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January 11: Happy Birthday Mary J. Blige and Amanda Peet

0111bligepeet

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 UndergroundAja 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 AlmanacWilliam 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.

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Posted on January 11, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It may be a light day. But the January trend of musical heavyweights continues with Mary J. Blige. Amanda Peet is an actress I have enjoyed in a lot of TV shows and movies that didn’t deserve her. My recollection was that she was easily the best part of The Whole Nine Yards, for example. Studio 60 always felt like a great show that chose the wrong subject matter. Aaron Sorkin can write funny dialogue, but he doesn’t appear to understand sketch comedy at all. That show felt like it took place in a parallel universe where SNL was more like The West Wing.

    I have a Starz subscription and I keep meaning to give Outlander a look. Any recommendations?

    Marc Blucas was my least favorite of Buffy’s serious boyfriends. I was glad when he left the show.

    Since you brought up Hamilton, my dad was asking me about it over the holidays. He is a history buff and a purist. He disliked Titanic because he didn’t think they should have added in a fictionalized story. I guess he was expecting a documentary. All he knew about Hamilton was the title and that my brother said he liked it. I told dad it was a hip-hop musical where the characters got into rap battles and that the cast was ethnically diverse. I don’t think he believed me. He asked me if I was sure we were talking about the same thing. Parents, amIright?

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    • “Parents, amIright?”

      It’s funny you mention it, but I mentioned Graham Chapman’s nutty parents in the January 8th birthday article. I know parents have been mentioned before on this blog, but it’s always intriguing hearing about other people’s parents that are worse than your own.

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  2. I’m off from work today, so it’s a pretty light day for me as well.

    I always liked Amanda Peet. She was incredibly funny in “The Whole Nine Yards”. The sequel, “The Whole Ten Yards” isn’t great, but it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of Peet, Matthew Perry, or Bruce Willis.

    Rod Taylor was also the voice of Pongo in the animated film “101 Dalmatians”. (No, he was not in the Glenn Close version.) Disney made a direct-to-DVD sequel called “101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure” in 2003. One of the things that stinks about the sequels being released on DVD so much later is that all the original voice actors either die or retire and have to be replaced. (Taylor was retired at the time, but you know what I mean.)

    The only live action movie I saw Rod Taylor in was “The Birds”. That was a pretty wild movie. Did you know Taylor was not the first choice for the male lead? The first choice was actually Farley Granger, and Granger turned Hitchcock down because he wanted to spend time with his new boyfriend. Hitchcock was not amused, so he cast Rod Taylor instead. Needless to say, I was happy with that decision.

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  3. I’m not too familiar with Mary J. Blige, but she would have been a headliner contender most days—nine Grammys speak for themselves.

    I am another one who enjoyed Amanda Peet in The Whole Nine Yards, where she was a bundle of comic energy (not to mention fanservice).

    I haven’t had a chance to see the musical Hamilton yet, but I would imagine that it is roughly as accurate historically as 1776.

    Even though I am a fan of old movie serials, I haven’t yet gotten to the one that gave Don “Red” Barry his nickname. I know him mostly as one of the pilot crew in Only Angels Have Wings—he was the one manning their weather lookout station up in the dangerous mountain pass that played a big part in the plot.

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  4. I had a friend who was very fond of Amanda Peet; I’ve liked her in 1999’s “Two Ninas” The “Yards” films (really liked the first one, only kind of liked the second one, but I didn’t mind seeing those characters on-screen together again), 2002’s double of “High Crimes” and “Changing Lanes”, and “Identity”.
    Alexander Hamilton, I see him everywhere, and I’m also a big fan of the guy. I want lots and lots of Alexander Hamilton.
    Lionel Stander, I know him best from voicing Kup in 1986’s “Transformers: The Movie”. I think that blacklist action is total rubbish, and I’m sorry that happened to him.

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