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.

Happy 60th birthday to Steve Buscemi, who has been likened to a “human cigarette,” born December 13, 1957 in Brooklyn.

While studying acting at the Strasburg school, Steve worked as a fireman in Little Italy. He’s been excellent in so many films, but I’m betting that wherever he goes fans snicker, “Shut the fuck up, Donny.”

“Welcome to the party, pal!”  Die Hard is among this year’s inductees in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. Frankly, there are a number of questionable titles in this year’s crop, which includes Superman (WTF?), The Goonies, (WTF x 2?), Field of Dreams (WTFFF?), La Bamba (WTF in Spanish?), and Titanic (WTF on ice?), along with the more deserving Spartacus, Dumbo, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Gentlemen’s Agreement.

Grab your boogie shoes and polyester: Saturday Night Fever turns 40 today! Directed by John Badham, the film was released December 14, 1977. Yikes, remember all that disco crap—the big hair, everyone wearing those awful outfits trying to channel Travolta, and the BeeGees singing like mice!

Fortunately, the craze wasn’t stayin’ alive for long. In retrospect it’s kinda kitschy fun now (it’s actually a pretty good film). Apparently, the Brooklyn disco where much of the film’s action occurred is now a Chinese restaurant. I wonder if the mirrored ball still is hanging from the ceiling?

Happy birthday to lovely, lovely Ludwig Van, born December 16, 1770, in Bonn, Germany to a family of musicians and singers.

He showed talent at a young age spurring his father to bombard the boy with music instruction of every kind in hopes he’d be the next Mozart (a performing monkey). It worked.

December 17, 1843: Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, literature’s most famous ghost story, is published. I’m always surprised at how many fans know it only from films without ever having read it. A shame since it’s a quick, beautiful read. It’s fabulous on audio as well.

Bravo, Charles.

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.