With ‘normal’ news on hold at the moment, it’s to the past that we have to turn for ‘take your mind off the virus’ material. In that spirit, every weekend Spectator Life is bringing you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history. And with lockdown drawing to a gradual close from 4th July, this is our last set of facts! Enjoy…
A.J. Ayer (died 1989). In 1987 the eminent philosopher and academic found himself, aged 77, at a party where Naomi Campbell was receiving unwelcome attention from Mike Tyson. He politely asked the boxer to leave Campbell alone. Tyson replied: ‘Do you know who the f**k I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.’ ‘And I,’ said Ayer, ‘am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest we talk about this like rational men.’
Chris Leslie (born 1972). In the 1997 Labour landslide, Leslie (then 24) won the ‘unwinnable’ seat of Shipley. Catching sight of him in Parliament, Tony Blair said to an assistant: ‘You know, he looks just like that guy who used to do Gordon’s photocopying.’ The assistant replied: ‘That is the guy who used to do Gordon’s photocopying.’
Katharine Hepburn (died 2003). In her old age the actress placed a sign at the entrance to her driveway. It read: ‘Please go away.’
In 1882, Charles J. Guiteau was hanged for the assassination of US President James Garfield. He deliberately used a revolver with an ivory handle, because he wanted one that would look good when exhibited in a museum after the killing.
In 1937, the 999 service became the world’s first emergency telephone number. Operators answered with ‘Which service do you require?’ It wasn’t until the 1990s that the last three words were dropped to save time.
In 1916, the Battle of the Somme started. Also Olivia de Havilland was born. And she’s still alive.
Alec Douglas-Home (born 1903). Travelling on a train in his retirement, the politician fell into conversation with a woman. She said: ‘My husband and I think it was a great tragedy that you were never Prime Minister.’ ‘Actually I was,’ replied Douglas-Home, ‘but only for a very short time.’
Steve Morrow (born 1970). During the celebrations after the 1993 League Cup final, in which Morrow had scored Arsenal’s winner, the footballer was picked up and dropped by teammate Tony Adams. The broken arm he suffered as a result prevented him from playing in the FA Cup final a few weeks later.
In 1884, the Dow Jones company published its first stock average. There was actually a third partner with Charles Dow and Edward Jones. But Charles Bergstresser’s surname would have made the title too cumbersome, so they left it out.