April 12: Space Shuttle Columbia, Garth Brooks, and Ed O’Neill
April 12 — Big day in the news as GenX’ers grew up …
The United States launched the first space shuttle, Columbia, in 1981. Billed as STS-1 (Space Transportation System 1), carrying a crew of two as it orbited Earth 36 times in 54.5 hours before returning safely to Edward (Calif.) Air Force Base. John Young and Robert Crippen piloted the ship, which happened to launch on the 20th anniversary of the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin of the USSR.
Euro Disney opened OTD in 1992, becoming the second Disney resort to open outside the US. (Tokyo Disney had opened April 15, 1983.) It wasn’t exactly hailed. By late June, French farmers had blockaded the park due to US ag policies they felt were unfair. Other cultural influencers openly wished that “rebels would set fire” to the park, and called it a “cultural Chernobyl.” … It’s a small world!
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OTD in entertainment …
Garth Brooks dropped his self-titled debut album in 1989. He went on to make a nice little career for himself, eventually selling 170 million albums. He’s second only to The Beatles in overall album sales. Everybody else is just ropin’ the wind.
Johnny Depp made high school look cool — when you’re a cop with the power to arrest bullies — when “21 Jump Street” debuted in 1987.
“The Kids in the Hall” became the kids in the theater when “Brain Candy” released in 1996.
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Ed O’Neill (1946), 75, became America’s Shoe Salesman as Al Bundy on “Married … with Children” (1987–97). But he went on to new life on “Modern Family” (2009–20). Unlike Al Bundy, who once “scored four touchdowns in a single game,” O’Neill was actually a defensive lineman who earned football scholarship to Ohio University. There, he admits to have spent more time playing and partying than studying. Still, he was invited to the Steelers’ training camp in 1969, where he competed for a roster spot with “Mean Joe” Greene and L.C. Greenwood. … He lost. But Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw did make guest appearances on “Married … with Children” and “Modern Family.”
Shannen Doherty (1971) turns 50, hopefully having outgrown her well-earned reputation as a Hollywood brat that unfortunately overshadowed her renown as Brenda on “Beverly Hills 90210” (1990–94). It got to a point where she and castmate Jennie Garth “wanted to claw each other’s eyes out.” But the two have reconciled, and Doherty has admitted some bashfulness about her youthful phase, chalking it up to the pressures of young fame and general immaturity.
Amy Ray (1964) of the Indigo Girls turns 57 today. Half of the iconic folk duo, she’s released five studio albums as a solo act since 2001.
Art Alexakis (1962) of Everclear turns 59, and it’s a bit of a miracle he’s made it this far. His father left the family when Art was 5, Art was 12 when his brother died of a heroin overdose, and Art’s 15-year-old girlfriend committed suicide. Art once filled his pockets with weights and jumped off the Santa Monica Pier, crediting only a vision of his late brother for making him want to survive. Alexakis began a drug regimen that included crystal meth, heroin, and cocaine from the time he was 13 until he overdosed on coke at 22. After that, he quit drugs cold turkey in 1984 and later was able to channel a lot of his angst and personal heartache into his music.
Claire Danes (1979), 42, got her break in “Little Women” (1994) before starring in the teen-oriented “My So-Called Life” that same year. It was cancelled in 1995, but her head start propelled her career.
David Letterman (1947), 74, has retired from the stupid human tricks but was a cultural staple for any GenX’ers able (and allowed) to stay up to watch “Late Night with David Letterman” (1982–93).