Pop star and actress Ariana Grande turns 24 today. She made her professional performing debut as part of the original Broadway cast of the musical 13. She then did some television work; she was cast in the supporting role of Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, and when that series ended its run at shortly after iCarly did, Nickelodeon decided to pair supporting characters from the two series in a new hybrid spinoff titled Sam & Cat. For a variety of reasons this one ended after one season; one reason was Grande’s desire to focus more on her singing career.
Grande began her music career by contributing to the soundtrack albums for Victorious. Her first album, Yours Truly, came out at about the time Sam & Cat started airing. She has followed up with two further studio albums, each of which has reached at least #2 on the Billboard 200. In a singing career of only about five years so far, she has already had eight Top Ten singles, and received four Grammy nominations, one of them for this:
Halfway through this week’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, I started to panic. I realized that the episode was half over and almost nothing had happened in the conventional sense. How the hell was I supposed o write a recap in the morning? After nearly thirty minutes that resembled an experimental film with almost no dialogue, I figured it was very likely the back half of the episode was going to follow suit. While I couldn’t imagine what images would flash across my television screen next, I was correct that the entire hour would be devoted to surrealism. This was the strangest, most disturbing, most ambitious hour of television I have ever watched.
We’re in the final days of June, roughly halfway through the year. It’s officially summertime and I am told the time is right for dancing in the street. We frown on that sort of behavior around here. Safety first, people. There are safer places to dance. And I’m dangerously close to a Men Without Hats reference, so I’m going to switch gears. You can dance if you want to. Just leave your friends behind while I recap this week’s activity here at Le Blog.
Our two headliners today were captured on film together when George Michael made a guest appearance on the “Christmas special” episode of Extras (which was co-created by and starred Ricky Gervais). If you don’t know them by sight, it’s Michael on the left and Gervais on the right in the photo.
Ricky Gervais is celebrating his 56th today. His entertainment career began in the music industry, as part of a new wave duo called Seona Dancing. He also worked in radio management, where he first made the acquaintance of Stephen Merchant. He began working in British television in the late nineties, as both a writer and performer for programs such as The Jim Tavaré Show and The 11 O’Clock Show.
Meanwhile Stephen Merchant was taking a production course with the BBC, for which he had to create a short film. He recruited Gervais to work with him and play a central role in the short, which eventually led to the two being commissioned to write a pilot script for a series about the day-to-day experiences of office employees. Gervais and Merchant created The Office and wrote all the episodes, while Gervais starred as David Brent.
Eight-time Grammy winner Jeff Beck, one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock, is turning 73 today. He played with a variety of groups around London in the early sixties; his first big break came when a band called the Yardbirds had a sudden need for a guitarist, as their current one, someone named Eric Clapton, had just quit.
Beck was with the Yardbirds for only about a year and a half, following which he pursued a variety of solo projects or groups built around him. The Jeff Beck Group was together from about 1967-72, and for a time included Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. He has never had a particularly commercial orientation; his most successful album in the US was the mid-seventies, all-instrumental Blow by Blow.
This movie was basically the beginning of the end for Rob Schneider. The former Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Player has never been beloved by critics…or audiences…or anybody except maybe his friends and family. But Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo was a huge hit, making $92 million on a $17 million dollar budget! His next two films, The Animal and The Hot Chick, however, weren’t quite as successful. So, in a last-ditch attempt to save his career, Schneider made a sequel to Deuce Bigalow and it bombed at the box office and got terrible reviews. But why didn’t the gigolo’s second attempt go down smoothly?
Oscar winner Frances McDormand celebrates her 60th birthday today. She earned an MFA from Yale’s School of Drama (making this three days in a row we have a Yale MFA in the headline). After graduation she moved to New York, rooming with Holly Hunter for a time. In 1984 two very important events in her life took place: she made her film debut in Blood Simple, and she married Joel Coen, the director of the film.
In 1984 McDormand also made her Broadway debut; four years later she was a Tony nominee as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. In the late eighties and early nineties, she appeared in the Coens’s Raising Arizona, Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda, and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and received her first Oscar nomination for Mississippi Burning. 1996 was another good year for her, as she won Best Actress for starring as Marge Gunderson in Fargo.
Today was the first full day of our vacation at Universal Orlando (Read about Day One here.). One of my goals for this trip was to slow down and take it easy. Usually on a Disney World vacation, we are racing around in an effort to get the most out of our time there. But Universal is small enough that we should be able to get our fill in six days without driving ourselves crazy. Especially since we were staying on property at Loews Royal Pacific which is both conveniently located and includes free Express Pass. There was no reason for us to rush. The question was, could I slow myself down?
It is Meryl Streep’s 68th birthday today. It has become almost a cliche to describe her as “the best actress of her generation,” but it is also very hard to dispute such a characterization when it is applied to someone with twenty (!) Oscar nominations in acting categories (no one else has ever had more than twelve). A graduate of Vassar and Yale, Streep made her acting debut in a production of Trelawny of the “Wells,” produced by Joseph Papp (see below) for The Public Theater.
Streep received her first Oscar nomination for only her second feature film, The Deer Hunter, and that same year (1978) gave an Emmy-winning performance in the miniseries Holocaust. A year later came her first Oscar win, for Best Supporting Actress in Kramer vs. Kramer. Her first nomination for Best Actress was for The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981, and was followed by her first win in that category, a year later, in Sophie’s Choice.
Robert Evans is the legendary movie producer whose credits include Chinatown and The Godfather. If you follow this site, I am guessing you know his story. If not, you should pick up Evans’ autobiography, The Kid Stays in The Picture. Or if you prefer, check out the film adaptation which Evans discussed with Movieline magazine at the time of this profile from the June 2002 issue. Evans always has an interesting story to tell. In the profile, Evans talks about how Jack Nicholson scammed him out of valuable furniture and the time he and Cary Grant took LSD together.
While there are some bigger names with birthdays today, the fact that our two headliners were born on the same date and once starred—as a married couple—on a hit sitcom, makes them a natural choice.
Meredith Baxter is turning 70 today. She began working in film and television in the early seventies. She has had a few good film roles, such as a supporting role in All the President’s Men. However, she has primarily been a television actress. During the seventies and early eighties she had guest roles on series such as The Partridge Family, Medical Center, and The Love Boat. She has had three starring roles on the small screen. Her first was on the early seventies series Bridget Loves Bernie, which I believe has the distinction of being the highest-rated show ever canceled by only one season. In the late seventies, she had a lead role as Nancy Lawrence Maitland on Family. And in 1982, she began a 7-season starring run as Elyse Keaton on Family Ties.
As most hip-hop fans know, two of the most famous rappers in rap history were friends turned rivals. This rivalry would lead to a war of words that may have escalated into a shooting war that cost them their lives. Of course, the rappers I’m referring to are The Notorious B.I.G (Biggie Smalls) and Tupac Shakur. A lot of times when musicians create lasting work and die young, they are destined to sooner or later get the biopic treatment. Biggie received it in 2008 with the disappointing Notorious. Two years ago, gangsta rap pioneers NWA got one of the better biopics with Straight Outta Compton. Now it’s Tupac’s turn. The result, while not quite the full-fledged disaster a lot of reviews have made it out to be, is far closer in quality to Notorious than Straight Outta Compton.