Good anniversary company

Meredith L. Cohen

For those who’ve been out of the local commemoration loop while off-seasoning in Moab, The Aspen Times has been celebrating its 125th anniversary since last Sunday. The paper is not alone in exalting the occasion of April 23, as scores of other notable events have happened on that day for centuries.Several remarkable people have been born on April 23. Probably the most famous is composer Otaker Sini, who was born in 1881, which was also the year in which The Aspen Times published its first edition. The coincidences don’t stop there, however, as just yesterday I downloaded Sini’s greatest hits off iTunes. Weird, no?April 23 has been a major milestone day for music makers. Besides Sini, 22 other composers were born on April 23 between 1464 (Robert Fayrfax) and 1943 (Hugh Davies). Seventeen composers died on the same day between 1670 (Loreto Vittori) and 1986 (Harold Arlen, who, sadly, was murdered).April 23 was also a big day for B-list TV stars of the 1970s and 1980s. Herve Villechaize, who shot to “Da Plane! Da Plane” fame on “Fantasy Island,” was born April 23, 1943. And, Joyce “Come and knock on my door” DeWitt of “Three’s Company” brightened up Wheeling, W.V., when she was born there April 23, 1949.The NHL proudly recognizes April 23 as the date in which center Derek Armstrong and left wing Patrick Poulin Vanier were born in 1973. Does anyone among us not know that Olympic canoeist Tamas Buday, Jr. was born on April 23 in 1976?William Shakespeare was born and died on April 23. (My Uncle Herbert was also born on April 23 but I’m happy to report that unlike Shakespeare, he’s still alive and just not as high as a Rockette due to his bad back.) Other notable scribes besides Shakespeare who died on April 23 include Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (who actually died the same year as Shakespeare) and poet William Wordsworth, who died 234 years later in 1850.April 23, 1014, wasn’t a good day for King Brian of Ireland, who was murdered by a group of retreating Norsemen almost immediately after his forces defeated them. He wasn’t the only one who violently met the Grim Reaper on April 23. In 0303, George Knight of Cappadocië, who was the patron saint of England, was beheaded. And, in 1975, rocker Pete Ham of Badfinger hanged himself at the age of 27.Despite Ham, though, the 20th century generally had positive April 23 associations. The first known use of the word “hillbilly” was used in the New York Journal on April 23, 1900. Wives and girlfriends everywhere released a collective cheer when the Major Leagues opened the 1919 season with a reduced scheduled of 140 games. Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams hit his first home run in 1939. In 1940, the New York Yankees dedicated a plaque to Jacob Rupert, which is perhaps the only day ever that anyone besides his parents knew who he was. To this day, citizens of Bermuda celebrate Peppercorn Day every April 23. Really.Of course not every April 23 in recent memory inspired celebrations. Elvis made his Las Vegas debut on April 23, 1956. While it was most likely the thinner Elvis at the start of the Vegas gig, he had been booked for a two-week stint but was fired after only one week, which very well might have been the beginning of the deep-fried peanut butter-and-banana sandwich comfort snacks that lead to his famously pudgier days. The country of China jointly got its cholesterol checked when McDonald’s first opened there in 1992. One of the darkest moments for lovers of carbonated beverages was Tuesday, April 23, 1985 – the day New Coke debuted. The Aspen Times doesn’t publicize that it was beaten to the printing press in Colorado by exactly 22 years. William Byers distributed the first newspaper ever published in Denver on April 23, 1859. That paper, The Rocky Mountain News, won two Pulitzer Prizes earlier this month. If time is the sole indicator, The Aspen Times should collect its prizes in less than a quarter century.It’s very possible that April 23 of last year was one of the many days that I lobbied the editors at The Aspen Times to hire me as a columnist. However, the length of my employment as an Aspen Times columnist is only significant when compared with the length of the life of the five goldfish that died in my house last Sunday after coral that was cleaned with bleach was not thoroughly rinsed before reentering their tank. Concrete proof that my tenure at The Aspen Times barely raises a blip on their historic radar screen comes in the form of the woman who manages the newspaper’s front office – she won’t let me enter the building without raising a suspicious eyebrow and asking me to state my business. Maybe a year from now, when I’ve (hopefully) been a Times’ columnist for 22 months – when the Times turns 126 – she’ll let me inside without a Homeland Security-type interrogation. Happy anniversary, The Aspen Times. Meredith Cohen hopes she does something important enough in her lifetime that she’ll be celebrated for it when she turns 125. E-mail questions or comments to