Happy Birthday Johnny Carson

Today is the 89th birthday of Johnny Carson.

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NAME: Johnny Carson
OCCUPATION: Talk Show Host
BIRTH DATE: October 23, 1925
DEATH DATE: January 23, 2005
EDUCATION: University of Nebraska
PLACE OF BIRTH: Corning, Iowa
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Full Name: Johnny Carson
Full Name: John William Carson

Best Known For:  One of television’s best known personalities, Johnny Carson hosted “The Tonight Show” for 30 years. His farewell show in 1992 drew 50 million viewers.

Born in Corning, Iowa on October 23, 1925 to Ruth and Homer R. Carson, a power company manager, Johnny Carson learned how to reel in audiences at a young age. He fell in love with magic when he was 12 years old, and after purchasing a magician’s kit through the mail, began performing magic tricks in public, as “The Great Carson.”

Following high school, in 1943, an 18-year-old Carson joined the U.S. Navy as an ensign, and then decoded encrypted messages as a communications officer. Serving aboard the USS Pennsylvania, he continued performing magic, mainly for his fellow shipmates. He later said that one of the fondest memories from his service was performing magic for James Forrestal, U.S. Secretary of the Navy. Though assigned to combat in the summer of 1945, Carson never went into battle — WWII ended in 1945, following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and Carson was sent back to the United States.

In the fall of 1945, Carson began studying at the University of Nebraska, and received a bachelor’s degree in radio and speech four years later. After college, he had a short stint as television writer for The Red Skelton Show in Los Angeles, and then moved to New York City in pursuit of bigger audiences.

In October of 1962, Carson replaced Jack Paar as host of The Tonight Show—a counterpart to NBC’s Tonight show—and, following wavering ratings his first year, Carson became a prime-time hit.

Audiences found comfort in Carson’s calm and steady presence in their living rooms each evening. Revered for his affable personality, quick wit and crisp interviews, he guided viewers into the late night hours with a familiarity they grew to rely on year after year. Featuring interviews with the stars of the latest Hollywood movies or the hottest bands, Carson kept Americans up-to-date on popular culture, and reflected some of the most distinct personalities of his era through impersonations, including his classic take on President Ronald Reagan.

Carson created several recurring comedic characters that popped up regularly on his show, including Carnac the Magnificent, an Eastern psychic who was said to know the answers to all kinds of baffling questions. In these skits, Carson would wear a colorful cape and featured turban and attempt to answer questions on cards before even opening their sealed envelopes. Carson, as Carmac, would demand silence before answering questions such as “Answer: Flypaper.” “Question: What do you use to gift wrap a zipper?”

Carson was The Tonight Show’s host for three decades. During that time, he received six Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Carson’s final appearance as host in 1992 attracted an estimated 50 million viewers.

Carson was in and out of relationships throughout his life, marrying four separate times. He married Jody Wolcott in 1948, and they had three sons, Charles (Kit), Cory and Richard. Richard died in an auto accident in 1991.

Carson and Jody divorced in 1963, and only months later, Carson married his second wife, Joanne Copeland. That relationship ended in 1972, following a grueling legal battle that ended with Copeland receiving a settlement of nearly $500,000 and annual alimony from Carson. That same year, Carson married third wife Joanna Holland—from whom he filed for divorce in 1983.

For the first time in 35 years, Carson lived life as an unmarried man from 1983 to 1987. He married for the final time in June of 1987; Carson and Alexis Maas remained together until Carson’s death, nearly eighteen years later.

At age 74, in 1999, Carson suffered a severe heart attack while he was sleeping at his Malibu, California home. Soon after, he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery. In January of 2005, at age 79, Carson died of respiratory failure caused by emphysema.

Carson, considered to be one of the most popular stars of American television, has been praised by several mainstream comics—including Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon—for helping them launch their careers. Today, he is regarded worldwide as a televison legacy.

Happy Birthday Bela Lugosi

Today is the 132nd birthday of Bela Lugosi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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 Buster Keaton

Today is the 119th birthday of Buster Keaton.  I absolutely adore his expressionlessness in everything.  And then, have you seen Sunset Boulevard?  I have put the clip below.  So great.

NAME: Buster Keaton
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: October 4, 1895
DEATH DATE: February 1, 1966
PLACE OF BIRTH: Piqua, Kansas
PLACE OF DEATH: Woodland Hills, California
NICKNAME: Great Stone Face
ORIGINALLY: Joseph Frank Keaton IV

BEST KNOWN FOR: Comedian and director Buster Keaton was popular for his pioneering silent comedies in the 1920s.

Actor, director. Considered one of the groundbreaking comedians of the early film era, Joseph Frank Keaton IV was born October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas. His parents, Joe and Myra, were both veteran vaudevillian actors and Keaton himself first began performing at the age of three when he was incorporated into their act.

As legend has it, he earned the name of “Buster” at the age of six months, after falling down a flight of stairs. Magician Harry Houdini scooped up the child and turning to the boy’s parents quipped, “What a buster.”

Keaton quickly grew used to being knocked around a bit. Working with his parents in an act that prided itself on being as rough as it was funny, Keaton was tossed around by his father frequently. During these performances Keaton would learn to display the deadpan look that would later become a hallmark of his comedy career.

“It was the roughest knockout act that was ever in the history of the theater,” he later said of the performances he did with his parents.

Even in Keaton’s first film, a 1917 two-reeler called “The Butcher Boy” starring Roscoe (“Fatty”) Arbuckle, Keaton was extreme slapstick, with the young actor getting subjected to range of abuses, from being submerged in molasses to getting bit by a dog.

Still, film called to Keaton and for the next two years he continued to work closely with Arbuckle for $40 a week. It was an apprenticeship of sorts and through it, Keaton was given full access to the movie making process.

In 1920 Keaton struck out on his own as a filmmaker, first with a series of two-reelers that included now classics such as The Cameraman, Steamboat Bill, Jr., and The Passionate Plumber. In 1923 Keaton started making full features such as The Three Ages (1923) and Sherlock, Jr. (1924). The line up also included perhaps his finest creation, The General (1927), which starred Keaton as a train engineer in the Civil War. Keaton was the full force behind the film, writing and directing it. But while movie proved initially to be a commercial disappointment it was later hailed as a pioneering piece of filmmaking.

Woven into his films of course, was Keaton’s trademark comedy, brilliant timing and patented facial expressions. In his early two-reelers the laughing making included a mastery of the slapstick pie.

His work also included Keaton’s penchant for doing his own stunts. He became somewhat of a Hollywood legend not just for his falls but his lack of injuries.

At the height of his career, which was in the mid 1920s, Keaton experienced some of the same kind of celebrity as another silent film star, Charlie Chaplin. His salary reached $3,500 a week and he eventually built a $300,000 home in Beverly Hills.

In 1928 Buster Keaton made the move that would later call the mistake of his life. With the advent of talkies, Keaton signed on with MGM, where he proceeded to make a string of new sound comedies that fared decently at the box office but lacked the kind of Keaton punch the filmmaker had come to expect from his work.

The reason for that largely stemmed from the fact that in signing in the deal, Keaton had forked over part of the filmmaking control to his bosses. His life quickly spiraled downward. His marriage to actress Natalie Talmadge, with whom he had two sons, fell apart and he became plagued with issues related to alcoholism and depression.

In 1934, with his contract with MGM now terminated, Keaton filed for bankruptcy. His listed assets totaled just $12,000. One year later he divorced his second wife, Mae Scribbens.

In 1940 Keaton’s life started to move upward again. He got married for a third time, to a 21-year-old dancer named Eleanor Morris, who many credited with bring him stability. The two would remain together until Keaton’s death in 1966.

A return to fame came in the 1950s, a revival that was sparked by British television, where the aging comedian appeared on a string of English programs. In the States, too, American audiences became reacquainted with Keaton after he played himself in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) and then in Chaplin’s Limelight (1952).

He also raised his profile through a string of American programs and commercials. In 1956 he was paid $50,000 by Paramount for the film rights to The Keaton Story, which follows the performer’s life from his vaudeville days through his work in Hollywood.

During this time film fans also rediscovered Keaton’s work from the silent film era. In 1962, Keaton, who’d retained full rights to his older films, reissued The General and watched with awe as it drew praise from fans and critics from all over Europe.

In October 1965 the Keaton comeback reached its height after he was invited to the Venice Film Festival, where he showed his latest project, Film, a 22-minute silent movie based on a Samuel Becket screenplay. Keaton had made movie the year before in New York. When the film concluded, Keaton received a five-minute standing ovation from the audience.

“This is the first time I’ve been invited to a film festival,” a teary-eyed Keaton proclaimed. “But I hope it won’t be the last.”

A survivor to the end, the hard working Keaton was, toward the end of his life making more than $100,000 a year just from doing commercials. In all, Keaton, who was honored in 1959 with a special Academy Award, claimed he had more work than he could handle.

Keaton, who suffered from cancer, passed away in his sleep in his home in Hollywood Hills, California, on February 1, 1966.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (16-Oct-1966) · Erronius
War Italian Style (20-Apr-1966)
Film (4-Sep-1965)
Sergeant Deadhead (18-Aug-1965)
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (14-Jul-1965) · Bwana
The Railrodder (20-Jun-1965)
Beach Blanket Bingo (14-Apr-1965) · Buster
Pajama Party (11-Nov-1964) · Chief Rotten Eagle
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (7-Nov-1963) · Jimmy
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (17-Jun-1960) · Lion Tamer
Around the World in Eighty Days (17-Oct-1956) · Train Conductor
Limelight (23-Oct-1952) · Calvero’s Partner
In the Good Old Summertime (29-Jul-1949) · Hickey
You’re My Everything (29-Jun-1949) · Butler
The Lovable Cheat (11-May-1949)
San Diego I Love You (29-Sep-1944)
Forever and a Day (21-Jan-1943)
Li’l Abner (1-Nov-1940)
The Villain Still Pursued Her (11-Oct-1940)
Hollywood Cavalcade (13-Oct-1939) · Himself
An Old Spanish Custom (1935)
Allez Oop (25-May-1934)
What! No Beer? (10-Feb-1933)
Speak Easily (13-Aug-1932) · Professor Timoleon Post
The Passionate Plumber (6-Feb-1932)
Sidewalks of New York (26-Sep-1931) · Homer Van Dine Harmon
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (28-Feb-1931)
Doughboys (30-Aug-1930)
Free and Easy (22-Mar-1930)
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (14-Aug-1929) · Himself
Spite Marriage (6-Apr-1929) · Elmer Gantry
The Cameraman (22-Sep-1928) · Buster
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (12-May-1928) · William Canfield, Jr.
College (10-Sep-1927) · A Son
The General (5-Feb-1927) · Johnny Gray
Battling Butler (19-Sep-1926)
Go West (1-Nov-1925) · Friendless
Seven Chances (11-Mar-1925) · James Shannon
The Navigator (13-Oct-1924)
Sherlock, Jr. (21-Apr-1924) · Sherlock, Jr.
Our Hospitality (19-Nov-1923) · Willie McKay
The Three Ages (24-Sep-1923) · The Boy
The Balloonatic (22-Jan-1923)
Daydreams (Nov-1922) · The Young Man
The Blacksmith (21-Jul-1922)
My Wife’s Relations (May-1922)
The Paleface (Jan-1922) · Paleface
The Boat (10-Nov-1921)
The Goat (15-May-1921)
The High Sign (18-Apr-1921) · Buster
Neighbors (22-Dec-1920)
The Scarecrow (22-Dec-1920)
The Saphead (18-Oct-1920)
One Week (1-Sep-1920)
The Garage (15-Dec-1919)
The Cook (15-Sep-1918)
The Bell Boy (18-Mar-1918)
Out West (20-Jan-1918)
Oh Doctor! (30-Sep-1917)
The Butcher Boy (23-Apr-1917)

Happy Birthday Groucho Marx

Today is the 124th birthday of Groucho Marx.

NAME: Groucho Marx
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Comedian
BIRTH DATE: October 2, 1890
DEATH DATE: August 19, 1977
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
ORIGINALLY: Julius Henry Marx

BEST KNOWN FOR: Comedian and film actor Groucho Marx was one of the Marx Brothers. He spent nearly seven decades making people laugh with his snappy one-liners and sharp wit.

Comedian, actor, singer and writer Groucho Marx was born Julius Henry Marx on October 2, 1890, in New York City. Groucho Marx spent nearly seven decades making people laugh with his snappy one-liners and sharp wit. He once described his comedy as “the type of humor that made people laugh at themselves.”

While he originally aspired to be a doctor, Marx started his career as a singer. One of his earliest efforts proved to be disastrous, however. As part of the Le May Trio, Marx got stuck in Colorado for a while after another group member took off with his pay. He had to work at a grocery store to earn enough money to make it back to New York.

Marx’s father Samuel never had much success as a tailor, and the family struggled financially. His mother Minnie hoped that she might find prosperity through her five children. She became the quintessential “stage mother,” guiding her children’s theatrical acts and even performing herself. The act eventually featured Groucho and his brothers Leonard, Adolph and Milton.

Groucho received his colorful nickname from fellow vaudeville performer Art Fisher because of his personality. Fisher also coined amusing names for Marx’s brothers, renaming Leonard “Chico,” Adolph “Harpo” and Milton “Gummo.” Milton left the act to fight in World War I and was replaced by youngest brother Herbert, known as “Zeppo.” Both Herbert and Milton later became theatrical agents.

The Marx Brothers had a career breakthrough in 1914 while performing in Texas. During a show, some of the audience left to go see a runaway mule. When they returned, the Marx Brothers put aside their usual routines to make fun of the audience. Groucho’s quick-witted quips won over the crowd. The switch to comedy proved to be their ticket to success.

By the 1920s, the Marx Brothers had become a hugely popular theatrical act. Groucho had developed some of his trademarks by this time. He often wore a long coat, a painted-on mustache, thick glasses and held on to a cigar on stage. In addition to just liking cigars, Marx explained that they proved useful, too. He said that “if you forget a line, all you have to do is stick the cigar in your mouth and puff on it until you think of what you’ve forgotten.”

The Marx Brothers had a string of Broadway hits, starting with 1924’s I’ll Say She Is, which Groucho helped write. The following year, they returned to the stage with The Cocoanuts, a spoof on land speculation in Florida. The Marx Brothers hit it big again in 1928 with Animal Crackers.

In great demand, Marx appeared on Broadway in Animal Crackers at night while filming the film version of The Cocoanuts during the day. Around this time, he nearly suffered a complete mental breakdown. His hectic schedule and his enormous financial loss in the 1929 stock market crash had taken a toll on the performer and left him with a lifelong struggle with insomnia.

Working with producer Irving Thalberg, the Marx Brothers created one of their most popular movies: A Night at the Opera (1935). As the decade drew to a close, the Marx Brothers continued to make more films, but none matched the success of their earlier efforts. Their last film together was 1949’s Love Happy.

Even before the Marx Brothers split up, Groucho had been exploring other career opportunities. He wrote the 1930 humorous book Beds, and followed it up in 1942 with Many Happy Returns, his comic attack on taxes. On the radio, Groucho worked on several programs before landing a hit in 1947 with You Bet Your Life. He hosted the quirky game show, which focused more on his quick wit than on contestants winning prizes.

You Bet Your Life moved from radio to television in 1950, and Marx entertained America with his wisecracks for 11 years, also winning a 1951 Emmy. After that program ended in 1961, he appeared on Tell It to Groucho, a short-lived game show the following year. Then Marx largely retreated from the limelight, making only sporadic appearances on television and in films.

Later in life, instead of performing, Marx wrote a follow-up to his 1959 autobiography Groucho and Me. This time around, he focused on love and sex in 1963’s Memoirs of a Mangy Lover. The thrice-married comedian had a lot to say on those topics. Marx had been married to first wife Ruth from 1920 to 1942. The couple had two children together, Miriam and Arthur. He had his third child, Melinda, with his second wife, Catherine Gorcey. His third marriage to Eden Hartford lasted from 1953 to 1969.

A prolific correspondent with friends and associates, Marx had his personal writings published in 1967 as The Groucho Letters. He returned to the stage in 1972 with a one-man show at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Crowds turned out to see the performer, then in his 80s. He had trouble hearing and his voice was much weaker than it was in his prime. Still, he managed to charm and entertain the audience. Two years later, Marx received a special Academy Award for his stage and screen efforts.

By 1977, Marx was in decline both physically and mentally. He struggled with health problems, and his family battled with his companion Erin Fleming over control of his affairs. After spending nearly two months in a Los Angeles hospital, Marx died of pneumonia on August 19, 1977. “He developed the insult into an art form,” The New York Times mused on his death. “And he used the insult, delivered with maniacal glee, to shatter the egos of the pompous ??and to plunge his audience into helpless laughter.”

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Skidoo (2-Dec-1968)
The Story of Mankind (8-Nov-1957) · Peter Minuit
A Girl in Every Port (13-Feb-1952)
Double Dynamite (25-Dec-1951) · Emile J. Keck
Mr. Music (8-Dec-1950) · Himself
Love Happy (12-Oct-1949) · Det. Sam Grunion
Copacabana (1-Nov-1947) · Lionel Q. Deveraux
A Night in Casablanca (10-May-1946) · Kornblow
The Big Store (20-Jun-1941)
Go West (6-Dec-1940) · S. Quentin Quale
At the Circus (20-Oct-1939) · Attorney Loophole
Room Service (30-Sep-1938) · Gordon Miller
A Day at the Races (11-Jun-1937) · Dr. Hackenbush
A Night at the Opera (15-Nov-1935) · Otis B. Driftwood
Duck Soup (17-Nov-1933) · Rufus T. Firefly
Horse Feathers (10-Aug-1932) · Prof. Wagstaff
Monkey Business (19-Sep-1931) · Groucho
Animal Crackers (28-Aug-1930) · Capt. Jeffrey T. Spaulding
The Cocoanuts (3-May-1929)

Happy Birthday Truman Capote

Today is the 90th birthday of American writer Truman Capote (books by this author), born in New Orleans (1924). Even as a child, Capote wanted to become famous. He moved with his mother to New York City and applied to the prestigious Trinity School. He was given an IQ test as an entrance exam, and he scored 215, the highest in the school’s history. Capote said: “I was having 50 perceptions a minute to everyone else’s five. I always felt nobody was going to understand me, going to understand what I felt about things. I guess that’s why I started writing.”

Truman_Capote _ YoungNAME: Truman Capote
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: September 30, 1924
DEATH DATE: August 25, 1984
EDUCATION: Trinity School, St. Joseph Military Academy, Greenwich High School, Dwight School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New Orleans, Louisiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Originally: Truman Streckfus Persons

Best Known For:  Truman Capote was a trailblazing writer of Southern descent known for the works Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, among others.

Acclaimed writer Truman Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons on September 30, 1924, in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the 20th century’s most well-known writers, Capote was as fascinating a character as those who appeared in his stories. His parents were an odd pair—a small-town girl named Lillie Mae and a charming schemer called Arch—and they largely neglected their son, often leaving him in the care of others. Capote spent much of his young life in the care of his mother’s relatives in Monroeville, Alabama.

In Monroeville, Capote befriended a young Harper Lee. The two were opposites—Capote was a sensitive boy who was picked on by other kids for being a wimp, while Lee was a rough and tumble tomboy. Despite their differences, Lee found Capote to be a delight, calling him “a pocket Merlin” for his creative and inventive ways. Little did these playful pals know that they would both become famous writers one day.

While he had fun with his friends, Capote also had to struggle with his nightmarish family life. Seeing little of his mother and his father over the years, he often wrestled with feeling abandoned by them. One of the few times he caught their interest was during their divorce with each of them fighting for custody as a way to hurt the other. Capote finally did get to live with his mother full time in 1932, but this reunion did not turn out as he had hoped. He moved to New York City to live with her and his new stepfather, Joe Capote.

His once-doting mother was quite different once he started to encounter her on a daily basis. Lillie Mae—now calling herself Nina—could easily be cruel or kind to Truman, and he never knew what to expect from her. She often picked on him for his effeminate ways, and for not being like other boys. His stepfather seemed to be a more stable personality in the home, but Truman was not interested in his help or support at the time. Still, he was officially adopted by his stepfather, and his name was changed to Truman Garcia Capote in 1935.

A mediocre student, Capote did well in the courses that interested him and paid little attention in those that did not. He attended a private boys’ school in Manhattan from 1933 to 1936, where he charmed some of his classmates. An unusual boy, Capote had a gift for telling stories and entertaining people. His mother wanted to make him more masculine, and thought that sending him to a military academy would be the answer. The 1936-1937 school year proved to be a disaster for Capote. The smallest in his class, he was often picked on by the other cadets.

“I don’t care what anybody says about me as long as it isn’t true.” – Truman Capote

Returning to Manhattan, Capote started to attract attention for his work at school. Some of his teachers noted his promise as a writer. In 1939, the Capotes moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where Truman enrolled at Greenwich High School. He stood out among his classmates with his ebullient personality. Over time, Capote developed a group of friends who would often go over to his house to smoke, drink, and dance in his room. He and his group would also go out to nearby clubs. Seeking adventure as well as an escape, Capote and his good friend Phoebe Pierce would also go into New York City and scheme their way into some of the most popular nightspots, including the Stork Club and Café Society.

While living in Greenwich, his mother’s drinking began to escalate, which made Capote’s home life even more unstable. Capote did not do well in school and had repeat the 12th grade at the Franklin School after he and his family returned to Manhattan in 1942. Instead of studying, Capote spent his nights at the clubs, making friends with Oona O’Neill, the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt.

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While still a teen, Capote got his first job working as a copyboy for The New Yorker magazine. During his time with the publication, Capote tried to get his stories published there with no success. He left The New Yorker to write full time, and started the novel Summer Crossing, which he shelved to work on a novella entitled Other Voices, Other Rooms. Capote’s first successes were not his novels, but several short stories. In 1945, editor George Davis selected Capote’s story “Miriam” about a strange little girl for publication in Mademoiselle. In addition to befriending Davis, Capote became close to his assistant Rita Smith, the sister of famous southern author Carson McCullers. She later introduced the two, and Capote and McCullers were friends for a time.

Capote’s story in Mademoiselle attracted the attention of Harper’s Bazaar fiction editor Mary Louise Aswell. The publication ran another dark and eerie story by Capote, “A Tree of Light” in its October 1945. These stories as well as “My Side of the Matter” and “Jug of Silver” helped launch Capote’s career and gave him entrée into the New York literary world.

While struggling to work on his first novel, Capote received some assistance from Carson McCullers. She helped him get accepted at Yaddo, a famous artists’ colony in New York State. Capote spent part of the summer of 1946 there, where he did some work on his novel and completed the short story, “The Headless Hawk,” which was published by Mademoiselle that fall. Capote also fell in love with Newton Arvin, a college professor and literary scholar. The bookish academic and the effervescent charmer made quite an interesting pair. Arvin, as with most of the others at Yaddo, was completely taken by Capote’s wit, manner, and appearance. That same year, Capote won the prestigious O. Henry Award for his short story “Miriam.”

His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published in 1948 to mixed reviews. In the work, a young boy is sent to live with his father after the death of his mother. His father’s home is a decrepit old plantation. For a time the boy does not get to see his father and instead must deal with his stepmother, her cousin, and some other unusual characters that inhabit this desolate place. While some criticized elements of the story, such as its homosexual theme, many reviewers noted Capote’s talents as a writer. The book sold well, especially for a first-time author.

In addition to receiving accolades and publicity, Capote found love in 1948. He met author Jack Dunphy at a party in 1948, and the two began what was to be a 35-year relationship. During the early years of their relationship, Capote and Dunphy traveled extensively. They spent time in Europe and other places where they both worked on their own projects.

Capote followed the success of Other Voices, Other Rooms with a collection of short stories, A Tree of Light, published in 1949. Not one to stay out of the public eye for long, his travel essays were put out in book form in 1950 as Local Color. His much-anticipated second novel, The Grass Harp, was released to in the fall of 1951. The fanciful tale explored an unlikely group of characters who take refuge from their troubles in a large tree. At the request of Broadway producer Saint Subber, Capote adapted his novel for the stage. The sets and costumes were designed by Capote’s close friend, Cecil Beaton. The comedy opened in March 1952, closing after 31 performances.

In 1953, Capote landed some film work. He wrote some of Stazione Termini (later released as Indiscretion of an American Wife in the United States), which starred Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift. During the filming in Italy, Capote and Clift developed a friendship. After that project wrapped, Capote was soon working on the script for the John Huston-directed Beat the Devil, starring Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones and Gina Lollobrigida, during its production. His best screenplay, however, was done years later when he adapted the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw into The Innocents (1961).

Undeterred by his past failure, Capote adapted his story about a Haitian bordello, “House of Flowers,” for the stage at Subber’s urging. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1954 with Pearl Bailey as its star and had Alvin Ailey and Diahann Carroll in the cast as well. Despite the best efforts of Capote and the show’s fine performers, the musical failed to attract enough critical and commercial attention. It closed after 165 performances. That same year, Capote suffered a great personal loss when his mother died.

Always fascinated by the rich and social elite, Capote found himself a popular figure in such circles. He counted Gloria Guinness, Babe and Bill Paley (the founder of CBS Television), Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwell, C. Z. Guest, and many others among his friends. Once an outsider, Capote was invited for cruises on their yachts and for stays on their estates.

Harold_Halma_photograph_of_Capote

He loved gossip—both hearing and sharing it. In the late 1950s, Capote began discussing a novel based on this jet-set world, calling it Answered Prayers.

In 1958, Capote scored another success with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He explored the life of a New York City party girl, Holly Golightly—who was a woman who depended on men to get by. With his usual style and panache, Capote had created a fascinating character within a well-crafted story. Three years later, the film version was released, starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly. Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe in the lead role, and was disappointed with this adaptation.

Capote’s next big project started out as an article for The New Yorker. He set out with friend Harper Lee to write about the impact of the murder of four members of the Clutter family on their small Kansas farming community. The two traveled to Kansas to interview townspeople, friends and family of the deceased, and the investigators working to solve the crime. Truman, with his flamboyant personality and style, had a hard time initially getting himself into his subjects’ good graces. Without using tape recorders, the two would write up their notes and observations at the end of each day and compare their findings.

During their time in Kansas, the Clutters’ suspected killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were caught in Las Vegas and brought back to Kansas. Lee and Capote got a chance to interview the suspects not long after their return in January 1960. Soon after, Lee and Capote went back to New York. Capote started working on his article, which would evolve into the non-fiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. He also corresponded with the accused killers, trying them to reveal more about themselves and the crime. In March 1960, Capote and Lee returned to Kansas for the murder trial.

While the two convicted and sentenced to death, their execution was staved off by a series of appeals. Hickock and Smith hoped that Capote would help them escape the hangman’s noose and were upset to hear that the book’s title was In Cold Blood, which indicated that the murders had been premeditated.

Writing this non-fiction masterwork took a lot out of Capote. For years, he labored on it and still had to wait for the story to find its ending in the legal system. Hickock and Smith were finally executed on April 14, 1965, at the Kansas State Penitentiary. At their request, Capote traveled to Kansas to witness their deaths. He refused to see them the day before, but he visited with both Hickock and Smith shortly before their hangings.

In Cold Blood became a huge hit, both critically and commercially. Capote used a number of techniques usually found in fiction to bring this true story to life for his readers. It was first serialized in The New Yorker in four issues with readers anxiously awaiting each gripping installment. When it was published as a book, In Cold Blood was an instant best-seller.

While In Cold Blood brought him acclaim and wealth, Capote was never the same after the project.

Digging into such dark territory had taken a toll on him psychologically and physically. Known to drink, Capote began drinking more and started taking tranquilizers to soothe his frayed nerves. His substance abuse problems escalated over the coming years.

Despite his problems, Capote did, however, manage to pull off one of the biggest social events of the 20th century. Attracting his society friends, literary notables, and stars, his Black and White Ball garnered a huge amount of publicity. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom at the Plaza hotel on November 28, 1966 with publisher Katharine Graham as the guest of honor. In choosing a dress code, Capote decided that the men should dress in black tie attire while women could wear either a black or white dress. Everyone had to wear a mask. One of the evening’s more memorable moments was when actress Lauren Bacall danced with director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.

Those society friends that flocked to the ball were in for a nasty shock several years later. Considered one of the notorious instances of biting the hand that feeds, Capote had a chapter from Answered Prayers published in Esquire magazine in 1976. That chapter, “La Cote Basque, 1965,” aired a lot of his society friends’ secrets as thinly veiled fiction. Many of his friends, hurt by his betrayal, turned their back on him. He claimed to be surprised by their reactions and was hurt by their rejection. By the late 1970s, Capote had moved on to the party scene at the famous club Studio 54 where he hung out with Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, and Liza Minnelli.

By this time, Capote’s relationship with Jack Dunphy was becoming strained. Dunphy wanted Capote to stop drinking and taking drugs, which—despite numerous trips to rehabilitation centers over the years—Capote seemed unable to do. While no longer physically intimate, the two remained close, spending time together at their neighboring homes in Sagaponack, Long Island. Capote also had other relationships with younger men, which did little to improve his emotional and psychological state.

Published in 1980, Capote’s last major work, Music for Chameleons, was a collection of non-fiction and fictional pieces, including the novella Handcarved Coffins. The collection did well, but Capote was clearly in decline, battling his addictions and physical health problems.

In the final year of his life, Capote had two bad falls, another failed stint in rehab, and a stay in a Long Island hospital for an overdose. Traveling to California, Capote went to stay with old friend Joanne Carson, the ex-wife of Johnny Carson. He died at her Los Angeles home on August 25, 1984.

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.

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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.