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.

Happy Birthday Los Angeles

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Los Angeles was founded on on this day in 1781, by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve. It became a part of Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican–American War, Los Angeles and the rest of California were purchased as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thereby becoming part of the United States. Los Angeles was incorporated as a municipality on April 4, 1850, five months before California achieved statehood.

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Happy Birthday Shirley Manson

Today is the 48th birthday of Shirley Manson.  I am have been fully obsessed with the band Garbage for nearly two decades, in no small part due to her.  I am a sucker for a misfit badass and a fuck-all outsider.  I adore her passion, her vision, her apologetically living on her own terms, her artistry, her charity, and her singing.  I press repeat whenever “Not Your Kind of People” plays in my ears at the gym, it is my not-so-secret anthem as of late.

Shirley_Manson

NAME: Shirley Manson
OCCUPATION: Singer
BIRTH DATE: August 26, 1966
EDUCATION: City of Edinburgh Music School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Best Known For:  Shirley Manson is a Scottish singer best known as the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band Garbage.

Born on August 26, 1966, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Shirley Manson is best known for her work as the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band Garbage. Before fronting Garbage, Manson played keyboards and sang back-up with Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and performed as the lead singer of Angelfish. In 1995, Garbage released its self-titled debut album, which went double platinum due to hits such as “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl” and “Vow.” Manson went on to release four more albums with Garbage, including Not Your Kind of People (2012).

Shirley Manson was born on August 26, 1966, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The musician was the second of three daughters born to John Manson, a geneticist, and Muriel Manson, a former big-band vocalist.

Manson began taking piano lessons at age 7, and her love of music led her to eventually study at the City of Edinburgh Music School. Perhaps music was a refuge for the young girl, who was bullied relentlessly in school. The harassment took its toll; Manson fell into a deep depression and began cutting herself.

In 1984, Manson found an outlet to express herself: She became a member of the band Autumn, and later joined the group Wild Indians. Manson dropped out of high school at age 16, and soon joined the band Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie as a back-up vocalist and keyboardist. She performed with the band until 1992.

Manson joined the band Angelfish as its lead singer, and together they released the EP Suffocate Me in 1993. Though the album failed to produce hits, it did get Manson noticed by Butch Vig, drummer for the band Garbage, when he saw her on MTV. He contacted Manson, who auditioned for Garbage twice before joining the band as its lead singer in 1994.

Garbage’s self-titled debut album in 1995 went double platinum in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia due to hits such as “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl” and “Vow.” Three years later, the band released its second album, Version 2.0, with Manson serving as not only the face and voice of Garbage, but also its primary lyricist. During the band’s two-year tour, Manson modeled for Calvin Klein to promote the album.

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In 1999, Manson co-produced the theme for the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, starring Pierce Bronson as James Bond, the iconic character created by author Ian Fleming. Garbage’s third album, beautifulgarbage, was released in 2001 to lackluster sales. Infighting between members ensued, and Garbage broke up in 2003. The split didn’t last long, and the band reunited to release its fourth album, Bleed Like Me, in 2005. Led by the hit “Why Do You Love Me,” the album met with international success and, reaching Top 5 in the United States.

The reunion was brief, and the band took a hiatus for several years. During this time, Manson made attempts to create a solo album, but to no avail.

Her label refused to release the album. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Manson revealed, “I had a collection of songs that I thought were really strong. I took them in [and] played them for the record company. They weren’t interested. They told me they were too dark. They wanted me to have international radio hits and ‘be the Annie Lennox of my generation.’ I kid you not; I am quoting directly.”

Manson made her acting debut in 2008, playing cyborg Catherine Weaver on the second season of the show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. She returned to Garbage in 2010, when the band returned to the studio to write and record music for its fifth album, Not Your Kind of People, released in 2012.

Manson married Scottish actor Eddie Farrell in 1996. The couple split in 2001 and finalized their divorce in 2003.

In May 2010, Manson married record producer and Garbage sound engineer Billy Bush, who helped produce the 2012 album Not Your Kind of People. They live with their terrier named Veela.

Manson has no children, but that’s by choice. She told the Daily Mail UK, “I just missed that whole baby calling. I feel a lot of women think you’re a freak if you feel like that, and maybe I am strange, I never got that feeling.”

Manson and her husband reside in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The Seven Year Itch – Required Viewing

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

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The Wiki:

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

Happy Birthday Mae West

Tomorrow is the 121st birthday of Mae West.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Happy Birthday Esther Williams

Today is the 93rd birthday of Esther Williams.

NAME: Esther Williams
OCCUPATION: Swimming, Pin-up, Film Actor/Film Actress, Athlete
BIRTH DATE: August 8, 1921
DEATH DATE: June 6, 2013
PLACE OF BIRTH: Los Angeles, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Esther Williams, nicknamed “America’s Mermaid,” was an American actress who helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and ’50s.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on August 8, 1921, actress Esther Jane Williams, sometimes called “America’s Mermaid,” helped popularize synchronized swimming through a string of hugely popular films in the 1940s and ’50s. The youngest of five children, Williams suffered a great personal at an early age when her older brother, Stanton, a promising actor, died at the age of 16. Soon after her brother’s death, Williams found a respite from her sadness by learning to swim. She even got a job at a local swimming pool near her house to earn free swimming time.

As a teenager, Esther Williams was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club swim team. She won several national swimming competition events in 1939 and hoped to compete at the 1940 Olympic Games. Unfortunately, the Olympics were canceled that year due to the onset of World War II. Disappointed, Williams took a job at an upscale department store, but she wouldn’t stay there for long. Shortly after she took the new job, producer Billy Rose asked Williams to audition for his swimming and diving show, Aquacade, in San Francisco. She landed the lead role opposite Johnny Weissmuller, best known as Tarzan in the popular film series of the same name.

After the show ended, Williams returned to Los Angeles and eventually landed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Around this same time, her brief marriage to first husband Leonard Kovner ended. In 1942, Williams made her film debut in Andy Hardy’s Double Life, co-starring with Mickey Rooney.

Williams made a bigger splash, however, with her first swimming movie: 1944’s Bathing Beauty with Red Skelton. To film the elaborate synchronized swimming scenes, a special pool was built with all sorts of cranes and lifts to capture the action on film. Bathing Beauty went on to become one of the most popular films that year.

The following year, Williams married singer and actor Ben Gage. The couple would have three children—Benjamin, Kimball and Susan—before divorcing in 1958.

Though not an especially good actress, Williams was a sight to see in the water. She starred in a number of aquatic Technicolor musicals, including Thrill of a Romance, Neptune’s Daughter and Million Dollar Mermaid. People around the world flocked to movie theaters to see the graceful Williams work her magic on screen, making her an international superstar. Unfortunately, her life—both professionally and personally—hit a rocky period in the late 1950s: Her marriage to Gage ended in divorce, and she had some misses at the box office.

In the 1960s, Esther Williams had almost completely stepped out of the limelight. At the request of her third husband, actor Fernando Lamas, she stopped acting. (The couple stayed together until his death in 1982.) Instead of performing, Williams focused on a number of business interests. After endorsing swimsuits in the 1940s and ’50s, she designed her own swimsuit line, the Esther Williams Swimsuit Collection. She also put her name on a line of backyard swimming pools. Both businesses are still thriving today.

Williams remained an active businesswoman in her later years, despite suffering a stroke in 2007. The health setback didn’t slow Williams down for long. In time, she recovered and returned to swimming.

Williams spent the last years of her life in Beverly Hills, California, with fourth husband Edward Bell. She died on June 6, 2013, at the age of 91, in Beverly Hills, California, and was survived by her three children from second husband Ben Gage.

Happy Birthday Lucille Ball

Today is the 103rd birthday of Lucille Ball.

NAME: Lucille Ball
OCCUPATION: Actress
BIRTH DATE: August 06, 1911
DEATH DATE: April 26, 1989
EDUCATION: John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Jamestown, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Lucille Ball was a comedienne and actress and the star of the pioneering sitcoms “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucille Ball Show” and “Here’s Lucy.”

I’m not funny. What I am is brave.

Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) was an American comedienne, film, television, stage and radio actress, model, film and television executive, and star of the sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy and Life With Lucy. One of the most popular and influential stars in the United States during her lifetime, with one of Hollywood’s longest careers, especially on television, Ball began acting in the 1930s, becoming both a radio actress and B-movie star in the 1940s, and then a television star during the 1950s. She was still making films in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1962, Ball became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu; a studio that produced many successful and popular television series.

Ball was nominated for an Emmy Award thirteen times, and won four times. In 1977 Ball was among the first recipients of the Women in Film Crystal Award. She was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986 and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1989.

In 1929, Ball landed work as a model and later began her performing career on Broadway using the stage name Diane Belmont. She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures. Ball was labeled as the “Queen of the Bs” (referring to her many roles in B-films). In 1951, Ball was pivotal in the creation of the television series I Love Lucy. The show co-starred her then-husband, Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo, Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz and William Frawley as Fred Mertz. The Mertzs were the Ricardos’ landlords and friends. The show ended in 1957 after 180 episodes. Then, some minor adjustments were made to the program’s format – the time of the show was lengthened from 30 minutes to 60 minutes (the first show lasted 75 mins), some new characters were added, the storyline was altered, and the show was renamed The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, which ran for three seasons (1957–1960) and 13 episodes. Ball went on to star in two more successful television series: The Lucy Show, which ran on CBS from 1962 to 1968 (156 Episodes), and Here’s Lucy from 1968 to 1974 (144 episodes). Her last attempt at a television series was a 1986 show called Life with Lucy – which failed after 8 episodes aired, although 13 were produced.

Ball met and eloped with Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz in 1940. On July 17, 1951, at almost 40 years old, Ball gave birth to their first child, Lucie Désirée Arnaz. A year and a half later, Ball gave birth to their second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, known as Desi Arnaz, Jr. Ball and Arnaz divorced on May 4, 1960.

On April 26, 1989, Ball died of a dissecting aortic aneurysm at age 77. At the time of her death she was married to her second husband and business partner, standup comedian Gary Morton for more than twenty-seven years.