January 8: Happy Birthday Terry Brooks and David Bowie
Novelist Terry Brooks celebrates his 74th today. When he was in his early twenties he began writing a novel. He was in law school, and then beginning a career as a lawyer, at the time, so it is understandable that it took him seven years to finish it. When he did, in the mid-seventies, he shopped it to a few publishers before selling it to Ballantine, which was starting their new Del Rey fantasy imprint. Titled The Sword of Shannara, it came out in 1977, and readers loved it—it sold about 125,000 copies its first month in print. Reviews were mixed—some found it so derivative of Tolkien as to be a “ripoff,” others found merit in Brooks’s use of the Lord of the Rings as a template.
While Sword of Shannara maybe have been imitation Tolkien, Brooks didn’t take long to find his own voice. In 1982, a second novel and loose sequel, The Elfstones of Shannara, came out, and like its predecessor was a bestseller. The early Shannara books are often identified as the first fantasy novels for adults to be bestsellers at the time of publication (Lord of the Rings didn’t become one until about a decade after it initially was published). Brooks has gone on to write about thirty Shannara novels (including the Word & Void trilogy of urban fantasy novels, which were retconned into the series). He has also written the Magic Kingdom of Landover fantasy series and novelizations of Hook and The Phantom Menace.
In 2016 MTV brought The Shannara Chronicles, a very, very loose adaptation of The Elfstones of Shannara, to television. A second season aired recently on Spike.
David Bowie (1947-2016) was one of the most important figures in modern popular music. He formed his first band at the age of fifteen, initially performing under his given name of David Jones (he changed it to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of The Monkees). His initial album, David Bowie, was release in 1967, and made little impression. Two years later, however, he released a second album of the same title, which included a song that became his first major hit, and still is one of his most recognized compositions.
“Space Oddity” has an interesting history. In its initial release, it reached #5 in the UK. A 1973 re-release in the US reached the Top 20, while a second reissue in the UK two years later hit #1.
Bowie released over two dozen studio albums over his career, along with a number of live and compilation albums and countless singles. He won six Grammys, four of them posthumous, for his final album Blackstar and its title single. He reinvented himself so many times he is hard to categorize as a musician, but at a minimum he was a major figure in art rock and glam rock. Often thought of as not particularly commercial, he nevertheless sold in excess of 100 million records by most estimates. He appeared in several films, including The Man Who Fell To Earth, Into the Night, Labyrinth, and The Prestige. Near the end of his life he wrote the music and lyrics for the musical Lazarus, which opened Off-Broadway in late 2015.
Freddie Stroma, who is 31 today, is know for his regular roles on ABC’s short-lived Time After Time and season 1 of Lifetime’s Unreal. Michelle Forbes, a regular on Berlin Station, turns 53; Star Trek fans may remember her recurring role as Ensign Ro Laren on The Next Generation. Josh Meyers, who is 43, was a regular on all 3 seasons of Amazon’s recently-concluded Red Oaks. Yvette Mimeux, who turns 76 today, is remembered for her major roles in 1960s films such as Where the Boys Are (as one of the central quartet of girls) and The Light in the Piazza.
Sarah Polley and Elvis Presley were the headliners on January 8 of last year.
It’s Sarah Polley’s 39th birthday today. In the past year she was the executive producer of the documentary A Better Man, and wrote and produced the miniseries Alias Grace, adapted from Margaret Attwood’s novel of the same title.
Amber Benson is celebrating her 41st. She continues to appear in periodic low-profile features, and last spring her latest novel, The End of Magic, part of her Echo Park Coven urban fantasy series, was published. Sam Riley, who starred in last year’s BBC miniseries SS-GB, is 38 today. Rachel Nichols, who is also 38, stars in the horror film Inside, which goes into limited release in the US later this week. Gaby Hoffmann, who turns 36, appeared in season 4 of Transparent as Ali Pfefferman.
Our WTHH birthday today, John McTiernan, is 67. He has not been active for well over a decade.
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.