October 16 in history:
“Antoinette, dainty queen, with her quaint guillotine…” That line from the musical “Damn Yankees” refers to France’s Marie Antoinette meeting her fate on this date in 1793. The queen was beheaded nine months after her husband, King Louis XVI.
The American colonies effectively cut themselves off from the King of England by winning the Revolutionary War. On October 16th, 1783, Army commander George Washington captured Yorktown, Virginia, in the final battle of the war.
The English once beheaded their own king, Charles I, in the 1600s and tried life without royalty for a few years. It didn’t stick, and the royal family returned during the Restoration. A popular novel about the Restoration, “Forever Amber,” was a best seller in the 1940s. “Amber” author Kathleen Winsor, born in 1919, shared an October 16th birthday with the actress who played the lead in the movie version of the novel, Linda Darnell (1923).
October 9 in history:
The Washington Monument opened to the public on October 9th, 1888, 40 years after construction began. The project was halted for many years because of a lack of funding and the intervention of the Civil War. The observation deck 500 feet above the ground was the highest man-made tourist spot in the world…for only seven months, until the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower was built for a world’s fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. The guillotine became a symbol of the Revolution, and was the official method of execution in France for almost 200 years. On this date in 1981, France ended beheadings by guillotine as it abolished the national death penalty.
“You’d better keep your head, little girl” is a line from “Run For Your Life,” a song by John Lennon about a man warning his girlfriend not to cheat on him. John’s more uplifting tunes include many love songs written with Paul McCartney, and solo songs such as “Imagine.” Lennon was born October 9th, 1940. It’s also the birthday of another man named John who performed with a famous British rock band of the Sixties, John Entwistle of The Who (1944).
May 6th in history:
Before 1994, if the average traveler wanted to cross the English Channel, that person would have to swim, take a boat or fly across. But on May 6th of 1994, the underground railroad “Chunnel” opened between the two countries. First, Queen Elizabeth rode from England to France, and then French President Francois Mitterrand rode with the queen back to England.
On May 6th, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes, at a meet in Oxford, England. Bannister beat the four-minute mark by six-tenths of a second.
Two men who became famous as explorers of different frontiers both were born on May 6th of 1856: Robert Peary, credited with discovering the North Pole, and pioneering psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.
April 11th in history:
Famous pink slips on April 11th …
In 1951, President Harry Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East, after MacArthur objected to policies of the U.S. and the United Nations.
Uganda’s “President for Life,” Idi Amin, fled the country after eight years in power on this date in 1979.
The Treaty of Fountainbleau, Napoleon’s pink slip, was signed on April 11th, 1814. Under the treaty, several European countries required Napoleon to step down as emperor of France, which led to his exile to Elba.
And the last emperor of China, Puyi, was fired by Chinese Communists. His story was told in the movie called “The Last Emperor,” which won Best Picture at the Oscars on April 11th, 1988.
March 28th in history:
On March 28th, 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia, bringing those countries into the Crimean War. The largest numbers of troops fighting the war came from Russia, France, Britain, and Turkey.
On this day in 1930, the city of Constantinople was given the more Turkish name Istanbul. The change inspired a popular song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which was a hit for the Four Lads in 1953 and later covered by They Might Be Giants.
The 1964 heist movie Topkapi is set in Istanbul. British actor Peter Ustinov won his second Supporting Actor Oscar for Topkapi (his first Oscar was for Spartacus). Ustinov, also known as an author and playwright, was 82 when he died on this date in 2004.
Ustinov was born Peter Alexander von Ustinov (or Ustinow). The singer born Stephani Germanotta, now known as Lady Gaga, was born this day in 1986, and is known for hits such as “Poker Face” and “Born This Way.” And popular radio DJ John Records Landecker really was born that way, with the middle name “Records,” on March 28th, 1947. Landecker is best known for working at Chicago station WLS in the ’70s and ’80s.
March 10th in history:
Nineteen years later, Jefferson was president of the United States, and negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana territory from France. The purchase was made official in St. Louis on March 10th, 1804.
And the French Foreign Legion was established by King Louis-Philippe on this day in 1831.
March 8th in history:
Two U.S. presidents died on March 8th: Millard Fillmore in 1874, and William Howard Taft in 1930. Fillmore was not nominated for a second term by the Whigs in 1852, and finished third in the electoral vote in the 1856 election. Taft came in third in his 1912 re-election bid, behind Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Taft served as Chief Justice for nine years, and retired just weeks before his death.
Charles De Gaulle was still president of France when construction began on an airport near Paris that would be named after him. De Gaulle International Airport opened eight years later, on this date in 1974.
Arthur Dent began his travels through the universe when the first episode of the radio show “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was broadcast on the BBC on this date in 1978.
And March 8th is the birthday of the “Skipper” who led the S.S. Minnow on an infamous “three-hour tour.” Alan Hale of “Gilligan’s Island” was born on this date in 1921.
In its final season, “Gilligan’s Island” aired Monday nights on CBS, opposite “The Monkees” on NBC. Monkees singer and drummer Micky Dolenz was born March 8th, 1945.