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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Happy Birthday Dorothy Gish

Dorothy-Gish 1

NAME: Dorothy Gish
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress
BIRTH DATE: March 11, 1898
DEATH DATE: June 04, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Dayton, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Rapallo, Liguria, Italy
FULL NAME: Dorothy Elizabeth Gish

BEST KNOWN FOR: Dorothy Gish, younger sister of actress Lillian Gish, was a film actress in the first half of the 20th century.

Actress Dorothy Elizabeth Gish was born on March 11, 1898, in Dayton, Ohio. Though many saw her as the less-celebrated younger sister of the famous Lillian Gish, Dorothy was an adept comedian who went on to star in more than 100 short films and features.

Her father, James Leigh Gish, was a candy maker who eventually abandoned the family after his business failed. Her mother, Mary Robinson McConnell, took up acting to support the family, using the stage name Mae. Dorothy Gish and her older sister, Lillian, soon followed their mother onto the stage. Dorothy began performing at the age of 4, appearing as a boy in a production of East Lynne.

Mary, Dorothy and Lillian Gish spent years working on theatrical tours, sometimes together on the same show and other times working on different productions. When not with their mother, the Gish girls were looked after by theatrical friends and associates. During their off-season, Dorothy and her family would spend time in Massillon, Ohio, with her mother’s sister.

In addition to acting, Mary Gish rented out rooms in the family’s New York apartment—this is how Dorothy and her sister met future film star Mary Pickford, who was originally known as Gladys Smith. Years later, the Gish sisters approached Pickford after she began appearing in movies by D.W. Griffith. Pickford introduced them to Griffith, which soon led to their film debut. Dorothy was 14 years old when she and Lillian appeared in An Uneasy Enemy.

Both Dorothy and Lillian Gish enjoyed huge success in film; Dorothy distinguished herself as a fine comedic performer while her sister usually tackled more dramatic roles. Dorothy became known as one of the busiest actresses of the silent-film era, making more than 60 movies during the first few years of her career. Sadly, many of her early works have been lost.

Dorothy Gish made several memorable films as a young woman, including 1918′s Hearts of the World with her sister; her comic turn as Little Disturber in this movie earned her great praise. More humorous roles soon followed, including in Battling Jane (1918) and The Hope Chest (1919). With her sister directing, Dorothy starred opposite James Rennie in the popular 1920 comedy Remodeling Her Husband. Later that year, she married Rennie.

The following year, Dorothy showed off her dramatic talents: She played a blind woman in Orphans of the Storm (1921), co-starring with her sister. Dorothy made her last film with Lillian, Romola, in 1924.

After the film industry converted to talking pictures, Gish transitioned back to the stage. By this time, she was an enormous star and her performances drew large, eager crowds. Notable stage performances include 1928′s Young Love, directed by George Cukor.

For much of the 1930s and ’40s, Gish focused primarily on stage work. She and her husband divorced in 1935.

Gish returned to film in 1944 with a supporting role in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Two years later, she appeared in Centennial Summer. But for Gish, the “talkies” held little appeal. She starred on Broadway as painter Mary Surratt in 1947′s The Story of Mary Surratt, and in 1950, she made her final Broadway appearance in The Man.

The following year, Gish returned to the screen in The Whistle at Eaton Falls, starring Lloyd Bridges. In an interview with The New York Times, she discussed how much filmmaking had changed since her heyday: “Films have become easier work since I was last here,” she said. “In the old days, an actress did her own makeup and hair, prepared her costumes, and sometimes worked 15 and 16 hours a day.” Gish worked with director Otto Preminger on her last film, The Cardinal (1963).

Dorothy Gish spent her final years at a clinic in Italy, according to a New York Times report. Her sister was with her when she died of bronchial pneumonia on June 4, 1968, in Rapallo, Liguria, Italy. Years later, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Film Theater and Gallery was established on the campus of Bowling Green State University, honoring the work of two of film’s great early stars.

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Happy Birthday Betty Hutton

Today is the 93rd birthday of Betty Hutton.


NAME: Betty Hutton
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Singer
BIRTH DATE: February 26, 1921
DEATH DATE: March 11, 2007
PLACE OF BIRTH: Battle Creek, Michigan
PLACE OF DEATH: Palm Springs, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: A popular film actress of the 1940s and 1950s, Betty Hutton starred in such films as Annie Get Your Gun and Greatest Show on Earth.

Born Elizabeth Jane Thornburg on February 26, 1921, in Battle Creek, Michigan, entertainer Betty Hutton started performing at a young age. Her father walked out on the family when she was a toddler, and her mother did what she could to take care of Betty and her sister, Marion, including selling homemade gin and beer during Prohibition. At the age of 3, Hutton began singing as a way to earn spare change from her mother’s customers.

According to the Washington Post, Hutton’s family situation grew more dire over the years: “I quit school when I was 9 years old and starting singing on street corners because my mother was an alcoholic,” Hutton later explained. By age 15, Hutton was working professionally, appearing in a Detroit nightclub. There, she was discovered by bandleader Vincent Lopez. It was Lopez’s idea for her change her last name to Hutton.

After performing with Lopez for a time, Hutton went out on her own. She made her Broadway debut in 1940′s Two for the Show. Later that year, she appeared with Ethel Merman in Panama Hattie. Soon, she moved to film, brought out to Hollywood by a Paramount executive.

Hutton brought an explosive energy to her movie roles, beginning with 1942′s The Fleet’s In with Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. Two years later, she starred in the 1944 wartime comedy The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, directed by Preston Sturges, and her platinum locks and curvy figure quickly earned her nicknames such as “the Blond Bombshell” and “the Blond Blitz.”

More starring film roles soon followed. In 1945, Hutton played entertainer Texas Guinan in Incendiary Blonde. She then brought the life of silent film star Pearl White to the big screen in 1947′s The Perils of Pauline. In 1950, the actress tackled perhaps her most famous role in the hit musical Annie Get Your Gun, about famed sharpshooter and western star Annie Oakley.

Hutton had two major film projects in 1952: She starred in Cecil B. DeMille’s grand spectacular Greatest Show on Earth and in the biopic Somebody Loves Me, based on the life and career of vaudeville singer and actress Blossom Seeley. These movies proved to be two of Hutton’s final big screen efforts.

Hutton walked out on her film contract after a dispute with the studio.

She wanted her second husband, Charles O’Curran, to be her director, and the studio refused. After her split from Paramount, Hutton only made one more film: the 1957 low-budget drama Spring Reunion. Two years later, she tried her luck with television, starring on The Betty Hutton Show. The program lasted only one season.

As her career faded, Hutton fell prey to her personal demons and financial woes. She abused sleeping pills and other drugs for many years. In 1967, she declared bankruptcy, having spent the $9 million to $10 million that she had earned during her heyday. A few years later, she had a mental breakdown, subsequently spending time in a treatment facility.

With the help of Father Peter Maguire, Hutton managed to turn her life around. She became a Catholic and spent years working in his church in Rhode Island. In 1980, she returned to the Broadway stage in the musical Annie. Also around this time, she became a drama teacher at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.

After Maguire’s death in 1996, Hutton moved to Palm Springs, California, hoping to reconcile with her three daughters who lived in the state. Married four times, Hutton had two children, Candy and Lindsay, with her first husband, Ted Briskin. Her third child, Caroline, was from her fourth marriage to jazz musician Pete Candoli. “My husbands all fell in love with Betty Hutton,” the famous blond bombshell once said, according to The New York Times. “None of them fell in love with me.”

Hutton died of complications from colon cancer on March 11, 2007, at the age of 86, in her Palm Springs home. There was a small, private service to mark her passing, which her daughters did not attend. Despite her efforts, Hutton had not been able to mend the rift between her and her children.

Whatever she experienced in her personal life, there is no question that Betty Hutton left an indelible mark on the world of film. “The thing about Betty Hutton was she could sing a song and break your heart, and she was a very good actress,” Robert Osborne, TV host and film historian, told the Los Angeles Times. “Behind the zaniness there was a very sweet, vulnerable person.”

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Happy Birthday Karen Silkwood

Tomorrow is the 68th birthday of Karen Silkwood.  Her death nearly 40 years ago, still considered mysterious by many, has become a rallying point for nuclear energy activists, whistle blowers and union organizers.  Her accomplishments in her short life have continued to improve the worker’s rights in many industries.  A huge debt of gratitude is owed to Karen Silkwood by those who were afraid to speak up and those who otherwise would have had no voice with which to.

NAME: Karen Silkwood
BIRTH DATE: February 19, 1946
DEATH DATE: November 13, 1974
PLACE OF BIRTH: Longview, Texas
PLACE OF DEATH: Crescent, Oklahoma

Best Known For:  Karen Silkwood was a nuclear power plant technician and union activist who exposed violations by her employers. She was killed in a suspicious car accident.

Born February 19, 1946, in Longview, Texas, Karen Silkwood was employed by a nuclear facility in Crescent, Oklahoma. She became involved in the union and discovered serious health and safety violations at the plant. While collecting evidence of these crimes she was killed in a suspicious car accident. Silkwood was portrayed by Meryl Streep in a 1983 film.

Mystery of Karen Silkwood

On the night of November 13, 1974, Karen Silkwood, a technician at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron River nuclear facility in Crescent, Oklahoma, was driving her white Honda to Oklahoma City. There she was to deliver a manila folder full of alleged health and safety violations at the plant to a friend, Drew Stephens, a New York Times reporter and national union representative. Seven miles out of Crescent, however, her car went off the road, skidded for a hundred yards, hit a guardrail, and plunged off the embankment. Silkwood was killed in the crash, and the manila folder was not found at the scene when Stephens arrived a few hours later. Nor has it come to light since. Although Kerr-McGee was a prominent Oklahoma employer whose integrity had never been challenged, as a part of the nuclear power industry it had many adversaries. The controversy ignited by Silkwood’s death regarding the regulation of the nuclear industry was intense, with critics finally finding an example around which to focus their argument. The legacy of the Silkwood case continues to this day in the on-going debate over the safety of nuclear technology.

Silkwood seemed an unlikely candidate to have had such a dramatic impact on American society. One biographer commented that “most of her life was distinguished by how ordinary it was, as ordinary as her death was extraordinary.” Silkwood grew up in Nederland, in the heart of the Texas oil and gas fields. The oldest of three daughters of Bill and Merle Silkwood, she led a normal life. In high school she played on the volleyball team and flute in the band, and was an “A” student and a member of the National Honor Society. She excelled in chemistry and, upon graduation, went to Lamar College in Beaumont to become a medical technician.

After her first year of college, Silkwood eloped with Bill Meadows. They moved around Texas, where Meadows worked in the oil industry and Silkwood took care of their three children. After years of financial struggle (they finally declared bankruptcy), Silkwood left him in 1972 when she discovered Meadows was having an affair with her friend. Giving Bill custody of the children, she moved to Oklahoma City. There she found a job at Kerr-McGee’s Cimarron River plant in Crescent, thirty miles north of Oklahoma City, soon joined the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, and walked the picket line during their largely unsuccessful nine week strike in 1972.

The Cimarron facility manufactured fuel rods that were used in nuclear fission reactors. Contained within these fuel rods were particles of plutonium, an element created from uranium atoms, and the most toxic substance then known. Even pollen-sized grains of plutonium can cause cancer, as had been shown in animal experiments, but the workers at the plant were not alerted to any danger. Nonetheless Silkwood became increasingly concerned about health and safety violations that went uncorrected by management, and as 1974 drew on, got involved with the bargaining committee for the union. The Cimarron plant was experiencing sixty percent employee turnover a year, was using second-hand equipment, and was behind on production.

Desperate to avoid another strike, which was looming, Kerr-McGee organized a union de-certification vote that, though ultimately failing, galvanized the union into bringing the safety violations to the attention of federal officials. Silkwood and two other local union officials went to Washington, D.C., to confer with national union leaders and the Atomic Energy Commission. Chief among their allegations were the lack of training given employees, failure to minimize contamination, and poor monitoring, including the finding of uranium dust in the lunchroom. At this meeting Silkwood secretly agreed to obtain before and after photomicrographs of faulty fuel rods showing where they were being ground down to disguise faults.

After this meeting Silkwood began carrying around notebooks to document a variety of safety violations at the plant. Her assertion was that people were being contaminated by plutonium all the time, and indeed there were at least 17 acknowledged incidents of exposure involving 77 employees in the recent past. Silkwood’s concern was obsessive. As her friend Stephens remarked: “She just lived it, couldn’t let it go and relax, particularly in the last month she was alive.” On November 4 and 5, 1974, for two consecutive days, Silkwood was contaminated by radioactivity, detected by plant electronic monitors when leaving work. By November 7,  her urine showed very high levels of radioactivity. When tested, her apartment also showed high levels, especially in the refrigerator. At this time Silkwood was convinced she was going to die of plutonium poisoning. She and her roommate and Stephens were sent to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to be more thoroughly tested. The exposure level was deemed not serious.

On November 13, Silkwood attended a local union meeting then got into her car to drive to Oklahoma City to deliver the manila folder of evidence, the results of her seven week vigil, to New York Times reporter David Burnham. Ten minutes later her car went off the road and Silkwood died. The state patrol ruled it an accident, saying “it’s pretty clear she fell asleep at the wheel. She never woke up.” While blood tests showed a small amount of alcohol and methaqualone (a prescription sedative) in her system, it is doubtful the amount was sufficient to induce sleep in ten minutes. A subsequent investigation by a private detective concluded that she had likely been forced off the road by another car; a dent in the rear bumper showed metal and rubber fragments, as if another car had rammed her from behind. The manila folder was not recovered from the site of the crash, though other personal effects were.

A subsequent Justice Department investigation also ruled it an accident. Congressional hearings, along with a lawsuit on behalf of Silkwood’s children, however, have revealed an intriguing and bizarre story to discredit critics, involving the FBI, newspaper reporters, and the nuclear industry, a story largely left untold. It is possible Silkwood’s phone had been tapped and that she had been under surveillance for awhile. Union official Jack Tice has said that Silkwood had been alarmed prior to her death: “She was starting to think someone was out to get her.”

The truth of what happened the night of November 13, 1974, may never be known. What is clear is that the death of Silkwood has become a rallying point for anti-nuclear activists and put the nuclear industry on the defensive. The Atomic Energy Commission confirmed three violations at the Cimarron plant, which eventually shut down. And a major questioning of the nuclear industry has occurred as a result of the revelations that have come to light. In a suit filed by Bill Silkwood on behalf of his grandchildren, a jury in May, 1979, awarded the Silkwood estate over ten million dollars in punitive damages and cleared Silkwood of the allegation that she had stolen plutonium from the plant. It also found that Kerr-McGee had been negligent and that someone had planted plutonium in her apartment. Though an appeals court overturned the decision, the Supreme Court eventually agreed with the lower court, reinstating the victory for the Silkwood family and saying that punitive damages could be awarded in cases involving the nuclear industry, effectively allowing state and jury regulation.

Though many mysteries remain surrounding the death of Silkwood, the public has gained much awareness about nuclear issues and has pressured the industry to become more responsible to health and safety concerns. As former Congresswoman Bella Abzug has commented, the issues stemming from the Silkwood case are “a matter of concern both in regard to public safety and the rights of individuals.”

Silkwood’s story was unveiled to a much greater audience in the 1983 film directed by Mike Nichols. Meryl Streep starred as Karen Silkwood with Kurt Russell and Cher in supporting roles. Silkwood garnered numerous Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for acting, directing, and screenplay writing. Cher won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

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Happy Birthday Antonio Lopez

Today is the 71st Birthday of Antonio Lopez (February 11, 1943 – March 17, 1987).  Antonio was a fashion illustrator whose work appeared in such publications as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Interview and The New York Times. Several books collecting his illustrations have been published. In his obituary, the New York Times called him a “major fashion illustrator.” He generally signed his works as “Antonio.”

Antonio Lopez is the Picasso of fashion illustration. Mostly known as just plain ‘Antonio’, he was a giant in the field of fashion illustration. He captured the pulse of style from the 60s to the 80s, and is still revered as the most inspiring illustrator by today’s practitioners. He worked with a variety of materials including pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor and polaroid film. His work appeared frequently in Vogue, Harper’s bazzar, Elle and Interview.

Recording and predicting contemporary style trends, Antonio also used his immense versatility to adopt a broad range of art movements, from Pop Art to Surrealism.

For Antonio, life – bestial and sublime – surpassed any fiction. His illustrations and photographs capture the beautiful people who are part of celebrity folklore, and who were more often than not his friends: Jerry Hall (to whom he was engaged), Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol (with whom he worked on Interview magazine), Paloma Picasso and Marlene Dietrich.

Packed with previously unpublished material, this is a thrilling retrospective about an artist who is represented in major collections from the Metropolitan to the Louvre. Even posthumously, Antonio has not relinquished his grip on the fashion world: his style and quest for beauty live on.

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Rear View Mirror – My Week in Review

Last week, someone asked me what my freak flag was, what did I nerd-out/fan-boy over, what was my passion? and I had to really think about it for a while.  I mean, I am clearly obsessed with chronicling (and learning from) the lives of people that I find inspiring.  I am constantly finding new amazing lives that I had not previously known about and that is exciting to me.  There is also the factor that I am afraid of their lives, their work, and their words disappearing.  Especially when I know it is so valuable and so much can be learned from them.  I know my life is better because of the lives of others I have learned about.  I truly fear that loss.

I love the whole idea behind abandoned places, the thought of the last person closing the door and just never looking back seems like such a bizarre act to me, I am fascinated of photos where the only thing that has changed in decades is the dust.  There is a pair of houses a couple blocks away that look abandoned, I should investigate closer, but it could just be that they have let their yard and home upkeep go.  I look at them from the sidewalk.  The area that was the former U.S.S.R. is lousy with abandoned places.  That and Detroit.

The question not only made me verbalize what my interests were, but it also made me realize that I am not focusing much time on them.  Work, gym, household chores, and sleep all take up a large slice of the day, but what am I doing with what is left?  Could it be used differently?  Why am I not reading more books?  Why am I not writing that book?  I am not confident that abrupt and drastic changes to one’s life ever really last, but the awareness of the desire to tweak some of the focus should cause at least a little ripple of change.

This week, I started out thinking that I was going to be getting a 1981 Mercedes Benz 300SD, but ended up with a 1988 BMW 528E.  The Mercedes was just too big and the BMW was much more fun.  I am not going to post a bunch of photos of my car here, but if you follow me on instagram, you can see it HERE.  As I type this, R is looking at much much younger BMWs.

Over on Waldina, we celebrated Jasper Johns, Dorothy Parker, Gracie Hansen, Voyager 2, and the novel Gone With the Wind.  We learned how to correctly eat sushi and obsessed over the disappearance of Jean Spangler.

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While at Wasp & Pear on Tumblr, we shared the amazing New York Times Obituary of the absolutely amazing Julie Harris (if you ever find a copy of Lucifer’s Child, watch it – and tell me where -, if you can’t find a copy, buy the audio book), Polaroid cameras, abandoned places, Morrissey and The Smiths,

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Many years ago, we were trying to figure out when our dog’s birthday was.  He had just appeared on our porch one day, injured and tired, then stayed for well over a decade.  We guessed that he was about six months old at the time of his arrival, so when we did the math, it turned out that he shared the same birthday as our grandmother.  I seem to remember her not being that amused, given to the small detail that she was sharing a birthday with a dog who also happened to be named “Bubba.”  To her credit, I do have her name first in my calendar on this day, although, it may just sort alphabetically and her name being “Alfa” comes before “Bubba.”  Yesterday, I was out at the lake house and I looked at her picture and touched the things she touched and took the same path she took and thought about her birthday today and how old she would be if she was still alive and what that would be like if she was still alive.  I didn’t think about Bubba once until today.  He was a sweet dog, but dumb.  And smelly.  But sweet.

Montgomery Clift – Style Icon

Have you seen A Place in the Sun or Misfits lately?  Have you seen them ever?  They both have ridiculously talented casts that make them more than worthwhile to watch.NAME: Edward Montgomery Clift
BIRTH DATE: October 17, 1920
DEATH DATE: July 23, 1966
PLACE OF BIRTH: Omaha, Nebraska
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actor Montgomery Clift starred in films like Red River (1948), A Place in the Sun (1951), and From Here To Eternity (1953).

Edward Montgomery Clift (October 17, 1920 – July 23, 1966) was an American film and stage actor. The New York Times’ obituary noted his portrayal of “moody, sensitive young men”.

He invariably played outsiders, often “victim-heroes,” – examples include the social climber in George Stevens’s A Place in the Sun, the anguished Catholic priest in Hitchcock’s I Confess, the doomed regular soldier Robert E. Lee Prewitt in Fred Zinnemann‘s From Here to Eternity, and the Jewish GI bullied by antisemites in Edward Dmytryk’s The Young Lions. Later, after a disfiguring car crash in 1956, and alcohol and prescription drug abuse, he became erratic. Nevertheless important roles were still his, including “the reckless, alcoholic, mother-fixated rodeo performer in Huston’s The Misfits, the title role in Huston’s Freud, and the concentration camp victim in Stanley Kramer‘s Judgment at Nuremberg.

Clift received four Academy Award nominations during his career, three for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.