March 22nd in history:
It can be used to perform surgery, or play a DVD. It was even used as a deadly weapon against James Bond. The laser beam developed by Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes was given a U.S. patent on March 22nd, 1960.
James Bond doesn’t usually work with a partner, but TV secret agent James West had a regular partner on “The Wild Wild West”: master of disguise Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, born March 22nd, 1920. Early in his career, Martin was part of a comedy team with a partner named West — Bernie West, who wrote for “All in the Family” and was co-creator of “Three’s Company.”
Born the same day and year as Ross Martin was Werner Klemperer, who played Col. Klink, the commandant of Stalag 13 on “Hogan’s Heroes.” “Wild Wild West” and “Hogan’s Heroes” aired back-to-back Friday nights on CBS for two years in the 1960s.
One “Wild Wild West” episode featured an audience watching a motion picture in which Artemus comically impersonated President Ulysses Grant. The story was set years before the Lumiere brothers actually projected a movie on a screen in Paris, on this day in 1895. That event is considered the first-ever private screening of motion pictures for an audience.
Several people who have won Oscars for their movie work were born on March 22nd: actors Karl Malden (born 1912), Haing S. Ngor (1940), and Reese Witherspoon (1976), and composers Stephen Sondheim (1930) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948).
March 6th in history:
The Alamo fell to Mexican forces on this day in 1836, after a 13-day siege over whether the land would be controlled by Mexico or settlers of Texas.
“The Defense of the Alamo” was a 1953 episode of the TV series “You Are There,” hosted by Walter Cronkite of CBS News. Cronkite later went on to anchor “The CBS Evening News” and live coverage of many manned space flights. He also hosted a Saturday morning revival of “You Are There” in the 1970s, which included a story about the Alamo. Cronkite’s last night on the “Evening News” was March 6th, 1981.
March 6th is the birthday of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper (1927), and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (1937). It’s also the birthday of a guy who knows about “The Dark Side of the Moon” — Pink Floyd musician David Gilmour (1946).
March 5th in history:
Two famous show-business deaths on March 5th: John Belushi and Patsy Cline, who were both in their early 30s when they died. Comedian Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose on this day in 1982. Cline and other country singers were killed in a 1963 plane crash in Tennessee.
John Belushi once played an alien named Kuldorth in a “Coneheads” sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” On the day Belushi died in ’82, a Soviet spacecraft called Venera 14 landed on the surface of Venus, surviving the heat and atmospheric pressure of the planet for nearly an hour to take photographs.
A milestone in flight on March 5th, 1912: It was the first time that a dirigible, or zeppelin, was used for military purposes, when Italy sent a dirigible behind Turkish lines on a spy mission.
Led Zeppelin performed “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time in public in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 5th, 1971. The band’s bassist, John Paul Jones, says audience members were bored by the song because they had never heard it before.
February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
Jackie Gleason starred in the movie Gigot as a Frenchman who could not speak. French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar on February 26th, 2012, for playing a star of silent films in the mostly-silent film The Artist. The French movie, shot in Hollywood, also won the Oscar for Best Picture.
February 17th in history:
Thomas Jefferson was elected president by the U.S. House on this date in 1801. The House had to break an electoral tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. As a result, Burr became vice president.
A helicopter buzzed the White House on February 17th, 1974, during the final months of Richard Nixon’s presidency. The chopper was stolen and flown by a disgruntled Army private named Robert Preston.
Actor Robert Preston was starring in the original Broadway production of “The Music Man” in February of 1958. For those who couldn’t go to Broadway, television was growing in popularity as an entertainment medium. On February 17th, 1958, Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television.
If there were no such thing as TV, there would be no “Larry the Cable Guy.” Larry, known in real life as Dan Whitney, celebrates his birthday on this day (1963).
February 15th in history:
The red-and-white Maple Leaf flag first flew over Canada on February 15th, 1965.
That same year, the last piece of the Gateway Arch was put in place, 600 feet over the city of St. Louis, Missouri. The Arch has become the most visible symbol of St. Louis, established on February 15th, 1764.
Another arch was immortalized in a tune by songwriter Harold Arlen, born on this day in 1905. He wrote the music to “Over the Rainbow” and the other songs in “The Wizard of Oz.”
If you wanted to sing “Over the Rainbow” over the Internet, you might post a video on YouTube. February 15th, 2005 was the first full day of operation for the do-it-yourself video website, but there were no videos to watch until the following April, when founder Jawed Karim posted a clip of himself visiting the San Diego Zoo.
February 11th in history:
A judge in Pennsylvania tried a different way of heating his home on February 11th, 1808. Judge Jesse Fell became the first American to use anthracite coal in his home fireplace.
“Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin'” is a famous rhyme from the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Glenn Miller received a gold record for “Chattanooga Choo Choo” on a live radio show during the second week of February, 1942. And on this date in 1950, a record with a similar title, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” by Red Foley, topped the Billboard chart of songs played most often in jukeboxes.
Singer Whitney Houston earned gold, platinum, and diamond records for outstanding music sales during her career. On February 11th, 2012, Houston died of accidental drowning at a Beverly Hills hotel, the day before that year’s Grammy Awards.
Houston won six Grammys in all, including record of the year in 1994 for “I Will Always Love You.” The following year, 1995, the Grammy for record of the year went to “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow, born on this day in 1962. Crow has won nine Grammys during her career. She shares a February 11th birthday with phonograph inventor Thomas Edison (born 1847), who also popularized motion pictures and the light bulb.