling American whiskeys in the world.  It is known for its square bottles and black label.  It is produced in Lynchburg, by the Jack Daniel Distillery, which has been owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation since 1956.  Despite being the location of a major operational distillery, Jack Daniel’s home county of Moore is a dry county, so the product is not available for consumption at stores or restaurants within the county.  Although the product generally meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, the company disavows this classification and markets it simply as Tennessee whiskey rather than as Tennessee bourbon.  Frank Sinatra was widely known as a Jack Daniel’s drinker.  He was famously buried with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old Number 7 in 1998.  A line from Dean Martin‘s song I Love Vegas states “I love Vegas, like Sinatra loves Jack Daniels.”  The George Jones‘ song “A whole lotta trouble for you” mentions “Jack Daniel’s makes a good whiskey”.  The George Thorogood song “I Drink Alone” mentions “So I called up my pal Jack Daniel’s and his partner Jimmy Beam”.  In the movie Animal House, the character John “Bluto” Blutarsky can be seen chugging an entire bottle of Old No. 7.  In the movie Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino‘s character refers to filling a hotel room with John Daniels. “When you’ve known him as long as I have…”  In the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark asks his father how he got through the holidays, and he replies “I had a lot of help from Jack Daniel’s”.  In the film The Shining, Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, is seen drinking Jack Daniel’s in the hotel bar, served by the ghostly bartender Lloyd.  The French singer Orelsan in “Ils sont cools” includes the line “Passe la tise que je me Jack Danise” (which can be translated as “Give me the alcohol so I can be Jack Danieled”).  The cover of the book The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, an autobiography collectively written by the members of the rock band Mötley Crüe, includes a bottle design based on that of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.  Hank Williams Jr. mentions Jack Daniels in his song “Dixie On My Mind” singing “The people here don’t sip Jack Daniel’s whiskey, the way they do in that Tennessee mountain land.”  The 1979 David Allen Coe song “Jack Daniels if you please” contains the line “Jack Daniels if you please, knock me to my knees”.  The Drive-By Truckers song “Dead, Drunk, And Naked” has the lyric “Me and old Jack Daniel’s, become the best of friends. We got all them Baptists to die for our sins. I know the lord is coming. The South will rise again!”  The Liane Edwards Band, popular country band from France, directly refers to the brand name in their song “Jack”, ( My Best Friend’s Name is) “Jack” . ” He was born down in Lynchburg… My best friend’s name is Jack, he may be your best friend too, when you drain him to his last drop, I’ll be glad to share my friend with you…”  The Charlie Daniels Band album Way Down Yonder depicts bottles of Jack Daniel’s on its cover art.  The character Barnes in Oliver Stone‘s 1986 film Platoon is drinking from a Jack Daniel’s bottle when he drunkenly berates Taylor and his group.

Édith_Piaf_914-6440On this day in 1963, French singer and cultural icon Édith Piaf died of liver cancer at age 47 at her villa in Plascassier (Grasse), on the French Riviera, the day before filmmaker and friend Jean Cocteau died.  Born Édith Giovanna Gassion on 19 December 1915 in Belleville, Paris.  Widely regarded as France’s national diva, as well as being one of France’s greatest international stars.  Her singing reflected her life, with her specialty being ballads.  Among her songs are “La Vie en rose” (1946), “Non, je ne regrette rien” (1960), “Hymne à l’amour” (1949), “Milord” (1959), “La Foule” (1957), “l’Accordéoniste” (1955), and “Padam… Padam…” (1951).  Reportedly, the love of Piaf’s life, the married boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash in October 1949, while flying from Paris to New York City to meet Piaf.  Cerdan’s Air France flight, flown on a Lockheed Constellation, crashed in the Azores, killing everyone on board, including noted violinist Ginette Neveu.  Piaf and Cerdan’s affair made international headlines, as Cerdan was the former middleweight world champion and a legend in France in his own right.  Piaf married Jacques Pills (1952 – 1957 divorce) and Théo Sarapo (1962 – 1963 her death).  The Final Footprint – Apparently, her last words were “Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for.”  It is said that her body was driven back to Paris secretly so that fans would think she had died in her hometown.  She is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris next to her daughter Marcelle, where her grave is among the most visited.  Although she was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, her funeral procession drew tens of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than 100,000 fans.  Charles Aznavour recalled that Piaf’s funeral procession was the only time since the end of World War II that he saw Parisian traffic come to a complete stop.  In Paris, a two-room museum is dedicated to her, the Musée Édith Piaf (5, Rue Crespin du Gast).  La Vie en Rose (2007), a film about her life directed by Olivier Dahan, debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2007.  Titled La Môme in France, the film stars Marion Cotillard in the role that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress (Oscar), as Piaf.  David Bret’s 1988 biography, Piaf, A Passionate Life, was re-released by JR Books to coincide with the film’s release.  Piaf’s song “Non, je ne regrette rien” appears recurringly throughout the film Inception (2010), and Hans Zimmer reworked pieces of the song into cues of the score.  Inception featured Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb and Cotillard as Mal.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Honoré de Balzac, Georges Bizet, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Molière, Jim Morrison, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.

On this day in 1985, Oscar winning actor Yul Brynner died in New York City at the age of 65 from lung cancer.  Born Yuliy Borisovich Bryner on 11 July 1920 in Vladivostok, Russia.  Perhaps best known for his portrayal of the King of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, for which he won two Tony Awards and an Academy Award for the film version; he played the role 4,625 times on stage.  He is also remembered as Rameses II in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille blockbuster The Ten Commandments, General Bounine in the 1956 film Anastasia and Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven.  Brynner was noted for his distinctive voice and for his shaved head, which he maintained as a personal trademark long after adopting it in 1951 for his role in The King and I.  Of course, my favorite movie he starred in is The Magnificent Seven (1960)  The Final Footprint – Brynner is buried on the grounds of the Saint-Michel-de-Bois-Aubry Russian Orthodox monastery, not far from Luze, between Tours and Poitiers, Vienne, France.

Yul Brynner’s marker

His grave is marked with an upright stone marker with his name and birth and death dates.

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Day in History 9 October – J. Evetts Haley

J. Evetts Haley

On this day in 1995, University of Texas Ex, political activist, historian, professor, rancher, cowboy J. Evetts Haley died in Midland, Texas at the age of 94.  Born James Evetts Haley on 5 July, 1901 in Belton, Texas.  I met Mr. Haley and his son Evetts.  I have autographed copies of his books, The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado and Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman.  My heroes have always been Cowboys.  The Final Footprint

Haley’s Marker

Haley is buried in Moffatt Cemetery in Moffat, Texas.  His grave is marked by a large engraved rock.

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Day in History 8 October – Joan Hackett

Joan Hackett

On this day in 1983, Oscar nominated actress Joan Hackett died from ovarian cancer in Encino, California at the age of 49.  Born Joan Ann Hackett on 1 March 1934 in East Harlem, New York City, New York.  In my opinion, her best roles were in Will Penny with Charlton Heston and Support Your Local Sheriff with James Garner.  Hackett was married to actor Richard Mulligan (1967 – 1973 divorce).  The Final Footprint– Hackett is entombed in the Sanctuary of Faith corridor in the Abbey of the Psalms mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.  Along with her name and birth and death years, her bronze crypt plate reads:  GO AWAY – I’M ASLEEP.  Other notable Final Footprints at Hollywood Forever include voice actor Mel Blanc (yes, his epitaph is “That’s All Folks!”), director/producer Cecil B. DeMille, director Victor Fleming, Judy Garland, director John Huston, actress Hattie McDaniel’s cenotaph, actress Jayne Mansfield’s cenotaph, mobster Bugsy Siegel, Rudolph Valentino, and actress Fay Wray.

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On this Day 7 October – Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

On this day, 7 October 1849, editor, literary critic, writer, poet, Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 40.  Born Edgar Poe on 19 January 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts.  Perhaps best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre.  Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre.  He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.  He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.  One of my favorite writers.  Every year on his birthday, I read some of his poetry and short stories.  I have a work in process poem modeled after The Raven.  The Final Footprint – Poe is buried in Westminster Burial Ground in Baltimore.  There is an upright engraved granite monument marking his original grave.  The inscription reads in part; “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore”.  His current burial space is marked by a large upright marble monument.  Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, as well as in specialized fields, such as cosmology and cryptography.  Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television.  A number of his homes are dedicated museums today.  The Mystery Writers of America present an annual award known as the Edgar Award for distinguished work in the mystery genre.  Every year on the anniversay of his birth from about 1949 until 2009, “The Poe Toaster” would appear at his grave and drink a cognac toast and leave three roses.

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Day in History 6 October – Alfred, Lord Tennyson – Bette Davis

On this day in 1892, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS and poet laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson died in Haslemere, Surrey at the age of 83.  Born Alfred Tennyson in Somersby, Lincolnshire on 6 August 1809.  Tennyson was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign and probably remains one of the most popular British poets.  Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics, such as “Break, Break, Break”, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, “Tears, Idle Tears” and “Crossing the Bar”.  Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses, although In Memoriam A.H.H. was written to commemorate his best friend Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet and fellow student at Trinity College, Cambridge, who was engaged to Tennyson’s sister, but died from a brain haemorrhage before they could marry.  Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse including Idylls of the King, “Ulysses”, and “Tithonus”.  A number of phrases from Tennyson’s work have become commonplaces of the English language, including “Nature, red in tooth and claw“, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all“, “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die“, “My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure“, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield“, “Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers“, and “The old order changeth, yielding place to new“.  Tennyson is one of the most frequently quoted writers in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.  Tennyson married Emily Sarah Sellwood (1850 – 1892 his death).  One of my favorite poets.  An excerpt from his poem In Memoriam A.H.H.:  I hold it true, whate’er befall;/I feel it when I sorrow most;/’Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at allThe Final Footprint – Tennyson was entombed in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey in Westminster.  A memorial was erected in All Saints’ Church, Freshwater.  His last words were; “Oh that press will have me now!”  A statue of Tennyson was erected in Trinity College, Cambridge.  Other notable Final Footprints at Westminster include; Robert Browning, Lord Byron, Geoffrey Chaucer, Oliver Cromwell, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Edward The Confessor, Elizabeth I, George II, George Friederic Handel, James I (James VI of Scotland), Samuel Johnson, Ben Jonson, Charles II, Edward III, Edward VI, Henry III, Henry V, Henry VII, Richard II, Rudyard Kipling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Milton, Sir Isaac Newton, Laurence Olivier, Henry Purcell, Mary I, Mary II, Mary Queen of Scots, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, and William III.

Bette Davis
Bette Davis - portrait.jpg

Studio portrait, 1940s

On this day in 1989, Academy Award winning actress Bette Davis died at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France from breast cancer at the age of 81.  Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis in Lowell, Massachusetts on April 5, 1908. In my opinion, one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history.  Davis was known for her willingness to play unsympathetic, sardonic characters and was reputed for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies, although her greatest successes were her roles in romantic dramas.

Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, was the first person to accrue ten Academy Award nominations for acting, and was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her career went through several periods of eclipse, and she admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. Married four times, she was once widowed and three times divorced.

Davis in her film debut, Bad Sister (1931).

Davis married Harmon Oscar Nelson on August 18, 1932, in Yuma, Arizona. In contrast to Davis’ success, Nelson, had failed to establish a career for himself, and their relationship faltered. In 1938, Nelson obtained evidence that Davis was engaged in a sexual relationship with Howard Hughes and subsequently filed for divorce, citing Davis’ “cruel and inhuman manner.”

As the shrewish Mildred in Of Human Bondage (1934), Davis was acclaimed for her dramatic performance. 

Bette Davis in Jezebel (1938)

Davis with Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex(1939)

Davis began a relationship with her former costar George Brent, who proposed marriage. Davis refused, as she had met Arthur Farnsworth, a New England innkeeper. Davis and Farnsworth were married at Home Ranch, in Rimrock, Arizona, in December 1940.

Davis often played unlikable characters, such as Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes(1941).

Paul Henreid is lighting a cigarette for Davis in Now, Voyager (1942), one of her most iconic roles.

In August 1943, Davis’ husband, Arthur Farnsworth, collapsed while walking along a Hollywood street and died two days later. An autopsy revealed that his fall had been caused by a skull fracture he had suffered two weeks earlier. Davis testified before an inquest that she knew of no event that might have caused the injury. A finding of accidental death was reached.

In The Corn Is Green(1945): Despite the studio’s suggestion that she play the role as a young woman, Davis (age 37) insisted on aging her appearance to fit the part.

In 1945, Davis married artist William Grant Sherry, who also worked as a masseur. She had been drawn to him because he claimed he had never heard of her and was, therefore, not intimidated by her.

Beyond the Forest (1949) was the last film Davis made for Warner Bros., after 17 years with the studio. 

Davis posing as Margo Channing in a promotional image for All About Eve(1950): She is pictured with Gary Merrill, to whom she was married from 1950 to 1960 (her fourth and final husband).

By 1949, Davis and Sherry were estranged. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck offered her the role of the aging theatrical actress Margo Channing in All About Eve (1950).

During production, she established what would become a lifelong friendship with her co-star, Anne Baxter, and a romantic relationship with her leading man, Gary Merrill, which led to marriage.

On July 3, 1950, Davis’ divorce from William Sherry was finalized, and on July 28, she married Gary Merrill. Davis and Merrill lived with their three children on an estate on the coast of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Davis received her final Academy Award nomination for her role as demented Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?(1962), opposite Joan Crawford.

Davis and William Hopper in the Perry Mason episode, “The Case of Constant Doyle” (January 31, 1963) 

Davis and Elizabeth Taylor in late 1981 during a show celebrating Taylor’s life 

 Davis (age 79) completed her final role in The Whales of August (1987), which brought her acclaim during a period in which she was beset with failing health and personal trauma.


Davis with President Ronald Reagan (her co-star in 1939’s Dark Victory) in 1987, two years before her death


The Final Footprint –

Tomb of Bette Davis

She was interred in Forest Lawn—Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, alongside her mother, Ruthie, and sister, Bobby, with her name in larger type size. On her tombstone is written: “She did it the hard way,” an epitaph that she mentioned in her memoir Mother Goddam as having been suggested to her by Joseph L. Mankiewicz shortly after they had filmed All About Eve. Other notable final footprints at Hollywood Hills include Strother Martin, Ricky Nelson and Bobby Fuller.

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On this Day 5 October – Rodney Dangerfield – Steve Jobs

On this day in 2004, actor and comedian Rodney Dangerfield died in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.  Born Jacob Cohen in Babylon, New York on 22 November 1921.  In my opinion, one of the funniest entertainers.  I saw him in concert in Austin, Texas when I was a student at the University of Texas.  It was non-stop laughter from beginning to end.  He was so funny in Caddyshack.  Upon entering the hospital prior to his death, he was asked how long he would be in the hospital.  He reportedly replied, “If all goes well, about a week.  If not, about and hour and a half.”  Dangerfield married three times: Joyce Indig (1949–1962 divorce; 1963–1970 divorce) and Joan Child (1993–2004 his death).  The Final FootprintDangerfield was interred at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary (a Dignity Memorial® provider) in Los Angeles, California.  Joan held a memorial in which the word “Respect” had been emblazoned in the sky, while each guest was given a live Monarch butterfly for a Native American butterfly-release ceremony led by Farrah Fawcett, who would pass away in 2009 and be interred in the same cemetery (see below).  His grave is marked by a granite upright marker with his name and the following inscription:  THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD.  Rodney Dangerfield, funny to the end and beyond.  Other notable final footprints at Westwood include; Ray Bradbury, Sammy Cahn, Truman Capote, James Coburn, Farrah Fawcett, Brian Keith, Don Knotts, Burt Lancaster, Peter Lawford, Peggy Lee, Janet Leigh, 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.

Steve_Jobs_Headshot_2010-CROPOn this day in 2011, American entrepreneur, marketer, and inventor, who was the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs died at his Palo Alto, California, home at the age of 56, due to complications from a relapse of his previously treated islet-cell neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer, resulting in respiratory arrest, with his wife, children, and sisters at his side.  Born Steven Paul Jobs on 24 February 1955 in San Francisco and adopted at birth by Paul and Clara Jobs.  Through Apple, he is widely recognized as a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer revolution and for his influential career in the computer and consumer electronics fields.  Jobs also co-founded and served as chief executive of Pixar Animation Studios and became a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company in 2006, when Disney acquired Pixar.  Jobs oversaw the development of the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and on the services side, the company’s Apple Retail Stores, iTunes Store and the App Store.  The Final Footprint – Both Apple and Microsoft flew their flags at half-staff throughout their respective headquarters and campuses.  Bob Iger ordered all Disney properties, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland, to fly their flags at half-staff, from October 6 to 12, 2011.  His death was announced by Apple in a statement which read:

We are deeply saddened to announce that Steve Jobs passed away today.  Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.  His greatest love was for his wife, Laurene, and his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by his extraordinary gifts.

For two weeks following his death, Apple’s corporate Web site displayed a simple page, showing Jobs’s name and lifespan next to his grayscale portrait.  Clicking on the image led to an obituary, which read:

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

An email address was also posted for the public to share their memories, condolences, and thoughts.  Over a million tributes were sent, which are now displayed on the Steve Jobs memorial page.  Also dedicating its homepage to Jobs was Pixar, with a photo of Jobs, John Lasseter and Edwin Catmull, and the eulogy they wrote:

Steve was an extraordinary visionary, our very dear friend, and our guiding light of the Pixar family. He saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity, and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be part of Pixar’s DNA. Our hearts go out to his wife Laurene and their children during this incredibly difficult time

A small private funeral was held on 7 October 2011, of which details were not revealed out of respect to Jobs’s family.  Apple announced on the same day that they had no plans for a public service, but were encouraging “well-wishers” to send their remembrance messages to an email address created to receive such messages.  Sunday, 16 October 2011, was declared “Steve Jobs Day” by Governor Jerry Brown of California.  On that day, an invitation-only memorial was held at Stanford University.  Those in attendance included Apple and other tech company executives, members of the media, celebrities, close friends of Jobs, and politicians, along with Jobs’s family.  Bono, Yo Yo Ma, and Joan Baez performed at the service.  The service was highly secured, with guards at all of the university’s gates, and a helicopter flying overhead from an area news station.  A private memorial service for Apple employees was held on 19 October 2011, on the Apple Campus in Cupertino.  Present were Cook, Bill Campbell, Norah Jones, Al Gore, and Coldplay, and Jobs’s widow, Laurene.  Some of Apple’s retail stores closed briefly so employees could attend the memorial.  A video of the service is available on Apple’s website.  Jobs is buried in an unmarked grave at Alta Mesa Memorial Park, the only non-denominational cemetery in Palo Alto.  He is survived by Laurene, his wife of 20 years, their three children, and Lisa Brennan-Jobs, his daughter from a previous relationship.  His family released a statement saying that he “died peacefully”.  His sister, Mona Simpson, described his passing thus: “Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.” He then lost consciousness and died several hours later.

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On this Day 4 October – Rembrandt – Janis Joplin – Anne Sexton – Secretariat

Rembrandt_van_Rijn_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_ProjectOn this day in 1669, Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt died in Amsterdam at the age of 63.  Born Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn on 15 July 1606 in Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, nowadays the Netherlands.  In my opinion, he is one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history.  His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age.  His etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime and his reputation as an artist remained high.  Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible.  Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.”  Rembrandt married Saskia van Uylenburgh (1634 – 1642 her death).  During Saskia’s illness, Geertje Dircx was hired as his son’s caretaker and nurse and also became Rembrandt’s lover.  In the late 1640s Rembrandt began a relationship with the much younger Hendrickje Stoffels, who had initially been his maid.  The Final Footprint – Rembrandt was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk, a Dutch Protestant church in central Amsterdam.  It is next to Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, on the bank of the Prinsengracht canal.  The Westerkerk is located close to the Achterhuis (now Anne Frank House) where diarist Anne Frank, her family and others hid from Nazi persecution for two years during World War II.  The Westerkerk is mentioned frequently in her diary – its clock tower could be seen from the attic of the Achterhuis and Anne Frank described the chiming of the clock as a source of comfort.  A memorial statue of Frank is located outside the church.

Janis_Joplin_seated_1970On this day in 1970, singer, songwriter, painter, dancer and music arranger, The Queen of Psychedelic Soul, Pearl, Janis Joplin died from an overdose of heroin at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Los Angeles at the age of 27, thus becoming a member of Club 27 or the Forever 27 Club; a group of famous musicians who died when they were 27 years old.  Other members of the Forever 27 Club include; Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone Brian Jones, Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Alan Wilson and Amy Winehouse.  Joplin died sixteen days after Hendrix.  Born Janis Lyn Joplin on 19 January 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas.  Joplin first rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist with her own backing groups, The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band.  She was apparently one of the more popular acts at the Monterey Pop Festival and later became one of the major attractions to the Woodstock festival and the Festival Express train tour.  Popular songs from her four-year solo career include “Down on Me”, “Summertime”, “Piece of My Heart”, “Ball ‘n’ Chain”, “Maybe”, “To Love Somebody”, “Kozmic Blues”, “Work Me, Lord”, “Cry Baby”, and “Mercedes Benz”.  Her number one hit, “Me and Bobby McGee”, was written by Kris Kristofferson, reportedly her lover in the spring of 1970.  Joplin was well known for her performing abilities, and her fans referred to her stage presence as “electric”.  Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.  janisjoplinThe Final Footprint – Joplin was cremated at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary in Los Angeles; her ashes were scattered from a plane into the Pacific Ocean and along Stinson Beach.  Joplin’s will funded $2,500 to throw a wake party in the event of her demise.  The party, which took place 26 October 1970, at the Lion’s Share, located in San Anselmo, California, was attended by Joplin’s sister Laura, fiancé Seth Morgan and close friends, including tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, Bob Gordon, Jack Penty, and road manager John Cooke.

Anne_Sexton_by_Elsa_DorfmanOn this day in 1974 poet Anne Sexton died at the age of 45 by committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning at her home in Weston, Massachusetts.  Born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts on 9 November 1928.  She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967.  Themes of her poetry include her long battle against depression and mania, suicidal tendencies, and various intimate details from her private life, including her relationships with her husband and children.  The Final Footprint – She is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery & Crematory in Jamaica Plain, Boston.  Other notable final footprints at Forest Hills include; E. E. Cummings and Eugene O’Neill.

Secretariat_at_studOn this day in 1989, chestnut thoroughbred race horse, Triple Crown winner, two-time Horse of the Year, Big Red, Secretariat died at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky at the age of 19.  Foaled 30 March 1970 at Meadow Farm in Caroline County, Virginia.  Secretariat was sired by Bold Ruler out of Somethingroyal, by Princequillo.  Owned by Penny Chenery, also known as Penny Tweedy, he was trained by Lucien Laurin and mainly ridden by Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte.  He raced in Chenery’s Meadow Stable’s blue and white checkered colors.  His groom was Eddie Sweat and exercise rider was Charlie Davis.  Secretariat stood approximately 16.2 hands tall, and weighed 1,175 pounds (533 kg), with a 75-inch girth, in his racing prime.  In my opinion, the greatest racehorse who ever raced.  He set new race records in two of the three Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, and his time in the Belmont is a world record for a 1.5 mile race on dirt.  In the Derby he ran each quarter-mile segment faster than the one before it, which means he was still accelerating in the final quarter-mile of the race.  He broke last in the Derby but gradually moved on the field and overtook Sham at the top of the stretch.  He broke last in the Preakness but overtook the field on the first turn and was never challenged.  He won the Belmont wire-to-wire by a record 31 lengths.  My memories of his Derby and Preakness runs are not clear, but I will never forget watching his Belmont run from home with my Dad.  My favorite racehorses have ever since been the chestnuts.  The Final Footprint – Secretariat was buried whole at Claiborne Farm.  Usually winning racehorse’s bodies were cremated while the head, heart and hooves only were buried.  His grave is marked by an upright granite marker.  The necropsy revealed that his heart weighed 22 pounds, 2.5 times larger than that of an average horse.  Bronze replica statues of Secretariat have been erected at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York and Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.  A Walt Disney Pictures film titled Secretariat, starring Diane Lane opened 8 October 2010.

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Day in History 3 October – St. Francis of Assisi – Woody Guthrie – Janet Leigh

Saint_Francis_of_Assisi_by_Jusepe_de_RiberaOn this day in 1226, Italian Catholic friar and preacher, St. Francis of Assisi died in a hut next to the Porziuncola, a small church located within the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the frazione of Santa Maria degli Angeli, situated about 4 kilometres from Assisi, Umbria, singing Psalm 142(141) – “Voce mea ad Dominum”, at the approximate age of 44.  Born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco (“the Frenchman”) by his father, in 1181 or 1182 in Assisi.  He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for men and women not able to live the lives of itinerant preachers followed by the early members of the Order of Friars Minor or the monastic lives of the Poor Clares.  Though he was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.  Francis’ father was Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant. Francis lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi.  While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life.  On a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter’s Basilica.  The experience moved him to live in poverty.  Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following.  His Order was authorized by Pope Innocent III in 1210.  He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which became an enclosed religious order for women, as well as the Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance (commonly called the Third Order).  In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades.  By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient.  He returned to Italy to organize the Order.  Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs.  In 1223, Francis arranged for what is thought to be the first Christmas manger scene.  In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion.  He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment, and is one of the two patron saints of Italy (with Catherine of Siena).  It is customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of October 4.  He is also known for his love of the Eucharist, and his sorrow during the Stations of the Cross.  Saint Francis is considered the first Italian poet by literary critics.  He believed commoners should be able to pray to God in their own language, and he wrote often in the dialect of Umbria instead of Latin.  His writings are considered to have great literary and religious value.  The Final Footprint – On 16 July 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX (the former cardinal Ugolino di Conti, friend of St Francis and Cardinal Protector of the Order).  The next day, the Pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.  He was entombed on 25 May 1230, under the Lower Basilica, but his tomb was soon hidden on orders of Brother Elias to protect it from Saracen invaders.  His burial place remained unknown until it was discovered in 1818.  Pasquale Belli then constructed for his remains a crypt in neo-classical style in the Lower Basilica.  It was refashioned between 1927 and 1930 into its present form by Ugo Tarchi, stripping the wall of its marble decorations.  In 1978, the remains of St. Francis were examined and confirmed by a commission of scholars appointed by Pope Paul VI, and put in a glass urn in the ancient stone tomb.

Woody_Guthrie_2On this day in 1967, singer, songwriter, musician Woody Guthrie died of complications of Huntington’s disease at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, New York at the age of 55.  Born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie on 14 July 1912 in Okemah, Oklahoma.  His musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works.  He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar.  Perhaps his best-known song is “This Land Is Your Land.”  Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress.  Many songwriters including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, and Tom Paxton have acknowledged Guthrie as a major influence.  Many of his songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression when Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California and learned their traditional folk and blues songs, earning him the nickname the “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”  Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children, including American folk musician Arlo Guthrie.  During his later years Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Dylan.  The Final Footprint – Guthrie is interred in Highland Cemetery in Okemah.

On this day in 2004, Academy Award nominated actress, former wife of Tony Curtis and mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh died at her home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 77.  Born Jeanette Helen Morrison on 6 July 1927 in Merced, California.  My favorite movies with her are:  Psycho, Angels in the Outfield, The Naked Spur, Touch of Evil, The Manchurian Candidate.  The Final FootprintLeigh was cremated and her ashes were inurned in a niche at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary (a Dignity Memorial® provider) in Los Angeles, California.  Other notable final footprints at Westwood include; Ray Bradbury, Sammy Cahn, Truman Capote, James Coburn, Rodney Dangerfield, 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.

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