Category: Today in history

THE EARTH, THE MOON, AND THE PLANETS

January 17th in history:

Catwoman Riddler

The earth shook in Southern California on January 17th, 1994. The “Northridge Earthquake” caused 72 deaths and $20 billion in damage.

Eartha’s birthday is on January 17th — Eartha Kitt, that is — born in 1927. Kitt replaced Julie Newmar as Catwoman on the “Batman” TV show in 1967. Jim Carrey also is famous for playing a Batman villain, the Riddler, as well as portrayals of the Grinch and Horton the Elephant. Carrey, born in 1962, shares a January 17th birthday with Andy Kaufman (1949), whom he impersonated in the movie “Man on the Moon.”

And the man who discovered the planet Pluto, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, died on this day in 1997. A few years after Tombaugh’s death, scientists declared that Pluto is not really a planet.

LAST CALL FOR ALCOHOL

January 16th in history:

Prohibition became the law in the U.S. when 36 states ratified the 18th Amendment. That threshold was reached on January 16th, 1919, when five states approved the amendment in one day. The actual ban on alcohol took effect one year later.

“I get no kick from champagne” is the opening line of the song “I Get a Kick Out of You,” introduced by Ethel Merman in the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes.”  Merman was born January 16th, 1908.  She originated the roles of Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun” and Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” and played Mrs. Marcus in the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

The beer-brewing Busch family has its name on the home stadium of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.  Two famous players for the Cardinals were born on January 16th…Jay “Dizzy” Dean (1910) and Albert Pujols (1980).

On this date in 1970, center fielder Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball to protest his trade from the Cardinals to the Phillies.  Flood’s challenge of the baseball “reserve clause” eventually helped Major League players to become free agents, who could choose which teams to play for.

DISASTERS AND NEAR-DISASTERS

January 15th in history:

Twenty-one people were killed and more than 100 others were injured by a flash flood in Boston on January 15th, 1919 — a flood of molasses. A 50-foot-tall holding tank owned by the Purity Distilling Company burst open, and more than two million gallons of molasses poured out in a wave that was said to be as high as 15 feet. The tank had sprung leaks before that day, and experts think the “Great Molasses Flood” might have been caused by unusually warm winter weather.

Another East Coast disaster 90 years later had a much happier ending. January 15th, 2009, was the date of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 from New York’s La Guardia Airport onto the Hudson River after birds flew into the engines two minutes into the flight. All of the crew members and the 150 passengers survived the water landing.

A Mississippi plane crash in 1977 killed three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, including the lead singer of “Free Bird,” Ronnie Van Zant — born on this date in 1948. And it’s the birthday of actor Lloyd Bridges (1913), who had a career revival after appearing in the disaster-film spoof “Airplane!”

OF ALL THE TOWNS IN ALL THE WORLD

January 14th in history:

network-peter-finch-faye-dunaway

The name “Casablanca” made headlines when U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in the Moroccan city for a war conference, beginning January 14th, 1943. The two Allied leaders spent nearly two weeks planning European strategy against Italy and Nazi Germany.

The Casablanca meeting coincided with the general release of the movie “Casablanca,” starring Humphrey Bogart. Bogie died of cancer on January 14th, 1957 — just five years after winning his only Oscar for “The African Queen.”

Twenty years later, actor Peter Finch died on January 14th, 1977. Finch would win a posthumous Oscar as Best Actor that year for his role as mad anchorman Howard Beale in “Network.” Finch died on the 36th birthday of his “Network” co-star Faye Dunaway (1941), who won the Best Actress Oscar for that movie. The two had no scenes together in “Network.”

A BROZ BY ANY OTHER NAME

January 13th in history:

Patrick+Dempsey+Shonda+Rhimes

On January 13th, 1953, Josip Broz, the prime minister of Yugoslavia, took on a new job title.  That day, he became the president of Yugoslavia, and held the job until his death in 1980.  Broz was better known by the title “Marshal Tito.”

Another man from Eastern Europe took an important leadership position on January 13th of 1964.  Polish Bishop Karol Wojtyla officially became the Archbishop of Krakow.  Fourteen years later, Wojtyla took on a new job, and a new name: Pope John Paul II.

Actor Patrick Dempsey is better known to many TV fans by the title “Dr. McDreamy” on the series “Grey’s Anatomy.”  Dempsey was born on January 13, 1966 — making him exactly four years older than “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes (1970).  It’s also the birthday of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, alias “Elaine”, “Old Christine” and “Veep” (1961).

SAME DING-BAT TIME, SAME DING-BAT CHANNEL

January 12th in history:

Archie and Edith Dynamic Duo

Just a month after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt took action on January 12th of 1942 to prevent major industries from shutting down.  Roosevelt created the National War Labor Board, to stop strikes by workers at businesses supplying vital materials for the war.

It wasn’t Roosevelt that Archie and Edith Bunker wanted to see again, but Herbert Hoover. Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, as the Bunkers, praised Hoover in the song “Those Were the Days” to open the first episode of “All in the Family” on CBS, January 12th, 1971.

January 12th was the premiere date for “Batman” on ABC in 1966.  For most of its three years on the air, “Batman” was seen twice a week, with a story beginning on the Wednesday episode and building to a cliff-hanger ending to be resolved on Thursday, “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.”  Many stories began with Bruce Wayne/Batman (Adam West) receiving his assignment over the “Batphone” from Police Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City.

For 23 years, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the commissioner of bats, balls, diamonds, and all things related to baseball in the US.  Landis, a federal judge, was elected the first commissioner of baseball on January 12th, 1921.

And happy birthday to Mr. Freese…not a “Batman” villain, but saxophone player Jason Freese, born on this date in 1975.  Freese has performed with Green Day and other popular rock bands..

YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY

January 11th in history:

Freaky Friday

Doctors made a medical breakthrough on January 11th in 1922, when they used insulin from animals to treat diabetes for the first time.  The first diabetic to get an insulin shot was a 14-year-old boy in Toronto.

Another medical milestone on January 11th came in 1964 — the day of the infamous “surgeon general’s warning” that cigarette smoking could cause cancer.  That original warning from Dr. Luther Terry led to the disclaimer on every pack of smokes made in the U.S.

Something else considered hazardous to your health: LSD. The Swiss chemist considered the “father” of LSD, Albert Hoffman, was born on January 11th in 1906.

It wasn’t LSD that led to a “Freaky Friday,” but a strange body switch between a mother and daughter. The book “Freaky Friday,” which has inspired three movie versions since 1976, was written by Mary Rodgers, born January 11th, 1931. Mary was the daughter of Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, and she also wrote the music for the show “Once Upon a Mattress.”