Not-So-Famous Firsts: Entertainment Edition

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From the time that the first humanoids roamed the Earth, one of the basic necessities of life besides food, water and oxygen has always been the ability to entertain oneself. There are some naysayers who will dispute that we've come a long way since being amused by a rock and a stick, but nevertheless I present a few miscellaneous entertainment "firsts":

The First Drive-In Movie Theater

Richard Milton Hollingshead, Jr., was looking for money making opportunities while the U.S. was in the throes of the Great Depression. He noted that even though pennies were being pinched, folks still managed to shell out a few cents to see a movie on a regular basis. His research also discovered that children tended to go to theaters during the daytime to catch the matinee, while evening showings were the realm of adults (if they could afford a babysitter and Dad could be cajoled into dressing up and going out after a hard day at work). Another consideration was that most cinemas of that era were in downtown locations that did not include free parking lots. The solution was an open-air theater where movies could be viewed from the comfort of the family car, where childcare and formal dress were unnecessary. He opened the first Drive-In Theater on June 6, 1933, on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. The admission price was 25 cents per vehicle and an extra 25 cents for each passenger other than the driver.

People Magazine Firsts

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The fist issue of People Magazine hit the shelves on March 4, 1974. Mia Farrow was on the cover to promote The Great Gatsby. People's first million-selling issue also featured its first topless cover—the subject baring it all was none other than Telly "Kojak" Savalas. The first non-human to grace the cover was Star Wars robot C3PO (in 1977), and the first "Sexiest Man Alive" cover appeared on February 4, 1985, with Mel Gibson winning the honor.

Entertainment Tonight Hosts

Although Mary Hart has become synonymous with Entertainment Tonight, she was not one of the original hosts of the program. When it debuted in 1981 the co-anchors were Ron Hendren and Marjorie Wallace, who was also the first American to win the Miss World contest.

Bowling Firsts

The first permanent bowling gaming areas in the U.S. were established in what is now New York's Battery Park. At that time, nine-pin bowling was played outdoors on the lawn (which is why there are several cities on the map today called "Bowling Green"). When nine-pin bowling became synonymous with gambling and general unsavory-ness, an extra pin was added to the mix by savvy entrepreneurs and 10-pin bowling was born. However, the rules of the game were sketchy, and there was no uniformity in such specifics as lane length and ball weight.

In September 1895, Joe Thumb founded the American Bowling Congress, which established a standardized set of general rules and opened the door to national leagues and competitions. Bowling balls were made of wood until 1905 when Evertrue introduced the first rubber bowling ball. "Pin boys"—athletic young lads who quickly reset pins and returned the ball after each roll—were a fixture at bowling alleys until 1951. American Machine and Foundry (AMF) had been tinkering with an automatic pinsetting device since 1946, and five years later a bowling alley in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, installed the first solid pinwheel chain-driven table drive that worked well enough to elevate AMF to major player status in the sports equipment realm.

Hollywood Bowl

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The Beatles were the first rock and roll "act" to play at the famed Hollywood Bowl. The date was August 23, 1964, and the top ticket price was $7.00 for selected box seats. Compare that to July 2010, when the L.A. Philharmonic will be performing "A Beatles Celebration" at the Hollywood Bowl. No actual Beatle will be performing, yet the best seats in the house are on sale for $120 each.

MTV's First Day

When MTV debuted on August 1, 1981, Mark Goodman was the first VJ to appear on the air. He was the one who introduced the first video ever played on that network, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles. A total of 62 different videos were played that first day, five of which were by Rod Stewart. REO Speedwagon had four videos featured, while The Pretenders and April Wine each had three. Of course, being in heavy rotation wasn't necessarily a measure of an artist's popularity back then, it was just a matter of which record label had financed the most videos for its artist roster.

See Also: Aviation Edition.

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February 22, 2010 - 8:28am
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