Ellen DeGeneres shocked the world in 1997 by coming "out of the closet" on her sitcom Ellen. The "Puppy Episode" (the nickname for the coming-out show) aired on April 30, 1997, and featured a number of stars including Oprah Winfrey, Demi Moore, K.D. Lang, Melissa Etheridge, and Ellen's mother -- Betty DeGeneres. The episode caused a national frenzy -- some of the show's advertisers even pulled their ads -- but the genie was out of the box, and Ellen DeGeneres had become the first gay lead character of a network show.
Alan Alda was born in New York City on January 28, 1936, with the name Alphonso D'Abruzzo. His father, an actor, had taken the screen name Robert Alda, and when Alan decided to follow in his father's footsteps, he adopted the name as well. Alan Alda is most famous for playing Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H (1972-1983), a stint which earned him five Emmy Awards.
When American Idol, the reality TV show in which contestants compete to become the next great American pop star, debuted in 2002, one of the show's judges immediately began to stir up emotions and controversy. Described alternately as rude, pompous, or just brutally honest, Simon Cowell has reduced more than one teenage wannabe to tears with his caustic comments. Although many viewers disdain his unkind treatment of contestants, it is this very treatment that has perhaps contributed to the success of American Idol. Simon has, more than anything else, come to represent the show in people's minds. Fans can even purchase a talking Simon bobble head doll that dishes out some of his more frequent insults such as: "That was totally pathetic", "You are the most boring person I've ever met", or "Words can't describe just how dull you really are".
Leonard Nimoy played the role of the green-blooded vulcan Spock on "Star Trek" (1966-1969). After Star Trek's cancellation, he joined the cast of "Mission Impossible" in the role of the Amazing Paris, master of diguise. He replaced Martin Landau, the previous master of disguise, who ironically had originally been offered the role of Spock! Nimoy went on to host several other TV shows including "In Search Of..." and "Ancient Mysteries".
David Duchovny, star of The X-Files, suffered an eye injury while playing a pick-up game of basketball when he was 27. He was poked in the eye, and the force of the blow ruptured an eye muscle and caused a cataract to develop. As a result, he had to have the lens removed from his right eye and replaced with a synthetic one. He had to stay awake for the surgery and actually remembers the doctors talking to each other as if they'd never performed that kind of surgery before. He says, "It was like, Well, look at that. 'What do you normally do with that?' I don't know, I like to tie it in a knot or tie it in a bow or whatever. I was half awake, but I was so happy on the Demorol, I said, 'I thought you guys did this before.' I thought it was the funniest thing that they were operating on me. They'd never done it."
Playboy model Pamela Anderson played the role of Lisa, the Tool-Time Girl, on "Home Improvement" from 1991-1993. When she left the show, she was replaced by Debbe Dunning who played Heidi, the new Tool-Time Girl. Pamela was also a regular on "Baywatch" (as C.J. Parker) from 1992 to 1997 and on "V.I.P." (as Vallery Irons) from 1998-2002.
In January 2005, it was reported that Jennifer Garner had suffered nerve damage while performing stunts for ABC's hit TV show "Alias" in which she played secret agent Sydney Bristow. Nevertheless, Garner vowed to continue performing her own stunts. Now, that's commitment!
TV celebrity Lucille Ball reportedly learned the comic use of props from Buster Keaton on the MGM backlot in 1942 after she was signed by MGM with the intent of grooming her as a musical performer. Lucy, in turn, influenced many stars of the following generations with her comic technique. Such TV sitcom stars as Penny Marshall, Ellen DeGeneris, and Robin Williams have all traced their comedic styles back to Lucille Ball.
Pierce Brosnan began show business as a teen runaway, working with the circus as a fire eater. He later gained more conventional acting experience working in London theatres. His theatrical breakthrough came when American playwright Tennessee Williams hand-picked Brosnan to play McCabe in the British premiere of Red Devil Battery Sign. He got another big break when he landed the TV series Remington Steel (1982-1987). After the cancelation of his TV show, Brosnan moved to movies and appeared in numerous films, including, of course, several James Bond flicks in which he plays the womanizing British spy 007.
Attempting to boost ratings for season four of Ally McBeal, FOX hired Robert Downey Jr. to play Ally's love interest. With Downey on the show, ratings improved, and the show's producers began making plans to end the season with a wedding between the two characters, but before the final episodes went into production, Downey was arrested on a drug-related charge. FOX fired Downey and instructed producer David Kelly to abort the wedding storyline and remove Downey's character from the rest of the season. The following season, Jon Bon Jovi was hired to play Victor, Ally's newest love interest.