February 17th in history:
Thomas Jefferson was elected president by the U.S. House on this date in 1801. The House had to break an electoral tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. As a result, Burr became vice president.
A helicopter buzzed the White House on February 17th, 1974, during the final months of Richard Nixon’s presidency. The chopper was stolen and flown by a disgruntled Army private named Robert Preston.
Actor Robert Preston was starring in the original Broadway production of “The Music Man” in February of 1958. For those who couldn’t go to Broadway, television was growing in popularity as an entertainment medium. On February 17th, 1958, Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television.
If there were no such thing as TV, there would be no “Larry the Cable Guy.” Larry, known in real life as Dan Whitney, celebrates his birthday on this day (1963).
February 14th in history:
James K. Polk posed for photographer Mathew Brady on February 14th, 1849, less than a month before leaving the White House. It appears to be the first time that an incumbent U.S. president posed for a solo photograph. President Polk had been photographed earlier in his term, in a group shot with members of his cabinet.
Television cameras came to the White House on Valentine’s Day, 1962, for a prime-time tour of the mansion, hosted by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The tour was shown on all three major networks.
George Washington never slept in the White House, but George Washington Slept Here was the name of a popular movie starring comedian Jack Benny, born February 14th, 1894. Benny had a weekly show on radio, and then TV, for over 30 years, built around his character of a cheapskate who played the violin badly and always claimed to be 39 years old. Benny’s hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, named a school after him in the 1960s. The sports teams at Benny Middle School are nicknamed the 39ers.
Jack Benny was born in Chicago, not Waukegan. On his 35th birthday in 1929, seven men were shot to death in a Chicago garage, in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the most famous gangster-related murders of the 1920s. The victims were associated with the “Bugs” Moran gang in Chicago. Rival gang leader Al Capone was blamed for the killings. In the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon escape Chicago by posing as women after witnessing the Massacre.
February 8th in history:
The U.S. has had three vice-presidents named Johnson. The first one was Richard Johnson, who served under President Martin Van Buren. Johnson was chosen for VP by the Senate on February 8th, 1837, when no candidate could get a majority in the Electoral College.
Lyndon Johnson was vice-president in the summer of 1963, when Ted Koppel began his journalism career as the youngest reporter ever hired by ABC Radio. Koppel was only 23 — born on February 8th, 1940.
Koppel was anchoring the late-night news show ‘Nightline’ in 1984, the year actress Cecily Strong was born on this date. At the time of her birth, Strong’s father was head of the Associated Press Capitol bureau in Springfield, Illinois. Cecily co-anchored ‘Weekend Update’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ for one season.
Actor Jack Lemmon played Chicago newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson in the 1974 movie remake of the play “The Front Page.” Lemmon was born on this day in 1925. He won Oscars for “Mister Roberts” and “Save the Tiger,” and is also known for his roles in “Some Like It Hot,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and several movies with “Front Page” co-star Walter Matthau.
A session of the U.S. Senate was broadcast for the first time on the radio, on February 8th, 1978, during debate on a Panama Canal treaty. And radio made its way into the White House for the first time on this day in 1922, when President Warren Harding brought the new invention into the mansion.
January 26th in history:
On January 26th of 1962, the U.S. sent the Ranger 3 probe to the moon. The spacecraft missed the moon by several thousand miles and kept going.
On this date in 2006, Western Union stopped providing the service it became famous for: sending telegrams. The company officially got out of the communications business and shifted to financial services and money transfers. In 2005, the number of telegrams sent by Western Union was 1 percent of the number sent in 1929.
And President Bill Clinton sent an infamous message to Americans on January 26th of 1998. In front of TV cameras, Clinton insisted “I did not have sexual relations” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Months later, Clinton admitted he DID have relations with Lewinsky, setting the stage for his impeachment on perjury charges.
January 18th in history:
Former U.S. President John Tyler died on January 18th, 1862, shortly after being elected to the Confederate Congress. Tyler was the first vice president to succeed a U.S. president who died in office, following the 1841 death of William Henry Harrison.
John Tyler fathered 15 legitimate children by two wives, and was accused of fathering more children in affairs with slaves. A notorious presidential affair was revealed on this date in 1998, when the “Drudge Report” web site said that President Bill Clinton had had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton publicly denied the affair at first, but admitted to it months later.
The leading man of the 1957 movie An Affair to Remember, Cary Grant, was born on January 18th, 1904. Grant’s film career lasted from the 1930s to his retirement in the 1960s, and included four Hitchcock movies and four films with Katharine Hepburn.
Hepburn’s 1969 movie The Madwoman of Chaillot was the last feature film for comedian Danny Kaye, born on this day in 1911. Kaye, known for physical humor and fast-talking wordplay, also starred in White Christmas and The Court Jester, as well as a 1960s variety show on CBS.
Danny Kaye was one of the original owners of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Actor and director Kevin Costner, born January 18th, 1955, had one of his biggest hits as an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball diamond in a cornfield in “Field of Dreams.” Costner also starred in the popular sports movies “Bull Durham” and “Tin Cup,” and the frontier epic “Dances with Wolves,” which earned him Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture
August 24 in history:
The White House and the U.S. Capitol were among the government buildings destroyed or damaged by fire by the British during a raid on Washington, D.C., late in the War of 1812. The British forces attacked on August 24th, 1814.
Many historians believe August 24th of 79 A.D. was the day that the Italian city of Pompeii was destroyed by a fiery eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius. The ruins of Pompeii were buried under several feet of ash for centuries. In 1599, parts of the city were briefly unearthed by an architect named Domenico Fontana.
Actor Joe Regalbuto played reporter Frank Fontana on the sitcom “Murphy Brown.” Regalbuto was born August 24th, 1949, the same day and year as actor Charles Rocket, who also played a fictional TV reporter as the “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live.” Two other men famous for playing “fake” newsmen were born on this date in 1962: original “Daily Show” anchor Craig Kilborn, and David Koechner, alias Champ Kind from the “Anchorman” movies. It’s also the birthday of real-life TV reporter and former “Meet the Press” host David Gregory (born 1970).
June 12th in history:
Nelson Mandela was expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars, when a South African court sentenced him to prison on June 12th, 1964. Mandela and others were imprisoned for sabotage and other actions against the system of apartheid. Mandela was freed in 1990, and became president of South Africa a few years later.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” during a speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12th, 1987. The wall came down less than three years later, during the presidency of Reagan’s vice-president, George Herbert Walker Bush, born on June 12th, 1924.
And on this date in 1971, President Richard Nixon was father of the bride at the Rose Garden wedding of his oldest daughter, Tricia. It’s the most recent wedding to be performed at the White House.
“Who D’king of the whole wide world”? It could be Bun E. Carlos, the long-time drummer for Cheap Trick, who wrote the song “Who D’King.” Carlos (real name, Brad Carlson) was born on this day in 1951, along with another rock star named Brad: singer Brad Delp of the band Boston.