May 6, 1998

What I Want

by C. G. Hanzlicek


Today's Reading: "What I Want" by C.G. Hanzlicek from STARS, published by University of Missouri Press (1997).

ORSON WELLES was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on this day in 1915. His mother began taking him to the theater right after he was born, and Welles made his debut at the age of two as the child of Madama Butterfly in Puccini's opera. He was raised in Chicago and had only about five years of any schooling. He made his way to New York and played Shakespearean roles on Broadway while he was still a teenager, then began directing and producing shows. In October, 1938, at the age of 23 he went on the air with his dramatization of a Martian invasion of New Jersey and sent thousands of people panicking into the streets thinking it was real. A year later RKO Studios in Hollywood brought Welles to California and gave him free reign to make Citizen Kane. He directed Citizen Kane and starred in it. And when it came out in 1941 he was only 26.

It's the birthday of the journalist and novelist THEODORE WHITE, born in Boston, 1915. He was one of Time magazine's first foreign correspondents, stationed in Asia during the war. When he returned he became fascinated with domestic politics, and wrote a pair of books on the presidential elections: The Making of the President, 1960 which won the Pulitzer for non-fiction; and The Making of the President, 1964.

The poet RANDALL JARRELL was born on this day in Nashville, 1914. He taught for a few years at Kenyon College and the University of Texas, then joined the Army Air Corps during the war and worked as a control tower operator. He made his name as a poet right at the end of the war by publishing a collection about soldiers, called Little Friend, Little Friend.

It's the birthday in 1903, Minneapolis, of the man who created the Burma Shave roadside rhyming jingles, ALLAN ODELL. Back in 1925 his father was trying to sell a shaving cream that didn't require a brush, and he wasn't having much luck at it. So Odell got $200 and went to a local used lumber yard and painted a series of rhyming signs, then put them up along highways in southern Minnesota. Within a few months orders were coming in from all over the state; and at their peak, 7,000 Burma Shave signs stood along roads in 45 states. Odell's own favorite was this one: Free, free A trip to Mars For nine hundred Empty jars Burma Shave

It's the anniversary of the PHILADELPHIA RIOTS in 1844. Twenty people were killed and about a hundred injured over a three-day period beginning on the 6th, when native-born Protestants battled immigrant Catholics. Jobs and housing in Philadelphia were scarce, and the Protestants were angry about the huge influx of Irish and central-European immigrants, who were Catholic.

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