August 20, 1920 -
The first commercial radio station begins operating in Detroit, Michigan with call sign 8MK (Now WWJ (Newsradio 950) ). The radio station was started by The Detroit News newspaper and is now owned and run by CBS.
To celebrate the event, today is National Radio Day. UNESCO formally announced the formation of International Radio Day in February of 2012 (celebrated February 13th), after a suggestion put forward by Spain to celebrate this important means of communication. In some parts of the world, radio still remains an important lifeline to the outside world.
August 20, 1941 -
William Wyler's pitch-perfect adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, starring Bette Davis, premiered on this date.
Bette Davis was a contract player for Warner Brothers at the time, earning $3000 a week. When she heard how much Warners was receiving for her services she demanded a share of the payment.
August 20, 1942 -
An almost forgotten comedy from Columbia Pictures, Talk of The Town, directed by George Stevens starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman, premiered on this date.
The studio originally shot two different conclusions to the film -- one where Cary Grant gets the girl, and one where Ronald Colman wins Jean Arthur's affections. The film ends with both Leopold Dilg (Cary Grant) and Nora Shelley (Jean Arthur) in Washington, to see Michael Lightcap (Ronald Colman) take his rightful place on the judicial bench. Although Nora winks at the judge, she races after Dilg for a film-ending embrace in the hallway of the US Supreme Court building.
Today in History:
August 20, 1865 -
In the great tradition of the American presidency, President Andrew Johnson rouses himself from an alcoholic stupor,
August 20, 1885 -
Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, The Mikado opened at the Fifth Street Theatre in New York on this date.
The production originally opened on March 14, 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances.
August 20, 1940 -
Soviet Professional Leon Trotsky liked his job, but the strain was wearing on him — dictatorial burnout. In the summer of 1940 he finally used some of the vacation time he'd accumulated to head down to Mexico and think through his options.
On this date, in Mexico City, Trotsky met with one of Stalin's human resources representatives, who suggested he take an early retirement.
The suggestion was accompanied by several persuasive blows to the head with an axe, which seriously impeded Trotsky's growth potential. Sadly, he died the next day before he could sue for damages.
August 20, 1948 -
... There's nothing worse than a bunch of jaded old farts, and that's a fact....
Robert Anthony Plant CBE, button phobia rock singer and songwriter, was born on this date.
August 20, 1977 -
NASA bizarrely decided to go into the record business. Scientists, not quite understanding the record industry, press only one record but make it out of gold, believing that the unaffordable price will boost profit. The record is nearly unlistenable except for the recording of the Chuck Berry song, "Johnny B Good". NASA decided to hide this costly blunder by including the recording in the payload of the space probe Voyager 2, launched on this date, on a mission to Jupiter and beyond. (This will confused the aliens when they realize that NASA launched Voyager 1 on September 5, 1977.)
The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, and thunder, and animal sounds, including the songs of birds and whales. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earthlings in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General (and ex-Nazi) Kurt Waldheim. Remember these facts when the aliens come to invade the planet. It passed Jupiter in the summer of 1979, and is still traveling, probably right out of our solar system .
August 20, 1986 -
US Postal worker Patrick Sherrill shot and killed 14 coworkers, and then himself, on this date.
August 20, 1989 -
The two Menendez brothers, Lyle and Erik, shot their parents to death on this date and then went to the movies to establish an alibi. They called 911 when they returned home from the movies to report the murders.
Though they weren't initially suspected, the two brothers ultimately were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
On August 20, 1991, the Estonian parliament declared independence from the Soviet Union.
The next day, Latvia declared its independence from the Soviet Union and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared he was back in full control after a 60-hour coup by old-school Communists finally crumbled.
Full control of exactly what?
And so it goes.
Before you go - Today's quiz:
What did Vincenzo Perruggia steal on August 21, 1911?
b. Home plate
c. The Mona Lisa
d. The Sistine Chapel
e. The Hope Diamond
Bonus: what was his day job?