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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20, 1970

Sometimes when I try to come up with topics for the Tuesday Timeline portion of the blog, I sometimes stumble upon a topic that I call a happy accident.  In today's case, this subject is the only idea that I could come up with that was holiday related - but the fun thing is that when I was doing research on it and watched the clips on YouTube, I found it to be enjoyable, fun...and I couldn't wait to talk about it!

It's also appropriate for Day #20 of the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!

Of course, as always, we'll be taking a look at the events that didn't make the cut - starting with...

69 - Vespasian enters Rome to claim the title of Emperor

1606 - The Virginia Company loads three ships with settlers, setting sail to establish the first permanent English settlement in the Americas - Jamestown, Virginia

1803 - The Louisiana Purchase is completed

1860 - South Carolina is the first state to make an attempt to secede from the United States of America

1916 - The Battle of Verdun ends, resulting in victory for France, during the First World War

1917 - Actress Audrey Totter (d. 2013) is born in Topeka, Kansas

1939 - Actress Kathryn Joosten (d. 2012) is born in Chicago, Illinois

1942 - Calcutta, India is bombed by Japanese air forces during World War II

1946 - "It's a Wonderful Life" premieres in New York City

1951 - Nuclear power becomes a reality as a plant in Idaho becomes the first to generate electricity

1957 - The first production model of the Boeing 707 makes its first flight

1971 - Doctors Without Borders is established by Bernard Kouchner and a group of French journalists

1973 - Singer Bobby Darin dies at the age of 37

1984 - The Summit Tunnel fire takes place near the community of Todmorden, England

1985 - Pope John Paul II announces the institution of World Youth Day

1989 - The United States Invasion of Panama deposes Manuel Noriega

1995 - 159 people are killed when American Airlines Flight 965 crashes into the side of a mountain in Colombia

1996 - Astronomer, cosmologist, and astrophysicist Carl Sagan dies at the age of 62

1999 - Canadian country singer Hank Snow passes away at the age of 85

2007 - Queen Elizabeth II surpasses Queen Victoria as being the oldest monarch to rule over the United Kingdom

2009 - Actress Brittany Murphy dies, aged just 32

And for celebrity birthdays, join me in wishing the following famous faces happy birthday!  Birthday greetings for Beverly Pepper, John Hillerman, Kim Weston, Bobby Colomby, Peter Criss, Uri Geller, Dick Wolf, Alan Parsons, Cecil Cooper, Oscar Gamble, Peter May, Jenny Agutter, Michael Badalucco, Blanche Baker, Anita Ward, Billy Bragg, Mike Watt, Robert Cavanah, Rich Gannon, Chris Robinson, Jonah Hill, and Joanna "JoJo" Levesque.

All right.  Now comes the fun part.  Can you guess what date I'm going to go back in time to this week?  Go on.  Take a guess!  Okay, okay, I'll tell you.

Believe it or not, we're going to go back in time 46 years to the date of December 20, 1970.

Now, I do not remember this date at all.  It was ten and a half years before I was born.  But it was on this date that a very special edition of a talk show that aired every Sunday night until 1971 was broadcast.

I wish I could have been alive to have seen the Ed Sullivan Show when it was in its prime.  Sadly, Sullivan died seven years before I was born, so I've never known a world without Ed Sullivan in it.  It's a real shame too, as his talk show was one of the premiere spots to catch the hottest bands on the music scene.  I mean, we're talking about the talk show in which the Beatles made their American debut!  Now that's a very big deal!  I think that maybe only the Ellen DeGeneres Show could even slightly compare to the Ed Sullivan Show when it comes to introducing new talent.

Of course, it wasn't just musical groups that the Ed Sullivan Show hosted.  In fact, Jim Henson and his Muppets made at least twenty-five appearances on the show between 1967 and 1971!  Add the fact that Sesame Street had debuted in 1969, and you might say that Jim Henson was extremely busy as the 1970s arrived.

On December 20, 1970, the Ed Sullivan Show aired a very special holiday special which featured Ed as the narrator of the story that he was reading to a group of children - who were the children of members of the crew that worked on the very show.  And given that this would be the very last holiday special that the Ed Sullivan Show would air before going off the air, it had to be something very special.

After watching it online just recently, I have to say that not only did Sullivan and the Muppets succeed in creating a heartwarming special, but it also featured the first appearance of a well-known Muppet (though he went by a completely different name in this television special).

So, sit back and hear the story of "The Great Santa Claus Switch"!

Now, your favourite Muppet performers are a part of this special, and of course, Jim Henson plays the role of unlikely protagonist Fred, the Christmas elf (as well as a sidekick of the main antagonist), but other Muppet performers in this Christmas story include Richard Hunt, Frank Oz, Fran Brill, Jerry Nelson, John Lovelady, Danny Seagren, Cary Antebi, Greg Antonacchi, Byron Whiting, Marilyn Sokol, and John Byrum.  As far as human characters, there was only two - Santa Claus and the nasty Cosmo Scam.  Both were played by Art Carney.

The story begins at the North Pole, where Santa's six elves - Zippity, Skippity, Hoppity, Bing, Bong, and Fred are busy finishing up the toy order in time for Christmas Eve.  Santa Claus is excited to be spreading the Christmas magic around for another year, but ironically enough, his magic trick of trying to make a coin disappear fails each and every time.  Fred is doing his best to try and make Santa's workload a lot lighter, but nobody seems to take him seriously at all, and he sometimes struggles to be heard.  Believe me.  Sometimes I know exactly how Fred feels.

Unbeknownst to the elves and Santa in a nearby cave is the hideaway of the nasty Cosmo Scam.  He and his menagerie of creatures which include two gigantic monsters in green and blue named Thig and Thog, a spider like creature named Lothar, and this curious looking creature...

...which kind of looks a lot like GONZO, don't you think?  Truth be told, this is really the first appearance of Gonzo in the Muppet franchise, but back then he was given a different name - Snarl.  And Danny Seagren provided his voice back then.  By the time he was renamed Gonzo, Dave Goelz had assumed the role full-time.

Back to the story, it appears as though Cosmo is getting really annoyed with Christmas in general and he decides that he wants to sabotage it.  And how he plans on doing exactly that is by kidnapping Santa Claus and switching places with him until Christmas is over.  It seems like an ingenious plan.

And considering that Cosmo makes the switch with Santa while Fred is singing a song about wanting to be more helpful, I'd say his job was made surprisingly easy!

But as Cosmo quickly learns, sometimes it's not easy to fool everybody.  One by one, beginning with Fred, the elves suspect that Santa isn't exactly acting like himself.  I mean, one of them catches Santa smoking a cigar - which to me is a death wish as his beard could ignite like a roman candle - but that would be the child in me saying this.  But as the elves discover that Santa isn't really Santa, Cosmo imprisons the elves one by one - replacing them with his own minions.

Meanwhile, Santa tries to break through the hard shells of Thig and Thog by teaching them the true meaning of Christmas, and showing them that giving is much better than taking.  That was where the real magic of the holiday lies.  But can Santa get through to them in hopes that they release him on time for his trip around the world?  And will an unlikely hero step up to the challenge of stopping Cosmo from ruining Christmas?

Well, as a special treat, I'd like you to click HERE.  I figure since I got to watch this television special, it's only fair that you all have the chance to as well.  Just make sure you do it now.  I've no idea how long it will stay up!

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