July 18: Happy Birthday Priyanka Chopra and Ricky Skaggs


Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra is celebrating her 35th today.  She was the winner of the Miss World pageant of 2000, following which she began her film career.  She worked very hard, making over 30 features in her first decade.  She has been nominated for eleven Filmfare Awards (the Bollywood equivalents of the Oscars), winning five times including Best Actress for the 2008 film Fashion.

Chopra lived in the US for a few years as a teenager and in the past few years has begun to work outside of Bollywood.  She was one of the narrators for the 2013 documentary Girl Rising.  For the past two months she has been on multiplex screens in the film version of Baywatch, and she has a couple of other projects in the pipes, including an adaptation of Daniel Pearle’s play A Kid Like Jake.  But her biggest success so far has been on television, as the first South Asian to be topcast in an American TV series, as Alex Parrish on ABC’s Quantico.

Country and bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs is turning 63 today.  He began playing mandolin at the age of five and later added guitar, fiddle and banjo to his repertoire.  He was performing full time as part of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys by the time he was 16 and spent most of the seventies as part of a variety of bluegrass and country bands, notably Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, before beginning a solo career around 1980.

Skaggs has won fifteen Grammys in a variety of categories, mostly country or bluegrass.  He was all over the Country charts in the 1980s, with eleven #1 Country singles.  Beginning in the 1990s, he has returned to his bluegrass roots, releasing nine studio albums with his band, Kentucky Thunder, and winning the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album five times.  Even during the 1980s he did not abandon bluegrass; one of his biggest hits was a classic Bill Monroe tune:

Elizabeth McGovern, who is 56, made early films with both of the headliners of yesterday’s article, in Ordinary People with Donald Sutherland and Ragtime with James Cagney; she was an Oscar nominee for the latter film.  She starred in films like Racing With the Moon and The Bedroom Window in the 1980s and more recently was an Emmy and Golden Globe nominee as Cora Crawley on Downton Abbey.

Spanish actress Elsa Pataky is 41 today.  She is best known for her role of Elena Neves in the Fast and the Furious films; she has appeared in four and for a while was a replacement love interest for Vin Diesel’s character (but only until Michelle Rodriguez turned out to be alive).  Kelly Reilly, who played Mary Morstan Watson in Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, is 40.  She is also a two-time Olivier Award nominee and starred on several Above Suspicion BBC miniseries, and will play the lead on Amazon’s upcoming series Britannia.  English actor James Norton, who turns 32, is currently a regular on British television in the series Happy Valley and Grantchester (although the former is on a bit of a hiatus).

James Brolin, who celebrates his 77th, won an Emmy and two Golden Globes as Dr. Steven Kiley on Marcus Welby, M.D., in the early 1970s.  Margo Martindale, who is turning 66, won an Emmy on Justified, and has been nominated for four more Emmys for her recurring role on The Americans, as well as for a Tony for a revival of Cat on a Hot Tin RoofPaul Verhoeven, who is 79, won a Razzie for Worst Director for a film we’ve discussed a bit around here, Showgirls, and is also known for Robocop, the 1990 version of Total Recall, and Starship Troopers.

Singer and songwriter Dion DiMucci, often known simply as Dion, is 78.  He had several charted hits as the lead singer of Dion and the Belmonts from 1957-60, and even more success as a solo act in the early sixties, when he had his biggest hits, “The Wanderer,” a #2 hit, and this one, which reached #1:

Music fans of the sixties also heard a lot of Martha Reeves, who turns 76 today; she was the lead singer of Martha and the Vandellas, known for hits like “Heatwave” and “Dancing in the Street.”  Keyboardist Ian Stewart (1938-1985) was an original member of the Rolling Stones.  Although dropped from their live performances in the early sixties, he continued with them for over 20 years, recording in the studio and serving as their tour manager.  Kurt Masur (1927-2015) was one of the most prominent conductors of the late 20th century, known for his tenures as music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

Two famous names in the figure skating world celebrate today.  Dick Button is turning 88.  He was the dominant men’s figure skater in the world from 1948-52, winning five consecutive world titles and the gold medal at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Olympics.  He then had a very long career in sports journalism covering figure skating for ABC.  Tenley Albright, who is 82, won the silver medal in women’s figure skating at the 1952 Olympics, and then became the first American woman to win gold in that event in 1956; she was also a two-time world champion.  Interestingly, both Button and Albright graduated from Harvard, Button from the law school, Albright from the medical school.

William Makepeace Thackery (1811-1863) was a leading Victorian era English novelist.  His reputation rests largely on the classic novel Vanity Fair, although his The Luck of Barry Lyndon was adapted into a feature by Stanley Kubrick.  Clifford Odets (1906-1963) was a noted playwright and screenwriter.  His plays, several of them adapted to film, included Waiting for Lefty, Golden Boy, The Big Knife, and The Country Girl.  He was also known for the screenplay for Sweet Smell of Success.  Russian poet and filmmaker Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017) first became known during the cultural “thaw” during the Khrushchev era, when he published his most famous poem, Babi YarHunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) was known as the founder of so-called “gonzo journalism.”  His most famous book was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.  He was also known for being the inspiration for the character Uncle Duke in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

Character actor Hume Cronyn (1911-2003) made his film debut in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt as murder-obsessed neighbor Herbie Hawkins.  He and his wife, Jessica Tandy, appeared together in the Cocoon films in the 1980s.  Red Skelton (1913-1997) became well-known on radio, but even more so on television as the host of The Red Skelton Show, one of the most durable and popular TV variety shows, for 20 years.  Lupe Velez (1908-1944), one of the first Latin American actresses to find a place in Hollywood, made a number of features, including the Mexican Spitfire series for RKO, before her early death in 1944.  Harriet Nelson (1909-1994) starred in several films, such as the Astaire-Rogers musical Follow the Fleet, but was best known for her marriage to Ozzie Nelson and for their TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Margaret Brown (1867-1932), often known as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” was an American philanthropist known for surviving the sinking of the Titanic.  She has appeared as a character in several films about the sinking; Kathy Bates played her in Titanic in 1997.  She was also the subject of Meredith Willson’s musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown; Tammy Grimes played her in the original Broadway production and Debbie Reynolds in the film adaptation.

Last year on this date the birthday headliners were Vin Diesel and Kristen Bell.

Vin Diesel, who turns 50, has returned to no less than three franchises this year, reprising the roles of Dom Toretto in The Fate of the Furious, Xander Cage in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, and Groot (now Baby Groot) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  As Kristen Bell turns 37, she can look back on a year where she has headlined a successful series, NBC’s The Good Place, and starred in a hit comedy, Bad MomsChace Crawford, who is 32, was in Eloise, which sort of had a release earlier this year.

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 July 18, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Priyanka Chopra hasn’t really been on my personal radar, but she seemed an appropriate choice as our first Bollywood headliner.

    I first got familiar with Ricky Skaggs from his collaborations with the traditional Irish group The Chieftains on albums like Another Country, and then from his work with Emmylou Harris, especially on Roses in the Snow.

    The comment thread for Elizabeth Berkley’s WTHH article has reached over 100 comments, and I would venture to say that at least two-thirds of them are at least partly about Showgirls.


  2. Priyanka Chopro, I’ve seen some of “Quantico” and think it’s a good show, and I think that many Indian woman are hot, including her.
    Elizabeth McGovern, I loved her in “The Bedroom Window”, but I lost track of her after 1989’s “Johnny Handsome” until her role in “Downtown Abbey”.
    James Brolin, I’m actually more familiar with his son Josh, but I have seen a few episodes of “Hotel”. I didn’t think 1979’s “The Amityville Horror” film was any good (actually I think the whole Amityville deal is nonsense), but I thought he was okay in it.
    Margo Martindale, I liked her character of Camilla from “Dexter”, and wouldn’t minded at all if she was in a few more episodes than she was. I watched “The Millers” a few times before it got cancelled, thought it was alright.
    Paul Verhoven, as his films go I like “Robocop”, “Total Recall”, and “Starship Troopers” the best, while I get a kick out of “Basic instinct” and I feel that “Showgirls” has its moments (even at its best though, I think it’s an unstable film).
    Dion DiMucci, I’ve like the songs I’ve heard from Dion and The Belmonts, a group I learned about from listening to NFL highlight announcer Chris Berman:-)
    Hunter S, Thompson, I think he had an interesting way of looking at the world, and I thought that some of the articles I’ve read that he wrote were very good.
    Hume Cronyn, I probably remember him best from “Brewster’s Millions” (though I’ve seen him in films when he was younger, just can’t pinpoint a particular role right now) and his marriage to Jessica Tandy; they seemed like such a sweet couple!
    Red Skelton, I never seen much of his live acts, but I read his one book a long time ago, and thought it was a funny and entertaining read.
    Man, early on my comments for this series were half-baked and pretty lazy; I liked Kristen Bell best in 2009’s “Fanboys” and when it comes up to bringing up that Vin Diesel (harrrummmp! harruuummp!), I thought he was great in 2000’s “Boiler Room”. The other films he’s done, honestly I’ve never seen any of them (Car racing isn’t really my ticket, and that Riddick series didn’t interest me).


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