A Birthday Present from Little Richard

Little Richard in 2007.jpgSome books begin slowly, gradually drawing a reader in, while others never quite take hold. Then there’s The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock, which has this memory from the singer’s childhood on page 5: 

“I used to give people rocks and things as presents, but I once did something worse than that. I had a bowel movement in a box, in a shoebox or something like that, and I packed it up like a present and gave it to an old lady next to Mathis Groceries, on Monroe street, in Pleasant Hill. I went to her on her birthday and I said, ‘Miz Ola, how you bin?’ And she said, ‘Oh, Richard, I feel so fine. Richard, you’re such a nice child.’ I said, ‘Miz Ola, I’ve just come to wish you a happy birthday, I’ve brought you a present. Look.’ She said, ‘Ohhh, thank you so much.’ So she took this big old shoebox with the stuff in it. I went off and waited around the corner of the house to listen for her reactions. I was hoping that she would open it while the other ladies were there, and she did. She wanted to show them what I had brought her. She said, ‘Let us see what Richard has brought for me.’ Then I just heard somebody say, ‘Aaaaaaa, aaaaaaahhh–I’m gonna kill him. I’ll kill him!’ She was crippled, but she leaped off the porch and she was walking without her stick! I laughed like a cuckoo! God bless Miz Ola, she’s dead now.”

The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock, Charles White, Harmony Books, 1984.

Photograph: Anna Bleker

Presidential Dreams

In the early days of 1991, the late Senator Prescott Sheldon Bush appeared to his son, then-President George Herbert Walker in a dream:

“We were driving into some hotel near a golf course, and there was another golf course way over across the fence, though not a very good one. I heard Dad was there, so I went to see him, and he was in a hotel room. We embraced, and I told him I missed him very much. Aren’t dreams funny? I could see him very clearly: big, strong, and highly respected.”

Ronald Reagan believed in the divinatory power of dreams:

“It was always the same thing, maybe a different locale or something, but I evidently had a yen for big rooms. And I would dream that I was in a big mansion, and I could buy it for a song. A man was showing it to me, and I would go from room to room, and maybe go into the living room, which was two stories high, and there was a balcony. And always, it was within my means to buy it. And I had this dream all the time. After we moved into the White House, I was IN the big room. And I never had the dream since.”

Abraham Lincoln’s former law partner Ward Lamon recalled that the President was disturbed by a dream he’d had a few weeks before his assassination.

“… I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me, but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break?… Determined to find the cause of all of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived in the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards, and there was a throng of people gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers. ‘The President,’ was his answer, ‘he was killed by an assassin.'”

Paul Haggis’ Possible Cameo in “War of the Worlds”

In 2004, the screenwriter and director Paul Haggis visited the set of War of the Worlds. At the time, Haggis and Tom Cruise were Scientology’s two most famous disciples. Haggis told the author Lawrence Wright that a tent where Scientology materials were distributed was erected on the set, and recounted a conversation he’d had with War‘s director, Steven Spielberg.

“It’s really remarkable to me that I’ve met all these Scientologists, and they seem like the nicest people,” Spielberg told Haggis, who quipped, “Yeah, we keep all the evil ones in a closet.”

About an hour into War of the Worlds, an extra bearing a resemblance to Haggis is briefly on camera. Is it him? Twenty rewinds and three screenshots have borne no conclusive proof.

The Reason Keith Haring Chose a Baby Logo

“When I was 21 I spent a summer teaching ‘Art’ at a day-care center in Brooklyn. It was the most fulfilling summer of my life. There is nothing that makes me happier than making a child smile. The reason that the ‘baby’ has become my logo or signature is that it is the purest and most positive experience of human existence.

Children are the bearers of life in its simplest and most joyous form. Children are color-blind and still free of all the complications, greed, and hatred that will slowly be instilled in them through life.

I will never forget some of the adults who touched me through my childhood. Sometimes very brief encounters have made an impact that is very lasting and very real. If it is possible for me to have that kind of effect on any children, I think that would be the most important and useful thing I could do.

Touching people’s lives in a positive way is as close as I can get to an idea of religion…

…Children know something that most people have forgotten. Children possess a fascination with their everyday existence that is very special and would be very helpful to adults if they could learn to understand and respect it.

I am now 28 years old on the outside and nearly 12 years old on the inside. I always want to stay 12 years old on the inside.” Keith Haring, July 7, 1986, Montreux.

Keith Haring Journals, Penguin Books, 1996.

The Automated Distribution System of the Free University’s Klinikum, West Berlin, 1970

“Control center monitors the automated distribution system of the Free University’s gigantic Klinikum, the most modern medical center in Europe. Flashing lights pinpoint trouble spots in the network of conveyor belts and pneumatic tubes that whisk drugs, food, and supplies around 44 acres of rooms and corridors on five floors.

Opened in 1969, the $75,500,000 installation, funded by West Germany and the United States, provides a 1,400-bed hospital, clinics, and laboratories, as well as facilities for 1,000 medical students.”

“Berlin on Both Sides of the Wall,” Howard Sochurek, National Geographic, Vol. 137, No. 1, January 1970.

Bill Clinton Plays his Saxophone on Arsenio Hall

On June 3, 1992, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show. When the show commenced, the camera pulled back to reveal that Clinton was the saxophonist with Hall’s house band, “The Posse.”

He segued into a solo of Heartbreak Hotel. “I thought it was embarrassing.” said George H. W. Bush’s press secretary Torie Clarke, “He looked like a sad John Belushi wannabe.”

Clinton talked about the Los Angeles riots. “People that feel like they don’t even exist, to people of other races, until they walk into a department store and people follow them around to make sure they don’t steal anything. But, day in and day out, they get up and they trudge through their lives, they live in substandard housing on unsafe streets, they work their guts out, they fall further behind, and nobody even knows they’re there until there’s a riot. I think that, in the nineties, this whole business of economic empowerment has gotta be at the center of the civil rights movement.”

Hall asked the governor about his admission to CBS that he had smoked marijuana but “didn’t inhale.”

“I took it and I tried to smoke it like a cigarette,” Clinton explained. “I did my best. I wasn’t trying to get a good conduct medal.”

After a commercial break Clinton was joined by his wife Hillary.

“The strength beside the man, not behind anymore, but beside.” Arsenio said, then alluded to the scandal of Clinton’s affair with Little Rock lounge singer Gennifer Flowers, “Through all this controversy, have you ever found yourselves at home fighting, honestly?”

“No,” Hillary said firmly. “Not about anything important. We fight about what movie we want to see.”

“This is the only movie we’re going to see for a month, and you’re going to make me see this crazy cheap thrills movie, you want to go see Lethal Weapon 3 when we’ve got all these other movies on?!” Clinton joked. “That’s the kinda stuff we fight about.”

“It’s hard to think that at some point you never said, ‘Who is Gennifer?’ You know?” Hall pressed Hillary, “‘Who the hell is she?’ And it’s like, you know, I mean…”

“I know who she is,” Hillary replied, “I mean, know who she is.”

“And you know what her problem is?”

“She’s got lots of problems,” Hillary said, smiling thinly.

The audience roared its approval.

When Clinton appeared on Arsenio Hall, the Democratic candidate was trailing Bush on the issue of trustworthiness by 24 points. He went on to win the election with 43% of the vote to Bush’s 38%, the first Baby Boomer president.

Asma and Bachar El-Assad: Two Lovers in Paris

Deux Amoureux a Paris

Bachar Assad was still a goodie back in 2010. “Elected,” Joan Juliet Buck wrote coyly in Vogue, “with a startling 97 percent of the vote.” Buck’s notorious profile of Asma, called “A Rose in the Desert” ran in the March 2011 edition. Paris Match headlined the Assad’s 2010 visit to France, “Two lovers in Paris.” 

On the edges of their official visit to France, the Syrian president and his wife took a romantic break in the most romantic of capitals.  

You were a businesswoman. Is that an advantage in your work today?
Asma Assad: There are things you can plan in life. I studied information technology at university. I wanted to work in an investment bank and do my MBA. But I couldn’t have predicted marrying a chief of state. Life is full of surprises. I married him for the values he incarnates and because we felt very close. Of course, my professional experience, everything I learned in finance, helps me today: having critical judgement, being capable of working under enormous pressure. I work in development, in education and with the citizenry, and my foundation helps me.

Paris Match, December 17, 2010.