August 19: Happy Birthday Jonathan Frakes and Gene Roddenberry
Today is proclaimed to be Star Trek Day here in the birthday series. We have, in fact, three Star Trek birthdays today. I was able to track down a handful of photos of our headliners together, of which this one, taken when Roddenberry visited the set of the TNG episode “Future Imperfect,” appears to be the best, even with Number One not facing the camera.
Jonathan Frakes is celebrating his 65th birthday. He graduated from Penn State, and one of his first performing experiences was as a Captain—he worked for Marvel and appeared in costume as Captain America at fan conventions of the 1970s. Beginning in the late 1970s he started getting regular guest roles on television series like Charlie’s Angels, The Waltons, Hart to Hart, and Quincy, M.E. More recently he has worked primarily as a director. He has directed the feature films Clockstoppers and Thunderbirds, but has done most of his work on television. He was an executive producer of Roswell and directed several episodes of the sci-fi teen drama. He has done a lot of work on Leverage, Burn Notice, and NCIS: Los Angeles, and was a producer for The Librarians as well as directing several epsiodes.
However, he is best known for his work with Star Trek. Frakes has appeared in four of the five Star Trek series (all but the original) as either Commander William Riker, or as his transporter-malfunction-created clone, Thomas Riker—most significantly, of course, as one of the stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He began directing on TNG, and also directed episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and is scheduled to direct at least one first-season episode of Star Trek: Discovery. And he directed Star Trek: First Contact, generally considered the best of the TNG-related films, and Star Trek: Insurrection, which is—not the worst.
Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) was the son of a Los Angeles police officer, and worked for the LAPD for a few years after his World War 2 service; he was also an airline pilot for a short while. While with the LAPD he began selling television scripts, and soon resigned his police position to write full-time. In 1963, he created his first series, The Lieutenant, which aired for one season on NBC; it starred Gary Lockwood, while the guest star roster included names such as Majel Barrett, Sherry Jackson, Walter Koenig, Ricardo Montalban, and Leonard Nimoy (to pick a few not entirely at random).
For several years, Roddenberry had been developing an idea for a science fiction series, and in 1964, Roddenberry and Desilu Productions persuaded NBC to fund a pilot episode for what would become Star Trek. And the rest is history—which is probably familiar to many readers of this blog.
The entire rest of Roddenberry’s life did not center exclusively on Star Trek—he developed several ideas for other TV series in the 1970s, but not successfully—but a lot of it was. He was the executive producer of Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1973-74. He produced Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was financially successful, but also very expensive, one reason why Paramount essentially kicked him “upstairs” for the remaining feature films. His final period of intense involvement with Star Trek seems to have been during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Our third Star Trek birthday today is Diana Muldaur, who is 79. She made two guest appearances on Star Trek: TOS, as separate characters, in the episodes “Return to Tomorrow” and “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” She then was a regular on the second season of TNG as Dr. Kate Pulaski. She also appeared in a number of feature films and TV movies, and was a two-time Emmy nominee as Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law.
Peter Gallagher, who is 62 today, is known for starring as Sandy Cohen on The O.C., and for his stage career, during which he has received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations. Adam Arkin, who celebrates his 61st, was one of the stars of Chicago Hope, for which he received one of his three Emmy nominations, and as a Tony nominee for Michael Engler’s I Hate Hamlet. Both Gallagher and Arkin appeared in the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, Gallagher as Sky Masterson and Arkin as Nathan Detroit—I can’t determine if they were ever in the cast at the same time.
John Stamos is 54. He was a Daytime Emmy nominee for General Hospital and later was a regular on ER for four seasons, but his most famous role has been as Jesse Katsopolis on Full House and Fuller House. Kyra Sedgwick, who was an Emmy and Golden Globe winner as Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer, is turning 52. She will be starring on ABC’s new fall series Ten Days in the Valley. Melissa Fumero, who turns 35, currently stars on Brooklyn Nine-Nine as Amy Santiago. Ethan Cutkosky, who is 18, is a regular on Shameless as Carl Gallagher.
We have several literary birthdays, beginning with a couple of names likely known only to English majors. John Dryden (1631-1700) was named England’s first Poet Laureate in 1668, and is remembered for poetry such as the satiric The Hind and the Panther, and also as a playwright. Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) wrote novels such as Clarissa and Pamela, and along with Henry Fielding was the leading English novelist of the mid-18th Century. Moving to the 20th century, Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was the author of over 500 pieces of humorous poetry, which were published in collections such as I’m a Stranger Here Myself and The Old Dog Barks Backwards. Anthropologist turned novelist Mary Doria Russell is 67 today. She taught anthropology at several colleges before writing her first novel, The Sparrow, in her mid-forties. It won a number of science fiction awards. Since then she has turned to historical fiction; her novels Doc and Epitaph have been optioned for a biopic of Doc Holliday which reportedly will star Jeremy Renner.
Johnny Nash, a reggae/rocksteady singer who is best known for his #1 hit from 1972, “I Can See Clearly Now,” is turning 77 today. Jockey Bill Shoemaker (1931-2013) won nearly 9000 races in his career—his win total was a record when he retired—including eleven wins in Triple Crown races. Silent film star Colleen Moore (1899-1988) was credited with popularizing the bob hairstyle in the 1920s. As with many silent era stars, a great deal of her filmography is now lost.
Two people who made contributions to different modern technologies were born on this date. Orville Wright (1871-1948) and his brother Wilbur developed the first working design of a heavier-than-air aircraft, and made the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903. Philo Farnsworth (1906-1971) held over 300 patents at different points in his life. Some of the most important were inventions that were crucial to the development of the television.
Last year, the August 19 headliners were Matthew Perry and Bill Clinton.
Matthew Perry is 48. In January he completed the third and final season of the reboot of The Odd Couple, and earlier this year he appeared in The Kennedys: After Camelot, as Ted Kennedy. Bill Clinton, who turns 71, did not become the “First Husband” of the US, but remains active on the political scene.
Gerald McRaney, who is 70, continues to appear as the recurring characters of Dr. Nathan Katowski on This Is Us and Raymond Tusk on House of Cards. Ian Gillan is 72; he is participating in Deep Purple’s The Long Goodbye Tour. Erika Christensen will join Kyra Sedgwick as a regular on the upcoming Ten Days in the Valley; she is 35. Callum Blue, who is 40 today, starred in the Hallmark TV movie Love Blossoms earlier this year.
And for Lee Ann Womack’s 51st birthday, let’s look back to her biggest (and Grammy-winning) hit single:
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 August 19, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged Adam Arkin, Colleen Moore, Diana Muldaur, Gene Roddenberry, Jonathan Frakes, Lee Ann Womack, Mary Doria Russell, Peter Gallagher. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.