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My wife Pat and I were very sad to hear tonight news of the death of opera tenor Lucciano Pavarotti. As young art students in New York City we used to get student half price standing room to the Metropolitan Opera. We saw Pavarotti several times, including as Caravadossi in Tosca and Rodolpho in La Boheme. Later we met him at a record signing at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip in LA.

It seems funny listening to big fat opera singers bellowing so loud. But the way to really experience Grand Opera is to go see one done up big in person. They never quite have the same effect on film as they do live. Maybe Bergman's Magic Flute and Joseph Losey's Don Giovanni the exceptions. But the best in theater arts and stage lighting goes into grand opera, which is why so many film directors enjoy occasionally working in that medium. Like animation, opera speaks directly to the blood. The plots are simple, the point is to reach our emotions. And the meaning of the words are unimportant, you feel the music in your gut.

Pavarotti was one of the great singers of our time, and he joins the celestial chorus beside the other great tenors Benjamino Gigli, Caruso, Jan Peerce, Lauritz Melchior, Richard Tucker and Jussi Bjoerling. Bravo, Pavarotti!

Birthdays: Marquis De Lafayette ,Joseph Kennedy Sr., Buddy Holly, Jane Curtin, Swoozie Kurtz, Jo Ann Worley, Rosie Perez, Billy Rose, Ernest Tubb, Feliz compleanos a mi amigo Sergio Aragones! The man who has millions of kids reading the margins of Mad Magazine is 70 today!

1522- A ship reached Spain manned by only a dozen or more skeletal sailors. They were all that was left of Fernand de Magellans fleet of five ships and 260 men that set out one year ago to reach the Indies. Magellan was killed and eaten by cannibals in the Philippines, Magellan had beheaded three of his captains in Argentina and most of the crew was dead. The last leg of the trip the men sailed up the coast of Africa without stopping for food or water for fear of falling into the hands of their Portuguese enemies. But they had achieved the dream of the great Columbus, they reached the Indies by sailing west. In fact they had circumnavigated the globe, forever proved the world was round.

1812- At Borodino the Russian army prepared to fight Napoleon’s Army before the entrance to Holy Moscow. This night the Orthodox Metropolitan in procession carried through the camp the icon of the Black Virgin of Smolensk. Thousands of soldiers kneeled, crossed themselves and whispered Gospodi Pomilui- Lord Have Mercy. During the Napoleonic Wars Russian officers began the curious custom of making sure that they went into battle wearing clean underwear- no gentleman wanted his body to be found with dirty undies!

1847- After living in a shack on Walden Pond for two years, Henry David Thoreau moved in with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family in Concord Mass.

1862- During the Civil War an incident occurred when Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate brigades moved through the pro-Union town of Frederick, Maryland. All civilians kept indoors and waved white flags from their homes. But elderly widow Barbara Fritchie flew a bigass Stars & Stripes from her window and dared anyone to do anything about it. General Jackson just smiled and tipped his hat as he rode by. Years later a famous poem was written about the incident, The Ballad of Barbara Fritchie:” Shoot if You Must, This Old Grey Head, But Spare your Countries’ Flag, She Said!”

1901-PRESIDENT WILLIAM McKINLEY ASSASSINATED- The President was visiting the Temple of Music at the World Exposition in Buffalo when anarchist Leon Czogolsz shot him with a pistol hidden in his bandaged hand. Czogolsz was such an emotionally unstable character that even other anarchists avoided him. He said he was inspired by the political speeches of Socialist Emma Goldman, which soured many mainstream Americans to radical Socialism.
McKinley lingered for two weeks while doctors were afraid to probe for the bullet. Ironically he had just inspected a new-fangled X-Ray machine at the science pavilion that could have saved his life but doctors said: " This is too serious a time for toys!" He died and Teddy Roosevelt became President. Roosevelt was a maverick Republican that McKinley reluctantly chose as his running mate because he was a hero in the recent Spanish-American War. When Tammany boss Paul Crocker heard about Roosevelt being made V.P. he shouted;" Don't you realize that now there's only one heartbeat between that nut and the Presidency-?!" Republican Senate Majority Leader Marc Hanna was also annoyed:”Oh, no! Now that crazy cowboy is President!”

1958- The Spunky and Tadpole show debuts!

1968- Many momentous events occurred in 1968: assassinations, riots, the Vietnamese Tet offensive, the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, Easy Rider, 2001 a Space Odyssey Sergeant Pepper. But that’s nothing compared to the television premiere of H.R. PUNFNSTUFF this day! Witchipoo, Orson and the Vroom Broom. Whether or not Sid and Marty Kroffts strange kiddie show was a code for drug use -HR meaning Hand-Rolled Puffing Stuff, is a matter for scholastic conjecture.

1969- Depatie-Freleng's the Pink Panther TV Show premiered.

1971-Happy Birthday Huggies! Scientists at Proctor & Gamble invent the disposable diaper.

1972 - John Lennon & Yoko Ono appear on Jerry Lewis' Muscular Dystrophy Telethon

1997- The great Funeral of Princess Diana of Wales brought England to a halt and was televised around the world. There was a last minute fuss over the fact that Buckingham Palace refused to lower the Royal Standard to half-mast, customary for a death in the Royal Family, because technically Diana was divorced and no longer part of that family. The tabloid press jumped on this as a way to divert public attention from the discussion that their hounding Diana was what caused the fatal car accident. As this day began the flag came down at the urging of the elderly Queen Mum.