Happy 75th Birthday to the comedian, writer, voice actor, musician, and producer Harry Shearer, who was born to Jewish immigrants in Los Angeles. As a 7-year-old, he won a role on the Jack Benny show and he became a writer and cast member on Saturday Night Live between 1979 and 1985. Shearer also co-created, co-wrote and co-starred in the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap, a satirical rockumentary, which became a cult hit. In 1989, he joined the cast of the beloved animated sitcom The Simpsons, providing the voices for characters including Mr. Burns, and a dozen others. (1943)

Shearer has also released five solo comedy albums, authored of a novel, and has directed documentaries.

MORE Good News on This Day:

  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore was first published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel—arguably the best-known poem written by an American, and largely responsible for modern Santa Claus lore (1823)
  • The transistor was first demonstrated (1947)
  • The first human kidney transplant was performed (1954)
  • 82 crew members of the U.S. Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after capture (1968)

And, on this day in 1986, The Voyager landed after 9 days, becoming the first airplane to fly non-stop around the world without refueling—setting a world record that remains unchallenged today.

voyager-rutan-aircraft

It was envisioned and sketched on the back of a napkin by brothers Dick and Burt Rutan, of the Rutan Aircraft Factory, and Dick’s girlfriend Jeana Yeager at lunch in 1981. With a cockpit the size of a bathtub, Dick and Jeana piloted the aircraft at an average altitude of 11,000 feet, peeing in a bag along the way. Essentially a flying fuel tank, the lightweight aircraft was built in the Mojave dessert over five years, mainly by a group of volunteers, and narrowly achieved lift-off from Edwards Air Force base’s longest runway.

“I didn’t think they’d make it,” recalled Burt who followed in a chase plane for a time. The 25,000-mile circumnavigation of the globe set one of aviation’s last milestones in nine days, three minutes and 44 seconds—and Burt was among tens of thousands of cheering spectators awaiting their arrival back at Edwards.

Also, on this day in 1972, the 16 survivors of the Andes flight that crashed into mountains finally secured help, ending two months of desperation on a frigid glacier.

All of the passengers eventually succumbed to the survival tactic of eating their dead comrades—a decision not taken lightly, but rationalized as their only means of staying alive. Rugby player Nando Parrado’s account of the tragedy—and his 10-day trek to find help—was detailed in a book called, Miracle in the Andes. A description of the book says: “Nando, an ordinary young man with no disposition for leadership or heroism, led an expedition (with his friend Roberto Canessa) up the treacherous slopes of a snow-capped mountain and across 45 miles of frozen wilderness in an attempt to find help.”

“I tried to learn from the experience, changing my life dramatically. says Parrado, now a speaker, media producer, and businessman.

(WATCH the trailer of the film, I am Alive, below)

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