Five People Born on Star Wars Day – May 4th

Today is May 4, 2010 and the 124th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 241 days left in the year 2010. According the Mayan calendar, there are 962 days till the end of the current cycle. Today is considered Star Wars Day or sometimes Luke Skywalker Day – based on the pun, “May the 4th be with you.”  Here are five people born on this day.

Alice Pleasance Liddle (1852-1934)
Alice is the same one from Alice in Wonderland, the story by Lewis Carroll.  Her father was the dean of Christ Church, Oxford and Lewis Carroll was a teacher there.  On 4 July 1862, in a rowing boat for a picnic outing, 10-year-old Liddell asked Charles Dodgson (who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll) to entertain her and her sisters, Edith (age eight) and Lorina (age thirteen), with a story.  Dodgson regaled the girls with fantastic stories of a girl, named Alice, and her adventures after she fell into a rabbit-hole. The story was not unlike those Dodgson had spun for the sisters before, but this time Liddell asked Mr. Dodgson to write it down for her. He promised to do so but did not get around to the task for some months. He eventually presented her with the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in November 1864.  The relationship between Liddell and Dodgson has been the source of much controversy. Many biographers have supposed that Dodgson was romantically or sexually attached to her as a child.  (See The Dark Side of Wonderland: The Scandals of Lewis Carroll).  The relationship between the Liddells and Dodgson suffered a sudden break in June 1863. There was no record of why the rift occurred, since the Liddells never openly spoke of it, and the single page in Dodgson’s diary recording 27-29 June 1863 (which seems to cover the period in which it began) was missing. Until recently, the only source for what happened on that day had been speculation, and generally centered on the idea that Alice Liddell was, somehow, the cause of the break. It was long suspected that her mother disapproved of Dodgson’s interest in her, seeing him as an unfit companion for an 11-year-old girl.  Alice would go on to marry Reginald Hargreaves.  They had three children; two boys who were both killed in World War One, and a daughter.  At one point, Alice was so poor that she had to sell her first issue copy of Alice in Wonderland, which went for four times it’s starting price.  She died at the age of 82.

Maynard Ferguson (1928-2006)
This Canadian trumpet player was a jazz musician and bandleader. He came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton’s orchestra, before forming his own band in 1957. He was noted for being able to play accurately in a remarkably high register, and for his bands, which served as stepping stones for up-and-coming talent.  He also played violin and piano.  A child prodigy, he dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to start playing professionally.  He started playing in the Montreal area and served as an opening act for touring bands from the United States. During this period, Ferguson came to the attention of numerous American band leaders and began receiving offers to come to the United States.  Ferguson moved to the United States in 1948 and initially played with the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet. The Barnet band was notable for a trumpet section that also included Doc Severinsen, Ray Wetzel, Johnny Howell, and Rolf Ericson.  Ferguson traveled all over the world.  He played with just about every well-known musician in the industry.  He died at the age of 78.

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993)
This Belgian-born actress and philanthropist was one of the classics of the silver screen.  A talented performer, Audrey Hepburn was known for her beauty, elegance, and grace. Often imitated, she remains one of Hollywood’s greatest style icons. A native of Brussels, Hepburn spent part of her youth in England at a boarding school there. During much of World War II, she studied at the Arnhem Conservatory in The Netherlands. After the Nazis invaded the country, Hepburn and her mother struggled to survive. She studied ballet and moved to London in 1948, where she continued her dancing and worked as a photographer’s model. She appeared in a handful of European films before starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi. Hepburn played the lead female role in Roman Holiday (1953), winning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her performance.  Hepburn became one of the most successful film actresses in the world and performed with such notable leading men as Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Peter O’Toole, and Albert Finney. She won BAFTA Awards for her performances in The Nun’s Story (1959) and Charade (1963), and received Academy Award nominations for Sabrina (1954), The Nun’s Story (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and Wait Until Dark (1967).  She starred as Eliza Doolittle in the film version of My Fair Lady (1964), becoming only the third actor to receive $1,000,000 for a film role.  Her war-time experiences inspired her passion for humanitarian work, and although she had worked for UNICEF since the 1950s, during her later life she dedicated much of her time and energy to the organization. From 1988 until 1992, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia. In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.  She died of abdominal cancer at the age of 63.

George Will (Born 1941)
This Pulitzer-prize winner is a U.S. newspaper columnist, journalist, and author.  He attended Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut (B.A.). He subsequently studied PPE at Magdalen College, University of Oxford (B.A., M.A.), and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in politics from Princeton University.  Will then taught political philosophy at the James Madison College of Michigan State University, and at the University of Toronto. He taught at Harvard University in 1995 and again in 1998.  Will served as an editor for National Review from 1972 to 1978. He joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 1979, writing a syndicated twice-weekly column, which became widely circulated among newspapers across the country. In 1976, he became a contributing editor for Newsweek, writing a biweekly backpage column.  Will was widely praised by liberals for condemning the corruption of the Nixon presidency. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “distinguished commentary on a variety of topics” in 1977. Often combining factual reporting with conservative commentary, Will’s columns are known for their erudite vocabulary, allusions to political philosophers, and frequent references to baseball.

Randy Travis (Born 1959)
This American country singer has been performing since 1985 and has recorded more than a dozen studio albums to date, in addition to charting more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, of which sixteen have reached Number One.  Considered a pivotal figure in the history of country music, Travis broke through in the mid-1980s with the release of his album Storms of Life on Warner Bros. Records; the album sold more than three million copies. It also established him as a neotraditionalist country act, and was followed by a string of several more platinum and multi-platinum albums throughout his career. Starting in the mid-1990s, however, Travis saw decline in his chart success. He left Warner Bros. in 1997 for DreamWorks Records; there, he would eventually switch his focus to gospel music, a switch which — despite earning him only one more country hit in the Number One “Three Wooden Crosses” — earned him several Dove Awards.  Travis, in addition to singing, holds several acting credits, starting with his television special Wind in the Wire in 1992. Since then, he has appeared in several movie and television roles, occasionally as himself.