This week in Literature and Arts

Monster kids, join me in birthday wishes to the late, great zombie king George Romero, born February 4, 1940 in da Bronx. How many filmmakers can say they invented a genre? Attaboy, George!


February 5, 1957: Bill Haley and the Comets bring American rock ‘n’ roll to the UK and beyond, landing in Southampton to launch their first overseas tour. Paul McCartney, Pete Townsend, Billy J Kramer, and other British school kids, who in a few years would dominate pop music, all credit attending Haley’s shows as a defining moment in their decisions to pursue music careers.


Happy birthday to artist, poet, Beat Generation titan, hop head, and all around crazy bastard William S. Burroughs, born February 5, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. Old Bull Lee.


Remembering Jack “King” Kirby, who died of heart failure February 6, 1984. He was 76.

At the 2008 New York Comic Con Stan Lee said that Kirby, “was a born storyteller…he never ran out of ideas, and I stole as many of them as I could.”


Happy birthday to literary superstar and social avenger Charles Dickens, born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England.

Somebody hold him while I fetch a scissors and trim that muskrat on his chin.


Big 86th birthday wishes to John Williams, born February 8, 1932 in Floral Park, Queens. Only Walt Disney has garnered more Oscar nominations. It is impossible to imagine JAWS, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and, especially, Star Wars without Williams’s scores. His music is practically a character in these films. It’s hard to pick a favorite.


February 8, 1828: Jules Verne is born in the French sea-coast town of Nantes. He studied to be a lawyer like his father, but quit to pursue a career writing plays, poems, and novels. I believe he is among the top five authors translated into other languages.

With Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mysterious Island, Around the World in Eighty Days, Master of the World, From the Earth to the Moon and numerous similar titles in his bibliography, when it comes to old school science fiction-adventure stories, Jules rules! Try him!


February 9 1964: Two days after landing in America and playing a few gigs around the country, The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. I swear I can remember seeing this. Thanks, Ed!


Happy 74th birthday to poet and Pulitzer-winning novelist Alice Walker, born February 9, 1944 in Putnam County, Georgia.


Happy 75th birthday to Jersey boy Joe Pesci, born in Newark February 9, 1943. His acting career began at five in theater productions and by ten he was on TV. Pesci has a remarkable ability to take similar characters and make one funny as hell (My Cousin Vinny) and the other scary as hell (Goodfellas/Casino).

Apparently, it’s true that he introduced childhood friend Frankie Valley to members of what became The Four Seasons, and the Goodfellas “I’m funny how” scene was adlibbed.

Looking forward to seeing Joe back onscreen with De Niro and Pacino in Scorsese’s The Irishman.


Remembering the great Frank Frazetta on what would have been his 90th birthday (born February 9, 1928 in Brooklyn).

Remarkably, after a stroke crippled his right arm, he taught himself to work left-handed—and the stuff was good! Who the hell does that?


Monster kids join me in birthday greetings to Lon Chaney Jr, born Creighton Tull Chaney, February 10, 1906 in Oklahoma City. Before being lured into acting after his famous father’s death, Chaney was successful in the plumbing and appliance businesses (“I bought a toaster from the Wolf Man!”).

I believe he is the only actor to play Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and Dracula, but to most fans he’ll always be the Wolf Man.


Remembering Peter Benchley, who died from pulmonary fibrosis (scarred lungs), February 11, 2006 at age 65. I used to write him fan letters. He always wrote back. A good guy.


Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.