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.
October 20 in history:
A dramatic night in Washington on October 20th, 1973…
President Nixon wanted the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned instead of carrying out the order. So did his deputy A.G., William Ruckelshaus. Cox was fired by the third man approached by Nixon, Solicitor General and future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. The incident became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” and fueled efforts to impeach Nixon.
News of the political turmoil interrupted network TV schedules that night. “The Carol Burnett Show” was a popular Saturday night program in 1973. A special episode of the Burnett show was presented at the new Sydney Opera House in Australia in honor of the building’s grand opening, which took place the same date and year as the Washington “massacre.”
Another Saturday night TV hit in October 1973 was “M*A*S*H.” William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy on the series, was born on October 20th, 1932.
August 8 in history:
August 8th of 1988 (8/8/88) marked the end of an era at Wrigley Field in Chicago: the era of daytime-only baseball games at the park. The Cubs played a night game on their home field for the first time, against the Philadelphia Phillies. They couldn’t finish the game, because it was rained out in the 4th inning.
The Nixon era at the White House ended on August 8th, 1974, when Richard Nixon became the first president to resign before the end of his term. Nixon made the announcement on nationwide TV that night, less than two years after carrying 49 states in the 1972 election. Nixon’s resignation speech came exactly six years after the night in 1968 when he accepted the Republican Party nomination for president for the second time.
The Watergate scandal leading to Nixon’s resignation was the subject of the film “All the President’s Men.” Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman starred in the movie as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Hoffman, also known for “The Graduate,” “Tootsie,” and “Rain Man”, was born August 8th, 1937.
One of Dustin Hoffman’s most famous movie lines is “I’m walking here!,” shouted by the character Ratso Rizzo while crossing a street in the 1969 film “Midnight Cowboy.” On August 8th of 1969, the Beatles took their famous walk across Abbey Road in London, immortalized on the cover of the “Abbey Road” album. Photographer Iain Macmillan took six photos of the band walking — three where they face right, and three facing left.
July 24 in history:
Someone’s in the kitchen with Nikita…and on July 24th, 1959, it was U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon. He and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev met in the kitchen area of an American home exhibit in Moscow and, through interpreters, debated eastern culture vs. western culture. The videotaped discussion became known as the “Kitchen Debate.”
Fifteen years later, Nixon had moved up to the job of president, but his presidency would soon come to an end. On July 24th of 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Nixon would have to release secret tape recordings to the Watergate prosecutor. Nixon resigned shortly after the release of one tape showing that he wanted to use the CIA to block an FBI probe into Watergate.
In the 1999 Watergate comedy “Dick,” President Nixon was played by actor Dan Hedaya, born July 24th, 1940. Hedaya is better known as Nick Tortelli, the ex-husband of Carla on “Cheers” and its spin-off, “The Tortellis”.
During his 1968 campaign, Nixon made a brief appearance on the TV comedy show “Laugh-In,” saying “Sock it to me?” Ruth Buzzi was a “Laugh-In” cast member for the show’s entire six-season run. She was born on this date in 1936.
June 23rd in history:
President Nixon and aide H.R. Haldeman had an Oval Office conversation on June 23rd, 1972, which would come back to haunt Nixon two years later. On that day, Nixon and Haldeman discussed recruiting the CIA to block an FBI investigation of the Watergate break-in days earlier. The Supreme Court ruled in 1974 that a recording of the conversation had to be given to a special prosecutor, and Nixon resigned the same week that the recording was made public.
The man who led the Supreme Court during Watergate, Warren Burger, became Chief Justice on June 23rd, 1969.
Justice Clarence Thomas was born on this date in 1948. Another judge with a June 23rd birthday is Randy Jackson of “American Idol” (1956).
April 29th in history:
On this date in 1992, four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of assault charges in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an African-American driver who was stopped after a chase. Riots broke out in L.A. after the verdict, and continued for several days.
On April 29th, 1974, President Richard Nixon released transcripts of White House tapes related to the Watergate investigation. Many offensive words on the tapes were replaced in the transcripts with the phrase “expletive deleted.”
Of all the villains committing crimes in the “Batman” movies of the ’80s and ’90s, two were women: “Catwoman,” played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and “Poison Ivy,” played by Uma Thurman. Both Pfeiffer (1958) and Thurman (1970) celebrate their birthdays on April 29th.
Also, a couple of Superman-related birthdays today. Famous Superman fan Jerry Seinfeld was born in 1954. His 90’s sitcom “Seinfeld” often included references to the Man of Steel. And Lane Smith was born this day in 1936. During the 90’s, Smith played Perry White on the TV series “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
April 7th in history:
The first publicly-seen television broadcast between two U.S. cities happened on April 7th, 1927. The link between New York and Washington featured President Calvin Coolidge’s Secretary of Commerce, who would be president himself just two years later: Herbert Hoover.
President Richard Nixon announced on April 7th, 1969, that he would increase the U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam.
That announcement came on the 30th birthday of two famous men whose careers would be tied to Vietnam and Nixon. Director Francis Ford Coppola set the novel “Heart of Darkness” in Vietnam for his war epic “Apocalypse Now.” And TV personality David Frost conducted a famous series of 1977 interviews with former President Nixon, which were dramatized in the play and movie “Frost/Nixon.”
Also born on April 7th: Daniel Ellsberg (1931), famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers revealing government decisions about the Vietnam War, and another movie director, Alan Pakula (1928), who made “All the President’s Men,” about the Washington Post reporters who uncovered many details about the Watergate scandal in the Nixon White House.