Today in History, February 18

Toni Morrison is 85 today. Her most recent novel, “God Help the Child,” was published last year.

* * * *
“What took you so long?”—Robert Hanssen

When he was arrested by FBI agents 15 years ago today, Robert Hanssen asked them, “What took you so long?” An FBI agent himself, Hanssen had been a volunteer mole selling secrets to the Soviet Union and then to Russia since 1979. By February 2001, he had grown suspicious that he was being monitored, finally, and had started to look for a new job, had complained that he suspected his car was bugged, and wrote to whomever might help him on the other side that he thought “something has aroused the sleeping tiger.” His 22 years of intelligence damage earned him $1.4 million and 15 consecutive life sentences. His arrest was announced two days later, on February 20, 2001.

He is held in the “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day.

* * * *
The 43rd Daytona 500 was contested on this date 15 years ago. Michael Waltrip won his first trophy after 462 races without a win, a record to start a career, but his car owner, Dale Earnhardt, died in a final lap crash. This remains NASCAR’s most recent top-level on-track fatality.

* * * *
Martin Luther died on this date in 1546. Michelangelo died on this date in 1564.

Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, known to the art world as Balthus, died at the age of 92 on this date in 2001. (His 1933 canvas, “The Street,” is reproduced at the top. It is a large canvas, 76 by 92 inches.) He insisted that galleries and museums use these sentences in place of any biographical note: “Balthus is a painter about whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures.”

* * * *
George Kennedy is 91 today. His most recent film role was in a Mark Wahlberg film, “The Gambler,” released in 2014. Senator John Warner is 89 today. Miloš Forman is 84.

Yoko Ono is 83 today. Once upon a time, she was considered weird. A famous musician’s indulgence. A non-musical musician herself. The breaker of millions of hearts, as she was blamed for the dissolution of the Beatles. Today, Yoko Ono is 83, has spent more than 30 years keeping the flame of a dream she shared with that musician flickering, and it’s now understood that she no more broke up the Beatles than you did. And somehow she has retained an avant-garde street cred by holding true to her out-there, life-loving, vibe. She will release her newest album, “Yes, I’m A Witch Too,” tomorrow, which includes her 2010 remake of “Give Me Something” with the band Sparks.

Jean M. Auel is 80 today. Manny Mota is 78. Cybill Shepherd is 66 today. John Travolta is 62. Vanna White is 59. Matt Dillon is 52. Dr. Dre is 51. Molly Ringwald is 48. Regina Spektor is 36.

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  1. terryb · February 18, 2016

    This is a very interesting post! It makes me wonder, history being as long as it is, and the world population now being as large as it is, if every date might have a chock-full past like this one or if February 18th is just exceptional.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GettingrealwithPTSD · February 18, 2016

    I am really enjoying these “Today in History” posts. Fascinating and learning things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loisajay · February 18, 2016

    wow. Who knew so much news happened today. Thank you for this, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rogershipp · February 21, 2016

    A day filled with diverse unique people!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. abodyofhope · February 23, 2016

    I love the Balthus painting! Thank you for taking the time to do this research and share with us!

    Liked by 1 person

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