Eileen Brennan won over audiences as Doreen Lewis in “Private Benjamin.” She picked up an Oscar nomination for the part, then won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing her again on the television adaptation, which is a rare, if not unique, achievement for an actor. She was the prim and proper Mrs. Peacock in the cult film hit “Clue” and turned in great performances in classic films like “The Sting” and “The Last Picture Show.” On Broadway, she played Irene Malloy in the original production of “Hello, Dolly!” We remember Brennan’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.
1982: Sarah Burke, Canadian freestyle skier who successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee to add ski halfpipe to the Olympic program, is born in Barrie, Ontario.
She set the standard for skiing in the superpipe, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter, and others into stars. Seeing what a big role the Olympics has played in pushing the Whites of the world from the fringes into the mainstream, Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program, using the argument that no new infrastructure would be needed – the pipe was already built – and the Olympics could get twice the bang for their buck. Read more
1959: Merritt Butrick, U.S. actor who played Johnny Slash on “Square Pegs” and David Marcus, son of Captain Kirk, in two “Star Trek” movies, is born in Gainesville, Florida.
1934: Freddie King, U.S. blues guitarist who had hits including 1961’s “Hide Away,” is born in Gilmer, Texas.
1932: Eileen Brennan, U.S. actress known best for her starring role in “Private Benjamin,” both the movie and the TV series, is born in Los Angeles, California.
But it was a series of sharp-tongued roles that won her fans on television and in movies, including gruff Army Capt. Doreen Lewis in 1980’s “Private Benjamin,” aloof Mrs. Peacock in 1985’s “Clue,” and mean orphanage superintendent Miss Bannister in 1988’s “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.” “I love meanies, and this goes back to Capt. Lewis in ‘Private Benjamin,'” Brennan said in a 1988 interview with The Associated Press. “You know why? Because they have no sense of humor. People who are mean or unkind or rigid – think about it – cannot laugh at themselves. If we can’t laugh at ourselves and the human condition, we’re going to be mean.” Read more
1929: Whitey Bulger, leader of the organized crime organization, the winter hill gang, is born in Boston, Massachusetts.
1925: Hank Thompson, U.S. country music singer and guitarist whose life provided the inspiration for the novel and movie “Crazy Heart,” is born in Waco, Texas.
Fans loved Thompson’s distinctive gravelly voice and his musical style, a mix of honky tonk and western swing. He was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989. His first recording was “Whoa, Sailor” in 1946. That year, he started a band called the Brazos Valley Boys, which won Billboard magazine’s touring band of the year award 14 consecutive times. Thompson had 29 hits reach the top 10 between 1948 and 1975. Some of his most famous songs include “Humpty Dumpty Heart” and “A Six Pack To Go.” Read more
1925: Anne Jackson, U.S. actress who was married to actor Eli Wallach and whose TV appearances included “The Untouchables,” is born in Milvale, Pennsylvania.
Canfield had appearances on a number of TV shows during a four-decade career, including “General Hospital” and “The Hathaways.” She was Harriet Kravitz on four episodes of the 1960s series “Bewitched.” But she was known best for her role of Ralph Monroe in some 40 episodes of “Green Acres,” which ran from 1965 to 1971. Read more
1923: Mort Walker, cartoonist who created “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois,” is born in El Dorado, Kansas.
1923: Glen Bell, U.S. businessman who founded Taco Bell, is born in Lynwood, California.
Bell launched his first restaurant, called Bell’s Drive-In, in 1948 in San Bernardino after seeing the success of McDonald’s Bar-B-Que, the predecessor of McDonald’s, which was founded in the same city in 1940. Like McDonald’s, Bell’s restaurant sought to take advantage of Southern California’s car culture by serving hamburgers and hot dogs through drive-in windows. The World War II veteran next helped establish Taco Tias in Los Angeles, El Tacos in the Long Beach area, and Der Wienerschnitzel, a national hot dog chain. Bell launched Taco Bell in 1962 in Downey after cutting ties with his business partners and quickly expanded around Los Angeles. Read more
1918: Helen Wagner, U.S. actress who played Nancy Hughes McCloskey on “As the World Turns” for 54 years, a soap opera record, is born in Lubbock, Texas.
Fans often mixed up Wagner with the character she portrayed, sending her letters carping about Nancy’s homemaking or what they saw as her meddling in her children’s lives. But the many fans who liked Nancy/Wagner could also be a problem. She told the Times in 1977 that a woman once ran up and kissed her as she shopped at a suburban supermarket. “She said, ‘Oh, Nancy, I’ve loved you so long I really must kiss you again,’ but at that point I managed to escape.” Read more
1915: Memphis Slim, born John Chatman, U.S. blues singer and pianist whose well-known songs include “Every Day I Have the Blues,” is born in Memphis, Tennessee.
1913: Alan Ladd, U.S. actor who starred in a number of noir films with Veronica Lake, is born in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
1910: Kitty Carlisle, U.S. singer and actress who was a frequent panelist on “To Tell the Truth,” is born in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Kitty Carlisle Hart was a multitalented entertainer – she was a singer and actress who worked everywhere from Broadway to the silver screen to the Metropolitan Opera. But she’s perhaps best remembered, and most loved, for her appearances on some of the American public’s favorite TV game shows of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Read more