September 23 in history:
Senator Richard Nixon had to give the biggest speech of his political career on this date in 1952. Nixon’s role as Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the presidential election was in jeopardy, because of questions about a fund used to help him pay campaign expenses. In a live, televised address, Nixon claimed that he would keep just one gift to his family: a dog named “Checkers.” The speech saved his spot on the Republican ticket.
Nixon went on to be elected president in 1968, the year that protesters rioted outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Eight organizers of the protests went on trial, starting on September 23rd, 1969. When the judge ordered a separate trial for defendant Bobby Seale, the protesters became known as the “Chicago 7.”
Bobby Seale’s name was used in a punchline in the college-reunion movie “The Big Chill,” which opened the New York Film Festival on September 23rd, 1983. That was the 36th birthday of “Big Chill” cast member Mary Kay Place, also known for her role as a country singer on “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
August 22 in history:
Spectators at the Louvre museum in Paris couldn’t find the “Mona Lisa” on August 22nd, 1911. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was missing from its usual spot on the wall, because it had been stolen the night before. The famous painting remained missing for two years, hidden for most of that time in the apartment of the thief, a Louvre employee from Italy.
The gravesite of Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king, was considered lost for centuries until researchers found it in 2012, under a parking lot in Leicester. Richard was killed on this date in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard had been king of England for only two years. His death put Henry Tudor on the throne, as Henry VII.
In Shakespeare’s play “Richard III,” Richard calls out “My kingdom for a horse” shortly before he is killed. The “horseless carriage” was becoming popular by 1902, when the Cadillac Automobile Company was founded on August 22nd from what used to be the Henry Ford Company. Henry Leland was brought in to close down the old company after Ford left the firm, but he decided to keep it going under the Cadillac name.
Another powerful man named Henry — Henry Kissinger — was nominated as secretary of state by President Nixon on August 22nd, 1973. Kissinger had become famous for “shuttle diplomacy” as Nixon’s national security adviser.
Actress Kristen Wiig was born on that same day in 1973. Wiig has been nominated for several Emmy Awards, mostly for her work on “Saturday Night Live,” and was an Oscar nominee for co-writing the movie comedy “Bridesmaids.”
In 1973, Valerie Harper won an Emmy Award for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Born on August 22nd, 1939, Harper earned four Emmys for her portrayal of Rhoda, including one for her own spinoff series “Rhoda.”
August 8 in history:
August 8th of 1988 (8/8/88) marked the end of an era at Wrigley Field in Chicago: the era of daytime-only baseball games at the park. The Cubs played a night game on their home field for the first time, against the Philadelphia Phillies. They couldn’t finish the game, because it was rained out in the 4th inning.
The Nixon era at the White House ended on August 8th, 1974, when Richard Nixon became the first president to resign before the end of his term. Nixon made the announcement on nationwide TV that night, less than two years after carrying 49 states in the 1972 election. Nixon’s resignation speech came exactly six years after the night in 1968 when he accepted the Republican Party nomination for president for the second time.
The Watergate scandal leading to Nixon’s resignation was the subject of the film “All the President’s Men.” Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman starred in the movie as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Hoffman, also known for “The Graduate,” “Tootsie,” and “Rain Man”, was born August 8th, 1937.
One of Dustin Hoffman’s most famous movie lines is “I’m walking here!,” shouted by the character Ratso Rizzo while crossing a street in the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy.” On August 8th of 1969, the Beatles took their famous walk across Abbey Road in London, immortalized on the cover of the “Abbey Road” album. Photographer Iain Macmillan took six photos of the band walking — three where they face right, and three facing left.
July 24 in history:
Someone’s in the kitchen with Nikita…and on July 24th, 1959, it was U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon. He and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev met in the kitchen area of an American home exhibit in Moscow and, through interpreters, debated eastern culture vs. western culture. The videotaped discussion became known as the “Kitchen Debate.”
Fifteen years later, Nixon had moved up to the job of president, but his presidency would soon come to an end. On July 24th of 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Nixon would have to release secret tape recordings to the Watergate prosecutor. Nixon resigned shortly after the release of one tape showing that he wanted to use the CIA to block an FBI probe into Watergate.
In the 1999 Watergate comedy “Dick,” President Nixon was played by actor Dan Hedaya, born July 24th, 1940. Hedaya is better known as Nick Tortelli, the ex-husband of Carla on “Cheers” and its spin-off, “The Tortellis”.
During his 1968 campaign, Nixon made a brief appearance on the TV comedy show “Laugh-In,” saying “Sock it to me?” Ruth Buzzi was a “Laugh-In” cast member for the show’s entire six-season run. She was born on this date in 1936.
July 14th in history:
France had a new king on this date in 1223: Louis VIII. He was 35 years old, and became king upon the death of his father, Philip II, who had reigned for 42 years. Louis only held the throne for three years before he became ill and died.
A “King” who would rule the United States was born in Nebraska on this day in 1913. He was born Leslie King Jr., but when his parents divorced and his mother remarried, Leslie was renamed after his stepfather: Gerald Ford. Mr. Ford had the shortest term of any U.S. president who did not die in office (less than three years), but he lived longer than any other president (age 93) until being passed by George H.W. Bush in 2017.
July 14th is also the birthday of a Chancellor: long-time NBC News anchor John Chancellor, born in 1927. Chancellor began anchoring “NBC Nightly News” in 1970, when Chet Huntley retired from “The Huntley-Brinkley Report.” He’s credited with originating the idea of using color-coded maps on network news coverage of presidential elections, starting in 1976, when NBC used blue to mark states won by Gerald Ford, and red for states won by Jimmy Carter.
July 8th in history:
We can’t prove it, but it’s possible that every item listed in “Triviazoids” is within six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The star of “Footloose” and dozens of other movies was born on July 8th, 1958.
Bacon had a role in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” And on July 8th, 1965, Ronald Biggs escaped from a British prison where he was serving time for his role in the “Great Train Robbery” of 1963. He stayed out of prison for more than 30 years before turning himself in.
Bacon played Jack Swigert, one of the three endangered astronauts in the film “Apollo 13.” The Apollo 13 flight of 1970 was supposed to be the third mission to land men on the moon. Pete Conrad of Apollo 12, the third man to walk on the moon, was another real-life astronaut portrayed in the movie. Conrad died on this date in 1999, at age 69.
In the movie “Frost/Nixon,” Kevin Bacon portrayed a Marine colonel. On July 8th, 1776, a colonel named John Nixon publicly read the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia for the first time since it was adopted.
Two governors who ran for president against Richard Nixon in 1968 were born on July 8th, one year apart. Michigan’s George Romney (born 1907) later served in Nixon’s cabinet, and was the father of future governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And Nelson Rockefeller of New York (1908) was chosen to succeed Gerald Ford as vice president in 1974, four months after Nixon resigned from the presidency.
June 23rd in history:
President Nixon and aide H.R. Haldeman had an Oval Office conversation on June 23rd, 1972, which would come back to haunt Nixon two years later. On that day, Nixon and Haldeman discussed recruiting the CIA to block an FBI investigation of the Watergate break-in days earlier. The Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that a recording of the conversation had to be given to a special prosecutor, and Nixon resigned the same week that the recording was made public.
The man who led the Supreme Court during Watergate, Warren Burger, became Chief Justice on June 23rd, 1969.
Justice Clarence Thomas was born on this date in 1948. Another judge with a June 23rd birthday is Randy Jackson of “American Idol” (1956).