Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today In History: Edward Rutledge is a Reluctant Rebel

On this day in 1776, Edward Rutledge, one of South Carolina''s representatives to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, expresses his reluctance to declare independence from Britain in a letter to the like-minded John Jay of New York.

Contrary to the majority of his Congressional colleagues, Rutledge advocated patience with regards to declaring independence. In a letter to Jay, one of New York's representatives who was similarly disinclined to rush a declaration, Rutledge worried whether moderates like himself and Jay could "effectually oppose" a resolution for independence. Jay had urgent business in New York and therefore was not able to be present for the debates. Thus, Rutledge wrote of his concerns.

Rutledge was born in Charleston, to a physician who had emigrated from Ireland. Edward's elder brother John studied law at London's Middle Temple before returning to set up a lucrative practice in Charleston. Edward followed suit and studied first at Oxford University before being admitted to the English bar at the Middle Temple. He too returned to Charleston, where he married and began a family in a house across the street from his brother. As revolutionary politics roiled the colonies, first John, then Edward served as South Carolina's representative to the Continental Congress. Neither Rutledge brother was eager to sever ties with Great Britain, but it fell to Edward to sign the Declaration of Independence and create the appearance of unanimity to strengthen the Patriots' stand. At age 26, Edward Rutledge was the youngest American to literally risk his neck by signing the document.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Today In History,1994: Nicole Brown Simpson & Ron Goldman Murdered by ...?

Nicole Brown Simpson, famous football player O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, and her friend Ron Goldman are brutally stabbed to death outside Nicole's home in Brentwood, California, in what quickly becomes one of the most highly publicized trials of the century. With overwhelming evidence against him, including a prior record of domestic violence towards Brown, O.J. Simpson became the chief suspect.

Although he had agreed to turn himself in, Simpson escaped with friend A.C. Cowlings in his white Ford Bronco on June 17. He was carrying his passport, a disguise, and $8,750 in cash. Simpson's car was spotted that afternoon, but he refused to surrender immediately. Threatening to kill himself, he led police in a low-speed chase through the freeways of Los Angeles as the entire nation watched on television. Eventually, Simpson gave himself up at his home in Brentwood.

The evidence against Simpson was extensive: His blood was found at the murder scene; blood, hair, and fibers from Brown and Goldman were found in Simpson's car and at his home; one of his gloves was also found in Brown's home, the other outside his own house; and bloody shoeprints found at the scene matched those of shoes owned by Simpson.

However, Simpson's so-called "Dream Team" of defense lawyers, including Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey, claimed before a national television audience that Simpson had been framed by racist police officers such as Detective Mark Fuhrman. After deliberating for three hours, the jury acquitted Simpson. He vowed to find the "real killers," but has yet to turn up any new leads.

In a civil trial brought about by the families of the victims, Simpson was found responsible for causing Goldman's death and committing battery against Brown in February 1997, and was ordered to pay a total of $33.5 million, little of which he has paid.

In 2007, Simpson ran into legal problems once again when he was arrested for breaking into a Las Vegas hotel room and taking sports memorabilia, which he claimed had been stolen from him, at gunpoint. On October 3, 2008, he was found guilty of 12 charges related to the incident, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

TODAY IN HISTORY,1973: Secretariat wins Triple Crown

With a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win America's coveted Triple Crown--the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances in racing history, Secretariat, ridden by Ron Turcotte, completed the 1.5-mile race in 2 minutes and 24 seconds, a dirt-track record for that distance.

Secretariat was born at Meadow Stables in Doswell, Virginia, on March 30, 1970. He was sired by Bold Ruler, the 1957 Preakness winner, and foaled by Somethingroyal, which came from a Thoroughbred line known for its stamina. An attractive chestnut colt, he grew to over 16 hands high and was at two years the size of a three-year-old. He ran his first race as a two-year-old on July 4, 1972, a 5 1/2-furlong race at Aqueduct in New York City. He came from behind to finish fourth; it was the only time in his career that he finished a race and did not place. Eleven days later, he won a six-furlong race at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, and soon after, another race. His trainer, Lucien Laurin, moved him up to class in August, entering him in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, which he won by three lengths. By the end of 1972, he had won seven of nine races. With easy victories in his first two starts of 1973, Secretariat seemed on his way to the Triple Crown. Just two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, however, he stumbled at the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct, coming in third behindAngle Light and Sham.

The amazing photo of Secretariat's 31 length victory in the Belmont Stakes, 1973. Jockey Ron Turcotte claimed he did nothing during the race but hold on.

On May 5, he met Sham and Angle Light again at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat, a 3-to-2 favorite, broke from near the back of the pack to win the 2 1/4-mile race in a record 1 minute and 59 seconds. He was the first to run the Derby in less than two minutes and his record still stands. Two weeks later, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, Secretariat won the second event of the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes. The official clock malfunctioned, but hand-recorded timers had him running the 1 1/16-mile race in record time. On June 9, 1973, almost 100,000 people came to Belmont Park near New York City to see if "Big Red" would become the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. Secretariat gave the finest performance of his career in the Belmont Stakes, completing the 1.5-mile race in a record 2 minutes and 24 seconds, knocking nearly three seconds off the track record set by Gallant Man in 1957. He also won by a record 31 lengths. Ron Turcotte, who jockeyed Secretariat in all but three of his races, claimed that at Belmont he lost control of Secretariat and that the horse sprinted into history on his own accord. Secretariat would race six more times, winning four and finishing second twice.

In November 1973, the "horse of the century" was retired and put to stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Among his notable offspring is the 1988 Preakness and Belmont winner, Risen Star. Secretariat was euthanized in 1989 after falling ill. An autopsy showed that his heart was two and a half times larger than that of the average horse, which may have contributed to his extraordinary racing abilities. In 1999, ESPN ranked Secretariat No. 35 in its list of the Top 50 North American athletes of the 20th century, the only non-human on the list.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The REAL History of the Holy City - Merriment!

In Charleston, change is often a four letter word. More than any American city, Charleston guards its heritage with a passion. A few notable examples include:
  • 1902 - the Powder Magazine (17 Magazine St) was preserved.
  • 1911 - Susan Pringle Frost began purchasing the slums along eastern Tradd Street for renovation.
  • 1913 - Congress authorized the transfer of the Old Exchange Building (122 East Bay St.) to the Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • 1920 - The Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was established.
  • 1924 - Joseph Manigault House opened as the first house museum, and the Heyward-Washington House was purchased by the Charleston Museum.
  • 1931 – Charleston established the Board of Architectural Review and established the Old and Historic District.

These are only a few of the official acts the city has taken to protect its buildings. But when it comes to protecting the social and cultural heritage of the Holy City it’s not as easy as just passing a city ordinance. After all, the state dance is the Shag, a watered down caucasian version of the much more challenging African-inspired the Charleston. But worse of all is the gradual deterioration of one of Charleston’s longest traditions – merriment!

No more street parties on St. Patrick’s Day. No smoking in ANY building in Charleston. No tailgating at Citadel football games (I guess fireworks at 11 pm after a baseball game in a park named after the current mayor is less disruptive). The only approved street “parties” these days are politically correct cultural events like the Art Walk (even then you can’t carry your topless plastic cup from site-to-site, the MOJO Arts Fesitval and various SPOLETO and Piccolo Spoleto happenings.

By the 1980s all of the “adult clubs” and “massage parlors” that used to be located around the Market area were pushed to the extreme northern end of the city. During the 1990s as the price of real estate began to rise in the downtown area, a new crop of self-important persnickety puritans arrived and slowly strangled the real social character of Charleston. After all, we can’t allow blue collar drunks on the streets of the Holy City having fun, can we?

Well, yes we can. Charleston is called the Holy City due to its number of churches, not due to the behavior of the locals. Maybe if these persnickety puritans had taken the time to learn the “real” heritage of their new city BEFORE they decided to purchase that million dollar home, things might be different. A quick primer on Charleston social behavior:

The city’s namesake, King Charles II was called the Merry Monarch. English historian Samuel Pepys described Charles’ court as there being so much . . . swearing, drinking and whoring that I do not know what will be the end of it.” Charles admitted to fathering “more than 35 bastards.”

One of the most important men in the establishment of Carolina was Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper. John Dryden noted that Cooper was a man who “loves fumbling with a Wench, with all his heart.” Charles II referred to Cooper as “the greatest whoremaster in England.”

When the first settlers arrived in April 1670, the cargo included 12 tons of beer and 50 barrels of brandy. Seven months later, Captain Joseph West complained that many of the settlers “were so addicted to the Rum, that they will do little whilst the bottle is at their nose.”

In 1768, one hundred and thirty-two taverns were licensed in Charles Town - one for every five adult males. Rev. Charles Woodmason complained that each Saturday so many people in Charleston became so “drunk and stupid, as to be utterly unfit to attend Public Worship on Sunday.” Francis Asbury preached at Old Bethel Church in 1789 and called Charleston the “Sodom and Gomorrah of the South.”

The upper floors of the former Planters Hotel (present location of the Dock Street Theatre) were reserved for “gentlemen and their private guests.” Richard Hofstadter noted: The Charleston hedonistic life put the other seaboard towns in the shade.” John C. Calhoun became one of Charleston’s most treasured citizens despite the fact that he loathed the city. He called Charleston “intemperate and full of debauchery.”

The Reverend Arthur Crain wrote in 1900: “The city is wide open. No liquor law is being enforced. Drunkenness greets us on every hand. I can meet more drunken men in a 15-minute walk in Charleston than I could in New York, Chicago or any other city.” Six years later the state of South Carolina granted 297 liquor licenses - two hundred and thirteen of them were issued in Charleston. Fifteen bars were located around City Hall and nineteen operated within a block of St. Philip’s Church. During Prohibition, more than 20,000 South Carolinians made a living as a bootlegger.

In October 1942, Charleston police raided Market Street and arrested 626 prostitutes – 346 white and 280 black. Nearly half were found to be infected with venereal disease.

So, welcome to the REAL Charleston, named after the Merry Monarch who fathered more than 35 bastards. The city’s two main rivers are named after “the greatest whoremaster in England,"and until recently we were renowned to be full of debauchery and loose and idle women.

As we approach another summer tourism season I urge everyone to help preserve one of Charleston’s most important heritages: eat drink and be merry, as often as possible. Or, if you’re feeling particularly inspired, eat, drink and be with Mary! And for you cross-dressers – go ahead and eat, drink and BE Mary. After this is the former Sodom and Gomorrah of the South.