Today is January 24, 2010 and the 24th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 341 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 1062 days till the end of the current cycle. On this date in 1848, gold was found at Sutter’s Mill, near Sacramento, starting the California Gold Rush. Here are five people that share a birthday on this day:
John Belushi (1949-1982)
Actor, comedian, singer who was born in Wheaton, Illinois. Known for his legendary characters and skits on Saturday Night Live, John Belushi imbued his brilliant performances with a manic, boisterous energy that has never seen before or since. One of four children born to Albanian immigrants, he was good at getting laughs in high school. Belushi was also captain of his school’s football team and played in a rock band as a drummer. More than anything, however, he wanted to be an actor. Only thirty-three years old, he died from a drug overdose of a combination of cocaine and heroin, also known as a “speedball.” The woman who was with him and had supplied him with drugs, Cathy Smith, was questioned by the police and released. Despite the fact that it was an apparent overdose, there was still some mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of Belushi’s death.Cathy Smith was later charged with murder and drug-related offenses after admitting that she supplied and administered “speedballs” to Belushi to the National Inquirer, which reportedly paid her $15,000 for her story. She pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and three of the drug charges and spent 15 months in prison. The unanswered questions led Belushi’s widow to ask journalist Bob Woodward to investigate her husband’s death. The result was the book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi (1984). His family was dismayed by the book, expressing their concern that it was not a fair portrait of the man they had known and loved. Judith Jacklin Belushi wrote her own book on her experiences surrounding his death in Samurai Widow (1990) and later created her own portrait of her late husband entitled Belushi: A Biography (2005). While Belushi has been gone for more than twenty years, the characters he created and the performances he gave are still being enjoyed by his fans. He was named one of television’s top 25 stars by People magazine in 1989. His brother Jim also carries on the family name in entertainment, having been a cast member of Saturday Night Live and the star of the television sitcom, According to Jim.
Mary Lou Retton (Born 1968)
Gymnast. Born January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia. After developing a love of gymnastics as a girl, Mary Lou Retton moved to Houston, Texas, to train with acclaimed Romanian coach Bela Karolyi. Under his direction, she developed a style to suit her strong, compact frame, winning several prestigious competitions, including the American Cup and the U.S. Nationals. At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Mary Lou Retton won a gold medal in the women’s all-around by earning a perfect score of 10 in the vault, the final event of the competition. It was the first time a female gymnast outside Eastern Europe won the Olympic all-around title. Retton also won two silver and two bronze medals in individual and team competitions. Mary Lou Retton’s wholesome exuberance won her many commercial endorsements, including an appearance on the front of a Wheaties cereal box. She retired from gymnastics in 1985 after winning her third American Cup title and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997. Mary Lou Retton resides in Houston, Texas, with her husband and four daughters. She is an occasional commentator for televised gymnastics.
Ernest Borgnine (Born 1917)
Actor. Born Ermes Effron Borgnine in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents, Charles and Anna, immigrated to America from Italy at the turn of the century. The family settled in Connecticut, where Borgnine attended public school in New Haven. Upon graduating from high school, in 1935, he joined the Navy as an apprentice seaman. The young character actor soon landed a part on Broadway in the comedy Harvey, which led to appearances on New York television shows like Philco Television Playhouse and Captain Video and His Video Rangers. In 1951, he headed west to Hollywood, where he made his feature debut in the documentary The Whistle at Eaton Falls. Two years later, Borgnine landed the role of a lifetime in From Here to Eternity, opposite A-list actors Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, and Burt Lancaster. His brutish portrayal of Fatso Judson earned him critical acclaim and established him as a bankable actor. With the success of the film, Hecht-Lancaster Productions signed Borgnine to a seven-year contract. In 1955, Borgnine was relieved to land an out-of-character role as a sympathetic butcher looking for love in Paddy Chayefsky’s heartwarming story, Marty. His sensitive performance transformed him from a stereotyped character actor to a Hollywood leading man, earning him an Academy Award as Best Actor, as well as top honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Cannes Film Festival, and the British Film Academy. In 1962, Borgnine was offered the lead in a new television comedy, McHale’s Navy, about a gregarious boat captain and his crew of bumbling Navy misfits. The show quickly moved to the top of the ratings, and Borgnine had found his niche in television. In 1964, the success of the TV show spawned a full-length feature adaptation, which featured Borgnine in the title role. After McHale’s Navy ended its run in 1966, Borgnine quickly transitioned back to the big screen, taking on a powerful role as General Worden in 1967’s The Dirty Dozen. In addition to his prolific film and TV career, Borgnine has recently spent a portion of each year exploring America in his luxury motor coach. He has chronicled his findings in the documentary Ernest Borgnine on the Bus.
Mark Goodson (1915-1992)
Television producer who was born in Sacramento, California. Goodson was the son of Russian immigrants Abraham Ellis and Fannie Goodson, who came to America in the early 1900s. In 1950, he embraced the new medium of television by creating the first weekly game show in history. Titled, What’s My Line, the panel show proved to be a critical success and remained on the air for 17 years. Goodson went on to develop a multitude of memorable game shows such as: To Tell the Truth, Password, Card Sharks, and Classic Concentration. Among his most notable contributions to game show television were The Match Game and Family Feud. Goodson could also boast that he created the longest running game show in television history, The Price is Right, which has been on the air for 27 years. Goodson implemented a number of innovations and created new strategies for game shows. Among the most important are the buzzer and the bell, which have now become an integral part of all audience participation shows. He also developed the idea of a “champion” contestant who continually returns to defend his title until defeated by a challenger. Goodson was a well-respected member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for many years and acquired 10 Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game or audience participation shows. Goodson was honored in 1991 when he became the first game show producer to be inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Throughout his life, Goodson had three unsuccessful marriages and a number of affairs. Goodson died in December 1992, leaving behind a 50-year-game-show legacy.
Sharon Tate (1943-1969)
Actress who was born in Dallas, Texas. Starting out in Hollywood in the early 1960s, Sharon Tate appeared in a recurring role on the television show, Beverly Hillbillies, and in bit parts in movies, including The Americanization of Emily (1964) and The Sandpiper (1965). In 1965, she landed her first real movie role in Eye of the Devil, starring David Niven and Deborah Kerr. While filming the movie in London, she met the movie director Roman Polanski after auditioning successfully for his horror spoof, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). The couple began a romantic relationship, and were married in January 1968. Sharon Tate’s breakthrough performance came in the hit 1967 film, Valley of the Dolls, based on the best-selling novel by Jacqueline Susann and co-starring Patty Duke and Susan Hayward. Also in 1968, she appeared in Don’t Make Waves with Tony Curtis, and had a starring role in the comedy The Wrecking Crew, with Dean Martin. With the success of Valley of the Dolls and Polanski’s creepy thriller, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), they became one of the most visible couples in Hollywood. After completing filming on 12+1 (released in 1970) in Italy in 1969, Tate returned to Los Angeles, where she and her husband were renting a house on Cielo Drive in Bel Air. Polanski remained at the couple’s home in England, working on his latest film. On August 9, 1969, the 26-year-old Tate (then eight months pregnant) was brutally murdered in her home, along with three houseguests and a teenage delivery boy, by a group of people who were later revealed as part of the “Manson family,” a murderous cult driven by the apocalyptic fantasies of its deranged leader, Charles Manson. Manson and four of his followers were convicted of those murders (along with two others) and sentenced to death in 1971; after California’s temporary abolition of the death penalty in 1972, they are now serving life sentences and have repeatedly been denied parole.