Category: Today in history

IN AND OUT OF COMMUNISM

August 23 in history:

On August 23rd, 1975, the monarchy in Laos was overthrown in a Communist coup.

Fifteen years later, on this date in 1990, Armenia went in the other direction, declaring its independence from the Soviet Union.

Bolshoi Ballet dancer Alexander Godunov declared his own independence from the Soviets on August 23rd, 1979, defecting to the West while on tour in New York.  Godunov stayed in the U.S., and acted in movies. One of his most famous roles was in “The Money Pit,” where he played the ex-husband of “Cheers” star Shelley Long, born on August 23rd, 1949.

Godunov also played one of the hostage-takers in the original “Die Hard” movie.  A notorious hostage incident began on this date in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden, with a botched bank robbery.  The robber and an accomplice surrendered five days later, and although threats had been made against them, no hostages were harmed.  The incident inspired the concept of the “Stockholm syndrome,” in which hostages come to support or sympathize with their captors.

OH, HENRY!

August 22 in history:

Spectators at the Louvre museum in Paris couldn’t find the “Mona Lisa” on August 22nd, 1911. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was missing from its usual spot on the wall, because it had been stolen the night before. The famous painting remained missing for two years, hidden for most of that time in the apartment of the thief, a Louvre employee from Italy.

The gravesite of Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king, was considered lost for centuries until researchers found it in 2012, under a parking lot in Leicester. Richard was killed on this date in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard had been king of England for only two years. His death put Henry Tudor on the throne, as Henry VII.

In Shakespeare’s play “Richard III,” Richard calls out “My kingdom for a horse” shortly before he is killed. The “horseless carriage” was becoming popular by 1902, when the Cadillac Automobile Company was founded on August 22nd from what used to be the Henry Ford Company. Henry Leland was brought in to close down the old company after Ford left the firm, but he decided to keep it going under the Cadillac name.

Another powerful man named Henry — Henry Kissinger — was nominated as secretary of state by President Nixon on August 22nd, 1973. Kissinger had become famous for “shuttle diplomacy” as Nixon’s national security adviser.

Actress Kristen Wiig was born on that same day in 1973. Wiig has been nominated for several Emmy Awards, mostly for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” and was an Oscar nominee for co-writing the movie comedy “Bridesmaids.”

In 1973, Valerie Harper won an Emmy Award for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Harper earned four Emmys for her portrayal of Rhoda, including one for her own spinoff series “Rhoda.” Born on August 22nd, 1939, Harper recently has been in the news for fighting a rare cancer-related illness.

NOBODY PUTS ABIE IN A CORNER

August 21 in history:

Lincoln Douglas Dirty DebateThe first Lincoln-Douglas debate took place in Ottawa, Illinois on August 21st, 1858.  Abraham Lincoln was running against incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, and their seven debates around Illinois all dealt with the issue of slavery.

The outside wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. lists the names of the 48 states that were in the Union when the memorial was dedicated in 1922.  Two more states came along in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii.  On this date in ’59, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law making Hawaii the 50th state.

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963.  A few days earlier, on August 21st of that year, King tried out the “I have a dream” theme during a speech to an insurance association convention in Chicago.

During this week in 1963, Chicago native Allan Sherman had a top 10 hit with his novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp),” in which a kid writes home about his awful experiences at “Camp Granada.”  Before becoming famous by doing song parodies, Sherman produced the Goodson-Todman game show “I’ve Got a Secret.”  “Hello, Muddah” was based on camp letters from Sherman’s son Robert, who followed in his dad’s footsteps by also producing shows for Goodson-Todman.

While Sherman’s letter-writing kid was suffering at Camp Granada in 1963, Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman were spending time together that summer at Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills, according to the movie “Dirty Dancing,” released on August 21st, 1987.  “Dirty Dancing” premiered on the 63rd birthday of actor Jack Weston, who played resort owner Max Kellerman in the film.

THEY SAY THIS CAT TCHAIKOVSKY IS A BAD. . . SHUT YOUR MOUTH!

August 20 in history:

 

A classical song often performed on the 4th of July in America was introduced in Russia on August 20th, 1882. Peter Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” was written in honor of Russia’s fight against Napoleon, but it’s popular in the U.S. because of the cannon shots included in the finale.

The “1812 Overture” probably has been played a few times over radio station WWJ in Detroit. WWJ was America’s first commercial radio station when it took to the air on this date in 1920, using the call letters 8MK.

A couple of musicians who had big radio hits in the 1970’s were born on August 20th: Isaac Hayes (1942), who wrote the “Theme from Shaft”; and “Stairway to Heaven” writer and singer Robert Plant (1948).

CHANGE OF COMMAND

August 19 in history:

Many countries have experienced dramatic changes in leadership on August 19th …

Bill Hill and TipperThis date is considered Independence Day in Afghanistan, marking the day in 1919 when the country broke away from the United Kingdom.

On August 19th, 1945, Ho Chi Minh took power in Vietnam.

This was the date in 1953 when Iran’s elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, was overthrown in a coup arranged by the CIA. Mossadegh was placed under house arrest, as Shah Reza Pahlavi replaced him as leader of Iran.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was under house arrest on August 19th, 1991, as hard-line members of the Communist government tried to remove him from power. The coup attempt failed after a few days, and the USSR was disbanded that December.

August 19th is the birthday of one U.S. president, Bill Clinton (1946), and of Tipper Gore (1948), the wife of Clinton’s Vice
President, Al Gore.

MUCH TO DISCOVER

August 18 in history:

August 18th is the birthday of explorer Meriwether Lewis (1774), who traveled for more than two years with William Clark through the Louisiana Purchase territory and along the Pacific Coast.

It’s also the birthday of Virginia Dare (1587), the first child born at an English settlement in North America, the Roanoke Colony in present-day North Carolina. Virginia was the granddaughter of the settlement’s governor, John White, who returned to England for supplies shortly after her birth. White did not get back to Roanoke until Virginia’s third birthday in 1590, and found the colony deserted, with few clues about what happened to the settlers.

Countless modern birthday celebrations have included helium balloons. The existence of helium was discovered on August 18th, 1868 by French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen, who was analyzing sunlight during a solar eclipse. It took a few more years for others to actually find the element on Earth.

THE SPEEDY AND THE SEXY

August 17 in history:

Inventor Robert Fulton helped people travel faster by water with his steamboat, the Clermont, which completed its first round trip between New York City and Albany on this date in 1807. The Clermont traveled on the Hudson River at the rate of five miles an hour.

Michael Phelps showed during the 2008 Summer Olympics that he was faster than other swimmers. On August 17th that year, Phelps took his eighth gold for the U.S. at Beijing. No person had ever won that many golds in one Olympiad before Phelps.

President Bill Clinton got into hot water when he was accused of lying under oath about an alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. On this date in 1998, Clinton admitted to a relationship with Lewinsky, and four months later, he was impeached for committing perjury.

Clinton’s admission contradicted his famous quote “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Actress Mae West came up with plenty of famous quotes about sex in her long career. She was born August 17th, 1892.

IT’S REIGNING MEN, HALLELUJAH

August 16 in history:

Several “kings” in different fields have connections to August 16th…

This is the day in 1977 that Elvis Presley, “King of Rock and Roll,” died at the Graceland Mansion in Memphis.  Elvis was just 42.

Babe Ruth, who’s been called the “King of Swat” and the “Home Run King,” died on August 16th, 1948.  And it was the day former Ugandan leader Idi Amin died in 2003.  Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for playing Amin in the movie “The Last King of Scotland.”

Director James Cameron declared, “I’m king of the world!” when his movie “Titanic” took the Best Picture Oscar for 1997.  Cameron was born on August 16th, 1954.  It’s also the birthday of Fess Parker (1925), who became famous in the ’50s for playing Davy Crockett, “king of the wild frontier.”

And many men dreamed of becoming rich as kings when they headed to the frontier of Canada and Alaska in search of gold.  The Klondike gold rush began on this date in 1896, when three men discovered the precious metal in the Klondike River.


REALLY BIG SHOWS

August 15 in history:

Some big events in show business on this date…

“The Wizard of Oz” had its Hollywood premiere on August 15th, 1939, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles at their Shea Stadium concert in
New York on this date in 1965.  More than 50,000 fans attended,
with tickets priced from $4.50 to $5.65.

The advance ticket price was $6 a day for the Woodstock Music Festival in New York state, which drew much more than 50,000 music fans. Woodstock began on August 15th, 1969, and lasted until the early
morning of August 18th.

JenBenGovBallThe Stevie Wonder hit “My Cherie Amour” was a top-ten song on the Billboard charts the week of the Woodstock festival.  The record was featured in the 2012 movie “Silver Linings Playbook,” for which Jennifer Lawrence won the Oscar for best actress.  Lawrence, also known for playing Katniss in the movie version of the novel “The Hunger Games,” was born on this date in 1990.

On the same night in 2013 that Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar, Ben Affleck accepted the Best Picture award as a producer of the film “Argo,” which he also directed and starred in. Affleck, born August 15th, 1972, previously won an Oscar for writing “Good Will Hunting” with Matt Damon.

MORE PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES

August 14 in history:

According to some aviation experts, the first official airplane flight in America happened on this day in 1901 in Connecticut.  Gustave Whitehead claimed that he flew a plane half-a-mile and reached an altitude of 50 feet.  That was more than two years before the Wright Brothers achieved their famous flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C.  In 2013, the governor of Connecticut signed a law officially declaring that Whitehead’s August 14th flight was the first powered airplane flight in the U.S.

On August 14th, 1893, the world’s first automobile license plates reportedly were issued in Paris.

August 14th is the birthday of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” star Steve Martin (1945).

Oh, did I forget to mention trains?  Crosby, Stills, and Nash had a famous song about a train in Morocco called the “Marrakesh Express.” Singer and musician David Crosby was born on this date in 1941.

Many electric trains in the northern U.S. stopped working on August 14th, 2003, when a control room problem in Ohio led to the largest blackout ever in North America. More than 50 million people were left without power in eight states and much of eastern Canada.