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November 27: Happy Birthday Kathryn Bigelow and Jimi Hendrix

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Kathryn Bigelow celebrates her 65th today.  After studying painting as an undergraduate, she went to film school at Columbia.  Her first feature (co-directed with Monty Montgomery) was an indie biker film called The Loveless.  She directed six films in the next twenty years, almost all some sort of thriller:a thriller about non-sparkly vampires, Near Dark, a thriller about bank robbers who surf (Point Break), a thriller aboard a submarine (K-19), and so on.

Then, about 6 years after K-19, she directed the first of two highly-acclaimed films about what could be called the post-9/11 world.  She was inspired by an article by freelance journalist Mark Boal (who also wrote the screenplay), about military bomb disposal units in Iraq:

The Hurt Locker won six Oscars in 2010; Bigelow herself won Best Director (the first woman honored) and shared Best Picture as a co-producer.  It also boosted the careers of stars Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.  Bigelow’s next film, Zero Dark Thirty, about the takedown of Osama bin Laden, was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.  She is currently at work on a film about the 1967 Detroit riots.

So now, let’s play word association.  I throw out the phrase Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970).  The word that should come to people’s mind, of course, is “guitar.”  Or maybe, “greatest rock guitarist ever.”  His active career lasted only about four years, and he released only three studio albums during his lifetime (all of them reached the top 5).  But his recordings and live performances, not to mention further recordings released after his death, had an enormous impact.

Jaleel White, who is 40 today, played the breakout character of the hit 1990s sitcom Family Matters, Steve Urkel; he also voiced Sonic the Hedgehog in several animated series.  South African actor Sharlto Copley turns 43.  His best known roles include Wikus van der Merwe in District 9, H. M. Murdock in the film The A-Team, Agent C. M. Kruger in Elysium, and the title character in ChappieAlison Pill celebrates her 31st.  She has had supporting roles, sometimes rather small but often interesting, in a wide variety of films: Dan in Real Life, Milk, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (as Kim Pine), Midnight in Paris (as Zelda Fitzgerald), Snowpiercer, and Hail, Caesar!  She was a Tony nominee in the original Broadway production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Samantha Bond, who is 55 today, is a British television veteran, most notably on Downton Abbey, but many American viewers know her best as a somewhat liberated Miss Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films.  Fisher Stevens, who celebrates his 53rd, played the comic character of Ben Jahrvi in the Short Circuit films; he is also an Oscar winner, for Best Documentary Feature, for his 2009 film The CoveCurtis Armstrong, who turns 63, is likewise remembered for one comic role, Dudley “Booger” Dawson in the Revenge of the Nerds films.  William Fichtner, who is 60 today, currently is a regular on Mom and starred on the short-lived ABC series The Invasion; he has done a lot of supporting roles in film, both big-budget films (The Perfect Storm, The Dark Knight) and indies (Drive Angry).  Callie Khouri, who turns 59, won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Thelma & Louise, and is the creator of Nashville, the former ABC series recently moved to CMT.

Okay, word association again.  I say Bill Nye, you should hopefully say—“science guy!”  After working as an engineer with Boeing for a number of years, Nye began appearing in the live-action education segments incorporated into the animated Back to the Future series.  This led to his PBS series, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and an ongoing career in blending science education with entertainment.

Other music birthdays today: Eddie Rabbitt (1941-1998) was a singer-songwriter, mostly in country.  He wrote hits for other singers—“Kentucky Rain” for Elvis Presley, #1 country hit “Pure Love” for Ronnie Millsap—and then embarked on a recording career of his own.  He had six consecutive Top 10 Country albums from 1977-82, and around a dozen #1 Country singles.  Hilary Hahn, who turns 37 today, has been one of the leading classical violinists in the world since she was in her teens.  Hahn has commissioned a variety of original compositions, while also performing and recording the standard repertoire.  She identifies J.S. Bach as the composer she enjoys playing most:

In sports, Football Hall of Famer Larry Allen turns 45.  The offensive lineman spent most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys and was selected to eleven Pro Bowls.  Ivan Rodriguez was born the same day as Allen, but his sport was baseball.  One of the best catchers in baseball in the last 25 years, he was a 14-time All-Star and the American League MVP in 1999.  Another former catcher, Mike Scioscia, was not as exceptional a player as Rodriguez, but has gone on to a distinguished career as a manager; he guided the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to their first and only World Series crown in 2002 and is the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball at present.  He turns 58 today.  Chick Hearn (1916-2002) was a sportscaster known for two things.  One was his amazing streak of broadcasting 3,338 consecutive Los Angeles Lakers basketball games.  The other was the collection of phrases he habitually used in calling games.  Some have become part of the standard lingo of basketball—slam dunk, air ball, give-and-go, etc.  Others were unique to him—Chickisms, we used to call them: “He faked him into the popcorn machine,” “the mustard’s off the hot dog,” and many more.

Today’s writer birthdays include the multi-talented James Agee (1909-1955).  Agee collaborated with photographer Walker Evans on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a powerful report on the lives of sharecropping farm families.  He was one of the first influential American film critics, wrote screenplays himself (such as The African Queen), and won a posthumous Pulitzer Price for his novel A Death in the FamilyL. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000) was a prominent writer of science fiction and fantasy.  He may be most famous for the Harold Shea stories he wrote with Fletcher Pratt.  He also wrote a number of popular science books and biographies of fantasy authors Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft.

Buffalo Bob Smith (1917-1998) was once a name and face known to all American children (at least with televisions) as the host of Howdy Doody, one of the first big hits of the television era.  Ernie Wise (1925-1999) was well known to English television viewers for his partnership with Eric Morecambe.  The duo’s Christmas specials were often the highest rated episodes of their durable comedy show.  American actor James Avery (1945-2013) starred as Philip Brooks, the head of the family on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and also did quite a bit of voice acting.

Another “short life, big influence” figure born today was Bruce Lee (1940-1973).  It’s pretty safe to say that martial arts movies would not be what they are today without the San Francisco-born martial artist and actor.  Films like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon are landmarks in martial arts cinema.

Okay, one final word association game for today—I say Cal Worthington (1920-2013).  If you grew up in the same part of the country as me, in the 1970s or 80s in particular, you know that the answer is “and his dog Spot.”  Just as Bill Nye made science education fun and entertaining, Cal Worthington, owner of a group of West Coast auto dealerships, did the same for auto dealer’s ads.

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 November 27, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. There’s an interesting backstory about Jimi Hendrix and his origins beginning to play guitar. Jimi was naturally left-handed but his father, who was deeply superstitious, regarded left-handedness as a sign of the devil so young Jimi was forbidden from playing left-handed. As a result he taught himself how to play right-handed when his father was home, but whenever his father was not around he would switch the strings around and play left-handed. Thus Jimi Hendrix was fluent at playing the guitar both right and left handed.

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    • Yeah, that left-handed being the sign of the devil deal, I’ve heard a lot about it. Being left-hand myself, I’ve been needled at times about being evil and all that, which is completely true.

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      • Welcome to the 10% club! Interestingly despite left-handed people only comprising 10% of the general public, 4 of the last 5 American Presidents have been left handed. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan, who was born left handed but was forced to learn to write right handed by his school teachers. Those are some crazy odds, 10% of the public but 80% of the last 5 Presidents.

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        • I think that’s pretty amazing how that’s gone about with the last few presidents. Those are some pretty wild odds.

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      • Yeah people can be really crazy about it, even now. I was born left-handed, but my mother forced me to write and eat right-handed. I have no idea what possessed her, especially since my dad and brother are lefties, but I retaliated by doing a lot of other stuff left-handed. 🙂

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        • My early schoolteachers (especially Kindergarten) tried to change the use of my dominant hand, but it didn’t stick.

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        • Good for you!

          I honestly don’t remember learning to write or use silverware, so I had no idea that my dominant hand had been switched until I was an adult and an older relative told me. Until then, I just thought I was a really clumsy righty who inexplicably did a lot of stuff left-handed and had an embarrassing habit of automatically thinking my left was my right. Things make a lot more sense now!

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  2. By the way until today I had no idea Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix shared the same birthday. Two legitimate legends.

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    • Two definite legends—both tragically short-lived.

      Either might have been a legitimate headliner on the right day; I always try to have at least one of the two headliners be a living person, so there was no question of going with both of them.

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  3. I’m really glad Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar, as I’ve enjoyed so many of the films she directed. What did Lance Henriksen say about her on the documentary for “Near Dark”, a raving Irish beauty? Yeah, she’s that too (I think she’s more Nordic, but point taken anyway.
    Jimi Hendrix was mad skills with a guitar, wow! It also goes to show that sometimes the most talented musician don’t always need the #1 hits just to be #1. I hear Jimi (thank you, line from “White Men Can’t Jump”)!
    William Fichtner (hey, he was in “Strange Days”), I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his roles, but I’ll always remember him first as the voice of lawyer Ken Rosenburg in “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”: “Tommy, Tommy, I like fish…I like them as pets, I like them as food, but I don’t want to sleep with them”!
    I watched my fair share of “Family Matters” back in the day, so I’m familiar with Jaleel White; we’re not too far apart in age actually.
    Larry Allen, that guy was a beast on the Dallas cowboys offensive line, and could play multiple positions.

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    • Gluserty I gave you a big thumbs up for your nod to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Still one of my favorite video games of all time! A true classic with a major stand out voice cast: besides William Fichtner you have Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Lee Majors, Dennis Hopper, Tom Sizemore, Luis Guzman, Phillip Micheal Thomas, Debbie Harry, Gary Busey, Danny Trejo and the list goes on and on. I love the modern day GTA games too but I do miss the star-studded casts that they used to have on the PS2-era games.

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      • Oh yeah, I LOVE Vice City, both games really (I consider them companion pieces). The cast for original Vice City is outstanding, and I like how you’re introduced to most of the characters by Mercedes Cortez (Fairuza Balk) in the early mission ‘The Party’. Just a great game: hilarious, action packed, interesting characters (to put it mildly), great music (Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It”? Yes! I think all the music stations are perfect, really), film references for days, yeah, it has a lot to offer. “It’s time for the Lance Vance dance!”.

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  4. Yeah, Bruce Lee, I mean what, he died from an allergic reaction to headache powder or something like that? He was so young too, and had so much more to do in life. Pretty sad.

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  5. Jimi Hendrix is an absolute legend but what’s funny is Hendrix is a One-Hit Wonder: he only had one Top 40 hit to his short career, that being All Along The Watchtower which peaked at #20 in 1968. Jimi Hendrix is in good company with Soft Cell, Twisted Sister, Debbie Boone, Bobby McFerrin, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bruce Willis.

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    • That is so true; I remember first hearing about that fact while viewing VH1’s One-Hit Wonder Countdown (hosted by Jeff Bridges).
      Ha, I like Bruce Willis’ song “Respect Yourself” (played in the “Miami Vice” episode ‘Lend Me an Ear’, with John glover’s Steve Duddy character getting down to it while sweeping for electronic bugs). Willis was right: Bruce had the juice.

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  6. I think I saw Point Break before I got around to Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. Both are fun movies, but Near Dark is a classic. Actually, looking at her filmography, the first movie of hers that I saw was Blue Steel. That movie was a missed opportunity, but she sure did come back, didn’t she.

    Jimi Hendrix is one of those musicians I appreciate more than I like. He’s definitely a major influence, but when one of his songs comes on the radio there’s a pretty high chance I will turn the dial.

    I never watched Family Matters. Seriously, not once. But I have seen Jaleel Whiteon cooking shows. Seems like a nice guy. Not a very good cook, though. Of course we all know Fisher Stevens as the guy who somehow managed to land Michelle Pfeiffer and then cheated on her!! Idiot. I was introduced to Curtis Armstrong on Moonlighting. Still a terrific character actor.

    Give ’em hell, Bill Nye. Who would have guessed The Science Guy would be such a controversial figure in the 21st century,

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