IF: olympics

the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports

At the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Nazi-controlled Berlin, Germany, Jesse Owens single-handedly crushed Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy. Jesse, an African-American son of sharecroppers, won four gold medals in track and field in Berlin before an astonished crowd. Despite his achievements and the accolades he received, he was not offered an invitation to the White House upon his return to the United States.

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DCS: lorraine hansberry

first

When A Raisin in the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in 1959, it was the first Broadway show written by an African-American playwright. Lorraine Hansberry, at 29, was also the youngest to win a New York Critics’ Circle award.

Lorraine grew up in Chicago’s South Side, where her father, a successful real estate broker, regularly incurred the wrath of his white neighbors. Lorraine, however, benefited from the wealth of intellect brought into the home by family friends Paul Robeson and W.E.B DuBois. When she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin’s writing program, she became politically active and her writing took the same course.

At 23, Lorraine married producer-songwriter Robert Nemiroff and the couple moved to New York City. Nemiroff wrote “Cindy, Oh Cindy,” which was a hit in 1956 by Vince Martin and the Tarriers, and later covered by Eddie Fisher. This sudden income for the couple allowed Lorraine to write full-time.

Based on discovered writings, it is believed that Lorraine was a closeted lesbian. She contributed pieces to The Ladder, the magazine of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States. Lorraine was a vocal activist for gay rights and often wrote about feminism and homophobia.

In 1957, Lorraine completed her most famous work, A Raisin in the Sun. It was produced on Broadway two years later and featured a nearly exclusive African-American cast, including Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Ivan Dixon and Glynn Turman, with John Fiedler being the sole white cast member. Based on the play’s success, NBC tapped Lorraine to write a program about slavery. She presented the network with a script called The Drinking Gourd. Although NBC executives were pleased by the piece, the show was never produced.

Lorraine was selected to direct the 1961 interracial musical Kicks and Co., but after a lukewarm reception in previews, the production never made it to Broadway as intended.

A heavy smoker for most of her life, Lorraine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1963. She underwent two unsuccessful operations. Her show, the controversial (for its time) The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, which was currently running on Broadway, closed the night of her death. Lorraine was 34.

After her death, Robert Nemiroff adapted a number of Lorraine’s unpublished works into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which became the longest-running Off-Broadway play of the 1968–69 season.

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IF: mythology

I love me and you love me

In Greek mythology, Liriope, a nymph, was raped by Cephissus, the river god. A mystical seer told Liriope that their son, Narcissus, would live a long life, as long as he never recognized his own beauty.

Narcissus discovered his reflection in the waters of a spring and stared at himself for eternity.

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DCS: recy taylor

strong, invincible

Recy Taylor died on December 28, 2017 at the age of 97.

In September 1944, Recy Taylor, a newly married 25-year old sharecropper was walking home from church with her friend Fannie Daniel and Daniel’s teenage son. The trio was accosted by a car with Hugo Wilson behind the wheel. One of the passengers, US Army Private Herbert Lovett, drew a gun and began yelling false, hate-filled and racist accusations at Recy. He forced her into the car and then sped away. Lovett guided the vehicle to a secluded, wooded area where he focred Recy to undress. One by one, Lovett, Wilson and four of the other men brutally raped Recy as she pleaded for mercy. The sixth man, Billy Howerton, recognized Recy and did not participate in the attack.

Fannie Daniel reported Recy’s abduction to the police. Wilson was questioned and fined $250, but no one else was called for interrogation, despite the word of three eyewitness. The black community of Abbeville, Alabama was outraged. The NAACP of Montgomery sent an investigator, Rosa Parks, to Abbeville. Parks’ investigations led her to form a defense team with support from national labor unions, African-American organizations, and women’s groups.

The trial took place in the first week of October 1944, with an all-white, all-male jury. However, none of the assailants had been arrested  and the Abbeville sheriff never arranged a police line-up. The only witnesses were Recy’s family and friends. The case was dismissed within five minutes. A grand jury indictment was needed to reopen the case.

In the meantime, Recy received death threats and her home was firebombed. The angry black community petitioned Alabama Governor Chauncey Sparks to launch an investigation. It came to light that the Abbeville sheriff made false statements regarding arrests. Interviews with the assailants yielded wild stories of consensual sex and that Recy was a known prostitute. Even after rapist Joe Culpepper admitted that he and his cohorts were “looking for a woman to attack,” a county jury still failed to present an indictment.

Recy and her family lived in fear for two decades in Abbeville, before moving to Florida. After a divorce and the accidental death of her daughter, failing health brought Recy back to Abbeville.

In 2011, the Alabama House of Representatives apologized to Recy Taylor on behalf of the state for its failure to prosecute her attackers. The apology was delivered by Abbeville Mayor Ryan Blalock as Recy visited Rock Hill Holiness Church, the house of worship from which she was kidnapped in 1944.

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DCS: jean porter

second banana

Jean Porter was one of those actresses that appeared in over three dozen films but you never knew her name. The button-cute, petite blonde was fourteen when she made her motion picture debut in an uncredited role in Song and Dance Man with Claire Trevor. She went on to land bit parts in numerous films throughout the 30s and 40s, including One Million B.C. as Carole Landis‘ sister and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She signed with MGM and appeared alongside the studio’s top stars like Mickey Rooney, Esther Williams and Abbott & Costello. Several of her film roles showcased Jean’s singing talents, as well as her dancing ability. On television, Jean made guest appearances on Sea Hunt, 77 Sunset Strip and The Abbott & Costello Show.

On the set of the 1946 World War II drama Till The End of Time, she met director Edward Dmytryk, whom she would marry two years later. Dmytryk was named part of the “Hollywood Ten,” a group of writers and directors accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee of Communist activity and sympathy. Jean and Dmytryk, along with their children, moved to England to escape persecution. They eventually returned to the U. S. and, after serving minimal jail time, Dmytryk directed Left Hand of God, Jean’s final theatrical film.

Jean retired from show business in 1961, keeping busy with her family. She published a biography of Jess Stacy, a pianist in Benny Goodman’s band. Stacy was also a neighbor of Jean’s. Jean regularly made appearances at autograph shows and contributed to “Classic Images Magazine,” catering to film fans and their love of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Jean passed away in January 2018 at the age of 95.

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DCS: france gall

Poupée de cire, poupée de son

France Gall won the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest with “Poupée de cire, poupée de son,” penned by French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.  It was the first non-ballad song to win the competition. The song, a sort of double meaning of the phrase “rag doll,” implied a Svengali-like power Gainsbourg possessed over his young protege, as well as the traditional implications of a child’s toy. The song’s popularity led France Gall to record versions in German, Italian and Japanese for international distribution.

In 1966, France recorded another song written by Gainsbourg called “Les Sucettes.” The song was wildly popular, due, mostly, to its risqué lyrics. “Les Sucettes,” on the surface, seemed to be a song about a young girl’s love of lollipops, but the lyrics are rampant with double entendres alluding to oral sex. France, a naïve 18-year old, did not understand the double meaning of the song when she recorded it. She was mortified when she finally learned the truth about the song’s double meaning. She shunned the press and stayed in hiding for weeks. Feeling betrayed by the adults that ran her career, she severed all ties with Gainsbourg and refused to perform any of his songs for the rest of her career, despite requests and their popularity.

Her song “Laisse tomber les filles” was rewritten with English lyrics by singer April march as “Chick Habit,” and was played over the closing credits of Quentin Tarantino’s film Grindhouse.  France’s former lover, singer Claude Francois, met with composer Jacques Revaux. He told of his failed relationship with France, inspiring Revaux to write “Comme d’habitude,” which was later rewritten with English lyrics by Paul Anka as “My Way.”

In January 2018, after a two-year battle with cancer, France died at age 70.

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IF: guitar

KERRRRRANG!!!
I remember everything!
I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday.
I was barely 17 and I once killed a boy with a fender guitar.
I don’t remember if it was a Telecaster or a Stratocaster, but I do remember
That it had a heart of chrome and a voice like a horny angel.
I don’t remember if it was a Telecaster or a Stratocaster, but I do remember
That it wasn’t at all easy.
It required the perfect combination of the right power chords
and the precise angle
From which to strike.
The guitar bled for about a week afterwards and the blood was
Ooh…
Dark and rich like wild berries.
The blood of the guitar was Chuck Berry red!
The guitar bled for about a week afterwards and it rung out beautifully,
And I was able to play notes that I had never even heard before.
So I took my guitar and I smashed it against the wall!!
I smashed it against the floor!!
I smashed it against the body of a varsity cheerleader!!
I smashed it against the hood of a car
I smashed it against a 1981 Harley Davidson…
The Harley howled in pain, the guitar howled in heat!
I ran up the stairs to my parents bedroom
Mommy and Daddy were sleeping in the moonlight
Slowly I opened the door creeping in the shadows right up to the foot of the bed
I raised my guitar high above my head and
Just as I was about to bring the guitar crashing down upon the center of the bed
My father woke up screaming:
“Stop! Wait a minute! Stop it,boy!
what do you think you’re doing???
That’s no way to treat an expensive musical instrument!”
And I said “God damn it, Daddy!!! You know I love you…..
BUT YOU GOT A HELL OF A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT ROCK AND ROLL!!!!!

Love and Death and An American Guitar by Jim Steinman

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DCS: jerry van dyke

me and my shadow

Despite a surprisingly successful career, Jerry Van Dyke spent most of it in the shadow of his older brother Dick. His talents were often compared to Dick’s successes. Granted, Jerry made some questionable career choices, but he was an in-demand, working actor for the better part of six decades.

A budding stand-up comedian in his native Danville, Illinois, Jerry made a memorable splash in a first season episode of his brother’s sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show, playing, of all things, Dick Van Dyke’s brother. He went to make three more appearances on the show.

A guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show led to an offer to replace the departed Don Knotts (who signed a five-film contract with Universal Pictures) as Mayberry’s deputy sheriff. He declined that offer, as well as one to star in the title role on Sherwood Schwartz’s new sitcom Gilligan’s Island. Jerry, instead, chose to star in the short-lived, often derided My Mother, The Car. The inane show, which lasted a single season, featured Jerry as a family man whose late mother is reincarnated as a 1928 Porter automobile. After My Mother, The Car was canceled, Jerry joined the cast of Accidental Family, another show that was canceled after 16 episodes.

Jerry was a frequent guest on popular sitcoms, including appearances on single episodes of Gomer Pyle, USMC, Good Morning World, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and even his brother’s new series The New Dick Van Dyke Show. He took a regular role on Headmaster in 1970, a new Andy Griffith project, but the series was canceled after only season.

He kept busy with live appearances in nightclubs throughout the United States, until 1989, when he took the supporting role of befuddled “Luther Van Dam” on the sitcom Coach. The series, which ran for a whopping nine seasons, earned Jerry four Emmy nominations. Jerry continued to land recurring roles on popular series like Charles in Charge, Yes Dear, My Name is Earl, Raising Hope and The Middle. He was the commercial spokesperson for Hardee’s Hamburgers and Big Lots discount stores.

Jerry was married twice. His first marriage lasted nearly 20 years and produced three children, including actress Kelly Jean Van Dyke. Kelly, who performed in pornographic films under the name “Nancee Kelly,” was married to actor Jack Nance, a favorite of director David Lynch and best known for the title role of Eraserhead. Kelly, a longtime drug abuser, hanged herself in 1991.

Jerry was involved in a serious car accident in 2016 and had been in declining health as a result. He passed away at his Arkansas ranch in January 2018 at the age of 86.

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