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Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 12 - Wilfred Benítez, boxer 

The youngest boxing world champion ever is Wilfred Benítez, who earned his first title at the age of 17. Born in New York to a boxing family, he practically grew up in the ring. Benítez was managed by his father, who also oversaw the careers of Wilfred’s two brothers. 

Benítez was known for his extraordinary defensive skills in the ring, earning the nickname El Radar (the radar) for his ability to anticipate and avoid hits from his opponents. He fought at three different weights, earning a world title in each. The boy turned pro at 15 and fought in Puerto Rico, the Netherlands Antilles, and back home in the Big Apple. He had surprising punching power and speed for such a youngster and became world-ranked by the two recognized boxing organizations at the time, the WBA and WBC.

His first title bout was against 30-year-old Antonio Cervantes, who had a record of 35 knockouts in 74 victories, 9 ties and one loss. Benítez was declared victor in a split decision while his high school friends watched. Benítez defended the light welterweight title three times, then moved up to welterweight. He challenged the WBC world champion and won a 15-round split decision on January 14, 1979. 

In November of that year, he fought the famous Sugar Ray Leonard in Las Vegas. The fight was stopped in the fifteenth round when Benítez went down for a second time. Benítez then went up a weight class and became the youngest three-time world champion in May of 1981 when he knocked out welterweight Maurice Hope, again in Las Vegas, at the age of 22. He won a couple of fights after that over big names Carlos Santos and Roberto Durán, but he was on the decline in 1982. 

Benítez went to Argentina for a fight that he lost. By then, the physical toll from the blows to his head were becoming evident. The promoter stole his fight money along with his passports and documents, and he had to stay in the country for a year until things got sorted out. Today, Benítez lives in Chicago, provided for by donations from a loving Puerto Rican community.

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 16 - Orel Hershiser, pitcher and baseball analyst

The scouting report for the pitching prospect noted that he had poor control, a weak fastball, and he couldn’t throw a curveball the right way. Oh, and he got rattled all too easily. Who was this sorry kid wanting to make the major leagues in 1979? None other than Orel Hershiser, the same man who became a three-time All Star and was voted in the top five for the Cy Young Award four times. 

Hershiser loved baseball early on, garnering third place at the age of eight in a national hit, run and throw contest. He had success in high school and went all-conference his senior year. He went to the Dodgers in the 1979 draft as a round 17 pick and was promptly sent to their Class A farm team for a year before moving up to Class AA. Hershiser’s performance was up and down, and he describes it as the roughest period of his life. 

Called up to pitch for the Dodgers in 1982, Hershiser was inconsistent again and got coaching for his pitches. But during one particularly bad game, manager Tommy Lasorda strode onto the field to berate him loudly, an incident thereafter referred to as the “Sermon on the Mound”. Lasorda berated Hershiser for being timid, then gave him the nickname “The Bulldog” to help the young player feel more powerful. 

It worked. He became a starter, and the next year (1985) led the National League in winning percentage, finishing third in voting for the Cy Young Award. Hershiser went on to have a long pitching career, then became a color commentator for ESPN. Of note, he has had success at the poker table and won $54,570 by finishing ninth place in the 2008 Pokerstars World Champion of Online Poker event.  

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 22 - Andrea Bocelli, tenor

Italian Andrea Bocelli has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. His music ranges from opera to pop, and he appeals to a wide audience. Stars like Celine Dion have recorded with him and praised his voice. Elizabeth Taylor gushed, "My mind, my soul were transported by his beauty, his voice, his inner being. God has kissed this man and I thank God for it." Check out his album “Romanza”, or try “Sacred Arias” for classical compositions.

Bocelli is famously blind. He was born with limited eyesight due to congenital glaucoma. At age 12, he was playing goalkeeper in a soccer game and was hit in the eye with the ball, causing him to lose all vision. But that didn’t stop him from learning to play piano, flute, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar, and drums. He won his first singing competition at age 14. No slouch as a scholar, Bocelli finished law school and practiced for a year before turning to music full time. 

Although Bocelli has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has sung all over the world and received countless accolades, not everyone is a fan of his famous voice. Opera critics, in particular, have pronounced his vocals sub-par. "The tone is rasping, thin and, in general, poorly supported,” said Bernard Holland, music critic for The New York Times. “Even the most modest upward movement thins it even more, signaling what appears to be the onset of strangulation. To his credit, Mr. Bocelli sings mostly in tune. But his phrasing tends toward carelessness and rhythmic jumble... The diction is not clear."

Whatever his gifts, Bocelli continues to charm audiences. His most recent outing was on May 7 for the BBC Coronation Concert when he performed “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with Bryn Terfel for the new king himself. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 27 - Shaun Cassidy, singer and actor

The offspring of Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy was a verifiable teenage heartthrob. Yes, ladies, remember the posters that would come in Tiger Beat magazine? Maybe you had one of Shaun or his half-brother, David Cassidy, on your bedroom wall. But Shaun Cassidy is much more than a pretty face.

Cassidy began recording music in high school and signed with an offshoot of Warner Brothers. His first hit single was “Da Doo Ron Ron” in 1977, the same year “The Hardy Boys Series” hit TV screens with Cassidy as a co-star. But audiences are fickle, and after a few years his songs and the television series went stale. Cassidy continued working by switching to the stage, including on Broadway and in Los Angeles. “Blood Brothers”, where he co-starred with brother David, ran for more than a year and garnered him a third cover on People magazine. 

Cassidy reinvented himself again when he began writing and producing top hits such as “American Gothic” and, most recently, “Amsterdam”, for network and cable audiences. Cassidy has been married three times and has eight children.


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