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)

1948: UFO Sighting Causes Crash

On this day in 1948, Godman Army Airfield at Fort Knox, Kentucky was given a report from the Kentucky Highway Patrol that an unidentified flying object was flying overhead. It was said to have been circular and stretched about 250-300 feet across. The UFO was described by Sergeant Quinton Blackwell, who saw the UFO from a control tower, reported that it appeared to remain stationary for about an hour and a half before flying off. It was then that Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, was sent to pursue the potential vehicle. The U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book states that Mantell pursued the object in a steep climb but didn’t follow instructions to level the plane. That resulted in the pilot blacking out due to a lack of oxygen and the plane crashing to the ground. As news spread about the incident, rumors were spread that Mantell was attacked by aliens or that the UFO was actually a Soviet missile. Some stories stated that Mantell was shot numerous times while others said that his body was missing completely. It was later highly suspected that Mantell was chasing a Skyhook balloon, which at the time was a top-secret project that many people were unaware of. However, the incident only cemented the idea into people’s heads that UFOs could actually be real.

1982: ‘Fame’ Comes to TV

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 critics raved about it when it debuted on NBC, but the ratings were dismal. Fortunately, the show was picked up for syndication for four more seasons.

Movies Released

  • Country Strong (2011)
  • The 355 (2022)

TV Series Debuts

  • Empire (2015)
  • Fame (1982)
  • Go Big Show (2021)
  • Meet the Browns (2009)
  • Mr. Mayor (2021)
  • Shades of Blue (2016)
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (2020)

Famous Birthdays

  • 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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