FATEFUL FLIGHT

October 23 in history:

Brutus is infamous for his role in assassinating Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate, in 44 B.C.  Two years later, on October 23rd, 42 B.C., Brutus met his own fate, killing himself after losing the second battle of Philippi to Marc Antony.

A fateful meeting of two old friends, two pilots, led to deadly consequences in 1942.  One man was flying a B-34 bomber for the Army, while the other was a pilot for American Airlines.  They discovered that both would be flying near Palm Springs, California the next day, October 23rd.  On that day, the bomber pilot, Lt. William Wilson, tried flying close to American Flight 28 to signal to his friend, First Officer Louis Reppert.  Wilson got too close, and the planes collided.  The airliner crashed in the desert, killing all 12 people aboard.  Wilson went through a court-martial, but was acquitted.

One passenger on the American flight was an Oscar-winning songwriter, Ralph Rainger.  He’s best known for writing the theme songs used by two popular comedians…”Love in Bloom,” associated with Jack Benny, and “Thanks for the Memory,” Bob Hope’s theme.  Late in their careers, Hope and Benny appeared frequently with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.”  Carson became a comedy legend in his own right, by hosting “Tonight” for 30 years.  He was born October 23rd, 1925.

NBC airs “Saturday Night Live” in the “Tonight Show” time slot on weekends.  On October 23rd, 1976, Steve Martin hosted “SNL” for the first time, and played the host of “Jeopardy! 1999,” a futuristic parody of the popular game show. “I Lost on Jeopardy,” a take-off of the Greg Kihn song “Jeopardy,” was an early hit for song parodist and musician “Weird Al” Yankovic, born this day in 1959.

KENNEDY’S GOT A SECRET

October 22 in history:

Better Call Saul

On October 22nd, 1962, President John F. Kennedy made a televised speech publicly revealing the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.  In the speech, Kennedy announced a quarantine on ships that might be carrying offensive weapons to Cuba.

By coincidence, Kennedy’s address fell on the same night that JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader was recording a comedy album about the president, to be called “The First Family.”  Meader later said that the actors knew about the speech before the recording session, but the studio audience did not.  He thought the audience members would not have laughed as much, if they had been aware of the missile crisis.

Appearing on TV that October night in ’62, besides the president, was the game show “I’ve Got a Secret,” created by song-parody writer Allan Sherman, best known for “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.”  His record “My Son, the Folk Singer” lost the Grammy for album of the year in 1963 to “The First Family.”

Actor Bob Odenkirk has done parody sketches on “Mr. Show” and “The Ben Stiller Show.” October 22nd of 1962 is when Odenkirk was born. He may be best known for playing attorney Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad,” and its spinoff series “Better Call Saul.”

OFF TO THE SEA

October 21 in history:

On October 21st, 1520, Ferdinand Magellan and his crew discovered the strait at the tip of South America which would later bear his name.  The strait was the connection which took them from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Another famous ocean explorer was remembered on this date in 1892, when the Columbian Exposition was dedicated in Chicago.  The fair designed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World actually opened in May of 1893.  New products and inventions introduced at the fair included the Ferris Wheel, Cream of Wheat cereal, and Juicy Fruit gum.

October 21st was the day in 1797 that the U.S.S. Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” was launched.  The ship (pictured), docked in Boston, is still maintained as an active Navy vessel.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge began writing his epic poem about the sea, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in 1797.  Coleridge was born October 21st, 1772.

 

COX, CAROL, AND COMPANY

October 20 in history:

A dramatic night in Washington on October 20th, 1973…

President Nixon wanted the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.  Richardson resigned instead of carrying out the order.  So did his deputy A.G., William Ruckelshaus.  Cox was fired by the third man approached by Nixon, Solicitor General and future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.  The incident became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” and fueled efforts to impeach Nixon.

News of the political turmoil interrupted network TV schedules that night.  “The Carol Burnett Show” was a popular Saturday night program in 1973.  A special episode of the Burnett show was presented at the new Sydney Opera House in Australia in honor of the building’s grand opening, which took place the same date and year as the Washington “massacre.”

Another Saturday night TV hit in October 1973 was “M*A*S*H.”  William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy on the series, was born on October 20th, 1932.

MORE WORLDS TO CONQUER

October 19 in history:

Two European kingdoms joined to become Spain as the result of a royal wedding on October 19th, 1469.  That’s when Ferdinand of Aragon (he was 17) married Isabella of Castile (she was 18).

Napoleon tried to conquer Russia in 1812, but the Russian Army would not surrender.  The French leader and his army spent a month in Moscow, but could not get enough supplies to stay for the winter, so they retreated on October 19th, 1812.

Boxer Evander Holyfield became the undisputed world heavyweight champion in October 1990 by knocking out defending champ Buster Douglas.  Holyfield was born on this date in 1962.

It’s also the birthday of actor John Lithgow (1945), known for films such as “The World According to Garp” and his TV role as a visitor from another world on “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

BIG STUFF

October 18 in history:

The tale of a big whale was introduced on this date in 1851, when Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” was published in England.

The U.S. made a big purchase from Russia on October 18th, 1867:  Alaska.  The Alaska territory was more than half a million acres, about twice as large as Texas. The acquisition arranged by Secretary of State William Seward was derided with nicknames like “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.”

Nicknamed after something else big and cold, Chicago Bears rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry became an overnight star during a Monday Night Football game against Green Bay in October 1985.  The two head coaches in that contest both celebrated their birthdays that game week, on October 18th:  Mike Ditka of the Bears (1939), and Forrest Gregg of the Packers (1933).

Both Gregg and Ditka were still active players in the NFL during the 1970 season, when “Monday Night Football” made its debut. Announcer Keith Jackson, who handled the play-by-play for the Monday night games that first season, was born on this date in 1928.

NEWS OF THE WORLD

October 17 in history:

One of the world’s most famous golf tournaments, the British Open, was played for the first time on October 17th, 1860, at a course in Scotland.  Contestants had to shoot 36 holes of golf in a single day.

Another world-famous championship, the World Series, was disrupted by an earthquake on this date in 1989.  Sixty-three people died in the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco area.  Most of those deaths occurred because of the collapse of a two-level viaduct on Interstate 880.  As for the World Series, the quake struck 30 minutes before the scheduled start of Game 3 between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics at Candlestick Park.  The series was postponed for 10 days because of the quake.

A 12-story metal globe of the world, called the Unisphere, symbolized the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, which closed on this date in ’65.  The Unisphere and some other displays at the fair were preserved as local landmarks.

A large globe sits atop the Daily Planet newspaper building in the “Superman” comic books. Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of the Superman character, was born on this day in 1914…on the planet Earth, not Krypton. Two people who have played staff members of the Daily Planet in movies or TV shows were born on October 17th.  Margot Kidder (1948) played Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films, and Michael McKean (1947), also known for “Laverne and Shirley,” “This is Spinal Tap,” and “Better Caul Saul,” appeared as Planet editor Perry White on the “Smallville” TV series.

 

MORE SIGNS OF REVOLUTION

October 16 in history:

“Antoinette, dainty queen, with her quaint guillotine…”  That line from the musical “Damn Yankees” refers to France’s Marie Antoinette meeting her fate on this date in 1793.  The queen was beheaded nine months after her husband, King Louis XVI.

The American colonies effectively cut themselves off from the King of England by winning the Revolutionary War.  On October 16th, 1783, Army commander George Washington captured Yorktown, Virginia, in the final battle of the war.

The English once beheaded their own king, Charles I, in the 1600s and tried life without royalty for a few years.  It didn’t stick, and the royal family returned during the Restoration.  A popular novel about the Restoration, “Forever Amber,” was a best seller in the 1940s.  “Amber” author Kathleen Winsor, born in 1919, shared an October 16th birthday with the actress who played the lead in the movie version of the novel, Linda Darnell (1923).

LUCY, LAVERNE, AND LA GUARDIA

October 15 in history:

The submarine “H.L. Hunley,” the first sub to sink a ship, sank during a test run on this date in 1863.  The man whose name was on the sub, Horace Hunley, was one of eight people aboard who died in the accident.  The Hunley was brought back to the surface, but sank again a short time later.  It stayed underwater until 2000.

The “Graf Zeppelin” airship completed its first flight across the Atlantic from Europe on October 15th, 1928, passing over several large American cities before landing in New Jersey.

The New York Municipal Airport was dedicated on this date in 1939.  Years later, it was renamed for the man who was mayor of New York when it opened:  Fiorello La Guardia.

A New York apartment on East 68th St. was the main setting for a TV comedy that premiered on October 15th, 1951, on CBS. Living in the apartment were a Cuban bandleader and his trouble-prone wife, played by real-life couple Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. “I Love Lucy” was one of the top-rated shows on TV during its original six-year run, and has been popular in reruns ever since.

Another television hit about a wacky pair, set in the 1950s, was “Laverne & Shirley.” Penny Marshall, who played Laverne De Fazio, was born on this day in 1943. After the TV series ended, Marshall became a movie director, making popular films including “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”

LEADERS AS TARGETS

October 14 in history:

King Harold II of England was killed by Norman invaders during the Battle of Hastings on October 14th, 1066.  Harold was the first English king to die in battle.

On this date in 1981, the Egyptian government elected Hosni Mubarak as president, to succeed Anwar Sadat, who had been shot and killed a week earlier.  Mubarak remained president until being ousted as a result of protests in 2011.

Former U.S President Theodore Roosevelt was shot and slightly wounded in Milwaukee on October 14th, 1912, while campaigning as the Bull Moose candidate for president.  The bullet was slowed down by a folded copy of his speech in his coat pocket, and Roosevelt finished his speech before going to a hospital.

That week in 1912, the Army football team was 2-0 and preparing for a game against Yale.  One of the star players for the cadets was halfback and future president Dwight Eisenhower, born on October 14th, 1890.