Happy Birthday George Burns

Today is the 119th birthday of George Burns.  We all keep track or at least know a few people that we share a birthday with and am please to share one with him as well as David Lynch and Federico Fellini.  I admire George’s longevity, career-wise and life in general.  I have quite a few of his radio shows on my computer and listen to them from time to time and always stop flipping channels when I come across his TV show he did with his wife Gracie Allen.  Absolutely brilliant.  The world was a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: George Burns
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Comedian, Radio Personality, Television Personality.

BIRTH DATE: January 20, 1896
DEATH DATE: March 09, 1996
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California
ORIGINALLY: Nathan Birnbaum

BEST KNOWN FOR: George Burns was a comedian who worked in vaudeville, radio, film and television. His long-time performance partner and wife was comedienne Gracie Allen. Burns lived until age 100.

George Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City on January 20, 1896. One of 12 children in a Romanian-Jewish family, Burns made money by singing in saloons as a child. He began teaching dance while still very young, performing regularly in New York and New Jersey in his 20s.

It was during a performance in Newark that Burns met a fellow performer, Gracie Allen, who would become his lifelong partner. They developed an act together in which Burns played the straight man to Allen’s flighty, silly character. The pair was well known on the vaudeville circuit by the time they married in 1926. Their colleagues on the circuit included Al Jolson, Milton Berle and Fanny Brice. Many of these performers—including Burns and Allen—made a transition to radio and film during the 1920s and 1930s. Burns and Allen debuted on radio in 1929, landing a regular show that ran from 1932 to 1950. The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show drew 40 million listeners or more in the late 1930s. Their star power vaulted them onto the screen as well as the airwaves. The couple played themselves in a number of films, including International House (1933), Many Happy Returns (1934), A Damsel in Distress (1937) and College Swing (1938).

In 1950, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show debuted on CBS television, immediately becoming one of the top-rated shows of the decade. Burns and Allen remained popular and prominent until Allen’s retirement in 1959. She died of a heart attack in 1964. Burns had his wife buried with Episcopal rites, although she was a Catholic, so that he could eventually be buried beside her. Burns experienced heart trouble in the 1970s, undergoing major surgery in 1975.

After recovering from his heart troubles, Burns returned to the film industry. He won am Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film adaptation of Neil Simon’s play The Sunshine Boys (1975). He played God in the film Oh God! (1977) and its sequels, Oh God! Book II (1980) and Oh God! You Devil (1984)—in which he appeared as both God and the Devil.

Burns won a lifetime achievement award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1988. He wrote two best-selling autobiographical books: Gracie: A Love Story (1988) and All My Best Friends (1989), along with eight other works chronicling and reflecting on his experiences in the entertainment industry.

George Burns died in Beverly Hills, California on March 9, 1996. He was 100 years old. Burns and Allen had two children, a son and a daughter, both of whom died between 2007 and 2010.

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Happy Birthday Charles Nelson Reilly

Today is the 84th birthday of Charles Nelson Reilly.  He studied with Uta Hagen, won three Tony Awards, wore some of the largest eyeglasses I have ever seen, and made millions laugh.  The world is better off because Charles was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Charles nelson r

NAME: Charles Nelson Reilly
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Director, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: January 13, 1931
DEATH DATE: May 25, 2007
EDUCATION: Hartt School of Music
PLACE OF BIRTH: South Bronx, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Charles Nelson Reilly was a Tony-Award winning actor also known for a variety of roles on TV programs, including The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and The Match Game.

Charles Nelson Reilly was born on January 13, 1931, in the South Bronx, New York. Known to many for his numerous television guest appearances on such shows as Match Game, Hollywood Squares and The Tonight Show, Reilly was also an accomplished stage actor and director. After spending some of his early years in the Bronx, he moved with his Swedish-born mother to Hartford, Connecticut, to live with some of her relatives. Reilly showed an interest in theater early on and worked as an usher in a local theater.

Around the age of 18, Reilly moved to New York City to study with Uta Hagen and her husband Herbert Berghof at their acting school, HB Studio. He landed his first Broadway stage role in the original production of the musical Bye, Bye Birdie (1960) with Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera and Paul Lynde. Taking on a more substantial part, Reilly appeared in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 1961, earning a Tony Award for his performance as Bud Frump, the lackadaisical nephew of the company president and the nemesis of the lead character, J. Pierrepont Finch.

Continuing his success on the Broadway stage, Reilly received another Tony Award nomination for his work on the musical Hello, Dolly! in 1964. By the end of the 1960s, however, he made the move to California to co-star in the supernatural comedy television series The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare. Reilly later appeared as a regular on Dean Martin Presents in 1970. The following season he appeared on the short-lived sitcom Arnie.

In 1973, Reilly began making appearances on such games shows as Match Game ’73 (which later became Match Game PM and then The Match Game) as well as lending his distinct, nasal-sounding voice to the animated adaptation of the E. B. White novel, Charlotte’s Web. Reilly found time for stage work, directing Julie Harris in the one-woman show about Emily Dickinson, The Belle of Amherst in 1976. Again working with Harris, he directed the 1979 comedy Break a Leg. But his talents as a director and serious actor were often lost in the shadow of his wacky, witty television persona. While his serious theatrical career may have suffered, Reilly remained a popular guest on game shows and talk shows, making more than 90 appearances on The Tonight Show alone.

Along with his television work, Reilly had roles in a few films as well as voiced some characters for animated films.

He appeared with friend Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run II (1984) and voiced the dog Killer in All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). A well-regarded acting teacher for years, he also returned to stage work. He starred in the 1980 play Charlotte and directed the original comedy The Nerd, starring Mark Hamill.

In the later part of his career, Reilly continued to work on television and the stage. He made numerous guest appearances on such programs as The X Files and The Drew Carey Show and lent his voice to several animated series, including Hercules and SpongeBob SquarePants. In 1997, he received his third Tony Award nomination for his direction of a revival of The Gin Game starring Julie Harris and Charles Durning. Reilly himself became the subject of one of his final productions – Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly. He began performing his autobiographical one-man show in 2000.

Charles Nelson Reilly died of complications from pneumonia on May 25, 2007, in Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his partner, Patrick Hughes. Around the time of his death, friend and director of Reilly’s one-man play, Paul Linke, told the Los Angeles Times, “The world is a slightly less funny place now. He made people laugh along the way, and that’s a legacy that lives on long after the game shows.”

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Happy Birthday Sal Mineo

Today is the 76th birthday of the 50’s actor Sal Mineo.  He is probably best known for his role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.  I first learned of him was from a rerun of Mysteries and Scandals.  His story is one of those Hollywood heart-breakers that you hear about:  plucked from obscurity, fame, untimely death.  The world is a better place that Sal was in it and still feels the loss that he left it.

NAME: Sal Mineo
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: January 10, 1939
DEATH DATE: February 12, 1976
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: West Hollywood, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Sal Mineo was an American was best known for playing a key role in the classic teen film Rebel Without a Cause alongside James Dean.

Actor Sal Mineo was born Salvatore Mineo, Jr., on January 10, 1939, in the Bronx, New York. As a wayward youth, Mineo found his way to acting only as a means of avoiding juvenile confinement. He made his debut on Broadway in 1951 in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo followed by a substantial role in The King and I.

Mineo appeared in a few films before landing the most memorable role of his career, that of Plato in the classic Rebel Without a Cause. Mineo received an Academy Award nomination for his performance opposite James Dean.

The nomination shot Mineo into superstardom, and he continued to work steadily through the 1950s in such films as Somebody Up There Likes Me and Exodus, the latter earning the young actor his second Oscar nod. However, by the mid 1960s, Mineo’s film career had slowed considerably, and he began to take parts on television and to direct stage plays.

On February 12, 1976, the down-and-out Mineo met an untimely death. The actor was brutally murdered in Hollywoodby a pizza delivery boy at the age of 37.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
James Dean: The First American Teenager (1975) · Himself
Escape from the Planet of the Apes (21-May-1971) · Milo
Krakatoa, East of Java (14-May-1969)
80 Steps to Jonah (1969)
Stranger on the Run (31-Oct-1967)
The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones (25-Dec-1966) · Bobby Jack Wilkes
Who Killed Teddy Bear (Oct-1965)
The Greatest Story Ever Told (15-Feb-1965) · Uriah
Cheyenne Autumn (3-Oct-1964) · Red Shirt
The Longest Day (Sep-1962) · Pvt. Martini
Escape from Zahrain (23-May-1962) · Ahmed
Exodus (27-Mar-1960) · Dov Landau
The Gene Krupa Story (Dec-1959) · Gene Krupa
A Private’s Affair (14-Aug-1959)
Tonka (25-Dec-1958)
The Young Don’t Cry (26-Jul-1957) · Leslie Henderson
Dino (21-Jul-1957)
Rock, Pretty Baby (Dec-1956)
Giant (10-Oct-1956) · Angel Obregon II
Somebody Up There Likes Me (3-Jul-1956) · Romolo
Crime in the Streets (10-Jun-1956) · Baby Gioia
Rebel Without a Cause (27-Oct-1955) · Plato
The Private War of Major Benson (2-Aug-1955)
Six Bridges to Cross (21-Jan-1955)

Happy Birthday Soupy Sales

Yesterday was the 89th birthday of Soupy Sales.

soupy salesNAME: Soupy Sales
OCCUPATION: Television Personality
BIRTH DATE: January 8, 1926
DEATH DATE: October 22, 2009
EDUCATION: Marshall University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Franklinton, North Carolina
PLACE OF DEATH: The Bronx, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Comedian and pie-throwing television personality Soupy Sales was the popular host of such shows as Lunch with Soupy Sales and the Soupy Sales Show.

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926. He worked as a radio scriptwriter while moonlighting as a comedian, and eventually became a DJ and then a television personality. The Soupy Sales Show became Los Angeles’s number one show and drew such stars as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. He later returned to radio and wrote books, including his autobiography. He died in New York City on October 22, 2009.

Comedian and television host Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926, in Franklinton, North Carolina. The youngest of three sons born to dry-goods store owners, Soupy grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and received his B.A. in journalism from Marshall University. He landed a local job as a radio scriptwriter after college, moonlighting as a comedian. The radio station eventually moved him on air and he became the top-rated DJ in the area.

The name Soupy Sales was derived from two things: “Soupy” was a childhood nickname and “Sales” was the suggestion of an Ohio television manager who knew of a comic named Chick Sale. In 1950, Soupy moved to Cincinnati to pursue a television career, starting with America’s first teen dance show, Soupy’s Soda Shop. He followed with a variety show featuring his own zany antics called Club Nothing.

After moving to Detroit in 1953, Soupy quickly became a popular television personality, especially among young audiences with such children’s shows as Lunch With Soupy Sales. The comedian spent seven years on air in Detroit, eventually producing 11 hours of TV time each week.

Soupy moved to the West Coast in 1960, and the Soupy Sales Show became Los Angeles’ number one show by the following year. Luring such guest stars as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., Soupy was beloved by viewers as much for his wild personality as his signature pie-throwing antics. He moved the show to New York in 1964, and it was syndicated throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand during the next two years.

One of Soupy’s most notorious stunts occurred in 1964, when he jokingly told his young audience to “take some of those green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Jefferson on them” from their parents’ wallets and send them to him. Several viewers did send Sales some money, but all were returned. Though he was suspended from television for a week, the stunt actually boosted his ratings.

Soupy’s talents were not confined to television, however. He recorded a number of chart-topping albums, including The Mouse and Spy with a Pie. He also gave live performances on Broadway, in dinner theaters and at comedy clubs. In the late 1960s, he became a regular on the improvisational program What’s My Line?, staying for seven years. Throughout the 1970s, Soupy lent his wacky sense of humor to numerous game and variety shows, including Jr. Almost Anything Goes, Sha Na Na and TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

TELEVISION
What’s My Line? Panelist (1968-75)
The Soupy Sales Show Host (1959-62)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Palmer’s Pick Up (9-Feb-1999)
Holy Man (9-Oct-1998) · Himself
…And God Spoke (14-Sep-1993) · Moses
Birds Do It (Aug-1966)
The Two Little Bears (1-Nov-1961)

Happy Birthday Dick Van Dyke

DICK-VAN-DYKENAME: Dick Van Dyke
OCCUPATION: Writer, Talk Show Host, Television Actor, Comedian, Television Producer
BIRTH DATE: December 13, 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH: West Plains, Missouri

BEST KNOWN FOR: Dick Van Dyke is an American actor and comedian best known for hosting The Dick Van Dyke Show. He’s also known for starring on Diagnosis Murder and for roles in films like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Night at the Museum.

By high school Dick Van Dyke knew he wanted to be on stage, but he was unsure whether he wanted to be an actor or a Presbyterian minister. After a stint in the Army Air Corps, he worked in advertising, then became a radio announcer, and within a few years he was hosting a TV talk show in New Orleans. His big break came when he was hired to replace Johnny Carson as host of CBS’s Monday-Friday The Morning Show in 1955.

The Morning Show was of course flattened in the ratings by Dave Garroway‘s Today Show. After the program was cancelled Van Dyke was still under contract to CBS, but the network was unsure what to do with him. He found himself hosting CBS Cartoon Theater for kids, then playing sidekick to singer Andy Williams in The Chevy Showroom, and he was a frequent panelist on To Tell the Truth while it was on CBS. Van Dyke’s best early reviews came for two appearances onThe Phil Silvers Show in 1957 and 1958.

When his CBS contract ended, Van Dyke hosted two quickly-cancelled game shows, Mother’s Dayand the comedy-themed Laugh Line, which featured regular panelists Mike Nichols and Elaine May. On Broadway, he appeared in the musical review The Girls Against the Boys with an ancientBert Lahr and a young Nancy Walker. The play ran only two weeks, but Van Dyke won a Theater World Award for his performance. In 1960, he won a Tony starring in the hit Bye Bye Birdie, as a rock’n’roll singer drafted into the military.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Van Dyke, comedian Carl Reiner had created, written and starred in a pilot for an autobiographical sitcom, Head of the Family. Reiner had scripted comedy for TV pioneer Sid Caesar, and in the pilot he played a comedy writer for a Caesar-like TV star. Network executives liked the script and concept, but thought Reiner was wrong for the role of, basically, himself. So the show was retooled with Van Dyke as comedy writer Rob Petrie, the young Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam as Van Dyke’s fellow comedy writers, and a small supporting role for Reiner as the Van Dyke character’s obnoxious boss. Of course, Van Dyke was perfect in the role, sometimes tripping over the ottoman and sometimes sidestepping it, as The Dick Van Dyke Show became one of America’s most enduring comedies.

His first film was an adaptation of his Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie, but with the script rewritten to shortchange his character and instead spotlight Ann-Margret. His most successful film was Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews, but his attempt at a British cockney accent was so awful, the term “Van Dyke accent” is still used to describe failed American attempts to sound British. His other films include The Comic, a drama about comedy with Mickey Rooney; Cold Turkey, a comedy about nicotine withdrawal with Edward Everett Horton; the charming children’s musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (based on Ian Fleming‘s non-Bond novel); and Warren Beatty‘s Dick Tracy, where Van Dyke played a delightfully corrupt district attorney.

He made several attempts to recapture the magic of his Dick Van Dyke Show on TV, and occasionally came close. In the early 1970s he starred in The New Dick Van Dyke Show with Hope Lange as his wife, and the program had its moments — most hilariously in an episode where Van Dyke’s character was in a quandary about attending an awards dinner at a whites-only nightclub. He hosted a short-lived variety show in 1976, Van Dyke and Company, with the expected skits and songs, but the show also featured Van Dyke’s endearing and genuinely funny pantomime segments, and provided Americans’ first prime time glimpse of Andy Kaufman, who stole every segment he was in. In the late-1980s comedy The Van Dyke Show, he played a retired Broadway star who amusingly made life miserable for his son, played by Van Dyke’s real-life son Barry Van Dyke.

Van Dyke has often said that his favorite comic was Stan Laurel, and like Laurel he had exquisite timing, an innate likability on-screen, a rubber face, and a mastery of pratfalls and slapstick. Van Dyke rarely wrote his own material while Laurel wrote more than a dozen of Laurel & Hardy‘s best films, but as a performer Van Dyke may have been Laurel’s equal. Van Dyke and Laurel once met, in the early 1960s, while The Dick Van Dyke Show was growing very popular. Shaking his hero’s hand, he told Laurel his work had inspired him, and that he had honed his comedy technique from watching Laurel’s films. According to Van Dyke, Laurel chuckled and said, “I’ve noticed that.”

It is sad, then, that younger audiences probably know Van Dyke only from his last long-running series, Diagnosis: Murder. Abandoning comedy, he played it straight as Dr Mark Sloan, a folksy doctor who solved murders in his spare time. He had first played Sloan in a 1991 episode of Jake and the Fatman, and the character was resurrected in three made-for-TV movies before the series was launched in 1993. A rather stilted clone of Angela Lansbury‘s Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis: Murder inexplicably ran for eight seasons, co-starring Van Dyke’s son Barry as Dr Sloan’s son Steve, supposedly an LAPD detective.

Van Dyke has spent his recent years in the company of Michelle Triola, who was famous for suing her former lover Lee Marvin, demanding and winning alimony — “palimony” — although they had never married. His brother is comedic actor Jerry Van Dyke, a sitcom staple who starred in the anti-classic My Mother the Car and had a supporting role on Coach with Craig T. Nelson. Van Dyke’s son, as noted above, is wooden actor Barry Van Dyke, whose best-known work withoutsharing the screen with his father was Galactica 1980, a short-lived revival of Battlestar Galacticawith Lorne Greene.

Emmy 1964 for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Emmy 1965 for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Emmy 1966 for The Dick Van Dyke Show
Emmy 1977 for Van Dyke and Company (shared)
Grammy Mary Poppins soundtrack
Hollywood Walk of Fame 1992 at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
Tony for Bye-Bye Birdie
Endorsement of Kodak 1978
unknown detox facility
Visited Disneyland Candlelight Procession (Dec-1965, Dec-2005)
Dutch Ancestry
Risk Factors: Alcoholism, Smoking

TELEVISION
Diagnosis Murder Dr. Mark Sloan (1993-2001)
The Carol Burnett Show various (1977)
The New Dick Van Dyke Show Dick Preston (1971-74)
The Dick Van Dyke Show Rob Petrie (1961-66)

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (24-Apr-2009) · Himself
Murder 101: New Age (14-Jan-2008)
Murder 101: If Wishes Were Horses (9-Aug-2007)
Murder 101: College Can Be Murder (29-Jan-2007)
Night at the Museum (21-Dec-2006)
Curious George (10-Feb-2006) [VOICE]
Murder 101 (7-Jan-2006)
The Gin Game (4-May-2003)
Dick Tracy (15-Jun-1990) · D.A. Fletcher
Drop-Out Father (27-Sep-1982)
The Runner Stumbles (16-Nov-1979)
The Morning After (13-Feb-1974)
Cold Turkey (19-Feb-1971) · Rev. Clayton Brooks
The Comic (19-Nov-1969)
Some Kind of a Nut (1-Oct-1969) · Fred
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (16-Dec-1968) · Caractacus Potts
Never a Dull Moment (26-Jun-1968)
Fitzwilly (20-Dec-1967) · Fitzwilliam
Divorce American Style (21-Jun-1967) · Richard Harmon
Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (29-Jun-1966)
The Art of Love (30-Jun-1965)
Mary Poppins (27-Aug-1964)
What a Way to Go! (12-May-1964) · Edgar Hopper
Bye Bye Birdie (4-Apr-1963) · Albert Peterson

Happy Birthday David Rakoff

Today is David Rakoff‘s 50th birthday.  He is quite possibly the wittiest writer we have seen this century.  The 2oth century had Dorothy Parker and the 21st had David Rakoff.  He has also had the great fortune of being an excellent orator of his own works, reading a David Rakoff book is a treasure, but listening to him read it brings color and light and darkness (oh the amazingly beautiful darkness) to the words in the ways he intended.  His death is an enormous loss for the world.  Please do yourself a favor and read (or listen to) something that he has written, I guarantee you will become a veracious fan.  The world is a better place because David was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

I have re-posted several of my favorite David Rakoff posts today, please give yourself a gift and read/listen to one of his books soon.  You deserve it.

David Rakoff 1

Name:  David Benjamin Rakoff
Born:  November 27, 1964
BirthplaceMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Died:  August 9, 2012 (aged 47)
Location at time of death:  Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Occupation:  Essayist, journalist, actor
Nationality:  Canadian-American

David Rakoff was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the youngest of three children. His brother, the comedian Simon Rakoff, is four years older than David and their sister Ruth Rakoff, author of the cancer memoir When My World Was Very Small, is the middle child.   Rakoff has said that he and his siblings were close as children.[4][6] Rakoff’s mother, Gina Shochat-Rakoff, is a doctor who has practised psychotherapy and his father, Vivian Rakoff, is a psychiatrist.  Rakoff has written that almost every generation of his family fled from one place to another.  Rakoff’s grandparents, who were Jewish, fled Latvia and Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century and settled in South Africa.  The Rakoff family left South Africa in 1961 for political reasons, moving to Montreal for seven years. In 1967, when he was three, Rakoff’s family moved to Toronto.  As an adult, he said that he identified as Jewish.

“I will stipulate to having both French sea salt and a big bottle of extra virgin in my kitchen. And while the presence of both might go some small distance in pigeonholing me demographically, neither one of them makes me a good person. They are mute and useless indicators of the content of my character.”
― David Rakoff, Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems

Rakoff attended high school at the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1982. In the same year he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he majored in East Asian Studies and studied dance.  Rakoff spent his third year of college at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated in 1986. Rakoff worked in Japan as a translator with a fine arts publisher. His work was interrupted after four months when, at 22, he became ill with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphatic cancer which he has referred to as “a touch of cancer”. He returned to Toronto for eighteen months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

“Being a stranger was like being dead,
and brought to mind how, in a book he had read
that most folks misunderstood one common state:
The flip side of love is indifference, not hate.”
― David Rakoff, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

From 1982, Rakoff lived in the United States (minus his four-month stay in Japan in 1986), first as a student, then as a resident alien. In the early 1990s he was issued a green card, a subject about which he wrote in one of his early newspaper articles.[8] After living in the United States for twenty-one years, Rakoff was motivated by a desire to participate in the political process and applied for U.S. citizenship. Rakoff chronicled the experience of becoming an American citizen in an essay published in Don’t Get Too Comfortable. He became a U.S. citizen in 2003, while at the same time retaining his Canadian citizenship.

Rakoff was a prolific freelance writer and a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Outside Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. His writing also appeared in Business 2.0, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Nerve, New York Magazine, Salon, Seed, Slate, Spin, The New York Observer, Vogue, Wired and other publications. He wrote on a wide and eclectic range of topics.

Rakoff published three bestselling collections of essays, which include his own illustrations. Both Fraud (Doubleday 2001) and Don’t Get Too Comfortable (Doubleday 2005) were awarded a Lambda literary award (which recognises excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives), both times in the “Humor” category. Half-Empty (2010) won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

In 2010, while writing the book Half Empty, Rakoff was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and later developed a post-radiation sarcoma behind his left collarbone and began chemotherapy.  He died in Manhattan on August 9, 2012.

 

 

Happy Birthday Claudette Colbert

Today is the 111th birthday of Claudette Colbert.

NAME: Claudette Colbert
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress
BIRTH DATE: September 13, 1903
DEATH DATE: July 30, 1996
EDUCATION: Art Students League of New York
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saint-Mandé, Val-de-Marne, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Speightstown, Barbados
ORIGINALLY: Lily Claudette Chauchoin

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Claudette Colbert was known for her trademark bangs, her velvety, purring voice, her confident, intelligent style and her subtle, graceful acting.

One of the brightest film stars to grace the screen was born Emilie Claudette Chauchoin on September 13, 1903, in Saint Mandé, France where her father owned a bakery at 57, Avenue Général de Gaulle. The family moved to the United States when she was three. As Claudette grew up, she wanted nothing more than to play to Broadway audiences (in those days, any actress or actor worth their salt went for Broadway, not Hollywood). After her formal education ended, she enrolled in the Art Students League, where she paid for her dramatic training by working in a dress shop. She made her Broadway debut in 1923 in the stage production of “The Wild Wescotts“. It was during this event that she adopted the name Claudette Colbert.

When the Great Depression shut down most of the theaters, Claudette decided to make a go of it in films. Her first film was called For the Love of Mike (1927). Unfortunately, it was a box-office disaster. She wasn’t real keen on the film industry, but with an extreme scarcity in theatrical roles, she had no choice but to remain. In 1929 she starred as Joyce Roamer in The Lady Lies (1929). The film was a success and later that year she had another hit entitled The Hole in the Wall (1929). In 1930 she starred opposite Fredric March in Manslaughter (1930), which was a remake of the silent version of eight years earlier. A year after that Claudette was again paired in a film with March, Honor Among Lovers (1931). It fared well at the box-office, probably only because it was the kind of film that catered to women who enjoyed magazine fiction romantic stories. In 1932 Claudette played the evil Poppeia in Cecil B. DeMille’s last great work, The Sign of the Cross (1932), and once again was cast with March. Later the same year she was paired with Jimmy Durante in The Phantom President (1932). By now Claudette’s name symbolized good movies and she, along with March, pulled crowds into the theaters with the acclaimed Tonight Is Ours (1933).

The next year started a little on the slow side with the release of Four Frightened People (1934), where Claudette and her co-stars were at odds with the dreaded bubonic plague on board a ship. However, the next two films were real gems for this young actress. First up, Claudette was charming and radiant in Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular Cleopatra (1934). It wasn’t one of DeMille’s finest by any means, but it was a financial success and showcased Claudette as never before. However, it was as Ellie Andrews, in the now famous It Happened One Night (1934), that ensured she would be forever immortalized. Paired with Clark Gable, the madcap comedy was a mega-hit all across the country. It also resulted in Claudette being nominated for and winning the Oscar that year for Best Actress. In 1935 she was nominated again for Private Worlds (1935), where she played Dr. Jane Everest, on the staff at a mental institution. The performance was exquisite. Films such as The Gilded Lily (1935), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) and No Time for Love (1943) kept fans coming to the theaters and the movie moguls happy. Claudette was a sure drawing card for virtually any film she was in. In 1944 she starred as Anne Hilton in Since You Went Away (1944). Again, although she didn’t win, Claudette picked up her third nomination for Best Actress.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s she was not only seen on the screen but the infant medium of television, where she appeared in a number of programs. However, her drawing power was fading somewhat as new stars replaced the older ones. In 1955 she filmed the western Texas Lady (1955) and wasn’t seen on the screen again until Parrish (1961). It was her final silver screen performance. Her final appearance before the cameras was in a TV movie, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987). She did, however, remain on the stage where she had returned in 1956, her first love. After a series of strokes, Claudette divided her time between New York and Barbados. On July 30, 1996, Claudette died in Speightstown, Barbados. She was 92.