July 9th in history:
On July 9th, 1850, Zachary Taylor became the second U.S. president to die in office. Taylor became sick after eating at a 4th of July celebration – and, to this day, some historians believe he was deliberately poisoned. His body was exhumed for testing in 1991, but the coroner did not find sufficient evidence of poisoning.
Another man who wanted to be president made a famous speech on this date in 1896. William Jennings Bryan delivered what was known as the “Cross of Gold” speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, opposing the gold standard. Following that oration, Bryan became the youngest presidential nominee in Democratic party history at age 36, and earned the nickname the “Boy Orator.”
Tom Hanks became a first-time Oscar nominee at age 32 for “Big,” in which he played a boy suddenly stuck in a man’s body. Hanks, born on July 9th, 1956, won back-to-back Oscars for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.” He has also played astronaut Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13,” commanded G.I.s in the WWII drama “Saving Private Ryan,” and romanced Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.”
“Big” was released in 1988, the same year that 11-year-old Fred Savage played a grown-up suddenly stuck in a boy’s body in “Vice Versa.” Savage, born on this day in 1976, also played Peter Falk’s grandson in “The Princess Bride” and starred as Kevin Arnold on the TV series “The Wonder Years.” As a grown-up, Savage has shifted from acting to directing.
July 8th in history:
We can’t prove it, but it’s possible that every item listed in “Triviazoids” is within six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The star of “Footloose” and dozens of other movies was born on July 8th, 1958.
Bacon had a role in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” And on July 8th, 1965, Ronald Biggs escaped from a British prison where he was serving time for his role in the “Great Train Robbery” of 1963. He stayed out of prison for more than 30 years before turning himself in.
Bacon played Jack Swigert, one of the three endangered astronauts in the film “Apollo 13.” The Apollo 13 flight of 1970 was supposed to be the third mission to land men on the moon. Pete Conrad of Apollo 12, the third man to walk on the moon, was another real-life astronaut portrayed in the movie. Conrad died on this date in 1999, at age 69.
In the movie “Frost/Nixon,” Kevin Bacon portrayed a Marine colonel. On July 8th, 1776, a colonel named John Nixon publicly read the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia for the first time since it was adopted.
Two governors who ran for president against Richard Nixon in 1968 were born on July 8th, one year apart. Michigan’s George Romney (born 1907) later served in Nixon’s cabinet, and was the father of future governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And Nelson Rockefeller of New York (1908) was chosen to succeed Gerald Ford as vice president in 1974, four months after Nixon resigned from the presidency.
March 25th in history:
March 25th is the date when U.S. Customs agents seized more than 500 copies of the Allen Ginsberg poem “Howl” that were being imported from England. The poem had been declared obscene. Sources disagree on what year the seizure happened, 1955 or 1957.
Ginsberg was one of many celebrities who helped John Lennon and Yoko Ono record “Give Peace a Chance.” The song was written during John and Yoko’s Bed-in for Peace, which began at the Amsterdam Hilton on this day in 1969.
March 25th is the birthday of two famous people with ties to John Lennon. Elton John (1947) recorded “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” with Lennon, and invited the ex-Beatle to perform on stage at a 1974 concert. It was Lennon’s last live performance. Howard Cosell (1918) once interviewed Lennon on “Monday Night Football,” and announced Lennon’s death in 1980 during a football broadcast.
One of Elton John’s early hit songs was “Rocket Man.” He shares a March 25th birthday with astronaut Jim Lovell (born 1928). Lovell is best remembered for commanding the Apollo 13 flight of 1970, bringing it back to Earth after a spacecraft explosion on the way to the moon. He was also aboard Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.
March 17th in history:
Franklin D. Roosevelt resigned from the New York State Senate on March 17th, 1913, to become assistant secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. It was his eighth wedding anniversary. In the next 20 years, Roosevelt would become a vice-presidential candidate, governor of New York and president of the United States.
Eliot Spitzer had been governor of New York for just over a year when he resigned on this date in 2008, after a prostitution scandal in which he admitted to being a client of an escort agency.
New Yorkers like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a big parade in Manhattan. The Irish holiday was celebrated in New York City for the first time on March 17th, 1756.
St. Patrick’s Day is the birthday of two actors who have starred in movies and TV shows about New York City: Kurt Russell (born 1951), who played Snake Plissken in the action drama Escape from New York; and Gary Sinise (1955), Mac Taylor from “CSI: New York,” also known as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump.
Sinise also played real-life astronaut Ken Mattingly in the movie Apollo 13. Mattingly was born March 17th, 1936. He was pulled from the Apollo 13 mission days before its launch in 1970 after being exposed to German measles, so he missed being aboard the spacecraft that had to return to Earth after an explosion. Mattingly did get to circle the moon two years later, as the command module pilot of Apollo 16.
March 1st in history:
On March 1st, 1962, an American Airlines flight from New York to Los Angeles with 95 people aboard crashed into Jamaica Bay just after takeoff from Idlewild Airport on Long Island. No one survived. It was the worst crash involving a U.S. commercial airliner up until that time.
The crash happened on the same day that astronaut John Glenn was being honored in New York with a ticker-tape parade, for being the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. Fellow Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton turned 38 that day. Slayton was scheduled to fly on the next Mercury mission, but a medical problem grounded him, and kept him from flying in space until 1975.
Other famous people associated with flying were born on March 1st. They include:
Bandleader Glenn Miller (born 1904), lost on a plane flight while serving in World War II;
Actor Robert Conrad (birth year in dispute, either 1929 or 1935), who played World War II pilot Pappy Boyington on “Black Sheep Squadron,” but is best known as secret agent James West on “The Wild Wild West”;
And Ron Howard (1954), who directed the space drama Apollo 13. Before becoming an award-winning director, Howard played Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” and Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days.”
November 14 in history:
Americans met the goal of reaching the moon before the end of the 1960’s when Apollo 11 landed in July of ’69. There would be one more manned trip to the moon before 1969 was over. Apollo 12 continued the moon exploration program when it was launched on November 14th that year.
The next lunar mission, Apollo 13, was scrubbed in mid-flight because of an accident, and made a dramatic return to the earth after orbiting the moon. Astronaut Fred Haise, born on this day in 1933, was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 13. It’s also the birthday of Ed White (1930), the first U.S. astronaut to walk in space. White died in 1967 in the launching pad fire inside the Apollo 1 spacecraft.
An airplane crash in West Virginia on November 14th, 1970, dealt a severe blow to the football program at Marshall University. A chartered plane carrying most of the Marshall team, coaches, and some fans crashed into a hill as the flight returned from a game in North Carolina. All 75 persons aboard the plane were killed. It took more than a decade for the university to rebuild the football program before Marshall had a winning season in 1984. The 2006 movie We Are Marshall tells the story of how the plane crash affected the university and the community.
An artist named Marshall was hired in 2005 to keep an enduring comic strip going. John Marshall is the latest cartoonist to draw the “Blondie” strip. He was born on this date in 1955.
Louis Mountbatten was an air vice-marshal for the British during World War II. On November 14th, 1973, Mountbatten’s grand-niece, Princess Anne, married Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey. The wedding took place on the 25th birthday of Anne’s older brother, Prince Charles.