MARK HUGHES COBB: Winter's stars shine through even the bleakest of times

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Born on Jan. 8, over various inception years:

Wilkie Collins — Novelist, contemporary of Dickens.

Frank Nelson Doubleday — Founder of the publishing house.

William Hartnell — TV's first The Doctor, playing the titular role in "Doctor Who" from 1963-66.

Gypsy Rose Lee — Ecdysiast, whose memoir inspired one of Sondheim's early lyric-writing jobs.

Jose Ferrer — Tony- and Oscar-winning actor, both for versions of Cyrano. First Puerto Rican-born actor, and first Hispanic actor to win an Oscar.

Ron Moody — Actor best known for playing Fagin in "Oliver!" on the big screen, creating the role in the original West End production, and reprising it for a revival on Broadway.

Elvis Aaron Presley — Singer.

Shirley Bassey — Singer best known for giving brassy life to James Bond theme songs "Goldfinger," "Diamonds are Forever" and "Moonraker."

Bob Eubanks — TV host of "The Newlywed Game," and one of the oddest interviews I've ever enjoyed.

Stephen Hawking — Smart guy.

Robby Krieger — Guitarist for The Doors, writer of many of their finest songs, such as "Light My Fire," "Touch Me," "Love Me Two Times" and "Love Her Madly."

David Robert Jones (later Bowie) — Musician and actor.

Jenny Lewis — Singer/songwriter/actor, solo and with Rilo Kiley; hits include "Portions for Foxes," "Red Bull and Hennessy," "Just One of the Guys," and "Carpetbagger" (with Elvis Costello)

Sarah Polley — Actor and director whose most recent success was writing/adapting Margaret Atwood's "Alias Grace" as a limited series.

Cynthia Erivo — Singer/songwriter/actor, just an Oscar away from becoming an EGOT.

Roy Batty — Nexus 6, A level, combat model.

All these moments need not be lost in time, like tears in rain.

See, January doesn't suck entirely! Other Januarians: The dreamer Martin Luther King Jr. Amazing actor Florence Pugh. Betty freaking White. Muhammad Ali, the greatest. Dolly freaking Parton. Dave freaking Grohl, aka the answer to trivia question "What seemingly lesser supporter player winds up being the best in the bunch?"

Kevin Costner, Alicia Keys, Rowan Atkinson, Isaac Newton, Isaac Asimov, Kate McKinnon, Rosamund Pike, Greta Thunberg, FDR, Ben Franklin, Joan of Arc, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Edgar Allan Poe, Regina King, Alan Cumming, Jeremy Renner, Dave Bautista, Rod Stewart, Paul Newman, Rainn Wilson, Syd Barrett, Jackie Robinson, Alan Alda, Janis Joplin, Diane Lane, Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Virginia Woolf, James Earl Jones, Nic Cage, Mary J. Blige, Patton Oswalt, Cary Grant, Gene Hackman, Geena Davis, Rob Zombie, Sade Adu, Mark Rylance, Jason Batemen, Carrie Coon, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Haruki Murakami, Elijah Wood, Lord Byron, LL Cool J, John Hurt, Andy Kaufman, Sam Cooke, George Martin, Buzz Aldrin, Telly Savalas, Tippi Hedren, Hayao Miyazaki, Neil Diamond, Eartha Kitt, Danica McKellar, Heather Graham, Katherine Ross, Ed Helms, J.K. Simmons, Minnie Driver, Olivia Coleman, Jessica Walter, John Carpenter, John Belushi, Zooey Deschanel, Wolfie Mozart, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alexander Hamilton.

However, January's also birth-home to Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney, Kim Jong-un, Grigori Rasputin, Phil Collins, R. Kelly, Dax Shepard, Kid Rock, Jim Carrey, Jim Bakker, Bradley Cooper, Ellen DeGeneres, J. Edgar Hoover, Al Capone, Rand Paul, Steve Perry, Ben Shapiro, Justin Timberlake, Mel Gibson and Marilyn Manson. Hey, sometimes you shake out boxcars, sometimes snake eyes.

Jumping ahead to my own birth month, the next, the shortest and thus, Pure Science!, least likely to be yours. It's shared by heroes such as Hank Aaron, Alice Cooper, Sidney Poitier, Smokey Robinson, Emily Blunt, Bob Marley, Rosa Parks, George Harrison, John Williams, Carole King, Alan Rickman, Abe Lincoln, Christopher Guest, Johnny Cash and George Washington.

Other Februarians: Burt Reynolds, Jennifer Aniston, Stockard Channing, Simon Pegg, Elizabeth Olsen, Michael Sheen, Michael Jordan, Michael B. Jordan, Rashida Jones, Nina Simone, John Travolta, John Turturro, Kurt Cobain, Dr. Dre, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Izzard, Chris Rock, Mary Steenburgen, Jordan Peele, Chris Farley, Ansel Adams, Mahershala Ali, John Hughes, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gable, Babe Ruth, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christina Ricci, Charles Darwin, and Dickens himself.

February must also lay claim, though, to Ed Sheeran, Ashton Kutcher, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan, Alex Jones, Paris Hilton and Steve Jobs, so ... shame.

Another reason for lists: Humility. On odd occasions when tallying up interviews I've done, it can seem pretty rich. Then I register Eubanks, who after the young woman from Pensacola's TK101 slipped me her phone number, leered and aahh-OOO-gahed like a cartoon wolf, just breaths after rhapsodizing about his family.

Roughly 180 degrees away, there's Sir.

There's a picture of me with Mr. Poitier, as he's signing the pad on which I wrote notes from our interview. This was 1996, in advance of his appearance with Tuscaloosa's Realizing the Dream concert, in a lounge-type room inside the Moody Music Building.

I remember Dad being impressed, because I'd finally interviewed somebody like Sidney Poitier. Exactly like, in fact: penetrating brown eyes, a bit bloodshot that afternoon. He'd suffered a cold, and was taking antihistamines. Apologized in case he sounded a bit off; that's the kind of gentleman he was.

It went well because he was Sidney Mr. Tibbs Sir Poitier, until I got to the Serious Question I'd written out, longhand. Must have taken a third of a legal-sized sheet. Soften him up with the usual what-brought-you-here lobs, then Bam. Intellectual debate. It's a rookie mistake I continue to make, decades later, with interview subjects I admire, or am intimidated by. Even five minutes after, I couldn't have told you what that question was trying to stir up, beyond "Hey, I bet you've never heard THIS before."

Instinct suggested I skip over the epic query, but Ego thought, "No, Sir will tell me I'm smart!" if I pose this pseudo-deep ponderance, so I wound down to the end of this swirling calamity, and looked up ... right into deep, dark eyes.

Dramatic pause.

"Could you repeat the question?"

No. No, Sir, I don't think I could.

Let's move forward — rapidly — shall we? He was so genuinely kind.

I'll accept points for restraint, not busting out in Lulu's "To Sir With Love." I mean, this was the Moody, with musical instruments all around. It could have become a fantasia, like something out of a Richard Curtis film!

Or it could have been yet another adventure of Awkward Turtleman, boy reporter.

It's Pure Science! Everybody's born sometime. January seems dire, with post-holiday hangovers, ongoing omicron dilemmas, and the raft of deaths of loved ones, whether known literally, or via art and work.

Mainly I pulled together these lists to sandwich Lord Byron between Elijah Keane-Eyes Wood and LL Cool J, because don't call it a comeback, she walks in beauty like a night in the Shire, Samwise.

But also, those names trigger sense memories. From the darkest of months come some of our brightest lights.

Think of what we'd be without these wintery lives: No Pink Floyd. No best of all Catwoman portrayals. No "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" No New Deal; no "No; I am your father," misquoted throughout eternity; no hideous beating hearts. No lilting little night musics. No pondering what exactly Jolene could possibly have over Dolly. No sweetness in our Carolines. No Hammer. No "Folsom Prison Blues." No cool-handed blue-eyed hustlers. No smooth operators, escalators, perambulators or prevaricators, as we riff on that hypnotically beautiful song. No re-emphasizing syllables in AL-exander HAM-ilton.

It would have been the 1980s before a Black man won the Best Actor Oscar. Lulu's character believes Poitier's teacher is a toff, but not in a bad way:

"Well, Sir, you're like us, but you ain't ... I mean, you're not. It's kinda scary, but nice. You know what I mean, don't you?"

Reach Tusk Editor Mark Hughes Cobb at, or call 205-722-0201.

Mark Hughes Cobb
Mark Hughes Cobb

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: MARK HUGHES COBB: Winter's stars shine through even the bleakest of times