Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Elvis, Gandhi and 'Star Trek'

I've been buried with work over the last two weeks, or I'd have taken time to notice three crucial January anniversaries.

First, Elvis Presley was born 80 years ago this month on January 8. Say what you want about his borrowings from black singers, country music and gospel: He remains one of the greatest entertainers of the last 100 years. As proof, here's an excerpt from "Jailhouse Rock:"

The ninth of January marked Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Nonresident Indian Day), which commemorates the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India. It celebrates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Bombay 100 years ago. Without his ideas about nonviolent protest, the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. might have been very different. We might not be wondering today if "Selma" was going to win an Oscar, because the march in that troubled Alabama town might have taken a very different turn.

And the third? The pilot episode of "Star Trek" -- "The Cage" -- was completed 50 years ago last Friday, with a very different leader of the Enterprise: Captain Pike, played by Jeffrey Hunter. NBC executives reportedly dismissed it as too slow and cerebral; the series debuted in 1966 with William Shatner commanding the ship as James T. Kirk, and this episode wasn't seen for two decades. Only Leonard Nimoy (as a more animated Spock than we came to know) and Majel Barrett made it to the series; she played "Number One" in the pilot under her real name, M. Leigh Hudec, but is best known as Nurse Christine Chapel to "Star Trek" fans. Here's the long-buried pilot in its entirety: