February 19th in history:
Space travelers from Russia and other countries rode aboard the Mir Space Station during its 15 years in Earth orbit. The Mir successfully went into orbit on February 19th, 1986.
On this day in 1988, athletes were competing at the Winter Olympics in Calgary. One of the most memorable athletes at Calgary was British ski-jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. Heavier than his opponents and requiring glasses, Eddie won a cult following even though he rode his skis to last-place finishes in both his events.
Eddie Arcaro was born February 19th, 1916. Arcaro won almost 4,800 horse races in his career as a jockey, including two Triple Crowns.
Actor Lee Marvin also had success riding a horse. Marvin, born February 19th, 1924, won the Best Actor Oscar in 1965 for playing the drunken gunfighter Kid Shaleen in “Cat Ballou.”
February 13th in history:
American painter Grant Wood was born in Iowa on February 13th, 1891. Wood created the famous 1930 painting “American Gothic,” showing a farmer and his daughter standing outside their house.
Another Midwestern artist, Charles Schulz, achieved fame and fortune drawing Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the other “Peanuts” characters. Schulz chose to stop drawing the comic strip after 50 years, and coincidentally died the day before the last original “Peanuts” cartoon appeared in newspapers on February 13th, 2000.
And Jesse James and his gang drew their guns and held up a Midwestern bank (in Liberty, Missouri) on February 13th, 1866. It’s said to be the first armed robbery ever committed in the U.S. during peace-time.
December 9 in history:
“If Illinois isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s one hell of a competitor.” That’s what an FBI special agent said on December 9th, 2008…the day Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on a charge of trying to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Barack Obama was elected president. Agents arrested Blagojevich on the day before his 52nd birthday. The following month, Blagojevich was impeached for misconduct and removed from office by the Illinois legislature. He was convicted of more than a dozen crimes, and began a 14-year prison term in March of 2012.
Blagojevich represented Chicago in the legislature and Congress. A team called the Hustle represented Chicago in the Women’s Professional Basketball League, which played its first game on this date in 1978 in Milwaukee. The Hustle won that inaugural game, 92-87, against the host team, the Milwaukee Does.
A Broadway-bound production of “Death of a Salesman,” about over-the-hill hustling salesman Willy Loman, played in Chicago in 1984. It starred Dustin Hoffman as Willy, and John Malkovich of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre as his son Biff. Malkovich was born December 9th, 1953. Also in 1984, Malkovich appeared in the movies “Places in the Heart” and “The Killing Fields,” and he later played himself in the comedy “Being John Malkovich.”
Malkovich portrayed Tom Wingfield in a 1987 movie version of the Tennessee Williams play “The Glass Menagerie.” A 1950 film of “Menagerie” featured a young Kirk Douglas as the other male character in the story, Jim O’Connor, the “Gentleman Caller.” Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch, and turns 100 today. His famous movie characters include Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life,” and the title role in “Spartacus.”
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.
October 11 in history:
Teddy Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to fly in a plane on October 11th, 1910. The flight at St. Louis happened more than a year after Roosevelt left the White House. He was the passenger of pilot Archibald Hoxsey.
Teddy’s flight occurred on the birthday of his niece, future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, born in 1884. October 11th, 1975 was the wedding day for another future First Lady, and a future President. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were married in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The Clintons have been popular targets for satire on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which made its debut on the couple’s wedding night. Actress Joan Cusack, born October 11th, 1962, spent one year as a cast member on “SNL”. Three years after being dropped from the show, Cusack got an Oscar nomination for “Working Girl.” She’s also well-known as the voice of cowgirl Jessie in the “Toy Story” movies.
Jane Krakowski once played a famous animated character in a live-action movie, as Betty Rubble in “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.” Krakowski, born this day in 1968, is better known from “30 Rock” as Jenna Maroney. She shares a birthday with the original Wilma Flintstone, Jean Vander Pyl (born 1919).
August 8 in history:
August 8th of 1988 (8/8/88) marked the end of an era at Wrigley Field in Chicago: the era of daytime-only baseball games at the park. The Cubs played a night game on their home field for the first time, against the Philadelphia Phillies. They couldn’t finish the game, because it was rained out in the 4th inning.
The Nixon era at the White House ended on August 8th, 1974, when Richard Nixon became the first president to resign before the end of his term. Nixon made the announcement on nationwide TV that night, less than two years after carrying 49 states in the 1972 election. Nixon’s resignation speech came exactly six years after the night in 1968 when he accepted the Republican Party nomination for president for the second time.
The Watergate scandal leading to Nixon’s resignation was the subject of the film “All the President’s Men.” Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman starred in the movie as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Hoffman, also known for “The Graduate,” “Tootsie,” and “Rain Man”, was born August 8th, 1937.
One of Dustin Hoffman’s most famous movie lines is “I’m walking here!,” shouted by the character Ratso Rizzo while crossing a street in the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy.” On August 8th of 1969, the Beatles took their famous walk across Abbey Road in London, immortalized on the cover of the “Abbey Road” album. Photographer Iain Macmillan took six photos of the band walking — three where they face right, and three facing left.
August 4 in history:
Were you born on August 4th? Prove it!
In 2011, under pressure from critics, President Barack Obama produced a birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii on August 4th, 1961. Some people known as “birthers” have questioned Obama’s birthplace and his birthdate. They believe that Obama was born outside the U.S., and therefore was ineligible to become president.
Musician and singer Louis Armstrong’s birthdate was uncertain for many years. ‘Satchmo’ often said he was born on the 4th of July in 1900, but after his death, records were discovered to show that his true birthdate was August 4th, 1901.
And according to legend, August 4th is ‘the night they invented champagne.’ The Benedictine monk Dom Perignon is credited with drinking the first glass of champagne on this date in 1693, but other sources say the sparkling wine was developed decades or centuries before that.