On This Day October 31
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1926 – Celebrated magician, escape artist and actor Harry Houdini, born Erich Weisz, dies of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix at the age of 52. Despite his extraordinary skills as an illusionist, Houdini could not escape mortality.
1951 – Once known as All Hallows Eve, Halloween settles into American popular culture as trick-or-treating becomes an annual custom. As of 2019, Americans are spending an estimated $8 billion a year on Halloween decorations, costumes, makeup and candy, making it the nation’s second-largest commercial holiday.
1993 – Actor River Phoenix (“Explorers,” “Stand By Me,” “Running on Empty”) is just 23 when he dies of a drug overdose outside a Hollywood nightclub. In addition to his acting career, Phoenix was a pioneer of the vegan movement and an ardent environmentalist.
1964 – Barbra Streisand’s “People” is the No. 1 album and later clinches Grammy Awards for Best Vocal Performance and Best Album Cover. The title track, from the 1964 Broadway musical “Funny Girl,” ranks among Streisand’s biggest hits of all time.
1989 – MTV’s first “Unplugged” show is recorded in New York, featuring the British band Squeeze. The program, which becomes a 90s phenom, spotlights popular artists performing acoustic (“unplugged”) versions of their songs. This debut episode airs on November 26, 1989.