FACES IN THE CROWD

November 27 in history:

The mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, and city supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death at San Francisco City Hall on November 27th, 1978.  Former supervisor Dan White was convicted of the shootings.  White had resigned from the Board of Supervisors, but changed his mind and asked Moscone to reappoint him.  The mayor refused to do so, after objections from Milk and others.  Milk was the first openly gay man to win election to a public office in California.

U.S. government agents shot and killed several notorious bank robbers in 1934, including John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and “Baby Face” Nelson.  On this date in ’34, Baby Face — real name, Lester Gillis — was shot during a gunfight with federal agents and died a short time later.

A 38-year-old woman got part of a new face in an operation performed in France on November 27th, 2005.  It was the world’s first partial face transplant.  The patient received a new nose and mouth from a deceased donor, to replace the portion of her face that was attacked by a dog.

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman ever to receive an Oscar for Best Director, for making the Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker.”  Bigelow also is known for directing the heist movie “Point Break.”  Bigelow was born November 27th, 1951.

HONEY, I’M HOME

November 26 in history:

Color Honeymooners

Captain James Cook became the first European tourist to visit the Hawaiian island of Maui (sort of) on November 26th, 1778.  Cook apparently did not find a good place to land on the island, so he only sailed around Maui.  It took another eight years for a different European visitor to set foot on land.

A bird called the po’o-uli, or the black-faced honeycreeper, was discovered on Maui in 1973.  But some animal experts believe the po’o-uli doesn’t live anywhere anymore.  No more than 200 of the birds were thought to exist in the ’70s.  Only three were found in the late 1990s, and they didn’t live close enough to each other to mate naturally.  The only black-faced honeycreeper kept in captivity died of malaria on Maui, on this date in 2004.

The Honeydrippers was a 1980s band with a short life.  Headed by Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, the group only released one EP, featuring the single “Sea of Love,” which was climbing the Billboard Top 40 chart on November 26th, 1984.  It peaked at number 3 in early 1985.

And the Jackie Gleason series “The Honeymooners” featured a new episode called “Brother Ralph” on November 26th, 1955.  The “Honeymooners” began as short comedy sketches starring Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Art Carney as sewer worker Ed Norton.  It lasted just one season as a half-hour sitcom, in 1955-56.

THE PRESIDENT’S KIDS

November 25 in history:

The British occupation of New York City, which began in 1776, ended on November 25th, 1783.  That was several weeks after the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the American Revolution.  New York became the capital of the U.S. for several years, through the inauguration of George Washington as president in 1789.

President Dwight Eisenhower had a stroke on this date in 1957.  Although it was a minor stroke, the health scare was serious enough for the president to write a letter authorizing Vice President Richard Nixon to assume power, if Eisenhower was unable to carry out his duties.  The crisis was one factor leading to the creation of the 25th Amendment, which also permits the appointment of a vice president if that office becomes vacant.

An amendment dealing with presidential succession was discussed again after the John F. Kennedy assassination.  President Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25th of 1963 — the day his son John Junior turned three years old.  Film footage shows young John saluting at his father’s funeral procession.

Two other presidential children — twins Jenna and Barbara Bush, the daughters of George W. Bush — were born on this date in 1981.  Their grandfather George Herbert Walker Bush was in his first year as vice president at the time.

CRIMINAL / RECORDS

November 24 in history:

A one-of-a-kind crime in the sky happened on this date in 1971, aboard a Northwest Orient jet.  A passenger who bought a ticket under the name “Dan Cooper” hijacked a flight between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, suggesting that he had a bomb inside a briefcase.  Cooper was given parachutes and $200,000 in cash after the plane landed.  He then jumped out of the plane after it took off again.  Investigators have never figured out what happened to the hijacker, who became known as “D.B. Cooper,” but some of the ransom money did turn up in the woods years later.

Millions of Americans witnessed a real-life crime on live TV when tavern owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald in front of reporters and television cameras at the Dallas jail on November 24th, 1963.  It was just two days after Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President Kennedy.

The three major networks suspended all regular programming for four days after Kennedy’s death.  One of the cancelled programs that was scheduled for the night of November 24th was a special recapping the 1963 Grammy Awards, at which the Album of the Year award went to the Vaughn Meader satire of Kennedy, “The First Family.”

Marvin Hamlisch won four Grammys for 1974, including Best Pop Instrumental Performance for his recording of “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, from the movie “The Sting.”  The film’s ragtime score led to a revival of Joplin’s songs.  Many musicians celebrate November 24th of 1868 as Joplin’s birthday, but now it is believed he was born sometime in 1867.

TO LIFE!

November 23 in history:

One of the most famous American magazines ever came to life on November 23rd, 1936.  It was Life, a photo-magazine created by Time magazine publisher Henry Luce.  The first issue of Life featured a cover photo of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana.  The magazine was published weekly for 36 years, and has been brought back to life in different forms since then.

“To Life” is a famous song from the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Jerry Bock, who wrote the music for “Fiddler” as well as “She Loves Me” and “The Apple Tree,” was born November 23rd, 1928.

When Dr. Frankenstein shouted “It’s alive!” in the 1931 movie “Frankenstein,” actor Boris Karloff was bringing the monster to life.  Karloff — who started life as William Pratt — is famous for many monster movie roles, and for starring as the narrator and the Grinch in the 1966 TV special “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  He was born November 23rd, 1887.

Karloff said little as the monster in the original “Frankenstein” film.  He shared a November 23rd birthday with an actor who made a career of not speaking on stage or screen:  comedian Arthur “Harpo” Marx (born 1888).  Some men who are famous for writing words for actors also celebrate a birthday today:  Robert Towne (1934), an Oscar winner for “Chinatown,” and Joe Eszterhas (1944), who wrote “Basic Instinct” and “Flashdance.”

LEADERS OF THE WORLD

November 22 in history:

On the last day of his life, John F. Kennedy was thinking about the 1964 election.  President Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, were making a political trip through Texas on November 22nd, 1963.  The president had appearances scheduled that day with Vice President Lyndon Johnson in Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin.  Kennedy only got to attend the breakfast in Fort Worth.  Gunfire broke out as the president’s motorcade was leaving downtown Dallas on the way to a luncheon.  Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, riding with their wives in an open car, were hit by bullets, and taken to Parkland Hospital.  Within a short time, Kennedy was dead, Johnson was president, and the world was in mourning.

While in Fort Worth, Kennedy made a phone call to wish John Nance Garner a happy 95th birthday.  Texas native Garner served two terms as Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt.  French President Charles de Gaulle turned 73 on that Friday in ’63.  The following Monday, de Gaulle was in Washington to join other world leaders at Kennedy’s funeral.

A future “King” who became a queen of the tennis court turned 20 on the day JFK was shot.  Billie Jean King was still single, and known as Billie Jean Moffitt, in 1963.  That summer, she had reached the finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, finishing second in the women’s singles at Wimbledon.

A few hours before the Kennedy shooting, “The CBS Morning News,” anchored by Mike Wallace, aired a story about a new rock-and-roll band creating a stir in England.  That may have been the first time many Americans heard about the Beatles.  The story on CBS coincided with the release that day of a new album by the Fab Four in the UK, called “With the Beatles.”  An album with most of the same songs was sold later in the US under the name “Meet the Beatles.”

In later years, the Beatles recorded songs with references to politicians such as British Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Edward Heath.  The first English woman to serve as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, stepped down because of a political power struggle on November 22nd, 1990.  Thatcher had held that post for 11 years.

MARY HAD A LITTLE GUN

November 21 in history:

Thomas Edison became famous for many of his inventions, but the first one that caught on was the phonograph.  Edison announced the development of the sound recording device on November 21st, 1877.  His machine could both record sound on a metal cylinder and play it back.  Edison discovered that the phonograph worked when he recorded “Mary had a little lamb…”

The phonograph eventually led to other recording devices, such as the VCR.  No doubt, video recorders all over the U.S. were being used on November 21st, 1980, to tape the season premiere of “Dallas.”  It was the first new episode in eight months, since the cliffhanger episode in which bad guy J.R. Ewing was shot and wounded by an offscreen attacker.  The answer to the popular question “Who shot J.R.?” was…his mistress Kristin Shepard, played by Mary Crosby.  That night, “Dallas” set an American ratings record, broken three years later by the last episode of “M*A*S*H.”

“Dallas” was still on the air in 1989 when quarterback Troy Aikman joined the Dallas Cowboys.  He spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys, leading them to three Super Bowl titles in four years.  Aikman was born November 21st, 1966.