91 episodes

Some Very Famous People You've Never Really Heard Of, Byte Sized Biographies of the famous, the infamous and the quirky in less than hour. Think of that doorstop sized bio or history related book that you will never read made accessible in an hour. These are people that you may think you know a lot about but really don't, remarkable human beings you have never heard of and incidents covered in new and different detail, all fascinating.

Byte Sized Biographies‪…‬ Philip D. Gibbons

    • History
    • 4.4 • 187 Ratings

Some Very Famous People You've Never Really Heard Of, Byte Sized Biographies of the famous, the infamous and the quirky in less than hour. Think of that doorstop sized bio or history related book that you will never read made accessible in an hour. These are people that you may think you know a lot about but really don't, remarkable human beings you have never heard of and incidents covered in new and different detail, all fascinating.

    Kempton Bunton and the Theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part One

    Kempton Bunton and the Theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part One

    In 1961, an unemployed cab driver, Kempton Bunton, pulled off one of the most remarkable art thefts of the 20th century.  Or did he?

    Bunton’s mother named him Kempton Cannon Bunton after a British jockey, Kempton Cannon, who won the Epsom Derby only days before her son’s birth, June 14, 1904, a victory she financially backed.  When asked about his unusual name, Bunton also always replied, “It’s Kempton as in Kempton Park racecourse,” as if to underscore his interest in such an edgy activity.

    Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, became one of the most prominent military and political leaders of the British Empire during the first half of the nineteenth century.  Despite spending approximately fifteen years in military posts that included the Netherlands and especially India, Wellesley remained an obscure commanding officer until his 1808 assignment to the Peninsula War, an extended conflict on the Iberian Peninsula combating Napoleonic occupation.  This grueling struggle, combined with Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia, depleted French military strength, and lead to France’s eventual capitulation.  One of the key moments of the Peninsula War occurred when Wellesley, then the Earl of Wellington, achieved a decisive victory at Salamanca, which lead to the liberation of the capital, Madrid and the flight to Valencia of Joseph Bonaparte, titular king of Spain, and brother of Napoleon Bonaparte.  The Earl entered the capital on August 12, 1812, at the head of his troops, the British hailed as liberators by Madrid’s grateful inhabitants. The Peninsula War dragged on laboriously until 1814 and the final collapse and abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte, but after Salamanca, Madrid was never reoccupied by French forces.

                As a celebrity, Wellington, in the capital, crossed paths with Francisco de Goya, the Spanish Court Painter and a prominent member of official society in his own right.  Goya was able to get the British commander to sit for a sketch and two other eventual paintings, an equestrian study and a remarkable portrait of Wellington, in scarlet uniform, festooned with numerous colorful decorations and a remarkably lifelike expression.  Over time, as the historical prominence of both men grew, this portrait achieved a special stature denoting the interaction of one of Europe’s greatest artists with one of the continent’s most accomplished statesman and military leaders, a truly rare collaboration.

    The initial controversy and subsequent national retention of such a uniquely British artifact generated massive publicity and anticipation when it was announced that the painting would be placed on display at London’s National Gallery, beginning August 2, 1961.  For two and a half weeks, crowds averaging well over five thousand patrons daily, an unusual increase over the normal number of the museum’s visitors, flocked to see the newly acquired painting.  To accentuate the stature of and to insure maximum accessibility for the throng of visitors eager to see the portrait, Goya’s Duke of Wellington was displayed on a portable easel, not in one of the museum’s rooms with other paintings but by itself, in a common area, in the North Vestibule of the Gallery.  It also was loosely secured on the easel to allow for immediate removal in the event of fire or some other calamity.  Then, on August 21, the painting vanished.

    • 35 min
    Kempton Bunton and the Theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part Two

    Kempton Bunton and the Theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part Two

    In 1961, an unemployed cab driver, Kempton Bunton, pulled off one of the most remarkable art thefts of the 20th century.  Or did he?

    Although Bunton was initially only charged with one count of larceny, the prosecution submitted an indictment that was much more severe.  He was now charged with two counts of larceny, one for the painting, one for the frame, that was never recovered, and one charge of menacing for submitting letters to Lord Robbins demanding money.  In addition, he was charged with creating a public nuisance by depriving citizens of their right to see the painting and with additional menacing, implying the potential threat to permanently keep or even destroy the artwork in his letter to the Mirrror.  Breaking out the frame and the portrait theft charges separately and prosecuting Bunton for inconveniencing the public, certainly seemed like a case of overcharging, however the prosecution might have been concerned about a jury’s reaction to an oddball like Bunton, especially where charity was supposedly involved and they may have wished to underline the gravity of the offence.

    On November 4, 1965, in the Central Criminal Court, Kempton Bunton’s trial began before Judge Carl Aarvold, a distinguished jurist eventually knighted for his public service.  The court was known by its nickname, Old Bailey, the site of numerous famous and sensational court cases involving many famous defendants.  Its marble floors, ornate décor and fine wooden walls evoked the image of a British courtroom popularized throughout the world in film and television.

    Although Bunton was initially only charged with one count of larceny, the prosecution submitted an indictment that was much more severe.  He was now charged with two counts of larceny, one for the painting, one for the frame, that was never recovered, and one charge of menacing for submitting letters to Lord Robbins demanding money.  In addition, he was charged with creating a public nuisance by depriving citizens of their right to see the painting and with additional menacing, implying the potential threat to permanently keep or even destroy the artwork in his letter to the Mirrror.  Breaking out the frame and the portrait theft charges separately and prosecuting Bunton for inconveniencing the public, certainly seemed like a case of overcharging, however the prosecution might have been concerned about a jury’s reaction to an oddball like Bunton, especially where charity was supposedly involved and they may have wished to underline the gravity of the offence.

    Kempton Bunton had a spontaneous manner of testifying that incorporated unintentionally hilarious comments that convulsed the entire courtroom, including the judge, with raucous laughter.  When asked if he had ever told his wife about the theft, Bunton replied emphatically and without hesitation,

    “No, then the whole world would know, if I told her.”

    When Cussen attempted to challenge Bunton’s assertion that he always intended to return the Goya, Bunton was practically exasperated,

    “Absolutely, it was no good to me otherwise. I wouldn’t hang it in my own kitchen if it was my own picture,” the comment again bringing down the house, an unemployed cab driver deriding one of the art world’s most esteemed paintings.  Again and again, Bunton’s oddball demeanor and ability to stonewall the prosecution not allowing Cussen to portray him in a diabolical light.

     





     

    • 53 min
    Al Capone (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part One

    Al Capone (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part One

    In 1929, Al Capone was worth an inflation adjusted 1.5 billion dollars.

    On January 17, 1899, Alphonse Gabriel Capone became the fourth child born into this family, and the second native American.  Including the two born in Italy, the Capone family later consisted of nine children, eight surviving into adulthood.  Al’s father was a barber by trade, eventually moving the family to a better home that also contained his shop.  His father, unlike his mother, was literate and spoke English.  Although relatively poor, the Capones seemed like just another ordinary, hard working couple putting their children through school and looking to make their way in the new world.  There was nothing to indicate mental instability or dysfunction that eventually produced a remarkably anti-social progeny.

    From a young age, Donato “Johnny” Torrio was focused on organizing criminal activities involving gambling and loan sharking that he operated from behind a legitimate business, a neighborhood pool hall.  Although not flamboyant, Torrio, born in Montepeloso, Italy, was a sharp operator who allied himself with Manhattan’s Five Points Gang and quickly began to branch out into more malevolent criminal activity involving prostitution, extortion and even narcotics.  Torrio also kept a close eye on the neighborhood, always eager to find teenagers that he could depend on to run errands and generally handle tasks without asking too many questions.

    This change was prompted by Johnny Torrio, by now himself relocated to Chicago and the brains behind the racketeering organization operated by James (Big Jim) Colosimo, a rags to riches gangster and restaurateur, who covertly ran a huge vice operation that dealt especially in brothels and prostitution.  His Colosimo’s Café was one of the most popular and opulent restaurants in the city and Colosimo, sporting diamonds, wearing a white suit, tall and certainly carrying more than a few extra pounds was a literally larger than life figure.  Torrio was the perfectly reserved and concealed manager who paid attention to day to day operations while Colosimo spent most of his time partying and taking advantage of his proximity to a large stable of obliging females.

    Warned by his gang buddies to stop provoking Torrio, O’Banion famously responded, “To hell with the Sicilians,” evincing a bravado that was recklessly foolhardy.  Because, O’Banion was a heavyweight gangland figure with strong connections, the Outfit tread carefully but methodically forward.  O’Banion also had a lucrative florist business that focused especially on the elaborate floral designs necessitated by any number of gangland deaths in Chicago.  The shop was directly across from the Holy Name Cathedral, an immense downtown Chicago Catholic church and location that generated even more business.  O’Banion actually supervised the business personally and was usually on the premises.  On November 10, 1924, three men entered the store, ostensibly to pick up a sizable order.  Exactly who these men were has always been the subject of rumor, but the best guess revolves around Frankie Yale, who O’Banion would not have suspected and two other men, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, two individuals who eventually became the most feared hitmen in the Outfit but at that time were unknown, recent emigres from Sicily.  While Frankie Yale firmly shook hands with O’Banion, both Scalise and Anselmi shot him in the chest, throat and a final coup de grace to the head.  Other employees in the rear of the store fled out of the back door.  O’Banion’s funeral was as lavish as any Chicago had ever seen, the funeral procession to the cemetery a mile long.  Capone and Torrio and many other enemies were in attendance, for them the occasion as much of a celebration as anything else.  They presumed that O’Banion’s north side territory would now be there’s to keep.

    Although Bugs Moran escaped injury, his gang was essentially n

    • 42 min
    Al Capone (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part Two

    Al Capone (Volume 5, Episode 4) Part Two

    In 1929, Al Capone was worth an inflation adjusted 1.5 Billion Dollars.

    Most speakeasies and night clubs serving illicit alcohol provided entertainment in some form, mostly jazz or a vocalist with a band.  One of these entertainers named Joe E. Lewis was a regular performer at the Green Mill, a club that was owned by the Outfit.  As compensation, Al Capone gave Jack McGurn a piece of the club’s profits and when McGurn found out that Lewis was not going to renew his contract and was going to earn more money at the Rendezvous, a North Side Gang operation, he confronted the singer-comedian and told him he couldn’t leave.

    Lewis brushed him off, said his contract was up and that was that.  He actually performed at the Rendezvous for a week, protected by a bodyguard who accompanied him to and from his hotel residence.  Lewis then decided he didn’t need protection, that McGurn had only been trying to scare him.  On November 9, 1927, seven days after he opened at his new club, three men showed up at Lewis’ Commonwealth Hotel room, burst in on the sleepy Lewis when he opened the door and pistol whipped him into unconsciousness.  Then one assailant took a large knife to Lewis’ throat and mouth and even cut off part of the singer’s tongue.  Although they could have merely shot the defiant entertainer, the thugs instead sent a terrible message to Lewis and any other performer who attempted to assert such independence.  Joe E. Lewis managed to crawl into the hallway and was quickly taken to a hospital where he underwent extensive but successful surgery.  He recovered but eventually became a stand-up comedian, his voice now a bullfrog like croak, no longer able to belt out night club standards.  Ironically, most likely to counter the public outcry over the incident, Al Capone actually went out of his way to patch things up, claiming to Lewis personally that he knew nothing about the attack and that Joe should have come to him personally if he had a problem.  Capone also got him back to the Green Mill, equaling his deal at the Rendezvous, and gave Lewis winning tips at dog and horse races controlled by the Outfit.  Lewis’ career continued successfully well into the sixties, and a biographical film starring Frank Sinatra called the Joker Is Wild was produced in 1957, reiterating Lewis’ terrible ordeal and recovery.

    While this investigation proceeded laboriously, in mid-1929, a curious incident occurred which only added to the mysterious lore surrounding Al Capone.  In mid-May of 1929, Capone traveled to Atlantic City to participate in what became known as the Atlantic City Conference.  Organized by Meyer Lansky, this gathering included almost all of American organized crime including Capone, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello and many other gangsters from all over the US.  The meeting was the first attempt by the American underworld to set up a national organization to oversee and make decisions to divide territory and adjudicate disputes without violence.  Another underlying issue was a resolve to minimize the attention that Al Capone was generating, involving both the type of violence that occurred with the St. Valentines Day Massacre and Capone himself, who routinely sought out positive media coverage and made himself publicly prominent to the point of celebrity, behavior that created hostility from other prominent underworld figures who abhorred attention of any kind.  Following the conference, which concluded on May 16, Capone intended to return to Chicago by train via Philadelphia.  With some time on his hands, he and a bodyguard went to a movie and when the film ended, upon leaving the theater, both men were arrested, searched and found in possession of a firearm, in Capone’s case a .38 caliber revolver.

    .  But his respite was brief, In late April, the Chicago Crime Commission, a watch-dog collection of businessmen with no legal standing issued a list of the 14 most prominent Public enemies in the

    • 40 min
    Buddy Holly and The Day the Music Died (Volume 5, Episode 3) Part One

    Buddy Holly and The Day the Music Died (Volume 5, Episode 3) Part One

    On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly was in the middle of the tour from hell and would do anything to avoid another three hundred mile, overnight bus ride that already had inflicted frostbite on another band member.  That determination changed American popular music forever.

    Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas on September 7, 1936.  The “e” in his surname would be dropped when Decca Records misspelled Holley on one of his first recording contracts.  Nicknamed Buddy by his mother, as she considered “Charles,” too formal, he was the youngest of four siblings.  The family was Baptist and deeply religious, attending church routinely but singing hymns from an early age probably developed Buddy’s interest in music.  Despite Lubbock’s location in the heart of the bible belt, Holly was also intrigued by country and rhythm and blues popular tunes that were available via radio stations from larger midwestern radio stations.  By the seventh grade, he was playing with another junior high school student, Bob Montgomery, in a duet called Buddy and Bob, mostly country music covers of artists like Hank Williams.

    1957 began with Buddy getting a predictable release from his Decca contract.  If you were out of Lubbock, Texas in 1957 and had just been dropped from a major label there wasn’t much of a Plan B.  The best Buddy could come up with was heading to Clovis, New Mexico and the Norman Petty Studio to pay for his own demo and hope to interest a regional industry professional, in this case Norman Petty, in getting interested in representing Holly.  Norman Petty was one of the many small time independents that operated on the fringes of 1950’s rock and roll.  Less successful than the legendary Sam Phillips of Memphis’ Sun records who discovered Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, Petty still had a reputation for recognizing performers that he plugged either to record companies or radio stations.  But in early 1957, he also was still looking to get involved with talent that would translate into national success.  That’s why, when Buddy Holly returned to Petty’s studio in January of 1957 and cut a demo, Norman recognized that Holly had greatly evolved.  He told Buddy to get some more material together, polish it up and come back in February and they would seriously concentrate on developing a single, exactly the result Holly was looking for.

     When he returned to Clovis on February 24, Buddy not only had three other backing musicians, Larry Welborn, Jerry Allison and Niki Sullivan, he also had Gary and Ramona Tollett as backup singers.  Because Petty’s studio was close to a busy street with daytime noisy truck traffic, recording didn’t begin until after office hours. Petty wanted, “I’m Looking For someone To Love,” to be the “A” side of a single and when that was arduously completed over many hours, at 3 AM, it then took only four takes to record, “That’ll Be The Day.”  Subsequently, Norman Petty claimed to have greatly influenced this session, Gary Tollett maintained that Buddy already had the arrangements down and all Petty did was arrange the microphones.  Nevertheless, Petty then executed two of the more audacious moves in the history of Rock and Roll skullduggery.  The first revolved around songwriting and publishing credits.  Petty maintained that because he had provided the free use of his studio, had music connections in NY and was a known quantity in the business, his name should appear on the record as one of the songwriters.  A known quantity, he explained, is better than some unknown kids from West Texas.  He also offered to publish the music through his own Nor Va Jak publishing company, spinning this as a kind of business benefit, explaining that they wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.  He didn’t emphasize that this would entitle him to fifty per cent of the publishing revenues, only that this was how the business worked.  Buddy

    • 46 min
    Buddy Holly and The Day the Music Died (Volume 5, Episode 3) Part Two

    Buddy Holly and The Day the Music Died (Volume 5, Episode 3) Part Two

    On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly was in the middle of the tour from hell and would do anything to avoid another three hundred mile, overnight bus ride that already had inflicted frostbite on another band member.  That determination changed American popular music forever.

    In mid-January, when the three band members got to NY, Allsup and Bunch checked into a hotel, but Waylon Jennings stayed with Buddy and Maria.  Time was of the essence and Buddy figured he needed as much time as possible to get Waylon up to speed.  It was also during this time period that Maria informed Buddy that she was pregnant, news they kept even from Buddy’s parents.

    After the equipment was offloaded, Buddy collared the Surf Ballroom’s manager Carroll Anderson and asked him about chartering a plane.  Anderson knew of an associate named Jerry Dwyer, who operated a flying service out of a small regional airport in nearby Mason City.  Dwyer was out at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, but Anderson was able to get a hold of a pilot who worked for Dwyer, 21 year old Roger Peterson, who immediately agreed to fly the charter.  During an intermission before Dion and the Belmonts and Buddy Holly finished the show, word began to spread among the musicians that Buddy was going to fly.  Initially, there were two seats on board and Holly figured that he would offer them to his two band members, Jennings and Allsup.  But once the Big Bopper found out about the charter, he approached Jennings and asked if he could take his spot, as long as Buddy said it was okay.  Waylon Jennings knew that JP Richardson was quite sick and he was also a headliner so he agreed to give up his seat.  When Holly heard that Jennings had bailed on the flight, he figured Jennings was just too scared to fly.  Laughing at his bass guitarist, he said, “I hope your bus freezes up!,” Jennings responded without thinking.  “I hope your plane crashes,” a comment he would both keep private and feel guilty about for many subsequent years.

    None of the nearby farmers noticed anything unusual until Cerro Gordo county sheriff deputies pulled up to the farm of Albert Juhl, who opened the gate to his property and watched as the two policeman rapidly headed west, quickly able to see the wreckage of the plane in the distance, lodged where it came to a stop against a barbed wire fence separating the Juhl farm from some adjoining properties.  As they pulled up to the scene, the body of the pilot was visible in the wreckage, and what was eventually identified as the bodies of Valens and Buddy Holly were within twenty feet of the plane’s remains.  JP Richardson was hurled from the crash over the barbed wire fence, lying forty feet away as small amounts of snow were swirled around the bodies and the wreckage,

    Back in Mason City, Buddy Holly’s brother arrived to pick up his brother’s body and take it back for burial in Lubbock, visiting the crash site before the plane wreckage was hauled off to a hangar at the airport.

    Valens was put on a train to Southern California.  By the weekend, funerals were conducted for all four of the deceased, family members and fans still in a state of shock.

    The site of the crash is now a makeshift shrine and pilgrimage site despite the fact that it is situated on private property.  Alfred Juhl sold his land in the early sixties to another local family, the Nicholas’. Over time they have erected a simple memorial to the musicians, as well as Roger Peterson on the exact spot along the fence line where the plane came to a halt.  To guide those interested in finding the spot they have erected a sculpture on the highway resembling Buddy’s horn rimmed glasses, marking the path that leads to the site.  Every year they purposely do not plant corn or soybeans on the path or in the vicinity of the markers, encouraging visitors to access this remarkable spot at no charge.  And from the very first days after the crash,

    • 43 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
187 Ratings

187 Ratings

DRC Listener ,

Interesting

Your intro is way to long, 2 minutes to the content. But this is a good idea.

PixieDust2020 ,

Love this podcast

I have been listening to this show for two and a half years. It never gets old. Great voice. Great delivery. Wonderful pacing. He knows how to make these personalities interesting. Keep up the great work.

llwstake ,

Narration not great

Unfortunately, although the content is great, the minimal variation in the narrator’s tone of voice makes this podcast a difficult listen for me personally.

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