Five People Born on April Fool’s Day

Today is April 1, 2010 and the 91st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar.  There are 273 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 995 days till the end of the current cycle.  On this date, Google has officially changed its name to Topeka, Inc. (Go ahead and Topeka it!)   Here are five people unfortunately born on a day for playing practical jokes.

Edmond Rostand (1868-1918)
French dramatist of the period just before World War I whose plays provide a final, very belated example of Romantic drama in France.  Rostand’s name is indissolubly linked with that of his most popular and enduring play, Cyrano de Bergerac. First performed in Paris in 1897, with the famous actor Constant Coquelin playing the lead, Cyrano made a great impression in France and all over Europe and the United States. The plot revolves around the emotional problems of Cyrano, who, despite his many gifts, feels that no woman can ever love him because he has an enormous nose. The connection between the Cyrano of the play and the 17th-century nobleman and writer of the same name is purely nominal. But Rostand’s stirring and colorful historical play, with its dazzling versification, skillful blend of comedy and pathos, and fast-moving plot, provided welcome relief from the grim dramas of the naturalists and Symbolists.Rostand wrote a good deal for the theatre, but the only other play of his that is still much remembered is L’Aiglon (1900). This highly emotional patriotic tragedy in six acts centers on the Duke of Reichstadt, who never ruled but died of tuberculosis as a virtual prisoner in Austria. Rostand always took pains to write fine parts for his stars, and L’Aiglon afforded Sarah Bernhardt one of her greatest triumphs.Rostand’s son Jean Rostand (1894–1977) was a noted biologist, moralist, and writer.

Sergey Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
Russian-born U.S. composer and pianist. His last name is also misspelled Rachmaninoff and Rakhmaninov.   He studied at the St. Petersburg and Moscow conservatories. After playing his first concerto for his graduation as a piano student (1891), he stayed on to earn a composition degree, writing his first opera, Aleko (1892). His first symphony (1897) was such a disaster that he could not compose for three years. Known for his titanic virtuosity as a pianist, he toured widely while returning to composing prolifically. He moved to the U.S. after the 1917 revolution. His works, most of them in a lush late-Romantic style, include three symphonies, four piano concertos, the tone poem From the Isle of the Dead (1909), and Symphonic Dances (1940).

Susan Boyle (Born 1961)
A year ago, this Scottish singer may never have made this list, but this woman with an amazing voice has caught the attention of the world.  Deprived of oxygen at birth, Boyle has a learning disability that caused her problems in school, yet her musical talents were evident even at a young age.  Boyle landed a job in the kitchen of West Lothian College, and enrolled in several government-training programs. Boyle continued singing for pleasure, and occasionally went to the theatre to hear professional singers. It was during one of these performances that she first heard the song ” I Dreamed a Dream” performed in a production of Les Miserables. In 1995 Boyle went to Glasgow to audition for My Kind of People, a televised talent show popular in the U.K. Boyle was nervous during the audition, and felt she didn’t do her performance justice, but her brother theorizes that she was rejected because of her unconventional looks. She was summarily rejected from the show, but Boyle remained undeterred. She continued to sing in church, and at the local karaoke nights in her regular local pub at the Happy Valley Hotel.  Her mother supported her daughter’s talent, and encouraged her to take part in singing competitions and said she should enter Britain’s Got Talent.  She used all of her savings in 1999 to pay for a professionally cut demo tape, which she sent to record companies, radio talent competitions, local and national TV. She continued to dream of a day when the world would recognize her talent.  Boyle began taking singing lessons from voice coach Fred O’Neil in 2002, hoping to improve her chances of fame. She made several amateur recordings for benefits and local performances, but seemed resigned to only local notoriety.  After her mother’s death, she retreated from singing for two years, while she remained unemployed and living in her mother’s house. But in August of 2008, Boyle’s singing coach urged her to tryout for the television talent show Britain’s Got Talent. Convinced that the performance would be a final tribute to her mother, Boyle auditioned in Glasgow, Scotland. She performed a rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables on the first round of the show, which was watched by over 10 million viewers when it aired on 11 April 2009. Boyle’s humble looks provided a sharp contrast to her studio-quality voice. The performance stunned the audience and cynical judges, including American Idol producer Simon Cowell. Boyle’s performance was widely reported, and the clip became the most watched video on YouTube. She soon became the dark horse favorite of the competition, and her admission on the show that she had “never been kissed” endeared her to audiences.  After the show aired, Boyle became known as “The Woman Who Silenced Simon Cowell.” Her overnight fame overwhelmed the 48-year-old, and on the eve of the final show, she threatened to quit the competition. After rallying for her final performance, Boyle lost to the dance group, Diversity. Critics of the loss say that Boyle may have lost due to an internet voting scam. Regardless, Boyle continues to perform. She is currently in talks with Simon Cowell’s Syco label over a possible recording contract, and she is currently performing with the Britain’s Got Talent 2009 tour.

Terry Nichols (Born 1955)
On the heels of the Michigan terrorist conspiracy, today is Terry Nichols birthday.  This convicted murder and conspirator became one of America’s most infamous domestic terrorists for his role in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. He grew up on a family farm in Michigan (what is it with Michigan and domestic terrorism?), but his parents divorced around the time he graduated high school.  Professionally Nichols floundered. In 1988, despite being at least a decade older than most recruits, he joined the U.S. Army.  He went to Fort Benning in Georgia for basic training where he met Timothy McVeigh. The two were later stationed together at Fort Riley in Kansas.  Over the years, Nichols began to develop some antigovernment sentiments—sentiments he shared with friend and Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh. The two had stayed in touch and, sometime after McVeigh left the army in 1991, they went into business together selling military surplus.  In 1992, Nichols was upset enough by the federal government that he tried to relinquish his citizenship. Along with McVeigh, he was also disturbed by the government’s assault of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, the following year. In 1996, the two vented their anger by committing one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in American history—blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City.  On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh drove a rental truck to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and parked it outside. The vehicle contained a 4,000-pound bomb made of fertilizer and diesel and racing fuel. It went off shortly after 9 a.m., a time when most people who have already arrived for work. The results of the blast were catastrophic—168 people died, including 19 children who attended school at a daycare center in the building, and hundreds of others were injured. The building was completely destroyed.  Nichols surrendered to police in Herington, Kansas, two days later. He was interviewed for nine and a half hours and later charged as co-conspirator to the bombing. The authorities found several incriminating items during a search of his Kansas home, including a receipt for 2,000 pounds of ammonium-nitrate fertilizer, blasting caps, and plastic barrels similar to those used in the bombing. Another piece of evidence linked him to a 1994 robbery of a gun dealer, which involved the theft of cash, gold, and silver. Some have theorized that the proceeds from that crime may have funded the bombing.  In 1997, Nichols went on trial in Denver, Colorado, for federal charges related to his role in the attack. (McVeigh was tried first and sentence to death. He was executed in 2001.) He was convicted of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole, according to a report. His brother James told reporters after the sentencing that Nichols was “upset because he’s innocent. He’s been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.”  In the state trial, the jury in Oklahoma disagreed with Nichols, convicting him of 161 counts—for 160 victims of the attack and an unborn child—of first-degree murder. He again escaped the death penalty because jurors were deadlocked over the issue and received life in prison. Nichols is serving his sentence at a federal penitentiary in Colorado.

Lon Chaney, Sr. (1883-1930)
This American entertainer of the silent era was born Leonidas Frank Chaney and is commonly known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces”.  He was one of the most powerful and versatile actors of the period. Chaney is best remembered for his astounding makeup skills in which he contorted his face and body in ways to terrify and disturb early audiences.  Both of Chaney’s parents were deaf and as a child he became a master of pantomime in which to converse with them.  He started his entertainment career in vaudeville in 1902.  In 1905, the 22 year old Chaney married a 16 year old singer, named Cleva Creighton and in 1906, they had a son who would later become Lon Chaney Jr.  Chaney Jr. followed his father’s footsteps into horror films, being the only person to play Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and the Mummy.  After marital problems, Chaney left vaudeville and the theater and moved to Hollywood to star in the movies.  In 1912, he was under contract with Universal Studios performing in bit parts.  He started getting his name known for his skill with makeup and by 1918 he entered mainstream entertainment.  Horror films were the bread and butter of Chaney’s art.  He had the ability to use disfiguring tricks to contort his face and body.  Some of his most famous films are: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), and The Unknown (1927).  He was also known for his performances as amputees.  His last film was the only “talkie” he ever performed in, The Unholy Three (1930) in which he performed five of the voices used.  He attributed his success to his ability to become the parts of those that he portrayed.  Chaney developed pneumonia while filming the movie, Thunder.  This led to a diagnosis of bronchial lung cancer which became worse when potato flakes – used as snow – in the movie, became lodged in his throat and caused an infection.  He died soon after from a throat hemorrhage.  He was buried in an unmarked crypt in Glendale, California.