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 100th birthday to William Holden, born—YIKES!—Billy Beedle, Jr., in O’Fallon, Illinois, April 17, 1918.

A variety of roles and he’s good in them all (not sure that comedy was quite his thing), but especially solid in dramas. Always fun to watch him on screen.

Well done, Billy Beedle!

April 17, 1885: Karen (Isak) Dinesen is born in Rungsted, Denmark. Her stories are good, but if you’ve never read Out of Africa you’ve missed something special.

April 17, 1790: Author, inventor, statesman Benjamin Franklin dies in his Philadelphia home at 84. Overweight and suffering from numerous health problems, Franklin principally was homebound for the last decade of his life. Death and taxes, you got ’em, Ben!

Happy 80th anniversary to Superman, who debuted April 18, 1938 in Action Comics No. 1 released by National Allied Publication. The ten-cent cost (roughly $1.69 in today’s economy) was the same as a gallon of gas in 1938, but considering copies now sell for roughly $3 million it was a good use of a dime.

The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, two Ohio high school kids.

In geek history this pretty much is the big bang. Happy anniversary, Supes!

April 20, 1821: The Philadelphia-based Graham’s Magazine publishes “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by its editor, Edgar Allan Poe. American private detective fiction is born. Poe received $56 for the story.

Bravo, Edgar!

April 22, 1935: The Bride of Frankenstein opens. Arguably, the first time in film history that a sequel equaled, and, perhaps, surpassed, the original, although since both films are so short—and the second begins exactly where the first ends—you can view them as two halves of one longer piece (sewn together—yep, I said it—they’re only about 2.5 hours).

Michael Rogers ( 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

Movie fans and Star Wars geeks join me in birthday greetings to Sir Alec Guinness, born in London’s Paddington vicinity, April 2, 1914. I like him best in the David Lean films, and he brought a touch of class as Kenobi, and, of course, the man was born to play Smiley.

Guinness wrote a few memoirs, very charming and worth breezing through. (I guess he liked this pose!)

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This week in Literature and Arts

Seems impossible, but Steven Tyler turns 70 today! Steven was born March 26, 1948 in Manhattan (I wouldn’t have pegged him for a NYer). Happy birthday, Steven. Have a great one, man!

March 26, 1959: Raymond Chandler goes for the big sleep, dying at 70.

March 26, 1920: Scribner publishes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel This Side of Paradise (the book began life as The Romantic Egoist, but was revised after failing to sell).

Scott was fixing cars to pay his bills when the novel appeared in bookstores. In weeks he’d be the darling of American literature. He was 25 years old and had opened the door for many young writers to come.

Happy birthday to scholar and poet A.E. Housman, born in Bromsgrove. Worcestershire, England, March 26, 1859.

A Shropshire Lad is the real thing.

March 27, 1952: Singin’ In the Rain premieres at Radio City Music Hall before opening nationwide April 9.

I’m not a musicals fan, but I like this one tremendously because if the singing/dancing were removed there’s still a fun romantic comedy at work.

Happy birthday to Bohumil Hrabal, Born March 28, 1914, in Brno, Austria-Hungary. Probably not the most widely read guy on American shores, but he’s one of the greats.

His novel I Served the King of England will knock you on your ass!

Join me in wishing a happy 75th birthday Eric Idle, born March 29, 1943 in blitzkrieg England.

Monty Python; The Rutles; Spamalot; wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.

Happy 75th, Eric. Still one of the great twits!

March 30, 1939: Detective Comics No. 27 featuring the six-page adventure, “The Case of Chemical Syndicate” introduces the “mysterious and adventurous” costumed crime-buster, The Bat-Man.”

Fuck yeah!

Happy 76th birthday to Eric Clapton, born March 30, 1942 in Surrey, England.

He’s still god.

Happy 75th birthday to Christopher Walken, born as Ronald (after Ronald Coeman) in Astoria, Queens, March 31, 1943. Except for a brief part in The Anderson Tapes most fans think his career began with The Deer Hunter but he actually did TV in the 50s as a kid, even appearing with Martin & Lewis.

Walken’s given good performances in a variety of genres—although he’s arguably the worst James Bond villain—but has made a career playing psychos, and he’s great at it, but I actually like some of the smaller, more controlled performances in Suicide Kings and The Maiden Heist. Big or small he’s always fun to watch.

Happy 75th, Chris!

Happy 89th birthday to Milan Kundera, born April 1, 1929, in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Despite having fled to France in 1975 to escape political persecution as a writer, he’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize because he abandoned politics as a theme in his latter novels.

Enjoy your birthday, sir.

Michael Rogers ( 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 190th birthday to Henrik Ibsen, born March 20, 1828 in Skien, Norway. He wrote many of theater’s greatest works and influenced god knows how many other playwrights and novelists, yet never won the Nobel, despite three nominations. Must have been the hair (look at that mop)!

Happy birthday to Chico, born Leonard Marx in New York City, March 22, 1887.

That’sa fine, eh!

March 22, 1976: In the Tunisian desert, George Lucas begins rolling film on his low-budget, kids’ space-fantasy film, The Star Wars. Turned out pretty good! Attaboy, George!

A happy 87th birthday to William Shatner, born into a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal, Canada, March 22, 1931.

His career has been so overshadowed by Kirk that you forget all the other fun stuff he did before.

March 22, 1963: Please Please Me, The Beatles’ debut album, is released by Parlophone Records in the UK. All those 50s guys who invented rock’n’roll didn’t know it, but they were done.

Speaking of the Beatles, let’s wish a happy birthday to character actor Wilfrid Bramble (Paul’s spirited grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night), born in Dublin, Ireland, March 22, 1912.

March 24, 1874 : Harry Houdini is born Erik Weisz, a rabbi’s son, in Budapest. His family emigrated to America when he was 4, initially settling in Wisconsin then later New York (where else!). Erik was a champion cross-country runner as a kid (great lungs!) and began studying magic in his early teens.

The name Harry, apparently, is a twisted, Americanized form of Eric, and Houdini allegedly came from the French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. Harry began his professional career performing slight-of-hand card manipulations in circuses but bombed at it. A colleague advised him to turn his passion toward escape tricks. Good choice.

Happy birthday to Steve McQueen, born March 24, 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana. He had a tempestuous early life, bouncing between assorted relatives with whom he clashed before his antisocial behavior landed him in reform school. He did a stint in the marine corp armored division, but—ahem—”tanked” at it before finding acting.

He naturally rebelled against authority, a personality trait that served his film persona well but made him the bane of many directors and producers.

Forever The King of Cool.

Everyone join me in wishing a happy 99th birthday—woohoo!—to poet, publisher, and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, born March 24, 1919 in Bronxville, NY.

Happy birthday, Lawrence! Make it to 100, man!

Michael Rogers ( 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 birthday to Jack Kerouac, born in the second floor bedroom at 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, MA on March 12, 1922. Played football at Columbia University. The all-American boy.

March 13, 1956: Warner’s releases John Ford’s The Searchers. For my dime it is one of the ten best American films, and John Wayne gives one of the screen’s great performances.

He’s often criticized for simply being “John Wayne” in every film, but not here. Costar Harry Carey Jr. recalled that although he’d already appeared with Wayne in several films, Wayne was different on The Searchers set; very quiet and distant with a vacant look in his eyes.

Ride away.

Happy birthday to the great Sylvia Beach, bookseller to the Lost Generation’s literary lights and publisher of Ulysses, born in Baltimore March 14, 1887.

During the Nazi occupation of Paris a German officer wanted Sylvia’s last copy of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, but she told him politely to fuck off. He left threatening to return with other goons and take everything. She locked the door and with the help of her girlfriend carried all the books upstairs to their rooms so when the asshole came back the place was empty.

Considering she could have been shot, hung, or the store burned (with her in it), that’s a woman with real balls.

Fuck yeah Sylvia Beach!

Happy 70th birthday to Billy Crystal, born in New York City March 14, 1948. Billy lived in the Bronx before his family relocated to Long Beach out on the Island. He was a champion high school athlete and attended college on a baseball scholarship.

I think he’s as funny as all hell.

Makeup wizard Dick Smith morphs Marlon Brando into Don Vito Corleone for The Godfather, which opened March 15, 1972.

It’s one of those rarities where the film is superior to the novel. Not just a wondrous script, but many of the memorable lines were ad-libbed by the sterling cast.

Get your Irish up and wish a happy 100th birthday to literary scholar biographer Richard Ellman, born March 15, 1918 in Highland Park, Michigan. His lengthy bios on Joyce, Wilde, and Yeats are standards.

Happy 86th birthday to John Updike, born March 18, 1932 in Reading, PA. Fabulous writer and a nice guy.

Birthday wishes also to George Plimpton, born in New York City March 18, 1927. Because of the Thurston Howell-esque way he spoke, George seemed standoffish, but he was a very warm and friendly man. Funny, a good listener, and a solid writer.

Remembering Chuck Berry, gone a year today (March 18, 2017).

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

This week in Literature and Arts

Cue Credence, dump a marmot in your bath, blaze one up, and wish a happy 20th anniversary to The Big Lebowski, released March 6, 1998.

A weird combination of stoner craziness and old-school LA detective pulp that somehow works. Bravo  Coens, Bridges, Goodman, Buscemi, Moore, etc. …and don’t fuck with the Jesus!

March 8, 1935: Scribner’s releases Thomas Wolfe’s second novel, Of Time and the River. The book was a much-abbreviated version of The October Fair, a multivolume work that was deemed too long to be financially successful so was whittled down by Wolfe and editor Max Perkins.

Happy 100th birthday to MWA Grand Master Mickey Spillane, born Frank Morrison Spillane in Brooklyn (but raised in Jersey), March 9, 1918. The Mike Hammer mysteries are a time capsule, but when you’re in the mood they really hit the spot.

I think (but am not positive) that Mickey holds the distinction of being the only author to play his own character on film—in 1963 he starred as Hammer in the screen adaptation of The Girl Hunters.

Mickey’s more than 40 novels have sold in excess of 225 million copies. Considering how fucked up, frustrating, and savage society is now I’m surprised he’s not experiencing a renaissance.

Happy 100th, Mick!

March 10, 1965: The world meets Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison with the opening of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple at the Plymouth Theatre on W45th St. Walter Matthau played the contented, cigar-chomping slob Felix to Art Carney’s annoying, fastidious Felix.

The play was a smash, leading author Neil Simon to incorporate himself with The Odd Couple as the company’s first property. Later when Paramount came knocking to morph the play into a film, Simon sold the company, but like many writers he didn’t understand the contract’s fine points and unwittingly sold the complete rights to The Odd Couple. Beyond his salary as writer (he adapted his original work into a screenplay) he received no royalties from the film or later from the TV incarnation or future theater productions.

How’s that for a kick in the ass!

Happy birthday to the great Shemp Howard, born Samuel Horwitz in Brooklyn March 10, 1895.

Was mainlining Ash vs The Evil Dead all week with Bruce Campbell keeping the flame alive with his best Stoogesque shtick and drinking a can of Shemp Beer. Immortal!

Michael Rogers ( 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 birthday to social novelist, poet, and artist Victor Hugo, born February 26, 1802 in Besancon, France. Thanks to Les Mis, his work still is enjoyed all over the world, and, perhaps, has inspired a few to read him. Could be worse.

Happy 86th birthday to Johnny Cash, born into a farming family in Kingsland, Arkansas, February 26, 1932.

Birthday greetings to John Steinbeck, born February 27, 1902 in Salinas, CA.

Maybe the great American novelist.

Happy birthday to the versatile Robert Lowell, born March 1, 1917 in Boston. His schoolboy friends gave him the nickname Cal for Caligula. Must have been an unusual kid.

March 2, 1933: As the Great Depression drags on, 50,000 New Yorkers crowd Radio City and the neighboring Roxy theater on 49th St. from morning til night to be the first crop to see King Kong before it opened nationwide April 7.

At Radio City the film is accompanied by a stage show called the Jungle Review. Tickets cost 35 cents for a morning show and 50 cents for a matinee, while the price jumped to 75 cents for an evening performance.

Happy 85th anniversary, big guy! You’re beautiful and still “the thrill of a lifetime.”

Not coincidentally, March 2 also is the birthday of Willis O’Brien, the stop-motion animation pioneer who brought Kong to life. Obie was born in Oakland, CA in 1886 (That’s him below on the left talking to producer Merian C. Cooper with the full-size Kong head).

Michael Rogers ( 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 66th birthday to Amy Tan, born February 19, 1952 in Oakland, CA. I’ve enjoyed several of her books and have met her once or twice. Nice gal.

Happy birthday to outdoor photography geek Ansel Adams, born February 20, 1902 in San Francisco. I could never get the hang of his Zoning System of exposure, but it certainly worked for him. Amazing photos.

Happy birthday to the fiery Sam Peckinpah, arguably, the last great director of the distinctly American genre, the Western, born David Samuel P., February 21, 1925, in Fresno, CA.

Besides writing and directing, Sam appeared as an actor in a handful of films, including a forgettable part in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (I think he was a seedpod with a nasty attitude!).

Happy birthday to Mr. droll Alan Rickman, born February 21, 1946 in London. Good in everything, really, but Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber is the gold standard for sophisticated villains.

Monster kids, a round of applause for the great Dwight Frye, “The Man with the 1000-Watt Stare,” born February 22, 1899 in Salina, Kansas. I believe he began his career as a pianist before settling on acting.

Frye is such a staple in the old horror films that when you see him playing a normal person elsewhere he seems out of place. The Universals wouldn’t be the same without him; he adds a certain something.  Salute, Dwight!

February 23, 1868: Sociologist/activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Happy 75th birthday to guitar kid George Harrison, born February 24, 1943 in Liverpool, England.

George always believed his birthday was February 25, but information revealed near the end of his life showed that he actually entered the world a few minutes before midnight on the 24th, not just after 12 on the 25th.

Whichever is correct (it’s close enough), happy birthday, George. If you thought the world was fucked up before, you should see it now.

Despite his famous epithet, there was nothing “quiet” about him. Love to you, George. We miss you.

Michael Rogers ( 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

February 13, 2000: The last original Peanuts strip is published hours after creator Charles Schulz succumbs to colon cancer at 77. Schulz’s contract with United Features prevented another artist from taking over Peanuts after his passing. Recycled strips continue to run in more than 2000 daily newspapers.

In the recent wildfires that devastated California, Schulz’s house–full of original drawings and memorabilia–was destroyed.

February 14, 1930: Knopf publishes The Maltese Falcon in revised novel form. American pulp fiction becomes literature.

Still the greatest Valentine to hardboiled mystery hounds

Monster kids, give it up for Kevin McCarthy, born February 15, 1914 in Seattle WA. Met him at ChillerCon ages ago and he was a pretty nice guy. So many big and small screen appearances, but, of course, he’ll always be Dr. Miles Bennell in Don Siegel’s 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (terrific book, too).

And remember to eat your vegetables before you become one!

February 17, 1939: “Out of the stirring glory of Kipling’s India they roar…”:RKO releases director George Stevens’s Gunga Din, based (very loosely) on Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Actor Reginald Sheffield appears briefly as Kipling, who, for inexplicable reasons, is afield with the British army. Still among the greatest action films.

February 17, 1975: John Lennon bids the world adieu with the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll, an album of 50s cover songs that lured him into music as a teen. The album’s jacket sports a photo of 20-something greaser Lennon leaning in the doorway of Jagerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 22 in Hamburg, Germany.

The picture was shot in April 1961 by 21 year old Jurgen Vollmer when the band was playing at the Top Ten Club. The ghostly figures on the sidewalk were Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe, who was on the verge of leaving the band to pursue his art studies. Alas, Stu would be dead within weeks from a brain hemorrhage.

Before running a roll of monochrome 120 through his tripoded Rolli, Vollmer had Paul, George, and Stu practice walking to find a speed that left their pointed boots sharp and their bodies blurry (although successful, the pic, ironically, was cropped for the cover).

Rock ‘n’ Roll was Lennon’s last album release for five years. Goodbye, John.

February 18, 1885: Publisher Chatto & Windus/Charles L. Webster And Company releases Mart Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the United States after the book debuted in England the previous year.

Happy birthday to Jack Palance, born Volodymyr Palahniuk, February 18, 1919, in Hazelton PA. He briefly boxed professionally before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Later, he understudied for Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and eventually took over the Kowalski role.

Palance’s sharp features reportedly served as Jack Kirby’s inspiration when creating the Darkseid character in his Fourth World universe (whodathunkit!).

In his autobiography, Billy Crystal talked about working with Palance on City Slickers. Palance apparently had a huge head and had to hold it a certain way for the camera so it looked normal.

Michael Rogers ( 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 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 ( 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

January 29, 1845: After wallowing in obscurity for years, Edgar Allan Poe is catapulted to literary stardom with the publication of The Raven in the New York Evening Mirror.

January 30, 1969: Although they knew it was over, the Beatles attempt to “get back” to their roots as a working rock band by performing on the roof of the Apple building at 3 Saville Row, London.

The 42-minute, nine-song set would be their last live performance together.

And then they were gone.

January 30, 1933: The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit’s WXYZ radio with George Seaton voicing the title character and John Todd playing Tonto. Remarkably, the show ran until 1955. Even if you’re not a fan, 22 years (almost 3000 episodes) is an impressive run.

The legend is that the term “Kemosabe” used by Tonto to address the Ranger was the name of a summer camp owned by producer James Jewell’s father-in-law. Maybe, maybe not. The radio program spawned a series of books, comic books, a movie serial, a TV show, feature films, and mega merchandising.

Hi-Yo Greenbacks!

“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra,”.said Ernest Hemingway about John O’Hara, born January 31, 1905 in Pottsville, PA. Many people haven’t read him, but he’s damn good.

Matt Bruccoli swore that O’Hara was one of the greats. Believe him.

Happy birthday to the great John Ford, born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, February 1, 1894.

Ford apparently had the odd habit of chewing the corners of handkerchiefs while he worked. He pocketed a new one every morning before leaving for location and after chomping on it all day while directing by the time he went home again he’d essentially eaten it!

February 2, 1882: John and May Joyce welcome the birth of their first child, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, at 41 Brighton Square in Dublin’s Rathgar suburb. I’ll bet he was a real pip as a kid.

Birthday greetings to James Dickey, born February 2, 1923 in Atlanta. I met him once on a visit to the University of South Carolina not long before his death, but already he was losing his battle with cancer and had difficulty speaking. Still glad to have seen him.

Birthday greetings to Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet, patron of the arts, and den mother of the Lost Generation, born February 3, 1874 in Alleghany, PA.

From everything I’ve read, I imagine her to be a huge pain in the ass, but the one person I’ve ever talked to who met Stein said she was actually quite nice. I still bet she was a pill.

Michael Rogers ( 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

Birthday greetings to a pair of Chicagoans, who, alas, no longer are with us:  Warren Zevon born January 24, 1947, and John Belushi (1949).

Both left the world too soon—Zevon was 56 when he succumbed to cancer, while Belushi was only 33 when he OD’d.

Happy 258th birthday to Robert Burns, born in Alloway, Scotland, January 25 1759. Remarkably, he’s still considered Scotland’s national poet (I believe he was an early figure in the Romantic school, as well).

Burns isn’t so big in the U.S., but in Scotland there are monuments to him everywhere, including this three-story beast in Edinburgh in the shadow of the great castle.

January 27, 1970: John Lennon writes “Instant Karma” in less than an hour in the morning and records it in the evening with the help of George Harrison playing acoustic guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White drumming. It was released February 6.

Play it loud. John said so.

Happy 262nd birthday to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. He farted out his first concerto at two months old. What a guy!

January 27, 2010: J.D. Salinger dies in his Cornish, New Hampshire, home at 91.

Whatever happened to all those manuscripts he left behind, were any published? Anyone know?

R.I.P. Mort Walker, who passed January 27 at 94. He drew Beetle Bailey for 67 years (the longest single run for any cartoonist). Saw him at New York Comic Con many times, nice guy. He also drew Hi and Lois (Lois is Beetle’s sister). His kids are going to continue to produce Beetle Bailey, but it won’t be the same.

Adios, Mort.

Michael Rogers ( 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 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 ( 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 ( 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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