Today is somebody's birthday
Do you remember watching the zany "Professor" Irwin Corey, one the most brilliant and underappreciated comedians of all time, on the Johnny Carson show? It was enough to make you laugh your silly head off. Corey, billed as the "world's foremost authority," is 99 years old and, thank God, very much alive. He even has own official website. (Yeah, that's a big deal; I don't have one).
Connie Stevens was so dang-blasted cute as Cricket Blake in the television classic "Hawaiian Eye" more than five decades ago. But why on earth did she ever marry that loser, Eddie Fisher, especially when several years before, he left his adorable first wife, Debbie Reynolds, and their two adorable kids (one of who was the future Princess Leia) for the beautiful and super-sexy Elizabeth Taylor? I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn that sweet little Connie is 75 years old. If I was single, I think I'd still want to date her.
The name Darryl Hickman sounded familiar to me, and that's because of the great early sitcom, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." Actually, it turns out Darryl's kid brother Dwayne was Dobie, but when I watched an episode of "Dobie" on MeTV not too long ago, I saw Darryl playing Dobie's older brother, Davey. Darryl and Dwayne always knew who they were; it was me who was confused. Thanks to the magic of television, Darryl will be forever young, but, as of now, he's actually 82.
Incidentally, Darryl was born the day after Jerry Van Dyke, who also played real-life brother Dick Van Dyke's brother on television. Later, Jerry appeared in an episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as Mary's boyfriend which, considering her one-time TV marriage to Dick, seemed a little creepy.
The years pass on, and though we may think we're still kids, those birthdays do add up. "Is she really THAT old?" or "Yikes! Is he still alive?" are the normal reactions as I peruse my favorite newspaper feature, "Today's Birthdays," compiled by The Associated Press and published daily on Page 2. There's always one or more celebrities of note included in the daily installment. I mention the Professor, Connie and Darryl because they all had birthdays that were duly chronicled within the last week or so.
So was Norman Lear's birthday. Now 91, Lear, back in the early '70s, was responsible for the groundbreaking sitcom "All in the Family," which was superbly cast and brilliantly acted. Speaking of that, around the same time I took note of Norman's natal day, Sally Struthers celebrated her 65th. Gloria Stivic is now eligible for Social Security, for crying out loud!
Bobbie Gentry, one of my all-time favorites, is now 69. Yeah, I know there was a TV movie based on the song "Ode to Billie Joe," but I still don't think it's been adequately explained why Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.
I loved Martin Sheen in "The West Wing," even though President Bartlett was basically a pretentious goof that I couldn't possibly vote for. Sheen looks good at 73 despite all the stress that has to be involved with being Charlie's dad.
Marilyn Quayle faded from view after Dan's vice presidential gig didn't work out so well, but I'm betting she's still an attractive woman at 64.
Jay North was TVs' "Dennis the Menace," and now, I was shocked to learn, he's 62. I checked his bio online and learned he's been involved with an organization that helps young performers who have a difficult time coping with the pressures of the fickle entertainment business or their possible unmarketability after puberty. Good for him.
Sometimes, the reaction on checking the birthday list is "who the heck is that anyway?" That's what I asked when I read that actor Brendon Ryan Barrett celebrated birthday number 27. A quick check on Wikipedia revealed that Barrett provided the voice for Casper the Friendly Ghost in "Casper's Haunted Christmas." Must have missed that one.
I thought another 27-year-old actor, Nolan Gerard Funk, might be a soap opera star, but further research confirms he's known from being on "Glee" and starring in the title role in the 2009 Broadway revival of "Bye Bye Birdie."
I sure hope actor Matt Prokop had a nice 23rd birthday, but I wouldn't know him if I tripped over him on the street. I looked up his bio, and it turns out the folks who saw "High School Musical 3: Senior Year 3" probably know all about him.
Names of rappers, half of all country music stars, every single professional golfer except Tiger Woods and most race car drivers are as foreign to me on the birthday roster as a list of the names of the current cabinet ministers for the Republic of Uzbekistan. But that doesn't make them any less deserving of having their birthdays noted, and it certainly doesn't make me a bad person for not knowing who they are. Why should I feel guilty? I don't recall getting cards from them on MY birthday!
(Betz is an assistant editor of The News-Item.)