Let’s acknowledge some folks who deserve to be NiteLife Person of the Week any time in this new year because 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the births of these entertainers. Few make it to age 100 (1917 baby Zsa Zsa Gabor just missed the mark last year at 99), but you’ll find two due for the three-digit mark this year —in the first and last questions. How many can you name? The answers are at the bottom.
- Two women named June, born in 1917, but neither one in the month of June, had notable screen careers. One died at age 88 and was in MGM movie musicals and was married to Dick Powell and when he passed away, she married and divorced his dentist twice. The other is still with us, and you probably know her voice more than her last name or face. Turning 100 this year is the June who provided voices for cartoon characters such as Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his co-star Natasha, Cindy Lou from a classic about a certain Grinch, and the sweet granny in cartoons featuring Tweety and Sylvester.
- This gracious lady was often spotted in NYC cabarets in the last chapter of her life. Before that, she won an Academy Award and had a big role in the 1943 Broadway musical often pointed to as the one that made the plot and score to thereafter expected to be more connected.
- The 92 years of this female singer and actress included marrying at 19, starring on Broadway (the last time in a show all about her), marching with Martin Luther King, and playing the Good Witch in the Land of Oz.
- Memories are made of this for one man born in 1917: a hugely successful partnership with a still-living comedian, hit records, movies, nightclubs, and his own variety TV series which he agreed to do only if his own rehearsal schedule was minimal.
- This jazz singer, who recorded and concertized more than almost anyone, was and is the favorite of many, but did you know that she also lent her voice to the never-released, never-finished animated film of Finian’s Rainbow along with two men she did work with at other times: Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong.
- She was known from shore to shore as a singer and had her own TV variety show and later her own talk show. When Ethel Merman’s record company wouldn’t let her appear on the cast album of a Broadway show she was starring in because it was on another label, this lady was hired to fill in and sing her songs on the disc.
- Although best known as a comedienne, this funny girl shared a dressing room with Barbra Streisand (who turns 75 this year) when she was in career-beginning cabaret in New York and was one of those to play Dolly (the movie role that went to Streisand) in that smash musical by 85-year-old Jerry Herman being revived on Broadway this year.
- She played Mame in Las Vegas, but quit and was replaced by the person born in 1917 who is the answer to question #2 and played the wife of the man who is the answer to #4 in a film called Ada, but she’s better known for film roles playing singers (though she was sometimes dubbed!) and winning an Academy Award, after several nominations, for playing a murderer.
- These two original leads of a classic Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical were both born in 1917. Both also starred in separate revivals on Hammerstein & Jerome Kern’s Show Boat.
- This singer and pianist was a star in jazz and pop, had his own TV series, and had a hit record with a member of his family after he died, with the magic of technology.
- She is especially celebrated as the British singer who was a “sweetheart” of the World War II soldiers and she will turn 100 in March! An all-star gala is scheduled for the London Palladium that week.
1. June Allyson and voice actress June Foray.
2. Celeste Holm, original Oklahoma! Ado Annie
3. Lena Horne
4. Dean Martin
5. Ella Fitzgerald
6. Dinah Shore (the cast album: Call Me Madam)
7. Phyllis Diller
8. Susan Hayward
9. Jan Clayton and John Raitt, Carousel’s original Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan
10. The “Unforgettable” Nat King Cole
11. Vera Lynn.