June 9th in history:
On June 9th, 1973, Secretariat became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 25 years by taking first place in the Belmont Stakes.
Many people have heard that a Roman emperor appointed his horse to the Senate, but they’re not sure whether it was Caligula or Nero. Several sources say Caligula. Nero married for the first time on June 9th, 53 A.D. He and his first wife, Claudia Octavia, would both commit suicide on their wedding anniversary: Claudia in 62, and then Nero in 68. He killed himself to avoid being executed under orders of the Roman Senate.
The actress who played Senator (and Queen) Amidala in three “Star Wars” movies, Natalie Portman, was born June 9th, 1981.
Senator Joseph McCarthy was confronted by attorney Joseph Welch on live television during a Senate hearing on June 9th, 1954. McCarthy had just accused a young lawyer in Welch’s firm of being a Communist, to which Welch responded “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
Writer Aaron Sorkin has been successful doing TV series and movies about Washington politics, notably “The West Wing” and “The American President.” Sorkin was born on June 9th, 1961 — the same day and year as actor Michael J. Fox, who appeared in “American President.” Fox’s most famous characters are Alex P. Keaton on “Family Ties” and time-traveler Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” movies.
May 19th in history:
King Henry VIII and his relatives made history on May 19th in different years.
On this day in 1499, Catherine of Aragon was married by proxy to Henry’s brother Arthur, the Prince of Wales. When Arthur died months after their formal marriage, it was arranged for Catherine to marry Henry.
Henry ended his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne Boleyn. But after Anne did not give Henry a male heir, he had her tried for treason. Anne was beheaded on May 19th, 1536.
Henry and Anne’s only child, Princess Elizabeth, eventually became queen of England. On May 19th, 1568, Elizabeth had her rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, arrested.
Two very tall actors associated with princesses were born on May 19th. Andre the Giant (born 1946) played Fezzik in the movie “The Princess Bride.” And Peter Mayhew (1944) appeared on-screen with Princess Leia while playing Chewbacca in “Star Wars” episodes IV through VII.
May 14th in history:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition began its journey up the Missouri River on May 14th, 1804, with William Clark leading a group of explorers from a camp in the Illinois territory. Meriwether Lewis met up with Clark’s group a week later.
The U.S. space program began a new chapter when Skylab was launched on May 14th, 1973, just five months after the last manned flight to the moon. Skylab was America’s first orbiting space station, and remained in orbit for six years.
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was born on this date in 1944. Lucas also is famous for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones movies. And it’s the birthday of Robert Zemeckis (1952), who directed and co-wrote the “Back to the Future” movies produced by Spielberg.
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 was 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.
June 27th in history:
An Air France flight from Israel to Paris was hijacked to Entebbe Airport in Uganda on June 27th, 1976. Israeli forces carried out a raid to rescue the passengers and crew on July 4th. Within a year, two American TV movies were made about the rescue.
U.S. Route 66 was decommissioned on June 27th, 1985, after nearly 60 years of service as a major link between Chicago and Southern California. The highway inspired the 1960s TV series “Route 66.”
An unusual daytime soap opera debuted on this date in 1966. “Dark Shadows” ran for five years on ABC, featuring tales of ghosts, witches and a vampire named Barnabas Collins. On that same day in ’66, producer and director J.J. Abrams was born. Abrams, producer of the TV dramas “Alias,” “Lost,” and “Person of Interest,” also has directed “Star Trek” movies and “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”.
Captain Kirk and the rest of the “Star Trek” crew made their debut in the fall of 1966, when one of the most popular captains on TV was “Captain Kangaroo.” Bob Keeshan, who played Captain Kangaroo for more than 25 years, was born on this day in 1927.