Almanac – February 20

1757 – John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller born. Squire of the hamlet of Brightling, in Sussex and  well known as a builder of follies, including a pyramid-shaped building (pictured below), often referred to as “The Pyramid“,  which was erected in the churchyard of the Church of St. Thomas à Becket in Brightling  as his own mausoleum.

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1927 – Sidney Poitier born. In 1963, he became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor  for his role in Lilies of the Field.

The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three successful films: To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year.

In all three films, issues revolved around the race of the characters Poitier portrayed. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Poitier among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking 22nd on the list of 25.

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1936 – Max Schreck died.  German actor,  most often remembered today for his lead role in the film Nosferatu (1922), in which he portrayed Count Orlok, Count Dracula effectively, but name changed for copyright reasons, and gave a truly creepy performance.

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1953 – Poison Ivy Rorschach born.  Guitarist, songwriter, arranger, producer, and occasional vocalist who co-founded the American garage punk band The Cramps.

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2005 – Hunter S. Thompson died. American author and journalist who  became known internationally with the publication of Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967), for which he had spent a year living and riding with the Angels, experiencing their lives and hearing their stories first hand.

Previously a relatively conventional journalist, with the publication in 1970 of “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” he became a counter cultural figure, with his own brand of New Journalism he termed “Gonzo”, an experimental style of journalism where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories.

The work he remains best known for is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972), a rumination on the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement.

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