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November 20 in Nerd History
Here are five things that happened on November 20th at the intersection of nerd and pop culture.
Birthdays of honor: Bo Derek (1956), Richard Dawson (1932), Joe Walsh (1947), Joel McHale (1971), Duane Allman (1946), Edwin Powell Hubble (1889), Mike D (1965), Dick Smothers (1939).
Today in 1958 it became officially official when Jim and Jane Henson established Muppets, Inc.
While Jim and Jane saw some success with an innovative take on puppetry on TV in the regional show Sam and Friends — namely, utilizing the television frame to keep puppeteers off-camera instead of podiums or other set pieces — it quickly became clear that they were really on to something.
Originally developed for adults, they expanded their creations and Henson's characters were soon also appearing on talk shows and variety shows, before a big partnership with Sesame Street sent the Muppets into the stratosphere.
In 2004, Disney acquired the company founded on this day 65 years ago from the Henson family, ensuring their legacy will live on for many future generations. Of course, we're still recovering from Kermit and Miss Piggy officially breaking up.
When I was a kid, the Cold War and the threat of the Commies nuking us seemed kind of like an old person's fantasy. That all seemed really far away and kind of silly, and like most kids, things blowing up just kind of sounded cool.
But the fear of an actual nuclear war was actually quite palpable, at least for adults at the time, as evidenced by the popularity of The Day After, the TV movie about the fallout of a nuclear war that aired 40 years ago today on ABC.
It was pretty ugly stuff, but just to cheer folks up there was a message at the end of the movie letting viewers know that in real life things would be much, much worse. Thanks, ABC!
An estimated 100 million people tuned in to see Jason Robards and Steve Guttenberg navigating the immediate aftermath of the conflict — which still holds the record for the most-watched TV movie of all time.
Today in 1992, the world got exactly what it needed — more of Kevin McCallister vs. the Wet Bandits, but this time in New York — when Home Alone 2: Lost in New York hit theaters.
This is truly just a reskinning of the first movie — the kid running amok, the Wet Bandits coming after him, and said kid befriending a misunderstood old person. But it notably introduced the Talkboy, the handheld cassette recorder that Kevin uses to help with his hijinks throughout the movie. It was originally created as a tie-in just for the movie, but went on to become an actual product sold by Tiger Electronics.
I guess even a basic retelling of Home Alone is still pretty cool, as the movie grossed $359 million at the global box office.
When you see a band you love, it's easy to fantasize about what it would be like to be up on stage playing those songs with them. And 50 years ago today, that actually happened when Scott Halpin took the stage with the Who.
On November 20, 1973, the Who were just getting their tour for Quadrophenia going in a suburb of San Francisco. Scott, who studied music and had been in a variety of bands but hadn't played drums in about a year, arrived early to get good seats.
As the show progressed, Keith Moon eventually slumped over the drums and passed out, having imbibed what was described as a mix of ketamine and brandy. After he was briefly revived, he passed out again, leading Pete Townshend to ask the audience, perhaps somewhat in jest, if anyone could play the drums.
Thanks to their great seats, Scott's friend was able to get the attention of security staff, and after a small shot of brandy to calm his nerves, he found himself behind the drumkit on stage with the Who.
Townshend reassured the impromptu drummer and helped lead him through the remaining songs, with Halpin's drumming proving serviceable. He took a bow with the band at center stage at the end of the night.