September 27, 1954: Tonight!, starring Steve Allen, premieres on national television on the NBC network. Steve Allen hosted the variety show until 1957 with Ernie Kovacs sitting in the host chair on Mondays and Tuesdays for the last four months. In January of 1957, Jack Lescoulie took over, the name changed to Tonight! America After Dark and the format switched to news. Six months later, Al Collins took the helm for a month.
On July 29, 1957, Jack Paar became the host of the newly formatted talk show now entitled Tonight Starring Jack Paar. He remained as host until March 30, 1962 when a series of guest hosts took over while a permanent host was sought. On October 1, 1962 Johnny Carson opened The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and he remained on the job for almost thirty years, retiring on May 22, 1992. Jay Leno took over and the show again changed names to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jay has announced plans to retire in 2009 with a scheduled take over by Conan O’Brian. Conan arrived, Jay moved, it didn’t work out for all concerned and Jay is back on late night television.
The years as a news show simply didn’t work out and the show returned to the variety format with an announcer/straight man at the host’s side and a bandleader off to the side of the stage. Jack Paar was censored for a bathroom joke in February 1960 and the next night he abruptly left the show in protest leaving his announcer to carry on. Four weeks later he came back and said, “As I was saying before I was interrupted …” and carried on to rousing applause.
The multiple hosts of the program have left an indelible mark on the social consciousness of the American audience. Steve Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews, Carnac the Magnificent (in which Carson posed as a psychic) Carson’s introductory golf swing, Leno’s newspaper headlines – all have become part of the legacy left by the show.
“Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless.” – Steve Allen
“If variety if the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam.” – Johnny Carson
“He couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.” – Johnny Carson
“Politics is just show business for ugly people.” – Jay Leno
“I think high self-esteem is overrated. A little low self-esteem is actually quite good. Maybe you’re not the best, so you should work a little harder.” – Jay Leno
Also on this day, in 1540 the Society of Jesus was formed.
September 26, 1687: Venetian forces at war with Ottoman Turks stationed in Athens bomb the area and destroy part of the Parthenon. The Parthenon was built by the ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC as a temple to Athena. The name of the temple probably derives from the name of the monumental statue of Athena Parthenos that was in the eastern room of the building. The “Parthenos” refers to Athena’s virginal and unmarried status.
The Parthenon replaced an older temple that was destroyed by an earlier war with the Persians. The temple was not used only for religious purposes, but like most temples of the time, as a treasury as well. The temple was built on The Acropolis, or raised city, of Athens. It represented the ideal form of civilization with architectural masterpieces erected. The most important of these was the Parthenon.
Measured at the top step, the base of the Parthenon is 228 x 101.4 feet while the inner temple is 97.8 x 63 feet with two tiers of Doric columns. The columns are 31 feet [10.4 m] tall and measure 6.2 feet in diameter. The roof was overlapping marble tiles and needed the columns for support. There were 92 marble panels carved with each side of the building having a theme of various battles by the gods and man.
In the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted to a Christian church. During the Turkish and Venetian war, the Turks were using the building as an ammunitions dump. When it was hit with a Venetian cannonball, the explosion damaged a large portion of the wall and many sculptures. In the 19th century, Lord Elgin removed many more of the marble sculptures and took them to England where they are displayed in the British Museum.
“Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The Parthenon without the marbles is like a smile with a tooth missing.” – Neil Kinnock
“I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to. “– Shaquille O’Neal, when asked whether he had visited the Parthenon during his trip to Greece
“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.” – Constantin Brancusi
Also on this day, in 1774 John Chapman, known to history as Johnny Appleseed, was born.
September 25, 1981: The 102nd Associate Justice is sworn in to the Supreme Court of the United States and Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman to hold the post. Women were granted the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. It was proposed on June 4, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920, ten years before O’Connor was born.
O’Connor sat on the bench for nearly a quarter of a century, retiring on January 31, 2006. She was a moderate conservative and often cast the deciding vote in some of the most highly debated issues of the times. She was said by some to be the most powerful woman in America.
She obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University. She married in 1952 and has three sons. She served in various courts both as attorney and as judge prior to her nomination by President Ronald Reagan to the highest court.
Her time on the bench is difficult to define. She tested each case on an individual basis and strove to come to a practical conclusion. Over the decades, she tended to return power to individual states rather than keep power isolated at a national level. The Court is becoming more multi-cultural with Clarence Thomas being the first African-American Justice. And even though Justice O’Connor has retired, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still on the bench.
“The more education a woman has, the wider the gap between men’s and women’s earnings for the same work.”
“A moment of silence is not inherently religious.”
“It is a measure of the framers’ fear that a passing majority might find it expedient to compromise 4th Amendment values that these values were embodied in the Constitution itself.” (4th Amendment deals with unreasonable searches)
“We pay a price when we deprive children of the exposure to the values, principles, and education they need to make them good citizens.”
“Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom.” – all from Sandra Day O’Connor
Also on this day, in 1997 Andy Green set a land speed record of 714.44 mph.
September 24, 1938: John Donald Budge is the first person to win a Grand Slam in tennis. The term “Grand Slam” refers to winning the four major tennis tournaments in a single year: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. The term was coined by New York Times columnist John Kieran in 1933 when Jack Crawford was one win away from the feat.
The Grand Slam, as defined in one year, has been won by five singles, one junior singles, and three doubles. Steffie Graf not only won all the major tournaments, but also won the Olympic Gold Medal in 1988 making her the only Golden Grand Slam winner. Martina Navratilova won six tournaments in a row, but three were in 1983 and the other three in 1984. Many others have one each of the four main tournaments, but not in the same year.
Don Budge was born in Oakland, California and was the son of a former soccer player. He grew up playing a number of sports. He was tall and slim and his height helped produce one of the most powerful serves of all time. His backhand was also powerful with a touch of topspin added. He grew up playing on hard-court surfaces and had to adjust to grass when he moved east to train for the Davis Cup.
After winning the Grand Slam, Budge moved from amateur status and became a professional tennis player with mostly head-to-head matches. With the advent of the Second World War, Budge joined the US Army Air Force. He spent most of his service time playing exhibition matches for the troops. He injured his shoulder while running an obstacle training course and his tennis game was never again the same. He retired and taught children the game. He died after being involved in an automobile accident.
“Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” – Billie Jean King
“If you see a tennis player who looks as if he is working hard, then that means he isn’t very good.” – Helen Wills Moody
“Why has slamming a ball with a racquet become so obsessive a pleasure for so many of us? It seems clear to me that a primary attraction of the sport is the opportunity it gives to release aggression physically without being arrested for felonious assault.” – Nat Hentoff
“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – Heywood Hale Broun
Also on this day, in 1947 Harry Truman did not form the Majestic 12 group to investigate UFOs.
September 23, 1980: Robert Nesta Marley, Jamaican singer, songwriter, and guitarist plays his last concert. Bob Marley brought reggae music off the island and into the world. His best known songs mix reggae with rock and rhythm and blues music.
Bob Marley was born in Nine Miles in Saint Ann, Jamaica. His father, Norval, was a white Jamaican born to British parents – he was a naval officer and a plantation overseer. He married a black Jamaican woman. Norval provided financial support to his wife and child but saw them rarely. Bob was ten when his father died, forcing his mother and him to move into Kingston’s Trenchtown slum. Because of his mixed heritage, Bob was often bullied and so he learned to defend himself.
Bob became friends with Bunny Livingston, later Bunny Wailer, and they began playing music together. Bob also met Joe Higgs, a local singer and devout Rastafarian – one who believes that Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is the human embodiment of God. Higgs introduced his friends to Peter McIntosh – Peter Tosh. The Wailers formed a group in 1963 and continued together until 1974.
Marley is a legend in the Rastafarian movement. He adopted the dreadlocks and use of marijuana as a sacrament in the late 1960s. He began his shows proclaiming his religious beliefs. He was diagnosed with cancer in July 1977 but refused surgery because he was afraid it would affect his dancing and his belief system stated that the body must remain whole. The cancer spread. His last concert was at Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He died on May 11, 1981.
“Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?”
“Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright”
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!”
“My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever.” – all from Bob Marley
Also on this day, in 1999 a Qantas jet almost crashes.
September 22, 1927: Jack Dempsey loses to Gene Tunney in “The Long Count” heavyweight boxing fight. Dempsey held the heavyweight title from 1919-1926, when he first lost to Tunney. Dempsey was one of the greats, knocking out 26 of his opponents in the first round.
Dempsey lived the life of a celebrity and married a movie star, Estelle Taylor in 1925. He appeared in films and fought rarely in the years leading up to his first match against Tunney.
Tunney, an ex-Marine, was only two years younger than his opponent, but had been fighting regularly. He was fast and skilled and could out-box Dempsey who had lost his timing and reflexes in the intervening years. Dempsey accepted defeat gracefully in 1926, but did consent to a rematch.
Before their bout, a new rule came into play. It was not accurately followed during the fight which was viewed by thousands and gambled on by even more, especially Mobsters. The new rule said that during a knock down, the standing fighter should go to a neutral corner while the timekeeper began the count. The referee took eight seconds to get Dempsey into a corner and only then began the count. Tunney got up at nine and won the fight on points.
The debate remains. Could Tunney have really gotten up without the extra seconds to regroup? Was the referee paid off by those heavily betting on the fight? Ring size was at issue as well, since rather than the usual 16-foot ring Dempsey favored, the fight was held in a 20-foot ring. Tunney held the heavyweight championship title until 1928.
“Honey, I just forgot to duck.” – Jack Dempsey, after losing to Tunney on September 23, 1926
“A champion is one who gets up when he can’t.” – Jack Dempsey
“I zigged when I should have zagged.” – Jack Roper, after losing to Joe Louis on April 17, 1939
“Reporter: [Billy] Conn is going to use plenty [of] footwork, and do lots of running.
Louis: He can run, but he can’t hide.” – Joe Louis
Also on this day, in 1776 Nathan Hale gave his one life for his country.
September 21, 1897: The New York Sun publishes a letter from eight-year-old Virginia asking if there is really a Santa Claus. Dr. Philip O’Hanlon was a coroner’s assistant. He came home from work one day to find his daughter, Virginia, quite upset. Her friends at school had told her that there was no Santa Claus and she wanted her Papa to tell her the truth.
Dr. O’Hanlon, perhaps passing the buck, or perhaps with a then-normal absolute faith in journalism, told his daughter to write to the paper, saying if it was in The Sun, it had to be true. Virginia wrote in and was answered on the editorial page. It is the most reprinted editorial ever published. However, on this date, it was placed far down the page after the newly invented “chainless bicycle” was written up.
Francis Church wrote an answer. Francis and his brother, William, established the “Army and Navy Journal” in 1863 and “Galaxy” magazine in 1866. William owned a newspaper, The New York Sun, and Francis wrote for it. Francis had been a journalist during the Civil War and it was with that background in mind that he answered Virginia.
Knowing the hopelessness and suffering present in the world, especially during war time, Church wanted to show that the world was also a place of love, acceptance, good will, and joy. Taking a child’s plea and giving it an honest response, this is the message he printed, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” His position of hopefulness struck a chord in the hearts of the readers. His message remains the same for children today, celebrating the childlike faith, the poetry, and the romance that make life bearable.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” – Francis Church
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” – Roy L. Smith
“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” – Mary Ellen Chase
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!” – Hamilton Wright Mabie
Also on this day, in 1995 the Milk Miracle visits the Hindu God, Ganesha.
September 20, 1946: The first Cannes Film Festival is held. This was the second attempt of the first Cannes Film Festival. Back in 1939 the festival started with a screening of The Hunchback of Notre Dame but Hitler invaded Poland and The Wizard of Oz, the next film on the agenda, never hit the screen.
There are several important film festivals held yearly. Including Cannes, one is held in Toronto, another in Berlin, and finally one in Venice. At Cannes, the award for best film is the Palme d’Or which translates to Golden Palm. The festival is a showcase for European films and predicts both commercial success as well as critical acclaim.
Because so many movie stars from across the globe come to the festival, usually held in May, it is a breeding ground for new projects. Producers pitch their ideas to a rapt crowds. They also use the time to sell produced work to distributors.
The festival met with some financial setbacks and was not held in 1949 and 1950 due to financial constraints. In 1968 the festival was cancelled on May 15 in a move of solidarity with the striking unions throughout France. The popularity of the event is such that Cannes claims it is “the world’s premier event after the Olympic Games.”
“So, where’s the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?” – Christina Aguilera
“Hollywood may be as American as apple pie, but some of the best – and best-looking – actors and actresses are foreign born. What better way to celebrate the global film community than to go to Cannes with an international sex symbol?” – Shane Evangelist
“It’s almost as if this is going to be the year of adult animation at Cannes. I think they’re competing with us for the maddest film at Cannes.” – Sarah Radclyffe
“Most horror movies are certainly that.” – Brendan Francis
Also on this day, in 1973 Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes.
September 19, 1945: William Joyce is sentenced to death for high treason by the British courts. Joyce was born in NYC in 1906 to an Irish father and English mother who had taken American citizenship. When he was three, his family returned to Ireland to live and when he was fifteen, they again moved to London.
Joyce attended Birkbeck College where he joined the British Fascisti Limited in 1923. During a political protest, he was slashed across the face with a razor. He was kicked out of the Union of Fascists and so founded the National Socialist League in 1937 and then co-founded the British Council Against European Commitment in 1938. He was known as a gifted speaker and a savage brawler. He was committed to the anti-Semitic philosophy and stirred up civil unrest.
By August of 1939, with MI5 intending to detain him, Joyce fled to Germany. He became a naturalized German citizen in 1940. Radio broadcasts of propaganda material was produced in Berlin and broadcast to England. Lord Haw-Haw was the propagandist. Originally that job went to Wolf Mitler, but in 1939 Joyce took over the role. He was given the Distinguished Service Cross signed personally by Adolf Hitler in 1944.
Many Britons listened to Lord Haw-Haw for news of what was happening on the continent. The broadcasts were more of a uniting force for listeners than a psychologically destructive tool. As the Allies closed in, Joyce’s life unraveled. He was drinking heavily. He was captured at the border by British soldiers. He was brought to trial, found guilty of treason, and executed by hanging on January 3, 1946 at age 39.
“Germany calling! Germany calling!” – William Joyce, opening line of Lord Haw-Haw program
“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” – Adolf Hitler
“Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feelings?” – Bertrand Russell
Also on this day, in 1983 Wheel of Fortune began evening broadcasting.
September 18, 1793: George Washington lays the cornerstone for the Capitol Building. In 1790, Congress passed the “Residence Act” which provided for a permanent site for the seat of the national government to be located on the Potomac River by 1800. The land was ceded by Maryland. Pierre Charles L’Enfant was hired to plan the new city.
L’Enfant was also to plan the actual Capitol Building but he refused to produce any architectural plans, saying that he kept the plans in his head. He was dismissed in 1792 and a competition was held for any who wished to submit drawings for the new building. Seventeen plans were submitted, but none were satisfactory. Dr. William Thorton, living in the British West Indies asked for permission to submit plans even though he was past the due date.
Thorton’s plan called for a three sectioned building. The middle section would be topped by a low dome and there would be rectangular wings on the north and south that would house the Senate and the House of Representatives. The plan was accepted on April 5, 1793 with formal approval from President Washington coming on July 25.
With due pomp and circumstance, the cornerstone was laid. The building site was in a wilderness area and it was difficult to get both the sandstone and the laborers to the area. By 1796, all construction was centered on the north wing so that it would be ready for occupancy by the 1800 deadline. Congress, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the District of Columbia court moved in towards the end of 1800 even though many of the third floor rooms were not complete. The building was completed in 1829 – until it was decided to extend it.
“A building is not something you finish. A building is something you start.” – Stewart Brand
“When we build, let us think that we build forever.” – John Ruskin
“Architecture aims at Eternity,” – Christopher Wren
“If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture.” – Oscar Wilde
Also on this day, in 1837 Tiffany & Co. opened for business.