Happy Birthday Kay Thompson

This week is the 105th birthday of Kay Thompson.  I mean, have you seen that “Swing Them Bells” scene in Funny Face?  It is everything.  Or that other other “Think Pink” scene?  She is channeling her best Diana Vreeland. The world is a better place because Kay Thompson was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Born: Catherine Louise Fink November 9, 1909 St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died: July 2, 1998 (aged 88) New York City, New York, U.S.

Catherine Louise Fink was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1909, the second of the four children of Leo George Fink, an Austrian-born pawnbroker and jeweler, and his wife, the former Hattie A. Tetrick. Her siblings were Blanche, Marian, and Leo.

Thompson began her career in the 1930s as a singer and choral director for radio. Her first big break was as a regular singer on The Bing Crosby-Woodbury Show (CBS, 1933–34). This led to a regular spot on The Fred Waring-Ford Dealers Show (NBC, 1934–35) and then, with conductor Lennie Hayton, she co-founded The Lucky Strike Hit Parade (CBS, 1935) where she met (and later married) trombonist Jack Jenney.

In 1943, Thompson signed an exclusive contract with MGM to become the studio’s top vocal arranger, vocal coach, and choral director. She served as main vocal arranger for many of producer Arthur Freed’s MGM musicals and as vocal coach to such stars as Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, and June Allyson.

Thompson, who lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, became most notable as the author of the Eloise series of children’s books, which were partly inspired by the antics of her goddaughter Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli, but when asked if this was true responded, “I am Eloise”. The four books in the series, illustrated by Hilary Knight, are Eloise (Simon & Schuster, 1955), Eloise in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 1957), Eloise at Christmastime (Random House, 1958) and Eloise in Moscow (Simon & Schuster, 1959). They follow the adventures of the precocious six-year-old girl who lives at The Plaza. All were bestsellers upon release and have been adapted into television projects. She also composed and performed a Top 40 hit song, “Eloise” (Cadence Records, 1956). A fifth book, Eloise Takes a Bawth was posthumously published by Simon & Schuster in 2002, culled from Thompson’s original manuscripts once slated for 1964 publication by Harper & Row. However, at the time, Thompson was burned out on Eloise; she blocked publication and took all but the first book out of print, drastically reducing the income of her collaborator.

She returned to live in New York in 1969. Immediately following the death of Judy Garland, Kay appeared with her goddaughter Liza Minnelli in Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (Paramount, 1970). In 1974, Thompson directed a groundbreaking fashion show at the Palace of Versailles featuring performances by Liza Minnelli and the collections of Halston, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Anne Klein.

Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead

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

divine5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead

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

divine5

Born: Harris Glenn Milstead 19 October 1945 Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland
Died: 7 March 1988 (aged 42) Los Angeles, California, United States

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Agatha Christie

Today is the 124th birthday of Agatha Christie.  At one time, I had this grand idea that I was going to read every one of her books in order of publication.  That is a lot of reading.  I didn’t get very far, but it was not her fault, I fall in and out of love with reading.  There are points in my life where reading is much easier, if I have a commute or something.  I love all the Agatha Christie movies, Miss Marple and even the Tommy and Tuppence ones, but especially Hercule Poirot (David Suchet portrayal).  The books are quick and clever and keep you guessing.

NAME: Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie
OCCUPATION: Author, Playwright
BIRTH DATE: September 15, 1890
DEATH DATE: January 12, 1976
PLACE OF BIRTH: Torquay, United Kingdom
PLACE OF DEATH: Cholsey, United Kingdom
AKA: Mary Westmacott
MAIDEN NAME: Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller

BEST KNOWN FOR: Dame Agatha Christie is the bestselling mystery author of all time. Her characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, have been repeatedly portrayed on film.

Dame Agatha Christie DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was a British crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections (especially those featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple), and her successful West End plays.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly four billion copies, and her estate claims that her works rank third, after those of William Shakespeare and the Bible, as the most widely published books. According to Index Translationum, Christie is the most translated individual author, with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her.[2] Her books have been translated into at least 103 languages.[3]
Agatha Christie published two autobiographies: a posthumous one covering childhood to old age; and another chronicling several seasons of archaeological excavation in Syria and Iraq with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan. The latter was published in 1946 with the title, Come, Tell Me How You Live.

Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25 November 1952 and as of 2011 is still running after more than 24,000 performances. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. Many of her books and short stories have been filmed, some more than once (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and 4.50 from Paddington for instance), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.

In 1968, Booker Books, a subsidiary of the agri-industrial conglomerate Booker-McConnell, bought a 51 percent stake in Agatha Christie Limited, the private company that Christie had set up for tax purposes. Booker later increased its stake to 64 percent. In 1998, Booker sold its shares to Chorion, a company whose portfolio also includes the literary estates of Enid Blyton and Dennis Wheatley.

In 2004, a 5,000-word story entitled The Incident of the Dog’s Ball was found in the attic of the author’s daughter. This story was the original version of the novel Dumb Witness. It was published in Britain in September 2009 in John Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years Of Mysteries, alongside another newly discovered Poirot story called The Capture of Cerberus (a story with the same title, but a different plot, to that published in The Labours Of Hercules). On 10 November 2009, Reuters announced that The Incident of the Dog’s Ball will be published by The Strand Magazine.

Happy Birthday Chrissie Hynde

NAME: Christine Ellen Hynde
OCCUPATION: Animal Rights Activist, Songwriter, Guitarist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: September 07, 1951
EDUCATION: Kent State University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Akron, Ohio

BEST KNOWN FOR: Chrissie Hynde came to fame as the frontwoman for the Pretenders. Hits “Brass in Pocket” and “My City Was Gone” became rock anthems in the 1970s and 80s.

Born on September 7, 1951, in Akron, Ohio. Chrissie Hynde was one of the leading women in rock in the 1980s and 1990s as the lead singer of the Pretenders. After studying art at Kent State University for a time, she took off for London, England, where she discovered the emerging new rock genre??punk.

The Pretenders got together in the late 1970s and released a self-titled album in 1980. Chrissie Hynde and bandmate James Honeyman-Scott penned the group’s first hit, “Brass in Pocket.” Subsequent releases produced the hit songs “Middle of the Road,” “Show Me,” and “Back on the Chain Gang” (from 1984′s Learning to Crawl); and “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (from 1986′s Get Close); as well as 1994′s “I’ll Stand by You.”

Chrissie Hynde divorced Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr in 1990 after six years of marriage. Together they have a daughter, Yasmin. Hynde also has a daughter, Natalie, with her former longtime partner Ray Davies of the Kinks.

Happy Birthday Molly Ivins

Today is the 70th birthday of Molly Ivins.

NAME: Molly Ivins
OCCUPATION: Comedian, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: August 30, 1944
DEATH DATE: January 31, 2007
PLACE OF BIRTH: Monterey, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Austin, Texas

BEST KNOWN FOR: Molly Ivins was an American political satirist with a widely syndicated column. She wrote several scathing books about the political career of George W. Bush.

American political satirist (born Aug. 30, 1944 , Monterey, Calif.—died Jan. 31, 2007 , Austin, Texas) wrote a newspaper column from a staunchly liberal point of view that mercilessly and humorously skewered politicians in both her home state of Texas and the federal government. Ivins began her career in 1967 as a reporter for the Minneapolis (Minn.) Tribune. In 1970 she became editor of the liberal biweekly magazine the Texas Observer, and it was there that she developed her distinctive style. Ivins worked (1976–82) for the New York Times before spending 10 years with the Dallas Times Herald. She then wrote her column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.Ivins came to national prominence with the rise to national politics of Texas politician George W. Bush, and her column was widely syndicated. She wrote six books, including, with Lou Dubose, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (2000) and Bushwhacked (2003).

In 1999, Ivins was diagnosed with stage III inflammatory breast cancer. The cancer recurred in 2003 and again in late 2005. In January 2006 she reported that she was again undergoing chemotherapy. In December 2006 she took leave from her column to again undergo treatment. She wrote two columns in January 2007, but returned to the hospital on the 26th for further treatment. Ivins died at her Austin, Texas home in hospice care on January 31, 2007, at age 62.

After her death, George W. Bush, a frequent target of her barbs, said in a statement, “I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment will be missed.

Happy Birthday Carol Doda

Today is the 77th birthday of Carol Doda.  She is the subject of a cherished family story. She plays a very important role in the story of how Susie met her soon-to-be brother-in-law Waldie. She was originally going to take him to a classical music concert, but got the days mixed up and the tickets were for a different night. Waldie being Waldie, he said he knew a place he wanted to go and off they went. It turns out the places that Waldie was talking about was the Condor Club, a topless (and for a while, bottomless) bar in North Beach, San Francisco. It was the 1960s. The music started, and Carol Doda was lowered from the ceiling.

At Waldie’s memorial service this past summer, Susie spoke and included the story of how they first met. She referenced Carol Doda by saying “She was the most well-endowed woman I had ever seen” and received laughter and cheers from the family and friends that filled the Chapel at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

NAME: Carol Ann Doda
BORN: 29-Aug-1937
GENDER: Female
ETHNICITY: White
OCCUPATION: Performance Artist
NATIONALITY: United States
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Stripper at San Francisco’s Condor Club

Carol Ann Doda (born August 29, 1937) was a topless stripper in San Francisco, California in the 1960s through 1980s, one of the first of the era.

In 1964 Doda made international news, first by dancing topless at the city’s Condor Club, then by enhancing her bust from size 34 to 44 through silicone injections. Her breasts became known as Doda’s “twin 44s” and “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco.”

Carol Doda attended the San Francisco Art Institute and worked as waitress and lounge entertainer at the Condor Club, at the corner of Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach section of San Francisco. Doda’s act began with a grand piano being lowered from the ceiling by hydraulic motors; Doda would be atop the piano dancing, as it descended from a hole in the ceiling. She go-go danced the ‘Swim’ to a rock and roll combo headed by Bobby Freeman as her piano settled on the stage. From the waist up Doda emulated aquatic movements like the Australian crawl. She also did the Twist, the Frug, and the Watusi.

On June 19, 1964, when Doda was approximately 23 years old (actually 26), the Condor’s publicist, “Big” Davy Rosenberg gave Doda a “monokini” (topless swimsuit) designed by Rudi Gernreich. She performed topless that night, the first noted entertainer of the era to do so. The act was an instant success. Two months after she started her semi-nude performances, the rest of San Francisco’s Broadway was topless, followed soon after by entertainers across America. Doda became an American cultural icon of the 1960s. The Republican National Convention was held in San Francisco, during the summer of 1964; many of the delegates came to see Carol Doda. She was profiled in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book The Pump House Gang and appeared that same year as Sally Silicone in Head, the 1968 film created by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, and featuring The Monkees. The movie was produced by Columbia Pictures. She appeared in a Golden Boy parody with Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, and Davy Jones.

Encouraged by her success, Doda soon decided to enhance her breasts with silicone injections, going from size 34 to 44. Doda became renowned for her big bust, and was one of the first well-known performers to be surgically enhanced. She had 44 injections, a large dose of silicone,[4] at a cost of $1,500.

For the topless and waterless Swim, Doda wore the bottom half of a black bikini and a net top which ended where a bathing suit generally began. Doda performed 12 shows nightly so that management could keep crowds moving in and out. The large lit sign in front of the club featured a cartoon of her.

Nicaraguan dictator General Anastasio Somoza Debayle paid an unexpected visit to the Condor Nightclub in November 1973 as seven limousines pulled up before starled parking attendants. About two dozen U.S Secret Service agents accompained the general Somoza’s party of nine and guarded each door. Somoza sent to Doda a word backstage as he departed that he considered her performance “most outstanding”.

From the late-1960s through the late-1970s, Doda was the spokesmodel for what is now the San Jose, California television station KICU-TV Channel 36, then known as KGSC-TV. Filmed from the waist up and wearing clothes which amplified her most prominent physical attributes, she would coo “You’re watching the Perfect 36 in San Jose.” She would also occasionally appear on-air to do editorial commentary on the issues of the day.

In 1982 Doda was again dancing at the Condor three times a night. She was 45 and performed to rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and ragtime. Each act was the same, with Doda appearing in a gold gown, traditional elbow-length gloves, and a diaphanous-wraparound. Her clothing was removed until she wore only a g-string and the diaphanous wraparound. In the final portion she was attired in only the wraparound. Her small body looked slimmer without clothes, a perception which was emphasized by the dwarfing effect of her breasts. At the time she was taking dance and voice lessons but had no definite plans for her future.

Doda retired from stripping in the 1980s and now runs “Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique“, a lingerie shop in San Francisco.

As of 2009 Doda had been performing (fully clothed) for several years at several North Beach (San Francisco) clubs, including Amante’s and Enrico’s Supper Club.