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Your Week in History: Hello test tube baby and goodbye Miss America

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Hank Worden, left, and John Wayne in a screenshot from McLintock!. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Hank Worden, left, and John Wayne in a screenshot from McLintock!. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The SS Andrea Doria the morning after colliding with the HS Stockholm. The ship sank soon after this picture was taken. (Source: U.S. Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons) The SS Andrea Doria the morning after colliding with the HS Stockholm. The ship sank soon after this picture was taken. (Source: U.S. Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons)
Comet Hale-Bopp. (Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons) Comet Hale-Bopp. (Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) – I completely goofed on something last week (the royal baby is still not here).

Oh, if only the royal baby were my only concern. But for the sake of clarification, let me say that I really don't give two hoots about the royal baby. I want it to be here so we can all say how cute it is, regardless of whether that's even true (we can only hope it takes after Kate) and get on with our lives.

No, what I screwed up on was much more egregious - at least in my mind. I didn't even really make a mistake, I just feel like I did. There have been several "events of note" that I have skipped - some intentionally and some not - as well as births and deaths, mostly to keep the article from taking you all week to read, but it wasn't until this week that I felt like I had truly messed up.

I feel that way because I missed something I shouldn't have missed, and can't even explain why.

When looking up stuff for last week's column, I came across the opening ceremony to the Summer Olympics that were held in Atlanta in 1996. The opening ceremony was July 19. The first thing I thought of was Kerri Strug, which I previewed for this week and have discussed in more detail below.

But what completely escaped my mind was Muhammad Ali lighting the torch. If what I had seen had said "Muhammad Ali lights Olympic torch at opening ceremony of 1996 Summer Olympics" this whole diatribe wouldn't be necessary.

But all I saw was the second part of that. There are a few events that I have earmarked for inclusion here, and that was one of them, though admittedly I didn't know the date. I remember watching that on TV and the memory is seared is into my brain, which is why it bothered me so much that I not only didn't include it, but didn't even think about it.

That this was a sports event isn't surprising, because the sources for that information are spotty and incomplete and usually require separate research. So, I'm going to make up for it by including it now and hoping that when September gets here I don't forget about baseball's home run records falling.

Anyway, Ali lighting the torch was a major secret and very few people knew he would be doing it until it happened. I don't think that big of a secret could be kept today. (Also, Gangnam Style was released July 15, 2012, but I think not including it last week was the right decision.)

Here are some of the events of note that happened between July 22 and July 28.

Life and Death

There was a John Wayne movie marathon this weekend. I watched The Cowboys, which is great, The Sons of Katie Elder, which is slightly confusing and takes a long time to get to the good stuff, and McLintock!, which is hysterical and has several people in it who were born this week.

I've always felt McLintock! is underrated. It has some great one-liners ("Don't say it's a fine morning or I'll shoot you"), two great fistfights, a drunken John Wayne repeatedly falling down the stairs and a "world record" that I refuse to believe is possible. You can also watch the whole movie on YouTube.

Perry Lopez was born July 22, 1931. Lopez plays Davey in McLintock!, and despite being a college graduate and the self-proclaimed fastest runner in town, constantly bemoans his station as a store clerk with a dismissive, "Let the Indian do it," despite no one ever saying that to him.

Hank Worden was born July 23, 1901, and plays Curly in McLintock!, one of 16 movies he appeared in with Wayne. One of Jerry Van Dyke's first acting roles was as Matt Douglas Jr. in McLintock!. He is, of course, known for other things like his role as Luther on Coach and a recurring role as Big Jimmy on Yes, Dear.

Other Wayne connections include Walter Brennan, who was born July 25, 1894, and played Stumpy in Rio Bravo. R.G. Armstrong played Kevin MacDonald in El Dorado and died July 27, 2012, and Montgomery Clift died July 23, 1966, and starred with Wayne in Red River.

I love Secretariat almost as much as John Wayne, and Big Red's jockey, Ron Turcotte, was born July 22, 1941. Garfield creator Jim Davis was born July 28, 1945, and Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy (1936) and Monica Lewinsky (1973) were born July 23.

The first baby born from in vitro fertilization, Louise Brown, was born July 25, 1978, in Oldham, England. Brown has a son who was born in 2006, but she was not the first IVF baby to give birth. That distinction belongs to her sister, Natalie, who was born four years later and had a child in 1999.

Kevin Spacey was born July 26, 1959. Spacey never starred with John Wayne in anything, but he can do impressions of people who did, including Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn.

John Dillinger was killed July 22, 1934, after watching a movie. FBI agents got word Dillinger was at a theater in Chicago and waited outside until the movie was over. When Dillinger exited the theatre, he ran into a nearby alley and engaged in a shootout with the agents, which he lost. As always, some people claim it wasn't him who was killed because the eye color of the dead man didn't match Dillinger's.

Ulysses Grant (1885) and Amy Winehouse (2011) died July 23, Martin Van Buren died July 24, 1862, and Bob Hope died July 27, 2003.

Overlooked Anniversaries

Earlier in the year, I discussed the "birthday" of Bugs Bunny. Well, his official debut was July 27, 1940, in A Wild Hare. But this week also marks the debut of Marvin the Martian in Haredevil Hare on July 24, 1948. Marvin is annoying and constantly trying to blow up Earth, but I like him for one reason and one reason only - he's the only cartoon character whose voice I can sort of do (I'm sure other people will disagree with this, but that doesn't stop me from saying it). In his debut, however, his voice was much different than the signature nasally voice he later acquired.

The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Richard Nixon on July 27, 1974, Tennessee was the first state readmitted to the Union on July 24, 1866, a B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building on July 28, 1945, the Senate voted down a proposal to increase the number of Supreme Court Justices on July 22, 1937, the comet Hale-Bopp was discovered July 23, 1995, and New York became the 11th state July 26, 1788. I'll let New York City stay, but I'm not sold on the rest of the state.

The SS Andrea Doria collided with MS Stockholm on July 25, 1956, and sunk the next day. Forty-six people died on Andrea Doria and five died on Stockholm, though George Costanza does not consider this a tragedy. Stockholm is still in service, but is now known as MS Athena. Additionally, more than a dozen people have died trying to scuba dive at the site of the wreckage, which is less than 250 feet below the surface.

Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America on July 23, 1984. I've always wondered what "unable to fulfill her duties" means when it comes to pageant winners, and apparently it means they posed for naked pictures. Williams, who was the first black Miss America and the only winner to resign, had posed for nude pictures before entering the pageant, and 10 months into her reign was forced to resign because they became public and were published in Penthouse. First runner-up Suzette Charles, who is also black, was named the new Miss America. Her reign of seven weeks is the shortest of any Miss America.

The fascist Italian government banned the use of foreign words on July 23, 1929 (before you run off to Google like I did, the word "fascism" has Italian and Latin roots, so it could still be used). Is there anything more ridiculous a government can do than this? This isn't creating a national language or even requiring that everyone speak the same language. This is banning all foreign words entirely. If that happened here, would there even be any English words left? (Bring this up next time you hear somebody call the president a dictator.)

Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested July 22, 1991. I have always been oddly fascinated by serial killers. I briefly alluded to this twice before, but didn't go into detail. I am fascinated with how people can know a serial killer and not know that person is a serial killer, and how the police discover who they are. It further interests me in how they can have the opportunity to arrest them and not know they should.

The latter happened with Dahmer. Two months before he was arrested, two women found an injured boy and called 911, but Dahmer came out and claimed the boy. Police went into his apartment and reported a strange smell, but didn't look into it. Dahmer killed the boy later that night. The strange smell was the body of his previous victim. Another potential victim escaped and waved down a police car, which led to Dahmer's arrest. He had killed 17 people, five of whom were killed between the two incidents.

Something About Sports

Now it's time to talk about Kerri Strug. Her vault to clinch the gold medal is my "Miracle on Ice" moment. I wasn't alive for the real one, but I vividly remember where I was when I saw the vault. For some reason I have always been interested in the Olympics and will watch even the dumbest of sports (curling, anyone?) when it's during the Olympics.

Dominique Moceanu was my favorite of the "Magnificent Seven" because I was the same age she was. She had the chance to secure a gold for the U.S. on the vault, but fell both times. That left Strug with the final chance. As the team's best vaulter, it was a good scenario until she fell on her first vault and injured her ankle. With the score not enough to guarantee a gold medal, she needed another vault and stuck the landing on only one leg. Ironically, the second vault ended up not being needed for the gold.

I remember a friend telling me afterward that he had seen the result on CNN before watching the tape-delayed Olympic broadcast in prime time (sound familiar?). Even before Twitter, there was #NBCFail.

Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France on July 24, 2005, and Floyd Landis won the race July 23 of the next year. I wrote a newspaper headline for the Landis win and it still stands out as one of the few headlines I remember. Armstrong recently said he didn't think the race could be won without cheating, and he might be on to something, because he cheated for his wins and Landis cheated for his, though he blamed it on beer, his body and a conspiracy, among other ludicrous things.

What is perhaps the most famous home run in baseball history was hit July 24, 1983. It's also probably the only home run in baseball history that didn't count, but then did count.

Known as the "pine tar incident," George Brett was called out for having the sticky substance too far up his bat after a two-run home run that gave the Royals a lead over the New York Yankees. With the home run nullified, the Royals went on to lose. That is until three weeks later when, at the behest of American League president Lee McPhail, the game was picked up from that moment, this time with the home run counting, and the Royals won.

The Wall Street Journal recently unearthed the untold story of that game, and it's worth a read.

The Week in Warfare

During the War of Scottish Independence, 6,000 men from the Kingdom of Scotland tried to face off against more than twice as many from England. It didn't go too well. William Wallace and a badly defeated Scottish army retreated after being nearly immediately defeated, mostly through the use of archers.

Braveheart got it horribly wrong.

The Potsdam Declaration was signed July 26, 1945. The official name of the document is the Proclamation Defining Terms of Japanese Surrender. It outlined what the Allied Forces of the U.S., Great Britain and China expected Japan to do in order to avoid further war. It warned that if surrender was not agreed to, Japan would face "prompt and utter destruction."

It was ignored. On the same day, the USS Indianapolis delivered parts for an atomic bomb to Tinian Island.

Holidays You Should Celebrate

In my ongoing effort to provide you with excuses to remember that you forgot high school math, I bring you Pi Approximation Day, which is July 22 (7/22 or 22/7) because Pi, which is 3.14, is approximately 22 divided 7.

If that requires too much thought, July 23 is Vanilla Ice Cream Day, which is pretty straightforward. But if you celebrate, be aware that other people might be judging you.

Preview of next week

Jimmy Hoffa disappears.

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