Wednesday, December 16, 2020

More useless Christmas trivia

Other things to occupy your mind with other than COVID-19 - Candy canes originated in Germany

The National Confectioners Association says a choirmaster in Cologne, Germany back in 1670 originally gave the candies to young children to keep them quiet during long church services. Grandmas who still dole out sweets during droning sermons, you've got history on your side. An alternative theory suggests the hook was invented simply to make the candy sticks easier to hang on Christmas trees. These, however, are folktales with little evidence to back them up. The first documented case of candy canes occurred in 1847 when a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small blue spruce tree with the candy.

December 16, 1938 -
MGM released its film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, on this date.

Even though the film is based on the book the film adds different twists from the novel and most other film versions. In this film Fred is more of a supporting character rather than being a minor character. Bob is sacked by Scrooge in this film. And in the end Scrooge rehires Bob and makes Fred his new partner.

December 16, 1951 -
NBC-TV debuted Dragnet in a special preview on Chesterfield Sound Off Time on this date. (The show began officially on January 3, 1952.)

The series opener ran in real time, and it contained several clock-on-the-wall shots to keep track of time. The story starts with the police frantically trying to meet a 26-minute deadline to satisfy the demands of a terrorist. The show ran for 26 minutes, excluding commercials.

December 16, 1959 -
20th Century Fox releases the Jules Verne science fiction classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Pat Boone, James Mason and Arlene Dahl,on this date.

Fox gave the green light to this big-budget CinemaScope production partially due to the success of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. As with those earlier films, the heavy cost proved to be a good investment, resulting in a big hit at the box office.

December 16, 1962 -
David Lean's epic (in ever sense of the word) bio-pix of T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins and Omar Sharif premiered in the US in NYC on this date.

This movie was banned in many Arab countries as they felt Arab historical figures and the Arab peoples were misrepresented. Omar Sharif arranged a viewing with President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt to show him that there was nothing wrong with the way they were portrayed. Nasser loved the movie and allowed it to be released in Egypt, where it went on to become a monster hit.

December 16, 1965 -
One of the classic cold war thrillers, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, starring Richard Burton, premiered in the US on this date.

Author John le Carré worked for British Intelligence MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s and worked in Berlin where this movie is partially set. Le Carré was there when the Berlin Wall was being constructed. Le Carré drew on this real-life experience when he wrote the novel of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The novel is set about a year after the Berlin Wall was built.

December 16, 1966 -
The first Jimi Hendrix' first single Hey Joe is released on this date.

The slow version that inspired Hendrix to record this came from a folk singer named Tim Rose, who played it in a slow arrangement on his 1967 debut album and issued it as a single late in 1966. Rose was a popular singer/songwriter for a short time in the Greenwich Village scene, but quickly faded into obscurity before a small comeback in the '90s. He died in 2002 at age 62.

December 15, 1971 -
Frank Zappa's '200 Motels' film opened at London's Piccadilly Classic Cinema in the UK. The film which also featured Ringo Star, covers a loose storyline about The Mothers of Invention going crazy in the small town Centerville.

The role of Jeff was originally intended for Mothers bassist Jeff Simmons, who quit the group just before filming. As a replacement, Frank Zappa hired Wilfrid Brambell, who walked off the set in a rage a few days later. During a crew meeting, Zappa announced that he would give the part to the next person who walked into the room. Martin Lickert, Ringo Starr's chauffeur, was cast when he walked in with a pack of cigarettes for Starr.

December 16, 1971 -
Don McLean's eight-minute-plus version of American Pie was released and became one of the longest songs to ever hit the pop charts.

If you prefer the clip with Don singing in it, here you go.

Kids, use the song as the Cliff Notes (Shmoop, if you prefer) for what happened during the 60s (do they still print Cliff Notes?)

December 16, 1972 -
Soul singer Billy Paul's single, Me and Mrs. Jones hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts on this date.

This was written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Carey Gilbert. Gamble and Huff formed a famous songwriting team that helped define the Philadelphia Soul sound of the '70s. Gilbert, also known as "Hippy," is a lyricist who often teamed with Gamble and Huff, and worked on hits for The O'Jays, Lou Rawls and many others.

December 16, 1975 -
The groundbreaking sitcom (for it's time) One Day At A Time starring Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli premiered on this date.

In the original pilot, Ann (Bonnie Franklin) had only one daughter (Mackenzie Phillips). Executives weren't happy with the results; a new pilot was shot with Valerie Bertinelli added as the second daughter. Mackenzie Phillips (Julie) and Valerie Bertinelli (Barbara) were actually the same age. Phillips was taller and wiry, while Bertinelli was round-faced and looked like the younger of the two, so Phillips was cast as the older sister.

December 16, 1977 -
Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta, went into general release on this date.

Oh John, what a long strange trip it's been since that polyester shirt.

Production had to be briefly halted so that John Travolta could attend the funeral of his girlfriend Diana Hyland. The couple had earlier appeared in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, their only ever joint venture. It was Hyland who encouraged Travolta to take the role of Tony Manero.

The movie was originally called Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night, the title of the New York Magazine article that inspired it. The film's title was ultimately shortened to Saturday Night, as a direct reference to the fact that Tony (John Travolta) and his friends inhabited 2001 Odyssey on Saturday nights. However, when The Bee Gees submitted the soundtrack, one of the songs, Night Fever, was thought to embody the film's spirit better than the original. Director John Badham added the word "Saturday" and it replaced the original title.

Our final guest programmer

Today in History:
December 16, 1773 -
The Boston Tea Party took place 247 years ago today.

A group of young colonists, dressed as Native Americans, stormed a few British ships in Boston Harbor and tossed their tea cargo overboard in protest of the British insistence that Americans ride their horses on the left-hand side of the street. While this is often remembered as a defining historical moment in the development of our proud nation, it should not be forgotten that Boston Harbor was for a long time one of our most polluted waterways.

I equally deplores the ecologically disastrous precedent set by these hotheaded young good-for-nothings, and their demeaning depiction of Native Americans as savage, tea-hating polluters. Also please do not confuse the Tea Party with Tea Baggers - two very different things although men wearing short skirts figure prominently in both of them.

December 16, 1950 -
President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency, after Chinese troops enter the fight with communist North Korea in the Korean War.

With all the business going on in the world in the intervening 70 years, the order is still in effect, one of four current states of national emergency granting extraordinary powers to the President.

What the hell were we thinking?

December 16, 1965 -
NASA was in a piss-proud mood. Days before, Gemini 6 (Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra, space cowboys aboard) and Gemini 7 (Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, rocket men aboard) had successfully rendezvoused in space. Just before Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra were about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, on this date, they radioed Mission Control with their startling sighting:

"We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit.... Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon.... You just might let me pick up that thing.... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit."

Wally and Tom do something even more startling; they break out in a chorus of Jingle Bells, accompanying themselves with a small harmonica and tiny small bells. The pair become the first men to perform Christmas carols from space. NASA, of course, was not amused having to pay the ASCAP fees.

December 16, 1985 -
What were you doing 35 years ago - I left work, cut through a parking garage in the middle of the block and walked passed the limos in front of Sparks Steak House on the next block on this date.

John Gotti was looking to improve his position with IBM (the Gambino crime syndicate.) He had his boss Paul Castellano ventilated outside Spark's Steak House in Manhattan.

John and Paul are long gone but I, occasionally, get to visit my old office.

And so it goes


No comments: