January 17th in history:
The earth shook in Southern California on January 17th, 1994. The “Northridge Earthquake” caused 72 deaths and $20 billion in damage.
Eartha’s birthday is on January 17th — Eartha Kitt, that is — born in 1927. Kitt replaced Julie Newmar as Catwoman on the “Batman” TV show in 1967. Jim Carrey also is famous for playing a Batman villain, the Riddler, as well as portrayals of the Grinch and Horton the Elephant. Carrey, born in 1962, shares a January 17th birthday with Andy Kaufman (1949), whom he impersonated in the movie “Man on the Moon.”
And the man who discovered the planet Pluto, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, died on this day in 1997. A few years after Tombaugh’s death, scientists declared that Pluto is not really a planet.
January 12th in history:
Just a month after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt took action on January 12th of 1942 to prevent major industries from shutting down. Roosevelt created the National War Labor Board, to stop strikes by workers at businesses supplying vital materials for the war.
It wasn’t Roosevelt that Archie and Edith Bunker wanted to see again, but Herbert Hoover. Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, as the Bunkers, praised Hoover in the song “Those Were the Days” to open the first episode of “All in the Family” on CBS, January 12th, 1971.
January 12th was the premiere date for “Batman” on ABC in 1966. For most of its three years on the air, “Batman” was seen twice a week, with a story beginning on the Wednesday episode and building to a cliff-hanger ending to be resolved on Thursday, “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.” Many stories began with Bruce Wayne/Batman (Adam West) receiving his assignment over the “Batphone” from Police Commissioner Gordon of Gotham City.
For 23 years, Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the commissioner of bats, balls, diamonds, and all things related to baseball in the US. Landis, a federal judge, was elected the first commissioner of baseball on January 12th, 1921.
And happy birthday to Mr. Freese…not a “Batman” villain, but saxophone player Jason Freese, born on this date in 1975. Freese has performed with Green Day and other popular rock bands..
November 16 in history:
On November 16th, 1907, Oklahoma was admitted to the Union. The U.S. flag would bear 46 stars after that, until New Mexico and Arizona became states in 1912.
The 50th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood, on November 16th, 1957, was not a happy day for fans of the Oklahoma Sooners football team. The Sooners’ 47-game winning streak, dating back to 1953, was ended with a 7-0 loss to Notre Dame.
“Oklahoma!” was the first hit musical written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Their last show, “The Sound of Music,” opened on Broadway on November 16th, 1959, with Mary Martin as Maria.
Another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “Carousel,” was based on a Hungarian play called “Liliom.” Actor Burgess Meredith played the title role in “Liliom” on Broadway in 1940. Meredith’s long career included the “Rocky” and “Grumpy Old Men” movies, appearances on “The Twilight Zone,” and the role of the Penguin on “Batman” in the ’60s. Meredith was born on this date in 1907, the same day Oklahoma became a state.
September 19 in history:
On September 19th, 1934, a team of detectives arrested Bruno Hauptmann in New York City for the kidnapping and murder two years earlier of the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, and executed in New Jersey.
James A. Garfield died in New Jersey on this date in 1881, making him the second U.S. president to be assassinated. Garfield had been in office only four months when he was shot on July 2nd of that year. Assassin Charles Guiteau was arrested immediately after the shooting, but doctors who attended Garfield for weeks were never able to locate a bullet that remained in his body.
Actor David McCallum, known for playing a crime-solving doctor on the TV show “NCIS,” was born on September 19th, 1933. McCallum portrayed crime-fighting spy Illya Kuryakin on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and shares his September 19th birthday with another TV crime-fighter of the 60’s, “Batman” star Adam West (1928).
“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon has played a costumed crime-fighter, as one of the “Ambiguously Gay Duo” in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Fallon was born on this day in 1974. Another September 19th baby co-starred with Jimmy Fallon on SNL in the late 1990s: Cheri Oteri (born 1962), who played Arianna of the Spartan Spirit cheerleaders.
April 29th in history:
On this date in 1992, four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of assault charges in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an African-American driver who was stopped after a chase. Riots broke out in L.A. after the verdict, and continued for several days.
On April 29th, 1974, President Richard Nixon released transcripts of White House tapes related to the Watergate investigation. Many offensive words on the tapes were replaced in the transcripts with the phrase “expletive deleted.”
Of all the villains committing crimes in the “Batman” movies of the ’80s and ’90s, two were women: “Catwoman,” played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and “Poison Ivy,” played by Uma Thurman. Both Pfeiffer (1958) and Thurman (1970) celebrate their birthdays on April 29th.
Also, a couple of Superman-related birthdays today. Famous Superman fan Jerry Seinfeld was born in 1954. His 90’s sitcom “Seinfeld” often included references to the Man of Steel. And Lane Smith was born this day in 1936. During the 90’s, Smith played Perry White on the TV series “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Two members of the Corleone family from the “Godfather” movies have real-life birthdays on April 25th: Al Pacino (1940) and Talia Shire (1946).
In 2003, Pacino’s portrayal of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather Part II” was chosen as one of the 50 greatest movie villains of all time by the American Film Institute. The same AFI survey listed Batman as one of the 50 greatest movie heroes. The character of Batman was introduced in Detective Comics #27, published on April 25th, 1939.
On the “Batman” TV series of the 1960s, the Batmobile displayed four different license plates issued by Gotham City, including “BAT-1.” On this date in 1901, New York became the first state in the U.S. to require cars to carry license plates.
Actor Hank Azaria, born on this date in 1964, has never played a Batman villain, but the Spiderman villain Venom is one of many voices he has done for animated TV series. Among Azaria’s regular character voices on “The Simpsons” are Comic Book Guy, and Moe the bartender, said to be based on Al Pacino.
January 30th in history:
The British monarchy came to a temporary end on January 30th, 1649, when King Charles the First was beheaded by opponents of royalty. Oliver Cromwell led England as Lord Protector for several years afterward. When the monarchy was restored, after Cromwell’s death, royalists dug up his body and beheaded him in retaliation on January 30th, 1661.
On January 30th, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the chancellor of Germany. Hitler came to power on the 51st birthday of the newly-elected U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was sworn in weeks later. FDR and Hitler would both die in the same month, April 1945, as the U.S. and its allies were about to defeat Nazi Germany in World War Two.
January 30th of 1933 also was the day that a new hero was introduced to radio listeners in America, when station WXYZ in Detroit broadcast the first episode of “The Lone Ranger.” And another famous masked hero celebrates a birthday on January 30th: actor Christian Bale (1974), who played Batman in the “Dark Knight” series of films that started in 2005 with Batman Begins.