Stan Laurel

LaurelEnglish comic actor, writer and film director Stan Laurel was born 16 June 1890 he is most famous for his role in the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. With his comedy partner Oliver Hardy he appeared in 107 short films, feature films and cameo roles. Laurel began his career in the British music hall, from where he took a number of his standard comic devices: the bowler hat, the deep comic gravity, and the nonsensical understatement. His performances polished his skills at pantomime and music hall sketches. Laurel was a member of “Fred Karno’s Army,” where he was Charlie Chaplin’s understudy.The two arrived in the US on the same ship from Britain with the Karno troupe. Laurel went into films in the US, with his acting career stretching between 1917 and 1951, and from “silents” to “talkies.” It included a starring role in the film The Music Box (1932).

Laurel signed with the Hal Roach studio, where he began directing films, including a 1926 production called Yes, Yes, Nanette. He intended to work primarily as a writer and director, but fate stepped in. In 1927, Oliver Hardy, another member of the Hal Roach Studios Comedy All Star players, was injured in a kitchen mishap, and Laurel was asked to return to acting. Laurel and Hardy began sharing the screen in Slipping Wives, Duck Soup (1927) and With Love and Hisses. The two became friends and their comic chemistry soon became obvious. Roach Studios’ supervising director Leo McCarey noticed the audience reaction to them and began teaming them, leading to the creation of the Laurel and Hardy series later that year.

Together, the two men began producing a huge body of short films, including The Battle of the Century, Should Married Men Go Home?, Two Tars, Be Big!, Big Business, and many others. Laurel and Hardy successfully made the transition to talking films with the short Unaccustomed As We Are in 1929. They also appeared in their first feature in one of the revue sequences of The Hollywood Revue of 1929, and the following year they appeared as the comic relief in a lavish all-colour (in Technicolor) musical feature, The Rogue Song. In 1931, their first starring feature, Pardon Us was released. They continued to make both features and shorts until 1935, including their 1932 three-reeler The Music Box, which won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject.

In 1941, Laurel and Hardy signed a contract at 20th Century Fox to make ten films over five months. During the war years, their work became more standardised and less successful, though The Bullfighters, and Jitterbugs did receive some praise. Laurel discovered he had diabetes, so he encouraged Hardy to make two films without him. In 1946, he divorced Virginia Ruth Rogers and married Ida Kitaeva Raphael. In 1947, Laurel returned to England when he and Hardy went on a six-week tour of the United Kingdom, and the duo were mobbed wherever they went. Laurel’s homecoming to Ulverston took place in May, and the duo were greeted by thousands of fans outside the Coronation Hall.

The tour included a Royal Command Performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London and they spent the next seven years touring the UK and Europe. In 1950, Laurel and Hardy were invited to France to make a feature film. The film, a Franco-Italian co-production titled Atoll K, was a disaster. (The film was titled Utopia in the US and Robinson Crusoeland in the UK.) Both stars were noticeably ill during the filming. Upon returning to the US they spent most of their time recovering. In 1952, Laurel and Hardy toured Europe successfully, and they returned in 1953 for another tour of the continent. During this tour, Laurel fell ill and was unable to perform for several weeks. In May 1954, Hardy had a heart attack and cancelled the tour. In 1955, they were planning to do a television series, Laurel and Hardy’s Fabulous Fables, based on children’s stories. The plans were delayed after Laurel suffered a stroke on 25 April, from which he recovered. But as he was planning to get back to work, his partner Hardy had a massive stroke on 14 September 1956, which resulted in his being unable to return to acting.

In 1961, Stan Laurel was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy. He had achieved his lifelong dream as a comedian and had been involved in nearly 190 films. He lived his final years in a small flat in the Oceana Apartments in Santa Monica, California. Jerry Lewis was among the numerous comedians to visit Laurel, who offered suggestions for Lewis’s production of The Bellboy (1960). Lewis paid tribute to Laurel by naming his main character Stanley in the film, and having Bill Richmond play a version of Laurel as well.Dick Van Dyke told a similar story. When he was just starting his career, he looked up Laurel’s phone number, called him, and then visited him at his home. Van Dyke played Laurel on “The Sam Pomerantz Scandals” episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Laurel was a heavy smoker until suddenly quitting around 1960. In January 1965, he underwent a series of x-rays for an infection on the roof of his mouth.He died on 23 February 1965, aged 74, four days after suffering a heart attack on 19 February Just minutes away from death, Laurel told his nurse he would not mind going skiing right at that very moment. Somewhat taken aback, the nurse replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. “I’m not,” said Laurel, “I’d rather be doing that than this!” A few minutes later the nurse looked in on him again and found that he had died quietly in his armchair. Silent screen comedian Buster Keaton also died of lung cancer one year later in February 1966. Dick Van Dyke, friend, protege and occasional impressionist of Laurel during his later years, gave the eulogy, reading A Prayer for Clowns. Laurel was cremated, and his ashes were interred in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

Even dogs in the wild by Ian Rankin

The exciting crime fiction novel Even dogs in the wild by Ian Rankin has recently been published in paperback. It is the twentieth novel to feature Inspector John Rebus, who has now retired. However, Crime continues unabated in Edinburgh, and retirement doesn’t suit John Rebus, He wasn’t made for hobbies, holidays or home improvements, Being a cop is in his blood. So when his one time protege DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help on a case, Rebus doesn’t need long to consider his options.

DI Siobhan Clarke is part of the team currently investigating the high profile murder of a senior lawyer named Lord David Minton in his own home, whose body is later found along with a threatening note. This soon draws attention from the local and national press as well as politicians, senior officers and the judiciary because David Minton was also know as Lord Minton, former Lord Advocate of Scotland who was one of the most senior prosecutors of his generation

Investigators suspect that the murder may have been revenge for the outcome of one of his cases. However, shortly afterwards a local retired businessman is also shot at, and the police’s attention is additionally piqued because the retired businessman in question happens to be one Morris Gerald Cafferty, a local kingpin who has dominated organised crime in the capital for the last few decades. Having been alerted to the gunshot by a neighbour, the police find that Cafferty won’t allow them into his house, and he will only agree to talk to John Rebus, his long time adversary.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Malcolm Fox, formerly of ‘the Complaints’ (the internal investigation department) having returned to mainstream policing, has been asked to act as liaison with a special surveillance team over in Edinburgh from Glasgow. They are watching a Glasgow gang boss who they suspect is wanting to establish a toe-hold in the capital and who may be after Cafferty.

Global Wind Day

Global Wind Day is a worldwide event that occurs annually on 15 June. It is organised by EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) and GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council). It is a day when wind energy is celebrated, information is exchanged and adults and children find out about wind energy, its power and the possibilities it holds to change the world. In association with EWEA and GWEC, national wind energy associations and companies involved in wind energy production organise events in many countries around the world. In 2011, there were events organised in 30 countries, on 4 continents. Events included visits to onshore and offshore wind farms, information campaigns, demonstration turbines being set up in cities, wind workshops and a wind parade. Many events happened on Global Wind Day (15 June) itself, but there were also events on the days and weeks before and afterwards. In 2012 there were 250 events around the globe and a very popular photo competition.

The inaugural year of Wind Day (it did not become Global Wind Day until 2009) was organised by EWEA. The main idea was to coordinate events organised by national wind energy associations and companies active in the wind energy field. Wind Day in 2007 reached 18 countries in Europe, with a participation of around 35,000 people. In 2008 Wind Day was celebrated in 20 European countries and attracted 100,000 people. In 2009 EWEA joined forces with GWEC and extended the reach from European wind energy associations and companies to coordinate Wind Day events across the globe (and changing the name to Global Wind Day). In 2009 there were 300 events in 35 countries, reaching 1 million people.

In 2009 in Portugal the Wind Day was celebrated with an event called Wind Parade. It was organised in the city of Cascais just in front of the ocean. This project aimed to promote renewable energy good practices and in particular Wind Energy. It was supported by the City Council and conceived by Energia Lateral and implied the installation of 7 skstream micro wind turbines in a very visible place by the sea in June–July 9. One of the purposes was to involve children in the event and they were invited for a contest to decorate/paint small dummy wind turbines. Over 50 applications were submitted by 30 schools. The winner decorated a dummy wind turbine with Don Quixote elements comparing his fight against the windmills but in this case the wind mills being allies of Don Quixote in an epic effort to improve the environment.In 2010 220 events took place in 30 countries, including the display of a 29.5 metre (96.7 ft) wind turbine blade in Brussels, Belgium, next to the main building of the European Commission and European Council. More than 1 million people were reached by Global Wind Day communications around the world. During Global Wind Day 2011 a wind parade took place In Brussels, Belgium, the home of EWEA and GWEC, around the Place de Luxembourg to educate people working in the EU area on the benefits and importance of wind energy.

In 2011 30 countries celebrated Global Wind Day Including France where there were 15 events, ranging from wind farm inauguration to a jobs-in-the-wind-industry question and answer session. In Austria, journalists leapt from the top of a turbine and abseiled to the ground. In Japan there were 10 events, involving field trips to wind farms, experimental wind energy facilities and making wind turbines from a kit. In Australia, an open day at a wind farm was available, with a community evening to finish off the day. In Mexico, a public street fair featured a drawing competition for kids and a display of wind energy history.

In 2012 Global Wind Day partners organised 250 events around the globe in 2012, from wind farm open days to workshops, from photo exhibition to regattas, from kite-flying to charity runs. For the first time, this included events in Mexico, Chile, Israel, South Korea and South Africa. Global Wind Day 2012 gained the support of 18 GWD Ambassadors,who were joined by the Danish Presidency of the EU and the United Nations. Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the leader of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative said, ‘We need to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. This can be achieved with significant contribution from wind energy, both grid connected andfor small-scale decentralised systems. The ‘Global Wind Day’ on 15 June, does play a central role in contributing to the UNSG’s Sustainable Energy For All initiative through galvanising the much needed support for the wind energy industry from political leaders around the globe’. The ‘Wind in Mind’ photo competition saw 2,300 photos from over 40 countries submitted.

Ella Fitzgerald

Often known as the First Lady of Song” “Queen of Jazz” and “Lady Ella,” The American jazz and song vocalist Ella Fitzgerald sadly died 15 June 1996. She was born April 25 in 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, In her youth Fitzgerald wanted to be a dancer, although she loved listening to jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and The Boswell Sisters. She idolized the lead singer Connee Boswell, later saying, “My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it….I tried so hard to sound just like her. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing and had a vocal range spanning three octaves. Sadly In 1932, her mother tragically died from a heart attack, Following this trauma, Fitzgerald’s grades dropped dramatically and she frequently skipped school and was first taken in by an aunt she also worked as a lookout at a bordello and also with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. When the authorities caught up with her, she was first placed in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale, the Bronx. However, when the orphanage proved too crowded she was moved to the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson, New York, a state reformatory. Eventually she escaped and for a time was homeless

She made her singing debut at 17 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. She pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its famous “Amateur Nights”. She had originally intended to go on stage and dance but, intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead in the style of Connee Boswell. She sang Boswell’s “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection,” a song recorded by the Boswell Sisters, and won the first prize of US$25.00. In January 1935, Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House and began singing regularly with Chick Webb’s Orchestra through 1935 at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs with them, including “Love and Kisses” and “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)”. But it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, a song she co-wrote, that brought her wide public acclaim.In 1942, Fitzgerald left the band to begin a solo career and had several popular hits with such artists as the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Delta Rhythm Boys.

With the demise of the Swing era and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald’s vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. While singing with Gillespie, Fitzgerald recalled, “I just tried to do with my voice what I heard the horns in the band doing.” Her 1945 scat recording of “Flying Home” was desribed as “one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness.” Her bebop recording of “Oh, Lady be Good!” was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.

During her prolific career Ella Fitzgerald won thirteen Grammy awards, including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1967 And and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush. Other major awards and honors she received during her career were the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Medal of Honor Award, National Medal of Art, first Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award, named “Ella” in her honor, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.Across town at the University of Southern California, she received the coveted USC “Magnum Opus” Award which hangs in the office of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation.

In 1997, Newport News, Virginia created a music festival with Christopher Newport University to honor Ella Fitzgerald in her birth city. The Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival is designed to teach the region’s youth of the musical legacy of Fitzgerald and jazz. Past performers at the week-long festival include: Diana Krall, Arturo Sandoval, Jean Carne, Phil Woods, Aretha Franklin, Freda Payne, Cassandra Wilson, Ethel Ennis, David Sanborn, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ramsey Lewis, Patti Austin, and Ann Hampton Callaway.

Callaway, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Patti Austin have all recorded albums in tribute to Fitzgerald. Callaway’s album To Ella with Love features fourteen jazz standards made popular by Fitzgerald, and the album also features the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Bridgewater’s album Dear Ella featured many musicians that were closely associated with Fitzgerald during her career, including the pianist Lou Levy, the trumpeter Benny Powell, and Fitzgerald’s second husband, double bassist Ray Brown. Bridgewater’s following album, Live at Yoshi’s, was recorded live on April 25, 1998, on what would have been Fitzgerald’s 81st birthday. There is also a bronze sculpture of Fitzgerald in Yonkers,created by American artist Vinnie Bagwell, the city in which she grew up and there s also a bust of Fitzgerald on the campus of Chapman College in Orange, California.

James Hunt

British Motor Racing legend James Hunt tragically died 15 June 1993 after suffering a heart attack. Born  29 August 1947, He began his racing career in touring car racing, Hunt progressed into Formula Three where he attracted the attention of the Hesketh Racing team and was soon taken under their wing. Hunt’s often action-packed exploits on track earned him the nickname “Hunt the Shunt”. Hunt entered Formula One in 1973, driving a March 731 entered by the Hesketh Racing team.

He went on to win for Hesketh, driving their own Hesketh 308 car, in both World Championship and non-Championship races, before joining the McLaren team at the end of 1975. In his first year with McLaren, Hunt won the 1976 World Drivers’ Championship, and he remained with the team for a further two years, although with less success, before moving to the Wolf team in early 1979. Following a string of races in which he failed to finish, Hunt retired from driving halfway through the 1979 season.

After retiring from racing in 1979, Hunt became a media commentator and businessman, commenting on Grands Prix for the BBC. He was known for his knowledge, insights, dry sense of humour and his criticism of drivers who, he believed, were not trying hard enough, which in the process brought him a whole new fanbase and He was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame on 29 January 2014.

Reverend W.Audry OBE

English cleric, railway enthusiast and children’s author Wilbert Vere Awdry, OBE was born 15th June 1911 better known as the Reverend W. Awdry and creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, who starred in Awdry’s acclaimed Railway Series. Awdry was born at Ampfield vicarage near Romsey, Hampshire in 1911In 1917 the family moved to Box, in Wiltshire, moving again in 1919, and 1920, still in Box, the third house being Journey’s End which remained the family home until August 1928. Journey’s End was only 200 yards (180 m) from the western end of Box Tunnel. There the Great Western Railway main line climbs at a gradient of 1 in 100 for two miles, and a banking engine was kept there to assist freight trains up the hill.

These trains usually ran at night and the young Wilbert could hear them from his bed, listening to the coded whistle signals between the train engine and the banker, and the sharp bark from the locomotive exhausts as they fought their way up the incline. Awdry related: “There was no doubt in my mind that steam engines all had definite personalities. I would hear them snorting up the grade and little imagination was needed to hear in the puffings and pantings of the two engines the conversation they were having with one another: ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I can’t do it!’ ‘Yes, you can! Yes, you can! Yes, you can!’” Here was the inspiration for the story of Edward helping Gordon’s train up the hill, a story that Wilbert first told his son Christopher some 25 years later, and which appeared in the first of the Railway Series books

The characters that would make Awdry famous and the first stories featuring them were invented in 1943 to amuse his son Christopher during a bout of measles. After Awdry wrote The Three Railway Engines, he built Christopher a model of Edward, and some wagons and coaches, out of a broomstick and scraps of wood. Christopher also wanted a model of Gordon; however, as that was too difficult Awdry made a model of a little 0-6-0 tank engine. Awdry said: “The natural name was Thomas – Thomas the Tank Engine”. Then Christopher requested stories about Thomas and these duly followed and were published in the famous book Thomas the Tank Engine, released in 1946. The first book (The Three Railway Engines) was published in 1945, and by the time Awdry stopped writing in 1972, The Railway Series numbered 26 books.

Christopher subsequently added further books to the series.In 1952, Awdry volunteered as a guard on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales, then in its second year of preservation. The railway inspired Awdry to create the Skarloey Railway, based on the Talyllyn, with some of his exploits being written into the stories.Awdry’s enthusiasm for railways did not stop at his publications. He was involved in railway preservation, and built model railways, which he took to exhibitions around the country. Awdry wrote other books besides those of The Railway Series, both fiction and non-fiction. The story Belinda the Beetle was about a red car (it became a Volkswagen Beetle only in the illustrations to the paperback editions).Awdry was awarded an OBE in the 1996 New Year’s Honours List, but by that time his health had deteriorated and he was unable to travel to London. He died peacefully in Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 21 March 1997, at the age of 85. His ashes are interred at Gloucester Crematorium.