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Where Are They Now? Famous Photos Edition

The Unsuspecting Nurse

On June 20, Edith Shain passed away at age 91. Mrs. Shain is widely believed to have been the unsuspecting nurse being kissed in the famous photo snapped by Alfred Eisenstaedt in New York City on V-J Day. The identity of the sailor in the photo is still in dispute, but of all the women who have claimed to be the woman, Eisenstaedt believed that Shain was the most likely candidate.

Shain was working as a nurse at New York's Doctors Hospital on the afternoon of August 14, 1945, when the news of Japan's surrender was broadcast on the radio. She joined thousands of other celebrating citizens in Times Square, which is where a man dressed in a Navy uniform grabbed her, planted a smooch on her, and then continued through the crowd bussing every woman within reach. Eisenstaedt snapped four quick frames of the encounter, then lost the pair in the crowd before he could get their names.

Edith Shain moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, where she taught kindergarten for the next 30 years. She continued to take part in WWII commemorative events and Veteran's Day activities throughout the rest of her life.

The Officer and the 2-Year-Old


The weather was unusually hot on September 10, 1957, when Washington Daily News photographer Bill Beall was assigned to cover a local parade being held by the Chinese Merchants Association. He watched the celebration with little interested and took a few perfunctory snaps of a large paper dragon dancing down the street with the help of a dozen humans. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two-year-old Allen Weaver step off the curb to get a closer look at the dragon. Something made Beall point his camera that way and he shot a picture just as police officer Maurice Cullinane bent down to caution the tot not to get too close, lest the firecrackers injure him. The Norman Rockwell-like photograph caused a sensation when it appeared on the front page of the Post, and it eventually netted Beall a Pulitzer Prize.

Cullinane worked his way up the ranks and was appointed Washington D.C.'s Chief of Police in 1974. He retired in 1978 and later moved to Florida. As a teen, Allen Weaver worked for a while at Georgia's Six Flags amusement park before heading west with his family to California.

The Olympic Protesters

Prior to heading to Mexico City for the 1968 Olympic Games, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos met with Harry Edwards, a friend of theirs from San Jose State University. Edwards had formed the Olympic Project for Human Rights and was encouraging all African-American athletes to boycott the Olympics in order to protest the slow pace at which the civil rights movement seemed to be moving.

The boycott didn't work out, but after Smith won the gold medal and Carlos the bronze in the 200 meter race, the pair sat in an anteroom for an hour before the medal ceremony. Silver medalist Peter Norman from Australia was also present and expressed an interest in the non-violent protest they were discussing. One plan was for the duo to wear black gloves during the National Anthem, but they only had one pair of gloves between them. Norman suggested that they each wear one glove on one hand, which is why the two are raising different fists in the photograph.

However, at the press conference after the medal ceremony, Smith had a more elaborate explanation of all the symbolism in their pose. Smith said he had raised his right fist to represent black power in America, while Carlos raised his left fist to represent black unity. Together they formed an arch of unity and power. He said the black scarf around his neck represented black pride and the black socks with no shoes stood for black poverty in racist America. Peter Norman didn't raise a fist and kept his shoes on, but he did wear an OPHR button on his track suit.

In the years after the protest, both Smith and Carlos played professional sports for a while and then went on to successful corporate careers in the private sector. Peter Norman received harsh criticism from the press and public when he returned to Australia (simply for wearing the OPHR badge) and 32 years later wasn't invited to participate in any of the ceremonies surrounding the 2000 Games in Sydney. He died of a heart attack in 2006, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos both served as pallbearers at his funeral.

The POW and His Family

Air Force fighter pilot Lt. Col. Robert Stirm had been shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent the next six years being tortured in various North Vietnamese prison camps, including the notorious Hanoi Hilton. He was released in March 1973 as part of a POW exchange. His wife and four children were waiting for him on the tarmac at Travis Air Force Base in California. A phalanx of press photographers were also nearby taking photos of the POWs deplaning as part of "Operation: Homecoming."

Associated Press photographer Sal Veder saw a teen-aged girl sprinting toward the crowd with her arms spread wide, looking as though she was in flight. It was 15-year-old Lorrie Stirm, who was closely followed by her siblings and her mother. The Veder entitled the prize-winning photo he'd snapped "Burst of Joy."

But Stirm's homecoming was bittersweet; three days before arriving in California an Air Force chaplain handed him a letter from his wife. Loretta Stirm had fallen in love with another man during his imprisonment and was divorcing him. Robert Stirm retired from the Air Force as a colonel and worked as a corporate pilot until he retired at age 72. All four of his children are grown and have families of their own, and each one has a framed copy of "Burst of Joy" hanging in their homes. But Col. Stirm has said he still can't bring himself to display his copy.

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A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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