January 27th in history:
The three astronauts who were scheduled to fly on the first Apollo mission died in a launchpad fire on January 27th, 1967, less than a month before the planned mission. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were unable to escape from the Apollo capsule after a flash fire broke out during an equipment test. A pure oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule was blamed for helping the fire spread quickly.
The fire happened the same day in 1967 that an Outer Space Treaty was signed by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Dozens of other countries have signed it since then. The treaty bans countries from putting weapons of mass destruction into Earth orbit, and from using the moon for military purposes.
The Vietnam War officially ended on January 27th, 1973, when Vietnam and the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords. The treaties were signed one week into President Nixon’s second term, and five years after the Paris peace talks began.
The grave of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison has become a popular tourist attraction in Paris. Morrison’s career only lasted four years after the release of the first album by the Doors on January 27th, 1967.
The first Doors album featured the hit “Light My Fire.” On this date in 1984, singer Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire as a result of pyrotechnics used while he was filming a TV commercial for Pepsi.
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.
October 6 in history:
October 6th of 1889 must have been a busy day for Thomas Edison. On that day, a judge ruled in Edison’s favor on a dispute over the patent for his incandescent light bulb. Another inventor accused Edison of stealing the bulb design from him, but the judge decided that Edison had made improvements on the other man’s bulb. That same day, Edison demonstrated a motion picture for the first time at his New Jersey lab. It was a “talking” picture, coordinated with a phonograph recording.
The first actual “talking picture” to catch on with the public premiered in New York on October 6th, 1927: “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson.
The first woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress, Janet Gaynor, was born on this date in 1906.
And October 6th of 1991 was the date of Elizabeth Taylor’s eighth and final wedding. Construction worker Larry Fortensky was Taylor’s seventh husband. They had met at the Betty Ford Clinic. The wedding took place at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
August 28 in history:
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew about 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. on August 28th, 1963. The March is remembered as the occasion when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to the crowd gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Forty-five years later, on August 28th, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama referred to King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial during his own acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The outdoor speech was given at Invesco Field (now Sports Authority Field) at Mile High, the home stadium of the Denver Broncos.
In 2013, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest African-American to receive an Oscar nomination for acting and the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Wallis was born on this day in 2003.
Berry Gordy Jr. had a dream of running a record company. Gordy’s company Motown released “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes on this day in 1961. It would become Motown’s first number-one record.
Michael Jackson was one of the most successful artists on Motown Records. In 1984, Jackson starred in TV commercials for a soft drink which got its current name on August 28th, 1898. North Carolina druggist Caleb Bradham had invented a beverage he called “Brad’s Drink,” but in 1898, he renamed it “Pepsi-Cola.”
June 25th in history:
Two iconic celebrities who became famous in the 1970s died on this date in 2009. Farrah Fawcett, best known for “Charlie’s Angels” and a wildly popular swimsuit poster, was 62. She had publicly fought cancer for three years. Fawcett’s passing was the big TV news story of the day, until it was overshadowed by the sudden death of singer Michael Jackson at age 50. Doctors said Jackson died of cardiac arrest, just hours after rehearsing for a planned concert tour.
More than 60 million people bought Jackson’s 1982 album “Thriller,” featuring the duet “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney. On June 25th, 1967, McCartney and the rest of the Beatles performed live for a worldwide TV audience of 400 million. The program, called “Our World,” featured remote segments from all over the globe, but the highlight of the program was the Beatles singing “All You Need Is Love.”
For many years, the state of Virginia used the tourist slogan, “Virginia is for lovers.” On this date in 1788, Virginia became the 10th state in the Union.