Author Archives: jestak2
We have had a number of Nobel Prize winners mentioned in the birthday articles (as recently as yesterday), but this is the first time we have had a Nobel Laureate as the headliner.
Bob Dylan is 76 today. The legendary singer-songwriter dropped out of the University of Minnesota at 19, moving to New York, where he visited the institutionalized Woody Guthrie and began to make a name for himself in the Greenwich Village folk music scene, eventually signing a recording contract with Columbia. Although his debut album sold poorly, Johnny Cash, then one of Columbia’s biggest stars, helped persuade the label to stick with Dylan. By the time Dylan’s third album came out in 1964, he was one of the stars of the folk movement, who had composed more than one of the anthems beloved of activists both then and now.
Dame Joan Collins is turning 84 today. She began acting in film in her late teens, appearing in a number of English films before Howard Hawks brought her to Hollywood to star in Land of the Pharaohs. She kept busy for the next seven years or so, appearing in films such as Seven Thieves and the last of the Hope/Crosby “Road” pictures, The Road to Hong Kong. After taking a few years off in the early sixties, she began working regularly on television, making a memorable guest appearance on Star Trek as Edith Keeler in the episode “City on the Edge of Forever.”
In the late seventies, Collins film roles included starring as Fontaine Khaled in two adaptations of novels written by her younger sister, novelist Jackie Collins. While the films were critically panned, they were commercially successful and brought her to the attention of Richard and Esther Shapiro, who were creating a prime-time soap opera that gave Collins her most famous role. She was a six-time Golden Globe nominee, winning once, in the role of Alexis Carrington on Dynasty.
Ginnifer Goodwin is turning 39 today. She made her screen debut in a recurring role on Ed and her feature film debut in Mona Lisa Smile. She then had the somewhat thankless task of playing Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife, in Walk the Line. She has starred in Something Borrowed and as a voice actor in Zootopia, been part of the ensemble cast of He’s Just Not That Into You, and had supporting roles in Birds of America and Ramona and Beezus.
However, her best-known work has been on television. She starred on HBO’s Big Love as one of three wives in a fundamentalist Mormon family. Subsequently, she has starred for six seasons on ABC’s Once Upon a Time as Mary Margaret Blanchard, also known as Snow White.
On a day with few really big names, our headliners are two people who had fairly high profiles during the 1980s.
Lawrence Tureaud, much better known as Mr. T, is turning 65 today. A former soldier, he had worked as a bouncer and a bodyguard, and was noticed by Sylvester Stallone while taking part in a “toughest bouncer” contest; Stallone recruited him to appear in Rocky III, where he played Rocky’s rival, Clubber Lang. Mr. T then starred in the film D. C. Cab, and later in the eighties was one of the leads on the Canadian-produced series T. and T. During the decade he also had a short career in professional wrestling. But he was best known for another television role, as a former Special Forces sergeant with a distinctive hairstyle, a fear of flying, and a really bad attitude.
Cherilyn Sarkisian, universally known as Cher, turns 71 today. A successful singer and actress for over 50 years, she began her career when she dropped out of high school at 16. She met singer and songwriter Sonny Bono shortly thereafter; she had her first hits both as half of Sonny & Cher (“I Got You Babe”) and as a solo performer (“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”) before she turned 20.
Cher’s singing career has ebbed and flowed, as you’d expect given its longevity. She had a trio of #1 hits in the early seventies, and after a dry spell, came back with several Top Ten singles in the late eighties. After another slow period, she came back in 1998 with a huge hit that brought her her only Grammy.
Pete Townshend celebrates his 72nd today. The legendary guitarist and songwriter began performing while still in secondary school in London, along with a friend by the name of John Entwistle. In the early sixties the two joined a band then known as The Detours led by a guitarist named Roger Daltrey. After a couple of further lineup changes, they had become a quartet, with Daltrey as lead vocalist, Entwistle on bass, a drummer named Keith Moon, and Townshend assuming the lead guitar role. They also had a new name—The Who.
In addition to playing lead guitar (he developed a distinctive “windmill” style for The Who’s stage shows), Townshend developed into a songwriter of considerable talents. By 1965 The Who had their first major successes in the UK, with their album My Generation and its title song. Two years later came their biggest hit in the US.
It’s Tina Fey’s 47th birthday today. The nine-time Emmy winner began her career with The Second City, Chicago’s improv comedy troupe, and then was hired as a writer by Saturday Night Live. She began performing in sketches in 2000, and soon was anchoring the “Weekend Update” segment, first with Jimmy Fallon, then with Amy Poehler. She was also eventually promoted to head writer.
Three of Fey’s nine Emmys have been as a writer or guest performer on Saturday Night Live. The other six are for the series she created, produced, starred in and frequently wrote for following her 2006 departure from SNL. The show centered around the production staff and stars of a fictitious sketch comedy series. The name of the series—the real one—was 30 Rock.
Today is hereby decreed to be Irish Singers Day at Le Blog (plus, we have a lot of other music world birthdays).
Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, generally known as Enya, is turning 56 today. She began her music career by spending a few years with the traditional Celtic band Clannad, which consists of her three elder siblings and their two uncles. In the mid-eighties she started to pursue a solo career. Her first album, Enya, was a selection of music she had recorded for a BBC documentary. With her second album, Watermark, she became an international success and one of the defining performers of new age music.
Pierce Brosnan celebrates his 64th today. He graduated from the Drama Centre London and worked in English theater for several years. American audiences first became aware of him when he starred as the title character of the detective/romance series Remington Steele. During the show’s run he was also nominated for a Golden Globe for the BBC/Masterpiece Theater miniseries Nancy Astor. When the series ended, he had a few prominent film roles, including an adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol, but it wasn’t until 1995 that his career-defining part came along.
Chazz Palminteri turns 65 today. He had a lengthy period of paying his proverbial dues in the 1980s; after studying at the Actors Studio, he even worked for a time as a bouncer to pay his bills. In the late eighties, he wrote a one-man play based partly on his own life, titled A Bronx Tale. He was able to produce and perform it first in Los Angeles and then off-Broadway, where Robert De Niro saw it and collaborated with Palminteri to turn it into a 1993 film; De Niro directed from Palminteri’s script while the two starred. The film was a critical success, and Palminteri followed it up with two of his most memorable film roles, as a gangster with unexpected writing talent in Bullets Over Broadway (receiving an Oscar nomination), and as a Customs agent in a twisty crime film.
Our two headliners were both involved in a 2008 movie. One played a villain, the other co-wrote the story. So naturally they were photographed together at the Cannes premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett is turning 48 today. After graduating from Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Arts in 1992, she began working on stage; her roles include the title role in Sophocles’ Electra and Ophelia in Hamlet. She made her feature film debut in 1997, co-starring in Paradise Road and starring in Oscar and Lucinda. Just a year later, she won Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards, and received an Oscar nomination, for playing the title role in Elizabeth. Her first Oscar win came six years later, for Best Supporting Actress, playing none other than Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.
Today is the 67th birthday of Stevland Hardaway Morris, much better known as Stevie Wonder. A major figure in soul, R&B and funk, he is one of the most successful musicians of our time; only three living musicians (Quincy Jones, Alison Krauss, and John Williams) have won more Grammys.
Although blind from shortly after birth, he displayed his musical gifts at an early age, and was signed by Motown when he was just eleven. He had his first #1 single, “Fingertips,” when he was just 13, and by his late teens he was assuming a substantial degree of artistic control over his career, and writing or co-writing a number of his own songs, including several successful hits.
Gabriel Byrne, who turns 67 today, did not begin acting until he was almost 30; he spent a number of years working as an archeologist and a secondary school teacher. He began working in Irish television in 1979 and made his film debut two years later as Uther Pendragon in Excalibur. While he has never become a first rank star, he has worked steadily for nearly 40 years. He was a two-time Emmy nominee, and a Golden Globe winner, for starring as Dr. Paul Weston on HBO’s In Treatment. However, his most famous film role may be in a very twisty 1995 crime thriller: