June 9 - Happy Birthday, Michael J. Fox

Posted on June 9, 2018

Left, Jennifer Grey when she was young, and
recognizably herself, in movies like Ferris Bueller's Day
Off and Dirty Dancing. I read that, once she was much
richer and more famous, she had a long-desired
nose job - and the result was that she became just
another actress nobody knew or cared about!

She said she went into the plastic surgery a celebrity
and came out anonymous, like being in a witness
protection program!

On the right, Jennifer Gray much older (and probably
Actors count on their faces and bodies and voices even more than most of us do. Staying attractive or maybe just recognizable can be an important thing for an actor.

So...what is an actor to do if he or she gets Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's is a problem with the central nervous system that causes movement problems such as stiffness and shaking. Often people with PD have trouble speaking clearly. You can see how all of this would be a problem for an actor!

Well, back in the not-so-good old days, Hollywood in general tried to hide problems of stars, especially unsightly health problems. Actually, it seems to me that most famous people did the same thing, back in the day. But nowadays we are more open, and famous people like late professional boxer Muhammed Ali have dared to admit that they have Parkinson's, and even appear in public with PD. 

Another brave person bringing even more attention to Parkinson's is today's famous birthday, Michael J. Fox. Born in Canada on this date in 1961, Fox became famous with roles on the TV show Family Ties and the Back to the Future movies. He got famous pretty early, in his early 20s. Good thing, too, since he first developed symptoms of Parkinson's when he was just 29 years old.

Not everyone gets a 1/6th size doll
of themselves! Very cool!
Of course, getting a diagnosis of Parkinson's is pretty depressing! Most people only live seven to ten years after diagnosis. And there are all kinds of symptoms other than shaking and slurring speech and moving stiffly; there can be dementia, depression, and sleep disorders, among many other things. And there's no cure.

Michael J. Fox is only human. Having the diagnosis and the first troubling symptoms, he kept it secret and started drinking. But then he got a grip. He got help, he revealed his condition to the public, and he stopped drinking. He became an activist, working to educate government officials about the need for funds to study the disease. He started a foundation to find a cure for Parkinson's, and he wrote several books.

Ali and Fox testified together to Congress to get
needed funds for research of Parkinson's.

Even more courageous, perhaps, Fox started working in front of the camera again. He played recurring roles in a variety of TV shows and ended up earning Emmy nominations for some of them. 

Fox and his family
Fox campaigned for stem-cell research and ended up making political ads for candidates who support such research. He has been held up as a moral example to us all. 

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