Happy Birthday Maxwell Perkins

Today is the 130th birthday of Maxwell Perkins.  My first exposure to him was from reading a book of correspondence between him and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  He was Fitzgerald’s editor at the time and they would write back and forth keeping each other informed on how new works were progressing and finished works were being published.  I have gone on the read the Scott Berg biography on him and that rounded out the picture for me.  You should always read a Scott Berg biography.  I think I have read them all.

maxwell perkinsNAME: Maxwell Perkins
OCCUPATION: Editor
BIRTH DATE: September 20, 1884
DEATH DATE: June 17, 1947
EDUCATION: St. Paul’s School, Harvard University
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Stamford, Connecticut

BEST KNOWN FOR: Maxwell Perkins was an influential editor who worked with such authors as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.

Maxwell Perkins was born on September 20, 1884, in New York City, at his family’s home on the corner of Second Avenue and 14th Street. After high school, Perkins attended Harvard University, as had many members of his family before him. After graduation (1907), Perkins was a reporter for a short period at The New York Times, but in 1910 he landed a job as an advertising manager with Charles Scribner’s Sons, the publishing house where he would truly make his mark. (This was the same year Perkins married Louise Saunders, with whom he went on to have five daughters.)

Scribner’s was a traditional publishing house, with a serious if staid stable of writers (e.g., Henry James and Edith Wharton). When Perkins joined the editorial staff in 1914, little did he know he would end up revolutionizing the company and American literature.

Four years after moving into editorial, Perkins began his upward push when a manuscript called The Romantic Egoist hit his desk. It was the first novel by a 22-year-old Princeton graduate, and it came with a host of negative comments from others who had already perused its pages. But something about it caught Perkins’ eye, and he contacted the writer to make some edits. The writer was F. Scott Fitzgerald, and while arguing the merits of Fitzgerald’s book, Perkins said, “If we aren’t going to publish a talent like this, it is a very serious thing . . . . we might as well go out of business.”

Fitzgerald rewrote the work twice before Scribner’s agreed to publish it, under the name This Side of Paradise (1920). The book was a huge success, and it launched Fitzgerald to international literary stardom. Perkins was also instrumental in shaping Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, called by some the greatest American novel ever written.

Four years later, Fitzgerald pointed Perkins in the direction of another up-and-coming American writer living in Paris: Ernest Hemingway. Perkins made contact, and two years later Scribner’s, under Perkin’s guidance, published the 27-year-old Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. As had This Side of Paradise, Hemingway’s first book caused literary waves around the world, and a new movement was under way, with Perkins at its heart. Perkins would work on subsequent books by both Fitzgerald and Hemingway, as well as books by writers such as Ring Lardner, Sherwood Anderson and Martha Gellhorn (who would become Hemingway’s third wife).

In what would mark the beginning of a tumultuous and important literary and personal relationship, in 1928 Thomas Wolfe submitted to Scribner’s his first novel, titled O Lost, a sprawling 1,114-page coming-of-age novel that had already been rejected by a handful of publishers. Perkins and Wolfe spent months editing and restructuring the work, hammering it into what would become known as Look Homeward, Angel (1929), a book that would go on to become a classic. Perkins and Wolfe worked together again, but they eventually had a dramatic falling-out over Perkins’ methods, and Wolfe left Scribner’s.

Perkins, however, has come to represent how important an editor can be for an author. A collection of his correspondence to his authors and others, Editor to Author, was published in 1950, three years after his death at age 62.

Happy Birthday Molly Ivins

Today is the 70th birthday of Molly Ivins.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday James Baldwin

NAME: James Baldwin
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: August 2, 1924
DEATH DATE: December 1, 1987
EDUCATION: The New School, DeWitt Clinton High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Harlem, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Saint-Paul de Vence, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: James Baldwin was an essayist, playwright and novelist regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer with works like The Fire Next Time and Another Country.

Writer and playwright James Baldwin was born August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York. One of the 20th century’s greatest writers, Baldwin broke new literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his many works. He was especially well known for his essays on the black experience in America.

Baldwin was born to a young single mother, Emma Jones, at Harlem Hospital. She reportedly never told him the name of his biological father. Jones married a Baptist minister named David Baldwin when James was about three years old. Despite their strained relationship, he followed in his stepfather’s footsteps—who he always referred to as his father—during his early teen years. He served as a youth minister in a Harlem Pentecostal church from the ages of 14 to 16.

Baldwin developed a passion for reading at an early age, and demonstrated a gift for writing during his school years. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he worked on the school’s magazine with future famous photographer Richard Avedon. He published numerous poems, short stories, and plays in the magazine, and his early work showed an understanding for sophisticated literary devices in a writer of such a young age.

After graduating high school in 1942, he had to put his plans for college on hold to help support his family, which included seven younger children. He took whatever work he could find, including laying railroad track for the U.S. Army in New Jersey. During this time, Baldwin frequently encountered discrimination, being turned away from restaurants, bars, and other establishments because he was African-American. After being fired from the New Jersey job, Baldwin sought other work and struggled to make ends meet.

On July 29, 1943, Baldwin lost his father—and gained his eighth sibling the same day. He soon moved to Greenwich Village, a New York City neighborhood popular with artists and writers. Devoting himself to writing a novel, Baldwin took odd jobs to support himself. He befriended writer Richard Wright, and through Wright he was able to land a fellowship in 1945 to cover his expenses. Baldwin started getting essays and short stories published in such national periodicals as The Nation, Partisan Review, and Commentary.

Three years later, Baldwin made a dramatic change in his life, and moved to Paris on another fellowship. The shift in location freed Baldwin to write more about his personal and racial background. “Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I see where I came from very clearly…I am the grandson of a slave, and I am writer. I must deal with both,” Baldwin once told The New York Times. The move marked the beginning of his life as a “transatlantic commuter,” dividing his time between France and the United States.

Baldwin had his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, published in 1953. The loosely autobiographical tale focused on the life of a young man growing up in Harlem grappling with father issues and his religion. “Mountain is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else. I had to deal with what hurt me most. I had to deal, above all, with my father,” he later said.

In 1954, Baldwin received a Guggenheim fellowship. He published his next novel, Giovanni’s Room, the following year. The work told the story of an American living in Paris, and broke new ground for its complex depiction of homosexuality, a then-taboo subject. He also explored interracial relationships in his novels, another controversial topic for the times.

Around this time, Baldwin explored writing for the stage. He wrote The Amen Corner, which looked at the phenomenon of storefront Pentecostal religion. The play was produced at Howard University in 1955, and later on Broadway in the mid-1960s.

It was his essays, however, that helped establish Baldwin as one of the top writers of the times. Delving into his own life, he provided an unflinching look at the black experience in America through such works as Notes of a Native Son (1955) and Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son (1961). Nobody Knows My Name hit the best-sellers list, selling more than a million copies. While not a marching or sit-in style activist, Baldwin emerged as one of the leading voices in the civil rights movement for his compelling work on race.

In 1963, there was a noted change in Baldwin’s work with The Fire Next Time. This collection of essays was meant to educate white Americans on what it meant to be black. It also offered white readers a view of themselves through the eyes of the African-American community. In the work, Baldwin offered a brutally realistic picture of race relations, but he remained hopeful about possible improvements. “If we…do not falter in our duty now, we may be able…to end the racial nightmare.” His words struck a cord with the American people, and The Fire Next Time sold more than a million copies.

That same year, Baldwin was featured on the cover of Time magazine. “There is not another writer—white or black—who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realities of the racial ferment in North and South,”Time said in the feature.

Baldwin wrote another play, Blues for Mister Charlie, which debuted on Broadway in 1964. The drama was loosely based on the 1955 racially motivated murder of a young African-American boy named Emmett Till. This same year, his book with friend Richard Avalon, entitled Nothing Personal, hit bookstore shelves. The work was a tribute to slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Baldwin also published a collection of short stories, Going to Meet the Man, around this time.

In his 1968 novel Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, Baldwin returned to popular themes—sexuality, family, and the black experience. Some critics panned the novel, calling it a polemic rather than a novel. He was also criticized for using the first-person singular, the “I,” for the book’s narration.

By the early 1970s, Baldwin seemed to despair over the racial situation. He witnessed so much violence in the previous decade—especially the assassinations of Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.—because of racial hatred. This disillusionment became apparent in his work, employing a more strident tone than in earlier works. Many critics point to No Name in the Street, a 1972 collection of essays, as the beginning of the change in Baldwin’s work. He also worked on a screenplay around this time, trying to adapt The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley for the big screen.

While his literary fame faded somewhat in his later years, Baldwin continued to produce new works in a variety of forms. He published a collection of poems, Jimmy’s Blues: Selected Poems, in 1983 as well as the 1987 novel Harlem Quartet. Baldwin also remained an astute observer of race and American culture. In 1985, he wrote The Evidence of Things Not Seen about the Atlanta child murders. Baldwin also spent years sharing his experiences and views as a college professor. In the years before his death, he taught at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Hampshire College.

Baldwin died on December 1, 1987, at his home in St. Paul de Vence, France. Never wanting to be a spokesperson or a leader, Baldwin saw his personal mission as bearing “witness to the truth.” He accomplished this mission through his extensive body of work.

Happy Birthday Milton Berle

Today is the 106th birthday of Milton Berle.

NAME:  Milton Berle
OCCUPATION:  Radio Personality, Film Actor, Television Actor, Comedian, Television Personality
BIRTH DATE:  July 12, 1908
DEATH DATE:  March 27, 2002
PLACE OF BIRTH:  New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH:  Los Angeles, California
AKA:  Milton Berle, Mr. Television, Uncle Miltie
NICKNAME:  The Thief of Bad Gags
ORIGINALLY:  Milton Berlinger

BEST KNOWN FOR: Milton Berle was a Jewish-American comedian who started in vaudeville acts, and was a success in the early days of TV, becoming known as “Uncle Miltie.”

Comedy legend Milton Berle was born as Milton Berlinger in New York City on July 12, 1908. He started his career by impersonating Charlie Chaplin at as a young boy. After winning a Chaplin look-alike contest at the age of 5, he began landing film roles. Berle appeared in numerous silent films, including The Mark of Zorro, with Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Tillie’s Punctured Romance, with Charlie Chaplin.

Berle also performed on the vaudeville circuit, sometimes landing on the same bill as Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson. Nearly every step of the way, in his early years, Berle was accompanied by his mother, who was both his manager and biggest fan. According to the The Boston Globe, Berle said that his mother sat in the audience “for every show,” adding, “She had a loud laugh. She’d cue the audience, but they never knew it was my mother.”

Berle made his first radio appearance in 1934, but he continued to be more famous for his live acts. By the 1940s, he was one of the highest paid night-club performers. He also developed a reputation for being a joke thief, stealing other people’s material for his routine—an accusation that he embraced. “Like every comedian, if I heard a joke that I thought would work, I used it,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. Journalist Walter Winchell nicknamed Berle “The Thief of Bad Gags.”

In the late 1940s, Berle took a gamble on a then-emerging medium—television. His show Texaco Star Theater debuted in 1948, and he quickly became a huge star. Known as “Mr. Television” and “Uncle Miltie,” Berle became a weekly fixture in the homes of many Americans, and a motivation for some to purchase their first television set. He joked aggressively with his audience, and seemed to have no limits for getting laughs, including dressing up in women’s clothing. The show’s writers included Neil Simon, who later found fame as a playwright.

Berle’s ratings started to ebb in 1953, and he lost Texaco as a sponsor. When the Buick car company jumped aboard for one season, the show was renamed The Buick-Berle Show. In its final year, however, it was titled The Milton Berle Show. After signing off in 1955, Berle made several attempts to recapture his earlier success, but had no luck. He continued to make guest TV appearances on such shows as The Love Boat and Batman—on which he played a recurring role as the villainous “Louie the Lilac.”

Outside of his TV career, Berle continued to thrive as a comedian in Las Vegas, as well as other parts of the country. He performed until December 1998, when he suffered a mild stroke. Rather than go on stage, Berle held court at the Friars Club, a popular haunt for comics in Beverly Hills, California.

A year after being diagnosed with colon cancer, on March 27, 2002, Milton Berle died at his Los Angeles, California home. He was survived by his third wife, Lorna, his two stepchildren, and two children from previous marriages.

Fellow comedian Buddy Hackett remembered Berle as a pioneer. “Whatever you see on television, Milton did it first,” Hackett told The New York Times.

Happy Birthday Christine Jorgensen

Today is the 88th birthday of Christine Jorgensen.  When confronted with people’s opinions about the gender identities of others, I often claim that they are the bravest people we will ever meet.  Think about it.  If how you felt on the inside didn’t match how you looked on the outside and you chose to dress and alter yourself to align those two more closely.  But you know that in making yourself feel more whole, you are going to get stares and snickers every time you left your house.  All day long.  Would you be brave enough to do it?  Would you be strong enough to live your truth?

NAME:  Christine Jorgensen
OCCUPATION:  Singer, Film Actor/Film Actress
BIRTH DATE:  May 30, 1926
DEATH DATE:  May 3, 1989
EDUCATION:  Christopher Columbus High School, New York Institute of Photography
PLACE OF BIRTH:  Bronx, New York
PLACE OF DEATH:  San Clemente, California
ORIGINALLY:  George William Jorgensen Jr.

Best Known For: Entertainer, author and famous transsexual Christine Jorgensen, made headlines in the early 1950s for having a sex change from a man to a woman.

Entertainer, author and famous transsexual Christine Jorgensen was born George William Jorgensen, Jr., on May 30, 1926, in the Bronx, New York. In the early 1950s, Christine Jorgensen made headlines for having a sex change, transforming from a man to a woman. The son of a carpenter, she grew up in the Bronx borough of New York City. At an early age, Jorgensen became aware of feeling like a woman stuck inside a man’s body. She hated boys’ clothes and wondered why his clothes were so different from his older sister Dorothy’s pretty dresses, he wrote in American Weekly in 1953.

As a teenager, Jorgensen said that she felt “lost between the sexes.” She was more envious of girls than he was interested in them. Near the end of high school, Jorgensen found a diversion from her personal struggle — photography. Her father was an amateur photographer and two set up a darkroom at home. She also took classes at the New York Institute of Photography.

Unfortunately, Jorgensen had to put her interest aside when she was drafted into the military in 1945. Being of a small and slight build, she ended up working as a clerk at Fort Dix, New Jersey. After being discharged in 1946, Jorgensen floundered for a bit before deciding to become a woman.

In 1950, Jorgensen traveled to Denmark to begin the transformation from man to woman. The treatment, available only in Europe at the time, included hormone therapy and several operations. Her story became public in 1952 while she was still in a Copenhagen hospital, making big news in the United States. Overwhelmed by the attention, Jorgensen had to deal with such headlines as “Bronx ‘Boy’ Is Now a Girl” and “Dear Mum and Dad, Son Wrote, Have Now Become Your Daughter.”

Returning home to United States in 1953, Jorgensen was met by a sea of reporters at a New York airport. After answering a few questions, she said “I thank you all coming, but I think it’s too much.” Becoming more comfortable with her newfound fame, Jorgensen told her story to American Weekly magazine for a fee. She also developed a nightclub act, later saying, “I decided if they wanted to see me, they would have to pay for it,” according to The New York Times. Happy with her new identity as a woman, she often sang “I Enjoy Being a Girl.”

While she never questioned her choice, many members of the public and the media did not understand and made Jorgensen the subject of ridicule. Even the government was not willing to fully recognize her as a female. Engaged, she was denied a marriage license in 1959 became her birth certificate listed her as “male.”

Although some rejected her, others found her engaging and fascinating. Along with performing, she was a popular lecturer and author of 1967’s Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography. Her life even made the big screen in 1970’s The Christine Jorgensen Story.

Jorgensen retired to South California in the early 1970s. She died of bladder and lung cancer on May 3, 1989. Jorgensen’s very public transformation from a man to a woman launched a national discussion about gender identity, and her story stood as an inspiring example to others that suffered from that same feeling about being trapped in the wrong body, or gender dysphoria as it is also called.

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Happy Birthday Carrie Donovan

This week is Carrie Donovan’s 86th birthday.  I am a sucker for huge glasses, truth be told. You have got to OWN your look, make it yours, and do not hide from it. Become know by it and your “style” becomes stylish and copied.

Born:  March 22, 1928
Died:  November 12, 2001
Wrote for:  The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar

Carrie Donovan (March 22, 1928 – November 12, 2001) was fashion editor for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine. Later in her life she became known for her work in Old Navy commercials where she wore her trademark large eyeglasses and black clothing, often declaring the merchandise “Fabulous!”. In almost all of the commercials, she appeared alongside Magic the dog and various other stars from TV and fashion.

When Donovan was just 10 years old, she mailed her own sketches for a design collection to the actress Jane Wyman, who replied with a handwritten letter. She later attended the Parsons School of Design, graduating in 1950. She worked as a journalist for 30 years but always wrote her copy out by hand, because she never got the hang of the typewriter.

“Fashion is entertainment. That’s why these top models are so fascinating to kids. They’re dying to know about Naomi and Christy, or whoever we’ve declared the new one this afternoon.”

One of her best talents was her ability to flit easily between high society and the common masses, both in her personal life and as a style professional. She helped bring Donna Karan and Perry Ellis to fame, and she united Elsa Peretti with Tiffany’s, feeling sure that Peretti would open the doors to a new demographic for the upscale company. Even her work with Old Navy gave new fashion credibility to the casual-wear company. Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland told her: ”My dear, you’ve got the common touch!”

She was portrayed as a parody by Ana Gasteyer on an episode of Saturday Night Live.

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Happy Birthday Anna Maria Piaggi

Anna Maria Piaggi (22 March 1931 – 7 August 2012) was an Italian fashion writer and style icon.

Piaggi was born in Milan in 1931. She worked as a translator for an Italian publishing company Mondadori, then wrote for fashion magazines such as the Italian edition of Vogue and, in the 1980s, the avant-garde magazine Vanity. She was known especially for double page spreads in the Italian Vogue, where her artistic flair was given free expression in a montage of images and text, with layout by Luca Stoppini.

Since 1969, she used a bright red manual Olivetti Valentine typewriter for her work. Piaggi had a large clothes collection, including 2,865 dresses and 265 pairs of shoes, according to a 2006 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She dressed in an exuberant, unique and eclectic way, never appearing in the same outfit more than once in public. Such was her influence and knowledge in the fashion world, Manolo Blahnik dubbed her “The world’s last great authority on frocks”.[citation needed]

Her associates in the fashion world included the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (from the 1970s), who has often sketched her, and Manolo Blahnik, who is the designer of many of her shoes. She was the muse of British milliner Stephen Jones. She was also an admirer of British clothes designer Vivienne Westwood and her hats, made by Prudence Millinery. She lived in New York and visited London and Italy periodically since the 1950s. Piaggi appeared in the documentary Bill Cunningham New York on the New York Times fashion and social photographer Bill Cunningham.

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