Tom Sito recounts what happened in 1653, 1815, 1839, 1933, 1941, 1946, 1964, and 1980.
December 6, 1933 U.S. Federal Judge Woolsey decides James Joyce’s "Ulysseys" is not obscene and can be published in the U.S by Viking Press. The book had been available in Europe since 1922. 1964 the Rankin-Bass television special ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. is first aired.
December 7, 1815– MARSHAL NEY SHOT. Michel Ney, Napoleon’s right hand at Waterloo, was executed. Called Le Rougeaud -the Redhead- because his hair color was inherited from his Scottish father, who was a follower of Bonny Prince Charlie. After the French defeat at Waterloo, the restored French royalty needed a scapegoat to blame for the embarrassing ease with which the Corsican upstart took back France. Michel Ney was courtmartialed by his peers, executed against a wall in the Luxembourg Gardens. The fiery warrior offered no repentance and even gave the :"Ready, Aim, -Fire!" order himself. Recently some theorists have claimed that the execution was a sham arranged by Wellington and that Ney lived on. Their reasons were that the public was kept away from the execution site and that the soldiers of the firing squad were handpicked from Neys old veterans. When shot he is said to have fallen forward instead of backwards after being hit by 12 -68 caliber musketballs, and that the customary coup de grace pistol shot to the brain was not administered. Instead, the body was immediately bundled up into a carriage and driven away. That night the officer in charge of the firing squad was arrested by the Royalist government. Twenty two years later in 1837 on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean a French immigrant schoolteacher named Michael Stewart died of old age in South Carolina. On his deathbed he told his confessor " I swear before God that I am Michel Ney, Marshal of France." When embalming the body his family saw he was covered with scars from old musket and saber wounds.
December 8, 1980– Singer-composer John Lennon was shot and killed as he walked outside his apartment the Dakota in New York City by lunatic Mark David Chapman.
December 9, 1946 Damon Runyon ,the famed write on whose characters the musical "Guys and Dolls’ is based, dies. His philosophy: "All life is six to five against."
December 10, 1839 Advent of "The Great Game". A large British army leaves the Kashmir to invade Afghanistan. The 15,000 troops carried with them 38,000 camp followers including camels laden with rasberry jam, cigars, cricket bats and fox hunting dogs. One British officer alone brought sixty servants. It was the first time Afghanistan had been invaded since Alexander the Great, and that was the last time the fierce Afghans had ever allowed themselves to be conquered. The British claimed they were invading to contain Russian expansionism. The duel between Britain and Russia for the Indian Northwest that lasted until 1947 was nicknamed The Great Game. By 1841 this army would all die in the terrible Retreat from Kabul and it’s sole survivor would be one doctor who got lost from the main column. The British officer who coined the term the Great Game was beheaded by the Emir of Bokhara and thrown into a pit of reptiles.
December 11, 1941 The Hollywood Victory Committee formed. Top Hollywood agents like Abe Lastfogel, Lou Wasserman and Myron Selznick (David’s brother) start signing up movie stars for bond drives and touring shows for the troops. The committee later created the Hollywood Canteen, a nightclub for servicemen on Ivar near Sunset. A soldier or sailor could come in for a free meal served by stars like Tyrone Power or Red Skelton and have a dance with celebrities like Rita Hayworth or Dina Shore. One animation painter who’d worked in the kitchen at the time recalled later that the only celebrity who stayed until closing, even mopping and washing coffee cups, was Marlene Deitrich.(the Committee was actually formed on December 10th, but the dooneyscafe editor can’t find the data for December 11th, and this story needs telling anyway.)
December 12, 1653– Puritan General Oliver Cromwell, having executed King Charles I, declares himself Lord Protector of England and rules as dictator. He has all the symbols of monarchy including the crown jewels destroyed. This is why England’s crown jewels date from the period after Cromwell. Scotland’s crown jewels were smuggled out of Edinburgh Castle ahead of Cromwell’s troops in a berry basket. Despite his Republican declarations Cromwell allowed himself to be portrayed with scepter and orb and seated on a throne.