Happy 68th birthday to Tom Selleck, the man with the best mustache in the history of television. The Detroit native is best known for his eight-year adventure as Vietnam veteran Thomas Magnum, a private investigator who provided security for an eccentric millionaire’s Hawaii estate in “Magnum, P.I.,” which ran from 1980 to 1988 on CBS-TV. The fit, hairy-chested Selleck was often photographed swimming in tight trunks and running along the beach. I tell you, these TV shows just treat a man like a piece of meat. When are women going to love us for our brains and not our mustaches?
Happy 77th birthday to Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo, probably better known as Alan Alda. Along with Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor in “Doctor Who” and Bill Bixby’s tortured Dr. David Banner in “The Incredible Hulk,” Alda’s Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce of the “M*A*S*H” TV series shaped my idea of manhood and morality as much as, if not more so, than my own parents.
Pierce was wickedly funny, arrogant, iconoclastic, anti-authoritarian, highly skilled, deeply compassionate, a loyal friend and strongly moral.
Alda is sometimes criticized for taking “M*A*S*H” from a screwball service comedy to a drama about war and humanity. This is dumb. “M*A*S*H” is the rare long-running series in which characters improved, changed and grew.
The show left the air nearly 30 years ago. Yet each day, I park in front of the tube — and yes, I still have a tube — to watch a pair of “M*A*S*H” episodes. I’ve seen them all a dozen times over. But I never grow tired of revisiting this wonderful collection of characters headed by the incomparable Alda.
The great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born this day in 1756. Despite the well-intentioned and arduous efforts of several friends throughout my life, my knowledge of classical music is minimal. In fact, all that I really know about Mozart comes from voiceover narration in the 1980s pop hit by Falco. That includes:
- 1756: Salzburg, January 27, Wolfgang Amadeus is born.
- 1761: At the age of 5 Amadeus begins composing.
- 1773: He writes his first piano concerto.
- 1782: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart marries Constanze Weber.
- 1784: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart becomes a Freemason.
- 1791: Mozart composes The Magic Flute.
- On December 5 that same year, Mozart dies.
- 1985: Austrian rock singer Falco records “Rock Me Amadeus.”
Author Mickey Spillane brought to life his signature two-fisted tough private eye Mike Hammer on this day in 1947 with the publication of “I, The Jury.” Spillane, a World War II veteran, began his writing career penning tales for comic books, spinning adventures for Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Mike Hammer was originally named Mike Danger. Spillane submitted it as a comic book scrip, but Spillane’s wife wanted to buy a house in suburban New York. So he decided to write a novel instead. It took him 19 days. He sent it off to a a publishing house. It as a hit. Hammer’s adventures, filled with more sex and violence than the average detective tale of the era, sold more than 500,000 million copies. Hammer would star in 14 novels, radio series, movies and TV series. Spillane died in 2008, but Iowa author Max Allen Collins has continued the character in another half dozen novels.
Happy 82nd birthday to Disney live-action favorite Dean Jones. A U.S. Navy veteran of the Korean War, Jones is best-known for a string of goofy Disney flicks from the 1960s and 1970s, including That Darn Cat! (1965), The Ugly Dachshund (1966), Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968), The Million Dollar Duck (1971) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976). Perhaps his most beloved work was the series of Herbie movies, starring an anthropomorphized VW Beetle, beginning with The Love Bug (1969) and continuing in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) and the short-lived CBS-TV series Herbie the Love Bug (1982).