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 101 today. His famous movie characters include Vincent Van Gogh in “Lust for Life,” and the title role in “Spartacus.”
November 4 in history:
U.S. Presidents elected on November 4th include Barack Obama in 2008, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, and Ronald Reagan in 1980.
The ’80 election may have been decided partly because of two things that happened November 4th, 1979. On that day, radicals in Iran took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and kept 52 people hostage for the next 444 days. The hostage incident was a protest of America’s decision to allow the former Shah of Iran into the U.S. for medical treatment, a move which some believed was part of an American plot to return him to power.
The other event was a TV interview with Senator Ted Kennedy aired on November 4th of ’79 on CBS, shortly before Kennedy announced he would challenge President Carter for the Democratic nomination. Roger Mudd of CBS asked Kennedy why he wanted to be president. Media pundits repeatedly criticized Kennedy after he was unable to give a straight answer to the question.
Roger Mudd was a frequent substitute anchor on the “CBS Evening News” for long-time anchor Walter Cronkite, who was born on this date in 1916. Like Cronkite, another person known for announcing election results on TV was born on November 4th…Jeff Probst (1962), famous for saying “The tribe has spoken” in declaring who was voted off the island on the reality show “Survivor.”
September 11 in history:
Since 2001, the date of September 11th brings to mind images of the terror attacks which occurred during one day in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. As for other events in history on this day…
The U.S. ambassador to Libya was among four persons killed in an attack at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012. The Obama White House and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been accused of trying to cover up the true circumstances surrounding the attack.
The Pentagon was hit by one of the airplanes hijacked on 9/11/01. September 11th was the day construction began on the Pentagon in 1941.
One of the airline passengers killed in the Pentagon attack was political commentator Barbara Olson, whose husband Theodore was Solicitor General at the time. Ted Olson was born on September 11th of 1940…the same day as movie director Brian de Palma, who opened the movie “The Bonfire of the Vanities” with a long single-take shot inside the World Trade Center. De Palma’s other films include “Carrie,” “Scarface,” and “The Untouchables.”
September 11th was the day in 1609 that Henry Hudson sailed in what would become New York Harbor, and discovered the mouth of the river eventually named after him.
New York is where Tom Landry began his coaching career in pro football, on the staff of the Giants. Landry, born on September 11th, 1924, left the Giants to become the first head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He shared his birthday, and a habit of wearing distinctive hats on the sidelines, with another legendary football coach, Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant (born 1913).
August 28 in history:
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew about 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. on August 28th, 1963. The March is remembered as the occasion when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to the crowd gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Forty-five years later, on August 28th, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama referred to King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial during his own acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The outdoor speech was given at Invesco Field (now Sports Authority Field) at Mile High, the home stadium of the Denver Broncos.
In 2013, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest African-American to receive an Oscar nomination for acting and the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Wallis was born on this day in 2003.
Berry Gordy Jr. had a dream of running a record company. Gordy’s company Motown released “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes on this day in 1961. It would become Motown’s first number-one record.
Michael Jackson was one of the most successful artists on Motown Records. In 1984, Jackson starred in TV commercials for a soft drink which got its current name on August 28th, 1898. North Carolina druggist Caleb Bradham had invented a beverage he called “Brad’s Drink,” but in 1898, he renamed it “Pepsi-Cola.”
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.
May 2nd in history:
The search for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden ended with a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2nd, 2011. Bin Laden and four other people were shot and killed by Navy SEALs under cover of darkness. It was still May 1st in the U.S., when President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death on television. The raid was dramatized in the 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was shot by his own troops on May 2nd, 1863, at the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. The troops reportedly mistook Jackson and his companions for Union soldiers. Jackson died eight days later.
German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known by the nickname “The Red Baron,” shot down 80 enemy pilots during the first World War. The Baron was born on this date in 1892. Other people born on May 2nd who became famous under assumed names: British singer Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold Dorsey in 1936), and pro wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (1972).
January 25th in history:
King Henry VIII was married on January 25, 1533, secretly marrying his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry’s desire to end his first marriage and take a new wife led to a major split with the Catholic Church.
A more public royal wedding took place on January 25, 1858. The bride was Princess Victoria, daughter of England’s Queen Victoria. After Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” was played at the ceremony, many future couples chose to use the song at their weddings.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle danced to the same song at every inaugural ball in January of 2009: “At Last,” made famous by singer Etta James. James was born on this date in 1938.