How do you do? Glad to see you. It’s game day, guys and gals, so let’s get right to it. No, this isn’t about football (whatever gave you that idea?). This is a game about how many of the following ten names ring a bell, and what do they have in common (other than the fact that none were football players)?
Victor Herbert, James P. Johnson, John Ford, Clark Gable, Langston Hughes, S. J. Perelman, Hildegard, George Pal, Muriel Spark, Boris Yeltsin.
How did you do? You say there’s several you didn’t recognize? That will never do. There are no passes here, so before we proceed to what they have in common, here are the names again, followed by year of birth and claim to fame:
1. VICTOR HERBERT, 1859, composer (father of the operetta style Broadway musical, including Babes in Toyland, Naughty Marietta and Sweethearts)
2. JAMES P. JOHNSON, 1891, composer and jazz pianist (king of Harlem stride piano & composer of such standards as The Charleston, Old Fashioned Love and If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight)
3. JOHN FORD, 1894, movie director (famous for westerns and winner of four Academy Awards for best director: The Informer, Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man, none of which were westerns)
4. CLARK GABLE, 1901, actor (Frankly, my dear, I don’t think I need say more)
5. LANGSTON HUGHES, 1902, poet, playwright and social activist (leader of the Harlem Renaissance and pioneer of literary art form known as jazz poetry)
6. S. J. PERELMAN, 1904, humorist, screenwriter and playwright (credits include humor for the New Yorker, scripts for Marx Brothers films Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, and Academy Award for screenplay for Around the World in Eighty Days)
7. HILDEGARD, 1906, American cabaret singer and most elegant, well-known female supper club entertainer of her time; #1 song Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup. Longest-lived (to age 99) of the ten.
8. GEORGE PAL, 1908, film director, producer and innovator of stop-motion animation (Puppetoons); probably the least familiar name here, thus this 1994 biographical documentary (narrated by Pal’s widow Zsoka) should be both edifying and interesting:
9. MURIEL SPARK, 1918, novelist and writer (most famous work The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
10. BORIS YELTSIN, 1931, Russian politician. First President of Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
OK, I’ll keep you in suspense no longer. What the above have in common is their birthday: February 1.
But wait — there’s more! What do the following have in common?
Rene Descartes, philosopher; Mary Shelley, novelist; Buster Keaton, comic actor; George Abbot, director; and Gian Carlo Menotti, composer.
They all passed away on February 1.
Today, on this notable day in history, The Observation Post has them coming and going. I hope you had a ball.