September 20th in nerd history: 50 years ago, someone stole a musician's body

Happy National Queso Day! Now that's what I call a holiday. Wait, what's that you say? it's also National Fried Rice Day? Son of a... anyone ever tried fried rice with queso poured on top? I'm game.

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September 20 in Nerd History

Here are five things that happened on September 20th at the intersection of nerd and pop culture.

I.

Birthdays of honor: George R.R. "Finish the Damn Book" Martin (1948), Sophia Loren (1934), Jon Bernthal (1976), Upton Sinclair (1878), Red Auerbach (1917), James Dewar (1842).

II.

It's always awkward these days bringing up Bill Cosby, but there ain't no way around it: Today in 1984 The Cosby Show premiered on NBC.

It was an absolute monster of a sitcom, almost singlehandedly reviving the genre and claiming the number one spot in the ratings for five consecutive years. It ran for 8 seasons and 201 episodes, inspired countless terrible impressions of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, and I'm assuming sent sales of ugly sweaters through the roof.

Moviestillsdb.com

III.

The Huxtables were so big they needed their own section, but we're about to hit you with even more TV premieres.

Remarkably, on the exact same day that The Cosby Show premiered, the Tony Danza-starring Who's The Boss? also hit the airwaves (albeit for ABC). What a day for television, and what a day for me personally, as it marked the beginning of my crush on Alyssa Milano. Me and Star-Lord, apparently.

It ran for 8 seasons, was consistently rated in the top 10 for primetime shows, and still runs in syndication. Sadly, we never did learn who the boss actually is.

In 1987, the oft-overlooked My Two Dads debuted on NBC, starring Paul Reiser, Greg Evigan, and Staci Keanan. It's a zany comedy where two men who could have both been the dad seek custody of their potential daughter after her mother passes away. Two single dudes in their prime plus a tween girl is clearly a recipe for laughs.

And before you ask why they didn't just do a paternity test — well, in theory, yes, they should have started with that, but there is an episode where a test is taken. The daughter doesn't want to know, and ultimately the only person who sees the results is the judge, who destroys them before anyone else finds out what they say.

The show ran for three seasons.

Moviestillsdb.com

And finally, in 1976 The Captain and Tennille variety show debuted. It proved to be much less popular or enduring than all the other shows that premiered on September 20th, lasting just one season.

IV.

50 years ago today, in 1973, one of the strangest stories in music you'll ever hear took place.

Gram Parsons, the legendary singer-songwriter and traveling musician who essentially invented alt-country, had passed away from an overdose a day earlier. But according to the story, Parsons had coincidentally recently confided in his road manager, Phil Kaufman, that when he died he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread at Joshua Tree National Park.

Wikimedia Commons

After Parsons was pronounced dead at the hospital, Kaufman and Parson's assistant Michael Martin concocted a plan to carry out those wishes. They showed up in Martin's personal Cadillac Hearse (convenient he owned one, I guess?), and posed as mortuary workers. Since there was no computer system in those days, everyone apparently just shrugged and said "Seems legit", and released the body.

The pair then drove Parsons' body, lying in a casket, to Joshua Tree, drinking the entire way and even getting into some fender benders, and then proceeded to light the casket on fire once they reached the park.

This is real, folks.

Local campers saw the smoke and reported it to authorities, which led to them apprehending the duo of bodysnatchers and recovering the partially charred remains of one of the most influential musicians of the '60s and '70s. The body was returned to the family and ultimately buried in New Orleans. Kaufman and Martin essentially had to pay all the funeral expenses and were let off with a suspended sentence.

V.

As they traveled to the desert with their friend's dead body in the back, one has to wonder whether the pair from the story above tuned into one of the biggest sporting events in popular culture history, which took place on the same day: the so-called Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973, 50 years ago today.

Bobby Riggs had been a top player in his day, and for whatever reason he decided that meant he should complain about how inferior the woman's game was when the 1970s rolled around — even claiming that at his current age of 55 he could beat any of the best female players currently on the circuit.

Clearly someone out there knew this could become a big publicity draw that would also mean some serious money, so Riggs actually went out and started challenging players. King initially declined, so instead he went up against Margaret Court, who was just returning to the game after having her first child. Riggs won handily, which sent his crap-talking into the next stratosphere.

King finally accepted his challenge, resulting in a spectacle that was watched by over 90 million people worldwide and still holds the record for most-attended tennis match in the U.S. But clearly Billie Jean King, who was ranked no. 2 in the world among women players at the time, had come with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She decimated Riggs in straight sets, forcing him to drop his comedic demeanor and play harder, which didn't help him one bit.

All hail the King.​