Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

On Frank Sinatra: “The poor guy was literally without a job. He said all he could do was play saloons and crappy night clubs. His ego and self-esteem was at its lowest ever. And mine was practically at its peak. So it was hell for him. He was such a proud man — to have a woman pay all his bills was a bitch.” AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Ava Gardner

I wish to live until 150 years old but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whisky in the other

Caution Bad Language

The screen goddess once said: “My vices and scandals are more interesting than anything anyone can make up.”

Ava Gardner knew how to pose for the camera. She’d slit her eyes, throw her head at an angle, and the photographer would somehow catch something about her — not elegance or grace, exactly, but something that was strong, sexual, and almost animal, as if she were zeroing in on you, weighing your merits, and readying to pounce. And for most of the ’40s and ’50s, she was Hollywood’s most alluring femme fatale, an image solidified both on and off the screen.

Once Hollywood’s most irresistible woman—wed to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra—by 1988 Ava Gardner was nearly broke, ravaged by illness, and intent on selling her memoirs. But the man she chose as her ghostwriter, Peter Evans, had his own problems, not least a legal war with Sinatra.

In The first week of January 1988, Ava Gardner asked Peter Evans to ghost her memoirs. Since Evans had never met Ava Gardner, the call, late on a Sunday evening, was clearly a hoax. “Sounds great, Ava,” Evans played along. “Does Frank approve? I don’t want to upset Frank.” There was a small silence, then a brief husky laugh.

“Everybody kisses everybody else in this crummy business all the time. It’s the kissiest business in the world.”

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Photo of the Day

Betty Gores house

Desperate Housewife

Anyone who lived in North Texas in the early 1980’s remembers the murder of Betty Gore, and the murder trial of Candace Montgomery, the woman who killed her with an axe. The petite, non-descript Wylie housewife was acquitted in 1980. She claimed self-defense. Then, as now, the case enthralled many people. (Adding more fuel to the sensational story’s publicity fire was the fact that the murder took place on Friday the 13th in June of 1980.)

The year is 1979. Lucas, Texas, is still a relatively small town, just being discovered by the wealthier executives of Texas Instruments who were looking to settle outside the booming city limits of Dallas.

Each day as the men head off to their jobs, the women are left behind to tend to the children and the numerous mundane duties which keep the home fires burning.

These women are bored. Play dates, swimming lessons at the Y, and gossip with the other housewives are the highlight of their day.

Most of the residents attend the Lucas Methodist Church and staying active in church activities gives them one more thing to do. The yearly Vacation Bible School serves as a break to their ordinary lives and the children something to do indoors during the hot Texas summers while their mothers chatter about potty training, their husband’s latest promotions and the upcoming presidential election.

Yes, indeed, they are bored. And one of them is about to break free of it all. In ways, they could never imagine.

Candy Wheeler was quite the prima donna as a child. She knew what she wanted and did whatever it took to get it.

Much didn’t change when Candy grew up. Always the independent spirit, Candy moved out on her own just after high school. And although she worked, she dreamed of being a full-time Mother and wife – she just hadn’t found the right man.

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Italian Premier Benito Mussolini leaving for Tripoli, 13th May 1926. His nose is bandaged after an assassination attempt on 26th April by Violet Gibson, who shot him with a revolver at close range. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Woman Who Shot Mussolini

Four people tried to assassinate Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Only one person ever came close – her name was Violet Gibson and she was Irish. Violet spent the rest of her life in mental institutions, forgotten by society and by history.

At 10.58am on Wednesday, April 7, 1926, Benito Mussolini paused to salute an ecstatic crowd in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome. As a group of students broke into song, he cocked his head in their direction. At that moment, a slight, bespectacled, shabby woman, standing less than a foot away, took aim and shot him at point-blank range. The first bullet grazed Il Duce’s nose, releasing a spectacular torrent of blood; the second jammed in the pistol chamber.

Violet Gibson shot two people at point-blank range, herself and Benito Mussolini. Both survived. After the first (attempted-suicidal) shooting, Violet, alive because the bullet had bounced off a rib, lived quietly in a convent in Rome, doing jigsaws with her Irish maid, until the day she set off for the Capitol with a gun in her pocket. After the second shooting Mussolini, alive because he turned his head just as Violet fired, set out for a triumphal visit to Libya with a sticking plaster on his nose. Meanwhile Violet was half-lynched, then dragged, badly battered, into a room containing the colossal marble foot of Emperor Constantine, there to be revived with brandy before being dispatched to prison. It was the end of her life in the world.

When Violet Gibson shot Benito Mussolini, the bullet missed Mussolini’s bald head but removed part of his nose, everyone except her thought it was a crazy thing to do. The ensuing debate was to determine whether she was certifiably crazy or not. Death and illness were themes of her life and perhaps fertilised the psychological soil where a religious seed had been planted.

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A row of homes completely swept away near the centre of town.

The 1925 Tri-State Tornado

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, in places scarcely changed through nine decades, there are legends of a monster. Though few, if any, still live to tell the tale first-hand, the tradition persists, straddling the line between fact and myth. In the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois, too, old-timers pass on the legend. Indeed, across three states and more than 200 miles, people of a certain generation recall harrowing accounts by those who witnessed death drop from the sapphire sky one balmy pre-spring afternoon in 1925.

Over three and a half hours, the Great Tri-State Tornado roared through the southern portions of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, wiping town after town off the map as it ripped through forests and farmlands, over peaks and hollows, and across the mighty Mississippi River at speeds sometimes exceeding 70 mph. When the greatest tornado disaster in recorded history finally came to an end some 219 miles later, 695 people lay dead and more than a dozen towns and hundreds of farmsteads were left in splinters.

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A contemporary lawman described California Bandido Juan Soto as possessing “a countenance the worst I ever saw in a human face.” His wildly crossed eyes and reputation for ferocity earned him the nickname “Human Wildcat.”

“The Human Wildcat”

The old west! A time of cattle rustlers, gamblers, Indian attacks, shootouts, saloon fights, and the list goes on and on. Juan Soto, whose alias was “The Human Wildcat,” was part Indian and Mexican. He was said to be a very large, ugly man, who was a notorious California thief and murderer.

The notoriety that earned Juan Soto a place in the history of the U.S. West came at the end of his life. Soto was of mixed Indian and Mexican heritage and became notorious in California as a thief and murderer. Soto and two other men robbed a store in Sunol, California, on January 10, 1871, killing a clerk and shooting a number of rounds into the living quarters of the store owners, apparently for no purpose at all.

In 1871 Sheriff Harry Morse made Soto the subject of one of his relentless manhunts. Morse found Soto several months later, and following a spectacular pistol duel, the fugitive was shot to death while running toward Morse’s Henry rifle yelling insanely!

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Photo of the Day

Adam Walsh

Code Adam

Warning, some parts of this story are disturbing

Adam John Walsh, age six, is abducted from a mall in Hollywood, Florida, and later found murdered. In the aftermath of the crime, Adam’s father, John Walsh, became a leading victims’ rights activist and the host of the long-running television show America’s Most Wanted.

July 27, 2006, will go down in history as the day that changed how America protects its children from sexual predators. At a ceremony in the Rose Garden, President George W. Bush signed a new, tough-as-nails law to track and apprehend convicted sex offenders who disappear after their release from prison. The date wasn’t chosen randomly. It was exactly 25 years earlier that John Walsh and his wife Revè suffered the most horrendous loss that any parents could endure: the abduction and murder of their beautiful six-year-old son, Adam.

Since that day in 1981, John has dedicated himself to fighting on behalf of children and all crime victims. As a result, thousands of victims have found justice, and dozens of abducted children have been safely brought home. The new law signed by President Bush is also a result of John’s fight. It’s called “The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.”

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This was the scene at the New London, Texas, school on March 18, 1937, after a natural gas explosion. In 1937, New London, Texas, had one of the richest rural school districts in the country. Residents were proud of The New London School made up of steel and concrete, which cost $1 million. On March 18, 1937, the school was remembered as the site of the deadliest school disaster in American history. (MBR/AP)

The Day the Town School Exploded

My Children Are in There!

By 3:05 P.M. on March 18, 1937, the school day had nearly ended. Younger grades had been dismissed and some youngsters waited on school buses for older students to join them for the ride home. Some students still in the building practised for Interscholastic League competition while others put away materials. A PTA meeting was being held in the adjacent gymnasium. Then industrial arts teacher Lemmie Butler turned on a sander in his shop and a spark ignited natural gas that had leaked from pipes under the school and been trapped in rooms throughout the building.

The building was lifted in the explosion and then crushed into rubble. Residents who lived four miles away heard the explosion, though they were not alarmed at first because such noises often came from the oil field.

 A gas explosion had occurred at a school in New London, Texas, killing almost 300 of the 600 students and 40 teachers in the building.

The brand new, steel-and-concrete school, located in the East Texas Oilfield, was one of the wealthiest in the country. Yet it was reduced to rubble in part because no one could smell the danger building in the basement.

While the building originally had been designed for a different heat distribution system, school officials had recently approved tapping into a residue gas line of the local Parade Gasoline Company, a common money-saving practice in the oilfield at the time.

Unfortunately, on that March afternoon, a faulty pipe connection caused the gas (methane mixed with some liquid hydrocarbons) to leak into a closed space beneath the building. Just before class dismissal, when a maintenance employee turned on an electric sander, the odourless gas ignited. The resulting explosion caused the building to collapse, burying victims.

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The Legacy of the Bielski Brothers. The heroic efforts of three brothers who helped save more than 1,200 people while living in the forest during World War II. Florida Holocaust Museum.

Courage and Compassion

The Bielski Brothers

The story of three men who defied the Nazis saved hundreds of Jews and built a village in the forest

In 1941, as the Jews of Eastern Europe were being massacred by the thousands, the Bielski brothers took refuge in a dense Polish forest filled with wolves, poisonous snakes, swamps and frigid temperatures during the winter. It was there they staged their revenge for the deaths of their parents, family members and friends.

Throughout the War, the Bielski brothers carried out a continuous guerrilla war against the Nazis. They often used captured German weapons gained from ambushed German patrols. They also derailed troop trains and blew up bridges and electricity stations.

Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron Bielski were four of 12 children born to a miller and his wife in the rural village of Stankevich, near Novogrudok. The only Jews in a small community, they had connections within and outside of the Jewish community and quickly learned how to look after themselves. Before long, the older brothers developed a fearsome reputation.

After witnessing the brutal execution of their parents by Nazi soldiers, the three Bielski brothers, Tuvia, Asael and Zus, fled into the nearby dense forest, where they joined relatives and friends, scrounged for food and weapons and inflicted whatever damage they could on German troops.

It was a grim scene that would, of course, be repeated endlessly throughout the war. Instead of running or capitulating or giving in to despair, these brothers — Tuvia, Zus, and Asael Bielski — did something else entirely. They fought back, waging a guerrilla war of wits and cunning against both the Nazis and the pro-Nazi sympathisers. Along the way, they saved well over a thousand Jewish lives.

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From left: Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson. MICHAEL PUTLAND /GETTY BETTMANN

Charles Manson and the Beach Boys

“Did Charles Manson really write a song for the Beach Boys?”

Answer: It wasn’t written for the Beach Boys, but “Never Learn Not To Love” (on the Beach Boys’20/20 album) was indeed written by Charles Manson, and for a brief time in 1968, about a year before the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson were acquaintances.

Charles Manson‘s murder spree in the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles left seven people dead and many of his cult-like “family” behind bars. But the bloodshed and trauma of that period affected others, too – like Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, Manson’s former roommate.

“Neither Dennis nor I nor anyone associated with the Beach Boys had any idea that Manson was involved in these murders,” Mike Love wrote in a memoir.

Still, he wrote that when Wilson found out about the murders, “The guilt was devastating.” He added, “Dennis [was] shaken to the core.”

Manson had come into their life by chance after Wilson picked up two female hitchhikers in 1968 on Sunset Strip and the women mentioned Manson as their guru. Dennis was the perfect mark – a famous, well-connected entertainer who could help a musical neophyte get discovered.”

Dennis’ marriage had broken up by June 1968, and Dennis was renting a former hunting lodge on Sunset Boulevard. That spring Dennis picked up two young women hitchhiking on Sunset Strip and brought them to his home.

He told them of his involvement with transcendental meditation founder Maharishi, “and the women said they too had a guru, named Charlie.”

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Unmistakably an old-school cavalryman, Lucian K. Truscott Jr.—here in France in 1944, —led troops in Sicily, Italy, and France with aggressive confidence and a relentless will to win. (George Silk/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.)

The General who Apologised to the Dead Soldiers

Lucian King Truscott, Jr., was born January 9, 1895, in Chatfield, Texas. He enlisted in the Army upon America’s entry into World War I. He was selected for officer training and was commissioned in the cavalry in 1917. He served in a variety of cavalry assignments during the interwar period and served as an instructor at both the Cavalry School and the Command and General Staff School.

Early in World War II, he joined Lord Mountbatten’s combined staff where he developed the Ranger units for special operations. His experience began with learning Commando tactics and then training American officers and men in commando operations.  He led his Rangers in combat at Dieppe and in Morocco and then began his ascent through the various levels of major combat command… Truscott was a reliable, aggressive, and successful leader.

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