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January 31: Happy Birthday Kerry Washington and Carol Channing

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Kerry Washington is celebrating her 40th today.  The four-time Emmy nominee began acting in her teens, and started getting regular work following her graduation from George Washington University.  For a little over a decade she was a busy supporting player in film and television, with roles in films like Save the Last Dance, Ray, The Last King of Scotland, and the Fantastic Four films, along with recurring roles on 100 Centre Street and Boston Legal.

In the past five years or so Washington has emerged as a major actress.  She had a major role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained in 2012.  That same year, she was cast as the lead role of Olivia Pope in the ABC series Scandal, created by Shonda Rhimes.  Washington has received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama for Scandal.  Last year, she received two more Emmy nominations for the HBO movie Confirmation, as a producer and for starring as Anita Hill.

Carol Channing, the fourth legend of musical theater to be a headliner this month, turns 96 today.  She began working on Broadway in the early forties, with her first big role coming in 1949, as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  25 years later, she would star in a revised version of that show, now titled Lorelei, and receive the fourth nomination of her career for the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical.

Channing’s first Tony nomination was for the 1955 musical The Vamp.  She won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, and received an Oscar nomination, for 1967 musical film Thoroughly Modern Millie.  She made a bit of sports history in 1970 as the first celebrity to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show.  But the show, and the role, that she will forever be associated with is Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!

Bond Girl Daniela Bianchi turns 75 today.  Aside from playing Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love, Bianchi appeared in a variety of Italian films of the 1960s, including several Eurospy films, before marrying and retiring from acting at the end of the decade.  Minnie Driver also appeared in a Bond film, in a small part in Goldeneye (“who’s strangling a cat?”).  She was an Oscar nominee for Good Will Hunting and has received Emmy nominations for The Riches and Return to Zero.  Driver is 47 today.  Portia de Rossi, who turns 44, costars with Kerry Washington on Scandal, and is also known for her regular roles on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development.  Veteran character actor Jonathan Banks, who celebrates his 70th, is a four-time Emmy nominee in the role of Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

Anthony LaPaglia, who is turning 58, has had a distinguished career in the cinema of his native Australia, winning awards for his performances in films like Lantana and Balibo.  In the US, he is an Emmy winner for Outstanding Guest Actor on Frasier, won a Golden Globe for starring on Without a Trace, and is a Tony winner for starring in a revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the BridgeConnie Booth, who is 73 today, was married for several years to John Cleese.  During that time she worked with him on several Monty Python productions, including playing the Witch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and also co-wrote and co-starred in Fawlty Towers with Cleese.

Anna Silk, who played the lead on the Canadian supernatural drama Lost Girl, turns 43 today.  Stuart Margolin, a two-time Emmy winner as Angel Martin on The Rockford Files, celebrates his 77th.  Jessica Walter, who is 76, won an Emmy for starring on the 1970s miniseries Amy Prentiss and was nominated for another as Lucille Bluth on Arrested DevelopmentPatricia Velasquez, who turns 46 today, was also on Arrested Development as Marta Estrella and played Anck-Su-Namun in the Mummy films.

We have several sports birthdays today, beginning with one historic figure.  When Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) started for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, he brought to an end the “color line” that had barred non-white players from Major League Baseball since the 1880s.  He was also an outstanding player who won the National League MVP Award in 1949 and led the Dodgers to a World Series win in 1955.  One of the players who followed in Robinson’s wake was Ernie Banks (1931-2015).  “Mr. Cub” starred for the Chicago Cubs for close to two decades, winning two National League MVP awards.  Nolan Ryan, who turns 70 today, holds major league records for most seasons played, most strikeouts by a pitcher, and most no-hitters.  He won 324 games during his career.  Like Robinson and Banks, he is in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  Football Hall of Famer Don Hutson (1913-1997) was the first great wide receiver in NFL history.  He led the Green Bay Packers to three NFL championships in the thirties and forties, and held almost all of the league’s receiving records when he retired.  Swimmer Shirley Babashoff, who turns 60 today, won eight swimming medals at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.  For many years, she was saddled with the unfortunate nickname of “Surly Shirley,” the media’s response to her charges that the East German swimmers who were dominating the 1976 Olympics were using performance-enhancing drugs—charges we now know, beyond doubt, to be true.

Today’s music birthdays include Justin Timberlake, who is 36.  After becoming well-known as a member of the boy band NSYNC, he embarked on a solo career that has brought him nine Grammys, mostly in the Pop or R&B categories.  He has won four Primetime Emmys for various contributions to Saturday Night Live and has had major roles in films like The Social Network and Bad Teacher.  John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten, was the lead singer of the Sex Pistols, the relatively short-lived but highly influential punk rock band from the seventies.  He turns 61 today.  Marcus Mumford is 30 today; he is the lead singer and plays multiple instruments for the three-time Grammy winning folk rock band Mumford & Sons.  Also turning 30 is Tyler Hubbard, who is one half of the award-winning country duo Florida Georgia Line.  Alan Lomax (1915-2002) was important not as a songwriter or performer, but as a collector and cataloger of folk tunes from all over the country, for the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress (despite its name, the Archive is probably as important for blues as it is for folk).  Philip Glass, who is 80 today, is one of the central composers of the “minimalist” movement.  He has written a variety of orchestral and chamber music, and also scored several films, receiving three Oscar nominations.

Suzanne Pleshette (1937-2008) was a four-time Emmy nominee, two of them for playing Emily Hartley on The Bob Newhart Show, and also was a Golden Globe nominee for Alfred Hitchcock’s The BirdsDerek Jarman (1942-1994) was an independent British director known for films such as War Requiem and Edward II, adapted respectively from Benjamin Britten’s choral work and Christopher Marlowe’s play.  Mario Lanza (1921-19159) was trained as an operatic tenor, but spent most of his short career in film, where he was an ideal choice for the title role in The Great CarusoJean Simmons (1929-2010) won a Golden Globe as Sister Sarah Brown in the film version of Guys and Dolls, and was an Oscar nominee as Ophelia in Olivier’s HamletTallulah Bankhead (1902-1968) was primarily a stage actress, known for her performances in plays like Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes and Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of our Teeth; film fans may remember her appearance in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

Norman Mailer (1923-2007), an American novelist and essayist, was known for novels like The Naked and the Dead and The Executioner’s Song, the latter of which won a Pulitzer Prize.  Dentist turned novelist Zane Grey (1872-1939) wrote several dozen works of popular fiction, predominantly Westerns such as Riders of the Purple SageJohn O’Hara (1905-1970) wrote novels such as Butterfield 8 and Pal Joey; the latter was adapted into a Rodgers and Hart musical while both eventually were made into feature films.

January has been a month that seems, above all, to be full of musical birthdays.  We’ll cap the month with one final musical genius.  Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was almost totally unappreciated during his lifetime, outside of a circle of acquaintances in Vienna.  Today he is recognized as one of the giants of early 19th century music.  He wrote  eight symphonies, two of them absolute masterpieces, as well as chamber music and solo piano compositions that can stand alongside Beethoven’s.  But his greatest and most unique achievements are his songs—Schubert composed some 600 Lieder, or art songs, during his short life.

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 31, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. My wife really liked Save the Last Dance, so I saw bits and pieces of it. I may have even watched it all the way through at some point. I didn’t realize that was Kerry Washington. Also didn’t know she was in the Fantastic Four movies which I have seen chunks of. I don’t watch Scandal, but I did see her in Django.

    Carol Channing is one of those celebs I know primarily from variety shows growing up. She was famous and I knew who she was. But I had no idea what she was famous for.

    Daniela Bianchi is a top ten Bond girl in my book. Minnie Driver had her moment after Goodwill Hunting, but it didn’t last as long as a lot of us thought it would. I was aware of Portia de Rossi on Ally McBeal but didn’t really become familiar with her until Arrested Development. I watched Jonathan Banks on Breaking Bad and I can’t wait for Better Call Saul to return.

    I suppose Anthony LaPaglia is probably best known for Empire Records? At least in terms of movies. Sounds like he’s done quite well for himself away from the big screen.

    Wow. Three Arrested Development birthdays today. Jessica Walter has a lot of credits to her name. She appeared in that awful Dr. Strange TV movie.

    Patricia Velasquez wasn’t a regular. In fact, she wasn’t even the original Marta. She took over the role in the character’s second appearance. Love that show.

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  2. Kerry Washington, I’ve seen “I Think I Love My Wife” (not great, but I thought Washington was pretty sultry there) 2006’s “The Dead girl”, and “Django Unchained”. I also watched her husband play in the NFL at a high level for a number of years. They seem like private people; that’s always a good idea.
    Carol Channing, I’m aware of her, and have seen in her make guest appearances here and there in the past.
    Minnie Driver I really remember from the late 1990’s, with films like “Sleepers”, “Good Will hunting”, and “Grosse Point Blank” (some of those films should be in a poll someday). I also viewed 2001’s “High Heels and Low Lifes”, in which she starred alongside Mary McCormack.
    Portia de Rossi, I know her from “Ally McBeal” and from being married to Ellen.
    Johnathan Banks, the character actor who played his fair share of bad guys (I’m thinking of “Beverly hills Cop” and “Armed and Dangerous”). He also played Deputy Adams in Season 2 of “Dexter”; he wasn’t a bad guy there, but he wasn’t much help to the good guys either, as he was just a bureaucratic lead dog. I remember the TV show “Fired Up!” and I thought he was funny in that.
    Anthony LaPaglia, he comes from a land under, and his performance in “Betsy’s Wedding” tore me asunder. Can I hear, can I hear his thunder? yes, because I’ve also seen “Without a Trace” and I dig “Innocent Blood”.
    Jessica Walter, that woman freaked me out in “Play Misty for Me”. Before Alex from “Fatal Attraction” was boiling rabbits, there was this unhinged woman. I’ve seen her in other projects as well, such as 1994’s “PCU”.
    Jackie Robinson, I thought he helped the cause of civil rights along almost as well as Martin Luther King Jr. (I agree with author George Will on that point), and paid the price with his health. The man was a great athlete too, but apparently a even better human being.
    I was a fan of Nolan Ryan as a kid; I was amazed that an “old dude” like him could still pitch at a high level. I guess it was work ethic and being country strong.
    Justin Timberlake, I liked his turns in “Alpha Dog” and “Black Snake moan” (why can’t I get these damn snakes to damn moan?).
    Johnny Rotten sure sure, I still like The Sex Pistols.

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  3. A little late here, but I would also like to give a birthday shout-out to the lovely Kelly Lynch of “Road House”, “Drugstore Cowboy”, “Curly Sue”, “Virtuosity” and “Charlie’s Angels” fame. She just celebrated her 58th birthday that day.

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    • I must’ve missed lynch’s name in the article, because I would’ve mentioned her if I had knew.

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      • I had a really long list of potential names for this article, and Kelly Lynch ended up being one of the ones I had to leave out simply because I don’t have unlimited time for writing the articles. 🙂

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