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Today would have been the 100th Birthday of my friend Joe Grant. We became friends at Disney on Pocahontas, and remained so till his death at age 97.

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Joe Grant was the son of a Hearst Cartoonist and started working at Walt Disney in 1934. By Snow White and Fantasia he was a department head and one of the key go-to guys near Walt. He and his friend Dick Heumer wrote Dumbo, his dog Lady was the Lady of Lady & The Tramp. He left the studio in 1949 and went into business for himself.

But by 1990 he was bored in retirement, and his dying wife encouraged him to return to Disneys. Joe Grant became the anchor of the storyboard team. His ideas were visual, and had that Disney charm without being cloying or maudlin. No fart jokes around Joe! Plus, he gave us an insight to the way things were done in the old days that gave us a direct plug in to Disney's glory period, and kept us from straying away from what made Disney special to so many.

His insights were also shared with the PIXAR crew, and Joe even named the film MONSTERS,INC. Up to then it had been called the Scary Monsters Project.

Despite the depth of his knowledge of Old Hollywood, Joe quickly bored of being asked What was it like? When we hung out he much preferred talking about modern politics and history.

I was flattered when he asked me to sponsor him to the Motion Picture Academy. I laughed:" JOE! YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER?! YOU WERE PROBABLY THERE WHEN IT WAS STARTED!"
He sighed,"yeah, I never got around to it." So I looked at his application and where it said, list your screen credits, he wrote: SNOW WHITE, PINNOCHIO, FANTASIA, DUMBO, BAMBI, RELUCTANT DRAGON, VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER, LADY AND THE TRAMP, etc. etc. It was amazing.

His career lasted from Three Little Pigs(1934) to the Incredibles (2004).
Ollie Johnston joked about Joe's stamina, working into his 90s." Ya see, ya gotta understand something about Joe. Joe's a Freak!" He laughed.

Although Joe Grant died three years ago, at his desk with a pencil in his hand, we all remember him fondly. At the memorial given in his honor the theater was filled with people who considered Joe his personal friend. I was amazed at the size of the crowd. But that was the kind of guy Joe was.

Tonight a bunch of us friends will gather once more,and raise a glass to our friend Joe Grant!

Quiz: What is Finland called in Finland?

Yesterday’s question answered below: What is a raccoon called in Algonquin?
History for 5/15/2008
Birthdays: Lyman Frank Baum, Claudio Monteverdi, Richard Avedon, James Mason, Joseph Cotten, George Brett, Jasper Johns, Jean Renoir, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Sr., Trini Lopez, Charles Lamont, director of Abbott & Costello Go to Mars, C&W singer Eddy Arnold, Chaz Palmintieri, Lainie Kazan

1577- The Great Orgy of Chenonceaux. Wild party at the French Royal Palace gardens with nude ladies cavorting with cross dressing knights and all such goings on.
Historians like Barbara Tuchman speculate that queen mother Catherine de Medici threw this kind of party for her son King Henry III because the monarch showed no interest in his Queen but hung around with his male courtiers, his "mingons"-darlings. She figured by placing scores of scantily clad damsels around the palace grounds perhaps the King would see that girls are fun too and he should try some and make some heirs to the throne. If this was the reason for the party it didn't work. The king spent the evening in drag and there were no royal princes at the time of the king's death. Most gay monarchs like Frederick the Great of Prussia and Edward II of England understood that despite your personal tastes part of your job was to make an heir.

1602 - Cape Cod discovered by English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold

1702- Charles Perrault, who wrote stories under the name Mother Goose, died.

1800-At a performance at London's Old Drury Lane Theatre, a man rose from the audience and fired two pistols at King George III. They both miss and the assassin was dragged off.
The King not only insists that the show go on but even doses off during the second act.

1863- Edouard Manet first displayed his Dejeuner sur l’Herbe at the Salon des Refuses in Paris. The painting is of two modern clothed men having a picnic with two nude women by a river bank. The women aren’t mythical goddesses or muses but just naked ladies. This shocked Paris society and Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugene called it “Immodest and obscene”.It’s revolutionary simple subject matter heralded the rise of Impressionism.


1874- Mexican Bandito Turbico Vasquez hanged. His last words were “Pronto!” The wild hills north of Newhall California where he hid out are today named in his honor-Vasquez Rocks. They are the site of numerous film shoots like original Star Trek episodes.

1905- From a public auction of railroad land the town of Las Vegas Nevada founded.

1930- Miss Ellen Church became the first airline stewardess on a flight from San Francisco to Cheyenne Wyoming. Originally called SkyGirls, stewardesses had to be registered nurses in case of any health emergencies.

1940- The first Nylon stockings go on sale in the US.

1941- Yankee centerfielder Joe Dimaggio had been in a dry spell hitting lately. This day he got a safe hit and began a hitting streak that ran for 56 straight games, an unparalleled feat. He became America’s most famous baseball player since Babe Ruth. He was variously nicknamed Joltin’Joe, the Yankee Clipper but his teammates called him affectionately the Big Dago.

1942- The U.S. initiated a program of wartime gas rationing. Slogans like “Is this Trip Really Necessary?” and a system of ratings vehicles with A,B & C cards pop up in a lot of movies and cartoons of the period. C meant a war-essential worker and A cards was the lowest status. When Sir Thomas Beecham got in a New York City cab and asked to be taken to the Philharmonic the cabby told him he couldn’t take him because it was a pleasure trip. “Young man,” Sir Thomas replied:” A trip to the Philharmonic is not done for pleasure but for Penance.”

1947- Future President George Bush Sr. was initiated into the elite secret society at Yale University called Skull & Bones. It’s so named because initiates pledge to remain loyal until “I die and nothing remains but skull and bones.” His sponsor-Charles Whitehouse later became big in the CIA. So many Bonesmen men went into the CIA that they nicknamed the agency “ The Front Office.”

1948- The ISRAELI WAR OF INDEPENDENCE- The day after the State of Israel was proclaimed the Jewish State was attacked simultaneously by the armies of Iraq, Syria, TransJordan, Egypt and Lebanon. Egyptian planes bombed Tel Aviv and destroyed what Israeli airforce there was, leaving two Piper cub planes. Many Jewish fighters were Holocaust survivors and veterans of former WWII armies, who were given guns and rushed into battle almost as soon as they stepped off their boats. The UN Mandate also called for the creation of a Palestinian homeland state but that seemed to be forgotten in all the fighting. Jordan and Syria both felt the territory of Palestine should be part of their country.

1963 - Peter, Paul & Mary win their 1st Grammy for “ If I Had a Hammer”.

1970 – The Beatles' last album, "Let It Be," is released in US

1972- Alabama governor and rogue third party Presidential candidate George Wallace was shot five times by Arthur Bremer. Wallace survived but spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair in great pain. An Ultra Conservative, Wallace always thought he’d be killed by some hippy Negro liberal outraged by his extremist political views. But in the end he was shot by a lonely little loser who wanted his picture in the newspapers. Arthur Bremer had contemplated shooting President Nixon before he focused on Wallace. In all the excitement Bremer forgot to say the words he wanted to be quoted for on TV: ” Penny for your Thoughts…”. The Nixon Whitehouse in their unique way, immediately focused upon how they could turn this tragedy to their own political use. There was a scheme to plant George McGovern campaign material in Bremers apartment, but unfortunately for Tricky Dick’s people, the FBI had sealed it off.

Yesterday’s Quiz: What is a raccoon called in Algonquin?

Answer: raccoon.