I never really paid attention in history class. Or any class for that matter, but years later, somehow through the smoke and black coffee, I recall a history teacher reciting the famous line, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Which by mere observation of people’s actions and methods of operation, makes me think no one else paid attention to their history teachers either.
I’m not talking politics here. I’m referring to the stupid little things we do to ourselves that keep us wondering why we’re victims of the same situations we find ourselves in. Everyone has that friend that habitually cheats on their partners and constantly wonders why their relationships go sour.
Because people don’t learn from history!
I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “But this time it will be different!” while getting into the same stupid crap that got me into trouble the last bajillion times I said something like that. Yet we do it anyway, in our personal lives and in the grand expanses of history. Then, we have the nerve to downplay the past like we’ve all learned our historical lesson, after we all agreed to do the same stupid crap that got the people of history into the same damn trouble we’re about to get into for the bajillionth time in history but maybe I’m getting repetitive.
Listen, history isn’t something to be ignored. It’s not going away. It commands fear and respect and if we don’t take a lesson from Old Man History, we’ll be back to the Stone Age in no time, hunting mammoths or whatever the post apocalyptic equivalent might be. Radioactive land squid or whatever.
The point is the past shouldn’t be messed with. If we take away anything from Back to the Future II, it’s that even the slightest change, like Biff stealing the Sports Almanac, can plunge 1985 into some kind of hellish alternate reality, where America’s in chaos and the entire nation looks like Detroit circa right now.
So instead of openly mocking history, let's put on our super serious expressions, furrow our brows, and adjust our monocles towards some near historical misses and how things may have been different for 15 notable people who put off becoming a part of history for a bit longer than their would be assassins had intended.
15 Edward Longshanks I
Great nephew of Richard the Lionheart, Edward Longshanks the First, if you recall, is that jerk from the movie Braveheart, who loves Scotland but hates Scots, throws his son’s gay lover out the window of his war room tower, and has Mel Gibson gutted by midgets right in front of Sophie Marceau.
But in reality, he doesn’t fair much better. Before he was doing his Jigsaw routine on Scotland, expelling all the Jews from England, and literally scaring people to death with his presence alone, Edward Longshanks was making a name for himself crusading in the Middle East, campaigning against the Sultan of Egypt and his vast armies.
It was there in June of 1272, twenty six years before Braveheart’s “They’ll never take our freedom!” speech, Lil’ Longshanks as he hated to be called (No, he didn’t) was asleep with his wife, when he was awoken by a would-be assassin with a poison tipped dagger. A fight ensued and it’s said that after Edward was struck several times with the knife, he was still able to wrestle the dagger away from the would-be assassin and stab him through the temple, killing him instantly.
According to legend, Longshank’s wife, Eleanor of Castile was forced to suck the poison out of the wounds before a surgeon could arrive and throw leaches at it or whatever “surgeons” did back then. He survived the ordeal but not without a thorough brushing with death and months of recovery. The nature of the poison has been lost to history and there is an ongoing debate as to who sent the assassin and why. Some say it was an inside job to stop his succession as king, others say it was the Sultan of Egypt, or even the mysterious leader of Syria known as the Old Man of the Mountains.
Regardless of who sanctioned the attempt, had it proceeded as planned, the History of Europe, England, and subsequently America, would have been incredibly different. Also no Braveheart, the film… but I’m sure the real William Wallace would’ve found something equally badass to do with his time. Mel Gibson too.
14 King Hussein
When former King Hussein of Jordan was a Petit Prince of just 15 years, he went with his grandfather King Abdullah I to Jerusalem. The Prince and his grandfather were there to discuss a peace treaty with Israel and give a eulogy at the former Prime Minister of Lebanon’s funeral, who had been assassinated just a few days earlier.
It was at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Friday prayers on July 20th, 1951 that a Palestinian assassin somehow made his way through a heavy amount of security and opened fire on the King and his grandson. The King died at the scene while the 15-year-old Prince took a bullet to the chest, which somehow ricocheted off of a medal he wore, given to him by his grandfather, the King. The gunmen was killed on the spot by bodyguards.
Prince Hussein’s father Talal bin Abdullah was then crowned the King of Jordan but his reign only lasted a year before he was deposed on the grounds of insanity. Hussein was pronounced King of Jordan in August of 1952 at the age of 16. Years later, in 1967 during the aftermath of the Six Day War with Israel, it would be this near death experience that would prevent King Hussein from entering talks. He stated concerns that he would meet a similar fate if he were to enter talks.
King Hussein wouldn’t enter peace talks with Israel again until 1994 after decades of clandestine meetings and secret negotiations. The end result is the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace, which is still valid to this day.
13 William Jay Gaynor
Unfortunately calling this a failed assassination is going too far. I suppose you could call it a failed-failed assassination since that sounds totally legit and technical. Just like introducing my wife as my “first wife” at parties. Allow me to explain.
William Jay Gaynor was the “super lucky, unlucky” mayor of New York from 1910-1913. He was famous for his anti-cronyism, the release of hundreds of prison inmates who were incarcerated for low level and meaningless crimes like "Hooliganism" and "Tom Foolery," as well as speaking out against tyranny and police brutality.
He was also known for taking a bullet in the neck and being pretty chill about it. On August 9th, 1910, shortly after boarding the European bound SS Kaiser Wilhelm, at a dock in Hoboken, New Jersey, Gaynor was shot in the throat by a disgruntled security worker who had been fired from the docks just a month earlier.
Gaynor not only made a speedy recovery, he was forced to leave the bullet lodge in his throat where it remained till his death.
Oh, it was also the cause of his death. Three years later, while building his plans for the White House, William Jay Gaynor once again set sail for Europe aboard the RMS Baltic. While relaxing on a deck chair Gaynor suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of an infection caused by what doctors like to call Bullet-in-Throatitus.
Ironically the schmuck who shot him died in prison that same year. Maybe there’s some crazy cosmic connection. (There isn’t.)
12 Bill Clinton
Did I ever tell you about that time Osama bin Laden tried to kill Bill Clinton? No? Did anyone? Ever? Well he did, back in November of 1996.
Prof. Ken Gormley only recently revealed this information in the book “The Death of American Virtue.” In it, he recounts a story told to him by former director of the Secret Service, Louis Merletti.
While on a trip to the Philippine city of Manila, then President of the United States Bill Clinton and his motorcade were stopped short of crossing a bridge lined with explosives. It was only later revealed that Osama bin Laden, the alleged architect of the 9/11 attacks, was the direct mastermind behind this failed assassination attempt.
Had they reached the bridge and the bombs detonated, well… The outcome would have meant (among many other things), the tragic death of an American President and his entourage, obviously no second term for Clinton, no Monica Lewinsky scandal, and most likely five years of President Al Gore. Possibly. Who knows, maybe Monica would’ve gotten that Jenny Craig spokesman gig all on her own.
11 Keisuke Okada & Kantaro Suzuki
On February 26, 1936 on what was later known as the “2-26 Incident” a group of Imperial Japanese Army officers lead a massive coup against the government and Imperial Palace of Japan.
Though they managed to take over and secure the Ministry of War and the General Staff Office, then Prime minister Keisuke Okada eluded capture and most likely execution because Okada’s brother-in-law happened to look a lot like him and was mistakenly executed instead. Convinced they had killed the Prime Minister, the revolting armies declared victory, called it a day, and went home.
But not before shooting future Prime Minister of Japan Kantaro Suzuki, who not only survived but much like our friend William Jay Gaynor, lived with the bullet lodged inside him until his death years later.
Suzuki would survive a second assassination attempt during another military coup in August of 1945. This time perpetrated by the Ministry of War and the Imperial Guard in a last ditch attempt to prevent Japans surrender in World War Two.
Both Suzuki and Okada were in adamant opposition to entering a war and although they did not directly succeed each other, together played major roles in the peace negotiations with the allied forces prior to Japan’s surrender.
10 Napoleon Bonaparte
Assassination plots upon Napoleon Bonaparte were about as frequent as my plans for fame and fortune and about as successful. Happened all the time, never panned out.
A few came close though, no not my personal plans for infamy. I’m talking about Napoleon of “Napoleon Complex” fame, though it turns out he was of average height as far as little angry French guys go.
It happened on Christmas Eve, 1800 just four years before he declared himself Emperor of France and basically brought modern liberal reform and law to all the major, most rural, and remaining feudal parts of Europe. Napoleon was running late to the opera and ordered his carriage driver to “make haste” or whatever old timey thing French people would say to make horses go faster, which inadvertently saved his life.
A shrapnel bomb was timed to go off just as his carriage passed by, however due to the drivers breakneck speed, or whatever French term’s used for going fast in carriages, the bomb detonated just as Napoleon passed by, leaving him and most of his party unscathed. Several buildings were destroyed and an estimated 52 people were maimed or killed but you know, peasants were expendable in those pre-evolution days in France.
9 Jimi Hendrix
I’ll come clean, technically and I suppose literally, Jimi never had an attempt on his life made but he was kidnapped, tied to a chair, and held for ransom under threat of death, so I feel I can include him in this list.
It all goes down in the 2011 book American Desperado by Jon Roberts and Evan Wright. Roberts, a big wig with the Medellin Cartel in the 1980s, recounts a verified story of being caught in the type of drama that usually ensues when one of the biggest names in rock and roll gets kidnapped. While at a nightclub run by Roberts, Jimi Hendrix was bribed into going back to some wise guy wannabe’s house with the promise of slamming some primo heroin. Once there, Jimi was supposedly tied to a chair and given a large amount of dope. The kidnappers then called his manager, demanding a cut of his record contract or something vague. It was clear these guys were out of their league.
It didn’t take Roberts and his crew but a few phone calls to track the kidnappers down. Once on the phone, Roberts made it clear just who had Jimi’s back and the extent to which they’d go to make sure he remained in good health. Jimi was promptly released, though it’s speculated that Jimi was too high to recall any of his two day ordeal.
It should be noted, the unnamed kidnappers still got the beating of a lifetime.
8 Dick Cheney
For Dick here, 2007 wasn’t a very good year. After six years of being the nation's President… I mean Vice President, Dick Cheney had the worst approval ratings of his career at a mere 30%. Unfortunately, that whole rebranding of Iraq thing was taking forever, a year earlier he shot his attorney friend in the face with a shotgun in a “hunting accident,” and worst of all, a suicide bomber tried to blow him up at the Belgram Airfield in Afghanistan but missed and killed 23 innocent people instead.
Many experts argue that the bombing was simply a coincidence that simply timed well with Cheney’s arrival but a Taliban spokesman later claimed the attack was targeting Dick specifically; the bomb had detonated at the wrong time.
Cheney, being no stranger to not having any fucks to give, later recalled hearing a blast but not thinking much of it. Which I believe is what he said to the judge in regards to shooting his hunting buddy. (It wasn’t).
7 Bob Marley
Here’s another guy on our list that has been shot and was able to keep the bullet right where it lodged itself as a souvenir. Now I’m not an expert of anything in particular or at all, but if I ever get shot, the doctor looks at my wound, and tells me it’s probably cool if we just leave the bullet were it is, I’m getting a new doctor and leaving a negative Yelp review. But I guess what’s good enough for Japanese Prime Ministers, Mayors of New York, and music legends is good enough for me.
Bob Marley, his wife Alpharita (Rita) Marley, and the Wailers were all gunned down during a rehearsal session on December 3, 1976. Marley and his backup band were rehearsing for a concert he was producing to promote peace during a particularly dark chapter in Kingston, Jamaica.
At the time, two political factions vied for control of Jamaica, the Russian backed, communist, People’s Nation Party and the CIA-sponsored Jamaican Labor Party.With both sides seeking to use him as a propaganda tool, Bob found himself in the middle of a war he was committed to staying out of.
The story goes, gunmen hired by the CIA, disguised to look like communists, stormed Marley’s home first shooting Rita in the head but only grazing her and proceeding to open fire on Bob and the Wailers mid jam session. Before the gunmen fled in the direction of the communist headquarters, one of the would be assassins raised his gun and aimed it directly at Marley’s chest and in the blink of an eye, Bob’s manager Don Taylor shoved Bob to the floor. The gunmen missed his mark and Marley took the bullet in the arm, where it remained until his death.
No one died in the incident due to the power of Jah and of course the epic reflexes of Don Taylor, Bob Marley went on to release six more studio albums which included fan favorites like “Is This Love,” Jamming,” and “Redemption Song.”
6 Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford has the odd distinction of being the only man on this list who has had two assassination attempts, within less than thirty days from each other, both in Northern California, and both by women who, despite each receiving life sentences, were both paroled early and released. No, really.
Also, the two attempts aren’t related in case you were thinking Former President Gerald Ford also holds the distinction of being the only president to be targeted by an organization of elite female assassins like Pamela Anderson’s team on V.I.P.
The first brush with a femme fatale came on September 5, 1975 in Sacramento California. Lynette Fromme, known as Squeaky amongst her Manson Family cohorts, had allegedly hoped to speak to Ford about the plight of California Redwoods and decided the best way of going about that was showing up in a hooded red robe waving a pistol around. Though she made it close enough to Gerald to take a shot, she was apprehended by Secret Service, and promptly served 34 years in prison until her release in 2009.
The second incident took place in San Francisco just three weeks later. This time Sara Jane Moore was able to let a few bullets fly only to miss and be tackled by more Secret Service agents.
Another oddball, Moore was said to have an obsession with Patty Hearst’s kidnapping and brainwashing by the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army). She was also an FBI informant who worked for Patty Hearst’s father Randolph Hearst. She was sent to prison and released in 2007 after serving 32 years.
5 50 Cent
Curtis James Jackson III AKA 50 Cent is an American hip hop institution. This guy has made and lost and made and lost and made millions of dollars, investing in everything from water, to real estate, to helping starving children in Africa. In fact, if I go to a birthday party and I don’t hear the traditional “Happy Birthday to You” song, “Birthday” by the Beatles, and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” before cake and ice cream, I’m out.
In April of 2000, 50 Cent was sitting in a car outside his grandmother’s home while she worked in the garden and his son played inside. A gunman walked up to the vehicle and emptied out the clip of his 9mm handgun at point blank range, striking Fiddy 9 times including once in the face causing the slight slur that’s part of his signature style.
Curtis spent over six months recovering, requiring a cane to help him get around. His career would rise to Olympian heights just two years later when Eminem introduced him to Dr. Dre and together delivered unto the world classic songs like “Wanksta” and “Candy Shop.”
4 Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah
Fadlallah was a prominent Shia Muslim Cleric who carried massive sway in Lebanon and surrounding countries. He is responsible for establishing libraries, a women’s cultural center, and founding several Islamic schools.
Over the years, he has written dozens of books and held many public lectures that have brought with them giant bundles of controversy for their liberal views in comparison to strict traditional Shia law. He has even spoken out against the banning of abortions in Muslim countries under special and/or extreme circumstances.
He was also one of the unofficial (official) spiritual leaders of the Hezbollah, though both parties will vehemently deny it. So it’s no surprise that any combination of the aforementioned activities might get you on someone's shit list. This time it was the Reggae-hating (probably), cocaine-smuggling (allegedly), ancient alien denying (definitely), CIA. Or so the legends go…
On March 8, 1985 Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah was resting at home, when a massive 400 lb bomb went off not far from his residence. Fadlallah was uninjured but the blast killed 80 people and injured another 256 mostly women and children. The blast leveled a seven-story apartment building, a cinema, and was timed to go off during evening prayers.
Sometime later, investigative journalist Bob Woodward would make the claim that CIA Director William Casey planned the attempt with funding from Saudi Arabia. According to said legend…
3 Pope John Paul II
Also known as Saint John Paul the Great, this pope has the second longest papacy in modern history at 27 years, next to Pope Pius IX at 32 years in the 1800s. This guy is also the most traveled Pope having visited 130 countries and is the reason the Popemobile now looks like a check-cashing stand on wheels.
On May 13, 1981 the Pope was cruising through St. Peter’s Square in his Popemobile, top down, fully exposed to the elements when he was gunned down by Mehmet Ali Agca, a member of a neo-fascist terrorist organization known as the Grey Wolves, which was totally going to be the name of my metal band, until now. (Not really.)
The Pope was struck four times but someone upstairs must’ve liked him as he made a full recovery and in the end actually befriended his would-be assassin, visiting him often in prison and meeting with members of his family on several occasions. Pope John Paul II later asked Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi to forgive and pardon Mehmet, who was released in 2000.
2 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the pillars of the civil rights movement and although he was tragically assassinated at a pivotal time in America’s modern history, his voice can still be heard, echoing words of nonviolent resistance against insurmountable obstacles that are as relevant today as they were when spoken.
But before the famous 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and before the nonviolent protests organized throughout the south, and just three years after Dr. King received his Ph.D. in systematic theology, an attempt would be made on his life.
In September of 1958, Dr. King was on tour promoting his recent book, Strive Toward Freedom. It was during a book signing at a department store in Harlem where he was approached by Izola Curry, a mentally unstable, out of work, housekeeper who suffered paranoid delusions of clandestine crimes against humanity perpetrated by the NAACP.
Curry pulled out a letter opener and stabbed Dr. King in the chest. King was rushed off to a hospital and Curry was arrested on the spot. The letter opener was positioned against Dr. King’s aorta and the slightest movement could puncture it. Removing it took hours and required surgeons to completely open his chest cavity. Miraculously, he eventually made a full recovery and went on to change the country with his dream.
Izola Curry died in a nursing home in 2015.
1 Margaret Thatcher
The Iron Lady AKA Margaret Thatcher, first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, had a love/hate relationship with history. Her politics gave the UK better labor laws, a stronger, prouder army, economic recovery and the first stable peace talks between England and the IRA. She also created class gaps, ridiculously conservative reforms, and basically caused the infamous Poll Tax Riots. But before all that, in the early days of Thatcherism, when punk bands were still being inspired and hunger strikes were all the rage, Old Iron Sides was just a few feet away from being blown into tiny pieces of Thatcherite.
On October 12, 1984, while staying at the Brighton Hotel, a bomb planted weeks earlier by an IRA agent detonated several rooms away. The blast destroyed a large portion of the building including parts of Thatcher’s room, however she and her husband Denis were unharmed in the attack. Five government staff, however, were tragically killed. Although a thorough inspection of the hotel was done with bomb sniffing dogs well before Thatcher’s entourage arrived, the device somehow was overlooked.
The attack, now known as the Brighton Hotel Bombing, most likely expedited peace talks between Britain and Northern Ireland as well as the signing of the Hillsborough Anglo-Irish Agreement, giving the Republic of Ireland more control governing Northern Ireland. Much to the chagrin of Edward Longshanks I.
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