Day in History 4 May – Moe Howard

On this day in 1975, actor and comedian and Stooge, Moe Howard died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California just shy of his 78th birthday.  Born Moses Harry Horwitz on 19 June 1897 in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn.  The leader of The Three Stooges, the classic comedy team who stared in motion pictures and television for four decades.  The original line up included Moe and his brother Shemp and Larry Fine.  When Shemp left in 1932 he was replaced by another brother, Jerome who took the stage name, Curly.  Shemp returned when Curly suffered a stroke in 1946.  On 22 November 1955, Shemp died of a heart attack and was replaced by Joe Besser.  Besser was eventually replaced by Joe DeRita who took the name Curly-Joe.  Moe was married to Helen Schonberger (1925-1975 his death).  He apparently was very romantic and wrote his wife hundreds of love poems.  My kinda guy!  The Three Stooges humour spans generations.  One of my sons is a fan.  The Final Footprint – Howard is entombed in the Garden of Memories, Alcove of Love mausoleum at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.  His wife Helen was entombed next to him when she passed away in later that year.  Other notable Final Footprints at Hillside Memorial include; comedian Jack Benny, comedian Milton Berle, actress Cyd Charisse, actor Lorne Greene, entertainer Al Jolson, actor Michael Landon, lyricist Jerry Leiber, actress Suzanne Pleshette, entertainer Dinah Shore, and actress Shelley Winters.

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Day in History 3 May – Dalida – Suzy Parker

dalidaOn this day in 1987, singer and actress Dalida, committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates, in Paris.  She left behind a note which read, “La vie m’est insupportable… Pardonnez-moi.” (“Life has become unbearable for me… Forgive me.”)  Born Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti on 17 January 1933 in Cairo, Egypt.  Her family was from Serrastretta, Calabria, Italy, but lived in Egypt, where Dalida’s father, Pietro Gigliotti, was first violinist (primo violino) at the Cairo Opera House.  Dalida performed and recorded in more than 10 languages including: French, Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish.  She received 55 gold records and was the first singer to receive a diamond record.  Renowned for the changes she brought to the French and global music industry with her powerful and colourful performances, she is today still remembered by fans throughout the world.  A 30-year career (she debuted in 1956 and recorded her last album in 1986, a few months before her death) and her death led to an iconic image as a tragic diva.  My favorite songs sung by Dalida include; “Bambino”, “Gondolier”, “Tu Me Donnes”, and “Parole Parole”.  The Final Footprint – Dalida was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.  Other notable final footprints at Montmartre include composer Hector Berlioz, artist Edgar Degas, author Alexandre Dumas, fils, poet Théophile Gautier and composer Jacques Offenbach.

Suzy_Parker_photoOn this day in 2003, model and actress Suzy Parker died at her home in Montecito, California from kidney failure at the age of 70.  Born Cecilia Ann Renee Parker on 28 October 1932 in San Antonio, Texas.  One of the most recognizable faces of the 1950’s, appearing on many magazine covers, advertisements, and in movies and television series.  Parker became the so-called signature face of the Coco Chanel brand.  Parker was married three times including; Pierre de la Salle (1958-1961 divorce) and actor Bradford Dillman (1963-2003 her death).  The Final Footprint – Parker is interred in Santa Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara, California.  Her grave is marked by a flat granite marker.  Other notable Final Footprints at Santa Barbara include actor Laurence Harvey, actor Fess Parker (no relation) and poet Kenneth Rexroth.

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Day in History 2 May – Leonardo da Vinci – Giacomo Meyerbeer

On this day in 1519, Italian polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer; Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci died at the manor house Clos Lucé in Amboise, Touraine (in present-day Indre-et-Loire, France), at the age of 67.  Born Lionardo di ser Piero da Vincion on 15 April 1452, in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci, in the lower valley of the Arno River in the territory of Florence.  One of the most diversely talented people ever to have lived.  Perhaps he best known for his paintings, Mona Lisa or La Giocondo, The Last Supper and his drawing Vitruvian Man.  Da Vinci apparently had no close relationships with any women and never married.  Reportedly in his final days Da Vinci apologized to “God and man for leaving so much undone.”  If we all accomplished a fraction of what Da Vinci did the world would be an immeasurable better place.  The Final Footprint – King Francis I of France had apparently become a close friend and fact or legend reports that he held Leonardo’s head in his arms as he died.  This story is beloved by the French and was portrayed in romantic paintings by Ingres, Ménageot and other French artists, as well as by Angelica Kauffman.  In accordance with his will, sixty beggars followed his casket.  Da Vinci is entombed in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d’Amboise, France.  The engraving on his crypt front reads; EN CE LIEV REPOSENT LES RESTES DE LEONARDO DE VINCI.













giacomoMeyerbeer_d'après_P__Petit_b_1865On this day in 1864, opera composer Giacomo Meyerbeer died in Paris at the age of 72.  Born Jacob Liebmann Beer on 5 September 1791 in Tasdorf (now a part of Rüdersdorf), near Berlin, then the capital of Prussia.  His father was the enormously wealthy financier Judah Herz Beer (1769–1825) and his mother, Amalia (Malka) Wulff (1767–1854)  also came from the moneyed elite.  Their other children included the astronomer Wilhelm Beer and the poet Michael Beer.  Meyerbeer changed his surname upon the death of his grandfather Liebmann Meyer Wulff (1811) and adopted his first name Giacomo during his period of study in Italy.  In my opinion, he is one of the most successful stage composers of the nineteenth century.  With his 1831 opera Robert le diable and its successors he gave the genre of grand opera a distinct new character.  Meyerbeer’s grand opera style was achieved by his merging of German orchestra style with Italian vocal tradition.  These were employed in the context of sensational and melodramatic libretti created by Eugène Scribe, and were enhanced by the up-to-date theatre technology of the Paris Opéra.  They set a standard which helped to maintain Paris as the opera capital of the nineteenth-centuryHis 1824 opera Il crociato in Egitto was the first to bring him Europe-wide reputation, but it was Robert le diable (1831) which raised his status to great celebrity.  His public career from 1831 until his death, during which he remained throughout a dominating figure in the world of opera, was summarized by his contemporary Hector Berlioz, who claimed that he ‘has not only the luck to be talented, but the talent to be lucky.’  Meyerbeer was at his peak with his operas Les Huguenots (1836) and Le prophète (1849); his last opera (L’Africaine) was performed posthumously.  His operas made him the most frequently performed composer at the world’s leading opera houses in the nineteenth century.  Meyerbeer, as a Prussian Court Kapellmeister (Director of Music) from 1832, and from 1843 as Prussian General Music Director, was also influential in opera in Berlin and throughout Germany.  He was an early supporter of Richard Wagner, enabling the first production of the latter’s opera, Rienzi.  He was commissioned to write the patriotic opera Ein Feldlager in Schlesien to celebrate the reopening of the Berlin Royal Opera House in 1844, and wrote music for certain Prussian state occasions.  His operas were suppressed by the Nazi regime in Germany, and were neglected by opera houses through most of the twentieth century.  giacomoMeyerbeergraveThe Final Footprint – Gioachino Rossini, who, not having heard the news, came to Meyerbeer’s apartment the day after his death, intending to meet him, was shocked to hear the news and fainted.  He was reportedly moved to write on the spot a choral tribute (Pleure, pleure, muse sublime!).  A special train bore Meyerbeer’s body from the Gare du Nord to Berlin on 6 May, where he was entombed in the family vault at the Jüdischer Friedhof Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin.

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Day in History 1 May – Steve Reeves

On this day in 2000, U. S. Army veteran, bodybuilder and actor, Steve Reeves died from complications of lymphoma in Escondido, California at the age of 74.  Born Stephen Lester Reeves on 21 January 1926 in Glasgow, Montana.  While in high school, Reeves developed an interest in bodybuilding.  After his military career, he began entering bodybuilding contests culminating with winning the Mr. Universe title in 1950.  Reeves then began an acting career.  In 1957, Reeves went to Italy and played the lead character in Pietro Francisci‘s Hercules, a low-budget epic based loosely on the tales of Jason and the Argonauts.  From 1959 through 1964, Reeves went on to appear in a string of sword and sandal movies.  Reeves reportedly turned down the role that finally went to Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s  A Fistful of Dollars (1964) because he could not believe that “Italians could make a western”.  That is what I call an “ouch babe” moment.  I believe that Reeves was an early inspiration for Arnold Swarzenegger.  I have been a fan of bodybuilding and an avid weightlifter since about 1990.  I love the bodybuilder lifestyle, the workouts and diets; minus the steroids.  Reeves is a legend and he is remembered.  The Final Footprint – Reeves was cremated and his cremains were scattered in Montana.

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Day in History 30 April – Édouard Manet – Sergio Leone

Édouard_Manet-cropOn this day in 1883, painter Édouard Manet died from complications of syphilis in Paris at the age of 51.  Born in Paris on 23 January 1832, in his families ancestral hôtel particulier on the rue Bonaparte.  Manet was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life, and, in my opinion, a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.  His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) (see below right) and Olympia, (see below left) both 1863, caused great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism.  Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.  After the death of his father in 1862, Manet married Suzanne Edouard_Manet_-_Luncheon_on_the_Grass_-_Google_Art_ProjectLeenhoff in 1863.  Leenhoff was a Dutch-born piano teacher of Manet’s age with whom he had been romantically involved for approximately ten years.  Leenhoff initially had been employed by Manet’s father, Auguste, to teach Manet and his younger brother piano.  She also may have been Auguste’s mistress.  In 1852, Leenhoff gave birth, out of wedlock, to a son, Leon Koella Leenhoff.  Eleven-year-old Leon Leenhoff, Edouard_Manet_-_Olympia_-_Google_Art_Project_3whose father may have been either of the Manets, posed often for Manet, most famously, as the subject of the Boy Carrying a Sword of 1861 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).  He also appears as the boy carrying a tray in the background of The Balcony.  Manet painted his wife in The Reading, among other paintings.  edouardManet-graveThe Final Footprint – Manet is buried in Passy Cemetery in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.  Opened in 1820 in the expensive residential and commercial districts of the Right Bank near the Champs-Élysées, by 1874 the small Passy Cemetery had become the aristocratic necropolis of Paris.  Sheltered by a bower of chestnut trees, the cemetery is in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  The retaining wall of the cemetery is adorned with a bas relief (by Louis Janthial) commemorating the soldiers who fell in the Great War.  Other notable final footprints as Passy include; Claude Debussy, Gabriel Faure, and Berthe Morisot.


SergioLeone2On this day in 1989, director, producer and screenwriter, Sergio Leone died from a heart attack in Rome at the age of 60.  Born on 3 January 1929 in Rome.  Best known as the director of three legendary, iconic westerns, often referred to as Spaghetti Westerns: A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari) (1964) with Clint Eastwood; For a Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più) (1965) with Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef; and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) (1966) with Eastwood, Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.  The film score for all three movies was composed by Ennio Morricone.  Leone also directed Once Upon a Time in the West (C’era una volta il West) (1968) with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale; and Once Upon a Time in America (C’era una volta il America) (1984) with Robert De Niro.  All five of these movies are among my very favorites and I will stop what I am doing to watch them.  The Final Footprint – Leone is interred in a private estate in Cimitero di Pratica di Mare in Pratica di Mare, Lazio, Italy.

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Day in History 29 April – Alfred Hitchcock

On this day in 1980, director and producer, Sir Alfred Hitchcock died of renal failure in his Bel Air, Los Angeles, California home at the age of 80.  Born Alfred Joseph Hitchcock on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone, London, England.  One of the most influential filmmakers of all time.  Hitchcock took suspense and psychological thrills to a whole new level in his films.  His stories frequently feature fugitives on the run and beautiful blonde female characters.  My favorite Hitchcock movies include: Suspicion (1941) with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine; Spellbound (1945) with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman; Notorious (1946) with Grant and Bergman; Dial M for Murder (1954) with Ray Milland and Grace Kelly; Rear Window (1954) with Jimmy Stewart and Kelly; To Catch a Thief (1955) with Grant and Kelly; Vertigo (1958) with Stewart and Kim Novak; North by Northwest (1959) with Grant and Eva Marie Saint; and Psycho (1960) with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean as seen from the International Space Station

The Final Footprint – Hitchcock was cremated and his cremains were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

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Day in History 28 April – Ken Curtis


On this day in 1991, actor Ken Curtis died in his sleep in Fresno, California at the age of 74.  Born Curtis Wain Gates on 2 July 1916 in Lamar, Colorado.  Best known for his role as Festus Haggen on the long-running CBS western television series, Gunsmoke.  Through his first marriage, Curtis was a son-in-law of director John Ford.  Curtis teamed with Ford and John Wayne in Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, The Searchers, The Horse Soldiers, The Alamo and How The West Was Won.  I remember him best for his role as Charlie McCorry in The Searchers, perhaps my favorite western movieCurtis was married three times; Lorraine Page, Barbara Ford (1952-1964 divorce) and Torrie Ahern Connelly (1966-1991 his death).  The Final Footprint – Curtis was cremated and his cremains were scattered in the Colorado flatlands.

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Day in History 27 April – Maud Gonne – Hart Crane

On this day in 1953, English-born Irish revolutionary, feminist, actress, and muse of William Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne died in Clonskeagh, Ireland at the age of 86.  Born Edith Maud Gonne on 21 December 1866 in Tongham near Farnham, Surrey, England.  She was won over to Irish nationalism by the plight of evicted people in the Land Wars.  In 1889, she first met Yeats, who fell in love with her.  Gonne in turn, was in love with Lucien Millevoye a French journalist and right-wing politician with whom she would have two children.  Many of Yeats’s poems are inspired by her, or mention her.  He wrote the plays The Countess Cathleen and Cathleen Ní Houlihan for her.  His poem Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven ends with a reference to her:

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Few poets have celebrated a woman’s beauty to the extent Yeats did in his lyric verse about Gonne.  From his second book to Last Poems, she became the Rose, Helen of Troy (in No second Troy), the Ledaean Body (Leda and the Swan and Among School Children), Cathleen Ní Houlihan, Pallas Athene and Deirdre.  Gonne turned down several proposals from Yeats before marrying John MacBride with whom she would have a son, Seán MacBride.  She and MacBride would separate in 1904.  Gonne and Yeats reportedly finally consummated their relationship in Paris in 1908.  Yeats’ long years of fidelity, so to speak, were rewarded at last, although Yeats would later remark that “the tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the soul.”  The relationship did not develop into a new phase after their night together.  Soon afterwards, Gonne wrote to the poet indicating that despite the physical consummation, they could not continue as they had been: “I have prayed so hard to have all earthly desire taken from my love for you and dearest, loving you as I do, I have prayed and I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you too.”  By January 1909, Gonne was sending Yeats letters praising the advantage given to artists who abstain from sex.  Nearly twenty years later, Yeats recalled the night with Gonne in his poem “A Man Young and Old”:

My arms are like the twisted thorn
And yet there beauty lay;
The first of all the tribe lay there
And did such pleasure take;
She who had brought great Hector down
And put all Troy to wreck.

Gonne published her autobiography in 1938, titled A Servant of the QueenThe Final FootprintGonne is interred in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, the largest nondenominational cemetery in Ireland.  Her grave is marked by a simple upright stone marker.  Upon their deaths, her son, his wife and their son were interred next to her.  Michael Collins is also interred at Glasnevin.


Hart_CraneOn this day in 1932, poet Hart Crane likely committed suicide by jumping overboard from the steamship Orizaba, in the Gulf of Mexico, at the age of 32.  Born Harold Hart Crane on 21 July 1899 in Garrettsville, Ohio.  Finding both inspiration and provocation in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Crane wrote modernist poetry that was difficult, highly stylized, and ambitious in its scope.  In perhaps his most ambitious work, The Bridge, Crane sought to write an epic poem, in the vein of The Waste Land, that expressed a more optimistic view of modern, urban culture than the one that he found in Eliot’s work.  Crane never married.  The Final Footprint – Although evidently, Crane had been drinking heavily and left no suicide note, witnesses believed his intentions to be suicidal, as several reported that he exclaimed “Goodbye, everybody!” before throwing himself overboard.  His body was never recovered.  A marker on his father’s tombstone in Garrettsville includes the inscription, “Harold Hart Crane 1899–1932 lost at sea”. 

In the years following his suicide at the age of 32, Crane has been hailed by playwrights, poets, and literary critics alike, as being one of the most influential poets of his generation.  Crane is the subject of The Broken Tower, a 2011 American student film by the actor James Franco who wrote, directed, and starred in the film which was the Master thesis project for his MFA in filmmaking at New York University.  He loosely based his script on Paul Mariani‘s 1999 nonfiction book The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane.  Beyond poetry, Crane’s suicide inspired several works of art by noted artist Jasper Johns, including “Periscope,” “Land’s End,” and “Diver,” the “Symphony for Three Orchestras” by Elliott Carter (inspired by the “Bridge”) and the painting by Marsden Hartley “Eight Bells’ Folly, Memorial for Hart Crane.”

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Day in History 26 April – Lucille Ball

On this day in 1989, legendary comedian, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, multiple Emmy winner, Lucille Ball died Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from an aortic aneurysm at the age of 77.  Born Lucille Désirée Ball on 6 August 1911 in Jamestown, New York.  Perhaps best known as the star of the sitcom I Love Lucy, co-starring her then husband Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Ethel and Fred Mertz, the Ricardo’s landlords and friends.  Ball met and eloped with Cuban bandleader Arnaz in 1940.  Ball and Arnaz founded Desilu Productions and Desilu Studios which was home to I Love Lucy and other hit television shows including;  Star Trek, The Andy Griffith Show, Mission: Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show, My Three Sons, Family Affair, The Untouchables, I Spy, Mannix, Gomer Pyle, USMC, and That Girl.  On 17 July 1951, almost 40 years old, Ball gave birth to their first child, Lucie Désirée Arnaz.  A year and a half later, Ball gave birth to their second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, known as Desi Arnaz, Jr.  Ball and Arnaz divorced on 4 May 1960.  Her second marriage was to Gary Morton (1961-1989 her death).  The Final Footprint – Ball was cremated and her cremains were initially interred in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.  In 2002, her children had her cremains moved to the Ball family plot at Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown, New York where Ball’s mother, father, brother, and grandparents are buried.  Her grave and her parent’s is marked by a large black granite upright marker with the insription; “You’ve Come Home”.

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Day in History 25 April – Leon Battista Alberti – Louise Labé – Torquato Tasso – Ginger Rogers

Leon_Battista_Alberti2-150x150On this day in 1472, Italian author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cryptographer, polymath, Renaissance man, Leon Battista Alberti died in Rome at the age of 68.  Born in Genoa on 14 February 1404.  Although he is often characterized as an “architect” exclusively, as art historian James Beck has observed, “to single out one of Leon Battista’s ‘fields’ over others as somehow functionally independent and self-sufficient is of no help at all to any effort to characterize Alberti’s extensive explorations in the fine arts.”  Alberti’s life was described in Giorgio Vasari‘s Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori or ‘Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects’.

Louise_LabéOn this day in 1566, La Belle Cordière, (The Beautiful Ropemaker), French poet of the Renaissance, Louise Labé died in Parcieux-en-Dombes, France at the age of about 44.  Born in 1520 or 1522 in Lyon.  Her Œuvres include two prose works and poetry.  Her poetry consists of three elegies in the style of the Heroides of Ovid, and twenty-four sonnets that draw on the traditions of Neoplatonism and Petrarchism.  The Debat, the most popular of her works in the sixteenth century, inspired one of the fables of Jean de la Fontaine.  The sonnets, remarkable for their frank eroticism, have been her most famous works following the early modern period.  The Final Footprint – La Belle Cordière was interred on her country property close to Parcieux-en-Dombes, outside Lyon.

Torquato_TassoOn this day in 1595, Italian poet Torquato Tasso died at the convent of Sant’Onofrio in Rome at the age of 51.  Born in Sorrento, Kingdon of Naples on 11 March 1544.  Perhaps best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered, 1580), in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem.  He suffered from mental illness and died a few days before he was due to be crowned as the king of poets by the Pope.  Until the beginning of the 19th century, Tasso remained one of the most widely read poets in Europe.  The Final Footprint – Tasso is entombed in Sant’Onofrio.

Ginger_Rogers_Argentinean_Magazine_AD_2On this day in 1995, Academy Award-winning actress, singer and dancer, Ginger Rogers died in Rancho Mirage, California of congestive heart failure at the age of 83.  Born Virginia Catherine McMath on 16 July 1911 in Independence, Missouri.  This year, 2011, will mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.  Best known for her role as Fred Astaire’s romantic interest and dancing partner in a series of ten Hollywood musical films that revolutionized the genre.  She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940).    When Rogers was nine years old, her mother Lela married John Logan Rogers.  They lived in Fort Worth, Texas.  Rogers reportedly dated Howard Hughes and even turned down his proposal.  Rogers was married five times; Jack Pepper (1929-1931 divorce), Lew Ayres (1934-1941 divorce), Jack Briggs (1943-1949 divorce), Jacques Bergerac (1953-1957 divorce), and William Marshall (1961-1969 divorce).  The Final Footprint – Rogers was cremated and her cremains were interred next to her mother’s, and just a short distance from Fred Astaires’s grave, in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California.

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