January 9 in History

Clifford Irving left a clue to his hoax in plain sight: in the introduction to The Autobiography of Howard Hughes, which was neither an autobiography nor by Hughes, “Hughes” tells Irving that he, Hughes, admired Irving’s (real) book about Elmyr de Hory, the famous art forger. Hughes tells Irving that this is one of the reasons he is giving him the manuscript of his autobiography.

Irving never met Hughes and he forged the manuscript. He later confessed to the crime and went to prison. But on this date 45 years ago, Howard Hughes felt forced by the rumor that his autobiography was about to be published to come out of hiding—a recluse, Hughes had not been seen in public nor spoken with a reporter in fifteen years, which is partly why Irving’s hoax was plausible—but he came out of hiding in the most bizarre, Hughes-ian, way possible: seven reporters were assembled in a hotel conference room in the center of which was placed a table covered with a cloth and a speakerphone atop that. (Photo at top.) A voice spoke from the phone, claimed to be Howard Hughes, and he took questions and denied ever meeting Irving.

Whatever Hughes had desired from the event, it only added to the circus atmosphere around his life and the “autobiography.”

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Steve Jobs announced ten years ago today at the 2007 Macworld convention that the first iPhone would be released later that year. Ten generations of the device have been created thus far.

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Peter Cook died 22 years ago today. A clip with Alan Bennett from Beyond the Fringe (“We believe this to be the work of thieves. The pattern is extremely reminiscent of past robberies, in which we found thieves to be involved”):

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President Richard Nixon was born on this date in 1913.

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Judith Krantz is 89 today. Dick Enberg is 82 today. Joan Baez is 76 today. Jimmy Page is 73. David Johansen is 67 today. Crystal Gayle is 66. J. K. Simmons is 62. Rigoberta Menchú is 58. Mark Martin is 58. Dave Matthews is 50 today. Sergio García is 37. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is 35.

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