March 5th in history:
Two famous show-business deaths on March 5th: John Belushi and Patsy Cline, who were both in their early 30s when they died. Comedian Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose on this day in 1982. Cline and other country singers were killed in a 1963 plane crash in Tennessee.
John Belushi once played an alien named Kuldorth in a “Coneheads” sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” On the day Belushi died in ’82, a Soviet spacecraft called Venera 14 landed on the surface of Venus, surviving the heat and atmospheric pressure of the planet for nearly an hour to take photographs.
A milestone in flight on March 5th, 1912: It was the first time that a dirigible, or zeppelin, was used for military purposes, when Italy sent a dirigible behind Turkish lines on a spy mission.
Led Zeppelin performed “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time in public in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 5th, 1971. The band’s bassist, John Paul Jones, says audience members were bored by the song because they had never heard it before.
February 22nd in history:
Another legendary sports event happened on this date in 1980: the “Miracle on Ice,” in which the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team surprised the world by beating the Soviets, 4-3, in the semi-final round of the Winter Games. The Americans went on to win the gold against Finland in the games at Lake Placid, New York.
Actor Kirk Douglas once served as royalty at a winter carnival in Lake Placid. During the week of the Miracle on Ice game, Douglas was hosting “Saturday Night Live” in New York, featuring NBC announcer Don Pardo, born on this day in 1918. Until his death in 2014, Pardo had been the SNL announcer for most of the show’s run. Pardo also worked on the original versions of “Jeopardy” and “The Price is Right,” and broke the news of President Kennedy’s assassination on WNBC-TV in New York in 1963.
David Letterman was getting ready to move his talk show from NBC to CBS when it was announced on February 22nd, 1993 that CBS had bought the Ed Sullivan Theater, to keep Letterman’s show in New York.
On this day in 1964, the Beatles returned to England after their famous first visit to the U.S., which included three straight appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The band had pre-recorded its performance which would be seen on “Sullivan” the next night.
February 8th in history:
The U.S. has had three vice-presidents named Johnson. The first one was Richard Johnson, who served under President Martin Van Buren. Johnson was chosen for VP by the Senate on February 8th, 1837, when no candidate could get a majority in the Electoral College.
Lyndon Johnson was vice-president in the summer of 1963, when Ted Koppel began his journalism career as the youngest reporter ever hired by ABC Radio. Koppel was only 23 — born on February 8th, 1940.
Koppel was anchoring the late-night news show ‘Nightline’ in 1984, the year actress Cecily Strong was born on this date. At the time of her birth, Strong’s father was head of the Associated Press Capitol bureau in Springfield, Illinois. Cecily co-anchored ‘Weekend Update’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ for one season.
Actor Jack Lemmon played Chicago newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson in the 1974 movie remake of the play “The Front Page.” Lemmon was born on this day in 1925. He won Oscars for “Mister Roberts” and “Save the Tiger,” and is also known for his roles in “Some Like It Hot,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and several movies with “Front Page” co-star Walter Matthau.
A session of the U.S. Senate was broadcast for the first time on the radio, on February 8th, 1978, during debate on a Panama Canal treaty. And radio made its way into the White House for the first time on this day in 1922, when President Warren Harding brought the new invention into the mansion.
February 5th in history:
Three veterans of “Saturday Night Live” share a February 5th birthday: Christopher Guest (born 1948), best known for directing and/or acting in mock documentaries including “This is Spinal Tap” and “Waiting for Guffman”; Tim Meadows (1961), whose most famous SNL character was “The Ladies’ Man”; and Chris Parnell (1967), alias Dr. Spaceman on “30 Rock.”
Parnell was born on the same day in ’67 that “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” debuted on CBS. The often-controversial variety show hosted by Tom and Dick Smothers was a launching pad for talent such as frequent SNL host Steve Martin and “Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner.
Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and director D.W. Griffith combined their talents to launch a film studio on this date in 1919…United Artists. United Artists had big hits with the Beatles’ first two movies, “Gilligan’s Island” and the James Bond franchise.
In the opening scene of the 007 movie “Goldfinger,” Bond battles a drug lord from Mexico. February 5th is the anniversary of the Mexican constitution, adopted in 1917.
A different milestone for Central America was the development of the Panama Canal. On February 5th, 1900, the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty to create the canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
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.