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January 12th

On this day in 1995 Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X was arrested for conspiring to kill Louis Farrakhan.

Qubilah with Malcolm

This is in fact a really shitty little story of a woman being hounded, nasty little FBI informants and, being left with a feeling that it all seemed to be about getting one over on Malcolm’s daughter rather than any real awful murder about to be committed.

Why do I think that? Qubilah had seen her father murdered when she was just four years old. From that moment onwards her mother, Betty Shabazz believed that Louis Farrakhan had been involved in the murder of Malcolm. Farrakhan has denied being actively involved, but at times has said that maybe the things he said led to it happening. Then again in a speech he gave in 1993 he said:

Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours? A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats.

To be honest, if a man who I had reason to dislike, fear and possibly

Qubilah escorted into court (May 1995) by her lawyer

hate, said that about my father’s murder, I’d be strongly inclined to believe that he had been part of the conspiracy to murder him. Qubilah did hate Farrakhan and worse, she was worried about her mother’s safety. Betty was vocal and without fear in her belief that Farrakhan had planned her husband’s murder. Her daughter feared, rightly or wrongly, that Farrakhan might also plan the murder of her mother.

Forward to 1994. An old school friend of hers, Michael Fitzpatrick, claimed that she called him and asked him to murder Farrakahn. She definitely did call him and there was talk of how dangerous Farrakhan was and that she wanted him dead. Unfortunately for Qubilah, what she didn’t know was that Fitzpatrick was an FBI informant. They spoke throughout May and June of that year. He asked her to marry him and actively encouraged her to talk about her hatred of Farrakhan and her desire to see him murdered.

However, luckily for Qubilah, Fitzpatrick also started recording his phone conversations with her, probably at the request of the FBI. After her arrest she was indicted on the charges of using telephones and crossing state lines in a plot to kill Farrakhan. A couple of surprises came up at this point. One was that the recordings made by Fitzpatrick to prove her guilt, made him look like he was entrapping her. She came across as unsure, nervous, tentative and an unwilling conspirator. The other was that Farrakhan himself spoke in her defence, saying he did not believe her capable of murder, that she was a good girl who had been led astray. Certainly, Qubilah was, by then, suffering from alcohol and drug problems. Her life had not been easy, she was almost certainly paranoid and Fitzpatrick and the FBI had used this to push her into breaking the law.

This is the bit I find so despicable. Hadn’t the woman suffered enough? I mean really, did the FBI think that she was some sort of national danger? Anyway! It was clear that it would be hugely difficult to find her guilty of the original charges (which could have seen her do up to 90 years in jail) and so a plea bargain saw her maintain her innocence, but she took responsibility for her actions. She was then required to undergo psychological counselling and drug and alcohol abuse treatment for two years in order to avoid prison.

As far as I know, the FBI weren’t told to sort themselves the fuck out and nothing happened to Fitzpatrick, even though a good kick up the arse was the very least he deserved for being such a nasty little shitehawk.

Unfortunately, there was more sadness in the Shabazz family in the years following this, but let’s end on something that at least approaches a happy ending. I am in no mood to bring myself and all of you down any further than I already have.

Today is the birthday of French actor and serial dater of hot women, Olivier Martinez.

His name won’t mean much to you if you never read the gossip pages, because while he is an actor, he’s not really that famous as an actor. He is however famous for being good looking and dating, cheating on, breaking up with and then dating, a number of hot famous women. It has been said of him that given the number of women he has probably had pre-marital ghastliness with, his wank bank is probably as big as Fort Knox.

His Milkshake brings all the girls to his yard

He first came to notice as the boyfriend of Mira Sorvino and has since been attached to a lot of famous women, including Kylie Minogue, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and is now, allegedly, engaged to Halle Berry. He’s definitely been her boyfriend for a while and he’d probably be mad to not want to marry her. Well, for all I know she could be as mad as a box of frogs, but she is stunningly beautiful.

Anyway,he’s 46 today, still hot, still making laydeez go weak at the knees and occasionally being in a film that no one ever gets to hear about. I’m not going to wish him a happy birthday. I’m not being churlish, but frankly the man has everything. He needs nada from me!

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January 8th

On this day in 1941 William Randolph Hearst took very much agin Orson Welles and refused to allow any adverts for Citizen Kane in any of his publications.

William Randolph "I'm bog-eyed" Hearst.

Hearst was 70 at the time and probably the most powerful publishing magnate in the US. A bit like Rupert Murdoch, but probably a bit less friendly. Most people are aware that Hearst was not happy about CK and most people know that it’s because the character of Kane was based on Hearst himself. According to those how knew him, the thing about the film that enraged him the most was the depiction of his screen second wife as a drunk and a talentless singer. Welles himself admitted that this part of the storyline was a “dirty trick”. However, other insiders claim that while he was pissed off by the depiction of the second wife – who was a close model of his long term mistress Marion Davies – the thing that enraged him most was Kane’s sledge, the name of which led to his last word on his deathbed: “Rosebud”.

It seems a particularly innocuous word, but if rumours are true, then

Rosebud or "is that a clitoris I see before me?!

rosebud was Hearst’s pet name for Marion Davies’s clitoris. Oh and yes, Marion Davies was an alcoholic, mostly because the life she ended up living with Hearst was so difficult. She was a talented comedienne, but less talented when it came to dramatic roles. Hearst, like Kane, insisted that she be given dramatic roles that were beyond her skill, hence she looked like an idiot and drank more and …art really was reflecting life. Welles was right, this was a dirty trick, more so to Davies than Hearst who was old enough and ugly enough to take that and a whole lot more.

However, the enmity went further than banning adverts. Hearst newspapers printed articles about Welles claiming he was a communist and unpatriotic, dangerous and sick. He also threatened Hollywood studios and made a lot of noises about Hollywood being full of immigrants and refugees. In other words,  Mr Hearst, as well as being a great big crybaby, was also more than a bit anti-Semitic.  Luckily for Hearst, Welles was not very popular in Hollywood, mostly because he was young (only 24 at the time) and didn’t play the game. Louis B. Mayer offered to pay RKO $842,000 to destroy the negatives of the film. The then studio owner, George Schaefer, refused and then threatened to sue Fox, Paramount and Loewes theatre chains when they said they would refuse to show the film. All in all, things were not pretty.

They got less pretty at the Oscar ceremony the following year. CK was nominated for nine Oscars but only got one (screenplay, which went to Welles and Mankiewicz). Some might say that was fair enough, but was it fair to boo Welles and his film at the ceremony? Because that’s what happened.

A man never knowingly more than a couple of feet from a pie

Immediately after this, George Schaefer was pushed out of RKO and so was Welles. Citizen Kane was then put in the RKO archives and forgotten for about 15 years. It was seen as a piece of shit that no one should bother themselves with. Of course, now the film is seen as one of the best movies ever made. To a lot of people it’s still pretty dull, but for any cineastes, there is so much in it that is new and has gone on to influence decades of film makers, that it’s not even a case of “liking” it. It just is a truly great film.

And finally, we know that Welles went on to live his life like a show business Benjamin Button, having all his success as a young man and ending his life in adverts for sherry. Not that that is exactly what Benjamin Button did, but, blah. It’s the whole backward life type thing. Just about all of Welles later problems can be seen to be the work of Hearst. Not that Welles was without faults, he was a bit of an arrogant twat when he felt like it, but his talent, or our chance to enjoy it, was nipped in the bud by William Randolph Hearst. Rupert Murdoch probably learned everything he knows from him.

 

Today is the birthday of …65 today, 65 today, he’s got the key to the … well to his OAP bus pass. He’ll probably be seen at the Post Office a lot, queuing up for his pension and shaking a stick at young people who get in his way and threatening them with his scary false teeth.

Yes, the sublime David Bowie is 65 today, which seems truly mental and

Oh no love, you're not alone

makes me feel old myself. Of course given that I’m only 25 or something, it should have no such effect on me, but I guess I feel the Bowie running in my veins.

What plaudits can I pay him that haven’t already been paid? The man is a genius. He went through a well dodgy stage in the late seventies, when too much coke made him think that giving a Hitler salute was a good idea, which should have been what the government used in anti-drug adverts rather than those ones where attractive skinny people who looked like models with a cold were supposed to put us off heroin. D’oh! Thousands of girls were all like “Fuck me, all I have to do is snort smack off of some tinfoil and I too will look like Kate Moss!” A photo of Bowie doing the Nazi Salute with the caption “Drugs make you think it’s cool to be a Nazi twat” would have been much more powerful. Except of course to people who thought it was cool to be a Nazi, but frankly the thought of them all dying of smack AIDS really doesn’t bother me at all.

Meanwhile! Back in David Bowie land. I have heard nice stories about him from people who sort of knew him. I also like his songs a lot, although less so in the late 80s, but I figure if Mozart had lived to a proper age he might have put out a shit symphony or two, so I don’t really hold that against the lovely Mr B. I spent last night trying to think of a favourite and there really isn’t just one. Depending on my mood, it can be several, but there is something about Rock and Roll Suicide that makes me tingle, so right now, at this moment in time, that’s what I’d like to thank Mr B for as I wish him a very happy birthday.

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April 26th

On this day in 1977 Studio 54 opened its doors to (some of) the public for the first time and for the next three years was the place to be seen in New York City, although it was probably for the best if you were not seen by the police if you were  snarfing cocaine and having a bit of sex in the balconies.

Yes, you can see that man's winky

The building where the nightclub was located is at 254 West 54th Street, which is partly where it got its name. But prior to becoming a big old discotheque, the building had been a theatre – Puccini’s La Boheme played there in 1977 – and then one of CBS’s radio and then TV studios. Under CBS it was called Studio 52 – because it was CBS’s 52nd studio – so when Rubell and Schrager and their other partners bought the building, they decided to use the “studio” and add 54 for its location.

Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager had previously owned a disco out in Queens called the Enchanted Garden, which is nicely ironic when one thinks of how snooty they were about the bridge and tunnel crowd at Studio 54. The bridge and tunnel crowd were and are the New Yorkers from the outer boroughs who travel into Manhattan. Manhattanites can be awfully snobby, but frankly Manhattan is so lush, that one can pretty much understand why. Anyway! The Queens disco had been quite successful and a PR woman by the name of Carmen D’Alessio had even had a couple of parties out there. She liked Steve and Ian’s style so she suggested that they buy the building and open the best club in the world ever. They agreed and that, laydeez and gennelmens, is how the club got to be. How it got to be the success it was, is mostly down to Carmen D’Alessio  who was a shit-hot PR woman and event planner. She got Bianca Jagger to ride a white horse into the club on her 30th birthday and she arranged the opening night guest list, and oh my, what a list it was. Mick and Bianca Jagger, Janice Dickenson (when she was a smokin’ hot model and not the overly-plasticised mentalist she is today), Mikhail Baryshnikov, Debbie Harry, Liza Minnelli, Martha Graham, Jerry Hall, Brooke Shields, Salvador Dali and newlyweds Donald and Ivana Trump among many, many others. Rumour has it that Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Henry Winkler and Frank Sinatra were turned away at the door because the doorman thought they weren’t hot enough for the club. Chances are that’s some sort of urban rumour started by  Carmen D’A who knew that the public would eat up the idea of a club so exclusive that some of the biggest stars in the world weren’t good enough to get in. The door charge to get in was $8 and the club held 700 patrons so that amounted to $5,600 a night in cover charges, plus all the booze and shit. Rubell boasted that they made $7 million in their first year.

The club started big and continued big. It also lived most of its short life surrounded by scandals great and small. Within a month of

A montage of wasted slebs and the great unwashed

opening it had been closed down due to its lack of a proper liquor license. They re-opened immediately selling  juice and soda pop until their license came through. After Rubell’s boast of how much money they’d made in a year the club was raided and he and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million. There was a second raid in 1979 and the pair got arch-bastard and evil fuck Roy Cohn to defend them. On January 18, 1980 they were sentenced to three and a half years for tax evasion and later that year the club was sold. Rubell and Schrager went on to open more clubs and go into hotels as well. Schrager is still doing just that and is a very successful multi-millionaire. Rubell contracted AIDS and died in 1989.

The club only had three years of being at the apex of decadence, but its fame has lived on. In many ways it’s hard to know why. It wasn’t musically innovative; it played disco which was the thing at the time, but it didn’t introduce any new music or new acts. It wasn’t anything special, but the buzz around it was so wild that it was the place everyone wanted to get into and very few did. It was, I guess, the Woodstock of Disco, but with better clothes and coke rather than dope. These days the club is a theatre and most of its patrons are either dead or really boring. Or both. Thus is the merry-go-round of life. We all get a chance to sparkle for a few brief moments and whether we do or we don’t, there’s always a cardigan and slippers waiting in the wings.

Today was the birthday of Douglas Sirk.

His name may mean nothing to you, but if it does, you know that he was the director of such lush and beautifully shot films as All that Heaven Allows, Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life, among others. If these mean nothing to you, you may have seen Todd

A still from All That Heaven Allows. Totally stylish and totally OTT

Haynes’ Far From Heaven, which is a total homage to Sirk.  Or maybe you’ve fallen in love with Pedro Almodovar, who cites Sirk as one of his influences and my, can you see it.

Sirk’s films were commercially very popular in the 1950s, but the critics had no time for him, mostly because the films were very woman-centred and about heightened feelings and passion and that sort of thing. But there was far more to them than those short-sighted twats could see at the time. In the 70s a reappraisal of Sirk began and finally – and thankfully before  his death – his talent was finally appreciated by critics as well as the public.

I’m not going to add much more. Sirk was a magical film-maker and the best way to get your head around that is to watch some of his films and let the lushness wash over you like a Technicolor ocean of baroque passion. Do it. You’ll love it.

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April 6th

On this day in 1896 King George I of Greece opened the first modern Summer Olympic Games in Athens after no one having bothered with them for a couple of thousand years or thereabouts.

 

Form an orderly queue, laydeez

The bloke who was the guiding force behind it was Baron de Coubertin who most of you will have heard of. His original plan was to have the first games in Paris in 1900 to coincide with the World’s Fair, but as they were starting all the planning and stuff in 1894 him and his mates reckoned that everyone might get bored with the idea if they had to wait six years, so someone came up with the idea of having the first one in Athens in 1896. They were all a bit iffy about the date, what with it not being auspicious or anything, but everyone agreed that Athens was a top place to have it what with the original Olympics being Greek and that. So they got in touch with the king who said “Yeah, that sounds like a plan, we’ll build some stuff and you make sure we get people to come and see everything.”

 

It was really that simple.

Nowadays the Olympics go on for about three months, but back then they didn’t have so many events so it was only on for nine days and over that period there were nine series of events. Unfortunately for posterity, there were no stupid events, just the sort of stuff we have today but done by mustachioed men in baggy sports clothes and leotards. They had:

  • Athletics, which included the discus, 100 and 400m, the marathon and the shot put. Starting off as they meant to go on, team America won most of these apart from the marathon which was won by  Greek chap
  • Cycling, both on the road and in a specially built  velodrome. These were won by  variety of nationalities
  • Fencing, which was done at another nice new stadium. There was no épée event as these swords got lost, but a nice French chap won the foil event (n.b. this is a type of sword and not the tinfoil you wrap meat in when you want to roast it), and the sabre and master foil events were won by two amiable Greek gentlemen
  • Gymnastics, these were extremely dull, performed mostly by very unlikely looking gymnasts and mostly won by the Germans who sent an eleven-man team. In fact in the horizontal bars event they were the only team who entered. There was also a rope climbing event in this discipline which is at least a little bit silly
  • Shooting, which was done with rifles and pistols. Despite trying very hard, nobody managed to kill a fellow competitor and some medals were won
  • Swimming was all done in the sea with one special event for Greek sailors. They would have happened in a pool, but the organisers were too cheap to build one. Nobody drowned
  • Tennis, although both the singles and doubles were won by a chap representing the UK, he was in fact a proper Irishman

    The man with the comb over did not score well in the sexing the pummel horse event

    named John Mary Pius Boland. Yes, that’s right “John Mary”. What was  his (obviously very seriously Catholic) mother thinking

  • Weightlifting. Some of the competitors wore only pants and looked utterly minging as they grunted and groaned and lifted heavy shit. No change there then
  • Wrestling was all done in the old homo-erotic Graeco-Roman style

In later Olympics there were some great events, like architecture, tug-of-war, club swinging, live pigeon shooting and duelling with pistols. Unfortunately the contestants had to shoot at a dressed up dummy and not a real life person. Oh and a really great one. The horse long jump, which an event solely for horses.

And that, laydeez and gennelmens, is what happened on this day in 1896. Not all of it. Mostly what happened then was an opening ceremony with a bit of dancing and then home for tea, but, the rest all started happening that day. Sort of.

 

Today was the birthday of the British painter John William Waterhouse, who was a sort of pre-Raphaelite, but not really one at all.

He was born in Rome in the Papal States. I’m guessing they mean the Vatican City. His mum and dad were both artists, so J.W. took the path of least resistance, noticed  he had some talent himself and put brush to canvas and voila!

 

Please tell us which of us has the nicest tits!

He’s not my cup of tea on the whole, but he did paint some pretty pictures and he was very popular in his day. He still is with quite a few people and apparently Andrew Lloyd-Weber has some of his paintings in his collection. Then again, it used to be thought that ALW  had a big cock, but apparently this is just another lie. His most famous paintings are his various Ophelias (also a loved by the Pre-Raphaelites. Seems Victorian artists loved to paint suicidal blondes who were all pathetic and stuff), The Lady of Shalott (in a row-boat) and Hylas and the Nymphs.

 

Anyway, he painted, he exhibited, his stuff got bought and he died at a reasonable age after doing the whole getting married thing and not being debauched. In many ways one could say he was boring, but that would be a very reactionary bourgeois thing to say. The artist who doesn’t die in a pool of his own vomit, with a syphilitic penis and a drug habit to rival Keith Richards’, is not boring, merely differently interesting.

Also, J.W. is the ancestor of a friend of mine, so happy birthday, dead Waterhouse, your great-great nephew (I think) is a credit to you. Probably

 

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March 31st

On this day in 1930 the Motion Picture Production code was instituted. It was more commonly known as the Hays Code after Will H. Hays, the prick who thought it all  up. The code set down rules about what could and could not be shown on screen. I could be fair to him and say it wasn’t all down to him – because it really wasn’t – but he was a weasle-faced little shitehawk who became very rich from his 30-year foray into film censorship.

 

The Broadway Melody (1929). This was not acceptable after the implementation of the Code

I guess you’d like a bit of background, so here goes. Hollywood was generally thought of as a den of vice and by and large this perception wasn’t far off the mark, but as the film industry got bigger and the scandals multiplied, the rest of America became quite vocal about how disgusted they were and something had to be done. There were quite a number of scandals. Some of you will have read about Roscoe Arbuckle or learned of him in an earlier post. His “scandal” was seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it wasn’t the only one and was far from the worst. There were the drug scandals: Olive Thomas was a star of silent movies who was a noted coke-fiend and who died in Paris after a night of booze and gak. What actually killed her was drinking mercury bichloride. Her husband (Jack Pickford, younger brother of Mary) was using it for his syphilis and she mistook it for a sleeping draught and died. This shocked the good folk of middle America as did the fact that Clara Bow put it about, Charlie Chaplin kept getting off with very young girls and the murder of director and actor William Desmond Taylor. Possibly worse than the murder was the fact that in the aftermath, one of the suspects, a 19-year old actress called Mary Miles Minter was discovered to  have been his lover.  The scandal killed her career.

 

There were other scandals that the public didn’t know about (the probable murder of businessman Thomas Ince by William Randolph

A rudy nudy of gakhead Olive Thomas.

Hearst for one and boys doing boys and girls doing girls and everyone snorting or injecting anything they could get their hands on), but what they knew was enough to make them think that those dirty boys and girls should clean up their collective act. Now of course, this had nothing to do with what was on the screen, but it made people hypersensitive to any notion of rudery. Contrary to popular belief there was a bit of filth and hows-your-father in movies prior to the late 60s, but throughout the twenties there were efforts to get rid of it and the 1930 Code which stayed a bit lax for four years but hit home like a big old puritanical hammer in 1934 was the death knell for things that hinted at s-e-x. The rules were too many to go into here, but basically words like “prostitute” were verboten, hinting at homosexuality was out, nudity, well what on earth do  you think? Sex was bad and if anyone had it outside of marriage they were not allowed to be happy. Ever. All bad deeds were to be seen to be punished and there was to be no miscegenation (ugly word, but kissing or love between people of different colours or races).

 

Now, in some ways the code meant that film makers had to be really clever at putting in content that could be ever so slightly risqué but still get past the Code. With each decade that passed they seemed to be able to get away with more, but they often had to pay for it. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was only allowed after the studio paid a fine for being all sweary (this blog would cost me a fucking fortune. Oops, there’s another one) and some careers were pretty much ended by the Code. Hello Mae West.

The sixties saw the Code becoming more difficult to enforce and more at odds with societal mores.  Finally it was dropped completely – in favour of the age rating system – in 1968. Now people were free to fuck or say fuck to their hearts contents. This was mostly a good thing, although those of us who’ve had to sit through Porkies would probably have been happy for the Code to stay in place for just a decade or so more.

 

Today is the birthday of wonderfully strange-faced actor, Christopher Walken.

For many years I feared Walken because of his face and the way he played Russian roulette in The Deer Hunter. However, then I saw the SNL skit with Blue Oyster Cult and the cowbell and the Fat Boy Slim video and I realised that he is not scary at all. He is great.

 

A rare not-so-scary photo of The Walken

Christopher was born Ronald Walken but changed his name in 1964 because Ronnie’s a bit of a duff name (Unless you’re Ronnie O’Sullivan and I have the lust for you).  He started out as a dancer but got into acting proper and not prancing around in the mid-60s. He came to real prominence with the aforementioned Deer Hunter and won an Oscar for that role. Since then he’s been putting that face on the screen and making some people afeard regularly and extremely well.

 

Mostly I just love him. He’s so still and contained, his voice is instantly recognisable and full of a certain je ne sais quoi. In short Walken is bloody wonderful and as such should have a birthday all full of joy, cake and dancing. And some booze and whores if he likes that sort of thing.

Happy birthday scary face! I’m not scared of you these days, but sometimes I like to pretend that I am!

 

 

Twinkle Toes!



 

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