He was arrogant, belligerent and bragged that nobody could get in his way of succeeding at whatever he determined to do. He became extremely wealthy, yet was beloved by the poor and held up as a folk hero. In his fight to lead his nation, he was a genius at using the most cutting-edge social media technology to fascinate, engage and widen his base of followers, and intimidate, belittle and defeat his opponents.
And when it came to the issue of Mexican citizens illegally crossing the border over into the United States, well – he was the first and most famous national to ever do so.
He was the legendary Mexican military bandit Pancho Villa (1878-1923), born as José Doroteo Arango Arámbula. Born to impoverished sharecroppers, he killed a man who raped his sister and ran to the mountains where he joined a group of bandits.
Forced into the army by the regime of Mexico’s harsh dictator Porfirio Díaz, he soon deserted. He robbed trains, stole mules and talked his way out of facing a firing a firing squad.
Becoming a military-political leader of the groups known as Villastas intent on replacing the Diaz government by revolution, he battled other forces seeking power, the Federales and Zapatistas.
Imprisoned, he escaped on Christmas 1913, making his first illegal crossing into the U.S., at El Paso, Texas.
Named provisional governor of Chihuahua, he won battles, successfully recruited troops and took away land from the wealthy to give to the poor. He became a folk hero.
Poncho Villa even went Hollywood, signing a contract with a movie studio, and letting a crew with the latest technology for capturing live motion film him in action. The movies widened his fan base, and half of the profits went to fund his wing of the revolutionaries.
On August 27, 1914, Pancho Villa met with General John J. Pershing (1860-1948) at Fort Bliss, Texas. U.S. Army officials found Villa’s tactics so successful, they sought to emulate his maneuvers and Pershing invited him to meet.
Pershing and Villa were on such friendly terms that a year later, when the General’s wife and three of their children died in a fire, Pancho Villa sent him a sympathy letter. Knowing that financial support from the U.S. government to his branch of revolutionaries would give them the upper hand to victory,Villa was outraged when it was not forthcoming.
In a move of intimidation and arrogance, he ordered several dozen of his militia to illegally cross the U.S. border and attack a U.S. Army encampment at Columbus, New Mexico in March of 1916.
Now, it was Pershing’s turn to illegally cross the border.
He led 100,000 soldiers on the Mexican Punitive Expedition, going over three hundred miles into Mexico, in pursuit of Pancho Villa. He never found him.
With the U.S. entrance into World War I, Pershing was given news orders of command in Europe. He gave up on Villa.
After retiring wealthy, Villa was eventually killed in 1923.
After his victories during World War I, General Pershing became a national hero.
In retirement, he maintained that the U.S. must remain loyal to its former allies as threat of new war arose in Europe and in 1940 vigorously called for American support for the British against the rising Nazi regime.
On November 11, 1942, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., General Pershing was the honored guest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) at his annual Armistice Day ceremony address.
On September 22, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt entertained actress Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) as his guest at a picnic.
The liberal Democratic actress had been invited with a group of authors, musicians, writers, radio hosts and other entertainment industry luminaries to lunch on the grounds of the First Lady’s private cottage, near the famous Hyde Park, New York estate of the President, “Springwood.”
There, the group met with Roosevelt to plan a special broadcast for his campaign, for an unpredecented third term.
On August 18, 1981, Katharine Hepburn went backstage at Madison Square Garden in New York to see legendary performer Michael Jackson (1958-2009), and his brothers in “The Triumph Tour.”
The two had first met only recently before, when Jackson visited the Squam Lake, New Hampshire setting of the movie then being filmed, On Golden Pond. It starred Katharine Hepburn with Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane Fonda.
As Hepburn recalled for authors Joan Kramer and David Heeley in their book, In the Company of Legends, it was Jane Fonda who had first befriended Michael Jackson.
Famous since childhood as the most animated of his siblings in the performance group The Jackson Five, he was quickly emerging into an international performance star, surpassing the considerable fame he’d already achieved as part of The Jackson Five.
Fonda asked Hepburn to “look after” him one weekend.‘What the hell am I supposed to do with this kid?” she replied.
When she checked in on him, in a rented attic room, she said it “looked like a hurricane had hit it,” and snapped, “Michael, clean up this place — right now. Don’t you ever do your laundry?”
She took him to a laundromat and taught him how to feed the machines coins.
When he removed his sunglasses on stage at the 1984 Grammys, Michael Jackson remarked, “My friend Katharine Hepburn said I should take them off so this is for her…” Of course, when she attended his concert and then came backstage, she never removed hers.
On April 5, 1990, Michael Jackson appeared with real estate mogul and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (born 1946) for the opening of the latter’s Atlantic City casino, The Taj Mahal.
For a time, Jackson lived in an apartment located at the developer’s pride and joy, his New York City Trump Towers and, according to Trump, Jackson “followed me around.”
They also had “special weekends” at Trump’s Florida estate Mar-a-logo. He has further stated:
He was a very good friend of mine. He was an amazing guy, but beyond all else, he was the greatest entertainer I’ve ever known. He had magic. He was a genius. He was also a really good person, and when you got to know him, you realized how smart he was. He was brilliant.
We were at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. There were thousands of people literally crushing us. We had twenty bodyguards, but it was really dangerous. He dropped to his knees and started crawling to the exit. He did it so routinely, I thought he fell.
And I said, “Michael, is it always like this?” He goes, “Yeah, this is nothing. Japan is much worse.”
Trump, of course, is currently the leading Republican candidate for U.S. President in the 2016 election and has made a name for himself by advocating the return of Mexican nationals who have illegally immigrated to the U.S.
Both born in June, nine days apart, one can only imagine how Pancho Villa would have dealt with Trump.
And what Trump would have said about Villa.
Categories: Celebrity Degrees of Separation