February 2: Happy Birthday Shakira and Elaine Stritch


Colombian pop superstar Shakira turns 40 today.  She began recording and performing in her early teens, and after a bit of a slow start, she began to be successful in the Latin market in the late nineties.  Her live album MTV Unplugged won her a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album , and was followed by her breakthrough with US listeners in the early 2000s.  Her album Laundry Service was her first of five to reach the Top 10, while “Whenever, Wherever” became her first single to chart on the Hot 100, reaching #6:

Shakira won her second Grammy in 2006 for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album, and has also won a dozen Latin Grammys.  She is one of the best-selling Latin recording artists of all time, with a conservative estimate of over 70 million records sold.

Elaine Stritch (1925-2014) began her stage career in the 1940s, and did not take her final bow until 2011.  She was nominated for her first Tony Award, for Best Featured Actress in a Play, for Bus Stop in 1956.  Her later nominations included one for Best Actress in a Play for a revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, and two for Best Actress in a Musical, the second for originating the role of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s Company:

Stritch made a variety of TV guest appearances over the years, and won Emmys for Outstanding Guest Actress for roles on Law & Order and later on 30 Rock.  Her one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty premiered in 2001 and won a Tony for Best Special Theatrical Event, and a documentary adaptation that was broadcast in 2004 won Stritch a third Emmy.

Fans of English television would probably be very familiar with Sir David Jason, one of the country’s biggest stars, who celebrates his 77th today.  He is known for starring roles in long-running series like the sitcom Only Fools and Horses and the crime drama A Touch of Frost, and has won four BAFTA Television Awards among his other honors.  Brent Spiner, who is 68 today, is best known for playing Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation and in four feature films; last summer he reprised the role of Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day: ResurgenceTom Smothers, the elder of the Smothers Brothers, is turning 80.  Barry Diller, who is 75 today, has been one of the most prominent media executives of the last four decades, having served at different times as CEO of Paramount Pictures and of Fox, among other accomplishments.

Jennifer Westfeldt turns 47 today.  She co-wrote and starred in Kissing Jessica Stein and wrote and directed Friends with Kids, and also was a Tony nominee as Eileen Sherwood in the 2003 revival of Wonderful TownMichael T. Weiss, who is 55, played the lead role of Jarod on NBC’s The Pretender for four seasons.  Emily Rose, the star of Syfy’s Haven, is celebrating her 36th.  Marissa Winokur, who is turning 44, won a Tony for playing Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical adaptation of HairsprayLaura Poitras, a two time nominee for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature (winning for 2014’s Citizenfour), is 53 today.

Alex Sharp, who celebrates his 28th, won the Tony for Best Actor in a Play for starring as Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeGemma Arterton, who is 31 today, first became known to a wide audience as “Fields.  Just Fields” in Quantum of Solace, and went on to star in action fantasy films like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Hansel and Gretel: Witch HungersZosia Mamet, who stars on HBO’s Girls as Shoshanna Shapior, turns 29; she is the daughter of filmmaker and playwright David Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse.

The big literary name among today’s birthdays is James Joyce (1882-1941).  The author of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegan’s Wake, he is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century—not, however, one of the easiest to read.  Ayn Rand (1905-1982) wrote the bestselling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and spent much of her life advocating her philosophical outlook of “Objectivism.”  Johnston McCulley (1883-1958), a prolific writer of pulp fiction of all kinds, was the creator of the character of Zorro.  James Dickey (1923-1997) was named Poet Laureate of the US in 1966, and also wrote the novel Deliverance, the source for the 1972 movie.

February 2 was a great day for lovers of the violin.  Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) and Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) were two of the greatest violinists of all time.  Both began performing at an early age and had long careers as concerto soloists and in the recording studio.  Other music birthdays include Graham Nash, who turns 75.  He is known for his work with The Hollies and his longtime partnership with David Crosby and Stephen Stills.  Al McKay, who is turning 69, was a six-time Grammy winner as a member of funk band Earth, Wind & Fire.  Stan Getz (1927-1991) was one of the most famous jazz saxophonists of his time, and was especially known for a hit recording of “The Girl from Ipanema” that he made in 1964 with Astrud Gilberto.

Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009) was one of the leading pinup girls of all time, and starred on the first season of Charlie’s Angels.  She also had some serious credentials as an actress that may be overlooked; she was nominated for four Emmys and six Golden Globes in her career.  Hungarian charactor actor S. Z. Sakall (1883-1955) was one of many refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe to appear in Casablanca; he played Carl, the waiter at Rick’s Cafe.  He was also known for playing Professor Magenbruch in Ball of FireBonita Granville (1923-1988) was a teen star of the 1930s, receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for These Three and playing America’s most famous girl detective in Nancy Drew…Detective and three sequels.  She later moved to the other side of the camera; she and her husband Jack Wrather were the longtime producers of the Lassie television series and some related movies.  Charles Corell (1890-1972) was a radio actor who was best known for his work on the long-running Amos ‘n’ Andy show, where he voiced Andy Burns.

In one of the more interesting coincidences I’ve come across in writing these articles, Duane Jones (1937-1988), who starred in the cult horror classic Night of the Living Dead, shared a birthday with John Russo, who co-wrote the screenplay; Russo turns 78 today.

Finally, David Sharpe (1910-1980) was a legendary stuntman, known as the “Crown Prince of Daredevils.”  Sharpe worked for over fifty years as a stunt performer; his IMDb page lists over 300 stunt credits, but other sources claim the total is in the thousands.  He would work on big budget movies or Poverty Row cheapies—some of his most famous work was done for the movie serials Republic Pictures made in the late thirties and forties.

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 February 2, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan, I am pro Shakira. If she comes on the radio, I am unlikely to turn the dial. I am pretty sure I have heard the name Elaine Stritch before, but I wouldn’t have been able to place it prior to reading your write-up. I’m learning lots in these articles. I hope the same is true for our readers.

    I like Star Trek, but I stop short of calling myself a Trekkie or Trekker or whatever other label applies. I took a while to warm up to Next Gen which was really hard to watch during its first season. Brent Spiner’s Data was one of the more popular characters on the show. He was kind of their Spock. But man, when the Next Gen crowd moved to the big screen, Data got real annoying real fast. Spiner contributed to the story for the last movie that featured that cast. One assumes his ideas for Insurrection related to Data. If so, they were either bad ideas or poorly executed because that movie was a real low point for Spiner.

    Tom Smothers and his brother were quite radical by the standards of TV at the time. Of course, that was before my time so I’m not speaking from direct experience. Barry Diller wasn’t just a mogul. He also mentored several up-and-coming CEOs like Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

    Gemma Arterton is just stunningly beautiful.

    Yay James Joyce. Boo Ayn Rand.

    I grew up when Farrah Fawcett was at the peak of her popularity. Post Charlie’s Angels, she both achieved some measure of respectability and became a punchline. She was a pretty complicated pop culture figure. That poster was something, wasn’t it?


  2. I only of Shakira, but I don’t really know her music.
    I only really know Elaine Stritch from her one woman show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty”, which I saw on HBO. I thought it was good.
    Tom Smothers, he’s another performer I just know of, mostly from those Magnavox commercials from back in the day.
    Michael T. Weiss, I watched quite a bit of “The Pretender” back when it aired; I really liked it.
    James Joyce, I’m more familiar with his poems (which I’ve enjoyed) than his books.
    Ayn Rand, I’m more familiar with her name and what she stood for than her work. She seems to me like the L. Ron Hubbard of her time.
    Farrah Fawcett, I also thought she was a pretty good actress, and she was definitely a pop culture icon.


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