All posts by sleuthboss

Bill Cosby’s son murdered along CA interstate

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/entertainer-bill-cosbys-son-murdered-along-ca-interstate

On January 16, 1997, disgraced comedian and TV star Bill Cosby’s 27-year-old son Ennis Cosby is murdered after he stops to fix a flat tire along California’s Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. The 405, which runs some 70 miles from Irvine to San Fernando, is known as one of the planet’s busiest and most congested roadways. Construction began on Interstate 405 in the late 1950s, with the first section opening in the early 1960s.

At approximately 1 a.m. on January 16, 1997, Ennis Cosby, a graduate student in special education at Columbia University Teachers College who was on vacation in Los Angeles, was driving a Mercedes-Benz convertible on Interstate 405 when he pulled off to Skirball Center Drive to change a flat tire. A Ukrainian-born teenager, Mikhail Markhasev, and two friends were at a nearby park-and-ride lot using the phone. Markhasev, reportedly high on drugs, approached Cosby to rob him but when Cosby took too long to hand over money he was shot and killed. Ennis Cosby was the third of Bill Cosby’s five children and said to be the inspiration for the character of Theo Huxtable on the hit TV sitcom “The Cosby Show,” which originally aired from 1984 to 1992.

In August 1998, Markhasev, then 19, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Cosby’s murder. During his trial, Markhasev reportedly showed no remorse for his crime; however, in 2001, he confessed his guilt, stopped his appeals process and apologized to the Cosby family.

Crittenden Compromise is killed in Senate

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/crittenden-compromise-is-killed-in-senate

The Crittenden Compromise, the last chance to keep North and South united, dies in the U.S. Senate.

Proposed by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, the compromise was a series of constitutional amendments. The amendments would continue the old Missouri Compromise provisions of 1820, which divided the West along the latitude of 36 30′. North of this line, slavery was prohibited. The Missouri Compromise was negated by the Compromise of 1850, which allowed a vote by territorial residents (popular sovereignty) to decide the issue of slavery. Other amendments protected slavery in the District of Columbia, forbade federal interference with the interstate slave trade, and compensated owners whose slaves escaped to the free states.

Essentially, the Crittenden Compromise sought to alleviate all concerns of the Southern states. Four states had already left the Union when it was proposed, but Crittenden hoped the compromise would lure them back. Crittenden thought he could muster support from both South and North and avert either a split of the nation or a civil war. The major problem with the plan was that it called for a complete compromise by the Republicans with virtually no concessions on the part of the South. The Republican Party formed in 1854 for the main purpose of opposing the expansion of slavery into the Western territories, particularly the areas north of the Missouri Compromise line. Just six years later, the party elected a president, Abraham Lincoln, over the opposition of the slave states. Crittenden was asking the Republicans to abandon their most key issues.

The vote was 25 against the compromise and 23 in favor of it. All 25 votes against it were cast by Republicans, and six senators from states that were in the process of seceding abstained. One Republican editorial insisted that the party “cannot be made to surrender the fruits of its recent victory.” There would be no compromise; with the secession of states continuing, America marched inexorably towards civil war.

Soviets send troops into Azerbaijan

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviets-send-troops-into-azerbaijan

In the wake of vicious fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Azerbaijan, the Soviet government sends in 11,000 troops to quell the conflict.

The fighting–and the official Soviet reaction to it–was an indication of the increasing ineffectiveness of the central Soviet government in maintaining control in the Soviet republics, and of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s weakening political power.

Strife in Azerbaijan was the result of centuries of tensions between the Islamic Azerbaijanis and the Christian Armenians. Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, the communist regime managed to maintain relative peace between the two groups, but with the gradual weakening of the Soviet Union during the late-1980s, ethnic rivalries began to re-emerge. In its weakened state, the Soviet Union chose to only partially involve itself in the conflict. The approach was unusual–had it occurred under the strict communist regime of the Cold War’s peak, such a tense internal conflict would likely have been immediately and forcefully quelled.

In the latest outbreak of violence, Armenians took the brunt of the attacks and nearly 60 people were killed. Armenian spokesmen condemned the lack of action on the part of the Gorbachev regime and pleaded for military intervention. Soviet officials, however, were not eager to leap into the ethnic fray and attempted to downplay the seriousness of the situation in the press. One Soviet official declared that the fighting in Azerbaijan was not a “civil war,” but merely “national strife.”

Some Gorbachev supporters even voiced the suspicion that the violence in the region was being stirred up by anti-Gorbachev activists merely to discredit the regime. Gorbachev dispatched 11,000 Soviet troops to quiet the situation, and the United States government supported his action as a humanitarian response to the killings and terror.

The troops Gorbachev sent did little to alleviate the situation–over the next two years, ethnic violence in Azerbaijan continued, and the weakening Soviet regime was unable to bring a lasting resolution to the situation. Less than two years later, Gorbachev resigned from power and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

“Moon Maniac” killer is executed

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-moon-maniac

Albert Fish is executed at Sing Sing prison in New York. The “Moon Maniac” was one of America’s most notorious and disturbed killers. Authorities believe that Fish killed as many as 10 children and then ate their remains. Fish went to the electric chair with great anticipation, telling guards, “It will be the supreme thrill, the only one I haven’t tried.”

Fish was executed for the murder of 10-year-old Grace Budd. In 1928, at his Wisteria Cottage in Westchester County, New York, Fish strangled the girl and then carved up her body with a saw. Six years later, Fish wrote Budd’s mother a letter in which he described in detail killing the girl and then preparing a stew with her flesh that he ate over the next nine days. The letter was traced back to the 66-year-old man.

A psychiatrist who examined Fish stated, “There was no known perversion that he did not practice and practice frequently.” Albert Fish was obsessed with sadomasochism. He had his own children hit him with a paint-stirrer and a hairbrush; they also witnessed him hitting himself with a paddle studded with nails. He inserted sewing needles into his body. Nearly 30 needles were found in his groin area after he told a psychiatrist they were there. Fish also ate his own excrement and burned himself with hot irons and pokers.

Most disturbingly, Fish was obsessed with cannibalism. He carried writings about the practice in his pockets. When he was arrested, Fish confessed to the murders of other young children whom he claimed to have eaten. Although nearly everyone agreed that he was insane, including the jury deciding his fate, he was nevertheless sentenced to die. Reportedly, his last statement was a handwritten note filled with filthy obscenities.

Actress Carole Lombard killed in plane crash

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/carole-lombard-killed-in-plane-crash

On January 16, 1942, the actress Carole Lombard, famous for her roles in such screwball comedies as My Man Godfrey and To Be or Not to Be, and for her marriage to the actor Clark Gable, is killed when the TWA DC-3 plane she is traveling in crashes en route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. She was 33.

Gable and Lombard met in 1932 during the filming of No Man of Her Own. He was just starting out on his trajectory as one of Hollywood’s top leading men and she was a talented comedic actress trying to prove herself in more serious roles. Both were married at the time–Gable to a wealthy Texas widow 10 years his senior and Lombard to the actor William Powell–and neither showed much interest in the other. When they met again, three years later, Lombard had divorced Powell and Gable was separated from his wife, and things proceeded quite differently. Much to the media’s delight, the new couple was open with their affection, calling each other Ma and Pa and exchanging quirky, expensive gifts. In early 1939, Gable’s wife finally granted him a divorce, and he married Lombard that April.

In January 1942, shortly after America’s entrance into World War II, Howard Dietz, the publicity director of the MGM film studio, recruited Lombard for a tour to sell war bonds in her home state of Indiana. Gable, who had been asked to serve as the head of the actors’ branch of the wartime Hollywood Victory Committee, stayed in Los Angeles, where he was set to begin filming Somewhere I’ll Find You with Lana Turner. Dietz advised Lombard to avoid airplane travel, because he feared for its reliability and safety, and she did most of the trip by train, stopping at various locations on the way to Indianapolis and raising some $2 million for the war effort.

On the way home, however, Lombard didn’t want to wait for the train, and instead boarded the TWA DC-3 in Las Vegas with her mother, Elizabeth Peters, and a group that included the MGM publicity agent Otto Winkler and 15 young Army pilots. Shortly after takeoff, the plane veered off course. Warning beacons that might have helped guide the pilot had been blacked out because of fears about Japanese bombers, and the plane smashed into a cliff near the top of Potosi Mountain. Search parties were able to retrieve Lombard’s body, and she was buried next to her mother at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, under a marker that read “Carole Lombard Gable.”

Hysterical with grief and adrift in the empty house he had shared with Lombard, Gable drank heavily and struggled to complete his work on Somewhere I’ll Find You. He was comforted by worried friends, including the actress Joan Crawford. That August, Gable decided to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He spent most of the war in the United Kingdom, and flew several combat missions (including one to Germany), earning several decorations for his efforts. He would remarry twice more, but when he died in 1960 Gable was interred at Forest Lawn, next to Lombard.

Benny Goodman brings jazz to Carnegie Hall

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/benny-goodman-brings-jazz-to-carnegie-hall

Jazz has been called “America’s classical music,” a label that does more than just recognize its American origins. The label also makes the case that jazz is worthy of aesthetic consideration alongside music usually thought of as “classical.” In the current era, when programs of Duke Ellington and J.S. Bach often draw the same highbrow crowds, that argument hardly seems controversial. In the 1930s, however, the notion was almost laughable, which is what made Benny Goodman’s January 16, 1938, concert at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall so revolutionary. Goodman and his supporting cast claimed a new place for jazz on the American cultural scene that night, in what has come to be seen as the most important jazz concert in history.

Benny Goodman was at the absolute height of his legendary career when his publicist first suggested they book Carnegie Hall. He was a star on radio, on stage and on film, and the label “King of Swing” was already attached permanently to his name. So outlandish was the suggestion that a jazz band might play inside the citadel of American high culture, however, that Goodman is said to have laughed the idea off at first. Once he warmed to the notion, however, Goodman threw himself into the task with characteristic passion. In addition to numbers from the regular repertoire of his own band—which included the legendary Harry James on trumpet, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone and Gene Krupa on drums—Goodman planned a program featuring a brand-new “Twenty Years of Jazz” piece and an extended jam session featuring stars of the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras. The concert sold out weeks in advance, with the best seats fetching $2.75.

It would be another decade before anyone who was not in the audience or listening on the radio that night would hear the famed concert. All recordings of the show were presumed lost until Goodman’s sister-in-law came across a set of acetates in 1950. By then, the performance had already become the stuff of legend—particularly the stunning, unplanned piano solo by Jess Stacy on “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the evening’s final number. The album made from the recovered acetates became one of the first 33 1/3 LPs to sell over a million copies. The eventual discovery of the aluminum studio master recordings led to high-quality CD reissues in 1998, 2002 and 2006 of the legendary Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.

Montenegro capitulates to Austro-Hungarian forces

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/montenegro-capitulates-to-austro-hungarian-forces

After an eight-day offensive that marked the beginning of a new, aggressive strategy in the region, Austro-Hungarian troops under commander in chief Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf take control of the Balkan state of Montenegro.

By the end of 1915, after initial setbacks, the Central Powers had completed their conquest of Serbia, the upstart Balkan country that they claimed had provoked the war in June 1914, when a Serbian nationalist had assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Despite their success in the Balkans, Conrad was incensed that the victories had been achieved largely by German, not Austrian, forces. He opposed the establishment of a joint German-Austrian command in the region, fearing, with reason, that Austria would be subordinated to its stronger ally. Relations between Conrad and his German counterpart, Erich von Falkenhayn, who sought to turn German energies more fully toward France and the Western Front, had become so strained that they ceased direct communication almost entirely for a full month from December 1915 to January 1916. During that time, Conrad proceeded to develop Austria’s strategy for early 1916, which was to capture Montenegro in the winter and then turn toward Italy with an attack in the Trentino.

On January 8, 1916, with a 500-gun artillery barrage, 45,000 Austrian troops and 5,000 Bosnian Muslims attacked Serbia’s ally, the neighboring state of Montenegro. Events unfolded quickly: Within 48 hours, the Montenegrins had retreated to their capital, Cetinje, after being driven from their fortresses at Mount Lovcen on the Adriatic Sea. Cetinje fell on January 11 and the end was already in sight. Montenegro surrendered on January 16. When her emergency came, there was no one to help her, the American diplomat John Coolidge wrote of Montenegro, so she had to go.

Groundbreaking novel "Don Quixote" is published

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/don-quixote-novel-first-published

On January 16, 1605, Miguel de Cervantes’ El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, better known as Don Quixote, is published. The book is considered by many to be the first modern novel as well as one of the greatest novels of all time.

The protagonist is a minor noble, Alonso Quixano, whose obsessive reading of chivalric romances drives him mad. He adopts the name Don Quixote and, along with his squire Sancho Panza, roams around La Mancha, a central region of Spain, taking on a number of challenges which exist entirely in his mind. Quixote attacks a group of monks, a flock of sheep, and, most famously, some windmills which he believes to be giants. The episodic story is intentionally comedic, and its intentionally archaic language contributes to its satirization of older stories of knights and their deeds.

The novel was an immediate success, although Cervantes made only a modest profit off of its publication rights. It was re-published across Spain and Portugal within the year. Over the next decade, it was translated and re-published across Europe and widely read in Spain’s American colonies. Over the subsequent centuries, critics have continued to praise, analyze, and re-interpret Don Quixote. Many analyses focus on the theme of imagination and the more subversive elements of the text, which has been taken as a satire of orthodoxy, chivalry, patriotism and even the concept of objective reality. The novel gave rise to a number of now-common idioms in Spanish and other languages, including the English phrase “tilting at windmills” and the word “quixotic.” Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, another novel frequently called one of the greatest of all time, was heavily influenced by Don Quixote, as was Mark Twain’s enormously influential The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which explicitly references Cervantes’ work. Cerebral, comedic and groundbreaking, Don Quixote has endured in a way that only a select few novels could. 

READ MORE: After 400 Years, Investigators Find Remains of Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote’s Creator

Qaddafi becomes premier of Libya

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/qaddafi-becomes-premier-of-libya

Muammar al-Qaddafi, the young Libyan army captain who deposed King Idris in September 1969, is proclaimed premier of Libya by the so-called General People’s Congress.

Born in a tent in the Libyan desert, Qaddafi was the son of a Bedouin farmer. He attended university and the Libyan military academy and steadily rose in the ranks of the Libyan army. An ardent Arab nationalist, he plotted with a group of fellow officers to overthrow the Libyan monarchy, which they accomplished on September 1, 1969.

Blending Islamic orthodoxy, revolutionary socialism, and Arab nationalism, Qaddafi established a fervently anti-Western dictatorship. In 1970, he removed U.S. and British military bases and expelled Italian and Jewish Libyans. In 1973, he nationalized foreign-owned oil fields. He reinstated traditional Islamic laws, such as prohibition of alcoholic beverages and gambling, but liberated women and launched social programs that improved the standard of living in Libya. As part of his stated ambition to unite the Arab world, he sought closer relations with his Arab neighbors, especially Egypt. However, when Egypt and then other Arab nations began a peace process with Israel, Libya was increasingly isolated.

Qaddafi’s government financed a wide variety of terrorist groups worldwide, from Palestinian guerrillas and Philippine Muslim rebels to the Irish Republican Army. During the 1980s, the West blamed him for numerous terrorist attacks in Europe, and in April 1986 U.S. war planes bombed Tripoli in retaliation for a bombing of a West German dance hall. Qaddafi was reportedly injured and his infant daughter killed in the U.S. attack.

In the late 1990s, Qaddafi sought to lead Libya out of its long international isolation by turning over to the West two suspects wanted for the 1988 explosion of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. In response, Europe lifted sanctions against Libya. After years of rejection in the Arab world, Qaddafi also sought to forge stronger relations with non-Islamic African nations such as South Africa, remodeling himself as an elder African statesman.

Qaddafi surprised many around the world when he became one of the first Muslim heads of state to denounce al-Qaida after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The next year, he offered a public apology for the Lockerbie bombing, later agreeing to pay nearly $3 billion in compensation to the victims’ families. In 2003, he gained favor with the administration of George W. Bush when he announced the existence of a program to build weapons of mass destruction in Libya and that he would allow an international agency to inspect and dismantle them. Though some in the U.S. government pointed to this as a direct and positive consequence of the ongoing war in Iraq, others pointed out that Qaddafi had essentially been making the same offer since 1999, but had been ignored. In 2004, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Libya, one of the first western heads of state to do so in recent memory; he praised Libya during the visit as a strong ally in the international war on terror.

In February 2011, as unrest spread through much of the Arab world, massive political protests against the Qaddafi regime sparked a civil war between revolutionaries and loyalists. In March, an international coalition began conducting airstrikes against Qaddafi strongholds under the auspices of a U.N. Security Council resolution. On October 20, Libya’s interim government announced that Qaddafi had died after being captured near his hometown of Sirte.

Elizabeth I crowned Queen of England

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/elizabeth-crowned-queen-of-england

Two months after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I of England, Elizabeth Tudor, the 25-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, is crowned Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey in London.

The two half-sisters, both daughters of Henry VIII, had a stormy relationship during Mary’s five-year reign. Mary, who was brought up as a Catholic, enacted pro-Catholic legislation and made efforts to restore papal supremacy in England. A Protestant rebellion ensued, and Queen Mary imprisoned Elizabeth, a Protestant, in the Tower of London on suspicion of complicity. After Mary’s death, Elizabeth survived several Catholic plots against her; although her ascension was greeted with approval by most of England’s lords, who were largely Protestant and hoped for greater religious tolerance under a Protestant queen. Under the early guidance of Secretary of State Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth repealed Mary’s pro-Catholic legislation, established a permanent Protestant Church of England, and encouraged the Calvinist reformers in Scotland.

In foreign affairs, Elizabeth practiced a policy of strengthening England’s Protestant allies and dividing her foes. Elizabeth was opposed by the pope, who refused to recognize her legitimacy, and by Spain, a Catholic nation that was at the height of its power. In 1588, English-Spanish rivalry led to an abortive Spanish invasion of England in which the Spanish Armada, the greatest naval force in the world at the time, was destroyed by storms and a persistent English navy.

With increasing English domination at sea, Elizabeth encouraged voyages of discovery, such as Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world and Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions to the North American coast.

The long reign of Elizabeth, who became known as the “Virgin Queen” for her reluctance to endanger her authority through marriage, coincided with the flowering of the English Renaissance, associated with such renowned authors as William Shakespeare. By her death in 1603, England had become a major world power in every respect, and Queen Elizabeth I passed into history as one of England’s greatest monarchs.

READ MORE: The Wildly Different Childhoods of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots