May 23rd in history:
Walt Disney became rich and famous because of a cartoon mouse named Mickey. The first cartoon in which Mickey actually spoke, “The Karnival Kid,” debuted on May 23rd, 1929.
John D. Rockefeller made a fortune in the oil business, and then gave much of his fortune to charity in his later years. Rockefeller died at age 97 on May 23rd, 1937.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow died in a police ambush in Louisiana on this date in 1934. How did they make their money? According to Warren Beatty in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” “We rob banks.”
And May 23rd is the birthday of Ken Jennings (1974), who set many records and won more than $2 million during a 75-day run as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” It’s also the birthday of Drew Carey (1958), who has given away money and prizes worth millions as host of “The Price Is Right.”
February 22nd in history:
Another legendary sports event happened on this date in 1980: the “Miracle on Ice,” in which the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team surprised the world by beating the Soviets, 4-3, in the semi-final round of the Winter Games. The Americans went on to win the gold against Finland in the games at Lake Placid, New York.
Actor Kirk Douglas once served as royalty at a winter carnival in Lake Placid. During the week of the Miracle on Ice game, Douglas was hosting “Saturday Night Live” in New York, featuring NBC announcer Don Pardo, born on this day in 1918. Until his death in 2014, Pardo had been the SNL announcer for most of the show’s run. Pardo also worked on the original versions of “Jeopardy” and “The Price is Right,” and broke the news of President Kennedy’s assassination on WNBC-TV in New York in 1963.
David Letterman was getting ready to move his talk show from NBC to CBS when it was announced on February 22nd, 1993 that CBS had bought the Ed Sullivan Theater, to keep Letterman’s show in New York.
On this day in 1964, the Beatles returned to England after their famous first visit to the U.S., which included three straight appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The band had pre-recorded its performance which would be seen on “Sullivan” the next night.
November 30 in history:
The two largest oil companies in the world, Exxon and Mobil, merged on November 30th, 1999. The roughly 80 billion dollar deal reunited two companies that had been formed in the break-up of Standard Oil almost a century earlier.
Ken Jennings set a record for the most money won by a U.S. game show contestant while appearing on “Jeopardy” during 2004, taking home over two-and-a-half million dollars. His 75 games in a row on “Jeopardy” were broadcast over a span of six months, ending on November 30th of ’04. On that episode, Jennings was defeated when he gave “What is Fed Ex?” as a response to a Final Jeopardy clue about a company with many seasonal employees. (Correct response: H & R Block.)
Dick Clark had a long career giving away big money on game shows, mainly on the “Pyramid” series. He also hosted “American Bandstand” for more than 30 years, and appeared on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” for an even longer time. Clark was born November 30th, 1929.
Clark was still the host of “Bandstand” when Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” became the biggest-selling record album of all time. “Thriller” was released November 30th, 1982.
Jackson’s first #1 hit as a solo artist was the theme song to the horror movie “Ben,” made by Bing Crosby’s production company. The last of Bing’s popular TV Christmas specials aired on November 30th, 1977, a month after he died. “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas” is best remembered for the “Little Drummer Boy” duet between Crosby and David Bowie.
November 8 in history:
Two Roosevelts were elected president on November 8th — 28 years apart. The first was Teddy Roosevelt in 1904, winning a full term after filling out the unexpired term of William McKinley. And Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932 for the first of his four presidential wins.
This was also the date in 1960 when John F. Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon for the White House.
Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen wrote many newspaper stories questioning the official government report on the Kennedy assassination. Kilgallen died suddenly on November 8th, 1965, a few hours after her regular weekly appearance on the game show “What’s My Line?” Conspiracy theorists have suggested someone murdered Kilgallen for knowing too much about the assassination, or UFOs, or something else. By coincidence, Kilgallen’s death was announced on CBS just after her pre-taped appearance on an episode of “To Tell the Truth.”
Many popular TV game shows were turned into home games by the Milton Bradley Company of Massachusetts, including “Concentration,” “Password,” and “Jeopardy!” Inventor Milton Bradley’s first successful game was “The Checkered Game of Life.” Bradley was born on November 8th, 1836.
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.
July 16th in history:
Yankees slugger Joe di Maggio got three hits in four times at bat against the Cleveland Indians on July 16th, 1941, extending his record hitting streak to 56 games. The streak would end the next day in Cleveland.
Ohio native Neil Armstrong would become the first man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft when it lifted off in a ball of fire from the Kennedy Space Center on this day in 1969.
The comedy “Ball of Fire” earned an Oscar nomination for Barbara Stanwyck, as did “Stella Dallas” and “Double Indemnity.” Stanwyck helped sell a lot of popcorn during a 60-year career in movies and TV. She was born on July 16th, 1907 — the same day and year as another person in the popcorn business, “gourmet popcorn” grower, Orville Redenbacher.
One of Barbara Stanwyck’s later movies was called “Jeopardy.” Will Ferrell played Alex Trebek in several “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketches during a seven-year run on “Saturday Night Live,” before starring in movies such as “Elf” and the “Anchorman” comedies. Ferrell, born on this day in 1967, performed with the Groundlings comedy group in Los Angeles, as did Sherri Stoner, born July 16th, 1965. Stoner has written movies and cartoon series, provided the voice of Slappy Squirrel on “Animaniacs,” and was a body model for Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”