Birthdays are a wonderful daily occurrence in our lives. It is rare to weave through one’s day without becoming privy to an announcement or celebration of a birthday or two, whether they belong to family, friends, or other eminent figures. Remembering those who have passed each day is, perhaps, just as noteworthy an endeavor, for if their memories are kept alive, one might argue, so too are their spirits.
Here is a sampling of June 16 honorees:
George Reeves – It was one of the more famous celebrity deaths in its day, the supposed suicide of George Reeves, the actor who embodied the indestructible Superman. On this day in 1959, in the wee hours of the morning, Mr. Reeves died of a gunshot wound in the head, and what followed is a classic Hollywood tale, filled with controversy and intrigue. Was he killed by a hitman hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer general manager Eddie Mannix? In 1951, Reeves had begun a romantic relationship with Mannix’s wife, Toni, an ex-showgirl eight years his senior. Was the shooting an accident at the hands of his fiancee, Leonore Lemmon, a society playgirl he pursued after breaking up with Mannix? Or, was this purely a suicide after a long night of drinking, the result of years of frustration over roles not secured and a career unfulfilled? To this day, there are no definitive explanations. Reeves’ life, and the investigation into his death, was finally dramatized in a feature film starring Ben Affleck and Adrien Brody, entitled “Hollywoodland.”
Mel Allen – “Going, Going, Gone.” It was Mr. Allen’s trademark phrase that still lives on with generations of New York Yankees’ fans. Mel Allen passed away on this day in 1996 at the age of 83, and for many of those years, he was among the most prominent members of sports broadcasting. His familiar voice described the enduring exploits of the most successful Yankee seasons, and the most memorable baseball stars in history, from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle and beyond. He is for once and forever the “Legendary Voice of the New York Yankees.” Unceremoniously fired in the ’60’s, he began a successful second career as the first host of “This Week in Baseball.”
Phil Mickelson – In this era of professional golf, Mr. Mickelson may either rue the bad timing of his age, having to contest the immortal Tiger Woods every week, or celebrate Woods’ impact on the popularity of the sport “Lefty” loves. Born on this day in 1970 in San Diego, Mr. Mickelson has managed to win three major championships and a total of 36 events on the PGA Tour in the Tiger Woods’ era. Curiously, though he swings golf clubs for an exemplary living left-handed, he conducts the rest of his life right-handed.
Joan Van Ark – She had a long, active, mostly anonymous acting career until she landed the role of Valene Ewing for a few episodes on the long-running, highly-rated series “Dallas.” Ms. Van Ark’s good fortune was the spin-off that popular show created. She ultimately played Gary Ewing’s wife for an additional 13 seasons on the enormous hit show “Knots Landing.” Born on this day in New York City in 1943, she was no stranger to the stage, and earned a Tony nomination for her performance in “The School for Wives,” and won the Theater World Award for “The Rules of the Game.”