NASCAR fans loved and hated Dale Earnhardt, but no one could ignore his skills as a racer. Earnhardt built up an impressive resume of championships, winning 76 races, including the Daytona 500 in 1998. Three years later, he would lose his life in the last lap of that same race. During his life he was known for an aggressive driving style and unfiltered honesty in dealings with the media that earned him equal parts admiration and enmity from his fans and colleagues. But through it all, he was unabashed about being true to himself. We remember Earnhardt’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1957: Timothy Treadwell, U.S. environmentalist who was the subject of the 2005 documentary “Grizzly Man,” is born in Long Island, New York.
After Timothy Treadwell was mauled and eaten by bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park in 2003, he was mourned – but also roundly criticized. No one doubted that Treadwell loved the grizzlies he’d spent summers with for 13 years. But, critics believed, he had put himself and the animals in danger. He was responsible, they said, for the death of his 37-year-old girlfriend who died with him, as if she were incapable of making her own choices. He was called a fanatic, misguided, and dangerous. Read more
1951: Dale Earnhardt, U.S. race car driver who is widely considered one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time and won seven Winston Cup championships, is born in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
Though he’d only competed in a handful of one-off NASCAR events, he got his big break when Rod Osterlund hired the inexperienced driver to front his team for the 1979 NASCAR season. For the first time, Earnhardt would be driving a top-notch car with a seasoned pit crew assisting him. The move paid off. In 1979, he was named NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year. The following year, he won his first Winston Cup Championship, becoming the only driver to take those awards back to back. Read more
1945: Tammi Terrell, U.S. R&B singer known best for her duets with Marvin Gaye, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
When she began recording with Motown in 1965, Berry Gordy christened her Tammi Terrell – after searching for a name oozing with sex appeal. Soon, Terrell began recording the greatest, most celebrated songs of her career: her duets with Marvin Gaye. Terrell and Gaye continued to work together even as she became sick and began to weaken – one time collapsing in his arms onstage during a show in Virginia. Despite her advancing brain tumor, the duo created magical love songs. Read more
1937: Hasil Adkins, U.S. singer-songwriter who contributed to the development of the psychobilly genre, is born in Boone County, West Virginia.
1936: Lane Smith, U.S. actor whose notable TV shows and movies include “V,” “Red Dawn” and “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” is born in Memphis, Tennessee.
Smith appeared in numerous films and television shows. Most recently, he appeared in the 2000 movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. Smith also appeared in the original stage production of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and the revival of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Film credits include “The Distinguished Gentleman,” “Son in Law,” “The Mighty Ducks,” and “The Hi-Lo Country.” Read more
1933: Rod McKuen, U.S. poet and singer-songwriter who wrote hit singles including “Seasons in the Sun” and “Jean,” is born in Oakland, California.
Sentimental, earnest, and unashamed, he conjured a New Age spirit world that captivated those who didn’t ordinarily like “poetry” and those who craved relief from the war, assassinations, and riots of the time. “I think it’s a reaction people are having against so much insanity in the world,” he once said. “I mean, people are really all we’ve got. You know it sounds kind of corny, and I suppose it’s a cliché, but it’s really true; that’s just the way it is.” Read more
1931: Lonnie Donegan, Scottish singer-songwriter known as the King of Skiffle, who influenced artists including the Beatles, is born in Glasgow, Scotland.
1928: Carl Gardner, U.S. singer who founded the Coasters and had a hit with “Yakety Yak,” is born in Tyler, Texas.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the Coasters had a string of hits in the late 1950s, including “Searchin’,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Young Blood.” Their single “Yakety Yak” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 following its 1958 release. It also spent seven weeks as the No. 1 rhythm-and-blues song. “He loved his singing,” Veta Gardner said of her husband of 24 years. “That was his whole life.” Read more
1925: Iwao Takamoto, U.S. animator who designed characters including Scooby Doo and Astro of “The Jetsons,” is born in Los Angeles, California.
Takamoto said he created Scooby-Doo after talking with a Great Dane breeder and named him after Frank Sinatra‘s final phrase in “Strangers in the Night.” The breeder “showed me some pictures and talked about the important points of a Great Dane, like a straight back, straight legs, small chin, and such,” Takamoto said in a talk at Cartoon Network Studios. “I decided to go the opposite and gave him a hump back, bowed legs, big chin, and such. Even his color is wrong.” Read more
1923: Irvin Kershner, U.S. film director whose movies included “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Never Say Never Again,” is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Kershner already had made a number of well-received movies when he was hired by George Lucas to direct “Empire,” which was the second produced but fifth in the “Star Wars” chronology. The 1980 production was a darker story than the original. In it, hero Luke Skywalker loses a hand and learns that villain Darth Vader is his father. The movie initially got mixed reviews but has gone on to become one of the most critically praised. Read more
1918: George Allen, U.S. football player and coach who was head coach for the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, and Washington Redskins, among other teams, is born in Nelson County, Virginia.
In a career that spanned more than half a century, Holm played everyone from Ado Annie — the girl who just can’t say no in “Oklahoma!” — to a worldly theatrical agent in the 1991 comedy “I Hate Hamlet” to guest-star turns on TV shows such as “Fantasy Island” and “Love Boat II” to Bette Davis‘ best friend in “All About Eve.” She won the Academy Award in 1947 for best supporting actress for her performance in “Gentleman’s Agreement” and received Oscar nominations for “Come to the Stable” (1949) and “All About Eve” (1950). Read more
1909: Tom Ewell, U.S. actor known best for starring in “The Seven Year Itch” opposite Marilyn Monroe, is born in Owensboro, Kentucky.
1908: Jack Williamson, U.S. author known best for his “The Legion of Space” series of science fiction novels, is born in Bisbee, Arizona.
1899: Duke Ellington, U.S. pianist and bandleader who headed one of the best-known and longest-lived orchestras in jazz, is born in Washington, D.C.
From almost the beginning of his career, Ellington appeared in movies. The casting made perfect sense – when the script called for some hot dancing to cool jazz, what better way to bring it than with the ever-popular Duke Ellington orchestra? His winning smile didn’t hurt, either – he had a screen presence as comfortable and confident as most actors. Read more
1863: William Randolph Hearst, U.S. newspaper publisher who founded the Hearst Corp. and influenced the newspaper business for decades, is born in San Francisco, California.