February 14th in history:
James K. Polk posed for photographer Mathew Brady on February 14th, 1849, less than a month before leaving the White House. It appears to be the first time that an incumbent U.S. president posed for a solo photograph. President Polk had been photographed earlier in his term, in a group shot with members of his cabinet.
Television cameras came to the White House on Valentine’s Day, 1962, for a prime-time tour of the mansion, hosted by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The tour was shown on all three major networks.
George Washington never slept in the White House, but George Washington Slept Here was the name of a popular movie starring comedian Jack Benny, born February 14th, 1894. Benny had a weekly show on radio, and then TV, for over 30 years, built around his character of a cheapskate who played the violin badly and always claimed to be 39 years old. Benny’s hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, named a school after him in the 1960s. The sports teams at Benny Middle School are nicknamed the 39ers.
Jack Benny was born in Chicago, not Waukegan. On his 35th birthday in 1929, seven men were shot to death in a Chicago garage, in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the most famous gangster-related murders of the 1920s. The victims were associated with the “Bugs” Moran gang in Chicago. Rival gang leader Al Capone was blamed for the killings. In the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon escape Chicago by posing as women after witnessing the Massacre.
October 23 in history:
Brutus is infamous for his role in assassinating Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate, in 44 B.C. Two years later, on October 23rd, 42 B.C., Brutus met his own fate, killing himself after losing the second battle of Philippi to Marc Antony.
A fateful meeting of two old friends, two pilots, led to deadly consequences in 1942. One man was flying a B-34 bomber for the Army, while the other was a pilot for American Airlines. They discovered that both would be flying near Palm Springs, California the next day, October 23rd. On that day, the bomber pilot, Lt. William Wilson, tried flying close to American Flight 28 to signal to his friend, First Officer Louis Reppert. Wilson got too close, and the planes collided. The airliner crashed in the desert, killing all 12 people aboard. Wilson went through a court-martial, but was acquitted.
One passenger on the American flight was an Oscar-winning songwriter, Ralph Rainger. He’s best known for writing the theme songs used by two popular comedians…”Love in Bloom,” associated with Jack Benny, and “Thanks for the Memory,” Bob Hope’s theme. Late in their careers, Hope and Benny appeared frequently with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” Carson became a comedy legend in his own right, by hosting “Tonight” for 30 years. He was born October 23rd, 1925.
NBC airs “Saturday Night Live” in the “Tonight Show” time slot on weekends. On October 23rd, 1976, Steve Martin hosted “SNL” for the first time, and played the host of “Jeopardy! 1999,” a futuristic parody of the popular game show. “I Lost on Jeopardy,” a take-off of the Greg Kihn song “Jeopardy,” was an early hit for song parodist and musician “Weird Al” Yankovic, born this day in 1959.