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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Curious Man - Neal Thompson

The strange and brilliant life of Robert "Believe it or not" Ripley.  Originally hired by William Randolph Hearst to select curiosities from around the world, Ripley provided escapism and entertainment during the pre-television era with his cartoons and radio shows.  It was said that "By celebrating weirdness, he made it mainstream."
Ripley grew up in Santa Ana, Ca, and not suprisingly did not fit in at school.  The two events tht scarred his childhood would be the death of his father, and surviving the great San Francisco earthquake.  Although the name Ripley is now associated with bizzare and unusual people and events, it was not always so.  Some may not know that he once published a sketch titled "America has no national anthem," encouraging Congress to endorse the Star Spangled Banner as such.  The Hearst Publishing Company would credit Ripley for this achievement.  He was so popular at the time that he headlined the National Automobile Show of 1931, and was preceded by none other than Hubert Hoover.  His income soared to $350,000 per year, a vast sum in a time when many Americans were still dealing with the Depression and many unemployed.  By 1932, he had traveled to 147 countries, more traveling than most people had ever done.  His favorite country was China, and he was one of the first civilians to travel to Argentina by seaplane.  Despite all his business success, his personal life was not so happy.
Divorce and too much alcohol took it's toll.  Some recall how difficult he was to work with and for. His television show began in 1949 and and lasted only 13 episodes, mostly due to his bad attitude.  It is a shame that a person with so much talent for entertaining and curiosity, would leave a legacy of broken relationships and alcoholism.  Ripley died of a massive heart attack at the age of 59.
There is a Ripley's Believe It or Not App that can access videos, images, and audio through the Oddscan feature.  Also at nealthompson.com/books/curiousman.
The author has written other biographies, and for magazines. Published by Three Rivers Press.
I have been provided with a complimentary copy in exchage for this review.

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