Look Who’s Turning 65
August 1 – Robert Cray
Cray’s father was stationed at Fort Benning when his son was born in Columbus, Georgia. The family settled in Tacoma, WA when Cray was a teenager. He began dreaming of becoming a musician, and by the age of 20 he’d seen several of his heroes, including the legendary Muddy Waters, in concert.
Cray formed a band and played college towns on the West Coast, refining his own bluesy style. Eventually, he formed the Robert Cray Band and made a name for himself. He was the bassist in 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House party band.
As his talent grew, he opened for such stars as Eric Clapton. His fourth album, Strong Persuader, won a Grammy award, and the song “Smokin’ Gun” made new fans.
Cray also played with Jimmie Vaughn and Buddy Guy. He performed with Stevie Ray Vaughn at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre the night he died in a helicopter crash.
A pair of Fender guitars bear his name. The Custom Shop Stratocaster is identical to the guitar Cray plays, while a less expensive model is produced in Mexico. Cray continues to tour.
August 2 – Butch Patrick
aka Eddie Munster
Growing up not far from Hollywood, it was 7-year-old Patrick Lilley’s sister who was star struck. She was on a photo shoot when she was asked if she had a sibling who was interested in auditioning. The rest, as they say, is history.
Her brother created a stage name from his nickname and first name, and “Butch Patrick” was born. Instantly successful, he landed a spot in a B movie, then a role in General Hospital followed by a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercial.
His work in the late 50s and early 60s includes stints on iconic shows of the day: Mister Ed, My Favorite Martian, The Untouchables, The Detectives, Ben Casey, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Real McCoys and bunches more.
The kid was in movies with the likes of Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Then, in 1964, he’s called to CBS Studio Center for a screen test. Out of hundreds of applicants, Patrick lands the part of Edward Wolfgang Munster and that’s how people across America will always think of him. Although the series only ran for a few years, it’s still one of the most popular shows in history.
Patrick went on to appear in hundreds more commercials and shows as he grew up, but at the age of 19 he quit the Hollywood scene to surf and drive fast cars. Then, he formed a band, “Eddie and the Monsters” which aired on upstart MTV and became the first unsigned act to appear on the cable station, leading to thousands of other garage bands submitting homemade videos to garner a spot on TV.
In 2010, Patrick got engaged to longtime fan and former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader Donna McCall. But their courtship broke up later in the year and Patrick entered drug rehab only a week afterward. Six months later, clean and sober, Patrick announced he had prostate cancer.
“I went 41 years trying to kill myself,” he said. “And then finally got to the point when I want to live I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My first thought when I was told this was, ‘Isn’t this a kicker? I get clean, my life is together and now God is going to punch my ticket.’”
Patrick is reportedly well at this time.
August 8 – “Sweet” Lou Dunbar
Dunbar is the Director of Player Personnel, coach, and 27-year player for the infamous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Born in northwest Louisiana, Dunbar played ball at Webster High School when it was an all-black school. Dunbar went on to play at the University of Houston, the city where he coached basketball before joining the Globetrotters, an exhibition team that injected theatre and comedy into the sport.
The Globetrotters formed in 1920s Chicago, an offshoot of an African-American team that played exhibitions ahead of dances at the Savoy Ballroom. They made waves in 1948 when they beat the best white basketball teams in the country, including the Lakers. In 1950, Globetrotter Chuck Cooper made history as the first black player to get drafted into the NBA.
With the rise of professional basketball, the Globetrotters carved out a niche as comedians, incorporating juggling, balancing and sophisticated skills into their high-level playing. The Globetrotters have racked up more than 26,000 games in 122 countries over their long existence. Parts of the games today are planned, but the outcome is never certain. Opposing teams let their antics unfold when they are on defense, but once a team gets possession of the ball, serious play ensues.
August 11 – Hulk Hogan
Born Terry Gene Bollea, Hogan made a career as a professional wrestler, television personality and rocker. Hogan’s ability to stay in the limelight, whether as hero or villain, is unsurpassed. He even formed the “New World Order” in 1996 as he hyped a new persona and self-promoted.
It can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not in Hogan’s world. He testified before a Federal court in 1994 that he was an anabolic steroid user for 14 years. Hogan also professes a devout Christian faith. His first marriage ended in divorce after an alleged affair, but he soon married again to the woman who is his current wife. As the most-requested celebrity by terminally-ill children at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Hogan has fulfilled many dreams.
The man has a head for business, with forays into the food industry, acting (notably in Rocky III), a reality show featuring his family (until his divorce) and television hosting. His net worth in 2008 was revealed as north of $30 million, although a few years later the star admitted that his divorce and luxurious lifestyle had pushed him to the edge of bankruptcy.
The years of drops, holds and general antics in the ring, to say nothing of steroid use, left their mark. In 2013 Hogan filed a medical malpractice lawsuit for $50 million, claiming a half-dozen operations had left his ailing spine worse than before.
Hogan continues to make professional appearances.
August 16 – Kathie Lee Gifford
Born Kathryn Lee Epstein in Paris, the ever-correct and bubbly Gifford is a product of Oral Roberts University. She’s most known for her 15-year stint on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, which she co-hosted with Regis Philbin. Nominated for 11 Daytime Emmys, she garnered her first in 2010 as a member of the Today team.
The multi-talented Gifford has also written a number of books and recorded several studio albums. What don’t you know about her? She was the live-in secretary and babysitter for actress and Florida orange juice promoter Anita Bryant one summer in the early 70s.
Gifford was married to Christian composer/arranger/producer for six years prior to their 1982 divorce. She met sports commentator Frank Gifford during an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America. Twenty-three years younger than the former football player, Kathie Lee enjoyed a reportedly happy marriage and the pair had two children. Frank died of natural causes a week before his 85th birthday in 2015.
Gifford’s career got a boost early on when she was a vocalist on Name That Tune before appearing as one of the Hee Haw Honeys. (Yes, that was really a show). Among many cameos, she appeared as herself in an episode of Seinfeld (highlight) and on the TV film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (sweep that one under the rug, please).
Two autobiographies join a number of children’s books she has authored. Gifford has been active in musical theatre as an actor, writer and producer. She recently wrote the lyrics for a musical adaptation of the Jimmy Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life.
FAMOUS & 65 is a featured article in the Senior Spirit newsletter.
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