June 15: Happy Birthday Helen Hunt and Simon Callow


Helen Hunt is turning 54 today.  The Oscar and multiple Emmy winner is our latest WTHH birthday.  As the linked article recounts, she began working as a child actress in the seventies, and then had a period of “paying her dues” once she transitioned to adult roles in the eighties.  But it wasn’t until the early nineties that she began to be successful.  She was cast as newlywed Jamie Stemple Buchman on NBC’s Mad About You; it ran for seven seasons, and Hunt was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress-Comedy each season, winning four straight times from 1996-99.

During Mad About You’s run Hunt landed some major film roles, first in Twister, and then, most significantly, opposite Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets in 1997, for which Hunt won the Oscar for Best Actress.  Hunt then made several films at the beginning of the 2000s, but since then has worked intermittently.  She received a second Oscar nomination, and a lengthy list of other honors , for the 2012 film The Sessions, and recently completed the first season of Fox’s Shots Fired.

The multi-talented Simon Callow is celebrating his 68th today.  Callow has had a notable stage career; his acting roles have included playing Mozart in the original West End production of Amadeus (he played a supporting part in the feature film) and the title character in a revival of Goethe’s Faust.  As a director he won an Olivier Award for a 1991 production of Carmen Jones.  He has also directed a number of opera productions, including, fittingly, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.  He is the author of several books related to theater and film, including a multi-volume biography of Orson Welles which is still in progress.

Callow’s appearance in the film of Amadeus was his big screen debut.  He has been a BAFTA Award nominee for A Room with a View and Four Weddings and a Funeral.  He starred in a live-action/animated 2001 version of A Christmas Carol, as Charles Dickens and the voice of Scrooge, and had supporting roles in films like Jefferson in Paris and Shakespeare in Love.  And, fittingly again, he played the opera impresario M. Andre in Phantom of the Opera.

Courteney Cox, who is 53 today, had a high profile in the nineties as Monica Geller on Friends and Gale Weathers in the Scream films.  She never became a major film star but did land another starring TV role as Jules Cobb on Cougar Town.  Rapper and actor Ice Cube, who turns 48, was a member of the original lineup of N.W.A. and a successful solo artist in the nineties.  His acting career began with a major role in Boyz n the Hood, and he has starred in the Barbershop films, the Ride Along action comedies, XXX: State of the Union, and more.

Leah Remini, known for starring on The King of Queens as Carrie Heffernan and for her memoir and documentary about her break with Scientology, is celebrating her 47th.  Neil Patrick Harris, who is 44, was the title character of Doogie Howser, M.D., and a four-time Emmy nominee on How I Met Your Mother.  He won a Tony for starring in the original Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and is a popular awards show host, including hosting the 87th Academy Awards.  Jim Belushi, who turns 63, had a number of major film roles in the eighties and early nineties, in Thief, The Man With One Red Shoe, Red Heat, Curly Sue, and others.  Julie Hagerty, who is 62, made her film debut as stewardess Elaine Dickinson in Airplane!, and that remains her signature role nearly 40 years later.  Australian actress Poppy Montgomery, who celebrates her 45th, has spent much of the last 15 years in starring roles on the crime dramas Without a Trace and Unforgettable.  Her compatriot Alice Englert, known for her starring roles in the films Ginger & Rosa and Beautiful Creatures, turns 23 today.

In sports, we have greats from baseball and soccer today.  Billy Williams, who turns 79, was a six-time National League All-Star and part of a talented group of Chicago Cubs players, also including Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, and Ron Santo, who never quite made the postseason.  Like Williams, Wade Boggs, who is turning 59, is a Hall of Famer, a star at third base for the Boston Red Sox for over a decade and a five-time American League batting champion.  Oliver Kahn, who is 48 today, made World Cup history in 2002 when he became the only goalkeeper ever honored with the Golden Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player; he was also honored as German Footballer of the Year twice, one of only a handful of keepers to receive that accolade.  Michael Laudrup, who celebrates his 53rd, was one of Denmark’s finest players ever, and a star for the Danish Dynamite at the 1986 and 1998 World Cups.

Our music birthday list is headed by Waylon Jennings (1937-2002).  Along with Willie Nelson, Jennings was one of the two biggest names in “outlaw” country music in the seventies.  He was known for songs like “Rainy Day Woman” and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.”

Johnny Hallyday, know as the “French Elvis,” is turning 74 today.  Although little known in the US, or the English-speaking world in general, he is one of the biggest selling non-English language recording artists ever.  Erroll Garner (1923-1977) was a self-taught musician who was one of the greatest jazz pianists of the 20th Century; his most famous composition is “Misty,” which was a hit for Johnny Mathis and Ray Stevens.  Harry Nilsson, usually billed simply as Nilsson (1941-1994), was a popular singer songwriter of the late sixties and early seventies, known for hits like “Everybody’s Talkin'” and “Without You.”  Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) is often considered Norway’s finest composer.  He is famous for his Piano Concerto, his music for solo piano, and his incidental music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, including “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Artist Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) is most famous for the decades worth of cover art he contributed to The New Yorker but also had a distinguished career as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and more.

Alfred “Lash” Larue (1917-1996) was a B-western star of the forties and moved on to TV westerns in the fifties.  His nickname came from the fact that his characters frequently used a bullwhip to deal with villains, a skill Larue later taught Harrison Ford in preparation for the Indiana Jones films.  Jim Varney (1949-2000) was best known for his Ernest P. Worrell character, who he played in a number of film and television productions in the eighties and early nineties, winning a Daytime Emmy for the Saturday morning show Hey, Vern, it’s Ernest!

Yuri Andropov (1914-1984) was a significant figure in the last decades of the Soviet Union, serving as head of the KGB for about 15 years, and then as General Secretary for the last 15 months of his 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.


Posted on June 15, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I was a pretty big Helen Hunt fan in the 90’s. I watched Mad About You sporadically. Man, did that show go downhill! But I always enjoyed Hunt in whatever she appeared in with the exception of Pay It Forward which was just wretched.

    I didn’t know Simon Callow by name but I immediately recognized him from Four Weddings.

    When Friends started, Courtney Cox was the only cast member I knew by name. I had first seen her in Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In the Dark video:

    I never watched King of Queens. Seriously, not a single episode. But I am addicted to Leah Remini’s show on Scientology. I actually find her to be the least appealing part of the show, it’s just a subject I find compulsively fascinating.

    I have also skipped both of the sitcoms Neil Patrick Harris is known for. But I love Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Harris’ cameo in Harold and Kumar is hysterical.

    I generally avoid Jim Belushi at all costs. He’s in the new Twin Peaks though, so I’m taking one for the team there.

    You have to feel for Julie Hagerty. She must have thought Airplane was going to lead to bigger things. Still, I always enjoy her when I see her in something. If you have never seen it, check out Lost in America. Great movie.

    Jim Varney was a local fella who made good. I prefer to remember him as the voice of Slinky Dog in the Toy Story movies because Ernest P. Worrell wore out his welcome after the first couple of commercials for Trauth dairy.


  2. Helen Hunt, I’m pretty cool with her; I remembered some of her 1980’s work (I’d always prefer her over say, Sarah Jessica Parker, back then and retroactively) but I believe the acclaim she received for “As Good As It Gets” was well deserved, since I think she was the heart of that film.
    Courteney Cox, I’ve popped in with “Friends” from time to time through the years, really ever since it began airing, but I’m not really a devotee. As her films go, I like “Mr. Destiny” more than a lot of other people do, and yes, I wouldn’t say 1987’s “Masters of the Universe” is good, but I kind of like it. Of course, her Gale character in the Scream franchise was the one film role that got it done for her.
    Ice Cube, I liked N.W.A., and his solo song “Check Yo Self” is a favorite of mine (honestly when I think of the L.A. Riots and those old L.A. Riders, the figure that comes foremost in my mind is Ice Cube). With his films, there is some material I like (“Friday”, “Higher Learning”, “Three Kings”), and others I ignore (“Torque”, “XXX: State of the Union”).
    Leah Remini, I honestly first knew of her from that NBC series “Fired Up!” (it had Jonathan Banks in the cast!) and kind of liked that short-lived series, and I’m glad she left Scientology, because I don’t really like that cult/religion/creepy thing.
    Neil Patrick Harris, I watched a fair amount of “Doogie Howser, M.D.” back in the day, but he really came into his own after that first Harold & Kumar film, and continued heading in that direction with “How I Met Your Mother”.
    Jim Belushi, I probably like this guy more than others do, which is probably why I like films such as “Mr. Destiny” and “Taking Care of Business”. Now, I think many people respect 1986’s “Salvador”, but I like that TV movie he was in with Gregory Hines about the Atlanta child murders, “Who killed Atlanta’s Children (if you ask me, I say a bunch of people did)?”.
    Julie Hagerty, I know her best from the two Airplane! films, and 1985’s “Lost in America” as well.
    Poppy montgomery, I’ve seen quite a few episodes of “Without a Trace” and liked “Unforgettable” well enough. I also remember her from the unfortunate 1998 film “Dead Man On Campus” and playing Gererosa Ammon in the 2005 TV movie based of the real case, “Murder in the Hamptons”.
    Waylon Jennings, I thought he was pretty cool, andit’s tough that he gave up his plane seat to Big Bopper in 1959 and that plane went down; a circumstance like that would’ve affected my mental capacity as well.


  3. Oh yeah, Jim Varney; I saw “Ernest Saves Christmas” in the theater, and had good company that day (kids of my mother’s friend from work; we clicked), and remember his “Know what I mean, Vern?” bits.


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