May 29, 1903
Bob Hope is born near London and immigrates to Ohio when he’s four (his father has a bridge named after him in Cleveland). Song and dance comedian. The Big Broadcast of 1938 and “Thanks for the Memories.” Co-stars with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour more times than he can count. Lived to be 100 because, he emphatically claimed, “I get a massage every day, sometimes two.”
May 29, 1913
Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring has its world premiere at a theatre in Paris. Choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. Dancers provided by Sergei Diaghilev. Public riot provided by the audience. “You call that music? You call that ballet? You call that art? Let’s scream so loud, the dancers can’t hear the music. Let’s throw punches and fall into the orchestra pit.” And they do. Forget the synopsis and structure, conception and composition, The Adoration of the Earth and The Sacrifice. “Hot-diggity-dog,” Igor exclaims backstage with this thick Russian accent, rubbing his hands in uncharacteristic joy. “It’s a hit!”
May 29, 1917
John F. Kennedy is born near Boston. Rich and Irish. Harvard and WWII. PT-109 and Pulitzer Prize. Congressman, Senator, President, Philanderer. Jackie and Marilyn. Camelot and Bay of Pigs. Dallas’ grassy knoll. Oswald’s magic bullet. You know the rest.
May 29, 1942
John Barrymore is rushed to a Los Angeles hospital after collapsing during an appearance on Rudy Vallee’s radio show. His body can’t decide if it should succumb to liver failure, kidney disease, heart ailments, or pneumonia. “Hey, John, hurry up and take your pick,” the body whispers. He responds in anger: “Die? I should say not; no Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen.” At 10 PM, the conventional thing happens.
May 29, 1953
Edmund Hillary, professional beekeeper, becomes the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. His trusty Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay (the perfect Jeopardy! answer) gives him a hand. A few years later, he decides to visit the bottom of the world and participate in the first crossing of Antarctica by vehicle. He wasn’t afraid of the earth’s top and bottom, but he couldn’t bring himself to propose to his future wife, so he asked his future mother-in-law to do it for him. Just keeping it in the family.
May 29, fill in the year
A skinny kid is born in Cleveland’s Slavic ghetto. He grows up to be a hyphenated American. The son of immigrants, he can’t pronounce his English diphthongs without breaking into a sweat or an impression of Jimmy Durante. “Come to my room in half an hour and bring some rye bread,” he says to the silent Ukrainian girl next door. Much to his surprise, she does, fixing lunch and breaking his bed in the process. “Sweet Jesus,” he echoes his mother’s prayer whenever she crosses the busy intersection of Union and Broadway. “What a country!”