February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
Jackie Gleason starred in the movie Gigot as a Frenchman who could not speak. French actor Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar on February 26th, 2012, for playing a star of silent films in the mostly-silent film The Artist. The French movie, shot in Hollywood, also won the Oscar for Best Picture.
November 26 in history:
Captain James Cook became the first European tourist to visit the Hawaiian island of Maui (sort of) on November 26th, 1778. Cook apparently did not find a good place to land on the island, so he only sailed around Maui. It took another eight years for a different European visitor to set foot on land.
A bird called the po’o-uli, or the black-faced honeycreeper, was discovered on Maui in 1973. But some animal experts believe the po’o-uli doesn’t live anywhere anymore. No more than 200 of the birds were thought to exist in the ’70s. Only three were found in the late 1990s, and they didn’t live close enough to each other to mate naturally. The only black-faced honeycreeper kept in captivity died of malaria on Maui, on this date in 2004.
The Honeydrippers was a 1980s band with a short life. Headed by Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, the group only released one EP, featuring the single “Sea of Love,” which was climbing the Billboard Top 40 chart on November 26th, 1984. It peaked at number 3 in early 1985.
And the Jackie Gleason series “The Honeymooners” featured a new episode called “Brother Ralph” on November 26th, 1955. The “Honeymooners” began as short comedy sketches starring Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Art Carney as sewer worker Ed Norton. It lasted just one season as a half-hour sitcom, in 1955-56.
September 12 in history:
“How do I love thee…?” Elizabeth Barrett showed her love for fellow poet Robert Browning by eloping with him in England on September 12th, 1846. Barrett’s father did not approve of Browning.
Astronauts Mark Lee and Jan Davis became the first married couple to travel together in space on September 12th, 1992. They were among the seven crew members aboard the shuttle Endeavour. The eight-day mission was the first space flight for Davis, and the second for Lee.
“To the moon, Alice!” On September 12th, 1970, “The Jackie Gleason Show” ended an eight-year run on CBS. The hour-long variety show often featured musical episodes of “The Honeymooners” with Gleason as Ralph Kramden and Art Carney as Ed Norton.
The Gemini 11 mission was launched on this date in 1966. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Richard Gordon conducted tests to link two space capsules in orbit, a skill that would be needed on flights to the moon.
Pete Conrad was portrayed by actor Peter Scolari in an episode of the TV miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.” Scolari, best known for his roles on “Newhart” and “Bosom Buddies,” was born September 12th of 1955.