HISTORY This Week

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Dirty Dancing in the Borscht Belt

Season 3

August 17, 1987. On the red carpet in New York City, it’s the premier of a new movie: Dirty Dancing. The story is set in the sunburnt Shangri-La of New York’s Catskills resort region. The movie will introduce millions to the place that some call the Jewish Alps. "Disneyland with knishes." The Sour Cream Sierras. The Borscht Belt. Ironically, Dirty Dancing arrives as the heyday of the Catskills resort is ending. But how does its culture live on? And how did its signature style of Jewish humor make the leap to Hollywood, where it would fundamentally change American comedy?


Special thanks to our guests: Julie Budd, John Conway, Jeremy Dauber, Elaine Grossinger Etess, Bill Persky, Larry Strickler, and Alan Zweibel. You can learn more about Jewish humor in Dauber’s book, Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.

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11/28/2022

A Meteorite Hits Ann Hodges

Season 4
November 30, 1954. At about 12:45 in the afternoon, a space rock comes plummeting through the roof of a house in Sylacauga, Alabama. It bounces off a standup radio, ricochets around the living room, and collides with the thigh of Mrs. Ann Hodges, who’s been napping on the couch. Newspapers declare: “experts agreed unanimously that Mrs. Hodges was the first person known to have been struck by a meteorite.” What happened to this space rock after it crashed to Earth and thrust itself into volatile human affairs? And what happened to the human beings whose lives were upended by this rarest of rare events?Thanks to our guests: Dr. Julia Cartwright, planetary scientist at the University of Alabama; Billy Field, professor at the University of Alabama and screenwriter; and Julie Love Templeton, attorney in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.Dr. Cartwright is involved in a number of art/science collaborations to engage and educate the public about meteorites and planetary science. You can find out more on her website, JACartwright.people.ua.edu. Keep an eye out for Billy Field’s latest project, TheStoryAcorn.com, which launches in January 2023. The website will feature history from the Civil Rights movement, told by those who lived it. The website teaches students to gather stories from their own communities and share them with the world. Thanks also to Mary Beth Prondzinski, former collections manager at the Alabama Museum of Natural History, and to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.