December 31: Happy Birthday Bebe Neuwirth and John Denver


Emmy and Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth is turning 59 today.  She studied dance at Juilliard, and made her Broadway debut as a replacement in A Chorus Line, in the role of Sheila.  She won her first Tony as Nickie in the 1986 revival of Sweet Charity, for Best Featured Actress in a Musical; her subsequent Broadway performances have included Lola in the 1994 revival of Damn Yankees, and Morticia Addams in the original production of The Addams Family.  The Broadway production she is best known for, however, is the 1996 revival of Chicago.  She starred as Velma Kelly in the original cast, winning her second Tony.  10 years later, she returned to the production, this time as Roxie Hart, and returned a third time, in early 2014, as Mama Morton.

Neuwirth’s first prominent television role was in a popular 1980s sitcom set in a bar where everybody knew your name.

Neuwirth, whose character of Lilith Sternin on Cheers went from an occasional guest appearance to, eventually, a series regular, won two Emmys in the role; she then added a nomination for a third Emmy for a guest appearance as Lilith on Frasier.  She made her feature film debut in Say Anything, and has had supporting roles in films such as Green Card, Malice, The Faculty, and The Big Bounce.  She received her fourth Emmy nomination for the TV movie Dash and Lilly, and most recently was a regular on Madam Secretary through the early episodes of season 4.

Country-folk singer and songwriter John Denver (1943-1997, given name Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.) was born in New Mexico and, as the son of an Air Force officer, moved a lot as a child, but still found time to learn the guitar.  He dropped out of college in the early 1960s to pursue a music career.  In 1965, he was chosen as a new member of the folk group The Chad Mitchell Trio, when founder Chad Mitchell left; a year later he wrote “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which became a Number One hit for Peter, Paul & Mary in 1967.

At the end of the sixties, Denver left the Mitchell Trio to start a solo career.  His third studio album, Poems, Prayers & Promises, came out in 1971 and began his most successful period; it included his first hit single, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  In a period of a little over a year in 1974 and 1975, he released three albums that reached #1 on the US Country chart (two reached #1 on the Billboard 200 as well).  Through the mid-1970s, he had a succession of hit singles that included “Rocky Mountain High,” “Back Home Again,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and this one, a tribute to oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and his ship.

Although “Calypso” was his last really big hit, Denver continued to see his albums and singles sell fairly well into the 1980s.  He toured and performed actively, while also engaging in a lot of environmental activism, until his death in a small plane crash in 1997.

Screenwriter Chris Terrio, who turns 41 today, won Best Adapted Screenplay for Argo.  Other screenplays he wrote or co-wrote include Heights (also his directing debut), Batman v Superman, and Justice League.  Also 41 is Steve Byers, who starred on season 1 of the Canadian anthology series SlasherTim Considine, who is 77, is best known for playing Spin Evans on the Spin and Marty segments of the original Mickey Mouse Club, and Mike Douglas, one of the sons on My Three Sons.

Joey McIntyre, the youngest of the New Kids on the Block, turns 45 today.

Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005) was an Austrian Jew who survived the Holocaust and spent much of the rest of his life trying to track down Nazi war criminals and collect evidence for future war crimes trials.  Bolivian-born educator Jaime Escalante (1930-2010) became possibly America’s most famous calculus teacher when he was the subject of the movie Stand and Deliver, in which he was played by Edward James Olmos.

On the final day of 2016, our headliners were Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley.

Sir Anthony Hopkins turns 80 today.  This year, film audiences have seen him return to the role of Odin in Thor: Ragnarok, and appear as Sir Edmund Burton in Transformers: The Last Knight.  It is not yet known for certain if he will return to the second season of WestworldSir Ben Kingsley is turning 74.  He appeared in several films this year, including The Ottoman Lieutenant and War Machine; those waiting to hear his voice as General Woundwort in the animated series Watership Down, however, will have to wait until 2018.  Both Hopkins and Kingsley also appeared in the action thriller Collide, which came out last Feburary.

Val Kilmer, our WTHH birthday, turns 58.  He made his first feature film appearances since 2014 this year, in Song to Song and The SnowmanJames Remar, who is 64, was seen in The Saint and Feed this year.  Michael McDonald, who turns 53, directed several episodes of TV Land’s NobodiesElaine Cassidy celebrates her 38th birthday; she returned to her regular role for the second season of the British series No Offence, and also stars on the Irish series Acceptable Risk as Sarah Manning.  Erich Bergen, our second Madam Secretary regular today, celebrates his 32nd.  Author and editor Ellen Datlow, who is 68, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for editing the anthology Children of Lovecraft.

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 December 31, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. LOVE Lilith. I’m trying to think of any female sitcom character whom I might prefer, and I can’t – not even Frasier’s fabulously monstrous agent (other sitcoms are available, I know, but lightning did strike twice there). Queenie in ‘Blackadder II’ is outstanding, but not quite real, whereas Lilith is genuinely plausible.

    There’s always an added pleasure in seeing Bebe Neuwirth in anything, based purely on the way she holds herself with such a dancer’s poise. As a committed slumper, I’m in terminal awe.

    Happy New Year, by the way. 🙂


    • Neuwirth recently popped up in the Christmas episode of The President Show. She played herself but in the show she decided to switch from acting to journalism. She spends most of the special trying to get an interview with the Prez.

      And Happy New Year to you as well.


  2. I was a regular Cheers watcher for a few years in the 1980s, but I think I was getting away from watching it at about the time that Bebe Neuwirth was become a more regular presence. I definitely remember her from Green Card and have seen some of her other film roles, too. And her stage career is certainly impressive.

    John Denver was big at the time when I was first paying attention to popular music, and I had an aunt and uncle who were big, big fans of his—bordering on being groupies, even. As a consequence, the first popular music concert I ever attended was John Denver at the Anaheim Convention Center, shortly before i started high school.

    While December 31 has a lot of big-name birthdays, January 1 is a much lighter date, so I am going to consolidate Monday and Tuesday.

    Happy New Year to all.


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