When Julius Caesar created the Roman calendar, he introduced an extra day every four years based on an Egyptian solar calendar. After all, since the earth takes 365.24219 days to circle the sun, the extra 24 hours (called a leap day) every fourth year (called a leap year) makes up for the math.
A leap day was added to the shortest month of the — February — making those born February 29 part of an exclusive club called leaplings, leapers or leapsters. According to The Atlantic, in 2016, there were 187,000 Americans who celebrated their birthdays every four years.
Some call these chosen ones “lucky” finding novelty in being a fourth of their age in quadrennial terms. Even the fictional Superman was born on a leap day in the DC Comics universe.
But the need for the extra days is perfectly pragmatic. “The leap day is misnamed,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said in a 2016 tweet. “We’re not leaping anywhere. The calendar is simply, and abruptly, catching up with Earth’s orbit.”
Throughout history, leaplings have included personalities from motivational speakers to models — and a pair of mass murders and another pair of big band era personalities.
Here are the notable names who only have quadrennial birthdays:
Antonio Sabato Jr. (b. 1972)
“I felt unique,” model and actor Antonio Saboto Jr. told the New York Times of having to wait four years between birthdays. “I always treated it like it was a special birthday because you had to wait four years to get it.” But nowadays, he handles them in the simplest way: “All I do is spend time with my family and close friends,” he told The Atlantic. Best known for his role on the soap General Hospital in the mid 1990s, the performer also ran for U.S. congress in 2018.
Richard Ramirez (b. 1960)
First dubbed the “Valley Intruder” and later “Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez was a serial killer who killed at 14 people in California and tortured and raped dozens more. Obsessed with Satan, his murdering spree lasted from 1984 until he was caught in 1985. When he was given the death sentence in 1989, he responded, “Hey, big deal, death always comes with the territory. I'll see you in Disneyland.” While on death row, he died in prison of B-cell lymphoma in 2013.
Ja Rule (b. 1976)
On Leap Day 2016, Ja Rule celebrated his 10th birthday party in Las Vegas, even though he’d been of legal age for decades. But ironically, the rapper didn’t celebrate his birthday growing up, even every four years, since he was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. Born Jeffrey Atkins in Queens, New York, Ja Rule was one of the top-selling rap artists in the 2000s, signed to Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc. label under Def Jam. His top songs include “Holla Holla,” “Between You and Me” with Christina Milian, “Always on Time” with Ashanti, and “Wonderful” with R. Kelly and Ashanti.
Tony Robbins (b. 1960)
When motivational speaker Tony Robbins turned 50, he didn’t get to spend the day toasting his landmark birthday since there wasn’t a February 29 that year. Instead, on the morning of March 1, he tweeted the Leroy Page quote, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” As one of the best-known life coaches, Robbins calls himself an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and business strategist, and has worked with the likes of Green Day, Usher, Andre Agassi and Serena Williams.
Aileen Wuornos (b. 1956)
Starting out as a sex worker on Florida’s highways, Aileen Wuornos turned into a serial murderer, killing six men. Committing her crimes from 1989 to 1990, by 1992, she was sentenced to the death penalty. She died October 9, 2002, by lethal injection. Her story became the premise of the 2003 movie Monster, in which Charlize Theron played her.
Dinah Shore (b. 1916)
As one of the most notable performers of the big band era, Dinah Shore was a southern belle who charmed audiences with songs like “Blues in the Night” and “I’ll Walk Alone” for four decades. The 10-time Emmy winner also had her own variety show, The Dinah Shore Show in 1951. Born Frances “Fanny” Rose Shore, in Wincester, Tennessee, official records differ on her actual date of birth. The Social Security Applications and Claims Index lists February 29, while her tombstone and New York Times obituary says March 1. According to Ancestry, many leaplings officially listed their birthdays on the latter date to avoid confusion.
Jimmy Dorsey (b. 1904)
As the bandleader and saxophonist of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey and his younger brother Tommy were known for swing era hits like “Coquette” and “Let’s Do It,” working with the likes of Bing Crosby. The brothers also hosted the TV show Stage Show — best known for Elvis Presley’s television debut — from 1954 until Tommy died in 1956. Dorsey died a year later.
Gioachino Rossini (b. 1792)
Italian composer Gioachino Rossini is known for his popular operas including 1816’s The Barber of Seville, 1817’s Cinderella and 1829’s William Tell. Born into a musical family with a trumpeter father and singer mother, Rossini grew up in the theater world and composed his first opera at age of 14. He also played the violin, horn, harpsichord, sang and conducted. He composed about 40 works, starting with comic operas and later moving into dramatic ones.