Spot­light

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT -

By the late 1950s, the post-World War II so­ci­eties of the United States and Soviet Union had be­come en­trenched in a new kind of war­fare. Af­ter the first half of the 20th cen­tury fea­tured one of the blood­i­est spans in hu­man his­tory, the two emer­gent world pow­ers be­gan a con­flict cen­tered on tech­no­log­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion and the threat of nu­clear at­tack.

On this day in 1959, the Soviet Union crashed a rocket into the moon’s sur­face — the first time a man-made ob­ject had reached it. Although it didn’t ac­tu­ally land, this was a sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment for the eastern power, one that placed ad­di­tional pres­sure on a U.S. space pro­gram still look­ing to best the Soviet’s 1957 launch of Sput­nik, the first or­bital satel­lite.

In re­sponse, the United States in­creased fund­ing and ac­cel­er­ated its space ef­forts. John F. Kennedy even made it one of his cam­paign fo­cal points while run­ning for pres­i­dent in 1960. In 1969, the Amer­i­can Neil Arm­strong be­came the first hu­man to step foot on the moon.

This decade also fea­tured stars of a dif­fer­ent sort, per­haps none re­main­ing so bright to­day as ac­tress and model Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

On Sept. 15, 1954, the pro­duc­tion team on “The Seven Year Itch” held a pub­lic shoot of the now­iconic “skirt” scene, in which Mon­roe stands on a sub­way grate that blows air up­ward, re­veal­ing her bare legs.

This ini­tial Lex­ing­ton Av­enue, Man­hat­tan, shoot drew quite a few spec­ta­tors, as well as pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers who helped pop­u­lar­ize the im­age. The scene, which in­fu­ri­ated Mon­roe’s hus­band, base­ball leg­end Joe DiMag­gio, was later reshot in a stu­dio for au­dio im­prove­ments.

On Sept. 17, 1820, a 24-year-old English poet named John Keats set off for Italy, in hopes the cli­mate would im­prove his wors­en­ing tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. In­stead, the Mediter­ranean coun­try would be­come his fi­nal rest­ing place.

Keats, who is to­day one of the best known of the English Ro­man­tic poets, made his name at a sur­pris­ingly young age, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing his lower-class be­gin­nings. in 1819, only in his early 20s, he wrote a num­ber of last­ing po­ems, in­clud­ing “Ode on a Gre­cian Urn,” which is con­sid­ered a clas­sic.

In Fe­bru­ary 1821, Keats died and was buried in Rome. His tomb­stone, which only iden­ti­fies him as “YOUNG ENGLISH POET,” also reads on the bot­tom, “Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Wa­ter.”

More than 20 years ago next Mon­day — Sept. 19, 1995 — the Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished the 35,000-word man­i­festo of the then-uniden­ti­fied Un­abomber. The lengthy doc­u­ment had been mailed to the Post, as well as to the New York Times, in June of that year.

The pub­li­ca­tion led to the even­tual iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Theodore Kaczyn­ski by his brother David, who rec­og­nized the writ­ing style. Since 1978, Theodore had been pe­ri­od­i­cally send­ing mail bombs to peo­ple and com­pa­nies who he be­lieved were per­pe­tra­tors of the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments he ab­horred. In all, he sent 16 bombs, killing three.

In April 1996, Theodore was ar­rested at his re­mote cabin in Mon­tana, and he is now serv­ing eight life sen­tences in a su­per­max prison fa­cil­ity in cen­tral Colorado.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF PUB­LIC DO­MAIN

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe poses over the up­draft of a New York sub­way grat­ing while in char­ac­ter for the film­ing of “The Seven Year Itch.”

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