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Famous December Birthdays

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

By Maria Beale Fletcher:

It was my privilege to meet and interact with four of the December birthday celebrities over the years. Some of the memories that stand out in my mind I'll share with you here.

I arrived in New York City in September 1960 after a 24-hour train ride from North Carolina. Only eighteen, I'd graduated high school in three years and was the newly crowned Miss Asheville. I was excited to take dance lessons from professionals other than my parents, Beale and Peggy Fletcher. My ballet teacher at the June Taylor School of Dance was Richard Scott Thomas (born December 21, father of Richard Thomas, soon to be star of The Waltons). I enjoyed his ballet class immensely, though I was the youngest and least-experienced of his students.

There were two well-known actresses in my class of twenty students. Jane Fonda (another December 21 birthday), about twenty-five years old at the time, was one of the best dancers of those who were not professionally appearing on Broadway or members of ballet companies. Jane was an amazing, beautiful ballet dancer, though always sad looking; she never, ever smiled in class or said "thank you" when Richard Thomas complimented her. It's funny, the strange memories that last over the years!

Maria Beale Fletcher, Miss America 1962

Bert Parks (December 30 birthday) was delightful in his

honest appreciation of the Miss America contestants who

participated in the pageant telecast, which he hosted for

twenty-four years from 1955 to 1979. As a featured

performer in several of the national telecasts, I had ample opportunity to visit with Bert in long conversations before

the several rehearsals leading up to the performances.

I considered him to be a true friend and mentor. My most

vivid memory of him occurred after giving my live farewell address as the outgoing Miss America. I returned from the long walk on the ramp, where I waved goodbye to the audience of 20,000, and as I blew him a kiss from my heart, he smiled at me as tears ran down his cheeks and sang "There She Is, Miss America."

Fast forward to the late 1960s when I'm co-hosting a daily NBC talk show in Nashville, TN, The Noon Show. Albert Gore, Sr. (December 26 birthday), senator from Tennessee, had seen me singing at a music festival and asked to book me at a show he was hosting for his fellow congressmen and colleagues in his apartment complex in Washington, D.C. He was so very gracious, charismatic, and smiling, with gorgeous thick white hair, how could I say no!

He sent a limousine to pick me up at the airport, and I was driven to the Watergate Hotel Apartments, where he lived with his family for 20 years—an address that would become infamous a few years later in 1972 when five intruders were caught in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, leading to Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency.

In the 1960s and '70s, in addition to my television talk show hosting, I sometimes worked as a spokeswoman, appearing on media shows around the US and Canada for several well-known companies, such as the Toni Company. In the late summer of 1970, when I was about 8 months pregnant with my firstborn, I was asked to appear on The Phil Donahue Show for the entire hour with another young woman, a feminist. I could already imagine Phil's eager anticipation at trying to set us up in a cat fight! (I knew I would not let that happen!) A few minutes before the curtain would rise for the live TV audience to see us seated on the stage, I asked Phil (December 21 birthday) if I could have a pillow to hold in front of me during the interview. My employer had asked me to wear a dress; the mini skirt was all the rage, and I was wearing a beautiful turquoise maternity dress that was mini skirt length! Donahue asked why that was necessary, and I said, "Not only is it necessary, but I will walk off this stage and not do your interview unless you honor my request and bring me a pillow to hold on my lap for the next 60 minutes!" All of a sudden, Phil Donahue starts yelling to no one in particular, "Someone find a pillow for Miss America now before we go on the air live in 2 minutes!" About 90 seconds later, a stagehand came running out to hand me a large, colorful pillow that I strategically placed on my lap, on my thighs where the hem of my dress was precariously resting.

The curtain raised to the thunderous applause of the audience, and after a few moments of banter, Donahue introduced the young feminist. Then he began my introduction: "And now let me introduce Miss America 1962, Maria Beale Fletcher. Maria, what brings you here to our fair city?"

I began, "I'm here on a promotional tour for the Toni Company's latest hair product called 'Magic Moment!'" And then, mischievously occurring to me in that moment, I pulled aside my pillow, allowing my eight-months pregnant form to take the spotlight. I improvised, "And as you can see, I've had my Magic Moment!"

I'll never forget how shocked the audience was as they gasped in unison! And then Donahue, not to be outdone, whispered in a loud stage whisper, as if to shame me; "Miss America!!!"


Dec 1

Mary Martin: actress, singer (starred in the original Peter Pan on Broadway)

Bette Midler: actress, comedienne, singer,

Little Richard: rock 'n roll idol

Woody Allen: actor, writer, producer, director

Lou Rawls: singer, actor, entertainer

John Paul Densmore: rock drummer, The Doors

Jaco Pastorius: jazz-fusion bassist

Dianne Lennon: singer, Lennon Sisters

Connie Booth: psychotherapist, actress, writer

(Fawlty Towers, Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Dec 2

Image: Roel Wijnants on

Maria Callas: opera singer

Gianni Versace: Italian fashion designer

Monica Seles: Yugoslavian, US Women's World Tennis Champion, youngest Grand Slam winner of 20th century, injured in knife attack

Dec 3

Anna Freud: Austrian-English psychoanalyst, daughter of Sigmund Freud

Andy Williams: singer, "Moon River"

Richard Scott Thomas: dancer, educator, co-founder of the

New York School of Ballet with his wife, Barbara Fallis, former soloist with the New York City Ballet; father of Richard Thomas, who portrayed John Boy Walton on the CBS drama series

The Waltons

Ozzie Osbourne: heavy-metal singer, Black Sabbath

Dec 4

Jeff Bridges: actor, The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart,

The Last Picture Show, True Grit

Dec 5

Walt Disney: pioneer of the American Animation Industry, as film producer holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual—22 Oscars from 59 nominations, 2 Golden Globes, an Emmy, and numerous other awards

Clyde Cessna: American aviator and airplane manufacturer

Dec 6

Ira Gershwin: Pulitzer Prize–winning lyricist teamed with his brother George

Otto Graham: Cleveland Browns football quarterback, 5X All Pro, 2X NFL MVP, basketball All-American

Dec 7

Larry Bird: "Larry Legend," Boston Celtics basketball forward, "Dream Team" gold medalist

Harry Chapin: singer-songwriter, "Cat's In The Cradle"

Dec 8

Sammy Davis, Jr.: entertainer, singer, dancer, comedian, film actor

Jim Morrison: singer, songwriter, poet, The Doors,

James Galway: Irish flutist

Flip Wilson: TV comedian, actor

Dec 9

Kirk Douglas: film actor, producer, father of actor Michael Douglas

Dame Judy Dench: British stage/film actress

Tom Kite: golfer, all-time PGA Tour Money leader with $6.6 million, US Open winner

Dec 10

Emily Dickinson: American poet

Ada Lovelace: brilliant mathematician, first female

computer coder. developed software to input data for a theoretical computer designed by her boss, professor

Charles Babbage, a full century before the first

computer was invented.

Dec 11

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Nobel Prize–winning Russian

writer, The Gulag Archipelago,

Cancer Ward

Fiorello La Guardia: New York Mayor, US congressman, LaGuardia Airport named for him,

crusader against corruption

Dec 12

Frank Sinatra: singer, songwriter, film actor

Dionne Warwick: singer, actress

Cathy Rigby: US Olympic medal–winning gymnast, sportscaster

Tracy Austin: tennis player, youngest to win US Open

Dec 13

Dick Van Dyke: film and TV actor, star of

The Dick Van Dyke Show, Diagnosis:

Murder, Mary Poppins

Christopher Plummer: actor on stage, film, and TV, starred with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music

Dec 14

James Doolittle: US Air Force General, led attack on Tokyo, aeronautical engineer, stunt pilot, Vice President Shell Oil

Patty Duke: stage, film, TV actress,

The Miracle Worker

Dec 15

J Paul Getty: oil tycoon, billionaire, art collector

Eslanda Robeson: anthropologist, writer, African Journey, wife and biographer of singer, actor, Paul Robeson

Alexander A. Eiffel: French engineer, Eiffel Tower builder

Dec 16

Ludwig Van Beethoven: German pianist, composer, lost hearing at age 30, most famous work is "Symphony No. 9"

Jane Austen: novelist, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice (completed when she was 21), wrote six books (only after her death at age 41 was her true identity revealed to the literary world)

Margaret Mead: anthropologist, Coming of Age in Samoa, worked with her three anthropologist husbands