October 20: Happy Birthday Jerry Orbach and Tom Petty


Jerry Orbach (1935-2004) graduated from high school at sixteen, and studied at Northwestern, dropping out to study acting with Lee Strasberg, and to join the off-Broadway cast of The Threepenny Opera.  Over the next 25 years or so Orbach had a terrific career in musical theater.  He won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical as Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises (adapted from the movie The Apartment), and received three additional Tony nominations.  Some of his better-known roles included El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Jigger Craigin in Carousel, Billy Flynn in Chicago, and Julian Marsh in 42nd Street.

Orbach had begun a screen career as early as the fifties, but didn’t switch his focus to film and television work until the early eighties.  He had prominent roles in films like Prince of the City, F/X, and Dirty Dancing, and in 1991 provided the singing and speaking voices of Lumière in Beauty and the Beast.  A year later, he was cast in the role of Det. Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order.  He received the third of his three Emmy nominations for the role, which he continued in until shortly before his death from cancer in 2004.

Many readers will have noted that heartland rocker Tom Petty (1950-2017) died earlier this month.  His initial inspiration to go into music came from a meeting with Elvis Presley when he was ten years old.  He joined his first band when he was seventeen, but his career did not begin to take off until the mid-1970s, when he teamed with four other musicians to form Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Although Petty made a few ostensible solo albums during his career, they all involved one or more members of the Heartbreakers—the only times he really didn’t work with them were as a member of the Traveling Wilburys.

Petty sold an estimated 80 million records in his career.  He was nominated for eighteen Grammys, with three wins, and he and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.  He had at least one album in the Top Ten of the Billboard 200 in every decade from the 1970s to the 2010s; his most recent, Hypnotic Eye, was his first #1 album.  Although he was not the sort of artist who had lots of #1 singles, he had a length list of charted hits such as this one:

Valerie Faris is turning 59 today.  She and her husband, Jonathan Dayton, are a well known directing team.  In addition to a long list of music videos, they have directed Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks, and the current critical success Battle of the SexesDannii Minogue turns 46 today.  Although she has not had as much success in music as her older sister Kylie, she has had a number of hit singles in the UK as well as her native Australia, as well as success as a judge and mentor on various reality talent shows.

Kenneth Choi is also 46.  His film career includes two appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Jim Morita of the Howling Commandos in Captain America: The First Avenger, and as Principal Morita in Spider-Man: HomecomingSam Witwer, who turns 40, starred as Aidan Waite on Syfy’s Being HumanAlona Tal, who has been a regular on Amazon’s Hand of God and on CBS’s short-lived Cane, is turning 34.  Jess Glynne, who turns 28, is a popular English dance-pop performer who has had five #1 singles in the UK in the past three years.

Playwright and screenwriter Morrie Ryskind (1895-1985) shared in a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical Of Thee I Sing, and was an Oscar nominee for screenwriting for My Man Godfrey and Stage Door.  He also wrote several of the Marx Brothers’ screenplays, including A Night at the Opera.  Poet Michael McClure turns 85 today.  He was one of five poets, along with Allen Ginsberg and three others, who took part in the Six Gallery Reading in San Francisco in 1955 that is considered to be one of the key events in the literary movement known as the Beat Generation.

The headliners on this date one year ago were Danny Boyle and Viggo Mortensen.

Filmmaker Danny Boyle turns 61 today.  Boyle directed and produced this year’s T2 Trainspotting, a sequel to his 1996 film, and is a producer of Battle of the Sexes.  He will also be involved, as a director and producer, with the first season of the upcoming FX anthology series TrustViggo Mortensen is celebrating his 59th birthday.  He was nominated for Best Actor for the second time earlier this year for starring in Captain Fantastic.

John Krasinski, who is 38, directed, produced, and starred in last year’s The Hollars, and will play the title character in Amazon’s upcoming series Tom Clancy’s Jack RyanDan Fogler, currently filming the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, for which he returns to the role of Jacob Kowalski, is 41.  Argentine actor Alberto Amman, who is 39, recently was seen in season 3 of Netflix’s NarcosHunter King, who celebrates her 24th, will return to the role of Clementine Hughes on CBS’s Life in Pieces, which premieres for its third season next month.  Melanie Mayron, who turns 65, continues to be active as both a director and recurring actor on Jane the VirginWilliam Zabka is 52; he will reportedly return to the role of Johnny Lawrence for a YouTube Red series to be titled Cobra Kai.  Rapper Snoop Dogg, who turns 46, released his 15th studio album, Neva Left, in May; he was played by Jarrett Ellis in this year’s All Eyez on Me, a Tupac Shakur biopic.  Film composer Thomas Newman, whose most recent projects have been the scores for Victoria & Abdul and Thank You For Your Service, turns 62 today.

William Christopher (1932-2016) of MASH fame died of cancer on the last day of 2016.  RIP, Father Mulcahy.

Let’s close with a musical remembrance; today was the birth date of the great American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954).

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 October 20, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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