Almanac – April 09

1553 – François Rabelais died. French Renaissance writer, doctor, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar.

He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs. His best known work is Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rabelais is considered one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing.

There are diverging accounts of Rabelais’ death and his last words. According to some, he wrote a famous one sentence will: “I have nothing, I owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor”, and his last words were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”

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1926 – Zip the Pinhead died. American freak show performer.

His unusual appearance caused many to believe that he was a “pinhead“, or microcephalic. Microcephaly patients are characterized by a small, tapering cranium and often have impaired mental faculty, although it is arguable that Zip was not mentally deficient – his  sister, Sarah van Duyne, claimed in a 1926 interview that her brother would “converse like the average person, and with fair reasoning power”.

Zip’s early performances were set against a background story. It was told to the audience that a tribe of “missing links” had been discovered in Africa (he was actually born in New Jersey), and that Zip was one of these.
 
In his later years Zip eschewed traveling in favor of displaying himself at Coney Island. One Sunday afternoon in 1925, Zip heard a little girl cry for help. He noticed the girl waving her arms in the ocean and swam out to rescue her.

At the time, the vigorous Zip was at least in his late 70’s and most probably early 80’s . All who witnessed cheered his valor, but he left the scene to avoid their accolades.

He is partly the inspiration for Bill Griffith’s comics character, Zippy the Pinhead, which initially appeared in underground publications during the 1970s.

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1938 – Rockin’ Sidney born.  American R&B, zydeco, and soul musician.

His credits include “No Good Woman”, “You Ain’t Nothing But Fine”, “Tell Me”, and his biggest hit, “My Toot Toot“, which became a worldwide hit.

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