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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 2008

This week, the Tuesday Timeline date is January 22, and on January 22, a lot of things happened throughout history. Among them are the following...

565– Eutychius is deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople by John Scholasticus

1555– Ava Kingdom falls to Toungoo Dynasty of Burma

1863– The January Uprising breaks out in Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania

1877– American clergyman Arthur Tooth is taken into custody after being prosecuted for ritualistic practices

1889– Columbia Phonograph is formed in Washington D.C.

1890– The United Mine Workers of America is founded in Columbus, Ohio

1899– Leaders of six Australian colonies have a meeting to discuss confederation; the country would become an officially recognized nation two years later in 1901

1901– After the death of Queen Victoria, her son, Edward VII is proclaimed King

1905– Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg kicks off the start of the 1905 revolution

1906– SS Valencia runs aground on Vancouver Island, Canada, killing at least 130 people

1915– 600 people lose their lives after a train careens off a cliff in the vicinity of Guadlajara, Mexico

1917– President Woodrow Wilson calls for “peace without victory” in Europe during World War I

1927– The first live radio commentary of a football (soccer) match was given by Teddy Wakelem

1931– American singer Sam Cooke is born in Clarksdale, Mississippi

1934– American actor Bill Bixby is born in San Francisco, California

1941– British and Commonwealth troops capture Tobruk from Italian forces during World War II in an attack known as “Operation Compass”

1944– During World War II, the Allied forces commence “Operation Shingle” in Anzio, Italy

1946–The Central Intelligence Group (the precursor to the American CIA) is established

1947– The first television station west of the Mississippi River (Hollywood, California's KTLA) begins operation

1957– George P. Metesky, otherwise known as the New York City Mad Bomber, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut

1959– A dozen miners lose their lives in the Knox Mining Disaster in Pittston City, Pennsylvania

1962– Cuba's membership to the Organization of American States is suspended

1963– Charles de Gaulle of France and Konrad Adenauer of Germany sign the Elyssee Treaty of Cooperation

1968– Apollo 5 lifts off, carrying the first Lunar module into space

1970– The Boeing 747 enters commercial service for Pan Am airlines; its maiden voyage between New York's JFK International Airport and London's Heathrow Airport

1971– The Singapore Declaration is issued

1973 – Roe v. Wade; The Supreme Court reaches the decision to legalize legal abortion in all fifty states

1984 – This commercial aired

1987– Politician R. Budd Dwyre commits suicide during a televised press conference in Pennsylvania

1990– Robert Tappan Morris Jr. is convicted of releasing the 1988 Internet Computer worm

1991– Three SCUD missiles and one Patriot missile hit Ramat Gan in Israel, killing 96

1999– Australian born missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons are burned alive by a Hindu gang in Eastern India

2002– American retail chain Kmart files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

2012– Disgraced football coach Joe Paterno dies of lung cancer at the age of 85

So, as you can see, January 22 was quite the busy day historically. As far as celebrity birthdays go, quite a few were born today as well. So join me in wishing Elmer Lach, Piper Laurie, Graham Kerr, Seymour Cassel, Joseph Wambaugh, John Hurt, Serge Savard, Gilbert Levine, Mike Caldwell, Steve Perry, Leon Roberts, Ramon Aviles, Teddy Gentry (Alabama), Jim Jarmusch, Tully Blanchard, Chris Lemmon, Thomas David Jones, Steve Riley (Steppenwolf), John Wesley Shipp, Mike Bossy, Brian Dayett, Linda Blair, Daniel Johnston, Eric Schaeffer, Javier Ortiz, Jeff Treadway, Joe Dudek, Wayne Kirby, Steven Adler (Guns 'n' Roses), DJ Jazzy Jeff, Diane Lane, Olivia d'Abo, Keith Gordon, Gabriel Macht, Larry Birkhead, Balthazar Getty, James Murray, Jimmy Anderson, James Dearth, Matthew Newton, Christopher Kennedy Masterson, Willa Ford, Beverley Mitchell, Ben Moody (Evanescence), Jason Peters, Shaun Cody, Ben Eager, Orianthi Panagaris, Ray Rice, Asher Allen, and Greg Oden.

Okay, clearly January 22 is a date where star power seemed to gleam brightly. Who knew?

Sadly, for one up and coming rising star, January 22 was a day in which his star power...and his life...faded to black.

Five years ago, on January 22, 2008, we said farewell to an Australian bloke who wanted to be an actor more than anything. And just as he was reaching new heights with his career, it ended with the discovery of his body in a fourth-floor loft in Manhattan's SoHo District.

This is the tale of Heath Ledger, who died five years ago today at just twenty-eight years of age.

Heath Ledger was born in the city of Perth, Australia on April 4, 1979, the son of Kim and Sally Ledger. Heath attended school at Mary's Mount Primary School in Gooseberry Hill, and later ended up at Guildford Grammar School. It was at Guildford that Heath got bitten by the acting bug, taking on a role in the school production of Peter Pan when he was just ten years old.

TRIVIA:  Heath Ledger was also an accomplished chess player, winning Western Australia’s junior chess championship at the age of 10!

With the support of his parents (who divorced when Heath was eleven), and his older sister Kate (who later became Heath's publicist), Heath left school at the age of sixteen to pursue his acting career.  His first gig came in 1992, when Heath was just thirteen, when he played a small part in the Australian two-part miniseries “Clowning Around”.  Four years later, in 1996, he won the role of a gay cyclist in the television series “Sweat”.  In 1997, he scored a guest starring role on the Australian soap opera “Home and Away”, and later that year, he earned a role in “Blackrock”, which ended up being his feature film debut.

It wouldn’t be until 1999 that Ledger would be introduced to American audiences when he took on the role of Patrick Verona in the teen comedy film “10 Things I Hate About You”, which also starred Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, Gabrielle Union, and David Krumholtz.  

Ledger’s performance in the film was praised by critics, with Geoff Andrew describing him as “effortlessly charming”.  Believe it or not, Ledger was even nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Musical Performance with this song!

You know, I have to admit, that scene was corny as heck...but I liked it.  It was a nice moment in a fairly decent film.

Little did Heath (or anyone else realize) that “10 Things I Hate About You” would be the stepping stone for better things to come.  From 2000-2005, Heath was cast in a slew of supporting roles in high-profile movies.  Do you remember any of these films?

-          Played Mel Gibson's son in the 2000 film "The Patriot", and played Billy Bob Thornton's son in 2001's "Monster's Ball".

-     Had the lead role in 2001's "A Knight's Tale.

-          Starred as Harry Faversham in the 2002 film “The Four Feathers”.

-          In 2003, Heath played two roles; Alex Bernier in “The Order”, and the title character in the film “Ned Kelly”.

As the years passed, Heath Ledger’s star began to rise, and by 2005, the supporting actor roles soon turned into lead actor roles.  2005 was an extremely busy year for Ledger, as he made four appearances in four different movies that year.  The first three were “Casanova”, “The Brothers Grimm”, and “Lords of Dogtown”.  The fourth film, however, would bring Heath much deserved praise, a little bit of controversy, and a huge change in his personal life.

The film was 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain”, and it was a controversial film at the time as it was a love story between two men.  Ledger played the role of Ennis Del Mar, a ranch hand from Wyoming who embarks on a love affair with rodeo rider Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhall).  The film was released on December 9, 2005, and ended up making almost $178 million worldwide.  The acting skills of both Gyllenhall and Ledger were praised by critics, and at the 2006 Academy Awards, the picture was nominated for eight Academy Awards.  Heath Ledger also received an Academy Award nomination, making him, at age 26, the ninth youngest Oscar nominee of all time.

TRIVIA:  You see the shirt that Heath is crying into in the above clip from “Brokeback Mountain”?  They reportedly sold on eBay for $101,100.51!  They are displayed at the Autry National Center.

“Brokeback Mountain” was also the film set where Heath Ledger fell in love with his co-star Michelle Williams.  Mind you, this wasn’t the first Hollywood starlet that he had developed feelings for.  He also had high-profile romances with Heather Graham and Naomi Watts prior to meeting the former “Dawson’s Creek” star.  In October 2005, Michelle Williams gave birth to their daughter, Matilda, and the two remained a couple until their split in 2007.

Heath’s star continued to rise after “Brokeback Mountain”.  He starred with Abbie Cornish in 2006’s “Candy”, and in 2007, he signed on to the film “I’m Not There”, where Ledger was one of six different actors who embodied the various parts of the life and times of Bob Dylan.

Later in 2007, Ledger would be cast in the film that ultimately became the second-last film that he would ever star in.  When the Batman franchise was rebooted in 2005 with Christian Bale playing the iconic role, the first film in the new series, “Batman Begins” was well-received.  It was so successful that a sequel was commissioned, set to be released in 2008, “The Dark Knight”.

And, Ledger was cast in the role of The Joker.  Just have a look at just a couple of his scenes below.

Is it any wonder that Heath Ledger would end up being nominated for a grand total of FORTY different awards, including the coveted Academy Award?  And, that of the forty awards that he was nominated for, he ended up winning thirty-five?  Just take a look at a partial list of awards that Heath Ledger ended up winning for his work in “The Dark Knight”!


-          Australian Film Institute International Award for Best Actor

-          BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role

-          MTV Movie Award for Best Villain

-          Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor

-          Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture

-          People’s Choice Award for Best On-Screen Match-Up (shared with Christian Bale)

-          Rembrandt Award for Best Foreign Actor

Oh, yeah...I should mention that Heath Ledger also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the 2009 Academy Awards ceremony, with his family accepting the award on his behalf.

The real tragedy of all those honours was that Heath himself wasn’t around to bask in all of the glory.  He wasn’t even able to see his performance on screen when “The Dark Knight” debuted in July 2008.  Because by now, we all know what happened on January 22, 2008.

Heath Ledger was found unconscious by his housekeeper and masseuse at around 2:45pm at his loft apartment located on Broome Street in New York City.  Emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene almost an hour later, and tried to revive the young actor, but it was too late.  At 3:36pm, Heath Ledger was declared dead.

It would take two weeks before a cause of death was revealed.  In February 2008, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York revealed that Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose of prescription medication.  Further tests revealed that there was a lethal mixture of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine.  A DEA investigation had cleared two physicians of any wrongdoing in Ledger’s death, with the discovery that they had prescribed medicines that weren’t found in Ledger’s body at the time of his death.

Why Ledger needed so many medications is not known, although he had been having trouble sleeping a year and a half prior to his death, according to his own admissions in interviews that he gave while doing promotion for his film projects.  A similar account was given by actor Christopher Plummer (who starred with Ledger in his final film appearance, 2009’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”), who claimed that Ledger was growing frustrated over his insomnia, as well as a suspected respiratory illness that he had contracted in the month before his death.

Strangely enough, many theories were speculated in the wake of Ledger’s death, including the bizarre claim that former “Full House” star Mary-Kate Olsen was connected to his death in some manner.  But by August 2008, Ledger’s death was officially declared as accidental, and the case was closed.

It’s hard to predict where Ledger would be today in 2013 had he lived.  Today, he would have been thirty-three years old, and with several accolades to his name, I could see him taking whatever acting roles he wanted.  Before he died, he had also taken an interest in directing, and I probably could have seen him directing a couple of film projects by now.  Unfortunately, the real tragedy in all of this is that we’ll never know how far Heath could have gone.  He truly was a star that shone brighter than most others...and sadly, it also burned out way before it should have.

And, that was our look back on January 22, 2008.

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