April 23rd

It was on the date in 1791 that James Buchanan, one-time worst president ever of the U.S., was born.

Stephen A. Douglas, the short guy who debated Lincoln during the 1858 election—and won the election — was born on this date in 1813. Douglas died shortly after Lincoln’s inaugural as president in 1861.

April 23, 1564, is generally accepted as the birth date of William Shakespeare.

And 52 years later, on April 23, 1616, both Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died. One likes to think that had they been in heaven sooner, The Bible would have been better written.

Ron Howard’s Brother Hits the Double Nickel


Ron Howard is no doubt celebrating his brother’s 55th birthday today.

Ron Howard’s brother has more than 200 film and television credits including roles in many of his brother’s films — Cocoon, Apollo 13, Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon come to mind. Many will remember Ron Howard’s brother also as the 8-year-old kid in the TV series Gentle Ben. Howard’s younger sibling was also the voice of Roo in the Disney Winnie the Pooh films, and more recently the voice of the balloon man in Curious George.

April 19th Already Is a Holiday

… in Massachusetts. (Well, I guess it’s the third Monday now, but whatever.) Happy Patriot’s Day.

Today we celebrate the birthday

… of TV’s Wyatt Earp. Hugh O’Brian is 89.

… of Elinor Donahue. Donahue has nearly 100 credits listed at IMDB, but foremost she was the oldest daughter on famed 1950s sitcom “Father Knows Best.” Betty “Princess” Anderson is 77.

… of Ashley Judd, 46.

… of Oscar-nominee (2001) Kate Hudson. She’s more than almost famous at 35.


… of Troy Polamalu. He of the amazing locks is 33.

… of Oscar-nominee (2005) Catalina Sardino Moreno. She’s full of grace at 33.

… of Maria Sharapova, 27.

(I know Kate, Catalina and Maria and I post a photo of Troy. Weird.)

Ole Evinrude was born on this date in 1877. Guess what he invented.

Eliot Ness was born on this date in 1903.

Ever since Eliot Ness first published The Untouchables in 1957, the public has fallen in love with the adventures of this authentic American hero. His book was a runaway best seller because it was the exciting true story of a brave and honest lawman pitted against the country’s most successful gangster, Al Capone. The television series that followed in the 1950′s and the Kevin Costner movie in 1987 built fancifully on the same theme.

The Crime Library

Vera Jayne Palmer was born on this date in 1933. We know her as Jayne Mansfield.

Grace Kelly became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace on this date in 1956.

By 1956, Grace Kelly was calling it quits after a movie-acting career of only five years—but what a career it was. Her 11 films included the 1952 classic High Noon, the 1956 musical High Society, and the Alfred Hitchcock-directed masterpieces Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief. She had won an Oscar for her role in 1954′s The Country Girl—and all this before her twenty-seventh birthday.

American Heritage

April 15th Ought to Be a National Holiday

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith was born on this date in 1894.

Bessie Smith earned the title of “Empress of the Blues” by virtue of her forceful vocal delivery and command of the genre. Her singing displayed a soulfully phrased, boldly delivered and nearly definitive grasp of the blues. In addition, she was an all-around entertainer who danced, acted and performed comedy routines with her touring company. She was the highest-paid black performer of her day and arguably reached a level of success greater than that of any African-American entertainer before her. – See more at: http://www.rockhall.com/inductees/bessie-smith/bio/#sthash.jw6UNMwz.dpuf

. . .

Some of her better-known sides from the Twenties include “Backwater Blues,” “Taint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do,” “St. Louis Blues” (recorded with Louis Armstrong), and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” The Depression dealt her career a blow, but Smith changed with the times by adapting a more up-to-date look and revised repertoire that incorporated Tin Pan Alley tunes like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” On the verge of the Swing Era, Smith died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident outside Clarksdale, Mississippi, in September 1937. She left behind a rich, influential legacy of 160 recordings cut between 1923 and 1933. Some of the great vocal divas who owe a debt to Smith include Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. In Joplin’s own words of tribute, “She showed me the air and taught me how to fill it.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

And this from a review of The Essential Bessie Smith.

Bessie could sing it all, from the lowdown moan of “St. Louis Blues” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” to her torch treatment of the jazz standard “After You’ve Gone” to the downright salaciousness of “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.” Covering a time span from her first recordings in 1923 to her final session in 1933, this is the perfect entry-level set to go with. Utilizing the latest in remastering technology, these recordings have never sounded quite this clear and full, and the selection — collecting her best-known sides and collaborations with jazz giants like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Goodman — is first-rate. If you’ve never experienced the genius of Bessie Smith, pick this one up and prepare yourself to be devastated.


There are no lyrics today that surpass “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” for sexual imagery.

And, there is no more important recording in American musical history than Smith and Armstrong’s “St. Louis Blues.”

In listening to the earliest recordings, keep in mind there were no microphones until 1925. The artists sang or played and the sound was recorded acoustically, i.e., without electrical amplification.

And Thomas Hart Benton was born on this date in 1889.

Trail Riders

Named after his great-uncle, Missouri’s first senator, Thomas Hart Benton was born on 15 April 1889 in Neosho, Missouri, an Ozark town of 2,000 people. … In 1935 they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Benton directed the Art Institute until 1941, and where he contiued to live for the rest of his life. Albert Barnes, the Philadelphia collector, purchased some of his paintings, which raised the level of public success for the artist. Benton published his autobiography, An Artist in America, in 1937. He completed several murals in the midwest and on the east coast. Shortly before Harry Truman’s death in December 1972, Benton finished a portrait of the former President. Thomas Hart Benton died on 19 January 1975 in Kansas City, the day he completed a large mural for the Country Music Foundation of Nashville.

National Gallery of Art

Emma the Actress Day

April 15th is the birthday of Emma Thompson and of Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson. The actresses are 55 and 24.

Emma Thompson has been nominated four times for an acting Oscar, winning best actress in a leading role for Howards End. She also won the screen adaptation Oscar for Sense and Sensibility. She’s delightful as Nanny McPhee. And I thought she was superb in Saving Mr. Banks.

Emma Watson is known primarily for just one character so far in her acting career, that of Hermione Granger.

April 14th

Today is Ruination Day, but still we celebrate the birthday

… of Loretta Lynn. The coal miner’s daughter was born in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, 82 years ago today (1932).

Loretta Webb was born in a one-room log cabin and was the second of eight children. At thirteen she attended a pie social, bringing a pie she had baked using salt instead of sugar. The highest bidder not only won the pie but also got to meet the girl who had baked the pie. Mooney Lynn had just returned home after having served in the army. A month after they had first met, still three months short of her fourteenth birthday, Loretta and Mooney married.

Country Music Hall of Fame

… of four-time Oscar nominee for best actress Julie Christie. She’s 73. Miss Christie won the Oscar for Darling but be sure to see the film Away from Her from 2007.

… of Pete Rose. You can bet that Pete is 73 today.

… of Brad Garrett, 54. Garrett is 6-8½.

… of Greg Maddux, 48. Maddux will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.

… of Adrien Brody. The Oscar winner (best actor for The Pianist) is 41.

… of Sarah Michelle Gellar. Buffy is 37.

… of Abigail Breslin. The Oscar-nominated actress was born 18 years ago today (1996).

Three time Oscar-nominated actor Rod Steiger was born on this date in 1925. Steiger won for Best Actor for his portrayal of the sheriff in the movie In the Heat of the Night. He was nominated for best actor for The Pawnbroker and for best supporting actor for On the Waterfront. The Pawnbroker (1964) was one of the first films to deal with the emotional aftermath of the Nazi concentration camps. Steiger died in 2002.

Helen Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan Macy was born on April 14 in 1866.

James Cash Penney opened his first retail store, called the Golden Rule Store, in the mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, on this date in 1902. In 1913, the chain incorporated as J.C. Penney Company, Inc.

The first store, as seen in 1904.

The first store, as seen in 1904.

Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language on April 14, 1828.