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Friday, June 14, 2019

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

June 15 - James Belushi, comedian and actor

James Belushi, the younger brother of famed actor and Blues Brother John Belushi, earned his comic and acting chops on his own right. He played the title role in the sitcom According to Jim, after an early start on the iconic Saturday Night Live from 1983 to 1985. Belushi acted in a wide variety of films from the 80s to now, including About Last Night, The Principal, Red Heat, K9, Curly Sue, Once Upon A Crime, Last Action Hero, Jingle All The Way, Wag The Dog, and Less Than Perfect.

Belushi was born in Chicago to an Albanian immigrant father and a mother who was the daughter of Albanian immigrants from the same small town. He got a degree in theater and arts, then followed his older brother to The Second City theater group in their hometown. He joined Saturday Night Live in 1983 and got a breakthrough with The Man with One Red Shoe in 1985.

Belushi is also a talented musician. In 2003, he paired with Dan Aykroyd on the album Have Love, Will Travel, which spawned a tour. He continues to appear nationwide as Zee Blues in current version of the famed Blues Brothers. He also released a book in 2006 entitled, Real Men Don’t Apologize.

June 15 - Paul Rusesabagina, Rwandan hotel manager and humanitarian

Paul Rusesabagina’s selfless actions saved more than a thousand people and inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda.

One of nine children born to a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father, Rusesabagina’s first ambition was to become a minister. He married in 1967 and moved to Cameroon to study at a seminary. A friend asked him to apply for an opening at a local hotel, leading Rusesabagina to promotions and trips to Europe to study hospitality management.

In 1992, he was given the job of assistant manager at the Diplomates Hotel. April, 1994 saw the explosion of tension between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda. It began as a political division, and was fully inflamed with the assassination of the prime minister and other powerful government figures. Hutus and Tutsis hunted each other down, committing genocide.

Rusesabagina fled to a sister hotel, where he sheltered his family and hid 1,200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees. This was no small feat; more than a million Rwandans died in the fighting. Four of his eight siblings were still alive at the end of the combat, and this was considered relatively lucky.
Rusesabagina and his family now live in Texas and maintain a home in Belgium. He is a humanitarian activist on a global scale and has won many awards for his work.

June 19 - Kathleen Turner, actress

Maybe you first saw her in the movie Body Heat, or it could have been in Romancing the Stone or Prizzi’s Honor, both of which earned Kathleen Turner a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Besides her numerous film credits, Turner was twice nominated for a Tony Award for Broadway roles as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Brought up in a strictly conservative Christian household, Turner’s acting ambitions were roundly discouraged by both parents, but especially her father. Known for her husky voice that could beckon or boss around, the Missouri phenomenon attended the American School in London due to her father’s job in the foreign service.

Her father died the same year she graduated from the London school, and Turner wound up at the University of Maryland, where she studied theater and received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She entered her professional career on the soap opera The Doctors, landing her first film role just three years later.

Turner had a brilliant career until the early 90s, when pain from rheumatoid arthritis left her barely able to walk. Just as her age started to work against her, medication for the arthritis robbed her of her trademark good looks and caused her to put on weight. She says she started getting offers to play “mothers and grandmothers” in her forties.

Turner has championed Planned Parenthood since the age of 19, and continues to support various charitable causes.

June 19 - “Taz” Tasmanian devil cartoon character

Animated cartoon character “Taz” appeared in five shorts before Warner Bros. Cartoons boarded up shop in 1964. Voracious and surly, it has been suggested that the character was inspired by movie idol Errol Flynn. The real Australian marsupial looks nothing like Taz and walks on four legs, but it is ferocious and a hearty eater.

Taz first appeared in 1954’s Devil May Hare, where he stalks Bugs Bunny. With an IQ on the level of Bugs’s other nemesis, Elmer Fudd, Taz is more of an irritation than a threat. His character mostly growls and grunts, rarely speaking, yet is able to read and write. An oft-repeated gag portrayed Bugs looking up “Tazmanian devil” in a dictionary to see what it eats, and being relieved that rabbits aren’t listed, only to have Taz enter and find rabbits in the book, or write “rabbits” on the list himself.

The character nearly met an early death. The head of Warner Bros. animation studio ordered Taz to the cutting room floor after his film debut, thinking parents would frown on his violent nature. But when no new shorts came out, the studio head asked what was going on with the character, saying he had “boxes and boxes” of letters from people waiting to see more of Taz. More shorts were soon made.

Taz has had a resurgence in the last 20 years, appearing on television and in marketing schemes.

June 22 - Freddie Prinze, comedian and actor

Born Frederick Karl Pruetzel, Prinz changed his name to become the “prince” of comedy since Alan King already had the superior title. He starred in the successful sitcom Chico and the Man from 1974 until his death three years later.

Prinze made the rounds at clubs in New York City, where he grew up. He made it onto Jack Paar Tonite, but got his big break in 1971 on The Tonight Show. He was the first young comedian Johnny Carson picked to have a chat during his first appearance on the show. Prinze would later guest-host the show several times.

Prinze could also sing, and counted Tony Orlando as one of his best friends. He roasted greats such as Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis Jr., and in 1975 he released his own comedy album, Looking Good. A few months before he died, Prinze had penned a $6 million contract for five more years with NBC.

Click below for the other articles in the June 2019 Senior Spirit


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