WHICH VICH IS WHICH?

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 102 today. His famous movie characters include Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life,” and the title role in “Spartacus.”

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I READ THE NEWS TODAY, OH BOY

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.

FROM THE ATLANTIC TO PEARL HARBOR

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.

TV history was made again on December 7th, 1963…with the first instant replay during a live sports broadcast.  Director Tony Verna from CBS set up videotape equipment to play back portions of the Army-Navy football game.   The CBS announcers had to tell viewers that the replay was a recording of something that had happened earlier in the game.

Happy birthday!  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.

SUPERHEROES AND UNDERDOGS

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.”

THE ONE-TERMERS CLUB

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.  On December 5th, 1831, John Quincy Adams took office as a Congressman, two years after serving his single term in the White House.  Adams was chosen as president by the U.S. House after the 1824 election, when he lost the popular vote to Andrew Jackson.

Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential race, but lost in the Electoral College to George W. Bush.  Gore’s father, long-time Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr., died on this date in 1998.  George W. Bush served two terms as president, four years longer than his father, George Herbert Walker Bush…the most recent president defeated after a single term.  A state funeral for the elder President Bush was held in Washington on December 5th, 2018.

The first single-term U.S. president who was not named “Adams” was Martin Van Buren, born on this day in 1782.  Van Buren was the first U.S. president born after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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.

ROUND ROUND GET AROUND, I GET AROUND

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.

WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN

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).