July 6th in history:
One of the worst circus fires in U.S. history occurred on July 6th, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut. More than 160 people died and hundreds more were injured when the Ringling Brothers big top caught fire and collapsed within minutes. Two young people who survived the Hartford fire and later became famous were actor Charles Nelson Reilly and drummer Hal Blaine.
Among the many famous performers Blaine worked with on records was John Lennon. On this date in 1957, 16-year-old Lennon and his band the Quarrymen were about to perform at a church social in Liverpool, England when he was introduced to 15-year-old Paul McCartney. Only seven years later, Lennon and McCartney became movie stars when the first Beatles movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” premiered in England on July 6th, 1964.
On the day that “A Hard Day’s Night” made its debut, future president George Walker Bush turned 18. His father, George Herbert Walker Bush, was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas that year. The older Bush lost that election, but he rose through Republican ranks to become vice president under Ronald Reagan, and then president himself. First Lady Nancy Reagan, born July 6th, 1921, was Ronald Reagan’s second wife, and he was the first divorced man to be elected president.
When England’s Henry VIII wanted to end his first marriage to wed Anne Boleyn, one of his chief opponents was Lord Chancellor Thomas More. For opposing the king, More eventually was convicted of treason, and was beheaded on July 6th, 1535.
A court ruling of concern to the First Family, the Reagans, on June 21st, 1982: John Hinckley Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shootings of President Reagan and three other men. Hinckley was committed to a mental hospital.
On that same day and year, there was a new addition to the British royal family. It was Prince William, the first child of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Upon his birth, William became second in line to the British throne.
Later in 1982, the sitcom “Family Ties” premiered on NBC. The parents on that show, Steven and Elyse Keaton, were played by two performers born on June 21st, 1947: Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter.
June 12th in history:
Nelson Mandela was expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars, when a South African court sentenced him to prison on June 12th, 1964. Mandela and others were imprisoned for sabotage and other actions against the system of apartheid. Mandela was freed in 1990, and became president of South Africa a few years later.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” during a speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12th, 1987. The wall came down less than three years later, during the presidency of Reagan’s vice-president, George Herbert Walker Bush, born on June 12th, 1924.
And on this date in 1971, President Richard Nixon was father of the bride at the Rose Garden wedding of his oldest daughter, Tricia. It’s the most recent wedding to be performed at the White House.
“Who D’king of the whole wide world”? It could be Bun E. Carlos, the long-time drummer for Cheap Trick, who wrote the song “Who D’King.” Carlos (real name, Brad Carlson) was born on this day in 1951, along with another rock star named Brad: singer Brad Delp of the band Boston.
Only two U.S. Senators have been assassinated while in office. One was Huey Long of Louisiana. The other was Robert F. Kennedy, shot on June 5th, 1968, just moments after giving a victory speech at a Los Angeles hotel on the night he won the California presidential primary. Kennedy died the next day. According to videotaped TV coverage of the victory rally, the attack happened less than three minutes after Kennedy’s speech ended. Supporters were chanting “Kennedy, Kennedy, sis boom bah” when people in the ballroom became aware of the shooting in a nearby kitchen.
The man convicted of killing Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, allegedly timed the shooting to coincide with the first anniversary of the “Six-Day” Arab-Israeli War of 1967.
Ronald Reagan was governor of California at the time of Bobby Kennedy’s death. Reagan later became the only U.S. president to survive being shot while in office. Reagan died on June 5th, 2004, 15 years after leaving the White House. He had battled Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
A few men associated with guns and the Old West were born on June 5th:
Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa (born 1878);
Lawman Pat Garrett (1850), best known for killing outlaw Billy the Kid;
And actor William Boyd (1895), who played the fictional cowboy hero “Hopalong Cassidy.”
March 30th in history:
On March 30th, 1981, President Ronald Reagan and three other men, including his press secretary, James Brady, were shot and wounded outside the Washington Hilton by gunman John Hinckley. Reagan became the first U.S. president to survive being shot while in office. The Academy Awards, scheduled for that night, were postponed for one day because of the shooting.
Reagan never received an Oscar nomination during his movie career, but his first wife, Jane Wyman, was nominated four times and won the award once. Wyman’s last nomination for Best Actress was for “Magnificent Obsession.” She lost that award to Grace Kelly (for “The Country Girl”) during the Academy Awards presented on March 30th, 1955. “On the Waterfront” won the Best Picture Oscar, along with acting honors for Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint.
When John Hinckley shot President Reagan, he claimed he did it to impress actress Jodie Foster. On March 30th of 1992, Foster won her second Oscar, for playing FBI agent Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs.” The movie also won awards for Best Picture, and for Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
Warren Beatty was nominated against Hopkins that night for the film “Bugsy.” Beatty, born on this date in 1937, has been Oscar-nominated for acting, writing, and directing. He took home the statue for directing “Reds” in 1981.
February 6th in history:
Ronald Reagan served two terms in the Oval Office after successful careers as a radio announcer, an actor, and Governor of California. The 40th president was born in Tampico, Illinois, on this date in 1911.
The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect on February 6th, 1933. The amendment clarified the order of succession to the presidency, and moved the start of a presidential term from March 4th to January 20th.
Cardinal Achille Ratti succeeded to the position of pope on February 6th, 1922, taking the name Pius XI. It took 14 ballots for the College of Cardinals to elect Ratti.
James II succeeded his brother, Charles II, as king of England on this date in 1685.
And Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI, became Queen Elizabeth II of England on February 6th, 1952. That was the second birthday of the daughter of another “King”: singer Natalie Cole, whose father was Nat “King” Cole.
January 5th in history:
George and Martha Washington never lived in the White House, but they were married at the “White House” in January of 1759. This White House was Martha’s plantation in Virginia. Sources disagree on what day the Washington wedding took place. Some say it was January 5th. Others say it was on the 6th, or the 17th. Martha became the first “First Lady” of the United States 30 years later.
Jane Wyman also married a future U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, but wasn’t married to him long enough to be a First Lady. When Reagan was president, Wyman was starring on TV in “Falcon Crest.” Her movie career included a Best Actress Oscar for the movie Johnny Belinda. Wyman was born January 5th, 1917.
Another Oscar winner born on this day is Diane Keaton (1946), the first of many ladies to earn an Academy Award for acting in a Woody Allen film (Annie Hall). Keaton’s credits include Reds and the Godfather movies. She also starred in a TV movie as Amelia Earhart, the first lady to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart was declared dead on this date in 1939, more than a year after she disappeared while trying to fly around the world.
And Nellie Tayloe Ross became America’s first “lady governor” when she was sworn in as governor of Wyoming on January 5th, 1925. Nellie had won a special election to succeed her husband, William Ross, who had died after an appendectomy.