January 16, 1945: Hitler Moves into Underground Bunker

On this day in 1945, German dictator Adolf Hitler moved into his underground bunker to remain in Berlin for the last siege of the European conflict of World War II. The bunker would be his residency until his suicide on April 30 of that year.

On this day in 1945, German dictator Adolf Hitler moved into his underground bunker to remain in Berlin for the last siege of the European conflict of World War II. The bunker would be his residency until his suicide on April 30 of Hitler Bunker Briefingthat year.

The bunker was 55-feet below Hitler’s headquarters and included 18-small rooms, including two furnished ones for him and his mistress Eva Braun. Over the next three and half months, Der Fuhrer would rarely leave the bunker, devoting his time to micromanaging the war effort and entertaining guests.

Although it has been lampooned on YouTube in every conceivable way, those wanting a glimpse of life in the bunker should check out “Downfall,” a German film starring Bruno Ganz as Hitler. This excellent film portrays the German dictator and his cronies as fully-dimensional – and despicable – people at the end of their rope and captures an aspect of the War that is rarely covered in cinema.

January 15, 1939: First Pro Bowl is Played

On this day in 1939, the New York Giants beat a team of National Football League all-stars 13-10 in the first-ever Pro Bowl. The game was played at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field.

On this day in 1939, the New York Giants beat a team of National Football League all-stars 13-10 in the first-ever Pro Bowl. The game was played at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field.

Developed by Washington Redskins Owner George Preston Marshall and sponsored by Los Angeles Times Charities, this first Pro Bowl pitted the league champion against its all-stars. The Giants had won the league championship a month earlier with a 23-17 win over the Green Bay Packers. The All-Stars featured Sammy Baugh, the NFL’s top players and five members from two independent Pacific coast teams.

According to The Coffin Corner, the game was “typical of football in the 1930’s, punting on third down, scoring teams receiving the following kickoff, and a few breaks deciding the outcome of the game.”  All that being said, it was probably a better game than the Pro Bowls we see today.

The Pro Bowls continued until 1942, when they were discontinued because of travel restrictions during World War II. The game was revived in 1950 as a true all-star game, pitting the best from the American Conference against the finest of the National Conference and has remained in place since then.

January 14, 2004: Ron O’Neal Dies

On this day in 2004, actor Ron O’Neal died of pancreatic cancer. He is best remembered for the lead role in 1972’s “Superfly,” the story of a drug dealer who wants out of the business and will take out any member of the syndicate who stands in his way.

On this day in 2004, actor Ron O’Neal died of pancreatic cancer. He was 66 years old.

O’Neal is best remembered for the lead role in 1972’s “Superfly,” the story of a drug dealer who wants out of the Superflybusiness and will take out any member of the syndicate who stands in his way. It is the role he should be associated with, as the film is an iconic piece of an American cinema thanks to O’Neal’s performance and a Curtis Mayfield score to match the movie’s star.

This career-making role would turn out to be career-defining as well. “The experience left me upset,” he said in a 1979 interview with The Times. “Controversy served to obscure my performance, which was not an easy thing to pull off. Outside New York, people assumed I really was a hustler. ‘Superfly‘ took me from relative obscurity, but I haven’t been offered that many roles since.”

O’Neal turned down offers to appear in blaxploitation flick spoof “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka,” and “The Return of Superfly,” but performed in numerous television series including The Equalizer, A Different World and Hill Street Blues and would appear in supporting roles in many films in the 1980s and 90s. His role in the World War III actioner “Red Dawn,” had him playing a Cuban colonel assisting in a Soviet-led communist invasion of the United States. His performance had him speaking only Russian and Spanish and consisted of facial expressions showing the ambivalence of a commander trying to do his duty but coping with the fact that he is killing civilians. O’Neal revealed in a video interview that his voice was dubbed by a Cuban actor. The fact that it is difficult to tell is a testament to his talent.

Ironically, O’Neal passed away on the same day that “Superfly” was released on DVD. If you haven’t rented it, you should, for it is an amazing performance from the actor, even if it did typecast him.

January 13, 1942: Henry Ford Patents Plastic Car

On this day in 1942, Henry Ford patented a plastic-bodied automobile. The vehicle, known as the “Soybean Car” because the vegetable was part of the plastic’s composition, was a thousand pounds lighter than a typical steel car.

Soybean Car

On this day in 1942, Henry Ford patented a plastic-bodied automobile. The vehicle, known as the “Soybean Car” because the vegetable was part of the plastic’s composition, was a thousand pounds lighter than a typical steel car.

According to the Benson Ford Research Center, Ford had several reasons for creating the car, a major one being of shortage of metal thanks to World War II. The auto pioneer also believed that plastic panels would make the car safer than steel ones and that it would be able to roll over without being crushed.

Ford had unveiled that car on August 13, 1941, at “Dearborn Days,” a community festival in Dearborn, Mich. The frame of the car was made of steel tubes with 14 plastic panels attached to it. Reports vary on the chemical make-up of the plastic. While it is confirmed that soybeans were part of it, one report also said that the formula included wheat and hemp as well (the car has also been referred to as the “Hemp Car”).

The Soybean car was shown again at the Michigan State Fair later in 1941, but its swan song would be the issuance of the patent. When the U.S. entered World War II, auto production was suspended. As a result, Ford abandoned the project and when the war ended, the company focused its energy on the recovery effort.

January 12, 1997: King of the Hill Debuts on Fox

On this day in 1997, “King of the Hill” debuted on the Fox Network, beginning a 13-season run. The show, which centered around the antics of proud propane salesman and Texan Hank Hill, his wife Peggy, son Bobby, and his zany friends, would end up becoming the third-longest running prime time animated series. Only “The Simpsons” and “South Park” have lasted longer.

King of the Hill

On this day in 1997, “King of the Hill” debuted on the Fox Network, beginning a 13-season run. The show, which centered around the antics of proud propane salesman and Texan Hank Hill, his wife Peggy, son Bobby, and his zany friends, would end up becoming the third-longest running prime time animated series. Only “The Simpsons” and “South Park” have lasted longer.

Creator Mike Judge, best known at the time for “Beavis and Butthead” (which is much wittier than generally credited for), said in a “Making of” documentary that his original idea was to have Hank be as crazy and misguided as the rest of the characters. However, he found it made for a much better show having Hank be the most normal character and exacerbating all of the other characters’ eccentricities, i.e. Dale being a crazy right-winger, Peggy thinking she’s great at everything, etc.

That change resulted in a show that masterfully blended cartoonish humor, biting commentary and morality play, and what I believe is the modern-day “Andy Griffith Show.” Seriously, the idea is not as far as off as you think; moral southerner plays straight man as his family and friends get in crazy jams. That being said, Hank did not have the sense of humor or self-awareness of Andy Taylor.

There are 258 episodes of the “King of the Hill,” but if these ten don’t leave you with a smile on your face, then you need to stop taking yourself so seriously.

  1. The Order of the Straight Arrow (Season 1): Hank and the boys take their kids on a camping trip and reminisce over their youth, prompting the line “When I grow up, I want to sell propane and propane accessories, if my grades are good enough!”
  2. Junkie Business (Season 2): Hank accidentally hires an unapologetic drug addict at Strickland Propane and federal law prevents him from taking action until he comes up with an ingenious plan.
  3. Jon Vitti Presents: ‘Return to La Grunta’ (Season 3): In this episode about sexual harassment, Luanne goes to work at a country club where she finds herself ogled by the jackass golfers. Meanwhile, Hank has an unpleasant encounter with a dolphin.
  4. Love Hurts and So Does Art (Season 3): Liverwurst or being able to walk? That’s the decision Bobby is faced with when he becomes addicted to deli food and comes down with gout.
  5. A Fire-fighting We Will Go (Season 3): When one of them accidentally burns down the firehouse, Hank Bill, Dale and Boomhauer each tell their own version of what happened in this hilarious take on “Rashomon.”
  6. Ho Yeah (Season 5): Peggy unwittingly befriends a prostitute and before long, Hank becomes her unsuspecting pimp. Renee Zellweger guest stars.
  7. Returning Japanese (Season 6): In this two-part episode, Hank takes his World War II vet father, Cotton, back to Japan and learns some shocking news. David Carradine guest stars.
  8. Reborn to Be Wild (Season 8): Bobby joins a youth group and experiences a newfound excitement for Christianity, but Hank is skeptical. It’s hard to write an episode about being “on fire for the Lord,” with a message that everyone can appreciate, but this show manages to do it.
  9. A Rover Runs Through It (Season 9): The Hill family travels to Montana to visit Peggy’s family, Bobby doesn’t quite understand how to find all the answers in nature and Hank engages in a land war with Henry Winkler.
  10. To Sirloin with Love (Season 13): The show fittingly ends with Hank and Bobby finally being able to bond on… something.

 

 

January 11, 630: Muhammad Conquers Mecca

On this day in 630, the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, led an army of 10,000 Muslims to conquer the city of Mecca (in present-day Saudia Arabia). Mecca would soon become the center of Muslim pilgrimage.

On this day in 630, the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, led an army of 10,000 Muslims to conquer the city of Mecca (in present-day Saudia Arabia). Mecca would soon become the center of Muslim pilgrimage.

At the time, the city was ruled by the Pagan Qurayish tribe who persecuted Muhammad and his Islamic followers once he began to preach his new religion. This resulted in a conflict that lasted several years but was a halted by a brief ceasefire from 628-630. However, the Qurayish then broke the peace and attacked and killed a group of Muslims, prompting Muhammad to gather up 10,000 men and finally conquer the city.

Victorious, Muhammad declared Mecca, which also happened to be his birthplace, the holiest site in Islam and the center of Muslim pilgrimage.

January 10, 1982: The Catch

On this day in 1982, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 in the NFC Championship, thanks to a touchdown pass from Joe Montana that was seemingly pulled out of the air by Dwight Clark with 58 seconds left. The play, simply known as “The Catch,” was captured in one of the most iconic photographs in NFL history and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week.

The Catch

On this day in 1982, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 in the NFC Championship, thanks to a touchdown pass from Joe Montana that was seemingly pulled out of the air by Dwight Clark with 58 seconds left. The play, simply known as “The Catch,” was captured in one of the most iconic photographs in NFL history and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week. The 49ers would go on to win Super Bowl XVI two weeks later with a 26-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and begin their 20-year dynastic run.

Gary Myers excellent book, “The Catch,” argues that the game and its decisive play represented the beginning of the 49ers dominance in the 1980s and the 90s and the end of the Cowboys reign under head coach Tom Landry that began in the late 1960s. Myers does concede that this hypothesis doesn’t wrap up neatly in a bow as the 49ers went 3-6 in the following strike-shortened season and Dallas made the NFC Championship game again, losing to the Washington Redskins. Both teams, however, did begin their respective trajectories in 1983. By the end of the 1988 season, the 49ers had won a third Super Bowl and Landry had been fired. Who knows how things would have been different if that pass had sailed over Clark’s head?

A couple of points that are forgotten about this game are the fact that the 49ers had to overcome six turnovers and that the Cowboys still had 51 seconds to set up a field goal after the 49ers go-ahead touchdown. On the ensuing drive, Cowboy quarterback Danny White hit Drew Pearson with a beautiful pass up the middle. Had it not been for a game-saving tackle by 49er cornerback Eric Wright, Pearson would have scored and “The Catch” would be all but forgotten.

January 9, 2006: Howard Stern Debuts on Sirius

On this day in 2006, Howard Stern debuted on Sirius, ending his 20-year run at WXRK (K-Rock) and taking satellite radio to a new a level.

On this day in 2006, Howard Stern debuted on Sirius, ending his 20-year run at WXRK (K-Rock) and taking Howard Sternsatellite radio to a new a level.

According to USA Today, technical glitches delayed Stern’s debut by 20 minutes (music was played during the delay), but then Stern appeared and quickly found his groove. The hoopla surrounding his move to a radio station not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission was whether he would use profanity like a guest on The Jerry Springer Show. However, Stern was tame compared to expectations, but he and his team did use 172 swear words throughout the four-hour broadcast.

Seven years later, Stern, his cast, crew and interviewees use the f-word and others as they please and it makes for a better show and interviews with celebrities. The self-proclaimed “King of All Media” has said that he has tried to create a show that is similar to friends chatting in a bar and people cuss when they’re having frank conversations in bars.

While Stern and Sirius disagree on how just many listeners he brought to the Sirius, both concur that his move added at least two million subscribers.

January 8, 1835: National Debt Has a Balance of Zero

On this day in 1835, the U.S. national debt had a balance of zero for the first and only time in history.

On this day in 1835, the U.S. national debt had a balance of zero for the first and only time in history. Due in part to efforts by President Andrew Jackson’s administration to rein in spending, the U.S. paid off a debt that it had been accumulating since the Revolutionary War.

Unfortunately, our country’s period of financial peace did not last long and within five years the national debt was steadily rising again.  The national debt is now more than $16 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Public Debt to the Penny Report. Given the lack of leadership we saw just last week, it’s highly unlikely that it will ever have a balance of zero ever again.

January 7, 1964: Nicholas Cage Born

On this day in 1964, actor Nicholas Cage was born Nicholas Kim Coppola in Long Beach, CA. The nephew of Francis Ford Coppola changed his name early in his career to set his own reputation, and by 20, already had a
starring role in “Racing with the Moon.”

On this day in 1964, actor Nicholas Cage was born Nicholas Kim Coppola in Long Beach, CA. The nephew of Francis Ford Coppola changed his name early in his career to set his own reputation, and by 20, already had a dreamstime_xs_25372383
starring role in “Racing with the Moon.”

After standing out in the 1980s and early 90s by playing quirky, often funny, characters, Cage won the Academy Award in 1995 for “Leaving Las Vegas.” The award helped him transform into a bona fide action movie star and Cage has remained a leading man ever since.

Cage often makes two to three movies a year, possibly due to his reported lavish spending habits. Some are good and some are bad, but it may be impossible to see all of them. Here are five essentials.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans: Top cop Cage hurts his back and goes on a painkiller-fueled, hellacious odyssey through post-Katrina New Orleans. His journey is pitiful and depraved, yet you still want him to survive. That says more about the performance than the state of society.

Honeymoon in Vegas: Cage initially stood out as an actor with edgy performances that made audiences laugh. His performance as a man who loses a card game and his forced to let his girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker) spend the weekend with a gambler (James Caan) shows that talent at its zenith.

Face/Off: Director John Woo’s Hong Kong action movies walked the fine line between epic and absurd and were held in place by performances like Chow Yun Fat’s in “The Killer.” For Woo’s only American movie that closely resembled the style and feel of his Hong Kong exploits, that anchor was Cage, who made audiences believe that he could go from psychopathic terrorist to moral federal agent via surgical procedure.

Raising Arizona: “Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” Enough said.

Leaving Las Vegas: Cage’s Oscar-winning performance is also his best as he plays an alcoholic who goes to Vegas with the sole purpose of drinking himself to death. To prepare for the role, Cage would record himself drunk. It paid off with a performance that stays with you more than 15 years after seeing it.