December 8 in history:
On the last day of his life…December 8th, 1980…John Lennon posed nude for Rolling Stone magazine. The photo of Lennon curled up and kissing his clothed wife, Yoko Ono, was used for the magazine cover after Lennon was shot and killed on December 8th in New York by an obsessed fan. That day, Lennon’s new single “(Just Like) Starting Over” was the number 3 song in the U.S. It rose to number 1 by the end of December.
John Lennon was the only Beatle who did not appear on “Saturday Night Live” during his lifetime. Ringo Starr is the only Beatle who has hosted SNL, and that happened on December 8th, 1984. Ringo’s monologue featured a duet with “Sammy Davis Jr.” (played by Billy Crystal).
On that night, the real Sammy Davis Jr. was celebrating his 59th birthday. Sammy’s career included movies, Broadway, and hit songs like “The Candy Man,” but he’s also famous as a member of the Hollywood “Rat Pack” along with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
On December 8th, 1963, Sinatra’s 19-year-old son Frank Jr. was kidnapped from a resort at Lake Tahoe. The younger Sinatra was released near Los Angeles two days later, after his father paid a ransom of $240,000. Three men eventually were convicted of the kidnapping.
December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.
December 6 in history:
For the first time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives chose a vice president in mid-term under the 25th Amendment on December 6th, 1973. Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford was confirmed and sworn in the same day, nearly two months after former VP Spiro Agnew resigned. Before the 25th Amendment was ratified, if a sitting vice president died or resigned, the job remained vacant until the next election.
Jerry Ford was a college football star long before joining Congress in 1949. Jerry Rice of the 49ers set a pro football record on this date in 1992, catching the 101st touchdown of his NFL career. Rice needed only eight seasons to break the old record. A future football star was born on the day Rice set his record…2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Rapper Chuck D mentioned Jerry Rice in the lyrics of his 1996 recording “Underdog.” Wally Cox, who spoke in rhyme as the animated super-hero Underdog, was born on December 6th, 1924. Cox also played schoolteacher “Mr. Peepers,” and was a regular panelist on “Hollywood Squares.” This is also the birthday of animator Nick Park (born 1958), creator of the stop-action Wallace and Gromit films. And on this day in 1964, the stop-action production of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” aired for the first time, as an NBC special sponsored by General Electric.
And underdogs are featured frequently in the work of Judd Apatow, born December 6th, 1967. Apatow has produced, directed, and/or written “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Trainwreck,” “Bridesmaids,” “Anchorman,” and the TV series “Freaks and Geeks.”
December 5 in history:
George Washington became America’s first two-term president in 1792. On December 5th that year, the Electoral College unanimously chose Washington to continue as president. John Adams was re-elected as vice president.
Adams and his son, John Quincy, both were one-term presidents. John Quincy Adams was voted out of the White House in 1828, but won a seat in the House of Representatives two years later. He took office as a Congressman on December 5th, 1831.
J.Q. Adams served in the House under five presidents, including Martin Van Buren, born on this day in 1782. Van Buren, also a one-term chief executive, was the first U.S. president born after 1776.
James K. Polk was Speaker of the House under President Van Buren. Polk also became president for just one term, and is credited with setting off the California gold rush during his last months in office. In his State of the Union message to Congress on December 5th, 1848, Polk announced that gold had been discovered in the California territory earlier that year, and he claimed that most male residents of the territory were busy searching for gold.
December 4 in history:
Pan American World Airways used to fly to 86 countries, but on December 4th, 1991, Pan Am stopped flying completely. The shutdown ended 64 years of service by the airline. Ironically, the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” depicted Pan Am making commercial flights into space in the early 21st century.
Fifty-one countries belonged to the United Nations when it started in 1945, and on this date in ’45, Senators in Washington voted to let the United States join the U.N. The U.S. had stayed out of the previous international organization, the League of Nations, which was championed by President Woodrow Wilson after the first World War. On December 4th, 1918, Wilson boarded a ship to travel to the peace talks at Versailles, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to travel to Europe.
Another man named Wilson who spent much time surfing on the ocean, and performing songs about the ocean, was born December 4th, 1944…Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys.
On December 4th, 1980, the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” aired its second episode on ABC, featuring Tom Hanks as a guy named Kip Wilson who lives in a women’s hotel, pretending to be “Buffy Wilson.” Hanks is married to Rita Wilson, starred in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and named his volleyball companion “Wilson” in “Cast Away.”
Hanks is a two-time Oscar winner, who received his first Oscar nomination for the 1988 movie “Big,” where he performs a duet on a giant piano keyboard with Robert Loggia. During his 60-year career, Loggia was nominated for Oscars and Emmys, and starred in movies including “Scarface” and “Jagged Edge.” Loggia died on this date in 2015.
December 3 in history:
A deadly gas leak at a factory in Bhopal, India, on December 3rd, 1984, has been blamed for thousands of deaths and injuries. A chemical used to make pesticide was exposed to water at a Union Carbide plant, and the reaction led to the release of poisonous gases that spread to heavily populated areas. Many local doctors apparently were not told the proper way to treat people who had inhaled the gas. The CEO of Union Carbide was arrested briefly in Bhopal that week, and the Indian government tried to charge him with homicide years later.
The Bhopal disaster occurred on the anniversary of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. The war started when Pakistan struck Indian military bases. Within two weeks, Pakistan surrendered. As a result of the war, East Pakistan became the state of Bangladesh.
The war broke out a few months after George Harrison and other musicians held a fund-raising Concert for Bangladesh in New York, where police confronted hundreds of people who tried to enter the concert without tickets. On December 3rd, 1979, a rush to the doors at a Who concert in Cincinnati claimed 11 lives. Many fans were suffocated or trampled when crowds tried to get into the arena, mistakenly thinking that a sound check was actually the start of the concert.
Two rock stars born with the same first and middle names have December 3rd birthdays…John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne (1948), and Jefferson Starship singer John Michael “Mickey” Thomas (1949).
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.