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The “First Lady of American Cinema” Lillian Gish has had her name removed from a university theater and it’s not sitting well with many movie buffs. More than 50 film industry leaders ranging from Martin Scorsese to Helen Mirren to James Earl Jones are protesting the decision of Ohio’s Bowling Green State University to remove the name of actress Lillian Gish from a campus theater because she appeared in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.

The letter accuses the university of making “a scapegoat in a broader political debate.” Lillian Gish is considered a pioneer of film acting. Her career spanned 75 years, beginning in 1912 in silent film shorts. The Whales of August in 1987 was her last film. She was called the First Lady of American Cinema, and for more than 40 years, the theater at Bowling Green has honored Ohio-born actresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish with its name.

Lillian Gish in 1917

That changed after students said they were upset that Lillian Gish appeared in The Birth of a Nation in 1915,  a D.W. Griffith 3-hour silent movie that includes the Ku Klux Klan in what many claim to be a positive light.

Doroth and Lillian Gish (right) with D.W. Griffiths in 1922

In February, Bowling Green State University President Rodney Rogers released a statement on the building name hours before welcoming Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Opal Tometi, the leading key speaker for the university’s third annual “Beyond The Dream” series celebrating diversity and inclusion, according to the Toledo Blade. In his statement, Rogers said the administration was approached by Black Student Union leaders regarding “the propriety of the naming” of the theater.

Posters for The Birth of a Nation (1915)

A subsequent task force released a report finding the Gish name and associated Birth of a Nation displays “contribute to an intimidating, even hostile, educational environment.” Now prominent film artists, historians, actors and directors  are petitioning Bowling Green State to restore the theater’s name.

The petition, created by The Whales of August producer Mike Kaplan, calls the removal of the Gish sisters’ names “unfortunate and unjust,” according to a story in USA Today. Dorothy Gish, Lillian’s sister and the theater’s other namesake, was an actor as well, but did not act in The Birth of a Nation. The Gish sisters were born in Springfield, Ohio.

Lillian Gish in 1922

While the letter acknowledges the racism of The Birth of a Nation, Kaplan writes that “Lillian was no racist,” and notes that she went on to star in more inclusive films. The letter also argues that Lillian Gish’s contributions to film outweigh her starring role in the controversial film. However, the college had already made the point that while Gish was perhaps not a racist she still had to pay a price for her association with the film.

Lillian Gish in 1983

In its report, the college said that while the Gish sisters “do not appear to have been advocates for racist or exclusionary practices or perspectives,” the content and historical impact of an actor’s work should be taken into account, said the Toledo Blade. “The task force also stated it could not find documentation that Lillian Gish ever denounced the themes of the film or distanced herself from the director or his views.”Rogers reportedly praised the careful consideration of the task force of students, faculty, and staff, chaired by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ray Craig.

Check out Lillian Gish in The Birth of a Nation here:

The film industry leaders said, “For a university to dishonor her by singling out just one film, however offensive it is, is unfortunate and unjust. Doing so makes her a scapegoat in a broader political debate. A university should be a bastion of free speech. This is a supreme ‘teachable moment’ if it can be handled with a more nuanced sense of history,” the letter states in part.

Among those signing the letter calling for the restoration of the Gish Theater name are James Earl Jones, Helen Mirren, Martin Scorsese, George Stevens Jr., Peter Bogdanovich, Joseph McBride, Malcolm McDowell, Lauren Hutton, Larry Jackson, and Joe Dante.

Related Article: 33 images of the gorgeous Lillian Gish, the “First Lady of American Cinema”

In response, Bowling Green State has said it will not reverse its decision to remove the theater’s name, and that its duty to the best interest of an inclusive environment “outweighs the University’s small part in honoring the Gish sisters’ legacy.”

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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The “General Lee” from the TV show Dukes of Hazzard fame was back in a chase evading the law again. Though this time it wasn’t Boss Hogg it was escaping from it was the Florida police department. A Florida man and former horse jockey is behind bars in connection with arson (his wife’s home took the brunt of that) and leading officers on a high-speed chase in a Dodge Charger painted to look like the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard.

The Dukes of Hazzard was an American action-comedy TV show spanning 147 episodes over 7 seasons from January 26, 1979 to February 8, 1985. The series took its inspiration from the 1975 film Moonrunners, which had many identical or similar character names and concepts.

The General Lee. Photo by Greg Gjerdingen CC by 2.0

The show portrayed the wild adventures of “the Duke boys”, cousins Bo and Luke Duke, who lived on the family farm in fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, along with their attractive female cousin Daisy Duke (where purportedly the name of the low cut jean shorts derived from) and their wise old Uncle Jesse.

The cast of Dukes of Hazzard. Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images

The Duke boys drive rampantly around town, skidding out, going aerial in famous slo-mo jump shots, and having a good time in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger, dubbed the “General Lee”. All the while of course they’re evading the crooked county commissioner Boss Hogg and the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and his equally inept deputies.  However, due to the Duke boys’ fundamentally good nature, they often grudgingly end up helping Boss Hogg out of some sort of trouble he’s gotten himself into.

Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) and John Schneider (Bo Duke)

The famous General Lee car (referring to the Civil War Confederate general Robert E. Lee) which serves as a focal point of the show was based on a 1969 Dodge Charger. It was orange with a Confederate flag painted on the roof, the words “GENERAL LEE” over each door, and the number “01” on each door.  Since it was built as a race car, the doors of the car were welded shut for the show. Due to the constant flow of damaging stunts and jumps the cars were required to do, an estimated 309 Chargers were used throughout the run of the series. Only 17 of them are still known to exist.

The General Lee and Dukes of Hazzard logo. Photo by Greg Gjerdingen CC BY 2.0

Back to the chase at hand. Click Orlando reported that Oswald Pereira, the driver of the aforementioned General Lee, is looking at a variety of charges including arson, fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement, and resisting without violence. Police say Pereira got into an argument with his wife and set the house ablaze before taking off in the painted Dodge Charger. We can only imagine if he felt like one of the Duke boys racing off with the hapless Sheriff Coltrane hot on his heels. It is also unclear at the moment just why exactly Pereira had this mock-up version of the General Lee car.

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The car however, didn’t make it through the entire chase. At some point, Pereira ditched the Dodge for a GMC Yukon. With officers hot on pursuit he led them on a high-speed chase to the adjoining county, where he was finally found hiding in the closet of a mobile home and arrested. His ill-advised moment, which could’ve been taken directly from a Dukes of Hazzard chase, over and done with.

Related Article: Hundreds Of Dodge Chargers Were Destroyed Making The Dukes Of Hazzard

Pereira was the only person injured in both the blaze and ensuing car chase. He is a former horse jockey and the people who know him say that he is a very nice man who loved his job. Which makes this all the more weirder. They also say that he was a devoted family man who must have been “very distraught” to set the fire and go headlong into the chase. However, a look at the records paints a slightly different story in that he was arrested for theft earlier this year and domestic abuse in 2018.

It is unclear what will become of the General Lee car used in the chase.

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Almost a century ago, a small herd of bison was supposedly transported to the island of Catalina, 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, to be in the background of a 1924 silent film being shot called The Vanishing American. But after the film was finished, no one rounded up the bison to transport them off the island. Their continued existence on Catalina has led to some real twists and turns.

Catalina Island, claimed by the Spanish Empire before being relinquished to the U.S., possesses an intriguing history of smuggling and gold mining before it transformed itself in the 20th century as a place for relaxing. Twenty-two miles long and eight miles wide, it has trails to hike, oceanfront shops to scour, and snorkeling trips to book.

Catalina Island

And then there’s the bison, a species that came close to extinction in the 19th century. “Catalina Island’s largest resident land mammal, brought over for a movie shoot and left to its own devices, the bison herd can be found roaming the interior of the island, where they are regularly spotted by hikers and other explorers,” said Catalina Tours.

While the film shoot story is accepted island history, there are some who are skeptical, pointing out that there are actually no bison visible in The Vanishing American. Yet it cannot be questioned that somehow the bison found a way there, and it’s an awful long boat ride from the mainland.

A view of Avalon on Catalina Island. Photo by Frank Horst cc-by-sa-2.0

Without natural predators and living in a mild climate, over the years the herd grew to at least 600–which was too many bison for the island to handle. Hundreds of them were taken off Catalina Island to live on Native American reservations, where their numbers had tragically dwindled after numbering in the millions for millennium.

Experts say life post-Catalina is actually best for the bison. “They’re very challenged healthwise when they’re on this island, because they don’t have the adequate nutrition during the right time of year,” said Julie King, director of conservation and wildlife management at the Catalina Island Conservancy, in an interview with VOA. “So our bison are in fact a little smaller than the mainland, and it’s not a genetic difference. It’s due to not having the right nutrition at the right time.”

Catalina Island interior. Photo by D Ramey Logan CC BY-SA 4.0

Currently the Catalina bison number around 150. An argument exists that all the bison should be removed. “Ideally, as a wildlife biologist, I would say one is too many on this island,” says King. “They did not evolve on an island. Our largest native herbivore is a squirrel…not an 1,800-pound herbivore.”

Bison on Catalina Island. Photo by tinyfroglet CC by 2.0

The latest solution, since the bison are considered part of Catalina’s “cultural fabric,” is to keep the herd small through the use of birth control. Catalina Conservancy says, “To counter a growing herd size, the Conservancy initiated a contraception program in 2009 as a cost effective and humane approach to maintaining the bison population at sustainable levels. This program has been extremely successful and no additional bison calves have been born since 2013. Contraception halted temporarily and the Conservancy hopes to see bison calves on the Island again soon!”

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While all sorts of jeep and hiking tours have taken interested visitors to observe the island’s largest mammals, they are by no means tame, and that was underscored in 2017.

“A man who was camping at Little Harbor Campground on Catalina Island was injured after being gored by a bison the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 17, police said,” according to a story in the Orange County Register. “The incident occurred at about 5:15 p.m. when the man was sitting on a log and a bison was grazing nearby, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Ray Ward.”

Related Article: 36,000-year-old Meat of a Mummified Bison was used for a Stew

The sergeant told the newspaper, “When the man saw that the (animal) was getting closer to him, he got up and tried to move away. That’s when (it) charged him and gored him in his left arm.”

Los Angeles Fire Department officials treated the man at the scene and he was airlifted to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. “It’s very rare for them to attack,” Ward said. “People forget sometimes that they are wild because they appear domesticated.”

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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A gold Roman coin has just set a new record at auction. Many a metal detectorist is fueled by fantasy, but one 30-year-old man succeeded beyond many people’s dreams when a coin he found in March 2019 in a field in Kent, England, turned out to date to the 3rd Century Roman Empire and was recently sold for $700,000 in auction.

The 1,700-year-old coin, an ancient Roman aureus, shows the face of Allectus, a finance minister in Roman Britain who usurped the crown when he took out Emperor Carausius. The gold coin from his reign is considered rare, and a bidding war defied the auctioneer’s estimate for the piece and set new records. It is the most money ever paid for a coin depicting Allectus and is reportedly the most valuable Roman coin minted in Britain to have been sold at auction.

The coin found. Photo courtesy Dix Noonan Webb auctions.

“After fierce competition in the room, on the internet and on the telephone, it was bought by private collector bidding on the telephone,” said the auctioneer DNW.  “The detectorist, who has followed the pursuit for seven years, wishes to remain anonymous but commented after the sale: ‘I cannot believe it, we are ecstatic! We expected it to sell for a little over estimate, but not five times the estimate! We are sharing the money with the farmer, who is also thrilled!’ ”

The detectorist had secured the owner’s permission to investigate the land, which is near an old Roman road. The coin was authenticated by the British Museum and described as an exceptional find.

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Emperor Allectus has been humorously touted as “the first Brexiteer” because he took Britain out of the Roman Empire during his reign from 293 AD to 296 AD. He is best known for his attempts to lead a rebel empire, effectively annexing Britain from Rome. However, Allectus was killed in battle after Constantinus’s army arrived in Britain to deal with him. Constantinus was the father of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.

Head of emperor Constantine I. Photo by Jean-Pol Grandmont CC by SA 3.0

Roman rule continued in Britain until the early 5th century AD, when because of economic decline and the collapse of the empire the Roman officials withdrew.

As Christopher Webb, Director and Head of DNW’s Coin Department, said: “I am delighted with the phenomenal price achieved in today’s sale. This is the most expensive coin that we have ever sold at Dix Noonan Webb – as well as being one of the world’s most expensive Roman coins, it is the most money ever paid for a coin of Allectus and it is now the most valuable Roman coin minted in Britain to have been sold at auction. It was a unique opportunity to acquire a stunning coin and the only other one known struck from the same pair of dies is in the British Museum.”

Christopher Webb, director of Dix Noonan Webb’s coin department. Photo courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb.

He continued: “There are only 24 aurei of Allectus known worldwide. Gold coins were initially produced to pay an accession donation in AD 293 but continued to be issued throughout his reign and were probably demonetized after his death in AD 296, as no coins of Carausius or Allectus are found in later hoards.”

Related Article: Rare 14th Century Gold Coin Discovered in Bureau’s Secret Drawer

The Antiques Gazette quoted the anonymous detectorist as saying that “at first we found bits of old tractors and shotgun cartridges, but after 45 minutes I found the coin.” Initially, he and his brother believed they had a gold sovereign, a coin from modern times. The man brought his discovery to the attention of the authorities as required by law.

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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An Irish Viking. The concept has become more real and more captivating. Anyone who’s read even a bit about the history of the Vikings knows that their DNA is likely to be found in people living in the British Isles today. New research shows that the Irish definitely have their fair share of Viking heritage–in fact, the Irish are more genetically diverse than most people may assume.

The Irish have Viking and Norman ancestry in similar proportions to the English. A comprehensive DNA map of the Irish has for the first time revealed lasting contributions from British, Scandinavian, and French invasions.

“By comparing 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 genomes from Britain and mainland Europe, genetic clusters within the west of Ireland, in particular, were discovered for the first time, leading the researchers to investigate if invasions from the Vikings and Normans to the east may have influenced genetics in that part of the country,” according to Irish Central.

Map of Ireland in 950 showing Viking influence and Viking territory (in green)

Because of extensive Irish immigration to the United States and other countries, these findings have ramifications. There are 80 million people in the world who claim Irish heritage.  “This subtle genetic structure within such a small country has implications for medical genetic association studies,” said Trinity College Dublin geneticist Dr. Ross Byrne. In fact a number of American slang words have roots coming from the Irish:

Researchers found 23 distinct genetic clusters, separated by geography by comparing mutations from almost 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 from Britain and mainland Europe. “These are most distinct in western Ireland, but less pronounced in the east, where historical migrations have erased the genetic variations,” said the Irish Mirror.

Ireland in 1300 showing lands held by native Irish (green) and lands held by Normans (pale)

The researchers studied genes from Europe and calculated the timing of the historical migrations of the Norse-Vikings and the Anglo-Normans to Ireland, yielding dates consistent with historical records.

The Vikings invaded Ireland for the first time in the 8th century, raiding a monastery on Rathlin Island on the northeast coast. The Viking warriors were large in numbers and well armed. They moved inland along river-ways, attacking the monastic settlements they came across. They also took captives to trade as slaves.

Ireland in 1450 showing lands held by native Irish (green), the Anglo-Irish (blue) and the English king (dark grey)

The Vikings in Ireland built wintering camps, known as longphorts (derived from the Irish words boat & fort), a ship port. This meant they could settle on the island longer. They used their longphorts as a base allowing them to perform further in-land raids.

Although longphorts were mainly built to only last one winter, some of them became major settlements, such as the one in Dublin, Dyflinn, founded in 841 AD.  Excavations during the 1970’s discovered more than 100 homes from this early period and thousands of daily household objects in Dublin.

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The Viking conquest in Ireland would continue for more than 200 years, until the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. In the late 12th century, the Norman lords who had already subjugated England came to Ireland to take large plots of land. In the 16th century, under Elizabeth I, many more English Protestant families arrived, often displacing the native Catholics.

It’s believed that the first group of Vikings to invade Ireland were from Scandinavia. They had also settled in Scotland and would later became known as Gallowglass, an elite mercenary warrior group. From the mid-13th to the early 17th centuries they fought for hire in Ireland itself. Their name is an Anglicization of the Gaelic word gallóglach (roughly pronounced GAHL-o-glukh), which translates as “foreign warrior.”

Related Article: The Key Role Vikings Played in the History of Ireland

 Gallowglass are descendants of not only Vikings but of Scots native to the western Highlands and Hebrides. As Scottish historian Fergus Cannan notes, the Gallowglass “lived for war.…His sole function was to fight, and his only contribution to society was destruction.”

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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An “Atlantis” of Britain has been identified by artifacts deep in the North Sea after scientists discovered underwater Stone Age settlements that could be 10,000 years old. One artifact researchers found in the seabed could even have been part of a prehistoric “personal tool kit.”

Scientists have located and explored an inhabited community that existed on the banks of an ancient river, now submerged, making this the first time archaeologists have found prehistoric artifacts this far from land and so deep underwater. A team of archaeologists from the UK and Belgium traveled 25 miles north of a village in Norfolk called Blakeney to find two stone artifacts, which confirm the existence of settlements.

Stone artifacts from the area of the Southern River estuary. Photo courtesy of University of Bradford

Considering the finds made by fishermen over the years, it has long been suspected that the southern North Sea hid a landscape that once was home to thousands of people. “For decades, fishers and oil exploration outfitters have reporting finding worked bone, stone, and human remains in Brown Bank, a marine ecosystem located 50 miles west of the Dutch coast,” said IFL Science.

Route of the research vessel showing areas of detailed survey around Doggerland. Map data ©2019 Google and VLIZ/Europe’s Lost Frontiers

The Stone Age settlements were likely swallowed by the sea around 6000 BC. They could have flourished for a long time before being submerged, their peak being anywhere between 8200 and 7700 BC.

It’s easy to see why people wanted to live there. Sediment samples have provided pollen and other evidence that suggest the now-submerged areas would have been home to landscapes of plants and animals. “This would have been perfect for Mesolithic hunter-gathers in the Stone Age and their settlement location right next to the river would have been great for freshwater and fishing,” according to Fox News.

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland from Weichselian glaciation until the current situation. Photo by Francis Lima CC BY-SA 4.0

Marshland with rich reed beds would have provided large waterfowl to hunt, as well as reeds for making baskets and fish traps. “Inter-tidal mud flats and gravel beaches each provided access to different species of nutritious shellfish – and plentiful grey and common seals would have provided a seasonally rich source of very high-protein meat and fat,” according to the Independent. “Salt-marsh grassland would have attracted deer, elk and giant wild cattle (aurochs), which in turn would have provided a crucial supply of year-round meat to local humans.”

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland (c. 10,000 BC), which provided a land bridge between Great Britain and continental Europe. Photo by Max Naylor CC BY-SA 3.0

To figure out the best prospects for exploring, today’s researchers re-created the submarine landscape using data given to them by oil and gas companies, wind farm developers, and coal extractors. This way they were able to determine which areas would have been favored by Stone Age humans. Using acoustic techniques and extracting physical samples of the seabed, researchers found three sites that have the potential for more study.

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The first artifact they found was a large hammerstone, which archaeologists believe was used for making new flint tools. “As well as being evidence for flint tool production the hammer fragment derived from a large battered flint nodule would once have been part of a personal tool kit,” the scientists said. The second artifact found on the other side of the ancient river bed was a two-millimeter thick flake of flint that the archaeologists think was cut off when a stone tool was being made.

The researchers who discovered the artifacts said in their statement, “Prospecting this drowned landscape in search of the evidence of people is a challenging activity, as the North Sea is not only one of the busiest seaways in the world but the weather often makes it inhospitable. Further, multiple utilities cross the area and visibility underwater is often limited.”

Related Article: The Mysterious Underwater Land Mass Known as the ‘British Atlantis’

The next stage of the excavation is expected to require the services of an unmanned mini-submarine, which will take a closer look at the sea bed and use its robotic arms to collect more artifacts from the depths of the North Sea.

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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What did Frida Kahlo’s voice sound like? Artist Frida Kahlo has fascinated people for decades, and now, 68 years after her death, excitement rages over the discovery of what seems to be the only known recording of her voice. Researchers at Mexico’s National Sound Library say archivists found the recording while digitizing a collection donated by a broadcaster.

The 90-second audio clip comes from a 1950s pilot episode of the Mexican radio program called “The Bachelor.” The recording is of a woman describing Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s former husband and painting partner. “He’s a large child, massive, with a friendly face and sad look,” the woman’s, thought to be Frida Kahlo’s, voice says. “His bulging, dark, intelligent and big eyes are difficultly detained.”

Frida in 1932

The recording, which is believed to date to 1953 or 1954, introduces its speaker as a female painter “who no longer exists.” The artist died on July 13, 1954, shortly before the program’s release, at the age of 47. Rivera passed away three years later.

In the recording, Kahlo goes on to say about Rivera: “His high, dark, extremely intelligent and big eyes rarely hold still. They almost come out of their sockets because of their swollen and protuberant eyelids—like a toad’s. They allow his gaze to take in a much wider visual field, as if they were built especially for a painter of large spaces and crowds,” the piece continues, per a translation.

Frida and Diego Rivera

Kahlo was one of Mexico’s finest artists, a painter of self-portraits and other works, who is admired as a feminist icon. She incorporated graphic and surrealistic elements in her work and explored questions of identity, gender, race, and class.

Frida Kahlo self-portrait 1940. Photo by Libby Rosof CC by 2.0

The director of the Frida Kahlo Museum, Hilda Trujillo, told The Associated Press in June 2019 that “there’s still a long way to go” to verify the voice in question. “I personally think that the art world has to be very strict in its judgment and can’t rush to assumptions,” Trujillo said. According to The Guardian, “Investigations will involve sound library officials, engineers, audio experts and even still-living sources. Trujillo said she is optimistic that there are still “enough elements to do a rigorous analysis.”The voice sounds light and smooth, which contradicts some assumptions of the artist. “I would have imagined that it would be a bit deeper and worn out,” Trujillo told The Associated Press. She said that Kahlo was very sick at the end of her life, and was a heavy smoker and drinker.

Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky in Mexico. 1937

When she was 21, Kahlo paid a visit to the studio of the much older artist Rivera in search of career advice. “She had unusual dignity and self-assurance and there was a strange fire in her eyes,” he said. Theirs was a volatile relationship, with Rivera having many affairs. Kahlo’s lovers allegedly included Leon Trotsky. Kahlo said to Rivera at one point, “You deserve a lover who listens when you sing, who supports you when you feel shame and respects your freedom; who flies with you and isn’t afraid to fall. You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.”

Is this the voice of Frida Kahlo? - audio - YouTube

According to Sonia Corona of Spanish daily El Pais, several factors point toward the speaker being Kahlo: Experts note that the woman in question is not a professional radio announcer, since she pauses to take a breath multiple times and “tends to lisp,” and explain that the clip was recorded with a portable device rather than in an official studio, said the Smithsonian.

Related Article: Only Known Recording of a Castrato – Italy’s Last Castrated Singing Boy

Yet not everyone is convinced. Mara de Anda, a relative, says no such recording has been found in her family records. She believes Frida Kahlo’s voice was far gruffer and therefore doesn’t match the voice reading “Portrait of Diego Rivera” in the recording.

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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For many people around the world, a Santa Barbara reunion cruise would be a dream come true. The television soap opera Santa Barbara may have gone off the air in the U.S. in 1993, but it never left the hearts of many of its fans around the world, and now some folks may have the opportunity to mingle with the original cast while aboard a ship.

The first-ever Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise sails on November 4th through 8th from Miami to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. The cruise will bring together six original Santa Barbara cast members: Lane Davies, A. Martinez, Judith McConnell, Harley Jane Kozak, Louise Sorel, and Nicolas Coster.

The Santa Barbara cruise ship

“I’m pleased, but more surprised that 30 years later we’re still as fondly remembered as we are,” Lane Davies told Soap Hub.

Lane Davies

The show’s creators, Bridget and Jerry Dobson, are credited with its success as well as taking advantage of the 1980s timing, which was the perfect setting for its stories. Its popularity soared in 40 overseas markets, particularly in France, Eastern Europe, and, most of all, Russia. “I think we were so refreshing after communism and dark Siberian winter nights,” said Davies. “Something about the show really captured the Soviet imagination.”

A. Martinez

When the series first appeared on NBC network in 1984, the American TV critics were not exactly blown away. One reviewer described it as “The worst program on television …. maybe ever.”  But the fan base grew for the show that followed the tumultuous lives of the rich Capwells. The show garnered 24 Daytime Emmy Awards.

Judith McConnell

“Among daytime soaps, Santa Barbara was notable for its generous $30 million budget and its unique blend of romance, melodrama and black comedy (one popular character was killed when a giant neon letter ‘C’ fell from the Capwell Hotel sign, crushing her),” said History. “It was also the first soap with prominent Hispanic characters–notably Cruz Castillo (A. Martinez), who with Eden Capwell (Marcy Walker) formed one of the show’s resident ‘power couples’–and even featured a member of the British nobility, Dame Judith Anderson, as the grand dame Minx Lockridge.”

Harley Jane Kozak

Despite the enthusiasm of such fans as Ronald and Nancy Regan, Santa Barbara never finished above 10th place in the ratings. But it remains a cult favorite around the world. Alumni of the series include Robin Wright and soap opera mainstay Jack Wagner.

Louise Sorel

Its longtime popularity in Russia is particularly remarkable. Santa Barbara was the first ever American soap opera to be broadcast on Russian television. It started airing on Jan. 2, 1992, with episode 217, and came to a close on April 17, 2002, with episode 2,040. For the first several years, the new episodes ran three evenings per week.

Nicolas Coster

Foreign Policy wrote, “For 10 long years — all through the crime-ridden, chaotic 1990s, the early post-Soviet years of timelessness and hardship — life in large cities, small towns, industrial settlements, and snowbound villages across Russia’s 11 time zones would come to a standstill as the remarkably cheery sounds of Santa Barbara’s intro issued from millions of TV sets.”

Santa Barbara cruise ship

Davies told Soap Hub that plenty of photo ops, autograph sessions, and “face time” are planned for the cruise. “There will be some panel stuff,” Davies said. “We’re planning a tribute not only to Jed Allan [who played C.C. Capwell], bless his soul, but everybody who has departed this mortal coil since the show ended.”

Related Article: Golden Girls Themed Cruise to set sail in 2020

He concluded, “What we’re really looking forward to is a shared experience with the fans. They’re not just going to go into a room with other fans and watch 20 minutes of Santa Barbara highlights. We’ll be there with them.”

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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The dazzling treasures of the Amber Room might finally have been found. Treasure hunters claim to have found a hatch to an underground room or bunker in Poland that’s been sealed for decades in which they hope to discover the contents to the Amber Room, one of the most beautiful and elaborate rooms in history, so dazzling that it has been described as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It has been missing for 70 years.

The ornate jeweled panels, embellished with amber and gold leaf, were gifted to Tsar Peter the Great in 1716 and are estimated to be worth at least $280 million. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the room was discovered by the Nazis, disassembled, and reportedly conveyed to Konigsberg. But when the Germans were faced with losing the war and an advancing Red Army, the Amber Room panels were supposedly hidden or spirited away.

The Amber Room. Photo by Kremlin.ru CC BY 3.0

According to the Daily Express, treasure hunter leader Bartlomiej Plebanczyk from the Mamerki Bunker museum has revealed that he and his team “made a breakthrough” in the search, zeroing in on a possible secret bunker located near the town of Wegorzewo in the northeastern region of Poland. Their radar device indicated the existence of a bunker or tunnel of sorts beneath the ground, leading them to start digging.

The Amber room

“Thanks to the use of a professional geo-radar, we were able to determine the location of an underground tunnel. After digging up the place indicated by the device, we actually found a hatch, which has almost certainly not been opened since the war,” Plebanczyk said. “Several dozen years have passed since the entrance was buried. At that time, on the original 1.5m x 1.5m plate, which closes the entrance, a tree has grown.”

The Amber room. Photo by giggel CC BY 3.0

As Plebanczyk noted, there’s no “physical possibility” of opening the hatch until the tree is cut down, and the existence of the tree trunk “proves that no one has opened the manhole for the last several decades.”

Close up of Amber room wall. Photo by Dmitry Karyshev CC by 2.0

Construction of the Amber Room began in 1701 in Germany, ironically. It was installed at Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia. “Truly an international collaboration, the room was designed by German baroque sculptor Andreas Schlüter and constructed by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram,” according to the Smithsonian. “Peter the Great admired the room on a visit, and in 1716 the King of Prussia—then Frederick William I—presented it to the Peter as a gift, cementing a Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden.”

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The Amber Room arrived in Russia in 18 large boxes and was then installed in the Winter House in St. Petersburg as part of an art collection. In 1755, Czarina Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, ordered the room to be moved to the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, named Tsarskoye Selo, or “Czar’s Village.” Italian designer Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli “redesigned the room to fit into its new, larger space using additional amber shipped from Berlin.”

Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Photo by Andrey Korchagin CC by 2.0

During the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Nazis looted the Amber Room in Catherine the Great’s Palace, despite the Soviets’ frantic efforts to conceal the walls. In early 1945, some believe the room’s contents were destroyed during the Allied bombings of the area. Others say crates were placed in a submarine to convey it to safety, but the sub was attacked and sank.

Ever since the 1940s, treasure hunters have been searching Poland and Germany for the Amber Room. The leading theory is that it was buried in an underground tunnel along with other Nazi loot. Several times teams have claimed to be closing in, only to be disappointed.

Related Article: Hunter for Nazi Gold Train Finds Renaissance Wall Portraits Instead

The group that found this hatch say that it’s near Hitler’s Eastern Front headquarters, sometimes called the “Wolf’s Lair.” As soon as they obtain government permission, they plan to dig deeper.

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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A gate dating to the 10th century B.C. in the time of King David has been discovered by archaeologists after 32 years of excavation in the Golan Heights’ Jordan Park.

The excavation took place where the ancient city of Bethsaida is thought to have existed.  Bethsaida was the Biblical hometown of the apostles Peter and Andrew and is also the Biblical location of where Jesus healed a blind man in the book of Mark. Around 1,000 years earlier, King David would have passed through this gate to marry the princess of Bethsaida, or Geshur, as the city was called during the Israelite period.

The newly discovered gate is close to a city wall, which a team discovered last year and identified as the gate to the ancient city of Zer.  The site is on a rocky hill that overlooks a valley and the Sea of Galilee. Not much remains of the gate, only a few dressed stones, but it is believed to be an entrance to the city.

The Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0

The Jerusalem Post reports, “According to Professor Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, chief archaeologist overseeing the excavations, the gate and further findings found within the ancient city give the notion that it was possible that Solomon and David might not have been the sole kings of the Israelite kingdom at their respective times, but instead chieftains of large tribes of Israelites.”

Excavations at the Pool of Bethesda showing the ruins of the Temple of Serapis with a column from an early Christian church, Aelia Capitolina. Photo byCarole Raddato CC BY-SA 2.0

Another relevant find was a 3,000-year-old monument, or “stele,” of a pagan idol. It was discovered by a team that included Dr. Chris Sinkinson of The Christian Institute.

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Experts from around the world have been involved in the decades-long hunt, with Professor Arav leading the work. He told The Christian Institute that the area has shown no disturbance from construction, making it a “unique example of a capital city from the 11th-8th century.”

Ruins of a city gate to Bethsaida. Photo by Bukvoed CC BY 4.0

He explained: “Bethsaida was the name of the city during the Second Temple period, but during the First Temple period it was the city of Zer,” the name used in Joshua 19:35.

The newly found city gate is thought to be centuries older than this previously excavated gate at Bethsaida. Photo by Chmee2 CC BY 3.0

The finding of the “stele” of an idol from most likely the Kingdom of Geshur opens up the possibility that Bethsaida was not an Israelite kingdom but an Aramaic one. “Within the city limits of Bethsaida, there was a stone stele bearing the image of their bull-shaped moon god, which dates back to the 11th century BCE,” reported the Jerusalem Post. “This monument is one of seven other similar tombstones found from the ancient world, from southern Turkey to Egypt. Two have been found in Bethsaida alone. Some of these monuments have been found in cities dating to later periods, such as the 9th-8th century BCE.”

The rare stone stele dating back to the kingdom of Geshur was unearthed in the archaeological excavation. Geshur is mentioned in the Bible as co-existing alongside the Kingdom of David. It was eventually annexed by King Hazael, who ruled what is today Syria.

Bethsaida Gate tour - VisualPast.org - YouTube

Archaeologists say it’s difficult to know what Aramean cities actually looked like because too little work on the topic had been done before the outbreak of civil war in Syria, and excavation there now is very difficult.

According to the Bible, King David came to Geshur to find a wife and by all accounts would have passed through this gate. He married the daughter of the King of Geshur, Maachah, who bore their children Absalom and Tamar. By the 9th century B.C., the kingdom of Geshur seems to have disappeared.

Related Article: 2000-year-old Jewish Village Unearthed in Jerusalem

Born around 1000 B.C., David was the eighth son (and youngest) of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah. Like King Saul and King Solomon, David reigned for 40 years in one of the most prosperous periods in Israel’s history. It was called by many  “The Golden Age” of Israel.

Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com

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