July 14th in history:
France had a new king on this date in 1223: Louis VIII. He was 35 years old, and became king upon the death of his father, Philip II, who had reigned for 42 years. Louis only held the throne for three years before he became ill and died.
A “King” who would rule the United States was born in Nebraska on this day in 1913. He was born Leslie King Jr., but when his parents divorced and his mother remarried, Leslie was renamed after his stepfather: Gerald Ford. Mr. Ford had the shortest term of any U.S. president who did not die in office (less than three years), but he lived longer than any other president, until age 93.
July 14th is also the birthday of a Chancellor: long-time NBC News anchor John Chancellor, born in 1927. Chancellor began anchoring “NBC Nightly News” in 1970, when Chet Huntley retired from “The Huntley-Brinkley Report.” He’s credited with originating the idea of using color-coded maps on network news coverage of presidential elections, starting in 1976, when NBC used blue to mark states won by Gerald Ford, and red for states won by Jimmy Carter.
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.
January 19th in history:
On this date in 1953, Lucille Ball had two babies — one in real life, and one on TV. Desi Arnaz, Jr. was born on the same day that Lucy Ricardo gave birth to “Little Ricky” on “I Love Lucy.” Two-thirds of the households in America watched “Lucy” that night.
In the 1960s, Indira Gandhi made history by becoming the first female prime minister of India. The daughter of former Prime Minister Nehru was elected to the job on January 19, 1966.
Mrs. Gandhi was still prime minister when U.S. President Gerald Ford was leaving office in 1977. One of Ford’s last official acts as president was to pardon Iva Toguri d’Aquino, who broadcast Japanese propaganda to American troops during World War II. She was the woman most identified with the nickname “Tokyo Rose.”
December 26 in history:
A nine-point earthquake under the Indian Ocean triggered a series of tsunamis that battered 14 countries on December 26th, 2004. More than 280,000 people died, with the largest loss of life coming in Indonesia. Ocean waves reportedly rose as high as 100 feet.
A theatre fire in Richmond, Virginia, on December 26th, 1811 was considered one of the worst disasters in U.S. history at the time. Seventy-two of the 600 people attending the Richmond Theatre that night were killed by the fire, including the governor of Virginia.
Two of America’s longest-living presidents died on December 26th, more than 30 years apart. Both were vice presidents who rose to the presidency on short notice. Harry Truman was 88 when he died on the day after Christmas of 1972. 93-year-old Gerald Ford died in 2006, just weeks after setting the record for longevity among U.S. presidents.
Future Confederate President Jefferson Davis was among 22 West Point cadets placed under House arrest on this day in 1826 for their alleged roles in the “Eggnog Riot” at the U.S. Military Academy. The uprising resulted from a Christmas party attended by the cadets, where whiskey was smuggled into the academy to make eggnog.
Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick starred as an alcoholic couple in the movie “Days of Wine and Roses,” which opened in the U.S. on December 26th, 1962. Also appearing in the film was Jack Klugman, who later became famous as Oscar Madison in the 1970’s TV version of “The Odd Couple.” Lemmon played Felix Ungar in the 1968 “Odd Couple” movie. “Days of Wine and Roses” opened the same month that Tony Randall (Felix to Klugman’s Oscar) portrayed an alcoholic ad man on a TV episode of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.”
December 6 in history:
For the first time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives chose a vice president in mid-term under the 25th Amendment on December 6th, 1973. Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford was confirmed and sworn in the same day, nearly two months after former VP Spiro Agnew resigned. Before the 25th Amendment was ratified, if a sitting vice president died or resigned, the job remained vacant until the next election.
Jerry Ford was a college football star long before joining Congress in 1949. Jerry Rice of the 49ers set a pro football record on this date in 1992, catching the 101st touchdown of his NFL career. Rice needed only eight seasons to break the old record. A future football star was born on the day Rice set his record…2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Rapper Chuck D mentioned Jerry Rice in the lyrics of his 1996 recording “Underdog.” Wally Cox, who spoke in rhyme as the animated super-hero Underdog, was born on December 6th, 1924. Cox also played schoolteacher “Mr. Peepers,” and was a regular panelist on “Hollywood Squares.” This is also the birthday of animator Nick Park (born 1958), creator of the stop-action Wallace and Gromit films. And on this day in 1964, the stop-action production of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” aired for the first time, as an NBC special sponsored by General Electric.
And underdogs are featured frequently in the work of Judd Apatow, born December 6th, 1967. Apatow has produced, directed, and/or written “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Trainwreck,” “Bridesmaids,” “Anchorman,” and the TV series “Freaks and Geeks.”
September 6 in history:
The prime minister of South Africa was assassinated on September 6th, 1966, inside the chambers of Parliament at Cape Town. A parliamentary messenger fatally stabbed Hendrik Verwoerd four times. Verwoerd had survived being shot in the head six years earlier.
U.S. President William McKinley was shot on this date in 1901, while greeting guests at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. The gunman, anarchist Leon Czolgosz, thought he had killed McKinley that day, but McKinley survived until September 14th, becoming the third American president to be assassinated.
“Manson Family” member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was in jail on this date in 1975, a day after pointing a loaded gun at President Gerald Ford in a Sacramento, California, park.
And on September 6th of 1974, Eric Clapton’s recording of “I Shot the Sheriff” was about to become the number-one song in the U.S., replacing “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka in the top spot on the charts.