Until today the biggest event to occur on my birthday was in 1967 when Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run. And in 1981 I feared the pope might die on my birthday after he was shot the day before (happily, he survived.) But then on May 14, 1998 two big pop culture events occurred: the final episode of Seinfeld and the death of Frank Sinatra. I watched the disappointing one-hour finale (from a mostly dissatisfying last season) with my friends Matthew and Gary at Matthew's apartment on West 57th St. Although it was my birthday they weren't aware of it, so when our Chinese take-out arrived I felt odd saying "hey, it's my birthday, are you expecting me to contribute?", so I kept quiet. (A week earlier I figured I'd be spending this day with my boyfriend, but that relationship suddenly unraveled during a rainy weekend out at Fire Island.) When I woke up the next morning is when I heard the news that Sinatra had died the previous evening.
This episode of Seinfeld telecast delivered a 41.3 household rating/58 share, making it the second highest rated show of the season (behind the Super Bowl). A powerhouse performance for sure, but it was 9% below the last episode of Cheers five years earlier.
Other shows that aired their final episodes on my birthday include Family Ties (1989); West Wing (2004); and Moonlighting (1990). However, only Family Ties had much of a ratings sendoff (20.8 rating/35 share).
In addition to Sinatra, some other notable deaths on May 14 were those of Billie Burke (Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz) in 1970; Hugh Beaumont (the father in Leave it to Beaver) in 1982; and 1940s va-va-voom actress Rita Hayworth in 1987.
(If you're a Seinfeld fan but have overdosed from watching it in syndication, a refreshing change might be reading about the show in Seinfeld, Master of its Domain: Revisiting TV's Greatest Sitcom.)