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Joshua Moore // Getty Images

10 Famous Birthdays to Celebrate in October

Joshua Moore // Getty Images
Joshua Moore // Getty Images

Some of our favorite historical figures—including six U.S. presidents—were born in the month of October. We couldn't possibly name them all, but here are just a handful whose lives we'll be celebrating.

1. BUSTER KEATON: OCTOBER 4, 1895

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Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton was a pioneer of film production. He was an acclaimed comedic actor in many silent films of the 1920s, but he also wrote and directed them—developing a number of filmmaking techniques as he went along. Many became industry standards, like the chase scene, breaking the fourth wall, and appearing as multiple characters in the same scene. Keaton also did all his own stunts, like in the 1928 movie Steamboat Bill, Jr., in which a 4,000-lb. front wall of a house nearly falls on him. He survives in the movie—and in real life—by being in the exact spot where an open window falls around him, but if the actor had stood two inches to the left or right, he would have been crushed.

2. JOHN LENNON: OCTOBER 9, 1940

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John Lennon formed a skiffle band in Liverpool, England, when he was only 15 years old, recruiting another teen named Paul McCartney to join in. The pair soon enlisted 14-year-old George Harrison and they, along with a handful of other classmates, formed The Quarrymen. A few years later the three three broke off on their own, changed their named to The Beatles, recruited drummer Ringo Starr, and played their way into the history books. Lennon was also a composer, poet, author, and antiwar activist, but one thing few people know is that he also loved cats. He owned at least 16 of them over the years before his death in 1980.

3. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: OCTOBER 11, 1884

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She was the wife of one president and the niece of another, but Eleanor Roosevelt left a lasting mark on history with her own accomplishments. She championed racial equality and women’s rights, and was an advocate for war refugees and children. Roosevelt led volunteer support programs during World War II, wrote a monthly magazine article and a daily newspaper column, and addressed the country with a regular radio address. She was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, where she served on the Human Rights Commission. On top of that, she raised five children (one of her six died in infancy). Roosevelt’s many activities included years as a pitchman for all kinds of products. She didn’t need the money, and her fee went to charities and humanitarian projects. You can see her first TV ad, for margarine, in a previous post.

4. MOLLY PITCHER: OCTOBER 13, 1754

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“Molly Pitcher” is a moniker used for an unidentified woman—or possibly several women—who aided soldiers during the American Revolution. While some consider her more folklore than fact, she is widely believed to have been either Margaret Corbin or Mary Ludwig Hayes, who was born on October 13, 1754. When her husband enlisted in the Continental Army, Mary joined him at Valley Forge (which was a common practice), and volunteered—cooking, carrying water, and tending to wounded men. The name Molly Pitcher comes from the fact that women would make repeated trips to fill pitchers with water to bring back for soldiers to drink, or to pour over hot cannons to cool them down. During the Battle of Monmouth in June of 1778, legend has it that Mary took over her husband's post at a cannon after he collapsed. She kept it firing until the Americans had won the battle, and even emerged unscathed after an enemy cannonball reportedly flew between her legs. She was later awarded a pension of $40 annually from the state of Pennsylvania for her service—44 years after the war ended. 

5. BELA LUGOSI: OCTOBER 20, 1882

The Hungarian actor is best remembered for his indelible portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1931 film, but when he made his Broadway debut in 1922, he barely spoke a word of English. To play the role of Fernando in the play The Red Poppy, Lugosi met with a tutor and was able to memorize and properly deliver every last line, even though he didn't understand a word of it. He pulled it off and eventually became a horror movie star, and even though he grew to resent the typecasting that followed Dracula, Lugosi was eventually buried in the Count’s signature cape. 

6. PABLO PICASSO: OCTOBER 25, 1881

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Picasso was an experimental artist best known for co-founding the Cubist art movement, but he explored many art genres throughout his life and left a catalog of works that displayed classicism, symbolism, realism, and surrealism. If that wasn't enough, he also helped to develop the art of the collage. Picasso’s full name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. His last name at birth was Ruiz, but he took his mother’s Italian maiden name because he thought it was more interesting.

7. MAHALIA JACKSON: OCTOBER 26, 1911

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The "Queen of Gospel" began singing when she was just four years old, at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in New Orleans. Later on in Chicago, she sang with the Greater Salem Baptist Church choir and the Johnson Gospel Singers, and worked as a beautician, laundry worker, and florist before her recording career took off in 1947. She went on to perform at Carnegie Hall, tour Europe, and sing at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Jackson was also a noted Civil Rights activist, and performed at the March on Washington in 1963, just before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

8. TEDDY ROOSEVELT: OCTOBER 27, 1858

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Theodore Roosevelt was only 42 years old when he became president following the assassination of President McKinley, which makes him the youngest U.S. president so far. Years later, he was unhappy with the tenure of successor William Howard Taft (whom Roosevelt had supported in the 1908 election), so he decided to run again. At a campaign stop in Milwaukee, a man named John Schrank shot Roosevelt right in the chest, but the bullet was slowed by the 50-page speech folded in the candidate’s pocket. Roosevelt was wounded, but—as he wasn't coughing up blood—decided to go on with his speech. He told the crowd, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Woodrow Wilson won the election later that year.      

9. SYLVIA PLATH: OCTOBER 27, 1932

Poet Sylvia Plath won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems, but her most famous work is her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, which was published in the United Kingdom only a month before her death in 1963. Plath declared that she was writing a “potboiler” to appeal to the public’s interests, and even wrote in her journal, “Must get out Snake Pit [a popular 1946 novel about a mental illness]. There is an increasing market for mental-hospital stuff. I am a fool if I don't relive, recreate it.” The Bell Jar contained characters based on real people as well as details that mirrored Plath's own life, like the protagonist's stint at a mental hospital. While the author surrogate seems to be in recovery at the book's close, similar treatment didn’t help Plath. She suffered from depression her entire life, and committed suicide at age 30.

10. EMILY POST: OCTOBER 27, 1872

Born into high society, Emily Post (neé Price) began writing after her divorce from banker Edwin Main Post in 1905. Etiquette was just one of many subjects Post wrote on, but her 1922 book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home became a runaway hit. Its popularity was attributed to American immigrants and working class people who were chasing the American Dream and aspired to fit in with society folk. She then wrote a syndicated newspaper column on decorum for decades, and founded The Emily Post Institute, which tells the world how to behave to this day. (After all, her original etiquette advice is a little outdated now.) Following Post's death, her work was taken on by her grandson’s wife, Elizabeth Post. When Elizabeth retired, her daughter-in-law Peggy Post—along with a few other members of the Post clan—became the go-to for modern manners.

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
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Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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10 Crazy Facts About Willie Nelson
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Willie Nelson is one of the world’s most accomplished musicians—and not just in the country music world. Nelson’s talents transcend genre, and go far beyond music. Here are 10 things you might not know about the legendary outlaw country singer, who turns 85 years old today.

1. HE WROTE HIS FIRST SONG AT THE AGE OF SEVEN.

While other kids were still struggling to keep inside the lines of their coloring books, Nelson was composing music. He recalled the experience of his songwriting debut to Rolling Stone in 2004: “Back when we used to take music lessons from our grandmother, we'd go through lessons, and if we'd get the lesson right that day she'd take a gold star—a little star, about the size of your finger, with glue on one side—and she'd stick it on the sheet of music, which meant you'd done well. So I wrote this song with the line ‘They took a gold star away from me when you left me for another, long ago.’ I'd never been left by anybody, so it was kind of funny.”

2. HE USED TO BE A BIBLE SALESMAN.

Before he became a full-time musician in the mid-1950s, Nelson worked as a cotton picker (a gig he began as a child, working alongside his grandmother), disc jockey, and a Bible salesman.

3. HE RAN INTO A BURNING HOUSE (TO SAVE HIS POT).

While living in Nashville, Nelson arrived home one evening to discover that his house was burning to the ground. “By the time I got there, it was burning real good,” he told People in 1980. “But I had this pound of Colombian grass inside. I wasn't being brave running in there to get my dope—I was trying to keep the firemen from finding it and turning me over to the police.” One-hundred tapes of yet-to-be-recorded songs weren't as lucky as Nelson's stash; they were lost in the fire.

4. HE RETIRED IN 1972.

In 1972, Nelson paid $14,000 to buy out his contract so that he could retire to Austin, Texas. But his withdrawal from the music business didn’t last long. Especially considering how vibrant the music scene was happening all around him in Austin. Within a year, he was back on the charts with the album Shotgun Willie. By the mid-1970s he scored some of his biggest hits with a trio of albums: Red Headed Stranger, The Sound in Your Mind, and The Troublemaker.

5. HE HAS BEEN PLAYING THE SAME GUITAR FOR NEARLY 50 YEARS.

Nelson has been playing Trigger, his beloved guitar (which he named after Roy Rogers’ horse), since 1969. “I’ve got to take good care of Trigger,” Nelson told Uncut Magazine in 2014. “He’s had a couple of problems. We’ve had to go in and do some work on the inside, build up the woodwork in there a little bit over the years. But Trigger’s holding up pretty good.”

6. HE RECORDED THE IRS TAPES TO PAY OFF HIS TAX DEBT.

In 1990, the IRS raided Nelson’s house and seized his assets (everything except Trigger) for non-payment of taxes. The $32 million bill, one of the largest in IRS history, was eventually negotiated down and settled in a creative way: Nelson would record a new album with the IRS receiving at least 15 cents of every dollar made. The result was the limited-edition The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories, which sold for $19.95 on cassette or CD and was purchased by dialing 1-800-IRS-TAPE.

7. HE WROTE “ON THE ROAD AGAIN” ON A BARF BAG.

Nelson’s 1980 hit, “On The Road Again,” was written aboard an airplane—on a barf bag. “I was on an aeroplane with Sydney Pollack and Jerry Schatzberg, who was the director of the movie Honeysuckle Rose,” Nelson told Uncut in 2014. “They were looking for songs for the movie and they started asking me if I had any ideas. I said, ‘I don’t know, what do you want the song to say?’ I think Sydney said, ‘Can it be something about being on the road?’ It just started to click in my head. I said, ‘You mean like, ‘On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again?’ They said, ‘That’s great. What’s the melody?’ I said, ‘I don’t know yet.’”

8. HE PERFORMED "UP AGAINST THE WALL, REDNECK MOTHER” WITH ROSALYNN CARTER.

Former President Jimmy Carter has never made a secret of his admiration of Willie Nelson. And the two have shared a long friendship. On September 13, 1980, Nelson performed for Carter and guests at the White House—which included a duet of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” with then-First Lady Rosalynn Carter. (On various occasions, Nelson has recounted how he later made his way onto the roof of the White House and smoked a joint.) In 2012, the former President got his own chance to share the stage with the legendary musician when the two performed “Amazing Grace” together in Atlanta.

9. HE OWNS A BIODIESEL FIRM.

Nelson is much more than a musician—he’s a noted activist and entrepreneur, too. In 2004 he launched his own biodiesel firm, BioWillie Biodiesel.

10. HE’S A POT-REPRENEUR.

Nelson has hardly made a secret of regular marijuana use, or his support for its legalization. (His rap sheet of pot-related arrests certainly backs up those claims.) As more and more states are legalizing the once-outlawed weed, Nelson has put his expertise on the topic to good use, and launched his very own brand of pot: Willie’s Reserve.

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