The Thing About Today – August 17

August 17, 2020
Day 230 of 366


August 17th is the 230th day of the year. It is Independence Day in Indonesia (which left Japan in 1945) and Gabon (which separated from France in 1960).


In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Nonprofit Day, National Massachusetts Day, National I LOVE My Feet Day!, National Thrift Shop Day, and Black Cat Appreciation Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1560, the Catholic Church was overthrown and Protestantism was established as the national religion in Scotland.
  • In 1863, author and photographer Gene Stratton-Porter was born.
  • In 1882, Jewish Polish American movie producer Samuel Goldwyn was born.
  • In 1883, the first public performance was conducted of the Dominican Republic’s national anthem, Himno Nacional.
  • In 1893,  actress, playwright, and screenwriter Mae West was born.
  • In 1896, Bridget Driscoll became the first recorded case of a pedestrian killed in a collision with a motor car in the United Kingdom.
  • In 1920, Irish-American actress and singer Maureen O’Hara was born.
  • In 1943, actor, entrepreneur, director, and producer Robert De Niro was born.
  • In 1945, the novella Animal Farm by George Orwell was first published.
  • In 1946, director, producer, and screenwriter Martha Coolidge was born.
  • In 1949, English actor, director, screenwriter, and politician Julian Fellowes was born.
  • In 1953, the first meeting of Narcotics Anonymous took place in Southern California.
  • In 1958, Pioneer 0 was launched using the first Thor-Able rocket. It was America’s first attempt at lunar orbit and it failed, but it was notable as one of the first attempted launches beyond Earth orbit by any country.
  • In 1970, Venera 7 was launched. It would later become the first spacecraft to successfully transmit data from the surface of another planet. In this case, it was from Venus.
  • In 1977, the Soviet icebreaker Arktika became the first surface ship to reach the North Pole.
  • In 1998, United States President Bill Clinton admitted in taped testimony that he had an “improper physical relationship” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Later that same day, he admitted before the nation that he “misled people” about the relationship.


In 1930, screenwriter and producer Harve Bennett was born.

As a young boy, Bennett appeared on the radio program Quiz Kids, which introduced him to show business, but by the time he had reached college, the radio business was in decline. As a result, he cast his eyes on the world of film and attended the film school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Following his graduation, he joined the United States Army in 1953 and served in the Military Police Corps. He was honorably discharged two years later and began his career as a production executive at CBS and later ABC, becoming Vice President of Daytime Programming.

His first project was to develop a television series with producer Aaron Spelling called The Mod Squad. After that, he joined Universal Studios where he produced a variety of television series and miniseries. The best known of these series are probably The Six Million Dollar Man (1973–78) and The Bionic Woman (1976-78). He moved from Universal to Columbia to Paramount.

It was at Paramount where he was called to a meeting with then top executives Barry Diller and Michael Eisner, along with Charles Bluhdorn (head of Paramount’s parent Gulf+Western) to discuss the future of Star Trek after the lower than expected results of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He agreed to produce the next film in the series, subsequently screening all 79 episodes of the original television series before settling on a sequel to the episode Space Seed.

Following the success of The Wrath of Khan, Bennett remained to produce the next three films, as well as assist on the sixth film in the series. He declined the opportunity to direct Star Trek VI, and left Paramount shortly thereafter.

Harve Bennett died on February 25, 2015, in Medford, Oregon. His death preceded Leonard Nimoy’s by two days.


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.