May 20th in history:
Christopher Columbus died in Spain on May 20th, 1506. Columbus reportedly never thought that he had come upon a new continent, but always believed that he had reached Asia by crossing the Atlantic.
Vasco da Gama reached India on this date in 1498, after starting in Portugal and going around Africa.
Charles Lindbergh began his historic flight across the Atlantic from Long Island on May 20th, 1927. He was the first person to successfully fly solo across the ocean to Europe without stopping.
Lindbergh’s flight began on the 19th birthday of future movie star Jimmy Stewart (1908). In 1957, Stewart would star as Lindbergh in a movie about the flight to Paris, called The Spirit of St. Louis.
Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar for “The Philadelphia Story,” and his hit movies include “Vertigo” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he also starred as a lawyer in the CBS TV series “Hawkins” in 1973. Another prime-time series on CBS in ’73 was “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Cher, born on this date in 1946, moved beyond records and TV to a successful movie career, and won a Best Actress Oscar for “Moonstruck” in 1987.
May 10th in history:
Winston Churchill first became prime minister of Great Britain on this day in 1940. It was during Churchill’s second term in the 1950s that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for writing history books.
Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Less than a year later, on May 10th, 1994, Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.
A movie about Nelson Mandela called “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” was released in 2013. The film received an Oscar nomination for the song “Ordinary Love,” written and performed by U2. The band’s lead singer, Bono, was born Paul Hewson on May 10th, 1960. Bono has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has received other humanitarian awards, and was named a Person of the Year by Time magazine in 2005.
April 24th in history:
The first fatal accident during a space mission happened on this date in 1967. Soyuz 1, the Soviet Union’s first manned space flight in two years, crashed upon landing after two days in orbit. The crash killed the lone crew member, Vladimir Komarov, who was on his second space mission. The capsule’s parachute apparently failed to open properly.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched successfully on this date in 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
New Yorkers could get high in the sky without leaving the ground on April 24th, 1913, on the day that the Woolworth Building opened in Manhattan. You could see a long distance from the top of the skyscraper, which was 792 feet tall…the tallest building in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, until the Empire State Building was constructed.
The movie musical “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” starred Oscar-winner Barbra Streisand, who was born on April 24th, 1942. Streisand’s character in the movie believes she has been reincarnated. Another winner of the Best Actress Oscar, Shirley MacLaine, is a real-life believer in reincarnation. MacLaine, also a star of screen musicals such as “Can-Can” and “Sweet Charity,” came into the world as Shirley Beaty on this date in 1934.
April 23rd in history:
April 23rd is believed to be William Shakespeare’s birthday, in 1564. It is also the date when Shakespeare died in 1616 – and the date when his play “The Merry Wives of Windsor” opened in 1597, with Queen Elizabeth in the audience.
Both Shakespeare and Elizabeth are key characters in “Shakespeare in Love,” the movie which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1998. The Best Picture of 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire,” stars actor Dev Patel, born April 23rd, 1990, as a game-show contestant.
A favorite beverage at movie theaters and elsewhere went through a radical change on April 23rd, 1985. The Coca-Cola Company announced it was changing the formula of Coke, replacing it with “New Coke.” After massive protests, the original formula was re-introduced less than three months later.
April 5th in history:
On April 5th of 1614, Pocahontas married English colonist John Rolfe in Virginia.
Seven years later, and farther north in the colonies, the Mayflower took to the open water, beginning its return trip to England, leaving the Pilgrims at their settlement in Plymouth.
On April 5th, 1887, six-year-old Helen Keller discovered how the word “water” was spelled in sign language, and what it meant, from her teacher, Annie Sullivan.
Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft won Oscars for playing Keller and Sullivan in the 1962 movie “The Miracle Worker.” Bancroft could not attend the awards ceremony, and Joan Crawford accepted the award for her, allegedly to spite losing nominee Bette Davis, born on this date in 1908. Davis and Crawford had co-starred the previous year in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, but only Davis got an Oscar nomination.
Bette Davis is one of many Oscar-winning performers born on April 5th. She received two Academy Awards, as did Spencer Tracy (born 1900), and Melvyn Douglas (born 1901). Two men who played Abraham Lincoln during their careers also shared an April 5th birthday: Walter Huston (born 1883, Oscar winner for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and father of director John Huston) and Gregory Peck (born 1916, won the Oscar as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”).
April 3rd in history:
The first run of the Pony Express between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California began on April 3rd, 1860.
Laptop computers have become a favorite means of communication for many people. IBM’s first laptop was introduced on April 3rd, 1986.
Former college professor Ted Kaczynski sent messages to the media complaining about modern technology. His crusade against technology also included bombings which killed three people. Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber,” was arrested at a cabin in Montana on April 3rd, 1996.
The first portable “cell phone” call made in New York City happened on this date in 1973.
Actor Alec Baldwin was once removed from an airplane parked at the Los Angeles airport when he refused to stop playing a word game on his cell phone. Baldwin, born on this date in 1958, played fictional TV network boss Jack Donaghy on the sitcom “30 Rock,” and has often impersonated President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.” Alec Baldwin played Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a role originated by Marlon Brando, born April 3rd, 1924. Brando won two Oscars, for “On the Waterfront,” and for the role of Don Corleone in “The Godfather.”
And telephone calls are a major element to the plot of “Pillow Talk,” the only movie for which Doris Day received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Day publicly celebrated her 90th birthday in 2014, but birth records in Ohio show that she was born on April 3rd, 1922, not 1924.
March 28th in history:
On March 28th, 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia, bringing those countries into the Crimean War. The largest numbers of troops fighting the war came from Russia, France, Britain, and Turkey.
On this day in 1930, the city of Constantinople was given the more Turkish name Istanbul. The change inspired a popular song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which was a hit for the Four Lads in 1953 and later covered by They Might Be Giants.
The 1964 heist movie Topkapi is set in Istanbul. British actor Peter Ustinov won his second Supporting Actor Oscar for Topkapi (his first Oscar was for Spartacus). Ustinov, who played Nero (the emperor) and Poirot (the detective), also was known as an author and playwright. He was 82 when he died on this date in 2004.
Ustinov was born Peter Alexander von Ustinov (or Ustinow). The singer born Stephani Germanotta, now known as Lady Gaga, was born this day in 1986, and is known for hits such as “Poker Face” and “Born This Way.” Gaga won a songwriting Oscar and was nominated for Best Actress in 2019, both for her work in the Bradley Cooper remake of A Star Is Born.
A composer born Jacob Levison on March 28th, 1915 won three Oscars for Best Original Song, after changing his name to Jay Livingston. The Oscar-winning tunes written by Livingston and Ray Evans were “Buttons and Bows,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Que Sera, Sera.” The team also wrote “Silver Bells,” and the TV theme songs for “Bonanza” and “Mister Ed.”
Popular radio DJ John Records Landecker actually was born with that name (middle name “Records”) on March 28th, 1947. Landecker is best known for working at Chicago station WLS in the ’70s and ’80s.