It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
We just went through an intense election, and one of the things that finally made me realize that I want to concentrate on the holiday season instead of who won and who lost and why those things happened was this week’s arrival of the Christmas tree to Rockefeller Plaza. This year’s tree is a Norway spruce that stands at 94 feet, weighs 14 tons, and leaves a lot of needles on the ground:
— NBC New York (@NBCNewYork) November 15, 2016
The tree will be lit during NBC’s annual Christmas special, which will air on November 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern.
RIP Robert Vaughn, Gwen Ifill, Leon Russell, and Lupita Tovar
Robert Vaughn is probably best known for his starring role as Napoleon Solo on the ’60s spy hit The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He also had roles in such classic movies as The Magnificent Seven, The Verdict, Bullitt, and The Towering Inferno, as well as TV shows like The Lieutenant, Bonanza, The A-Team, Columbo, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Father Knows Best, Dragnet, and Law & Order: SVU. He had a critically acclaimed role in the 1977 miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors and starred in the AMC caper drama Hustle from 2004 to 2012.
Gwen Ifill, the well-respected anchor of PBS NewsHour, passed away earlier this week at the age of 61. She had been undergoing cancer treatments recently. Besides working for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC, Ifill moderated several vice-presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, and also moderated a primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the 2016 election.
Face the Nation host John Dickerson wrote a nice tribute to his friend for Slate.
Leon Russell had a long career as a musician, with such songs as “A Song for You” and “Tight Rope.” But he had an even more successful career as a songwriter for others. George Benson recorded “This Masquerade,” The Carpenters did “Superstar,” and Joe Cocker did “Delta Lady.” Russell also wrote songs for and performed with such people as Frank Sinatra, George Harrison, Phil Spector, Aretha Franklin, and The Monkees, and you can hear his piano work on such songs as The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Herb Alpert’s “A Taste of Honey,” and many songs on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album.
Russell passed away in his sleep last Saturday at the age of 74. No cause was given, but he’d had a heart attack in July and had other serious health problems before that.
What if I told you that until last Saturday there was someone from the 1931 Spanish version of Dracula still alive? What, you didn’t know there was a 1931 Spanish version of Dracula? There was! It was filmed at the same time (and on the same set) as the classic Bela Lugosi Dracula we all know. Lupita Tovar was one of the stars of the film, and she has passed away last week at the age of 106. She was the grandmother of screenwriters Chris and Paul Weitz, known for such films as About a Boy and the American Pie series.
And the 10 Worst Toys of 2016 Are …
Every year, the W.A.T.C.H. child safety group releases its list of the 10 worst toys of the year, just in time for Christmas. The organization’s statement says that “Due to poor design, manufacturing, and marketing practices, there are toys available for purchase today with the potential to lead to serious injury and even death.” Yikes.
This year’s list includes toys called Banzai Bump N’ Bounce Body Bumpers, Slimeball Slinger, Kids Time Baby Children’s Elephant Pillow, The Good Dinosaur’s Galloping Butch, Dippy Dog’s Disco Ball Playset, and Peppa Pig’s Muddy Puddles Family. And believe it or not I made up only one of those.
I think the names of the toys might be as dangerous as the toys themselves.
A supermoon isn’t an incredibly rare thing. In fact, we had one last year. But the supermoon that appeared this week is the closest we’ve had since 1948, and the photos from it are pretty spectacular.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 15, 2016
Will This B-29 from World War II Fly Again?
To accompany this great history of the B-17 Flying Fortress from Saturday Evening Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson and W.L. White, we have a story from this week’s CBS Sunday Morning about the efforts to repair and fly the last known intact B-29. Did they do it? Take a look:
This Week in History
Five Sullivan Brothers Die in USS Juneau Sinking (November 13, 1942)
In one of the more horrifying tragedies of World War II, five siblings from the same Iowa family — George, Al, Frank, Joe, and Matt Sullivan — died when the USS Juneau was sunk. Their deaths helped lead to the Sole Survivor Policy, which protects families who have already lost a family member in combat.
Robert Fulton Born (November 14, 1765)
Along with other clever Americans, such as Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers, Fulton ushered in a new age when he piloted the first commercially successful steamboat in 1807.
President Abraham Lincoln Delivers Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)
Lincoln’s famous speech is only 270 words long but it’s still genius.
Hey, Thanksgiving Is Next Week!
Turkey Day may have sneaked up on you this year. It seems like only yesterday it was Halloween and we were giving out peanut butter cups (not Starburst), and now — boom! — we’re cooking yams. If you’re not prepared for it, we can help.
Check out our “Shake Up Your Thanksgiving Dinner” feature for some rather different Thanksgiving dinner ideas, including Harry Truman’s Baked Ham, Curry Deviled Eggs, Carrot Top Pesto (which has nothing to do with the prop comic), and the classic Norman Rockwell’s Oatmeal Cookies.
And if you want to get a head start on the Christmas festivities, here are some gingerbread Christmas tree cookies you can make. If you multiply the ingredient amounts by a million and make each cookie 94 feet tall and 14 tons, you can tell everyone they’re Rockefeller trees.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Thanksgiving (November 24)
What, the above wasn’t enough reminder? Here are several things you might not know about the day, from a 1948 Saturday Evening Post article. They served boiled eel at the first Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t try that this year.
Black Friday (November 25)
When The Post’s profile of Robert Vaughn appeared in 1965, he was as big a star as television had. He was receiving 2,500 pieces of fan mail every week, and frequently mobbed by female admirers.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. played to America’s fascination with spies, which had begun with the James Bond novels and motion pictures. It was easy to imagine a world of spies during the Cold War. Throughout the 1950s, Americans had repeatedly heard warnings that Communist agents were at work in business, government, and schools to undermine the U.S.
But U.N.C.L.E. never took espionage seriously. Vaughn’s character, Napoleon Solo, gently spoofed the spy genre just as his contemporary, Adam West, played a campy version of Batman. (The character’s unusual name was lifted from a mobster in Ian Fleming’s James Bond story, Goldfinger.)
Before Ronald Reagan rose to national prominence, the idea of a performer running for office seemed ridiculous. Vaughn, a long-time liberal Democrat, dismissed the idea of his running for office in Don Freeman’s interview, but he never lost an interest in politics. He was one of the first actors to publicly state opposition to the Vietnam War. With other entertainers, he formed an anti-war wing of the party, which promoted Eugene McCarthy for president.
It was John F. Kennedy who inspired political interests in Vaughn. He remained involved after JFK was killed. But with the death of Robert Kennedy, Vaughn—like many of his contemporaries—lost heart for politics.