BORN ON THIS DAY - JANUARY 20
Astronaut, BUZZ ALDRIN, was born on this day in 1930 in Montclair New Jersey. Although he was the second man to step onto the Moon in 1969 (following crewmate Neil Armstrong) he was the pilot of the Apollo 11 lunar module. During the Gemini 12 mission in 1966 he set a record by walking in space for more than five hours. Interestingly, he became the focus of ongoing conspiracy theories that suggested the US Government had staged the Moon landing. Ali G took advantage of this in a 2003 interview when he asked Buzz Aldrin: “What do you respond to all those conspiracy theorist who claim the moon does not exist?”
Naturalist, JOY ADAMSON, was born on this day in 1910 in Troppau, Austria-Hungary. She is best known for her book, Born Free, which described her experiences in raising Elsa from cub to lioness. The book was an international best seller and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers. She married 3 times in the space of 10 years, but her marriage to George Adamson lasted until her untimely death in 1980. At first thought to have been killed by a lion, an employee was later convicted of her murder for which he received a life sentence.
The fourth Dr Who,TOM BAKER, was born on this day in 1934 in Liverpool, England. Raised in a working class Catholic and Jewish family, he left school at 15 to become a novice monk and remained in the monastic life for six years but left after losing his faith. He took up acting, at first as a hobby. He appeared as Rasputin in the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra and later appeared nude in Pasolini’s version of The Canterbury Tales. However, he is best known for playing the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the TV series, Doctor Who, a role he played from 1974 to 1981, and for being the narrator of the comedy series Little Britain.
Actress, PATRICIA NEAL, was born on this day in 1926 in Packard KY. After dropping out of University she went to New York where she made her Broadway debut at 20. Her performance won Neal her first Tony Award for Best Actress. Her films include The Fountainhead, The Day the Earth Stood Still, A Face in the Crowd, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her co-stars included Gary Cooper, with whom she had a 5 year affair until she realised he would not leave his wife. She was married for 30 years to author, Roald Dahl. At the height of her career Neal suffered three strokes in one evening. While she returned to the screen she now devotes much of her time to the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Centre in Knoxville. The story of her post-stroke rehabilitation was made into a telefilm, with Glenda Jackson as Neal and Dirk Bogarde as Dahl.
Comedian, GEORGE BURNS, was born on this day in 1896 in New York City. His career spanned vaudeville, film, radio, and television, with and without his wife, Gracie Allen. He appeared in many films and in 1976 was awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Sunshine Boys. However, he is probably best remembered for his TV shows during the1950s. His arched eyebrow and cigar smoke became familiar trademarks for over three-quarters of a century. He enjoyed a career resurrection with a new image as an amiable and active old comedian until shortly before his death at age 100.
Film Director and screen writer, FEDERICO FELLINI, was born on this day in 1920 in Rome, Italy. Without doubt, he was one of the most distinctive, controversial and filmmakers of the post WWII period. Reflecting his interest in psychological and Existentialist themes his films – a blend of fantasy and baroque images - portray people at their most bizarre. Films such as La Dolce Vita were deemed immoral by many (including the Catholic Church) who wanted the film banned. Fellini directed some of the most celebrated actors of the 20th Century including Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and Anouk Aimee.
Film Director, DAVID LYNCH, was born on this day in 1946, the same day as Federico Fellini, who proved to be a significant influence on his work. His first major film, Eraserhead, showed an utter disregard for the boundary between abstraction and reality and was not successful upon its release. Nevertheless, it attracted the attention of Mel Brooks who hired him to direct The Elephant Man – which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best director. It was the film Blue Velvet (1986) that finally established Lynch internationally. Detested by some mainstream critics because of its strong violent content it was highly acclaimed by others and earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Blue Velvet - taken from the 1963 song of the same name – has since achieved the status of a cult classic.
Actor, DeFOREST KELLEY, was born on this day in 1920 in Atlanta, GA. Typecast as a ‘bad guy’ in films such as Raintree County, Warlock and Gunfight at the OK Corral, he finally threw off that image as the crotchety Dr McCoy - a plain, old fashioned country GP who just happened to work in outer space on Star Trek. In this role he chased Alice in Wonderland, OD’d on cordrazine, delivered a baby and devised cures for several diseases no man had ever had before. Interestingly, Kelley became the first actor to be profiled in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Country Musician, “SLIM” WHITMAN, was born on this day in 1924 in Tampa, Florida. A yodeller, Whitman avoided the “down on yer luck” songs, preferring laid-back melodies about simple life and love. More popular in the UK than at home, his 1955 hit single Rose Marie held the record for the longest time at No. 1 on the UK charts until 1992. In the US, his Indian Love Call and Secret Love reached No 2 on the Billboard country chart. Both Michael Jackson and George Harrison cite Whitman as an early influence.