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Durante, Jimmy (10 February 1893–29 January 1980), comedian, was born James Francis Durante on New York City’s East Side, the son of Barthelmeo Durante and Roséa Millino. His French-Italian father operated a barber shop. His mother endowed him with the enormous nose that was to become his trademark. After dropping out of school in the seventh grade, Jimmy tried a variety of odd jobs, but he spent most of his time at a piano his father had bought for him, complete with lessons. Although his father hoped that his son would pursue a classical career, by age seventeen Durante was playing in Diamond Tony’s saloon (“Twenty-five bucks a week; hours from eight in the evening until unconscious”) on Coney Island. Later he played ragtime piano at various clubs and organized a five-man jazz band for a club in Harlem. There he met a singer, Jeanne Olson, whom he hired and, in 1921, married. They had no children. Another new acquaintance was Eddie Jackson, a singer....

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Popeil, Samuel J. (22 January 1915–15 July 1984), inventor and manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of a garment worker; his parents’ names are unknown. Little else is known about his childhood and early education, but Popeil’s career training came through the family. Several of his uncles worked as product demonstrators in New York department stores and flea markets, selling potato peelers, cheese slicers, and other household gadgets....

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Scripps, William Edmund (06 May 1882–12 June 1952), publisher and industrialist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of James Edmund Scripps, the founder of the Detroit Evening News, and Harriet Josephine Messinger. After attending the Michigan Military Academy, he joined the Detroit News...