May 23rd in history:
Walt Disney became rich and famous because of a cartoon mouse named Mickey. The first cartoon in which Mickey actually spoke, “The Karnival Kid,” debuted on May 23rd, 1929.
John D. Rockefeller made a fortune in the oil business, and then gave much of his fortune to charity in his later years. Rockefeller died at age 97 on May 23rd, 1937.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow died in a police ambush in Louisiana on this date in 1934. How did they make their money? According to Warren Beatty in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” “We rob banks.”
And May 23rd is the birthday of Ken Jennings (1974), who set many records and won more than $2 million during a 75-day run as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” It’s also the birthday of Drew Carey (1958), who has given away money and prizes worth millions as host of “The Price Is Right.”
May 22nd in history:
Only two volcanic eruptions occurred in the U.S. during the 20th century. One was the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980. The other happened on May 22nd, 1915, with an explosion at Lassen Peak in northern California.
Another powerful act of nature, an earthquake, struck southern Chile on this date in 1960, killing thousands of people. Known as the Valdivia quake, it was the strongest earthquake ever recorded, measuring 9.5 on the Richter Scale. Severe tornadoes also have occurred on May 22nd, in Hallam, Nebraska (in 2004) and Joplin, Missouri (2011). The Joplin twister caused more than 150 deaths, and was the deadliest tornado in the U.S. in more than 60 years.
Wreckage from an airplane explosion fell from the sky onto Missouri and Iowa on May 22nd, 1962, when a Continental Airlines flight between Chicago and Kansas City blew up. All 45 people aboard were killed. One of the passengers, who had earlier taken out a large insurance policy, apparently planted a bomb in a restroom. The tragedy reportedly inspired part of the plot of the 1970 movie “Airport.”
In May of 1962, Iowa native Johnny Carson was preparing to take over NBC’s “Tonight Show.” He had just been hired to replace the departing Jack Paar. Carson stayed on as host of “Tonight” longer than any other person, almost 30 years, ending his run on May 22nd, 1992.
Another TV personality named “Johnny” made his debut on this day in 1910: that was the birthdate of announcer Johnny Olson, who’s most famous for shouting “Come on down!” to contestants on “The Price Is Right.” Olson also served as the announcer on “What’s My Line?,” “Match Game,” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.”
May 21st in history:
Michelangelo’s sculpture, the Pieta, was vandalized at the Vatican on May 21st, 1972 by a geologist named Laszlo Toth. He damaged the statue of the Virgin Mary with several blows from a hammer.
Writer and actor Don Novello, alias “Father Guido Sarducci”, used the name Lazlo Toth when writing prank letters to famous people. He published a few books containing many of the letters he received in return. Novello wrote and performed on “Saturday Night Live” in the late 1970s, along with actor, writer and U.S. Senator Al Franken, born May 21st, 1951.
“All My Children” star Susan Lucci has never run for public office, but she’s famous for being an also-ran. Her string of Emmy nominations without a win ended on May 21st, 1999, when she won a Daytime Emmy Award on her 19th try.
May 20th in history:
Christopher Columbus died in Spain on May 20th, 1506. Columbus reportedly never thought that he had come upon a new continent, but always believed that he had reached Asia by crossing the Atlantic.
Vasco da Gama reached India on this date in 1498, after starting in Portugal and going around Africa.
Charles Lindbergh began his historic flight across the Atlantic from Long Island on May 20th, 1927. He was the first person to successfully fly solo across the ocean to Europe without stopping.
Lindbergh’s flight began on the 19th birthday of future movie star Jimmy Stewart (1908). In 1957, Stewart would star as Lindbergh in a movie about the flight to Paris, called The Spirit of St. Louis.
Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar for “The Philadelphia Story,” and his hit movies include “Vertigo” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he also starred as a lawyer in the CBS TV series ‘Hawkins’ in 1973. Another prime-time series on CBS in ’73 was “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Cher, born on this date in 1946, moved beyond records and TV to a successful movie career, and won a Best Actress Oscar for “Moonstruck” in 1987.
May 19th in history:
King Henry VIII and his relatives made history on May 19th in different years.
On this day in 1499, Catherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Henry’s brother Arthur, the Prince of Wales. When Arthur died months after their formal marriage, it was arranged for Catherine to marry Henry.
Henry ended his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn. But after Anne did not give Henry a male heir, he had her tried for treason. Anne was beheaded on May 19th, 1536.
Henry and Anne’s only child, Princess Elizabeth, eventually became queen of England. On May 19th, 1568, Elizabeth had her rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, arrested.
Two very tall actors associated with princesses were born on May 19th. Andre the Giant (born 1946) played Fezzik in the movie “The Princess Bride.” And Peter Mayhew (1944) appeared on-screen with Princess Leia while playing Chewbacca in “Star Wars” episodes IV through VII.
May 18th in history:
On May 18th, 1927, more than 40 people, mostly children, died in the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history, when a bomb went off at a school in Bath Township, Michigan. The explosion was planned by a school board member, who was upset that rising property taxes used to fund the schools were driving him out of his farm home.
Another man-made blast, by a rocket, sent the Apollo 10 mission into space on May 18th, 1969. It was the second manned spacecraft to orbit the moon, and the crew rehearsed procedures needed for the landing of Apollo 11 two months later.
Nature created a major explosion on this date in 1980, when the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington State erupted. Fifty-seven people died in the explosion, which followed weeks of earthquakes and the venting of steam.
May 17th in history:
Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet began their journey to map the Mississippi River on May 17th, 1673. The trip started on Lake Michigan. The explorers traveled down the Wisconsin River to reach the Mississippi a month later, near the modern towns of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and Marquette, Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet passed present-day Kentucky on their trek down the Mississippi. The first Kentucky Derby was run on this day in 1875 — not the first Saturday in May, or even a Saturday at all (it was a Monday). The winning horse was Aristides.
Secretariat set the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby in 1973. “Secretariat” made regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it was two guys in a horse costume) on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Scottish comedian Ferguson was born May 17th, 1962. Before getting the hosting job on “The Late Late Show,” Ferguson played Drew’s boss on “The Drew Carey Show.”
And May 17th is the birthday of an actor famous for roles in movies about a river journey (“Apocalypse Now”) and a motorcycle trek (“Easy Rider”) — Dennis Hopper (born 1936).