Queen Elizabeth II Surpasses Queen Victoria’s Long Reign


It was a day for the history books. But it was not in her majesty’s temperament to make much of a fuss.

On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, about 5:30 p.m., Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s proud and often turbulent history, dating back more than a millennium to the days when kings and queens enjoyed absolute power.
Serving as sovereign for 23,226 days (about 63 years and 7 months), according to Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth surpassed Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother, a woman so powerful that she stamped an era with her name.

She has served longer than Henry VIII (37 years), longer than any of the King Richards, far longer than her own father, King George VI (15 years). She certainly reigned longer than King Edward VIII, her uncle, who abdicated after less than a year so he could marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American.

Elizabeth was there before the Beatles, there as the nation coped with postwar rationing, there during what she called the “annus horribilis,” when the monarchy appeared threatened as three of her four children became separated or divorced in 1992. She was there in 1997, when a shocked nation mourned the untimely death of the late Princess Diana.

Now a great-grandmother, Elizabeth has overseen a blossoming of the British monarchy, symbolized by her grandson, Prince William, whose royal wedding in 2011 was watched around the world and who since then has produced two popular children, including a future king.

Wednesday was a day of astonishing achievement, but the 89-year-old queen marked it as she has done so many times before: Quietly going about her business, opening a railway line, unveiling a plaque, meeting her subjects.

She did acknowledge the event, however, telling an adoring crowd at a Scottish railway station on Wednesday it was not a
milestone she had sought out.

“I thank you all, and all of the many others at home and overseas, for your touching messages of great kindness,” said Elizabeth, wearing a two-tone blue coat and matching hat. “(It was) not one to which I have ever aspired.”

Elizabeth didn’t say much – her “speech” lasted perhaps a minute or two. She certainly didn’t boast about her longevity, reflect on her reign, or comment on the parade of British statesmen she has known, from wartime leader Winston Churchill to the current Conservative prime minister, David Cameron.

That just wouldn’t be Elizabeth, whose modest quietude has, paradoxically, developed a grandeur all its own over the decades.
In her silence lies mystery. What does she really think? Few really know and those who do aren’t saying.

If the queen found it unseemly to boast of her accomplishment – her reign did, after all, begin with the abrupt death of her father – others in the British establishment showed no hesitation in praising the only monarch most Britons have ever known.
Oversize photographs of Elizabeth dominated most newspapers, with the tone set by The Daily Telegraph, which called the queen “our rock of stability for 63 years” in its headline.

“Opening a railway captures the same sense of understatement, but we should not doubt that today is a great moment in our national story,” it said.

Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952 at age 25 upon the death of her father, King George VI. Her official coronation the following year marked one of the first major public events that was televised.

She has cut back on her official travels in recent years and rarely goes overseas now, but still adheres to a busy schedule of royal duties. Her son, Prince Charles, has represented his mother at a number of occasions, and grandsons William and Prince Harry have also moved into much more prominent royal roles, as has William’s wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

But it is the queen who seems to command the most affection as Britons celebrate her unique role in national life. In Parliament on Wednesday, the prime minister led a series of affectionate tributes.

“The reign of Queen Elizabeth has been a golden thread running through three post-war generations, and she’s presided over more than two-thirds of our history as a full democracy,” Cameron said. “Her selfless sense of service and duty have earned her unparalleled respect and admiration, not only in Britain but around the world.”

That thought was echoed as well on the other side of the globe.

“Hers has been a long, rich life of service to her country, to the Commonwealth,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told his fellow lawmakers. “We wish her and her loving, remarkable husband health and happiness in the years ahead.” (AP)

Canine Actor Uggie, Known for Role in ‘The Artist,’ Dies

Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier who became a canine star for his scene-stealing role in the Oscar-winning movie “The Artist,” has died.

His owner, animal trainer Omar Von Muller, said Wednesday that Uggie was euthanized Friday after a bout with prostate cancer. The dog was 13.

In “The Artist,” Uggie played the canine companion to Jean Dujardin’s fading silent-film star. The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, lead actor and director in 2011.

Uggie’s other credits included the films “Water for Elephants” and “Mr. Fix It.”

He retired in 2012 in a ceremony at the famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where he became the first dog to leave his paw prints in concrete alongside the prints of human stars. (AP)

Breaking Up With Old World New York City

Growing up, I’d watch TV shows featuring quirky and quintessential New York City characters like Kramer, Archie Bunker and Louie De Palma. They exuded a darker, seedier and sometimes sexier side of life.

That was New York to me. And that’s what I got the first two times I visited the city, in 1992 & 1997.

But my third visit, this past June, was different.

My first visit happened to be the same week when then Vice President Dan Quayle spelled ‘potatoe’ wrong – and David Letterman would not let the mistake go. Less than two weeks later, MTV debuted the first ever ‘The Real World,’ which was taped in New York City earlier that year. And on my flight home via Philadelphia, I shared a commercial flight with supermodel Naomi Campbell.

The second time I visited with my mother, during spring break from the University of Nevada, Reno in early April 1997.
This time a deadly shooting occurred atop the Empire State Building a week prior to my arrival. I refused to go when my mother asked if I’d like to visit. “Maybe next time, but not this time.”

We watched live tapings of ‘Late Night With Conan O’Brien’ and the ‘Late Show With David Letterman’ – the same day the Cornell men’s soccer team also decided to go. Since it was a few days before Letterman’s 50th birthday, I brought along a gift certificate to the Mustang Ranch, but alas he never got it since we spent most of our pre-show Q & A time on a man from New Jersey. (And now that portions of the original Mustang brothel don’t exist due to various reasons, I refuse to forfeit that certificate!)

Outside the Ed Sullivan Theater, oceans of taxi-cabs whooshed by in one long yellow blur. HONK! HONK! No matter where I went. HONK! HONK! The constant noise pollution gave me insomnia.

And then at 6:52 a.m. on September 2001, I woke up my mother with what she described as “a strange look.” I pointed to the TV and said, “I think we’re under attack.”

By chance I took that morning off from working the morning show at my local news station. Around midnight that night on our police scanner I heard about a possible suicidal man “saying ‘God Bless America’ and then he hung up.” Minutes later, alone in the newsroom, I heard a dispatcher call out a definitive ‘Code 50’ – meaning dead body. To this day, I’m pretty sure it was the same man.

For weeks after I aired live shots from NYC with CBS News correspondents in front of massive piles of steaming twisted steel. Viewers I did not know personally thanked my station, and me, for reporting the news.

It was surreal.

And it’s surreal to know I played gleeful tourist in that same city earlier this month. It still doesn’t mentally register that that was the same site where thousands of people perished, what I saw on TV all those years ago nearly 3,000 miles away.
I think I was in more shock – and appalled – by the newest technology to emerge within that sacred place – the selfie-stick. I can’t tell how many I saw within a two-hour span. Unfazed by the tackiness, a man walked up to one of the towers’ memorial fountains next to me. He pointed to a name. “You see this name?” he asked his young son. “Yeah.” “I knew that man,” he said gliding his hand against the engraved letters.

While I don’t know anyone who died there, I felt the man’s sorrow, compassion and pride he showed his son in those short moments.

It’s those fleeting thoughts that made me realize that maybe, just maybe, that traumatic history helped sweeten the city’s famous gritty feel.

I started to notice that nearly everywhere people were nicer.

A woman tripped and smashed her face onto the bricks inside a subway terminal, and everyone around her stopped to help. “Are you ok?” “Do you need us to call someone?” While the generosity was nice to see, what happened to the New York City I grew up with? The angry cabbies? The don’t-give-a-damn pedestrians? The chain-smoking butchers squinting at passersby while on break? It seemingly disappeared. And I believe it’s in part due to the terrorist attacks. There’s a wider police presence, MetroCards ask people to call a terrorist hotline ‘if you see something, say something’ – and some subway cars even display ‘Courtesy Counts’ doorway banners.

Wall Street is now closed off to traffic, and there’s a thin, long center median along Broadway in front of the now temporarily closed Ed Sullivan Theater.

And did I mention Times Square? A lot of it is closed to vehicles, and thanks to stadium seating, it looks more like a spectator’s view to ever-changing eye candy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always cherish the Big Apple, but I can’t help wonder what happened to the Old World feel I got watching those TV shows growing up?

Singular no more, this city has morphed into a ‘we’ as in ‘United We Stand’ or maybe, ‘We (heart symbol) NY.’

Farewell FAO Schwarz: Last Day of Business at NYC Toy Store

Tom Hanks danced on a large floor piano there in the movie “Big.” Multitudes of children wandered through the aisles, wide-eyed with delight at the giant stuffed animals and other toys. And a fair number of parents winced at some of the price tags.

FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue, probably the best-known toy store in the world, is closing Wednesday night.

Owner Toys R Us announced the decision in May, citing the high and rising costs of running the 45,000-square-foot retail space on pricey Fifth Avenue. Though the flagship store is closing its doors for good, it may reopen elsewhere in midtown Manhattan.

FAO Schwarz says it is the oldest toy store in the U.S., with a New York City location since 1870. Reported celeb sightings – Kim Kardashian and Kanye West before they were parents! Moms Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham! – have helped fuel the fantasy since the flagship store opened in 1986.

The Fifth Avenue fixture included a candy store, personal shoppers and three levels of specialty toy departments.

“The baby department at FAO Schwarz is the ultimate destination when luxury shopping for little ones,” the store’s online fact sheet advised.

When those babies reached ‘tweenhood, they’d need specialty skin care products: “It’s never too early to start protecting one’s natural beauty!”

The store was featured in several movies, including “Big,” where Tom Hanks danced on its floor piano (signage called it The Big Piano.)

Nick Jonas stopped by and hopped around the piano in December while singing “Jealous.”

Toys R Us of Wayne, New Jersey, has been privately held since 2005. It bought the FAO Schwarz brand in 2009. (AP)

Tarantino, Lauper, Others Chosen for Hollywood Walk of Fame

Quentin Tarantino, Tracy Morgan, Steve Carell, LL Cool J, Kathy Bates, Bruno Mars and Cyndi Lauper are among the famous names to be added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced its selections for 2016 on Monday. Other names on the list include Kurt Russell, Michael Keaton, Gary Sinise, Itzhak Perlman, Rob Lowe and Kevin Hart. Individual ceremonies have not yet been scheduled.

Recipients of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are chosen by a committee based on applications submitted by fans or celebrity representatives. Entertainers are recognized in five categories: motion picture, television, radio, recording and live theater. Each recipient is responsible for their star’s $30,000 price tag.

The full list of 2016 recipients is available at http://www.walkoffame.com (AP)

Emerson College in Boston to Offer Major in Comedy

Emerson College in Boston will soon offer a degree in making people laugh.

The communications and arts school said Wednesday that starting in September 2016, it will become the first college to offer a four-year bachelor of fine arts in comedic arts degree. The degree will be grounded in the history and theory of comedy with practical learning and a focus on preparing students for careers in comedy performance, writing and production.

The degree is in response to what Emerson calls the “marked rise of comedy’s impact on American culture and its global influence.”

President Lee Pelton says “the new major will combine an academic focus with hands-on opportunities.”

Emerson’s alumni already famous in the comedy world include Jay Leno, Denis Leary, Steven Wright and producer Norman Lear. (AP)

Jim Morrison Poem Found in Paris Hotel Room Being Auctioned

A handwritten poem by Jim Morrison found among his possessions in the Paris hotel where he died in 1971 is being auctioned online.

It was written on the last page torn out of a notebook. “Last words, Last words out” and “I have drunk the drug of forgetfulness” are among the verses.

The double-sided document is the highlight of an online auction that went live Thursday.

Auctioneer Paddle8 says bidding is expected to reach $60,000 to $80,000 by the time it ends June 25.

Morrison was the lead singer of the 1960s rock group the Doors. The group’s hits included “Light My Fire” and “L.A. Woman.”

Paddle8 says the document is special for several reasons: It’s in Morrison’s own hand and was with him when he died at 27. (AP)


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