This Day in Pop Culture for December 31

NYE in New York

1907: The First NYE Ball Drop

The very first Waterford crystal ball drop was held in New York on this day in 1907 where the ball was lowered on the roof of One Times Square signaling the beginning of the New Year. The ball itself weighs 11,875 pounds and is rather plump with a 12-foot diameter. About a million spectators brave the weather each year to watch the ball makes its 70 feet journey down a pole. The annual event was first broadcast on radio in 1928 and on CBS television from 1956 to 1976 with Guy Lombardo and his band performing at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The other large broadcast of the event is still covered by Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC.

1740: Watchnight Services

Although many churches offer candlelight services on Christmas Eve, similar services known as Watchnight or Watchnight Mass are often held on New Year’s Eve by Moravians, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans and Pentecostals. It provides a time for Christians to take a look back on the year that they had just finished allowing time for confession and then praying for the following year. In 1740, John Wesley (the founder of the Methodist Church) offered these services as an alternative to drunken activities of the day. In 1862, many African-American slaves gathered in churches waiting to hear news of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln which began the following day.

1972: The First ‘New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

It’s hard to believe, but Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has been a staple since this day in 1972. When the NBC special began, it was meant to be used as counter programming (with a younger audience) to the Guy Lombardo special which was shown on CBS. The first edition of the show was called Three Dog Night’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1973 and was hosted by the band and featured acts by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Helen Reddy and Al Green. The second edition of the special featured a shorter name (just New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1974) and was hosted by George Carlin with musical performances by The Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt and Tower of Power. Then the special switched networks to ABC where Clark assumed the role as host for Chicago’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1975. Meanwhile, Lombardo’s special continued on even after his death in 1977 but stopped airing after 1979. In 2004, Clark suffered a stroke and Regis Philbin stepped in to serve as host. The following year, Clark was back but with a speech impediment, so Ryan Seacrest jumped in to serve as co-host. Then, the show mostly became Seacrest’s with Clark making limited appearances until 2012. Today, the special continues to honor Clark with live broadcasts from Times Square in New York, Hollywood and New Orleans. Created by Dick Clark Productions, ABC has rights to the special through at least 2024.

Movies Released

  • A Most Violent Year (2014)

TV Series Debuts

  • Divorce Court (1957)

Famous Birthdays

  • 1869: Henri Matisse (painter)
  • 1878: Elizabeth Arden (businesswoman)
  • 1937: Antony Hopkins (actor)
  • 1943: John Denver (singer)
  • 1943: Ben Kingsley (actor)
  • 1947: Tim Matheson (actor)
  • 1948: Donna Summer (singer)
  • 1958: Bebe Neuwirth (actress)
  • 1959: Val Kilmer (actor)
  • 1965: Nicholas Sparks (author)
  • 1972: Joey McIntyre (singer)
  • 1995: Gabby Douglas (Olympic gymnast)

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