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Psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary was born 103 years ago today
Timothy Leary was born 103 years ago today.
Leary was a psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs.
During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment.
Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate, Richard Alpert, later to become Ram Dass, were fired from the university.
Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as "turn on, tune in, drop out,” "set and setting” and "think for yourself and question authority.”
Leary wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE). He also developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book, Exo-Psychology (1977).
During the 1960s and 1970s, Leary was arrested regularly and was held captive in 29 different prisons throughout the world. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as "the most dangerous man in America.”
Leary died of inoperable prostate cancer in 1996 at age 75.
Leary is often considered one of the most prominent figures during the counterculture of the 1960s, and since those times has remained influential on pop culture, literature, television, film — and especially, music.
Here, Leary talks LSD with William F. Buckley on Firing Line, 1967.
Jerome Lester "Jerry" Horwitz — better known by his stage name Curly Howard — was born 120 years ago today.
A comedian and vaudevillian actor, he was best known as the most outrageous member of the American slapstick comedy team, The Three Stooges, which also featured his older brothers, Moe Howard and Shemp Howard, plus actor, Larry Fine.
Curly was generally considered the most popular and recognizable of the Stooges. He was well known for his high-pitched voice and vocal expressions ("nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!" "woob-woob-woob!" "soitenly!" and barking like a dog) as well as his physical comedy, improvisations and athleticism.
An untrained actor, Curly borrowed (and significantly exaggerated) the "woob woob" from "nervous" and soft-spoken comedian, Hugh Herbert. Curly's unique version of "woob-woob-woob" was firmly established by the time of the Stooges' second film, Punch Drunks, in 1934.
Howard was born in the Bensonhurst section of the Brooklyn in New York City. He was the fifth of the five Horwitz brothers and of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry.
Because he was the youngest, his brothers called him "Babe" to tease him. The nickname stuck with him all his life, although when his older brother, Shemp, married Gertrude Frank, who was also nicknamed, "Babe," the brothers started calling him "Curly" to avoid confusion.
When Curly was 12, he accidentally shot himself in the left ankle while cleaning a rifle. Moe rushed him to the hospital and saved his life. The wound resulted in a noticeably thinner left leg and a slight limp. He was so frightened of surgery that he never had the limp corrected. While with the Stooges, he developed his famous exaggerated walk to mask the limp on screen.
Curly's childlike mannerisms and natural comedic charm made him a hit with audiences, particularly children. He was famous in the act for having an "indestructible" head, which always won out by breaking anything that assaulted it, including saws (resulting in his characteristic quip, "Oh, look!").
Although having no formal acting training, his comedic skills were exceptional. Many times, directors would simply let the camera roll freely and let Curly improvise.
Jules White, who directed the Stooge’s films, would leave gaps in the scripts where Curly could improvise for several minutes. "If we wrote a scene and needed a little something extra, I'd say to Curly, 'Look, we've got a gap to fill this in with a 'woob-woob' or some other bit of business.' And he never disappointed us," White said.
By the time the Stooges hit their peak in the late 1930s, their films had almost become vehicles for Curly's unbridled comic performances. Classics like A Plumbing We Will Go, We Want Our Mummy, An Ache in Every Stake and Cactus Makes Perfect display his ability to take inanimate objects (like food, tools, pipes, etc.) and turn them into ingenious comic props.
Moe later confirmed that when Curly forgot his lines, that merely allowed him to improvise on the spot so that the "take" could continue uninterrupted.
Curly's offscreen personality was the antithesis of his onscreen manic persona. An introvert, he generally kept to himself, rarely socializing with people unless he had been drinking (which he would increasingly turn to as the stresses of his career grew). In addition, he came to life when in the presence of brother, Shemp.
Curly could not be himself around brother Moe, who treated his younger brother with a fatherly wag of the finger. Never an intellect, Curly simply refrained from engaging in "crazy antics" unless he was in his element — with family, performing or intoxicated.
During filming on May 6, 1946, Curly suffered a severe stroke while sitting in director Jules White's chair, waiting to film the last scene of the day. When Curly was called by the assistant director to take the stage, he did not answer. Moe went looking for his brother and found Curly with his head dropped to his chest.
Moe later recalled that his mouth was distorted and he was unable to speak, only cry. Moe quietly alerted White to all this, leading the latter to rework the scene quickly, dividing the action between Moe and Larry. Curly was rushed to the hospital, where Moe joined him after the filming.
After his discharge, Curly went to live at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.
In 1948, Curly suffered a second massive stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. He used a wheelchair by 1950 and was fed boiled rice and apples as part of his diet to reduce his weight [and blood pressure].
In February, 1951, he was placed in a nursing home, where he suffered another stroke a month later. In April, he went to live at the North Hollywood Hospital and Sanitarium.
In December, 1951, the North Hollywood Hospital and Sanitarium supervisor advised the Howard family that Curly was becoming a problem to the nursing staff at the facility because of his mental deterioration. They admitted they could no longer care for him and suggested he be placed in a mental hospital.
Eleven days later, on January 18, 1952, Curly died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage at 48.
Here, a clip showing “The Genius of Curly Howard.”
Leon “Rubber Legs” Williams, a Charlie’s Place regular, in a dance contest to win rent money in the 1940s
The “Chitlin’ Circuit” was the collective name given to a series of performance venues for black artists throughout the eastern United States during the “Jim Crow” era of segregation.
The circuit was the launching pad for many of America’s greatest black entertainers, including Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard and many others.
It included a diverse lineup of clubs, ranging from the smallest Southern juke joints — like Charlie’s Place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — to the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem.
The term “chitlin” is from chitterlings, a soul food staple made from boiled or stewed pig intestines. Once popular in the rural South, the food dates back to colonial times when hogs were slaughtered and their body parts fed to slaves.
One of the many dark sides of the Chitlin’ Circuit era was that black artists were usually not allowed to eat or rent rooms in the all-white establishments at which they performed. Many top entertainers, like Count Basie and Duke Ellington, were forced to stay at the homes of friends when performing on the road.
In order to ensure that black artists performing at his club had suitable overnight lodging, Charlie Fitzgerald, the owner of Charlie’s Place in Myrtle Beach, built a small multi-unit motel on the property directly behind the main building.
That tiny motel, listed in the Green Book for black travelers, remains standing to this day. It is the only remnant of the old nightclub and has been bought by the City of Myrtle Beach for preservation.
Though music and dance were the most visible activities at the club, Charlie Fitzgerald provided his paying customers with just about any activity they desired. That included one of his own favorite pastimes — gambling. Inside a private room curtained off from the main club area was a card table. It was home to Fitzgerald’s game of choice, “Georgia Skin.”
Immortalized in song by performers including Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Poole and Jerry Garcia, Georgia Skin was, according to Zora Neal Hurston in a 1939 spoken word recording, “the most favorite gambling game among the workers of the South.” The easily manipulated game usually resulted in players being swindled of their last dime.
Lyrics from “Georgia Skin” by Memphis Minnie summed it up well:
“When you lose your money, please don’t lose your mind
Because each and every gambler gets in hard luck sometime.”
As a teenager, Bill Wingate witnessed Georgia Skin games run by Fitzgerald. “I saw people throw the deed to their house or the title to their car in the pot,” he remembered.
Yet, despite the occasional drunken visitor who crossed the line, Charlie’s Place had a reputation as one of most peaceful establishments on the beach. Perhaps a major reason for this tranquility was the general knowledge that under his stylish clothes, Fitzgerald packed weapons.
“He carried a .45 and a .38 all the time. He had holsters that ran around his shoulders,” said Leroy Brunson, a former customer. “Charlie was a man of few words. He didn’t talk much. But when he told you something, he meant what he said.”
Then Brunson paused, as if to reconsider his hardball take on Fitzgerald. “Charlie was a bluffer, though. He’d scare a lot of people by pulling a gun out and firing it into the floor or in the air. He’d do this during fights or if he wanted somebody to leave and they didn’t want to go.”
It was also well known to club goers that Charlie kept a sawed off shotgun and a wooden blackjack under the bar. “Oh yeah, he’d pop someone with the blackjack to get them out of there,” recalled Wingate. “And that shotgun, he didn’t just aim it at them, he put it in them.”
On one memorable occasion, a young Wingate said he saw Charlie evict a troublesome customer by jamming the shotgun deep into the man’s stomach. “He put it right in the guy’s gut. That ended the trouble right away.”
As a rebellious teenager, Henry Hemingway learned the hard way that Charlie was boss. “Back in those days, I loved to fight. I’d go up to Charlie’s Place at night and turn the place out…just raise hell. He’d say ‘Boy, you got to quit this! You got to quit this!’ One night I went there and stepped on a guy’s foot, and he asked ‘What did you step on my foot for?’ I hit him.”
Hemingway said he’ll never forget what happened next. “Charlie put his nickel-plated shotgun in my mouth and said, ‘Son, hell has overtook you.’ I was scared outta my mind and that was the last big fight I ever had.”
Later, when Hemingway was older and in a band, Charlie gave the young man a musical instrument. Fitzgerald was like that.
But it was never Charlie that instigated the trouble. “Charlie was cool, but there was always that little underlying air of danger about him,” said Wingate. It was “I won’t mess with you, but I’ll give you some good advice. Don’t mess with me either. I’m gonna live and let live. If you don’t, you may not live.”
The story of Charlie Fitzgerald and how the Ku Klux Klan attacked him and tried to stop the rise of black music is in the the fourth edition of the book, Whitewash: A Southern Journey Through Music, Mayhem & Murder, by Frank Beacham.
Born on this day in 1811 in the Hapsburg Kingdom of Hungary, Franz Liszt would go on to make a name for himself not only as an important composer in the Romantic era, but also as one of the greatest pianists who ever lived.
In a career that spanned five eventful decades in classical-music history, his professional accomplishments alone would have made him a figure of historical significance. But his good looks and charisma, his effect on female audiences and his gossip-worthy romantic entanglements made him a figure somewhat larger than life.
If it weren't for the fact that rock and roll was still 140-plus years off in the future, it would be reasonable to call Liszt the biggest rock star of his era.
Born to a musician father employed in the service of a Hungarian prince, Liszt learned piano by the age of seven and was recognized shortly thereafter as a budding virtuoso.
His musical education, paid for by a group of Hungarian noblemen, took place in Vienna. It was in Paris during his teens and early 20s, however, that Liszt first gained widespread public attention as a performer.
Though his stature as a composer continued to grow throughout his long career, his reputation as a pianist both preceded and exceeded it.
Influenced most heavily not by another pianist but by the violinist Niccolò Paganini, Liszt developed a style that helped shape the future of piano technique, and he developed a following — particularly among women — that made him a massive concert draw throughout Europe at the height of his career in the 1840s and 50s.
It was no accident that director Ken Russell cast lead singer Roger Daltry of the Who in the role of Liszt in his 1975 film, Lisztomania.
Away from the piano, Liszt also conducted a number of high-profile and often controversial affairs over course of his career, beginning with a student who was also the daughter of high-ranking French government official and continuing through several famous dancers, a French countess and a Polish princess.
Widely believed to have fathered many children out of wedlock, Liszt famously denied one such paternity claim by writing, "I know his mother only by correspondence, and one cannot arrange that sort of thing by correspondence."
Franz Liszt died of pneumonia on July 31, 1886, in Bayreuth, Bavaria.
Charlie Chaplin on the set of The Gold Rush, a 1925 silent film comedy written, produced, directed by and starring Chaplin in his Little Tramp role.
Chaplin declared several times that this was the film that he most wanted to be remembered for.
In 1942, Chaplin released a new version of The Gold Rush, taking the original silent 1925 film and composing and recording a musical score, adding a narration which he recorded himself and tightening the editing which reduced the film's running time by several minutes.
The film is also shortened by being run at 'sound speed', i.e. 24 frames per second; like most silent movies it was originally shot and exhibited at a slower speed.
The new music score by Max Terr and the sound recording by James L. Fields were nominated for Academy Awards in 1943.
Ronny Cox and Billy Redden in Clayton, Georgia.
The pair were the on-camera “Dueling Banjos” performers in the 1972 film, Deliverance.
Redden, then 15, earned his role of Lonnie, the banjo-playing boy, during a casting call at Clayton Elementary School.
To add authenticity and humor to the film, the filmmakers found Redden to fit the look of the inbred and mentally retarded banjo boy called for by the book, although Redden himself is neither. His distinctive look was enhanced using special makeup.
In his famous scene, Redden pretends to play the instrumental, "Dueling Banjos," opposite actor Ronny Cox on guitar. It is noted for foreshadowing the film's theme — exploring unknown and potentially dangerous territory.
Redden could not actually play the banjo. A local musician, Mike Addis, reached around from behind Redden. This was disguised using careful camera angles.
All of us were faking playing, Ronny Cox wrote in a note. “They didn't even have real strings on the banjo...they were matching a playback, as was I. It's a remarkable scene... but they were both pretending to play!”
Redden also appeared in Tim Burton's 2003 film, Big Fish. Burton was intent on getting Redden, who hadn't appeared in a film since Deliverance, to play the role of a banjo-playing welcomer in the utopian town of Spectre.
Burton eventually found him in Clayton, Georgia, where Redden worked as a cook, dishwasher and part-owner of the Cookie Jar Café.
In 2004, Redden made a guest appearance on Blue Collar TV playing an inbred car repairman named Ray in a "Redneck Dictionary" skit, for the word "raisin bread" (as in "Ray's inbred"). He played a banjo in the skit.
Robert Capa on assignment in Spain using a Bell and Howell 16mm film camera.
Photo by Gerda Taró
Robert Capa, the photographer, was born 110 years ago today.
Capa was a Hungarian war photographer, photo journalist and the companion and professional partner of photographer, Gerda Taró.
He covered five wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris.
In 1947, Capa co-founded Magnum Photos in Paris with David "Chim" Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and William Vandivert. The organization was the first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers.
He died at ago 40 in 1954 after stepping on a landmine in the First Indochina War.
Reed and Bryant in 1916
John Reed, journalist, poet and socialist activist, was born 136 years ago today.
Reed wrote a first-hand account of the Bolshevik Revolution — Ten Days that Shook the World. He was married to writer and feminist, Louise Bryant.
Reed was born on October 22, 1887, in his maternal grandmother's mansion in Portland, Oregon. In the fall of 1906, he entered Harvard College.
Tall, handsome and light-hearted, he attended (but never joined) meetings of the Socialist Club, over which his friend, Walter Lippmann, presided. Still, the club left its impact on his psyche.
The group had social legislation introduced into the state legislature, attacked the university for failing to pay its servants living wages and petitioned the administration for the establishment of a course in Socialism.
Reed was determined to become a journalist and he set out to make his mark in the big city in which that industry was based, New York. He discovered the muckraking journalist, Lincoln Steffens, who appreciated Reed's skills and intellect at an early date.
Steffens landed his young admirer an entry-level position on the American Magazine, reading manuscripts, correcting proofs and later helping with the composition. Reed made his home in Greenwich Village, a burgeoning hub of poets and artists. He came to love New York, relentlessly exploring it and writing poems about it.
His formal jobs on the magazines paid the rent, but he sought to establish himself as a freelance journalist. In 1913, he joined the staff of The Masses, edited by Max Eastman and his sister, Crystal. Reed contributed more than 50 articles, reviews and shorter pieces to this publication.
The first of Reed's many arrests came in Paterson, New Jersey in 1913, for attempting to speak on behalf of strikers in the New Jersey silk mills. The harsh treatment meted out by the authorities to the strikers and a short jail term which followed further radicalized him.
While paying a visit to his mother in Portland, Reed met and fell in love with Louise Bryant, who joined him on the East coast in January, 1916. Though happy, both had affairs with others rather freely, in accord with the bohemian sensibilities of sexual liberation in common currency in that day.
Early in 1916, Reed met Eugene O'Neill, and beginning that May the three rented a cottage in Provincetown. Not long after, Bryant and O'Neill began a romance.
Reed died in Russia in 1920 and was buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
The uses of John Reed as a symbol in popular culture have been varied. Some have dismissed him as a "romantic revolutionary" and a "playboy"— a vapid dilettante pretending to profess revolutionary sensibilities.
For the Communist movement to which he belonged, Reed became a symbol of the international nature of the Bolshevik revolution, a martyr buried at the Kremlin wall amidst solemn fanfare, his name to be uttered reverently as a member of the radical pantheon.
Reed has also been an influence upon the cinema. Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein's influential 1927 silent film, October: Ten Days That Shook the World, was based on Reed's book.
Half a century later, Warren Beatty made the 1981 film, Reds, based on the life of John Reed. Beatty starred as Reed, while Diane Keaton played the part of Louise Bryant and Jack Nicholson that of Eugene O'Neill. The movie won three Academy Awards, and was nominated for nine others.
Gala and Salvador Dali, 1929
Photo by Man Ray