1587 – Mary Queen of Scots is beheaded

Say what you like about Elizabeth I, Queen of England, but she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty as a ruler. Even less afraid was her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, whose careful interception of the letters of Mary, Queen of Scots, made it clear that Mary – who had a good claim to the English throne in her own right – was plotting to have her cousin murdered and to take her place as Queen.

Under the circumstances, Mary’s arrest, conviction and sentencing to execution were more or less guaranteed, although Elizabeth hesitated to order the death sentence carried out, as she worried that it might set a precedent for Queen-killing, something she had a vested interest in preventing. Her Privy Council took the matter out of her hands, and Mary was scheduled to beheaded on February 8, 1587. In the event, it took two strokes of the headman’s axe to kill her. Her body, clothing and personal effects were burnt to frustrate relic hunters.

Referenced in:

Fotheringay — Fairport Convention

1960 – Construction of the Hollywood Walk of Fame begins

Another manifestation of Hollywood’s love affair with itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – you know, all those stars set in the concrete of Hollywood Boulevard (and Vine Street, for the overflow) – was originally conceieved of in the 1950’s. Construction began on February 8, 1960, and the first star was completed a little over a month later.

However, the project soon fell into disuse, and after 1960, no more stars were awarded until 1968, when the Walk of Fame fell under new management. Today, there are more than 2400 stars in the Walk, with 20-30 new ones added each year. Qualifying for a star means satisfying a number of strict criteria, the strictest of which is that you (or whoever nominates you) must pay US $25,000 to the committe that runs the Walk.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame was intended to a tourist trap – I’m sorry, a tourist attraction – and it has become this.

Referenced in:

Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers

1976 – “Taxi Driver” premieres

One of the most seminal films in the legendary body of work produced by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver is a story of alienation, violence, and possibly redemption. A taxi driver named Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) drives his cab through the night-time streets of mid-Seventies New York, seeking a human connection he’s unable to make, and eventually spirals downward into violence and madness.

It’s by no means a comfortable film to watch, but it is one of the greatest films ever made: the American Film Institute ranked Taxi Driver as the 52nd greatest American film on their AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) list. In 2012, Sight & Sound named it the 31st best film ever created on its decadal critics’ poll, ranked with The Godfather Part II, and the 5th greatest film ever on its directors’ poll.

If you haven’t already seen it, you should. Just don’t expect to find it cheerful.

Referenced in:
Martin Scorsese — King Missile
Martin Scorsese Really Is Quite A Jovial Fellow — This Is Serious Mum