January 11: Happy Birthday Mary J. Blige and Amanda Peet
Today is definitely one of the three or four lightest days for celebrity birthdays since this series began last July.
Known as the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” Mary J. Blige turns 46 today. As a teenager, she made a tape in a recording booth at a local mall, which her mother’s boyfriend sent to an executive at Uptown Records, and she was signed to a contract. Initially she was used as a backup singer, but she prepared an album under the tutelage of Sean “Puffy” Combs. That album, What’s the 411?, was released in 1992 and made Blige an immediate success.
Blige has remained a successful recording artist for nearly 25 years now, while also branching out to take an occasional acting role, as in the 2012 film Rock of Ages. Over her career, she has displayed a striking ability to reinvent herself. She has won nine Grammys, which have come in four different music categories—Rap, R&B, Pop, and Gospel. She has had four #1 albums and five singles reach #1 on the R&B chart.
Amanda Peet is celebrating her 45th. After graduating from Columbia, Peet studied acting with Uta Hagen (whose other pupils have included Christine Lahti, Al Pacino and Sigourney Weaver). She made her film debut in the thriller Animal Room in 1995 and went on to supporting roles in several late-nineties films. In 1999 she was cast as one of the two title characters on the WB’s Jack & Jill, and during the show’s two-season run she also was cast in a major role in a crime comedy that did fairly well:
In the early 2000s, Peet seemed to be flirting with stardom. She had several roles in major films, sometimes in lead roles, other times as prominent supporting players. But she never had that big breakthrough role and slowly seems to have slid down the pecking order. She has landed another pair of starring roles on television, on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and in Togetherness, but neither lasted more than a season. But as Peet’s longtime friend Sarah Paulson could attest, you never know when someone will turn their career around.
Diana Gabaldon, the author of the genre-blending Outlander novels, as well as the related Lord John series, turns 65. The Outlander novels have an estimated 25 million or more copies in print and have been adapted into the Starz series of the same title. Mitchell Ryan, who is 83 today, did a lot of film and television work in the seventies and eighties; one of his notable roles, of interest given the current bracket game, was as General Peter McAllister in Lethal Weapon. German actress Christine Kaufmann, who is turning 72, began working as a child actress in the fifties and has worked in both German and American film; she won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer in 1961. Scottish actress Phyllis Logan, who is 61 today, is known for her roles in British television as Lady Jane Felsham on Lovejoy and Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper of Downton Abbey.
Malcolm D. Lee, who turns 47, has directed films such as The Best Man and its sequel The Best Man Holiday, and last year’s Barbershop: The Next Cut. He is a cousin of Spike Lee. Christian Jacobs, who is turning 45, is known as the co-creator of the Nickelodeon children’s series Yo Gabba Gabba!, and as MC Bat Commander in the rock band The Aquabats. Born the same day as Jacobs, Marc Blucas played Riley Finn on Buffy and currently has a recurring role on WGN America’s Underground. Aja Naomi King, who celebrates her 32nd, is a regular on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, and starred in Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, which was out last fall.
Naomi Judd, who is 71 today, was one-half of country music’s most famous mother daughter team (at least not named Carter), along with her daughter Wynonna. Starting in 1984, The Judds had fourteen #1 Country hits, and won five Grammys, between 1984 and Naomi’s retirement from performing in 1991. Any fans of Bruce Springsteen probably already know that today was the birthday of Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons (1942-2011), who played saxophone in the E Street Band for nearly 40 years, while also pursuing other music and acting projects.
Max Carey (1890-1976) leads our short list of sports birthdays. The Baseball Hall of Famer starred in center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates for over a decade and led the National League in stolen bases ten times. Gérson de Oliveira Nunes, usually known simply as Gérson, turns 76 today. The Brazillian footballer was one of the stars of Brazil’s World Cup winning side in 1970—often said to be the best ever—and scored the game-winning goal in Brazil’s final match with Italy.
Lionel Stander (1908-1994) built a solid career as a supporting player in the 1930s and ’40s, with prominent roles in films like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Unfaithfully Yours, before being yet another victim of the blacklist. After working in Europe for many years, he returned to Hollywood on ABC’s Hart to Hart, as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart’s loyal factotum Max, and won a Golden Globe. Donald “Red” Barry (1912-1980) was nicknamed from his starring role in the movie serial The Adventures of Red Ryder. A leading man for Republic in the 1940s, he went on to a lengthy career as a supporting player, often in Westerns. Rod Taylor (1930-2015) had a good run as a leading man in the 1960s and early ’70s; his most remembered role is probably Mitch Brenner in Hitchcock’s The Birds.
South African author and political activist Alan Paton (1903-1988) wrote novels such as Cry, the Beloved Country and Ah, but Your Land is Beautiful, and was one of the most eloquent voices against apartheid. Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) had a long career in forestry and wildlife management, but is known for writing one of the most influential non-fiction books of the 20th century, A Sand County Almanac. William James (1842-1910) was one of the leaders of the pragmatist school of philosophy and also one of the pioneers of psychology; he is known for the books The Principles of Psychology and The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Alexander Hamilton (1755 or 1757-1804) was one of the most prominent American leaders during the Revolutionary and Early national eras and served as the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. His life is the subject of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning musical Hamilton: An American Musical.
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 January 11, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Amanda Peet, Mary J Blige, Diana Gabaldon, Alexander Hamilton, Christine Kaufmann, Clarence Clemons, Naomi Judd, Lionel Stander. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.