It’s my birthday! Oh what a joyous day that was, the morn where I first drew breath! Oh, there was much rejoicing!
I can not tell you how much the whole Day Elvis Died Thing bugged me as a kid. It really bothered me that each year on my birthday, I’d see people having candlelight vigils outside Graceland. In high school, I even wrote a way-too-long play on the subject, in which a kid born on that day is declared The Trailer Park Messiah, against his will. Lay off, I was 16.
Why did this get under my skin so much? I have no idea. I don’t know why I cared about my birthday at all, since for a good chunk of my childhood my mom was a Jehovah’s Witness and we didn’t celebrate it. Or any other holidays. But that’s a tale for another time. Oh, we have stories to share!
So I thought I’d dig up some other meaningful events that happened on this date. I’ve done a very limited version of this before, looking back on how the Mets performed on my birthday throughout my lifetime. But apparently other things happen in life other than baseball, or so I’m told, and so here are some things that happened on August 16 throughout history, according to the obscure reference work Wikipedia.
- Charles Bukowski (1920), the Sid Vicious of American literature. Apparently his tombstone says DON’T TRY. He sounds like fun!
- Eydie Gorme (1928), who I mostly know from her “appearance” on “The Sinatra Group”
- Bill Evans (1929), good enough to play with Miles Davis and smart enough to leave within 2 years
- Frank Gifford (1930) and Kathie Lee Gifford (1953). Tell me that’s not weird, I dare you.
- Scott Asheton, drummer for The Stooges
- Reginald VelJohnson (1952), aka Carl Winslow
- James Cameron (1954), who is apparently Canadian. So that explains it…
- Tim Farriss (1957), member of INXS. For one weird 18-month period circa junior high, I was obsessed with INXS. First concert I ever saw was INXS at the Brendan Byrne Arena. Opening act: The Soup Dragons. Let’s move on.
- Angela Basset and Madonna (1958), presumably from different mothers.
- Steve Carell (1962)
- Killah Priest (not his given name) (1970)
- Roger Cedeno (1974), ex-Mets outfielder who, as a member of the 1999 team, has automatic induction into the Scratchbomb Hall of Champions.
- Good King Wenceslas (1419), who was apparently an alcoholic and was deposed as king of Bohemia for not doing his part to prevent The Great Schism, and his death plunged the region into a political crisis. But there’s that one Christmas song about him!
- Andrew Marvell (1678), best known for his poem “To His Coy Mistress,” the most famous panty-dropping anthem of the 17th century.
- Babe Ruth (1948), who rescued the game of baseball by discovering it is much more interesting when people actually hit the ball.
- Bela Lugosi (1952), who I third-hand love merely for Martin Landau’s portrayal of him in Ed Wood.
- Idi Amin (2003), who was unfairly maligned simply because he murdered his own people and occasionally ate them.
- Bobby Thomson (2010), hitter of The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.
- 1812: General William Hull surrenders Fort Detroit to the British without a fight. Good job, dick.
- 1841: Following President John Tyler’s vetoing of a bill that would have established a second Bank of the U.S., angered Whigs riot outside the White House. I’d pay good money to see Congressmen riot nowadays. Imagine John Boehner throwing bricks! I mean, he kind of does already, but still.
- 1858: A new transatlantic telegraph cable is officially launched when President James Buchanan exchanges greetings with Queen Victoria. This marks the only thing Buchanan did while in office, other than tacitly plunge the country into Civil War.
- 1869: The Battle of Acosta Nu, in which a Paraguayan battalion comprised of children is slaughtered by Brazilian troops. Yay!
- 1920: Ray Chapman of the Indians is beaned in the head by Carl Mays of the Yankees. He dies the next day, making it the first–and so far only–on-field fatality in baseball history.
- 1930: Ub Iwerks makes the first color sound cartoon, “Fiddlesticks.” Like everything else he did, his innovation is soon stolen by Walt Disney.
- 1945: Puyi, aka The Last Emperor, is captured by Soviet troops in China. He was spotted while giggling and playing with a large silk tent.
If this random sampling of events that happened on my birthday proves anything, it’s that history is gross and terrible. Don’t study history, kids; you’ll just make yourself sick, and there’s always something better on TV anyway.