July 11th in history:
The Skylab space station fell to Earth on July 11th, 1979, after six years in orbit. Pieces of the craft fell on Australia and into the Indian Ocean.
Movie fans remember Thomas Mitchell falling off his horse as Scarlett’s father in “Gone With the Wind.” Actor Mitchell also played Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And late in his career, Mitchell portrayed an oddball detective named “Columbo” in a stage play, years before Peter Falk made the same character famous on TV. Mitchell was born July 11th, 1892.
March 7th in history:
On March 7th, 1912, explorer Roald Amundsen publicly announced that he had reached the South Pole nearly three months earlier. Amundsen had to wait until arriving in Australia before announcing his feat, because there were no telephone poles at the South Pole.
Telephones had been around for more than 30 years, though. On March 7th, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for his telephone. Bell didn’t prove that the invention actually worked until three days later.
Alexander Graham Bell was played by Don Ameche in a 1939 movie biography, and it became Ameche’s most famous role. Two years later, Ameche starred in the movie “Kiss the Boys Goodbye” with Mary Martin, whose most popular role on stage and TV was Peter Pan. On this date in 1955, Martin starred in a live color production of “Peter Pan” on NBC, which set a ratings record with an audience of 65 million viewers.
October 20 in history:
A dramatic night in Washington on October 20th, 1973…
President Nixon wanted the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned instead of carrying out the order. So did his deputy A.G., William Ruckelshaus. Cox was fired by the third man approached by Nixon, Solicitor General and future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. The incident became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” and fueled efforts to impeach Nixon.
News of the political turmoil interrupted network TV schedules that night. “The Carol Burnett Show” was a popular Saturday night program in 1973. A special episode of the Burnett show was presented at the new Sydney Opera House in Australia in honor of the building’s grand opening, which took place the same date and year as the Washington “massacre.”
Another Saturday night TV hit in October 1973 was “M*A*S*H.” William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy on the series, was born on October 20th, 1932.
October 12 in history:
There was no welcome mat waiting for him, but Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World on October 12th, 1492. After two months on the Atlantic, Columbus landed at an island north of Cuba, thinking he had reached Asia, and exchanged gifts with the natives.
Citizens of Munich were welcomed to the royal wedding of Bavarian Prince Louis on this date in 1810. Munich decided to repeat the celebration the following year and make it the annual event called Oktoberfest.
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was not a happy guest at the United Nations on October 12th, 1960. He threw a fit when a representative of the Philippines criticized the Russians for taking over Eastern Europe. Many people say they saw Khrushchev pound the table with his shoe, but apparently there are no still pictures or videos of the incident that prove he really did it.
“Be Our Guest” is a popular song from the Disney movie and stage musical “Beauty and the Beast.” The first Australian production of the show provided a big break for actor Hugh Jackman, who played Gaston. Jackman was born on this date in 1968.