Fat Elvis, The Six Million Dollar Man & The Kiss
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online

Where you get the real story behind the Legend of Zelda ...

The set-up: Al Michaels asked Miller what he thought of the match-up.

The quip: "Quote the raven, 'Nevermore.'"

The read: This is an obvious one, but after the parade of lightweight pop culture flotsam and jetsam we've been dealing with all month, it was nice to get a good old-fashioned literary reference. (But don't you fret -- we still have plenty of lightweight pop culture flotsam and jetsam coming your way!)

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poet
Though Britannica states that Edgar Allan Poe's 1845 poem "The Raven" is one of the best-known pieces of poesy in America, these days that's sort of like saying someone is the best-known croquet player in the world. But most people know that "Nevermore" has something to do with a raven, or at least a "Simpsons" Halloween episode.

In the 1840s, Poe, Baltimore's most morose son (he was born in Boston, but did live in Baltimore off and on throughout his life, and died there), struggled as a writer and editor while publishing his early short crime stories -- he's considered the father of the modern detective story. But the 1845 publication of "The Raven" in the New York Mirror gave Poe instant fame.

The poem begins, "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary," and goes on to describe an incessant "tapping" and "rapping" at the narrator's chamber door. It turns out to be the titular black-feathered fowl who plops himself atop a bust of Pallas Athena and proceeds to answer "Nevermore" to all questions. The narrator, of course, is mighty bummed over the loss of his loved one, Lenore, and thinks the one-note bird might be an omen from the realms beyond, as most North American birds do not even speak at all. Well before Poe got his morbid mitts on the raven, the birds were already powerful symbols of death, due to their shiny black coat and their predilection, especially in winter, for eating carrion, going first for the eyes of a corpse.

Despite the instant popularity of "The Raven," Poe continued to have financial woes, exacerbated by his depression and alcoholism. Eventually, after the death of his wife Virginia and his unsuccessful courtship of several potential successors, Poe drank himself to death, passing out in a street in Baltimore following a party and dying four days later without regaining consciousness.

It's well past midnight, and this column is being written from a funeral home, where lives a black lab named Maddy, short for Madeline. In "The House of Usher," the sister who rises from a death-like trance to bring down the house on her twin brother and herself is named Madeline. Maddy has just let out a most blood-curdling, mournful moan. If Vincent Price knocks on the door, I'm getting the hell out of here.


The set-up: In recent weeks the kicking Gramatica brothers, Bill of the Arizona Cardinals and Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have been sidelined with injuries incurred during post-kick celebratory leaps.

The quip: "When will the madness end? I'll tell you: when these guys stop celebrating 22-yard field goals like it was V-J Day! [To Al] Hey, sailor, get over here and give me a kiss!"

The read: Although World War II would not officially end until Sept. 2, 1945, with the signing of the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan agreed to the terms of surrender on Aug. 14, five days after an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was on that day in August -- Victory Over Japan Day, or V-J Day -- that Alfred Eisenstaedt, a photographer on assignment for Life magazine, snapped a picture of a sailor giving a nurse a full-on, bend-at-the-knees kiss in the middle of Times Square.

The photo, which ran in the Aug. 27 issue, became the indelible image of the euphoria of victory, just as five months earlier the photo of the flag-raising atop Iwo Jima had become an image of military resolve.

Over the years, 11 men and three women have claimed they were the smoochers. Edith Shain stepped forward in 1980 and is generally accepted as the woman, and the most recent man to claim to be the sailor is Carl Muscarello.

The photo regained notoriety in the mid-'90s when the Wall Street Journal ran a story claiming that the sailor in the photo was Jim Reynolds, who was engaged to his sweetheart back home but agreed to pose with the nurse for the photographer, that the photo had been staged, and not on V-J Day in August, but on V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, May 8. The photo was then pulled out of the files three months later. The claims were later refuted by Time-Life and Eisenstaedt.

Both Wilt Chamberlain and Gene Simmons bragged in their autobiographies that they were the sailor in the photo, but careful research has cast doubts on their claims.


The set-up: Immediately after Al noted that Ravens running back Terry Allen was playing on two reconstructed knees, Allen ran for a 16-yard gain.

The quip: "The guy who did Lee Majors' knees must have done his [Allen's]."

Lee Majors
Give me back my arm! Do you know how much that thing cost?
The read: In 1972 Martin Caidin, a colorful author known for his military aviation history books, published Cyborg, a science fiction novel about an Air Force test pilot who crashes an experimental plane, loses several major body parts, and is rebuilt as half man, half machine. In the novel, the cost of this refitting with bionic parts was priced at $6 million and was overseen by Dr. Rudy Wells, who, according to Caidin, was a real-life doctor who specialized in the use of bionic science as it applied to prosthetic devices. The term "bionics" -- referring to the study of biological systems in order to solve engineering problems -- was coined in 1963 by another real-life character in the book, Maj. Jack Steels.

Caidin pushed hard to bring Cyborg to Hollywood's attention, and in 1973 "The Six Million Dollar Man" debuted as a TV movie. Lee Majors, a fixture of TV westerns and former college football star who had been scouted by the St. Louis Cardinals until a back injury ended his pro career before it started, starred as calamity-prone test pilot USAF Colonel Steve Austin. Two more TV movies followed that year, and in 1974 the series debuted.

Using his bionic legs, and thanks to the modern miracle of slow-motion replay, Steve Austin ran as though he were underwater. And with his infrared-ready bionic eye and his super-duper arm, he scoped out and tossed villains. In 1975, along came Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, who would soon get her own show, "The Bionic Woman." And she was hardly the only blonde in Steve Austin's life -- Majors' wife at the time, Farrah Fawcett (Majors), who would soon get her own gig selling posters, made several appearances (as different characters) on "The Six Million Dollar Man."

The show's iconic opening credits ("I can't hold it! She's breaking up a man barely alive ... We can rebuild him. We have the technology Better, stronger, faster") featured real footage of an experimental jet cartwheeling over a landing strip. Test pilot Bruce Peterson lost an eye when his craft -- a design prototype in what would become the space shuttle program -- hit the ground at 250 mph and rolled end over end six times. Peterson was reportedly not thrilled by having his crash replayed every week for millions of viewers. Even worse, the Air Force wouldn't lay out even one mil for the bionic eye.


The set-up: Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer was shown watching the game from his skybox. Glazer is balding and wears a trimmed beard and round glasses.

The quip: "Isn't that the guy who hosts 'Inside the Actors Studio'?"

The read: James Lipton is the dean of the Actors Studio Program at the New School's School of Dramatic Arts in New York, but since 1994 he has become increasingly well-known to cable surfers as the guy on Bravo kissing up to movie stars with a degree of obsequiousness that makes Larry King look like Bill O'Reilly.

The Actors Studio has been around a while -- it was formed in 1947 by Elia Kazan, who would direct "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "On the Waterfront" -- and others. A year later method-acting pioneer Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth in "The Godfather Part II") arrived. Actors Studio alums include the likes of Brando, De Niro, Duvall, Hackman, Hoffman, Hopper, Keitel, Nicholson, Pacino, Poitier, and Walken, and actresses Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Julie Harris, and Shelley Winters. But in the mid-'90s it merged with the New School and Lipton began airing interviews with major acting stars, only some of whom attended the school.

Lipton's effusive flattery of his guests has made him the butt-kisser of jokes throughout the entertainment world, most prominently on "Saturday Night Live," where everyman Will Ferrell sends up the "Studio" host in a most "dee-lightful" manner. Near the end of each show Lipton runs the star of the day through the "Bernard Pivot questionnaire," a list of fun but pretentious questions like, "If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?" and the related question, "What's your favorite curse word?"

Sorry, we can't reprint most of the responses to the latter question here, but our personal favorite is _____________ _________ _______-__________ __________ __________.


The set-up: A very large and sweaty Sam Adams, defensive tackle for the Ravens, was shown sitting on the sidelines.

The quip: "Looks like he's been drinkin' some Sam Adams."

The read: Once upon a time, Samuel Adams was not just a beer. In the 1700s, the Bostonian helped bring about the Colonies' rebellion against the British Crown. In fact, the brewery that Adams inherited from his father pretty much went bust under Sam's steerage, and, a couple of centuries later, in 1985, Samuel Adams Boston Lager was introduced for folks who like to think they are drinking old-timey brew.

As a revolutionary plotter and instigator, Adams deserves much more credit than he is usually afforded by history, standing, as he often does, in the shadow of more famous revolutionaries like his fellow conspirators John Hancock, Paul Revere, and John Adams, second cousin of Sam.

In fact, in the late 1760s, it was Sam Adams who, along with likewise overlooked lawyer James Otis, led the initial opposition to British taxation. Adams was not known for legal brilliance or literary ability, but he was a passionate speaker and a powerful organizer and political planner. His well-aimed propaganda kept Boston riled up against the British, and in 1773 Adams brought the anti-taxation movement to a boil by planning, though not participating in, the Boston Tea Party. The next year Sam and cousin John led the call for independence and, in 1776, as a member of the Continental Congress, Sam signed the Declaration of Independence. After the war, Adams served as the governor of Massachusetts, while John became the second U.S. president.

So which cousin is winning the immortality sweepstakes? In May, a major John Adams biography hit bookstores. Zzzzzzzzzz. Meanwhile, Sam sponsored the Sam Adams Summer Jam Ultimate Party. Woooooooohoooooooo!!!

You make the call.


The set-up: Ravens head coach Brian Billick insisted that quarterback Elvis Grbac's persistent health issues were just a result of natural end-of-season wear and tear and nothing out of the ordinary.

The quip: "That's what Dr. Nick said about Elvis all the time: 'He's fine.'"

Elvis Presley
Hunka hunka burning love.
The read: From the mid-'60s until the bloated end, Dr. George Nichopoulos served as Elvis Presley's personal physician, a Hippocratic calling that seems to have mostly involved simply getting the King whatever pharmaceuticals he needed to keep on taking care of business. "Dr. Nick," as Elvis referred to him, insisted that he was merely writing the numerous prescriptions for a veritable Rose Parade of drugs in order to treat Elvis's 150-plus entourage, saying that the King simply didn't want anyone on his team to have to pay for their medicine, so it was all put in Elvis' name.

Dr. Nick also says he tried to help Elvis get free of his menu of uppers and downers, weaning Presley off the dope slowly. But as we all know, the laws of drug-induced system collapse caught up with the King before uber-enabler Dr. Nick could complete his program of health renewal. Elvis was found dead, face down in the bathroom shag carpet at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977. In the final two and a half years of his life, Presley had received 19,000 doses of "medication" from Dr. Nick, and the autopsy found in his stomach traces of at least 10 different drugs, including butabarbital, codeine, Demerol, Nebutal, morphine, pentobarbital, Quaaludes, and Valium.

For his liberal pill-prescribing ways -- not just with Elvis, but with 12 others, including Jerry Lee Lewis -- George Nichopoulos was indicted in 1979, but he was cleared of all charges two years later. However, in 1996 he was once again charged with over-prescribing (the Killer was still among his "patients") and lost his license.

Of course, in the grand American tradition, Dr. Nick took stock of his assets and took the show on the road -- this year he went on tour with a "Memories of Elvis" traveling exhibit, featuring his infamous black bag (including Elvis's prescription bottles from the month before his death) and various pieces of Elvis-related jewelry. Apparently, however, Dr. Nick couldn't get the rights to exhume the King's body and remove his heart and colon for display on the tour. And now, of course, Dr. Nick has been immortalized on "The Simpsons" in the character of Dr. Nick Riviera, though some consider the cartoon Nick a little more upright.


The set-up: Once again, the topic was the kicking, injury-prone Gramatica brothers.

The quip: "Say what you will about the Gramaticas, but they celebrate like no one else. They're like F. Scott and Zelda -- they don't come home 'til March."

The read: No matter how we hard we try to make these columns a weekly affirmation of life, hope, and happiness, they always seem to end up mostly about death, depravity, and self-destruction. We are indeed the "Behind the Music" of the sports world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Fitzgeralds, preparing to drink the ocean.
In the summer of 1918, young Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, having joined the Army, found himself stationed near Montgomery, Ala. It was while attending a dance at the Montgomery Country Club that he met 18-year-old Zelda Sayre, daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court justice, and already a notoriously lovely hell-raiser. They fell instantly in love and were soon engaged, but the next year, when the socially conscious Zelda learned that Scott intended, upon leaving the Army, to work as a lowly, poorly paid copywriter, she broke off the engagement and broke Fitzgerald's heart.

But a year later Scott had published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, and suddenly he was good enough for Zelda again. They married in New York City on Apr. 3, 1920, and were off and running as the glamorous, beautiful poster children for the new Jazz Age. They drank (she was a drinker, he was a drunk), danced, drove fast cars, played in hotel fountains, had a little girl, and spent money faster than Scott could earn it. And then they started to go crazy.

In 1924, the Fitzgeralds moved to the French Riviera, where Scott finished "The Great Gatsby" and Zelda took up with a French aviator. Four years later they were back in the U.S. -- Scott got writer's block and Zelda decided to become a ballet dancer. She began practicing up to ten hours a day and soon the obsession was destroying both her physical and mental health. They moved back to France, and in 1930 Zelda had her first breakdown. She ended up in French and then Swiss clinics, and eventually they returned to the States. Zelda suffered a relapse, and while a patient at Johns Hopkins in 1932 she wrote her autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz. She would be in and out of hospitals and sanitariums for the rest of her life.

Things got worse toward the end of the '30s -- Scott's novels were commercial failures and, thanks to all the boozing, his attempts to sell out to Hollywood were not much more successful. Scott checked Zelda out of the sanitarium one more time in 1939 and took her to Cuba, but again his drinking ruined the trip. (By this time Scott was also involved with the Hollywood gossip columnist Sheila Graham.) Zelda went back into the sanitarium and Scott made one last attempt to get his life together. He stopped drinking, but it was too little, too late and his ravaged body succumbed to heart failure on December 21, 1940. Zelda died eight years later when fire swept through the North Carolina hospital where she was living.

Billy Bob and Angelina? Looks like you've got your work cut out for you ...

 
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