As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.
April 26, 1989
Lucille Ball dies. Comedian Lucille Ball dies at age 78. During her career, she and husband Desi Arnaz transformed TV, creating the first long running hit sitcom.
Ball starred as a ditzy wife in My Favorite Husband from 1948 to 1951. CBS decided to launch the popular series on the relatively new medium of TV. Lucy insisted Desi be cast as her husband in the TV version, though the network executives said no one would believe the couple were married. Desi and Lucy performed before live audiences and filmed a pilot, convincing network executives that audiences responded well to their act, and CBS cast Desi for the show.
I Love Lucy became one of the most popular TV sitcoms in history, ranking in the top three shows for six years and turning the couple's production company, Desilu, into a multimillion-dollar business. Ball became president of the company in 1960, after she and Desi divorced. She also starred in several other "Lucy" shows, including The Lucy Show, which debuted in 1962 and ran for six seasons, and Here's Lucy, in which she starred with her two children until the show was cancelled in 1974. A later show, Life with Lucy, featuring Lucy as a grandmother, was cancelled after only eight episodes. Ball worked little in the last years of her life. She died of congestive heart failure following open-heart surgery earlier in the month.
April 29, 1944
Last Our Gang film Dancing Romeo released.
The first film, featuring a band of mischievous youngsters, was produced in 1922 by Hal Roach. Roach produced the short films until 1938, when he sold the rights to MGM. In all, more than 100 Our Gang films were made. Later, they were shown as TV comedies under the name The Little Rascals.
April 29, 1992
The Los Angeles Riots were sparked on when a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of African-American motorist Rodney King following a high-speed pursuit. Thousands of people in the Los Angeles area rioted over the six days following the verdict. First day (Wednesday, April 29) The acquittals of the four accused Los Angeles Police Department officers came at 3:15 p.m. local time. By 3:45, a crowd of more than 300 people had appeared at the Los Angeles County Courthouse, most protesting the verdicts passed down a half an hour earlier and many miles away. Between 5 and 6 p.m., a group of two dozen officers, commanded by LAPD Lt. Michael Moulin, confronted a growing African-American crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles. Outnumbered, these officers retreated. A new group of protesters appeared at Parker Center, the LAPD's headquarters, by about 6:30 p.m., and 15 minutes later, the crowd at Florence and Normandie had started looting, attacking vehicles and people, mainly whites.
At approximately 6:45 p.m., Reginald Oliver Denny, a white truck driver who stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Florence and South Normandie Avenues, was dragged from his vehicle and severely beaten by a mob of local black residents as news helicopters hovered above, recording every blow, including a concrete fragment connecting with Denny's temple and a cinder block thrown at his head as he lay unconscious in the street. The police never appeared, having been ordered to withdraw for their own safety, although several assailants (the so-called L.A. Four) were later arrested and one, Damian Williams, was sent to prison. Instead, Denny was rescued by an unarmed, African American civilian named Bobby Green Jr. who, seeing the assault live on television, rushed to the scene and drove Denny to the hospital using the victim's own truck, which carried twenty-seven tons of sand. Denny had to undergo years of rehabilitative therapy, and his speech and ability to walk were permanently damaged. Although several other motorists were brutally beaten by the same mob, Denny remains the best-known victim of the riots because of the live television coverage.
April 30, 1939
NBC began regular U.S. television broadcasts, with a telecast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the New York World's Fair. Programs were transmitted from the NBC mobile camera trucks to the main transmitter, which was connected to an aerial atop the Empire State Building.
April 30, 1992
The final episode of the The Cosby Show aired.
The sitcom debuted in 1984 at a time when the sitcom was declared to be dead. Comedian Bill Cosby starred in the nation's top-rated program for four of its eight years and always ranked in the top 20 shows.
The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The patriarch was Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician. The matriarch was attorney Clair Huxtable. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involved serious subjects, such as son Theo's experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby's child Ennis, who was also dyslexic.
Although the cast and characters were predominantly African-American, the program was unusual in that issues of race were rarely mentioned when compared to other situation comedies of the time, such as The Jeffersons. However, The Cosby Show had African-American themes, such as civil rights marches, and it frequently promoted African-American and African culture represented by artists and musicians such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Miriam Makeba.
April 30th 1992
The second day of the Los Angeles Riots, KNBC (NBC's Los Angeles affiliate) was covering the historic event nonstop. But that evening the station decided to suspend it’s around the clock riot coverage to air the series finale of The Cosby Show giving viewers a brief Mental Sorbet. Following the broadcast Bill Cosby went on the air and asked Angelinos to pray for peace.
April 30, 1997
In The Puppy Episode of the ABC sitcom Ellen, the character of Ellen Morgan (played by Ellen DeGeneres) announces that she is gay. The widely publicized episode featured cameos by Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton, and Dwight Yoakam. An estimated 42 million viewers watched the special hour-long program.
Ellen DeGeneres herself had come out earlier that year on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in TIME. Ellen is often credited to be the first primetime sitcom to feature a gay leading character but there was a sitcom titled Love, Sidney (1981 until 1983) staring Tony Randall. The first openly gay regular character on a sitcom was Soap's (1977) Jodie Dallas, played by Billy Crystal.
In the spring of 1994, Ellen DeGeneres was cast in a series called These Friends of Mine, but in the fall of 1994, she took center stage and the program was retiled Ellen. The program finished in the top 20 shows for the 1994-1995 season.
The outing ignited a storm of controversy, prompting ABC to place a parental advisory at the beginning of each episode.
Despite her success, and the enormous audience drawn by the coming-out episode, ABC cancelled the series at the end of the 1998 season. Although the network pointed to dwindling ratings, Ellen DeGeneres contended that the network buckled under pressure from conservative groups and stopped promoting the show after the controversial episode.
To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".