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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19, 1919

Welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Timeline for the month of November! Today's special date is November the nineteenth, and as promised, I have selected one topic to speak about. And, today's subject is a rarity, as this person has entertained people of various generations for nearly seven decades!

But before we go ahead with that discussion, we probably should talk about the other happenings of November 19 in the events portion.

(And, before we go into that, here's an interesting fact. Did you know that the date of November 19, 1999 is the last date within our lifetimes that can be written numerically in nothing but odd numbers? Just try it. 11/19/1999.)

Not that today's date is November 19, 1999. Just a little bit of interesting trivia.

And now...on with the events.

1493 – Christopher Columbus lands ashore on an island which he bestows the name “San Juan Bautista”. The island nation is later renamed “Puerto Rico”

1816 – Warsaw University is established

1847 – The Montreal and Lachine Railway – Canada's second railway line – is opened

1863 – Abraham Lincolm delivers the Gettysburg Address

1881 – A meteorite lands near the village of Grossliebenthal, near Odessa, Ukraine

1916 – Goldwyn Pictures is established by Samuel Goldwyn and Edgar Selwyn

1917 – Indira Ghandi (d. 1984), the third Prime Minister of India, is born

1943 – Six thousand Jews are murdered following the liquidation of the Janowska concentration camp by Nazis during World War II

1946 – Afghanistan, Iceland, and Sweden join the United Nations

1954 – Prince Rainier III establishes Tele Monte Carlo – Europe's oldest private television station

1959 – Ford announces the discontinuation of its widely unpopular Edsel automobile

1967 – Hong Kong establishes TVB – the world's first wireless commercial television station

1969 – Pele scores his one thousandth goal in the sport of football (soccer)

1979 – Ayatollah Khomeini orders the release of thirteen female and black American hostages being held captive at Tehran's American embassy

1985 – Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the first time in Geneva, Switzerland

1988 – Author Peggy Parish (b. 1927) – best known for her “Amelia Bedelia” books dies at the age of 61 due to a brain aneurysm

1990 – Milli Vanilli is stripped of their Best New Artist Grammy Award following the discovery that the duo never sang on any of the songs on their album

1997 – Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey welcome septuplets into the world; the very first to survive infancy

1998 – Vincent van Gogh's “Portrait of the Artist Without Beard” sells at auction for a cool $71.5 million

2007 – Dick “Mr. Whipple” Wilson (b. 1916) passes away at the age of 91

2010 – Twenty-nine people are killed in New Zealand's worst mining disaster in nearly a century after the first of four explosions occur at the Pike River Mine

And, November 19 is also a date in which the following famous faces were born; William Russell, Larry King, Kurt Hamrin, Dick Cavett, Ted Turner, Dan Haggerty, Calvin Klein, Ahmad Rashad, Robert Beltran, Kathleen Quinlan, Sam Hamm, Eileen Collins, Ann Curry, Glynis O'Connor, Terrence C. Carson, Allison Janney, Meg Ryan, Jodie Foster, Terry Farrell, Rocco DiSpirito, Jason Scott Lee, Erika Alexander, Sandrine Holt, Billy Currington, Savion Glover, Jack Dorsey, Kerri Strug, Matt Dusk, Adele Silva, Jeannie Ortega, and Tyga.

Wow...what a lot of famous faces celebrating a birthday today, huh?

But there's one name that I left off. Because that name happens to be the subject of today's blog. And would you believe that he was born 94 years ago today...and he's still alive today?

Let's see. If my math is correct, that would put his birthdate at...November 19, 1919.

Wow, oh, wow, that's a lot of nineteens in one date of birth! I suppose it might be considered a lucky number for today's birthday boy!

As for what he is best remembered for...well, that could be a wide spectrum of answers, depending on what part of the twentieth century you grew up in. As a child of the 1980s, I best remember him for doing the voice of a duck who had more riches than he knew what to do with. Some may also remember him doing the voice of a Smurf who was afraid of...well...almost anything and everything.

But if you were a child of the 1960s, you might remember him best as the only man in the world who could be friends with a horse that had the gift of gab.

Who am I talking about?

Now, if I told you that the subject of the blog was a man by the name of Angus Young, you'd probably look at me as if you don't know who he is.

What if I told you that the subject of the blog is a man by the name of Alan Young? Well, I see some of you might know who that is, but others might still be confused.

Okay, let's try this. What if I said that the blog topic was Wilbur Post, the man who could have whole conversations with a talking horse? Or, if I told you that the subject of the blog was Scrooge McDuck, the main character of “Mickey's Christmas Carol” and “DuckTales”? Then you might be interested.

Now, here's the kicker. What if I told you that Angus Young, Alan Young, Wilbur Post, and Scrooge McDuck...were all the same person?

Shocker, I know.

Perhaps I can untangle this sticky web while talking about the life and times of Alan Young, by talking about his most well-known roles, as well as other projects that you might not have heard of.

Okay, so Alan Young is the name that he goes by now. But when he was born 94 years ago in the community of North Shields, Northumberland, England, he was actually given the birth name of Angus Young. He was the son of John Cathcart Young and Florence Pinckley. The family moved to Edinburgh, Scotland when Angus was still a toddler, and by the time he was six, the family settled in West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Now, here's an interesting fact about Angus Young. Did you know that when he was a little kid, his health greatly influenced his future career plans? You see, Angus suffered from childhood asthma which was so severe, it left him bedridden for days on end.

And, for those of you who might not believe that asthma can knock you off your feet for such a long time, I can attest that as someone who too was diagnosed with asthma at the age of seven, I know exactly what he went through. After all, I was hospitalized for a week in 1988, missed a whole week of school in 1989, and missed almost two weeks of classes in 1992 as a direct result of it.

Angus Young's asthma was reportedly so bad that when he wanted to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy, he was turned away because of it. Same deal with the Royal Canadian Armed Forces. His asthma prevented him from fighting for his country.

However, there was a silver lining in that dark cloud. True, his asthma prevented him from becoming a soldier in the army. However, because of his asthma, he developed a love for radio programming, and Young believed that one day he could get a job in the radio industry. And that's exactly what Young did, reportedly earning his first radio job at the ripe old age of thirteen!

But before Angus Young could become a radio broadcaster, there was something that he needed to do. He needed to change his name. It wasn't because he wasn't proud of the name he was given. He quite liked it. But as he explained in his 2007 autobiography, he made the decision to legally change his name to Alan Young at the age of twenty, because some insensitive people made fun of it – even going so far as calling him “Agnes”! So, by 1940, Angus Young was left in the past to be replaced by Alan Young – future radio broadcaster for the CBC.

By the time that Alan Young had turned twenty-five, he had already made the move to American radio, and by 1946, he began to turn his attention towards television and film. He hosted his own television program, “The Alan Young Show” for three seasons, and he appeared in several films including 1946's “Margie”, 1949's “Chicken Every Sunday”, 1952's “Androcles and the Lion”, and 1960's “The Time Machine”.

But it wouldn't be until the year 1961 when Alan Young was in his early 40s (a time in which most actors find it harder and harder to win roles in the film and television industry) that he would have his greatest success. And would you believe that his co-star was a talking horse?

The name of the show was “Mister Ed”, and the show actually ran longer than I thought it did. Would you believe that it ran for five years between 1961 and 1966? I doubt that in today's television cesspool, we'd even have this show last an episode, let alone five seasons.

Still, there was something about “Mister Ed” that worked. And Alan, as the character Wilbur Post – a bumbling but kind-hearted architect who was the only one that could understand and communicate with his beloved palomino horse (voiced by Allan Lane). And, naturally, this lead to a whole lot of confusion, especially since Wilbur's friends and close family members could NOT understand Mister Ed at all.

Would you like to see some examples of Alan Young as Wilbur Post in “Mister Ed”? Well, you can if you just click on HERE, HERE, and oh yes, HERE. Those links will take you to three different episodes of “Mister Ed”. I hope you enjoy them, because as we all well know on YouTube, videos have a tendency to disappear just as quickly as they appear. Enjoy them while you can.

I should also note that even though “Mister Ed” made Alan Young a star, it was definitely not the only television show he appeared in. He's made guest appearances on “The Love Boat”, “Murder, She Wrote”, “Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch”, “Hang Time”, “Party of Five”, “ER”, and “St. Elsewhere”. And, in 1994, he even appeared in the movie “Beverly Hills Cop”, playing the part of a theme park owner that sort of resembled Walt Disney.

Ironic, given that one of Alan Young's most prolific (and longest running) roles to date happens to be a Disney creation!

Now, prior to his work with Disney, Alan Young in his later years opted to go into voice acting, and he held some roles on some prominent 1980s cartoons. He voiced the role of Scaredy Smurf and Farmer Smurf on “The Smurfs” from 1981-1986, and he enjoyed a four year run voicing bit characters on the NBC Saturday Morning cartoon, “Alvin and the Chipmunks”.

But thirty years ago, in 1983, Alan Young was hired to voice a role in the Disney animated special “Mickey's Christmas Carol”. Although the character of Scrooge McDuck was created long before the television special aired (and even though sources state that Alan Young voiced the character before this special was even thought of), it is widely speculated that this was the cartoon special that cemented Alan Young as the permanent voice for Scrooge McDuck.

After all, the character of Scrooge McDuck spoke in a Scottish accent – which was perfect for Alan Young, since Scotland was where he spent the first six years of his life. Picking up the accent again was like second nature. And for what it's worth, I always remember this special as the one in which I adored Scrooge. I mean, sure, when he was introduced he was a miserly, self-centered duck who only cared about himself. But that was what we were supposed to think. It was loosely based off the Charles Dickens classic tale “A Christmas Carol” after all. But Scrooge's performance was so memorable that Disney decided to make a cartoon spin-off which starred Scrooge McDuck taking care of Donald Duck's three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Of course you know by the catchy theme song that the cartoon was Disney's “DuckTales”, a staple of the Disney Afternoon cartoon block for years. The series ran initially from 1987-1990, and spawned 100 episodes and a feature-length film. I'd talk more about this cartoon series, but I think I'll hold off until I actually do the blog entry on DuckTales at some point in the near future.

The point is that by the time “DuckTales” began airing on television, Alan Young was already in his late sixties – an age in which most people begin retirement. But if you think that Alan Young was content with retirement, think again. After all, Young has been voicing the role of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years now. Even as recently as 2013, Young is still performing as Scrooge McDuck – voicing him in the latest installment of the “Kingdom Hearts” video game series!

Yes, at the age of ninety-four, Alan Young is showing no sign of slowing down. Not bad for someone who was bedridden for four months at a time because his asthma prevented him from getting out and doing more as a child.

He's certainly making up for lost time now as he celebrates birthday number ninety-four.

Well, as Huey, Dewey, and Louie would say...”HAPPY BIRTHDAY UNKA SCROOGE!”  

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