Monday, January 30, 2012

This Week in Television History: January 2012 Part V

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As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

February 1, 1887

Official registration of Hollywood. 
Harvey Wilcox officially registers Hollywood with the Los Angeles County recorder’s office. Wilcox and his wife, Daeida, had moved to Southern California four years earlier from Topeka, Kansas, where Harvey had made his fortune in real estate. They bought 160 acres of land in the Cahuenga Valley, located in the foothills to the west of the city of Los Angeles. A once-sleepy settlement founded in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Poricuncula, Los Angeles was by then expanding rapidly thanks to the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876 (the Santa Fe Railroad would arrive in 1885).
Wilcox, who had lost the use of his legs as a child due to polio, envisioned the land as the perfect site for a utopian-like community for devout Christians, where they could live a highly moral life free of vices such as alcohol (Wilcox was a prohibitionist). Daeida Wilcox called the new community “Hollywood,” borrowing the name from a Chicago friend who told her that was the name of a summer home she had in the Midwest. Harvey laid out a street map of the settlement, centered on a main street he called Prospect Avenue (it was later renamed Hollywood Boulevard). After filing the map with the L.A. County recorder’s office, Wilcox set about laying out Hollywood’s streets, made of dirt and lined with pepper trees.
As Harvey sold lots, Daeida worked to raise money to build churches, a school and a library. By 1900, nine years after Harvey Wilcox’s death, Hollywood had a population of 500, compared with 100,000 people in Los Angeles at the time. It was connected to L.A. by a single-track streetcar running down Prospect Avenue; it took two hours to make the seven-mile trip, and service was infrequent. In 1910, the community of Hollywood voted to consolidate with Los Angeles due to an inadequate supply of water. Shortly thereafter, the fledgling motion-picture industry began growing exponentially, as moviemakers found their ideal setting in the mild, sunny climate and varied terrain of Southern California. As the years went by, Harvey Wilcox’s dreams of a sober, conservative religious community faded even further into the background, as Hollywood became known throughout the world as the gilded center of an industry built on fantasy, fame and glamour.

February 1, 1937

Garrett Gonzalez Morris is born. 
The comedian and actor from New Orleans, Louisiana was part of the original cast of the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live, appearing from 1975 to 1980. In 1986, Morris began playing a regular occasional character, "Arnold 'Sporty' James," on the NBC cop drama Hunter, starring Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer. Morris continually appeared as "Sporty" on "Hunter" through 1989.

In 1994, he was shot in an apparent robbery attempt but went on to make a full recovery. In a radio interview, he mentioned that the robber who shot him was eventually incarcerated, and in prison some fans of Morris's who happened to be inmates there teamed up and beat up the robber in revenge.

Morris starred on Martin as Martin's first boss Stan. Morris's shooting had caused him to be unable to continue in the role, and he was written out of the show by having the character become a national fugitive. The scene where he is about to undergo plastic surgery was shot on the hospital bed Morris occupied while recuperating from the 1994 assault.
February 1, 1982
Late Night with David Letterman premieres. 

David Letterman's offbeat late-night talk show debuts on this day in 1982. A favorite of college students, the show aired after Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show. When Carson retired in 1992, Letterman and rival comic Jay Leno engaged in a heated battle for the coveted host slot. When Letterman was passed over, he left NBC for CBS, where his new program, Late Show with David Letterman, outperformed Leno's show almost every week in its first year.
February 2, 1937
Thomas Bolin "Tom" Smothers III is born. 

Comedian, composer and musician, best known as half of the musical comedy team the Smothers Brothers, alongside his younger brother Dick.

February 2, 1947
Farrah Fawcett is born. 

A multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee, Fawcett rose to international fame when she first appeared as private investigator Jill Munroe in the TV series Charlie's Angels in 1976. Fawcett later appeared off-Broadway to the approval of critics and in highly rated television movies in roles often challenging (The Burning Bed, Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story, Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story, Margaret Bourke-White) and sometimes unsympathetic (Small Sacrifices). Fawcett was also a pop culture figure whose hairstyle was emulated by millions of young women and whose poster sales broke records, making her an international sex symbol in the 1970s and 1980s.
Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006,  and began treatment, including chemotherapy and surgery. Four months later, on her 60th birthday, the Associated Press wire service reported that Fawcett was, at that point, cancer free.
Less than four months later, in May 2007, Fawcett brought a small digital video camera to document a doctor's office visit. There, she was told a malignant polyp was found in the area where she had been treated for the initial cancer. Doctors contemplated whether to implant a radiation seeder (which differs from conventional radiation and is used to treat other types of cancer). Fawcett's U.S. doctors told her that she would require a colostomy. Instead, Fawcett traveled to Germany for treatments described variously in the press as "holistic", "aggressive", and "alternative". There, Dr. Ursula Jacob prescribed a treatment including surgery to remove the anal tumor, and a course of perfusion and embolization for her liver cancer by Doctors Claus Kiehling and Thomas Vogl in Germany, and chemotherapy back in Fawcett's home town of Los Angeles. Although initially the tumors were regressing, their reappearance a few months later necessitated a new course, this time including laser ablation therapy and chemoembolization. Aided by friend Alana Stewart, Fawcett documented her battle with the disease.
In early April 2009, Fawcett, back in the United States, was rushed to a hospital, reportedly unconscious and in critical condition. Subsequent reports, however, indicated that the severity of her condition was not as dire as first reported. On April 6, the Associated Press reported that her cancer had metastasized to her liver. Fawcett had learned of this development in May 2007 and her subsequent treatments in Germany had targeted this as well. The report denied that she was unconscious, and explained that the reason for Fawcett's hospitalization was not her cancer but a painful abdominal hematoma that had been the result of a minor procedure, according to the Los Angeles cancer specialist treating Fawcett, Dr. Lawrence Piro. Her spokesperson emphasized she was not "at death's door", adding "She remains in good spirits with her usual sense of humor ... She's been in great shape her whole life and has an incredible resolve and an incredible resilience." Three days later, on April 9, Fawcett was released from the hospital, picked up by longtime companion O'Neal, and, according to her doctor, was "walking and in great spirits and looking forward to celebrating Easter at home."
A month later, on May 7, Fawcett was reported as being critically ill, with Ryan O'Neal quoted as saying that she now spends her days at home, on an IV, often asleep. The Los Angeles Times reported that Fawcett was in the last stages of her cancer and had the chance to see her son Redmond in April 2009, although shackled and under supervision, as he was then incarcerated, Fawcett seemed not to notice. Her 91-year-old father, James Fawcett, flew out to Los Angeles to visit.
Her doctor, Lawrence Piro, and Fawcett's friend and Angels co-star Kate Jackson—a breast cancer survivor—appeared together on The Today Show dispelling tabloid-fueled rumors, including the suggestions that Fawcett had ever been in a coma, had ever reached 86 pounds, and had ever given up her fight against the disease or lost the will to live. Jackson decried such fabrications, saying they "really do hurt a human being and a person like Farrah". Piro recalled when it became necessary for Fawcett to undergo treatments that would cause her to lose her hair, acknowledging that "Farrah probably has the most famous hair in the world", but acknowledged that it is not a trivial matter for any cancer patient, whose hair "affects [one's] whole sense of who [they] are". Of the documentary, Jackson averred that Fawcett "didn't do this to show that 'she' is unique, she did it to show that we are all unique ... (T)his was ... meant to be a gift to others to help and inspire them."
The two-hour documentary Farrah's Story, which was filmed by Fawcett and friend Alana Stewart, aired on NBC on May 15, 2009. The documentary was watched by nearly 9 million people in its premiere airing and it was re-aired on the broadcast network's cable stations MSNBC, Bravo and Oxygen. Fawcett earned her fourth Emmy nomination posthumously on July 16, 2009, as producer of Farrah's Story.
Fawcett died at approximately 9:28 a.m., on June 25, 2009, in the intensive care unit of Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, with O'Neal and Stewart by her side.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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