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June 6: Happy Birthday Paul Giamatti and Harvey Fierstein

0606GiamattiFierstein

For openers, here is today’s trivia question.  What do today’s headliner Paul Giamatti and actress Jordana Brewster have in common?

Paul Giamatti is celebrating his 50th today.  He began his acting career in the early nineties, taking a number of small parts in films and on television.  He made his Broadway debut in 1995 in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.  As the decade progressed he began to get better roles, in films like Private Parts and Man on the Moon.  But it was early in the 2000s that he emerged as a major actor.  He received acclaim for playing comic book writer Harvey Pekar in American Splendor and then had one of his biggest critical successes as a wine connoisseur in Alexander Payne’s Sideways.

After his Golden Globe nomination for Sideways, Giamatti received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Cinderella Man, and later won a Golden Globe for starring in Barney’s Version.  Although he wouldn’t seem a likely candidate for action roles, he has had a few forays into action films, in Shoot ‘Em Up, Ironclad, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  He has had several successes on television lately, most notably winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for starring in the HBO miniseries John Adams.  He has received three additional Emmy nominations, and currently stars on Showtime’s Billions.  His next feature film role will be the upcoming The Catcher Was a Spy.

Harvey Fierstein, one of the most important figures in American theater of the last four decades, is turning 63 today.  He began working as a stage actor in his late teens, and in the late 1970s began putting together what became his first play, Torch Song Trilogy.  In it, Fierstein, one of the first openly gay celebrities, helped make gay and lesbian characters and their lives acceptable “mainstream” subjects for drama.

When Trilogy was brought to Broadway in 1982, Fierstein won a pair of Tonys, for Best Play and for Best Actor in a Play for starring as Arnold Beckoff.  He has won two additional Tonys, for Best Book of a Musical for La Cage aux Folles, and for Best Actor in a Musical for Hairspray.  He has been nominated for Best Book of a Musical for Newsies and Kinky Boots, and for Best Play for Casa Valentina.

Although best known for his stage career, Fierstein has done a fair amount of film and television work.  He has done a number of TV guest roles, and had prominent supporting roles in films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Independence Day.  He also starred as Arnold Beckoff in the film adaption of Torch Song Trilogy, preserving one of his most important stage performances.

Jason Isaacs, who turns 54, is known for screen roles such as Col. William Tavington in The Patriot, Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, and Captain Hook in the 2003 Peter Pan.  On television he has been a Golden Globe nominee for the miniseries The State Within and a BAFTA Award nominee for The Curse of Steptoe.

Robert Englund has made a wide variety of film and television appearances, but is almost certainly recognized for playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films; he is turning 70.  Comedian and actress Sandra Bernhard, who turns 62, was one of Comedy Central’s 100 greatest stand-up comics of all time.  Along with her comedy career she was known for her recurring role as Nancy Bartlett on RoseanneMax Casella, who is 50 today, is best know for television roles such as Vinnie Delpino on Doogie Howser, M.D., the recurring character of Benny Fazio on The Sopranos, and Julian Silver on HBO’s Vinyl.

Sonya Walger, a regular on ABC’s recently-cancelled The Catch, turns 43.  She also played the recurring role of Penny Widmore on LostStaci Keanan, who is turning 42, was well known to TV audiences of the late eighties and nineties as Nicole Bradford on My Two Dads and then as Dana Foster on Step by StepEllie Kendrick, who celebrates her 27th, played the title role in a 2009 BBC miniseries adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank and currently plays Meera Reed on Game of Thrones.

Folksinger Holly Near turns 68 today.  She has been following the folkie-activist path for over 40 years and released over 20 studio albums; she has also had a periodic acting career, notably as Lily Taylor’s mother in Dogfight.  Soviet-era composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) is one of Armenia’s national heroes.  A prolific composer, he is best known for his ballets Gayane and Spartacus, and especially for the “Sabre Dance” from the former.

Björn Borg, who turns 61, was one of the greatest tennis players of his generation, who won eleven Grand Slam titles in men’s singles from 1974-81, a total surpassed by only five other players before or since.  Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely turns 52.  One of the game’s best defensemen of his day, he spent most of his career with the Boston Bruins and currently serves as the Bruins’ president.  Bill Dickey (1907-1993) is in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, based on his long and successful career as a catcher for the New York Yankees; he was the regular catcher for seven World Series titlists.  Dave Schultz (1959-1996) won a gold medal for the US at the 1984 Olympics in freestyle wrestling.  His 1996 murder was the subject of the 2014 film Foxcatcher, in which Schultz was played by Mark Ruffalo.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955) was one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, and a Nobel Prize winner in Literature.  His first major work, the novel Buddenbrooks, was written while he was in his twenties.  He went on to write highly intellectual and complex novels like The Magic Mountain, Doktor Faustus, and the four volume set Joseph and His Brothers.  Being listed in the same paragraph as Mann is likely as close to literary greatness as V. C. Andrews (1923-1986) ever came.  She became famous in her late fifties with the novel Flowers in the Attic; it and its sequels were so popular that after Andrews’ death, her publisher hired a ghostwriter to continue writing similarly-themed novels to be published under Andrews’ name.

Walter Abel (1898-1987) played D’Artagnan in a 1935 adaptation of The Three Musketeers but was more likely to be seen in supporting roles in films like Fury and So Proudly We Hail!  Billie Whitelaw (1932-2014) won BAFTA awards twice during her film career, for the films Charlie Bubbles and Twisted Nerve.  As a stage actress, she was known for being Samuel Beckett’s “muse,” collaborating with him in creating plays like Not I and FootfallsSam Simon (1955-2015) had a long career, primarily as a producer, director and writer for television.  He was one of the co-creators of The Simpsons, while his other credits include work on Taxi, Cheers, and The Drew Carey Show.  Although he left The Simpsons in 1993, he was given an executive producer credit until his death and won nine Emmys for his role in the series.

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 June 6, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Paul Giamatti, I’ve liked him in a bunch of projects, most named here (“Shoot ‘Em Up”, “American Splendor”, and “Sideways”), Plus stuff like “Duets” and “Confidence”. Good actor, and I never knew he is the son of late (and brief) baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti (I still have Giamatti’s baseball card).
    Harvey Fierstein, I think he’s pretty fun (cool voice); I probably know him best from “Garbo Talks” (no beard in that film, must’ve been a contest with Ron Silver), that episode of “Miami vice” titled ‘The Fix’ (he had no beard there, so no contest with Ron Silver after all), voice work for that one episode of “The Simpsons”, and “Mrs. Doubtfire”.
    Jason Isaacs, I watched a little of Showtime’s “Brotherhood” back in the day; thought he was good there.
    Robert England, loved him as Freddy Krueger; he played a VERY dark character at its core, but he’s a pretty funny guy who seems sweet as well.
    Sandra Bernhard, I suppose I remember her best for her time on “Roseanne” and hanging out with Madonna.
    Max Casella, definitely remember him from “Doogie Howser M.D.”, but I thought he had a nice part in “Ed Wood” too.
    Staci Keenan, yep, “My Two Dads” for sure, but due to me receiving an ALF doll (big and stuffed; my one & only dad winced at the whole deal) for Christmas when her two dads show was airing, I always associate my ALF with Staci Keenan.
    Bjorn Borg, I’m pretty aware of that match he had in 1980 against John McEnroe, which is hightlighted on the “Great Sports Moments of the 80’s ”
    Cam Neely, I recall when he scored 50 goals in 44 games, which was a good thing, because due to injury he really couldn’t play many games at that point of his career.
    V.C. Andrews, I read one book of hers, “Flowers in the Attic”, back in 1987; I thought it was good (but episodes of “Sledgehammer!” were better:-).
    Sam Simon, I’m pretty used to his name on “The Simpsons” credits.
    I have no idea what Paul Giamatti & Jordana Brewster have in common; are they both registered as Lethal Weapons?

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  2. So, since no one got the trivia question… 🙂

    Paul Giamatti’s father, A. Bartlett Giamatti was, as gluserty noted, Commissioner of Baseball for a short period in 1989 before his sudden death from a heart attack. Before that, he served as President of Yale University from 1978-1986. Giamatti was hired as the successor to Kingman Brewster, Jr., who was Yale’s President from 1963-1977; Jordana Brewster is his granddaughter.

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