July 13th in history:
Today is the birthday of two actors who became famous as fictional pilots of spaceships: Patrick Stewart (1940), alias Capt. Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Han Solo from Star Wars, Harrison Ford (1942).
Ford Motors canned company president Lee Iacocca, the developer of the Mustang, on July 13th, 1978. Within two years, Iacocca became a household name as the new chairman of Chrysler.
The Chrysler building went dark – and so did the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, and all of the Manhattan skyline the night of July 13th, 1977. The storm-related power outage lasted just over 24 hours.
March 24th in history:
On March 24th, 1900, the mayor of New York City broke ground for the city’s first subway line to link Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first New York subway would open four years later.
March 24th is the birthday of American businessman George Francis Train (1829). Appropriately, Train was one founder of the Union Pacific railroad. He also campaigned for president, and for “Dictator of the United States.” Train made a trip around the world in less than three months, and reportedly inspired Jules Verne to write “Around the World in 80 Days.” Verne died on this date in 1905, at age 77.
You don’t have to be a science fiction nerd to like Jules Verne’s works, or to like two actors with March 24th birthdays who are famous for playing nerds in the movies and on TV: Robert Carradine (born 1954), Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds, and Jim Parsons (1973), Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”
March 17th in history:
Franklin D. Roosevelt resigned from the New York State Senate on March 17th, 1913, to become assistant secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. It was his eighth wedding anniversary. In the next 20 years, Roosevelt would become a vice-presidential candidate, governor of New York and president of the United States.
Eliot Spitzer had been governor of New York for just over a year when he resigned on this date in 2008, after a prostitution scandal in which he admitted to being a client of an escort agency.
New Yorkers like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a big parade in Manhattan. The Irish holiday was celebrated in New York City for the first time on March 17th, 1756.
St. Patrick’s Day is the birthday of two actors who have starred in movies and TV shows about New York City: Kurt Russell (born 1951), who played Snake Plissken in the action drama Escape from New York; and Gary Sinise (1955), Mac Taylor from “CSI: New York,” also known as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump.
Sinise also played real-life astronaut Ken Mattingly in the movie Apollo 13. Mattingly was born March 17th, 1936. He was pulled from the Apollo 13 mission days before its launch in 1970 after being exposed to German measles, so he missed being aboard the spacecraft that had to return to Earth after an explosion. Mattingly did get to circle the moon two years later, as the command module pilot of Apollo 16.
November 13 in history:
A “March Against Death” to protest the Vietnam War began at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on November 13th, 1969. More than 40,000 protesters marched into Washington, as a prelude to a large anti-war moratorium two days later.
On the same date 13 years later, in 1982, a monument to the thousands of Americans killed in Vietnam was dedicated near the Lincoln Memorial. The V-shaped granite wall bearing names of the war dead was not universally popular at first, but since its dedication, it has been praised for the simplicity of its design.
The Holland Tunnel linking New Jersey to Manhattan was an early example of an automotive tunnel designed to keep car exhaust from building up. The nearly two-mile tunnel, named after its chief engineer, Clifford Holland, opened on November 13th, 1927.
November 13th was opening night in 1997 for the Broadway musical version of the Disney movie “The Lion King.” Actress Whoopi Goldberg, born Caryn Johnson on this date in 1955, provided the voice of the hyena Shenzi in the original animated movie.
Since 2007, Whoopi Goldberg has been one of the hosts of the ABC daytime talk show “The View.” Jimmy Kimmel, born on November 13th, 1967, has been a late-night talk show host on ABC even longer, since 2003. Before that, Kimmel was a co-host of “The Man Show” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money.”