By Mark Jacob
Tribune staff reporter
February 15, 2009
Some impressive birthdays have been celebrated lately, including the 200th of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, who were born on the same day in 1809. Let's blow out 10 more candles to celebrate these facts:
1. A "leapling" or "leaper" is a person born on Feb. 29, with a birthday every four years. Among those born on Leap Day: actor Dennis Farina and serial killer Aileen Wuornos. It's also the fictional birthday of a mighty leaper known as Superman.
2. On March 30, 1852, the son of Anna and Theodorus van Gogh was stillborn. His parents named him Vincent and buried him near the Dutch church where Theodorus preached. Exactly a year later--on March 30, 1853--Anna gave birth to another son, whom they also named Vincent and who became one of the world's most famous artists.
3. William Shakespeare is said to have died on his birthday. But like many other purported details about the Bard, this one is unconfirmed. We know for certain that the following people had the ultimate bummer on their birthday: actress Ingrid Bergman, Cubs greats Joe Tinker and Gabby Hartnett, Holocaust heroine Corrie ten Boom, feminist Betty Friedan, talk-show host Mike Douglas and actor John Banner, who played Sgt. Schultz on "Hogan's Heroes."
4. President Lyndon Johnson's birthday cake in 1965 featured a plastic hypodermic needle on top of it, symbolizing the passage of the Medicare Act.
5. Christo, the artist who has decorated such sites as Germany's Reichstag and New York's Central Park, was born on the same day in the same year as his wife and project partner, Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon.
6. It's well known that Marilyn Monroe sang a sultry "Happy Birthday" to President John Kennedy in front of a Madison Square Garden crowd of 15,000 while wearing a dress so tight that she had to be sewn into it. Less remembered is that Kennedy's brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford, made a joke about Monroe's belated entrance at the 1962 birthday gala. He called her "the late Marilyn Monroe," a quip that took on an eerie tinge when she died less than three months later.
7. In 1984, the Hentzel family of Palo Alto, Calif., received a draft registration notice for a fictitious person named Johnny Klomberg. Years earlier, the family's two boys, Eric and Greg, had made up the names of Johnny and others to get extra helpings of the free birthday ice cream offered by the Farrell's restaurant chain. The draft sign-up notice exposed the fact that the government was using the ice cream list to track down 18-year-old men. Farrell's said it was "outraged" to learn that a mailing-list broker had sold the names without permission, and the government dumped the 167,000 customers from its files.
8. New Jersey authorities seized the children of Heath and Deborah Campbell in January in a dispute that began over a birthday cake. Heath Campbell went into a ShopRite store and asked for a cake decorated to say, "Happy birthday, Adolf Hitler," in honor of his 3-yearold son, Adolf Hitler Campbell. The store refused. Amid heavy publicity, authorities examined the treatment of young Adolf and his younger sisters, Joyce Lynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, and took all three away.
9. About 5 percent of babies are born on their due date.
10. The Museum of Birthday Party Excess might feature a special room for the June 2001 festivities honoring the wife of then- Tyco International Chairman Dennis Kozlowski. Held in Sardinia, the party cost $2 million, half of which was billed to the publicly held company. The party's centerpiece was an ice sculpture based on Michelangelo's David, with Stolichnaya vodka pouring out of David's most private appendage. Kozlowski couldn't be prosecuted for bad taste, but he was later imprisoned for misusing company funds.
Sources: National Gallery of Art, snopes.com; "Van Gogh: His Life and His Art," by David Sweetman, "Sons and Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy," by Richard D. Mahoney, "Creating Your Birth Plan" by Marsden Wagner and Stephanie Gunning, and Tribune news services
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune.
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