Monthly Archives: June 2017
It’s the birthday of the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. Michael Phelps is celebrating his 32nd. He began swimming at the age of seven, set his first age group national record when he was ten, and made his first Olympic team at fifteen (he finished fifth in the 200 meter butterfly). He was a few months shy of 16 when he set his first world record, which he promptly broke at the 2001 World Championships.
Phelps has competed in five Olympics. He has won 28 total medals, including 23 gold medals; both of these counts are records, and his gold medal count is more than any two other Olympians in history. He also has 33 World Championships medals, of which 26 are gold. There are few if any athletes, in any sports, who have sustained such a high level of excellence for such a long period. Phelps’s greatest performance came at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when he won a record eight gold medals, in the 200 meter freestyle, the 100 and 200 meter butterfly, and the 200 and 400 meter individual medleys, along with three relay gold medals.
Our first two days at Universal Orlando were cut short due to rain and thunderstorms. We still had three days left to tour the parks, but the weather forecast continued to be gloomy. The girls really wanted to spend some time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter trying out their new wands. But that was difficult during the busy afternoon hours and the evening was likely to be rained out. So I set out to get an early start on our third day to take advantage of the early admission perk offered to guests at Loews Royal Pacific.
Nicole Scherzinger is celebrating her 39th birthday. She began performing in regional musical theater in the Kentucky-Ohio area and with the alt-rock band Days of the New. She then auditioned for the WB’s series Popstars, and became a member of the girl group Eden’s Crush, who had one successful album and single before their record company and album went bankrupt. In 2003, she was one of several singers and dancers recruited to join the former burlesque troupe The Pussycat Dolls as they converted to a girl group. Scherzinger emerged as the group’s lead singer over their six years together, during which time they had two Top 10 albums and several charted singles.
As we know from the Direct TV commercials he stars in, there have been a lot of different Rob Lowe’s. There was Brat Pack Rob Lowe, Party Boy Rob Lowe, Underage Sex Tape Rob Lowe and Sings With Snow White Rob Lowe. In the mid-nineties, those guys were replaced by Repentant Rob Lowe who slowly rebuilt his career while most of his contemporaries faded into obscurity. In the June 1997 issue of Movieline magazine, one thing is clear: Rob Lowe will do anything.
Today we have two birthdays of people who have “won” the unofficial honor called an EGOT—winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in individual, competitive categories.
Mel Brooks is turning 91 today. In the late forties Sid Caesar hired Brooks as a writer for Admiral Broadway Revue, and retained him for Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. In the late fifties Brooks began to build a reputation as a comedian with his “2000 Year Old Man” routine, and in 1965 he worked with Buck Henry in creating Get Smart (Brooks was only involved in the show’s first season). In the late sixties Brooks put himself on the map with his musical satire film The Producers. Although studios didn’t want to touch it because of its subject matter, it became an underground hit and Brooks won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Superhero movies are dominant at the box office. But that wasn’t always the case. In the 90’s, Batman was the only successful superhero franchise. Just two years prior to the release of the fourth film in the series, Warner Brothers was so confident of the caped crusader, they released a movie titled Batman Forever. It’s true that the studio will probably continue making Batman movies long after you and I are gone, but the next Batman movie they released derailed not just the series but the entire superhero genre for years to come.
J. J. Abrams (the initials stand for Jeffrey Jacob) is turning 51. He began working in film as a writer and producer in the early 1990s. His film credits, in one role or the other, included Regarding Henry, The Pallbearer, Gone Fishin’ and Armageddon. He also had a handful of acting cameos, one of which I will get back to later in this article. People first started to pay attention to Abrams, however, when his first TV series premiered in 1998. From the beginning of Felicity’s run, there was not one season in the next fifteen when at least one show created by Abrams was not on the prime time schedule (that covers the runs of Alias, Lost, and Fringe).
In 2006 Abrams directed his first feature film, Mission: Impossible III. Since then he has gone on to direct two Star Trek reboots, one Spielberg homage (Super 8), and one other film that, whatever else might be said about it, certainly gave a lot of moviegoers the kind of things they wanted to see.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… a promising young actor was cast in one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood. The actor was then-unknown Hayden Christensen and the part was future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker. Christensen beat out well-known actors for the lead role in Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones and at the time it seemed like that might make him a star. In this cover story from the June 2002 issue of Movieline magazine, Christensen talks about what it was liked to be plucked from obscurity by George Lucas.
Pop star and actress Ariana Grande turns 24 today. She made her professional performing debut as part of the original Broadway cast of the musical 13. She then did some television work; she was cast in the supporting role of Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, and when that series ended its run at shortly after iCarly did, Nickelodeon decided to pair supporting characters from the two series in a new hybrid spinoff titled Sam & Cat. For a variety of reasons this one ended after one season; one reason was Grande’s desire to focus more on her singing career.
Grande began her music career by contributing to the soundtrack albums for Victorious. Her first album, Yours Truly, came out at about the time Sam & Cat started airing. She has followed up with two further studio albums, each of which has reached at least #2 on the Billboard 200. In a singing career of only about five years so far, she has already had eight Top Ten singles, and received four Grammy nominations, one of them for this:
Halfway through this week’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, I started to panic. I realized that the episode was half over and almost nothing had happened in the conventional sense. How the hell was I supposed o write a recap in the morning? After nearly thirty minutes that resembled an experimental film with almost no dialogue, I figured it was very likely the back half of the episode was going to follow suit. While I couldn’t imagine what images would flash across my television screen next, I was correct that the entire hour would be devoted to surrealism. This was the strangest, most disturbing, most ambitious hour of television I have ever watched.
We’re in the final days of June, roughly halfway through the year. It’s officially summertime and I am told the time is right for dancing in the street. We frown on that sort of behavior around here. Safety first, people. There are safer places to dance. And I’m dangerously close to a Men Without Hats reference, so I’m going to switch gears. You can dance if you want to. Just leave your friends behind while I recap this week’s activity here at Le Blog.
Our two headliners today were captured on film together when George Michael made a guest appearance on the “Christmas special” episode of Extras (which was co-created by and starred Ricky Gervais). If you don’t know them by sight, it’s Michael on the left and Gervais on the right in the photo.
Ricky Gervais is celebrating his 56th today. His entertainment career began in the music industry, as part of a new wave duo called Seona Dancing. He also worked in radio management, where he first made the acquaintance of Stephen Merchant. He began working in British television in the late nineties, as both a writer and performer for programs such as The Jim Tavaré Show and The 11 O’Clock Show.
Meanwhile Stephen Merchant was taking a production course with the BBC, for which he had to create a short film. He recruited Gervais to work with him and play a central role in the short, which eventually led to the two being commissioned to write a pilot script for a series about the day-to-day experiences of office employees. Gervais and Merchant created The Office and wrote all the episodes, while Gervais starred as David Brent.
Eight-time Grammy winner Jeff Beck, one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock, is turning 73 today. He played with a variety of groups around London in the early sixties; his first big break came when a band called the Yardbirds had a sudden need for a guitarist, as their current one, someone named Eric Clapton, had just quit.
Beck was with the Yardbirds for only about a year and a half, following which he pursued a variety of solo projects or groups built around him. The Jeff Beck Group was together from about 1967-72, and for a time included Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. He has never had a particularly commercial orientation; his most successful album in the US was the mid-seventies, all-instrumental Blow by Blow.