Six degrees | South China Morning Post
  • Wed
  • Jan 28, 2015
  • Updated: 1:24am

Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 March, 2011, 12:00am

Not a lot of people know this, but tomorrow is Michael Caine's 78th birthday. The Cockney ex-soldier (above) had a rocky start to his career but his perseverance paid off. In the 1970s, when the tax rate for British high earners hit 83 per cent, he fled to the United States. Caine has been nominated for an Academy Award in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. The only other actor to have achieved that is Jack Nicholson ...

Nicholson was 37 years old when a reporter from Time magazine revealed to him that the woman he knew as 'Mom' had been his grandmother and his 'sister' had, in fact, been his birth mother. With both women dead by then, he decided to let the matter lie and allow his relatives to rest in peace. Many of the actor's films have evolved into cult classics, among them Easy Rider and The Shining ...

Stanley Kubrick's iconic horror film has been terrifying audiences for 30 years. The film's most famous line - 'Here's Johnny!' - was ad-libbed by Nicholson and inspired by the introduction given to Johnny Carson as host of America's The Tonight Show. Kubrick, who lived in Britain, had no idea what it referred to but kept it in anyway. The novel the film was based on was going to be called The Shine until the author, Stephen King, realised that was a derogatory term for black people. That title came from the line We all shine on in the Plastic Ono Band's single Instant Karma!, written by John Lennon ...

Lennon, who is remembered for his pacifism - he wrote the anti-Vietnam-war anthem Give Peace a Chance - was a recovering wife beater: 'I was a hitter,' he said. 'I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace.' Lennon also claimed that, after smoking marijuana, he accidently invented what was to become backmasking ...

The quirky practice, in which words became audible when a vinyl record is played backwards, kicked off an almighty furore in the US of the 1980s, as fundamental Christians convinced themselves it was the work of Satan and held mass record burnings. California introduced legislation to prohibit back- masking that could 'manipulate our behaviour ... and turn us into disciples of the Antichrist'. Not helping the situation was CBS' Dan Rather, who attempted to make a point by playing backwards Stairway to Heaven, by evil British group Led Zeppelin ...

The band owed their name to a discussion about the formation of a supergroup that would have gone down like a 'lead zeppelin'. Jimmy Page removed the 'a' from the first word, so 'stupid Americans' would not mispronounce it. The band split up in 1980, following the death of John Bonham. The drummer died, after drinking two litres of vodka, in Page's Windsor home, The Old Mill House, which he'd bought from tax exile Michael Caine.


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