DCS: mojo nixon

Actress Winona Ryder has starred in a number of high-profile, iconic films over the course of her five-decade spanning career. She was won industry accolades, including a Golden Globe Award and two Academy Award nominations. With her breakout role in Lucas, her gothy take in Beetlejuice and her dark comedic turn in Heathers under her belt, Winona appeared alongside Dennis Quaid in the somewhat-underappreciated biopic Great Balls of Fire. Psychobilly madman Mojo Nixon was also cast in the picture, playing Jerry Lee Lewis’s drummer James Van Eaton. At the time (1989), Mojo was starting to gain momentum among the college-radio crowd with his unique brand of gritty, raunchy, garage rock-rockabilly hybrid. He asked Winona to appear in a short promotional video for the single from his current release Root Hog or Die. The song — “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child” — was Mojo’s loving ode to supermarket tabloids… four years before Weird Al Yankovic addressed the subject in his parody “Headline News.” In the video (shot in glorious black and white), Winona plays the title role in a wedding gown and later in the delivery room giving birth to a fur covered, two-headed Bigfoot spawn. Along the way, she wrestles in Jell-o with a “pseudo” Tiffany and shares a bed with Budweiser spokes-dog Spuds MacKenzie. She dances, smokes and gobbles a fried chicken sandwich. It’s a frenzied two minutes and eleven seconds and she appears to be having the time of her life.

The video, planned for broadcast on MTV, was rejected by the music network fearing backlash and possible legal action. Curiously, Mojo had been a spokesperson for the fledgling network. He was angered by the decision, and despite singing the song live on MTV’s “120 Minutes,” he severed ties with the network shortly after.

Winona Ryder — a veteran of iconic films like Dracula, Little Women, Edward Scissorhands, Girl Interrupted — spoke fondly of her appearance in the Mojo Nixon video. She even acknowledged that it was her favorite role of her career.

Mojo Nixon passed away suddenly on February 7, 2024 aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship. He was a featured performer during the week-long Outlaw Country Cruise sponsored by Sirius XM radio. Mojo performed the evening prior to his death. He was 66 years old. If there is an afterlife, Mojo is in a place where there’s barbecue sauce in the waterslides and the only banks are made of Fender twin-reverb electric guitar amplifiers.

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inktober52: astronaut

On January 27, 1967, Gus Grissom was killed in a fire in a pre-launch test aboard Apollo 1 (then known as AS-204).  Grissom, along with fellow astronauts Roger Chaffee and Ed White, were working in the Command Module of the spacecraft. Grissom said: “”How are we going to get to the Moon if we can’t talk between two or three buildings?,” before speaking his last word, which was a shout of “Fire!”

The three astronauts died from asphyxiation.

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DCS: bobby womack

Singer/songwriter/musician Bobby Womack started off his career singing with his brothers as The Womack Brothers. They toured the country, accompanied by their mother and father on piano and guitar respectively.  The group caught the attention of singer Sam Cooke. Cooke became the band’s mentor and booked them on a national tour with The Staple Singers. Although led by Curtis Womack, Bobby would often sing alongside his brother, his raspy baritone making a unique contrast to Curtis’s smooth tenor.

In the early 1960’s, Cooke changed the group’s name to The Valentinos and produced and arranged their first hit “Looking for a Love.” The follow-up, “It’s All Over Now,” co-written by Bobby, was a hit as well and the group landed a supporting sport on the James Brown tour. “It’s All Over Now” was covered by The Rolling Stones while The Valentinos’ version was still climbing the R & B chart.

Then things got…. interesting.

In 1964, Sam Cooke was shot and killed at a southern California hotel. The music world was devastated, especially The Valentinos. However, just two months after Cooke’s death, Bobby began a romantic relationship with Barbara Cooke, Sam’s widow. Barbara was ten years Bobby’s senior. With Bobby wearing one of Sam’s suits, the couple attempted to get married, but their application was rejected by the Los Angeles courthouse because Bobby was under age. They returned on March 5, 1965 – one day after Bobby’s 21st birthday. They were granted a marriage license. The marriage ended in divorce after five years when Barbara discovered that Bobby was having an extra-marital affair… with Linda Cooke, his 17-year-old stepdaughter. An angered Barbara shot Bobby – the bullet merely grazing him – and Linda never spoke to her mother again.

In 1972, Bobby was gearing up to release Linda Cooke’s solo debut album, They co-wrote Bobby’s hit “Woman’s Gotta Have It.” Linda went on to marry Bobby’s younger brother Cecil. They teamed up and recorded as Womack & Womack.

Bobby worked and collaborated with such renowned and prestigious acts as Aretha Franklin, Sly and the Family Stone, Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and many others. (Bobby was one of the last people to see Janis Joplin alive, visiting her at the Landmark Hotel on the afternoon of her death.) Into the 2000s, Bobby continued to work with a wide variety of artists including Steve Wonder, Snoop Dogg and Gorillaz.

He passed away at the age of 70, just one week after a live performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

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DCS: blenda gay

In 1975, The Philadelphia Eagles signed 6 foot 5 inch, 254 pound defensive end Blenda Gay. He became a fixture on the team’s defensive line and played every regular season game for the next two seasons.

In December 1976, Roxanne Gay, Blenda’s wife, slit Blenda’s throat while he slept. Mrs. Gay explained to arresting Camden, New Jersey police officers that her actions were the culmination of years of physical abuse. She had called for police intervention over 20 times, each time claiming physical abuse at the hands of Blenda. She told neighbors that Blenda had a habit of “bouncing her off the walls” with each Eagles’ loss.  Ms. Magazine publisher and women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem championed Roxanne’s cause and campaigned for funds for her criminal defense.

At trial, a panel of psychiatrists revealed that close study and a long series of interviews and analysis determined that Blenda had not abused his wife, as there was no evidence that beatings had occurred. Diagnosis further revealed that Roxanne was suffering from schizophrenia. She was confined to the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in 1977. She was released from the facility in 1980 and all charges were dropped.

The Eagles played an annual game in Blenda Gay’s memory beginning in 1977.  The “annual” event ended two years later.

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DCS: mattiwilda dobbs

With dreams of becoming a fashion designer, Mattiwilda Dobbs attended Spellman College in the early 1940s. Her instructors encouraged young Mattiwilda to pursue singing and she graduated in 1946 with a degree in music.

She began performing in Europe, making her operatic debut in Holland in Stravinsky’s The Nightingale. In 1953, at the request of conductor Herbert von Karajan, Mattiwilda performed as “Elvira” in Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at La Scala in Milan. This  marked the first time a black artist sang in the Italian opera house.

She returned to the United States, taking the role of “Gilda” in Rigoletto, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Mattiwilda was the  first African American singer to perform in a romantic role at the Met. Although the celebrated Marian Anderson previously sang at The Met, Mattiwilda was the first African-American offered a long-term contract.

Mattiwilda toured the country in various roles to much acclaim. Following the lead of other African-American of the day, she refused to perform for segregated audiences. Although this decision hurt her career, she stood by her convictions. When the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium was desegregated in 1961, Mattiwilda was the first person to sing to an integrated audience in the city. Mattiwilda retired from the stage in 1974 to begin a teaching career at the University of Texas, where she was the very first African-American faculty member.

Pastor Martin Luther King Sr. wanted Mattiwilda to marry his son Martin Luther King Jr, but things just didn’t work out.

Mattiwilda was aunt to Atlanta’s first black Mayor, Maynard Jackson, and she sang at his 1978 inauguration.

Mattiwilda eventually made her permanent home in Atlanta. She passed away in December 2015 at the age of 90.

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DCS: mary eliza mahoney

black history month 2020

The child of free blacks who moved North just prior to the Civil War, Mary Eliza Mahoney began working as an untrained practical nurse at twenty-years old. To supplement her income, Mary took on janitorial duties at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

In 1878, she was accepted into the New England Hospital’s graduate nursing program. During her 16-hour days, Mary tended to the needs of six different patients at one time, all while juggling attending lectures and completing written assignments. She eventually completed the grueling 16-month program. Mary was one of only three graduates who was there at the very beginning of the program and she was the only African-American awarded a diploma.  Upon her graduation Mary Mahoney became the first African-American graduate nurse.

For the next four deacdes, Mary worked as a nurse, mostly for private clients who were among Boston’s most prominent families. Public nursing, at the time, was rampant with discrimination against African-Americans.

Mary worked hard as a nurse and also as a leader for opportunities for African-American nurses. After a stirring speech at a 1909 Boston convention, Mary was made a lifetime member of the NACGN, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

Mary succumbed to breast cancer in 1926 at the age of 81. The Mary Mahoney Medal is awarded annually in recognition of excellence in nursing.

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