Happy Birthday Gracie Hansen

Today is the 92nd birthday of Gracie Hansen:  exactly what Seattle needed.  She famously said “The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.”  Take that to heart.

The irrepressible and brash Gracie Hansen — best remembered for presenting shapely showgirls in her glamorous Las Vegas-style burlesque nightclub at Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition (Seattle World’s Fair) in 1962 — was a most improbable individual to fulfill that role. She was a divorced, backwoods gal, with poor health, a garishly frumpy style, and no detectable musical skill. Yet she won friends easily. Fondly described once by Seattle Times  veteran reporter Don Duncan as “short, stout, big-busted,” by Seattle magazine as “short-necked and dumpy, the despair of dress designers,” and by Northwest historian Murray Morgan (1916-2000) as “short, raucous and witty” — the woman’s charm was largely based on that latter attribute. The easily underestimated but extremely well-read Hansen was also a nonstop font of homespun quips, sly double-entendre jokes, and ribald witticisms. Her Paradise International Club on the fairgrounds packed in crowds — in good part because of Hansen’s knack for generating newspaper headlines in the mildly scandalized town — while rumors of police raids, lawsuits, and Hansen’s own background as a Madam (untrue), kept gossips chattering endlessly. It was all a publicity agent’s dream come true — just as it was the Cinderella moment of Gracie Hansen’s difficult life — one that saw her move on to hosting another club in Portland, where she eventually launched a humorous campaign for mayor and later one for Governor of Oregon.

Quiet Desperation in Morton

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on August 21, 1922, Gracie Diana’s Sicilian father, Sam Diana, moved his family to Longview, Washington, where he opened a barbershop. After his death in 1930, she and her mother moved into an apartment above the Columbia Movie Theatre and young Gracie fell in love with Hollywood movies. After about eight years her mother married George Barner and they moved to Centralia where he was mayor. It was there that the ambitious Gracie converted her family garage into a theater and began producing shows with her new neighborhood pals. After high school, her mother refused to let her follow her dream of studying acting in New York City, and so Gracie eloped with a logger named Leo Hansen. They moved to the tiny rough-and-tumble logging town of Morton and in 1948 adopted a boy named Sam.

Her new hometown was a less than inspiring spot to live. It was a lonely place — one that Hansen talked about years later in an interview with Bellingham’s KVOS-TV, where she quoted no less than Henry David Thoreau in recalling that “I once read where ‘the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation’ — and until you’ve lived in a little town like this you’ll never know what desperation can be. Everybody is searching for something to do. And I think that’s how I became involved … of course I’ve always been a frustrated ham, and loved to do anything connected with shows —  when I was a child I wanted to be a movie star” (KVOS).

A string of jobs as a waitress, cook, and bank clerk didn’t satisfy Hansen’s thespian urge and neither did the dozens of community groups she joined. But then in 1953 she masterminded what became the town’s annual variety show presentation, the Morton Follies. Produced as a fundraising benefit for the local Parent-Teachers-Association (PTA), she organized and staged the two-hour show, which was humorously credited with this line: “Written, Borrowed, Stolen, Directed, and Produced by Gracie Hansen.” It was “a typical variety show using all the home talent. Most of the time we had a hundred people in the cast. Everybody’s got a little bit of ham in them! And geez those people would just get up there and give the most terrific performances. They were wonderful. We had a chorus line: we had ten of the young housewives (I think one time we figured out that they had about 26 children between them). I would get a dancing teacher to teach them how to dance and they worked real hard and they were terrific” (KVOS).

Morton Liquor Agency

Hansen suffered a divorce and also acquired the license to operate Morton’s liquor shop — which probably was a relatively thriving business in a boom-and-bust timber town whose economy fluctuated, as she admitted, “like the weather.” But alcohol also seems to have played a role in the demise of her role with the Follies. Word is that in time the shows began to get edgier, but Hansen attributed that to booze-fueled improvisation by amateur cast members rather than to her own scripting: “Some of these people would get carried away [laughter]! They’d say ‘Gee whiz Gracie, I’ve gotta have a little bit of fortification before I can get up there and make a fool of myself.’ And I sometimes wished I was clever enough to write some of the things they came up with — but some of the things were just too adult for the PTA. [laughter] and so we kinda just stopped it” (KVOS).

Seattle magazine noted that the 1959 show was to be the last: “As the years progressed … the dialog became racier and racier; when finally one logger, attired as Queen for a Day, hiked up his skirt and showed he had nothing on underneath but his boots, church groups closed down the show” (Halpin). And, even years later, one Morton resident (schoolteacher Geneva Partridge) confessed that “Opinion of Gracie is divided. Some are against her” (Dunsire).

Hansen counted only one person in Morton as a real friend. She got sick, endured several bank-busting medical operations, and while healing grew extremely bored and depressed just moping around her house. “You see, I used to work all winter on them. This was my project for the winter. And then that winter I had nothing to do and was very ill, and very broke, and feeling very sorry for myself. And I had this friend who came over and gave me this pep talk: ‘Gee look what you did with the Morton Follies. Why don’t you go up to the Seattle World’s Fair?’ Of course, I thought she was absolutely right!’ (KVOS). That advice from her friend Esther Lester really got her to thinking about a new future.

Showgirls vs. Science

By the late 1950s there was already plenty of news coverage of the massive planning efforts  and construction projects that would ultimately result in the Century 21 World’s Fair. And that got Hansen to thinking that maybe there would be opportunities for her there. Her first step was to jump into her battered old Buick and drive up to the fair’s planning offices up in the old Civic Auditorium. She arrived in the big city with high hopes, plenty of confidence and “Morton mud on my shoes. They were very amused [laughter]. And I just went in cold and said I wanted to put on a show. You see everybody has a mission in life and I decided that my mission must be to save the fair from Science. Well they were very amused and said ‘Well Miss Hansen don’t you call us, we’ll call you'” (KVOS).

Hansen returned to Morton and mailed off a few letters to Seattle and Olympia still seeking to gauge any possible interest in having her produce an expanded version of her naughty little Follies show. In April 1960, Al Rochester (1895-1985), Executive Director for the Century 21 Commission, sent her a letter (mailed to the liquor store in Morton), which stated that an “Administrative Assistant to the Governor [Albert D. Rosellini], wrote me that you had some interest in participation of some kind … . Would you be so good as to drop me a line and outline in some detail what you thoughts are on the matter. Then I shall be very pleased to follow through in any way possible.”  At the bottom of that still-surviving letter are clues to Rochester’s thoughts: inscribed in ink pen there are these handwritten notes: “Appointment 4-14-60 11:00 am ‘Girlie’ Show — I told her it was too soon …” (Rochester letter to Hansen, April 11, 1960).

Next Stop: Seattle

Hansen made the decision to head where the action was and, after finding a job at Seattle’s United Savings and Loan Associates, she moved here. “Then I made up this list … of all the people I’d ever heard of in Seattle who had money. And I began checking them off.  I would go and call on them on my lunch, or after work, or on Saturdays, and I would give them this pitch: ‘Have you ever been to a World’s Fair, or know anyone who has? And, if so, what do you remember?’ ‘Cause you know what they all remember: Little Egypt, Sally Rand, Billie Rose and some of those things. And no one can tell you about an exhibit they saw any place! So I formulated my pet theory that: Science will never replace sex or cotton candy” (KVOS).

One of those wealthy folks, Robert Chinn (625 S Jackson Street) — her boss at the bank and a gentleman quite prominent within the town’s Chinese community — agreed to help. In an hour-and-a-half on the telephone, he rounded up 18 friends who each invested $5,000 in Hansen’s dream to produce a big-time show at the fair. Of course, when the ecstatic would-be showbiz entrepreneur ran back to the fair’s offices, they didn’t believe her until they laid eyes on a bankbook showing the $90,000 she’d raised. “So, of course,” she recalled, “then they were very interested in talking about this” (KVOS).

Sedate Seattle vs. the Censor Board

Meanwhile, as planning for the fair progressed in Seattle, there were conflicting notions about what hosting such a huge cosmopolitan event might mean to the community. Seattle’s raucous past as an 1850s frontier village — a Wild West town that featured rowdy dancehalls and liquor bars, box theaters (in which male patrons fraternized in small rooms with female employees behind curtains), and houses of ill-repute like the infamous one supposedly operated by Madam Damnable — was a history many upstanding members of the community would like to have forgotten by the 1950s. And they sure didn’t want the fair to revive any of that wildness.

On the other hand, some interested parties figured that the town — soon to be sizzling under the glare of international media and the entertainment needs of worldly tourists — really ought to consider installing an “adult-entertainment” component to the fair’s offerings. It was in 1961, according Murray Morgan, that “State Senator Reuben Knoblauch [d. 1992] complained to the World’s Fair [C]ommission that too much emphasis and space was being devoted to an art exhibit which he said would not draw the crowds that high class entertainment or a skin show would attract. State Representative Len Sawyer, a member of the Commission, agreed and added that a cadaver in a medical exhibit in Canada was outdrawing an art exhibit” (Morgan).  So, Hansen’s “pet theory” obviously had other adherents. And, though the fair would boast plenty of high-brow culture (as well as a generalized futuristic high-tech science ambiance), plans were now underway to also accommodate more base attractions. Although the fair wouldn’t be able to boast of having a morbid cadaver on display, there would ultimately be opportunities to view “heavenly bodies” (Official Guide Book p. 112).

Sin Alley

Initially the fair contracted with Hansen to produce her show in a venue on the Boulevards of the World strip. As general planning progressed though, they discussed relocating her still-unnamed showplace to a discreet area underneath the north stadium stands — a zone they imagined might be marketed as Sin Alley.

Meanwhile, Hansen forged ahead by getting professional assistance — and she reached for the stars. “Being the frustrated ham that I am,” Hansen admitted, “I always read Variety and the show business papers, and I knew that there were two big names in the business that did first-class shows: Don Arden and Barry Ashton. And so I made a trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles [in the summer of 1961] and I talked to Don Arden and Barry Ashton” (KVOS). At the time Arden was committed to producing the famous Lido Shows in Paris and at the Stardust in Vegas, but Ashton was interested in possibly serving as choreographer.

On November 3, 1961, The Seattle Times published an item showing Hansen with Ashton and his partner reviewing blueprints for a World’s Fair “Theater-Cafe.” Interesting, then, that documents from the fair’s internal archives seemingly reveal that the exact nature of Hansen’s participation still wasn’t fully nailed down. A November 15 letter from George K. Whitney (the fair’s Director of Concessions and Amusements) shows him touching base with San Francisco’s Hotsy Totsy Club, in which he states a desire to see someone bring in a “theater-restaurant night club similar in scope and program” to that city’s Bimbo’s 365 Club (which Ashton staged). It is mentioned that prime space is available, that Ashton has been hired, and even suggests that the program “would be the hit of Show Street.” The stipulation was that, with the time-clock ticking away towards a Grand Opening in April, the Hotsy Totsy folks needed to make an immediate decision. Intriguingly, on the November 16, The Seattle Times reported that just one day prior, Hansen had delivered a $90,000 check to the fair as an “advance guarantee against receipts.” And with that, it appears Hansen’s involvement — on Show Street — was locked in.

Show Street

From there things must have fallen into place at a rapid pace: A month later, on December 21, 1961, Time magazine reported that, yes, worry not, “the fair will have its undraped girls, in a ‘Las Vegas-type revue’ to be produced by one Gracie Hansen, an entrepreneuse who promises ‘a daring show with some nudity, but all in good taste.'” And that would take place within Show Street — the titillation zone of the fair located at the northeast corner of the grounds (where today’s KCTS-TV station is based). That same day saw a groundbreaking ceremony on the construction site — one in which Hansen (wearing a feathered hat) began charming the media saying: “This is my dream some true. I’m just a country girl from Morton. Very naive. Why, I didn’t know there were press agents until a few months ago.” Then, using a “gold-plated” shovel to turn a load of “diamonds,” she said “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend — but I’ll never knock rubies, emeralds or pearls” (The Seattle Times, December 21, 1961).

Show Street was a U-shaped complex of buildings, each containing a distinct “Adults Only” attraction — including the Polynesian Playhouse, the Diamond Horseshoe (and its Gay Nineties theme), the Galaxy (and its Girls of the Galaxy show), the Le Petit Theatre (and its naughty puppet show), and Backstage U.S.A. (and its risqué “Peep” show). Some of these offerings, ranging “from bad to indifferent, were organized to slop up the lascivious overflow” of people who arrived too late to get tickets to the highest profile feature of all. And that was Hansen’s mildly controversial Paradise International restaurant-theater which survived official scrutiny only because the “Seattle Censor Board was persuaded to raise its eyes to the heavens while the girls bared their breasts” (Morgan).

A Night In Paradise

On the fair’s opening night of April 21, 1962, Hansen’s plush, 700-seat Paradise International drew large crowds. Advance publicity of the controversial sort helped, but so too did the building’s attention-grabbing exterior neon sign: it was designed like an apple with a missing bite — an unmistakable visual allusion to traditional biblical notions of original sin. Or as Hansen pitched it to The Seattle Times in December 1961: “The apple tree in Paradise will be our symbol.” Although a certain segment of Seattleites was mildly scandalized, the Seattle Censor Board miraculously gave it the nod — possibly because, as Hansen would helpfully inform: Even though “‘some of our showgirls are nude from the waist up. It’s not thrust upon you. In fact, sometimes you have to look for them in there. And, as yet, no one has objected and found it distasteful, so I guess it’s a matter of presentation” (KVOS).

Hansen began each “A Night In Paradise” show — as staged by Ashton and supported by a pit-band led by Seattle’s aging 1920s bandleader, John R. “Jackie” Souders (d. 1968) — with a pure jolt of Mae West-like red-hot-mama irreverence, greeting her audience with a shout-out (that had actually been a trademark of West’s stylistic predecessor, Texas Guinan): “Hi-ya, Suckers!” After some joking around Hansen even sang a tune or two in her own endearing manner — which was “like a poor man’s Sophie Tucker, belting out red-hot chestnuts and always getting the biggest hand of the evening”.

Than, after that aural assault, the real action began — although as one scribe noted years later: “It was a ‘Vegas-style’ show that by today’s standards would probably look like a Daughters of the American Revolution luncheon but was then the ultimate in slap-and-tickle sophistication” (Palmer). True, those four floor-shows per night offered — to employ an old, old joke — two main points of interest: the bevy of buxom beauties (who sang and paraded their admirable physiques) and their over-the-top, and occasionally topless, costumes (all made in Hollywood by Lloyd Lambert) in ridiculous productions like the “Women of Mars.”

Spice Girls

Before long, the fair’s Performing Arts Director, Harold Shaw, stated that a few underperforming Show Street attractions needed to be overhauled from “stem to stern.” The problem, surprise surprise, was that he felt that they were not yet “spicy enough.” He lamented how “I could make that street hop if I had a free hand for two weeks.” What the place was lacking was “showmanship” and more nudity: “There isn’t a show worth doing unless it is keeping the censors busy. The censors would have to be on roller skates to keep up with me … . I don’t say I have all the answers but I am willing to help if they ask me” (The Seattle Times, June 6, 1962).

All this helpfulness only sparked the inevitable backlash from social conservatives, and even moderate politicians who also made known their objections to Hansen’s Paradise International and the other questionable Show Street venues. Longtime reporter Don Duncan noted that St. Matthews Catholic Church in Northeast Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood mailed in a letter of complaint which stated that “Such Pagan displays will show the world what they already suspect — that Americans are amoral, materialistic, sex-conscious, pleasure-seeking people. What an impression!” It was also reported that a Mr. H. H. Hill had written about his concerns that “Century 21 is becoming primarily a bawdy show or is it to be a science fair citizens were taxed to support” (The Seattle Times, June 27, 1962).

Physical Fitness

It didn’t help matters when the Shaw announced plans to introduce regular Monday “father-and-son” nights at Hansen’s shows — which had initially been advertised as a “break for dear old dad.” A week later, the fair’s great advocate, Governor Albert D. Rosellini (1910-2011), weighed in. In a letter written to a local Lutheran minister, he admitted that he was shocked by the idea. Rosellini’s office asserted that they’d already received 1,200 letters from an outraged public — and he informed the fair that they ought “to assure a more adequate regard for morality” (The Seattle Times June 27, 1962). That same piece from The Seattle Times informed that the fair’s manager, Ewen C. Dingwall (1913-1996), responded by noting that “every activity on Show Street must be approved by either the State Liquor Control Board or the Seattle Board of Theater Supervisors” (known informally as the Seattle Censor Board), and that “No activity is tolerated by us which does not have the approval of both agencies.”

Amid the simmering furor, the dads-and-lads concept apparently faded away but Shaw got in a parting shot by saying: “It’s time we shed our false puritanical morals and commence to beautify the human being — and make him beautiful as God created him.” Then, perhaps stretching things just a bit too far, Shaw told another newspaper that even more nudity at the fair would “be a boost for President Kennedy’s physical fitness plan. Americans don’t have beautiful bodies. The best way to stimulate beautiful bodies is to see them” (Seattle Post Intelligencer, June 28, 1962).

In hindsight, Morgan reckoned that, business-wise, the Show Street had been a disappointing mixed bag: “the puppets made a mint … and some of the other attractions were around for the last hurrah. But throughout the fair, Show Street was a financial embarrassment, in such trouble that not even well-publicized, carefully rehearsed trouble with the police could produce a profit” (Murray Morgan).

Initially Hansen had been delightfully glib about her club’s chances at success, telling reporters that “We may go broke, but we’ll never be flat-busted” (Halpin). Truth be told, although Hansen’s Paradise did manage, in the end, to pay off all its debts, its original investors remained rather bitter about not making a profit — and Hansen herself moved on with an empty savings account. But George Whitney may have been correct when — before the fair even opened — he predicted that “There is no question that when Century 21 has passed in limbo, the main feature to be remembered will be Gracie Hansen’s Paradise International” (The Seattle Times, December 21, 1961). Well, that, and maybe the Space Needle and Monorail…

Hansen’s Transformation

Part of Hansen’s secret for success was her state of self-awareness. As Seattle magazine once reported: “She has no illusions about the quality of her voice. ‘I have no voice at all,’ she rasps in a whisky bass that sounds like a fire roaring in a wood stove. ‘But if I don’t sing good — at least I sing loud” (Halpin, p. 36). And it wasn’t only her voice that was loud — so was her wardrobe. To start with, there were the absurd “thick false eyelashes, wigs, and enormous finger rings” (Duncan, 1985). Then too, the mink stoles, outrageous hats, and “richly brocaded velvet dresses” whose “outlandish ruffles would shame Liberace” (Halpin, p. 36).

Considering that Hansen also whirled around town in her (borrowed) gold-plated Buick — she instantly become “the most talked about woman in Seattle.” Indeed, “Gracie’s transformation into a siren was a remarkable example of mind over matter” — but she accomplished that with a combination of old-fashioned moxie, drive, and a heart of gold (Halpin, p. 36). All things considered, Hansen proved to be exactly what Century 21 needed — she “added just the right touch of humor and earthiness to Seattle’s science-oriented fair” (Duncan, 1985).

Morton Reunion

The 20th annual Logger’s Jubilee festival in little ol’ Morton welcomed Hansen back in a triumphal return appearance as their fair’s Homecoming Queen. On August 12, 1962, she, as Grand Marshal, rode on the back seat of an open convertible car in their parade down the town’s Main Street. One newspaper account of that day’s activities noted that her earlier showbiz activities there had made her “the talk of the town. Not all of the talk complimentary” (Charles Dunsire).

She arrived like a big city star in a chartered bus accompanied by “Show Street personalities, and a retinue of newsmen, photographers and press agents. Also aboard to keep things lively were a guitarist and clarinetist.” Hansen wore a silver sequined dress — one that “contrasted with the other elements of the parade, which included a long line of fully loaded logging trucks” (Charles Dunsire). But that didn’t stop fair officials from awarding Hansen with the, presumably coveted, golden ax.

A Heart of Gold

Then in 1977 it was discovered that for the past two years Hansen had been volunteering anonymously at Portland’s Volunteers of America senior center, serving meals to the elderly. Hansen told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that she labored there as a way of “working off a guilt complex. I feel guilty about all the things I didn’t do for my parents when they were alive.”

Those who knew Hansen were not surprised by this news — Hansen had long before entertained patients at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital while dressed in a Santa Claus costume, and she also gave inspirational talks to most any community group that tendered an invitation to speak. Also in 1977 Hansen announced that she and her husband were selling their home and moving to Seattle where she wanted to “spice up the campaign” that the Paradise International’s former head of security — City Councilman Wayne Larkin — was launching in a run for mayor (Evans).

Say Goodnight, Gracie

Long plagued with poor health — she had been diagnosed as a diabetic in the mid-1950s — Hansen (who was last based in North Hollywood) endured at least six medical operations for various circulatory problems, and had a leg amputated in 1980. Then, finally, on January 9, 1985, Hansen died in Los Angeles after a last round of surgery. It was two full decades after she’d made her initial big splash in Seattle, but that news of her passing still merited front-page coverage in The Seattle Times.

The town still had a soft spot for the hick from the sticks who defied all odds to become an outrageous glamour icon — and one who never forgot where she came from. The ever-humble Hansen once freely admitted to that newspaper that Century 21 had been a career highlight: it was the “Cinderella point in my life … . I came barreling in from Morton and my whole life changed. I’ve been enjoying it ever since” (The Seattle Times, January 11, 1985) — and way back in 1966 she shared this inspirational thought with Seattle magazine: “I was fat and 40 and I came out of the hills and I made it. My message is this: if I could, who the hell can’t?”

 

The Seven Year Itch – Required Viewing

It’s still summer, it’s still warm outside and even a bit warm at night.  This film always reminds me of hot summer nights in New York.  I love she just brings a fan with her, so sensible.

seven-year-itch9

The Wiki:

The Seven Year Itch is a romantic comedy 1955 American film based on a three-act play with the same name by George Axelrod. The film was co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, and starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role. It contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown by a passing train. The titular phrase, which refers to declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage, has been used by psychologists.

Happy Birthday Coco Chanel

Today is the 131st birthday of Coco Chanel.  I admire a person that creates their life how they wish it to be.  Determination, focus, drive, and perseverance.

NAME: Coco Chanel
BIRTH DATE: August 19, 1883
DEATH DATE: January 10, 1971
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saumur, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: With her trademark suits and little black dresses, fashion designer Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today.

Famed fashion designer Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France. With her trademark suits and little black dresses, Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today. She herself became a much revered style icon known for her simple yet sophisticated outfits paired with great accessories, such as several strands of pearls. As Chanel once said,“luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”

Her early years, however, were anything but glamorous. After her mother’s death, Chanel was put in an orphanage by her father who worked as a peddler. She was raised by nuns who taught her how to sew—a skill that would lead to her life’s work. Her nickname came from another occupation entirely. During her brief career as a singer, Chanel performed in clubs in Vichy and Moulins where she was called “Coco.” Some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing, and Chanel herself said that it was a “shortened version of cocotte, the French word for ‘kept woman,” according to an article in The Atlantic.

Around the age of 20, Chanel became involved with Etienne Balsan who offered to help her start a millinery business in Paris. She soon left him for one of his even wealthier friends, Arthur “Boy” Capel. Both men were instrumental in Chanel’s first fashion venture.

Opening her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910, Chanel started out selling hats. She later added stores in Deauville and Biarritz and began making clothes. Her first taste of clothing success came from a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. In response to the many people who asked about where she got the dress, she offered to make one for them. “My fortune is built on that old jersey that I’d put on because it was cold in Deauville,” she once told author Paul Morand.

In the 1920s, Chanel took her thriving business to new heights. She launched her first perfume, Chanel No. 5, which was the first to feature a designer’s name. Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.

In 1925, she introduced the now legendary Chanel suit with collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Her designs were revolutionary for the time—borrowing elements of men’s wear and emphasizing comfort over the constraints of then-popular fashions. She helped women say good-bye to the days of corsets and other confining garments.

Another 1920s revolutionary design was Chanel’s little black dress. She took a color once associated with mourning and showed just how chic it could be for eveningwear. In addition to fashion, Chanel was a popular figure in the Paris literary and artistic worlds. She designed costumes for the Ballets Russes and for Jean Cocteau’s play Orphée, and counted Cocteau and artist Pablo Picasso among her friends. For a time, Chanel had a relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky.

Another important romance for Chanel began in the 1920s. She met the wealthy duke of Westminster aboard his yacht around 1923, and the two started a decades-long relationship. In response to his marriage proposal, she reportedly said “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster—but there is only one Chanel!”

The international economic depression of the 1930s had a negative impact on her company, but it was the outbreak of World War II that led Chanel to close her business. She fired her workers and shut down her shops. During the German occupation of France, Chanel got involved with a German military officer, Hans Gunther von Dincklage. She got special permission to stay in her apartment at the Hotel Ritz. After the war ended, Chanel was interrogated by her relationship with von Dincklage, but she was not charged as a collaborator. Some have wondered whether friend Winston Churchill worked behind the scenes on Chanel’s behalf.

While not officially charged, Chanel suffered in the court of public opinion. Some still viewed her relationship with a Nazi officer as a betrayal of her country. Chanel left Paris, spending some years in Switzerland in a sort of exile. She also lived at her country house in Roquebrune for a time.

At the age of 70, Chanel made a triumphant return to the fashion world. She first received scathing reviews from critics, but her feminine and easy-fitting designs soon won over shoppers around the world.

In 1969, Chanel’s fascinating life story became the basis for the Broadway musical Coco starring Katharine Hepburn as the legendary designer. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the book and lyrics for the show’s song while Andre Prévin composed the music. Cecil Beaton handled the set and costume design for the production. The show received seven Tony Award nominations, and Beaton won for Best Costume Design and René Auberjonois for Best Featured Actor.

Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz. She never married, having once said “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” Hundreds crowded together at the Church of the Madeleine to bid farewell to the fashion icon. In tribute, many of the mourners wore Chanel suits.

A little more than a decade after her death, designer Karl Lagerfeld took the reins at her company to continue the Chanel legacy. Today her namesake company continues to thrive and is believed to generate hundreds of millions in sales each year.

In addition to the longevity of her designs, Chanel’s life story continues to captivate people’s attention. There have been several biographies of the fashion revolutionary, including Chanel and Her World (2005) written by her friend Edmonde Charles-Roux.

In the recent television biopic, Coco Chanel (2008), Shirley MacLaine starred as the famous designer around the time of her 1954 career resurrection. The actress told WWD that she had long been interested in playing Chanel. “What’s wonderful about her is she’s not a straightforward, easy woman to understand.”

Happy Birthday Maureen O’Hara

Today is the 94th birthday of the living Hollywood legend Maureen O’Hara.  Treat yourself to one of her films, you deserve it.

NAME: Maureen O’Hara
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Singer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: August 17, 1920 (age 94)
EDUCATION: Abbey Theatre School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ranelagh, Ireland

BEST KNOWN FOR: Maureen O’Hara was an Irish-born actress who was billed alongside Hollywood’s leading men in a slew of swashbuckling features in the 1940s.

Maureen FitzSimons was a pretty redheaded tomboy who learned judo, fenced, played soccer, and showed a keen interest in performing. She was accepted for drama classes at the prestigious Abbey Theater School when she was only 14, and sang and acted on Irish radio through her teens. Her parents knew, though, that performers rarely earned a decent living, so they made sure she spent most of her time studying bookkeeping and stenography.

At 17, she landed a tiny role in her first film, The Playboy, filmed in London. Strikingly beautiful and a natural in front of the cameras, she was almost immediately offered her first leading role, oppositeCharles Laughton in Hitchcock‘s Jamaica Inn. Laughton suggested her stage name, and she became Maureen O’Hara. He also invited her to accompany him Hollywood and play Esmerelda to his Quasimoto in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Already an established star at 19, O’Hara was one of Hollywood’s favorite leading ladies through the next two decades. She stood apart from other starlets by virtue of her eagerness to perform unladylike scenes — fistfights, swordplay, even pratfalls, but always with attitude and intelligence. As color films came into vogue, her distinctive, fiery red hair made her stand out even more — she was nicknamed “The Queen of Technicolor.” And of course, O’Hara proved the perfect leading lady for John Wayne, a woman who came across every bit as tough as he did, in their five films together.

In some of her best films, she played the coal miner’s daughter in love with preacher Walter Pidgeon inHow Green Was My Valley, the schoolmarm loved by Laughton in This Land is Mine, Natalie Wood‘s mother in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, the housewife who hired famed butler-philosopher Mr Belvedere in Sitting Pretty with Robert Young, the Southern belle at odds with Wayne in Rio Grande, the Irish spinster he pursued in The Quiet Man, his estranged wife in McLintock, andHayley Mills‘ mother in the original The Parent Trap with Brian Keith. She also starred in a 1960 TV remake of the critically-acclaimed Mrs Miniver that some critics claimed was better than the Greer Garson original.

In 1957, O’Hara joined with Liberace to sue Confidential magazine — the National Enquirer of its time. The magazine had announced in shrieking headlines that she had been seen in a passionate embrace with a mysterious Hispanic man in the back row at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, but O’Hara offered her passport as proof she had been out of the country at the time of any alleged tryst. And why was Liberace involved? In a separate article, the magazine had alleged that Liberace was — brace yourself — homosexual, but the famed pianist somehow proved he too had been defamed, andConfidential was eventually driven out of business.

O’Hara left Hollywood in the mid-1970s, but returned to cinema as John Candy‘s ferociously overbearing mother in Only the Lonely, and also starred in a few TV movies through the 1990s. Her last performance was opposite Eric Stoltz, playing his high school Latin teacher in a terrific 2000 TV movie, The Last Dance. Now retired but still active, O’Hara frequently travels between her homes in Ireland, New York, California, and the Virgin Islands. Her autobiography, Tis Herself, was published in 2004.

Her father, Charles FitzSimons, was an Irish shopkeeper and something of a local celebrity, as part-owner of the Shamrock Rovers soccer team, which now plays in the Football League of Ireland. Her brother, Charles FitzSimons, was a TV producer whose credits include superhero sagas The Green Hornet with Bruce Lee and the 1970s Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter. Another brother, James, had a long but unremarkable career as a supporting actor; sometimes billed as James Lilburn and sometimes as James O’Hara; he played a priest in The Quiet Man and had a recurring role as a cop on TV’s Batman with Adam West.

At 19, O’Hara married George H. Brown, a film producer and occasional scriptwriter whose best works include the pre-Pearl Harbor call to war 49th Parallel with Laurence Olivier, and the first ofMargaret Rutherford‘s delightful 1960s ‘Miss Marple’ mysteries, Murder She Said. Their marriage ended when O’Hara’s parents insisted on an annulment, and although they had been married for more than a year, publicity at the time stressed that their union “had not been consummated.” O’Hara’s second husband was director Will Price, who helmed her romp with the Marines in Tripoli, but they divorced after he took to the bottle. Her last husband was Charles Blair, a man sometimes described as a real-life John Wayne — a retired Air Force Brigadier General, test pilot, and pilot for Pan American Airways who had, in 1951, flown the first solo flight over the North Pole. After quitting Pan Am, Blair ran Antilles Airboats, a commuter airline in the Caribbean. After his death she took over the company, which made Maureen O’Hara the first woman to serve as president of an American airline.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Last Dance (29-Oct-2000)
Cab to Canada (29-Nov-1998)
The Christmas Box (17-Dec-1995)
Only the Lonely (24-May-1991) · Rose
The Red Pony (18-Mar-1973)
Big Jake (26-May-1971) · Martha McCandles
How Do I Love Thee? (Oct-1970)
The Rare Breed (2-Feb-1966) · Martha Price
The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (26-May-1965)
Spencer’s Mountain (16-May-1963)
McLintock! (23-Feb-1963) · Katherine McLintock
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (15-Jun-1962) · Peggy
The Parent Trap (12-Jun-1961)
The Deadly Companions (6-Jun-1961) · Kit Tilden
Our Man in Havana (27-Jan-1960) · Beatrice
The Wings of Eagles (22-Feb-1957)
Everything But the Truth (1-Dec-1956)
Lisbon (17-Aug-1956) · Sylvia Merrill
Lady Godiva (2-Nov-1955)
The Magnificent Matador (24-May-1955)
The Long Gray Line (9-Feb-1955) · Mary O’Donnell
Fire Over Africa (29-Jun-1954)
The Redhead from Wyoming (2-Jan-1953) · Kate Maxwell
War Arrow (1953) · Elaine Corwin
Against All Flags (24-Dec-1952)
The Quiet Man (21-Jul-1952)
Kangaroo: The Australian Story (16-May-1952)
At Sword’s Point (1952)
Flame of Araby (19-Dec-1951)
Rio Grande (15-Nov-1950)
Tripoli (9-Nov-1950)
Comanche Territory (7-Apr-1950) · Katie Howard
Bagdad (23-Nov-1949)
Father Was a Fullback (30-Sep-1949)
The Forbidden Street (31-Mar-1949)
A Woman’s Secret (5-Mar-1949) · Marian Washburn
Sitting Pretty (10-Mar-1948) · Tacey
The Foxes of Harrow (24-Sep-1947)
Miracle on 34th Street (2-May-1947) · Doris Walker
The Homestretch (23-Apr-1947) · Leslie Hale
Sinbad the Sailor (17-Jan-1947) · Shireen
Do You Love Me? (17-May-1946)
Sentimental Journey (6-Mar-1946)
The Spanish Main (10-Sep-1945) · Francesca
Buffalo Bill (13-Apr-1944) · Louisa Cody
The Fallen Sparrow (19-Aug-1943) · Toni Donne
This Land Is Mine (17-Mar-1943) · Louise Martin
Immortal Sergeant (11-Jan-1943) · Valentine Lee
The Black Swan (23-Dec-1942) · Lady Margaret Denby
Ten Gentlemen from West Point (4-Jun-1942)
To the Shores of Tripoli (11-Mar-1942)
How Green Was My Valley (28-Oct-1941) · Angharad
They Met in Argentina (25-Apr-1941) · Lolita
Dance, Girl, Dance (30-Aug-1940)
A Bill of Divorcement (13-May-1940) · Sydney Fairfield
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1-Sep-1939) · Esmeralda
Jamaica Inn (15-May-1939)

 

Rear View Mirror – My Week In Review

This week, I created a new blog for Rick’s art. He still had the Tumblr blog, but I upgraded him to his very own URL: RicardoDuque.com. You should follow/like/subscribe/reblog/repost and all the other things people do with such things. It will be where I post his newest works as well as information about his upcoming shows. For example, this is the newest piece:

photo
Today (or even this week), I am trying to remember the point of Twitter. I mean, maybe if I had something to sell and I could somehow con people to opt-in direct marketing, sure. But I don’t have anything to sell. I just tweet out what is happening over on various internet places I post. It all just seems like a numbers game and today (or even this week) I am bored of it. That is probably why I have the tweets set to auto-destruct after 31 days.

It may be age, it may be cynicism, but news rarely shocks me anymore and it surely does not ‘outrage’ me as it apparently does to so many people that are frequent Facebook posters. Barely anything. Celebrity commits suicide? I’m surprised more don’t. Regular civilians commit suicide every day. I drive by Kurt Cobain’s house twice a day and see the people visiting his bench, I see the flowers and candles being left even twenty years later. Suicide is always on my radar, I guess. Cop killing an unarmed black kid, community riots, story develops, details become very very murky? Understandable. People jump to the conclusion that they want to be true before learning all the details. I do believe that the militarization of our police force is very dangerous and is distorting the trust that law enforcement officers should be building, but I live in Seattle. The police beat up minorities and empty their guns into drunk Native Americans on the regular. Mentally unstable guy goes on shooting spree? Sounds about right. We don’t do anything to help them and we don’t regulate our firearms, eventually the two will meet with an unfavorable result.

I guess I am just so bored of people posting Robin Williams quotes.

Still, I may dump twitter. I also need to find a way to purge all the older Instagram photos. For some reason, I am feeling the need to minimize my web footprint.

This week on Waldina, I celebrated the birthdays of Mae West, Edna Ferber, Julia Child, Alice Ghostley, Alfred Hitchcock, Norma Shearer and the death of Jean-Michel Basquait. I don’t normally chronicle deaths, but Jean-Michel Basquait is in a different category.

The Stats:

Views This Week: 968
Total Views: 121,742
Total Subscribers: 332

I did junk on tumblr, instagram, twitter and even facebook this week. meh.

come find me.  i’m @:

I chronicle what inspires me at Waldina.com
I faceplace at facebook.com/parkeranderson
I store my selfies at instagram.com/therealspa#
I tumblr at waspandpear.tumblr.com/
I tweet at twitter.com/TheRealSPA

Happy Birthday Mae West

Tomorrow is the 121st birthday of Mae West.

NAME: Mae West
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: August 17, 1893
DEATH DATE: November 22, 1980
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Mae West started in Vaudeville and on the stage in New York, and later moved to Hollywood to star in films known for their blunt sexuality and steamy settings.

Mae West was an American screen legend and erotic icon famous for her voluptuous figure, sexy innuendos, and irrepressible wit. A free thinking and independent woman far ahead of her time, West expressed herself boldly, both sexually and creatively. She famously surrounded herself with handsome muscle men, both onscreen and off, and accrued a long list of famous and powerful lovers. Notably, West was one of the first female American playwrights, and actresses, to demand and receive creative control over her work. West’s creative expression encompassed nearly every facet of the entertainment spectrum including theatre and screenwriting, film, radio, television, and audio recording. And with a career spanning some 80+ years, she holds the further distinction of having performed both vaudeville and rock and roll. As a cultural icon she is immortalized by imitators, biographers, and even an assortment of snacks and devices bearing her name. Her trademark phrases have been translated into numerous languages, including Mandarin, Mongolian, Norwegian, and Lithuanian.

She was born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, the bare knuckles prizefighter Battlin’ Jack West, was a native New Yorker from the lower east side. A heavy smoker and drinker, he turned to violence when thwarted. Her mother, “Tillie”, was a former corset and fashion model, and frustrated actress, who had immigrated to America from Germany with her parents. Although Mae West always claimed that Tillie was Jewish, records show that the family listed their religion as Lutheran upon arrival in America. West’s paternal grandmother had also immigrated as a child — an Irish Catholic, she married Mae’s paternal grandfather, John Edwin, while only 12 years old. Edwin’s own ancestry remains enigmatic. But according to West biographer Jill Watts, he may have been a light-skinned African American who passed for white.

Arising from this milieu of adversity, Mae learned early on that her unusual talent and good looks were an advantage that just might leverage her into a better life — if she played it smart. Encouraged by her mother, she used her sexuality to build alliances with, or dominate, nearly every man who crossed her path. And she learned to view marriage as a double edged institution – one that offered legal protection and social acceptance, but which robbed women of their independence and sexual freedom. According to most sources she took refuge in marriage just once, with fellow actor and lover Frank Wallace. When she tired of Wallace, and discovered she was not pregnant as feared, she ended the relationship. She neglected to file for divorce however, and Wallace showed up years later, in 1937, with marriage certificate in hand to receive a share of West’s ample earnings. She may have been simultaneously married to musician Guido Deiro, divorcing him in 1920. West allegedly used the alias Catherine Mae Belle West when marrying Deiro to avoid bigamy charges.

While West’s attitudes toward men were heavily influenced by her mother so was her choice of career. Tillie West had once longed to follow in the footsteps of idol Lillian Russell, even having her portrait painted in such way as to highlight a certain resemblance. She started Mae off in show business as early as age 5, according to some reports, and by age 7 Mae had won the gold medal in a talent show, with Tillie billing her as “Baby Mae.” By age 12 she was appearing on the vaudeville circuit and was soon performing as the sexy “Baby Vamp.” At 18 she introduced vaudeville to the “shimmy”, a sexy full body undulation that she had first observed in the blues bars of Chicago.

In the 1920s she had moved on to playwriting. A shameless self promoter, she is said to have single billed herself on works that were in fact jointly authored. Nonetheless both on the stage and later in film she showed tremendous wit and intelligence for writing dialogue, especially for those parts she played herself. But while West is chiefly remembered for her clever dialogue and powerhouse sensuality, much of her work dealt also with spiritual matters and West was herself a deeply and eclectically spiritual person for most of her life. Not surprisingly, her tendency toward frankness and maverick free thinking, on all subjects, often put her at odds with moralists and hard line religious leaders.

Her first major run in with censorship laws came in 1926 when she was jailed for the play Sex, which she both wrote and starred in. West was sentenced to 10 days in jail on obscenity charges. However she allegedly received star treatment in prison, dining each night with the warden and getting two days off for good behavior. Despite this fact she was sympathetic to those less fortunate, and upon her release she penned an article about the women she had met behind bars. Putting her money where her mouth was, she also made a donation on their behalf to fund a prison library.

In 1927 West was back in trouble again. Her new play Drag, about a homosexual party, was a big hit in New Jersey. But it was banned from Broadway and was soon bogged down in extensive legal battles. She bounced back the following year with her naughty, but more acceptable Diamond Lil. Not only was it a big hit on Broadway, but it more significantly catapulted her toward Hollywood stardom. West debuted on film in 1932 with what was supposed to be a small part in Night After Night, starringGeorge Raft. However West insisted on rewriting all her lines, and the result was pure gold — for West and for the film. Building on this success West was able to translate her Broadway play Diamond Lilto the big screen as She Done Him Wrong in 1933. Audiences went wild, and the film was a huge success, garnering an Academy Award nomination and catapulting male lead Cary Grant, to stardom. The picture saved its studio, Paramount Pictures, from bankruptcy.

West’s next film, I’m No Angel, was also a big hit with moviegoers. But her empowered sexuality and ribald wit, that so entranced movie goers, incensed religious leaders and moralists. The Catholic Church in particular launched a campaign to put an end to the “filth” churned out by West, and to an extent, by the studios in general. By July of 1934 Hollywood was being squeezed toward more exact compliance with the strict Motion Picture Production Code. Since West was not one to give in easily and she managed for a while to pull a clever bait and switch with the censors. She laded scripts with obvious material for them to cut, while slipping in more subtle elements they would overlook. Most famous of these were her sly double entendres, lines she rolled out with such droll understatement that fans were never quite sure what was a straight line and what was intentional innuendo.

But censors could not be duped indefinitely, not with more clever moralists writing them outraged letters. And so West found her work in Hollywood more and more constrained. She churned out several more films, including My Little Chickadee, in which she starred alongside nemesis W. C. Fields (1940). But 1943’s The Heat’s On proved to be her last offering, until her film rebirth in the 1970s.

For the next few decades she returned her attention to writing and performing for the more liberal environment of the stage. One of West’s favorite roles was her 1944 Broadway production ofCatherine Was Great. West’s version of the famed Russian empress was a woman after her own heart — a powerful, lusty, independent woman who surrounded herself with tall muscle men. According to West, an ardent spiritualist, this likeness was appropriate as she herself was the reincarnation ofCatherine the Great.

Like the historic Catherine, West’s identity as a sexual titan who seemed untarnished by age. West still demanded daily sex well into her 60s and held onto a girlish figure through an assortment of eccentric practices. According to West, she avoided sunlight to preserve her skin, massaged her breasts for two hours a day with cold cream to keep them firm, had her men massage warm baby oil into her skin to keep it soft, and began each day with an enema to rid her body of toxins and keep her skin silky smooth.

Determined never to be a “has been” (she hotly turned down Billy Wilder‘s invitation to play Norma Desmond in Sunset Strip) West frequently managed to reinvent and reintroduce herself to the American public. She had her own Las Vegas show in the 1950s. And in the 1960s, she appeared on the album sleeve for The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, she popped up on a number of popular television programs (including The Red Skelton Show and Mr. Ed), and she even cut two rock and roll albums. In 1970 she at last returned to the big screen with Gore Vidal‘s Myra Breckinridge.

But although the time seemed ripe for West’s bawdy humor to make a come back, with society and censors more open to sexuality, age was catching up with her. Now in her mid 80s, she was struggling with diabetes and other ailments. During the 1978 filming of Sextette, her last film, she often needed to rest during scenes. And she forgot her lines so often that it was necessary to fit her with an earpiece so she could be prompted with her lines. But the indomitable Mae insisted on playing a woman in her late 20s, and she behaved as if she were still the knockout sex goddess that every man wanted to make love too. Despite such handicaps and eccentricities her co-stars would remember West as a grand lady. And when the film finally premiered her cult of longtime fans still found her adorable and embracedSextette, viewing the flaws of the film as delightful self-parody. But the public in general was not so impressed and despite added talent from the likes of Timothy Dalton, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton,Tony Curtis, Walter Pidgeon and George Raft, the film fell flat at the box office.

Two years later West’s decline culminated in a series of strokes, and she died on November 22, 1980 from stroke related complications. Two days later her former lover and longtime friend, George Raft, who had co-starred with West in both her first film and her last, died as well, of leukemia. Like Raft, West is memorialized by a Motion Pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like only a handful of other stars her trademark gestures and phrases (such as “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie”, “When I’m bad I’m even better”, and “Come up and see me sometime”) have entered into the pop culture lexicon.

Mae West’s films continue to be released on video and DVD and some of her plays remain in current publication. She continues to be immortalized as well by assorted drag queens and festivals who celebrate her talent and persona. More than 20 years after her death biographies of West continue to abound, including Mae West: An Icon in Black and White by Jill Watts (2003), Becoming Mae Westby Emily Worth Leider (2000), and Mae West: Empress of Sex, by Maurice Leonard (1992). West’s autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, first appeared in 1959 and has been republished a number of times.

 

Happy Birthday Edna Ferber

Today is the 129th birthday of Edna Ferber.  If you see one film of hers, see “Giant.”  Everyone is beautiful and the film is perfection.

NAME: Edna Ferber
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: August 15, 1885
DEATH DATE: April 16, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kalamazoo, Michigan
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edna Ferber wrote books and plays that became movies like Show Boat, Giant, and Stage Door.

American novelist and short-story writer who wrote with compassion and curiosity about Midwestern American life.
Ferber grew up mostly in her native Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in Appleton, Wisconsin (in between her family moved to several Midwestern towns). Her father, born in Hungary, was a merchant. She began her career at age 17 as a reporter in Appleton, later working for the Milwaukee Journal. Her early stories introduced a traveling petticoat saleswoman named Emma McChesney, whose adventures are collected in several books, including Emma McChesney & Co. (1915). Emma was the first of Ferber’s strong, enterprising women characters. Ferber’s characters are firmly tied to the land, and they experience conflicts between their traditions and new, more dynamic trends. Although her books are somewhat superficial in their careful attention to exterior detail at the expense of profound ideas, they do offer an accurate, lively portrait of middle-class Midwestern experience in 1920s and ’30s America.

So Big (1924)—about a woman truck gardener who provides for her son by her enterprise in managing the unsuccessful farm her husband left her—won a Pulitzer Prize. Show Boat (1926), the tale of a showboat trouper who is deserted by her husband and in the interests of survival becomes a successful singer, was made into a popular musical play by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Critics hailed Ferber as the greatest woman novelist of the period. Her novels Cimarron (1930), Saratoga Trunk (1941), Giant (1952), and Ice Palace (1958) were all made into motion pictures. Her autobiographies, A Peculiar Treasure (1939), which focuses in part on Ferber’s pride in her Jewish heritage, and A Kind of Magic (1963), evince her genuine and encompassing love for America.

She was associated with the Algonquin Round Table of literary wits, and she collaborated with George S. Kaufman on a number of plays, including Dinner at Eight (1932) and Stage Door (1936).

Happy Birthday Julia Child

Today is the 102nd birthday of Julia Child.

NAME: Julia Child
OCCUPATION: Chef, Television Personality, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: August 15, 1912
DEATH DATE: August 13, 2004
EDUCATION: Katherine Branson School for Girls, Smith College, Cordon Bleu
PLACE OF BIRTH: Pasadena, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Montecito, California
MAIDEN NAME: Julia Carolyn McWilliams

BEST KNOWN FOR: TV chef and author Julia Child adapted complex French cooking for everyday Americans, with her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Popular TV chef and author. Julia Child was born Julia McWilliams, on August 15, 1912, in Pasadena, California. The eldest of three children, Julia was known by several pet names as a little girl, including “Juke”, “Juju” and “Jukies.” Her father John McWilliams, Jr., was a Princeton graduate and early investor in California real estate. His wife, Julia Carolyn Weston, was a paper-company heiress whose father served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

The family accumulated significant wealth and, as a result, Child lived a privileged childhood. She was educated at San Francisco’s elite Katherine Branson School for Girls, where—at a towering height of 6 feet, 2 inches—she was the tallest student in her class. She was a lively prankster who, as one friend recalled, could be “really, really wild.” She was also adventurous and athletic, with particular talent in golf, tennis and small-game hunting.

In 1930, she enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, with the intention of becoming a writer. “There were some famous women novelists in those days,” she said, “and I intended to be one.” Although she enjoyed writing short plays and regularly submitted unsolicited manuscripts to the New Yorker, none of her writing was published. Upon graduation she moved to New York, where she worked in the advertising department of the prestigious home furnishings company W&J Sloane. After transferring to the store’s Los Angeles branch, however, Child was fired for “gross insubordination.”

In 1941, at the onset of World War II, Julia moved to Washington, D.C., where she volunteered as a research assistant for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a newly formed government intelligence agency. In her position, Julia played a key role in the communication of top-secret documents between U.S. government officials and their intelligence officers. She and her colleagues were sent on assignments around the world, holding posts in Washington, D.C., Kumming, China; and Colombo, Sri Lanka. In 1945, while in Sri Lanka, Child began a relationship with fellow OSS employee Paul Child. In September of 1946, following the end of World War II, Julia and Paul returned to America and were married.

In 1948, when Paul was reassigned to the U.S. Information Service at the American Embassy in Paris, the Childs moved to France. While there, Julia developed a penchant for French cuisine and attended the world-famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Following her six-month training—which included private lessons with master chef Max Bugnard—Julia banded with fellow Cordon Bleu students Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to form the cooking school L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three Gourmands).

With a goal of adapting sophisticated French cuisine for mainstream Americans, the trio collaborated on a two-volume cookbook. The women earned a $750 advance for the work, which they received in three payments. The original publisher rejected the manuscript, however, due to its 734-page length. Another publisher eventually accepted the 3-lb. cookbook, releasing it in September 1961 under the title Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book was considered groundbreaking, and remained the bestselling cookbook for five straight years after its publication. It has since become a standard guide for the culinary community.

Julia promoted her book on the Boston public television station near her Cambridge, Massachusetts, home. Displaying her trademark forthright manner and hearty humor, she prepared an omelet on air. The public’s response was enthusiastic, generating 27 letters and countless phone calls—”a remarkable response,” a station executive remembered, “given that station management occasionally wondered if 27 viewers were tuned in.” She was then invited back to tape her own series on cooking for the network, initially earning $50 a show (it was later raised to $200, plus expenses).

Premiering on WGBH in 1962, The French Chef TV series, like Mastering the Art of French Cooking, succeeded in changing the way Americans related to food, while also establishing Julia as a local celebrity. Shortly thereafter, The French Chef was syndicated to 96 stations throughout America. For her efforts, Julia received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 1964 followed by an Emmy Award in 1966. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Julia made regular appearances on the ABC morning show Good Morning, America.

Child’s other endeavors included the television programs Julia Child and Company (1978), Julia Child and More Company (1980), and Dinner at Julia’s (1983), as well as a slew of bestselling cookbooks that covered every aspect of culinary knowledge. Her most recent cookbooks included In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs (1995), Baking with Julia (1996), Julia’s Delicious Little Dinners (1998), and Julia’s Casual Dinners (1999), which were all accompanied by highly rated television specials.

Not everyone was a fan, however. She was frequently criticized by letter-writing viewers for her failure to wash her hands, as well as what they believed was her poor kitchen demeanor. “You are quite a revolting chef, the way you snap bones and play with raw meats,” one letter read. “I can’t stand those over-sanitary people,” Child said in response. Others were concerned about the high levels of fat in French cooking. Julia’s advice was to eat in moderation. “I would rather eat one tablespoon of chocolate russe cake than three bowls of Jell-O,” she said.

Despite her critics, Julia remained a go-to reference for cooking advice. In 1993, she was rewarded for her work when she became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. In November 2000, following a 40-year career that has made her name synonymous with fine food, Julia received France’s highest honor: the Legion d’Honneur. And in August 2002, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History unveiled an exhibit featuring the kitchen where she filmed three of her popular cooking shows.

Child died in August 2004 of kidney failure at her assisted-living home in Montecito, two days before her 92nd birthday. Child had no intentions of slowing down, even in her final days. “In this line of work…you keep right on till you’re through,” she said. “Retired people are boring.”After her death Child’s last book, the autobiographyMy Life in France, was published with the help of Child’s great nephew, Alex Prud’homme. The book, which centered on how Child discovered her true calling, became a best seller.

Julia’s memory continues to live on, through her various cookbooks and her syndicated cooking show. In 2009, a film directed by Nora Ephron entitled Julie & Julia hit theaters. The movie, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, chronicled several aspects of Child’s life, as well as her influence on aspiring cook Julie Powell. For her performance, Streep won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and received an Academy Award nomination.

 

Happy Birthday Alice Ghostley

Today is the 88th birthday of Alice Ghostley.  Who wouldn’t want a babysitter like Esmerelda or a friend with no social filter like Bernice Clifton?  She stole the scene, the focus, and the laughter over and over again on dozens of TV shows.


NAME: Alice Margaret Ghostley
BORN: 14-Aug-1926
BIRTHPLACE: Eve, MO
DIED: 21-Sep-2007
LOCATION of death: Studio City, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer – Colon
REMAINS: Buried, Oak Hill Cemetery, Siloam Springs, AR

BEST KNOWN FOR: Bernice Clifton on Designing Women

Alice Margaret Ghostley (August 14, 1924 – September 21, 2007) was an American actress. She was best known for her roles as housekeeper Esmeralda (1969-72) on Bewitched, as Cousin Alice (1970–71) on Mayberry R.F.D., and as Bernice Clifton (1986–93) on Designing Women, for which she received an Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1992. Ghostley was also a regular on the James Garner-Margot Kidder NBC western Nichols (1971–72) and the critically acclaimed variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour (1972-73).

A veteran of early television, Ghostley appeared as Joy, one of the ugly stepsisters in the 1957 musical television production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which starred Julie Andrews in the title role. The other stepsister was played by actress Kaye Ballard. Twelve years later, Ghostley guest starred as a harried maternity nurse on Miss Ballard’s comedy series, The Mothers-in-Law.

Ghostley portrayed recurring characters on several situation comedies, beginning with Esmeralda, a shy witch who served as a maid and babysitter to the Stephens’ household beginning in season six of Bewitched. Ghostley’s role of Esmeralda was created after the death in May 1968 of Marion Lorne, who portrayed Aunt Clara. (Coincidentally, Ghostley and Lorne shared a brief scene together in the 1967 film The Graduate, a few months prior to Lorne’s death and before Ghostley was cast in Bewitched.)

Ghostley’s “Esmeralda” appeared in 15 episodes between 1969 and 1972. Ghostley had previously guest starred once as a mortal character, “Naomi”, during Bewitched ‘s second season.

After two plus years on “Bewitched” as a semi-regular, she joined the cast of Mayberry R.F.D., playing Cousin Alice after Frances Bavier’s character, Aunt Bee, was written off the series. She appeared in 14 episodes.

Alice Ghostley

In the spring of 1972, Bewitched was canceled by ABC after eight years. In September of that year, Ghostley was hired as a semi-regular for the ABC-TV variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour. In addition to participating in songs and sketches, Andrews and Ghostley were featured in a recurring segment as roommates sharing a small apartment. The Julie Andrews Hour was canceled by ABC in the spring of 1973 having completed a full season of twenty-four episodes.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ghostley appeared in episodes of situation comedies such as Hogan’s Heroes (playing Gertrude, General Burkhalter’s Sister), Good Times, Maude, One Day at a Time, The Odd Couple and What’s Happening!!.

Between 1986 and 1993, Ghostley portrayed Bernice Clifton, the slightly off-kilter friend of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker’s mother, Perky, on Designing Women. She later played Irna Wallingsford in six episodes of Evening Shade. She also had a recurring role of Ida Mae Brindle in the sitcom Small Wonder, which ran from 1985 to 1989. Among many other guest roles, she appeared in a flashback episode as the crazed mother-in-law of Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) on The Golden Girls. She made a one-time appearance as “Great-Grandma” in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Ghostley also made a few guest appearances on the daytime drama Passions in 2000, playing the ghost of Matilda Matthews.

Happy Birthday Alfred Hitchcock

Today is the 115th birthday of Alfred Hitchcock.

My mother first introduced my sister and me to Alfred Hitchcock via the movies Psycho and Rear Window (we watched them after school quite often), she taught us to look for his cameos at the beginning of the films. I am not exactly sure what age, I feel like I have always known him and I went on to read a Hardy Boys type of mysteries called “Three Investigators” that Hitchcock wrote the introductions to and even loved the old reruns of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on TV. I have gone on to love both of those movies and have added The Trouble with Harry, Lifeboat, North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, and The Man Who Knew Too Much to my list of favorite Hitchcock films. How can you not fall in love with North by Northwest? The color of the film, the cut of the clothes, the architecture, train travel. The Trouble with Harry is so absurdly clever and Shirley MacLaine is absolute perfection.

NAME: Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock

OCCUPATION: Director, Producer, Television Personality, Screenwriter
BIRTH DATE: August 13, 1899
DEATH DATE: April 29, 1980
EDUCATION: St. Ignatius College, University of London
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, United Kingdom
PLACE OF DEATH: Bel Air, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Alfred Hitchcock was an English film director known for his work in the suspense genre. He made over 60 films, nearly all commercial and critical successes.

Television has brought back murder into the home – where it belongs.

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood. In 1956 he became an American citizen, whilst remaining a British subject.

Over a career spanning more than half a century, Hitchcock fashioned for himself a distinctive and recognisable directorial style. He pioneered the use of a camera made to move in a way that mimics a person’s gaze, forcing viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism. He framed shots to maximise anxiety, fear, or empathy, and used innovative film editing. His stories frequently feature fugitives on the run from the law alongside “icy blonde” female characters. Many of Hitchcock’s films have twist endings and thrilling plots featuring depictions of violence, murder, and crime, although many of the mysteries function as decoys or “MacGuffins” meant only to serve thematic elements in the film and the extremely complex psychological examinations of the characters. Hitchcock’s films also borrow many themes from psychoanalysis and feature strong sexual undertones. Through his cameo appearances in his own films, interviews, film trailers, and the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he became a cultural icon.

Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. Often regarded as the greatest British filmmaker, he came first in a 2007 poll of film critics in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, which said: “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else.” The magazine MovieMaker has described him as the most influential filmmaker of all-time, and he is widely regarded as one of cinema’s most significant artists.