Category Archives: It Happened…

Each week, writer and photographer Michael Rogers (with a long history in book publishing and reporting) highlights what happened in the world of literature, publishing, and the arts that week in his own words (and through his own pictures). It’s a trip down memory lane of sorts, and it’s meant to both inform and entertain. Follow Michael’s phenomenal ‘it happened today’ daily updates on Facebook (which these posts are drawn from).

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 90th birthday to William Kennedy, born January 16, 1928 in Albany, NY. Don’t know if he has a new book coming. The last one was in 2012, but he takes his time.


Happy 70th birthday to musician and horror/sf director extraordinaire John Carpenter, born January 16, 1948 in Carthage, NY. Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Escape from NY, his films are loads of fun.


Monster kids, give up for Carl Laemmle, born January 17, 1867 in Laupheim, Germany. Carl opened a string of nickelodeons in New York in the early 1900s, later advancing into making the films himself by founding the Independent Motion Picture Company in New York. Once the business gained momentum, he moved out to California reorganizing it as Universal Studios in 1912.

Carl played an important role in many of the great horror films from the Chaney silents through Frankenstein and the Big D as well as hundreds of other movies of every ilk. A true film pioneer.

Salute, Carl.


Happy birthday to Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky January 17, 1942. Forever the Greatest.


January 18, 1985: The world meets the weird and wonderful Joel and Ethan Coen with the release of their first feature film, Blood Simple. The brothers have done lots of solid films since then (a few truly strange ones, too), but Blood Simple remains arguably their grittiest work. If you haven’t seen it in awhile reacquaint yourself. Good stuff.


January 18, 1952: Following a series of strokes that left him incapacitated and mostly hospitalized for more than a year, Curly Howard dies at 48. He is buried at Home of Peace Memorial Park, the Jewish cemetery outside LA. Shemp is there, too.


January 18, 1936: Rudyard Kipling dies of complications following surgery for a perforated ulcer. He was 70. His ashes are interred in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.


Happy 208th birthday to the father of the American detective mystery, Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston, MA, January 19, 1809.

Is it just me, or does this guy have a huge, oddly shaped head? And the right  side of his mustache is longer than the left.


Birthday greetings to Colin Clive, born January 20, 1900 to English parents in France (his father was an army officer). A terrible leg injury dashed his own plans for a military career and sent him toward the stage. Alas, it also drove him to heavy drinking and smoking leading to tuberculosis that killed him at only 37.


January 21, 1946: The Fat Man debuts on ABC radio. Although the detective drama was credited to Dashiell Hammett, producer Mannie Rosenberg performed most of the heavy lifting. Starring J. Scott Smart as the title character, the series ran until 1951, making the jump to the big screen in a William Castle-directed feature film starring Smart the same year.


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.

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 140th birthday to three-time Pulitzer winner Carl Sandburg, a dean of American poetry as well as a journalist and biographer, born January 6, 1878 in Galesburg, Illinois.


Birthday greetings to Sherlock Holmes, born January 6, 1854, presumably in England but Conan Doyle didn’t specify. Nice to see the character enjoying a renaissance.


Happy 83rd birthday to Elvis, the Tupelo, Mississippi Flash, born January 8, 1935. He’s 12 or 13 in this pic, about when his mother bought him a guitar as a birthday present. He wanted a rifle or a bike. Moms always know.

Hail to The King, baby!


Happy birthday to Soupy Sales, born Milton Supman in Franklinton, NC, January 8, 1926. Throw a pie in someone’s face today. You know you want to do it—it’ll feel really good!


January 10, 1961: After a lifetime of smoking, Dashiell Hammett dies of lung cancer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He was 66 and hadn’t published in years.

He’d served in both world wars permitting burial at Arlington. Visited him there a few years ago.


January 12, 1966: Batman debuts on ABC with the episode “Hi Diddle Riddle.” The series lasted three seasons, wrapping March 14, 1968.

If you were a kid back then, this show was such a big deal. Yeah, it’s campy, clichéd, etc., but it also sported many Hollywood veterans elevating the material while enjoying a career boost and a new audience. Everyone looked like they were having fun (Adam West later revealed that he and others were stoned while filming it, which helps).

Remarkably, 52 years later at least two cable stations I receive air this daily, and I’ll bet it’s still broadcast all over the world—even in the shithole countries!


Happy birthday to Jack London, born January 12, 1876 in San Francisco. Along with being of the early 20th century’s literary superstars, he was a solid photographer. He burned out fast, was dead at 40.


January 13, 1941: Following surgery for a perforated ulcer, James Joyce dies at 58 years old. He’s buried at the Fluntern Cemetery outside Zurich, Switzerland.


January 13, 1968: Johnny Cash performs at California’s Folsom Prison. The legend is that among the yardbirds attending the show was Merle Haggard. Don’t know if it’s true. What is true is that Cash was stoned out of his mind. Nonetheless, the fabulous recording edited together from the two shows won Cash the Country Music Association’s Album of the Year award, and 50 years later it’s still good stuff. One of the great, great live recordings.


January 14, 1957: Throat cancer takes Humphrey Bogart at 57. Booze and smokes. What a waste. All the films that weren’t.


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.

This week in Literature and Arts

Monster kids, join me in birthday wishes for Vampira, born Maila Nurmi December 11, 1922 either in Gloucester, Mass. or Petsamo, Finland depending upon who you ask.

The legend surrounding her becoming the first horror host is that her curvy figure caught the eye of TV producer Hunt Stromberg who spied her dressed as Morticia Adams at a costume party and later offered her a gig hosting B movies while performing shtick on KABC-TV in Los Angeles. Frankly, I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a damn good story so I’m sticking with it.

She parlayed the horror-host routine into appearances in films, most notably the Ed Wood shlockers, and numerous television performances. A TV pioneer.


Happy birthday to Jersey boy Francis Albert Sinatra, born December 12, 1915 in Hoboken. Apparently a bit of a scumbag in real life (most artists are, alas), but a voice that comes only once.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 85th birthday to Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia’s Pleasant Hill section December 5, 1932. One of rock ‘n’ roll’s inventors and certainly its most flamboyant founder—Richard was pioneering glam rock when David Bowie was still in high school. He influenced rockers as wide ranging as the Beatles to Patti Smith.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 75th birthday to Jimi Hendrix, born November 27, 1942, in Seattle, WA. His first name actually was John, but his father, James, later changed it to match his own.

Jimmy enlisted in the army in 1961, serving with the 101st airborne “Screaming Eagles.” By 1965 he was a popular session guitarist playing for the leading black stars from Little Richard to Ike and Tina before becoming a headliner.

Alas, Jimi overdosed when he was only 27.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Monster squad, let’s blow out some birthday candles (it’ll take all of us, there’s 137 of them) for the fabulous pinch-faced bitty Una O’Connor, born in Belfast, Ireland, October 23, 1890.

Along with The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein, O’Connor appeared in Robin Hood and other Errol Flynn swashbucklers and a slew of other top films. Always fun to watch.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 129th birthday to Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, born in New York City’s Barrett House Hotel on 43rd and Broadway October 16, 1888.

He wore a suit and tie while writing his plays, scratching them out with pen and paper. Dinner and drinks then back to the desk to edit the day’s work.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 77th birthday to John Winston Lennon, born October 9, 1946. Oddly, if he still were alive he might actually look like Wilfred Bramble now.


October 10, 1985: Orson Welles, 70, dies of heart failure while sleeping. Before going to bed he’d spent the night writing stage directions for his next project.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to the one, the only Groucho, born October 2, 1890, on East 78th Street in Manhattan.


October 2, 1959: Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone premieres on CBS with the episode, “Where is Everybody?”


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This week in Literature and Arts

Star Wars geeks join me in 66th birthday greetings to Mark Hamill, born in Oakland, CA, September 25, 1951. Mark, I hope you have dialog in Ep. 8!

Here’s a bad pic from NYCC 2011.


Remembering Mary Astor, who died September 25, 1987, age 81. My son and I visited her grave last year in LA at Holy Cross Cemetery (not too, too far from John Ford). She was hard to find.

Forever Brigid O’Shaughnessy.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Birthday greetings to Brian De Palma, born September 11, 1940, in Newark, NJ. I assume he’s best known for the crime thrillers Scarface and “The Untouchables,” but I prefer the scary stuff like Carrie, The Fury, and Dressed To Kill” Eye of the beholder.

Happy 77th Brian. Thanks for the chills (the slow razor through Angie Dickinson’s hand creeps me out every time!).


Happy birthday to Henry Louis Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, born September 12, 1880, in that city. I don’t know if many read him anymore, although he is well worth it. And remember that he and George Jean Nathan created Black Mask magazine in 1920. For that and more I thank him.


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This week in Literature and Arts

August 28, 1978: John Huston, 81, dies of pneumonia linked to a variety of heart and lung ailments associated with heavy smoking.

A remarkably talented man, who, by numerous accounts, also was a real son of a bitch.


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This week in Literature and Arts

Happy birthday to Alfred Hitchcock, born August 13, 1899, in London. His films are still so much fun to watch.


August 15, 1965: Performing at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY, The Beatles set another precedent as the first band to play a sports arena.


August 16, 1977: Elvis Presley dies at 42 with enough fat in his arteries to grease a train, and the drugs in his blood would fuel a Grateful Dead tour.

“Like no one before, he let out a roar, and I just had to tag along.

Each night I went to bed with the sound in my head, and the dream was a song.

Big Train from Memphis, Big Train from Memphis,

Now it’s gone gone gone, gone gone gone.”

—John Fogerty, “Big Train (From Memphis)”

Hail to The King, baby!


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This week in Literature and Arts

August 7, 1934: The U.S. Court of Appeals upholds the lower court’s ruling that James Joyce’s novel Ulysses is art, not pornography, and eligible for sale in the United States.


August 8, 1969: At roughly 11:30 a.m. as a constable held traffic, photographer Iain Macmillan climbed a stepladder, focused his Hasselbad camera’s 50 mm lens closed down the aperture to f22 for great depth, and firing the shutter at 1/500th of a second shot six pictures of The Beatles walking away from EMI Studios crossing Abbey Road. The fifth exposure became the album cover.

Linda McCartney on the sidelines shot her own pix of the event.


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This week in Literature and Arts

July 29, 1954: “…that mad Baggins is off again” with Allen and Unwin’s publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. Hello Sam and Frodo!


July 29, 1965: HELP!, the Beatles second film with director Richard Lester, premiers at London’s Pavilion Theatre.


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