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This Day in Pop Culture for January 7

Gene Autry

1950: ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is a Hit…Twice

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started as a giveaway storybook written in 1939 for Montgomery Ward department stores. Robert L. May from the company’s marketing department came up with the story. More than two million copies of the book went out to customers, but most of the world was still unaware of this reindeer until ten years later when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, put the story to music. Harry Brannon was the first to sing the song, but it was Gene Autry’s version that is the most famous. At first Autry rejected the song, but his wife talked him into recording it. It sold more than two million copies in its first year and became the first #1 song on the U.S. pop charts this week in 1950. It is also known as the only chart-topping song to fall completely off the charts after making the #1 spot. Ironically, the same original song landed on the Billboard Hot 100 list landing in the #27 spot on December 22, 2018! (Image: Wikimedia)

1982: ‘Fame’ Comes to TV

Partially sponsored by Yamaha musical instruments which were featured prominently during the show, Fame was based on the 1980 motion picture of the same name. Debuting on this day in 1982, the show followed the lives of students and teachers at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. The fictional school was based on the very real Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York.

Four of the movie’s characters and stars also appeared on the show including introverted Bruno Martelli (Lee Curreri), dancer Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray), the German music teacher Benjamin Shorofsky (Albert Hague) and dance instructor Lydia Grant (Debbie Allen). Allen was also the show’s original choreographer and directed many of the episodes.

The series won a number of Emmy awards, and in 1983 and 1984, was voted the Golden Globe Awards: Television, Best Series, Musical/Comedy. Critics raved about the series when it debuted on NBC, but the lack of ratings caused the network to cancel the show after two seasons. However, the show was picked up for syndication for four more seasons.


  • 1912: Charles Addams (cartoonist)
  • 1948: Kenny Loggins (singer)
  • 1956: David Caruso (actor)
  • 1957: Katie Couric (TV journalist)
  • 1964: Nicolas Cage (actor)
  • 1970: Doug E. Doug (actor)
  • 1971: Jeremy Renner (actor)

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Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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