Legendary dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey was born Jan. 5, 1931. Learn more about Ailey and other notable people born this day in history.
Legendary dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey was born Jan. 5, 1931, in Texas. In 1958 he founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, a company that would become known as “cultural ambassador to the world.” Ailey and his dancers helped popularize modern dance and revolutionized African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. We remember Ailey’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1985: Michael Cuccione, Canadian child actor who starred in the movie and TV series “2ge+her,” is born in Burnaby, British Columbia.
1940: Michael O’Donoghue, U.S. writer who was the first head writer for “Saturday Night Live” and a major contributor to National Lampoon magazine, is born in Sauquoit, New York.
Few in the recording industry enjoyed a more spectacular and diverse career. Ramone won 14 competitive Grammy awards and one for lifetime achievement. Worldwide sales for his projects topped 100 million. He was at ease with rock, jazz, swing, and pop, working with Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, Elton John and Tony Bennett, Madonna and Lou Reed. Read more
1933: Leonard Marsh, U.S. businessman who co-founded Snapple, is born in Brooklyn, New York.
1932: Chuck Noll, U.S. football player and coach who was the head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1991, is born in Cleveland, Ohio.
Noll transformed the Steelers from a longstanding joke into one of the NFL’s pre-eminent powers, becoming the only coach to win four Super Bowls. He was a demanding figure who did not make close friends with his players, yet was a successful and motivating leader. The Steelers won the four Super Bowls over six seasons (1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979), an unprecedented run that made Pittsburgh one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, one that breathed life into a struggling, blue-collar city. Read more
1932: Raisa Gorbacheva, Russian first lady of the Soviet Union who was the wife of Mikhail Gorbachev, is born in Rubtsovsk, Russia.
1932: Umberto Eco, Italian author known for his novel “The Name of the Rose,” is born in Alessandria, Italy.
1931: Alvin Ailey, U.S. dancer and choreographer who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is born in Rogers, Texas.
Ailey rose from a poverty-stricken childhood to become a celebrated dancer and visionary choreographer, along the way changing the look of modern dance and elevating the stature of black dancers. In 1958, he founded the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, which more than 15 years after his death is still producing some of the finest works of dance in America. Ailey was proud to have created a multiracial dance company, giving opportunities to minorities without showing preference to any race. That sensibility continues with the dance company today – as does the high quality of the troupe’s work. Read more
Phillips knew good rock ‘n’ roll when he heard it. And he could recognize a priceless moment, too. One day in 1956 – while Sun Records was at the height of its success – Carl Perkins was recording a track at the studio, with Jerry Lee Lewis on piano. Johnny Cash was hanging around Sun headquarters, waiting for a paycheck. When Elvis Presley stopped by, Phillips saw a golden opportunity. He put the four superstars in a studio together and let them jam while he recorded the results. They played songs they all knew – country standards, gospel favorites, their own tracks. The recordings are legendary, and though the “Million Dollar Quartet” didn’t perform together in the future, they went down in history as the first supergroup. Read more
1919: Herb Peterson, U.S. food scientist and inventor who created the Egg McMuffin for the McDonald’s restaurant chain, is born in Chicago, Illinois.
Peterson came up with idea for the signature McDonald’s breakfast item in 1972. He “was very partial to eggs Benedict,” said McDonald’s executive Monte Fraker, according to Peterson’s 2008 obituary by The Associated Press, so the inventor worked on creating something similar. The egg sandwich consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, topped with a slice of cheese and grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin. Read more
1917: Jane Wyman, U.S. actress who played matriarch Angela Channing on “Falcon Crest” and was former President Ronald Reagan’s first wife, is born in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
It was 1936 when Warner Bros. signed Wyman to a long-term contract. She long remembered the first line she spoke as a chorus girl to show producer Dick Powell: “I’m Bessie Fuffnik. I swim, ride, dive, imitate wild birds, and play the trombone.” Warner Bros. was notorious for typecasting its contract players, and Wyman suffered that fate, according to her 2007 obituary by The Associated Press. She recalled in 1968: “For 10 years I was the wisecracking lady reporter who stormed the city desk snapping, ‘Stop the presses! I’ve got a story that will break this town wide-open!'” Read more
1914: George Reeves, U.S. actor who portrayed Superman on the 1950s television show “Adventures of Superman,” is born in Woolstock, Iowa.
Reeves was not the first man to defend truth, justice, and the American way as Superman, but he is perhaps the most tragic. Although he possessed leading-man good looks, an impressive physique, and serious acting talents, movie stardom and financial success eluded Reeves for most of his life. His death in 1959 ensured that Reeves would be famous not just for his work, but also for the mystery surrounding his demise. Read more
1910: Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum, U.S. actor known best for his role as Mr. Green Jeans on TV’s “Captain Kangaroo,” is born in Sandwich, Illinois.
1904: Jeane Dixon, U.S. astrologer and psychic who wrote a syndicated astrology column and gave advice to Nancy Reagan, is born in Medford, Wisconsin.
Her most famous prediction, pointed to often by her supporters, was that John F. Kennedy would be assassinated in office. Dixon’s supporters found her prediction uncannily accurate, while detractors asserted that it was conveniently vague, as well as incorrect on most points. The truth seems to rest somewhere in the middle. Read more
1855: King C. Gillette, U.S. businessman who invented a popular safety razor and founded the Gillette Safety Razor Co., is born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
1779: Zebulon Pike, U.S. brigadier general and explorer who discovered Colorado’s Pikes Peak, which is named after him, is born in Lamberton, New Jersey.