Hello and welcome to The Stranger's annual Regrets Issue, which Last Days will commemorate, regrettably, with the most regrettable December 20 to 26 events ever.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 20 This history-spanning week of arbitrary birthdays, mandatory cannibalism, and floppy-penis party tricks kicks off in Germany, where on this day in 1924, a 35-year-old Adolf Hitler was released from Landsberg Prison, where the man who would be führer had served just over a year for treason following the Beer Hall Putsch. As putsch buffs recall, the BHP went down in November 1923, when Hitler and his Nazi storm troopers seized the stage at a public meeting in a Munich beer hall, demanding at gunpoint the support of the Munich military in the overthrow of the Berlin government. The next day, Hitler and company marched on the Bavarian War Ministry, where they were met by local police, who killed 16 would-be Nazi revolutionaries before arresting Hitler for high treason. While imprisoned, Hitler enjoyed fan mail from the morally malleable Germans who'd make his post-prison rise to power a reality, and he dictated the majority of his book Mein Kampf—originally boasting the Glenn Beck–worthy title Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice—to his deputy Rudolf Hess. Which brings us to today, when a freshly pardoned Hitler was released from prison, free to carry out his political ambitions and, eventually, the Final Solution. If only some German forerunner to Seattle's Shandy Cobane had been there to fatally kick the Nazi piss out of him.
••Also on this day in 2009, American film actress Brittany Murphy was found dead in her Hollywood Hills home, with the cause of death found to be pneumonia, anemia, and multiple drug intoxication. Five months after Murphy's death, her husband, Simon Monjack, was also found dead, with the causes identified as acute pneumonia and severe anemia. Last Days could give two plops about dead Mr. Monjack, but sincerely regrets the loss of Ms. Murphy, who won our heart with her charmingly idiosyncratic performances in Clueless and Drop Dead Gorgeous, before confusing and saddening us with her rebirth as just another smiling skinny blonde in Uptown Girls and Just Married. Now she's gone, leaving behind a world that's spinning so fast it's hard to remember she was even here. Ah, well. We'll always have her glorious snorting in Drop Dead Gorgeous.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 21 The week continues in the air above the Scottish village of Lockerbie, where on this day in 1988, Pan Am flight 103 was making its way from London to New York City when it was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 259 people onboard, as well as 11 people on the ground who were fatally struck by flaming wreckage. Among the victims: a UN commissioner, the CEO of Volkswagen, four U.S. intelligence officers, and 49 college students returning from studying overseas. (Among the mind-fuckingly lucky people scheduled to be on the plane who missed their flight: Motown superstars the Four Tops and art punk Johnny Lydon.) Thirteen years after the tragedy, a pair of Libyans were tried for the crime in Scotland; one was acquitted, the other was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2002, Libya will pay $2.7 billion in damages to the families of the victims, and in 2003, Libya will formally admit responsibility (if not guilt) for the bombing in a letter to the UN.
••In less regrettable news: Today also brings the birth of Andy Dick, the odd and troubled American comedian who entered the world on this day in 1965 and has spent the past decade and a half distinguishing himself as the world's foremost celebrity drunk and perpetually accused sex criminal, with allegations of public intoxication, inappropriate nudity, and compulsive sexual battery trailing him like fart fumes. But to Last Days, Dick will forever be remembered as the hungry young performer who charmed a generation of comics by asking who'd like to see his Rolex, then displaying his wrist, around which was wrapped his notoriously large and floppy penis. (Future historians will puzzle over the physical logistics of this trick, which, from what we've heard, was typically executed while seated and involved the strategic placement of wrist in lap near open fly. Also, Future Historians is a good name for a band.)
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 22 The week continues with the endlessly regrettable saga of Bernhard Goetz, the New York man who responded to his first mugging and beating (in a downtown subway station in 1981) by purchasing a handgun, and who responded to his second would-be mugging (today in 1984 on a Manhattan subway train) by methodically shooting each of his four would-be attackers. Lucky for all, Goetz was a less-than-successful shot, with the five bullets from his unlicensed revolver seriously wounding all but killing none of his alleged antagonists. Charged with attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment, Goetz was found not guilty of everything except possessing an illegal firearm, with outrage over the verdict (Goetz and his jury were white, the alleged attackers/shooting victims were black) leading to a civil case, where a mixed-race jury found Goetz had acted recklessly and inflicted deliberate emotional distress on one of his victims, to whom he was ordered to pay $43 million. Goetz subsequently filed for bankruptcy and is currently involved in providing first aid to squirrels in New York City. This is not a joke.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23 Today we travel to the Andes, where on this day in 1972, the last of the 16 survivors of Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 were rescued after 73 days in the freezing cold, avalanche-ridden mountain wilderness. As Wikipedia reminds us, "The Andes flight disaster... was a chartered flight carrying 45 people, including a rugby team and their friends and family and associates that crashed in the Andes on October 13, 1972. More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash, and several more quickly succumbed to cold and injury. Of the twenty-nine who were alive a few days after the accident, another eight were killed by an avalanche that swept over their shelter in the wreckage." However, for many citizens of the world and its cinemas, the Andes flight disaster is primarily a grim testament to the spirit of survival. "Faced with starvation and radio news reports that the search for them had been abandoned, the survivors fed on the dead passengers who had been preserved in the snow," as Wikipedia writes and the 1993 movie Alive dramatizes. Condolences to all, especially those who died, as well as those who lived by learning the answer to the question "Would you engage in cannibalism to survive?"
••Also, today in 1972, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, killing more than 10,000 people.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 24 Nothing regrettable happened today, unless you count the births of two arguably regrettable humans: Ryan Seacrest, the pint-size TV robo-mogul whose face will be remembered as the perpetually smiling death's head for our American Idol–massacred culture, born on this day in 1974, and Stephenie Meyer, the probably perfectly decent person whose millions and millions of dollars in Twilight-based tithes to the Mormon Church will fund attacks on gay and lesbian Americans until we're all dead, born on this day in 1973.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25 The week continues with Christmas, the would-be birthday of Jesus, the would-be son of God who was more likely born sometime between April and August, depending on where you land in the whole Julian Calendar–versus–Gregorian Calendar debate. Whatever the case, condolences to the many folks cursed to share a birthday with Christmas, including but not limited to cinema legend Humphrey Bogart (born on this day in 1899), author and gay icon Quentin Crisp (1908), sculptor Louise Bourgeois (1911), Egyptian president/Nobel laureate Anwar Sadat (1918), singer/songwriter/mayor of Margaritaville Jimmy Buffett (1946), Oscar-winning Loretta Lynn impersonator Sissy Spacek (1949), former Eurythmic/current adult-contemporary artist Annie Lennox (1954), and garbage-mouthed Irish musician and drunk Shane MacGowan (1957). Further condolences to Jesus, the flesh-and-blood man blessed with genius empathy and cursed with eternal co-optation and misrepresentation by empathy-deprived doofuses.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 26 The week closes with the kaleidoscopically regrettable saga of JonBenét Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty queen whose tragically short life of crowd-pleasing obedience and questionable objectification ended when she was fatally strangled on Christmas Day. Today in 1996, JonBenét's body was found in the basement of her parents' Boulder, Colorado, home, with the discovery instigating a years-long storm of investigation, accusations, and—for the battered Ramsey family, at least—exoneration. "After several grand jury hearings, the case is still unsolved," Wikipedia reminds us. "JonBenét is buried at the Saint James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, next to her mother, who died of cancer in 2006."
••Also, today brought two regrettable earthquakes: 2004's 9.3 magnitude quake in the Indian Ocean, which created a tsunami that wreaked havoc in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Maldives and killed over 250,000 people, and 2006's 7.1 magnitude in Taiwan, which toppled some houses, damaged some undersea cables, and killed two.
Nobody said life was fair (and if anyone did, he or she was lying and/or joking). Happy New Year! Send Hot Tips to lastdays@ thestranger.com.