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June 30: Happy Birthday Michael Phelps and Lena Horne

0630PhelpsHorne

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.

Lena Horne (1917-2010) began her performing career at 16, in the chorus line of New York’s Cotton Club.  She made some recordings with a couple of jazz bands, and was signed by MGM.  She played a lead role in Cabin in the Sky, a rarity in its time for its all-African-American cast, but otherwise was cast in roles that did not feature her interacting with other cast members, so her parts could be edited out if the film was going to be shown in the South.  Blacklisted in the 1950s, she seldom worked in film after that, although she played Glinda the Good in the 1978 film version of The Wiz.

Beginning in the 1950s Horne worked regularly as a nightclub and concert singer.  Se was also very involved in the civil rights movement for several decades.  She had a triumph in 1981 with her one-woman musical revue Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which ran for over 300 performances on Broadway.  Horne won a pair of Grammys, a special Tony, and a Drama Desk Award, and a PBS broadcast of the show was nominated for an Emmy.

Vincent D’Onofrio turns 58 today.  He has had some notable television roles, including Detective Robert Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, on Daredevil.  In film he has had some lead roles, such as playing pulp author Robert E. Howard in The Whole Wide World or a time-traveler in the romance Happy Accidents.  However, he is better known for his character roles, which have ranged from Private “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence in Full Metal Jacket to Jack Horne in The Magnificent Seven.

Monica Potter is celebrating her 46th birthday.  She had a run of lead roles from about 1997-2004 in films like Patch Adams, Head Over Heels, and Along Came a Spider, and was a Golden Globe nominee as Kristina Braverman on ParenthoodLizzy Caplan, who was an Emmy nominee for starring on Showtime’s Masters of Sex, is turning 35.  Her film credits include Mean Girls, My Best Friend’s Girl, and Now You See Me 2Rupert Graves, who is 54, plays DI Lestrade on Sherlock, while his stage career is highlighted by an Olivier Award nomination for David Rabe’s Hurlyburly.    Canadian actress Molly Parker, who is 45, has been an Emmy nominee on House of Cards and a regular on Deadwood, and will star on the Netflix revival of Lost in Space.

Martin Csokas, who is 51 today, has had supporting roles in a variety of box office successes, playing Celeborn in the Lord of the Rings films and appearing in XXX and The Bourne Supremacy; he will play L. Patrick Gray in The Silent ManAngela Sarafyan, who plays Clementine Pennyweather on Westworld, is celebrating birthday number 34.  Brian Bloom, who turns 47, was a Daytime Emmy winner on As the World Turns as a teen, and is currently working primarily as a voice actor.  Mark Waters, who directed Monica Potter in Head Over Heels and Lizzy Caplan in Mean Girls, is 53.  His filmography also includes movies such as the remake of Freaky Friday and Just Like Heaven.

Fantasia Barrino, the winner of season 3 of American Idol, has had a relatively successful post-Idol career, with four albums that have made the Top Ten; she turns 33 today.  Cheryl Ann Tweedy, often known simply as Cheryl, is turning 34.  She is a successful pop star in England, as a member of the girl group Girls Aloud and subsequently as a solo artist.  Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) was a major figure in the folk revival of the 1960s and the Greenwich Village music scene; the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis was partly inspired by his life.  Florence Ballard (1943-1976) was a member of the Supremes from their formation in 1959 to 1967, when her alcoholism and discontent with her role in the group forced Barry Gordy of Motown to replace her.  Unsuccessful as a solo artist, she died of a heart attack at 32.  Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is 59, is best known for his nearly 20 years as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the longest of any conductor in the orchestra’s history.

Other sports birthdays today include former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who is 51.  Tyson held at least a share of the world title from 1986-1990 and again in 1996.  He also was infamous for his 1992 rape conviction and for a 1997 fight where he was disqualified for biting an opponent.  Basketball Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond is 52 today.  He was a six-time NBA All-Star in the 1990s while playing for the Sacramento Kings.

The Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature primarily for his poetry, and is also remembered for his book The Captive Mind, an attack on Stalinism.

Susan Hayward (1917-1975) broke out of bit parts with a featured role in Beau Geste in 1939, and went on to be a five-time Best Actress nominee over a 12 year period, winning for the role of death row inmate Barbara Graham in I Want to Live!  Madge Bellamy (1899-1990) was a prominent leading lady of the 1920s, known for films like Lorna Doone and John Ford’s The Iron Horse.  However, she was unsuccessful at adapting to the sound era.

Director Anthony Mann (1906-1967) first became known for some hard-edged film noirs he made in the late 1940s like T-Men and Raw Deal.  In the fifties he made a series of Westerns starring James Stewart, frequently scripted by Borden Chase, generally featuring Stewart as a bitter, cynical hero who was a far cry from the nice guys people were used to seeing him play.

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 30, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. On a day when we had two very big sports names and a very limited set of film/TV/music birthdays, I decided that another sports headliner was appropriate. I went with the one who didn’t try to bite an opponent’s ear off.

    Lena Horne is someone whose career I’ve never really explored in detail, but I’ve always been aware of who she was and that she was a major singer and entertainer.

    Vincent D’Onofrio is one of those actors who never quite became a big star but has kept working for a long time and turned in a lot of good performances. Happy Accidents is worth checking out for one of his few chances to be a romantic leading man (opposite Marisa Tomei).

    I’m a fan of both Westerns and film noir, so Anthony Mann has been on my favorite directors list for a long time. He was the initial director for Spartacus, but was fired after about a week by Kirk Douglas (not only the star but the de facto producer), for reasons that have never been clearly identified.

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  2. Michael Phelps, I’ve only seen news highlights and read a little from Sports Illustrated of his achievements, but I know he’s racked up a record of Gold Metal. He’s also a Baltimore Ravens fan, as am I, so that’s Cool too.
    Lena Horne, I heard that when she started out a Nightclubs like The cotton Club she was left alone by management due to her age at the time (I guess other female performers were asked to give a little “extra” to some patrons). I like that one episode of “Sanford and Son” that she guest starred in, when Fred Sanford was all mesmerized by meeting her (can’t blame him). again with that blacklist garbage though…
    Vincent D’Onofrio, ol’ Vinny D; well, I first remember him as the tragic Private from “Full Metal Jacket” (both R. Lee Ermey & him guest starred on separate episodes of “Miami Vice”; D’Onofrio guested on ‘The Afternoon Plane’ episode), but in that era I thought he had a memorable turn as the “Thor” mechanic in “Adventures in Babysitting” and played the boyfriend of Lili Taylor’s Jojo character in “Mystic Pizza”. I liked his spot appearance as Orson Welles in “Ed Wood” too. I liked him in such films as “Feeling minnesota” and “The cell” as well.
    Monica Potter, I liked “Along Came a spider”, but I’m a little iffy on “Head Ovver Heals”. She played Nic Cage’s character’s wife in “Con Air” too, kind of a thankless part there, although her character played a key part in the film’s story (such as it was).
    Lizzy Caplan, I liked her as soon as I saw her onscreen in “Hot Tub Time Machine”. I know she was in other stuff before that, but I didn’t notice her up until that film, and I have no idea why.
    Molly Parker, I’ve seen quite a bit of her work (we get Canadian stations out here; go Canada!); I found the 2001 film “The Center of The World” quite engrossing, both because of her character & Peter Sarsgaard’s. I also liked 2002’s “Men With Brooms” quite a bit (best film about curling, ever!).
    Mike Tyson, the only boxing match I’ve ever seen from start to finish was his loss to Buster Douglas in 1990. I remember how huge& dominant Tyson was back in the day; I’ve never beaten him in the NES game “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!” either.
    Mitch Richmond, nicname “Rock” (not The Rock though); he was on those fun Run TMC Golden State Warriors of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, trading to the Sacramento Kings for Billy Owens (who never what was expected of him). He dragged a poor to mediocre Kings him along with him in the 1990’s, but at least he got a ring as a reserve for the 2002 Lakers (who interestingly had to beat back the Kings to make it to the finals). I think he deserved his Hall of Fame induction.

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