Happy Birthday Dovima

Today is the 87th birthday of the woman you didn’t know you knew, Dovima.  Her iconic images from the 50’s help set the stylized tone that it is remembered for today.  Her story is truly American:  discovered on the streets of New York City, worked with the best photographers and designers in the world, immortalized in film.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

 

NAME: Dovima
OCCUPATION: Model
BORN: December 11, 1927, New York City, NY
DIED: May 31, 1990, Fort Lauderdale, FL
SPOUSE: Casper West Hollingsworth (m. 1983–1986)
MOVIES: Funny Face
CHILDREN: Alison Murray

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, later known as Dorothy Horan, and best known as Dovima, was an American model during the 1950s.

Born in New York City, Dovima was discovered on a sidewalk in New York by an editor at Vogue, and had a photo shoot with Irving Penn the following day. She worked closely with Richard Avedon, whose photograph of her in a floor-length evening gown with circus elephants—”Dovima with the Elephants”—taken at the Cirque d’hiver, Paris, in August 1955, has become an icon. The gown was the first evening dress designed for Christian Dior by his new assistant, Yves Saint-Laurent.

Dovima was reputed to be the highest-paid model of her time. She had a cameo role as an aristocratic-looking, but empty-headed, fashion model with a Jackson Heights whine: Marion in Funny Face (Paramount, 1957).

Dovima gave birth to a daughter named Alison on July 14, 1958, in Manhattan. Alison’s father is Dovima’s second husband, Alan Murray.

She died of liver cancer on May 3, 1990 at the age of 62.

Happy Birthday James Thurber

Today is James Thurber’s 120th birthday.  It is no secret that his book The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of my very favorites and it’s been made into a film.  I should reread it.  I identify with the heroic daydreamer aspect of the main character very much, he reminds me of Henry Darger (without the hundreds of watercolors of children being massacred).  Just a unassuming man, living an outwardly ordinary life with a vividly rich imagination.  I have included a link at the bottom to Audible where you can download the book for free and listen to it through the Audible App for Apple or Android devices.

NAME: James Thurber
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Author
BIRTH DATE: December 08, 1894
DEATH DATE: November 02, 1961
EDUCATION: Ohio State University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Columbus, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: New York City, New York
FULL NAME: James Grover Thurber

BEST KNOWN FOR: James Thurber was an American cartoonist best known for his contributions to The New Yorker magazine.

This week is the birthday of James Thurber, born in Columbus, Ohio (1894). His father was an underpaid civil servant who worked too hard; his mother was a funny woman who loved to play jokes. When he was seven years old, he was playing with his brothers and was shot in the eye with a bow and arrow; he went completely blind in one eye, and struggled with his eyesight for the rest of his life.

He dropped out of Ohio State University, spent a couple of years during World War I working as a code clerk, and in 1925, he moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, getting a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Post. He joined the staff of The New Yorker in 1927 as an editor with the help of his friend and fellow New Yorker contributor, E.B. White. His career as a cartoonist began in 1930 when White found some of Thurber’s drawings in a trash can and submitted them for publication; White inked-in some of these earlier drawings to make them reproduce better for the magazine, and years later expressed deep regret that he had done such a thing. Thurber would contribute both his writings and his drawings to The New Yorker until the 1950s.

Thurber was married twice. In 1922, Thurber married Althea Adams. The marriage was troubled and ended in divorce in May 1935.  Adams gave Thurber his only child, his daughter Rosemary. Thurber remarried in June 1935 to Helen Wismer.

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He died in 1961, at the age of 66, due to complications from pneumonia, which followed upon a stroke suffered at his home. His last words, aside from the repeated word “God,” were “God bless… God damn,” according to Helen Thurber.

An annual award, the Thurber Prize, begun in 1997, honors outstanding examples of American humor. In 2008, The Library of America selected Thurber’s New Yorker story “A Sort of Genius” for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.
Thurber said, “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”

Happy Birthday David Rakoff

Today is David Rakoff‘s 50th birthday.  He is quite possibly the wittiest writer we have seen this century.  The 2oth century had Dorothy Parker and the 21st had David Rakoff.  He has also had the great fortune of being an excellent orator of his own works, reading a David Rakoff book is a treasure, but listening to him read it brings color and light and darkness (oh the amazingly beautiful darkness) to the words in the ways he intended.  His death is an enormous loss for the world.  Please do yourself a favor and read (or listen to) something that he has written, I guarantee you will become a veracious fan.  The world is a better place because David was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

I have re-posted several of my favorite David Rakoff posts today, please give yourself a gift and read/listen to one of his books soon.  You deserve it.

David Rakoff 1

Name:  David Benjamin Rakoff
Born:  November 27, 1964
BirthplaceMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Died:  August 9, 2012 (aged 47)
Location at time of death:  Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Occupation:  Essayist, journalist, actor
Nationality:  Canadian-American

David Rakoff was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the youngest of three children. His brother, the comedian Simon Rakoff, is four years older than David and their sister Ruth Rakoff, author of the cancer memoir When My World Was Very Small, is the middle child.   Rakoff has said that he and his siblings were close as children.[4][6] Rakoff’s mother, Gina Shochat-Rakoff, is a doctor who has practised psychotherapy and his father, Vivian Rakoff, is a psychiatrist.  Rakoff has written that almost every generation of his family fled from one place to another.  Rakoff’s grandparents, who were Jewish, fled Latvia and Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century and settled in South Africa.  The Rakoff family left South Africa in 1961 for political reasons, moving to Montreal for seven years. In 1967, when he was three, Rakoff’s family moved to Toronto.  As an adult, he said that he identified as Jewish.

“I will stipulate to having both French sea salt and a big bottle of extra virgin in my kitchen. And while the presence of both might go some small distance in pigeonholing me demographically, neither one of them makes me a good person. They are mute and useless indicators of the content of my character.”
― David Rakoff, Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems

Rakoff attended high school at the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1982. In the same year he moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he majored in East Asian Studies and studied dance.  Rakoff spent his third year of college at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated in 1986. Rakoff worked in Japan as a translator with a fine arts publisher. His work was interrupted after four months when, at 22, he became ill with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of lymphatic cancer which he has referred to as “a touch of cancer”. He returned to Toronto for eighteen months of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

“Being a stranger was like being dead,
and brought to mind how, in a book he had read
that most folks misunderstood one common state:
The flip side of love is indifference, not hate.”
― David Rakoff, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

From 1982, Rakoff lived in the United States (minus his four-month stay in Japan in 1986), first as a student, then as a resident alien. In the early 1990s he was issued a green card, a subject about which he wrote in one of his early newspaper articles.[8] After living in the United States for twenty-one years, Rakoff was motivated by a desire to participate in the political process and applied for U.S. citizenship. Rakoff chronicled the experience of becoming an American citizen in an essay published in Don’t Get Too Comfortable. He became a U.S. citizen in 2003, while at the same time retaining his Canadian citizenship.

Rakoff was a prolific freelance writer and a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Outside Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. His writing also appeared in Business 2.0, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Nerve, New York Magazine, Salon, Seed, Slate, Spin, The New York Observer, Vogue, Wired and other publications. He wrote on a wide and eclectic range of topics.

Rakoff published three bestselling collections of essays, which include his own illustrations. Both Fraud (Doubleday 2001) and Don’t Get Too Comfortable (Doubleday 2005) were awarded a Lambda literary award (which recognises excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives), both times in the “Humor” category. Half-Empty (2010) won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

In 2010, while writing the book Half Empty, Rakoff was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and later developed a post-radiation sarcoma behind his left collarbone and began chemotherapy.  He died in Manhattan on August 9, 2012.

 

 

Happy Birthday Doris Duke

Today is Doris Duke’s 102nd birthday.  She was in the newspapers from the day she was born, her every move chronicled and scrutinized.  Her art collection, the house she built in Hawaii, her love life, she did everything large. If Susan Sarandon and Lauren Bacall star in movies about your life, you are doing something right.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Doris Duke
OCCUPATION: Art Collector, Philanthropist
BIRTH DATE: November 22, 1912
DEATH DATE: October 28, 1993
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Tobacco heiress Doris Duke was the only child of American tobacco baron, James Duke. When she was born, the press called her the “million dollar baby.”

Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) was an American heiress, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist.

Duke was the only child of tobacco and electric energy tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman, widow of Dr. William Patterson Inman. At his death in 1925, the elder Duke’s will bequeathed the majority of his estate to his wife and daughter,[3] along with $17,000,000, in two separate clauses of the will, to The Duke Endowment he had created in 1924. The total value of the estate was not disclosed, but was estimated variously at $60,000,000 and $100,000,000.

Duke spent her early childhood at Duke Farms, her father’s 3,000-acre (12 km2) estate in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. Due to ambiguity in James Duke’s will, a lawsuit was filed to prevent auctions and outright sales of real estate he had owned; in effect, Doris Duke successfully sued her mother and other executors to prevent the sales. One of the pieces of real estate in question was a Manhattan mansion at 1 East 78th Street which later became the home of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

She was presented to society as a debutante in 1930, aged 18, at a ball at Rough Point, the family residence in Newport, Rhode Island. She received large bequests from her father’s will when she turned 21, 25, and 30; she was sometimes referred to as the “world’s richest girl”. Her mother died in 1962, leaving her jewelry and a coat.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Georgia O’Keeffe

“I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

Name:  Georgia O’Keeffe
Occupation:  Painter
Birth Date:  November 15, 1887
Death Date:  March 6, 1986
Education:  Art Institute of Chicago
Place of Birth:  Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Place of Death:  Santa Fe, New Mexico

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Georgia O’Keeffe is a 20th century American painter best known for her flower canvases and southwestern landscapes.

Artist and painter Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Known for her striking flower paintings and other captivating works, O’Keeffe was one of the greatest American artists of the twentieth century. She took to making art at a young age and went to study at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1900s. Later, while living in New York, she studied with such artists as William Merritt Chase as a member of the Art Students League.

O’Keeffe found an advocate in famed photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz. He showed her work to the public for the first time in 1916 at his gallery 291. Married in 1924, the two formed a professional and personal partnership that lasted until his death in 1946. Some of her popular works from this early period include Black Iris (1926) and Oriental Poppies (1928). Living in New York, she translated some of her environment onto the canvas with such paintings as Shelton Hotel, N.Y. No. 1 (1926).

After frequently visiting New Mexico since the late 1920s, O’Keeffe moved there for good in 1946 after her husband’s death and explored the area’s rugged landscapes in many works. This environment inspired such paintings as Black Cross, New Mexico (1929) and Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (1931).

O’Keeffe died on March 6, 1986, in Santa Fe, Mexico. As popular as ever, her works can be seen at museums around the world as well as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Happy Birthday Kay Thompson

This week is the 105th birthday of Kay Thompson.  I mean, have you seen that “Swing Them Bells” scene in Funny Face?  It is everything.  Or that other other “Think Pink” scene?  She is channeling her best Diana Vreeland. The world is a better place because Kay Thompson was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Born: Catherine Louise Fink November 9, 1909 St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died: July 2, 1998 (aged 88) New York City, New York, U.S.

Catherine Louise Fink was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1909, the second of the four children of Leo George Fink, an Austrian-born pawnbroker and jeweler, and his wife, the former Hattie A. Tetrick. Her siblings were Blanche, Marian, and Leo.

Thompson began her career in the 1930s as a singer and choral director for radio. Her first big break was as a regular singer on The Bing Crosby-Woodbury Show (CBS, 1933–34). This led to a regular spot on The Fred Waring-Ford Dealers Show (NBC, 1934–35) and then, with conductor Lennie Hayton, she co-founded The Lucky Strike Hit Parade (CBS, 1935) where she met (and later married) trombonist Jack Jenney.

In 1943, Thompson signed an exclusive contract with MGM to become the studio’s top vocal arranger, vocal coach, and choral director. She served as main vocal arranger for many of producer Arthur Freed’s MGM musicals and as vocal coach to such stars as Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, and June Allyson.

Thompson, who lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, became most notable as the author of the Eloise series of children’s books, which were partly inspired by the antics of her goddaughter Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli, but when asked if this was true responded, “I am Eloise”. The four books in the series, illustrated by Hilary Knight, are Eloise (Simon & Schuster, 1955), Eloise in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 1957), Eloise at Christmastime (Random House, 1958) and Eloise in Moscow (Simon & Schuster, 1959). They follow the adventures of the precocious six-year-old girl who lives at The Plaza. All were bestsellers upon release and have been adapted into television projects. She also composed and performed a Top 40 hit song, “Eloise” (Cadence Records, 1956). A fifth book, Eloise Takes a Bawth was posthumously published by Simon & Schuster in 2002, culled from Thompson’s original manuscripts once slated for 1964 publication by Harper & Row. However, at the time, Thompson was burned out on Eloise; she blocked publication and took all but the first book out of print, drastically reducing the income of her collaborator.

She returned to live in New York in 1969. Immediately following the death of Judy Garland, Kay appeared with her goddaughter Liza Minnelli in Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (Paramount, 1970). In 1974, Thompson directed a groundbreaking fashion show at the Palace of Versailles featuring performances by Liza Minnelli and the collections of Halston, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Anne Klein.

Happy Birthday Edith Bouvier Beale

Today is the 97th birthday of an original, often imitated, never duplicated, the one and only Edith Bouvier Beale.  By now, everyone has seen the documentary, the musical, the movie, everyone knows her story, and still she remains a truth and guiding light to every misfit I know.  She is one of the most interesting people of the 20th century and definitely one of the most culturally significant.  Watch the documentary soon, it is available on Hulu and other places and remember what it is like to not worry about what others think of you and what it is like to let yourself be it’s truest pure form.  Authentic.  The world was a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss since she has left it.“But you see in dealing with me, the relatives didn’t know that they were dealing with a staunch character and I tell you if there’s anything worse than dealing with a staunch woman… S-T-A-U-N-C-H. There’s nothing worse, I’m telling you. They don’t weaken, no matter what.”

NAME: Edith Bouvier Beale
OCCUPATION: Actress, Model
BIRTH DATE: November 07, 1917
DEATH DATE: c. January 05, 2002
EDUCATION: The Spence School, Miss Porter’s School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Bal Harbor

BEST KNOWN FOR: Edith Bouvier was an American socialite and a first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She is best known as a subject of the documentary film Grey Gardens.

Performer, documentary film subject. Born Edith Bouvier Beale on November 17, 1917, in New York City, as the eldest of Phelan and Edith Ewing Beale’s three children. A first cousin to Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy Onassis, “Little Edie”, as she was known, knew only affluence. The Bouviers earned their fortunes on Wall Street and in law, paving the way for a lifestyle that allowed Little Edie and her two brothers to have a childhood that bounced between Manhattan and the Hamptons. In the early 1920s, Edie’s father moved the family into a new summer home called Grey Gardens, a spectacular 28-room mansion with water views.

Like her mother, a creative type who harbored dreams of becoming a singer, Edie Beale had artistic yearnings. At the age of nine a poem of hers was published in a local New York magazine, spawning a desire to become a writer. Yet her real love, despite her father’s deep objections, was for the stage—something that was almost certainly fueled by her relationship with her mother.

At the age of 11, Edie Beale was taken out of school for two years by Big Edie for what was described as a respiratory illness. Instead of class work, Little Edie tagged along to the movies or the theater with her mother nearly everyday.

Blonde, blue-eyed, and tall, Edie Beale was a beauty, “surpassing even the dark charm of Jacqueline,” recalled her cousin, John H. Davis. In 1934, the same year she attended Miss Porter’s finishing school in Farmington, Connecticut, Edie Beale modeled for Macy’s. Two years later, her debutante party in New York City was covered by The New York Times. She participated in fashion shows in East Hampton, too, and by her early 20s Edie Beale had earned the nickname, “Body Beautiful.” She dated Howard Hughes, and reportedly turned down marriage proposals from John Kennedy’s oldest brother, Joe Jr., and millionaire J. Paul Getty.

little_edie_part_2

As a young adult, Edie Beale took up residence at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City, a residential hotel that catered to women who wanted to be actresses or models. As Edie Beale would later tell it, it was a time of opportunity for her. There was more modeling work to pursue and within time, Edie said, movie offers from MGM and Paramount studios.

The limelight, though, would have to wait. By the mid 1930s, Phelan Beale had left Edie’s mother for a younger woman. The couple’s eventual divorce gave Big Edie Grey Gardens, some child support, and not much else. To keep the household going, Edie Ewing Beale leaned on her father for financial assistance and sold family heirlooms.
On her own, without a husband to try and drag her to the Hampton cocktail parties she had no interest in attending in the first place, Big Edie’s singing aspirations only strengthened. She frequented clubs, and even recorded a few songs. In 1942 she showed up late to her son’s wedding, dressed as an opera singer.

Her father, “Major” John Vernou Bouvier, Jr. was appalled and soon cut her out of his will.

Without the money to support her or her house, Edie Ewing Beal’s life at Grey Gardens fell into disrepair. In 1952, at Big Edie’s calling, Little Edie returned home from New York City to take care of her mom. She wouldn’t leave again until Big Edie’s death in 1977.

For the next two decades, Edie Beale and her mother became increasingly reclusive, rarely venturing outside their property. Grey Gardens itself continued to slide downward, too, becoming the domain of stray cats—later estimates would put the count as high as 300—and raccoons, both of which Edie Beale took care to feed on a regular basis. Bills went unpaid and the two women subsided, in part, on cat food. In one memorable photograph, Edie Beale stands in front of a mound of discarded cat food cans measuring several feet in height. The exterior of the property changed as well; unkempt trees, shrubs and vines closed in around the house.

In the fall of 1971 County officials, armed with a search warrant, descended on Grey Gardens. They informed Edie Beale and her mother that their home was “unfit for human habitation” and threatened eviction. The story, and the close family connection the two women had with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, caught fire with the press. The New York Post ran the headline, “Jackie’s Aunt Told: Clean Up Mansion.”

Big Edie and Little Edie railed against the threats, calling the visit by County officials a “raid” and the product of “a mean, nasty Republican town.” “We’re artists against the bureaucrats,” Edie Beale said. “Mother’s French operetta. I dance, I write poetry, I sketch. But that doesn’t mean we’re crazy.” Eventually, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stepped in with her checkbook, paying $25,000 to have the place cleaned up—on the condition that her aunt and cousin could remain in their home.

In the fall of 1973, filmmakers David and Albert Maysles started shooting their documentary on Edie Beale and her mother. The film, which was released in 1975 to wide acclaim, showed a Grey Gardens that had virtually reverted back to its pre-cleanup squalor. But audiences and most critics took to the unique Beales. Amid the trash and the cats, Little Edie paraded around in high heels, dancing in front of the camera as she lamented her missed chances at true fame.

Edie Beale’s style was also a popular part of the film, in particular the improvised head wraps—towels, shirts, and scarves—she used to constantly adorn her head. The coverings weren’t designed for style, but as a way to conceal hair loss from the alopecia she contracted in her early 20s. The effect, though, was a look that earned adulation. Calvin Klein reportedly claimed Little Edie’s look influenced some of his designs, and in 1997 Harper’s Bazaar produced a photo spread that was inspired by Edie Beale’s clothing creations.

Following her mother’s death in February 1977, Edie Beale left Grey Gardens for New York City, where she had a short run as a cabaret singer at a club in Greenwich Village. She sang, danced, and answered questions about her life from the audience. Little Edie brushed aside any notions that she was being exploited. “This is something I’ve been planning since I was 19,” she said. “I don’t care what they say about me—I’m just going to have a ball.”

In 1979 Edie Beale sold Grey Gardens to Washington Post editors Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn for a little more than $220,000 and a promise from the couple to restore it. Eventually, Little Edie relocated to Florida, where she rented an apartment in Bal Harbour. She died there on January 14, 2002. She was 84.

Grey Gardens and the life that Edie Beale and her mother led there, has continued to endure. In recent years a crop of new material about the women has been produced, including a 2006 DVD release of “The Beales of Grey Gardens” featuring more than 90 minutes of cut material from the original Maysles brothers documentary.

In addition, Edie Beal and her mother’s life together inspired a Broadway musical that earned three 2007 Tony awards, as well as a 2009 HBO production starring Drew Barrymore as Little Edie and Jessica Lange as Big Edie. In the end, the 1975 documentary, which in 2003 Entertainment Weekly ranked as one of the top 50 cult films of all time, gave Edie Beale and her mother the kind of fame they’d always longed for.

It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.