474 — Zeno become Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire

Initially appointed as Co-Emperor by Leo II, Zeno was the son in law of Leo I, married to his daughter Ariadne. Leo II was his and Ariadne’s son, only seven years old in February 474, having become emperor in January upon the death of his grandfather. When Leo II unexpectedly sickened and died in November of that year, he left his father, who had never been intended to be Emperor, the sole ruler of the Byzantine Empire.

Zeno was not well-liked – he was seen as a foreigner (his real name was Tarasis – he’d changed it to the Greek Zeno in hopes of being more acceptable to the Byzantines) and an interloper. He was dethroned in a rebellion a year later, only to claw his way back to the top eighteen months after that.

Referenced in:

Imperial Rome — Aska

1950 – Joe McCarthy claims there are Communists in the State Department

Joe McCarthy was a shameless political hack who hitched his wagon to that never-failing engine of conservative vote winning: the United States’ phobic response to the word Communism. It all began with one speech, given before the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950. It hit all the notes he’d later become famous for: unsubstantiated accusations, specific numbers of people without anything resembling names, and the constant insistence that Communists in the USA (who numbered somewhere around 1% of 1% of the population) were imminently about to overthrow the government.

Over the next few years, McCarthy would go after the Reds under America’s beds, no matter where those beds might be. When he decided to take on the Red threat in the US military, he went too far. His meteoric career came to a screaming halt, and he died a pathetic alcoholic in 1957. But between 1950 and 1954, he changed the world – unfortunately, not for the better.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1985 – “Material Girl” by Madonna enters the US charts

Material Girl was the second single from Madonna’s second album, and her seventh overall. It was a hit for her at the time, although unlike Like A Virgin or Crazy For You, the songs either side of it that reached #1, it wouldn’t top the charts. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #43, and eventually peaked at #2. The clip was a homage (or ripoff, if you prefer) to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend performance, right down to Madonna wearing a dress of the same style and colour.

To this day, Madonna is often referred to as ‘the Material Girl’ in the media, a phenomenon she is convinced will still be happening when she’s ninety. She’s probably right, too.

Referenced in:
Lucy Can’t Dance — David Bowie

1963 — William Zantzinger assaults Hattie Carroll, leading to her death

William Zantzinger was, to all appearances, a mean drunk and a racist. In the early morning of February 9, 1963, he assaulted Hattie Carroll, a barmaid, for taking too long to make his drink. He had already assaulted two other staff members at the event – a Spinster’s Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. After hitting Carroll with a toy cane, he proceeded to knock his wife to the ground, and continued to be generally abusive and profane to everyone who came near him.

Hattie Carroll was a black woman of 51 years. She was raising children as a single mother, and suffered from a variety of conditions – notably, high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and hardened arteries. When Zantzinger struck her on the neck with his cane, the injury caused a brain hemorrhage that was fatal by 9am that morning. Zantzinger was arrested and charged with murder, although in the end he was convicted only of manslaughter.

Referenced in:
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll — Bob Dylan