Friday, May 14, 2010

On This Date in 1607

Captain Christopher Newport, a mercenary privateer and operative of the Virginia Company of London (formerly "The London Company," which just sounds like a chic wrinkly clothing shoppe), planted his skull-and-crossed-bones on what he figured was "far enough" into the New World. It was actually a mosquito-ridden island-cum-swamp that he immediately named after James I, thinking that would save him the trouble of having to fill out the paperwork to name it "Newport." (Years later, plenty of other places would be named "Newport" mostly because it sounds nice and would solve many marketing issues.)
The source of the name "Virginia" for the colony is hard to attribute, but probably had something to do with Walter Raleigh's clumsy sea-struck mushmouthed pronunciation of the name of the actual king of North America at the time, Wingina. (Many scholars believe that Raleigh had merely named the landmass after Elizabeth I, "The Virgin Queen." But sheesh, dude, really.)
''Not if I have anything to say about it. WOOF!''Raleigh's ill-fated settlement at Roanoke reminds me of the brave explorers who first colonized the Moon. Wait, nobody did that? Oh, right, that's because they couldn't find a decent source of water, and so brought home useless handfuls of minerals. Well, in Raleigh's case, it was an organic: tobacco. But ultimately each resulted in the same thing: some people got rich and others found fame and others happily and witlessly addicted themselves. Then got cancer and died.Tallulah Bankhead died of lung cancer in 1968.Newport had three ships. His own was -- ironically -- named "Something" Constant. "Sarah," "Susan," something. It's different in every account. Apparently, the names of ships weren't as important as the names of kings in those days, because Newport went on to name everything "James." "James Towne." "James River." "James City County." "King James Bible."
The Virginia Company (after experiencing starvation and then ignoring or killing the natives who figured that the Company was there because they'd done something bad) would eventually steal the concept of community rule from the native Powhatans, pretend to have invented democracy, and then wreck everything by allowing special interests and lobbyists to destroy a once-great nation's enthusiastic enterprise, but let's not worry about that now.
Let us, rather, look upon Virginia Hey.The greatest lower lip in cinema.

(This presentation includes photographs of Miranda Richardson, Tallulah Bankhead, and Virginia Hey.)

No comments: