December 30: Happy Birthday Patti Smith and LeBron James
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 Guy. Kristin Kreuk, who is 34 today, played Lana Lang on Smallville, and currently stars as Catherine Chandler on The CW’s Beauty and the Beast. Caity 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 McBeal. Meredith 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 Story. Fred 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 Man. Davy 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 Man. Jeanette 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.
Posted on December 30, 2016, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Bo Diddley, Carol Reed, Eliza Dushku, fred ward, Kristin Kreuk, LeBron James, Noel Paul Stookey, Patti Smith, Rudyard Kipling, Tiger Woods, Tracey Ullman. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.