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Blog Posts from May 2008:

Yesterday the Motion Picture Academy held a symposium at the Huntington Library on Hollywood Between the wars.

There I had a chance there to meet Neal Gabler and Richard Schickel. It turns out Neal Gabler, the author of the big Walt Disney bio is a fan of DRAWING THE LINE, too! We had a very nice conversation and I was deeply flattered by his kind words about my book. I also had lunch next to William Randolph Hearst III. Rosebud! Good times too with Joe Adamson ( Tex Avery, King of Cartoons)

Lot's of interesting details by a battery of other historians, and some fun quotes.

My favorite was from Pauline Kael quoted by Gabler:" Hollywood is the only place where you can die from encouragement."

Quiz: Why are some parts of a city called The Tenderlion?

Answer to Yesterday’s Quiz Below: What is a Screaming Meamie?
History for 5/31/2008
Birthdays: Walt Whitman, Fred Allen, Clint Eastwood, Don Ameche, Prince Ranier, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Ranier Fassbinder, Brooke Shields, Joe Namath, Richie Valens, Tom Berenger, Denholm Elliot, Peter Yarrow, Lea Thompson, John Bonzo Bonham of Led Zepplin, Colin Ferrell

1578- A farmer plowing a vineyard near Rome causes the ground to collapse beneath him revealing the long buried Ancient Roman CATACOMBS. Antonio Bosio studied them and writes in 1632 "Underground Rome".

1669 -Samuel Pepys was forced to discontinue the diary he had kept from 1660 due to failing eyesight.

1759- Under pressure from religious groups, who considered them immoral, the Royal Colony of Pennsylvania banned theatrical plays. You could be fined 500 pounds for trotting the boards.

1790- The U.S. Congress passed its first laws protecting the copyright of written works. This law was lobbied for by Noah Webster, who later wrote the first American dictionary.

1793- LA TERREUR- THE REIGN OF TERROR BEGAN- French extreme leftists the Jacobins named for their meeting place, near the monastery of St.Jacob- Danton, Robespierre and Marat take over the French Government. They declare anybody who doesn't agree with them to be counterrevolutionary dead meat. Robsepierre said: “Virtue without Terror is Impotence, Terror without Virtue is Criminal.”
Until 1794 their Committee of Public Safety guillotined 17,000 people, including Madame DuBarry, the great scientist Lavoisier, poet Andre Chenier and finally even fellow revolutionaries Danton and Camille Desmoulins. They also drowned hundreds in barges. One method of execution was the Republican Marriage- that meant tying up a man and woman face to face then throwing them into the sea to drown. Napoleon, Josephine, Roget Du Lisle -who wrote Le Marseillaise, even American Thomas Paine barely escape the blade. Marat said: "If we cut off 10,000 heads today, it saves us having to cut off 100,000 tomorrow!" Robespierre kept a servant playing a little accordion in his office so he wouldn't have to listen to the screams and pleas of the condemned dragged off to execution. To their credit they enacted much needed social reforms, For the first time the public could enjoy the Royal art collections like the Louvre and the royal parks like the Luxembourg Gardens.

The modern concept of the restaurant also arises at this time. The name comes from a place to Restore-Your Health- Restaurant. In previous ages you could get a meal at an inn or public house, but it was never very good. The former chefs of great estates, now unemployed because their employer’s decapitated heads were in baskets, opened shops and cooked their grand cuisine for the average Jacques.

1837 - Joseph Grimaldi, England’s greatest clown (king of pantomime), died at 57. On stage since the age of 3 at Sadler-Wells, he never appeared in a circus ring. Instead, his act was stage pantomime. In tribute to him, all English clowns are known as “Joey’.

1873- SCHLEIMANN FOUND TROY. German archaeologist Heinrich Schleimann unearthed the horde of gold known as Priam's Treasure in a mound near Hysarlik Turkey. This proved this site was the Troy of Homer and the Trojan War was not a myth but a real historical event. There were actually 9 Troys on the site- from a Bronze Age village to a Late Roman Empire city. The Troy of the Trojan War was Troy number 4. It showed signs of destruction by fire.

1879- New York’s Madison Square Garden opened. Designed to resemble a Venetian Palazzo.

1884-Happy Birthday Kellogg’s Corn Flakes! Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek Michigan patents "flaked cereal and the process for making same." He felt whole foods like Corn Flakes could help gentle Victorian people curb their urge to sexual excesses. Hmm…should I mud wrestle Jessica Alba or have a bowl of corn flakes? Decisions, decisions.

1889-The Johnstown Flood. The South Fork Dam swollen by heavy rains burst and sent a 35-foot wall of water and debris over the town. 2,295 were killed.

1901-THE BOER WAR ENDS. English troops entered Praetoria; Boer survivors signed the Treaty of Vereeniging. Tranvaal President Kruger "Oom Paul"-Uncle Paul- fled to Holland. When the Queen of Holland appealed for help for the Boers, who were ethnically Dutch-German. The Kaiser was noncommittal. The leader of the second largest population of Germans, President Teddy Roosevelt of the United States, said, "It is right and natural that the larger nations should dominate the smaller."

On a troopship returning from South Africa, volunteer doctor Arthur Conan-Doyle was told by a Welsh doctor of a legend of a big ghostly dog that attacked people on the moors of his home estate. Conan-Doyle thought this would be a swell story for his character Sherlock Holmes to solve. The Hound of the Baskervilles was the result.

1916-The BATTLE OF JUTLAND. German and British battleships boom away
at each other in the only major naval fleet engagement of World War I. Giant battleships called Dreadnoughts were the nukes of the turn of the century power game. Yet when the first and third largest fleets in the world finally grappled it was a tie. British Admiral Beatty was annoyed with the performance of his fleet: "Blast ! Why are all me bloody battlecruisers sinking?” But the German High Seas fleet went back into Kiel harbor and didn't emerge again for the rest of the war.

1928- The song “ Old Man River “sung by Pail Robeson came out as a single.

1958 - Dick Dale invents "surf music" with "Let's Go Trippin"

1969- John Lennon and Yoko Ono record "Give Peace a Chance." It became the theme song of the Anti-Vietnam War movement. Because of this song and Lennon’s support of the Hippie protestors the Nixon White House kept a file on him. Lennon spent most of 1972-73 under a constant threat of 60-day deportation from the US. The Republican who suggested the INS revoke Lennons visa was Sen. Strom Thurmond.

1985- John Sculley was a former exec from Pepsi brought in by Apple Computer companies founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to help run the company. This day his solution to help the company run better was to fire Steve Jobs. Wozniak retired and Sculley eventually moved on. Today Steve Jobs runs the reinvigorated Apple as well as PIXAR and is on the board of the Walt Disney Company.

1989- "Skinhead Day at the Magic Kingdom" Disneyland refused to admit a rally of skinheads, Nazis and Klansmen.

1990- Television sitcom Seinfeld premiered based on a tv special about the standup comedian called the Seinfeld Chronicles. No Soup for You!

1995- A young Mexican-American Tejana singer named Selena was gaining a growing crossover appeal in pop music and there seemed no limit. This day her career was cut short when she was shot and killed by the Yolanda Saldivia, the president of the Selena Fan club. She said it was an accident.

1996- Despite grief over the assassination of Labor Prime Minister Ytschak Rabin, the Israeli public voted for the right wing Likud today, making Benjamin “Bibi” Netnayahu Prime Minister, and setting back the peace process once again.

2000- The first Survivor show in the USA premiered, shepherding in a new era of TV Reality shows.

2003- A wild dove got into the Pentagon and flapped around the Air Force Secretary's office on the 4th floor. Can we say- symbolic?
Yesterday’s Question: What is a Screaming Meamie?

Answer: During World War One the Germans put a twisted strip of metal on the nose of their artillery shells. When fired, it gave it an eerie whistling sound as it flew through the air. It’s purpose was to undermine enemy will to fight through terror.
Later, the Screaming Meamie effect was used in Looney Tune cartoons.

courtesy of Dreamworks Animation.

I went to the crew party for KUNG FU PANDA last night. I was very taken with the film. It had great art direction and color design and I've always been a great fan of the storyboards of Jennifer Yuh Nelson. I was so happy to see her ideas come to the screen so completely. I worked with her back on Spirit. She would do these very strong storyboards, but they always wound up not using them or watering them down. Now I feel I'm really seeing the dynamic energy of her work. Hers are the opening 2d sequences, done by James Baxter Studio.

The animation also had great facial work and I actually liked the celeb voices like Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman. For once I didn't feel the star behind the voice, but could just enjoy the character. But I didn't think Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu contributed much to their characters. But overall it was a lot of fun. Good simple story well told, with some very strong visuals. Congratulations to the whole crew. It's going to give Pixars Wall-e some real competition. I wish them all well.
Quiz: What is a Screaming Meamie?

Yesterday’s Quiz: When he was a Navy fighter pilot in World War Two, what was the nickname George Herbert Walker Bush was called by his squadron mates?
History for 5/30/2008
Birthdays: Czar Peter the Great, Benny Goodman, Mel Blanc, Stepin Fetchit, Keir Dullea, Boris Pasternak, Irving Thalberg, Milt Neil, Howard Hawks, Gale Sayers, Michael J. Pollard, Wynonna

1431- At Place de Vieux-Marche’, in English controlled Rouen, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. She was only 19. The Maid of Orleans was made a saint in 1920. Her last request was for a priest to hold up high a Crucifix so she could pray aloud above the flames. When one English knight watched the maid call out to Christ as she died he exclaimed in grief: "Brothers, we are lost because I think we have just killed a Saint! ".

1593- English playwright Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in an argument over a restaurant check at the Bulls Tavern in Depford. Marlowe, whose plays included “Tamburlane” and “Dr Faustus", was one of Shakespeare's competitors and found time for some espionage on the side. Writer Sir Anthony Burgess theorized there may have been more spy-stuff to this case than not wanting to pay for ale & kippers. The murderer, Ingram Frizer, was quickly pardoned by Queen Elizabeth I and Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave.

1787- THE CRUCIAL VOTE in creating the U.S. Constitution. The delegates of the thirteen states (actually twelve, Rhode Island refused to participate) had originally come to Philadelphia to iron out some bugs in the system called the Articles of Confederation.
On this day they were instead convinced to accept “the Virginia Plan” authored by James Madison and strongly backed by Alexander Hamilton. In effect, they voted to scrap the entire government used up till then and create a new strong central government with a two chamber Congress based on the Roman Senate and an elected chief magistrate called, at first, 'The Executive" and later the President. Some politicians not attending the meeting, like Patrick Henry and Sam Adams, were outraged. Thomas Jefferson, then ambassador in Paris, was dubious about the elected-president idea. “So they’ve decided to saddle us with a Polish King” he quipped, meaning an elected figurehead monarch with no real power. Later during a breakfast with Washington Jefferson asked, “why did you agree to a two-house legislature?” Washington replied:” Why do you pour your tea on to your saucer?” To cool it” Jefferson replied. Washington said:” So hot laws from the House will be cooled in the Senate.” Aaron Burr wrote:” Same old pork, different sauce.”

1806- ANDREW JACKSON KILLS CHARLES DICKINSON IN A DUEL. -the hotheaded Jackson challenged Dickinson after he welched on horseracing bet and made insulting remarks about Jackson’s wife Rachel Jackson. In Long County Kentucky they faced off with pistols at ten paces. Dickinson got off a shot first. Eyewitnesses said you could see the puff of dust from Jackson's jacket where the bullet entered his ribs. Amazingly, instead of falling Jackson just coldly stood there. He then lifted his gun and drilled Dickinson dead. Jackson would carry the lead ball in his chest for the rest of his life, alongside two others earned in Indian wars. When asked why didn’t he forgive Dickinson and shoot wide, He replied: "I'd have killed him even if he had put a bullet in my brain!"

1821 - James Boyd patents Rubber Fire Hose.

1848 William Young patents the ice cream freezer.

1883- A rumor among the strollers on the Brooklyn Bridge that the bridge was falling causes a panic and 12 people are trampled. Young street kid Al Smith recalled being under the bridge and seeing a rain of bowler hats and parasols as the crowd pushed and shoved.

1930- The Lockheed Terminal rededicated as Burbank Airport.

1955- The New York chapter of the Catholic League of Decency pressured Loews Theater on Broadway to take down a giant 30-foot billboard of Marilyn Monroe trying to push her skirt down.

1972- Director choreographer Bob Fosse filmed a live performance of Liza Minelli’s one-woman show Liza with a Z. It was telecast in Sept. and became a sensation.

1994 - Death of Baron Marcel Bich, Italian-born French engineer and industrialist who created an empire through his disposable BIC pens, lighters and razors.
Yesterday’s Quiz: When he was a Navy fighter pilot in World War Two, what was the nickname Lt. George Herbert Walker Bush was called by his squadron mates?

Answer: His nickname George Herbert Walker Bush. The other pilots loved this Yale BlueBlood Preppy guy with the patrician name.

May 29th, 2008 thurs
May 29th, 2008

Quiz: When he was a Navy fighter pilot in World War Two, what was the nickname George Herbert Walker Bush, was given by his squadron mates?

Quiz: Did they use computers in World War II?
History for 5/29/2008
Birthdays: King Charles II Stuart (the "Merry Monarch"), John F. Kennedy, J.G. Chesterton, Patrick Henry, Oswald Spengler, T.H.White, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Josef Von Sternberg, LaToya Jackson, John Hinckley Jr., Al Unser Jr., Beatrice Lilly, Danny Elfman, Annette Benning, Melissa Etheridge, Rupert Everett, Bob Hope

1453- CONSTANTINOPLE CONQUERED BY THE TURKS- Sultan Mohammed II the "Scourge of Christendom" captured the capitol of the old Byzantine Empire. His great cherry wood cannons firing giant stone balls blew great holes in the city walls, proving the end of castles as serious defenses. When he knew the battle was lost the Last Eastern Emperor of the Romans, Constantine XI Paleologus sallied out sword in hand and went down fighting. His body was identified out of a pile of corpses only by the bejeweled purple slippers. As Mohammed II rode into the city in triumph he recited a Persian poem:" A spider weaves it's web in the palace of the Caesars, a shadow falls over the House of Amonhasarib". Legend has it that when he entered the great Basilica of Hagia Sophia he put is finger in a magic hole and caused the entire building to rotate and face Mecca. (?!) The Byzantine Empire’s fall did have one beneficial effect on Western Europe. All the fleeing Greek scholars and scientists with their arms full of the works of Plato and Aristotle would settle in European capitols and help spark the Renaissance.

1606- Michel Caravaggio the artist shot a man over a tennis match. Caravaggio was a mad-artist before the term was invented. The police records of Rome show the master painter constantly in trouble, seducing man, woman and child, throwing rocks at soldiers, stabbing waiters, etc.

1692- The Battle of La Hogue- Great naval battle when the French fleet of Admiral de Tourville was ordered by Louis XIV to attack an Anglo-Dutch navy despite being heavily outnumbered. The French admiral did a brilliant job but lost anyway, and the French monarch turned his back on the navy, abandoning supremacy of the seas to England.
Once considered the most important naval engagement until Trafalgar, La Hogue is now mostly remembered on cheap framed prints of naval battle paintings you see hanging in doctor’s waiting rooms.

1765 - Patrick Henry historic speech against the Stamp Act, answering a cry
of "Treason!" with, "If this be treason, make the most of it!"

1856- THE LOST SPEECH- Former Congressman Abraham Lincoln was called upon to deliver the adjournment speech to the convention inaugurating the new Illinois Republican Party. He had decided to abandon his strategy of mincing words about slavery and “hit it hard.”Lincoln delivered what many regarded as the best speech of his life, a speech better than the Gettysburg Address or “ With Malice Towards None” the Second Inaugural. And maddeningly for history we have no record of what he said. The newspapermen jotting it down shorthand were so amazed by what they heard that they stopped writing, confident they could share the notes of another later. Even Abe’s close friend Herndon, who was a prodigious note taker, gave up after fifteen minutes, admitting he “threw pen and paper away and was swept up in the inspiration of the hour”. The speech made Lincoln one of the rising stars of the party yet we don’t know anything he said that night.

1859 –Illinois Congressman Abe Lincoln says in a better documented occasion "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of time, but you can't fool all of the people all of time"

1908- Teddy Roosevelt signed the first ban on child labor in the U.S.

1911 -The first running of the Indianapolis 500

1912- 15 young women were fired by the Curtis Publishing Company for dancing "Turkey Trot" during their lunch break.

1914-THE COLONEL REDL AFFAIR- In the years before World War One the Great Powers of Europe spent vast sums on spies and agents to discover each other's future war plans. The period was known as the “soft war” not unlike the Cold War of a later generation. Coloneloberst Redl was on the Austro-Hungarian General Staff but was passing information on to Russian Intelligence. He was exposed by an Italian double agent who was also his male lover. According to the Austrian military code of honor Redl was forced by his fellow officers to shoot himself. An eccentric man, his apartment was filled with life-size mannequins in chairs. Hungarian director Istvan Szabo made an award winning film about Redl with Klaus Maria Brandauer in 1986. There were earlier films made of the story in 1931 and 55.

1932- The" BONUS MARCHERS "announce their march on Washington D.C. Men who joined the army during the Great War were promised a huge extra bonus to be received in 1945. But, by 1932, the Great Depression had so ruined people's lives a movement was started by a Portland Oregon veteran named Captain William Waters to have a bill in Congress to get their bonus early. Veterans would lobby congress by mounting a poor people's march on Washington. People's marches of this sort had happened before, like "Coxey's Army" in 1896. Veteran's groups came from all over the nation and by the time they got to Capitol Hill they numbered around 80,000. The set up shantytowns on the Mall nicknamed “Hoovervilles”. Everyday Senators going to work had to slip through a huge line of homeless men shuffling silently around the Capitol Building. The Hoover government panicked and believed Soviet-style revolution was imminent. The opposition to the bonus bill was led by Senator Howard Vidal, father of writer-activist Gore Vidal and uncle to Al Gore.

1941-THE GREAT WALT DISNEY CARTOONIST'S STRIKE. The picket line and campsite went up across the street where St. Joseph's Hospital is today. Chefs, from nearby Toluca Lake restaurants, would cook for the strikers on their off-time and the aircraft mechanics of Lockheed promised muscle if any ruffstuff was threatened. Striking assistant, Bill Hurtz's future wife, Mary, was Walt Disney's secretary and they would meet at a chain link fence to swap gossip. Picketers included Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace), Walt Kelly and Margaret Selby (later Kelly) (Pogo), Bill Melendez (A Charlie Brown Christmas), Steve Bosustow and John Hubley (Mr. Magoo), Maurice Noble and Chuck Jones (What's Opera Doc?), George Baker (Sad Sack), Dick Swift ("the Parent Trap") Frank Tashlin (Cinderfella) and four hundred others. The strike was eventually settled by Federal arbitration and a little arm twisting on Walt by the Bank of America. Many of the artists who left the studio afterwards set up U.P.A. and pioneered the 1950's style.

Me with John Hubley's Picket Sign, courtesy of Emily Hubley.

1942- JOHN BARRYMORE- The great dramatic actor, the first American to dare to play Hamlet in England, died of his vices at age 60. Whether the infamous prank actually happened where Raoul Walsh, Bertholdt Brecht, Peter Lorre, W.C. Fields and some others (the"Bundy Drive Boys") kidnapped Barrymore's body from Pierce Brothers Funeral Home and propped it up at the poker table to scare the willys out of Errol Flynn is a matter of debate. Flynn and Paul Heinried said it was true, writer Gene Fowler said it was false. The Barrymore family has a history of brilliant acting and alcoholism. Barrymore's father and grandfather were famous actors who drank themselves to death. His daughter Diana overdosed on sleeping pills and his son John Drew Barrymore just barely saved himself from drugs in the 1960s and dropped out of show business. His granddaughter Drew Barrymore started drugs and liquor at age 9 and was a recovered alcoholic by 17. John Barrymore's last words were to screenwriter Gene Fowler-"Say Gene, isn't it true you are an illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill?"

1942- Bing Crosby records "White Christmas," arguably the greatest selling record to date.

1952- Edmund Hillary and Sherpa guide Tenzing Norga become the first men to reach the top of Mt. Everest.

1954- New York Police raid the studio of Irving Klaw, the photographer of the Betty Page kinky pin-up photos. Klaw tried to appeal to the Supreme Court but couldn’t get a hearing.

1956- Hollywood director James Whale (Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man) drowned himself in his pool. His career was over, and his health was deteriorating from a series of strokes. Bruises were found on his head and at first the public suspected foul play. It wasn’t until 1989 his partner made his suicide note public. His head had struck the pool’s bottom as he jumped in causing the bruise. He himself never swam, but he had the pool built so he could watch his friends frolic.

1972- Moe Berg died of old age. He was a master spy who using a front as a catcher for the Washington Senator’s Baseball team, fluent enough in quantum physics to converse with Einstein and Neils Bohr. He was once ordered by Washington to meet with Rudolph Heisenberg, the Nazi Einstein, and kill him if he felt the Germans were getting too close do developing their own atomic bomb. He chose not to shoot him. In his later years he was a regular contestant on television trivia game shows. Believe it or not!

1973 - Columbia Records fired president Clive Davis for misappropriating
$100,000 in funds, Davis then founded Arista records

1978 - Bob Crane, actor (Donna Reed Show, Hogan-Hogan's Heroes), died at 49 under mysterious circumstances. He was found bludgeoned to death in a Tucson hotel room surrounded by pornography.

1987 –Eccentric pop singer Michael Jackson attempted to buy the nineteenth century remains of Joseph Meredith a.k.a. the Elephant Man.

1999- Hikers in Malibu California discover the remains of Phillip Taylor, the bass guitar player of the 60’s band Iron Butterfly. The musician had disappeared four years before. Now his skeleton was found sitting in his Ford Aerostar at the bottom of a steep ravine.

Quiz: Did they use computers in World War II?

Answer: Yes. And this was before silicon chips or transistors. During World War II a number of advanced analog counting machines were developed for code breaking and precision bombing. The Norden Bombsite and the Enigma Machine are now considered forerunners of the computer. When John Whitney, the Father of Computer Graphics, first experimented with electronic images, he began by adapting a war surplus Mark V Anti-Aircraft targeting sight.

May 28th, 2008 Weds
May 28th, 2008

Quiz: Did they use computers in World War II?

Yesterday’s Question Answered Below: What is a Pyrrhic Victory?
History for 5/28/2008
Birthdays: Solomon 970BC-?, Noah Webster, Dr. Guillotine, William Pitt the Younger, Ian Fleming is 100, Jim Thorpe, The Dion Identical Quintuplets 1930, Gladys Knight, Sandra Locke, T-Bone Walker, John Fogarty,

585 BC- The first known Solar Eclipse recorded by man. It scared away two armies of Lydians and Medes who were about to fight a battle. Thales of Miletus, the first true Greek Philosopher, predicted it. Thales had studied astronomy and science in Egypt and Babylonia and brought those sciences back to Greece. But he is also counted as the forerunner of Socrates and Plato. When the Greeks referred to the Seven Wisest Men in the World they always counted Thales first.

1494- The official "birth" of Scotch - though it had been around for a long time, on this date, the Scottish Exchequer records a purchase of malt by a friar to make "aqua vitae", the first written reference to spirits in Scotland. Hoot Man!

1742 - 1st public indoor swimming pool opens at Goodman's Fields, London.

1786- French explorer the Comte de Purvoise became the first European to set foot on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. "The climate of Mowhee is quite delightful." He wrote. Then spending only three days there he hurried his ship on to the Northwest coast of America.

1853- THE CRIMEAN WAR BEGAN- England and the French Empire declare War on Russia over Russia’s trying to beat up Turkey and annex the Bosphorus. England and Russia spent the nineteenth century in a tactical struggle for supremacy in Central Asia not unlike the Cold War the Soviet Union fought with America after World War Two. The name for the Anglo-Russian duel was "the Great Game". It only heated up once, producing such artifacts as the Charge of the Light Brigade, Balaclava Helmets and Florence Nightingale. Roger Fenton also followed the army to the Crimea as the first war-photographer.

1892- The Sierra Club formed.

1929 - 1st all color talking picture "On With the Show" exhibited (NYC).

1935- Tortilla Flat published. The first novel by John Steinbeck.

1941- THE WALT DISNEY STRIKE- Labor pressures had been building in the Magic Kingdom since promises made to artists over the success of Snow White were reneged on and Walt Disney’s lawyer Gunther Lessing encouraged a hard line with his employees. On this day, in defiance of federal law, Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt ,the creator of Goofy, and thirteen other cartoonists for demanding a union. Babbitt had emerged as the union movements’ leader. He has studio security officers escort Babbitt off the lot (a custom that still happens today.). That night in an emergency meeting of the Cartoonists Guild, Art’s assistant on Fantasia, Bill Hurtz, made a motion to strike and it is unanimously accepted. Bill Hurtz will later go on to direct award winning cartoons like UPA’s "Unicorn in the Garden" and the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Picket lines go up next day in cartoon animation’s own version of the Civil War.
Walt Disney nearly had a nervous breakdown over the strike and a federal mediator was sent by Washington to arbitrate. In later years, Uncle Walt blamed the studio’s labor ills on Communists. The studio unionized but hard feelings remained for the rest of the artists lives.

1954- Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 3D premiered.

1960- George Zucco 60, a character actor who specialized in horror movies like Blood from the Mummies Hand, died of fright in a mental hospital in San Gabriel California. He was convinced that H.P. Lovecraft's Great God Cthulu was after him.

1961 -Amnesty International, a human rights organization, is founded. It was the result of an Appeal for Amnesty, written in the London Daily Observer by a British author who read of several Portuguese students who were arrested because they were overheard making a toast to Freedom in a café.

1977- " MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU." George Lucas' space fantasy film STAR WARS opened. This blockbuster was the first film where the filmmaker retained the licensing rights for merchandise instead of the distributor, known in Hollywood as the 'backend deal'. Today a film can make many times more in licensing revenues than it does from its box office take. Several studios including Universal passed on the film because the prevailing wisdom was sci-fi films didn't make money. Twentieth Century Fox picked up the distribution but let the backend go to Lucas because they didn't think the film would do any serious business. Even George Lucas didn’t think the film would break even. Fox's market research department told studio head Alan Ladd, Jr.” Results with test audiences confirmed: a) don't make this movie; no one will go see a science fiction movie; and b) change the title; no one will go see a movie with "War" in the title.
Fox executives had predicted the studios monster hit for that summer would be "Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry" with Peter Fonda and Susan George. Star Wars was a monster hit. It was like there were no other movies playing that summer. George Lucas became a seriously rich man and developed THX Dolby sound, digital animation and Industrial Light and Magic special effects. The film’s popularity ran so ahead of expectations that at Christmas when you purchased a Star Wars Game you got a box with a pink IOU note in it pledging to get you the game when they printed more.

1981- The Bambi Murders- Police hunt Playboy Bunny Bambi Bemenek for shooting her husband’s ex-wife in Milwaukee. She was captured but escaped prison in 1990. Just follow the little stiletto high heel footprints.

1987- A young German student named Matthias Rust rented a Cessna airplane in Helsinki, and flying low to avoid radar flew into the heart of the Soviet Union. Evading a forest of missiles and anti-aircraft weapons, he landed his little plane in the middle of Red Square in the Kremlin. The ensuing furor and humiliation cost many Russian generals their jobs.

1998- Saturday Night Live comedian Phil Hartman was shot to death by his wife Brynne as he slept. She was a heavy drink and pill user. At 6:00am as the LAPD were knocking Brynne turned the gun on herself.

2005- The great London clock Big Ben mysteriously stopped ticking for 45 minutes.

2005- Up and coming actress Lindsay Lohan was photographed passed out in her car shortly after a hearing for a previous DUI.
Yesterday’s Question: What is a Pyrrhic Victory?

Answer: A victory in which you lose so much to win, that it becomes as bad for you as if it were a defeat. Named for Pyrrhus King of Epirus, one of the Greek Successor kings of Alexander. Pyrrhus picked fight with the rising Roman Republic on behalf of the Greek colonies in Southern Italy. He defeated the Roman legions incurring such great losses that he said:” One more such victory and I am undone!”

History May 27th, 2008
May 27th, 2008

Dave Master, courtesy of Sheldon Borenstein's academy

A new article I did on educator Dave Master is up now on Animation World Network

Also Cartoon Brew has a note about my Click & Clack show.

Question: What is a Pyrrhic Victory?

Yesterday’s Question: Walt Disney called his animators the Nine Old Men. Did he invent that term? Answer: See 1939.
History for 5/27/2008
Birthdays: James 'Wild Bill' Hickock, Julia Ward Howe, Aemelia Jenks-Bloomer, Dashiell Hammett, Vincent Price, Dr. Henry Kissinger is 85, Leopold Goldowsky (the inventor of Kodachrome film), Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Herman Wouk, Christopher Lee is 86, Rachael Carson, Harlan Ellison, Joseph Feinnes, Peri Gilpin, Richard Schiff,Paul Bettany is 37

1647-The first witch execution in Salem Massachusetts. Contrary to popular perception more witches were hanged or crushed with stones than burned.

1647- Peter Stuyversant inaugurated as Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam. The one legged old soldier was a staunch Calvinist who was sent to “clean up the town”.

1703- Czar Peter the Great laid the cornerstones for his new capitol Saint Petersburg. The Baltic Port was called at one time Petrograd and Leningrad but was changed back to the original name in 1989. It was the capitol until Lenin moved it back to Moscow in 1917.

1895 - British inventor Burt Acres patented a film camera/projector

1930-HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTCH TAPE! Mr. Richard Drew of Saint Paul Minnesota invented cellophane tape, marketed by the 3M Company under the brand name Scotch. Three years later Drew invented Masking Tape as a way for car manufacturers to pain cars two tone.

1933-SEVENTY FIVE YEARS AGO- Disney’s cartoon“The Three Little Pigs” premieres, whose song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” becomes a national anthem of recovery from the Depression. It was also a favorite song of Adolph Hitler. Director of the short Burt Gillette left Disney afterwards to run the Van Bueren Studio in New York.
The Three Little Pigs was a major breakthrough for animation. The color and the quality made everything else up to that time look crude. It marked the point where Disney Animation moved out in front as the creatively dominant force in animation.

1935- The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Franklin Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act (The NRA) program. Roosevelt responds by trying to stack the court with judges more to his liking. Good thing that doesn’t happen today, eh Boys & Girls? He referred to them as 'The Nine Old Men', a sobriquet Walt Disney would borrow in 1949 for his animators.

1937- San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opens.

1949- Actress Rita Hayworth married Prince Aly Khan.

1961 – The first black light is sold

1969 – Construction on Walt Disney World Orlando began.

1977-The Sex Pistols release their single God Save the Queen, the Fascist Regime in time for the Queen’s Jubilee year.

1995- Actor Christopher Reeve was left paralyzed from the neck down after falling from his horse in an equestrian event in Charlottesville, Va. He became a spokesman for stem-cel research but his national effort was stymied by powerful religious lobbies. Reeves died in 2004.
Answer to yesterday’s question: Look back at 1935.