Five People Born on May 7th

Today is May 7, 2010 and the 127th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 238 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 959 days till the end of the current cycle. Today is International Tuba Day.  It occurs the first Friday of each May and started in 1979.  Here are five people born on this day.

Gary Cooper (1901-1961)
This guy is perhaps my all-time favorite actor.  Born in Helena, Montana, he spanned the silent film era to the early 1960s, Academy Award-winning actor Gary Cooper built much of his career by playing strong, manly, distinctly American roles. The son of English parents who had settled in Montana, he was educated in England for a time. He also studied at Grinnell College in Iowa before heading to Los Angeles to work as an illustrator. When he had a hard time finding a job, Cooper worked as a film extra and landed some small parts.  After his appearance in The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926), a western, Cooper’s career began to take off. He starred opposite silent movie star Clara Bow in Children of Divorce (1927). Cooper also earned praise as the ranch foreman in The Virginian (1929), one of his early films with sound. Throughout the 1930s, he turned in a number of strong performances in such films as A Farewell to Arms (1934) with Helen Hayes and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) directed by Frank Capra. Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film.  Cooper continued to excel on the big screen, tackling several real-life dramas. In Sergeant York (1941), he played a World War I hero and sharpshooter, which was based on the life story of Alvin York. Cooper earned a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of York. The next year, Cooper played one of baseball’s greats, Lou Gehrig, in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). Again, he scored another Best Actor Academy Award nomination. Appearing in a film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Cooper starred opposite Ingrid Bergman in a drama set during the Spanish Civil War. He scored yet another Academy Award nomination.  In addition to his excellent on-screen performances, Cooper became known for his alleged romances with several of his leading ladies, including Clara Bow and Patricia Neal. The affair with Neal, his co-star in 1949’s The Fountainhead, reportedly occurred during his marriage to socialite Veronica Balfe with whom he had a daughter. Their marriage seemed to survive the scandal.  In 1952, Cooper took on what is known considered his signature role as Will Kane in High Noon. He appeared as a lawman who must face a deadly foe without any help from his own townspeople. The film won four Academy Awards, including a Best Actor win for Cooper. By the late 1950s, Cooper’s health was in decline. He made a few more films, such as Man of the West (1958), before dying of cancer on May 13, 1961.

Tim Russert (1950-2008)
While Gary Cooper was one of my favorite actors, Tim Russert was one of my favorite news commentators.   Born in Buffalo, New York, Russert graduated from Canisius High School in Buffalo, then went to John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He also earned a law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland.  Russert was chief of staff to Democratic U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from 1977 to 1982. He also served as counselor for New York Governor Mario Cuomo from 1983 to 1984.  Russert was hired in 1984 by NBC in its Washington bureau. He became bureau chief four years later and took over as anchor of Meet the Press on December 8, 1991. It became the most-watched Sunday morning interview program in the United States.  Some highlighted moments at NBC included a first of its kind appearance by Pope John Paul II on U.S. television in April 1985 and his use of a white dry eraser board on election night 2000 was one of TV Guide‘s “100 Most Memorable TV Moments.”   The Washington Post also credited Russert with first using “red state” and “blue state” to discuss the differences between Republican and Democratic states.  Russert was also a best-selling author. His books included Big Russ and Me (2004), which described his childhood in Buffalo, New York, and his relationship with his father, who worked as a garbage collector. The sequel Wisdom of Our Fathers (2006) was inspired by letters he received from children talking about their relationship with their fathers.  Russert provided key testimony at the 2007 CIA leak trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Russert denied Libby’s claim that he learned the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose husband the White House was seeking to discredit, from Russert. Libby was ultimately convicted of perjury.  Russert moderated several presidential debates during the recent presidential primary season. In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people.  He married journalist Maureen Orth, a writer for Vanity Fair magazine in 1983. Their son, Luke, graduated from Boston College and earned an NBC News post as a “youth correspondent” for the 2008 elections.  On June 13, 2008, Russert suffered a massive heart attack while at work and died.  Tom Brokaw, the former anchor of NBC Nightly News, made the official announcement during a special report that interrupted regular programming on NBC.  “This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice,” Brokaw. “He will be missed as he was loved, greatly.”

Eva Perón (1919-1952)
This former first lady of Argentina, actress and politician was the central figure in the Andrew Lloyd Weber play, Evita (1979).  Growing up in small towns in Argentina with little money, Perón dreamed of becoming actress. She moved to Buenos Aires in 1930s and had some success as a performer.  Her life changed dramatically when she married Juan Perón, a colonel and government official, in 1945. He became president of Argentina the following year and she was a powerful political influence on him. She used her position as first lady to fight for causes she believed in, such as women’s suffrage and improving the lives of the poor. She also ran the ministries of health and labor in her husband’s government.  Eva Duarte de Perón became a legendary figure in Argentine politics. A skilled speaker, she was adored by the poor she worked hard to help, but she was not without critics and detractors. She tried to run for vice president with her husband in 1951, but she was opposed by the army. She died of cancer in Buenos Aires on July 26, 1952.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Brahms was a German composer and pianist, one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms’s popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs.  Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he gave the first performance of many of his own works; he also worked with the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished.  Brahms was at once a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honour the “purity” of these venerable “German” structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as the progressive Arnold Schoenberg and the conservative Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms’s works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Another great composer was this Russian, born in Western Russia.  Tchaikovsky put out all types of music, which included symphonies, operas, ballets, instrumental and chamber music and songs. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin.  Born into a middle-class family, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant, despite his obvious musical precocity. He pursued a musical career against the wishes of his family, entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1862 and graduating in 1865. This formal, Western-oriented training set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic movement embodied by the influential group of young Russian composers known as The Five, with whom Tchaikovsky’s professional relationship was mixed.  Although he enjoyed many popular successes, Tchaikovsky was never emotionally secure, and his life was punctuated by personal crises and periods of depression. Contributory factors were his suppressed homosexuality and fear of exposure, his disastrous marriage, and the sudden collapse of the one enduring relationship of his adult life, his 13-year association with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck. Amid private turmoil Tchaikovsky’s public reputation grew; he was honored by the Tsar, awarded a lifetime pension and lauded in the concert halls of the world. His sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera, but some attribute it to suicide.