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.
December 8 in history:
On the last day of his life…December 8th, 1980…John Lennon posed nude for Rolling Stone magazine. The photo of Lennon curled up and kissing his clothed wife, Yoko Ono, was used for the magazine cover after Lennon was shot and killed on December 8th in New York by an obsessed fan. That day, Lennon’s new single “(Just Like) Starting Over” was the number 3 song in the U.S. It rose to number 1 by the end of December.
John Lennon was the only Beatle who did not appear on “Saturday Night Live” during his lifetime. Ringo Starr is the only Beatle who has hosted SNL, and that happened on December 8th, 1984. Ringo’s monologue featured a duet with “Sammy Davis Jr.” (played by Billy Crystal).
On that night, the real Sammy Davis Jr. was celebrating his 59th birthday. Sammy’s career included movies, Broadway, and hit songs like “The Candy Man,” but he’s also famous as a member of the Hollywood “Rat Pack” along with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
On December 8th, 1963, Sinatra’s 19-year-old son Frank Jr. was kidnapped from a resort at Lake Tahoe. The younger Sinatra was released near Los Angeles two days later, after his father paid a ransom of $240,000. Three men eventually were convicted of the kidnapping.
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.
October 23 in history:
Brutus is infamous for his role in assassinating Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate, in 44 B.C. Two years later, on October 23rd, 42 B.C., Brutus met his own fate, killing himself after losing the second battle of Philippi to Marc Antony.
A fateful meeting of two old friends, two pilots, led to deadly consequences in 1942. One man was flying a B-34 bomber for the Army, while the other was a pilot for American Airlines. They discovered that both would be flying near Palm Springs, California the next day, October 23rd. On that day, the bomber pilot, Lt. William Wilson, tried flying close to American Flight 28 to signal to his friend, First Officer Louis Reppert. Wilson got too close, and the planes collided. The airliner crashed in the desert, killing all 12 people aboard. Wilson went through a court-martial, but was acquitted.
One passenger on the American flight was an Oscar-winning songwriter, Ralph Rainger. He’s best known for writing the theme songs used by two popular comedians…”Love in Bloom,” associated with Jack Benny, and “Thanks for the Memory,” Bob Hope’s theme. Late in their careers, Hope and Benny appeared frequently with Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” Carson became a comedy legend in his own right, by hosting “Tonight” for 30 years. He was born October 23rd, 1925.
NBC airs “Saturday Night Live” in the “Tonight Show” time slot on weekends. On October 23rd, 1976, Steve Martin hosted “SNL” for the first time, and played the host of “Jeopardy! 1999,” a futuristic parody of the popular game show. “I Lost on Jeopardy,” a take-off of the Greg Kihn song “Jeopardy,” was an early hit for song parodist and musician “Weird Al” Yankovic, born this day in 1959.
October 11 in history:
Teddy Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to fly in a plane on October 11th, 1910. The flight at St. Louis happened more than a year after Roosevelt left the White House. He was the passenger of pilot Archibald Hoxsey.
Teddy’s flight occurred on the birthday of his niece, future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, born in 1884. October 11th, 1975 was the wedding day for another future First Lady, and a future President. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton were married in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The Clintons have been popular targets for satire on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which made its debut on the couple’s wedding night. Actress Joan Cusack, born October 11th, 1962, spent one year as a cast member on “SNL”. Three years after being dropped from the show, Cusack got an Oscar nomination for “Working Girl.” She’s also well-known as the voice of cowgirl Jessie in the “Toy Story” movies.
Jane Krakowski once played a famous animated character in a live-action movie, as Betty Rubble in “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.” Krakowski, born this day in 1968, is better known from “30 Rock” as Jenna Maroney. She shares a birthday with the original Wilma Flintstone, Jean Vander Pyl (born 1919).
October 8 in history:
Famous fires broke out on the shores of Lake Michigan on October 8th, 1871. The deadliest of those fires occurred in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, along Green Bay. As many as 2500 people may have died in the forest fire that destroyed Peshtigo and other communities. The better-known fire of October 8th was the Great Chicago Fire, which claimed about 300 lives and destroyed four square miles of the city.
Minister and political activist Jesse Jackson, the founder of Operation PUSH in Chicago, was born October 8th of 1941. Jackson shares a birthday with comedian Darrell Hammond (1955), who impersonated him and dozens of other celebrities during a 14-year run on “Saturday Night Live.” Hammond occasionally imitated SNL announcer Don Pardo on the show, and in 2014, was hired to succeed the late Pardo as the program’s new announcer.
Chevy Chase played President Gerald Ford in sketches during the first two seasons of SNL. Chase, born October 8th, 1943, went on to play Clark Griswold in the “Vacation” movie series, and returned to TV as a cast member of “Community.” He co-starred in “Deal of the Century” with Sigourney Weaver, born this day in 1949. Weaver played Ripley in the “Alien” movies, and appeared in “Avatar” and “Ghostbusters.”
Live from New York, baseball fans saw and heard history being made on October 8th, 1956, when Game 5 of the World Series was broadcast from Yankee Stadium. Don Larsen of the Yankees became the first man to pitch a perfect game during a World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0.
September 21 in history:
A letter about Santa Claus appeared in the newspaper in September…on this date in 1897. The New York Sun printed the letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, which asked “Is there a Santa Claus?” The famous response by editor Francis P. Church included the answer, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” little Cindy Lou Who believed that the Grinch was Santa Claus. “Looney Tunes” animator Chuck Jones, born on September 21st, 1912, made the 1966 TV version of “Grinch.”
Looney Tunes characters starred with basketball legend Michael Jordan in the movie “Space Jam,” which featured a cameo appearance by Bill Murray. The former “Saturday Night Live” star was born on this day in 1950. Murray’s hit movies include “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Groundhog Day,” and he got an Oscar nomination for best actor in “Lost in Translation.”
Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith claimed he wrote the Book of Mormon by translating golden plates revealed to him by an angel named Moroni. Smith had his first vision of the angel on September 21st, 1823.
A musical called “The Book of Mormon” would become a Broadway hit in 2011. A big hit musical from the 1940s, “Annie Get Your Gun,” was revived on September 21st, 1966, in New York. The show’s original star, Ethel Merman, once again played Annie Oakley in the new version.
Mary Martin starred in the touring company of “Annie Get Your Gun” when Merman was performing in the original Broadway run. September 21st was the birthday of Martin’s son Larry Hagman (1931), who starred on TV in “Dallas” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”