Happy 73rd Birthday Antonio Lopez

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Today is the 73rd Birthday of the fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez.  His works are responsible ‘legitimizing’ fashion illustration into ta fine art and in turn, making art accessible and understandable to a wider amount of people.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Antonio Lopez
OCCUPATION: Illustrator
BIRTH DATE: February 11, 1943
PLACE OF BIRTH: Utuado, Puerto Rico
DATE OF DEATH: March 17, 1987
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, CA

BEST KNOWN FOR: Antonio Lopez was a fashion illustrator whose work appeared in such publications as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Interview and The New York Times. Several books collecting his illustrations have been published.

Antonio Lopez was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in 1943. His family moved to Spanish Harlem in 1950 where he showed early promise as an artist making drawings for his mother who was a seamstress and dressmaker. In the early 1960s he enrolled on a course at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York where he met Juan Ramos who became his life long partner, and collaborator. While a student at FIT he participated in a work-study program at Womens Wear Daily where his talent was immediately recognized. He was offered a job at WWD and dropped out of FIT before joining The New York Times in 1963 where his style continued to develop. He was soon freelancing for Harper’s Bazaar, British Vogue and French Elle.

In 1969 he moved to Paris with Ramos where they lived in an apartment owned by Karl Lagerfeld. At this point he was being commissioned by all the leading fashion magazines and contributed several pages of drawings to the April in Paris issue of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. Antonio and Ramos returned to New York in 1975 and set up a studio at 876 Broadway. Three years later they moved into a space on Union Square West.
 In 1981 he began collaborating with Anna Piaggi on the magazine Vanity. His self-portrait graced the cover of the first issue launched in September 1981.

Amongst many others, Antonio hung out with and drew Jerry Hall, with whom he shared a flat, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Tina Chow and Jessica Lange, all of whom featured in the 1982, Antonio Girls published by New York Congreve. This book was followed in 1985 by Antonio’s Tales of 1001 Nights published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Antonio died from an AIDS related illness in Los Angeles 1987. He was forty four years old.

Recording and predicting contemporary style trends, Antonio also used his immense versatility to adopt a broad range of art movements, from Pop Art to Surrealism.

For Antonio, life – bestial and sublime – surpassed any fiction. His illustrations and photographs capture the beautiful people who are part of celebrity folklore, and who were more often than not his friends: Jerry Hall (to whom he was engaged), Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol (with whom he worked on Interview magazine), Paloma Picasso and Marlene Dietrich.

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Happy 86th Birthday Robert Wagner

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Today is the 86th birthday of Robert Wagner.  I am a big fan of Hart to Hart and It Takes a Thief and not coincidentally, Robert Wagner’s swagger.  He turns in great performances, so much so I am sure that most people confuse him as being those characters.  The world is a better place because he is in it.


robert wagner3

NAME: Robert Wagner
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Television Actor, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: February 10, 1930
PLACE OF BIRTH: Detroit, Michigan

BEST KNOWN FOR: Robert Wagner is an American film and television actor known for his popularity in numerous television series and most recently, in the Austin Powers films.

Robert John Wagner (born February 10, 1930) is an American actor of stage, screen, and television.
A veteran of many films in the 1950s and ’60s, Wagner gained prominence in three American television series that spanned three decades: It Takes a Thief (1968–70), Switch (1975–78), and Hart to Hart (1979–84). In movies, Wagner is known for his role as Number Two in the Austin Powers films (1997, 1999, 2002). He also had a recurring role as Teddy Leopold on the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men.

Wagner’s autobiography, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, written with author Scott Eyman, was published on September 23, 2008.

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Happy 126th Birthday Boris Pasternak

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Today is the 126th birthday of the Russian writer and Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak.  It is always with a tinge of embarrassment when you say you first learned of a very important writer through a dramatized version of his work, but whatever road gets you there is fine, as long as you get there.  I mean, have you seen Dr. Zhivago?  It is so sweepingly epic and cold.  I always feel so cold when I watch it.  Boris’ story is beautiful and should be a lesson to us to not not do the things we love because there is no excuse.  Sure, it is hard to carve out the time to do things sometimes, but we can always find a little time.  Boris had the Soviet Government’s opposition to his work.  There’s your perspective.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

boris pasternak

NAME: Boris Pasternak
OCCUPATION: Author, Poet
BIRTH DATE: February 10, 1890
DEATH DATE: May 30, 1960
EDUCATION: Moscow University, University of Marburg
PLACE OF BIRTH: Moscow, Russia
PLACE OF DEATH: Peredelkino, Russia
Full Name: Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

Best Known For:  Boris Pasternak was a Russian novelist and poet who wrote the epic Dr. Zhivago.

Boris Pasternak was born in Moscow to a cultured Jewish family. His father Leonid was a professor at the Moscow School of Painting and an illustrator of Tolstoy’s works. His mother, Rosa Kaufman, was an acclaimed concert pianist. His parents received frequent visits from prominent Moscow writers, artists, and intellectuals, including composers Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Scriabin, poet and playwright Alexander Blok, writer Andrei Bely, and poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whose writing would greatly influence Pasternak.

While he drew well, Pasternak’s first love was botany and his second, music. Inspired by Scriabin, Pasternak studied composition for six years, from which three of his finished piano pieces have survived. Pasternak entered the Moscow Conservatory, but dropped out in 1910 because he lacked confidence in his technical skill. He entered the Law Faculty at Moscow University and later studied philosophy at Marburg University in Germany. Ultimately he gave up his academic career, returning to Russia in 1913 to pursue his poetry. He would not find success for another ten years.

Unable to serve in the army because of a fall from a horse that left him with one leg shorter than the other, Pasternak spent World War I working as a clerk at a chemical works to the far east of Moscow. Pasternak’s poetic debut was Twin in the Stormclouds (1913), published by Lirika, a cooperative publishing enterprise he formed with a group of seven fellow poets. When Lirikia disbanded, Pasternak briefly joined the Futurist group Tsentrifuga, which jettisoned tradition in favor of innovation in style and subject with poets Sergei Bobrov and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Though influenced by topical urban, symbolist, and futurist elements, Pasternak’s early poetry was distinguished by its alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, and use of metaphor.

He wrote two books in 1917, My Sister Life and Themes and Variations.The Bolshevik Revolution and World War I would delay their appearance for five years, during which he translated plays by Heinrich von Kleist and Ben Johnson and poems by the German expressionists. When it was finally published in 1922, My Sister Life secured his place among the leading writers of the time. Its lush imagery and idiomatic language contrasted with its disciplined quatrain form. That same year Pasternak married Art Institute student Evgeniya Lurye and brought her to Berlin to stay with his family, who would relocate there permanently. This was the last time Pasternak would ever see them, as his repeated applications for permission to visit were denied. In 1923, the couple began their own family with a son, Evgenii. Pasternak finally publishedThemes and Variations that same year.

Although Pasternak initially welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution, the brutality of new government came to horrify him, a reversal acknowledged in his collection Aerial Ways (1924), which showed his growing disregard of politics as a primary human and artistic concern. Vladimir Lenin‘s new Soviet government maintained that art should motivate political change while Pasternak insisted that art focus on eternal truths rather than historical or societal concerns. For his stance, he became a silent hero among Russian intellectuals. Living in an overcrowded communal flat in Moscow, he continued to write short poems,  came to believe that poets and artists had no assured place in society and could only live as outsiders. During the 1920s his poetry turned from the lyric to narrative and epic forms, addressing the 1905 Russian Revolution in Sublime Malady (1924), Lieutenant Schmidt(1927), and The Year 1905 (1927).

In 1924 Lenin died and the struggle for succession ensued. In 1928, Stalin emerged victorious; Trotsky was driven into exile and one by one Stalin’s other rivals were eliminated. While the most sweeping changes in Russia occurred in agriculture, which was collectivized, a clampdown occurred in all fields, including that of literature. By 1932, the doctrine of Socialist Realism, the principle that the arts should glorify the ideals of Communism, was established. Independent artistic groups were disbanded in 1932 and the new Union of Soviet Writers assumed control of literary affairs, imposing adherence to socialist realism.

Pasternak’s first foray into prose, Spektorsky (1931), showed scenes from the life of a young poet, who shared the author’s own historical passivity and fatalism in the face of the Revolution. While many writers and artists became despondent and felt the temptation to commit suicide, Pasternak believed that poets must continue working when art and even spiritualism were no longer secure. He expressed this theory through the metaphor of “second birth,” the title of his 1932 poetry collection. Pasternak has been criticized for self-centeredness, a sentiment embodied in the popular saying, “Everything changes under our zodiac, only Pasternak remains Pasternak.” While he was not oblivious to the terror going on around him, he was resistant to its impact on his work, hoping to create something transcendent.

The love poems in Second Birth also addressed a change in Pasternak’s personal life: he had fallen for Zinaida Neigauz, wife of composer Genrikh Neigauz. He would eventually leave Evgeniya and take Zinaida as his second wife. While these poems expressed a newfound optimism and reconciliation of lyrical and social elements, his artistic rebirth was short-lived. Second Birth and his autobiography Safe Conduct (1931) were Pasternak’s last original works before the state forbade him to publish, considering his work contrary to the aims of Communism. Pasternak resorted to translation as a safer livelihood, taking on classic works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rilke, William Shakespeare, and Paul Verlaine. Both successful and well compensated, he was able to buy a house in a writers’ village just outside Moscow in 1936. It would be his principal home for the rest of his life. In the late 1940s he also translated the major tragedies of Shakespeare, and these remain the standard versions used in Russia.

During World War II, as Hitler’s troops marched into Russia, Pasternak published two new poetry collections, On Early (1942) and The Terrestrial Expanse (1945). In 1945 Zinaida’s son, Adrian, died, a loss that left her bereft and joyless. The following year Pasternak fell in love with Olga Ivinskaya, who from then on was Pasternak’s de facto wife, though he still shared a home with Zinaida. Olga inspired his later love poems and served as a prototype for Lara in Doctor Zhivago.

Pasternak was one of the rare poets to be popular during his lifetime. If he forgot a line in one of his poems during a reading, the crowd would assist him. During the war, letters he received from the front line reminded him of the reach that his voice had. He did not want to lose this contact with the masses so Pasternak began a large novel that glorified freedom, independence, and a return to Christian religion that would become Dr. Zhivago. Basing the story on his own experience of wartime and revolution, Pasternak employed Yuri Zhivago as mouthpiece for his own philosophical and artistic beliefs. He presented Zhivago’s inability to influence his own fate not as a fault, but as a sign that he was destined to become an artistic witness to the tragedy of his age. The author closely identified Zhivago’s predicament with that of the suffering Christ.

The government’s postwar ideological clampdown forced Pasternak to labor on the manuscript in secret. Rejected in Russia, Doctor Zhivagowas smuggled west in 1957 and published first in Italian and then in English in 1958. The epic novel about the life and loves of physician and poet Yuri Zhivago during the political upheavals of 20th-century Russia was acclaimed as a successful combination of lyrical, descriptive, and epic dramatic styles. The book, which concludes with a cycle of Zhivago’s poetry, was translated into 18 languages. In October 1958, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition.” Russian authorities, unhappy with his harsh depiction of life under Communism, forced him to decline the Nobel Prize and ejected him from the Union of Soviet Writers. While he was not sent into exile or arrested, all publication of his translations came to a halt and he fell into poverty. He wrote his last complete book,When the Weather Clears, in 1959. That summer, he began The Blind Beauty, a play about an enslaved artist during the period of serfdom in Russia, but fell ill with lung cancer before he could complete it. Pasternak took to his bed in his home at Peredelkino, where he succumbed the evening of May 30, 1960. Upon hearing of his death, many thousands of people traveled from Moscow to his funeral. For the Russian people, he remains a symbol of resistance in the face of terror and oppression.

In 1988, the Union of Soviet Writers posthumously reinstated Pasternak, making the publication of Doctor Zhivago in the Soviet Union finally possible. Pasternak’s son, Evgenii, accepted the Nobel Prize medal on his father’s behalf at a ceremony in Stockholm in 1989.


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Happy 71st Birthday Mia Farrow

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Today is the birthday of the woman who said: I get it now; I didn’t get it then. That life is about losing and about doing it as gracefully as possible…and enjoying everything in between. Mia Farrow. Maybe that seems sad and focusing on the negative a bit more than one should, but it rings very true to me. Watch The Great Gatsby, it is achingly beautiful. The world is a better place that she is in it.

NAME: Mia Farrow
OCCUPATION: Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: February 9, 1945
PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Mia Farrow is an American actress who starred in Rosemary’s Baby. She dated Woody Allen for more than a decade before the relationship ended in scandal.

Mia Farrow was born on February 9, 1945, in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan. Farrow is known for her roles in such films as Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Great Gatsby (1974) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

Although she had a bit part in her father’s film John Paul Jones (1959), Farrow began to seriously pursue acting as a career in 1963 with her theatrical debut in an off-Broadway production of The Importance of Earnest. The next year, she became a television star, portraying Alison Mackenzie in the nighttime drama Peyton Place.

After two years on the show, Farrow left to do movies. She has often portrayed vulnerable characters. In Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, Farrow starred as a woman who finds herself surrounded by Satanists and impregnated by the devil. For The Great Gatsby (1974), she played Daisy Buchanan opposite Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby.

In the 1980s, Mia Farrow began her collaboration with director Woody Allen both on and off-screen. She appeared in several of Allen’s films, including The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Husbands and Wives (1992).

A well-regarded, but underrated actress, Farrow has received more attention for her personal life than her talents. She was married to Frank Sinatra from 1966 to 1968. Farrow later married Andre Previn in 1970; they have three children together as well as three daughters they adopted during their marriage. The couple divorced in 1979. She was involved in a long-term relationship with Allen, and they had one child together. Allen also adopted two more children with her. The couple split in 1992 after Farrow discovered that Allen and her adopted daughter, were involved in a sexual relationship. Allen and Farrow have been estranged since Allen’s and Soon-Yi’s marriage in 1997.

After their relationship ended, Farrow and Allen engaged in a bitter custody battle, with Farrow eventually winning sole custody of their children and Allen being forced to pay $3 million to her. Besides her children with Previn and Allen, Farrow has also adopted children on her own.

In 2000, her adopted daughter, Tam Farrow, died of a long protracted illness. In December of 2008, Farrow faced tragedy again when her adopted daughter, Lark Song Previn, died of undisclosed circumstances. On June 15, 2009, Farrow’s brother, artist Patrick Farrow, was found dead in his New York art gallery. Suspicious circumstances surround his death, but police have not revealed details.

Mia Farrow continues to work in film and on television. She guest-starred on several episodes of the television drama Third Watch between 2000 and 2003, and appeared as the evil nanny in the remake of the horror classic The Omen in 2006. That same year, Farrow had a role in the comedy The Ex (2006) with Zach Braff, Jason Bateman and Amanda Peet. In 2008, she starred with Jack Black, Mos Def and Danny Glover in the film Be Kind Rewind. More recently, Farrow appeared in the animated children’s films Arthur and the Great Adventure (2009) and Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds (2010), and in the drama-comedy Dark Horse (2011).

In October 2013, Farrow made headlines when she said that Sinatra could be the father of her 25-year-old son, Ronan, Farrow’s only official biological child with Woody Allen. When asked whether Sinatra might be Ronan’s father in an interview with Vanity Fair, Farrow replied, “Possibly.” Also during the interview, she called Sinatra the love of her life, saying, “We never really split up.” In response to the buzz surrounding his mother’s comments, Ronan jokingly tweeted: “Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.”

Farrow has six children: daughters Soon-Yi, Lark Song, Dylan and Kaeli-Sha, and sons Ronan and Moses.

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Happy 107th Birthday Carmen Miranda

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Today is the 107th birthday of the woman with fruit on her head: Carmen Miranda. The next time you come across one of her films, take a moment and watch. Even 60+ years later, she still entertains. The world is a better place because she is in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

carmen miranda 1NAME: Carmen Miranda
OCCUPATION: Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: February 9, 1909
PLACE OF BIRTH: Marco de Canaveses, Portugal
DATE OF DEATH: August 5, 1955
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, CA

BEST KNOWN FOR: Carmen Miranda was a Brazilian samba singer, dancer, Broadway actress, and film star who was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Born in Portugal, her devoutly Catholic parents moved to Brazil when she was an infant. Her convent education necessitated that she keep her entertainment business dreams well hidden, and she began as a department store clerk, entertaining her co-workers.

A weekly radio slot led to her receiving her first recording contract with RCA in 1928. By the early 1930s, she made her film debut in the Brazilian film A Voz do Carnaval. Maintaining both her acting and recording careers in Brazil, she had recorded over 300 singles by 1939.

Brought to New York by Lee Schubert, who was bowled over by her larger than life stage persona. Hollywood soon beckoned. Signed by Twentieth Century Fox, Down Argentine Way, with Betty Grable, was followed by six other films. This period was to prove the zenith of her film career, where her Latin spirit, boundless energy and outlandish costumes captured the imagination of the world.

She became ill in 1943, which resulted in emergency surgery for a stomach ailment. A period of depression, mental exhaustion, and reliance on medication followed which altered her for the rest of her life.

By the time she signed a film contract with Universal in 1947 and appeared in their film Copacabana with Groucho Marx, her star was on the wane.

Hollywood became less interested in her character, so she returned to the nightclub scene again, making appearances at El Rancho in Las Vegas and the London Palladium in 1948. Her final film was Scared Stiff, with Jerry Lewis, in 1953.

Her health declined further and, returning to Brazil in 1954, solitary confinement was ordered by her doctor, following a fainting spell at the airport. In April 1955, she returned to Hollywood feeling healthy, looking better than she had in years and willing to go back to the stage.

On August 4th, while recording a strenuous dance number for the Jimmy Durante Show, Carmen collapsed in the final sequence and said, “I’m all out of breath.” She later joined friends and family members at home for a party, where she seemed in high spirits and, despite her delicate health, danced and sang. Retiring to bed early, she collapsed and died at two-thirty in the morning.

Services were held in California before her body was shipped to Rio for final burial. Nearly one million people lined the streets to bid her a last farewell. Her costumes were donated to Brazil for a “Carmen Miranda Museum”.

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Happy 85th Birthday James Dean

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Today is the 85th birthday of James Dean.  What is is about him that he has influenced so many people?  Sixty years after his death, he is still one of the most widely-recognized hollywood actors of all time.  His few films have all gone on to become absolute classics.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: James Dean
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1931
DEATH DATE: September 30, 1955
EDUCATION: University of California at Los Angeles
PLACE OF BIRTH: Marion, Indiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Paso Robles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: American motion picture actor James Dean became a symbol of the confused, restless, and idealistic youth of the 1950s.

James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, to Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson. Dean’s father left farming to become a dentist and moved the family to Santa Monica, California, where Dean attended Brentwood Public School. Several years later, Dean’s mother, whom he was very close to, died of cancer, and Dean’s father sent him back to Indiana to live on his aunt and uncle’s Quaker farm. During this time, Dean sought counsel from his pastor, the Rev. James DeWeerd, who influenced his later interest in car racing and theater. The two formed an intimate relationship that is rumored to have been sexual.

In 1949, Dean graduated from high school and moved back to California. He studied law at Santa Monica College, but eventually transferred to University of California, Los Angeles, and majored in theater.

After appearing in just one stage production, as Malcolm in Macbeth, Dean dropped out of UCLA. His first television appearance was in a Pepsi Cola commercial, and his first speaking part was in Sailor Beware, a comedy starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. To make ends meet, Dean worked as a parking-lot attendant at CBS Studios, where he met Rogers Brackett, a radio director who became his mentor.

In 1951, Dean moved to New York City and was admitted to the Actors Studio to study under Lee Strasberg. His career began to pick up, and he performed in such 1950s television shows as Kraft Television Theatre and Omnibus. In 1954, Dean’s success in a theatrical role as an Arab boy in The Immoralist led to interest from Hollywood. Over the next 18 months, Dean starred in three major motion pictures, beginning with the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden. Director Elia Kazan chose Dean after Dean met with Steinbeck, who thought him perfect for the part. Many of Dean’s scenes in the film were unscripted improvisations. He would eventually be nominated for an Oscar for this role, making him the first actor in history to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination.

In his next film, Dean starred as the agonized teenager Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, a role that would define his image in American culture. Dean then landed a supporting role to Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in Giant, playing an older, oil-rich Texan. Giant was Dean’s last film. It was released after his death in 1956. Dean received an Oscar nomination for this role, making him the only actor in history to receive more than one Oscar nomination posthumously.

When Dean wasn’t acting, he was a professional car racer. On Friday, September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic, Rolf Wütherich, drove Dean’s new Porsche 550 Spyder to a weekend race in Salinas, California. At 3:30 p.m., they were stopped just south of Bakersfield and given a speeding ticket. Later, while driving along Route 466, a 23-year-old Cal Poly student named Donald Turnupseed suddenly turned his Ford Custom in front of Dean’s Porsche. The two cars collided almost head-on, flipping the Spyder in the air and landing it on its wheels in a gully. Dean was killed almost immediately. He was 24.

Dean is mentioned or featured in various songs, which include titles such as “Allure” by Jay-Z, “American Boy” by Chris Isaak, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “A Young Man is Gone” by The Beach Boys, “Bla bla bla (Blah Blah Blah)” by Perfect, “Chciałbym umrzeć jak James Dean (lit. I Wish to Die Like James Dean)” by Partia, “Come Back Jimmy Dean” by Bette Midler, “Daddy’s Speeding” by Suede, “Electrolite” by R.E.M., “Famous” by Scouting for Girls, “Five Years Time” by Noah & The Whale, “Just Like a Movie Star” by The 6ths, “Flip-Top Box” by Self, “Girl on TV” by LFO, “Hello my Hate” by Black Veil Brides, “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp, “James Dean” by Bonnie Tyler, “James Dean (I Wanna Know)” by Daniel Bedingfield, “James Dean” by That Handsome Devil, “James Dean” by the Eagles, “Jim Dean of Indiana” by Phil Ochs, “Jimmy Dean” by Icehouse, “Lost on Highway 46” by Sham 69, “Choke On This” by Senses Fail, “Mr. James Dean” by Hilary Duff, “My Kind of Girl” by Collin Raye, “My Shine” by Childish Gambino, “Peach Trees” by Rufus Wainwright, “Picture Show” by John Prine, “Rather Die Young” by Beyoncé, “Rock On” by David Essex, “Rockstar” by Nickelback, “Speechless” by Lady GaGa, “Teenage Wildlife” by AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys, “These Days” by Bon Jovi, “Under the Gun” by The Killers, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed, and “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel.

Dean’s estate still earns about $5,000,000 per year, according to Forbes Magazine.

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Happy 91st Birthday Jack Lemmon

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Today is Jack Lemmon’s 91st birthday.  Throughout his career, he turned in consistently top notch performances and made his “every man” persona so desirable.  Watch him with Judy Holliday in “It Should Happen To You,” with Shirley MacLaine in “The Apartment” and Sandy Dennis in “The Out of Towners.”  You won’t take your eyes off him.  Then watch “The China Syndrome” and you will witness the range of his 50 year resume.  He is one of my very favorite actors.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

 

NAME: John Uhler Lemmon III
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1925
DEATH DATE: June 27, 2001
EDUCATION: Harvard University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Boston, Massachusetts
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jack Lemmon was an American actor who starred in over 60 films, including Some Like It Hot, The Odd Couple, The Out-of-Towners, and Grumpy Old Men.

A versatile performer, actor Jack Lemmon was equally adept at comedy and drama. He grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. The son of a doughnut company executive, Lemmon had an affluent upbringing. He attended private schools and studied at the prestigious Phillips Andover Academy.

In his teens, Lemmon taught himself how to play piano. He enrolled at Harvard University in 1943 where he got involved in the theater. Lemmon even served as the president of the famed Hasty Pudding Club, known for its musical comedy performances.

Lemmon took a break from his studies during World War II. Serving in the U.S. Navy, he was stationed on an aircraft carrier for a time. Lemmon returned to Harvard after the war and finished his degree in 1947.

After college, Lemmon borrowed $300 from his father and headed to New York City. He spent much of his first year there, playing piano in a bar. But before long, Lemmon started to land roles on the raido, the stage and television. He appeared in such television programs as The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse and Robert Montgomery Presents.

In 1953, Lemmon made his Broadway debut in Room Service, a comedy revival. The production only lasted for a few performances before closing. While disappointed, Lemmon soon had reason to cheer. He landed his first film around this time, appearing in George Cukor’s It Should Happen to You (1954) with Judy Holliday.

Two years later, Lemmon tackled the role that made him a star. He appeared in the comedic war drama Mister Roberts (1955) with Henry Fonda and James Cagney. Playing Ensign Pulver, Lemmon managed to make his scheming, somewhat sketchy character appealing and sympathetic. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this film.

Lemmon went on to work on a number of films with comedian Ernie Kovacs, including Bell Book and Candle (1958). The pair became good friends off-screen as well, up until Kovacs’s death in 1962. In 1959, Lemmon gave one of the top comedic performances of his career in Some Like It Hot. This comedy starred Lemmon and actor Tony Curtis pretending to be women in an all-female musical group, which also included Marilyn Monroe. This film marked the first collaboration between Lemmon and writer-director Billy Wilder.

Working again with Wilder, Lemmon also enjoyed great success with 1960’s The Apartment. He played a young professional seeking to get ahead by loaning out his apartment to executives in his company for their romantic trysts. The movie, which also starred Shirley MacLaine, won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In 1962, Lemmon proved that he was more than just a funny guy. He gave a heartbreaking performance as an alcoholic husband in The Days of Wine and Roses opposite Lee Remick. With the critical acclaim he garnered for this film, Lemmon demonstrated that he could excel at serious roles. For the rest of his career, he would comfortably shift back and forth between light comedic fare and serious dramas.

Lemmon began his comedic partnership with Walter Matthau with 1966’s The Fortune Cookie. The pair reunited two years later for one of their most famous films together, The Odd Couple. In the film adaptation of the Neil Simon play, Lemmon played the neurotic clean-freak roommate to Matthau’s sportswriter slob.

For Lemmon, the 1970s were a time of great dramatic performances. He won a Best Actor Academy Award in 1973 playing a man having a midlife crisis in Save the Tiger. Returning to the stage in 1978, Lemmon starred as a press agent dying of cancer in Tribute. He reprised his role for the 1980 film version. In The China Syndrome (1979), Lemmon co-starred with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas. He portrayed a nuclear plant employee who becomes a whistleblower about an incident at the plant.

Lemmon also undertook some light-hearted projects. One close to his heart was the 1972 television special ‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous, ‘S Gershwin. A longtime fan of George Gershwin, Lemmon won an Emmy Award for this musical tribute. He also reteamed with Wilder and Matthau for the 1974 newspaper comedy The Front Page around this time.

In 1982, Lemmon gave another riveting dramatic performance in Missing. He played a father searching for his politically radical son who disappeared in Chile during the 1973 coup. On the Broadway stage, Lemmon won raves for his portrayal of James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1986. Peter Gallagher and Kevin Spacey played his sons in this production. He soon worked with Spacey again on the film adaptation of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (1992).

Lemmon once again became a box office sensation in 1993 with Grumpy Old Men. This film about two elderly curmudgeons, played by Lemmon and good friend Matthau, won over audiences of all ages. The pair reunited for the 1995 sequel Grumpier Old Men.

One of Lemmon’s most significant later roles came in 1999 with the television movie Tuesdays with Morrie. He played the title character, a professor struggling with Lou Gehrig’s disease, who develops a friendship with one of his former students (Hank Azaria). For this role, Lemmon won an Emmy Award in 2000.

By this time, Lemmon was battling cancer. He died of complications related to his disease on June 27, 2001, in Los Angeles, California. His memorial service was a who’s who of Hollywood, with such friends as Kick Douglas, Gregory Peck, Billy Wilder and Shirley MacLaine among the many mourners. He was also survived by his second wife Felicia Farr, their daughter Courtney and his son Christopher from his first marriage.

Sometimes called “America’s Everyman,” Lemmon had the ability to be familiar to the audience. He seemed like he could be their neighbor, their boss, their cousin or their friend. Many of his characters also managed to convey of some of the anxiety and neuroses of modern times. As he once said, “I’m attracted primarily to contemporary characters. I understand them and their frustrations.”

 

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Happy 117th Birthday Ramón Novarro

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Today is the 117th birthday of silent movie idol Ramon Novarro.  I first discovered him back in the early 90s through an article in Architectural Digest about his Lloyd Wright house on Los Feliz.  Gorgeous house, I could go on and on about it (and have).  Since that first article, I have read several biographies and done my best to watch the films of his that are available.  His story is fascinating.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

 

Name: José Ramón Gil Samaniego
Born: February 6, 1899 Durango, Mexico
Died: October 30, 1968 (aged 69) North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death: Asphyxiation
Resting place: Calvary Cemetery

Navarro was born José Ramón Gil Samaniego on February 6, 1899 in Durango, Mexico to Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego. He moved with his family to Los Angeles, California, to escape the Mexican Revolution in 1913.

Allan Ellenberger, Novarro’s biographer, writes:

…the Samaniegos were an influential and well-respected family in Mexico. Many Samaniegos had prominent positions the affairs of state and were held in high esteem by the president. Ramon’s grandfather, Mariano Samaniego, was a well-known physician in Juarez. Known as a charitable and outgoing man, he was once an interim governor for the State of Chihuahua and was the first city councilman of El Paso, Texas

Ramon’s father, Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego, was born in Juarez and attended high school in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After receiving his degree in dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, he moved to Durango, Mexico, and began a flourishing dental practice. In 1891 he married Leonor Gavilan, the beautiful daughter of a prosperous landowner. The Gavilans were a mixture of Spanish and Aztec blood, and according to local legend, they were descended from Guerrero, a prince of Montezuma.

The family estate was called the “Garden of Eden”. Thirteen children were born there: Emilio; Guadalupe; Rosa; Ramon; Leonor; Mariano; Luz; Antonio; a stillborn child; Carmen; Angel and Eduardo.

At the time of the revolution in Mexico the family moved from Durango to Mexico City and then back to Durango. Ramon’s three sisters, Guadalupe, Rosa, and Leonor became nuns.

A second cousin of the Mexican actresses Dolores del Río and Andrea Palma, he entered films in 1917 in bit parts; and he supplemented his income by working as a singing waiter. His friends, the actor and director Rex Ingram and his wife, the actress Alice Terry, began to promote him as a rival to Rudolph Valentino, and Ingram suggested he change his name to “Novarro.” From 1923, he began to play more prominent roles. His role in Scaramouche (1923) brought him his first major success.

In 1925, he achieved his greatest success in Ben-Hur, his revealing costumes causing a sensation, and was elevated into the Hollywood elite. As with many stars, Novarro engaged Sylvia of Hollywood as a therapist (although in her tell-all book, Sylvia erroneously claimed Novarro slept in a coffin). With Valentino’s death in 1926, Novarro became the screen’s leading Latin actor, though ranked behind his MGM stablemate, John Gilbert, as a model lover. He was popular as a swashbuckler in action roles and was considered one of the great romantic lead actors of his day. Novarro appeared with Norma Shearer in The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) and with Joan Crawford in Across to Singapore (1928). He made his first talking film, starring as a singing French soldier, in Devil-May-Care (1929). He also starred with the French actress Renée Adorée in The Pagan (1929). Novarro starred with Greta Garbo in Mata Hari (1932) and was a qualified success opposite Myrna Loy in The Barbarian (1933).

When Novarro’s contract with MGM Studios expired in 1935, the studio did not renew it. He continued to act sporadically, appearing in films for Republic Pictures, a Mexican religious drama, and a French comedy. In the 1940s, he had several small roles in American films, including John Huston’s We Were Strangers (1949) starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. In 1958, he was considered for a role in a television series, The Green Peacock with Howard Duff and Ida Lupino after the demise of their CBS sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. The project, however, never materialized. A Broadway tryout was aborted in the 1960s; but Novarro kept busy on television, appearing in NBC’s The High Chaparral as late as 1968.

At the peak of his success in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was earning more than US$100,000 per film. He invested some of his income in real estate, and his Hollywood Hills residence is one of the more renowned designs (1927) by architect Lloyd Wright. After his career ended, he was still able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.

Novarro had been troubled all his life as a result of his conflicting views over his Roman Catholic religion and his homosexuality, and his life-long struggle with alcoholism is often traced to these issues. MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer reportedly tried to coerce Novarro into a “lavender marriage”, which he refused. He was a friend of adventurer and author Richard Halliburton, also a celebrity in the closet, and was romantically involved with journalist Herbert Howe, who was also his publicist during the late 1920s.

Novarro was murdered on October 30, 1968, by two brothers, Paul and Tom Ferguson (aged 22 and 17, respectively), whom he had hired from an agency to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex. According to the prosecution in the murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro’s house. The prosecution accused them of torturing Novarro for several hours to force him to reveal where the nonexistent money was hidden. They left with a mere 20 dollars that they took from his bathrobe pocket before fleeing the scene. Novarro allegedly died as a result of asphyxiation, choking to death on his own blood after being brutally beaten. The two brothers were later caught and sentenced to long prison terms, but were quickly released on probation. Both were later rearrested for unrelated crimes, for which they served longer terms than for their murder conviction.

Ramón Novarro is buried in Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles. Ramón Novarro’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6350 Hollywood Boulevard

Novarro’s murder served as the influence for the short story by Charles Bukowski, The Murder of Ramon Vasquez, and the song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, “Tango,” recorded by Peggy Lee on her Mirrors album.

In late 2005, the Wings Theatre in New York City staged the world premiere of Through a Naked Lens by George Barthel. The play combined fact and fiction to depict Novarro’s rise to fame and a relationship with Hollywood journalist Herbert Howe.

Novarro’s relationship with Herbert Howe is discussed in two biographies: Allan R. Ellenberger’s Ramón Novarro and André Soares’s Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramón Novarro. A recounting of Novarro’s murder can be found in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon.

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Happy 108th Birthday Peg Entwistle

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Today is the 108th birthday of the woman who’s ghost is said to be seen around Griffith Park, specifically the Hollywood sign, recognized by her attractiveness, her sadness and the strong scent of gardenia perfume.  Peg Entwistle’s story is the original Hollywood broken dream. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Peg Entwistle
AKA Lillian Millicent Entwistle

Born: 5 Feb 1908
Birthplace: Port Talbot, Wales
Died: 18-Sep-1932
Location of death: Hollywood, CA
Cause of death: Suicide
Remains: Cremated, Oak Hill Cemetery, Glendale, OH

Executive summary: Starlet, suicided off Hollywood sign

Born Millicent Lilian Entwistle in Port Talbot, Wales to English parents, Robert Symes and Emily (née Stevenson) Entwistle, she spent her early life in West Kensington, London. It is often reported that her mother Emily died when she was very young, however, there is no documented evidence supporting this. There is, however, a Last Will and Testament dated 15 December 1922, in the Entwistle family archives, in which Robert Entwistle specifically ordered that “Millicent Lilian Entwistle is the daughter of my first wife whom I divorced and the custody of my said daughter was awarded to me. I do not desire my said daughter to be at any time in the custody or control of her said mother.” Reportedly, Peg Entwistle emigrated to America via Liverpool aboard the SS Philadelphia and settled in New York. However, documents and photographs made available by the Entwistle family for a biography show Peg Entwistle and her father were in Cincinatti, Ohio, and New York City, in early Spring of 1913. This information is also backed-up in the Internet Broadway Data Base, and the New York Times, where Robert S. Entwistle is listed in the cast of several plays in 1913. A close examination of the reported 1916 ship’s manifest show that Peg Entwistle and her father were returning to the United States, not emigrating. In 1921 Robert Entwistle’s second wife, Lauretta Amanda Entwistle died and in 1922, after being the victim of a hit-and-run. She and her two younger half-brothers were taken in by their uncle, who had come with them to New York and was the manager of Broadway actor Walter Hampden.

On Sunday, 18 September 1932, an anonymous woman telephoned the police and said that while hiking she had found a body below the Hollywoodland sign (now known as the Hollywood sign) and then, according to a police transcript of the call, “wrapped a jacket, shoes and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood Police Station.” A detective and two radio car officers found the body of a moderately well-dressed, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman in the 100-foot ravine below the sign. Entwistle remained unidentified until her uncle connected her two-day absence with the description and initials P.E. on a suicide note which had been found in the purse and published by the newspapers. He said that on Friday the 16th she had told him she was going for a walk to a drugstore and see some friends. The police surmised that instead, she made her way from his Beachwood Drive home up the nearby southern slope of Mount Lee to the foot of the Hollywoodland sign, climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and jumped. The cause of death was listed by the coroner as “multiple fractures of the pelvis.”

The suicide note as published read:

“I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”

Entwistle’s death brought wide and often sensationalized publicity. Her funeral was held in Hollywood and the body was cremated, with the ashes later sent to Glendale, Ohio for burial next to her father in Oak Hill Cemetery, where they were interred on 5 January 1933.

It’s also worth noting that Peg’s ex-husband, Robert Keith, had had a son, Brian, from a prior marriage. Peg’s stepson Brian Keith grew up to become a famous actor, best known for his role as “Uncle Bill” on the hit TV show, “Family Affair.” Brian Keith also committed suicide in 1997.

In the years following Peg’s suicide, hikers and park rangers in Griffith Park have reported some pretty strange happening in the vicinity of the Hollywood sign. Many have reported sightings of a woman dressed in 1930’s era clothing who abruptly vanishes when approached. She has been described as a very attractive, blond woman, who seems very sad. Could this be Peg’s ghost, still making her presence known? Could she also be linked to the pungent smell of gardenia perfume which has been known to overwhelm sight-seers in the park? Perhaps it is, as the gardenia scent was known to be Peg’s trademark perfume.

Happy 135th Birthday Fernand Léger

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Today is the 135th birthday of the French artist Fernand Léger. His developed style of painting is distinctively his own. I see a combination of Picasso and Rivera cubism and the linear Art Deco formality. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Fernand Léger
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: February 4, 1881
DEATH DATE: August 17, 1955
EDUCATION: Paris School of Decorative Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Argentan, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Gif-sur-Yvette, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: French painter Fernand Léger created the abstract painting series “Contrast of Forms.” His work blended elements of Cubism with his own unique style, “tubism.”

Fernand Léger was born to a peasant family in the rural town of Argentan, France, on February 4, 1881. Léger’s father was a cattle dealer who hoped his son would follow in his footsteps and choose what he deemed a practical trade. Although Léger was initially discouraged from becoming an artist, his father became supportive once he recognized Léger’s gift for drawing.

With his father’s approval, Léger enrolled in architecture school and accepted an apprenticeship under an architect in Caen. In 1901, upon completion of his two-year internship, Léger moved to Paris, France, where he worked as an architectural draftsman.

Wishing to further pursue his art education, Léger applied to the prestigious École des Beux-Arts and was unfortunately rejected.In 1903 he stated attending the Paris School of Decorative Arts instead, while also being unofficially mentored by two École des Beux-Arts professors who recognized his potential. Up until this point, Léger’s painting style blended Impressionism with Fauvism. In 1907 he attended a retrospective of Paul Cézanne’s work. From then on, Léger’s work took on more elements of Cubism, but with his own unique style of slicing forms into tubular cylinders, casually referred to as “tubism.”

In 1913, he started a series of abstract paintings called “Contrast of Forms.” A year later, he put his art career on hold to serve in the French army during World War I. In 1916, he was gassed at Verdun. Having incurred a head injury, he was sent home and hospitalized until 1917.

After the war, Léger continued to paint but also tried his hand at other mediums, including book illustrations and set and costume designs for the theater. In 1924, Léger ventured to make his first film, Ballet Mécanique. That same year, he opened his own school of modern art.

As Léger’s work matured in the 1920s and ’30s, he increasingly incorporated elements of modernism—particularly representations of machinery and human figures expressing speed and movement. His notable paintings from this period include “The Mechanic,” “Mona Lisa with Keys,” “Adam and Eve,” and “Composition with Two Parrots,” among others.

With the arrival of World War II, in 1940, Léger temporarily relocated to America. During this time, he produced a series of paintings called “Divers,” noted for its unique use of large patches of color that overlapped outlines to portrayed stylized figures of swimmers diving off docks in Marseille. This series was followed by two others also portraying human figures in motion: “Acrobats” and “Cyclists.” In 1946, Léger went back to France, where he revitalized his art school and became active in the Communist Party. In the 1950s, Léger’s work focused on the theme of the common man, and further expanded to include tapestry, pottery, stained glass and mosaics.

Léger died on August 17, 1955, in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

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