Monday, February 28, 2011

Bing Crosby and Inger Stevens: Their brief, ill-fated romance


In September of 1930, Bing Crosby married Dixie Lee, a nightclub singer and actress from Harriman, Tennessee. Dixie suffered from acute alcoholism and she died of ovarian cancer on November 1, 1952, three days before her 41st birthday. After Dixie’s death, the enormously popular entertainer found himself a widower with four sons: Gary (born October 1933), twins Dennis and Phillip (born 1934), and Lindsay (born 1938). Bing was overwhelmed by Dixie’s death and the challenge of raising their four boys.

Of the children of Bing Crosby’s first marriage, only Phillip survives. Dennis and Lindsay both reportedly committed suicide and Gary died of lung cancer in 1995 at the age of 62. After Bing’s death, Gary published a memoir titled Going My Own Way. In his book, Gary, who was also a singer and actor, accuses his father of both physical and psychological abuse.

In late 1956, Crosby began filming Man on Fire with a beautiful blonde newcomer named Inger Stevens. Stevens was 22 years old when she was cast opposite Bing. Man on Fire was her big break, her motion picture debut. The drama, about the effects of divorce on a family, was not enthusiastically received.

Man on Fire marked the first time Bing Crosby starred in a film without any singing, although he did croon the title song over the opening credits. Crosby portrayed wealthy businessman Earl Carleton, a troubled father devastated by his bitter divorce and the ensuing custody battle for his son. Stevens, who played the role of Crosby’s sympathetic attorney, earned favourable reviews for her performance.

To watch the original trailer for Man on Fire (with Ed Sullivan and Bing), click on the link below.

Inger Stevens was born Inger Stensland in Stockholm, Sweden on October 18, 1934, the eldest of three children. She had a difficult childhood. When she was only 6, her mother abandoned the family for another man. Her parents divorced when Inger was 9 years after which Inger’s father immigrated to the United States and remarried. In 1944, he summoned Inger and her younger brother, Ola, to join him and his new wife in New York City.

When Inger was 13, the family moved to Manhattan, Kansas. In July of 1951, an unhappy Inger ran away to Kansas City and at the age of 16, she appeared in a Kansas City burlesque show. Her father brought her back home and she graduated from Manhattan High School in May of 1952.

Inger studied dance at Kansas State University, then moved to Kansas City where she worked as a dance instructor and got a start in modelling. In October of 1953, she relocated to New York and found employment as a model while studying acting at the Actor’s Studio. Her career began to blossom as she appeared in television series, commercials and in plays.

In July of 1955, Stephens married her agent, Anthony Sogio. Their marriage was short-lived and the couple separated in early 1956. Ingrid then moved to California and obtained American citizenship. In 1957, while filming Man on Fire, Inger Stephens filed for divorce from Sogio (it became official in 1958).

Man on Fire was released in 1957. Although it did not create a sensation, it led to a romance between the baritone crooner and the young Swedish-born actress. Throughout her career, Stevens displayed a propensity for falling in love with her co-stars and Bing Crosby, 31 years her senior, was no exception. The affair began after Inger suffered an appendicitis attack on the set in December of 1956. The two grew close during Crosby’s visits with her at the hospital.

Inger had hopes of marrying Crosby although she refused to convert to Catholicism for him. Soon after the release of Man on Fire, Bing invited her to supervise the renovation of his Palm Springs home. Stevens was under the mistaken impression that this was to be their matrimonial home. Unbeknownst to her, Bing was also seriously involved with another young actress named Kathryn Grant. It was while working on the house that Inger learned about Bing’s marriage to Kathryn.

Bing first met the Texas-born Grant on the Paramount set in 1954 when he was filming White Christmas. The two had an on-again, off-again relationship, but finally wed on October 24, 1957 in Las Vegas, Nevada at St. Anne’s Church (Grant converted to Catholicism). The newlyweds settled in Hillsborough, California and raised three children: Harry (born 1958), Mary (of Dallas fame, born 1959) and Nathaniel (born 1961).

Bing died on October 14, 1977 at the age of 74 while playing golf in Madrid, Spain. Kathryn was left a 44-year-old widow and she became the author of several books about her life with Bing. After Crosby’s death, she took on some minor stage roles and the lead in the 1996 short-lived Broadway musical State Fair. In 2000, Kathryn married for the second time to Maurice William Sullivan. On November 24, 2010, she was seriously injured in a car accident in the Sierra Nevada. Her 85-year-old husband lost his life in the accident.

Inger Stevens returned to New York City after her ill-fated love affair with Crosby.  Distraught over her failed romance, she attempted suicide in her Gramercy Place apartment in January of 1959. The following year, she returned to California and resumed her career. Although she had roles in major films, she achieved her greatest success on television. In 1960, She starred in two memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone and also appeared in episodes of Route 66 (1961 and 1962), The Detectives (1961) and The Eleventh Hour (1962). In 1963, she became a household name when she won the leading role in The Farmer’s Daughter.

In The Farmer’s Daughter, Inger Stevens portrayed Katy Holstrum, a Swedish farm girl who left her home in Minnesota to become a housekeeper for a congressman in Washington. Inger’s character was quite opinionated and somewhat of a feminist for her era. The show was a smash hit for her and co-star William Windom who played Congressman Glen Morley. It ran on ABC until 1966.

After the cancellation of The Farmer’s Daughter, Inger returned to the silver screen. In 1967, she starred opposite Walter Matthau in A Guide for the Married Man. In 1968, she appeared in films with such luminaries as Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark and Dean Martin. By 1970, she was ready to attempt a comeback on television with the detective drama series The Most Deadly Game. Alas, it was not to be. On the morning of April 30, 1970, Stephens was found lying face down on the kitchen floor of her Hollywood home. She died en route to hospital of "acute barbiturate intoxication," a deadly combination of drugs and alcohol, according to Los Angeles Coroner Thomas Noguchi.  She was 35 years old.

After Inger’s death, Ike Jones, an African-American actor and producer, claimed to have married the actress in Mexico in 1961.  During the settling of her estate, Inger's brother,Carl O. Stensland, backed Jones' claim.  Since interracial unions were frowned upon in Hollywood in the 1960s, Stensland stated that the marriage was kept secret so that Inger's career would not be jeopardized. Although estranged, Inger and Ike remained married at the time of Stevens’ death.  Jones, who was born on December 23, 1929, is now 81 years old.

Ike Jones

EDITOR'S UPDATE (January 2, 2013): Ike Jones passed away on October 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  He was 84 years old at the time of his death at an assisted-living facility.

- Joanne

Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Oscars Quiz


On Sunday, the Academy Awards will be given out in Hollywood. To mark the occasion, Number 16 proudly presents its first annual Academy Awards quiz. Get ready and test your knowledge by answering 10 questions about the Oscars. Good luck.

1. Despite a long and distinguished acting career, Humphrey Bogart only won one Academy Award. What was the name of the film that earned Bogie his only Oscar?

A. Casablanca

B. Key Largo

C. The African Queen

D. The Maltese Falcon

E. The Big Sleep

2. How many Canadian-born women have won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role?

A. 3

B. 1

C. None

D. 2

E. 4

3. What year was the first Academy Awards ceremony held?

A. 1932

B. 1928

C. 1930

D. 1929

E. 1931

4. Who was the youngest person ever to win an Oscar?

A. Tatum O’Neal

B. Shirley Temple

C. Margaret O’Brien

D. Anna Paquin

E. Judy Garland

5. Paul Newman won only won one Academy Award during his stellar career. For which movie did Newman win an Oscar?

A. Cool Hand Luke

B. The Hustler

C. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

D. The Color of Money

E. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

6. How many Oscars did Alfred Hitchcock, the great director and “Master of Suspense” win?

A. 1

B. None

C. 2

D. 4

E. 3

7. Elizabeth Taylor was born on February 27, 1932. She turns 79 years old on the day of the day of the Oscars. For which film did she win the first of her two Academy Awards.

A. Giant

B. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

C. Butterfield 8

D. A Place in the Sun

E. Cleopatra

8. For which of these films did Shelley Winters win an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role?

A. The Poseidon Adventure

B. A Place in the Sun

C. The Night of the Hunter

D. A Double Life

E. A Patch of Blue

9. Shelley Winters received one other Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Name the film that won her that Oscar (This is your bonus question, so give yourself an extra point if you answer it correctly).

A. The Great Gatsby

B. The Diary of Anne Frank

C. Lolita

D. Alfie

E. Executive Suite

10. Who was the first black to win an Oscar for a performance in a leading role?

A. Hattie McDaniel

B. Denzel Washington

C. Halle Berry

D. Sidney Poitier

E. James Earl Jones


1 C. The African Queen

In 1951, Humphrey Bogart won the Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in The African Queen.

2. A. 3

Three Canadian-born women have won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role and they won them in three consecutive years. They are Mary Pickford for Coquette in 1929, Norma Shearer for The Divorcee in 1930 and Marie Dressler for Min and Bill in 1931. Mary Pickford was born in Toronto, Norma Shearer in Montreal and Marie Dressler in Cobourg, Ontario.

3. D. 1929

The first Academy Awards ceremony took place at a private dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California on May 16, 1929.

4. A. Tatum O’Neal

In 1973, Tatum O’Neal was only 10 years old when she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Paper Moon.

5. D. The Color of Money

In 1986, Paul Newman won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Color of Money.

6. B. None

Although he received five nominations, famed director Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar. He received the Irving Thalberg memorial award at the 1967 Academy Awards.

7. C. Butterfield 8

Elizabeth Taylor won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Butterfield 8 in 1961. In 1967, she won a second Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).

8. E. A Patch of Blue

In 1965, Shelley Winters won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in A Patch is Blue.

9. B. The Diary of Anne Frank

In 1959, Shelley Winters won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting role for performance in The Diary of Anne Frank.

10. D. Sidney Poitier

In 1963, Sidney Poitier won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Lilies of the Field.

- Joanne

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amelia Earhart and reflections on courage


Courage is the price that
Life exacts for granting peace.

The soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.

Nor can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul's dominion.
Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.

- Amelia Earhart
This poem by famed aviator Amelia Earhart first appeared in a 1928 issue of Survey Graphic magazine. It certainly reflects her adventurous spitit.  The poem, titled "Courage",  was published in an article called “Who is Amelia Earhart?” by Marian Perkings. The topic for this February day is courage. Amelia had plenty of it.

Here are some more reflections on courage.

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others.

- Winston Churchill
From Great Contemporaries (1937)

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

- C.S. Lewis
From The Unquiet Grave (1944)

Grace under pressure.

- Ernest Hemingway
(When asked what he meant by “guts”, in an interview with Dorothy Parker in the New Yorker, November 30, 1929)


On January 29, 2011, I wrote about the July 2, 1937 disappearance of celebrated aviator Amelia Earhart. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared during their attempt to circumnavigate the globe at the equator. The pair left New Guinea in a twin-engine airplane over 74 years ago and never returned. Their destination was a small island in the central Pacific Ocean called Howland Island.

According to a February 21, 2011 Canadian Press story, a scientist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia hopes to extract Amelia Earhart’s DNA. Doongya Yang, a forensic archeologist, is endeavouring to create a genetic profile that can be used to determine whether bone fragments recently discovered on the remote, uninhabited Pacific island of Nikumaroro.

Yang became involved in the research at the behest of a Simon Fraser health student named Justin Long. Long’s grandfather, Elgen Long, is considered an authority on Amelia Earhart and owns a collection of about 400 of her letters. Earhart’s letters have been opened with letter openers, leaving the seals intact to capture DNA. Justin Long revealed that Yang will be testing four letters, including one written by George Palmer Putnam, Amelia’s husband. This way he will be able to have comparison DNA of someone close to Earhart in the event that the letters were sealed by someone else.

Elgen Long is 88 years old and has devoted about forty years collecting Amelia Earhart items. He even possesses some of her clothing. Unfortunately, DNA cannot be extracted from Amelia’s attire because it has been dry cleaned. The elder Long noted, however, that Earhart has some surviving relatives whose DNA could also be matched with Yang’s findings.

Interestingly, Justin Long doubts that the remains found on the island of Nikumaoro are those of Amelia Earhart. He said, “It is extremely unlikely because ocean currents don’t support any debris or people floating in that direction. And it’s 653 kilometres away from where Earhart’s destination was in the Pacific, which was Howland Island.”

The intriguing mystery of Amelia Earhart continues. Number 16, will keep you posted.



The Toronto Blue Jays, in my opinion, did the right thing in signing Jose Bautista to a multi-year contract. Yes, it’s definitely a risk, but it’s one that’s worth taking. Even if his home run production decreases considerably, his value to the team cannot be measured entirely with statistics. His leadership qualities are needed. Now, Mr. Anthopoulos, go ahead and get a decent third baseman so that Jose can play in the outfield.

- Joanne

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NUMBER 16 EXCLUSIVE: The Secret Plans of the Conservative Party – Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty and Peter MacKay meet to discuss Tory strategy for the next election.


You can read it here first. Number 16 has unearthed Conservative secret plans and the true reason why Prince William and his bride-to-be will not be visiting the largest city in Canada this summer. Once again, your intrepid reporter, Joanne Madden, has infiltrated the most secret corners of the Conservative war room. A conversation was recorded between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his trusted Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty and Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

(Stephen Harper smiles confidently as he sits down to converse with Jim Flaherty and Peter MacKay)

SH: Well, boys, I think everything is under control. We’re just about ready for the next election. This time we are going to win our majority. Nothing’s going to stop us now! (He rubs his hands greedily)

JF AND MacKAY: (clapping their hands) Here! Here!

SH: Our new attack ads are great. We are going to make mince meat of Iggy and the Liberals.

JF: That’s for sure, Mr. Prime Minister. We’re getting the message across that Iggy is only in it for himself. He’s not devoted to this country like you are.

MacKAY: Anybody can see that, Stephen. I just love our new ads showing you alone in your office working so hard at your desk. You look so calm and cool and in control. And your glasses, what a nice touch!

SH: They don’t make me look too intellectual, do they? I don’t want to look too intellectual.

MacKAY: Oh no! You look more like Clark Kent than some intellectual. You look so dedicated. The people will realize that you are running the ship of state right on course.

JF: That’s right. We Conservatives are running the economy competently. Voters will get the message and they won’t want to change course.

SH: What about the big cities? We don’t have a single seat in the three biggest cities - Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. We’re going to have to win seats there to get our majority.

MacKAY: Well, I think Quebec is a lost cause for us. We don’t have to worry about the Prairies. The Vancouver lefties won’t vote for us. Ontario is where we have to win big, especially in your birthplace, Mr. Prime Minister.

SH: (Sighs deeply) Don’t remind me that I was born there. My hometown is Calgary now. I’m a Westerner. I’m a Calgary Flames fan.

(A cell phone rings interrupting the conversation)

MacKAY (answering his phone): Sorry, I have to take this call. (Mackay rises from his chair and speaks in a low voice) Sorry, baby, I can’t talk to you about that now. I’m at a very important meeting. I hope you understand and I hope you won’t pull a Belinda on me . . . don’t hang up! (He puts his cell phone away) Women! It looks like I’m going to have to walk my dog again!

SH: Peter, you really should turn that thing off when we’re having a meeting.

MacKAY (in a sheepish voice): Sorry about that. Hey Stephen, can we invite Condoleezza Rice to Canada again?

SH: No, Peter! I know you like her, but, unfortunately, George W. Bush is no longer the President of the United States.

MacKAY: Rats! I was hoping to take her to Tim Hortons again!

SH (glaring at MacKay): The only Tim Hortons you’ll take her to, Peter, is the one in Kandahar. Now, let’s get back to the matter at hand: How to win votes in the City of Toronto. What do you think, Jim?

JF: We need to demonstrate to the people of Toronto what will happen if they don’t vote Tory. They need to know there will be consequences.

SH: Well, Jim, I sent them a pretty strong message when I chose Toronto as the site of the G20 Summit last summer.

MacKAY: Yeah, that was a great strategy!

SH: And did you notice my latest move. I invited Prince William and Kate Middleton to come to Canada. Fortunately, they accepted my invitation, but there are no plans for them to visit Toronto. I made sure that the city has been snubbed again. T.O. is finally going to learn that it will be snubbed until it votes Conservative Blue. Toronto will vote Tory and it will learn to like it.

JF: Brilliant, Stephen, just brilliant! I’m sure the message will not be lost on Torontonians. It’s not just an oversight that William and Kate are not visiting Canada’s largest city. It’s a glaring omission. The people of Toronto have been taught a lesson.

SH: I’ve even thought of another strategy. Let’s put a curse on the city. The Toronto Maple Leafs will never win another Stanley Cup until Hogtown votes overwhelmingly Conservative!  We'll call in some people from Boston to talk about how long the Curse of the Bambino lasted.  That should do it.  We'll guarantee them a Stanley Cup as soon as they vote Tory again.

JF: I don’t know about that, Stephen . . .  I wouldn't make any guarantees about the Leafs winning the Cup . ..

- Joanne

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nicolaus Copernicus: The search for his remains


Nicolaus Copernicus was a true Renaissance man and I honour him today on the 538th anniversary of his birth. This great thinker was born on February 19, 1473 in the city of Thorn, Royal Prussia, Kingdom of Poland. At the time of Coperncus’ birth, the city of Thorn was predominantly German-speaking. His father was a well-to-do merchant from Krakow and Nicolaus was the youngest of four children.

How much of a genius was Nicolaus Copernicus? Well, let’s see. He was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, classical scholar, translator, artist, jurist, Catholic cleric, diplomat and economist. Oh yes, and he was a polyglot. It is presumed that he spoke three languages with equal fluency - Polish, Latin and German. He also spoke Italian and Greek. The majority of his surviving works are written in Latin, which during his lifetime was the scholarly language of Europe. It was the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and of Poland’s royal court.

Copernicus’s seminal work, his masterpiece, On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres (De revolutionbus orbium coelestium, was written in Latin and was first printed in 1543 in Nuremburg, Germany. With that book, Copernicus challenged the dominant religious and scientific thinking of the day. He caused a stir by disagreeing with the conventional wisdom that the Earth was the fixed centre of the universe and argued that the Earth and all the known planets revolved around the stationary Sun. Based on years of astronomical observations, he put forth a heliocentric theory of cosmology. In the 16th century, this was a daring and revolutionary concept.

In 1539, prior to the publication of De revolutionbus, Martin Luther is quoted as saying in one of his "Table Talks", “People gave ear to an unstart astrologer (Copernicus) who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon . . . This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”

Coernicus died May 24, 1543 at Frombork (Frauenburg), Kingdom of Poland at the age of 70. He was reportedly buried at Frombork Cathedral. For over two centuries, archaeologists searched fruitlessly for his remains. In August of 2005, a team of team of diligent searchers, led by Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski, finally unearthed the remains of the Renaissance polymath at the Frombork Cathedral in north-eastern Poland. When they scanned beneath the cathedral floor they discovered what they believed to be Copernicus’s skull and leg bones below the St. Cross altar. In 2008, a DNA test confirmed that the bones did indeed belong to the Polish astronomer. They matched hair samples taken from an astronomy reference book owned by Copernicus that was housed at the library of a Swedish university.

A forensic expert at the Polish Police Central Forensic Laboratory used the skull to reconstruct a face that closely resembled that of Copernicus’s, including a broken nose and a scar above the left eye - features that were evident in a self-portrait of the great scholar. Copernicus had a crooked nose, the result of a childhood accident.

The forensic expert also determined that the skull was that of a man between 60 and 70 years old, (Copernicus was 70 at the time of his death).

Below is the forensic rendition of the face of Copernicus taken from the reconstruction of his skill.

On May 22, 2010, Copernicus was given a second funeral in a Mass celebrated by Jozef Kowalczyk, the Primate of Poland. His remains were reburied beneath a tombstone of black granite in Frombork Cathedral. The tombstone identifies him as the discoverer of the heliocentric theory and also a church canon.  On the tombstone, there is a depiction of the Copernican model of the solar system.

Nicolaus Copernicus was undoubtedly one of the greatest Poles who ever lived. He ranks with Chopin and Marie Curie (born Marie Sklodowska in Warsaw) among others. His ideas influenced another genius, an Italian named Galileo.


The Polish version of Nicolaus Copernicus’s name is Mikloaj Kopernik. The surname means “one who works with copper”.


I have always enjoyed the sound of Motown and Smokey Robinson has really made that sound come alive. William Robinson, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 19, 1940. He turns 71 years old today.



So Tomas Kaberle has finally been traded. He is now a member of the Boston Bruins and will play for a contender in Beantown. In return for Kabele, the Toronto Maple Leafs receive prospect Joe Colborne, Boston’s 1st round choice in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and a conditional 2nd round draft choice. It looks as if the Leafs have given up on this season and are once again rebuilding. No wonder their fans are so frustrated. Well, at least they seem to have a decent goaltender in young James Reimer.

- Joanne

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Justin Bieber, Glenn Beck and health care


I don’t consider teenage singing idols to be authorities on the great issues of the day. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to congratulate teen heartthrob Justin Bieber for speaking his mind. In a preview of an upcoming cover story in Rolling Stone magazine, the 16-year-old from Stratford, Ontario praised Canada’s public health care system. He said, “Canada’s the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you’re broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard’s baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby’s premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.”

Not surprisingly, Bieber was roundly criticized by Glenn Beck of Fox News. On his radio show, Beck and co-host Pat Grey attacked and mocked the young pop singer. At one point in the show, Grey told to Bieber to “Go to Canada . . . Let’s see how many of your records they’re buying, you rotten little brat.”

How classy of you, Mr. Grey! Of course you have the right to oppose universal health care, but did you really have to resort to calling a 16-year-old “a rotten little brat” because he expressed a point of view that differs from yours?  If Justin had bashed the Canadian health system, you would have lauded him for being a smart and thoughtful young man. Since you disagree with him, he is a rotten little brat, ungrateful for the largesse that America has bestowed upon him. Who is behaving like an adolescent now?

Justin Bieber is extremely wealthy and he doesn’t have to worry about paying exorbitant health care bills. At least, he is concerned about those who do. Doesn’t that demonstrate that he has a social conscience? More Canadians should take a strong stand in the defence of universal health care.  Otherwise we may lose something we can be proud of, something that defines us as a nation.

To listen to the remarks of Glenn Beck and Pat Grey, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kim Jong-il: It's the Dear Leader's birthday


Oh joy!  It’s the Dear Leader's birthday. Yes, Kim Jong-il of North Korea is 70 years old today. The official line in North Korea is that Kim is 69 years old, but Soviet records reveal that he was born in the small Russian fishing village of Vyatskoye on February 16, 1941. His late father, long-time North Korean dictator, Kim Il-sung, commanded the 1st Battalion of the Soviet 88th Brigade, consisting of Chinese and Korean exiles. Kim Jong-il’s mother was Kim Jong-suk, the first wife of Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-ill succeeded his father as Supreme Leader of North Korea on July 8, 1994. He has been in power for over 16 years. Although small in stature, Kim rules his people with an iron fist. North Korea is a tightly-controlled totalitarian state and there is absolutely no dissent in this secretive country. Kim’s son, Kim Jong-un, has been promoted to a senior post in the ruling Worker’s Party and is considered to be the heir apparent.

Kim Jong-il loathes his short stature and always wears high platform shoes in public. His exact height is a closely guarded secret, but it is estimated to be between 5’3’’ and 5’6’’ (155 – 165 cm). Pyongyang rarely releases photos that show his elevator shoes. In 2005, however, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper published a picture of a smiling Kim wearing 10-12 cm. platforms. The photograph was taken during a 2002 meeting with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Back in 1994, North Korea’s first golf course was opened in Pynogyang and Kim decided to play it. The state-run North Korean media announced that Kim shot an astounding 38 under par on the regulation 18-hole course – including 5 holes in one. It was his first time playing the sport. What amazing athletic prowess this man has! Is there anything he can’t he do? Well, the North Korean press has not yet reported that Kim has walked on water . . . yet.

In honour of Kim’s 70th (sorry, I mean 69th) birthday, there will be a week of song and celebration in North Korea, including ice skating and musical shows. The Dear Leader even has a flower named in his honour, a hybrid begonia called Kimjongilla. Exhibitions of his floral namesake are on display. Although the states media reports that Pyongyang’s streets are festooned with lanterns and goodwill messages, a defector group claims that birthday handouts were cut back as the regime continues to have difficulty feeding its people.

Kim’s eccentricities, his enormous ego, and his extreme pomposity, would be quite amusing - except for one salient fact. The man is a brutal dictator and North Koreans are suffering immensely. His nation is poverty-stricken and has experienced terrible famine. Nevertheless, North Korea remains one of the most militarized countries in the world today. Its government spends billions of dollars on the Korean People’s Army.

This brings us to another Kim story. In 2006, the Dear Leader discovered that there was a man in Germany who bred giant rabbits the size of dogs. He thought that these enormous rabbits would provide a solution to North Korea's widespread hunger problem. The German man, Karl Szmolinsky of Berlin, informed Kim that that was not a very good idea. The rabbits would devour more carrots and other vegetables than they would yield in meat.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kim Jong-il  died on December 17, 2011 at the age of 70.


I’m pleased that the Toronto Blue Jays are delaying arbitration with slugger Jose Bautista. It is imperative for the team to sign Bautista to a multi-year deal. He has the ability to be the team leader. He is articulate and very helpful to the Hispanic players on the club. I’m waiting to see if GM Alex Anthopoulos can obtain a decent third baseman so that Bautista can play in the outfield where he belongs.


It’s about time that someone in hockey spoke out strongly against the brutality of the NHL game. Bravo to Mario Lemieux. Hockey should not be allowed to degenerate into a roller derby on ice. After enjoying the great games at the Vancouver Winter Olympics last year and the World Junior Hockey Championship this Christmas season, I find it increasingly difficult to watch the diluted, fight-infested NHL game. 

- Joanne

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Quiz 2011


If you’re in the mood for love, why not give Number 16’s ten-question Valentine’s Day Quiz a try

VALENTINE'S DAY QUIZ 2011  - By Joanne Madden

1. Who sang the disco song Love is in the Air in the late 1970s?

A. Tony Orlando

B. John Paul Young

C. Andy Kim

D. Barry Manilow

E. John Davis and the Monster Orchestra

2. What does the Latin phrase, “Omnia vincit Amor” mean?

A. Love is everything.

B. Love is all there is.

C. Love is strength.

D. It is great to be in love.

E. Love conquers all things.

3. Which poet wrote “O, my love is like a red, red rose”?

A. John Keats

B. William Shakespeare

C. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

D. Robert Burns

E. Percy Bysshe Shelley

4. Which Beatles song did Frank Sinatra describe as “one of the best love songs, I believe, to be written in fifty or a hundred years.”

A. Something

B. Yesterday

C. Michelle

D. And I Love Her

E. All You Need is Love

5. Which of the following famous comedians was born Valentine`s Day?

A. Bob Hope

B. Lucille Ball

C. Jack Benny

D. Danny Thomas

E. Joan Rivers

6. Who sang the 1973 hit song I`ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song?

A. James Taylor

B. Cat Stevens

C. Paul Simon

D. Jim Croce

E. Don McLean

7. St. Valentine was a Christian martyr in what city?

A. Venice

B. Rome

C. Constantinople

D. Florence

E. Athens

8. The name “Valentine” is derived from “valens” meaning

A. noble

B. loving

C. beautiful and attractive

D. emotional

E. worthy and strong

9. The song What I Did for Love is from which Broadway musical? Remember Kiss today goodbye / The sweetness and the sorrow. / Wish me luck, the same to you. / But I can’t regret what I did for love . . .

A. Guys and Dolls

B. A Chorus Line

C. The Music Man

D. 42nd Street

E. Oklahoma

10. When asked if he were “in love”, who replied, “Yes . . . whatever that may mean?”

A. John Steinbeck

B. Ernest Hemingway

C. Prince Charles

D. Prince Harry of Wales

E. Eminem


1. B. John Paul Young

To watch a video of the Australian pop singer, John Paul Young, singing Love is in the Air, click on the link below.

2. E Love conquers all things.

The Latin phrase “Omnia vincit Amor” means “Love conquers all things.” The Roman poet, Virgil, wrote “Omnia vincit Armor: et nos cedamus Amori.” Translantion: Love conquers all things: let us too surrender to Love.”

3. D. Robert Burns

The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote “O, my love is like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June”

To watch a video montage of a musical version of the poem, click on the link below.

4. A. Something

To watch a video of Frank Sinatra singing George Harrison’s Something, click on the link below.

5. C. Jack Benny.

Jack Benny was born on February 14, 1894.

6. D. Jim Croce

To watch a video of Jim Croce singing I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song, click on the link below.

7. B. Rome

St. Valentine was a Christian martyr in ancient Rome.

8. E. worthy and strong

The name “Valentine” is “Valentinus” in Latin and is derived from “valens” meaning worthy and strong.

9. B. A Chorus Line

To watch a A Chorus Line photo montage of What I Did for Love, click on the link below.

10. C. Prince Charles

The Prince of Wales made the remark after the announcement of his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer on February 24, 1981.


- Joanne

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reflections on Love and Romance


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

- William Shakespeare
Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets.  This is Sonnet 116 and it is my favourite.  I consider it to be the greatest love poem that I have ever read.  Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, Number 16 would like to share this beautiful sonnet with you.  By the way, a sonnet has 14 lines and a Shakespearean or English sonnet ends in a rhyming couplet.

Here are some random thoughts and reflections on romantic love.

The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end.

- Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), British statesman and novelist
From Henrietta Temple [1837]

Much love much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love.

- Charles Darwin (1809-1892)
Letter to Joseph Hooker, November 27, 1863

To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception; it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity.

- Soren Kierkegaard
From Works of Love, Hong & Hong translation

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made like bread; remade all the time, made new.

- Ursula K. Le Guin
From The Lathe of Heaven {1971}

Experience shows us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction.

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French novelist
From Wind, Sand and Stars {1939}

The course of true love never did run smooth.

- William Shakespeare
From A Midsummer Night’s Dream

‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
From In Memoriam A.H.H. [1850]


To me, Casablanca (1942) is the most romantic movie ever made.  The love story between Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) absolutely resonates.  It is passionate, heartbreaking and poignant.  Is there a more romantic line than, “We’ll always have Paris”? If there is, please let me know.

- Joanne

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clear the track, it's Eddie Shack!


Happy Birthday, Eddie Shack!  Eddie, who turns 74 years old today, played with the Toronto Maple Leafs when they actually won Stanley Cups and true fans could afford the price of tickets for their games. He earned the nickname Eddie the Entertainer because he was so much fun to watch. I remember the very first NHL game I attended at Maple Leaf Gardens with my father when I was a young child. It was such a thrill to enter that shrine of hockey, the home of the venerable Blue and White. I was definitely awestruck by the wonder of it. What an atmosphere! The excitement was palpable and it was electric.

The local heroes played the New York Rangers that night. I recall sitting beside a man who was a fan of the New York Rangers. I found it quite perplexing and unsettling to discover that not everyone cheered for the beloved Leafs, especially in their home arena. The man disturbed me greatly and if memory serves me correctly, the Leafs lost the game to the Rangers that evening. The one player, however, who stood out in my mind was Number 23, Eddie Shack. I enjoyed watching him skate. He skated with such exuberance.

Edward Steven Phillip Shack was born in Sudbury, Ontario on February 11, 1937, the son of immigrants from Ukraine. He had worked in a coal mine and in a butcher shop when he decided to try his luck with the Guelph Biltmores of the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA).  He made the team and played in Guelph from 1952 until 1957, leading the Biltmores to an appearance in the 1957 Memorial Cup.

Eddie impressed the New York Rangers and the promoted him to their American Hockey League farm club, the Providence Reds. After one season in the minors, Eddie was sent up to the New York Rangers. He spent two seasons in Manhattan, but his play was undistinguished and he did not score many goals. In 1960, the Rangers gave up on him and negotiated a trade with the Detroit Red Wings involving Red Kelly. Kelly chose to retire rather than report to New York, so the trade was cancelled.

In November of 1961, however, Shack was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs were a perfect fit for Eddie and his colourful personality made him a fan favourite. He spent five seasons in Toronto as a third-line left winger and was a member of the Leafs last Stanley Cup-winning team in 1967.

Eddie married Norma Carol in September of 1962.  The wedding took place at St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in The Junction area of Toronto.  Rt. Rev. B. Filevich officiated at the ceremony.

Shack was well-known for his fisticuffs and I do not condone that aspect of his play. To put it bluntly, he was a very dirty player at times. Nevertheless, he did have the ability to put the puck in the net. During the 1966 season, Eddie scored a career-high 26 goals while part of a line with Ron Ellis and Bob Pulford. He never achieved that level of goal production again and was traded to the Boston Bruins in the fall of 1967.

In Boston, Shack played right wing on a line with Derek Sanderson and Wayne Cashman. He scored 23 goals for a powerful Bruins team. From then on, his career declined considerably. He was plagued with injuries the next season and spent the following four seasons in transit. Constantly on the move, he played in Los Angeles, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Penguins sold Eddie to the Leafs in 1974, but by that time, his playing days were virtually over. Age and injury had eroded his skills and he retired after the 1975 season.

After his retirement, Eddie Shack became somewhat of an entrepreneur. He lent his name to a small chain of doughnut stores and sold Christmas trees. In the late 1970s, he appeared in Canadian television commercials. Most notably, he was the spokesman for a soft drink dealer named the Pop Shoppe. In ads for Pop Shopp, Eddie played up his prominent proboscis with the catch phrase, “He’s got a nose for value . . .” In a promotion for Schick razors, Eddie’s trademark handlebar moustache was shaved off.

To view Eddie's Pop Shoppe commercial, click on the link below.

Eddie Shack was so popular during his years with the Toronto Maple Leaf that a 1966 novelty song was written about him. It was called, Clear the track, Here comes Shack.  The song was a big hit on Canadian charts. It was recorded by Douglas Rankine with the Secrets. Click on the link below to hear a recording of Clear the track.

Eddie endeared himself to the fans with his antics. If his name was called as one of the three stars of the game, he would hurry out to centre ice and do a pirouette for the crowd. Then he would skate off with great enthusiasm. Canadian hockey writer Stephen Cole compared Shack’s playing style to that of a puppy set free on a large field.

 - Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (July 26, 2020): Eddie Shack passed away on July 2020 at the age of 83.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jules Verne: Man of Vision


The desire to perform a work which will endure, which will survive him, is the origin of man’s superiority over all other living creatures here below. It is this which has established his dominion, and this which justifies it, over all the world.

- Jules Verne
From The Mysterious Island [1875], Chapter 57

Jules Verne certainly created works which will endure. Verne, the “Father of Science Fiction”, was born on February 8, 1828, exactly 183 years ago today. He was a French novelist from the Brittany region. His most notable works are Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Jules Gabriel Verne was born in the city of Nantes, the eldest of the five children of Sophie Henriette Allotte de la Fuye and Pierre Verne. His father, Pierre, was a lawyer. Nantes is a maritime port city and the young Jules spent his summers observing the schooners on the Loire River where he cultivated a great imagination for travel and adventure.

In 1847, Verne went to Paris, ostensibly to follow in his father’s footsteps and study law. Although he obtained his law degree in 1850, he was much more interested in the theatre. His first play, Broken Straws was produced in 1850. He continued to write comedies and operas and had short stories published in a popular magazine.

On January 10, 1857, Jules married Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters named Suzanne and Valentine. The couple had one child together, Michel Verne, born in 1861. Verne and his wife did much travelling together. They did toured France and America extensively, and they visited the British Isles. During his travels, Verne became acquainted with fellow authors Alexandre Dumas and his son, and Victor Hugo. They offered him writing advice.

Verne’s big break came when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the leading editors and publishers in France in the 19th century. With Hetzel’s help, Verne’s first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, was published in January of 1863 to wide acclaim. It was the account of a journey by air over central Africa, a largely unexplored area of the continent at the time.

Jules Verne was in his forties when he wrote his two masterpieces, are Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. In March of 1886, he was shot twice by his deranged 25-year-old nephew, Gaston. One bullet missed, but the other entered his left leg. As a result, he was left with a permanent limp. This great pioneer of the science fiction genre died in Amiens, France on November 24, 1905. He was 77 years old. He was a true visionary of the future and imagined many modern devices and technological inventions from skyscrapers to submarines.


What do you get when a bunch of rabbits chase some cars?

A receding hare line.


Tuesday Palindromes

As regular readers of Number 16 know, I have a great fondness for palindromes – words, verses, numbers or sentences that read the same backward or forward. From now on, Tuesday is going to be palindrome day on this website. I will feature ten new palindromes whenever I publish a posting on A Tuesday.

Here are your ten palindromes for today.

1. Never odd or even

2. Amen icy cinema.

3. No trace, not one carton.

4. Borrow or rob?

5. A nut for a jar of tuna

6. Pupils slip up.

7. Reno loner

8. Not so, Boston

9. Was it a car or a cat I saw?

10. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?



Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs does not like the spotlight, but it shining right on him at the moment. He’s young and he’s under a lot of pressure, but his performance has been lacklustre. He has definitely not lived up to expectations this season. The Leafs have much invested in him. I don’t think they can throw in the towel yet.


There are many questions for Toronto Blue Jay fans today, and much to ponder. The team is trying to unload outfielder Juan Rivera whom they obtained in the Vernon Wells trade. They certainly need a third baseman. Michael Young, disgruntled third baseman for the Texas Ranger, once to be traded. As sportswriter Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star pointed out in his January 26, 2011 column, a trade for Michael Young would be a logical move for the Jays. Can GM Alex Anthopoulos pull of the deal? If not, the Jays still need a third baseman. Jose Bautista should be in the outfield where he is happiest.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eva Braun: The Woman Who Married Hitler


Who was the woman who married Adolf Hitler and committed suicide with him in a Berlin bunker? One wonders how she could possibly have cared for such an evil and repulsive man. On the 99th anniversary of Eva Braun’s birth, let’s take a look at her life.

Eva Anna Paula Braun was born in Munich, Germany on February 6, 1912. She was the second of three daughters born to Freidrich Braun and his wife, Franciska Kronberger. There was nothing extraordinary about Eva’s childhood. Both of her parents came from reputable Bavarian families. She and her sisters, Ilse and Gretl, lived a respectable middle class existence and took part in normal activities such as music, dance and art lessons. Their father, Freidrich, was a Catholic school teacher.

The young Eva had one year of education at a convent school where she studied economics and bookkeeping. For several months, she worked as a receptionist at a medical practice in Munich. She then found employment as an office assistant and model for Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer. Braun first met the Nazi leader at Hoffmann’s studio in October of 1929. She began seeing him about two years later. He was 23 years older than she.

In the earlier years of her relationship with Hitler, Eva Braun attempted suicide twice. In November of 1932, she endeavoured to shoot herself in the throat, but missed the jugular. In 1935, she tried to take her own life by overdosing on barbiturates. On both occasions, she cited the reason as Hitler’s neglect.  After the second suicide attempt, however, Hitler purchased a villa in Munich for her and also provided her with a Mercedes and a personal chauffeur.

In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Eva Braun sat on the stage in the section reserved for VIPs as his secretary. She was placed among the wives of other ministers. By 1936, Eva Braun was a part of Hitler’s household at his country home at Berghof near Berchtesgaden.

Eva Braun was not particularly political and it is uncertain whether she was actually an official member of the Nazi Party. Her interests lay in photography, sports and exercisie, her two Scottish Terrier dogs named Negus and Stasi, and makeup.  In 1943, when Germany transitioned to a war economy, luxury products such as cosmetics faced a ban. According to Albert Speer in his memoir, Inside the Third Reich, Braun approached Hitler with her concerns, after which Hitler ordered Speer to stop production of women’s cosmetics rather than ban them completely.

Eva Braun was a fashionable woman and took care of her appearance. Here is how Traudl Junge, Hitler’s youngest secretary describes Braun in her memoirs Until the Final Hour.

She was very well dressed and groomed, and I noticed her unaffected manner. She wasn’t the kind of girl you saw on recruiting posters for the BDM (League of German Girls) or woman’s magazines. Her carefully done hair was bleached, and her pretty face was made up - quite heavily but in very good taste. Eva Braun wasn't tall but she had a very pretty figure and a distinguished appearance. She knew just how to dress in a style that suited her and never looked as if she had overdone it - she always seemed appropriately and tastefully dressed, although she wore valuable jewellery.
She and Hitler had a few lifestyle disagreements. The German dictator, a vegetarian, did not approve of cosmetics because they contained animal by-products. Hitler was a non-smoker and disapproved of Braun’s smoking habit. He was also unhappy about her predilection for nude sunbathing.

For many years, Eva Braun kept a low profile. She lived a sheltered and comfortable life throughout World War II. Although Braun was an important person within Hitler’s social circle, she did not attend public events with him and they never appeared together as a couple at formal occasions.  It was not until the summer of 1944 when Eva’s sister Gretl married an SS liaison officer that she was deemed acceptable as part of Hitler’s official entourage.

On March 7, 1945, with the collapse of the Nazi regime imminent, Eva Braun drove to Berlin to be with Adolf Hitler at the heavily protected bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery. On April 29, 1945, as Red Army troops closed in on the city, she married the 56-year-old Hitler in a quick civil ceremony. Fellow Nazis Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann were witnesses to the marriage. Less than 40 hours later, on April 30th, the newlyweds committed suicide together in a sitting room of the bunker. Braun, 33, consumed a cyanide capsule and Hitler shot himself in the head with his own pistol. Their dead bodies were doused with gasoline and burnt, as requested by Hitler.

- Joanne

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Robert Peel, founder of the modern police force

Do you know why police officers are referred to as “Bobbies” in Britain and “Peelers” in Ireland? Sir Robert Peel is the man responsible for those monikers. Peel was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from December 10, 1834 to April 8, 1835 and from August 30, 1841 to June 29, 1846, and he founded the British Conservative Party. Today is the 223rd anniversary of his birth. He was born the son of an affluent textile manufacturer on February 5, 1788 at Bury, Lancashire, England.

Robert Peel entered politics at a young age and became a Member of Parliament for the Irish borough of Cashel, Tipperary when he was only 21.  In 1813, as Chief Secretary in Dublin, he proposed the establishment of a special police force later to be known as “Peelers.” He was a rising star in the Tory Party when he was appointed to the cabinet as Home Secretary in January of 1822. As Home Secretary, Peel introduced several major reforms to British criminal law. He reduced the number of crimes punishable by death and repealed several criminal statutes. He also reformed the prison system by introducing wages and education for convicts.

It was during his service as Home Secretary that Robert Peel brought about the Metropolitan Police Force Act of 1829, thus establishing the concept of a modern policing. An organized police force was set up for London with 17 divisions. Each division consisted of 4 inspectors and 144 constables. The force was placed under the control of Scotland Yard and was accountable to the Home Secretary.

The early police were dressed distinctively in dark blue longcoats and tall hats. Their tall hats were convenient for standing on and looking over walls.  They wore blue attire because blue was the colour of the popular British Navy.  Their sole weapon was a truncheon.

Many of these original police officers were drunks and bullies and they did not endear themselves to the public. As a result, a large number of them did not keep their jobs. Eventually, however, the terrible impact of crime, especially organized crime, caused the public to accept the Bobbies, even if it did not embrace them.

Sir Robert Peel died on July 2, 1850 at the age of 62.  He was thrown off his horse while riding up Constitution Hill in London on June 29th.  The horse stumbled on him and he was crushed.  The cause of his death is described as a "clavicular fracture rupturing his subclavian vessels." 



Well, the Toronto Raptors finally ended their ugly losing streak of 13 losses in a row. They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves by a score of 111-100. The second worst stretch in the history of the Raptors is over, and not a moment too soon. As Jose Jose Calderon said of the slump, “It was getting heavy on our souls.” 

- Joanne

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Buddy Holly and his widowed bride


But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

- From the song American Pie
Lyrics by Don McLean

Today is the 52nd anniversary of The Day the Music Died, a day which Don McLean immortalized in his song American Pie. On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) died in a plane crash in Iowa. Buddy Holly was 22 years with a wife and a baby on the way. Ritchie Valens was only 17 and The Big Bopper was 28. The trio had just participated in a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa as part of the Winter Dance Party Tour.

The tour opened on January 23, 1959 and was scheduled to cover twenty-four cities in the U.S. Midwest over three weeks. This created logistical problems since the travel distance between each venue was not properly taken into account by tour organizers. The musicians were subjected to overnight travel on a bus that kept breaking down. It was ill-equipped for cold winter weather and its heating system was faulty. A frustrated Buddy Holly finally decided to book a charter plane and fly to the next stop on the tour.

J.P. Richardson had come down with the flu and didn’t feel comfortable with riding on the bus. He asked Waylon Jennings, one of Holly’s band members, to relinquish his seat on the plane. Jennings agreed. When Buddy Holly discovered that Waylon wasn’t going to be on the flight, he said jokingly, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up.” Jennings replied in jest, “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”

Young Ritchie Valens had never flown on a small airplane. He asked Tommy Allsup, Holly’s remaining bandmate on the plane, for his seat. Allsup suggested that they flip a coin for a place on the flight.  Valens won the fateful coin toss.

After the Iowa show, Buddy, Ritchie and The Big Bopper boarded a single-engine aircraft bound for Moorhead, Minnesota. They never reached their destination. Weather conditions were poor as their four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza took off into a snowstorm. The plane crashed into a corn field soon after take-off from Mason City in the early hours of February 3, 1959. The three performers and 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, were killed.

Buddy Holly’s Puerto Rican-born wife, Maria Elena Santiago was in bed with morning sickness when she heard the terrible news that she had become a widow after less than six months of marriage. She had been two weeks pregnant when her husband set out on his ill-fated tour and she miscarried soon after his death.

Maria Elena first met Buddy Holly in June of 1958 when she worked as a receptionist for a New York music publisher. Less than two months later, on August 15, 1958, the couple married in Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas. They honeymooned in Acapulco, Mexico.

Maria Elena always travelled with Buddy when he went on tour. She did not, however, accompany him on the Winter Dance Tour because she was in the early stages of pregnancy and did not feel well. She told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that in a way she blamed herself in a way for what happened in Iowa. She said that she had wanted Buddy to stay with her, but he had already booked the tour. The singer would never have boarded that plane, Maria Elena claimed, if she had gone along.

After Buddy Holly’s death, Maria Elena eventually remarried and gave birth to three children. Her second marriage ended in divorce. Now a 78-year-old grandmother, she resides in Dallas, Texas and dedicates herself to preserving Buddy’s legacy as a pioneer of rock ‘n roll.


Back in the 1980s, I watched Don McLean in concert at an open-air theatre. Those of you familiar with Toronto will remember The Forum at Ontario Place. It was a great place to watch a show on a summer evening and the concerts were free with admission to Ontario Place. My friend and I attended a Don McLean performance there and we had seats on the front benches really close to the stage. The Forum sat 3,000 people. If you failed to get a seat in the theatre, you could always sit on a blanket on the grass beyond it and still enjoy the show.

The Forum was too good to last. Unfortunately, and to my great dismay, it was replaced by the Molson Amphitheatre. The Molson Amphitheatre makes more money and has a corporate name. The Forum never stood a chance. All that’s left are the memories.

NOTE:  Yesterday, I wrote about the impending snowstorm.  It was not anywhere near as severe as predicted in the Toronto area.

- Joanne

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Before the Snowstorm


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson
From The Snow-Storm
As we begin the month of February, a blizzard is forecast here in the Toronto area. Emerson’s quote seems quite appropriate today as we await the storm. On this first day of February, Number 16 presents some quotations about snow to you.

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.

- Carl Reiner

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.

- Doug Larson

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow

- Robert Frost
From Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (1923)

When men wre all asleep the snow cam flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town.

- Robert Bridges (1844-1930), English poet
From London Snow (1890


What do you get when you cross a pumpkin with a pirate?


A pumpkin patch

That’s all for today, Sixteeners. I’m going to hunker down and get ready for the storm. 

- Joanne