December 9 in history:
“If Illinois isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s one hell of a competitor.” That’s what an FBI special agent said on December 9th, 2008…the day Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on a charge of trying to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Barack Obama was elected president. Agents arrested Blagojevich on the day before his 52nd birthday. The following month, Blagojevich was impeached for misconduct and removed from office by the Illinois legislature. He was convicted of more than a dozen crimes, and began a 14-year prison term in March of 2012.
Blagojevich represented Chicago in the legislature and Congress. A team called the Hustle represented Chicago in the Women’s Professional Basketball League, which played its first game on this date in 1978 in Milwaukee. The Hustle won that inaugural game, 92-87, against the host team, the Milwaukee Does.
A Broadway-bound production of “Death of a Salesman,” about over-the-hill hustling salesman Willy Loman, played in Chicago in 1984. It starred Dustin Hoffman as Willy, and John Malkovich of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre as his son Biff. Malkovich was born December 9th, 1953. Also in 1984, Malkovich appeared in the movies “Places in the Heart” and “The Killing Fields,” and he later played himself in the comedy “Being John Malkovich.”
Some sources list December 9th as the birthday of the actor who first played Willy Loman on Broadway…Lee J. Cobb, born in 1911. Cobb appeared in the movies “On the Waterfront” and “Twelve Angry Men,” and the TV western “The Virginian.”
December 8 in history:
On the last day of his life…December 8th, 1980…John Lennon posed nude for Rolling Stone magazine. The photo of Lennon curled up and kissing his clothed wife, Yoko Ono, was used for the magazine cover after Lennon was shot and killed on December 8th in New York by an obsessed fan. That day, Lennon’s new single “(Just Like) Starting Over” was the number 3 song in the U.S. It rose to number 1 by the end of December.
John Lennon was the only Beatle who did not appear on “Saturday Night Live” during his lifetime. Ringo Starr is the only Beatle who has hosted SNL, and that happened on December 8th, 1984. Ringo’s monologue featured a duet with “Sammy Davis Jr.” (played by Billy Crystal).
On that night, the real Sammy Davis Jr. was celebrating his 59th birthday. Sammy’s career included movies, Broadway, and hit songs like “The Candy Man,” but he’s also famous as a member of the Hollywood “Rat Pack” along with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
On December 8th, 1963, Sinatra’s 19-year-old son Frank Jr. was kidnapped from a resort at Lake Tahoe. The younger Sinatra was released near Los Angeles two days later, after his father paid a ransom of $240,000. Three men eventually were convicted of the kidnapping.
December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.
December 4 in history:
Pan American World Airways used to fly to 86 countries, but on December 4th, 1991, Pan Am stopped flying completely. The shutdown ended 64 years of service by the airline. Ironically, the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” depicted Pan Am making commercial flights into space in the early 21st century.
Fifty-one countries belonged to the United Nations when it started in 1945, and on this date in ’45, Senators in Washington voted to let the United States join the U.N. The U.S. had stayed out of the previous international organization, the League of Nations, which was championed by President Woodrow Wilson after the first World War. On December 4th, 1918, Wilson boarded a ship to travel to the peace talks at Versailles, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to travel to Europe.
Another man named Wilson who spent much time surfing on the ocean, and performing songs about the ocean, was born December 4th, 1944…Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys.
December 3 in history:
A deadly gas leak at a factory in Bhopal, India, on December 3rd, 1984, has been blamed for thousands of deaths and injuries. A chemical used to make pesticide was exposed to water at a Union Carbide plant, and the reaction led to the release of poisonous gases that spread to heavily populated areas. Many local doctors apparently were not told the proper way to treat people who had inhaled the gas. The CEO of Union Carbide was arrested briefly in Bhopal that week, and the Indian government tried to charge him with homicide years later.
The Bhopal disaster occurred on the anniversary of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. The war started when Pakistan struck Indian military bases. Within two weeks, Pakistan surrendered. As a result of the war, East Pakistan became the state of Bangladesh.
The war broke out a few months after George Harrison and other musicians held a fund-raising Concert for Bangladesh in New York, where police confronted hundreds of people who tried to enter the concert without tickets. On December 3rd, 1979, a rush to the doors at a Who concert in Cincinnati claimed 11 lives. Many fans were suffocated or trampled when crowds tried to get into the arena, mistakenly thinking that a sound check was actually the start of the concert.
Two rock stars born with the same first and middle names have December 3rd birthdays…John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne (1948), and Jefferson Starship singer John Michael “Mickey” Thomas (1949).