On this day back in 1831, the co-inventor of the microphone, David E. Hughes was born. He also invented a number of other things by himself, most notably the spark-gap transmitter and the crystal radio. The latter was a very popular radio in the early days because it requires no battery, which is, I don’t know, totally awesome? He was also something of a musical prodigy, later becoming a professor of music.
One of the most creepy and vile serial killers ever, H. H. Holmes was born in 1861. The glamorous Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka was born in 1898. Henry Fonda was born in 1905. In 1910, Socialist realism painter Aleksandr Ivanovich Laktionov was born. And Liberace was born in 1919.
Guitarist Robert Fripp is 67 today. Although it is a different kind of radio that he has on, Jonathan Richman is 62. As far as I’m concerned, Pierce Brosnan was the perfect James Bond, and he is 60 today. And the great gymnast Olga Korbut is 58. Although I actually have a problem with gymnastics in general, I’ve had a crush on Korbut since I was eight. So it’s a good opportunity to enjoy her again:
The day, however, belongs to the great oral historian and writer Studs Terkel who was born on this day 1912. He stayed with us—and relevant—halfway through his 97th year. He is best known for Hard Times, Working, and The Good War. What I most admire about him is the unusual life he led. He got a law degree, but rather than practice law, he went to work in a hotel. Then he went into theater and found himself in radio. He didn’t really start to do the stuff he was known for until he was in his 40s. And he did his most important work in his 60s and 70s. When it comes to the things that really matter—one of which is our fellow humans and their lives—greatness takes time. For most people, Marsellus Wallace was right: humans are like vinegar. But Terkel was like a fine red wine.
Happy birthday Studs Terkel!
Olga Korbut is often credited with (Blamed for?) changing women’s gymnastics from a sport of older, larger women to one of younger, smaller women. That isn’t really true. In the 1960s, there was a trend toward younger and smaller gymnastics and Korbut was just part of that trend. And not the end of it, either.