April 12th in history:
A man moved around the Earth in a space capsule for the first time on April 12th, 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit.
Two accidents involving Soviet submarines have happened on April 12th. In 1970, the submarine K-8 sank while being towed in the North Atlantic after a fire. Fifty-two men died when the sub went down with nuclear torpedoes aboard. On April 12th of 1963, the nuclear sub K-33 collided with a Finnish merchant ship. The accident was kept a secret for 44 years.
“The Hunt for Red October,” partly set aboard a Soviet sub, was the first successful novel by author Tom Clancy, born on this date in 1947.
Clancy once appeared as a guest on NBC’s “Late Night” show, but not during David Letterman’s time as the show’s host. Letterman was born the same day and year as Clancy. He was the original host of “Late Night,” from 1982 until 1993, when he moved to CBS and renamed his program “The Late Show.” Letterman retired from the show in 2015, and was succeeded by Stephen Colbert.
Yet another man born on April 12th, 1947, is actor Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, Kevin’s dad, on “The Wonder Years.” Letterman left NBC the same year that “The Wonder Years” ended its run on ABC.
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.
September 7 in history:
A girl named Elizabeth started life as a princess when she was born in England on September 7th, 1533. Her father was King Henry VIII. Her mother was Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth Tudor became queen of England when she was 25, and reigned for nearly 50 years.
Citizens of Egypt got to elect their own president for the first time on this date in 2005. Before that, the Egyptian parliament chose the president. The winner of the election was Hosni Mubarak, who had already been president for 24 years. Mubarak’s opponents claimed the voting was rigged.
Nikita Khrushchev didn’t wait to be elected “First Secretary” of the Soviet Communist Party. He took power on September 7th, 1953, and remained in control for 11 years.
And a two-day contest called the Atlantic City Pageant began in New Jersey on this date in 1921. Margaret Gorman, representing Washington, D.C., won that first pageant. It was a tourism gimmick, designed to bring visitors to the city after Labor Day, and was later renamed the Miss America Pageant.
August 23 in history:
On August 23rd, 1975, the monarchy in Laos was overthrown in a Communist coup.
Fifteen years later, on this date in 1990, Armenia went in the other direction, declaring its independence from the Soviet Union.
Bolshoi Ballet dancer Alexander Godunov declared his own independence from the Soviets on August 23rd, 1979, defecting to the West while on tour in New York. Godunov stayed in the U.S., and acted in movies. One of his most famous roles was in “The Money Pit,” where he played the ex-husband of “Cheers” star Shelley Long, born on August 23rd, 1949.
Godunov also played one of the hostage-takers in the original “Die Hard” movie. A notorious hostage incident began on this date in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden, with a botched bank robbery. The robber and an accomplice surrendered five days later, and although threats had been made against them, no hostages were harmed. The incident inspired the concept of the “Stockholm syndrome,” in which hostages come to support or sympathize with their captors.
August 19 in history:
Many countries have experienced dramatic changes in leadership on August 19th …
On August 19th, 1945, Ho Chi Minh took power in Vietnam.
This was the date in 1953 when Iran’s elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, was overthrown in a coup arranged by the CIA. Mossadegh was placed under house arrest, as Shah Reza Pahlavi replaced him as leader of Iran.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was under house arrest on August 19th, 1991, as hard-line members of the Communist government tried to remove him from power. The coup attempt failed after a few days, and the USSR was disbanded that December.
August 19th is the birthday of one U.S. president, Bill Clinton (1946), and of Tipper Gore (1948), the wife of Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore.