April 8th in history:
The Venus de Milo was discovered on this day in 1820, on the island of Milos. The famous armless statue of the goddess Venus is now displayed at the Louvre in Paris.
“April in Paris” was one of the famous songs written by lyricist “Yip” Harburg, born April 8th, 1896. Harburg is best known for the lyrics of “Over the Rainbow,” introduced by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz.” Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, starred in the movies “Cabaret” and “New York, New York,” both with music composed by Fred Ebb (born April 8th, year disputed).
It was somewhere over the left centerfield fence at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia that Hank Aaron’s 715th home run landed on April 8th, 1974. The Braves slugger broke Babe Ruth’s career record during Atlanta’s home opener of the season. Aaron eventually hit 755 homers…a record that stood until August of 2007, when Barry Bonds surpassed it.
Georgia native G. Harrold Carswell struck out as a Supreme Court nominee, by a 51-45 vote of the U.S. Senate on April 8th, 1970. Federal judge Carswell was Republican President Richard Nixon’s second straight Supreme Court nominee to be turned down by the Democratic-controlled Senate. Nixon blamed an anti-Southern bias for Carswell’s defeat. Carswell blamed liberals for opposing him, and later that month, he launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate from Florida to avenge the vote against him. He lost the Republican primary.
Neither Florida nor Georgia has ever ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, allowing the popular election of U.S. Senators. On this date in 1913, Connecticut became the 36th state to approve the amendment, insuring its passage.
April 7th in history:
The first publicly-seen television broadcast between two U.S. cities happened on April 7th, 1927. The link between New York and Washington featured President Calvin Coolidge’s Secretary of Commerce, who would be president himself just two years later: Herbert Hoover.
President Richard Nixon announced on April 7th, 1969, that he would increase the U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam.
That announcement came on the 30th birthday of two famous men whose careers would be tied to Vietnam and Nixon. Director Francis Ford Coppola set the novel “Heart of Darkness” in Vietnam for his war epic “Apocalypse Now.” And TV personality David Frost conducted a famous series of 1977 interviews with former President Nixon, which were dramatized in the play and movie “Frost/Nixon.”
Also born on April 7th: Daniel Ellsberg (1931), famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers revealing government decisions about the Vietnam War, and another movie director, Alan Pakula (1928), who made “All the President’s Men,” about the Washington Post reporters who uncovered many details about the Watergate scandal in the Nixon White House.
April 1st in history:
A historic day for the Air Force in two countries: The Royal Canadian Air Force was founded on April 1st, 1924. Exactly 30 years later, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the establishment of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Clearing the “air” of smoke: Eisenhower’s vice-president, Richard Nixon, was president himself in 1970. On April 1st of that year, Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which would take all radio and TV commercials for cigarettes off the air in early ’71.
A popular substitute for smoking – chewing gum – has made a fortune for the William Wrigley Company, founded in Chicago on April 1st, 1891. Wrigley’s didn’t start selling gum until a year after the company was in business. Free samples of gum given away with packages of baking powder became more popular than the powder.
Fictional 19th century critic Jebidiah Atkinson from “Saturday Night Live” could have been an early customer of Wrigley’s gum (but he might not admit to liking it). Atkinson is a popular SNL character performed by Taran Killam, born on April 1st, 1982. Killam played another 19th century character in “12 Years a Slave,” and in the Broadway musical “Hamilton” (as King George III).
SNL is produced at New York’s Rockefeller Center, which also houses the MSNBC cable news network. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was born on this day in 1973.
NBC aired the sitcom “The Debbie Reynolds Show” in 1969-70. Reynolds, born April 1st, 1932, was better known for movies, including “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Reynolds’s personal life also kept her in the public eye. Her first marriage, to Eddie Fisher, ended when Fisher left her to marry Elizabeth Taylor. Debbie and Eddie’s daughter, Carrie Fisher, played Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movies. Carrie died unexpectedly in December 2016, and Debbie died the next day.
March 31st in history:
The battleship Missouri, where the Japanese surrendered to the U.S. to end World War II, was decommissioned on March 31st, 1992.
President Lyndon Johnson called for peace talks with North Vietnam in a live TV address on this date in 1968. Johnson surprised the nation when he ended his speech that night by declaring he would not seek another term as president.
Johnson’s withdrawal from the ’68 race may have helped Richard Nixon win the election that fall. Nixon’s future son-in-law, David Eisenhower (Ike’s grandson), turned 20 the day of LBJ’s speech. So did future Vice President Al Gore.
Many famous movies about the Vietnam War were not made until years after LBJ and Nixon left office. The Deer Hunter (1978) was the first Vietnam movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Christopher Walken, born March 31st, 1943, won the supporting actor Oscar for his role in Deer Hunter. Walken also has appeared in the movie musicals Pennies from Heaven and Hairspray, and as a frequent host of “Saturday Night Live.” He shares a birthday with fellow Oscar winner Shirley Jones (born 1934), best known for musical roles in Oklahoma! and The Music Man, and as singing mom Shirley Partridge on “The Partridge Family.”
Walken’s Deer Hunter co-star Robert De Niro won the Best Actor award for Raging Bull at the Oscars on March 31st, 1981. The ceremony had been delayed by one day because of the assassination attempt against President Reagan.
February 21st in history:
Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China on February 21st, 1972. Nixon’s historic week-long visit included a stop at the Great Wall of China.
A different kind of structure was discovered on this date in 1953. February 21st was the date James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of a DNA molecule.
The Washington Monument was the world’s tallest structure when it was dedicated on February 21st, 1885, one day before George Washington’s birthday. The monument is about 40 feet taller than the previous record-holder, the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
George Washington was once played by Kelsey Grammer in a TV movie about Benedict Arnold. Grammer is best known as Frasier Crane on “Frasier” and “Cheers,” and Sideshow Bob on “The Simpsons.” He was born February 21st, 1955.
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.
January 9th in history:
New England Telephone and Telegraph introduced the first battery-operated telephone switchboard on January 9th, 1894.
On January 9th in 1968, the Surveyor 7 spacecraft made a successful soft landing on the moon, paving the way for manned landings on the moon’s surface.
It’s the birthday of the first U.S. President to make a phone call to astronauts on the moon, Richard Nixon (1913).
There were “no phone, no lights, no motor car” on “Gilligan’s Island,” but Gilligan and six other castaways had enough adventures to fill a sitcom, three TV movies and two cartoon series. January 9th is the birthday of actor Bob Denver, alias Gilligan (1935).