Today is Friday, Sept. 21, the 265th day of 2012. There are 101 days left in the year.
On Sept. 21, 1912, magician Harry Houdini first publicly performed his so-called “Chinese Water Torture Cell” trick at the Circus Busch in Berlin, escaping after being immersed upside-down in a vertical water tank, his ankles secured in a set of stocks which made up the tank lid, which was locked into place.
On this date:
In 1792, the French National Convention voted to abolish the monarchy.
In 1893, one of America’s first horseless carriages was taken for a short test drive in Springfield, Mass., by Frank Duryea, who had designed the vehicle with his brother, Charles.
In 1897, the New York Sun ran its famous editorial, written anonymously by Francis P. Church, which declared, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
In 1912, legendary cartoon animator Chuck Jones was born in Spokane, Wash.
In 1937, “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien, was first published by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London.
In 1938, a hurricane struck parts of New York and New England, causing widespread damage and claiming some 700 lives.
In 1948, Milton Berle made his debut as permanent host of “The Texaco Star Theater” on NBC-TV.
In 1962, “The Jack Paar Program,” a weekly, prime-time show that followed Paar’s stint on “The Tonight Show,” began a three-year run.
In 1970, “NFL Monday Night Football” made its debut on ABC-TV as the Cleveland Browns defeated the visiting New York Jets, 31-21.
In 1982, Amin Gemayel, brother of Lebanon’s assassinated president-elect, Bashir Gemayel, was himself elected president. National Football League players began a 57-day strike, their first regular-season walkout ever.
In 1987, NFL players called a strike, mainly over the issue of free agency. (The 24-day walkout prompted football owners to hire replacement players.)
In 1989, Hurricane Hugo crashed into Charleston, S.C. (the storm was blamed for 26 directly-caused U.S. deaths). Twenty-one students in Alton, Texas, died when their school bus, involved in a collision with a soft-drink delivery truck, careened into a water-filled pit.
Ten years ago: A defiant Iraq said it would not abide by a U.N. resolution imposing new conditions in the weapons inspections issue or threatening war. Israel planted its flag in Yasser Arafat’s West Bank compound and threatened to blow up his offices in an effort to make the Palestinian leader surrender militants or leave into exile. Angelo Buono Jr., whose gruesome killing of young Los Angeles women in the 1970s earned him the nickname “Hillside Strangler,” died in a California prison; he was 67. Miss Illinois Erika Harold was crowned Miss America at the pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.
Five years ago: One student was mortally wounded, another injured, at Delaware State University. (A suspected gunman was indicted for second-degree murder, but the case was dismissed by a judge because prosecutors withheld evidence.) The Rev. Rex Humbard, whose televangelism ministry once spanned the globe, died in Atlantis, Fla., at age 88. Tony Award-winning actress Alice Ghostley died in Los Angeles at age 83.
One year ago: Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two Americans jailed in Iran as spies, left Tehran for the Gulf state of Oman, closing a high-profile drama that brought more than two years of hope and heartbreak for their families. The state of Texas executed Lawrence Russell Brewer for his role in the gruesome dragging death of James Byrd Jr. The state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, who used his last words to declare his innocence in the killing of police officer Mark MacPhail. Alternative rock group R.E.M. announced on its website that it had “decided to call it a day as a band.”
Today’s birthdays: Actor Larry Hagman is 81. Poet-songwriter Leonard Cohen is 78. Author-comedian Fannie Flagg is 71. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is 69. Musician Don Felder is 65. Author Stephen King is 65. Basketball Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore is 63. Actor-comedian Bill Murray is 62. Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye is 61. Rock musician Philthy Animal is 58. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is 55. Movie producer-writer Ethan Coen is 55. Actor-comedian Dave Coulier is 53. Actor David James Elliott is 52. Actress Serena Scott-Thomas is 51. Actress Nancy Travis is 51. Actor Rob Morrow is 50. Retired MLB All-Star Cecil Fielder is 49. Actress Cheryl Hines is 47. Country singer Faith Hill is 45. Rock musician Tyler Stewart (Barenaked Ladies) is 45. Country singer Ronna Reeves is 44. Actress-talk show host Ricki Lake is 44. Rapper Dave (De La Soul) is 44. Actor Rob Benedict is 42. Actor James Lesure is 41. Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is 41. Actor Luke Wilson is 41. Actor Paulo Costanzo is 34. Actress Autumn Reeser is 32. TV personality Nicole Richie is 31. Actress Maggie Grace is 29. Actor Joseph Mazzello is 29. Rapper Wale is 28. Actors Nikolas and Lorenzo Brino are 14.
Thought for today: “The crisis of yesterday is the joke of tomorrow.” — H.G. Wells, English author (born this day in 1866, died 1946).