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John’s Believe It Or Not… February 7th

* 1997 – Lennox Lewis knocks out Oliver McCall in Las Vegas to become WBC heavyweight champion. * 1964 Beatles arrive in New York. * 1984 First human satellite. * 1914 First appearance of “Little Tramp”. * 1812 Earthquake causes fluvial tsunami in Mississippi.

The Beatles posing with their first Album

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1997 – Lennox Lewis knocks out Oliver McCall in Las Vegas to become WBC heavyweight champion.

Lennox Lewis vs. Oliver McCall II was a professional boxing match contested on February 7, 1997, for the vacant WBC Heavyweight Championship.

Lewis and McCall had previously fought each other two and a half years earlier. At the time, Lewis was the undefeated WBC Heavyweight Champion and had successfully defended his title three times before being challenged by the virtually unknown number one contender Oliver McCall. After a close first round, McCall was able to catch Lewis with a short right hand that dropped Lewis to the canvas. Lewis was able to get back up but was on wobbly knees. Deciding Lewis could not continue, referee Jose Guadalupe Garcia stopped the fight and awarded the victory to McCall by way of second-round technical knockout. Lewis called McCall’s victory “lucky” and offered $10 million for a rematch, but McCall refused the offer claiming that Lewis had disrespected him with his post-fight comments and instead chose to make the first defense of his newly won title against 45–year old ex-heavyweight champ Larry Holmes. As a result, Lewis was forced to go down the comeback trail, defeating two little-known journeymen before facing former WBO Heavyweight Champions Tommy Morrison and Ray Mercer, defeating both men by technical knockout and majority decision respectively.

Meanwhile, McCall successfully defended his WBC title against Holmes in a close unanimous decision victory. Following that victory, McCall was challenged by another British fighter in Frank Bruno. Bruno was able to build a big lead on the judge’s scorecards and withstood a late McCall rally to capture the WBC Heavyweight Championship. Bruno would then move on to defend his new title against the returning Mike Tyson, who easily dispatched Bruno in three rounds to become the new WBC champion. After Tyson’s victory over Bruno, Lewis became the WBC’s number one contender and mandatory challenger to Tyson’s title. Rather than face Lewis, Tyson paid him $4 million to step aside and allow Tyson to challenge Bruce Seldon for the WBA Heavyweight title. After Tyson defeated Seldon to capture the WBA title, he opted not to face Lewis and officially vacated his WBC title. As such, the WBC scheduled a bout between their two top-ranked heavyweights, Lewis and McCall, to determine who would be the next WBC Heavyweight Champion. However, prior to the official announcement, McCall was arrested on charges of vandalism, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest and was subsequently sent back to rehab in hopes that he would kick his drug addiction. Though Lewis, his manager Frank Maloney and promoter Dino Duva expressed concern over McCall’s antics, McCall’s promoter Don King insisted that McCall would be ready by the time of the fight.

Lewis was able to control the first three rounds with his strong left jab while also occasionally landing strong right hands. McCall meanwhile offered very little offense and only landed 26 punches through the course of the fight. After the third round ended, McCall refused to return to his corner, ignoring the pleas of his trainer George Benton and instead began walking around the ring until the fourth round began. As the fourth round began, Lewis landed a right hook to the side of McCall’s head and followed with a right-left combination that just missed connecting. McCall then dropped his gloves and backed away from Lewis into the ropes. As Lewis approached him, McCall turned his back and began walking around the ring. Lewis attempted to engage McCall several times, but McCall refused to fight back and spent the entire round walking around the ring and simply covering up when Lewis approached while also not landing a single punch. After the round ended McCall again refused to return to his corner and continued to walk around the ring. Eventually, referee Mills Lane took McCall, who was now crying, to his corner. Lane and McCall’s corner questioned whether McCall wanted to continue to fight to which McCall responded that he did. However, as the fifth round began McCall continued to not fight back even as Lewis landed several power punches. As McCall again turned his back and began to walk away, Lane stepped in between the two fighters and stopped the fight, awarding Lewis the victory by technical knockout.

Fight photo: Lennox Lewis vs Oliver McCall
Lennox Lewis vs Oliver McCall (Boxing News)

* 1964 Beatles arrive in New York.

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport–and “Beatlemania” arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” At Kennedy, the “Fab Four”–dressed in mod suits and sporting their trademark pudding bowl haircuts–were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the boys stepped off their plane and onto American soil.

Two days later, Paul McCartney, age 21, Ringo Starr, 23, John Lennon, 23, and George Harrison, 20, made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular television variety show. Although it was difficult to hear the performance over the screams of teenage girls in the studio audience, an estimated 73 million U.S. television viewers, or about 40 percent of the U.S. population, tuned in to watch. Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month. The group made their first public concert appearance in the United States on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., and 20,000 fans attended. The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the venerable music hall because of fan hysteria. On February 22, the Beatles returned to England.

The Beatles’ first American tour left a major imprint in the nation’s cultural memory. With American youth poised to break away from the culturally rigid landscape of the 1950s, the Beatles, with their exuberant music and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift. Their singles and albums sold millions of records, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs. By the time the Beatles first feature-film, A Hard Day’s Night, was released in August, Beatlemania was epidemic the world over. Later that month, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold-out arenas across the country.

Later, the Beatles gave up touring to concentrate on their innovative studio recordings, such as 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, a psychedelic concept album that is regarded as a masterpiece of popular music. The Beatles’ music remained relevant to youth throughout the great cultural shifts of the 1960s, and critics of all ages acknowledged the songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney team. In 1970, the Beatles disbanded, leaving a legacy of 18 albums and 30 Top 10 U.S. singles.

During the next decade, all four Beatles pursued solo careers, with varying success. Lennon, the most outspoken and controversial Beatle, was shot to death by a deranged fan outside his New York apartment building in 1980. McCartney was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 for his contribution to British culture. In November 2001, George Harrison succumbed to cancer.

1964 Beatles arrive in New York
1964 Beatles arrive in New York (rollingstone.com)

* 1984 First human satellite.

While in orbit 170 miles above Earth, Navy Captain Bruce McCandless becomes the first human being to fly untethered in space when he exits the U.S. space shuttle Challenger and maneuvers freely, using a bulky white rocket pack of his own design. McCandless orbited Earth in tangent with the shuttle at speeds greater than 17,500 miles per hour and flew up to 320 feet away from the Challenger. After an hour and a half testing and flying the jet-powered backpack and admiring Earth, McCandless safely reentered the shuttle.

Later that day, Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Stewart tried out the rocket pack, which was a device regarded as an important step toward future operations to repair and service orbiting satellites and to assemble and maintain large space stations. It was the fourth orbital mission of the space shuttle Challenger.

On February 7, 1984 navy captain Bruce McCandless was the first person to fly untethered in space. He was 170 miles above earth.
On February 7, 1984, navy captain Bruce McCandless was the first person to fly untethered in space. He was 170 miles above the earth. (Google Sites)

* 1914 First appearance of “Little Tramp”.

On this day in 1914, the silent film Kid Auto Races at Venice premieres in theaters, featuring the actor Charlie Chaplin in his first screen appearance as the “Little Tramp,” the character that would become his best-known onscreen alter ego.

Born on April 16, 1889, in England, Chaplin became a professional performer by the age of 10. In 1908, he joined the Fred Karno pantomime troupe, earning special notice for his portrayal of a character known as “The Drunk.” The troupe was touring the United States in 1913 when Chaplin was signed by Mack Sennett, whose Keystone Studios was becoming known for its short slapstick comedy films. In his first Keystone comedy, Making a Living, Chaplin played a swindler, complete with a sinister mustache and a monocle. The performance wasn’t as funny as expected, but Sennett gave his newest comic another chance, casting him in Kid Auto Races at Venice.

In preparation for filming, Chaplin reportedly combed through the Keystone costume closets to create the now-famous look of the Little Tramp. “Pants baggy, coat tight…hat small, shoes large,” as he later described it in his autobiography. To disguise the character’s age, he added a brush-like mustache over his lip. “I had no idea of the character,” he wrote, “but the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was.” In Kid Auto Races at Venice, the Little Tramp goes to a children’s cart race held in Venice, California, where he interferes with the race and gets in the way of the cameraman trying to take pictures of the contestants. Chaplin later refined the character, which to many became inseparable from the actor and filmmaker himself. Kid Auto Races at Venice captures the Tramp’s essence as a part-comic, part-tragic figure with a shuffling walk, expressive face and exaggeratedly polite manners. Upon its release, the film was an immediate hit and the Tramp was a sensation, making Chaplin the most famous actor in Hollywood.

After 35 Keystone comedies, Chaplin moved on to ever-more lucrative contracts with Essanay Studios, Mutual and First National before founding the United Artists studio in 1919 with his fellow actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and the director D.W. Griffith. Chaplin would not always technically play a tramp, but his characters invariably had a bit of the Tramp in them, whether working as a waiter (1916’s The Rink), a janitor (1918’s Triple Trouble) or a gold prospector (1925’s The Gold Rush, considered by many to be Chaplin’s masterpiece). The Tramp himself made memorable appearances in a number of acclaimed hits, including The Tramp (1915), The Kid (1921), The Circus (1928) and City Lights (1931).

After the movies converted to sound in the late 1920s, Chaplin held out for a while but finally gave his Tramp a voice in Modern Times (1936); he covered his British accent by singing nonsensical fake Italian lyrics. Though Chaplin would make other films, including The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and Limelight (1952), Modern Times marked the last appearance of his immortal alter ego.

Charlie Chaplin first appearance as the 'Little Tramp' in "Kid Auto Races at Venice
Charlie Chaplin first appearance as the ‘Little Tramp’ in “Kid Auto Races at Venice. (Randumbuzz.com)

* 1812 Earthquake causes fluvial tsunami in Mississippi.

On this day in 1812, the most violent of a series of earthquakes near Missouri causes a so-called fluvial tsunami in the Mississippi River, actually making the river run backward for several hours. The series of tremors, which took place between December 1811 and March 1812, was the most powerful in the history of the United States.

The unusual seismic activity began at about 2 a.m. on December 16, 1811, when a strong tremor rocked the New Madrid region. The city of New Madrid, located near the Mississippi River in present-day Arkansas, had about 1,000 residents at the time, mostly farmers, hunters and fur trappers. At 7:15 a.m., an even more powerful quake erupted, now estimated to have had a magnitude of 8.6. This tremor literally knocked people off their feet and many people experienced nausea from the extensive rolling of the earth. Given that the area was sparsely populated and there weren’t many multi-story structures, the death toll was relatively low. However, the quake did cause landslides that destroyed several communities, including Little Prairie, Missouri.

The earthquake also caused fissures–some as much as several hundred feet long–to open on the earth’s surface. Large trees were snapped in two. Sulfur leaked out from underground pockets and river banks vanished, flooding thousands of acres of forests. On January 23, 1812, an estimated 8.4-magnitude quake struck in nearly the same location, causing disastrous effects. Reportedly, the president’s wife, Dolley Madison, was awoken by the tremor in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, the death toll was smaller, as most of the survivors of the first earthquake were now living in tents, in which they could not be crushed.

The strongest of the tremors followed on February 7. This one was estimated at an amazing 8.8-magnitude and was probably one of the strongest quakes in human history. Church bells rang in Boston, thousands of miles away, from the shaking. Brick walls were toppled in Cincinnati. In the Mississippi River, the water turned brown and whirlpools developed suddenly from the depressions created in the riverbed. Waterfalls were created in an instant; in one report, 30 boats were helplessly thrown over falls, killing the people on board. Many of the small islands in the middle of the river, often used as bases by river pirates, permanently disappeared. Large lakes, such as Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee and Big Lake at the Arkansas-Missouri border, were created by the earthquake as river water poured into new depressions.

This series of large earthquakes ended in March, although there were aftershocks for a few more years. In all, it is believed that approximately 1,000 people died because of the earthquakes, though an accurate count is difficult to determine because of a lack of an accurate record of the Native American population in the area at the time.

Facts chart and diagram of the New Madrid Earthquake
(slideplayer.com)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Wikipedia                                                                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennox_Lewis_vs._Oliver_McCall_II

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

7 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 7th”

    1. It was very much an invasion – the Beatles established the beachhead and other Brit groups came over to join the party. It was a great time in Rock & Pop musical history. Thanks, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was too young to experience Beatlemania when it happened, but discovered them in the early 70s after they had already disbanded. I’ve been a die hard Beatle’s fan ever since. Even today, The Bealtes station on Sirius radio holds the #1 position in my programming queue 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was fortunate to be a teen when they burst on the scene here in North America. They are timeless. Have you heard the Boston Pops orchestra play Beatles hits? Fabulous! Thanks, Mae.

      Liked by 1 person

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