Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October 3rd

After being hospitalized for nearly ten years, legendary Folk Music Pioneer Woody Guthrie died today from Huntington Disease.  He was 55 years old.  

Born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in 1912, his influence can be heard throughout the entire folk movement and beyond. Several of his songs (and "This Land Is Your Land" in particular) became folk classics and benchmarks for other aspiring artists to try and achieve, including a very young Bob Dylan, country superstar Johnny Cash and folk legend Phil Ochs.  

His son Arlo (one of eight children he fathered by way of three wives) was born in 1947 and followed in his father's footsteps, writing story songs about things that are wrong in our society, most famously "Alice's Restaurant", which will be released later this year.  (It is said that a demonstration record copy of “Alice’s Restaurant” is the last thing that Woody Guthrie heard before he died.) 

In 1940, Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” as an update to the very popular Irving Berlin song “God Bless America”, whose lyrics he felt were “unrealistic and complacent.”  (In fact, he even subtitled his new tune “God Blessed America For Me”.)  On the typescript submitted for copyright of "This Land Is Your Land", Guthrie wrote: “This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, 'cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

Guests on The Hollywood Palace tonight include Batman Adam West and Don Ho.  

Riverview Park, a Chicagoland institution and landmark ... and perhaps one of the best known amusement parks anywhere, EVER, is sold to an investment group.

The park opened in 1904 and occupied 74 acres of land in the City of Chicago in an area bound on the south by Belmont Avenue, on the east by Western Avenue, on the north by Lane Tech High School and on the west by the north branch of the Chicago River.  Today a shopping center (called Riverview Plaza) occupies this spot (along with several other structures such as the Belmont District Police Station and DeVry University.  (I'm telling you this place was HUGE!!!)  

How huge?  Riverview was one of the largest amusement parks ever built and housed some of the largest and most unique rides.  Perhaps most famous was The Bobs Roller Coaster, which ran at 90 mph and had a 90 foot drop! (see photo below).  It was one of half a dozen roller coasters in the park.  (My dad referred to EVERY roller coaster at every amusement park, big or small, as "The Bobs" ... "C'mon, don'tcha wann go ride The Bobs?"  Somehow this just didn't cut it at Kiddieland, the park closest to where we lived!)  Aladdin's Castle, The Flying Cars, Shoot The Chutes, The Wild Mouse ... and what was that thing that spun you around so fast the friction literally pinned you to the wall while the floor dropped out below you?  That's the one I remember as terrifying the hell out of me when I was a kid!  

Any number of reasons have been given over the years as to why the park was ultimately closed ... everything from financial issues to competition from new parks opening in the western suburbs to a bad element in a changing neighborhood ... but in 1967, its final season, the park took in $1.7 Million ... the equivalent to the COMBINED ticket sales of both The Chicago White Sox and The Chicago Cubs, who both enjoyed a winning season that same year.  It was ultimately demolished in February of 1968.

Memorabilia demands a premium today ... and anyone who grew up in Chicago during this era has lifelong memories of their time spent there.

William J. Knight, a Colonel in the United States Air Force, was also an aeronautical engineer, Viet Nam War combat pilot, an astronaut as well as a test pilot who set a new speed record today in a rocket-power X-15-2A that reached 4520 mph. In all, he logged in over 6000 flight hours during his time in the military service.    

After leaving The Air Force Knight pursued a career as a Politician,  first as a city councilman, then as mayor and later serving as a California State Senator from 1996 - 2004, when he died in office.  Among his best-know acts while in office was the authorship of California Proposition 22, which forbid the State Of California from performing or recognizing same-sex marriages.  (The proposition passed by a vote of 61.4% in favor and 38.6 against.)  Ironically Knight's son David, who is gay, married his partner in San Francisco in 2004 at a time with the City of San Francisco was performing these ceremonies in defiance to David's father's law.)  Another son, Steven, took over the seat of Assemblyman for the 36th Assembly District from 2008 to 2012, a seat previously held by his father.