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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Tuesday Timeline - January 3, 1950

Welcome to the first Tuesday of the New Year!

And to kick off this day, we’re going to kick off the very first trip back in time as we look back on the past to discover what life lessons we can learn for the future.

It’s a little something that I like to call the Tuesday Timeline!

Now, how this is going to work is simple.  Every Tuesday, we'll be looking back to a particular date in history.  In 99.9% of the features, it will be linked to a pop culture event.  It could be date of birth for an actor or singer.  It could be the date of death for an actor or singer.  It could be the date that a dance craze takes off, a date where someone nasty gets their comeuppance, or even a date where a tragedy can occur.

The trick is that when you first click on the link, you won't know who or what the entry will be about.  All the clues you will have are the date that the event happened.

I suppose that some of you could locate the information through Google or Yahoo, but that would be cheating.  Wouldn't it be more fun to just read the article the whole way through?

(Yeah, yeah...shameless self-promotion.  I know, I know.)

So, it's kind of like the Tuesday blog entries of yore where anything goes, but with a retrospective twist.  I think this whole new look at Tuesdays will be entertaining, so let's just start up our TARDIS, charge up the DeLorean, and zoom back in time to the first date in history.

January 3, 1950.

1950 was one of those years that had a lot going on.  It was the year that the Korean War began.  It was the year that the Great Brinks Robbery took place in Boston.  It was the year that Disney released its animated masterpiece, Cinderella.  And it was the first year of the decade that brought us the television sitcom, fears of nuclear war, and rock and roll music.

And it was on this date sixty-two years ago that one actress was born.  An actress who initially wanted to have a career in medicine.  An actress who got her big break in one of the biggest disaster movies ever made.  An actress who starred in a long-running drama serials who was involved in one of the most shocking and contrived cliffhangers ever shown on network television.

Who am I speaking about?

It would be actress Victoria Principal, who was born on January 3, 1950 in Japan.

So, given that Victoria Principal was often portrayed as an all-American babe, you might wonder how she ended up being born in Japan.  Well, Victoria's father was a military man, and as he was shipped from base to base, Victoria's childhood was spent in several different countries and cities.  According to Victoria Principal's official website (which is where much of the biographical information for this blog entry comes from), Victoria ended up attending no less than seventeen different schools during her childhood due to the family moving around so much.

I can only imagine how hard that it must have been for her growing up, not having a permanent place to call home for the first part of her life.  It did seem that she took it all in stride though.

As a young child, Victoria developed a love for performing early on, starring in television commercials when she was just five.  Therefore, it may surprise some of you to know that when she graduated high school in 1968, she wanted to go into a career in medicine.  Could you imagine Dr. Principal getting suited up to perform a tracheotomy?

But fate stepped in and changed her plans. 

When Victoria was just in her late teens, she was involved in a serious car accident midway through her first year of studies.  The driver of the other car was charged with drunk driving and was imprisoned as a result.  For Principal, however, her recovery from the accident took months, and she was faced with the sobering reality that she would have to redo her whole first year of studies.  In the end, she decided to change the course of her life and career by moving to New York City, and later studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England.

With the medical school dream put on hold, Victoria decided to focus on acting full-time.

Like any new actor and actress though, Victoria had to pay her dues, and upon moving to Los Angeles in 1971, she really struggled with earning her big break.  She didn't have any money.  She didn't have transportation.  Aside from the television commercials she did as a child, she really didn't have any acting experience to showcase on her resume.  She ended up supporting herself that tough first year by teaching lessons in the game of backgammon! 

While she ended up getting cast in a couple of films during the early 1970s (most notably in 1972's 'The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean' and 1973's 'The Naked Ape'), it wasn't until 1974 that people would really take notice of what talent she had to offer.

The movie was 1974's 'Earthquake', a film that at the time was one of the biggest disaster movies ever made, costing seven million dollars to make (which in 1974 dollars was quite a substantial amount of money).  And the way that Victoria was cast was quite the story.

When the role of Rosa was being cast, Victoria was one of three actresses being considered for the part.  But Victoria did something that set her apart from the other three.  She transformed her look to resemble what the producers wanted for the role of Rosa.  She cut her waist length hair, dyed it black, and styled it in a way to look more Italian.  Producers were impressed by Principal's transformation, and won the role on the spot!  Here's a clip of her from that movie as Rosa.  See her in action!

So, with the movie 'Earthquake', it put Victoria's star on the map.  But it wasn't until 1978 until her star really began to shine bright.

Yes, it was the television show 'Dallas' that kicked off Victoria's rise to stardom.  For nearly ten years, she played the role of Cliff Barnes' daughter, Pamela.  And the one thing that I could say about Pamela Barnes is that she was kind, sweet, and seemed to be the girl next door.

However, if you were to make the mistake of crossing her, well...the claws would come out.

Now, everyone who watched Dallas back then knew that Pamela was involved in some of the biggest storylines that the show ever had.  She was constantly dragged into the feud between her father and J.R. Ewing.  I think she may have even been a suspect in the 'Who Shot J.R.?' cliffhanger of 1980!

Perhaps one of the biggest storylines of Dallas' history was the relationship that she had with Bobby Ewing.  Certainly, Victoria Principal and Patrick Duffy had undeniable on-screen chemistry, and many viewers seemed captivated by the Romeo and Juliet like romance.

So, when Bobby was seemingly killed off at the end of the 1984/85 season of Dallas, viewers were shocked and stunned.  After all, Bobby was one of the main characters of the show, and one half of the supercouple that was Bobby and Pamela Ewing.  Of course, this set the stage for Victoria to shine solo.  Throughout the next year, viewers watched as Pamela said goodbye to Bobby and struggled to make it through without her husband.  Though she seemed to hold up quite well, and by the end of the following season, it seemed as though all was well.

But as we all discovered one day in 1986, there was one added twist that nobody saw coming...

That's right, boys and girls.  Bobby wasn't really dead.  It was ALL A DREAM.  The whole 1985/86 season was a figment of Pamela Barnes Ewing's imagination.

Cue the backlash.

Although Dallas managed to last until 1991, the whole 'dream season' cliffhanger did some damage to the credibility of this show, as well as the show 'Knots Landing', which was a spin-off of Dallas.  Even 26 years later, the dream season plot twist is highly debated.  Although Victoria had some brilliant moments during that fated season, it almost seemed as though it was a big waste.  Certainly, those people who loved the Bobby/Pamela pairing were pleased, but as I said before, the credibility of the show was damaged.

Not that it mattered much in the long run, as the 1986/87 season would end up being Victoria's last.  You can watch this scene of her final Dallas appearance below.

Here's the kicker.  Pamela SURVIVED the crash.  She was burned on over 95% of her body, but she survived.  I'm not sure if she eventually ended up dying, as I was a bit young to remember, but Principal was never seen on the show again. 

In a way, it seems kind of ironic that Pamela's time on Dallas was cut short due to a car crash, much like Victoria's career in medicine was derailed due to a car crash.

These days, Victoria is still just as busy since leaving Dallas in 1987.  The year after she left the show, she started up her own production company that ended up producing several made for television movies.  She also started up her own line of skin-care products in the late 1980s, which as of 2012 has become a billion dollar business.  I'd say that she's done quite well for herself, wouldn't you?

And, I think Victoria can teach us a few life lessons along the way.  She suffered a setback that essentially killed her original plan for the rest of her life.  But, did she let that stop her?  Not a chance.

She not only survived, but thrived.  In some weird way, she IS achieving her goal of being involved in medicine with her skin-care product line.  I know it's stretching, but I think that Victoria's career worked out exactly the way it was meant to.  Because sometimes, it takes a shake-up to see things for what they really are.  Sometimes, you have to take a chance and make a change and hope that by deviating from your original plan, it will all work out.

It certainly did for our birthday girl, as well as the inaugural subject of the Tuesday Timeline feature.

Happy Birthday, Victoria!

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