On this day 35 years ago, Michael Jackson’s Thriller video premiered in Los Angeles. He wanted John Landis as his director (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places) after seeing “An American Werewolf in London”. The video, filmed around Los Angeles, contains a spoken word performance by horror film star Vincent Price. The resulting 14-minute film revolutionized the music video industry forever. On the set watching at various times were Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The red jacket, designed by Landis’s wife, fetched $1.8 million at a 2011 auction from Texan gold trader Milton Verrett. WATCH the Making of Thriller…. (1983)
After a week of opening for Disney’s Fantasia at a single cinema in L.A., MTV showed it to the world on December 2nd. The Thriller video created a buying frenzy for the album, which was released a full year earlier, with Jackson’s label Epic reportedly shipping a million copies a week in its immediate aftermath.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Judas Maccabaeus restored the Temple in Jerusalem – The first Hanukkah (164 BC)
- Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer whose pointed social criticism satirizing French nobility and advocating freedom of religion and separation of church and state, landed him in prison for a year, but also spurred leaders of the American Revolution, was born (1694)
- Rebecca Felton became the first woman US Senator (1922)
- Ella Fitzgerald, at age 16, debuted as a singer at the Apollo Theater (1934)
- Toy Story, the first computer-generated feature film, was released (1995)
- Florida’s Supreme Court affirmed that votes in the presidential recount should continue to be tallied (2000)
- NATO invited Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to become members (2002)
On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison unveiled what became his favorite invention—a machine that could record sound—and called it the phonograph.
At his New Jersey lab he wrapped a piece of tin-foil around a cylinder and shouted into one side while turning a crank. A needle vibrated against the foil with his voice and carved a line into the foil, which could be played back by a needle moving over the grooves a second time. Cylinder recordings on wax were the first records and Edison eventually switched to disks on platters. He improved his “talking machine” continually over the next 50 years.
And, on this day in 1941, the first broadcast of the live radio blues program King Biscuit Time aired, the longest running daily radio show in history, which inspired blues musicians like B.B. King, Robert Nighthawk, and James Cotton.
Originating each weekday from KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, the 30-minute lunchtime show was the only station that would play music by African-Americans, and it reached a wide audience in the Mississippi Delta region. Sponsored by the local brand of flour, King Biscuit Flour, the show’s debut featured Sonny Boy Williamson II playing live in studio—its 17,000th broadcast aired in 2014. (Unrelated, a weekly rock radio concert show debuted in the 1970s, calling itself The King Biscuit Flower Hour.)
And, Happy Birthday to Goldie Hawn, who turns 73 today. The actor, director, and producer is known for her roles in TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and films like Shampoo, The First Wives Club, Bird on a Wire, and Cactus Flower, for which she won the 1969 Oscar for best supporting actress.
It was her role as producer and star of Private Benjamin that broke the glass ceiling in Hollywood, proving films produced by women and solely starring women can be blockbusters. For the last decade, instead of acting, Hawn has focused on family, and her nonprofit Foundation’s MindUP program, which provides education programs for youth intended to improve student performance through mindfulness training. Check out her 2012 book, 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children–and Ourselves–the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives. (1945)