March 21st in history:
On March 21st, 1871, Otto von Bismarck became the first chancellor of the German empire, when Prussia unified with other states to form Germany. Bismarck had been the prime minister of Prussia before that.
During a ski-jumping contest in West Germany on this date in 1970, a Yugoslavian jumper named Vinko Bogataj wiped out at the end of the ramp and tumbled into the crowd. Bogotaj recovered, and became famous when his spill was used to illustrate “the agony of defeat” in the opening credits for “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”
Olympic athletes in America experienced the agony of not competing in the Moscow Summer Games, after President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. would boycott the Games, to protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On March 21st, 1980, Carter met with U.S. Olympians, urging them to respect his declaration of a boycott.
As a result of the boycott, NBC cancelled its plans to cover the Moscow Olympics. Meanwhile, Americans had a different game to hold their attention in the summer of 1980…trying to guess “Who shot J.R.?” On the same day of Carter’s meeting with the athletes, the popular CBS series “Dallas” ended its season by showing J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman) being shot and wounded by someone offscreen. When the shooter’s identity was revealed the following November, a record TV audience in the U.S. tuned in for the answer. Hagman was starring in a cable TV revival of “Dallas” when he died in 2012…and the writers killed off J.R. by shooting him, again.
January 13th in history:
On January 13th, 1953, Josip Broz, the prime minister of Yugoslavia, took on a new job title. That day, he became the president of Yugoslavia, and held the job until his death in 1980. Broz was better known by the title “Marshal Tito.”
Another man from Eastern Europe took an important leadership position on January 13th of 1964. Polish Bishop Karol Wojtyla officially became the Archbishop of Krakow. Fourteen years later, Wojtyla took on a new job, and a new name: Pope John Paul II.
Actor Patrick Dempsey is better known to many TV fans by the title “Dr. McDreamy” on the series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Dempsey was born on January 13, 1966 — making him exactly four years older than “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes (1970). It’s also the birthday of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, alias “Elaine”, “Old Christine” and “Veep” (1961).
September 8 in history:
On this date in 1892, a magazine called “The Youth’s Companion” printed a 22-word verse to be recited by U.S. schoolchildren that fall, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. It was the first published version of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Beginning on September 8th, 1991, people living in the far southern end of Yugoslavia could pledge their allegiance to the new Republic of Macedonia. It was the day Macedonia declared its independence from the former Soviet bloc nation.
“Miss Independence” was one title considered for a TV show that debuted on September 8th, 1966. It was a nickname given to the show’s star, Marlo Thomas. The series became a hit for ABC under a different name: “That Girl.”
Like many other shows of the 1960s, “That Girl” was filmed at Desilu Studios in Hollywood. One of the last series actually produced by Desilu premiered on the same night as “That Girl”: a space adventure show on NBC, called “Star Trek.”