March 6

There are 4 entries for this date: David Gilmour John Stossel Rob Reiner Carolyn Porco

    David Gilmour

    David Gilmour

    On this date in 1946, singer-songwriter David Jon Gilmour was born in Cambridge, England. His father lectured in zoology at Cambridge University and his mother worked as a teacher. Gilmour and Roger “Syd” Barrett played guitar together at the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology. Gilmour formed several bands and in 1967 joined Barrett’s band Pink Floyd. Gilmour’s unique guitar and vocal talents were featured in the third-most successful studio album of all time, “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973).

    Gilmour led Pink Floyd after Roger Waters left in 1985. Under his direction, Pink Floyd recorded the albums “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” (1985), “The Division Bell” (1994) and “P.U.L.S.E.” (1995). Pink Floyd won a Grammy for the instrumental “Marooned,” composed by Gilmour and Richard Wright for “The Division Bell.” It’s the only track by the band to ever win a Grammy. In 1996 the band was inducted into the U.S. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and received the same honor in the United Kingdom in 2005. Their last album, “The Endless River,” was in 2014. Wright died in 2008. 

    Gilmour had several hit solo albums, including a self-titled chart-topper in 1978 and “About Face” in 1984. His third solo album, “On An Island” (2006), went multi-platinum. He was honored in 2005 with the distinguished CBE title (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to music and his philanthropic work. Notable among his charitable deeds, he sold his London home in 2003 and gave the £3.6 million proceeds to a homeless charity.

    In a Chicago Tribune story (March 31, 2006), Gilmour said: “When you get to 60, one of your preoccupations is that the life you have ahead of you is quite a lot shorter than the life you have behind you. You can’t help thinking about that. It’s something inside all of us, even though I’m not a believer in God or an afterlife. I’m an atheist. I’m sort of resigned to my lot in life, and content in it.”

    Gilmour’s most recent albums as of this writing are “Rattle That Lock” (2015) and “Live at Pompeii” (2017). Gilmour in 2022 blocked all sales of his digital recordings and much of the Pink Floyd catalog in Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine, and reunited with Pink Floyd to record “Hey, Hey Rise Up” featuring singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the Ukrainian band Boombox.

    Gilmour married American-born model and artist Virginia “Ginger” Hasenbein in 1975. They have four children and divorced in 1990. In 1994 he married writer and lyricist Polly Samson, with whom he has four more children.

    He raised $21.5 million in 2019 from a Christie’s sale of over 120 of his instruments and artifacts. He donated the proceeds to ClientEarth, a charity which fights legal battles to preserve a sustainable global climate and environment.

    PHOTO: Gilmour in 2005; Andy MacLarty photo. CC 2.0

    “This earthly heaven is enough for me.”

    —Gilmour lyrics from “This Heaven,” a song from his solo album "On An Island" (2006)
    Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

    John Stossel

    John Stossel

    On this date in 1947, journalist John Frank Stossel was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois, to Jewish parents from Germany. He was raised Protestant. He attended Princeton University, earning a degree in psychology in 1969.

    He worked as a reporter for several media outlets around the country, then became an editor for “Good Morning America” and in 1981 a correspondent for “20/20.” Stossel moved in 2009 to the Fox Business Channel to host “Stossel,” a weekly program that approaches issues from a libertarian perspective.

    He has written three books. Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of Liberal Media (2005) was on The New York Times best-seller list for 11 weeks. His second book was Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel: Why Everything You Know is Wrong (2007), and the third was No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed (2012).

    Stossel has received 19 Emmy Awards and five awards from the National Press Club. Stossel is married to Ellen Abrams and has two children, who were raised Jewish by his wife. In a “Stossel” episode (Dec. 16, 2010), he identified himself as agnostic. “God may exist, but I want more evidence and I’ve looked for it,” he said, adding that he can’t bring himself to see the bible as “the word of God.”

    PHOTO: Stossel in 2018 in Teaneck, N.J.; Gage Skidmore photo. CC 3.0

    “I want to [believe]. I see the peace and purpose it gives most of you who believe, and I tried. I just can’t.”

    —Stossel to Gretchen Carlson on Fox News (Dec. 13, 2012)
    Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

    Rob Reiner

    Rob Reiner

    On this date in 1947, actor and filmmaker Robert Norman Reiner was born in Bronx, N.Y., to Estelle (née Lebost) and Carl Reiner. His parents were both actor/entertainers and his father would gain further acclaim as a TV and movie producer and director.

    The Jewish family was not religiously observant. Although Reiner was bar mitzvahed, his younger brother was not, nor would Reiner’s two sons be years later. The family moved from New Rochelle, N.Y., to California when he was 13. His best friend at Beverly Hills High School, where he graduated in 1964, was Richard Dreyfuss.

    Reiner had minor TV acting roles in shows such as “Batman,” “That Girl,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Room 222,” “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” He and Steve Martin joined “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1968 as writers and were the youngest writers on the show.

    In 1971 he took the role he became famous for as Michael Stivic, Archie Bunker’s liberal son-in-law, on Norman Lear‘s “All in the Family,” the most-watched show for the next five seasons. To Carroll O’Connor’s conservative Archie, he was “Meathead” in a 1970s version of the culture wars. (Reiner wore a toupee on the show.) 

    He later reflected after building a career as a director, producer and screenwriter that “I could win the Nobel Prize and they’d write ‘Meathead wins the Nobel Prize.’ ” He won the 1974 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor. 

    He married actress Penny Marshall in 1971, the co-star with Cindy Williams in the “Happy Days” spinoff “Laverne & Shirley” (1976-83). He adopted Marshall’s daughter Tracy before their 1981 divorce. He married photographer Michele Singer in 1989. Their children are Jake (b. 1991), Nick (b. 1993) and Romy (b. 1997). He and Singer had met on the set when he was directing “When Harry Met Sally,” written by Nora Ephron, including the memorable line “I’ll have what she’s having,” spoken by Reiner’s mother in Katz’s deli after Meg Ryan’s character Sally feigns orgasm at the table.

    He directed 20 films from 1984-2017, starting with “This Is Spinal Tap” and including “Stand By Me” (his personal favorite), “The Princess Bride,” “Misery,” “A Few Good Men,” “The American President,” “The Bucket List,” “Being Charlie” (drawing from his son’s drug addiction), “LBJ” and “Shock and Awe.”

    He also had numerous acting roles in films of that period, including “Throw Momma From the Train,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Bye Bye Love,” “The First Wives Club,” “Primary Colors” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

    Reiner co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment, a TV and film production company, in 1987. Its more than 125 films include some of those mentioned above as well as “In the Line of Fire,” “City Slickers,” “Miss Congeniality” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” It also produced the very successful “Seinfeld” TV series (1989-98). Castle Rock relaunched its film division in 2021 with a $175 million fund to develop, produce and finance movies.

    Appearing on “Real Time with Bill Maher” (Jan. 13, 2012), he agreed with Maher that atheists don’t have equality despite “Nones” making up 17 percent of the population: “You’re right about that, that we don’t have that representation. I include myself in that same 17 percent.” He said later that year that Buddhism was the only religion “that kind of makes sense to me. I don’t believe in organized religion, but I do believe in a lot of the concepts of Buddhism.” (Huffington Post, Aug. 23, 2012)

    Reiner has devoted considerable time, energy and money to liberal activism. “The most important thing is that you be a good person and you live by the golden rule of do unto others. If you live by that, that’s all I care about.” (The Jewish Chronicle, Aug. 30, 2012) 

    PHOTO: Reiner at the 2016 Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey; photo by Neil Grabowsky under CC 2.0.

    “I’m not a Christian. But I try to live by the teachings of Jesus. There is nothing more morally profound than treating people as you would like to be treated. There is nothing less moral than taking babies from their mothers [at the U.S. border].”

    —Reiner tweet on Christmas Day 2019
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

    Carolyn Porco

    Carolyn Porco

    On this date in 1953, planetary scientist Carolyn C. Porco was born in Bronx, N.Y., where she was raised with four brothers, which she partly attributes to her career success in a field dominated by men. “I’m used to fighting and arguing with males,” she later quipped. Her father, an Italian immigrant, drove a bread truck, and her mother kept house while Carolyn attended Cardinal Spellman High School. (New York Times, Sept. 21, 2009)

    Porco was a serious child, she recalled, “kind of like a 13-year-old going on 80.” She sought to find the meaning of her life. “The desire to know, to come to grips with my existence, brought me to seek the answer in the study of the cosmos. For a period of about four or five months, I tried to be a devout Catholic because that was the religion I was born into.” She went to Mass during the week and not just on Sunday “to get in God’s good graces. But it just felt like putting on a jacket that was too small.” (Violet magazine interview with Sasha Sagan, Nov. 23, 2020)

    She earned an earth science B.S. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974 and a Ph.D. in geological and planetary sciences in 1983 from Caltech, where her dissertation was on discoveries in the rings of Saturn by the Voyager spacecraft. She joined the faculty of the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona, where she would teach until 2001, and the Voyager Imaging Team.

    Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched in 1977 on what became an interstellar journey among the four giant planets — Uranus, Saturn, Neptune and Jupiter — and 48 of their moons. Still operational as of this writing in 2022, they were respectively over 14 and 12 billion miles from Earth.

    Porco co-originated the idea in 1990 to take a Voyager 1 “portrait of the planets,” including the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth, at the request of Voyager team member Carl Sagan, who coined the term. She was hired as a consultant for the movie “Contact” (1997), based on Sagan’s novel about a feisty astronomer played by Jodie Foster, and took strong exception to a plot wrinkle that the character should sleep with her adviser. (New York Times, Sept. 21, 2009)

    She led the imaging team for the Cassini–Huygens mission launched in 1997 by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies and was the first to describe the behavior of the ringlets within Saturn’s rings. She led “The Day the Earth Smiled” effort that culminated with an image of Earth from 898 million miles away on July 19, 2013, and was a member of the imaging team for the New Horizons probe, which flew by Pluto in 2015.

    Porco was a former student at Caltech of astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker, who died in a car accident at age 69. He was also a Voyager Imaging Team member. As a tribute, she conceived a plan to “bury” a small amount of his cremains with a spacecraft that would impact the moon in 1999. She subsequently helped defend the plan from complaints by Navajo Nation president Albert Hale about defiling the “sacred” lunar landscape.

    “The last time I looked there is a separation of church and state in this country,” Porco said. “Exploration of the moon is a secular activity and religious notions should not be imposed on it. Other religions have been able to accommodate scientific progress, and I hope that somehow the Navajos will be able to modify their beliefs, too.” About 1 ounce of ashes, encased in a polycarbonate tube, ended up buried in a crater where the Lunar Prospector probe’s mission was intentionally ended. (New York Times, Aug. 17, 1999) 

    (The above story link also helps explain Porco’s decision to remain single and focus solely on her work. She was 46 at the time. “Porco, who lives alone in the Tucson foothills, said she had little time for outside activities. ‘There are absolutely no high-maintenance items in my house of any kind — plants, pets or husbands.’ “)

    She remains professionally active as a researcher, media contributor and public speaker, in addition to editing the Cassini Imaging Team’s website and as president of Diamond Sky Productions: “Our cause: Present science and its findings to the public.” Porco once said if you asked her if she believed in God, she would have two answers:

    “In my capacity as a professional scientist, I would have to — I would be required to — be agnostic on the subject since I couldn’t say with scientific certainty that there is a God and I couldn’t with scientific certainty say that there isn’t.” But as a nonscientist, she added, “… then I’m going to have to say that my very strong faith, my very, very strong belief is that there is no God.” (“Enlightenment Living” by Ryan Somma, 2012)

    In 2006, while working as a researcher at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., she spoke at a forum at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. She suggested, perhaps half in jest, establishing an alternative church headed by Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty,” Porco said. “It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.” (New York Times, Nov. 21, 2006)

    Porco spoke at the Reason Rally in Washington in 2016. In response to a tweet saying “The pope is ashamed. Has he burned anyone at the stake yet?” (Aug. 19, 2018), she wrote: “The righteousness of the religious. I am ashamed to be of the same species.” She later deleted her tweet.

    “The social organizations of religion provide … a means for people to feel connected to other people. But I think that science certainly can replace the God concept. As the saying goes, there isn’t much left for God to do because science has explained so much of it.”

    —Porco interview, "Equal Time for Freethought," WBAI-NY Radio (Nov. 4, 2007)
    Compiled by Bill Dunn

Freedom From Religion Foundation