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December 30: Happy Birthday Patti Smith and LeBron James

1230smithjames

Today’s biggest birthdays are from the worlds of music and sports, so I picked one headliner from each.

Patti Smith celebrates her 70th birthday today.  The “poet laureate of punk rock” is known for her fusion of highly literate, and of course poetic lyrics, with a very basic, “three chords and the truth” approach to music.  She has published several books—mostly collections of poetry, some that combine poetry and prose, and a memoir titled Just Kids which won a National Book Award.  She is also an accomplished visual artist who has had several major exhibitions over the years (she was a longtime friend of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe).

And although commercial success has never been her priority, one time, she had a big hit:

LeBron James turns 32 today.  “King James” entered the NBA directly out of high school, the first player taken in the 2003 NBA draft, and became an immediate star for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  He led Cleveland to the NBA finals for the first time in 2007 (they lost to San Antonio).  In the summer of 2010, he signed a free agent contract with the Miami Heat, and led the Heat to consecutive NBA championships in 2012 and 2013.  In 2014, he rejoined the Cavaliers, and led them to their first NBA championship earlier this year.

James has been named the MVP of the NBA four times in his career, only the fifth player in the league’s history to be so honored (the other four were named Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Jordan and Russell).  Many serious fans of the sport would rate him as one of the 8 or 10 greatest players ever to play the game, and the greatest of all active NBA players.

Eliza Dushku, who celebrates her 36th, played the sometimes-rogue slayer Faith Lehane on Buffy and Angel, and starred on the short-lived series Tru Calling and Dollhouse.  Her film appearances include True Lies, Bring it On, and The New GuyKristin Kreuk, who is 34 today, played Lana Lang on Smallville, and currently stars as Catherine Chandler on The CW’s Beauty and the BeastCaity Lotz, who plays Sara Lance/White Canary on Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, turns 30 today.  Ashley Zukerman, who is 33 today, starred on WGN America’s Manhattan and plays the recurring part of Peter MacLeish on Designated Survivor.

Comedian and actress Tracey Ullman turns 57 today.  She is a seven-time Emmy winner, primarily for her comedy programs like The Tracey Ullman Show and Tracey Takes On…, but also for guest appearances on Love & War and Ally McBealMeredith Vieira, known for hosting The View, The Today Show, and the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, turns 63.  The current co-host of The Today Show, Matt Lauer, turns 59 today.  Director Bennett Miller, who is 50 today, is a two-time Best Director nominee, for Capote and Foxcatcher.

Producer Bryan Burk, who turns 48, has been involved in some capacity with most of J. J. Abrams’ projects, including Alias, Lost, Person of Interest, the Star Trek reboots, the two latest Mission: Impossible films, and more.  Jason Behr, who starred as Max Evans on Roswell, is 43 today.  Daniel Sunjata, who celebrates his 45th, has starred on FX’s Rescue Me and the USA Network’s Graceland.  Also turning 45 is Chris Vance, who played Frank Martin on Transporter: The Series and now plays Non on Supergirl.  Singer and actor Tyrese Gibson, who turns 38, is a six-time Grammy nominee in the R&B area; as an actor he is known to any fans of the Fast and the Furious series for playing Roman Pearce.

Joe Bologna, who turns 82, is probably best remembered for playing Stan “King” Kaiser in My Favorite Year.  Also turning 82 is Russ Tamblyn, known for his musical roles such as Gideon, the youngest Pontipee brother in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and as Riff in West Side StoryFred Ward, who is 74 today, starred as the title character in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, played Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff, and Earl Bassett in the first two Tremors films.  Lloyd Kaufman, the co-founder of indie studio Troma Entertainment and director of films like The Toxic Avenger and Tromeo and Juliet, turns 71 today.

Our other musical birthdays today include one half of the late-sixties bubblegum pop group The Monkees.  Michael Nesmith, who turns 74, was arguably the group’s most talented member.  Aside from his involvement in the Monkees’ records and TV show, he wrote Linda Ronstadt’s hit “Different Drum” and was executive producer of the cult film Repo ManDavy Jones (1945-2012) was the group’s designated heartthrob; he was also a Tony nominee for the original Broadway production of Oliver! (as the Artful Dodger).  Rock and country star Del Shannon (1934-1990) had a #1 hit in 1961 with his first single, “Runaway,” but did not maintain that level of success.  Jeff Lynne, who turns 69, is the long-time lead singer of the Electric Light Orchestra; the ELO will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.  Noel Paul Stookey, the “Paul” of folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, turns 79.  He is the composer of the oft-played “The Wedding Song.”  Singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, who is turning 30, has been very successful in her native England, while her singles “Light” and “Love Me like You Do” have reached #2 and #3 in the US.  The classical world is represented by soprano June Anderson, who turns 64.  She made a reputation singing the bel canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti, and shared in a Grammy for a 1989 recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.  Finally, Bo Diddley (1928-2008) is at least a minor legend, enough of one to make Rolling Stone’s lists of both the 100 Greatest Artists and 100 Greatest Guitarists.  He gave his name to the music rhythm called the “Bo Diddley beat:”

Our other big sports birthdays begin with golf great Tiger Woods, who celebrates his 41st.  Woods has won 79 PGA tour events in his career, including 14 “majors” (these are the US Open, British Open, Masters and PGA); both totals are more than any other active player.  Sandy Koufax, who turns 81, was signed as a “bonus baby” by the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was only 19.  It took him several years to really learn how to pitch at the major league level, and arthritis in his elbow forced him to retire before his 31st birthday.  But in six dominant seasons he did enough to be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  Gordon Banks, while not as well known to US sports fans, was as great in his sport as Woods or Koufax.  Often regarded as one of the three or four greatest goalkeepers in soccer history, he started for England’s 1966 World Cup winners; however, he is most famous for an incredible save he made on Brazil’s Pele in the 1970 World Cup.  Banks is 79 today.  Finally, we even have one of the great falls from grace in sports history today.  Ben Johnson, who is 55 today, was widely considered the “world’s fastest human” in 1987 and 1988 after winning the 100 meter dash at both the 1987 World Championships and the 1988 Olympics, and twice setting a world record in the event.  But his career fell to pieces with the revelation of his use of performance-enhancing steroids; he was stripped of his titles and records.

Director Carol Reed (1906-1976) won the Oscar for Best Director for the film version of Oliver!, but will likely be best remembered for his brilliant film noir, The Third ManJeanette Nolan (1911-1998) was a four-time Emmy nominee, three times for guest roles, once for the short-lived series Dirty Sally.  Television and radio veteran Bert Parks (1914-1992) was best known for hosting the Miss America pageant from 1955 to 1979.  Jack Lord (1920-1998) was most famous for starring as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O for over a decade; James Bond fans will also remember that he played Felix Leiter in Dr. No.

Alfred E. Smith, generally known as Al Smith (1873-1944) was elected governor of New York four times and was the Democratic candidate for President in 1928, the first Catholic to run as a major party nominee for President.  Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), a Nobel Prize winner in Literature, is remembered for his novels, short stories and poems.  His writings are the source material for all of the various Jungle Book films, as well as Gunga Din, The Man Who Would Be King, and many others.

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 December 30, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I think Patti Smith is great (I think it’s easy to confuse Patti Smith & Patty Smyth, but one’s a poet, the other’s a warrior).
    LeBron James, yeah sure; it took me some time to warm up to him taking his talents to South Beach, and by the time I did, he went back to Cleveland. Good for Cleveland winning a title though, I just wish it wasn’t against the Warriors (Patty Smyth’s team?), and I would’ve preferred the Browns or the Indians (they came close, but I had to go with the cubs there) breaking there title-less streak. On to Buffalo, which hasn’t seen a title since 1965.
    I had a friend who was into Eliza Dushku, especially after “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”. I think she’s a pretty decent performer and pretty hot.
    Back to hot again, Meredith Vieria’s always kind of done it for me. Matt Lauer, though I thought the Cruise Cruise was out of line with him in that one interview, overall I’ve never really cared for him (or Bryant Grumbel either).
    Tracey Ullman, her show really helped get the FOX Network off the ground, and introduced everyone to The Simpsons. I also dig her cover of the Kristy MacColl song “They Don’t Know”.
    Yeah, Fred Ward, gruff, serious, yet can deliver some seriously funny lines. I guess I liked him best in the Remo Williams film mentioned, “Secret Admirer”, and 2000’s “Road Trip” (which I think is surprisingly good).
    Lloyd Kaufman, I used to be big into Troma films, but I haven’t seen any in quite a while. I still favor The Toxic Avenger series and 1998’s “Terror Firmer”.
    Tiger Woods, what a golfer; seems his game hasn’t ever came back since the knee problems, but still, wow, in his prime he was untouchable.
    Jack Lord, my aunt was into him back in the day, and I think the original “Hawaii Five-O” was a great show (I suppose the remake is good, it’s just not my thing).

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    • We actually have a “not a one-hit wonder” piece from a while back on Patty Smyth, and when I saw it the first time, I thought someone had misspelled Patti Smith’s name. 🙂

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      • Yeah, that was a good piece by Daffy. No doubt about the name confusion though: I had a girlfriend two decades ago who’s father believed that there was only one Patty Smyth, and it was pronounced like the NHL’s Conn Smythe (on a somewhat related note, that same girlfriend told me that Nic Cage was in a film called “Honeymoon in Vegas” not “Leaving Las Vegas”; the thing was we were both right, and neither of us knew about the other film).
        Actually I just reread your comment from that piece, and I think I was the one that clicked Like on it.

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  2. I’ll throw out one more. Yesterday was my birthday as well. I had intended to drop in and comment yesterday, but unfortunately it was a somber day. Our family dog had been diagnosed with cancer over the summer and yesterday she took a turn for the worse. We ended up saying good bye to Sadie who was a very good dog.

    Anyway, on to the rest of the birthdays for the day:

    Because of this date’s personal significance, I had already looked ahead to see which celebrities I shared a birthday with. Overall, I was pretty happy with this group. Not being a sports guy, LeBron James doesn’t mean much to me. But I know he’s a massive figure in basketball. There are other sports greats like Tiger Woods and Sandy Koufax, but you guys know that’s not where my interests lie.

    I’m not a big Patti Smith fan, but I like Because the Night. I will admit to confusing Smyth with Smith.

    I think my geek cred has been established here, but just in case I’ll reinforce it by getting more excited about Eliza Dushku than Lebron James. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my favorite show for a while there and my favorite season was the third one. I especially liked Dushku’s arc as Faith – a foil for Buffy who showed what might have happened without Giles’ guidance. Dushku’s turn to the dark side was played convincingly as was her eventual redemption. I also tuned in for Dollhouse which was meant to showcase Dusku’s range but unfortunately showed her limitations.

    As a fan of the current CW superhero programs, I know Caity Lotz from Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. They have really had a convoluted approach to the Canary characters on those shows! I didn’t think it was possible to be more confusing that the comic book history, but somehow the shows have done it. I was less of a fan of Smallville. Nothing against Kristin Kreuk, but I was glad when she left that show. If I remember correctly they turned Lana into some kind of ninja or something.

    I used to watch The Tracey Ullman Show back in the day, but I will admit it was mostly for The Simpsons shorts. Matt Lauer needs to stop being so glib. And some fact checking would be nice next time he interviews candidates for president. Thanks for your contribution to the 2016 election, Mr. Lauer.

    I didn’t realize we had another TV superhero actor in Chris Vance. Technically, he was on Supergirl during its first season on CBS, so I won’t call him a CW actor unless he reprises his role somewhere down the line. I can’t remember if the show killed Non off or not, but even if they did we all know that’s not a deal-breaker.

    Growing up, I loved The Monkees. Their greatest hits album was the first pop record I ever owned, So I am honored to share my birthday with half of the band! I’m also fond of ELO and Jeff Lynne. Always good for a pick-me-up.

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  3. it bolgna that I didn’t mention Joe Bologna, who voiced Dan Turpin on “Superman: The Animated Series”.

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