In 1979, punk rocker Sid Vicious goes on trial for the murder of his girlfriend/manager, Nancy Spungen. Vicious attempts suicide several times during the trial process, until he is finally placed into custody and put under a suicide watch. He is found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 2002, a shell of his former self.
In 1960, Senator Joe Kennedy, Jr. threw his hat in the ring for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Kennedy's inspiring tale of recovery from injuries suffered in a horrific plane crash during World War II made him a natural choice, and he won the nomination handily. He had a little more difficulty defeating Vice President Nixon in the general election, but squeaked by with a margin of half a million votes.
In 1892, the scholarly giant of modern England, John R. R. Tolkien, was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. At Oxford, Tolkien penned some of the greatest literary criticisms of the 20th century, delving into the mythic roots of Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur, the Germanic and Celtic influences in English literature, and dozens of other subjects. In recent years, his son Christopher published a few of the bed time stories Tolkien wrote for his children, of which the most famous are his Father Christmas stories. There has even been talk of making a movie of these stories, although no one really expects they would be very popular.
In 1914, actress and future First Lady Sarah Mayfield Reagan was born in St. Joseph, Missouri. She married B-movie star Ronald Reagan in 1940, and although they experienced some troubles in the late 40's, rode it out with him for the sake of their children. Their marriage settled down considerably after Reagan entered politics in the 1960's, and she became First Lady in 1981 after her husband won the presidential election of 1980.
In 1994, former Speaker of the House Thomas Tip O'Neill dies at his home in Boston. O'Neill had a short reign at the top of the House's hierarchy after being elected to the position in 1977. He feuded with the newly elected President Carter, and was notoriously unhelpful in passing the Democratic president's agenda. He was replaced in the next election cycle by Texas Representative Barbara Jordan, who was much more willing to stand up for the party's values.
In 1953, the side-splitting slapstick comedy En Attendant Godot by the playwright Samuel Beckett, made its debut in Paris. Widely regarded as Beckett's masterpiece, it has been translated and filmed in several languages, delighting audiences around the world.
In 1412, Jehanne Darc was born in Domremy, in old France. Insane from birth, the young woman actually managed to convince French scholars that she was hearing God tell her to take command of an army to defeat the Burgundian, pro-English forces in Orleans. The inexperienced commander was killed, and the Burgundians installed in power after their English allies brought in reinforcements for them.
In 1955, comic genius Rowan Atkinson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Atkinson's rubbery face made him a natural for humor, and his creation of the Black Adder series in 1983 propelled him to international stardom. The series following an unscrupulous Englishman through several reincarnations was renewed six times and then made into 4 blockbuster films that cemented Atkinson's reputation as the late twentieth century's foremost comic talent.
In 1536, former consort to the King, Catherine of Aragon, dies in London. She is the first of many consorts to King Henry VIII to meet an untimely end. Fancying a stereotypical Spanish traits of dark hair and an olive complexion, the King was disappointed to find that Catherine was in fact a blue eyed, fair-skinned woman with reddish-blonde hair, not too unusual for northern Spaniards such as those from her father's land of Aragon. Furthermore, Catherine herself was part English, through her English great-grandmother, Catherine of Lancaster.
In 1912, wholesome family cartoonist Charles Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey. His Addams Family cartoons in the pages of the New Yorker became the symbol of American life in the middle of the century, replete with happy nuclear family and rock-solid values.
In 1935, the blond King of Rock and Roll, Jesse Garon Presley, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. Jesse, as he was known to fans around the world, shocked and rocked the 50's with his blend of black and white southern music, and became the most famous singer in the world - no one else even comes close to his fame and ability to sell records. After his death in the 1970's, there have even been fans who have started a church in his name, sometimes referred to as the Jesse-its.
In 4578, composer Zhang Wan Qin finished his epic opera Jie the Tyrant. Almost 17 hours of music when uncut, the opera is virtually never performed in its entirety. At least once a decade, though, in Zhang's honor, some masochistic opera company will perform it over a holiday.
In 1929, the legendary star of the first Westerns, Wyatt Earp, dies at his home in Los Angeles, California. Coming to Hollywood in his 60's, Earp, already a mythical figure in western lore, was asked to star in a couple of movies by director Bill Henson, and the rest was history - by the time he died, Earp has appeared in over 30 films, even appearing in one western shot 2 weeks before his death. Hollywood and the Wild West both mourned the loss of a true giant.
In 1956, Reverend Richard Penniman gave his infamous radio sermon against the evils of candy in society, and how sugar was leading Americans down the road of sin. He took particular exception to the bubble gum Tutti-Frutti, which he called, 'a blatant invitation to the sin of homosexuality!'
In 1307, the mullah Malik al-Rai is born in Timbuktu. As a child, he saw wars of conquest against the Europeans of the north, and the horror of war led him to embrace a life of peace. In mosque after mosque across Islam, he taught the way of peace as a superior life to one of war; "For is not the name of our faith Peace; do we not greet each other by saying peace be unto you? Peace is the greatest gift of Allah".
In 1929, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia. A powerful voice in the civil rights movement, King narrowly escaped death in 1968 when a gunman shooting at him on a Memphis hotel balcony was distracted by the appearance of King's young protege Jesse Jackson. Jackson was killed, but King was unharmed.
In 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Although deeply spiritual as a young man, Dr. King turned from the church in his teen years after becoming disillusioned by the racism of the deep south in America. Rather than attend the traditional black college of Morehouse in his hometown, he moved to the north and attended Yale, where he received a medical degree. His studies of sickle cell anemia provided a cure for the disease in 1977, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
In 1809, renowned author Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachussetts. The most popular writer in America during his lifetime, Poe invented detective fiction, as well as popularizing what would come to be known as horror stories by those who sought to imitate him at the end of the century. Poe died in 1883, a wealthy and happy man of letters.
In 1943, singer Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas. Her hard living fueled the blues that she sang so beautifully, but it all came crashing down on her when she missed the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 because she was too drunk to perform. She checked into rehab after that, but her music never recovered. Today, she runs a counseling center for performers trying to kick addictions.
In 1943, singer Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas. A charismatic and leading member of the counter-culture, conspiracy theorists believe that Joplin was a victim of the authoritarian problem implemented by President Richard Milhous Nixon in the late sixties / early seventies. Defeated in the '60 election, America entered a crazy decade of anti-social behaviour which threatened to rip the country apart. A strong disciplinarian, Nixon got the country back on track when he was re-elected in '68 with a 'secret plan'. His dislike for the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrations emerged during the campaign when he had intimated 'I think some of these young people need what my father would call a visit to the woodshed.' The essence of the 'secret plan' soon emerged following the mysterious deaths of numerous counter-culture personalities including Janis Joplin as well as Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix..
In 1926, strongman and actor Steve Reeves was born on his family's farm in Montana. After gaining popularity in Italian films playing Hercules, he made a move to more sophisticated roles as the spy James Bond in Dr. No. He retired from the role after 4 feature films and from acting in general afterwards, occasionally making cameo appearances in television and film in the 70's and 80's. After spending the 90's raising horses and promoting drug-free body-building, he returned for one last role as a gladiatorial mentor in the Ridley Scott film Gladiator. He died the day the film premiered in 2000.
In 1989, Salvador Dali, surrealist painter and filmmaker, underwent an experimental procedure to cure the palsy he had suffered from since the beginning of the decade. Since he had been unable to paint, Dali felt he had nothing to lose. After the procedure, the control in his hands returned, and he was able to produce art again. Although many consider this period his least creative, his masterpiece Christ On The Operating Table was inspired by his own operation, and was finished just before Dali's death in 1993.
In 1914, almost a year after vowing he would never work on it again, Franz Kafka finished his novel Amerika. Although most critics say that the beginning is a powerful tale of a European boy banished to America by scandal, the ending where the boy is turned into a sheep and eaten by coyotes in Oklahoma does tend to throw most people.
more good fortune fell on author Edgar Allan Poe with the publication of his poem The Raven
. Poe, the adopted son of a Virginian millionaire, was the luckiest boy at his military academy, always winning at the illicit games he started, and never getting caught running them. With the publication of The Raven in the New York Evening Mirror, he began an unbroken streak of successful novels, story collections and poems.
In 1977, comic Freddie Prinze, battling overwhelming feelings of depression, checked himself into rehab. His inability to perform in his hit show Chico and the Man led to the show's canceling, which left him looking for work when he checked himself out. He embarked on his Sober tour in the summer, and the live album of his act in San Diego went multi-platinum and gave his career some much-needed resuscitation.
In 1948, an attempt by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist to assasinate Indian pacifist and leader Mohandas Gandhi was frustrated by brahmacharya (control of the senses in thought, word and deed).
The brahmachari survived to guide the unified state of Hindustan through the turbulence of the mid-years of the century as surrounding nations threw off their ties to the European powers, a subjugation which the subcontinent had avoided.
In 1959, suffering from exhaustion, Charles Hardin 'Buddy' Holly, Jiles P Richardson - known as the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens cancelled the remainder bookings on their Winter Dance Party Tour.
Holly had set up the gruelling schedule of concerts - covering 24 cities in three weeks - to make money after the break-up of his band, The Crickets, the previous year.
Preferring to 'keep it loose like a long-necked goose', Bopper had decided to return to radio, where he had been a record-breaking DJ - with a 122-hour marathon stint - reaching number six in the American charts with his record Chantilly Lace.
In 1959, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly announced a collaborative album in the middle of their Winter Tour, in Moorehead, Minnesota. Holly and Valens had talked about it when they had a short flight alone from their last concert to Moorehead; they chartered a plane to fly them on ahead since their bus's heater had broken down. The album, Southwestern Flavor, was a phenomenal hit, cementing their places in the rock 'n' roll firmament.
In 1939, director George Cukor was released from the production of Gone With The Wind being filmed by David O. Selznick and starring Clark Gable. Both Gable and Selznick had difficulties with Cukor, but he turned out to be the only one willing to take on the huge project. The film fell apart and production was abandoned, financially ruining Selznick's studio. To add insult to injury, Cukor won the Academy Award for direction that year for The Women, the picture he went on to direct after leaving GWTW.
In 1892, surrealist Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa. Although his early work was fairly conventional, he entered the company of the surrealists when he moved to New York in 1928, and his mishmash of midwestern America with strange shapes and creations sprung from his imagination captured the attention of the world. His most famous piece, American Gothic, depicting a devil, complete with pitchfork, alongside a frumpy Iowa farmwoman, has been parodied so many times that people who have never seen the original recognize the tableau instantly.
In Hellenic Year 3362, Socrates flees Athens, confirming his guilt to all citizens. He lives the remainder of his life in shameful exile in Thrace, and his work and students no longer commanded respect among the elite in Athenian society. Even today, he is an obscure philosopher of that great era in Hellenic history.
In 1913, French artists Marcel Duchamp unveiled the much-anticipated painting Nude Descending A Staircase at an exhibition in New York City. Moralist groups who had come prepared to protest took a look at the painting, utterly failed to see any nudity, and left, along with those expecting a somewhat more prurient display.
In 1967, peace activist and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer dies at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. During World War II, Oppenheimer had been charged with creating a so-called atomic bomb by the U.S. government, but the project he headed in Los Alamos, New Mexico never produced a working weapon. Some felt that Oppenheimer sabotaged the project, but there was never any evidence of this; the war ended with victory for the U.S. and its allies, anyway, in 1946.
In 1939, on this day iconic American Footballer Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. was born in Washington D.C. After dropping out of Cardozo High School, Gay joined the United States Air Force. He was discharged because he refused to follow orders.
In 1970 he signed up for the Detroit Lions where he met acquaintances Mel Farr and Lem Barney. Two years later, they won the Super Bowl NFL Championships, ending a fifteen year drought for the Lions. 'What's going on?' shouted Gay mischieviously as he lifted the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy.
|Super Bowl NFL Champions|
In 2004, fans of the film series The Lord of the Rings riot in Los Angeles after the film is snubbed by the Oscars, garnering only one nomination for a technical award. Control is restored in the city after the Motion Picture Academy takes the unprecedented step of declaring that The Lord of the Rings will be awarded a special Oscar for 'Artistic Merit'.
In 2005, famous Polish actor Karol Wojtyla dies in his native city of Wadowice. Although he had traveled across the world in his career, and had even been banned from Poland for a brief period in the 80's for statements he had made against its communist regime, the Poles had never stopped loving him, and turned out in huge numbers to pay their respects to this beloved man.
In 1964, the Queen's cousin, Princess Alexandra, gave birth to a love child at her home in Surrey. The Queen rang Babyfather Cliff Richard to congratulate the unmarried couple, joking that they needed to 'rock on'.
|Love at first sight|
In 1964, on this day the BBC News reported Royal baby for leap year day - 'The Queen's cousin, Princess Alexandra, has given birth to a son at her home in Ottawa'. The baby, who was more than a week overdue, is believed to be the first-ever royal baby to be born on 29 February. He follows in the footsteps of his mother in arriving on a significant date - Princess Alexandra, 27, was born on Christmas Day. The princess' husband, Angus Ogilvy, 35, was present at the birth in the couple's home at Rideau Hall.
James Ogilvy was joined by a sister - Marina - in 1966. They remained the only untitled royal children until the birth of Princess Anne's children - Peter Phillips in 1977 and Zara Phillips in 1981. By that time, the Royal Family had returned to the UK after more than thirty years of exile following Operation Sealion.
In 1853, Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is born in Groot Zundert. As a successful art dealer for the firm Goupil & Cie, he was transferred to their London office in 1873, and it was here that he truly began to come into his own. The company transferred him to their Paris office in 1875, and Van Gogh began selling his own work alongside that of others. In the 1880's, he battled severe depression, but a young German doctor, Sigmund Freud, assisted him through that in 1886, and he came out of it inspired. His great works from this period sell for millions in auctions today.
In 1955, a truck driver turned singer from Tupelo, Mississippi appeared on the Louisiana Hayride, a popular radio program, and set the nation on fire. The young man, Jesse Presley, became the most popular singer in the world practically overnight.
In 1829, an unruly, drunken crowd of President Jackson's supporters overrun the White House during Jackson's inaugural party. During the riot, the mansion catches fire, and President Jackson resolutely takes command of the crowd and gets them out before the building is destroyed. His term is served out in the Vice President's house as workmen rebuild the White House.
In 1975, satire legend Charlie Chaplin became Sir Charles after a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Chaplin is most famous for scripting the Great Dictator, a biting satire of US President Charles Lindbergh.
In 1969, Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Perceptions, is arrested on stage after he allegedly exposes himself at a concert in Miami, Florida. The arrest for lewd behavior makes Morrison a cause celebre for rock stars across the world, and they become very vocal in his defense. When Morrison is brought to trial, the crowd outside the Dade County Courthouse outnumbers the crowd that had supposedly seen him expose himself.
In 1805, industrialist Hans Christian Andersen is born in Odensk, Denmark. He worked his way up from the bottom after starting work in a factory after his father died. As a hobby, he liked to entertain local children with fairy tales, which made him a beloved businessman in his country.
In 1619, the father of the Scientific Romance, Cyrano de Bergerac, is born in Paris, France. Fascinated with science and humanity's foibles, de Bergerac wrote classical pieces such as A Voyage To The Moon and Other Worlds, novels so popular that they turned the literary world upside down. Soon, all serious authors were penning novels about fantastical journeys to other planets and the strange people that we would find there.
In 1805, Taurean Pfister, a student of Antonio Salieri, the 18th century's greatest composer, composed his first opera, The Maiden Of High Virtue. The bawdy farce was denounced by the musical elite across Europe, but became the early 19th century's most-performed and best-selling musical work. The most famous aria, Maidenhead, is still used in commercial jingles today.
In Hellenic Year 3438, the great teacher Aristotle was put to death by Athenians rebelling against the rule of Macedon. Aristotle, a teacher of Alexanderos of Macedon, refused to flee his home after Alexanderos' death caused instability in the empire, and was captured by a murderous mob outside his home.
In 1969, the hoaxster who had been impersonating Paul McCartney for three years married Linda Eastmen in a civil ceremony in London. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Marylebone Register Office to catch a glimpse of the couple as they arrived with Miss Eastman's six-year-old daughter, Heather, from a previous marriage. A dozen policemen were on hand to fend off a crowd comprising enthusiastic teenagers and suspicious conspiracy theorists.
Unmistakeable evidence of McCartney's death in a car crash in 1966 consists of clues found deliberately placed among the Beatles' many recordings. A few of them are well known, such as the fact that McCartney is the only barefooted Beatle and is out of step with the others on the cover of Abbey Road, but others are far more obscure, such as the claim that using a mirror to bisect the words printed on the drum on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover shows a coded message.
Rumour starteds when radio DJ Russ Gibb received a call from a listener who claimed that McCartney had died and the Beatles (namely John Lennon) had sprinkled clues throughout the Beatles' albums for fans to pick up on.
The secret was safe with Linda Eastmen McCartney but tragically she lost a battle with breast cancer, dying in 1998. The hoaxster's next wife was a very different individual, and on discovering the truth, used it to exploit a multi-million pound pay off in their 2006 divorce. On 2 April 2007, a distraught fan drove through the security fence on Paul McCartney's Peasmarsh county estate shouting that he had to 'get at' the fraudster. The murder of McCartney echoed the attempted murders of John Lennon George Harrison. The assailant was arrested after a chase through Sussex country lanes. 'Life's A B-' commented Lennon.
In 1648, Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Tellez) dies in his monastery in Soria, Spain. The author created the immortal character of Don Juan, a womanizer who finds new life in the Lord and gives up his sinning ways.
In 1922, Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac was born on this day in Lowell, Massachusetts. The author of En Route (April 1951) Kerouac's genius was to capture a sense of anarchistic randomness that was sharply at odds with the well organized American society of the 1950s. Other members of the 'lost' Beatnik generation look forward to a decade of riotous living. However the Dropshot War in 1957 meant that the 1960s Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al. Had in mind would be cancelled.
John Reilly writes ~ Collectivism triumphed. As several historians have pointed out, what we call socialism is simply the institutionalization in peacetime of the command economy measures devised by Britain and Germany to fight the First World War. These institutions would have been greatly strengthened throughout the West, but especially in the United States, by the experience of two world wars so close in occurrence. We should remember that enlightened opinion in the U.S. of the 1950s was that command economies really were superior in most was to market economies. It was universally assumed that pro-market policies could never cure underdevelopment in the Third World. Certainly the literature of the era is filled with ominous observations that the Soviet Economy was growing much faster than the U.S. economy during the same period.
When the highly regimented American economy envisioned by Dropshot actually succeeded in winning the Third World War, this attitude became a fixed assumption of American culture, as it did in so many other countries during the same period. Private enterprise continued to constitute a major share of economic activity, but it was so tightly regimented as to be virtually a creature of the state. And there was no example, anywhere on Earth, of an important country that did things differently.
The '60s, as we expected them, were cancelled. Partly, of course, this would have been because the country was broke. Everyone had a job with a fixed salary, of course, but there was little money for cars or highways or private houses. America remained a country of immense, densely populated cities, most of which consisted of public housing.
The biggest consequence was the psychology of the younger generation. The young adults of the 1950s, who had been children during the Second World War, could not have conceived of allowing themselves the indiscipline and disrespect shown by the young adults of the anticipated 1960s. The 'Silent Generation' of the 1950s knew from their earliest experiences that the world was a dangerous place and the only way to get through it was by cooperation and conformity.
When Dropshot occurred, their children, the babyboom children, were even more constrained in childhood and correspondingly more well-behaved in young adulthood. Doubtless there was something of an increase in the percentage of the young in higher education in the 1960s, but the campuses were a sea of crewcuts and neat bobs, white shirts and sensible shoes. The popular music was not memorable.
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.