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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Today's Birthdays: Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle

Posted on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights - VOXTHEORY / FLICKR

Author, poet, artist, and liberal activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti co-founded City Lights Booksellers and Publishers in 1953. The World War II veteran who studied at Columbia University made it a priority to publish the work of up-and-coming poets. Ferlinghetti and City Lights were among the centerpieces of the Beat community that included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It was City Lights' publication of Ginsberg's controversial poem, Howl, that led to Ferlinghetti's prosecution in 1957 under federal obscenity laws. Ferlinghetti won that landmark case. His book of poetry, A Coney Island of the Mind, has been translated into nine languages and is still the most popular poetry book in the U.S., according to City Lights. Ferlinghetti turns 92 today.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
  • Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
Also born on this day in 1887 was Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, an actor, director, writer, and comedian who is said to have mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton. His career was brought down after a 1921 party at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in which he was accused of raping and unintentionally killing a young woman, Virginia Rappe. He went through three highly publicized trials for the crime and was eventually acquitted. It was later revealed that San Francisco's district attorney had encouraged a witness to lie, and that Rappe had suffered from numerous physical ailments that were aggravated by her heavy drinking. Nonetheless, the scandal overshadowed Arbuckle's career for years. His films were banned, and studios were hesitant to hire him. He eventually made something of a comeback before his death in 1933.

Also born on March 24 were actor Steve McQueen and legendary escape artist Harry Houdini.

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