Category: Today in history

SPY VS. SPY

September 24 in history:

On September 24th, 1789, President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act, creating the U.S. Supreme Court and the office of Attorney General.

The Attorney General can investigate cases of treason and espionage. The office was created too late for the Benedict Arnold case. On this date in 1780, Arnold fled to a British ship on the Hudson River after his plot to surrender West Point to the British was foiled.

The government conspiracy thriller “Three Days of the Condor”, starring Robert Redford as a CIA employee, was released on this day in 1975.  The movie opened a year after Redford starred in “The Great Gatsby,” based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was born on September 24th, 1896.

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RETURN OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN

September 23 in history:

German Big Chill

Senator Richard Nixon had to give the biggest speech of his political career on this date in 1952.  Nixon’s role as Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the presidential election was in jeopardy, because of questions about a fund used to help him pay campaign expenses.  In a live, televised address, Nixon claimed that he would keep just one gift to his family:  a dog named “Checkers.” The speech saved his spot on the Republican ticket.

Nixon went on to be elected president in 1968, the year that protesters rioted outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Eight organizers of the protests went on trial, starting on September 23rd, 1969.  When the judge ordered a separate trial for defendant Bobby Seale, the protesters became known as the “Chicago 7.”

Bobby Seale’s name was used in a punchline in the college-reunion movie “The Big Chill,” which opened the New York Film Festival on September 23rd, 1983.  That was the 36th birthday of “Big Chill” cast member Mary Kay Place, also known for her role as a country singer on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”

QUEENS, KINGS, AND HANGINGS

September 22 in history:

Nineteen people were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, during a seven-month period in 1692, for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The final hanging happened on September 22nd that year.

Twenty-one-year-old Nathan Hale was hanged as a spy by the British on this date in 1776 in New York City.  Hale had gone behind enemy lines to observe the movements of British troops.

The American colonists were rebelling against England’s King George III, who was crowned on this date in 1761.  George set a record as England’s longest-reigning monarch, serving for 59 years — a record broken on September 22nd, 1896, by his granddaughter, Queen Victoria.

Anne of Cleves was queen of England for a very short time, only six months.  She was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII, who had the marriage annulled.  Anne was born on September 22nd, 1515.

DO YOU BELIEVE?

September 21 in history:

The Book Of MermanA letter about Santa Claus appeared in the newspaper in September…on this date in 1897.  The New York Sun printed the letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, which asked “Is there a Santa Claus?” The famous response by editor Francis P. Church included the answer, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” little Cindy Lou Who believed that the Grinch was Santa Claus. “Looney Tunes” animator Chuck Jones, born on September 21st, 1912, made the 1966 TV version of “Grinch.”

Looney Tunes characters starred with basketball legend Michael Jordan in the movie “Space Jam,” which featured a cameo appearance by Bill Murray. The former “Saturday Night Live” star was born on this day in 1950. Murray’s hit movies include “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Groundhog Day,” and he got an Oscar nomination for best actor in “Lost in Translation.”

Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith claimed he wrote the Book of Mormon by translating golden plates revealed to him by an angel named Moroni. Smith had his first vision of the angel on September 21st, 1823.

A musical called “The Book of Mormon” would become a Broadway hit in 2011.  A big hit musical from the 1940s, “Annie Get Your Gun,” was revived on September 21st, 1966, in New York.  The show’s original star, Ethel Merman, once again played Annie Oakley in the new version.

Mary Martin starred in the touring company of “Annie Get Your Gun” when Merman was performing in the original Broadway run. September 21st was the birthday of Martin’s son Larry Hagman (1931), who starred on TV in “Dallas” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”

YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH BILLIE JEAN

September 20 in history:

Explorer Ferdinand Magellan left Spain on September 20th, 1519, on a voyage to reach the Spice Islands by sailing west to reach the Pacific Ocean.  Magellan’s ships were the first ones to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic, and eventually, one ship, the Victoria, became the first to travel around the world to return to Spain.

Lewis and Clark were headed back from the Pacific Ocean toward the Mississippi when they reached a white settlement in Missouri on this date in 1806.  It took them another three days to reach St. Louis, ending the exploration of the Louisiana Territory which lasted more than two years.

The famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King took place on September 20th, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome, before a crowd of 30,000 and a worldwide TV audience. King was the defending women’s champion at Wimbledon. Riggs won the men’s title at Wimbledon 34 years earlier.  The female pro defeated the older male pro in three straight sets.

On the same night that Billie Jean and Bobby dueled in Texas, singer Jim Croce and five other people died in the crash of a small plane headed for Texas.  Croce had just performed that night at a college in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and the plane crashed shortly after take-off from that city’s airport.  Croce’s song “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was a number-one hit that summer, and his follow-up, “I Got a Name,” was released the day after he died.

Pop singer Ricky Nelson died in a Texas plane crash in 1985.  His twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, formed the rock band Nelson.  They were born on September 20th, 1967.  This is also the birthday of another set of rock-and-roll twins, Chuck and John Panozzo of Styx, born in 1948.

CRIME-BUSTERS

September 19 in history:

On September 19th, 1934, a team of detectives arrested Bruno Hauptmann in New York City for the kidnapping and murder two years earlier of the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, and executed in New Jersey.

James A. Garfield died in New Jersey on this date in 1881, making him the second U.S. president to be assassinated.  Garfield had been in office only four months when he was shot on July 2nd of that year. Assassin Charles Guiteau was arrested immediately after the shooting, but doctors who attended Garfield for weeks were never able to locate a bullet that remained in his body.

Actor David McCallum, known for playing a crime-solving doctor on the TV show “NCIS,” was born on September 19th, 1933. McCallum portrayed crime-fighting spy Illya Kuryakin on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and shares his September 19th birthday with another TV crime-fighter of the 60’s, “Batman” star Adam West (1928).

“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon has played a costumed crime-fighter, as one of the “Ambiguously Gay Duo” in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Fallon was born on this day in 1974. Another September 19th baby co-starred with Jimmy Fallon on SNL in the late 1990s:  Cheri Oteri (born 1962), who played Arianna of the Spartan Spirit cheerleaders.

THE TRUMAN SHOW

September 18 in history:

On September 18th, 1837, a stationery store opened on Broadway in New York.  It was founded by John B. Young and Charles Tiffany. After a few years, the Tiffany and Young store became just Tiffany and Co., and concentrated on selling jewelry.

The 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” based on a book by Truman Capote, opens with Audrey Hepburn window-shopping outside the famous store.  Hepburn got a major career break on this date in 1951, when she screen-tested for the film “Roman Holiday” at the Pinewood Studios in England.  She won the female lead, and won an Oscar for the role.

Another Capote book which inspired a famous movie was the real-life crime thriller “In Cold Blood.”  That film gave a major career break to former child actor Robert Blake, who later went on to play the TV detective “Baretta.”  Blake was born September 18th, 1933.

It wasn’t Truman Capote, but Harry S Truman, who launched an institution that began on September 18th, 1947.  The Central Intelligence Agency was founded on that day, the result of a National Security Act signed by President Truman.