Nia Peeples - April 14, 2014

One of the great joys of being a part of the American Treasure Tour is trying to find rhyme or reason to all of the items on display.  We love it all - the nickelodeons, band organs, and other mechanical musical instruments in the collection are truly some of the most impressive, beautiful and elegant pieces you could ever hope to find in one place.  Then, there are examples of Americana and pop culture that have special places in our collective hearts as well.  We are going to continue our discussion of "Faces of the Tour" today, and we are going to discuss an American beauty with many talents, but whose name may be unfamiliar to many.  

Nia Peeples is one of the very few people you ever learn about actually born in Hollywood, California.  And her peculiar ethnic background is a perfect example of the American melting pot.  Within her family is the blood of the Phillipines, Spain, France, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, England, Italy, and a little Native America.  Dancing must be in her blood, too, as she is the daughter of a flamenco dancer.  Peeples has been an active dancer, singer and actor during her long career.  She starred in the television series Fame during the 1980s, recorded three studio albums with some minor hits on them, and continues to appear on the small screen, currently on the ABC Family channel teen drama Pretty Little Liars.  So keep your eyes open, both as you take a tour of our Toy Box and when you watch tv.  Nia Peeples is practically everywhere!

QUESTION:  Fame cast many hopeful actors and dancers during its relatively short run.  Who of the following did not get star on the television show?

a)  Debbie Allen

b)  Lori Singer

c)  Erica Gimpel

d)  George Clooney

e)  Billy Hufsey

Answer Below

HISTORY TODAY:

History is fun!  It can be multifaceted and colorful and exciting and fascinating.  It often connects the past to the present, and sheds light on what the future may hold.  And some historic events start off with hope, but end in disaster.  On this day in 1846, a group of ambitious pioneers set off from Springfield, Illinois (maybe close to where future president Abraham Lincoln had his law office!), heading west to California.  The party is led by a man named George Donner, who could never have guessed what events would befall his group.  Their trip went slower than expected, and they followed misguided direction, getting stuck in the mountains during the winter.  We don't want to spoil the story for anyone unfamiliar with it, so check out what is now famously called the Donner Party to see how the people who did survive this harsh winter made it through.  Warning, it got ugly!

Rarely is a book published that causes as much controversy and discussion as the book that was released on this day in 1939.  Author John Steinbeck received a Nobel Prize in Literature for The Grapes of Wrath, which told the story of the Joad family, poor, down-on-their-luck Oklahoma farmers hit by the Dust Storm who decide to move to California to start their lives over again only to be hit by further conflict.  Steinbeck was accused of being a socialist, and of unfairly showing Americans treating one another poorly during hard times.  Regardless, the book was - and continues to be - read by many, and has been ranked as one of the best novels ever written by an American author.

BIRTHDAYS:

There are too few opportunities to celebrate the birthdays of educators, so we simply cannot resist acknowledging the birthday of Anne Sullivan, today in 1866.  Anne had a tough childhood.  She was born into poverty and sent off to a house for poor kids at a young age with a little brother who didn't survive the experience, only to go blind herself from untreated trachoma.  Gaining some sight back, she was hired on by the Keller family of Alabama to tutor their young daughter Helen, who suffered both blindness and deafness.  The two became inseparable, as teacher and student learned from one another and improved life for others with similar disadvantages.  They are buried together in Washington Cathedral, in the nation's capitol.

Some of the contributors to the American Treasure Tour are comfortable in admitting our strong affection for the teen vampire drama-comedy-action television program Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Despite its depiction of monster invasions in small-town America, the show tells a story of friendship and loyalty as presented by creator Joss Whedon (who also directed the hit film The Avengers two years ago).  The star of Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, turns 37 today.  Raised in New York City by her single mom, Gellar started acting at the age of four, and hasn't stopped since.  She is currently starring opposite Robin WIlliams in the CBS comedy The Crazy Ones.

QUOTE:

People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.  - Anne Sullivan

Answer:  d)  George Clooney.  Although it would be fun to see him sing and dance, he had a role early in his career as a handyman on the sitcom The Facts of Life.