Jim Henson created worlds of wonder with his groundbreaking Muppets and creature designs. We remember Henson’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
Jim Henson created worlds of wonder with his groundbreaking Muppets and creature designs. Using felt, table-tennis balls, and other mundane materials, Henson constructed unforgettable characters such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. His Muppets were a part of the first season of “Saturday Night Live” and continue to make childhood magical for children all over the world on his hugely popular “Sesame Street.” Through the Jim Henson Co., he made a series of Muppet films and built creatures for movies like “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.” He died suddenly of a streptococcal infection, leaving behind decades of unfinished projects in addition to the legacy of wonder his career became. We remember Henson’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1952: Mark Sandman, U.S. singer and guitarist who was the frontman for the alternative band Morphine, is born in Newton, Massachusetts.
1948: Phil Hartman, Canadian actor, comedian, and screenwriter who was on “Saturday Night Live” for eight seasons and starred on “NewsRadio,” is born in Branford, Ontario.
Famous since his eight-year run on “Saturday Night Live,” the Canada native was at the height of his career in 1998. He was working on projects like “The Simpsons” and “NewsRadio,” preparing to voice the goofy spaceman Zapp Brannigan on “Futurama,” thinking about creating a live-action movie about his “Simpsons” character Troy McClure, and more. His sudden, tragic death – killed by his wife in a bizarre murder-suicide – left his friends and fans shocked and baffled. Read more
1942: Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the British Invasion band Gerry and the Pacemakers, is born in Liverpool, England.
1941: Linda McCartney, U.S. photographer and musician who was the wife of Paul McCartney and was a member of his band Wings, is born in New York, New York.
Paul was determined that Wings wouldn’t just be the backup band for his recognizable name and voice (despite the fact that the band came to be called Paul McCartney & Wings). From the start, he encouraged his bandmates to contribute to songwriting and vocals. Though Linda only sang backup and played keyboards on the first Wings album, she recorded lead vocals on a song she wrote for the band’s second album, 1973’s “Red Rose Speedway.” Her “Seaside Woman” was scrapped from the final version of the album, and it languished unreleased until 1977 (when it would be released under the band name Suzy and the Red Stripes). Read more
1941: John Mackey, U.S. NFL player who won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts in 1971, is born in New York, New York.
1936: Jim Henson, U.S. puppeteer who created the Muppets, is born in Greenville, Mississippi.
While still in high school, Henson began working for a local television station in Maryland, creating puppets for a Saturday morning children’s show. During college he created a five-minute puppet show called “Sam and Friends” for the local NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. It was on this show that Kermit the Frog made his debut in 1955. The earliest version of Kermit was created using a turquoise ladies coat Henson’s mother had discarded. Two table-tennis balls were used for the eyes. Kermit goes by several different names around the world. In Portugal, he’s “Cocas.” In Latin America, “René.” In Spain, he goes by the name “Gustavo.” Read more
1931: Anthony Newley, English singer-songwriter who co-wrote the music for “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” is born in London, England.
1930: John Young, the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space shuttle flight, is born in San Francisco, California.
1918: Audra Lindley, U.S. actress who played Mrs. Roper on “Three’s Company,” is born in Los Angeles, California.
For the first three seasons of “Three’s Company,” Lindley played the frustrated but friendly landlady to Jack Tripper and crew. She wore a lot of muumuus, frequently took her husband to task for his inattention, and helped “the kids” upstairs hide their unconventional living arrangement. When Lindley and her TV husband, played by Norman Fell, left “Three’s Company” for the short-lived spinoff “The Ropers,” we sure missed them. Read more
1912: Don Porter, U.S. actor known best for playing Gidget’s father on TV’s “Gidget,” is born in Miami, Oklahoma.
1900: Ham Fisher, U.S. cartoonist who created the comic strip “Joe Palooka,” is born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald, U.S. author who wrote classic novels including “The Great Gatsby,” is born in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Fitzgerald was confident of his work, and when he wrote it, he was hoping to write the Great American Novel. Though contemporary sales for “Gatsby” weren’t what he hoped they’d be, he was rewarded almost immediately with a silent-movie adaptation released in 1926, just a year after the novel. Unfortunately, the film didn’t fit with his vision of his great work. In fact, Fitzgerald is reported to have called it “rotten.” As is the case with many early movies, no complete print of the film survives – just its original trailer. Read more
1893: Blind Lemon Jefferson, U.S. blues singer and guitarist whose songs include “Matchbox Blues” and “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” is born in Coutchman, Texas.
1871: Lottie Dod, English tennis player whom the “Guinness Book of Records” names as the most versatile female athlete of all time, is born in Bebington, England.
Dod was just 11 when she entered her first tennis tournament, competing alongside her sister against adult women in doubles. The Dods won the Consolation Tournament and a reporter noted, “Miss L. Dod should be heard of in the future.” The world didn’t have long to wait. At 15, she became the youngest woman ever to win the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Championship. That was in 1887, and her record stands to this day. Read more