(Pictured: in the fall of 1975, Howard Cosell’s ABC variety show beat NBC to the title it wanted for its new late-night comedy show.)
November 8, 1975, was a Saturday. The morning papers say that heiress Patty Hearst has been found competent to stand trial on federal bank-robbery charges. Union railroad workers agree to delay a potential nationwide strike to November 18. The nation’s unemployment rate is up to 8.6 percent. Seventeen-year-old Debby Kent spends the evening at a skating rink in Bountiful, Utah, but she never comes home. Shortly before his execution 14 years hence, serial killer Ted Bundy will confess to having murdered her. Fighter planes from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana are scrambled to chase UFOs, and two people in France claim to have seen space creatures who were picked up by mysterious cars. The United States opens an embassy in Mozambique. Actress/party girl Tara Reid and pro basketball player Brevin Knight are born. In pro wrestling, golden bad-boy Nick Bockwinkle defeats perennial champion Verne Gagne to win the heavyweight championship. In college football, Iowa beats Wisconsin, 45-28.
In Chicago, the Tribune is crowded with full-page ads from car dealers. Chicagoland AMC dealers will sell you a new 1976 Gremlin for $2597, although automatic transmission and air conditioning are options that will cost you more. Another full-page ad touts the 1976 Pontiac Astre hatchback, which gets 35 miles per gallon of gas on the highway and 22 in the city. The new Dodge Dart Lite gets 36 and 24. If you’d like something bigger, Dave Cory Ford in Niles, Illinois, will put you into a 1976 T-Bird for $6099. Prices on outgoing 1975 models have been cut at many dealerships. Most will be open tomorrow for your convenience.
On CBS tonight, the lineup includes The Jeffersons, Doc (a sitcom from MTM Productions starring Barnard Hughes, Elizabeth Wilson, Mary Wickes, and Professor Irwin Corey), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. NBC features Emergency! and the theatrical movie The Sugarland Express, starring Goldie Hawn and directed by Steven Spielberg. ABC’s lineup includes the variety show Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell, cop drama SWAT, and secret agent series Matt Helm, starring Tony Franciosa. Later tonight, NBC’s Saturday Night airs its fourth episode, hosted by actress Candice Bergen with musical guest Esther Phillips. Phillips performs her current hit, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Because The Sugarland Express bumps the late local news by 15 minutes, Saturday Night doesn’t begin until 11:45 Eastern time.
On the Billboard 200 album chart, Elton John’s Rock of the Westies becomes the second album in history to debut at #1. His Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy had been the first, earlier this year. Rock of the Westies bumps the Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus, last week’s #1, to #2. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd is #3. Also among the Top 10: Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Minstrel in the Gallery by Jethro Tull, and Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. On the Hot 100, Elton’s “Island Girl” is in its second week at #1. Elton is not #1 everywhere, however. At WABC in New York, “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Convention tops the singles chart. KHJ in Los Angeles places War’s “Low Rider” at #1. At WAKY in Louisville, the #1 song is “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You” by the Statler Brothers, despite the fact that WAKY is a Top 40 station also playing Elton, Silver Convention, and War, among others. Clearly, they didn’t call themselves “wacky” for nothing.