Hello, everyone, and happy Tuesday! I’m going to get this out of the way then get to the meat of the article:
Oh, man. Maurice White had some pipes on him, didn’t he? I’m not a huge Earth, Wind & Fire fan, but I like some of the songs and I’m enough of an audiophile to be able to respect good musicianship when I hear it, and they had it.
Since Maurice and the gang are already singing about September 21, I thought I would provide you with some things throughout history that have happened on September 21 that are worth remembering. I would normally begin with the September (Autumnal) Equinox, but that actually fluctuates every year and this year the equinox doesn’t actually happen until tomorrow evening. Go figure, right? But anyhow, here are some September 21 dats worth remembering.
Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York (September 21, 1411–December 30, 1460). Richard, Duke of York is probably someone you don’t know much about unless you grew up in England, but he’s actually a pretty important guy. You see, Richard had some issues with King Henry VI (and Henry’s wife) and ended up trying to take the throne from Henry and essentially started what would become known as the Wars of the Roses. I’m somewhat of an Anglophile so this is all terribly interesting to me, but it’s probably boring for most other people, especially Americans. But, the Wars of the Roses also served as inspiration for Game of Thrones, so if you watched or read Game of Thrones you may be able to see the parallels between the Yorks (Starks in GoT) like Richard and the Lancasters (Lannisters in GoT) who battled it out for the throne of England for about thirty years. I’m serious, it’s actually super interesting. Follow the link above to read about Richard, follow this one to read about the Wars of the Roses.
H.G. Wells (September 21, 1866–August 13m 1946). Herbert George “H.G.” Wells was a British author who, while prolific, is best remembered as a pioneer of science fiction. He wrote 51 novels, over 70 standalone short stories, and well over a hundred other short stories and novellas that were published in various collections. He is best known for The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and my personal favorite, The Shape of Things to Come. The first three books listed have inspired dozens of other books, television shows, movies, and even video games. I mean, almost the entire idea behind Doctor Who is very Wellsian (Wellsh?), and who hasn’t seen some version of The Time Machine at some point. If you’re at all into sci-fi, you should know who H.G. Wells was, and if you have ever seen a War of the Worlds movie and liked it, you should learn a bit more about the man himself.
Jerry Bruckheimer (September 21, 1943). Jerry Bruckheimer is an American film and television producer that has been involved in some true blockbuster movies and shows. Flashdance, Top Gun, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Enemy of the State, Remember the Titans, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the National Treasure movies, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its regional spinoffs, and Lucifer. I mean…right? And he was involved with many, many other successful movies and shows, but frankly I’m typing this before work today and I don’t have enough time to type it all, but just look at his filmography. Unbelievable. Basically if a movie or TV show has been a hit in the past forty years or so, there’s like a 50% chance that Jerry Bruckheimer had something to do with it.
Stephen King (September 21, 1947). Speaking of prolific people, how about Stephen Kind. I’m not even going to try and name all of the amazingly popular books he’s written, although they include The Shining, Carrie, It, Pet Semetary, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, and my personal favorite, The Dead Zone. A proud Mainer, King is such a huge part of the popular culture zeitgeist that his list of accolades has its own Wikipedia page. Unbelievable, right? He’s also been married to the same woman for fifty years, so it seems like he’s probably a pretty stand-up guy, as well. My favorite bit of Stephen King trivia, however, is that after he was hit by a fan driven by a distracted driver in 1999, he bought the van to prevent it being sold on Ebay. The van was destroyed at a junkyard, but apparently King was disappointed because he wanted to smash it himself.
Bill Murray (September 21, 1950). Bill Murray. Saturday Night Live. Caddyshack. Stripes. Ghostbusters. What About Bob? Groundhog Day. Kingpin. All those Wes Anderson movies. Oh, man. And that’s just the actor side. He’s also an outspoken Chicago Cubs fan, an avid golfer, a sometimes petty feud-starter, and is the kind of guy who apparently will just walk into bars and pour drinks for customers. He does have a reputation for being difficult to work with sometimes, with confirmed feuds with Chevy Chase, Sean Young, Richard Dreyfuss, Lucy Liu, Anjelica Huston, and even longtime collaborator and Ghostbusters co-star Harold Ramis. But all that aside, people still love the guy, and it’s easy to see why.
Other September 21 honorable mention birthdays include actor Larry Hagman (September 21, 1931–November 23, 2012), Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934–November 7, 2016), American actress Cheryl Hines (September 21, 1965), singer Faith Hill (September 21, 1967), actor Alfonso Ribiero (September 21, 1971), and Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher (September 21, 1972).
1780: On September 21, 1780, American Revolutionary general Benedict Arnold officially provided plans to West Point to the British. Arnold’s backstabbing was quickly discovered and he was taken in by the British Army and given a general’s commission as the head of the American Legion (a British cavalry unit primarily made up of American-borne British loyalists). He would go on to actively fight against the Americans and after the Revolution was forced to flee first to Canada then to London, where he died in 1801. Benjamin Franklin once wrote of Arnold’s treachery, “Judas sold only one man, Arnold three millions.”
1792: The French Revolution was heating up in the early 1790s. September 21, 1792 marks the official final day of the French monarchy, with the Republic of France being established the following day. The Revolution was a pendulum of violence, with oppressive monarchical bloodshed being returned with interest during Robespierre’s Reign of Terror and its public massacres and executions. The guillotine became a prominent feature and it is estimated that over 10,000 people (dix mille, en Français) were beheaded by guillotine between 1789 and 1799. Of course, after 150 years of varying degrees of turmoil, France has settled into one of the most important countries in continental Europe, and no one has been guillotined since the 1970s.
1933–1934: A man named Salvador Lutteroth Gonzalez had a dream of bringing professional wrestling to his native Mexico. He had seen wrestling matches in El Paso, right across the border from where he lived with his family in Juarez. On September 21, 1933, he officially established Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (“EMLL”) (later renamed Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre), the Mexican professional wrestling organization that remains the preeminent lucha libre organization to this day. With the league struggling in its infancy, Lutteroth had an amazing stroke of luck by winning the lottery on September 21, 1934, exactly one year after the league was founded. He poured his winnings into the EMLL, which took off and has been the prominent wrestling league ever since.
1981: I’m not here to make this political, but one thing Ronald Reagan deserves credit for nominating the first woman to the Supreme Court of the United States. On September 21, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was unanimously confirmed and became the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court. She was considered moderate and levelheaded, a fact which upset some Republican activists at the time. Politically she was (and presumably is) slightly right of center but is pragmatic enough such that she was largely the swing vote between the liberal and conservative wings of the Court for her entire tenure. She was the only female Justice until Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed in 1993, and since then Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett have also become Justices. Justice O’Connor retired in 2006, partially to take care of her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. She remained somewhat active as philanthropist and legal scholar until 2018 when she revealed she was diagnosed with dementia.
1996: On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between one man and one union and gave states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that were otherwise legal in other states. It was and is an abhorrent piece of legislation that, at its passing, had widespread bipartisan support. It passed the House 342–67 and the Senate 85–14. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have since denounced the law, but at the time were supporters for the typical twisted reasons that politicians of all persuasions support bad laws. Luckily, the Defense of Marriage Act has been rendered virtually unenforceable due to two prominent Supreme Court case, United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). However, it is still on the books and while it’s not worth trying to enforce, it’s worth remembering the struggle that the LGBTQ+ community has had, and that not all that long ago a same-sex marriage ban was largely bipartisan.
There are, of course, many other things worthy of remembering from September 21s throughout history. I’m sure you have some personal memories, and I’m sure I have largely overlooked some big events. But that said, it’s still just nice to remember something, right? So happy Tuesday, and may you always remember the 21st of September.