January 29: Happy Birthday Oprah Winfrey and Heather Graham


Oprah Winfrey is turning 63 today.  After a childhood living in poverty, Winfrey began working at a Nashville, TN radio station, then moved to television journalism. She proved to be a natural for television talk shows, and by the early 1980s was hosting a daytime talk show in Chicago.  In 1986, The Oprah Winfrey Show, a nationally syndicated daytime talk show, was launched, and she quickly had higher ratings than Phil Donahue or any other daytime talk host.  Over its 25 year run, the show received 47 Daytime Emmy Awards.

Over the years, Winfrey built on her show’s success to create her own media mini-empire.  Her production company, Harpo Productions, is responsible for talk shows like Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, just for starters.  In 2011, the Oprah Winfrey Network began airing programming, eventually including original scripted shows created by Tyler Perry.  Winfrey has periodically pursued a film career, receiving an Oscar nomination for her debut in The Color Purple, and more recently starring in The Butler, and producing and appearing in Selma.

For the second time in three days we have a headliner who starred in one of the movies in our current bracket game.  Heather Graham, who turns 47, is also a WTHH subject.  Her first credited film role was in 1988’s License to Drive, as Corey Haim’s potential girlfriend.  In a complete change of tone, her next major role was in Gus Van Sant’s bleak Drugstore Cowboy.  She played Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks, and spent the first half of the 1990s  appearing in a variety of film roles, but without really doing a lot to separate herself from the always-large crowd of young actresses trying to get established in the industry.

Graham began to be really noticed for her supporting part in the 1996 film Swingers.  More recognition came a year later when she played Rollergirl in Boogie Nights, one of the films remaining in our 1997 bracket game.  In 1998, Lost in Space was a failure, but she capped the 1990s by co-starring in the biggest box office success of her career:

The course of her career after she played Felicity Shagwell, and how she ended up with her biggest recent role being in the TV movies adapted from the Flowers in the Attic novels, is covered in great detail in her WTHH article.

Greg Louganis, who turns 57, was one of the most successful divers in Olympic history, winning gold medals in both the springboard and platform events at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.  A drama major in college, he has made a few film appearances, and has been a prominent LGBT rights activist for many years.

Tom Selleck, one of the best-known television stars of the eighties as the title character of Magnum, P.I., turns 72.  He was never really able to parlay his TV success into film stardom, but he continues to find success on the small screen, where he currently stars on Blue BloodsKatharine Ross, who is 77 today, had about a ten year run as a major actress beginning with her Oscar-nominated role as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate; she also will be remembered for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Cable TV viewers in the eighties and early nineties saw a lot of Marc Singer, the star of Beastmaster, a favorite with several cable channels in those days.  Singer, who turns 69, also co-starred with Burt Lancaster in Go Tell the Spartans.

Sara Gilbert turns 42.  She was nominated twice for Primetime Emmys for playing Darlene Connor on Roseanne, and is the creator and co-host of CBS’s talk show The Talk, a Daytime Emmy winner.  Sam Trammell, who starred on True Blood as Sam Merlotte, is 48 today.  Edward Burns, the writer and director of films like The Brothers McMullen and Sidewalks of New York, turns 49; his other film roles include appearing in Saving Private RyanAndrew Keegan, who is 38 today, had a run of several years where he was a regular presence in teen-oriented films, like 10 Things I Hate About You and O, and TV series, like Party of Five and 7th Heaven.  Australian actress Isabel Lucas got her start on the durable Aussie soap opera Home and Away, made her film debut in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and is currently seen on NBC’s Emerald City.  She is turning 32.  Justin Hartley celebrates his 40th.  He played Oliver Queen on Smallville and currently is a regular on NBC’s This Is Us.

Director Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) had a brilliant feel—some called it his “touch”—for comedy and romance.  His most famous films included Trouble in Paradise, the musical The Merry Widow, Ninotchka (the film with the tagline “Garbo laughs”), The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be or Not to BeW. C. Fields (1880-1946), the vaudeville veteran who became one of the leading comic actors of the early sound era, will be remembered for films such as It’s a Gift and The Bank DickVictor Mature (1913-1999) was known for starring in Biblical epics like Samson and Delilah and The Robe, but also played major parts in Westerns like My Darling Clementine, noirs like Kiss of Death, and musicals like Million Dollar MermaidJohn Forsythe (1918-2010) had a very long film and television career, but is most likely to be known as the voice of Charles Townsend on Charlie’s Angels and in the two feature films from the early 2000s.  Polly Platt (1939-2011) was a producer, production designer and writer known for her marriage to, and professional partnership with, Peter Bogdanovich—she was officially the production designer on his early films but also contributed a lot behind the scenes.  She later worked a lot with James L. Brooks and was an Oscar nominee for production design on his Terms of Endearment.

Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was one of England’s most prominent composers.  He was known for a variety of orchestral and choral compositions, such as the tone poems On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and Eventyr.  Singer and actor John Raitt (1917-2005) was a musical theater star from the forties to the sixties.  He originated the roles of Billy Bigelow in Carousel and Sid Sorokin in The Pajama Game on Broadway and reprised the latter for the film adaptation.  Ten-time Grammy winner Bonnie Raitt is his daughter.

A variety of well-known political, military and business leaders from America’s past and present share today as a birthday.  For the third time this month, one of the “Lees of Old Virginia” is one of them.  Henry Lee III, better remembered as Light-Horse Harry Lee (1756-1818) was an American cavalry leader in the Revolutionary War and later served his state as governor and congressman.  He was a cousin of Richard Henry Lee (see January 21 article) and the father of Civil War general Robert E. Lee (see January 19 article).  Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by newly-elected President Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and remained in the office until 1814, the longest tenure of any Treasury Secretary.  William McKinley (1843-1901) was the 25th President of the US, and the third to be assassinated; his death elevated Theodore Roosevelt to the Presidency.  John D Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960), was the fifth child and only son of “Senior,” the founder of Standard Oil.  “Junior,” as he was often known as, played an active role in the family’s business interests, but even more than that, he took a big role in the Rockefellers’ philanthropic activities.  Paul Ryan, who turns 47, is a Republican congressman from Wisconsin.  He was his party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012 and since October of 2015 has been the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Of the many literary giants who emerged in 19th Century Russia, Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was the supreme dramatist.  His final four plays—The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard—are all enormously influential masterpieces.  Chekhov was also a master of the short story, known for stories like “The Lady with the Dog,” and “The Bet.”  Edward Abbey (1927-1989) was famous for his environmental activism, which strongly influenced his writings.  His most famous novel was The Monkey Wrench Gang; another of his novels, The Brave Cowboy, was adapted into the film Lonely Are the Brave.  Screenwriter and playwright Paddy Chayefsky (1923-1981) won three Oscars in the writing categories, for Marty, The Hospital, and Network.  He is the only person to win three screenwriting Oscars that were not shared with a co-writer, and also wrote the Tony-nominated play The Tenth Man.

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 29, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Well, I think Oprah is one of those people in which you can just say their first name, and everybody will know what your talking about. As an actress, I liked her in “The Color Purple” and 1986’s “Native Son”, but I never really watched her talk show, or won any of her gifts. I have watched Oxygen though (I discovered long ago that I need Oxygen in my life).Roger Ebert & her used to date, which I think is a fun fact.
    Heather Graham, I like her, like a “Drugstore Cowboy”. Seriously though, I first remember her as the Mercedes in “License to Drive”, who clearly was not a fun date. I liked her in quite a few roles, including 1997 Bracket Game contender “Boogie Nights” and “Bowfinger”.
    I can combine Tom Selleck & Katharine Ross, since I just caught the last half of the 1982 TV Movie “The Shadow Riders”, which also starred Sam Elliott, who is Ross’s husband. Selleck, wow, well I used to watch episodes of “Magnum, P.I.” the previous decade when in was on RTV, and I’ve always liked the 1984 film “Runaway”. I also remember Ross from the original “The Stepford Wives”.
    Marc Singer, I recall “The Beastmaster”, but I know Marc Singer as the voice of scientist Dr. Kirk Langstrom from “Batman: The Animated Series”. His sister was once Footloose.
    Sara Gilbert I remember from “Roseanne” mostly.
    Edward Burns, I thought he was a big deal for for awhile; I still like some of his work.
    Andrw Keegan, yeah, I like “10 Things I Hate About You”, and I also remember him from this stupid film I caught on HBO titled “Teenage Caveman”, directed by one of the kings of displaying naked young flesh, Larry Clark.
    Paddy Chayefshy, he wrote some really good scripts.


  2. I have a lot of respect for Oprah, but I found her TV show to be excruciatingly condescending. I guess that will happen when millions of people are looking to one person to tell them what to eat, what to read and basically how life should be lived.

    I was a Heather Graham fan in the 90’s. Still am to an extent. Is she a great actress? No. Definitely not. But she does have a gift for light comedy when given the right material. After her guest stints on Scrubs and Arrested Development, it seemed like she was a natural for her own sitcom. Too bad the show she got was nowhere near as good as Scrubs or Arrested Development. I’m still rooting for Graham even if her limitations as an actress have become evident even to me.

    Apparently she wasn’t invited back for the Twin Peaks reunion. That seems like an odd omission. Fans have been asking what happened to her character for decades now. Her character appeared in Fire Walk With Me as the lone link to the show’s cliffhanger ending. Oh well.

    I see Greg Louganis on my FB feed in his role as an activist. I was glad to see him get his Wheaties box last year.

    Tom Selleck, aka The Man Who Would Be Indiana Jones. I saw Selleck on a talk show recently talking about his near miss with Raiders and how word got back to him that Harrison Ford didn’t like him telling that story. It was very funny. Despite the disappointment of missing out on a movie that might have made him a movie star, Selleck’s done well for himself. I think his charms are better suited to the small screen.

    When I think of Katharine Ross, the role that immediately comes to mind for me is The Stepford Wives. For Marc Singer, it’s the sci-fi mini-series and eventual TV show “V”. And also Beastmaster which was on cable a lot.

    Sara Gilbert, I know from Roseanne. Sam Trammell from True Blood. Edward Burns dated headliner Heather Graham once upon a time.

    And by now, there should be a new birthday article posted. I’m going to go check it out.


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