1975: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Debuts
Wheel of Fortune is the longest-running syndicated game show in the U.S. airing over 6,000 episodes to date. Merv Griffin conceived the idea for Hangman-type show and pitched the idea to his staff who said that it might work if it had a “hook.” Griffin then thought of adding a roulette wheel to the game and pitched the idea to NBC who liked the idea but thought it needed a shopping element to appeal to women viewers. The pilot was called Shopper’s Bazaar and featured a wheel that spun vertically by the show’s host, which was Chuck Woolery. Some tweaks were made adding Susan Stafford to turn the letters and the show was re-named Wheel of Fortune. Woolery starred on the show’s premiere on this day in 1975 and served on the series until December 25, 1981. Pat Sajak came on board on December 28, 1981 and Vanna White joined him a year later. Sajak stayed with the show through January of 1989 when it was announced that he would be hosting his own late night talk show on CBS. Rolf Benirschke was a short-term replacements (5 months) when the show was cancelled by NBC. Wheel of Fortune then moved to CBS and ran for two years with Bob Goen as host (and the shopping element eliminated) and then moved back to NBC in 1991 for six months before it was cancelled for good. The syndicated version of the show began in September 1983 and has starred Sajak (whose talk show didn’t work out) and White ever since. (Image: Wikimedia)
1994: Skater Nancy Kerrigan is Attacked
One of sport’s most bizarre events happened on this day on January 6, 1994. Just two days before the Olympic trials, American skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked at an ice rink where she suffered a blow from of a club on the back of her knee from a mystery man. Soon, all fingers were pointing to fellow team member, yet professional rival, Tonya Harding. It was soon discovered that Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, set up the attack, hiring two men to do the job. Kerrigan was unable to compete and Harding won the championship assuring her a place at the 1994 Olympics. Later, the attackers both confessed but Harding denied that she was involved with the incident in any way. Then she admitted that she did know of her ex’s involvement of the attack, but failed to tell the authorities. About that same time, the U.S. Olympic officials named Harding and Kerrigan to the team that would compete in Lillehammer, Norway. The committee considered dropping Harding, but she filed a lawsuit to stop that plan. Later at the Olympics, NBC enjoyed high ratings as everyone tuned in to see if there would be more drama on the ice. They were not disappointed. During Harding’s performance, one of her laces broke and she stopped during the middle of her routine. Surprisingly, she was allowed a restart, but finished in 8th place and Kerrigan brought home the silver medal. Back in the mainland, Harding pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution of Kerrigan’s attackers. The whole ordeal was turned into the award-winning movie, I, Tonya in 2017.
National Bean Day?
According to TimeandDate.com, the origin of this unofficial holiday was created to honor scientist Gregor Mendel. Known as the Father of Genetics, Mendel experimented on peas to discover the laws of genetic inheritance.
- 1412: Joan of Arc (martyr and saint)
- 1912: Danny Thomas (actor)
- 1913: Loretta Young (actress)
- 1924: Earl Scruggs (muscian)
- 1925: John DeLorean (founder of DeLorean Motor Company)
- 1944: Bonnie Franklin (actress)
- 1955: Rowan “Mr. Bean” Atkinson (actor)
- 1970: Julie Chen (TV personality)
- 1984: Kate McKinnon (actress)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.