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 Sylvia Plath

Today is the 82nd birthday of Sylvia Plath.  I have a handful of favorite poems that became my favorites because they perfectly encapsulated a feeling I was experiencing at the time in my life when I first read them.  Even though circumstances change and the poems are no longer looked upon as my own personal theme, they still remind me of that time when I fell in love with them.  Reading them again is like looking at a snapshot of a car you used to own:  you are filled with fond memories of shared experiences, a bit of loss, and a lot of longing.  That crossfire of emotions is exactly how I feel about Sylvia Plath‘s “Ennui.”  I think I must have first looked up the word ‘ennui’ because it was in a book I was reading and immediately fell in love with it, those French with their amazing words for everything.  Words for what feels like there are no words.

ennui = A gripping listlessness or melancholia caused by boredom; depression.

“Ennui” – Sylvia Plath

Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,

designing futures where nothing will occur:

cross the gypsy’s palm and yawning she

will still predict no perils left to conquer.

Jeopardy is jejune now: naïve knight

finds ogres out-of-date and dragons unheard

of, while blasé princesses indict

tilts at terror as downright absurd.

The beast in Jamesian grove will never jump,

compelling hero’s dull career to crisis;

and when insouciant angels play God’s trump,

while bored arena crowds for once look eager,

hoping toward havoc, neither pleas nor prizes

shall coax from doom’s blank door lady or tiger.

NAME: Sylvia Plath
OCCUPATION: Academic, Poet, Author, Editor
BIRTH DATE: October 27, 1932
DEATH DATE: February 11, 1963
EDUCATION: Cambridge University, Smith College
PLACE OF BIRTH: Boston, Massachusetts
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England

BEST KNOWN FOR: Sylvia Plath was an American poet best known for her novel The Bell Jar, and for her poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel.

Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. Sylvia Plath was a gifted and troubled poet, known for the confessional style of her work. Her interest in writing emerged at an early age, and she started out by keeping a journal. After publishing a number of works, Plath won a scholarship to Smith College in 1950.

While she was a student, Sylvia Plath spent time in New York City during the summer of 1953 working for Mademoiselle magazine as a guest editor. Soon after, Plath tried to kill herself by taking sleeping pills. She eventually recovered, having received treatment during a stay in a mental health facility. Plath returned to Smith and finished her degree in 1955.

A Fulbright Fellowship brought Sylvia Plath to Cambridge University in England. While studying at the university’s Newnham College, she met the poet Ted Hughes. The two married in 1956 and had a stormy relationship. In 1957, Plath spent time in Massachusetts to study with poet Robert Lowell and met fellow poet and student Ann Sexton. She also taught English at Smith College around that same time. Plath returned to England in 1959.

A poet on the rise, Sylvia Plath had her first collection of poetry, The Colossus, published in England in 1960. That same year, she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Freida. Two years later, Plath and Hughes welcomed a second child, a son named Nicholas. Unfortunately, the couple’s marriage was failing apart.

After Hughes left her for another woman in 1962, Sylvia Plath fell into a deep depression. Struggling with her mental illness, she wrote The Bell Jar (1963), her only novel, which was based on her life and deals with one young woman’s mental breakdown. Plath published the novel under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. She also created the poems that would make up the collection Ariel (1965), which was released after her death. Sylvia Plath committed suicide on February 11, 1963.

Much to the dismay of some admirers of Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes became her literary executor after her death. While there has been some speculation about how he handled her papers and her image, he did edit what is considered by many to her greatest work, Ariel. It featured several of her most well-known poems, including “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus.” He continued to produce new collections of Plath’s works. Sylvia Plath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Collected Poems. She is still a highly regarded and much studied poet to this day.

The story of Sylvia Plath—her troubled life and tragic death—was the basis for the 2003 biopic Sylvia starring Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role.

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.

divine5

NAME: Harris Glenn Milstead
BORN: October 19, 1945
BIRTHPLACE: Towson, MD
DIED: March 7, 1988
LOCATION AT DEATH: Los Angeles, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Respiratory failure
REMAINS: Buried, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Towson, MD

Divine (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead, was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women’s clothing in musical performances. Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films. He was often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters’s films, usually in a leading role. Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as “the most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world.”

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a conservative, upper middle class family, he became involved with John Waters and his acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, in the mid-1960s and starred in a number of Waters’s early films such as Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). These films became hits on the midnight movie and underground cinema circuit in the U.S., and have since become cult classics, with Divine becoming particularly renowned for playing the role of Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos, during which he had to perform a series of extreme acts including eating dog excrement. In the 1970s, Milstead made the transition to theater and appeared in a number of productions, including Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman, while continuing to star in such films as Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). Meanwhile, in 1981 Divine had embarked on a disco career, producing Hi-NRG tracks, most of which had been written by Bobby Orlando, and went on to achieve chart success with hits like “You Think You’re A Man”, “I’m So Beautiful” and “Walk Like a Man.” Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, Divine died from cardiomegaly in 1988.

The New York Times said of Milstead’s ’80s films: “Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine’s performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick.” He was also described as “one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century… [who] was an audacious symbol of man’s quest for liberty and freedom.” Since his death, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly with those in the LGBT community, of which he was a part, being openly gay.

Due to Divine’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the original comedy-film version of Hairspray, later musical adaptations of Hairspray have commonly placed male actors in the role of Edna, including Harvey Fierstein and others in the 2002 Broadway musical and John Travolta in the 2007 musical film.

A 12 foot tall statue in the likeness of Divine by Andrew Logan can be seen on permanent display at The American Visionary Art Museum in Divine’s home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Out of the Dark (5-May-1989)
Hairspray (16-Feb-1988)
Trouble in Mind (Dec-1985)
Lust in the Dust (1-Mar-1985)
Polyester (29-May-1981)
Female Trouble (4-Oct-1974)
Pink Flamingos (17-Mar-1972)
Multiple Maniacs (10-Apr-1970)
Mondo Trasho (14-Mar-1969)

Is the subject of books:
My Son Divine, 2001, BY: Frances Milstead, DETAILS: Alyson Publications:with Kevin Heffernan and Steve Yeager
Not Simply Divine, 1994, BY: Bernard Jay, DETAILS: Fireside:by Divine’s personal manager

Happy Birthday 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.

divine5

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 Agatha Christie

Today is the 124th birthday of Agatha Christie.  At one time, I had this grand idea that I was going to read every one of her books in order of publication.  That is a lot of reading.  I didn’t get very far, but it was not her fault, I fall in and out of love with reading.  There are points in my life where reading is much easier, if I have a commute or something.  I love all the Agatha Christie movies, Miss Marple and even the Tommy and Tuppence ones, but especially Hercule Poirot (David Suchet portrayal).  The books are quick and clever and keep you guessing.

NAME: Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie
OCCUPATION: Author, Playwright
BIRTH DATE: September 15, 1890
DEATH DATE: January 12, 1976
PLACE OF BIRTH: Torquay, United Kingdom
PLACE OF DEATH: Cholsey, United Kingdom
AKA: Mary Westmacott
MAIDEN NAME: Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller

BEST KNOWN FOR: Dame Agatha Christie is the bestselling mystery author of all time. Her characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, have been repeatedly portrayed on film.

Dame Agatha Christie DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was a British crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections (especially those featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple), and her successful West End plays.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly four billion copies, and her estate claims that her works rank third, after those of William Shakespeare and the Bible, as the most widely published books. According to Index Translationum, Christie is the most translated individual author, with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her.[2] Her books have been translated into at least 103 languages.[3]
Agatha Christie published two autobiographies: a posthumous one covering childhood to old age; and another chronicling several seasons of archaeological excavation in Syria and Iraq with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan. The latter was published in 1946 with the title, Come, Tell Me How You Live.

Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25 November 1952 and as of 2011 is still running after more than 24,000 performances. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. Many of her books and short stories have been filmed, some more than once (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and 4.50 from Paddington for instance), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.

In 1968, Booker Books, a subsidiary of the agri-industrial conglomerate Booker-McConnell, bought a 51 percent stake in Agatha Christie Limited, the private company that Christie had set up for tax purposes. Booker later increased its stake to 64 percent. In 1998, Booker sold its shares to Chorion, a company whose portfolio also includes the literary estates of Enid Blyton and Dennis Wheatley.

In 2004, a 5,000-word story entitled The Incident of the Dog’s Ball was found in the attic of the author’s daughter. This story was the original version of the novel Dumb Witness. It was published in Britain in September 2009 in John Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years Of Mysteries, alongside another newly discovered Poirot story called The Capture of Cerberus (a story with the same title, but a different plot, to that published in The Labours Of Hercules). On 10 November 2009, Reuters announced that The Incident of the Dog’s Ball will be published by The Strand Magazine.

Happy Birthday Chrissie Hynde

NAME: Christine Ellen Hynde
OCCUPATION: Animal Rights Activist, Songwriter, Guitarist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: September 07, 1951
EDUCATION: Kent State University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Akron, Ohio

BEST KNOWN FOR: Chrissie Hynde came to fame as the frontwoman for the Pretenders. Hits “Brass in Pocket” and “My City Was Gone” became rock anthems in the 1970s and 80s.

Born on September 7, 1951, in Akron, Ohio. Chrissie Hynde was one of the leading women in rock in the 1980s and 1990s as the lead singer of the Pretenders. After studying art at Kent State University for a time, she took off for London, England, where she discovered the emerging new rock genre??punk.

The Pretenders got together in the late 1970s and released a self-titled album in 1980. Chrissie Hynde and bandmate James Honeyman-Scott penned the group’s first hit, “Brass in Pocket.” Subsequent releases produced the hit songs “Middle of the Road,” “Show Me,” and “Back on the Chain Gang” (from 1984′s Learning to Crawl); and “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (from 1986′s Get Close); as well as 1994′s “I’ll Stand by You.”

Chrissie Hynde divorced Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr in 1990 after six years of marriage. Together they have a daughter, Yasmin. Hynde also has a daughter, Natalie, with her former longtime partner Ray Davies of the Kinks.

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.