December 28 in history:
Galileo is thought to be the first person to have seen the planet Neptune, observing it through his telescope on December 28th, 1612. But he is not considered the discoverer of Neptune, because he reportedly thought it was a star, instead of a planet.
An audience in Paris saw movies on December 28th, 1895, and became the first people to pay admission to watch films. The Lumiere brothers sold tickets to a screening of scenes from everyday life in France. We don’t know if they sold popcorn for the occasion.
Another type of image seen on a screen was publicized on that same day in 1895. That’s when German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen published a paper “On a New Kind of Rays,” where he described the discovery of a form of light which could pass through skin but not bones. The new ray became known as an X-ray.
The X-ray is radiation, but it’s not considered radioactive. So if a spider zapped by an X-ray bit you, chances are you would not develop spider powers…as far as we know. The comic book writer who created Spider-Man and other Marvel comics, Stan Lee, was born on December 28th, 1922.
A special 2009 edition of the Spider-Man comic book, called “The Short Halloween,” was written by “Saturday Night Live” veterans Seth Meyers and Bill Hader. Meyers, born on this day in 1973, was best known for anchoring “Weekend Update” on SNL before succeeding Jimmy Fallon as the host of “Late Night” on NBC in 2014.
November 17 in history:
Television history was made on this day in 1968, when a Sunday afternoon game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders was running long. NBC was contracted to broadcast a new version of “Heidi,” sponsored by Timex watches, precisely at 7 p.m. Eastern time that night, whether the game was over or not. A last-minute network decision to delay “Heidi” until after the game did not get to the right people, and the football broadcast for most of the U.S. was cut off with one minute left to play, and the Jets ahead by three points. The game ended with two quick touchdowns by the Raiders, who won by a score of 43-32. The fan uproar that resulted led to the now-common practice of delaying all regular programming on the networks rather than disrupting football games in progress.
President Richard Nixon made history on live television by stating “I’m not a crook” during a broadcast news conference on November 17th, 1973. The question-and-answer session was part of an Associated Press meeting at Disney World, in the middle of the Watergate scandal. Nixon made the “crook” remark while telling the reporters that he had never profited from his years of public service.
The Nixon news conference was aired live on network TV on a Saturday night. The producer of “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels, was born on this day in 1944…the same day and year as frequent SNL host Danny De Vito, known for the TV series “Taxi” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
TV coverage of a concession speech by Howard Dean has been blamed for costing him the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. Dean was portrayed as being too emotional and out of control when he shouted to supporters after losing the Iowa caucuses. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, was born on November 17th, 1948.
John Boehner has never run for president, but he was third in line for the Oval Office as Speaker of the House. The Ohio Republican was born on this date in 1949.
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.
In other famous elections on November 8th…John F. Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon for the White House in 1960, Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966, and Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential race over Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Trump may be the only U.S. president who inspired a board game before becoming Chief Executive. “Trump: The Game,” a real estate contest, was introduced by the Milton Bradley Company in 1989. Inventor Milton Bradley was born on this day in 1836. The company is known for “The Game of Life,” “Candyland,” and “Chutes and Ladders,” as well as for home versions of popular TV game shows.
The panel show “What’s My Line?” inspired a couple of U.S. home versions, neither one made by Milton Bradley. Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen was a regular panelist on “Line” for 15 years, until her sudden death on November 8th, 1965, a few hours after appearing live on the Sunday night program. Conspiracy theorists have suggested someone murdered Kilgallen for knowing too much about the JFK assassination, or UFOs, or something else. By coincidence, Kilgallen’s death was announced on CBS just after her pre-taped appearance on the November 8th daytime episode of “To Tell the Truth.” On that same day, the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives” made its debut, beginning a run that continues today.
November 2 in history:
Commercial radio in the U.S. was launched on November 2nd, 1920, an election night. Station KDKA went on the air in Pittsburgh to broadcast returns from the presidential race between James Cox and Warren G. Harding. Harding was elected on his 55th birthday.
On another election day, November 2nd, 1976, the major U.S. TV networks began the tradition of using large red-white-and-blue maps to show which party has won which states in a presidential race. It wasn’t until the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore that the media generally adopted the code of “blue” for Democrats and “red” for Republicans, reportedly popularized by NBC’s Tim Russert.
George W. was a third-generation cheerleader at Yale, and also led cheers at the Andover prep school. Modern cheerleading was invented at a University of Minnesota football game on November 2nd, 1898. Minnesota student Johnny Campbell was among a group of young men who usually started specific cheers in the stands. On that particular day, Campbell stood up in front of the home crowd and taught them cheers by shouting through a megaphone.
October 29 in history:
The first version of the internet was called the ARPANET. On October 29th, 1969, two computers were linked together to communicate with each other for the first time. One was at UCLA, and the other was in Northern California.
One man in New York, one man in Washington. It was a high-tech television partnership that lasted for 14 years on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report,” which began on this date in 1956. Chet Huntley was at the New York anchor desk, with David Brinkley in D.C.
Huntley and Brinkley also anchored NBC coverage of many space flights in the ’60s. John Glenn first flew in space in 1962. By the time he went into orbit again, Glenn had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Ohio. His second space mission, as part of the crew of the shuttle Discovery, began on October 29th, 1998.
Richard Dreyfuss went into space aboard an alien ship at the end of the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He won an Oscar for another movie he made the same year, “The Goodbye Girl.” Dreyfuss was born October 29th, 1947.
October 1 in history:
A steamboat called the “New Orleans” reached Louisville, Kentucky on October 1st, 1811, having traveled down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. People in Louisville had never seen a steamboat before, and the vessel was so noisy, stories circulated that the noise was caused by a comet falling into the river.
The U.S. space agency NASA was formed on this date in 1958, almost a full year after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite.
Disney’s EPCOT theme park, known for displays of futuristic technology, opened in Florida on October 1st, 1982. That was 11 years to the day after Disney World opened in the Orlando area.
On that same day in 1982, Sony introduced its first compact disc player in Japan. The first record album to be released on CD was Billy Joel’s “52nd Street.”
October 1st of ’82 also marked the first weekly episode of “Knight Rider” on NBC, which featured a high-tech talking car named KITT.
“United States” was chosen as the official name of the 13 American colonies by the Continental Congress on September 9th, 1776. The newly-independent nation had been known as the “United Colonies” before that.
Exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1791, the new nation’s capital along the Potomac River was named “Washington,” after the incumbent president.
Esther was the name of the first child of a president to be born at the White House. She was born September 9th, 1893. Esther’s parents were President Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances.
People in the audience at the Fox Theater in Riverside, California, didn’t know the name of the movie they were about to see on September 9th, 1939, after the scheduled showing of “Hawaiian Nights.” Therefore, they didn’t know they would be the first regular audience to watch a much-anticipated picture. One witness said the crowd reaction was “thunderous” when the movie’s title appeared on the screen…”Gone With the Wind.”
People watching NBC on September 9th, 1967 didn’t know they were going to see a TV show that would become the #1 prime-time series within two years. “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” debuted as a comedy special leading into the broadcast of the Miss America pageant. Performers on the special who would become regulars on the “Laugh-In” series included Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, and Jo Anne Worley.