Wednesday 29 August 2012

People Sullying the Good Name of Richard

Sadly, there are some real dicks out there who are named Richard. Tragic (and poetically just) but true. Here are a couple of these douchebags.

Rich Ricci: one of the main bankers involved in the LIBOR scandal. I’m no economist, but the scandal had something to do with banks in London artificially manipulating the interest they charged other banks. In a nutshell, it was shady dealing.

I could find surprisingly little about Mr. Ricci online (not that I looked super hard), so I’m not 100 percent sure his name is Richard. But it probably is: Rich is a pretty common nickname for Richard. What I do know about Ricci just amounts to a resume; he started working at Barclay’s in 1994 and resumed his current position (screwing us all over) in June 2012. Do you think his parents knew he was destined to be a financier when they named him?

Side note: a man named Richard Ricci was a person of interest in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping. Ricci refused to confess (since he didn’t do it) and died in jail (other charges) from a brain hemorrhage a few weeks later. Poor guy. If he were alive, I bet he would be mad that Mr. LIBOR up there is tainting his name.

Dick Masterson: a true piece of work. He is a hard-core chauvinist and runs the website I saw a clip of this guy on the Dr. Phil show and he spouted such gems as “men created everything” (no word on how babies are made without women’s contributions), “if you see a woman in a nice car it means she’s owned,” and “all women are basically prostitutes.” Naturally, I am offended by what this guy says, but a part of me thinks (and hopes) he’s just pretending. That he’s saying all of these crazy things for attention, a la Lady Gaga and her weird fashion. It’s still completely offensive (and dangerous because it gives added to fuel to other woman-haters), but I really hope Masterson doesn’t actually believe this crap.

It also turns out that (thankfully) Dick isn’t his real name. According to the remnants of Masterson’s deleted Wikipedia page (yes, he was deleted from Wikipedia!), his real name is Dax Herrera. Seriously – Dax?! I’m just thankfully he isn’t truly a Richard, but I’m annoyed he’s taking the name and using it for evil. Of course, maybe he’s calling himself Dick as a signal to us all that he is truly being a dick and is just faking his virulent misogyny.

Anyway, these guys make me sad. They are ruining a perfectly good name. Alas.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Dick Van Dyke

I am prompt with this one! I just noticed that “Dick Van Dyke” was trending, and I consider it my sworn duty to swoop in and get the skinny on all trending Dicks. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Dick Van Dyke is trending because it was announced that he will receive a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2013. The man has been acting and entertaining for over sixty years. Way to go, Dick!

Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born December 13, 1925 in Missouri, but he grew up in Illinois (go Midwest!). He served as a radio announcer and entertainer of the troops during World War II, and he married his first wife (and mother of his four children) on the radio show Bride and Groom in 1948. I must admit, that sounds like a radio precursor to reality TV.

After radio, Dick was part of a touring comedy duo until he started appearing in Broadway musicals. His first role was in The Girls Against the Boys (never heard of it, but maybe you have) and he later played the male lead in Bye Bye Birdie. Dick also did television; his most famous work was The Dick Van Dyke Show with Mary Tyler Moore, which ran from 1961 to 1966. Dick did other shows after that (including The New Dick Van Dyke Show) but none were as successful. Fun facts: he voiced his animated counterpart in “Scooby-Doo Meets Dick Van Dyke” (speaking of Scooby-Doo: Rest in Peace, Phyllis Diller); played a murderer in the first episode of Matlock; and was a boyfriend of Bea Arthur’s character on The Golden Girls. Good stuff, right there.

Dick also did film; he’s probably most famous for portraying the chimney sweep Bert with the horrendous accent in Mary Poppins. His accent, according to a 2003 poll by Empire Magazine, is the second-worst in film history. That’s pretty bad, but, when you’re a kid, you don’t really notice. It’s not as though I had ever heard a turn-of-the-century London East Ender talk before.  But Dick seems to take it all in stride, noting with a laugh, that British people “tease me to death” about the accent (see LA Times article). Yeah, I’d be laughing too – all the way to the bank – if I were as rich as him. Dick also appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (without a horrible accent). He also played a villain in Dick Tracy and Night at the Museum. He was in other movies, too, but those weren’t very good.

Dick has won five Emmys, a Tony, and a Grammy, which is quite a haul. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he’s about to get a SAG Award. Congratulations, Dick!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Richard Burton

This time, I’m talking about Richard Burton the actor, who is possibly most famous for being married twice to Elizabeth Taylor. Just like the explorer Richard Burton, this Richard also had a crazy life and was a bit of a douche bag.

Richard Burton was actually born Richard Walter Jenkins in November 1925 in a small village in Wales. He was the twelfth of thirteenth children! When his mother died two years after Richard’s birth (giving birth to baby number 13), Richard went to live with an older sister. Young Richard was a good student and a great athlete and he became quite close to his schoolmaster Philip Burton. But Richard left school at age 16 and went looking for work. When he joined the Air Training Corps, his old teacher Philip Burton was the commander. Because Richard was smart, Philip adopted him so that Richard could return to school. It was because of this adoption that Richard eventually changed his last name to Burton. Richard, however, remained close to his natal siblings.

Much of Richard’s acting was done on the stage. He did a lot of Shakespeare plays, which is awesome. He was Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part I, Hamlet in Hamlet, and Coriolanus in Coriolanus. Furthermore, he was the original King Arthur in the Broadway show Camelot (which, incidentally, lasted almost five hours!).

Burton was also in many movies, some of them awesome, some of them just for the money. His better films include the fabled Cleopatra, wherein he met Elizabeth Taylor, Becket (my personal favorite, in which Richard plays the titular archbishop opposite Peter O’Toole as Henry II), and The Night of the Iguana, based on the Tennessee Williams’ play. Burton also rocked out, opposite Elizabeth Taylor, in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Sadly, their marriage had become a bit like that of the couple in the movie (aka: not good), and they divorced in 1974. The two remarried from 1975-1976, but they called it quits for good after that.

Burton died in 1984 at age 58, which seems rather young. But when you take into account his hard-living, it’s a wonder he lasted that long. Burton began smoking at age 8 and admitted in 1977 that he smoked 60 to 100 cigarettes per day. Per day! His younger brother, in a biography of Richard that appeared after Richard’s death, stated that Burton smoked at least 100 cigarettes a day. How is that even possible! Richard Burton also drank like the proverbial fish. At one point, he drank three bottles of vodka a day. Seriously? Burton makes Don Draper’s actions look moderate. And speaking of Don Draper, Burton was also a big fan of sex with the ladies (and possibly, to a lesser extent, of sex with men. He claimed in 1975 that he had “tried” homosexuality). Anyway, point being, the dude seemingly flirted with all of his female co-stars and bedded any woman he could. No wonder he was divorced four times (twice from Taylor, and then once each from two other wives)!

Richard was also a bit of a douche when it came to women. Aside from copiously cheating on his wives, he apparently said, about his wife Elizabeth Taylor, that calling her “the most beautiful woman in the world is absolute nonsense. She has wonderful eyes, but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she’s rather short in the leg.” Who says that? Especially about his wife?

Burton was nominated for Oscars seven times, but he never won. Unlike many famous, talented British actors, he also never received a knighthood. Some speculate this is because Richard lived in Switzerland as a “tax exile” in order to avoid paying high UK taxes. [Please note, my fellow Americans, that we cannot use this little trick. Uncle Sam expects you to pay federal income taxes no matter where you live and no matter where you earned the income. The only way out is to renounce your US citizenship, which generally cannot be done if the government determines you are only doing it to avoid paying taxes.] But hey, Richard was married to Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most beautiful women ever (despite what Burton said), so maybe things worked out in the end?

Thursday 9 August 2012

Some Hollywood Types

In keeping with my theme of “countdown to my return to Los Angeles,” I’m going to briefly profile some Richards in Hollywood.

First up is Richard Darryl Zanuck, who just died this year on 13 July (I realize that’s almost a month ago, but I read Time magazine in a decidedly untimely manner). Richard Zanuck was a producer who began his career at 20th Century Fox, where his father worked. Richard was later fired by his father (after the failure of Doctor Doolittle), moved to Warner Brothers, and eventually branched out by starting his own company.

Richard’s first film was 1959’s Compulsion, which was based on the trial of Leopold and Loeb (Loeb was another Richard; I profiled him a while ago). Zanuck also produced Jaws and the Academy-Award winning Driving Miss Daisy. In more recent years, Zanuck did a lot of work with Tim Burton, producing six of Burton’s films: Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows. Zanuck died of a heart attack at age 77.

Next we have a young actor (born in 1986) – Richard Madden. Richard Madden is most famous for playing Robb Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones. I really can’t do more than simply state that fact because I do not watch Game of Thrones. (As a medievalist, I’ve had several people ask me if I do. Presumably, these people are masochists, as it is generally bad news bears to ask a historian about their thoughts on any sort of vaguely historical bit of pop culture).

Anyway, Madden is Scottish, from the village of Elderslie (fairly near Glasgow). According to the almighty Wikipedia, Elderslie is the “disputed” birthplace of William Wallace, better known as “Mel Gibson in Braveheart.” (Do not get me started on Braveheart. Or really any other medieval historian, for that matter. You do not have time to sit through all the bitching that will ensue).

Richard has also been praised for his style and good looks. He was named Most Stylish Male at the Scottish Style Awards in October (not sure on the year) and Esquire included him in its list of Hottest Stars in 2010. I guess he is pretty cute. Is Robb Stark a major character on Game of Thrones?

Friday 3 August 2012

The Funeral of Anne of Bohemia

Although she died in early June 1394, the funeral of Anne of Bohemia, first wife of Richard II, was not held until 3 August 1394. This was largely so that Richard had time to sufficiently prepare for the grand occasion. The funeral of a king or queen was a big deal; it was an especially big deal to a king such as Richard II who dearly loved his deceased wife and reveled in the pageantry of kingship. Richard, in fact, was so devoted to Anne that he ordered part of the palace of Sheen, in which she had died, demolished. It was too painful for Richard to revisit the site of Anne’s death (which was probably from plague).

Anyway, the funeral didn’t go entirely as planned. An incident (shall we say) occurred; this incident rather aptly illustrates Richard as both a loving, grief-stricken husband and as a little bit of a crazy person.

Richard, earl of Arundel, a man with whom Richard II did NOT get along (for various, pretty good reasons), disrespected the deceased queen by arriving late to the funeral and requesting permission to leave early. Richard II was not going to take that shit lying down. Seizing the cane of one of his attendants, the king hauled off and smacked Arundel across the face.

Artist's Rendering

The earl was knocked down and blood flowed profusely. Since this bloodshed occurred in a church (Westminster Abbey, to be exact), the funeral was subsequently delayed for several hours while the earl was treated, the king reconciled to Arundel, and the altar cleaned and reconsecrated. Needless to say, no one left that funeral early – it lasted until nightfall.