February 22nd in history:
The very first Daytona 500 auto race was run February 22nd, 1959 at Daytona Beach, Florida. The first champ of Daytona was 44-year-old Lee Petty.
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 7th in history:
On February 7th, 1962, the U.S. began an economic embargo on Cuba. The embargo came in response to Cuba’s allegiance with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
The Soviet government made a major policy change on February 7th, 1990, when the Communist party gave up its monopoly on power in the nation. Less than two years later, the Soviet Union would be disbanded.
And the band which eventually recorded “Back in the USSR” made its first official visit to the USA in 1964. The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport in New York on February 7th for their first American tour, including appearances three weeks in a row on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The Recording Industry Association of America says the Beatles have sold more albums in the U.S. than any other recording artist. As of early 2015, number two on the album sale list is country singer Garth Brooks, born on this day in 1962.
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.
January 3rd in history:
On January 3rd of 1496, Leonardo da Vinci tested a flying machine that he designed.
Flying machines didn’t succeed until the 20th century, when we finally got other pioneering inventions like the electric watch. The Hamilton Watch company put its first electric watch on sale on this date in 1957.
Exactly 20 years later — January 3rd, 1977 — pioneering home computer maker Apple Computer was incorporated.
And the pioneering record producer who did some work with Apple Records (and the Beatles), Sir George Martin, was born January 3rd, 1926.
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 9 in history:
Germany has had its share of political upheavals on November 9th…
Kaiser Wilhelm II stepped down from his post as German emperor on November 9th of 1918, ending a 30-year reign. The armistice to end the first World War was reached two days later.
The new German government that replaced the monarchy did not please one Adolf Hitler. He and hundreds of Nazi party members attempted an overthrow of the Bavarian government in 1923 with an uprising known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The revolt was put down by police in the streets of Munich on November 9th.
The Communist government of East Germany which came after Hitler’s reign during World War Two was starting to fall apart in 1989 when it bowed to pressure from the public and allowed people to pass freely through the Berlin Wall. After that announcement on the 9th of November, Germans began breaking down the wall which had divided the free and Communist portions of Berlin since the 1960’s.
The 1967 military comedy “How I Won the War” featured John Lennon of the Beatles as an English soldier serving in WWII. A photo of a short-haired Lennon in his soldier costume appeared on the cover of the first Rolling Stone magazine, issued on this date in ’67.
October 9 in history:
The Washington Monument opened to the public on October 9th, 1888, 40 years after construction began. The project was halted for many years because of a lack of funding and the intervention of the Civil War. The observation deck 500 feet above the ground was the highest man-made tourist spot in the world…for only seven months, until the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower was built for a world’s fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. The guillotine became a symbol of the Revolution, and was the official method of execution in France for almost 200 years. On this date in 1981, France ended beheadings by guillotine as it abolished the national death penalty.
“You’d better keep your head, little girl” is a line from “Run For Your Life,” a song by John Lennon about a man warning his girlfriend not to cheat on him. John’s more uplifting tunes include many love songs written with Paul McCartney, and solo songs such as “Imagine.” Lennon was born October 9th, 1940. It’s also the birthday of another man named John who performed with a famous British rock band of the Sixties, John Entwistle of The Who (1944).