Thursday 28 November 2013

Per Usual, I'm Thankful for Dicks!

Because it's boring for everyone to say "I'm thankful for my family and friends." Here are some Dicks I'm thankful for 24-7, 365.

Real Richards

            As you might have noticed, this fine blog does not limit itself to discussing actual, flesh-and-blood dudes named Richard; it also covers fictional, ink-and-paper dudes named Richard. But I’ll give the real people their due first, since, after all, they were real.

            One: Richard III. I know it’s pretty messed up to be thankful for a usurping, murdering medieval king (not that Richard III was the only usurping, murdering medieval king), but that’s just how things go. Richard III’s existence has noticeably enriched my life – in both a figurative and monetary sense. The controversy surrounding Richard III (was he a murdering, hunch-backed monster or a pretty cool guy?) introduced me to the interpretative aspect of history – in other words, it showed me what real history is. History is NOT (contrary to what high school suggests) a bunch of names, dates, and facts. History is the gathering of evidence, the careful interpretation of evidence, and the use of that evidence to construct a reasonable, well-supported hypothesis about how people lived in the past. If you branch out beyond textbooks, you realize that our understanding of history is always changing, being modified as new evidence is found or as new scholars tackle new questions with new perspectives. High-school history is oversimplified, often boring, and sometimes incorrect. Real history is more of a detective adventure. It is way more awesome than what you get in school.

            Propaganda aside, Richard III made me want to be a historian. Richard III, as a topic of conversation, also served as a point of common interest between me and a local professor, who was a sort-of mentor for me when I was in high school. Furthermore, Richard III gave me a great hook when writing my graduate school application essays. Recently, a society devoted to clearing the name of Richard III gave me money to do some research, so I owe the man a “thank-you” for some cold, hard cash. Not to mention Richard’s life has been a fertile field for sowing the seeds of historical fiction. Although many of these books are rubbish, some are pretty good, and all of them provide hours of wonderful entertainment. To sum up: Richard III has inspired my career path, helped me win money, and given me entertainment fodder. Richard, I owe you one, man. Thank you for existing, as your life has benefited me.

            Two: Richard II. Not only did this king’s pathos-filled downfall inspire one of Shakespeare’s better history plays, his failure to have children gave me a dissertation topic.

Actually, Richard II is also a fascinating king to study when it comes to the interpretative aspects of history. There are some historians who have claimed he had a mental illness, while others contend he just sucked. But it's much more complicated than that, and Richard's reign deserves further study.

Plus, Richard really loved his wife Anne of Bohemia, and she was awesome.
Fictional Richards

            This blog does not discriminate against the fictional. If you are named Richard, this blog will attempt to do you justice. Physical existence not required!

            One: Dick Grayson. The original Robin, with his green short pants and pixie boots, will always hold a place in my heart. He is such a diggity dank character. Courtesy of his numerous appearances, which span the realms of comics, movies, television, cartoons, fan fiction, novels, and video games, I’m quite confident there are enough portrayals of Dick Grayson out there to entertain me for a lifetime. According to the comic vine website (, Dick has made over four thousand comic book appearances! And while that pales in comparison to the over nine thousand Batman has made, Dick outranks Wonder Woman (but only by about one hundred). So thank you, Dick, for making sure that whenever I’m bored, there will be a comic/story/movie/tv episode featuring you out there to entertain me.

            Two: Richard Lander. This Richard is a main character in the first two novels of the Ann Rinaldi Quilt Trilogy (the two books being A Stitch in Time and Broken Days). When I was in middle school, I loved the heck out of these young-adult books.

            Three: the Richards from The Black Arrow. This book was written by “Holy Robert Louis Stevenson,” and is one of his minor works. The protagonist, however, is named Richard Shelton, which means this work is aces in my book. The Black Arrow is the story of said Richard Shelton realizing that his father was murdered by his current guardian, and his adventures to avoid getting murdered himself and reclaim his birthright. He is helped along the way by the “Fellowship of the Black Arrow,” a group of outlaw dudes whose leader (the awesomely-named Ellis Duckworth) was a good buddy of Richard’s father. (So yeah, the book has obvious debts to Robin Hood, but Stevenson didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, he just needed to put food on the table). This book is made even more diggity dank by taking place during the Wars of the Roses, which means Richard III makes an appearance! Richard III appears in his full-hunchbacked glory, but isn’t really portrayed as a terrible guy. He is, however, considerably older than he was in actuality; pre-king Richard III leads men in battle during the book, but in real life he was just a kid. There’s also some romance thrown in and it has a happy ending, so it’s an all-around feel-good story. My main complaint is that the 1948 black-and-white movie version of this book is terrible! I mean, it sucks balls, people. They have swordfights in which people are killed yet miraculously shed no blood and the main character is supposed to be seventeen but is played by a forty-year-old man (who looks old). It’s a disgrace. The Wishbone episode on this book (which is, incidentally, how I found out about this novel in the first place) is a hundred times better – and Richard Shelton is a dog in that. But check the book out – it’s free on Kindle!

            I would also like to take this moment to express my gratitude to the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. You are two of the finest databases out there. If you are a college/university student reading this, check your library’s website. You should have free access to these electronic resources – use them. They are epic.

            Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday 2 October 2013


2 October 1452 - 22 August 1485

Thursday 15 August 2013

Richard Hatch

I have come across a few men named Richard Hatch, so here's a quick low-down.

Colonial Richard Hatch

In early 17th-century Virginia, a young apprentice named Richard Hatch was brought before the colony's ruling council. Apparently, Richard had made an indiscreet comment (in a private home) concerning the execution of a fellow colonist for sodomy. Richard had said "'that in his consyence' he thought that the settler was 'put to death wrongfully.'"* For such apparently egregious sass, Richard was sentenced to be whipped to and from the gallows, stand in the pillory, lose one of his ears, and restart his term as an apprentice (despite being nearly finished). A harsh punishment indeed!

*James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle, After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection, 6th edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010), 46. This is a really cool book about American history; I recommend you check it out at a library because it's a bit expensive.

Actor Richard Hatch

Richard Lawrence Hatch is an actor who was born 21 May 1945. Although he has appeared in the odd episode of Murder She Wrote and The Love Boat, he is best known for Battlestar Galactica. Richard appeared in the original BG as Captain Apollo. That show lasted for only one season (1978). Richard spent years trying to revive BG, but when the show was remade in 2003 he was initially not a part of it. Richard was highly critical of the new show before it even aired, but he was reconciled. In 2004 he was cast as Tom Zarek, making him the only actor to appear in both versions of BG.

Survivor Richard Hatch

This Richard Hatch is the infamous winner of the first season of Survivor, which aired back in 2000. He's famous for playing naked (eww), being an asshole, and going to prison for tax evasion. Hatch was so sinister that  in 2013 TV Guide placed him on their list of "The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time." Wow.

Friday 9 August 2013

Bran Castle and Poenari Fortress, Romania

I just got back from Romania, so I thought I would share some castle pictures. These are not directly related to Dicks, but everyone loves a good castle, so I hope you all will let it slide.

Bran Castle

For medieval purposes, Bran Castle is not so hot. The castle is in really nice shape because the royal family lived there during the inter-war years. Consequently, the castle has been updated, so you don't see much that screams "medieval," aside from it being a castle. Bran looks somewhat medieval from the outside, though. Despite that, it's a fun place to visit. It can get a bit crowded in the summer (the interior of the castle is not very large), but if you arrive before 11 AM, you should be fine. Bran Castle is not associated with Vlad the Impaler, but Bram Stoker said in his novel that Count Dracula lived in Bran Castle.

Poenari Fortress is associated with Vlad: he built part of it. Because of that, the fortress has fake impaled people at the entrance for your viewing pleasure. The rest of the castle is largely in ruins, so you really get that medieval vibe.

Visiting Poenari is not for the faint of heart. You have to climb 1480 stairs to reach the top. Thankfully, the stairs are under shade, but it's quite the hike. The views are great, though, and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you reach the top!

Thursday 1 August 2013

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

This Richard was a playwright and politician in eighteenth-century England. He is best known for his plays, such as The Rivals, School for Scandal, and A Trip to Scarborough (the first two are probably more famous than the third).

Richard was born in Dublin, Ireland on 30 October 1751. The family moved to London when Richard was seven, and he spent most of the rest of his life in England.

Aside from being a talented playwright, Richard was surrounded by talented people. His mother was a playwright and novelist, while his father wrote a number of books about education and the need to standardize the English language. Richard's wife, Elizabeth (daughter of a composer), had a beautiful singing voice and regularly sold-out concert halls in her youth. Her father wanted her to marry a man she didn't like (not Richard), and her domestic drama was subsequently made into a play entitled The Maid of Bath (it was a comedy, however).

Speaking of Richard and Elizabeth, the early days of their marriage were fit for the stage. The two eloped in 1772, when Richard was on the cusp of 21 and Elizabeth was three years younger. Although married in France by a Catholic priest, their marriage was deemed invalid since both were underage. Eventually, their marriage was accepted by Elizabeth's father (who had wanted her to marry a wealthier man), and the marriage was subsequently recognized as valid. The two were re-married in England in April of 1773.

During those early months, when the marriage's validity was touch-and-go, a man named Thomas Mathews publicly besmirched Elizabeth's honor in the newspaper. Naturally, Richard had to fight a duel to defend her. The initial duel was rather a non-starter. The two had to move venues (the initial place was too crowded), and Richard defeated Thomas without shedding any blood. Thomas later challenged Richard to a second duel, in which Richard was actually severely wounded. Obviously, he recovered.

Richard and Elizabeth moved to London, and Richard began to write and produce plays. The Rivals premiered in 1775. In 1776, Richard, his father-in-law, and another partner purchased half of the Drury Lane Theatre. By 1778 Richard owned the entire theatre.

Richard's most famous play, School for Scandal, appeared in 1777. It is considered to be one of the greatest comedies of manners ever written in English. Although Richard is not a household name today, his comedies are quite witty and carefully crafted. I recommend that you read some!

In 1780 Richard began his second career as a member of Parliament. He was a Whig and (of interest to us Americans) a supporter of the American colonists in their rebellion. During his 32 years in Parliament (Richard failed to win re-election is 1812), Richard gave many great orations and made plenty of sassy comments. As told by that glorious purveyor of knowledge, Wikipedia:

1793 Edmund Burke "made a speech in which he claimed there were thousands of French agents in Britain ready to use weapons against the authorities. To dramatically emphasise his point he threw down a knife onto the floor of the House of Commons. Sheridan is said to have shouted out "Where's the fork?", which led to much of the house collapsing in laughter." [From Arnold-Baker, Charles. The Companion to British History. Longcross Press, 1996, page 393].

If you would care to learn more about Richard's political career, check his entry in the great Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Anyway, Richard spent his entire life living beyond his means. Being an MP meant he couldn't be arrested for debt; when he lost his re-election bid in 1812, the creditors came calling. Since the Drury Lane Theatre had burned down in 1809, Richard didn't have much income and he died in poverty in 1816. He was, however, buried in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey and had a celebrity's funeral.

Despite his glorious wit, Richard was not entirely a roguish good guy. Despite the trouble he went through to marry Elizabeth, he had several affairs. His wife contemplated leaving him around 1789, but was persuaded otherwise. She ended up having an affair in 1791; her lover was the father of her daughter, born in 1792. This pregnancy (Elizabeth and Richard had a son born in 1774) exacerbated Elizabeth's tuberculosis and she died a few months later. Her daughter, treated by Richard as his child, sadly died in 1793. Richard remarried in 1795, and had a son with his second wife, Hester. In later years, Hester also had an affair. No doubt Richard did, too.

Although he was a man of many faults, Richard was highly regarded at his death. Even Lord Byron was a fan.

Read More:

A. Norman Jeffares, ‘Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751–1816)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [].

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Richard Dean Anderson

Perhaps better known as either MacGyver or Jack O'Neill, Richard was born in Minnesota on 23 January 1950. In his youth, Richard dreamed of being a professional hockey player, but two broken arms subsequently caused him to alter his dreams.

After dropping out of college because he wasn't feeling it, Richard eventually settled in Los Angeles (in the early 1970s). He worked a variety of jobs including: marine mammal trainer, musician at a medieval dinner theatre (sweet!), and juggler. Apparently, Richard really loved juggling, and once mentioned that he would like to teach circus arts to disadvantaged youths. (FYI: circus school is real. I have a friend who attends - she is learning the trapeze, among other things).

In 1976, Richard got his first big television role. He was cast as Dr. Jeff Webber on General Hospital. Richard played that part until 1981, after which he was on a series of short-lived shows.

Richard rocketed to fame in 1985 when he started playing MacGyver, lead character of the eponymous show. MacGyver's first name is Angus, but apparently viewers weren't privy to that fact until the last season. MacGyver ran for seven seasons (1985-1992), and was a very busy time for Richard. Since he was the star (along with his Swiss Army knife), he was in almost every frame. According to him, he had very little time for a life during those seven years.

From 1997 to 2005, Richard played Jack O'Neill in the television show Stargate SG-1. The show was based on the movie Stargate; Richard played the character initially played by Kurt Russell. The president of MGM asked Richard to act in the show, which Richard agreed to after careful consideration. Richard had two requests: he could portray his character in a more comedic way than Russell had in the movie and the show would be an ensemble cast. Richard did not want to be as busy as he had been when filming MacGyver. I think those were reasonable requests. Comedy rules, and ensemble shows are great. They give more actors a chance to shine. I realize Richard was primarily thinking of himself when making that request, but it's nice for a more-established actor to request more screen time for the lesser-knowns.

Richard had a daughter in 1998. As she grew, he wanted to spend more time with her. Consequently, Richard reduced his appearances on Stargate, becoming a frequent guest star rather than a permanent cast member. He has also appeared in Stargate follow-ups Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe.

Richard was made an honorary brigadier general by the Air Force in 2004 because Stargate portrayed the Air Force in a positive light. He has also received awards from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he avidly supports the Special Olympics, and he works to combat water pollution and multiple sclerosis.

Overall, Richard sounds like a cool guy. He enjoys The Simpsons and happily stars in commercials that mock MacGyver. What a good sport.


Richard Dean Anderson Comic Con 2008.jpg
Richard in 2008

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Dicks Getting Crowns

July is a big month for Richards becoming kings. Today, July 16, was the day of Richard II's coronation back in 1377. Richard was only ten years old at the time, and he supposedly was so tired by the end that Sir Simon Burley, his tutor, had to carry him out.

Earlier this month was the coronation of Richard III and his wife Anne Neville. This double coronation took place on July 6, 1483.

Finally, Henry II died on July 6, 1189. Consequently, Richard I became king on July 6 - the same day Richard III had his coronation. Did Richard III do that on purpose?

Some images to celebrate:
File:Church of Fontevraud Abbey Richard I effigy.jpg

Thursday 11 July 2013

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt was an American puppeteer, best known for his work with the Muppets.

Richard was born 16 August 1951 and showed an early interest in puppets, putting on shows for local children when he was in middle and high school. After briefly serving as a weatherman, Richard got in touch with Jim Hensen and became one of the Muppets crew in 1969.

Richard portrayed a variety of characters for Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock. On Sesame Street, Richard voiced characters such as Placido Flamingo, Gladys the Cow, and Elmo (an early version). On Fraggle Rock, he was Junior Gorg. Most of Richard's work, however, was with the Muppets. For a time, he and Frank Oz shared the role of Miss Piggy. Later Richard voiced and controlled Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Statler, and Sweetums.

Sadly, Richard died on 7 January 1992 from complications from AIDS. He was sorely missed by the Muppet Family. To read some tributes to Richard (including one written by Kermit the Frog), click here.

Richard Hunt

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Dick Trickle

I heard this name a couple of months ago, and I was highly amused by it. Now that I have read about Richard "Dick" Trickle, I feel a bit bad about finding his name so hilarious.

Dick was a famous race-car driver. About the only things I know about car racing are that it involves cars and racing to finish first, so bear with me here.

It seems that Dick specialized in short-track racing. According to some estimates, Dick was in over 2,200 races and won more than 1,200. That sounds pretty amazing to me. Baseball players are considered good if they can bat .500, and Dick has that beat.

Dick was born on 27 October 1947 in Wisconsin. At the tender age of 8, he fell and broke his hip. He had to wear a cast, covering his body from waist to foot, for three years! His recovery was so slow that his doctors thought he would end up a life-long invalid, but Dick was able to walk again, albeit with a slight limp.

It was while he was still in a cast that he saw his first car race. He never forgot it. Although Wikipedia doesn't say so, I like to theorize that he was so mesmerized by the cars because he saw in them a way to get around without walking (he was still in a cast at the time, remember). If I were writing a screenplay of his life, little Dick would say something to that effect. Get on it, Hollywood!

As a teen, Dick worked some in a blacksmith's shop. He learned a great deal about machinery. In the late 1950s, Dick would purchase regular cars and turn them into race cars himself. I'm impressed by this. I thought all race-car drivers did was drive fast cars; I didn't realize that some drivers also built them. Way to go, Dick!

At first, Dick mostly raced within Wisconsin. In fact, he had a day job for a few years before he decided to race full time. Even then, Dick was still largely doing his own car work, although he sometimes had help with the engine.

He was, obviously, a successful racer. In 1968 he was the USAC Stock Car Rookie of the Year. In 1989, he made his NASCAR debut, winning "Rookie of the Year" at the Winston/Sprint Cup. He was 48 years old, and he made a joke about it, saying "I guess I’d just like to thank everyone who gave a young guy like me a chance". He won a NASCAR race in 1990, but was more of a top-ten finisher than a number one racer. But that's pretty good, especially since he had already finished a full racing career.

Apparently, Dick was a committed smoker. He had a hole drilled in his safety helmet so that he could insert a cigarette.

Sadly, Dick committed suicide on 16 May 2013. Dick shot himself around noon at a cemetery in North Carolina. Before killing himself, he had called the police to report his own suicide, although he had not left his name. Dick's family released a statement saying Dick had been in chronic pain, and, despite consultations with many doctors, had been unable to find relief. Dick was only 71.

Dick was survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren. Some of his family, however, predeceased him. According to Wikipedia, he had a nephew who was killed in a drive-by shooting and a granddaughter who was killed in a car accident (and buried in the cemetery in which he committed suicide). That's a lot of tragedy for one family.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Richard's Pub

This is a quick entry because I'm traveling. Currently, I'm in Budapest, which has a Richard's Pub. Check it out here.

It's good to know that even Hungary has Richards.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Dicks on a Mug

Here's a fabulous mug with fabulous shots of Richard II and Richard III.

Quite the dandy, isn't he?

And Richard II, still looking like a little kid.

In July 2009, I purchased a mug at the National Portrait Gallery gift shop, which featured miniature cartoon drawings of the monarchs of England since 1066. Each ruler, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, was depicted in varying sensible (John looking shocked when reading Magna Carta) to ridiculous (Henry II playing leapfrog with a table) fashion. Three of the kings appeared as children, conveniently labeled with their ages when they ascended the throne: Richard II (age ten), Edward V (age thirteen), and Edward VI (age nine). Depicting Edward V and Edward VI as children makes sense, as both died before reaching adulthood (around ages thirteen and sixteen, respectively). Richard II, on the other hand, ruled as king for twenty-two years, going from a ten-year-old boy to a thirty-two-year-old man. Richard II’s situation more closely parallels Henry III (king at age nine) and Henry VI (king at age nine months) than the two later Edwards. Richard was a child when he became king, but he was a man when he was deposed. Unlike Richard, though, Henry III and Henry VI are represented on the mug as men, leaving the Black Prince’s son as the only perpetual child who actually grew up. The mug’s seeming mistake is a modern manifestation of Richard II’s image problem. Despite becoming a chronological adult, Richard II, in the eyes of many, never reached full maturity.

At one point, I tried that as an intro to a discussion of Richard II's maturity problem. It was not academic enough to remain in the dissertation, but I find it very telling. Why is it that Richard II, out of all the kings of England, can't grow up, even hundreds of years later? Even Henry VI gets to grow up and he became king at age 9 months.

Christopher Fletcher has written a really great book about Richard's maturity problem (citation below), but I argue it also had something to do with Richard's childlessness. Maybe someday I'll be published and you can read about it.

*Fletcher, Christopher David.  Richard II: Manhood, Youth, and Politics, 1377-99.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Richard Overton

Richard Overton is the oldest living veteran in the United States. He just turned 107 on May 11, 2013.


Richard served in the US Army during World War II. From 1942-1945 he was in the South Pacific. After being discharged in October 1945, Richard returned to Texas where he initially worked in a furniture story. Later he worked for the Texas Treasury Department and didn't retire until he was in his 80s!

Richard was married twice, but he never had any children. I find it fascinating that this appeared in the news. It's not anybody's business whether Richard has children, but I appreciated the info as I am always on the lookout for childlessness. In fact, Richard Overton is like Richard II: married twice with no kids! Granted, Richard Overton was never king, but he has lived over three times as long as Richard II, so it's probably a wash.

Richard likes to do yard work and does not watch any television. He smokes as many as twelve cigars a day and often drinks some whiskey with his coffee or with soda water in the evenings. Richard is quoted as saying, "Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender."

That's awesome!

In other news, when I googled "Richard Overton" I discovered that there was an English pamphleteer during the English Civil War and Protectorate with the same name.

Overton was a big fan of representative government and a big enemy of tyranny (which in his mind seemed to be monarchy). Anyway, he wrote a lot of pamphlets and was sent to prison a fair amount because that's how life was in the 1640s.

Read more on the veteran:

Saturday 8 June 2013

Richard Ramirez

This will be a short entry because today's subject is a really bad person. But a blog such as this cannot fail to comment on today's news:

Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, died today.

Ramirez was a serial killer who terrorized California (namely Los Angeles and, briefly, San Francisco) in 1984-1985. He was convicted in 1989 of 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault (one of which was the rape of a little girl), and 14 counts of burglary. He was awaiting execution on death row when he died of liver failure around 9 AM today (June 7).

The best part of the Night Stalker story is his capture. To elude police capture, the Night Stalker (whose face had been in the newspaper) ran towards East LA looking for a car to boost. He found one sitting in a driveway with the keys inside. When he started the car, he found out why the keys were inside: the owner was underneath the car making repairs. The owner jumped onto his own car like an action-film hero and wouldn’t get off. Since his vision was obstructed, Night Stalker abandoned that car and tried to car-jack a woman who was getting ready to drive to work. When she screamed, her husband came running and started beating on Night Stalker. His shouts alerted the neighbor man, who came running with his strapping teenage sons. Night Stalker exited the car and took off running down the street. The neighbors recognized him from the newspaper picture, so they took off after him, eventually catching him and subduing him (no doubt through a beat down). And so, the Night Stalker was brought low by teamwork. Go East LA!

Read more:

Friday 31 May 2013

On Richard II

A quote from the Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi on Richard II. Taken from Chronicles of the Revolution 1397-1400 by Chris Given-Wilson, page 241.

"King Richard was of average height, fair-haired, with a pale complexion and a rounded feminine face which was sometimes flushed; he was abrupt and stammering in his speech, and, because he preferred to take counsel from the young, he was capricious in his behavior. He was prodigious with gifts, extravagantly ostentatious in his dress and pastimes, and unlucky as well as faint-hearted in foreign warfare. Towards his servants he often displayed great anger; he was also puffed up with pride, consumed by avarice, much given to luxury, and fond of burning the candle at both ends, sometimes staying up half the night, and at other times right through until morning, drinking and indulging himself in other unmentionable ways."

A little food for thought: when Richard II's tomb was opened in 1871, his skeleton was measured. The king clocked in at approximately six feet tall. Six feet! Either this chronicler doesn't know what he was talking about when he said Richard was of average height, or medieval people were not as short as people like to claim. The answer is probably a mix: the chronicler did NOT particularly like Richard, nor were medieval people all the size of leprechauns.

Friday 24 May 2013

Pics of Dicks: Hollywood Edition

Things have been busy here, so I haven't been able to get a proper post together. Instead, enjoy some pictures from the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Richard Roundtree

A friend mentioned this Hollywood great to me, and I first thought, "why does that name sound familiar?" It turns out that Richard Roundtree is Shaft ("shut your mouth!").

Richard Roundtree was born on 9 July 1942 in New Rochelle, New York. Before becoming an actor, Richard played football and was a model. He was a member of New Rochelle High School's nationally-ranked 1960 season football team. He attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Maybe he went there to play football? My sources don't say that he did, but why else would a kid from New York come to Illinois? Anyway, after college, Richard did some modeling and had a minor role as part of an interracial couple in 1970's What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?

And then Richard was selected to portray Detective John Shaft (FYI: the movie Shaft is based on a book of the same name. Check it out!). Shaft came out in 1971 and was a huge hit. According to the always reliable Wikipedia, the movie helped save MGM from bankruptcy and "spawned several years of 'blaxploitation' action films." In addition, the National Film Registry has selected Shaft for preservation as being culturally significant.

Richard played John Shaft again in two sequels (Shaft's Big Score and Shaft in Africa) and in a short-lived TV series, also called Shaft. Speaking of television, Richard has been on a lot of shows! Often it's just a small role, but he has cropped up in a lot of places.

One of his big roles was as the slave Sam Bennett in Roots. He also had large roles in the mini-series A.D. and series Outlaws, which ran for one season in 1986-87. He also played Dave Chapelle's father in the series Buddies, which lasted for 13 episodes in 1996. He was also a regular on Diary of a Single Mom, which lasted three seasons from 2009-2011. Smaller roles include, but are not limited to:

-two episodes of The Love Boat
-an episode of CHiPS
-an episode of Murder, She Wrote
-an episode of 21 Jump Street
-an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210
-an episode of L.A. Law
-an episode of Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
-an episode of Touched by an Angel
-two episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
-an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
-five episodes of Desperate Housewives
-five episodes of Heroes
-an episode of Grey's Anatomy
-and an episode of The Mentalist.

That's some range! The people watching Touched by an Angel are probably not the same people checking out Grey's Anatomy. It's good to know Richard is reaching them both.
As far as movies go, Richard has had some smaller parts in more recent films such as the comedy George of the Jungle and the thriller Se7en.

In 1993, Richard was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments. He made a full recovery because he is still alive today.

Check out:

Thursday 9 May 2013

Richard Widmark

Richard Weedt Widmark is a Hollywood actor best known for his villainous and anti-hero roles, although he later moved into westerns and dramas. I had never heard of this particular Richard until a grad school friend mentioned him, and now I feel kind of bad. Richard Widmark has been in 75 movies! 75! That's a ton. I can't believe I didn't know about him.

Anyway, Richard's first movie was Kiss of Death (1947) in which he played a giggling creepster named Tommy Udo. Udo's most famous scene comes when he murders a wheelchair-bound woman by pushing her down a flight of stairs. That is some serious shit, especially for a movie in the 1940s.

This is Tommy Udo. He looks creepy.

Richard did a bang-up job in this role. He was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. He didn't win, but he did win the Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer." In fact, Richard was the first person to win this award (the award was discontinued in 1983 after Ben Kingsley won).
Richard spent the 50s, 60s, and 70s acting in a bunch of stuff. He was in some westerns (The Alamo and How the West Was Won) and he played the murder victim in Murder on the Orient Express.
He was evidently pretty darn famous, as he played himself in a 1955 episode of I Love Lucy. In the episode, Lucy sneaked into Richard's house to obtain a souvenir, but was caught by the actor while trying to hide under a rug.

Looking through Richard's filmography, I realized that I have seen him in action in the 1989 made-for-TV movie Cold Sassy Tree. Richard played the main character's grandpa, Enoch Blakeslee. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this. Cold Sassy Tree and I do not get along (for reasons I will not go into here), but I'm pleased that Richard portrayed one of the few characters I could actually tolerate. On a related - and even more shocking note - the main character (who is a teenage boy) was played by none other than Neil Patrick Harris! NPH! I can't even.

Richard seems like he was a cool guy. He was married to his first wife, Jean, for 55 years, until her death in 1997. In 1999, Richard remarried and was with his second wife until his own death in 2008.
Richard also has a miniscule airport named after him. Back in the day, he had a ranch near a small town in Missouri, and he gave a bunch of money for an airport to be built. If you build it, they will name it after you.

Finally, Richard was apparently no fan of guns, despite frequently toting them on the silver screen. According to the great Wikipedia, Richard once said:

"I know I've made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence. I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that the United States are the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns."

For more, see:

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Richard Bong

With a name like Dick Bong, I just couldn’t resist. Sadly, his life was tragically cut short by an accident, which … sort of makes me feel bad about laughing at his name. But not bad enough, apparently.

Richard Ira Bong was born on 24 September 1920, the eldest of nine children. His parents had emigrated from Sweden to Wisconsin, where they had a farm. According to the delightfully hokey biography on the website of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center: “Dick Bong's upbringing epitomized the values and expectations of that era - loyalty to his family and a deep sense of patriotism. Like all farm children, he had chores to perform and was expected to drive farm machinery at an early age. He hunted and fished in the surrounding woods and streams, played on his school athletic teams and sang in his church choir; as his 4H project he planted the extensive evergreen windbreak on the family farm, still in the family. At that time he modeled the ideal all-American boy.”

In 1938, Richard started attending Superior State Teachers College, where he began to take flying lessons. In 1941 he joined the Army Air Corps (what later became the Air Force) Aviation Cadet Program. One of his flight instructors was Barry Goldwater! Yes, the same Barry Goldwater that Lyndon Johnson implied would get you blown up by atomic bombs should he have been elected president.

The Air Corp commissioned Richard as a second lieutenant (he ended his career as a major). Richard flew P-38 Lightning planes. He was supposed to go to England, but Richard was grounded (on account of flying his plane down the streets of San Francisco) when his squadron left for Europe. Consequently, Richard was transferred to another squadron in the Pacific theatre, the “Flying Knights” based in Darwin, Australia (which was indeed named after THE Charles Darwin, although the name has evolved).

Between December 1942 and December 1944, Richard shot down 40 enemy planes, which is a record for the US. Richard is considered an Ace of Aces, which is a designation given to the most active military ace in a time of war. Richard received a Congressional Medal of Honor in December 1944 and was sent back to the states in January 1945.

Back in the USA, Richard married Marge Vattendahl, whom he had met back in Wisconsin while home on leave in November/December 1943. Richard did some public relations work, such as shilling war bonds, before returning to flying. Richard became a test pilot for P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters at a testing facility in Burbank, California. Sadly, something went wrong during one of his test flights, his plane blew up over North Hollywood, and Richard Bong was killed on 6 August 1945. At the time, Richard was so beloved and famous that his death shared the headlines with the bombing of Hiroshima, which had also occurred on 6 August.

Richard was buried in his hometown of Poplar, Wisconsin.

File:Los Angeles Times front page 6 August 1945.jpg

See also

Tuesday 23 April 2013

William Shakespeare and Dicks

A repeat because I can't seriously be expected to create a new post every year for Shakespeare's birthday!

Today, April 23, is William Shakespeare’s birthday! It’s also St George’s Day, making this pretty much the closest thing Great Britain has to a Fourth of July/Australia Day/Canada Say. After all, what’s more British than Shakespeare (aside from bad food and stiff upper lips)?
            Now William Shakespeare was obviously not named Richard, but he was certainly no stranger to dicking around with history. I understand he was using poetic license. You have to telescope history when you have a filthy pile of groundlings hurling debris and vitriol at your actors. You put people on stage for more than five acts and you’ve got a hostile work environment. But one must take Shakespeare’s history with a pile of salt.
            So, today, in honor of the bard’s birth (and death), I will briefly examine how he treats two eminent English Dicks, Richard II and Richard III, in his plays.
            To quickly sum-up, the two receive almost exactly opposite treatments. Shakespeare has Richard II end his life in a far nobler manner than the real king did, while Richard III (who was undoubtedly a bit of a dick since he was a late medieval nobleman) was warped into a hunchbacked monster with a soul worse than the Grinch’s. In Richard II, Richard II is a tragic hero of sorts, brought down by his own pride. He has an epiphany at the end of his life, realizing he has not been a good king, and willingly passes the crown to his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (soon to be Henry IV). Richard even displays some top-notch political thinking at the end, expounding on the notion of the king as man versus king as institution. Richard realizes he has given up his role in the institution of kingship, but as an anointed sovereign, he still retains some attributes of kingship. A king, once anointed, can never have the unction removed. So Richard, sadder but wiser, passes on the crown, goes to prison, and is murdered.
            The basic outlines of Shakespeare’s tale are true. Richard II was deposed by Henry IV and he was sent off to a castle, imprisoned, and later murdered. But Richard probably did not cheerfully pass the crown on to a cousin he almost certainly hated and had exiled from England for ten years just one year before. Shakespeare can be forgiven this because Henry IV and his supporters put word out that Richard had given up the crown cheerfully, which was a big fat lie designed to make themselves look better. After all, it wasn’t so bad to kick a king off his throne if he agreed to it, right? I mean, he asked for it (like a woman wearing a short skirt, no doubt). But Richard II should be pleased. Instead of looking like a bad king who resisted his inevitable downfall, he comes off looking like the wise old man on the mountain (or even another Jesus in some renditions). Oh sure, he has suffered, but now he’s reached a higher plane of enlightenment. Being king would just bring him down anyway.
            Richard III, title character of Richard III and bit player in the three parts of the Henry VI saga, has more cause to complain. While Richard II comes off as a tragic hero whose death makes you pity him, Richard III is more twisted than a serial rapist-murderer in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. If Henry Tudor and Richard’s lack of a horse hadn’t managed to do him in, the people of England would probably have had to call Batman.
            Any assessment of Richard III in Shakespeare should probably start with the basics. Richard III, the actual dude, was too young to do shit in the era of the Henry VI plays. Richard was all of eight years old when his brother Edward IV became king, meaning he was not much of a warrior when Henry VI was still king. Beyond the obvious, Richard III probably didn’t orchestrate all those deaths, years ahead of time, for the sole purpose of gaining the throne. That would have taken years of planning and a lot of luck (such as your brother the king deciding to execute your middle brother for treason). In essence, Shakespeare’s Richard III is an evil genius who manages to kill five people who are blocking his path to the throne in a plot that takes over ten years. That’s some spectacular planning and some amazing patience. He also manages to do all this while having “I’m so ugly you should know not to trust me” stamped all over his crooked, scheming body. And he manages to marry a hot girl, despite having just killed her other husband, by making her think he’s going to kill himself. Really, Shakespeare, women in the middle ages weren’t that stupid. But the issue with Richard’s wife is my biggest beef with Shakespeare and other anti-Richard III fiction writers (and yes, they exist, although I believe the pro-Richard writers are outnumbering them). While I don’t necessarily believe that Anne Neville, Richard’s wife, was in love with him (or he with her) when they married, I don’t think she was all that attached to her first husband. Her first husband, Edward of Lancaster, was the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, the biggest enemies of Anne’s father Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Warwick himself had actually called Edward of Lancaster a bastard and his mother Margaret the medieval equivalent of “big, fat bitch.” So growing up, Anne probably heard some not-so-nice things about Edward and his mother, meaning she was probably more than a little shocked when he father switched sides and had her marry the “bastard” son of his enemy. We have no idea what their marriage was like, but it only lasted a few months before Edward died (probably not killed by Richard III but slain in battle). And while Anne might have felt sad to be a widow, I doubt she was mourning for the lost love of her life, unless she was an extremely sentimental teenage girl. And while she was a teenage girl, I doubt Anne Neville, daughter of the most powerful earl in England and obvious political pawn in the politics of marriage, was overly weepy when her husband passed. I also doubt she was a big enough idiot to marry a creepy hunchbacked murderer who was dumb enough to woo her next to a coffin.  
            But I digress with Anne Neville. Suffice it to say, Shakespeare treats his two Dicks differently. Apparently he took the unused dickishness from Richard II and dumped it on Richard III. But despite their historical inaccuracies, both are really enjoyable characters (albeit for different reasons). Shakespeare was not a historian but he was a master.

Monday 15 April 2013

And the winner is ...

In a hard-fought battle between Richard III and Dick Grayson, only one Dick can reign supreme. Who was the victor?

It was a tie! Seriously, Richard III and Dick Grayson got the same number of votes, and I couldn't bring myself to break the tie. I love them both too much.

I hereby declare Richard III king of historical Richards.

I hereby declare Dick Grayson a god among fictional Richards.

I will note that Dick Grayson's butt really seemed to give him an edge. Several people commented on its beauty. For some, it was the reason they voted for Dick Grayson. For others, they voted for Richard III despite his "not as cute" butt.

If only I had a butt-shot of Richard III. For comparative purposes only, of course. That would be quite the competition.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Monday 8 April 2013

Dick Madness Final Round

The time has come. We are now at the final round. All four contenders put up a good fight, but the final match-up is...

That's right. It's a repeat of last year: Dick Grayson vs. Richard III.

Be sure to spread the word about this match-up. It's my dream to have epic participation. And I think our contenders are going to need it. Richard III won last year by a close margin (my cousin really drummed up the Dick Grayson support, which caused some of my family members to pull a Lord Stanley and betray Richard III). Since I might be the one person who inhabits the crossroads of all things Dick, people might not know that both of these Richards have legions of fans.

Dick Grayson has tons of fans on the internet. See comic book threads and Tumblr if you don't believe me.

Richard III has an entire society (the aptly named Richard III Society) devoted to clearing his name. These people can be hard core.  Trust me.

So round up your friends and tell them to vote. Dick and Dick are going to need all the help they can get!

And now, our final match-up in pictures!

Many people think of Dick Grayson as this:

Ah, Burt Ward. Let it never be said you can't act. 

Or this:

That's definitely the kind of joke my mom would make. Love you, Mom!

However, he grew up to be this:

And this:

The internet loves this pic. Trust me.

Richard III possibly looked like this:

Or this:

My personal favorite. Looking damn fine, Richard. Damn fine.
And ended up like this:

Like Rodney Dangerfield, his body got no respect.

But you can buy him on Ebay looking like this:

His head on someone else's body, I swear.
So there you go! Voting ends on Sunday at noon Pacific Time.

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