December 2 in history:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was born on this date in 1983. Under Coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers from a wild card playoff berth to the Super Bowl championship after the 2010 season.
Another man from Wisconsin named McCarthy was one of the most powerful and feared persons in America in the 1950’s. Senator Joseph McCarthy became famous for charging that Communists had infiltrated the government, and he held Senate hearings into Communist influence in the U.S. The senator was criticized for ruining reputations with reckless accusations, and he sometimes suggested that his critics were on the side of the Communists. On December 2nd, 1954, a majority of senators voted to condemn McCarthy, and his influence declined quickly.
The Washington Senators baseball team suddenly has a great season (because of a pact with the devil) in the 1954 novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant.” The book was turned into the Broadway musical and movie “Damn Yankees,” starring Ray Walston as the devil. Walston, born on this date in 1914, is also known as Mr. Hand from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Judge Bone from “Picket Fences,” and Uncle Martin, the title character from the sitcom “My Favorite Martian.”
The music video for the Britney Spears song “Oops!…I Did It Again” is supposed to be set partially on Mars. Spears, born on December 2nd, 1981, was 17 when she had her first hit album.
December 1 in history:
Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line for making cars on this date in 1913. The assembly line process allowed Ford workers to put together a Model T in just over two hours.
The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, includes a city bus from Montgomery, Alabama which was the scene of a historic protest on December 1st, 1955. Forty-two-year-old Rosa Parks was arrested while riding on that bus, for disobeying a law requiring black passengers to move to seats in the back of a bus if there were white passengers waiting to sit down in the front. A year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system began after her arrest, which led to an ordinance ending segregation on that city’s buses. Parks became a revered figure in the civil rights movement because of the protest, as did a boycott organizer named Martin Luther King Jr.
Comedian Chris Rock has called Richard Pryor “the Rosa Parks of comedy,” for taking risks that would break ground for future performers. Pryor turned 15 on the day of the Parks arrest.
Early in his career, Pryor occasionally opened for Woody Allen, who served as a mentor to him. Allen went from being a TV joke-writer to a successful stand-up comic, and eventually a movie actor, writer, and director, best known for the 1977 Oscar winner “Annie Hall.” Woody was born December 1st, 1935, and shares a birthday with actress and singer Bette Midler (1945), who played his wife in the Paul Mazursky film “Scenes from a Mall.” Midler’s other movies include “The Rose,” “Beaches,” and “Ruthless People,” and she has won four Grammy Awards for her records.
November 30 in history:
The two largest oil companies in the world, Exxon and Mobil, merged on November 30th, 1999. The roughly 80 billion dollar deal reunited two companies that had been formed in the break-up of Standard Oil almost a century earlier.
Ken Jennings set a record for the most money won by a U.S. game show contestant while appearing on “Jeopardy” during 2004, taking home over two-and-a-half million dollars. His 75 games in a row on “Jeopardy” were broadcast over a span of six months, ending on November 30th of ’04. On that episode, Jennings was defeated when he gave “What is Fed Ex?” as a response to a Final Jeopardy clue about a company with many seasonal employees. (Correct response: H & R Block.)
Dick Clark had a long career giving away big money on game shows, mainly on the “Pyramid” series. He also hosted “American Bandstand” for more than 30 years, and appeared on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” for an even longer time. Clark was born November 30th, 1929.
Clark was still the host of “Bandstand” when Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” became the biggest-selling record album of all time. “Thriller” was released November 30th, 1982.
Jackson’s first #1 hit as a solo artist was the theme song to the horror movie “Ben,” made by Bing Crosby’s production company. The last of Bing’s popular TV Christmas specials aired on November 30th, 1977, a month after he died. “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas” is best remembered for the “Little Drummer Boy” duet between Crosby and David Bowie.
November 29 in history:
The Army and the Navy met each other on the football field for the first time on November 29th, 1890, at West Point. The Army Cadets had the home field advantage, but they were shut out by the Navy 24-0. Now, the contest is usually played at a neutral site, Philadelphia.
The tradition of playing pro football on Thanksgiving began on this date in 1934, when the holiday was still celebrated on the last Thursday of November, instead of the fourth Thursday. The Lions had just moved to Detroit, and as a publicity stunt, the club’s new owner arranged to have the team play a Thanksgiving Day ball game. Detroit has hosted an NFL game on Thanksgiving ever since.
The Lions lost that first Thanksgiving game to the Chicago Bears. Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, was born on November 29th, 1959. Another famous Illinois politician born on November 29th was U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Paul Simon (1928).
November 28 in history:
A newspaper story called it “the worst disaster in Boston’s history.” On November 28th, 1942, a fast-moving fire swept through the Cocoanut Grove nightclub of Boston, killing nearly 500 of the estimated 1000 people in the building. Flammable decorations apparently ignited when a busboy lit a match to find a light socket. Jammed and locked exits were blamed for some of the loss of life.
One of the most powerful men in the history of Hollywood started his career modestly in Massachusetts on this day in 1907, when Louis B. Mayer opened his first movie theater in Haverhill. Mayer started making movies before long, and in less than 20 years, became the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Both of his daughters married movie producers, with David O. Selznick becoming a son-in-law of Mayer.
A Hollywood family named Newman has written movie music for decades. Famous family members include Alfred Newman, Lionel Newman…and Randy Newman, born November 28th, 1943. Randy has won Oscars for songs from the animated movies “Toy Story 3” and “Monsters, Inc.,” and has written the popular hits “Mama Told Me Not to Come” and “Short People.”
November 28th is also the birthday of two-time Oscar host Jon Stewart (1962), best known as the former host/anchor of “The Daily Show.”
November 27 in history:
The mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, and city supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death at San Francisco City Hall on November 27th, 1978. Former supervisor Dan White was convicted of the shootings. White had resigned from the Board of Supervisors, but changed his mind and asked Moscone to reappoint him. The mayor refused to do so, after objections from Milk and others. Milk was the first openly gay man to win election to a public office in California.
U.S. government agents shot and killed several notorious bank robbers in 1934, including John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and “Baby Face” Nelson. On this date in ’34, Baby Face — real name, Lester Gillis — was shot during a gunfight with federal agents and died a short time later.
A 38-year-old woman got part of a new face in an operation performed in France on November 27th, 2005. It was the world’s first partial face transplant. The patient received a new nose and mouth from a deceased donor, to replace the portion of her face that was attacked by a dog.
Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman ever to receive an Oscar for Best Director, for making the Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker.” Bigelow also is known for directing the heist movie “Point Break.” Bigelow was born November 27th, 1951.
November 26 in history:
Captain James Cook became the first European tourist to visit the Hawaiian island of Maui (sort of) on November 26th, 1778. Cook apparently did not find a good place to land on the island, so he only sailed around Maui. It took another eight years for a different European visitor to set foot on land.
A bird called the po’o-uli, or the black-faced honeycreeper, was discovered on Maui in 1973. But some animal experts believe the po’o-uli doesn’t live anywhere anymore. No more than 200 of the birds were thought to exist in the ’70s. Only three were found in the late 1990s, and they didn’t live close enough to each other to mate naturally. The only black-faced honeycreeper kept in captivity died of malaria on Maui, on this date in 2004.
The Honeydrippers was a 1980s band with a short life. Headed by Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, the group only released one EP, featuring the single “Sea of Love,” which was climbing the Billboard Top 40 chart on November 26th, 1984. It peaked at number 3 in early 1985.
And the Jackie Gleason series “The Honeymooners” featured a new episode called “Brother Ralph” on November 26th, 1955. The “Honeymooners” began as short comedy sketches starring Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Art Carney as sewer worker Ed Norton. It lasted just one season as a half-hour sitcom, in 1955-56.