Category: Trivia

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.

BOB, DICK, AND TRACY

November 20 in history:

It was a battle of whale vs. ship, and the whale won on this date in 1820.  A sperm whale rammed the whaling ship Essex twice, leaving a hole which forced the crew to abandon ship in the south Pacific.  Author Herman Melville was fascinated by the attack, and partly based his novel Moby-Dick on the real-life story of the Essex.  An abolitionist newspaper called “The National Era” promoted the newly-published Melville book in its issue of November 20th, 1851.

Another fictional character sharing the name “Dick” has been fighting crime in newspaper comics since 1931.  Dick Tracy was created by cartoonist Chester Gould, who drew the strip for almost 50 years.  Gould was born on November 20th, 1900.

This is also the birthday of Dick Smothers, the younger member of the Smothers Brothers comedy team, born in 1939, and “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” writer Bob Einstein, born November 20th, 1942.  Einstein often appeared on the Smothers Brothers show as a cop who called himself Officer Judy.  He’s best known for his accident-prone stuntman character Super Dave Osborne…and he’s the brother of comedian Albert Brooks.

SMOOTH TALKERS

November 19 in history:

A new national cemetery was consecrated on November 19th, 1863 at the site of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.  The event is remembered today because of President Abraham Lincoln’s two-minute address which began “Fourscore and seven years ago…”

The late-’80s musical group Milli Vanilli is remembered today because its two front men, known as Rob and Fab, did not actually use their own voices on their debut album.  The duo announced on November 19th, 1990, that they would give back their Grammy for Best New Artist, awarded nine months earlier.

Two men whose voices and faces became familiar to talk-show fans were born on November 19th.

Comedian Dick Cavett (1936) was given a daytime talk show on ABC in 1968, eventually leading to a late-night show on that network and a series on PBS.  Cavett appeared as himself in two movies that won the Oscar for best picture:  “Annie Hall” (1977) and “Forrest Gump” (1994).

Larry King appeared as himself in many movies during the 25 years he hosted a prime-time talk show on CNN.  King was born on November 19th, 1933…making him exactly five years older than his long-time boss at CNN, Ted Turner.

TIME TO TRAVEL

November 18 in history:

The U.S. was divided into time zones on November 18th, 1883 by the railroad industry.  The move was needed so that trains could have standard arrival and departure times, instead of relying on local times based on the position of the sun.

The railroad tune “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from the movie The Harvey Girls was the first song to win an Oscar for lyricist Johnny Mercer, born on this date in 1909.  Mercer also won Academy Awards for two songs written with Henry Mancini, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Moon River.”

A steamboat trip on a river is the setting for the first official Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” released on November 18th, 1928.  It’s also considered the first successful movie cartoon with sound.

TV BLOOPERS

November 17 in history:

Television history was made on this day in 1968, when a Sunday afternoon game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders was running long.  NBC was contracted to broadcast a new version of “Heidi,” sponsored by Timex watches, precisely at 7 p.m. Eastern time that night, whether the game was over or not.  A last-minute network decision to delay “Heidi” until after the game did not get to the right people, and the football broadcast for most of the U.S. was cut off with one minute left to play, and the Jets ahead by three points.  The game ended with two quick touchdowns by the Raiders, who won by a score of 43-32.  The fan uproar that resulted led to the now-common practice of delaying all regular programming on the networks rather than disrupting football games in progress.

President Richard Nixon made history on live television by stating “I’m not a crook” during a broadcast news conference on November 17th, 1973.  The question-and-answer session was part of an Associated Press meeting at Disney World, in the middle of the Watergate scandal.  Nixon made the “crook” remark while telling the reporters that he had never profited from his years of public service.

The Nixon news conference was aired live on network TV on a Saturday night. The producer of “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels, was born on this day in 1944…the same day and year as frequent SNL host Danny De Vito, known for the TV series “Taxi” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

TV coverage of a concession speech by Howard Dean has been blamed for costing him the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.  Dean was portrayed as being too emotional and out of control when he shouted to supporters after losing the Iowa caucuses.  Dean, a former governor of Vermont, was born on November 17th, 1948.

John Boehner has never run for president, but he’s still third in line for the Oval Office. Boehner has served as Speaker of the House since 2011. The Ohio Republican was born on this date in 1949.