The Left-Hander's Book of Days

The Left-Hander's Book of Days

by Leigh W. Rutledge
An illustrated Who's Who of famous lefties for every day of the year. From Joan of Arc to Albert Einstein, the most famous left-handers of history are here--in short bios of their lives as southpaws. This one-of-a-kind yearbook will inform, entertain, and even comfort the one-out-of-six of us who used to be considered devils or dissidents. With The Left-Hander's


An illustrated Who's Who of famous lefties for every day of the year. From Joan of Arc to Albert Einstein, the most famous left-handers of history are here--in short bios of their lives as southpaws. This one-of-a-kind yearbook will inform, entertain, and even comfort the one-out-of-six of us who used to be considered devils or dissidents. With The Left-Hander's Book of Days, lefties can learn who the world's most famous lefties are and how being left-handed affected their lives (picturing things upside-down helped Lewis Carroll, and being creative hasn't hurt Jim Carrey). With its perpetual calendar format, The Left-Hander's Book of Days makes an excellent birthday book, and its small trim and candid photos make it a perfect gift. This unique and quirky creation is sure to become a year-round favorite of lefties everywhere.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 7.64(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Left-handers Born in

January: First month of the year, named after the Roman
god Janus, god of doorways and beginnings


Today is New Year's Day throughout the Western world. On this day, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1892, Ellis Island first opened as a processing center for millions of immigrants entering the United States.

John Stubbes (birthday unknown), British writer

    Since the only two possibly left-handed celebrities born on this day were the corrupt and badly dressed J. Edgar Hoover (no man in history had less of a figure for an evening gown) and the even more corrupt and badly attired Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (remember him dressed as a cowboy "welcoming" the Entebbe hostages?), let's instead begin the New Year by contemplating the fate of sixteenth-century English scold John Stubbes, a right-handed individual forced, by royal decree, to live the last years of his life as a left-hander. Stubbes, whose actual birth date is unknown (encyclopedias like to say he "flourished" around 1570), was an acidic essayist and pamphleteer who took aim at the politics and social mores of his day. When Stubbes turned his attention to Queen Elizabeth and wrote an essay attacking her policies and insulting her judgment, the queen was outraged: she had him arrested and dragged to the Tower of London, where his writing hand was lopped off. The unfortunately named Stubbes was thencompelled to live the remainder of his life as a left-hander.


On this day, in 1959, lunar explorer Luna I became the first object to escape the gravitational field of the earth.

Sally Rand (1903-1979), U.S. burlesque artist

    Before there were lap-dances, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and a Hooters in every county, there was the incomparable left-handed artistry of Sally Rand, mistress of the fan dance, "the Balloon Ballerina." Since the left-handed brain tends to be nonverbal, it's no surprise so many left-handers are drawn to performance art. Rand never spoke a word unstage—out she spoke volumes with her body. She was a stripper, in the days when "stripper" meant something more complicated and aesthetic than using one's body as a tetherball around a greased pole. She had style, she had élan, she often stripped to Debussy and other classical composers; and she raised public indecency to such a respectable art form that she became "America's Treasure" and was the eagerly sought dinner guest of Washington politicians, society mavens, millionaire industrialists, labor leaders, and film directors. Wearing a flesh-colored body stocking (at least, she always said she wore a body stocking), she danced with two seven-foot pink ostrich-feather fans, one in each hand; the audience got flashing glimpses of the petite body behind the fans, but no one was ever really sure what, or how much, they had actually seen. Suspenseful uncertainty was the key to her act—and her success. "The Rand is quicker than the eye!" Sally liked to joke. (The act itself required enormous ambidexterity, as well as wrists of steel: a seven-foot ostrich-feather fan in motion can have the weight of a stack of bricks.) By the 1960s, Rand had evolved into such a mainstream cultural icon she was asked to perform for the Mercury astronauts at a lavish indoor barbecue thrown by Vice President Lyndon Johnson in Texas. When Sally took the stage that night, no one sent the children off to play, or covered their eyes: the chance to see an artist like Sally Rand was like an opportunity to see Sarah Bernhardt or Isadora Duncan in the flesh. (Literally.)Rand—who maintained her svelte figure all her life—continued stripping well into her seventies; however, as she got older she relied on increasingly intense backlighting to maintain the illusion of youth. Left-handers may be nonverbal, but they're not stupid.


Today is Genshi-Sai, "First Beginning," in Japan. On this day, in 1987, Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame.

Joyce Jameson (1932-1987), U.S. actress

    The face is familiar even if the name is not. Left-hander Jameson appeared in dozens of films and television shows, from the 1950s until the mid-1980s, often in nameless but memorable parts: the Telephone Operator, the Chorus Girl, the Soulful Prostitute, the Blond Downstairs. Sexy, smart, but always with an edge of introspective vulnerability, she was a cross between Diana Dors and Donna Reed. Among her best-known films were The Apartment (1960), Good Neighbor Sam (1964), and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). She also made countless guest appearances on various television shows, ranging from The Twilight Zone in 1959 to The Waltons in 1972. The year of her birth, listed above, is only an estimate, since—like many another left-handed beauty—she kept her age a secret: obituaries discreetly noted that "she was about 55 years old" at the time of her death.

Bobby Hull (b. 1934), Canadian hockey Hall of Famer

    Nicknamed "the Golden Jet" for his speed and blond good looks, left-hander Hull played for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Winnipeg Jets, and the Hartford Whalers before retiring in 1981. A brother, Dennis, and a left-handed son, Brett (see August 9), also played professional hockey.


On this day, in 1884, the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published. In 1885, the first successful appendectomy was performed, at a hospital in Iowa.

Michael Stipe (b. 1960), U.S. rock star

    Left-handed, idiosyncratic lead singer of R.E.M.: "By nature I will find hope in everything. Even if it's the most incredibly hopeless situation or circumstance. That's just me.... I'll never be able to see things any other way."


On this day, in 1925, Nellie Taylor Ross became the first woman governor in the United States, when she was sworn into office in Wyoming. In 1961, Mr. Ed debuted on television.

Diane Keaton (b. 1946), U.S. actress

    In this era of political correctness it's probably inappropriate to generalize and say that Diane Keaton epitomizes a certain kind of charming, funny, dizzy but very savvy left-hander. So instead we'll simply point out that her 1996 hit comedy, The First Wives Club, was one of the most left-handed films in recent memory. Not only were two of the stars, Keaton and Goldie Hawn, left-handed, but they were supported by a cast brimming with talented southpaws: Sarah Jessica Parker, Dan Hedaya, Victor Garber, and Bronson Pinchot. Keaton, vibrant and lovely, is traversing her fifties with a style that's a model for anyone plagued by midlife crisis. Or, as her on-screen mother Eileen Heckart told her in Wives Club, "You're not getting any younger. Or thinner. You know what I think you need? Absolutely nothing."


On this day, in 1981, Mark David Chapman pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charge of murdering John Lennon.

Joan of Arc (1412-1431), French national heroine

    Joan's left-handedness has been surmised on the basis of portraits showing her with her sword in her left hand. That the vast majority of these portraits were drawn well after the fact leaves considerable room for doubt. Was she truly left-handed, or only portrayed that way to bolster her enemies' assertion that she was a witch, or at the very least an unrepentant heretic? Like so much about her life, the question will probably never be answered.

Lou Harris (b. 1921), U.S. pollster

    If insatiable curiosity is a distinctive trait of left-handers, then pollster Lou Harris epitomizes the breed. For almost fifty years, Harris and his associates have probed, questioned, and dissected the private lives and political views of Americans with the highly regarded and eagerly read Harris opinion polls.


Today is Nanakusa, the ancient Japanese festival honoring the healing power of plants. On this day, in 1949, scientists announced they had taken the first photograph of a gene.

Dustin Diamond (b. 1977), U.S. actor

    The popular TV series Saved by the Bell should have been called Saved by the Screech. In episode after episode, Screech—"TV's most lovable nerd"—rescued his friends from detention, suspension, and the wrath of Mr. Belding. Screech was played by left-hander Dustin Diamond. The hit TV series first ran in 1988 and has continued in syndication. Diamond reprised the role in a spin-off series, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, as well as in two Saved by the Bell movies.


On this day, in 1878, David Edward Hughes gave the first public demonstration of his new invention, the microphone.

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (1864-1892), British royal

    Left-handed son of King Edward VII (and the grandson of Queen Victoria, who was also left-handed), Albert was handsome, irresponsible, sadistic, oversexed, indolent, and feebleminded—not exactly a recommendation for heir to the throne. He contracted syphilis at the age of sixteen, and suffered a number of debilitating physical problems resulting from it. A marriage—to Mary of Teck—was arranged for him, but he died, at the age of twenty-eight, from pneumonia the day before the wedding. It was a blessing: he was first in line to succeed his father. More than a hundred years after his death, he is best remembered as one of the most likely suspects in the Jack the Ripper slayings. (See August 7.)


On this day, in 1793, Jean-Pierre Blanchard made the first balloon flight in the United States, from Philadelphia to Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Crystal Gayle (b. 1951), U.S. country singer

    Younger sister of Loretta Lynn, Gayle is renowned for four things: her left-handedness, her beautiful eyes, her music—which includes such chart-toppers as "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" and "I'll Get Over You"—and her exquisitely long hair, described by one enthusiastic critic as "a five-foot-long, Rapunzel-like pathway to country music Paradise."


On this day, in 1920, the League of Nations—forerunner of the United Nations—was founded.

Willie McCovey (b. 1938), U.S. baseball player

    McCovey played first base for the San Francisco Giants from 1959 to 1980 and quickly earned the nickname "Stretch" for his confounding ability to snap up odd, imperfect, or downright freakish throws. At bat, the Herculean slugger led the National League in RBIs, home runs, and slugging percentage in 1968 and 1969. ("When the ball meets McCovey's bat," one sportswriter remarked, "it's like witnessing a head-on collision between sixteen-wheelers on the freeway.") He hit a total of 521 home runs during his career and had a .270 career average, with a peak of .354 in his maiden year, 1959. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.


On this day, in 1974, Susan Rosenkowitz, of Cape Town, South Africa, gave birth to the first sextuplets to survive in modern times.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), U.S. politician and first secretary of the treasury

    Hamilton isn't specifically known to have been left-handed, and during the past two hundred years he hasn't shown up on lists of famous left-handers. The only "evidence" that he might have been left-handed is a curious phenomenon visible in numerous engravings and paintings of him at his desk: the quill with which Hamilton presumably wrote is always positioned to the far left of the desktop—a singularly unlikely place for it to be if he had been right-handed.


On this day, in 1773, the first public museum in the United States opened, in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1981, Dynasty premiered on prime-time television.

Randy Jones (b. 1950), U.S. baseball player

    Left-handed pitcher with the San Diego Padres (1973-80) and the New York Mets (1981-82), Jones won the National League's Cy Young Award in 1976. After 1976, he suffered increasing problems with his game, due to escalating arm trouble, and retired in 1982.


On this day, in 1854, the accordion was patented. In 1910, the first public radio broadcast in the U.S. was heard, in New York City.

Bill Smitrovich (b. 1945), U.S. actor

    Left-hander Smitrovich is best known as the father, Drew Thatcher, in the critically acclaimed television series Life Goes On, which first aired in 1989. He is a veteran of dozens of films, including Independence Day (1996), Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and Air Force One (1997), as well as a frequent guest star on such television shows as Touched by an Angel.


On this day, in 1952, the Today show premiered on NBC. In 1954, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), German medical missionary, theologian, and musician

    For all the people who sit on their derrieres at night and complain, "There's nothing to watch on television," here's a lesson from the life of indefatigable left-hander Albert Schweitzer. Raised in an age before whining (or couch-potatoism) became de rigueur, Schweitzer received his first doctorate, in philosophy, when he was twenty-four; his second doctorate, in theology, when he was twenty-five; and a third, in medicine, when he was thirty-eight. In 1905, he announced his intention to give up his comfortable life in France and become a missionary in Africa. He and his wife, Helene, then made the arduous journey to the Gabon province of French Equatorial Africa, where they established a missionary hospital (and later a leper colony), largely with their own savings. For almost fifty years afterward, Schweitzer devoted himself to jungle medicine. He was not a perfect man: according to contemporaries, he could be inconsistent, egotistical, and paternalistic. (One African complained, "I'd rather die unattended than be humiliated at Dr. Schweitzer's hospital.") And then there's the ever sticky question of Christian missionaries invading other people's countries and trying to talk them out of their indigenous beliefs. Still, Schweitzer's name was virtually synonymous with humanitarianism, and in 1952 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In his spare time, Schweitzer wrote more than half a dozen books (including the internationally acclaimed Quest for the Historical Jesus); he was also a distinguished organist, widely regarded as one of the most perceptive interpreters of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He died, at the age of ninety, in his adopted African homeland: his final fear wasn't of death but that he hadn't accomplished enough with his life, especially in warning the world against the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. Schweitzer, who preached the sanctity of all living things, was also an ardent animal lover who acquired a small cat named Sizi during his years in Africa. Sizi developed a habit of falling asleep on Schweitzer's left arm whenever he was trying to work at his desk. The left-handed doctor eventually taught himself to write with his right hand so he wouldn't disturb the winsome creature.

Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), British photographer, writer, and designer

    Perhaps best known for designing Audrey Hepburn's flamboyant hats and gowns in the 1965 film My Fair Lady, and for his glamorous photography of film celebrities and the British royal family, Beaton—like many left-handers—believed in iconoclasm, showmanship, and subverting the status quo. He advised young people, "Be daring, be different, be impractical: be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. Routines have their purposes, but the merely routine is the hidden enemy of high art."

Jason Bateman (b. 1969), U.S. actor

    The left-handed teen idol, whose pinup photos adorned the bedroom walls of teenage girls in the 1980s, appeared in the popular sitcoms Silver Spoons and Valerie.


Today is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. On this day, in 1967, the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl.

Paul Badura-Skoda (b. 1927), Austrian pianist

    Badura-Skoda—who still maintains an active concert schedule in his seventies {an age when many concert pianist's hands have long since been weakened by "burnout")—is one of the world's foremost interpreters of the music of Mozart.


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