August 17, 1898: the remains of Dr. Rizal were exhumed and taken to his house in Binondo
On August 17, 1898, the remains of Dr. Jose Rizal were exhumed from the Paco Cemetery and taken to his house on Estraude Street in Binondo, Manila where his father, Francisco Mercado, died in January of the same year.
Accordingly, after Dr. Rizal’s execution on December 30, 1896 in Bagumbayan, (later called Luneta and now Rizal Park) his body was secretly buried at the Paco Cemetery with no identification on his grave.
His sister Narcisa, toured all possible gravesites and found freshly turned earth at the cemetery with civil guards posted at the gate. Assuming this could be the most likely spot, there being even no ground burials there, she gave a gift to the caretaker to mark the site “RPJ”, Rizal’s initials in reverse, for identification.
At present, the hero’s remains are kept at his national monument bearing his statue at the Rizal Park.
Designed by a Swiss sculptor named Richard Kissling, the statue carries the inscription: “I want to show to those who deprive people the right to love of country, that when we know how to sacrifice ourselves for our duties and convictions, death does not matter if one dies for those one loves – for his country and for others dear to him”.
August 17, 1943: Robert De Niro born
On this day in 1943, Robert De Niro, considered one of the greatest actors in modern movie history, is born in New York City. De Niro’s many memorable performances include the creepy loner Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (whose signature line was “You talkin’ to me?”), the boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull (a role for which De Niro gained some 60 pounds) and the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).
De Niro grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood and as a young actor during the 1960s appeared in off-Broadway productions and small films. He received critical acclaim for his performance in the 1973 movie Mean Streets, which marked his first collaboration with the director (and De Niro’s fellow Little Italy native) Martin Scorsese. De Niro’s film credits during the 1970s also included The Godfather: Part II (1974), in which he spoke much of his dialogue in Italian; Taxi Driver (1976), for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role; and the Vietnam War-era movie The Deer Hunter (1978), which nabbed De Niro his second Best Actor Oscar nomination.
DeNiro and Scorsese reunited for 1980’s Raging Bull, for which De Niro finally took home the Academy Award for Best Actor. During the 1980s, the actor also appeared in such films as The King of Comedy (1983), The Untouchables (1987)–in which he played the notorious gangster Al Capone–and Midnight Run (1988), his first hit comedy. In the 1990s, the prolific De Niro made a string of successful films, including Awakenings (1990), which earned him another Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as a man who comes out of a coma; Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) and Cape Fear (1991), for which he received another Best Actor nomination for his role as a psychotic rapist; Heat (1995) and Casino (1995). In Wag the Dog (1997), Analyze This (1999), and Meet the Parents (2000) De Niro displayed impressive comedic chops. Both of the latter films produced successful sequels (2002’s Analyze That and 2004’s Meet the Fockers, respectively). More recently, De Niro reteamed with his Godfather II and Heat co-star Al Pacino in Righteous Kill (2008).
In addition to his acting career, De Niro has also gone behind the camera, making his directorial debut with 1993’s A Bronx Tale, about a young boy torn between his bus-driver father and the local Mafia boss. After co-founding the TriBeCa Film Center in New York City in 1989, De Niro went on to establish the TriBeCa Film Festival in 2001 to spur cultural and economic growth in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
August 17, 1969: Woodstock Music Festival concludes
On this day in 1969, the grooviest event in music history–the Woodstock Music Festival–draws to a close after three days of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll in upstate New York.
Conceived as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” Woodstock was a product of a partnership between John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang. Their idea was to make enough money from the event to build a recording studio near the arty New York town of Woodstock. When they couldn’t find an appropriate venue in the town itself, the promoters decided to hold the festival on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York–some 50 miles from Woodstock–owned by Max Yasgur.
By the time the weekend of the festival arrived, the group had sold a total of 186,000 tickets and expected no more than 200,000 people to show up. By Friday night, however, thousands of eager early arrivals were pushing against the entrance gates. Fearing they could not control the crowds, the promoters made the decision to open the concert to everyone, free of charge. Close to half a million people attended Woodstock, jamming the roads around Bethel with eight miles of traffic.
Soaked by rain and wallowing in the muddy mess of Yasgur’s fields, young fans best described as “hippies” euphorically took in the performances of acts like Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Who performed in the early morning hours of August 17, with Roger Daltrey belting out “See Me, Feel Me,” from the now-classic album Tommy just as the sun began to rise. The most memorable moment of the concert for many fans was the closing performance by Jimi Hendrix, who gave a rambling, rocking solo guitar performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
With not enough bathroom facilities and first-aid tents to accommodate such a huge crowd, many described the atmosphere at the festival as chaotic. There were surprisingly few episodes of violence, though one teenager was accidentally run over and killed by a tractor and another died from a drug overdose. A number of musicians performed songs expressing their opposition to the Vietnam War, a sentiment that was enthusiastically shared by the vast majority of the audience. Later, the term “Woodstock Nation” would be used as a general term to describe the youth counterculture of the 1960s.
A 25th anniversary celebration of Woodstock took place in 1994 in Saugerties, New York. Known as Woodstock II, the concert featured Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills and Nash as well as newer acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Green Day. Held over another rainy, muddy weekend, the event drew an estimated 300,000 people.
August 17, 1987: Hitler’s last living henchman dies
Rudolf Hess, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, is found strangled to death in Spandau Prison in Berlin at the age of 93, apparently the victim of suicide. Hess was the last surviving member of Hitler’s inner circle and the sole prisoner at Spandau since 1966.
Hess, an early and devoted follower of Nazism, participated in Hitler’s failed “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923. He escaped to Austria but voluntarily returned to Germany to join Hitler in Landsberg jail. During his eight months in prison, Hitler dictated his life story–Mein Kampf–to Hess. In 1933, Hess became deputy Nazi party leader, but Hitler later lost faith in his leadership ability and made him second in the line of succession after Hermann Goering.
In May 1941, Hess stole an airplane and landed it in Scotland on a self-styled mission to negotiate a peace between Britain and Germany. He was immediately arrested by British authorities. His peace proposal–met with no response from the British–was essentially the same as the peace offer made by Hitler in July 1940: an end to hostilities with Britain and its empire in exchange for a free German hand on the European continent. However, by May 1941 the Battle of Britain had been lost by Germany, and Hitler rightly condemned Hess of suffering from “pacifist delusions” in thinking that a resurgent Britain would make peace.
Held in Britain until the end of the war, Hess was tried at Nuremberg after the war with other top Nazis. Because he had missed out on the worst years of Nazi atrocities and had sought peace in 1941, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was held in Spandau Prison in Berlin, and the USSR, the United States, Britain, and France shared responsibility in guarding him.
On August 17, 1987, he was found strangled to death in a cabin in the exercise yard at Spandau Prison. Apparently, he choked himself to death with an electrical cord he found there. Some suspected foul play.