Happy Birthday Malcolm McLaren

Today is the 69th birthday of Malcolm McLaren.  He did a little bit of everything and was exceptionally successful at it.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

MALCOLM MCLARENNAME: Malcolm McLaren
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer, Artist
BIRTH DATE: January 22, 1946
DEATH DATE: April 8, 2010
EDUCATION: Harrow Art School, Croydon College of Art, Goldsmiths College
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, United Kingdom
PLACE OF DEATH: Switzerland

BEST KNOWN FOR: Recording artist and fashion designer Malcolm McLaren came to fame as manager of the Sex Pistols. Later, he recorded several albums of his own material.

Artist, musician, band manager. One of the creative forces behind English punk rock and the Sex Pistols in particular, Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren was born January 22, 1946, in London, England. The son of a Scottish engineer, he was raised primarily by his maternal grandmother, whom he later credited with fostering his well-regarded subversive spirit.

As such, school was not a perfect fit for the creative McLaren. He attended more than half a dozen different art schools, including Harrow Art School, where he befriended Jamie Reid, who would later serve as the brains behind the Sex Pistols’ provocative graphics. His struggles in school led one institution to expel him and another, Croydon College of Art, to try to have him committed to a mental institution.

In 1971 McLaren dropped out of school for good and opened a boutique shop in Chelsea. Initially called Let It Rock and later renamed Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die, the store specialized in 1950s “Teddy boy” fashions.

McLaren’s world changed when the New York Dolls, a glam-rock band that performed in high heels, visited his shop one day. McLaren and the musicians quickly hit it off and eventually he followed the band back to the United States, where he worked as its manager. McLaren brought an unusual approach to his job, pushing the band to shock its American audiences as much as possible. In one instance he had the Dolls perform in Maoist Red Guard uniforms and play in front of a hammer-and-sickle flag.

But the Dolls’ run was short-lived, and after the group broke up, McLaren returned to London intent on trying to ramp up what he’d tried to do in the States.

He found his new cause in a group of musicians headed up by lead singer John Lydon, later renamed Johnny Rotten due to the condition of his teeth. In every shape and form, the Sex Pistols was the product of McLaren’s imagination. He put the band together and orchestrated the outrage that made them the toast of the English punk rock scene. Rotten called McLaren “the most evil person on earth.”

With singles like “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen,” the Pistols climbed the charts in Britain. The group’s short run consisted of just one album, the 1977 release Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols. In 1978 the group embarked on its first and only American tour. It quickly concluded when Rotten walked off the stage at a performance in San Francisco, leaving the band behind and marking the end of the Pistols as a group.

Even with the band’s demise, McLaren continued to stay heavily involved in the music scene. He went on to manage several other acts, and in 1983 issued an album of his own, Duck Rock, which featured a combination of world music and hip-hop. Several other albums followed, including Fans (1984), Waltz Darling (1989), and Paris (1994).

Over the last several years of his life, McLaren stayed busy with several film, television and radio projects. He was one of the producers of the docu-drama Fast Food Nation (2006) and oversaw the production of a pair of BBC2 radio presentations, Malcolm McLaren’s Musical Map of London and Malcolm McLaren’s Life and Times in L.A.. McLaren fathered a son with his first partner, designer Vivienne Westwood, and was in a relationship with another partner, Young Kim, at the time of his death. He’d been battling cancer for several months and passed away at a clinic in Switzerland on April 8, 2010.

His varied, bombastic career was driven, he once said, by some advice an old art school teacher had given him. “We will all be failures,” the educator told the young McLaren. “But at least be a magnificent, noble failure. Anyone can be a benign success.”

Happy Birthday Christian Dior

Today is the 110th birthday of the fashion designer Christian Dior.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Christian Dior
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1905
DEATH DATE: c. October 23, 1957
EDUCATION: École des Sciences Politiques
PLACE OF BIRTH: Granville, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Montecatini, Italy

BEST KNOWN FOR: Christian Dior was a French fashion designer whose post–World War II creations were wildly popular, and whose legacy continues to influence the fashion industry.

Christian Dior was born on January 21, 1905, in Granville, a seaside town in the north of France. He was the second of five children born to Alexandre Louis Maurice Dior, the owner of a highly successful fertilizer manufacturer, and his wife, Isabelle. When he was a boy, Dior’s family moved to Paris, where he would spend his youth. Although Dior was passionate about art and expressed an interest in becoming an architect, he submitted to pressure from his father and, in 1925, enrolled at the École des Sciences Politiques to begin his studies in political science, with the understanding that he would eventually find work as a diplomat.

After his graduation in 1928, however, Dior opened a small art gallery with money he received from his father, who had agreed to lend his son his financial support on the condition that the family name would not appear above the gallery door. In the few years it was open, Dior’s gallery handled the works of such notable artists as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob. He was forced to close the gallery in 1931, a year that included the deaths of both his older brother and mother and the financial collapse of his father’s business.

Following the closing of his gallery, Dior began to make ends meet by selling his fashion sketches, and in 1935, landed a job illustrating the magazine Figaro Illustré. Several years later, Dior was hired as a design assistant by Paris couturier Robert Piguet. However, when World War II began the following year, Dior served in the south of France as an officer in the French army.

Following France’s surrender to Germany in 1940, Dior returned to Paris, where he was soon hired by couturier Lucien Lelong. Throughout the remaining years of the war, Lelong’s design house would consistently dress the women of both Nazis and French collaborators. During this same time, Dior’s younger sister, Catherine, was working for the French Resistance. (She was captured and sent to a concentration camp, but survived; she was eventually released in 1945.)

In 1957, several months after appearing on the cover of Time magazine, Christian Dior traveled to Italy to vacation in the town of Montecatini. While there, on October 23, 1957, he suffered what was his third heart attack and died, at the age of 52.

Marcel Boussac sent his private plane to Montecatini to bring Dior’s body back to Paris, and Dior’s funeral was attended by an estimated 2,500 people, including all of his staff and many of his most famous clients. He was buried in Cimetière de Callian, in Var, France. At the time of his death, Dior’s house was earning more than $20 million annually.

Happy Birthday Vidal Sassoon

Today is the 87th Birthday of Vidal Sassoon.  He is an incredible example of a self-made man who found inspiration around him and adapted it to his own creations.  He took the service trade of hairdresser/beautician and transformed it into a internationally recognized and respected artistry.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Vidal Sassoon
OCCUPATION: Entrepreneur
BIRTH DATE: January 17, 1928
DEATH DATE: May 09, 2012
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hammersmith, United Kingdom
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Vidal Sassoon revolutionized women’s hairstyles in the post-war years and created an international hair-products empire which proclaimed “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”

Born in London’s East End, Vidal Sassoon’s beginnings lacked the glamour that he would enjoy later in life. At age five, his carpet-salesman father abandoned the family, leaving his mother, Betty, to support him and his brother, Ivor, on her sweatshop wages. Unable to afford care for her children, she placed her sons in an orphanage, where he would spend the next six years. At 14, his mother put him to work as a shampoo attendant at Cohen’s Beauty and Barber shop. But his introduction to the hairstyling business was interrupted when anti-Semitic fascists, led by Oswald Mosley rioted in the streets of London. Sassoon, whose parents were Sephardic Jews, joined a Jewish organization to battle the fascists and later volunteered to fight in Israel’s War of Independence.

In 1954, the 34-year-old opened his Bond Street salon, having apprenticed under the flamboyant Raymond Besson. Sassoon rejected Bresson’s orthodox style and instead experimented in angular and geometric haircuts that drew inspiration from the modern European architecture springing up across the English Channel. He was particularly influenced by the works of Bauhaus architect Mies Van de Rohe. “Architects have always been my heroes,” he said in an Architectural Digest article published in 2011. “I could not have been more honored than when I met Marcel Breuer and he told me he knew my work. And Rem Koolhaas said he had one of my original cutting books in his library.”

Sassoon’s hairstyles soon became their own kinds of landmarks. During the 1960s, his cuts became an icon of Swinging London just like the miniskirts designed by Mary Quant (who was also a client). His work was featured on covers of Vogue magazine and one of his pixie cuts even appeared atop Mia Farrow in Roman Polanski‘s 1968 film, Rosemary’s Baby. When asked about the short crop in the film, Farrow’s character responds, “It’s Vidal Sassoon. It’s very in.”

In the mid-1960s, he opened his first New York salon and soon expanded to Toronto and Beverly Hills. By the mid-1970s, he oversaw over a dozen salons, a handful of beauty schools, and a hair products business that made more than $100 million in sales. In 1983, he made a decision he would regret later in life: He sold the company to Proctor & Gamble.

In 1956, Sassoon married his first wife, Elaine Wood, whom he divorced in 1963. Four years later, he married actress Beverly Adams, and they had a son and two daughters before breaking up in 1980. (His daughter, Catya, would later die of a drug overdose in 2002.) In 1983, he had a brief marriage to dressage champion and former model Janette Hartford-Davis. In 1992, he married Ronnie Holbook. Sassoon was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009 and died in Los Angeles in 2012.

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Happy Birthday Cecil Beaton

Today is the 111th birthday of Cecil Beaton.  He could evoke every emotion with his camera.  His photographs are as breathtaking as they were the day they were taken and you feel like you are are part of them, you can feel the love, the sorrow, the loss, the opulence.  The world is a better place because of Cecil Beaton was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Born: January 14, 1904, London
Died: January 18, 1980, Broad Chalke
Parents: Etty Sissons, Ernest Walter Hardy Beaton
Education: St John’s College, Cambridge, Harrow School
Awards: Academy Award for Costume Design, Academy Award for Best Art Direction

Best Known ForSir Cecil Beaton was an English fashion photographer. He was also a diarist, interior designer and Academy Award-winning stage and costume designer.

Sir Cecil Beaton was an English fashion photographer. As a child, he adored the picture postcards of society ladies that came with the the Sunday newspaper. In the 1920s, he was hired as a staff photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue, where he developed a unique style of posing sitters with unusual backgrounds. He was also a diarist, interior designer and Oscar-winning stage and costume designer.

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Happy Birthday John Singer Sargent

Today is the 159th birthday of the artist John Singer Sargent.  The renewed interest in his works could be attributed to the huge popularity of Downton Abbey and it’s highlighting and romanticizing of the Edwardian era, but his works can also hold their own.  They depict Edwardian subjects, but in a bit more of a realistic style.  His paintings let you feel like you are sneaking a peek at what it was really like in that time period, behind all the manners and ceremony, they sometimes depict more everyday situations.  I am sure that is part of their popularity, they allow you to be a participant.

NAME: John Singer Sargent
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: January 12, 1856
DEATH DATE: c. April 15, 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH: Florence, Italy
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England

BEST KNOWN FOR: John Singer Sargent was an Italian-born American painter whose portraits of the wealthy and privileged provide an enduring image of Edwardian-age society.

Artist. John Singer Sargent was born January 12, 1856 to American parents living in Florence, Italy. Although he spent most of his life in Europe, both of his parents were raised in the United States and the artist considered himself to be an American. His father, Fitzwilliam Sargent, was a physician who came from an early colonial family and grew up in Philadelphia. His mother, Mary Newbold Singer, married Sargent in 1850. While the couple were enamored of Europe and lived as expatriates, they were initially sent there by tragic circumstances, taking a tour as a means of escape following the tragic death of their first child. The Sargents had originally intended to return to the United States, but instead became expatriates.

John Singer Sargent began demonstrating his artistic talents at a young age, and soon took up the study of painting in a formal setting. His first known enrollment in art classes took place in Florence at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, in his late teens. During the winter of 1873-74, Sargent honed his skills, convincing his father that it was well worth encouraging his artistic pursuits. Father and son traveled together to Paris in the spring of 1874 so that John Singer Sargent could continue his studies in the art capital of Europe.

While in Paris, Sargent studied under a relatively young teacher named Carolus-Duran, who was teaching his students to break free of the rigidity of the old masters’ style. Carolus-Duran’s method emphasized skipping the step of making detailed sketches and heading straight to the canvas with a paintbrush. Sargent internalized these techniques; his later works would come to be recognized for their immediacy, emotional depth and refined technique.

In May 1876, when Sargent was in his early twenties, he made his first trip to the United States, accompanied by his mother and sister, Emily. The family visited Philadelphia and Niagara Falls, among other places. Much like his mother, Sargent found that he was intensely drawn to travel. When he got back to Europe, he kept traveling, using his voyages as opportunities to study great works of art and try his hand at portraying diverse locations. In Spain, Sargent admired and copied the works of Diego Velásquez; in Venice, he cultivated an appreciation for its picturesque canals, to which he would return many times. Travel scenes would form a major element of his work.

Back in Paris, Sargent submitted a portrait of his teacher, Carolus-Duran, to the Salon of 1879. It won him an honorable mention, and his reputation as a portraitist was given a boost. Between the years of 1877 and 1882, Sargent submitted many types of paintings to the Salon, but his portraits generally won the most positive attention. In 1884, though, his reputation took a turn for the worse, with the exhibition of his work Madame X. Because it defied many of the accepted standards of the day, and was slightly risqué in its portrayal of a woman in a low-cut, nearly sleeveless dress, it turned many of his admirers against him. The mother of the woman who had sat for the portrait, Madame Gautreau (who was actually American), even asked Sargent to remove it. Today, the painting is one of his most celebrated and famous.

Rather than stay in a city in which public opinion had turned against him, Sargent left Paris and began spending much of his time in England, making it his permanent home in 1886. The country he had adopted had not quite adopted him, though; the English were reluctant to sit for Sargent’s portraits because of the scandal of Madame X. Not wanting their own portraits to turn out the same way, they refrained from giving him commissions.

Sargent was not discouraged. On a pair of trips to the United States in 1887 and 1890, he found that Americans were not averse to being painted by him, and many members of American high society sat for his portraits. He often painted his subjects as if they were caught in the middle of motion, with faces both highly individualized and expressive.

The turning point for Sargent’s career in England came when he showed his Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (painted 1885-86) at the London Royal Academy. The piece, undeniably one of Sargent’s masterpieces, incorporated Victorian themes and a calculated impressionist influence that depicted two girls lighting lanterns among flowers in spring. The English recognized the painting’s greatness, and members of the elite were soon lining up to commission their own likenesses.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose was important, too, as an example the impact that impressionism had had on Sargent’s works. He had become acquainted with and learned from both Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, masters of French impressionism. Sargent, like Monet, was particularly fascinated with light, and became highly skilled at portraying it. However, in contrast to the French painters’ work, Sargent’s paintings remained fairly literal, retaining crisp forms and not dissolving entirely into streaks of color.

Although his portraits were highly praised, Sargent eventually grew tired of painting them — they took up a large amount of his time, and there seemed to be no end to his new commissions. Sargent backed away from the portrait business between 1907 and 1910 to leave himself time to focus on other projects, in particular a set of murals for the Boston Public Library. The coming of World War I also changed Sargent’s subject matter, for a time. Visiting the Western Front at the request of the British government, which had asked him to paint a scene commemorating the war, Sargent created Gassed, an appropriately dark work, which depicted soldiers enduring the deplorable conditions that marked life in the Great War.

Sargent was also commissioned to create murals in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. His creations span across the museum’s grand staircase and rotunda. Additionally, his works can also be seen at Harvard University in its Widener Library — a tribute to those who died in WWI.

As he left portraiture behind, Sargent increasingly turned to watercolor, especially after 1903. His works in the medium were praised, so much so that he managed to make a name for himself as a watercolorist in addition to a painter.

Sargent passed away in his sleep on April 15, 1925 at the age of 69. He left behind a large body of work, including portraits, travel scenes, watercolors and impressionistic masterpieces that have defined his reputation into the current century; his works are still exhibited around the world. Although the artist and his portrait sitters are all gone, his admirable skill has given future generations a glimpse into the lives and characters of people long gone — certainly a gift to future generations, and one that those future generations have so far recognized as precious.

Happy Birthday David Bowie

Today is the 67th birthday of David Bowie.  His song “Ashes to Ashes” was playing on my iPhone and in my ears when I got a call from W telling me that J had died.  It is just a coincidence, but I think that J would be happy it wasn’t Hillary Duff.  Now, whenever I hear that song, even a cover of it, I think of J.  He has played a role in the soundtrack of many people’s lives for decades, including mine.  I remember doing rows and rows of floor exercise passes while “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl” played on what seemed a continual loop.  And then there is the David Bowie/Annie Lennox live version of Queen’s “Under Pressure” at the Freddy Mercury tribute concert.  That performance changed my life, became one of my anthems, and is very often in the periphery of my thoughts.  The world is a better place because David Bowie is in it.

NAME: David Bowie
OCCUPATION: Actor, Songwriter, Drummer, Guitarist, Pianist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: January 08, 1947
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England
ORIGINALLY: David Robert Jones

BEST KNOWN FOR: David Bowie is an English rock musician who was incredibly innovative and popular during the 1970s. His distinctive voice and depth of work endures.

David Bowie (born David Robert Jones on 8 January 1947) is an English musician, actor, record producer and arranger. A major figure for over four decades in the world of popular music, Bowie is widely regarded as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. He is known for his distinctive voice and the intellectual depth and eclecticism of his work.

Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in July 1969, when his song “Space Oddity” reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie’s impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, “challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day” and “created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture.” The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation.

In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer characterized as “plastic soul”. The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low (1977)—the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. The so-called “Berlin Trilogy” albums all reached the UK top five and garnered lasting critical praise.

After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes”, its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and “Under Pressure”, a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let’s Dance, which yielded several hit singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. His last recorded album was Reality (2003), which was supported by the 2003–04 Reality Tour.

Buckley says of Bowie: “His influence has been unique in popular culture—he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure.” In the BBC’s 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie was placed at number 29. Throughout his career, he has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the UK, he has been awarded nine Platinum album certifications, 11 Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all-time.

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Happy Birthday Boris Karloff

Today is Boris Karloff‘s 127th birthday.  I first learned about him through a book I was reading as a kid called “The Three Investigators Mystery of Terror Castle.”  They are a series of books a lot like the Hardy Boys, but set in the Los Angeles area in the 1940’s.  The Terror Castle one is the first in the series and centers around the mysterious goings-on at the abandoned Hollywood mansion of a silent movie monster actor.  Shortly after reading that book, my mom must have shown me one of his movies and I connected them in my head.  The world is a better place because Boris was in it and still feels the loss that Boris has left.

 

NAME: Boris Karloff
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: November 23, 1887
DEATH DATE: February 02, 1969
EDUCATION: London University
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England
PLACE OF DEATH: England
Originally: William Henry Pratt

Best Known For:  Boris Karloff was an English-born actor whose name became synonymous with horror movies.

Actor. Film star Boris Karloff, whose name became synonymous with the horror genre, was born William Henry Pratt in London, England, on November 23, 1887. He studied at London University, then went to Canada and the United States, aiming become a diplomat like his father, and became involved in acting.

Karloff spent 10 years in repertory companies, went to Hollywood, appearing in forty five silent films for Universal Studios, among them The Last of the Mohicans, Forbidden Cargo and an installment in the popular Tarzan series. When Bela Lugosi refused to take a role in which he would have his face hidden by makeup and have no lines, the role of The Monster in 1931’s Frankenstein went to Karloff. His tender, sympathetic performance received enormous critical praise and he became an overnight sensation.

“The monster was the best friend I ever had.” – Boris Karloff

Apart from a notable performance in a World War I story, The Lost Patrol (1934), his career was mostly spent in popular horror films. His performances frequently transcended the crudity of the genre, bringing, as in Frankenstein, a depth and pathos to the characterization.

He is also well known for providing the voice to the 1966 cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Karloff was known within the film industry for his great kindness and gentleness of manner; he was also central to the foundation of the Screen Actors Guild. After battling emphysema for a number of years, Boris Karloff died at his home in England on February 2, 1969.