Every time you think you are going to get a day to yourself, today gets you every time. Today is the day, in 1849, of the Astor Place Riot, perhaps the biggest nerd fight of all time. It’s hard to believe, but there was a time in this country in which a riot would break out that would injure more than 120 people over the matter of who played Macbeth better. In 1849, there wasn’t a bigger actor in New York than Edwin Forrest and in London, the biggest stage star was most definitely William Charles Macready. The two actors hated each other and took certain pride in going to the other’s countries and performing the same roles just to show the other up. On Macready’s third tour of America he was performing Macbeth at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan and Forrest, performing the same role at the same theater on alternate nights, had brought his rough-and-tumble gangs to the theater to throw garbage and produce at Macready, even going as far as throwing half of a sheep carcass at him, during the “Is this a dagger I see before me,” soliloquy I would imagine. Anti-Macready sentiment, bolstered because he was English and was seen as part of the wealthy swells that keep the working class rabble down, had gotten to a point that when Macready’s performance began today at 7:30, 10,000 people had surrounded the building and began attempting to burn it down. Behind a rallying cry of “Shall Americans or English rule this city?” (forgetting that, even if Forrest was performing Macbeth, he would still be reciting the words of an Englishman), the crowd caused such a stir outside the theater that it became folly to try to hear anything inside it. Despite the fact that there were 10,000 people outside trying to kill him, Macready, ever the pro, finished the performance albeit, because of the noise, in mime, which I imagine would be fucking terrible. Before the night was out, around 25 people would be dead, 70 policemen would be injured, a militia would be raised and put down and, the Astor Opera House would be dubbed “DisAster Place” and would close shortly after. Perhaps most damaging, after the riot, which was taken as a symbol of class segregation, Shakespeare would gradually slide into a place of respectable and high-brow theater, too frou-frou for the every man, which is simply ridiculous, and to be seen reading or enjoying it would place you with “them” and “not us.” The Occupy Hamlet Movement.
I know that we talk about the Supreme Court with a lot of reverence and respect and that it remains, for most, a mysterious and honored place in our government but just know that today, in the landmark case Nix v. Hedden, the Supreme Court ruled that a tomato is a vegetable and not a fruit. This, of course, is not botanically correct, however, the court ruled that “dictionaries cannot be admitted as evidence,” because why would you want to admit dictionaries as evidence in a case about the definition of a word? In his opinion, Justice Horace Gray wrote that though tomatoes happen to be scientifically a fruit, they are a vegetable because they were eaten during the main meal “and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.” Which I guess makes ice cream a fruit. The court leaned heavily on Robertson v. Salomon, which determined that beans are vegetables and not seeds. This makes me worried about the case that the Supreme Court is currently residing over, given that there is a precedent for the Court to rule against the rights of fruits.
John Wilkes Booth, theater enthusiast, was born today. David O. Selznick, one of the great Hollywood producers, was born today. Selznick was a innovator in a time in which the producers were the most important creative people on a set, as such he is the real auteur behind Gone With The Wind (1939), a movie that Booth would no doubt enjoy. One of Selznick’s many accomplishments was the discovery of a kid named Fred Astaire, who Selznick signed after seeing a screen test that made him write this, “I am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test.” Fred Astaire was, coincidentally, born today. Young MC began busting a move today in 1967.
Paul Revere, American patriot and pizza namesake, died today.