Friday, August 1, 2014

Calamity Jane - The Legend Continues 111 Years After Her Death

Calamity Jane
Her reputation as a rowdy woman of the Wild West has helped grow her reputation as folk hero. She was known as Calamity Jane, a professional Indian scout who dressed like a man, shot like a man, swore like a man, and drank like a man, but she could still make time to care for the sick and injured.

Gold Rush
She was born Martha Jane Canary on May 1, 1852 in Princeton, Missouri. She was the oldest of the six children that Robert W. and Charlotte (Burch) Canary had. When Martha Jane was 13, her father packed up the family and moved out west to Virginia City, Montana for the Gold Rush. Jane’s mother died in 1866 and her father died one year. As the eldest child, Martha Jane took on the responsibility of caring for the family: In 1867, she loaded up the wagon and moved them to Piedmont, Wyoming.

Martha Jane
General George Custer
Once settled, Jane worked at any job she could find including as a dishwasher, cook, waitress, dance-hall girl, nurse, miner, and an ox team driver. In 1874, she was hired by General George Custer as an Indian scout for Fort Russell; her duties included protecting Union Pacific Railroad workers from military conflicts, and driving the Native Americans onto reservations.

"Calamity" Jane
She claimed to have been christened Calamity Jane by Captain Egan because she saved him from being trampled by his horse after Indians shot him. Egan supposedly said, “I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.” But many said she exaggerated her stories. A more popular version said that men were “courting calamity” if they offended her.

Mining in the Black Hills
It was 1875 when Calamity accompanied the Newton-Jenny Party into the Black Hills of South Dakota. Their expedition was sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey in order to map out the Black Hills and confirm claims that gold was located there.

Madame DuFran
Wild Bill Hickok
One year later she settled in the Deadwood area of South Dakota where she became friends with the leading madam of the Black Hills, Dora DuFran. (It was said that DuFran coined the word “cathouse” after Charlie Utter brought her a wagonload of cats for her brothel.) It was also during this time that Jane met and became infatuated with Wild Bill Hickok.

Agnes Lake Thatcher
Hickok was known throughout the Wild West as a lawman, a gunfighter and a gambler. Calamity claimed that she and Hickok had been married in 1873, but she had divorced him so that he could marry Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus owner. There are no records to support Jane’s story.

Dead Man's Hand
Shortly before his death, Hickok had a premonition that he would die in Deadwood. He was gunned down as he sat with his back to the door, playing five-card draw. The hand he held – two aces and two eights, became known as the “dead man’s hand.”

"Black" Jack McCall
Original Hickok Grave
In later years, Calamity claimed to have led a posse after Hickok’s murderer, Jack McCall, but at the time of his death Jane was in jail, being held by military authorities. Hickok was buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

Deadwood, SD
After Hickok’s death, Calamity Jane remained in Deadwood. She worked as a nurse during the smallpox epidemic of the late 1870’s before purchasing a ranch and moving to Miles City, Montana where she ran a lodging house.

She married Clinton Burke in August 1885, and two years later, gave birth to a daughter whom she named Jane and gave to foster parents to raise.

By 1893, Jane was traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, demonstrating her riding and shooting skills, and telling her version of stories about life in the Wild West. By the summer of 1903, Jane had returned to Deadwood, an alcoholic.

Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane died on August 1, 1903 at the age of 51 in Terry, South Dakota. She was buried next to Wild Bill in Mount Moriah Cemetery, some say in accordance with her dying wishes. Others say she was buried there as a final insult to Wild Bill who had “absolutely no use” for her.
Her funeral was the largest ever held for a woman in Deadwood. 
Calamity Jane's Grave

Calamity Jane’s grave was marked with a stone topped with a lawn urn. Four faces decorate the monument, but few knew whom they represent?

I queried Michael Runge, the City Archivist of Deadwood. According to Michael, “The faces on the pedestal represent Pan, the Greek mythology god.  Beginning in the late 18th and early 19th century, there was a Greek and Roman revival.  As part of this revival, Pan’s image became popular again. Locally, stone mason, Lars Shostrom sold these bases and the urns.”

Deserted Western Town
Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane has gone down in history as one of the roughest, toughest women of the Wild West - although knowing where the truth ends and fiction begins is a trail that’s been lost in history …

~ Joy

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Simply Spook-tacular Idea, Horror Fans

Last summer, I wrote two blog posts about horror show hosts. Many readers wrote back about their favorite memories of local horror hosts and it became apparent that these “emcees” of the darkness were well loved. 

Favorite Horror Hosts
Many horror hosts became American icons dressed in costumes, trading barbed comments with other cast members, the television crew, or inanimate objects before introducing the B-grade horror movie of the night. These “thrillers” were the mainstay in the late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, and every TV station seemed to have a happenin' “Horror Host” during these years.

The role of horror host was usually filled by someone who worked at the TV station; the weatherman was a favorite, a booth announcer, film editor, or someone from the late night news cast. This was low-budget television at its best. 

Host Sir Graves Ghastly
All you needed was some grease paint, a costume, low lighting, and spooky music to set the mood.  The fact that the host wasn’t afraid of vamping it up was a definite plus.

In 1957, Screen Gems released some old Universal horror movies syndicated to television, and the “Horror Host” was born.  The name given to the syndicated show was “Shock” and local television stations were encouraged to use hosts dressed in the horror theme. It was a death-defying hit!

Then in the 1960s and 70s, Creature Feature packages were released and included, not only horror films but science-fiction from the 50’s, British horror films of the 1960s, and those great Japanese monster movies with English-dubbed sound tracks.

Host Sammy Terry
By the early 70’s these true “shock” jocks had learned how to deliver a high-energy show on a low, low budget simply by providing a dry wit and cool patter. By the end of the 1970’s, over 200 horror hosts roamed the late night television airwaves: A tradition that continued into the 1980s before dying a slow death at the feet of the cable and satellite channels.

But some fans won’t let their old favorites … die.

One example is Madd Frank, a popular monster movie host from 1985 to 1995 in Fargo, North Dakota. “Madd Frank Presents” showed B-grade horror movies every Friday and Saturday night. The show lasted for ten year before eventually going into syndication across the country; but a few years later lost its impact when infomercials took to the air. Del Dvoracek was Madd Frank, and over the years he developed a cult following around the country.

Here’s a glimpse of a Madd Frank show intro:

After the show died a final death, fans decided that they were not content to just let it rest in peace.

Cast in 1993-94
Madd Frank and Frizzy
Madd Frank has been resurrected and is now becoming the subject of a documentary being produced by fans in Bemidji, Minnesota. Madd Frank was a favorite of producer Mike Bredon, and he decided that a 2-hour program about the original show and cast was in order.

Cast Today
That’s why there is a Kickstarter project that has been developed to collect $12,000 for the making of the Madd Frank documentary. The entire cast including Madd Frank (Del Dvoracek), Programmer (James Erickson), Ichy Bodd (Martin Jonason), Billy Jabber (Dave Prentice), Dr. Phil O’dendron (Bill Flint), and Vanilla White (Judy Rae) have all agreed to take part. The documentary will consist of modern interviews with the cast, interspersed with archival footage of the show.

Once the documentary is completed, the team hopes it will be aired at the 15th annual Fargo Film Festival next March.

So far, the project has over 50 backers and has raised one-quarter of the needed funds. But there’s still time to get involved: the project doesn’t close until Monday, August 4th.

Here’s wishing “Ghoul Luck” to all involved!

~ Joy

Friday, July 18, 2014

Remembering the Father of Radio: Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi
He is known for many of his inventions including long-distance radio transmission and the radio telegraph system, but he is best known as the “Father of Radio.” 

Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy on April 25, 1874 to Giuseppe Marconi and his wife, Annie Jameson, the granddaughter of John Jameson, founder of whisky distiller Jameson & Sons. Marconi was privately educated and developed an avid interest in science and electricity at a young age.

A Young Marconi
In 1894, Marconi began conducting experiments using radio waves to transmit telegraph messages without wires. Although the idea was not new, the 20-year-old Marconi was able to achieve transmission ranges of over 1.5 miles: unheard of at the time.

Setting Equipment Up
In 1897, Marconi transmitted the first wireless communication over open sea from Flat Holm Island to Lavernock Point in Penarth. The distance was 3.7 miles. The message sent: “Are you ready?” Immediately, the equipment was moved to Brean Down Fort on the Somerset coast and the message sent again, covering 9.9 miles over the ocean.

Marconi at Turn of Century
Marconi began lecturing in London and soon received international attention with his first U.S. demonstration taking place in New York in the fall of 1899.

By 1901, Marconi had created Marconi House in Wexford and was attempting to transmit wireless messages between two points that were a distance of 2,200 miles apart. Critics doubted this claim and Marconi prepared a new, documented test in February 1902, which showed reception up to 1,550 miles with audio reception of up to 2,100 miles.

President Roosevelt
King Edward VII
Finally, on January 18, 1903, Marconi Station in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts sent the world’s first radio message across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom; it was a greeting from President Theodore Roosevelt to England’s King Edward VII. Marconi now knew that he could establish communication with ships at sea from both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1905, Marconi married the Honorable Beatrice O’Brien, daughter of a baron. They had three daughters and one son. The couple divorced in 1924 and Marconi married Maria Cristina Bezzi-Scali in 1927: Benito Mussolini was his best man. He and his second wife had one child, a daughter.
Noble Prize for Physics

In 1909, Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Braun for his contribution to radio communications.

Jack Phillips
Harold Bride
In was spring, 1912 when two Marconi International Marine Communication Company employees, Jack Phillips, senior wireless officer, and Harold Bride, junior wireless operator were manning the radios on the ill-fated Titanic that April night when she hit an iceberg and sank.

David Sarnoff
Add caption
The RMS Carpathia kept radio contact with Marconi Company employee David Sarnoff for 72-hours as it made its way toward the U.S. with the survivors of the Titanic. Junior operator, Harold Bride was on that ship, and told Marconi how they had continued to signal for help. 

Marconi and Harold Bride Testify
Marconi gave evidence to the Court of Inquiry about the marine wireless radio’s function. Marconi was acknowledged in the final summation of the report with this statement: "Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi...and his marvelous invention.”

Marconi and Radio Equipment
Basilica of Santa Croce
Guglielmo Marconi died on July 20, 1937 from heart failure in Rome. He was 63 years-old. A monument to Marconi is located in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, but he was buried in Sasso, Italy near his hometown.

A period of radio silence was observed for the pioneer of radio communications: a fitting tribute for the Father of Radio.

~ Joy