On This Day: March 31


More cowbell is never enough so we gotta say "Happy birthday" to Christopher Walken. Let's celebrate with a quick soft-shoe shuffle through five curious facts from his formative years. Plus, the eminently rebootable The Love Boat, though no longer exciting and new, chalks up a landmark, and remembering the tragedy of The Crow.

1943 -- Christopher. Walken Is. Born IN Astoria. Queens, it's in New York City. Five fun facts about his early. Days.

· He was born Ronald Walken, but changed his name to Christopher in the mid-1960s on the advice of nightclub chanteuse Monique Van Vooren. But he regrets not going for the simpler Chris, explaining it thus: "Christopher sounds like a sneeze. Short names are more sexy."

· In the 1950s, Chris and his brothers, Ken and Glenn, performed on shows like Howdy Doody and The Colgate Comedy Hour, where he did a skit with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and was inspired to pursue acting.

· He scored his first regular role in summer 1953 TV show The Wonderful John Acton. He narrated as Kevin Action, grandson to the title character. We'd pay for that audio.

· Despite being a star by the age of 10, adult Walken ended up working as a janitor at the Actors Studio... for 15 years. He didn't just sweep and unblock toilets, though, and sat in on classes held by luminaries such as Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg, and up-and-comers Ellen Burstyn and Al Pacino.

· It was 1972's The Mind Snatchers that gave Walken his first lead role in a film. "That was one piece of garbage," Walken has said of the movie. Find out if it's all that crappy in the next installment of Bad Movies We Love.

1985 -- The Love Boat celebrates its 200th episode with an ABC-TV reunion of its guest stars, including Lana Turner, who'd been the 1000th such appearance, and Ginger Rogers, who'd been the 300th guest. Kinda reminds me of the time that Lauren Bacall and Paul Newman did those episodes of Two And A Half Men. Check out the 1985 credits for The Love Boat. Sing along if you like. Yes, you remember the words. That's what they call brand recognition. All those lovable characters just ripe for a remake. Imaginary casting call begins... now.

1993 -- Brandon Lee is fatally wounded while filming a scene for The Crow when a squib load causes what should be a safe blank ammunition discharge to propel a bullet out of a gun barrel and into the 28-year-old actor's spine. The movie, which has only eight days filming left, is completed with the blessing of Lee's family, utilizing digital composition of Lee's face and a body double, and goes on to be a box-office hit and cult favorite.