Today in History: August 13

The first episode of South Park aired on Comedy Central on this date in 1997. It remains the only episode created entirely with paper cut-outs.

Despite its high ratings (a 1.3 at 10:00 p.m. on a basic cable channel that was less than 10 years old in 1997 was quite a solid performance and amounted to almost one million television sets tuned in), the episode did not win its creators a long-term contract for the show. Within a month, however, the program had doubled its viewership, by the end of the season it had quintupled its viewer numbers, and a hit was born.

(“North East Town,” a spoof of South Park that I wrote for the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy show, aired soon after this first episode, but it aired only once and was heard by fewer people than performed in it, which is a neat trick itself.)

* * * *
Florence Nightingale died on this date in 1910. H.G. Wells died on this date in 1946. Mickey Mantle died on this date in 1995. Phil Rizzuto died nine years ago today. Julia Child died in 2004 on this date.

* * * *
Annie Oakley was born in 1860 on this date. Bert Lahr was born on this date in 1895. Sir Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899 on this date. Buddy Rogers was born on this date in 1904. Ben Hogan was born on this date in 1912. The late Pat Harrington Jr. was born in 1929 on this date. (He died in January.) Don Ho was born on this date in 1930. Herb Ritts was born in 1952 on this date.

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Fidel Castro is 90 today. Danny Bonaduce is 57. John Slattery is 54.

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