February 2014

Filed Under:DC

The Real-Life Setting for "American Hustle"

If American Hustle wins Best Picture at Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast, it may well create a new tourist attraction in the nation's capital, even though the story takes place elsewhere. We're talking about the six-bedroom house at 4407 W Street NW that the FBI rented to use as a base for the Abscam sting operation that inspired the film, in which a U.S. Senator, six members of the U.S. House, and assorted other local and state-level politicians in New Jersey were convicted of accepting bribes from a fictitious favor-seeking Middle Eastern sheik. (Here's a surveillance video clip showing the inside of the house, which features the late Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who was offered a bribe but turned it down, later insisting to FBI agents that he was seeking investment in his district. He ultimately was not charged with a crime.)

In a strange twist, the FBI leased the house in 1978 from an unwitting journalist, then-Washington Post foreign editor Lee Lescaze, who was heading to New York to work for the Post there.

Filed Under:DC

Recreating History: The Beatles' First American Concert

February is a big month for American Beatles fans. After all it was 50 years ago that the Fab Four appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and then made their way down to Washington, D.C. for their first public concert at the Washington Coliseum on 3rd St. NE. You've probably seen the black and white footage of Paul, John, George and Ringo playing to screaming teenagers in D.C. on February 11, 1964. And, hopefully you've read our accounts of the Beatles' visit here on the blog.

But it's one thing to write accounts of history... It's quite another to recreate history. And that's exactly what the  D.C. Preservation League and Douglas Development and their partners did with their Yesterday & Today event at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, 2014.

Filed Under:DC

Valentine's Day: Love, Life and Death for the Roosevelts

 Alice Roosevelt's formal portrait by the classical French academic painter, Théobald Chartran. (Photo source: Wikipedia)Valentine’s Days were unusually eventful for Theodore Roosevelt and family, as this date marked some of the happiest and darkest periods in their lives. On February 14th of 1880, the 21-year-old future president publicly announced his engagement to Alice Hathaway Lee. The two previous years of dating sparked a short but intensely happy bond. Teddy and Alice were married the next October and, four years later, welcomed their first child.

On Valentine’s Day of 1884, Teddy was getting used to first-time parenthood. Baby Alice (named after her mother) was born just two days earlier, while he was away and he was eager to return home to spend time with his growing family. But what should have been a joyous time quickly turned tragic.

Filed Under:DC

The Beatles' Awkward Embassy Soiree

The cold weather wasn't the only thing that was uncomfortable when the Beatles visited the British Embassy on February 11, 1964. (Photo by Flickr user UKinUSA. Used under Creative Commons attribution license.)In previous posts, we described the arrival of the Beatles in Washington on the afternoon of February 11, 1964--two days after their famous nationwide TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York and their performance that evening at the Washington Coliseum, which was the first live public concert by the group in the U.S.

But even after the Beatles finished their 12-song set to the screaming approval of a teenaged crowd that included future U.S. Senator and Vice-President Al Gore, the evening was still young. In those days, Washington, not known for its nightlife, didn't have an equivalent to New York's swinging Peppermint Lounge, where the Beatles had spent a wild evening prior to their Ed Sullivan appearance. And since President Johnson didn't invite them to the dance he was hosting that night in the White House's East Ballroom, the group had to accept the next best offer. They rushed off in limousines to the British Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue NW, for a charity ball.

Filed Under:DC

The Beatles Storm Washington

The Beatles at Washington Coliseum, Feb. 11, 1964 (Photo credit: Mike Mitchell)The Beatles at Washington Coliseum, Feb. 11, 1964 (Photo credit: Mike Mitchell) In a previous post, we looked at the prelude to the Beatles' first-ever concert in the U.S. on February 11, 1964 at the Washington Coliseum.  Now, facing their first live U.S concert audience on an awkward stage with balky equipment, the Beatles opening chords were met with a deafening roar of 8,000 high-pitched screams, a barrage of jelly beans and the unleashed excitement of a new generation of fans. Here's more of what happened on that historic evening that changed Rock 'n' Roll forever.

Filed Under:DC

Beatlemania Begins in DC

WWDC radio DJ Carroll James with the Beatles in Washington. (Photo credit: George McCloskey)It's hard to imagine that anyone would think the Beatles might not be a big enough concert draw. But when Harry G. Lynn, owner of the old Washington Coliseum at 3rd and M streets NE, was approached by local radio station WWDC in late 1963 about the possibility of booking the then-nascent British pop music sensations for their debut U.S. concert on Feb. 11, 1964,  he wasn't convinced that he would be able to sell the 8,000-plus tickets that it would take to fill his arena. That's why Lynn reportedly insisted upon hedging his bet by booking several other acts — the Caravelles, Tommy Roe and the Chiffons.

Filed Under:Virginia

The Strange Arlington Saga of Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Polish hero buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsTonight at 8pm WETA TV 26 and WETA HD premiere a new local documentary, Arlington National Cemetery. It's a poignant look at one of our nation's most hallowed grounds and offers a inside view of the cemetery's operations and history. But, since it's impossible to include everything in a one-hour documentary, we've been looking for other interesting Arlington stories to explore here on the blog.

So, along those lines, allow us to introduce you to one of Poland's greatest heroes, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who took a hiatus from his career as a world-renowned pianist and composer to serve as that nation's first Prime Minister. What does this have to do with Arlington? Find out after the jump.

Filed Under:Virginia

Civil War Healing at Arlington National Cemetery

In June 1914, thousands celebrated the unveiling of a special memorial at Arlington Cemetery. (Photo source: Library of Congress) WETA Television's new documentary, Arlington National Cemetery (which premieres tomorrow night!) has inspired us to do some digging on cemetery history. Here's the background behind one of Arlington's most meaningful memorials.

On a warm, sunny day in June of 1914, a crowd gathered to witness the unveiling of what The Washington Post described as “a memorial of heroic size, commemorating war, but dedicated to peace.” It was an intricately designed, 32-foot tall granite monument deeply embedded with symbolic meaning for visitors to decode. A large statue of a woman facing southward dominated the top of the monument. In her extended arm was a laurel wreath meant to represent the sacrifices of fallen soldiers. Below her, a Biblical passage was inscribed, near four urns that symbolize the four years of the Civil War, and fourteen shields. Closer to the monument’s base are thirty-two life-sized figures, including Southerners of varying military branch, race, gender, occupation, and age, along with mythological characters such as Minerva, Goddess of War.[1]

So what was this new monument and why were so many people clamoring to see it?

Filed Under:Virginia

Arlington's First Official Unknown Soldier

Burial of the first official unknown soldier from World War I, on Nov. 11, 1921. Credit: U.S. ArmyAt Arlington National Cemetery, the subject of a new WETA program that premieres Feb. 5 at 8 p.m., one of the most haunting features is the Tomb of the Unknowns, also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On the rear of the monument, there's a haunting inscription: Here rests in honored glory, an American soldier known but to God.

But the story of how the first official unknown soldier from World War I was selected for burial in the graves alongside the monument is a strange one. For one, he wasn't actually the first unidentified casualty to be entombed at Arlington.

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