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May 19: Happy Birthday Pete Townshend and Nora Ephron

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Pete Townshend celebrates his 72nd today.  The legendary guitarist and songwriter began performing while still in secondary school in London, along with a friend by the name of John Entwistle.  In the early sixties the two joined a band then known as The Detours led by a guitarist named Roger Daltrey.  After a couple of further lineup changes, they had become a quartet, with Daltrey as lead vocalist, Entwistle on bass, a drummer named Keith Moon, and Townshend assuming the lead guitar role.  They also had a new name—The Who.

In addition to playing lead guitar (he developed a distinctive “windmill” style for The Who’s stage shows), Townshend developed into a songwriter of considerable talents.  By 1965 The Who had their first major successes in the UK, with their album My Generation and its title song.  Two years later came their biggest hit in the US.

In addition to his career with The Who, Townshend has had a periodic solo career, with his Top Ten 1980 album Empty Glass being a highlight.  His rock opera Tommy, released by The Who as an album in 1969, has been praised by the likes of Leonard Bernstein for its inventiveness.  While he is known as a guitarist, and has made several lists of the greatest rock guitarists ever, Townshend actually plays around a dozen instruments.  He and Daltrey, the sole surviving members of The Who’s original quartet, continue to tour regularly.

0519Ephron

Nora Ephron (1941-2012) is probably most likely to be remembered as a screenwriter and director.  Although people probably associate her with romantic comedies, her first film screenplay was for the biographical drama Silkwood; she was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  She received two additional Oscar nominations for writing, for When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle, and won a BAFTA Award for the former film.  Some of her other films as a writer and/or director include Heartburn, My Blue Heaven, Julie & Julia, and the third of her “Meg Ryan trilogy” of rom-coms, You’ve Got Mail.

Ephron also worked as a journalist, writing for the New York Post for several years, and authored several books, including the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck.  Her first play, Imaginary Friends, premiered on Broadway in 2002.  She also co-wrote the Drama Desk Award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore with her sister Delia, while her final play, Lucky Guy, received six Tony nominations.

Peter Mayhew, the towering actor who has played Chewbacca in five Star Wars films (and on The Muppet Show), turns 73 today.  He is the second-tallest individual in today’s article next to André Roussimoff, better known as André the Giant (1946-1993).  The enormous, 7-4 André was one of the most famous professional wrestlers of his time, and is also remembered for his most famous screen role, as Fezzik in The Princess BridePat Roach (1937-2004), who was “only” 6-5, was also a one-time professional wrestler, but will be remembered for a variety of “big henchman” roles he played, notably in the first three Indiana Jones films.

Bérénice Marlohe, who is celebrating her 38th, is likely best known to many of our readers as Sévérine in Skyfall; she has appeared in a variety of French films, starred with the late Anton Yelchin in 5 to 7, and has a supporting role in Terrence Malick’s Song to Song.  Stuntwoman Sophia Crawford, who turns 51, is best known for her work doubling Sarah Michelle Gellar on the first four seasons of BuffyJason Gray-Stanford, who played Lt. Randy Disher on Monk, is 47 today.  Drew Fuller, who is turning 37, has had regular roles on Charmed, as Chris Halliwell, and on Army Wives, as Trevor LeBlanc.  Eleanor Tomlinson, who celebrates her 25th, played Princess Isabelle in Jack the Giant Slayer and Lady Isabel Neville on The White Queen; she currently stars on the BBC series Poldark (where her character is not named Isabel).

Claudia Karvan, one of Australia’s most popular actresses, turns 45 today.  She has starred in several Australian films, but is best known for her work in Australian television series such as The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way, and SpiritedNancy Kwan, who is 78 today, began her career with starring roles in The World of Suzie Wong, for which she won a Golden Globe, and the film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song.  While she did not sustain her stardom, she was one of Hollywood’s first prominent Asian actresses.

Two NBA greats, one just recently retired, one from the league’s early days, top our sports birthdays today.  Kevin Garnett, who turns 41, was the first played drafted directly from high school to the NBA in 20 years when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him in 1995.  He went on to make 15 All-Star Games and star for the Boston Celtics when they won the 2008 NBA championship.  Dolph Schayes (1928-2015) played his entire career with the Syracuse Nationals and the Philadelphia 76ers (the same franchise, but renamed when they moved to Philly).  He made 12 All-Star teams, led the Nationals to the 1955 NBA title, and is in the NBA Hall of Fame.  Diego Forlan, one of the best footballers ever from Uruguay, turns 38.  The high point of his career was in 2010, when he led Uruguay to a 4th place finish at the World Cup and was honored with the Golden Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player.

Rising R&B/soul singer Sam Smith turns 25 today.  His debut album In the Lonely Hour reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the US.  He won four Grammys in 2015, including Record and Song of the Year, and then received the Oscar for Best Original Song for writing and performing “Writing’s on the Wall,” the theme song for SpectreGrace Jones, who turns 69, has released several albums that combined elements of pop, punk, reggae and more, and has had several #1 hits on the US Dance chart.  She made her own contribution to the James Bond films as May Day in A View to a Kill and also was featured in Conan the Destroyer.

Novelist Jodi Picoult turns 51 today.  She is the author of award-winning novels such as My Sister’s Keeper (made into a 2009 feature film) and Nineteen Minutes (a #1 bestseller), and also wrote several issues of DC’s Wonder Woman, which were published as the graphic novel Wonder Woman: Love and Murder.  The sadly short-lived playwright Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) was best known for her play A Raisin in the Sun, which received several Tony nominations including Best Play.  Both the original Broadway production and the film adaptation starred Sidney Poitier.

Herman Brix, better known by the screen name of Bruce Bennett (1906-2007) won an Olympic medal in the shot put in 1928 and made a few films under his given name in the thirties, including playing the title character in The New Adventures of Tarzan.  After changing his name, he appeared in supporting roles in films like Sahara, Mildred Pierce, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Historical birthdays today include a pair of “founding fathers” of nations.  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was the leader of the Turkish War of Independence in the aftermath of World War One, which brought the Ottoman Empire to an end and established the modern Republic of Turkey, serving as its president until his death.  His surname of Atatürk, given by the Turkish Parliament, literally means “Father of the Turks.”  Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) was the leader of the Việt Minh independence movement in Vietnam and the president of the Democratic (i.e., communist) Republic of Vietnam from 1945-69.  His goal was always a unified Vietnam under his party’s control, but he did not live to see that happen.  Malcolm X (1925-1965, born Malcolm Little) was a highly influential and controversial African-American leader in the mid-20th Century.  A leader for many years in the Nation of Islam, he broke with the movement in the last year of his life.  He was played by Denzel Washington in a biopic directed by Spike Lee.

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 May 19, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I was a little bit too young to have gotten into The Who when they were in their heyday, but I’ve come to appreciate their talents through the years. It’s amazing how productive they were as a band given how dysfunctional they were at the personal level.

    There are a few interesting Nora Ephron connections with other birthdays this week which will be more apparent when tomorrow’s article appears.

    It’s a very unusual day when you have ex-NBA stars in the article, who are not the tallest individuals who are in the article. When it comes to Andre the Giant’s pro wrestling career, I can pretty much take it or leave it (that’s how I feel about the sport as a whole), but he is unforgettable as the rhyme-loving Fezzik.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like The Who. I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan per se, but I have their Greastest Hits collection around somewhere.

      Nora Ephron, for the most part, did not make movies for me. I liked When Harry Met Sally a lot. After that, results were mixed. She made several movies that I kinda liked. Generally, I felt like she allowed herself a few too many characters and subplots. Most of her movies could benefit from shaving 15-20 minutes off the runtime. I also realize that I’m not the target demo for her movies, so I’ll just shut up and let everyone else enjoy Sleepless in Seattle.

      I have a little more appreciation for Andre the Giant as a wrestler. He was active during the relatively brief time that I was watching the “sport”. It was basically Saturday morning cartoons back then. I remember his rivalry with Hulk Hogan who I didn’t like. I was always hoping someone would come along and beat Hogan, but it rarely ever happened. I’d definitely take Andre as Fezzik over his wrestling persona.

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  2. Peter Mayhew has suffered some health problems for years. I’m sure Star Wars fans will join me in wishing him well on his birthday.

    Grace Jones was kind of perfect for the 80’s. Very memorable in both A View to a Kill and Conan.

    Like

  3. Peter Townshend, for his solo work, I really dig his song “Face the Face” (I try that, but when I face the face the mirrors crack).
    Nora Ephron, “You’ve Got Mail” is on a disc that includes “Interspace”, “Joe vs. the Volcano”, and “The Women”, and I saw a copy at Dollar general for 8$ (good deal for Joe/Volcano alone if you ask me). She was the screenwriter for “Silkwood”, and I like that.
    Peter Mayhew, I know the character he plays, but not really anything about him, except now his age.
    Andre the giant, I liked using him in the 1989 Nintendo game ” WWF WrestleMania”, and I thought, like Mr. T, he was a celebrity that kids gravitated towards. I don’t know, I liked him.
    Kevin Garnett, former writer for ESPN Bill Simmons once said of him that his competitiveness bordered on homicidal. I’m glad he gave such a damn about the sport he played, because there are those that have the ability, but not the passion, and he had both.
    Grace Jones, I liked her in “A View to a Kill” (dance into the fire!) and 1986’s “Vamp”, but I gotta be honest, she scared me a little back in the day. Not until I viewed her in 1992’s “Boomerang” that I finally reconciled such feelings.
    Malcolm X, I’m glad he abandoned the teachings of Elijah Muhammed after just not liking that he (Muhammed) wasn’t making the kind of societal impact he (Malcolm X) thought he should, plus I guess he wasn’t digging the extra marital affairs either (from what I’ve read, Muhammed sounded like a major hypocrite). But, like many prominent social figures of the 1960’s, Malcolm X was assassinated.

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