1965 — Ben Stiller born

Ben Stiller is one of the world’s most well known actors, starring in (among others) Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, the Night at the Museum series and the Madagascar series. Unlike many actors, he’s actually using his real name in his career, not a stage name – his parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne O’Meara, are also actors, and Stillers junior and senior have frequently appeared together on screen.

Stiller is the acknowledged leader of the “Frat Pack” group of actors, and career wise, is pretty much at the top of his game as a writer, director and actor right now.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part III) — Adam Sandler

circa 3500 BCE — Aphrodite born from the blood of castrated Uranus

Legend has it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was born in a most unusual way: when Cronus led his fellow Titans in a rebellion against their father, Uranus, the final victory was achieved when the son castrated his father, and cast his genitals into the ocean (accounts vary as to whether this was offshore from Paphos in Cyprus or the island of Cythera). Aphrodite sprung fully formed and already an adult from the foaming waves of the wine dark sea.

Aphrodite was known to the Romans as Venus, and it was under this name that she became popular with later Europeans, notably as the subject of the painting “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, and numerous surviving sculptures, such as the Venus de Milo.

Referenced in:
Tales of Brave Ulysses — Cream

1996 — A statue of Freddie Mercury is unveiled in Montreux

Standing nearly ten feet tall – as is only appropriate for such a larger than life figure – Irena Sedlecka’s sculpture of Freddie Mercury was unveiled five years and one day after his death on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Montreux, Switzerland. It shows Mercury in one of his more iconic images, his cut off mike stand in one hand, and the other thrust into the air, while his face wears an expression of sheer exultation familiar to anyone who ever saw Queen play.

The ceremony was attended by the sculptor, Mercury’s father, his bandmates from Queen Roger Taylor and Brian May, and Montserrat Caballé, with whom he had worked in the last years of his life. The statue stands there still, a tribute to a champion, a man whom even death could not stop.

Referenced in:
No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young) — Queen

1969 — Rupert Murdoch begins publishing “The Sun”

Rupert Murdoch was already a media magnate in his native Australia, and in New Zealand as well, when he entered the British media market in 1968. His initial foray was to purchase the “News of the World”, but the following year, he picked up the struggling daily “The Sun”, which was five years old and in serious trouble. He shifted it to a tabloid format with an emphasis on page three girls and sports – he also saved money by using a single printing press for both papers (they had previously each had their own).

The revamped paper first appeared in its tabloid format on November 17, 1969 – the first headline was “HORSE DOPE SENSATION”, and its redesigned masthead was deliberately in imitation of its main competitor, “The Daily Mirror”. In the years that followed, “The Sun” would become one of the dominant newspapers in the United Kingdom (and its success helped to fund Murdoch’s later expansion into the American market). Along the way, Murdoch has made powerful enemies at every turn – but he’s also made even more powerful friends, especially on the right wing of politics in the countries where his enterprises operate.

Referenced in:
Dear Mr Murdoch — Roger Taylor

1966 – The first documented sighting of the West Virginia Mothman takes place

On November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant, West Virginia were out for a pleasant drive. Steve and Mary Mallette and Roger and Linda Scarberry later told police that they saw a large white creature whose eyes “glowed red” when the car headlights picked it up. They described it as a large flying man with ten-foot wings following their car.

Unknown to them, five others had sighted the creature three days earlier, but theirs was the first account to make the news, appearing in the Point Pleasant Register the following day. Over the next month, the creature, now called ‘the Mothman’, was sighted several more times, but after the collapse of a nearby bridge and the resulting deaths of 46 people, sightings dried up for a time – a fact that led many to speculate that the Mothman was a harbinger or prophet of the event.

Referenced in:
Sleestak Lightning — Clutch

1934 — Edgar Sampson writes “Stompin’ at the Savoy”

The Savoy Ballroom was one of the most happenning places in all of Jazz Age Harlem. It’s not at all mysterious why Edgar Sampson (a member of the Ballroom’s house band) would chose to memorialise it in song, nor why that song would become a popular standard (especially at the Savoy itself). The mystery is why it took nearly ten years (the Savoy Ballroom first opened its doors in 1926) for such a song to be written.

The piece was originally an instrumental, with the now familiar lyrics added to it by Andy Razaf later – the song had been recorded twice as an instrumental and even made the charts in that form. The song has been covered by countless musicians in the 80 years of its life, and remains a popular song even today.

Referenced in:
Le Freak — Chic

1728 – James Cook born

James Cook, better known to history as Captain Cook, was born in Yorkshire, the second of eight children. After a period of service and learning in the merchant navy, Cook joined the Royal Navy in 1755, and rose through the ranks to become Captain of his own ship. In this role, he would distinguish himself as one of the greatest navigators and surveyors the world has ever seen.

He is best remembered for his three voyages to the Pacific, where he lead missions that were the first Europeans to set foot on New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia, and the first people ever to cross the Antarctic circle, among other accomplishments. Even during his lifetime, Cook was so respected the world over that during the American Revolution, the rebel navy had orders not to fire on his ship, but to render him assistance as ‘a friend to all mankind’.

Referenced in:
The Miracle — Queen