Jul. 18, 2000
Young and Old
It's the birthday of gonzo-journalist Hunter Thompson, born in Louisville, Kentucky (1939). Asked why he became a journalist, he replied: "I would not be anything else, if for no other reason that I'd rather drink with journalists. Another reason I got into journalism, you don't have to get up in the morning." His first book was Hell's Angels: A Strange And Terrible Saga (1966), about the motorcycle gang. His high water mark was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972), in which he assumed the persona of Raoul Duke, assigned to cover a motorcycle race and a drug law enforcement convention simultaneously. Raoul travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a convertible dubbed the "Great Red Shark," with "two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers.... A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amlys."
It's the birthday of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, born in Zima, in the Irkustk region of Russia, (1933). He was a very public critic of government interference with writers, and his efforts brought about an easing of Soviet controls over artists in the late 1950s and 1960s. His first important narrative poem was "Zima Junction" (1956). His poem "Babi Yar" (1961) mourned the Nazi massacre of some 96,000 Ukrainian Jews, but got him in trouble for its attack on Soviet anti-Semitism. He's also written novels, launched an acting career, published a book of photographs and directed a film. He has remained politically outspoken, raising public awareness of the pollution of Lake Baikal, and getting a monument to the victims of Stalin placed opposite the KGB headquarters.
It's the birthday of statesman and African black nationalist Nelson Mandela, born in Umtata, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa (1918).
It's the birthday of actor, writer and director Clifford Odets, born in Philadelphia (1906), known for his "theater of social protest" in the 1930s. At one point had three plays running simultaneously on Broadway.
It's the birthday of writer Jessamyn West, born in North Vernon, Indiana (1902). She was a decendent of quakers who settled in the Ohio Valley in the early 1800's, and she wrote about them in her first book, The Friendly Persuasion (1945).
On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison first recorded the human voice at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. He used a stylus-tipped carbon transmitter to make impressions on a strip of parafinned paper.
It's the birthday of English novelist William (Makepeace) Thackeray, born in Calcutta, India (1811). He worked as a journalist, first in Paris, and then in London. He found fame and prosperity with the publication of Vanity Fair, which was published in 1846.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®