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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

April 8, 1966

It's another edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and unlike last week's April Fools Day gag, this week's will be one hundred per cent truthful.  Hey, what can I say?  I had to play a trick on April Fools Day.

But now here comes the tricky part.  Since this Tuesday Timeline will be legitimate, I have to come up with a real life event.  And, for April 8, this proved to be difficult because of the fact that all of the really good topics that I had to choose from were topics that I have already done blogs on.  And, what was left over, I didn't know enough about to create a decent topic.

So, I really had to get creative with today's topic...and I think that I came up with a solution.

But first, why don't we take a look at some of the other events that happened on this date throughout history, as we always do on this and every Tuesday.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

1730 - The first synagogue in New York City - Shearith Israel - is dedicated

1820 - The Venus de Milo statue is discovered on the Aegean island of Melos

1864 - Union soldiers are thwarted by the Confederate Army in the Battle of Mansfield

1866 - Italy and Prussia fight against the Austrian Empire

1904 - Longacre Square in New York City is renamed Times Square, after the New York Times

1906 - The first death from Alzheimer's Disease takes place, with the passing of Auguste Deter

1908 - Harvard University votes to establish the Harvard Business School

1916 - Race car driver Bob Burman crashes his car in Corona, California, which kills three spectators and injures five more

1918 - Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks begin selling war bonds on the streets of New York City's financial district

1943 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt implements a wage and price freeze to control inflation due to the cost of World War II; the measure also prohibits people from switching jobs

1945 - An air raid accidentally destroys a train carrying at least four thousand Nazi concentration camp internees near Prussian Hanover, and all survivors are executed

1954 - Thirty-seven people are killed when a Royal Canadian Air Force Canadair Harvard collides with a Trans-Canada Airlines Canadair North Star over the community of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

1975 - Frank Robinson becomes the first African-American manager of a Major League Baseball team (Cleveland Indians)

1987 - Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis resigns from his position following a Nightline interview in which he made racially charged remarks

1992 - Tennis legend Arthur Ashe announces that he has AIDS which was contracted from blood transfusions - he would die just ten months later in February 1993

2005 - The funeral of Pope John Paul II - more than four million people are in attendance

2008 - Actor Stanley Kamel dies of a heart attack at age 65

2013 - Former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello dies of complications from multiple sclerosis at the age of 70

And for celebrity birthdays, we want to wish Shecky Greene, Stuart Pankin, Steve Howe, John Schneider, Elise Guilbault, Richard Hatch, Julian Lennon, Donita Sparks, Biz Markie, Robin Wright, Patricia Arquette, Emma Caulfield, Alex Gonzalez, Rachel Roberts, Jocelyn Robichaud, Katee Sackhoff, Taylor Kitsch, Adrian Bellani, Keegan DeWitt, Taran Noah Smith, Kirsten Storms, Bridget Kelly, Philip Dowling, Ty Panitz, and Skai Jackson.

So, now that we've listed the things that I won't be talking about this week, we'll instead be focusing on the one date that we will be talking about.

The date I've chosen is April 8, 1966.  And this date is linked to a person that many of you in my neck of the woods (North American) likely would never have heard of.  But her story has a very tragic ending, and we'll be talking about that as well as the impact that her death had on others and what we can learn from it.  At the same time, I also want to make this blog entry a celebration of her life as well, talking about some of the good things that she did during her career, and some of the things she achieved during her time on this earth.

If she was still alive, New Zealand born media personality Charlotte Dawson would have turned 48 years old today.  She was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but was given up for adoption shortly after she was born.  She spent the first sixteen years of her life in Auckland before she moved out of the country when she turned 16.  Beginning in 1982, she was signed to Ford Models, and did some campaigns in both Europe and America - specifically fashion friendly cities such as London and New York.  For the next ten years, she continued to model for various campaigns before settling down in Australia in the early 1990s.  Over the next two decades, she would soon become a powerful force in both Australian and New Zealand based media outlets.

She started off her career in the print industry, with Dawson getting the opportunity to be the beauty and fashion editor for Woman's Day magazine beginning in 1997.  A couple of years later, she broke into television when she became the host of her own fashion segment on the morning program "Good Morning Australia", and earned a real once-in-a-lifetime break when she was chosen to feature in the fashion section of the 2000 Summer Olympic games opening ceremonies which were held in Sydney, Australia.

She also worked as a fashion correspondent for E! News, and became a regular panelist on the Australian daytime program "Beauty and the Beast".  During which time, she also became the fashion editor for Australia's "Today" program, and she was regularly featured in editorials and photo shoots for Elle, Vogue, and Cleo.

And beginning in 2007, Dawson began her most high-profile job yet.  She was hired to serve on the judging panel of the reality television program "Australia's Next Top Model", which as many of you know was based off of the American version hosted by Tyra Banks.  

Now, certainly all judges on reality shows are there to do a job.  And sometimes that job involves constructive criticism that comes off as being harsh.  I mean, every reality show has one judge that is difficult to impress.  MasterChef has Gordon Ramsey.  American Idol had Simon Cowell.  The remake of Star Search with Arsenio Hall had Naomi Judd.  And yes, I am openly admitting that I watched the lame Star Search remake.  I'll own it.

The only reason why I bring this up is because many viewers of "Australia's Next Top Model" had the opinion that Dawson was the "mean judge" of the show, often becoming somewhat aggressive in her judging style and making it out as if she was discouraging the contestants.  But, you know, the way I see it, I don't think that she was doing that at all.  Not that I would know anything about this as the only modeling experience I have is participating in a spring fashion show at my workplace when I was thirty, but for people who seriously consider going into modeling as a career, it's not easy.  You have to develop a really thick skin to be able to roll with the punches and land jobs.  I honestly think that Charlotte was just trying to make the contestants aware of what challenges they would be facing should they be named "Australia's Next Top Model".

And based on what former contestants of the show have said about Dawson, they claim that they really looked up to Charlotte and said that when the cameras weren't rolling, she was also their biggest support system, and they felt that if they had a question about the industry, she would know.  After all, she started off her career as a model!

Unfortunately for Dawson, while she understood that her critiques had to be blunt in order to prepare the aspiring models for success in the world of fashion, when it came down to accepting criticism, this was where she seemed to struggle.

No, actually, criticism she handled fine.  Online bullying was what she couldn't cope with.  And, reading some of the stuff she had to go through, I can understand her unease.

She endured a very public battle on social media site Twitter with a group of "internet trolls" who followed her on the site to hurl all sorts of abuse towards her, calling her out on her appearance, her actions on the show, and other things.  Now, for most people who go online, there's always a risk of people hurling abuse towards you for no reason other than to give themselves attention.  And, in all likelihood, this was the case.  But what many people didn't know was that Charlotte Dawson also battled depression, and the comments posted on Charlotte's Twitter feed affected her so strongly that she actually attempted suicide in August 2012. 

But despite that suicide attempt, Charlotte made the decision to publicly speak out about her ordeal, even going on television to speak out against online abuse just weeks after the attempt.  It certainly was a brave move, and I can see the good intention behind the idea, which was to make the point that no matter what, anonymous abuse can be tracked.  In some countries, cyberbullying has been declared a crime which people can have charges pressed against them.  Whether Charlotte's decision to speak out influenced these laws, I can't say.

However, as I stated before, this story does not have a happy ending.  On Charlotte's Twitter account (which as of this writing is still up), she talked about how she had just left her job as judge of "Australia's Next Top Model" after the eighth season filmed, and she lamented about the fact that there were hardly any resources available for her to go to in regards to how to handle depression.  And, in a lot of cases, I agree with her.  There are a lot more options available now than there were twenty years ago, but you have to know exactly where to look for them.  Not a whole lot of people do.

Her last tweet was posted on February 20, 2014.  Two days later, she was found dead by a real estate agent who stopped by her Woolloomooloo, Australia home to inspect the property. 

The cause of death.  Suicide.

Now, I suppose that one way of looking at this is that with Charlotte's death, it did raise awareness to outlets, hotlines, and groups that specialized in dealing with suicide prevention, and I think that there's been more focus on online harassment, which was sparked by Charlotte's first attempt.

But it's also very upsetting and tragic that someone who apparently had the world on her shoulders and a brilliant career felt so unhappy and depressed felt that suicide was the only way out.  And, it's even more tragic that it took a suicide attempt for people to actually begin talking about depression and online abuse.  

That's why I wanted to focus the Tuesday Timeline not on the day she died...but on the day she was born...because even though her life ended in the most disparaging of circumstances, the amount of things that she achieved during that time (both with her career and her activism for anti-bullying groups) was worth writing about.  And, I hope that on what would have been her 48th birthday that you got to know and understand who she was a little better.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with depression or has thoughts of suicide, please visit or

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