Is it just me, or is September really flashing by this year? I mean, I can't believe that the month is over half over!
Maybe I'm just getting older, and with each year that passes, the hourglass of life slowly depletes itself of sand. Kind of a scary thought if you think of it long enough.
So let's stop talking about that for now. Instead, let's do the Tuesday Timeline again!
It's September 17. Let's see what happened on this date throughout history, shall we?
1630 – The city of Boston, Massachusetts is founded
1716 – At the age of seventeen, Jean Thurel enlists in the Touraine Regiment – the first day of what would become a military career lasting NINE DECADES!
1775 – The Invasion of Canada begins with the Siege of Fort St. Jean during the American Revolutionary War
1776 – The Presidio of San Francisco is founded in New Spain
1787 – The United States Constitution is signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1814 – Francis Scott Key finishes his poem entitled “Defence of Fort McHenry” - an early draft of the song which would come to be known as “The Star-Spangled Banner”
1849 – Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery
1862 – The “bloodiest day in American History” – The Battle of Antietam coincides with the Allegheny Arsenal explosion during the American Civil War
1908 – The first airplane fatality takes place on this date as passenger Thomas Selfridge is killed while in the Wright Flyer piloted by Orville Wright, which crashed
1916 – Manfred von Richthofen (better known by his nickname of “The Red Baron”) wins his first aerial combat in France
1923 – Country music legend Hank Williams (d. 1953) is born in Butler County, Alabama
1931 – American actress Anne Bancroft (d. 2005) is born in The Bronx, New York
1939 – German U-boat U 29 sinks British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous
1947 – Jeff MacNelly (d. 2000), creator of the comic strip “Shoe” is born in New York City
1949 – Canadian steamship SS Noronic burns in Toronto Harbour, killing 118
1961 – The world's first retractable dome stadium – The Civic Arena – opens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1976 – Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle, is unveiled by NASA
1983 – Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America – the first African-American woman to earn the title
1987 – Pope John Paul II embraces an AIDS-infected boy while on a tour of San Francisco, showing the world that one cannot catch the virus simply by touching someone infected with it
1991 – The first version of the Linux kernel (0.01) is released to the Internet
2000 - “The Big Breakfast” host Paula Yates is found dead of an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 41
2001 – The New York Stock Exchange re-opens six days after the September 11 terrorist attacks – the longest the stock exchange has ever closed since The Great Depression
2006 – Eruption of Fourpeaked Mountain in Alaska
2011 – The “Occupy Wall Street” movement kicks off at Zuccotti Park in New York City
Wow, oh, wow, was September 17 a huge day in history! You can see that I was not at a shortage of topics for sure!
September 17 also has its share of celebrity birthdays. Blowing out candles on their cakes today are the following people; Mary Stewart, Pat Crowley, Phil Jackson, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Charles Martinet, Rita Rudner, Charles Lawson, Kevin Clash, Baz Luhrmann, Dustin Nguyen, BeBe Winans, William Shockley, Kyle Chandler, Bryan Singer, Doug E. Fresh, Malik Yoba, Anastacia, Marie-Chantal – Crown Princess of Greece, Matthew Settle, Nate Berkus, Bobby Lee, Jimmie Johnson, Austin St. John, Billy Miller, Wade Robson, and Jennifer Pena.
Whew...apparently September 17 was a huge day for birthdays too!
Actually, as it so happens, today's date happens to be a birthday as well. Unfortunately, he is no longer around to celebrate it as he passed away ten years ago.
But had he lived, he'd be turning sixty-five years old, making his date of birth September 17, 1948.
Now, here's the interesting part. I was worried at first that I would be repeating a blog topic because exactly two years ago today on September 17, 2011 (yes, on Occupy Wall Street Day), I wrote a blog entry that featured him heavily. But when I re-read that blog entry, I only really focused on one of the many roles he played in his lengthy career.
I mean, yeah, Jack Tripper from Three's Company was one fantastic character...but I only scratched the surface of the man who played him for eight seasons...and so, on what would have been his sixty-fifth birthday, I thought I'd pay tribute to the actor behind the character.
Today's Tuesday Timeline will focus on the life of Jonathan Southworth Ritter – better known to most everyone else as John Ritter.
From an early age, John Ritter was always surrounded by the world of Hollywood. He and his older brother Thomas were born to two parents who were stars in their own right in the entertainment industry. Their mother, Dorothy Fay was an actress, and their father Tex Ritter had an already established career as a country music singer later turned actor whose career spanned nearly four decades. It almost seemed written in the stars that at least one of the two Ritter siblings would find their way into the entertainment industry.
And as luck would have it, John Ritter was the one to make it big.
Of course, for John to earn his way into the Hollywood scene, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he had to do it his own way.
Certainly as a student at Hollywood High School, Ritter excelled. He was voted student body president and graduated from high school as part of the Class of 1966. Amusingly enough, his first appearance in front of the camera occurred that same year...as a contestant on “The Dating Game”! Check out this appearance of John Ritter as an eighteen year old bachelor below! It's absolutely surreal!
After high school, John attended the University of Southern California where he majored in psychology and became a member of the campus fraternity Phi Gamma Delta. But it was while he was in college that John Ritter became bitten by the acting bug. He would often spend his free time touring around Europe, performing in stage plays before graduating from the school in 1970. That same year, he received his very first role in the television series “Dan August”, which in addition to star Burt Reynolds also starred a man named Norman Fell...who would happen to cross paths with Ritter a little further into the 1970s.
One year later, Ritter would make his film debut in the 1971 film “The Barefoot Executive”, and over the next few years, Ritter would hone his craft by making guest appearances on “Hawaii Five-O” and “M*A*S*H”, and beginning in 1972, Ritter would have a recurring role on “The Waltons” as Reverend Matthew Fordwick that would last a total of four years! Of course, during this time, Ritter would audition for other roles. After all, a recurring gig only paid so much. And in the spring of 1977, Ritter would be given the role of a lifetime.
Now, I could go on about John Ritter's portrayal of Jack Tripper on the long-running sitcom “Three's Company”, but rather than do that, I thought that I would just post the link to the September 17, 2011 entry on Jack Tripper HERE. Mind you, some of the links and videos no longer work, but the words still remain. You'll get more insight into the wonderful character he played.
And to John's credit, everyone whom he worked with on “Three's Company” loved him. Joyce DeWitt and John Ritter had a very close relationship. John and Suzanne Somers got along well (well, at least until Suzanne's contract negotiations for the 1980/1981 season of “Three's Company” lead to her getting canned from the show and her being in both Ritter's and DeWitt's bad books for years). Even Jenilee Harrison and Priscilla Barnes who subsequently took over for Somers felt respected by Ritter.
John Ritter appeared in every single episode of “Three's Company”, right up until the season's end on September 18, 1984. He even appeared in the spin-off program “Three's A Crowd”, which lasted one season before wrapping up for good in April 1985.
John Ritter played Jack Tripper a total of eight and a half years, and he was rewarded with a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and millions of fans all over the world. I suppose that being in a role that demanded a lot of slapstick comedy and being a walking punchline meant that there was a possibility of being typecast...but in Ritter's case, he seemed all right with that. He did appear in both “Problem Child” and “Problem Child 2”, as well as “Stay Tuned”, all three of which were comedies that did somewhat well at the box office. But Ritter also proved that he could act in a drama series when he was cast in the role of Harry Hooperman in the series “Hooperman”. You can watch a clip of the show below.
Although “Hooperman” only managed to last two seasons, ending its run in 1989, the series was critically acclaimed, and it earned John a People's Choice Award as well as nominations for a Golden Globe and Emmy. Ritter also enjoyed another successful run in sitcom television with the 1992-1995 series “Hearts Afire”, which co-starred former “Night Court” actress Markie Post.
After “Hearts Afire” wrapped up, Ritter turned his focus towards making more films. Although he had been acting in films on and off since the 1980s, Ritter's film work in the 1990s were among some of his best work. His performance as a gay store manager in 1996's “Sling Blade” (alongside former “Hearts Afire” star Billy Bob Thornton) earned rave reviews, and he was one of the actors who helped make the Stephen King film “It” really, really creepy. In 2000, he took a turn on the Broadway stage performing in such musicals as “The Dinner Party” (earning him a Theatre World Award in 2001), and he even voiced the role of Clifford the Big Red Dog in the animated series of the same name that aired on PBS beginning in September 2000. He earned a total of four Emmy nominations for that role alone.
As September 2003 arrived, Ritter was on top of the world. He was enjoying his latest role in the sitcom “8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter”, which he starred in alongside Katey Sagal and future “The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco. He had just finished filming a role in the film “Bad Santa”. And his personal life was at an all-time high. After divorcing his first wife, Nancy Morgan, Ritter had found love once more with actress Amy Yasbeck. They had a child together, Stella, on September 11, 1998 (joining John's three other children, Jason, Carly, and Tyler from his first marriage), and in September 1999, Ritter and Yasbeck got married. By all accounts, 2003 was set to end on a high note for Ritter.
And then came the events of September 11, 2003.
While the day began well for Ritter, sometime that afternoon he started feeling poorly while on the set of “8 Simple Rules”. He started to have severe chest pains, and had broken out in a sweating fit. At first, Ritter believed to have contracted some sort of flu bug, but as the pains got worse, the decision was made to send him to a nearby hospital in order to find out what was wrong.
Five hours later, Ritter would stop breathing.
On September 11, 2003, at 10:45pm, John Ritter passed away. The cause of death was a heart attack brought upon by a condition known as aortic dissection. He died just seven days before his fourth wedding anniversary, six days before his 55th birthday, a day before wife Amy Yasbeck's 41st birthday, and on the very day his daughter turned five.
It was an incredibly sad loss to the world of Hollywood. I still remember hearing the news that Ritter had passed away, and I was completely in shock. I was also very sad too. Watching John on television, he always seemed so full of life. The amount of effort he put into the physical comedy he performed and the joy that he had for his job, and the amount of love and respect he gave to his fans...it just seemed so unfair that the world lost someone who was so giving to the world. Even ten years after his death, it still doesn't seem right.
At any rate, moments after his passing, the world mourned. Both Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt expressed their sadness over losing their co-worker (Somers and Ritter had reconciled during the mid-1990s at some point), as did Katey Sagal, Markie Post, Kaley Cuoco, and Zach Braff (who worked with Ritter on the television series “Scrubs”). “8 Simple Rules” went on after Ritter's passing, killing off the character he played in a moving tribute and bringing on David Spade and James Garner to fill in the void left behind.
Amy Yasbeck has since lead the fight against aortic dissection and teamed up with the Thoracic Aortic Disease Coalition (through her husband's own John Ritter Foundation) to create “Ritter's Rules”, and worked with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston to establish the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases. Yasbeck attempted to launch a lawsuit against Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center to the tune of sixty-seven million dollars which alleged that the doctors misdiagnosed his condition, and had they not, Ritter might possibly have survived. Although a court of law cleared the doctors of any wrongdoing in 2008, several of the defendant settled out of court to the tune of $14 million.
As for John's legacy, it lives on through his widow and his four children. And proving that acting continues to run in the lineage of the Ritter family tree, John's eldest son Jason has been making the rounds, starring in “Joan of Arcadia”, “The Event”, and “Parenthood”.
Although John's been gone for a decade, he'll never truly be gone. Anytime your children watch Clifford, or anytime you come across a rerun of “Three's Company”, he's there.
And perhaps one of the most touching tributes to Ritter ever created was a mural painted by Eloy Torrez in 2008 that was dedicated at the very high school that John Ritter attended in his teenage years...Hollywood High School.
And as we end this blog entry off, I will show you that mural.
Happy sixty-fifth, John...wherever you are.