The Thing About Today – April 2

April 2, 2020
Day 93 of 366

 

April 2nd is the ninety-third day of the year. It is World Autism Awareness Day, an official health-specific United Nations day designed to bring attention to autism, research about it, and acceptance of those affected by it.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Ferret Day, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, National Reconciliation Day, and National Burrito Day. That last one is typically observed on the first Thursday in April.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León first sighted land in what is now the United States state of Florida. Somehow, we later got a natural spring and a street named after him in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed, thus establishing the United States Mint.
  • In 1800, Ludwig van Beethoven led the premiere of his First Symphony in Vienna.
  • In 1805, Danish novelist, short story writer, and poet Hans Christian Andersen was born.
  • In 1875, Walter Chrysler was born. He was the businessman who founded the Chrysler car company.
  • In 1900, the United States Congress passed the Foraker Act, which granted Puerto Rico limited self-rule.
  • In 1902, the “Electric Theatre” opened in Los Angeles, California. It was the first full-time movie theater in the United States.
  • In 1911, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted the country’s first national census.
  • In 1912, the RMS Titanic began sea trials.
  • In 1914, actor Alec Guinness was born. Among other great roles, he portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first three Star Wars films.
  • In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked the United States Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.
  • In 1920, Jack Webb was born. The actor, director, producer, and screenwriter was well-known for his role as Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet.
  • In 1939, singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye was born.
  • In 1947, singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris was born.
  • In 1956, As the World Turns and The Edge of Night premiered on CBS. The two soap operas became the first daytime dramas to debut in the 30-minute format.
  • In 1962, actor Clark Gregg was born.
  • In 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C.
  • In 1972, actor Charlie Chaplin returned to the United States for the first time since being labeled a communist during the Red Scare in the early 1950s.
  • In 1973, the LexisNexis computerized legal research service was launched.
  • In 1977, actor Michael Fassbender was born.
  • In 1991, Rita Johnston became the first female Premier of a Canadian province. She succeeded William Vander Zalm after his resignation as Premier of British Columbia.

 

Fitting for the day after April Fools’ Day: In 1941, radio host and satirist Dr. Demento was born.

Barry Hansen gained his Demento persona in 1970 while working at Los Angeles station KPPC-FM. He played “Transfusion” by Nervous Norvus on the radio, and station DJ “The Obscene” Steven Clean said that Hansen had to be “demented” to play it.

The name stuck.

His weekly show went into syndication in 1974 and was syndicated by the Westwood One Radio Network from 1978 to 1992, and continued in various markets until June 6, 2010. It has since entered the online market and continues weekly production.

The son of an amateur pianist, he started his vast record collection at age 12, a collection that now exceeds 85,000 units. He worked as Program Director and General Manager of KRRC radio in college, eventually earning a master’s degree in folklore and ethnomusicology.

Known for his love of novelty and parody music, he is credited with introducing new generations of listeners to artists such as Harry McClintock, Spike Jones, Benny Bell, Yogi Yorgesson, Stan Freberg, and Tom Lehrer. He also brought “Weird Al” Yankovic to national attention. In 1976, the good doctor spoke at Yankovic’s school, and Yankovic gave a self-recorded tape of comedy songs and parodies to him. The first song, “Belvedere Cruisin'”, about the family station wagon, was featured on the show. Positive listener response encouraged Yankovic to keep recording, leading Dr. Demento to fund Yankovic’s first EP, Another One Rides the Bus. Events led to a record deal and pop chart success in the 1980s and beyond, and Demento has appeared in a number of Weird Al’s music videos and his movie UHF as a result.

Dr. Demento has been inducted into both the Comedy Music Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

 

 

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