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Today in History: Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Singer, actress and hostess Helen O’Connell was hired as a “Today” show “Girl” in 1956, and stayed with the NBC morning franchise for two years…Animated holiday special “Frosty the Snowman” first aired on CBS in 1969. Comedian Jackie Vernon was the voice of Frosty; Jimmy Durante was the special’s narrator…On family drama “The Waltons” in 1978, the setting was the day of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 and the family anxiously awaited to hear from Curt, the husband of Mary Ellen (Judy Norton-Taylor), who was stationed in Hawaii…On a star-studded episode of NBC police drama “CHiPs” in 1980, Ponch (Erik Estrada) organized a celebrity fundraiser in Malibu, California after a potentially dangerous rock slide threatened the area’s mansions. Among the celebrity guest stars were Milton Berle and, from “Gilligan’s Island”, Tina Louise…On ABC’s “Three’s Company” in 1982, Jack (John Ritter) opens his bistro for Sunday brunch to impress a local clergyman but, of course, things go haywire…Part one of miniseries  “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna” aired on NBC in 1986. It starred Amy IrvingRex Harrison (in his last performance), Olivia de HavillandOmar SharifChristian Bale (in his first film) and Jan Niklas… MTV’s first game show “Remote Control” hosted by Ken Ober and Colin Quinn debuted in 1987. Throughout its run, it also featured comedians Adam Sandler and Denis Leary and actress Kari Wuhrer. It ran for five seasons through 1990, including a one-season stint in syndication…On NBC’s “Seinfeld” in 1995, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was so concerned her prophylactic of choice was being discontinued, she wondered if her boyfriend (Scott Patterson, pre-“Gilmore Girls”) was “sponge-worthy”…On NBC’s “Friends” in 2000, Monica’s (Courteney Cox) holiday candy was a big hit with the residents of her apartment building but her aim to better socialize with them as a result did not materialize …TNT debuted three notable original series in their respective years: 1) The action comedy “Leverage” starring Timothy HuttonGina Bellman and Aldis Hodge in 2008 (which ran for five seasons and was rebooted for IMDb TV beginning in the summer of 2021); 2) the Peabody Award-winning dramedy “Men of a Certain Age,” starring Ray RomanoAndre Braugher and Scott Bakula, in 2009; and 3) adventure “The Librarians” in 2014 — a series offshoot of the successful cable telefilm franchise — starring Rebecca Romijn and Christian Kane. It ran for four seasons.

“Our Gang” theatrical short “Moan and Groan” was released in theaters in 1929. The logline: Bumbling Kennedy the Cop (Edgar Kennedy) warns the gang to stay away from an old abandoned house in the neighborhood…“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” first movie of the franchise starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy opened in 1979. It set a box office record for the highest opening weekend gross, making $11,926,421 in its first weekend… Tim Burton‘s offbeat comedy “Edward Scissorhands” starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder was released in theaters in 1990. It was Burton’s first film after the 1989 blockbuster “Batman”…The successful remake of 1960 heist film “Ocean’s Eleven” opened in theaters in 2001. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, it starred George ClooneyBrad PittJulia RobertsMatt DamonDon CheadleAndy Garcia and Carl Reiner. Two sequels were produced in 2004 and 2007, and a female offshoot “Ocean’s 8” in 2018.

Otis Redding recorded the single “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” in 1967… Reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas in 1974; “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister in 1985; “Black or White” by Michael Jackson in 1991; “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton in 1996.

Time Magazine readers named Bernie Sanders their “person of the year” in 2015.

The Imperial Japanese Navy with 353 planes attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii, killing 2,403 people in 1941…Apollo 17 launched, the final manned lunar landing mission where the crew takes the famous “blue marble” photo of the entire Earth in 1972…Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down down as the 2019 Oscars host after his history of homophobic statements was revealed.

New York Yankees legendary first baseman Lou Gehrig was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1939, just five months following his retirement…CBS introduced the first-ever “Instant Replay” during the Army-Navy football game in 1963. The game had originally been slated for one week earlier but was rescheduled following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Then-Navy quarterback Roger Staubach would later succeed in professional football, bringing the Dallas Cowboys to four Super Bowls and winning two of them (for the seasons of 1971 and 1977).
Celebrity Birthdays:
Actress Ellen Burstyn (“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”) is 91; Baseball player Johnny Bench is 76; singer Tom Waits is 74; actress Priscilla Barnes (“Three’s Company”) is 69; Hall of Fame basketball player Larry Bird is 67; announcer Edd Hall (“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”) is 65; actor Patrick Fabian (“Better Call Saul”) is 59; actor Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”) is 58; actor C Thomas Howell (“The Outsiders”) is 57; former New York Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez is 56; football Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens is 50; TV host and executive producer Arisa Cox (“Big Brother Canada”) is 45; “UnREAL” star Shiri Appleby is also 45; singer-actress Sara Bareilles (“Waitress”) is 44; actress Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”) is also 44.

Did You Know?
Initially, NBC’s “Today” show featured what it referred to as The “Today Girl,” who discussed lighter topics and reported on weather. Estelle Parsons (known initially as “Women’s Editor”) was the first to hold the job from 1952-55. She was followed by Lee Meriwether (1955-56), aforementioned Helen O’Connell (1956-58), Betsy Palmer (1958), Florence Henderson (1959-60), Maureen O’Sullivan (1964) and Barbara Walters (1964-66)…Sadly, Mary Ellen’s (Judy Norton) husband Curt (Tom Bower) was was killed at Pearl Harbor in that seven season episodes of “The Waltons.” But in a two-part ninth season “Jump the Shark” storyline, Mary Ellen discovered he was alive and living in Florida. Scott Hylands replaced Tom Bower in the role.