1966 — The first “Star Trek” episode is broadcast

Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

With these words, one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time was inaugurated. “Star Trek” may have had its flaws, but its vision of a future in which all sentients of good will worked for the common good was an appealing one. From the humble beginnings of a first season that was still trying to figure out what it was, “Star Trek” grew to become a media behemoth, made the people who acted in it stars of the screen, and exerted a great influence over our culture.

As Spock might put it, it lived long and prospered.

Referenced in:
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers

1980 – Dorothy Stratten is murdered

Dorothy Stratten was a former Playboy playmate of the year, and an up-and-coming actress at the time of her death. Her meteoric rise to stardom had been ridden for all it was worth by her husband, Paul Snider, but the couple had separated at Stratten’s behest. Snider despaired, seeing his chance for easy money (and possibly) the woman he loved. Stratten was by now in a relationship with director Paul Bogdanovitch, and the two planned to marry after her divorce was finalised.

On the afternoon of August 14, 1980, Stratten came to meet Snider at the house they had previously shared. At about 11pm, when Snider’s worried roomate broke down the door to his room, he found the pair both nude and shot dead – Stratten murdered and Snider a suicide. Police believe that Snider may have raped Stratten before the murder, and that he abused her corpse afterwards.

Referenced in:

Dead Meat — Bush
Cover Girl — Prism
Nick Cave Dolls — Bongwater
Flower Grown Wild — Bryan Adams
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Best Was Yet To Come — Bryan Adams

1976 – David Bowie releases the album “Station to Station”

David Bowie’s tenth studio album was a transitional work. It built on the funk and soul of his previous album, Young Americans, while moving toward the more krautrock-influenced sound of the so-called ‘Berlin Trilogy’ that was his next three albums (Low, “Heroes” and Lodger). It also introduced his last great character, ‘The Thin White Duke’.

The best-known song from the album in Golden Years, a plastic soul number that was the first recorded track for the album, but the album as a whole is a critical and popular favourite in Bowie’s career. Ironically, it also marks the high point of Bowie’s cocaine addiction and fascination with Nazism, and Bowie himself has described it as soulless.

Referenced in:
Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk
Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

1977 – “Star Wars” premieres

It all started out pretty humbly: George Lucas, a filmmaker with one hit and one interesting failure (American Graffitti and THX-1138, respectively), was able to leverage his success into a reasonably large budget for the time (about $8 million in 1976 dollars), and make a fantasy with scifi trappings inspired by his love of action movies and serials from the past.

Star Wars (as it was originally titled – both the Episode IV and the A New Hope are later additions) riffed off classic Westerns (the cantina sequence), World War Two dogfight movies (the Death Star assault), martial arts movies (the Force training sequence), Flash Gordon serials (in general) and, of course, Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.

It would go on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, second only to Gone With The Wind (in inflation-adjusted figures), spawn five sequels and any number of spin-offs, and make scifi mainstream in a way it had never been before. Along with Jaws, it also helped to create the blockbuster-obsessed culture of Hollywood’s last three and a half decades.

Referenced in:

Bicycle Race — Queen
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers

1990 – Kurt Cobain commits suicide

To his fans, and most other people for that matter, he must have seemed on top of the world. Why wouldn’t he? He was the lead singer and songwriter of Nirvana, the leader and figurehead of the Grunge movement (the reigning style of music and fashion), and considered as important culturally as Lennon or McCartney had been.

But Lennon and McCartney didn’t suffer from depression. Stardom seemed an unwanted distraction for Cobain – it was certainly an unwanted pressure. We may never know exactly what pushed him over the edge into absolute despair, but something did. Likely factors – most of which were exacerbated by his depression and its other symptoms, even while they too were symptoms – include Cobain’s drug use, his physical weariness after a long tour and bouts of illness, the sad state of his marriage to Courtney Love, and his long term depression.

His body was discovered on April 8, 1990. He had shot himself after taking a large dose of heroin (and possibly some diazepam) and writing a suicide note. The coroner later estimated that he had died on April 5. He was survived by his wife and daughter, his bandmates in Nirvana, the Grunge movement, and a number of urban myths that he had been murdered.

Referenced in:

Let Me In — REM
About a Boy — Patti Smith
Mighty K.C. — For Squirrels
Innocent — Our Lady Peace
Sleeps with Angels — Neil Young
You Were Right — Badly Drawn Boy
Too Cool Queenie — Stone Temple Pilots
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions

1960 – Construction of the Hollywood Walk of Fame begins

Another manifestation of Hollywood’s love affair with itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – you know, all those stars set in the concrete of Hollywood Boulevard (and Vine Street, for the overflow) – was originally conceieved of in the 1950’s. Construction began on February 8, 1960, and the first star was completed a little over a month later.

However, the project soon fell into disuse, and after 1960, no more stars were awarded until 1968, when the Walk of Fame fell under new management. Today, there are more than 2400 stars in the Walk, with 20-30 new ones added each year. Qualifying for a star means satisfying a number of strict criteria, the strictest of which is that you (or whoever nominates you) must pay US $25,000 to the committe that runs the Walk.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame was intended to a tourist trap – I’m sorry, a tourist attraction – and it has become this.

Referenced in:

Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers