Monday, June 25, 2018

Famous & 65

Look Who’s Turning 65

June 5 – Kathleen Kennedy
American Film Producer

June 5 – Kathleen Kennedy

Power producer Kathleen Kennedy has been president of Lucasfilm since 2012, when it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company for more than $4 billion. You might remember her work: iconic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or the Jurassic Park franchise (two of which sit in the top ten highest-grossing films of the 90s). Kennedy’s career spans more than 60 films, and she’s been nominated for eight Academy Awards.

Kennedy is not of the glamourous Hyannis Port branch of the clan, but Dad was a judge and Mom a one-time theatre actress who settled down in Berkeley, California, where Kathleen was born. She majored in telecommunications and film at San Diego State University, taking a job at the local Redding, CA radio station after graduation, where she made the rounds as camera operator, video editor, floor director and production coordinator.

Ready for the big time, Kennedy moved to (where else?) Los Angeles and found a job as production assistant to the man who was executive producer of Steven Spielberg’s 1941. Spielberg noticed her talent (not in a Harvey Weinstein way) and hired her as his secretary. For typing. Really. She was lousy at typing but had phenomenal production ideas, gaining industry cred as associate to Spielberg on Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.

Kennedy has been a member of the advisory board of the National Student Film Institute, and won a Women in Film Crystal Award for helping expand the role of women in the entertainment industry. She also knows everyone worth knowing in the entire motion picture industry.

Hot tip: If any of the grandchildren are interested in a film career, they might try “bumping into” Kennedy at Comic Con, where she has been known to put in an appearance.


June 10 – John Edwards
American Lawyer and Politician

June 10 – John Edwards

Well before the MeToo movement and on the heels of “I’m just out here hiking the Appalachian Trail” Mark Sanford, the other Carolina (North) had its own political love scandal. Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004 and candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008, John Edwards was near the top before he fell from grace.

A football star in high school with boyish good looks, Edwards was the first in his family to attend college. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in textile technology in 1974 before earning his Juris Doctor form the University Of North Carolina School Of Law with honors (essentially proving you can have an undergrad degree in basket weaving and still become an attorney).

Edwards was a brilliant litigator, winning against seemingly impossible odds, establishing precedent after taking cases nobody else wanted. In 1993, he founded his own firm in Raleigh with a friend and became known as the top plaintiffs’ attorney in the state of North Carolina. He won impressive awards arguing for clients against corporations, and earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s national award for public service.

Edwards’ career in politics was due in part to winning a huge case against a pool-cover manufacturer, and in part to death of his son, Wade. He won a U.S. Senate seat in 1998 even though he was considered the underdog. In the Senate, Edwards sponsored 203 bills. He supported such liberal causes as college for all, abortion rights, universal healthcare, a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and a carbon neutral push to slow global warming.

His tenure in the Senate ended in 2004 when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and Edwards took time off to care for her, as well as promoting a program aimed to assist youth in fighting poverty.

Unfortunately, Edwards will also be remembered for his affair and child out of wedlock a few years later. While his wife’s cancer returned and had metastasized to her bones and lung, Edwards lied about his paternity of the child until January of 2010. His wife, Elizabeth, legally separated from him and died of metastatic breast cancer in December of that year at age 61.


June 13 – Tim Allen
Comedian

June 13 – Tim Allen

Guess who changed his name from “Timothy Alan Dick”? Yes! And we don’t blame him one bit, do we? The star of many movies and television shows, including parts as Tim the Toolman in Home Improvement and Mike Baxter on Last Man Standing, you might also recognize him as the voice of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear.

Born in Denver, Allen’s real estate agent father died in a car crash when his son was 11. A couple of years after, his mother moved her brood to Michigan when she married her high school sweetheart.

Allen started his career in comedy on a dare in 1975 when he took part in a comedy night at a club outside of Detroit. It must have gone well, because he moved to Los Angeles to become a regular at The Comedy Store. Although he once told a magazine, “I can only play a part if I can draw on personal experience, and that well can go dry pretty quickly,” Allen soon became successful.

Allen is a licensed amateur radio operator and Republican, supporting Trump in the presidential election. Interesting, because in the 1970s he was arrested for possession of cocaine, pleaded guilty after coughing up the names of other dealers, and was a guest of the Sandstone Federal Correctional Institution for more than two years.


June 15 – Xi Jinping
Eternal Ruler of the Communist Party of China

June 15 – Xi Jinping

Okay, that’s not his official title but he really is sometimes referred to as the “paramount leader” since he controls the state, the military and the Party in communist China. And he has great hair that doesn’t fly a foot off his head in the wind.

Probably just a nice guy who worked his way up the ladder, right? Wrong. Very wrong. He was born in Beijing, where things started out well. His father held a series of posts, including propaganda chief(!), vice-premier and vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress. Then, when Xi was 10, his dad got purged from the Party and was forced to work in a factory in another city.

Xi was in school three years later when the Cultural Revolution halted all secondary classes so students could criticize and fight their teachers. Xi’s family home was looted by student militants who killed one of his sisters. Later, his own mother was forced to denounce Xi publically as he was brought before a crowd and labeled an enemy of the state. All of this before he was 15, when his father was sent to prison (Xi wouldn’t see him for four years) and Xi was ordered to work in the countryside.

He hated rural life and ran away to Beijiing, but he was soon arrested as a deserter and sent to a work camp, where he was forced to dig ditches. Later (it seems like a transition is needed here, but none given) he became Party branch secretary.

He did then work his way up through the system, even staying with a family in Muscatine, Iowa for a couple of weeks as part of a delegation to study U.S. agriculture. (When he could have stolen the latest soy bean seeds or processing secrets and shuttled them off to Brazil, inciting the current trade war, who knows?)

Being a good Party man, he spent four years studying Marxist philosophy and got a Doctor of Law covering not only law, but also politics, management and revolutionary history. Supposedly. Commentators have “questioned this qualification”. Another odd thing: a few months before ascending to the Party leadership in 2012, Xi disappeared for weeks. Nope, he was not out walking the Appalachian Trail, wink, wink. It was hinted that he used the time to install political allies in key roles, and The Washington Post said he may have been hurt in a fight during a meeting that turned violent.

Xi came to power on an anti-corruption platform. Ironically, he was voted in as ruler-for-life in February.


June 21 – Benazir Bhutto
Prime Minister of Pakistan 1998-2000 and 1993-1996

June 21 – Benazir Bhutto

Although she was assassinated in 2007, Bhutto would otherwise turn 65 this month and certainly deserves a mention for her extraordinary life.

Against the norms of the time and place, Benazir’s education was encouraged by the father she idolized, and her first language was English. He came from a wealthy political family, and became Pakistan’s foreign minister when Benazir was nine. She was exposed to numerous foreign diplomats including Henry Kissinger and Hubert Humphrey. When Benazir was 13, her father resigned from the government to re-emerge a year later as the founder of his own political party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). With the motto “Islam is our faith, democracy is our policy, socialism is our economy. All power to the people,” it attracted adherents with a populist strategy.

Benazir attended Harvard in the U.S. and then Oxford in England. These were happy times for her, although two young men Benazir proposed to at Oxford declined her hand. Then her father was overthrown in a military coup and eventually put to death after being found guilty of murder by a kangaroo court.

Benazir returned home and agreed to an arranged marriage (knowing she’d be more acceptable to religious conservatives). Her father had become increasing ly popular, attracting a crowd of a million for one of his releases from prison before the regime found him too powerful to let live.

The first woman elected to high office in a Muslim country, Benazir continued Pakistan’s nuclear program promoted by her father and advocated for women’s rights. Her secularist and modernizing agenda wasn’t always popular with Pakistan’s Islamists, and she was accused of being corrupt and inexperienced. Nevertheless, she was domestically popular and was upheld by Western nations as a champion of democracy. She was campaigning for another termwhen she was assassinated.


Source: Wikipedia

FAMOUS & 65 is a featured article in the Senior Spirit newsletter.

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