Bandleader Louis Prima was the walking definition of entertainment. While other swing and jazz musicians focused on the art of their craft, Prima's mantra was "play it pretty for the people." He was serious about his songwriting, but when it came time to perform, Prima, Keely Smith, Sam Butera, and the rest of their band came alive with a frivolity and joyfulness matched by few, if any. And this is what set them apart. Known for his charisma, Louis Prima had an "active personal life" as well, with five marriages, plus other relationships. Probably best known today for his role as "King Louie" in Disney's original animated classic "The Jungle Book," there has been a resurgence in interest in Prima's music since Brian Setzer and others revived swing music in the late 90's. Today, Louis Prima stands with the other musical greats of his time.
On this week's episode, we discuss the life and times of Louis Prima with author Tom Clavin, who wrote "That Old Black Magic." We cover Prima's early career on into his "second act" as a trailblazing Las Vegas lounge act, as well as his final years. Remember to download, enjoy, and share!
Former Alabama Governor George Wallace is one of the most polarizing political figures in U.S. history. A true populist that played to his base of supporters, Wallace was loved by many and hated by many at the same time. Originally, he held a moderate view of race relations, but when he lost a campaign for governor of Alabama to a hard-line segregationist, Wallace changed his stance. "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" is one of his most famous quotes. He was shot during a U.S. presidential campaign stop, which physically disabled him. This began the change in his views, and later in life, he altered his views and he became a proponent of civil rights for African-Americans. Some questioned his change, but he held to his new viewpoint to the end of his life, proving that people can change.
For this episode, I spoke with author Mary Palmer about her book, "George Wallace: An Enigma - The Complex Life of Alabama's Most Divisive and Controversial Governor." We talk about his formative years, his time as governor, his presidential campaigns, the assassination attempt, his change of heart, and his last years. Remember to download, enjoy, and share!
Dorothy Kilgallen was a true media dynamo whose column was read by millions every day, appeared on a popular TV show each week, and was featured on the radio as well. "Breaking glass ceilings" is being talked about today, but Kilgallen was blazing a trail for women decades ago. Her "Voice of Broadway" column was syndicated in nearly 200 newspapers on a daily basis. She appeared each Sunday on the mega-popular TV show, "What's My Line?" But it was her passion for investigative journalism that really drove her. Kilgallen helped get Dr. Sam Sheppard, whose life was the basis for the film "The Fugitive" starring Harrison Ford, released from prison. When she began to dig into the JFK assassination, she may have simply gotten too close. She died soon after claiming she was ready to break the case wide open with her passing being attributed to an overdose on a mix of drugs and alcohol. But questions remain. Why was she found in a bed she didn't sleep in? Why was there no real investigation performed? And most importantly, what really happened to her?
We discuss the life and death of Dorothy Kilgallen with author Mark Shaw, who recently released "The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen." It's a fascinating discussion on a true pioneer who died too soon.
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It's part II of our series on the missing persons case of Judge Joseph Crater, and joining us for this week's episode is Marissa Jones, the host of the very popular true crime podcast, "The Vanished." Marissa dove into the theories surrounding Crater's disappearance, which vary wildly. Did he simply walk away, tired of the pressures of his job and his involvement with the underworld? Was he murdered by the mob? Did he die inside a bordello? And what of the post-mortem confession of a NYC cop?
We discuss all these theories and more, as Marissa puts her investigative skills to the test. Tell us what you think happened to Judge Crater...tweet me @HistoryMile, and tweet Marissa @TheVanishedPod. Don't forget to download, enjoy, and share!
Judge Joseph Force Crater was a New York State Supreme Court Justice who went missing on August 6, 1930, and has not been seen since. He had gone out to dinner with a lawyer friend and a showgirl, paid the check, then got into a cab, and was never seen again. What happened to him?
In the first of a two-part series of episodes, we chat with author Dick Tofel, who wrote, "Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater and the New York He Left Behind." We discuss the circumstances surrounding Crater's disappearance, and touch upon what might have happened to him. There are so many questions still unanswered. Why did he pull out large amounts of cash right before he went missing? Crater had a ticket for a theater show that night...and someone used the ticket, but no one remembers seeing the judge there...how can that be? Why did it take several weeks for the police to get involved? Don't miss this intriguing chat on one of the most notorious missing persons cases of the 20th Century.
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When someone is looking to describe a huge achievement where expectations are greatly surpassed, they can describe it as "Ruthian." The fact that that adjective can be used in American lexicon proves just how massive of a pop culture icon Babe Ruth became, and still is.
On this week's supersize episode, we discuss the life and times of the Babe with Baseball Hall of Fame Senior Curator Tom Shieber, who spearheaded the creation of a permanent exhibit on Ruth. Utilizing a unique format to "History Personified," we walk through several displays from the Babe Ruth exhibit, using those artifacts to walk through the life of the "Sultan of Swat." From his formative years at St. Mary's in Baltimore, to his time with the Boston Red Sox, to his incredible years with the New York Yankees, to the close of his career, to his life after baseball, and finally to his death, we talk about the incredible life the Babe led. While he died at only 53, Ruth made a huge impact not just on sports, but on American and global culture as well.
Don't forget to download, enjoy, and share this episode with friends and family!
"I knew it was you"...it is one of the most famous lines in cinema history. Uttered by Al Pacino's Michael Corleone to his brother, Fredo, this line from "The Godfather" is also the title of a documentary made by Richard Shepard, who we interview on this week's episode about the actor behind Fredo, John Cazale. Cazale is not an actor remembered by many today, but he had a huge impact in his short career. In fact, he is the only actor to appear exclusively in feature films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Labeled by Pacino as his acting partner, Cazale died at the age of 42 of bone cancer after making only five films, but his impact is still being felt today. Shepard discusses his film, the process it took to get people like Meryl Streep to sit down with him, and why making the film was so important.
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American historical figure Alexander Hamilton has experienced a recent surge in interest due to the massively popular Broadway musical bearing his name. But what was Hamilton really all about? On this week's episode, we dig deeper into the life of the father of American finance with Museum of Finance President & CEO David Cowen. We discuss Hamilton's early days, his rise to power, so to speak, and his feud with and subsequent death at the hands of Aaron Burr. Why did he have issues with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson? How did he feel about slavery? And where would he stand in today's political climate? We discuss it all.
Think that Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon's take on Hillary Clinton for "Saturday Night Live" are funny? Disrespectful? Satire is as much a part of the American political process as voting, and has been for centuries. Whether it was political cartoonists using their renderings to send a message, or Chevy Chase portraying Gerald Ford as a bumbling fool, the media has never shied away from poking fun at American politics. Yet, the question must be asked: truly, how influential are shows such as "The Daily Show" and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" when it comes to swaying potential voters?
In this week's episode we talk with Professor Brian Rosenwald from the University of Pennsylvania about the modern history of political satire. Rosenwald is an expert on the history of conservative media, and reaches into his vast knowledge to help us understand the importance and influence of political satire. Download, enjoy, and share!
Which U.S. President was responsible for the two-party political system and the modern Democratic Party? Very few would answer Martin Van Buren, but those who would, would be correct. The 8th U.S. President only served one term, but he made a lasting impact. Professor Mark Cheathem joins "History Personified" once again to discuss Van Buren, who he terms a "political animal," and also talks about his work in attempting to get this former President's papers transcribed and published. We also chat about the Petticoat Affair, the Panic of 1837, and how the man that founded the two-party political system ended up running as a 3rd party candidate for President later on. It's a fascinating look at a U.S. President you probably don't know much about!
Check out Mark Cheathem's work on the Van Buren papers at vanburenpapers.com. We hope that you'll download, enjoy, and share this episode!
Think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are polarizing? Andrew Jackson wrote the book on it. Jackson, the 7th U.S. President, arguably stirred up more controversy than any Commander-in-Chief before or since. From marrying an already-married woman, to his pro-slavery stance, to his relations with Native Americans, to killing a man in a duel, "Old Hickory" was as strong-willed as they came. He lived his life unabashedly, but paid a dear price for his choices. In this episode, we chat with Jackson scholar Mark Cheathem about the life and times of this President. We delve into his formative years, his involvement in the Revolutionary War, his stance against abolitionism, and more.
Check out Cheathem's book entitled, "Andrew Jackson, Southerner," which is available on Amazon. And, as always, if you enjoy the episode, make sure to tell a friend about it!
This week's episode features part two of our discussion with Burt Boyar, biographer and longtime close, personal friend of Sammy Davis, Jr. We discuss the crumbling of Sammy's marriage to May Britt, his relationships with fellow Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, his friendship with Richard Nixon, and his later money problems. It's an honest look at Sammy's life, for better or worse, and you will come away with a greater understanding of what made the man called "the greatest entertainer who ever lived" tick.
Burt Boyar co-wrote several books with Sammy, including "Sammy: The Autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr.," which is available on Amazon. Check out his works there. And, as always, if you enjoy this episode, make sure to share it with others!
Considered by many to be the greatest entertainer of all time, Sammy Davis, Jr. unquestionably made an indelible mark on history. Dancing, singing, acting, comedy, impressions...simply put, Sammy could do it all. In part one of this two-part series, we talk with Burt Boyar, one of Sammy's closest friends, about the life and times of this icon. Whether he was with his Rat Pack buddies or going solo, Sammy electrified audiences across the globe. But there were many private struggles behind the scenes that helped shape Sammy, for better or worse.
In this episode, we talk about Sammy's formative years, his time in the military, which included a horrific incident where he was literally painted by some of his fellow soldiers, the car accident that cost Sammy his eye, and some of his early relationships.
Burt co-wrote several books with Sammy, including "Sammy: The Autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr.," which is available on Amazon. Check out his works there. And, as always, if you enjoy this episode, make sure to share it with others!
Did you know the U.S. Marshal Service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the United States? Founded in 1789, the Marshals have served in a variety of roles since their inception, and have been present for some of the most important historical events in American history. They protected civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers, were part of the response to the Native American occupation of Alcatraz, and were involved in the Ruby Ridge incident.
U.S. Marshal Service Historian David S. Turk joins "History Personified" to discuss his new book, "Forging the Star: The Official Modern History of the United States Marshal Service." We talk about the Marshals' responsibilities, their involvement in various historical events, and what they're up to now. Download, enjoy, and share!
Sadly, we are seeing mass shootings happen more and more in today's day and age. Some believe stricter gun control will stop it, while others believe better mental health services will deter these events. Regardless, it is an issue that Americans have been dealing with a lot longer than the last couple of decades.
In September, 1949, World War II veteran Howard Unruh perpetrated what was later called his "Walk of Death," shooting 16 victims in his New Jersey neighborhood. 13 died, including three children under the age of 10. Some were chosen specifically, and some were random. After the shootings, Unruh engaged in a standoff with police before giving himself up. He was judged to be criminally insane, though there was no trial, and was committed for the rest of his life, dying in 2009 at the age of 88. What precipitated the attacks? Why did Unruh do these terrible things?
We discuss this and more with writer Patrick Sauer, who wrote an article on Unruh for the Smithsonian's website. Download, learn, enjoy, and share!
The JonBenét Ramsey murder, the Unabomber, the D.C. snipers...these are all cases FBI legend Jim Fitzgerald worked on during his long and storied law enforcement career. Jim joins "History Personified" to discuss these cases, his formative years with the FBI, and a new CBS docu-series that debuts this Sunday, entitled "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey." Fitzgerald, who was part of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, was instrumental in bringing the Unabomber to justice, leveraging forensic linguistics in the process. He also helped guide the sniper case, suggesting the shooters weren't white, and that there was more than one. Listen in as Fitzgerald talks about his time on both cases...it's a fascinating look at the life of a truly legendary FBI lawman.
Recommendation of the week: "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey" debuts on CBS on Sunday, Sept. 18th at 8:30-10:30 PM, ET/8:00-10:00 PM, PT, and concludes on Monday, Sept. 19th at 9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT. Check it out!
This week's episode features a chat with University of Louisville professor Tyler Fleming about international bestselling book "The Power of One," a historical novel. The book, written by Bryce Courtenay, is a semi-autobiographical look at life in South Africa in the mid-20th Century, a time of racial divide and persecution. The main character, a young white Englishman who calls himself Peekay, must navigate through bigotry and bullying while learning about the world around him. Boxing, music, religion, political upheaval...the book has it all.
A new segment debuts this week, our "Recommendation of the Week." Each week, we will spotlight a book, documentary, podcast, or other piece of content. For this week, our recommendation is to check out "The Power of One," which is available on Amazon.
Belle La Follette was often overshadowed by her more well-known husband, U.S. Senator Robert La Follette, but she made a huge impact on American society in her own right. During the early 20th Century, she stood against racism and war at a time where taking such a stance was neither popular nor widely shared. Belle was also a big influence in the women's suffrage movement.
For this episode, I chat with Santa Clara University Professor Nancy Unger, who has authored a book titled, "Belle La Follette, Progressive Era Reformer." We discuss Belle's life and times, including why she turned down an opportunity to become the first female U.S. Senator. Enjoy!
Special thanks this week to Gabriel Simão for creating the new bumper music used this week...check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gabrielsimaomusic/
American evangelist Billy Sunday took a very unconventional route to the ministry, leaving behind a successful baseball career for the cloth, so the speak. A conservative Christian who eschewed drinking and carousing, Sunday was an influential preacher who helped bring about Prohibition. Yet, he wasn't always on the straight and narrow, as he his time as a ballplayer was marked with the excesses of the day. Sunday left all that behind, including a high-paying baseball contract, to enter the ministry. His career as a preacher was marked with incredible highs before he seemingly faded into obscurity, losing much of his family in the process.
Neil Young, scholar, author, and co-host of history podcast "Past Present," joins us to take us through Sunday's life, discussing his impact on American culture in the early 20th Century. Don't miss out on this entertaining story, and make sure you check out Young's podcast as well!
Nelson Mandela is one of the most well-respected figures in history. Recognized as a major driving force behind the end of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela also helped unite what was a hugely divided nation. For this week's episode, we speak with respected journalist John Carlin, who was in South Africa from 1989, the year before Mandela was released from prison after 27 years, until 1995, the year after he was elected South Africa's first black President. We walk through Mandela's life, highlighting important milestones. Included in this is a discussion on Mandela's involvement with the South African national rugby team, an event that would become the basis for the Morgan Freeman-Matt Damon movie, "Invictus." Carlin wrote the book the movie was based on.
Carlin sheds insight on the life of Nelson Mandela that many may not be aware of. It's a journey through the life of an important historical force.
It's part two of our discussion with C3 Entertainment's Eric Lamond, the grandson of Three Stooges legend Larry Fine! On this week's episode, we talk about the Stooges' relationship with notorious Columbia Pictures studio head Harry Cohn, as well as "You Nazty Spy," the very first Hollywood satire film to take on Adolf Hitler. Lamond talks about how proud of the film the Stooges were. We also discuss Larry's home life, his gambling habits, and his final years.
Rumors are confirmed, myths are busted, personal details are shared...Stooges and classic cinema fans won't want to miss this historic look into the life of Larry Fine!
Was Larry Fine a major factor in the long-term success of the Three Stooges? Soitenly! Larry is often overlooked, as he was not spotlighted often in Stooges films. That usually fell to Curly, Shemp, Curly Joe, and even Moe. But Larry didn't need the spotlight to shine. He was "the great reactor," as he has been called, and the Stooges wouldn't have been the Stooges without him.
On this week's episode, we talk with Larry's grandson, Eric Lamond, who is part of C3 Entertainment, which manages the Stooges brand. In this first episode of a two-part series, we talk about Larry's formative years, including how an acid burn drove him into violin-playing and boxing. We also talk about the night Shemp died (Larry was present), as well as the business behind the Stooges. So, download, watch out for slaps and eye-pokes, and be entertained!
Respected author and Los Angeles Times reporter Del Quentin Wilber has always had a nose for #truecrime stories and the history behind them. He wrote "Rawhide Down," which many view as the definitive account on the Ronald #Reagan assassination attempt. Now, he's written "A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad." As research for the book, Wilber spent months embedded with a Prince George County homicide squad, where he got to know a motley crew of detectives with quirks as interesting as the cases they sought to solve. He saw murder victims, took calls in the detective bureau, participated investigations, and, most of all, learned. Come along for the ride as Del discusses his experiences, and what he learned about how murder investigation has evolved through the history of the last 20-30 years.
Warning: This episode contains content that may be objectionable. Listener discretion is advised.
On this very special bonus episode, I chat with Adrian Miller, AKA the "Soul Food Scholar" about the history of soul food. Specifically, we dig into the history of how fried chicken became a staple of the soul food diet. We also learn some surprising facts, such as the fact that there is such a thing as vegan soul food. What?!?!
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get hungry...bon appetit!
#LexLuger was part of some of the biggest moments in professional #wrestling #history. From winning multiple world titles, to jumping from #WCW to the #WWF and back to WCW, to debuting on the very first episode of "Monday Nitro," Luger has seen and done it all in the #prowrestling industry. We discuss his transition from pro football to pro wrestling, his time with the #FourHorsemen, leaving WCW for the WWF, whether or not he was supposed to be the next #HulkHogan, and why he went back to WCW for less money. We also discuss the changes in his life over the last ten years, and what he's up to today.
Hear Lex's thoughts on being a Horseman, #EricBischoff and #RicFlair, working for the WWF with no contract and the circumstances around his departure, beating #Goldberg, and so much more. Enjoy!