March 3, 1920 The Craziest Pilot in the Canadian Air Force

Doohan practiced voices and accents ever since he was a kid, and he was good at it. The skills he acquired would serve him well in his later acting career.

Born March 3, 1920 in Vancouver, British Columbia, James Montgomery “Jimmy” Doohan enrolled in the 102nd Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in 1938. By the outbreak of WWII he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the 14th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.landing

Doohan’s first taste of combat took place on D-Day, on the Normandy beach Canadian landing forces knew as “Juno”. Crossing through a field of anti-tank mines, the Canadian’s luck held.  None of them were heavy enough to set one off.  Leading his men to higher ground, Lieutenant Doohan personally shot two German snipers, before taking up positions for the night.

That night, Doohan had just finished a cigarette and was walking back to his command post.  A nervous sentry opened up on him with a Bren light machine gun, striking him four times in the leg, once in the chest and again on the middle finger of his right hand. The chest shot hit the cigarette case his brother had given him for good luck, and doctors were able to save his life.  Not so much for the finger. That had to be amputated. He would always hide the injury in his later life.


After healing up, Doohan served as courier and artillery spotter, aboard a Taylorcraft Auster Mark IV.  In the spring of 1945, he slalomed his aircraft between telegraph poles, just to prove that it could it be done.  Though the man was never an actual member of the CAF, the stunt forever marked him as “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force”.

Doohan practiced voices and accents ever since he was a kid, and he was good at it. The skills he acquired would serve him well in his later acting career.

He heard a radio drama after the war. Knowing he could do it better, Doohan recorded his voice at a local radio station, winning a two year scholarship to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and studying with the likes of Leslie Nielsen, Tony Randall, and Richard Boone.

Doohan appeared in over 4,000 radio programs and 450 television shows throughout the forties and fifties. Coincidentally, Doohan played “Timber Tom”, the northern version of Buffalo Bob, in the Canadian production of Howdy Doody. About the same time that a young actor named William Shatner was playing Ranger Bill in the American version. The two would appear together on the 1950s Canadian science fiction series “Space Command”. It wasn’t the last time the two would appear together.

Auditioning before Gene Roddenberry in 1965, Doohan performed several accents. Asked which he preferred, he responded “If you want an engineer, in my experience the best engineers are Scotsmen.” He chose the name “Montgomery Scott”, after his grandfather.

Chief Engineer aboard the Starship Enterprise was supposed to be an occasional role, but Doohan’s character proved irresistible.scotty

Soon he was #3 in command, a regular cast member playing alongside William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy).  Doohan’s voice talents helped behind the scenes as well.  It was he who helped develop the Klingon and Vulcan languages.

Star Trek was canceled in 1969 due to poor ratings, but returned to broadcast syndication in the 70s.  The series has since become a cult classic. There is hardly a woman, man, puppy boy or girl who isn’t steeped and marinated in the program.

The “Scotty” character was so iconic, that many fans credit him with their interest in the technical fields.  Among them was the engineer-turned-astronaut Neil Armstrong, who personally thanked him in 2004.

doohan-1Doohan’s health declined in his later years. He developed Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, along with fibrosis of the lung, blamed on his exposure to noxious chemicals during WWII. He was experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s by 2004, though he was able to attend the ceremony held in his honor after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, that August.

James Montgomery Doohan passed away on July 20, 2005, survived by third wife Wende, their three children, his four adult children from a previous marriage, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His youngest daughter, Sarah, was five at the time of his death.

On April 29, 2007, a SpaceLoft XL rocket lifted off from the Spaceport America launchpad in Las Cruces.  Onboard were the ashes of astronaut Gordon Cooper, and James Montgomery Doohan.  Cooper’s wife Suzan and Wende Doohan pushed the launch button.

In Linlithgow, Scotland, there is a museum, claiming the West Lothian town as the future birthplace of chief engineer Montgomery Scott.  He will be born there, in 2222.



March 2, 1977 Heeeere’s Johnny

The world’s longest running talk show began in 1954, when Steve Allen sat down at his piano on September 27. This show is gonna go on… forever”, Allen quipped. So far, he seems to have gotten that right.

US Navy Portrait

With Jack Parr about to sign off the “Tonight Show” for the last time, NBC executives were anxious to find a replacement. Bob Newhart, Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, and Joey Bishop all declined the opportunity, when a United States Navy veteran, amateur magician and amateur boxer with a 10/0 record agreed to take the job.

Johnny Carson had himself turned down the job, believing himself unequal to the task of producing 90 minutes a day of fresh content. A series of guest hosts including Merv Griffin, Art Linkletter, Joey Bishop, Jerry Lewis and Groucho Marx followed, as Carson finished out the last six months of an ABC contract. Despite misgivings, Carson started the new gig on October 1, 1962.

No sooner had NBC announced that Johnny Carson was joining “The Tonight Show,” than the national press gaggle came after him, looking for interviews. Carson resisted at first, but finally relented, providing journalists with a list of answers to which they could apply any question they liked: “Yes, I did. Not a bit of truth in that rumor. Only twice in my life, both times on Saturday. I can do either, but prefer the first. NO. Kumquats. I can’t answer that question. Toads and tarantulas. Turkestan, Denmark, Chile, and the Komandorskie Islands. As often as possible, but I’m not very good at it yet. I need much more practice. It happened to some old friends of mine, and it’s a story I’ll never forget”.carson-mcmahon-1963

Carson was joined shortly thereafter by a Marine Corps Colonel and flight instructor, from Lowell, Massachusetts. The Marine had earned his carrier landing qualifications around the time the atomic bomb ended the war in the Pacific, going on to fly 85 combat missions in Korea, and earning six air medals. His name was Ed McMahon.

When the Tonight Show first aired, everyone on the set including Carson himself, smoked. The “Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act” was introduced in Congress in 1969. Ironically, it was President Richard Nixon, an avid pipe smoker who lit up as many as eight bowls a day, who signed the measure into law on April 1, 1970. The measure included a permanent ban on television cigarette advertising, scheduled to take effect January 2 the following year. The last cigarette ad in the history of American television was a Virginia Slims ad, broadcast at 11:59p.m., January 1, 1971, on the Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson. Smoking on-air became a thing of the past sometime in the mid-80s, but that cigarette box remained on Carson’s desk until his final episode, in 1992. You’ve come a long way, baby.carson-monolog

For NBC, the Tonight Show was a cash cow. Many years the program grossed over $100 million, accounting for 15-20% of the profits earned by the entire network. Carson threatened to walk in 1980, ending up with a deal unprecedented in the history of American television: $5 million a year and series commitments estimated at $50 million. Just as important, show content would no longer belong to the network, but to Carson himself.

Carson began taking Mondays off in 1972, when the show moved from New York to California. There followed a period of rotating guest hosts, including George Carlin and Joan Rivers, who became permanent guest host from 1983 until 1986.

carson-carnac  The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was a late-night fixture through seven US Presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Almost every American over the age of 30 will remember “Heeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!”. The opening monologue, and the imaginary golf swing. “Carnac the Magnificent”, holding the envelope to his head, reciting the punchline to the joke sealed inside. “Saucepan… Who was Peter Pan’s wino brother?” When the joke bombed, there was the comedic curse. “May a bloated yak change the temperature of your jacuzzi!”

Jay Leno appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for the first time on March 2, 1977. He would frequently guest host, and served as permanent from May 1992 to May 2009.

Five years after Carson’s final show, 10,000 taped episodes were moved to a salt mine in Kansas, to protect them from deterioration. There they remain, 54 stories underground, where the average temperature is 68 degrees, with a uniform 40% humidity.

Final episode, 1992

Excepting Conan O’Brien’s eight months in 2010, Leno remained permanent host until February 2014, recording more episodes (4,610) than even Carson himself (4,531). Saturday Night live veteran Jimmy Fallon took over the reins in February 2014, where he remains to this day.

The world’s longest running talk show began in 1954, when Steve Allen sat down at his piano on September 27. This show is gonna go on… forever”, Allen quipped. So far, he seems to have gotten that right.

March 1, 1420 Protestant Reformation

Hans Luder sent his son Martin to a series of Latin schools beginning in 1497, where the boy learned the so-called “trivium”:  grammar, rhetoric, and logic.  He entered the University of Erfurt in 1501 at age 19, receiving his master’s degree in 1505.  The elder Luder (“Luther”) intended that his son become a lawyer. Years later, the younger Luther described his Latin school education as time spent in purgatory, and his University as a “beerhouse” and a “whorehouse”.  I guess Martin Luther wasn’t cut out for academics.
He entered Law School in 1505 and dropped out almost immediately.  His father was furious, over what he saw as a wasted education.  Martin entered an Augustinian cloister that July, saying “This day you see me, and then, not ever again.”
16th century Church doctrine taught that the Saints built up a surplus of good works over a lifetime, sort of a moral bank account.  Like “carbon credits” today, positive acts of faith and charity could expiate sin.  Monetary contributions to the church could, it was believed, “buy” the benefits of the saint’s good works, for the sinner.
As Luther studied the bible, he came to believe that the church had lost sight of the central truths of Christianity.  The Grace of God wasn’t traded as a medium of exchange, he believed, but rather through faith in Jesus Christ, as the Messiah.  “This one and firm rock”, he wrote, “which we call the doctrine of justification, is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness”.
Papal “commissioner for indulgences” Johann Tetzel came to Wittenberg in 1516, selling expiation to raise money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome.  A saying attributed to the Dominican friar, went “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
martin-lutherMartin Luther wrote to Archbishop Albrecht on October 31, 1517, objecting to this sale of indulgences.  He enclosed a copy of his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, a document which came to be known as his “95 Theses”.  A popular story has him nailing the document to the door of the Wittenberg Palace Church, but it likely never happened.  Luther appears to have had no intention of confronting the Church.  This was intended to be an academic work, 95 topics offered for scholarly disputation, but Martin Luther’s ideas would rock the Christian world.
What seems to the modern mind as mere doctrinal differences, were life and death matters in the late middle and early modern ages.  Archbishop Albrecht forwarded Luther’s note to Pope Leo X, who responded slowly and “with great care as is proper”.
Three theologians drafted heresy cases against Luther.  In 1520, the papal bull (edict) “Exsurge Domine” commanded Luther to recant under pain of excommunication.
Luther stood on dangerous ground.  In 1415, Jan Hus was burned at the stake for such heresy.  On this day in 1420, Pope Martinus I called for a crusade against the followers of the Czech priest, the “Hussieten”.  Henry VIII’s famous break with the church over his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, was still years in the future in 1521, the year Henry was named “Fidei Defensor” (“Defender of the Faith”), a title awarded him by no less than Pope Leo X. Nine years later, French theologian Jean Calvin would be forced to flee a deadly outbreak of violence against Protestant Christians.  Jan Matthias, Bernhard Rothmann and Bernhard Knipperdolling would be tortured to death with white-hot pliers in the Münster marketplace in 1535, their corpses placed in cages and hanged from the steeple of St. Lambert’s Church.  Their bones were later removed, but those three cages remain there, to this day.
The bull had the effect of hardening Luther’s positions.  He publicly burned it on December 10.  Twenty-four days later, Luther was excommunicated.  A general assembly of the secular authorities of the Holy Roman Empire summoned Luther to appear before them in April, in the upper-Rhine city of Worms.  The “Edict of Worms” of May 25, 1521, declared Luther an outlaw, stating “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic”.  Anyone killing Luther was permitted to do so without legal consequence.
95-thesesLuther went into hiding at Wartburg Castle.  In 1516, Erasmus had expressed the wish that the holy text should be available in every language, “so that even Scots and Irishmen might read it”.  It was there that Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German, laying the foundation for other vernacular translations and, for the first time, making the bible accessible to the common man.
Radical sects took Luther’s teaching far beyond his intent, and Luther found himself in the odd position of defending the faith against more radical reformers.  The Zwickau Prophets rejected holy scripture in favor of direct revelations from the holy spirit.  The Anabaptists took the “equality of man” in radical egalitarian directions, many sounding more like the principles Karl Marx would write about, in 1848.
Martin Luther’s reformations plunged Europe into a series of wars.  The Peasant’s War of 1524-25 alone killed more Europeans than any conflict prior to the 1789 French Revolution.  The established church would respond with counter-reformation, but the idea that Christian faith was more than the exclusive province of a special, segregated order of men, was here to stay.
On October 31, 1999, 482 years to the day from Martin Luther’s letter to Archbishop Albrecht, leaders of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches signed the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification”, ending the half-century old doctrinal dispute, once and for all.