Look Who’s Turning 65
May 6 – Tony Blair
British Prime Minister (1997-2007)
Tony Blair was the leader of the labour party and a champion of social justice, cohesion, the equal worth of each citizen and equal opportunity during his stint at Prime Minister. He brought socialism closer to the center and was criticized for being too friendly to capitalism during his tenure.
You wouldn’t think a student described by all his teachers as “a complete pain in the backside” (according to biographer John Rentoul) would have risen so high. In fact, Blair wanted to be a rocker in his teen years and modeled himself after Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger. After a year spent trying to earn a living as a rock promoter, he enrolled in St. John’s College, Oxford, where he was a middling student and played guitar in the band Ugly Rumours.
Wildly popular when he was elected Prime Minister in May 1997, the 43-year-old was also the youngest person to hold the office since 1812. Lauded for his public response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, his government presided over spending increases and introduced the National Minimum Wage Act, Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act. Blair was a negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
Blair was supportive of U.S. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, which got him into hot water at home for his sending troops to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 Iraq invasion. Some parliamentarians called for Blair to be tried for war crimes and waging a war of aggression.
Resigning as Prime Minister in June 2007, Blair immediately took the post of Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, which he held until 2015. He now heads the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
May 8 – Billy Burnette
Musician (Fleetwood Mac)
Billy Burnette was born into a musical family and made his first recording at the age of seven on “Hey Daddy (I’m Gonna Tell Santa On You)” with teenage heartthrob Ricky Nelson. Burnettte toured as a guitarist with Brenda Lee while finishing high school.
The strummer put out three solo albums, each titled Billy Burnette. But he gained the most fame as guitarist for the legendary Fleetwood Mac from 1987 it went on hiatus in 1995, writing or co-writing many songs such as “When the Sun Goes Down”. Listen to it, below.
May 15 – George Brett
Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett was practically destined to play the game. Brother Ken was a major league pitcher who was in the 1967 World Series at the age of 19, and siblings Bobby and John each had short careers in the minor leagues. As the youngest, George idolized his brothers and wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Brett graduated from high school in 1971 and was chosen in the second round of that year’s baseball draft by the Kansas City Royals. He would play for the team the next 21 years, garnering accolades throughout his career.
Brett is one of only four players in Major League Baseball history to amass 3,000 hits, 3,000 home runs and a .300 career batting average (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial also achieved the feat). He’s the only player in the game’s history to win a batting title in each of three different decades.
A shortstop at the beginning of his career, Brett was switched to third base when he had trouble handling hits to his right side. He won the starting job in 1974, but wasn’t an instant asset at the plate. After some tips from Royal’s batting coach Charlie Lau, Brett finished the year with a .282 average.
These days, Brett stays busy as lead owner (with brother Bobby) of several sporting teams on the West Coast. He is married with three children, and continues to raise money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He and dog Charlie campaigned for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against leaving animals in hot cars.
May 16 – Pierce Brosnan
Shaken, not stirred. Irishman and naturalized American Pierce Brosnan’s most famous role may be that of spy and martini drinker James Bond, who he portrayed from 1994-2005. You may also know the handsome actor as the title detective in hit series Remington Steele, which played from 1982-1987, or from any of his dozens of movie roles.
You may think that with looks and fame to spare, Brosnan’s had an easy life, but you’d be wrong. His father took off when he was an infant, leaving his Catholic mother to scrutiny. She sought a better life for herself and her son by becoming a nurse, but she found work in London and was forced to leave her 4-year-old son in the care of her parents. She came home once or twice a year, Brosnan recalls.
After his grandparents died, he was in the care of an aunt, and then an uncle, before rejoining his mother and her new husband in London. He speaks disparagingly of his time at school there.
“When you go to a very large city, a metropolis like London, as an Irish boy of 10, life suddenly moves pretty fast. From a little school of, say, seven classrooms in Ireland, to this very large comprehensive school, with over 2,000 children. And you're Irish. And they make you feel it; the British have a wonderful way of doing that, and I had a certain deep sense of being an outsider,” Brosnan says of the time.
After leaving school at 16, he trained as a painter for a year, before seeing a fire eater inspired him to join the circus for three years. Then, he trained as an actor at the Drama Center London, recalling:
“When I found acting, or when acting found me, it was a liberation. It was a stepping stone into another life, away from a life that I had, and acting was something I was good at, something which was appreciated. That was a great satisfaction in my life.”
Shortly after he left drama school, Brosnan met and eventually married Australian actress Cassandra Harris. Their union was a happy one, and when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it shattered that bliss. Brosnan found solace in painting during that terrible period when operation after operation failed, and his wife eventually died in 1991 at age 43.
Brosnan did eventually marry again in 2001 to American journalist Keely Shaye Smith, with whom he has two children. He continues to perform, to produce, and to contribute his time and money to many environmental causes.
FAMOUS & 65 is a featured article in the Senior Spirit newsletter.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors