Tuesday, November 18, 2014


           I really like history so there’s a “This Day in History” calendar hanging on the wall at my work station and another one hanging on the wall in our office at home. The calendar is made by an American publication associated with the History Channel so it’s understandably centered on Americans and American history but they do throw in the odd tidbit of  historical information like the opening of Vatican’s City’s Sistine Chapel to the public in 1512; November 1st, 1512 to be exact.

            Last week, on the morning of November 13th, as usual I checked out the calendar to see what had happened in history on that particular day and I was a little surprised to see that day’s big historical news was that it was the day in 1955 when Whoopi Goldberg was born in New York City. Whoopee for Whoopi.

            I’m a big fan of Whoopi’s, by the way, and she has won an Academy Award and everything and she has been a major celebrity for years and years but, seriously folks, in all of the recorded history from time immemorial the most celebrated event that can be attributed to the 13th of November was the birth of Whoopi Goldberg?

 According to my research, recorded history begins with accounts of the ancient world around 4000 BC which coincides with the invention of writing. This does not include historical narratives of oral history or mythological traditions which would take human history back more than a few centuries further. Regardless, there has to be over four thousand November the 13ths throughout history and Whoopi comes out on top.

Let’s have a quick look at some of the events that Whoopi has overshadowed, shall we? Now, keep in mind that I’m not blaming Whoopi or in any way saying she isn’t an important person but a little perspective never hurts, does it?

In 1553 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, and four others, including Lady Jane Grey are accused of high treason and sentenced to death under Queen “Bloody” Mary I. In 1775 during the American Revolutionary War the American forces under General Richard Montgomery capture Montreal. In 1956 the Supreme Court of the United States declares Alabama laws requiring segregated buses illegal, ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1974 Ronald DeFeo Jr. murders his entire family in Amityville, Long Island, in the house that would become known as The Amityville Horror. In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. after a march by thousands of Vietnam War veterans. These are but a few of the historical events that took place on the 13th of November.

Other notables sharing Whoopi’s birthday are King Edward III of England (1312), Dorothea Erxleben, (first female medical doctor-1715), Jiaqing, Emperor of China (1760), Robert Louis Stevenson (1850) and our own local celebrity actor Lloyd Warner(1963).

I am not so shocked that celebrities are trumping real history or news anymore. It seems to me that our infatuation with all things celebrity is escalating. There’s even a pop culture term for individuals who are “Famous for Being Famous”. Hello there Kim, Kloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and anyone associated with the old Jersey Shore reality show.

I guess history will, once again, have to be the judge of the long-term effects on our society’s escalated pop-culture-celebrity-itis. Time will tell.

            “Celebrity doesn’t have anything to do with art or craft. It’s about being rich and thinking that you’re better than everybody else.”-Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1981-)


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