Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
Nile Rodgers (born 1952). The musician wrote ‘Le Freak’ after he and fellow Chic member Bernard Edwards were turned away from New York’s Studio 54 on New Year’s Eve 1977. They had been invited to a party at the club by Grace Jones, but she forgot to tell the doorman, who promptly told Rodgers and Edwards to ‘f**k off’. They went straight home and wrote the song, incorporating the doorman’s words into the lyrics. These were later changed to ‘freak off’, and finally ‘freak out’.
Brian Clough (died 2004). Asked how he took players’ opinions into account, the manager replied: ‘We talk about it for twenty minutes and then we decide I was right.’
Stephen King (born 1947). The author always has to have the open end of his pillowcase pointing towards the centre of the bed.
Keith Harris (also born 1947, thereby disproving astrology). Orville, the duck who couldn’t fly, was named after Orville Wright, who with his brother Wilbur made the first ever flight in a powered aircraft.
In 1896, Queen Victoria became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch (a record only broken in 2015 by the current Queen). When travelling between Birmingham and Wolverhampton on the royal train, Victoria would draw the blinds so that she didn’t have to look at the West Midlands.
Marion Davies (died 1961). The actress started appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway at the age of 20. The media mogul William Randolph Hearst (whose mistress she would become) was so obsessed with her that he attended the show every night, buying two seats – one for him and one for his hat.
Ray Charles (born 1930). In his early days as a touring musician, Charles insisted on being paid in single dollar bills. This was to prevent unscrupulous promoters from taking advantage of his blindness by telling him that, for instance, a five-dollar bill was a ten.
Pat Pocock (born 1946). The spin bowler, terrified at having to bat against the fearsome West Indies pace attack of 1984, said to the England physio before he left the dressing room: ‘I’ve cleaned my teeth and gargled, just in case you have to give me the kiss of life.’
Catherine Zeta-Jones (born 1969). On the day she entered the world, her future husband Michael Douglas was celebrating his 25th birthday.