1939 — Betty Grable stars in “Million Dollar Legs”

“Million Dollar Legs” was not a subtle film. Its poster showed only Grable (and her expensive lower appendages), and its 65 minute running time featured few scenes in which she wore anything other than hot pants. Grable appeared in the film with her husband, Jackie Coogan, but the experience was not a good one, and the two divorced later that year after the film flopped upon its July 14 release.

Grable actually announced her retirement from show business at that point, but was wooed back at a bigger studio and wound up becoming a greater star than ever before. Coogan went on to play Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family”.

Referenced in:
The Thanksgiving Song — Adam Sandler

1960 – Jane Goodall arrives at the Gombe Stream Reserve

In 1960, no one knew who Jane Goodall was, or how she would revolutionise our ideas about chimpanzee behaviour and intelligence, and by extension, about human behaviour. When she arrived at Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, she was 26 year old best known as a protege of Louis Leakey who had worked with him at Olduvai Gorge in the late Fifties.

Over the course of more than five decades now, Goodall has devoted herself to scientific research and to ecological activism, but in 1960, no one could have imagined the important figure that Jane Goodall would become. Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine the field of chimpanzee studies without her.

Referenced in:

Jane — Stevie Nicks

2003 – Valerie Plame is outed as a spy

In one of the more astonishing displays of the Bush Government’s belief that it was above the law, Valerie Plame Wilson was exposed as an agent of the CIA by journalist Robert Novak of the Washington Post. In the fine tradition of Woodward and Bernstein, Novak subjected secret information he had obtained to the utmost scrutiny before deciding to publish it in the national interest.

I’m kidding, of course. Novak was a stooge for Richard Armitage at the State Department, who leaked classified information to Novak for what appear to have been two purposes: one, to prejudice the trial of Scooter Libby, a Bush White House staffer whose criminal trial was a great embarassment to the administrationl and two, to demonstrate to Plame and her fellows at the CIA, who had placed reporting the truth about Iraqi weapons plans above the desires of the administration for a casus belli.

That’s right: the United States government deliberately exposed one of its own secret agents, ending her career and endangering the covers of other agents, pretty much from infantile pique that this woman had the unmitigated gall to do her job properly, instead of in ways that were politically convenient for it. Not since Job has loyalty and trust been so unjustly repaid.

Referenced in:

Valerie Plame — The Decembrists

1881 – Billy the Kid is killed by Pat Garrett

Billy the Kid – better known to history as William H. Bonney, although his real name was actually Henry McCarty – was actually something of a non-entity in his lifetime. Although he claimed to have killed 21 people, one for each year he was alive, it’s likely he killed less than half that number.

He was betrayed and killed by Pat Garrett under circumstances which are still a matter of debate. In fact, Billy wasn’t even famous until a year after his death, when his killer Pat Garrett published a sensationalistic biography titled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. This was what made Billy famous. He became a legend of the Old West, later fighting Dracula and traveling through time.

Referenced in:

Billy the Kid – Marty Robbins
Return of the Gunfighter – Marty Robbins
The Skies of Lincoln County – Dave Starney

Okay, so he didn’t really travel through time or fight Dracula. The movies where he did are not that much more historically inaccurate that Pat Garrett’s book (which was, admittedly, ghostwritten).