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August 19: Happy Birthday Matthew Perry and Bill Clinton

0819ClintonPerry

Our two headliners today may not have much in common, but they have met in the presence of a photographer.

Matthew Perry turns 47 today.  He grew up on Ottawa, but moved to Southern California as a teen and began acting, getting a variety of guest spots on series like Charles in Charge and Growing Pains.  At the end of the 1980s, he landed his first feature film roles in A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon and She’s Out of Control.  In the early 1990s, he pursued, and was ultimately successful in winning, a part in a sitcom that was, at one point, known by the title of Six of One:

During the ten season run of Friends, Perry made a number of attempts to break into feature films.  However, in most of his films—Fools Rush In, Three to Tango, and especially The Whole Nine Yards—he seemed to always end up playing a variation on Chandler Bing: adorkable, snarky and nervous.  Since Friends ended its run, most of his work has been in television, although his 2009 film 17 Again was a reasonable financial success.  He was Emmy and Golden Globe nominated for the TNT movie The Ron Clark Story, and he currently stars as Oscar Madison in CBS’s reboot of The Odd Couple, which begins its third season in October.

William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton, 42nd President of the US (and potentially the country’s first First Man, or First Husband, or whatever) celebrates his 70th birthday today.  While this is not a political blog in any way, and hopefully never will be, Clinton is of interest from a popular cultural perspective.  He was the first president to realize that we were in a new media age, and that there were many ways to reach potential voters other than through conventional TV and radio news programming (and campaign ads).  One notable example—the evening after winning the California Democratic Primary in June 1992, Clinton went on the Arsenio Hall Show to chat with the host.  And to play the saxophone:

Three other people whose lives intersected with Bill Clinton’s were also born today.  Mary Elizabeth “Tipper” Gore celebrates her 68th birthday today.  She was the wife of Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore (they are now separated), and was also known for her work with the Parents’ Music Resource Center, advocating the labeling of recordings with objectionable lyrics.  Tabitha Soren turns 49 today.  In the early 1990s, Soren was a political reporter for none other than MTV; both during his campaign and as President, Bill Clinton gave Soren several one-on-one interviews, part of his outreach to new media.  Soren is now married to journalist Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, The Blind Side, and The Big Short (all adapted into films).  Fred Dalton Thompson (1942-2015) was a Republican political activist who went into acting, and then back into politics.  In the 1970s, Thompson became well known as the minority counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee.  In the 1980s, he went into acting, with notable roles in films like No Way Out, Die Hard 2, The Hunt for Red October, and In the Line of Fire.  In 1994, he was elected to the Tennessee Senate seat vacated by Al Gore when he became Vice President, and served 8 years in the Senate, where he was sometimes a thorn in President Clinton’s side, politically speaking.

For the second day in a row, it’s a Bond Girl’s birthday—Jill St. John from Diamonds Are Forever celebrates her 76th birthday.  St. John had a rather good film career in the 1960s, including appearing opposite Frank Sinatra in Come Blow Your Horn and Tony Rome, and getting a Golden Globe nomination for the former.  After her Bond Girl stint, however, she found most of her work in television.  She has been married to Robert Wagner for over 25 years; interestingly, St. John, Wagner’s deceased wife Natalie Wood, and Wagner’s Hart t0 Hart costar Stefanie Powers were all part of a youth ballet company as girls.

Other birthdays today include Gerald McRaney, who celebrates his 69th birthday.  McRaney was a television stalwart in the 1980s and ’90s, starring in Simon & Simon, Major Dad, and Promised Land, and continues to do a lot of TV work.  Country singer-songwriter Lee Ann Womack, who has won six CMA awards and a Grammy, turns 50.  Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, turns 64 today.  Ian Gillan, who turns 71 today, is a long-time member of the English rock band Deep Purple, and also sang the title role in the original recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.

Actress Erika Christensen celebrates her 34th birthday; she is known for films like Traffic and The Upside of Anger and was a regular on NBC’s Parenthood during its six season run.  Veteran character actor L. Q. Jones turns 89 today.  He was seen in several of Sam Peckinpah’s films, such as Ride the High Country and The Wild Bunch, often alongside his good friend Strother Martin.  Three-time Emmy nominee Kevin Dillon, from HBO’s Entourage, turns 51.  He also was in Oliver Stone’s Platoon and The Doors.  English actor Callum Blue, from Dead Like Me and Smallville, celebrates his 39th birthday.

Screenwriter and journalist Ring Lardner, Jr. (1915-2000), was a two-time Oscar winner, despite being blacklisted during the Red Scare of the 1950s.  His Oscars were for Woman of the Year and M*A*S*HDawn Steel (1946-1997) became one of the first women to run an American film studio when she was chosen as president of Columbia in 1987.  She was also a top executive at Paramount and ran her own production company for a while.  Fred Stone (1873-1959) was a longtime stage star; he and stage actor David Montgomery worked together regularly for 22 years, in shows like Victor Herbert’s The Red Mill.  In the 1930s he transitioned to film in movies like Alice Adams and The Westerner.

Finally, today was the birthday of Gene Roddenberry (1929-1991), who left a huge footprint on American popular culture as the creator of Star Trek.  Whether you love Star Trek, or hate it, or love some of it but not all of it, and whatever you may feel about his disputes with others involved in the franchise after he lost creative control, it’s impossible to deny the power of his initial vision.

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.

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Posted on August 19, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Could today’s update BE any better? Sorry, it’s hard to recreate Chandlerisms in writing. But you see what I was going for, right?

    I know Bill Clinton is a polarizing figure. Understandably so. But as part of the youth vote he was reaching out to, he was kind of my guy. Say what you will about him (I think history will show he made his fair share of mistakes even beyond his personal life), but Bill Clinton is kind of a rock star. There aren’t a lot of politicians with that kind of charisma. His wife doesn’t have it. Oddly enough, her opponent does – or at least something like it.

    Yesterday’s Bond girl was one of my top ten. Today’s, Jill St. John, isn’t. In fact Tiffany Case is one of my least favorite Bond babes. This is in no way the actress’ fault. She’s quite fetching. But the character as written is annoying beyond belief and Diamonds are Forever is Connery’s weakest and laziest outing.

    There’s a couple of Star Trek birthdays as well. Frakes is notable for his work behind the camera having directed 1/2 of the Next Gen movies including the only one worth watching, First Contact. He’s also directed and produced a ton of TV. While I came to appreciate Next Gen, I was always an Original Series kind of guy. And what can you say about Roddenberry that hasn’t already been said. He kind of lost his mind at the end, but you’re right that his impact on pop culture is undeniable.

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    • Bill Clinton as a rock star is a good analogy. There’s a reason why his approval ratings when he left office were the highest of any president in the post-World War 2 era.

      And Jill St. John is probably the great “might have been” among Bond Girls—if only that script had been better! Connery being more involved would have been nice, too, but oh, that idiotic script. They made her character both a ditz and a klutz, and that’s too much for even the best actress to overcome. She’s quite good in Tony Rome, though—it’s worth checking out.

      Like you I’m more of an Original Series guy when it comes to Star Trek, but First Contact is a pretty good movie.

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  2. As Matthew Perry’s foray into films go, I thought he came off best in 2007’s “Numb”, a film I found interesting. Funny thing too, he voiced Ben “Bugsy” Siegel in the first person shooter game “Fallout: New Vegas” too (never played it; not really into first person shooters). I viewed the clip he voiced though, and I thought it was believable, however unlikely it would seem casting Matthew Perry in Ben Siegel material, fictional or otherwise.
    Hey, I liked that “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?” show that Jonathan Frakes hosted.

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