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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

October 3 - Al Sharpton, minister and civil rights activist

Sharpton preached his first sermon when he was four years old and living in Brooklyn. When his father left, Sharpton’s mother took a job as a maid and the family fell from middle class to living in public housing. But Sharpton seemed destined for fame: In 1972 he was youth director for Afri-can-American Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign, then went on to serve as James Brown’s tour manager from 1973-80.

Even earlier, in 1969, Jesse Jackson appointed Sharpton to serve as youth director of the New York City branch of a group that fought for new and better jobs for African Americans, and in 1971 he founded the National Youth Movement to get funding for poor youth.

Sharpton’s fame as a civil rights activist began with the Bernhard Goetz subway shooting in 1984. Goetz was cleared of all charges after claiming a group of four African American men approached him with alleged intent to commit robbery, and he shot them with an unlicensed firearm. Sharpton noted the weak prosecution of the case and led a handful of marches in protest.

Perhaps Sharpton’s signature accomplishment is the National Action Network he founded in 1991 to increase voter awareness, provide services to the poor and support local businesses. Sharpton also ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 2004. He is host of his own talk show, Keepin’ It Real, and often makes guest appearances on cable news shows. In 2011, He became the host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, a talk show.

Sharpton, as with any public figure, is not without controversy. Supporters have dubbed him “a man who is willing to tell it like it is” and former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, no ally of Sharpton’s, admits that he deserves respect: “He is willing to go to jail for (the disenfranchised), and he is there when they need him.” Foes claim he is “a political radical who is to blame, in part, for the deterioration of race relations.” Sharpton sees all the criticism as a sign that people are paying attention to his work: “An activist’s job is to make public civil rights issues until there can be a climate for change.”

October 10 - David Lee Roth, rocker for Van Halen

Roth was born with a silver spoon, as ophthalmologist father Nathan Roth was a famed eye sur-geon with a big-bucks medical practice and real estate holdings to match (he was featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 1984). The younger Roth “bounced around” schools and went to a psychiatrist for several years, finally going to a ranch for troubled teens where caring for a horse imbued him with a sense of responsibility.

Fate was calling when he went to Pasadena City College and met the Van Halen brothers. He’d been singing solo since his late teens, as well as with a group. Roth played with hard rock group Van Halen from 1974 to 1985 and again from 2006 onward. In 1976, Gene Simmons “discovered” the group while they were playing at a club and tried to recruit the older brother for his band, KISS. However, the band got national attention the next year when they were signed to a con-tract.

Roth is both a guitarist and harmonica player who was featured in nearly every acoustic interlude of the group’s songs. Their first album, Van Halen, was released in 1978 and eventually sold more than 12 million copies. As lead singer and principal lyricist, Roth was integral to the band’s suc-cess. He also promoted the “nonstop booze-and-babes party train” image of the band while they made five more successful albums in seven years.

But all good things must end, and creative tension led to Roth parting ways with his bandmates. Roth preferred lighthearted lyrics with a strictly hard rock sound, while Eddie Van Halen sought more depth and mass appeal. Roth wound up with a successful solo career. He also trained as an emergency medical technician in New York City, going on over 200 calls. Roth wrote a memoir in 1997, Crazy From the Heat, which was a New York Times bestseller.

Eventually, Roth returned to Van Halen (after a tumultuous stint replacing Howard Stern on his radio show when the personality left for Sirius Satellite Radio that wound up with Roth being fired and filing a lawsuit). While the band tours from time to time, Roth has his hand in other ventures, including a radio show and skincare line for the tattooed. He lives in Tokyo and keeps homes in New York City and Pasadena, CA.

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