THEY WERE BORN, DID STUFF AND DIED
MARCH 4-10 GETS THE ONCE OVER LITE
322 BC, March 4 — You won’t find any revisionist BCE and CE crap here, just a death notice for Aristotle who, unlike Aristides, did not win the first Kentucky Derby. He was, nonetheless, a pretty fast thinker.
1475, March 6 — He did everything but beat Columbus to North America and needs only one name to be remembered: Michelangelo was a poet and architect when not busy as one of history’s greatest painters and sculptors.
1595, March 4 — Man, this is harsh! English poet Robert Southwell was hanged on March 4. His crime? Ordination as a Catholic priest. Henry VIII died in 1547, but Queen Elizabeth I still apparently took his Church of England thing seriously.
1747, March 6 — The Marquis de Lafayette wasn’t the only European to play a role in American independence. Polish military genius Casimir Pulaski served George Washington, Father of Our Country, and is widely known as the Father of American Cavalry.
1806, March 6 — Elizabeth Barrett Browning is revered for her poetry, and made it a family affair by marrying poet and playwright Robert Browning. Born this date, her prolific work was popular during her lifetime, with the exception of a controversial dip into political waters. Frail much of her life, she died in Italy at age 55. Quote: Light tomorrow with today.
1836, March 6 — After a two-week siege, remaining defenders and noncombatant occupants of the Texian Alamo in San Antonio were slaughtered. Co-commanders William Travis and Jim Bowie, along with the legendary Davy Crockett, were among those killed. General Sam Houston would made Generalisimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna rue the day he entered Texas at the Battle of San Jacinto.
1841 March 8 — Jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, no relation to Sherlock, is born. Will be 59th Supreme Court Justice and rock a moustache.
1888, March 6 — A sad day for fans of Jo, Beth and Meg March. Little Women author Louisa May Alcott passes at 55 after suffering a stroke.
1890, March 9 — Cocktails, anyone? Vyacheslav Molotov is credited with creating the Molotov cocktail, perfecting it in resistance to German invaders in World War II. He became Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs. Born this date in 1890, he lived well into his 90s.
1897, March 5 — Soong Mei-Ling, better known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, is born. She will live, remarkably, in three centuries. Between her 1897 birth and death at age 105, she was a would-be empire builder, not only with the Chinese leader, but according to rumor with American politician Wendell Willkie. The beauty’s alleged seduction of Willkie did not lead to western power, however. Willkie lost the 1940 presidential election to the incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt and died four years later.
1898, March 5 — Ironically Zhou Enlai — future Premier of the People’s Republic of China — shared a birthday with Madam Chiang.
1900, March 4 — Gottlieb Daimler‘s name remains prominent in the auto industry, but bikers remember him for designing the first motorcycle, an ungainly 1885 creation that bears closer resemblance to a Panzer tank than modern motorcycles.
1900, March 6 — A member of the exclusive club of 300-game winners, baseball pitcher Robert “Lefty” Grove was born. He and Early Wynn ended their careers with exactly 300 wins, surpassed by only 22 hurlers in baseball history.
1904, March 7 — Not to suggest there were good Nazis, but Reinhard Heydrich was a particularly evil one. When Adolf Hitler calls you “The man with the iron heart,” well, it speaks volumes. After surviving a 1942 assassination attempt by Czech soldiers, Heydrich appropriately enough rotted to death, dying of sepsis brought on by his injuries. He was only 38, and as a key figure in Hitler’s Final Solution presumably had a lot of explaining to do en route to hell.
1908, March 5 — The marvelous Dr. Doolittle, aka Pope Julius, aka Henry Higgins, aka Rex Harrison, was born in Huyton, England. He won the Best Actor Academy Award of 1964 for My Fair Lady, which is patently absurd. As Professor Henry Higgins, he transformed Audrey Hepburn into a lady. Now, seriously. How hard could that have been?
1918, March 9 — Detective/mystery novelist Mickey Spillane would be 101 this week. He dabbled with acting and sold more than 200 million books featuring private eye Mike Hammer. Stacy Keach is the best-remembered Hammer, but others, including Spillane himself, also tackled the role.
1928, March 4 — James Earl Ray, White Supremacist and future assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born in Illinois. Despicable comes to mind.
1934, March 9 — Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who will beat astronaut Alan Shepard in the race to become the first man in space, is born. Shepard eventually flew to the Moon. Gagarin tragically perished in a jet-fighter crash at age 34. His ashes are entombed in the walls of the Kremlin. Launchpad quote: Poyekhali! (Let’s Go!)
1937, March 6 — Remember Vostok 6? If not, how about Valentina Tereshkova? In 1963, the Russian Cosmonaut became the first woman in space. Her 48 Earth orbits during the solo mission exceeded the time in space by all American astronauts combined at the time. At 26, she was 10 years younger than Gordon Cooper, the youngest member of America’s Mercury 7 program. Tereshkova never flew again and today is a member of the Russian Duma. There’s a striking parallel to Freedom 7 pilot John Glenn, who became a U.S. Senator years after his only space flight. That is, his only space flight until 1998, when he flew the Space Shuttle. At age 77. Tereshkova turns 82 this week. Just sayin … it would be a heck of a story.
1938, March 7 — Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, is born.
1940, March 4 — Champion martial artist — turned actor, turned fitness equipment huckster — Chuck Norris was born in Illinois.
1940, March 4 — Dean Torrence isn’t as tough as Chuck Norris, but he sings quite a bit better. His fame came as half of the Jan and Dean rock and roll recording juggernaut. He’s now 79.
1943, March 9 — Enigmatic World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer is born in Chicago. Best known for his bitter rivalry with Russian Boris Spassky and his eccentricity, Bobby was one of those rare people who truly was too smart for his own good. He lived in exile in Iceland and died at 64.
1944, March 7 — Thinning the Mafia herd: Louis Capone was not related to famed Chicago mobster Al Capone, but he chose the same career path and was a lieutenant in New York’s Murder Incorporated. Al, who died in prison, apparently had better lawyers than ol’ Louie. Louie was executed on this date in Sing Sing’s electric chair, along with mafia boss Louie Buchalter and hitman Emanuel ‘Mendy’ Weiss.
1945, March 8 — Mickey Dolenz, who along with Mike Nesmith is a surviving member of The Monkees, turns 74 this week.
1946, March 8 — I never skip an opportunity to mention country-rock pioneers Poco, and bassist/vocalist Randy Meisner was there on the the ground floor. After Poco, he hit it big with the Eagles. His soaring high vocals are displayed to full effect in Take it to the Limit. Randy’s 73.
1947, March 6 — Dick Fosbury, born this date, reinvented the high jump with his famed Fosbury Flop and won 1968 Olympic Gold in Mexico City.
1954, March 9 — How ugly can political impasses become? Perhaps no more so than the 1980-81 hunger strikes among Provisional IRA prisoners in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s infamous Prison Maze. None of the men, who demanded political prisoner status and were dedicated to Irish independence at any cost, gained more international attention than Bobby Sands, born this date in 1954. Sands was the first of 10 prisoners to starve himself to death in a ghastly standoff with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who refused to intervene. Sands went without food for 66 days, slipping into a coma several days before he passed. “The Troubles” continued for nearly 20 more years before the Good Friday Accords and the uneasy peace that has followed.
1957, March 4 — Until he was taken out by Seal Team 6, Osama bin Laden was the most hated and most wanted terrorist in human history. In the end, he was fish food.
1959, March 7 — Hinsdale Smith has never received his due as creator of distracted driving. He invented roll-down automobile windows and inspired a failed safety campaign: Don’t Roll When You Roll.
1959, March 9 — Kato Kaelin is born. With friends like O.J. Simpson, who needs enemies?
1980, March 5 — Harold J. Smith was the Canadian actor who played The Lone Ranger’s Native American television sidekick Tonto, alongside Clayton Moore. You probably remember him as Jay Silverheels. And you probably remember the Lone Ranger’s horse was named Silver. If you also remember Tonto’s trusty mount, Scout, advance to go. A Mohawk Indian, Silverheels was a gifted athlete and star lacrosse player. He was cast at one time or another with virtually all the top studio stars of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. His death in 1980 came four years after a major stroke. His ashes were taken to Ontario’s Six Nations Reserve.
1973, March 6 — Winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature, Pearl S. Buck created quite a ripple with The Good Earth. She’s a hero to conservationists and a thorn in the side of those who think ecological activism has gone to extremes. Buck lived long enough to see plastic drinking straws, now a prime target of eco-protectors, dominate the market.
1981, March 7 — John Gnagy peddled millions of Learn to Draw kits on television to gullible all-thumbs kids like me. I bought the kit, but never advanced beyond a barely passable profile of Woody Woodpecker. He died this date at age 73. Not to speak ill of the dead, but to me Learn to Draw stands in marketing infamy with Anyone Can Play Guitar, Anyone Can Cook and the Kama Sutra.
1982, March 5 — Drugs suck. Using them is stupid. Legalizing them is more stupid. John Belushi, the brilliant comedian, passable actor and hard-core addict, turned 33 forever on this date.
1994, March 4 — Yet another superstar of comedy, John Candy parlayed self-destructive eating habits into a 59-inch waste (pun intended) and a fatal heart attack at 43.
1996, March 9 — Yet another superstar of comedy, George Burns parlayed a self-destructive smoking habit into an early death. OK, granted, he was 100. But he should have lived to at least 102, and smoking still sucks.
2013, March 5 — Never speak ill of the dead, Mama said. But I make an exception for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, who stands among socialist greats like those zany, lovable, mass-murdering Castro Brothers. Chavez had the decency to die young, but he cruelly left Nicolas Maduro to carry on with the dismantling of a proud nation.
2017, March 10 — If you don’t know who Sir John Surtees was, you should. There may never be another racer so gifted and versatile as to win FIM World Motorcycling Championships (four in all) as well as a Formula 1 Grand Prix title on four wheels. He was a consummate sportsman, complete gentleman and unassuming hero. Sir John died two years ago at age 83.