Today is February 18, 2010 and the 49th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 316 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 1037 days till the end of the current cycle. On this date, in 1881, America’s first Senatorial filibuster began – lasting till March 11. Here are five people that share a birthday on this day:
Toni Morrison (Born 1931)
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, she is considered one of the best contemporary novelists of our time. She graduated from Howard University in 1953 and continued her education at Cornell University where she received a master of fine arts degree in 1955. After graduating from Cornell, she taught English at Texas Southern University and at Howard University. Morrison left academia in 1965, taking a job as a senior editor for Random House in New York City. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970 and told the story of a young African-American girl who believes her incredibly difficult life would be better if only she had blue eyes. She continued to explore the African-American experience in its many forms and time periods in such works as Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), and Beloved (1987), which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Morrison developed a strong following among both readers and critics whom fell for her lyrical style, sharp observations, and vibrant storytelling. Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and continued to produce great works. In recognition of her contributions to her field, she received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be selected for the award. The next year, her novel Jazz was published, and she established a special workshop for writers and performers known as the Princeton Atelier. Along with her novels Paradise (1998) and Love (2003), Morrison wrote several children’s books, including The Big Box (1999), The Book of Mean People (2002), and The Ant or the Grasshopper? (2003), with her son Slade.
John Travolta (Born 1954)
U.S. actor born in Englewood, NJ, Travolta dropped out of high school to pursue acting at the age of 16. Soon, he was in off-Broadway hits, including a role in the play, Grease. In 1975, Travolta shot to stardom for his role as Vinnie Barbarino in the hit TV series Welcome Back Kotter. The following year, he won the lead in the critically acclaimed TV movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. International fame came with two successive box-office hits, Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978). He earned an Oscar nod for his role in the former, becoming an icon for disco nightlife and ‘70s culture. His career slumped in the 1980s and early 90s, but then, in 1994, Travolta made a career comeback when he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s crime smash Pulp Fiction. He earned his second Academy Award nomination and went on to win a Golden Globe for his performance in the critically acclaimed film Get Shorty. Other notable films include Broken Arrow, Phenomenon, Primary Colors, The General’s Daughter, and Ladder 49. Travolta married actress Kelly Preston in 1991. The couple had two children: son Jett, born on April 13, 1992, and daughter Ella Bleu, born in 2000. Jett died on January 2, 2009, during a family vacation at their home in the Bahamas. A coroner’s report determined the cause of death to be a seizure.
Yoko Ono (Born 1933)
Japanese singer and actress born in Tokyo, Japan. In 1940, the family moved to New York, then back to Japan in 1941 when her father was transferred to Hanoi on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Ono remained in Tokyo through World War II, including the great-fire bombing of 1945. At age 18, Ono moved with her parents to Scarsdale, New York. Settling in Greenwich Village, she developed her interest in art and also began writing poetry. Considered too radical by many, her work was not well received but she gained recognition after working with American jazz musician/film producer Anthony Cox, who later became her husband. Ono first met John Lennon of the English rock band The Beatles on November 9, 1966, when he visited a preview of her exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London. He was taken with the positive, interactive nature of her work. He especially cited a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain, which revealed the word “yes’ written on the ceiling. They began an affair approximately 18 months later. Lennon divorced his first wife, Cynthia (they had a son, Julian, born in 1963), and married Ono on March 20, 1969. They collaborated on art, film, and musical projects, and became famous for their series of ‘conceptual events’ to promote world peace, including the ‘bed-in’ held in an Amsterdam hotel room during their honeymoon in 1969. Following the death of John Lennon in 1980, Ono continued her career and has recorded albums, performed concert tours, and composed two off-Broadway musicals. She exhibited her art internationally, and in 2002 the first U.S. retrospective of her work opened in New York City. On 9 October that year, to commemorate what would have been Lennon’ 62nd birthday, she inaugurated the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace prize.
Jack Palance (1920-2006)
Palance is an American actor born Vladimir Palahnuik (later changed to Walter Jack) in the coal-mining town of Lattimer, Pennsylvania. While attending Stanford University on the GI Bill, Palance developed an interest in the dramatic arts. He moved to New York and was cast in a number of bit parts, including his first stage role in the Broadway production The Big Two (1947). Later that year, he understudied Anthony Quinn in the Chicago production of A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1950, director Elia Kazan cast Palance in his first studio film, Panic in the Streets, in which he appeared opposite Richard Widmark as the vicious street boss Blackie. The immediate success of Panic in the Streets influenced 20th Century Fox to offer Palance a long-term contract. Often cast in sinister, villainous roles, he earned praise for his Oscar-nominated performance opposite Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear (1952). Playing a vicious gunslinger, his next project, Shane, left an indelible impression and earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He achieved success with parts in the films The Professionals (1966), The Desperados, and Che! (both 1969), as well as in the TV versions of classic thrillers like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968) and Dracula (1974). Despite continued critical acclaim for his performances, fewer and fewer roles came his way. During the late 1970s, his credits included a handful of embarrassing foreign films like Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster (1974), The Sensuous Nurse (1976), Welcome to Blood City (1977), and Cocaine Cowboys (1979). In 1982, Palance’s career received an improbable resurgence when Columbia Studios contracted him as the TV host of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Over the next few years, he appeared in a variety of high profile films, including the blockbuster Batman (1989) and the rollicking comedy-adventure City Slickers (1991), for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Palance reprised his award-winning role in the 1994 sequel City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold. Palance died on November 10, 2006, at the age of 87.
Vanna White (Born 1957)
U.S. born television game show hostess from North Carolina, White attended the Atlanta School of Fashion and worked as a model. She headed to Los Angeles in 1979 to pursue an acting career, but returned briefly to South Carolina during the summer of 1980, when her mother was dying of ovarian cancer. White returned to Hollywood with renewed resolve and earned a series of minor acting jobs in largely forgettable films, including a bit part in Looker and the 1981 thriller, Graduation Day. In 1982, however, White got the job that would make her career. She was chosen out of 200 applicants to join new host and former weatherman, Pat Sajak, on the NBC game show, Wheel of Fortune, created by entertainment giant, Merv Griffin. The show met with tremendous success over the next several years, and by 1986 a syndicated evening version attracted 30 million viewers, twice as many as the No. 2 syndicated program, M*A*S*H, and grossed $100 million a year. In 1999, its 16th year in syndication, Wheel of Fortune was seen by approximately 40 million people. In 1992, White was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as TV’s most frequent clapper, with an average of 720 claps per show and over 28,000 per season. A ghostwritten autobiography, Vanna Speaks, was published in 1987.
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