Happy Birthday Joan Fontaine

Today is Joan Fontaine‘s 97th birthday.  If nothing else, watch The Women (1939) (and Rebecca and Suspicion and and and…), it is one of the best all time ensemble casts ever created.  You will not be disappointed.

NAME: Joan Fontaine
OCCUPATION:
Film Actress
BIRTH DATE:
October 22, 1917
DEATH DATE:
December 16, 2013
PLACE OF BIRTH:
Tokyo, Japan
PLACE OF DEATH:
Carmel, California
AKA: Joan Burfield,
Joan Fontaine
ORIGINALLY:
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland

Best Known ForAcademy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine has appeared in such films as Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Jane Eyre (1944) and Othello (1952).

The Wiki:

Born in Tokyo, Japan, on October 22, 1917, actress Joan Fontaine was a sickly child. Her mother Lillian moved the family to California when she was young to help improve her health. Her parents split up around this time. Fontaine and her older sister, Olivia (de Havilland), seemed to have a difficult relationship from the start, with the pair fighting for their mother’s attention and affection. According to some reports, Lillian favored Olivia.

In 1932, Fontaine moved to Japan to live with her father. Their reunion proved to be short-lived, however, and she returned the United States after about a year. Before long, Fontaine began her acting career, following in the footsteps of her older sister. She reportedly studied with Max Reinhardt, just as her sister had done before her.

Using the name Joan Burfield, Fontaine made her film debut in 1935’s No More Ladies, starring Joan Crawford. She eventually took the last name “Fontaine” after her stepfather. Continuing to work in movies, Fontaine appeared alongside Fred Astaire in the musical A Damsel in Distress in 1937. She was better suited to dramatic roles, however, made apparent by her performances in films like Gunga Din (1939), with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Cary Grant; and The Women (1939), with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. She reportedly also missed out another great role that year, turning down the part of Melanie in Gone With the Wind—a role eventually won by her sister, Olivia de Havilland, and for which Olivia earned great acclaim.

Fontaine’s career reached new heights in 1940 with her starring role in Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of the popular Daphne du Maurier novel. She played the title character, starring opposite Laurence Olivier. The following year, Fontaine reteamed with Hitchcock for the thriller Suspicion, co-starring with Cary Grant. She received Academy Award nominations for her performances in Rebecca and Suspicion, taking home the golden statue for Suspicion. This win became the latest flare-up in the feud between Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, who had been nominated as well.

In 1943, Fontaine picked up her third and final Academy Award nomination (best actress) for her performance in The Constant Nymph. She went on to co-star with Orson Welles in 1944’s classic romantic tale Jane Eyre. The pair worked together again in 1952’s Shakespearean tragedy Othello. That same year, Fontaine had another hit with Ivanhoe, co-starring with Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the 1960s, the once-busy Fontaine saw her career slow down. She made only a handful of films in her later years, and played a number of television roles. She made guest appearances on such shows as Wagon Train, Hotel and The Love Boat. She also had a recurring role on the daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope in the early 1980s.

Fontaine has been married and divorced four times: In 1939, she married actor Brian Aherne. The couple divorced in 1945. The following year, she wed producer and actor William Dozier. Dozier and Fontaine had one child together, a daughter named Deborah, before splitting up in 1951. In 1952, she married Collier Young, a writer, and their union lasted until 1961. Her final marriage to journalist Alfred Wright Jr. lasted from 1964 to 1969.

In 1978, Fontaine released her autobiography, No Bed of Roses. She wrote about her long, troubled relationship with sister Olivia, much to Olivia’s dismay. Their final straw between the two siblings reportedly came with their mother’s death around the same time. Fontaine has said that she was not invited to the funeral, and has threatened to talk to the press about being omitted from the service. The date of the funeral was changed so that Fontaine and her daughter could attend, but Joan and Olivia have allegedly not spoken since their mother’s funeral.

Happy Birthday Robert Rauschenberg

Today is the 89th birthday of artist Robert Rauschenberg.

NAME: Robert Rauschenberg
OCCUPATION: Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: October 22, 1925
DEATH DATE: May 12, 2008
EDUCATION: Black Mountain College, Académie Julien, Kansas City Art Institute
PLACE OF BIRTH: Port Arthur, Texas
PLACE OF DEATH: Captiva, Florida

BEST KNOWN FOR: American artist Robert Rauschenberg is best known for paving the way for pop art of the 1960’s with fellow artist Jasper Johns.

American artist. Milton Ernst Rauschenberg was born on October 22, 1925, in Port Arthur, Texas. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute (1946–7), the Académie Julien, Paris (1947), and with Josef Albers and John Cage at Black Mountain College, North Carolina (1948–50).

Traveling widely, he was based in New York City from 1950, where he and Jasper Johns paved the way for pop art of the 1960s. He worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, New York, as costume and stage designer (1955–64).

An imaginative and eclectic artist, he used a mix of sculpture and paint in works he called ‘combines’, as seen in The Bed (1955). From the late 1950s he incorporated sound and motors in his work, such as Broadcast (1959), and silk-screen transfers, as in Flush (1964).

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he experimented with collage and new ways to transfer photographs. In 1997 the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York City, staged a major exhibition of his works, showcasing the breadth and beauty of his work and its influence over the second half of the century.

Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg died on May 12, 2008 in Lee County, Florida.

Happy Birthday Celia Cruz

Today is the 89th birthday of Celia Cruz.  She is EVERYTHING.  Watch all the videos below and keep a little Celia in your life at all times.

celia cruz

NAME: Celia Cruz
OCCUPATION: Singer
BIRTH DATE: October 21, 1925
DEATH DATE: July 16, 2003
PLACE OF BIRTH: Havana, Cuba
PLACE OF DEATH: New Jersey

BEST KNOWN FOR: Celia Cruz was a Cuban-American singer, best known as one of the most popular salsa performers of all time, recording 23 gold albums.

Celia Cruz grew up in the poor Havana neighborhood of Santos Suárez, where Cuba‘s diverse musical climate became a growing influence. In the 1940s, Cruz won a “La hora del té” (“Tea Time”) singing contest, propelling her into a music career. While Cruz’s mother encouraged her to enter other contests around Cuba, her more traditional father had other plans for her, encouraging her to become a teacher—a common occupation for Cuban women at that time.

Cruz enrolled at the National Teachers’ College, but dropped out soon after, since her live and radio performances around were gaining acclaim. Tempering her own growing ambitions with her father’s wish for her to stay in school, she enrolled at Havana’s National Conservatory of Music. However, instead of finding reasons for continuing on the academic track, one of Cruz’s professors convinced her that she should pursue a full-time singing career.

Cruz’s first recordings were made in 1948. In 1950, her singing career started its upward journey to stardom when she began singing with celebrated Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera. Initially, there were doubts that Cruz could successfully replace the previous lead singer and that a woman could sell salsa records at all. However, Cruz helped propel the group—and Latin music in general—to new heights, and the band toured widely through Central and North America throughout the 1950s.


At the time of the 1959 Communist takeover of Cuba, Sonora Matancera was touring in Mexico, and members of the band decided to leave Cuba for good, crossing into the United States instead of returning to their homeland. Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 1961, and Fidel Castro, enraged by Cruz’s defection, barred her from returning to Cuba.

Cruz remained relatively unknown in the United States beyond the Cuban exile community initially, but when she joined the Tito Puente Orchestra in the mid–1960s, she gained exposure to a wide audience. Puente had a large following across Latin America, and as the new face of the band, Cruz became a dynamic focus for the group, reaching a new fan base. On stage, Cruz enthralled audiences with her flamboyant attire and crowd engagement—traits that bolstered her 40-year singing career.

With her seemingly unfaltering vocals, Cruz continued performing live and recording albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and beyond. In that time, she made more than 75 records, including nearly 20 that went gold, and won several Grammys and Latin Grammys. She also appeared in several movies, earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Cruz died in New Jersey on July 16, 2003, at the age of 77.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Perez Family (12-May-1995) · Luz Paz
The Mambo Kings (28-Feb-1992)
Fires Within (28-Jun-1991) · Herself
Salsa (7-May-1988) · Herself
Affair in Havana (1-Oct-1957)

Happy Birthday Gummo Marx

gummo marx

Marx brothers (L to R) Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx (circa 1957)

Marx brothers (L to R) Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, and Gummo Marx (circa 1957)

NAME: Gummo Marx
OCCUPATION: Actor, Comedian, Inventor
BIRTH DATE: October 21, 1892
DEATH DATE: April 21, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Palm Springs, California
Full Name: Milton Marx
AKA: Gummo Marx

Best Known For:  Often referred to as the “forgotten” Marx brother, Gummo Marx was the first to leave the act to enlist in World War I and become a businessman.

Everyone thinks of Harpo as the silent one (not with that horn!), but Gummo Marx was acgtually the quiet one. Born Milton Marx on October 21, 1892, in New York City, Gummo, like his brothers, was a first-generation American, the fifth of six boys born to Sam and Minnie Marx, who left Europe and met in New York. The first of their six sons, Manfred, died in infancy.

There are related versions as to how Gummo acquired his nickname, all revolving around shoes: Legend has it that he was stealthy backstage, sneaking up on people like a gumshoe (detective), so monologist Art Fisher dubbed him Gummo. However, it has also been reported that Gummo actually wore rubber-soled shoes because frequent illnesses required that his feet be protected from damp.

Gummo was actually the first Marx brother on stage, appearing early on in his Uncle Julius’s ventriloquism act. Then, Minnie Marx organized a vaudeville singing troupe called the Three Nightingales in 1909, with Groucho, Gummo and singer Mabel O’Donell, to tour the circuit. When Harpo was brought in, they became the Four Nightingales, and Minnie occasionally joined in the act along with the boys’ aunt, Hannah Schickler, making them the Six Mascots. When Chico joined the act, they became the Four Marx Brothers.

When Gummo left the brother act to join the war effort in 1917, youngest brother Zeppo took over his role as straight man.

Gummo’s military service in the U.S. Army didn’t require him to go overseas, but he didn’t return to the stage after World War I, deciding to start a raincoat business instead. He later became a successful talent agent, especially after Zeppo joined him in the business when he, too, left the act.

Gummo ended up representing brother Groucho as well as other top talent of the time, including Glenn Ford, and helped develop the television series Life of Riley. He also held a patent for a packing rack he’d invented.

Gummo married Helen von Tilzer in 1929 and their son, Robert, was born the following year.

Gummo Marx died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 21, 1977, at his home in Palm Springs, California. He is buried next to wife Helen at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. His three grandsons all went into show business.

In The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, Groucho expressed his affection for Gummo, with some unkind words for Zeppo. But Zeppo, too, felt closest to Gummo. In his last interview, Zeppo told the BBC, “Gummo was a love. He didn’t like show business but I think he felt, same as I did, that he was inadequate, that he wasn’t doing his share. I miss Gummo very much.”

Happy Birthday Bela Lugosi

Today is the 132nd birthday of Bela Lugosi.

NAME: Bela Lugosi
OCCUPATION: Actor
BIRTH DATE: October 20, 1882
DEATH DATE: August 16, 1956
EDUCATION: Budapest Academy of Theatrical Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lugos, Hungary
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6340 Hollywood Blvd. (motion pictures)

BEST KNOWN FOR: Count Dracula was Actor Bela Lugosi’s most famous role. Lugosi played him in stage productions and in the 1931 Universal Pictures film Dracula.

Actor. Bela Lugosi was born as Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko on October 20, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His birthplace was only some fifty miles away from the western border of Transylvania and the Poenari Castle, the legendary home of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, whom Lugosi would portray to great acclaim on both stage and screen. Although descended from a long line of Hungarian farmers, Lugosi’s father, Istvan Blasko, broke with family tradition to become a baker and banker. Bela Lugosi was a temperamental and rebellious child. “I was very unruly as a boy, very out of control,” he later admitted. “Like Jekyll and Hyde, except that I changed according to sex. I mean, with boys I was tough and brutal. But the minute I came into company with girls and women, I kissed their hands… With boys, I say, I was a brute. With girls, I was a lamb.”

Lugosi attended the local grammar school in Lugos and then continued on to the Hungarian State Gymnasium at the age of 11, in 1893. However, Lugosi hated the strict discipline and formality of the State Gymnnasium, and one year later, he dropped out of school and ran away from home. Traveling on foot and relying on the occasional odd job and the charity of strangers for food and lodging, Lugosi finally settled in a small mining town named Resita, approximately 300 miles south of Lugos. He worked in the mines and also as a machinist’s assistant. However, Lugosi was captivated by the touring theatrical troupes that came through Resita and set his heart on becoming an actor. “They tried to give me little parts in their plays, but I was so uneducated, so stupid, people just laughed at me,” he recalled. “But I got the taste of the stage. I got, also, the rancid taste of humiliation.”

In 1897, Lugosi left Resita to join his mother and his sister Vilma in Szabadka. In 1898, he returned to school but dropped out after only four months and took a job as a railroad laborer. Soon after, Vilma’s husband managed to land Lugosi a place in the chorus of a traveling theater company. Displaying remarkable raw talent despite his lack of education or training, Lugosi quickly ascended from the back of the chorus into leading roles as he traveled across Hungary performing with the troupe. By the early 1900s, he had been accepted into Hungary’s Academy of Performing Arts with a specialty in Shakespearean acting. Adopting the name “Lugosi” as a reference to his birthplace of Lugos, throughout the first decade of the 20th century he toured the Austro-Hungarian Empire performing male lead roles in such Shakespearean classics as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Richard III and The Taming of the Shrew. In 1913, he joined the Hungarian National Theater in Budapest and starred in more Shakespearean plays, as well as Cyrano de Bergerac and Faust.

Although members of the National Theater were exempt from military service, in June 1914 the highly patriotic Lugosi put his acting career on hold to fight for Hungary against Russia in World War I. After being discharged from the army due to health problems in 1916, Lugosi returned to the National Theater and delivered a celebrated performance as Jesus Christ in The Passion. Over the next few years, Lugosi gradually transitioned from stage acting into Hungary’s rapidly growing silent film industry. In addition to acting in many silent Hungarian films, Lugosi organized Hungary’s National Trade Union of Actors, the world’s first film actors’ union. He was a staunch supporter of the 1919 Hungarian Revolution that briefly brought Bela Kun’s Hungarian Soviet Republic into power, and as a result when the revolution collapsed Lugosi found himself a wanted enemy of the new government. “After the war, I participated in the revolution,” he said. “Later, I found myself on the wrong side.”

In 1919, Lugosi fled to Vienna, as legend has it buried beneath a pile of straw in wheelbarrow. From there he traveled to Berlin where he quickly found work in the German cinema. Lugosi appeared in several German films in 1920, most notably The Head of Janus, an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Despite this quick success in Germany, Lugosi decided to immigrate to the United States; after a brief stop in Italy, he set sail for New Orleans, arriving on December 4, 1920. From there he immediately made his way to New York City, where an already sizeable Hungarian theatrical community welcomed him with open arms. Lugosi plunged himself into New York’s Hungarian theater as an actor and director of many Hungarian productions over the next several years. Despite not yet having a firm grasp of the language, he made his English-language stage debut in a 1922 production of The Red Poppy, for which Lugosi memorized his lines phonetically. Since silent films still predominated, Lugosi’s language skills were not a barrier to his acting in American movies. He made his American film debut in The Silent Command (1923) and then appeared in The Midnight Girl (1925).

In 1927, Lugosi accepted the titular role in the American theatrical run of Dracula, a play based on Bram Stoker’s gothic novel of the same name. Lugosi’s Dracula was unlike any previous portrayals of the role. Handsome, mysterious and alluring, Lugosi’s Dracula was at once so sexy and so haunting that audiences gasped when he first opened his mouth to speak. After a half-year run on Broadway, Dracula toured the United States to much fanfare and critical acclaim throughout 1928 and 1929. “It is a marvelous play,” Lugosi said. “We keep nurses and physicians in the theatre every night… for the people in the audience who faint.” With the popularization of “talking pictures” – movies with sound – Universal decided to make a film version of Dracula starring Lugosi. The 1931 film, entitled The Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known, was a smash hit and forever immortalized Lugosi’s chilling portrayal of Dracula. Although countless actors have played Dracula since, to this date vampire enthusiasts idolize Lugosi as synonymous with the character.

Throughout the 1930s, Lugosi was typecast as a Hollywood horror villain – playing monsters, murderers and mad scientists – in dozens of B-list films. His most notable performances were Murderers in the Rue Morgue (1932), White Zombie (1932), International House (1933), The Raven (1934), Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). While none of these roles were especially noteworthy in isolation, Lugosi’s cumulative body of work during the 1930s established him as one of the first great stars of the horror genre. Nevertheless, throughout his entire career Lugosi was frustrated by his inability to break through into other types of films. “I am definitely typed, doomed to be an exponent of evil,” he said. “But I want sympathetic roles. Then parents would tell their offspring, ‘Eat your spinach and you’ll grow up to be a nice man like Bela Lugosi.’ As it is, they threaten their children with me instead of the bogey-man.”

After a few lean years in the late 1930s, when horror movies fell out of vogue in Hollywood, in the 1940s Lugosi once again began appearing in countless horror films as well as sequels and spoofs such as The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Despite his prolific acting career and high profile, due to Universal’s ruthless compensation system and his own careless spending, Lugosi lived the majority of his adult life deeply mired in debt. He spent the last few years of his career in the early 1950s back on the stage in revival productions of Dracula as well as Arsenic and Old Lace.

In 1956, Lugosi began work on a sci-fi thriller called Plan 9 From Outer Space. However, he passed away in the middle of filming on August 16, 1956, aged 73. Lugosi was fittingly buried in his Dracula cape.

Despite Lugosi’s death, Plan 9 from Outer Space was completed with director Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor taking over his part. The final version of the film bizarrely mixes footage of Lugosi as well as footage of his replacement (who looks nothing at all like him), one of many oddities that make Plan 9 From Outer Space both a cult classic and a film many critics have called the worst of all time.

Bela Lugosi married five times. In 1917, while still in Hungary, he married Ilona Szmik. They divorced two years later, when Lugosi fled for Germany and Szmik refused to leave her native land. In 1921, shortly after arriving in New York, he married Illona von Montagh, but they too divorced after three years in 1924. Lugosi married his third wife, Woodruff Weeks, in 1929; their marriage lasted all of three days. In 1933, he married his fourth wife, Lillian Arch, and they remained married for twenty years before finally separating in 1953. He married Hope Lininger in 1955 and they stayed together until his death a year later.

The actor who became synonymous with Dracula, Bela Lugosi paved the way for the incredible proliferation of vampire movies in Hollywood. His depiction of Dracula as at once dangerous and mysteriously sexy continues to shape the way vampires are portrayed in such pop culture phenomena as Twilight and True Blood. However, Lugosi was much more than a one-hit wonder who played out the rest of his career in B-grade slasher movies. He was a multitalented and immensely gifted performer who mastered Shakespearean acting in Hungary before coming to define the American horror film genre. Nevertheless, despite his dozens of films and stage performances, Lugosi lives on for posterity not so much as an actor but as the personification of his greatest character. When he performed as Dracula, Lugosi spoke for his own personal legacy as much as for his character when he pronounced the immortal line, “I am Dracula.”

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
The Black Sleep (Jun-1956) · Casimir
Bride of the Monster (11-May-1955) · Dr. Eric Vornoff
Glen or Glenda (1953) · Scientist
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (4-Sep-1952)
Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) · Von Housen
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (15-Jun-1948) · Dracula
Scared to Death (1-Feb-1947) · Prof. Leonide
Genius at Work (20-Oct-1946)
The Body Snatcher (25-May-1945) · Joseph
Zombies on Broadway (26-Apr-1945)
One Body Too Many (24-Nov-1944)
Return of the Ape Man (17-Jul-1944) · Prof. Dexter
Voodoo Man (21-Feb-1944)
The Return of the Vampire (1-Jan-1944) · Armand Tesla
Ghosts on the Loose (30-Jul-1943)
The Ape Man (5-Mar-1943)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (5-Mar-1943)
Bowery at Midnight (30-Oct-1942) · Prof. Brenner
Night Monster (20-Oct-1942)
The Corpse Vanishes (8-May-1942) · Dr. Lorenz
The Ghost of Frankenstein (13-Mar-1942)
Black Dragons (6-Mar-1942) · Dr. Melcher
The Wolf Man (12-Dec-1941) · Bela
Spooks Run Wild (24-Oct-1941)
The Black Cat (2-May-1941)
Invisible Ghost (25-Apr-1941)
You’ll Find Out (22-Nov-1940) · Prince Saliano
The Devil Bat (11-Nov-1940) · Dr. Paul Carruthers
Black Friday (29-Feb-1940)
The Saint’s Double Trouble (26-Jan-1940) · Partner
The Dark Eyes of London (20-Jan-1940)
Ninotchka (6-Oct-1939) · Razinin
The Gorilla (26-May-1939)
Son of Frankenstein (13-Jan-1939) · Ygor
The Phantom Creeps (7-Jan-1939)
S.O.S. Coast Guard (28-Aug-1937)
Postal Inspector (16-Aug-1936)
The Invisible Ray (20-Jan-1936) · Dr. Felix Benet
Murder by Television (1-Oct-1935)
The Raven (8-Jul-1935)
The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (27-Apr-1935) · Anton Lorenzen
Mark of the Vampire (28-Mar-1935) · Count Mora
Chandu on the Magic Island (1935)
The Mysterious Mr. Wong (22-Dec-1934) · Fu Wong
The Return of Chandu (1-Oct-1934)
The Black Cat (3-May-1934) · Dr. Vitus Werdegast
International House (27-May-1933)
Island of Lost Souls (12-Jan-1933) · Sayer of the Law
The Death Kiss (5-Dec-1932) · Joseph Steiner
White Zombie (4-Aug-1932) · Murder Legendre
Chandu the Magician (4-Aug-1932) · Roxor
Murders in the Rue Morgue (21-Feb-1932) · Dr. Mirakle
Broadminded (1-Aug-1931)
The Black Camel (21-Jun-1931)
Dracula (12-Feb-1931) · Count Dracula
Renegades (26-Oct-1930) · The Marabout
The Thirteenth Chair (19-Oct-1929)
The Midnight Girl (15-Feb-1925)

Rear View Mirror – My Week in Review

Are you subscribed to Brainpickings.org? You really absolutely should. What is better than getting an occasional email that breaks it down for you, makes the classics accessible, and shows you that knowing history is really more important than knowing pop culture. Here is an excellent example:

Why Haters Hate: Kierkegaard Explains the Psychology of Bullying and Online Trolling in 1847

Celebrated as the first true existentialist philosopher, Danish writer and thinker Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) may have only lived a short life, but it was a deep one and its impact radiated widely outward, far across the centuries and disciplines and schools of thought. He was also among the multitude of famous writers who benefited from keeping a diary and nowhere does his paradoxical blend of melancholy and idealism, of despair about the human condition and optimism about the purpose of life, shine more brilliantly than in The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard (public library) — a compendium of Kierkegaard’s frequently intense, always astoundingly thoughtful reflections on everything from happiness and melancholy to writing and literature to self-doubt and public opinion.

In an immeasurably insightful entry from 1847, 34-year-old Kierkegaard observes a pervasive pathology of our fallible humanity, explaining the same basic psychology that lurks behind contemporary phenomena like bullying,trolling, and the general assaults of the web’s self-appointed critics, colloquially and rather appropriately known as haters.

Kierkegaard writes:

There is a form of envy of which I frequently have seen examples, in which an individual tries to obtain something by bullying. If, for instance, I enter a place where many are gathered, it often happens that one or another right away takes up arms against me by beginning to laugh; presumably he feels that he is being a tool of public opinion. But lo and behold, if I then make a casual remark to him, that same person becomes infinitely pliable and obliging. Essentially it shows that he regards me as something great, maybe even greater than I am: but if he can’t be admitted as a participant in my greatness, at least he will laugh at me. But as soon as he becomes a participant, as it were, he brags about my greatness.

That is what comes of living in a petty community.

It is unlikely that Kierkegaard was aware of what would become known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect — the Founding Father formulated his famous reverse-psychology trick for handling haters — and yet he goes on to relay an anecdote that embodies it perfectly. He recounts coming upon three young men outside his gate who, upon seeing him, “began to grin and altogether initiated the whole gamut of insolence.” As he approached them, Kierkegaard noticed that they were smoking cigars and turned to one of them, asking for a light. Suddenly, the men’s attitude took a dramatic U-turn — the seemingly simple exchange had provided precisely that invitation for participation in greatness:

Instantly, all three doffed their hats and it would seem I had done them a service by asking for a light. Ergo: the same people would be happy to cry bravo for me if I merely addressed a friendly, let alone, flattering word to them; as it is, they cry pereat [he shall perish!] and are defiant… All it amounts to is play-acting. But how invaluably interesting to have one’s knowledge of human psychology enriched in this way.

The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard may be short in both pages and lifetime covered, but it is a treasure trove of equally penetrating insights into the human experience. Complement it with Kierkegaard on our greatest source of unhappiness, then revisit Anne Lamott’s brilliant modern manifesto for handling haters.

It’s been a few weeks since I have done a weekly round up of all my internet activities. I think it is mostly because Sundays are busy for me now and I don’t have the extra time, unless I preload it Saturday night.

Last week on Waldina, I celebrated the birthdays of Harris Glenn Milstead (Divine), George C. Scott, Montgomery Clift, Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, Angela Lansbury, Linda Darnell, Oscar Wilde and Ed Wood.

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All Time Views: 132,633
Most Popular Post This Week: Happy Birthday Doris Duke
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Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead

Today is the 69th birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead, known the world over as the drag queen/performance artist/actor/personality called “Divine.”  I was first introduced to Divine through the subscription of Interview Magazine I had while I was in high school.  This lead to renting the early John Waters movies and so forth.  I adore anyone who is fearless, who is in on the joke, and who plows forward.  Divine had all of those qualities and many more.

divine5

NAME: Harris Glenn Milstead
BORN: October 19, 1945
BIRTHPLACE: Towson, MD
DIED: March 7, 1988
LOCATION AT DEATH: Los Angeles, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Respiratory failure
REMAINS: Buried, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Towson, MD

Divine (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead, was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women’s clothing in musical performances. Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films. He was often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters’s films, usually in a leading role. Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as “the most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world.”

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a conservative, upper middle class family, he became involved with John Waters and his acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, in the mid-1960s and starred in a number of Waters’s early films such as Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). These films became hits on the midnight movie and underground cinema circuit in the U.S., and have since become cult classics, with Divine becoming particularly renowned for playing the role of Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos, during which he had to perform a series of extreme acts including eating dog excrement. In the 1970s, Milstead made the transition to theater and appeared in a number of productions, including Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman, while continuing to star in such films as Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). Meanwhile, in 1981 Divine had embarked on a disco career, producing Hi-NRG tracks, most of which had been written by Bobby Orlando, and went on to achieve chart success with hits like “You Think You’re A Man”, “I’m So Beautiful” and “Walk Like a Man.” Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, Divine died from cardiomegaly in 1988.

The New York Times said of Milstead’s ’80s films: “Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine’s performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick.” He was also described as “one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century… [who] was an audacious symbol of man’s quest for liberty and freedom.” Since his death, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly with those in the LGBT community, of which he was a part, being openly gay.

Due to Divine’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the original comedy-film version of Hairspray, later musical adaptations of Hairspray have commonly placed male actors in the role of Edna, including Harvey Fierstein and others in the 2002 Broadway musical and John Travolta in the 2007 musical film.

A 12 foot tall statue in the likeness of Divine by Andrew Logan can be seen on permanent display at The American Visionary Art Museum in Divine’s home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Out of the Dark (5-May-1989)
Hairspray (16-Feb-1988)
Trouble in Mind (Dec-1985)
Lust in the Dust (1-Mar-1985)
Polyester (29-May-1981)
Female Trouble (4-Oct-1974)
Pink Flamingos (17-Mar-1972)
Multiple Maniacs (10-Apr-1970)
Mondo Trasho (14-Mar-1969)

Is the subject of books:
My Son Divine, 2001, BY: Frances Milstead, DETAILS: Alyson Publications:with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Yeager
Not Simply Divine, 1994, BY: Bernard Jay, DETAILS: Fireside:by Divine’s personal manager