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The Abraham Zapruder of the Rodney King Video

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Shortly after midnight on March 3, 1991, plumbing company manager George Holliday was awakened by the sound of police sirens screaming outside of his Lake View Terrace apartment building. He peeked out the window and saw some sort of commotion going on across the street. He grabbed his new Sony Handycam and stepped out onto his second-floor balcony and shot a video that would change Los Angeles forever.

There was no YouTube or other instant outlet for his footage at that time. A friend encouraged him to approach a local TV station, and KTLA-TV Channel 5 paid him $500 for the rights. During the trial of the LA police officers, it would emerge that several minutes had been cut from the beginning of the tape before it was broadcast. KTLA's reasoning was that the footage was too grainy. However, the entire unedited tape was shown to jurors during the trial and is believed to have swayed their "not guilty" verdict.

According to the Associated Press, Holliday is working on a documentary about his famous video and the events that followed.

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Retrobituaries
Haruo Nakajima, the Original Actor Beneath the Godzilla Suit
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Haruo Nakajima (second from left) during the filming of Godzilla Raids Again (1955).
Wikipedia // Public Domain

If you can’t picture actor Haruo Nakajima’s face, that’s because his most famous movie role had him hidden inside a monster costume. The Japanese performer—who played cinema’s most famous reptilian beast, Godzilla, in both the 1954 original film and 11 sequels—died on August 7, 2017 at the age of 88 from pneumonia, but not before giving the world a glimpse of the man beneath the scaly suit.

Nakajima was born on January 1, 1929, in Yamagata, Japan. As the third of five children, he knew he wouldn't inherit his father's butcher shop (which traditionally went to the eldest son), so he enrolled in an acting program at the age of 18 after working for a brief period as a truck driver for the occupying Allied forces.

Nakajima launched his movie career by working as a stuntman in samurai movies. His most famous bit part was in Akira Kurosawa’s famous 1954 adventure-drama Seven Samurai, but his big break occurred while filming the 1953 World War II military film Eagle of the Pacific.

The script required Nakajima to jump from a burning plane, and when director Ishirō Honda saw him in action, "he thought, 'This guy is full of energy,'" the actor recalled to Great Big Story in March 2017. “They came to see me as someone who had guts, and I think that’s why they wanted me for the role of Godzilla.”

In the original 1954 Godzilla film, underwater hydrogen bomb testing disturbs an ancient sea creature from its aquatic habitat, and the beast proceeds to wreak havoc upon mainland Japan. Since Nakajima initially had no idea what the titular monster would look like or how it would move, he prepared for his role in an unusual way.

“I spent 10 days at the zoo,” Nakajima later recalled, according to Jonathan Clements’s book Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. “I’d watch the way the elephants walked, the monkeys, the gorillas, but especially the bears. I used to take two lunches with me. One was mine, and the rest of it I’d throw to the bears. When one of them snatched it up and shoveled it into his mouth, I’d watch the way he did it.”

Not that it was easy to move in the Godzilla suit. The original costume was made from ready-mixed concrete (rubber was a scare commodity in post-war Japan) and reportedly weighed around 220 pounds. It was also suffocatingly hot: Nakajima sweated so much beneath the soundstage’s bright lights that by day’s end he said he could fill half a bucket with perspiration wrung from his undershirt.

When Godzilla first arrived in movie theaters in 1954, an anonymous Nakajima watched the film from the front row to gauge the audience's reaction. "When the film was a success I was so surprised," he told Great Big Story. "I was so happy."

Nakajima starred in Godzilla movies for most of the next two decades. He also appeared in dozens of other monster movies as a contract actor for Japanese film studio Toho, which created the Godzilla franchise. But after filming Godzilla vs. Hedorah in 1971, Nakajima's exclusive contract wasn't renewed, and he donned the scaly suit just one last time for 1972's Godzilla vs. Gigan. The actor retired in 1973, and spent his remaining years attending comic cons and movie conventions, making the occasional Godzilla film cameo, and running a Toho-owned mahjong parlor.

Even though Nakajima enjoyed a successful career, he would never experience international fame: "Back then, people didn't speak positively of suit actors," Nakajima told Japanese magazine Josei Seven in 2014, according to Kotaku. "There'd be whispers going around that working inside [a suit] is not an acting job."

Yet the Godzilla franchise became a worldwide phenomenon. The films ushered in a new era of sci-fi monster movies, and after World War II, they served as a campy—yet palpable—reminder of the dangers of nuclear combat.

As for Nakajima himself, “there are not a lot of actors that you can compare him to,” Akira Mizuta Lippit, a cinematic arts professor at the University of Southern California, told The Washington Post after Nakajima’s death. “He, in fact, invented the kind of acting that he then performed. In that sense, he’s absolutely unique."

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ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
9 Moving Quotes from Pioneering Astronaut John Glenn
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ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Pioneering astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn has died, according to a statement from Ohio State University. The 95-year-old had suffered various health problems recently, and was being treated at the university’s James Cancer Hospital. Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American to orbit the Earth, also became the oldest astronaut to go to space, taking a space shuttle trip at the age of 77, while still a member of the Senate. (He retired from Congress a year later, in 1999.)

Here are a few tidbits of wisdom from the man whom NASA calls “a true American hero.”

1. ON SERVICE

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self interest,” he said in the 1997 announcement regarding his donation of his personal papers and artifacts to Ohio State University, which eventually named its public affairs college after him. He went on to give the school’s commencement speech in 2009, telling students that “we are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.”

2. ON CYNICISM

“If this cynicism and apathy are allowed to continue to fester, it will not only be dangerous, but in our democracy it will be suicidal,” he said upon the creation of the John Glenn Institute of Public Service at Ohio State. He went on to become an adjunct professor there, teaching late into his life.

3. ON TAKING RISKS

Glenn tells the story of climbing a giant sycamore in his childhood in his memoir. “Every time I climbed that tree, I forced myself to climb to the last possible safe limb and look down,” staring down the 55 feet to the ground. “Every time I did it, I told myself I’d never do it again. But I kept going back because it scared me and I had to know I could overcome that.”

4. ON HIS TIME IN CONGRESS

In his 2000 memoir, Glenn recalled the 24 years he served in Congress and the 9400 votes he cast. “Each had contributed in small or large measure to the painstaking march of our democracy,” he reflected. “I could not have asked for anything more rewarding.”

5. ON SEEING THE EARTH FROM ORBIT

As he made history as the first American to see Earth from orbit, his response was simple: "Oh, that view is tremendous," he said over the radio.

6. ON NEXT-GENERATION SCIENTISTS

“The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math, and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel,” he said as the spokesperson for National Space Day in 2000.

7. ON HIS FAME

Glenn often demurred when asked about the fame he achieved in his life. “I figure I’m the same person who grew up in New Concord, Ohio, and went off through the years to participate in a lot of events of importance,” he once said in an interview. “What got a lot of attention, I think, was the tenuous times we thought we were living in back in the Cold War. I don’t think it was about me. All this would have happened to anyone who happened to be selected for that flight.”

8. ON FEAR

“You fear the least what you know the most about,” he said in the two months of continuous postponements that preceded his historic 1962 flight. As his orbiter, Friendship 7, reentered the atmosphere, he worried his heat shield had come loose, and he could see fiery chunks flying past his window. But his words to his capsule director were calm and cheeky. “My condition is good, but that was a real fireball, boy,” he said upon landing in the ocean.

9. ON TAKING RISKS ON THE JOB

“There are times when you devote yourself to a higher cause than personal safety,” he told the surviving family members of the space shuttle Challenger astronauts after the deadly 1986 explosion, comforting them immediately after the disaster. He went on to say that “the seven brave heroes were carrying our dreams and hopes with them.”

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