FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PARTY

December 15 in history:

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, took effect on December 15th, 1791 when they were ratified by the Virginia legislature.

The 21st Amendment, ending 13 years of Prohibition, took effect on this date in 1933, 10 days after it was adopted.  Many Americans did not wait until the 15th before openly drinking alcohol again.

Government work to enforce Prohibition inspired the TV series “The Untouchables.”  You could call “Miami Vice” a similar show, about cops fighting the drug trade in the 1980s.  “Miami Vice” star Don Johnson was born December 15th, 1949.

New York dairy farmer Max Yasgur said he didn’t like the drugs and “free love” associated with the hippie culture.  But Yasgur, born December 15th, 1919, said young people should have the freedom to hold a music festival on his property.  The Woodstock festival drew half-a-million people to Yasgur’s farm in August, 1969.

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LAST ONE LEAVING THE MOON, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS

December 14 in history:

The last of the Apollo astronauts to walk on the moon blasted off from the lunar surface on December 14th, 1972.  Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt completed three walks outside the lunar lander during the 75 hours they spent on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

The Saturn rockets that launched men to the moon were developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama.  On this date in 1819, Alabama became the 22nd state to join the Union.

The Alabama state quarter issued by the U.S. Mint in 2003 features a portrait of author Helen Keller on the tail side.  Actress Patty Duke, born Anna Marie Duke on December 14th, 1946, won an Oscar at age 16 for recreating her stage role as blind and deaf Helen in the movie, “The Miracle Worker.”  She later starred as “identical cousins” on “The Patty Duke Show.” Prior to her death in 2016, Duke wrote and spoke widely about her experience with bipolar disorder.

Patty Duke played Martha Washington in the 1984 TV miniseries “George Washington.”  On December 14th, 1799, George Washington died at his Virginia estate, Mount Vernon.  Medical experts know that Washington had soreness and swelling in the throat, but some believe the doctors’ practice of bleeding hastened his death.

Another famous George who died on this date was Notre Dame football star George Gipp.  He was 25 when he died on December 14th, 1920, apparently from a throat infection.  Future U.S. president Ronald Reagan played Gipp in the 1940 movie “Knute Rockne, All American,” in which the character urged Coach Rockne to “win one for the Gipper.”

SUPER-PLUMMER-FRANCIS-DRAKE-AND-VAN-DYKE-JULIE-DOCIOUS

December 13 in history:

When Francis Drake sailed from Plymouth, England, on December 13th, 1577, it was the beginning of a three-year trip around the world.  One of the main purposes of Drake’s voyage was to explore the Pacific coast of the Americas, and to raid Spanish settlements along the ocean.

A crew led by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first Europeans to see New Zealand on this date in 1642.  Tasman briefly stopped on the South Island, but when some of his crewmen were killed in a confrontation with the Maori natives, the ship quickly moved on.

A Navy pilot is stranded on an island in “Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N,” one of a series of Disney movies in the 1960s that starred Dick Van Dyke, born December 13th, 1925.  Besides having TV success on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the ’60s and “Diagnosis: Murder” in the ’90s, Van Dyke also had several hit movies including “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and Disney’s “Mary Poppins” with Julie Andrews.

Taylor_Swift_-_1989A year after “Mary Poppins,” Andrews starred in “The Sound of Music” with another actor born on December 13th, Christopher Plummer (1929). Plummer’s other movies include “The Insider,” “Up,” and “Beginners,” for which he won an Oscar at age 82.

Julie Andrews has done three TV specials with Carol Burnett. They aired in the U.S. in 1962, 1971…and on December 13th, 1989, the day that singer Taylor Swift was born. Swift acted in young people’s theater productions (once playing Maria in “Sound of Music”) before launching a country music career as a teenager. Swift has won more than 200 awards for her country and pop recordings, including seven Grammys before the age of 25.

WHO’S THE BOSS?

December 12 in history:

The presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was finally settled by the U.S. Supreme Court on December 12th, 2000…more than a month after the voting.  The court decided 5-4 to accept Florida’s certification that Bush had won the state, giving him one more electoral vote over the 270 majority.  That ruling came a few days after justices halted the Florida recount which showed Texas governor Bush and Vice President Gore only a few hundred votes apart.

Frank Sinatra knew a few presidents, including John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and in his later years, fans of the singer and actor knew Sinatra as “Chairman of the Board.”  Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on this date in 1915.

Mayim-BialikLike the Chairman of the Board, “The Boss” — singer Bruce Springsteen — also was born in New Jersey.  During a concert on December 12th, 1975, Springsteen recorded a rock version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” which has become a popular holiday song on the radio.  The concert was performed on the Long Island campus of C.W. Post College, named after the founder of Post Cereals.

The 1960’s TV cartoon show “Linus the Lionhearted” was based on characters from Post cereal boxes, with the title character, a lion king, voiced by actor Sheldon Leonard.  The characters Sheldon and Leonard on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” are named after him.  “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik, who starred in the ’90s series “Blossom” and earned a PhD in neuroscience, was born December 12th, 1975.

KING’S SPEECH

December 11 in history:

It was not the title speech given in the movie The King’s Speech, but King Edward VIII’s abdication speech was an important moment in the film, and in British history.  On December 11th, 1936, Edward took to the radio to explain to his subjects why he was stepping down after less than a year on the throne:  to marry the woman he loved, a divorced American named Wallis Simpson.  Many government leaders, including the prime minister, strongly opposed the king’s plans to wed Mrs. Simpson.

King gave a speech in Oslo, Norway on December 11th, 1964:  Martin Luther King, Jr., that is.  Dr. King presented a lecture on “The Quest for Peace and Justice” one day after formally accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

And now, the award for outstanding Supporting Actress born on December 11th.  The nominees are:

Betsy Blair (born 1923), for Marty,

Rita Moreno (1931), for West Side Story,

Teri Garr (birth year uncertain), for Tootsie,

Mo’Nique (1967), for Precious, and…

Hailee Steinfeld (1996), for True Grit.

And the Oscar for Supporting Actress went to…(drumroll)…Moreno in 1962 and Mo’Nique in 2010.

NAME THOSE TUNE-MAKERS

December 10 in history:

The Saturday night “Barn Dance” program on Nashville radio station WSM got a new identity on December 10th, 1927.  The show’s host, George D. Hay, joked on the air about his program being aired immediately after a show that featured the music of grand opera.  Hay said the next show would feature “the Grand Ole Opry.”  The Opry name caught on, and the radio show developed into the most famous country music stage show in America.

A San Francisco-area band called “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions” changed its name to “The Warlocks” in 1965, but soon learned that another band was using that name.  Band founder Jerry Garcia found a new name in a book, and on December 10th of ’65, the Warlocks played their first show under that new name: the Grateful Dead.

The Dead once opened for singer Otis Redding in 1966.  On December 10th of 1967, Redding and six other people died when their small plane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wis., where Redding was supposed to perform that night.  Redding recorded what would become his only #1 hit, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” three days before the crash.

“Dock of the Bay” was #1 the week that Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota won the Wisconsin presidential primary of 1968.  McCarthy would run for president a few more times after leaving the Senate.  He was 89 when he died on this date in 2005.

Eugene McCarthy did not run for re-election in the fall of 1970.  The made-for-TV band “The Partridge Family” had the number-one song in America on this date in 1970: “I Think I Love You.”  David Cassidy was lead singer for the Partridges on the TV series and on the records.  Another member of the sitcom band, Susan Dey, was born on December 10th, 1952.  Dey went from playing Laurie Partridge in the ’70s to the role of attorney Grace Van Owen on “L.A. Law” in the ’80s.

WHICH VICH IS WHICH?

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.”

Malkovich portrayed Tom Wingfield in a 1987 movie version of the Tennessee Williams play “The Glass Menagerie.” A 1950 film of “Menagerie” featured a young Kirk Douglas as the other male character in the story, Jim O’Connor, the “Gentleman Caller.” Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch, and turns 102 today. His famous movie characters include Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life,” and the title role in “Spartacus.”