Happy Birthday Elizabeth Taylor

Today is the 83rd birthday of Elizabeth Taylor.  Everything has already been said and everything should be said about Elizabeth Taylor.  Pick one of her films and watch it and re-fall in love with her.  I can’t even decide which one it should be.  Cat? Place? BUtterfield? Suddenly? Giant? Just watch one.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Elizabeth Taylor
OCCUPATION: Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: February 27, 1932
DEATH DATE: March 23, 2011
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
NICKNAME: Liz Taylor
FULL NAME: Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, DBE

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Elizabeth Taylor starred in films like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and BUtterfield 8, but was just as famous for her violet eyes and scandalous love life.

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born on February 27, 1932, in London, England. One of film’s most celebrated stars, Elizabeth Taylor has fashioned a career that’s covered more than six decades, accepting roles that have not only showcased her beauty, but her ability to take on emotionally charged characters.

Taylor’s American parents, both art dealers, were residing in London when she was born. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, the Taylors returned to the United States and settled into their new life in Los Angeles.

“One problem with people who have no vices is that they’re pretty sure to have some annoying virtues.” – Elizabeth Taylor

Performance was in Taylor’s blood. Her mother had worked as an actress until she married. At the age of 3, the young Taylor started dancing, and eventually gave a recital for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Not long after relocating to California a family friend suggested the Taylors’ daughter take a screen test.

She soon signed a contract with Universal Studios, and made her screen debut at the age of 10 in There’s One Born Every Minute (1942). She followed that up with a bigger role in Lassie Come Home (1943) and later The White Cliffs of Dover (1944).

Her breakout role, however, came in 1944 with National Velvet, in a role Elizabeth Taylor spent four months working to get. The film subsequently turned out to be a huge hit that pulled in more than $4 million and made the 12-year-old actress a huge star.

In the glare of the Hollywood spotlight, the young actress showed she was more than adept at handling celebrity’s tricky terrain. Even more impressive was the fact that, unlike so many child stars before and after her, Taylor proved she could make a seamless transition to more adult roles.

“It would be glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor’s finger.” – Andy Warhol

Her stunning looks helped. At just 18 she played opposite Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride (1950). Taylor also showed her acting talents in 1954 with three films: The Last Time I Saw Paris, Rhapsody, and Elephant Walk, the latter of which saw Taylor take on the role of a plantation owner’s wife who is in love with the farm’s manager.

Her personal life only boosted the success of her films. For a time she dated millionaire Howard Hughes, then at the age of 17, Elizabeth Taylor made her first entrance into marriage, when she wed hotel heir, Nicky Hilton.

The union didn’t last long and, in 1952, Taylor was walking down the aisle again—this time to marry actor Michael Welding. In all, Taylor has married eight times during life, including twice to actor Richard Burton.

While her love life continued to make international headlines, Taylor continued to shine showed as an actress.

She delivered a riveting performance in the drama A Place in the Sun, and turned things up even more in 1956 with the film adaptation of the Edna Ferber novel, Giant that co-starred James Dean. Two years later, she sizzled on the big screen in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The following year, she starred in another Williams classic, Suddenly Last Summer. Taylor earned her first Oscar, capturing the coveted Best Actress award for her role as call girl in BUtterfield 8 (1960).

But Taylor’s fame was also touched by tragedy and loss. In 1958, she became a young widow when her husband, pioneering film producer Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash. After his death, Taylor became embroiled in one of the greatest Hollywood love scandals of the era when she began an affair with Todd’s close friend, Eddie Fisher. Fisher divorced Debbie Reynolds and married Taylor in 1959. The couple stayed married for five years until she left Fisher for actor Richard Burton.

The public’s obsession with Taylor’s love life hit new heights with her 1964 marriage to Richard Burton. She’d met and fallen in love with the actor during her work on Cleopatra (1963), a film that not only heightened Taylor’s clout and fame, but also proved to be a staggering investment, clocking in at an unprecedented $37 million to make.

The Taylor-Burton union was a fiery and passionate one. They appeared onscreen together in the much-panned The V.I.P.’s (1963), and then again two years later for the heralded Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a film that earned Taylor her second Oscar for her role as an overweight, angry wife of an alcoholic professor, played by Burton.

The subsequent years proved to be an up-and-down affair for Taylor. There were more marriages, more divorces, health obstacles, and a struggling film career, with movies that gained little traction with critics or the movie-going public.

Still, Taylor continued to act. She found work on television, even making a guest appearance on General Hospital, and on stage. She also began focusing more attention on philanthropy. After her close friend Rock Hudson died in 1985 following his battle with HIV/AIDS, the actress started work to find a cure for the disease. In 1991 she launched the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation in order to offer greater support for those who are sick, as well fund research for more advanced treatments.

Largely retired from the world of acting, Taylor received numerous awards for her body of work. In 1993 she received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. In 2000 she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

Taylor overcame a litany of health problems throughout the 90s, from diabetes to congestive heart failure. She had both hips replaced, and in 1997 had a brain tumor removed. In October 2009, Taylor, who has four children, underwent successful heart surgery. In early 2011, Taylor again experienced heart problems.

She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in that February for congestive heart failure. On March 23, 2011, Taylor passed away from the condition.

Shortly after her death, her son Michael Wilding released a statement, saying “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love … We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”

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Happy Birthday John Steinbeck

Today is John Steinbeck’s 113th birthday.  I first read “The Pearl” in high school.  I know I read “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath” around the same time, but it was “The Pearl” first.  I had never read anything with that narrative before, he compelled me to care about those characters, to think about them when I wasn’t reading the books, and to be excited to read more.  There is no doubt that “The Grapes of Wrath” is one of the best novels ever written.  If you aren’t going to read the book, watch the movie, it will stay with you.  But you should read the book.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: John Steinbeck
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: February 27, 1902
DEATH DATE: December 20, 1968
EDUCATION: Stanford University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Salinas, California
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: John Steinbeck was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose book “The Grapes of Wrath,” portrayed the plight of migrant workers during the Depression.

Born in Salinas, California (1902). His early books didn’t sell well at all, and he supported himself as a manual laborer. His first success came with the 1935 novel Tortilla Flat, which was the story of King Arthur and the Round Table told through the lives of pleasure-loving Mexican Americans. He was paid several thousand dollars for the movie rights; the film was released in 1942 and starred Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr. Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men (1937) was very popular, but it was also considered vulgar and unpatriotic, and Steinbeck was accused of having an “anti-business attitude.”

In the late 1930s, he was sent by a newspaper to report on the situation of migrant farmers, so he got an old bakery truck and drove around California’s Central Valley. He found people starving, thousands of them crowded in miserable shelters, sick with typhus and the flu. He wrote everything down in his journal, and in less than six months, he had a 200,000-word manuscript. The Grapes of Wrath (1939) won the Pulitzer Prize, but the author was roundly condemned in some quarters for his anti-capitalist, pro-New Deal, pro-worker stance.

During World War II, Steinbeck wrote some government propaganda, and although he returned to social commentary in his post-war fiction, his books of the 1950s were more sentimental than his pre-war works. In the 1960s, he served as an advisor to Lyndon Johnson, whose Vietnam policies Steinbeck supported. Many accused him of betraying his leftist roots.

He said: “A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling or teaching or ordering. Rather he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome.”

The day after Steinbeck’s death in New York City, reviewer Charles Poore wrote in the New York Times: “John Steinbeck’s first great book was his last great book. But Good Lord, what a book that was and is: The Grapes of Wrath.” Poore noted a “preachiness” in Steinbeck’s work, “as if half his literary inheritance came from the best of Mark Twain— and the other half from the worst of Cotton Mather.” But he asserted that “Steinbeck didn’t need the Nobel Prize— the Nobel judges needed him.”

Many of Steinbeck’s works are on required reading lists in American high schools. In the United Kingdom, Of Mice and Men is one of the key texts used by the examining body AQA for its English Literature GCSE. A study by the Center for the Learning and Teaching of Literature in the United States found that Of Mice and Men was one of the ten most frequently read books in public high schools.

At the same time, The Grapes of Wrath has been banned by school boards: in August 1939, Kern County Board of Supervisors banned the book from the county’s publicly funded schools and libraries.[28] It was burned in Salinas on two different occasions. In 2003, a school board in Mississippi banned it on the grounds of profanity. According to the American Library Association Steinbeck was one of the ten most frequently banned authors from 1990 to 2004, with Of Mice and Men ranking sixth out of 100 such books in the United States.

Happy Birthday Tony Randall

Today is the 95th birthday of Tony Randall.  Watching him act is like watching a scientist perform experiments: precise, exact, trained. Watching Tony Randall talk about acting is like sneaking into a Masters Class and learning something you had absolutely no idea even existed. Tony Randall was an actor’s actor, he loved them, he supported them, he was one of them.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Tony Randall
OCCUPATION: Television Actor
BIRTH DATE: February 26, 1920
DEATH DATE: May 17, 2004
EDUCATION: Northwestern University, Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Tulsa, Oklahoma
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
ORIGINALLY: Leonard Rosenberg

BEST KNOWN FOR: Tony Randall was an actor who became widely known through his character Felix Unger on TV’s The Odd Couple.

Actor. Born Leonard Rosenberg on February 26, 1920 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After graduating from Northwestern University where he studied drama, Randall moved to New York City to attend Columbia University and train at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He was soon drafted into the Army to serve in the Signal Corps during World War II. When the war was over, Randall resumed his career as a radio actor, most notably in the role of Reggie on the adventure serial I Love a Mystery.

Randall made his name on Broadway in the 1950s, starring in the musical Oh, Captain and Inherit the Wind. He made his film debut in 1957 with Oh, Men, Oh Women, and followed with the comedy Pillow Talk in 1959 and Lover Come Back in 1961. Though he received his share of forgettable starring film roles, including Fluffy in 1964, he received critical acclaim for his work in the film The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao.

Television audiences will likely best remember Randall for his role of buttoned-up Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, which ran from 1969-1974. In addition to appearing on numerous game and panel shows, Randall enjoyed an extensive television career that included Mr. Peepers (1952-1953) and (1969-1974), his own short-lived TV series called The Tony Randall Show (1976) and Love, Sidney (1981-1983).

Active in several liberal and humanitarian causes, Randall has often put his career on the line to let his opinions be known. He delivered an anti-Vietnam speech in the late 1960s and has been known to speak out against the dangers of cigarette smoking. During the summer of 1980, he served as the celebrity host of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra‘s concerts in Central Park, New York City. In 1991, Randall created the National Actors Theater, a New York-based repertory company devoted to American and British classics.

In 1995, after the death of his wife and companion Florence, Randall earned media attention when he married Heather Harlan, a woman 50 years his junior. The couple met while she was an intern at the National Actors Theatre. They have two children.

Randall died in May 2004 in New York. He was 84.

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Happy Birthday Jim Backus

Tomorrow is the 102nd birthday of Jim Backus, everyone’s favorite millionaire shipwreck survivor.  Was I the only one that had the take away thought from “Gilligan’s Island” that money can’t buy everything?  Here he was, stranded on an island with his wife (they apparently brought trunk-loads of cash, jewelry, and clothing for a short afternoon boat ride) and they could not buy their way out of their situation.  I guess I sort of liked that thought.  That, and as Mr. Magoo, it was nice to know that blind people could still drive cars.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

jim backus

NAME: Jim Backus
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Television Actor, Radio Personality, Writer
BIRTH DATE: February 25, 1913
DEATH DATE: July 03, 1989
EDUCATION: Kentucky Military Institute, American Academy of Dramatic Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cleveland, Ohio
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Full Name: James Gilmore Backus

Best Known For:  Jim Backus was a film and TV actor known for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Gilligan’s Island, as well as being the voice of Mr. Magoo.

Actor and author James Gilmore Backus was born on February 25, 1913, in Cleveland, Ohio. For five decades, Jim Backus entertained audiences in a variety of media, starting out in radio and moving on to film and television. Two of his trademark roles were the wealthy and snooty Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island and Mr. Magoo, an optically challenged and bumbling cartoon character. The son of an engineer, he was more interested in golf and acting than in school. Backus worked for a stock theater company during his teens. In one of the company’s productions, he had a small role while future film star Clark Gable had the lead.

Wanting his son to focus on academics, Backus’s father sent him to the Kentucky Military Institute for a time where he met and befriended Victor Mature, another future professional actor. But Backus struggled his way through high school and was able to convince his father to let him skip a traditional college education. Instead he went to New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Graduating in 1933, Backus spent two years working in a variety of stage productions and in summer stock before trying his hand at radio. Adept at molding his booming voice into different characters, he was a freelance performer and appeared on numerous radio programs, including soap operas and The Kate Smith Hour. Backus also made his Broadway debut around this time in Hitch Your Wagon, a comedy, in 1937. Later that year, he appeared in the drama Too Many Heroes.

In the 1940s, Backus scored his biggest radio success on The Alan Young Show. He created a stuffy, upper crust character named Hubert Updyke III, who was known for making such quips as “Careful, or I’ll have your mouth washed out with domestic champagne.” By the end of the decade, Backus was beginning his film career. One of his earliest roles was in the football drama Easy Living (1949) with Lucille Ball and old friend Victor Mature.

Also in 1949, Backus was selected to voice one of the characters for a cartoon entitled Ragtime Bear. Little did he know that the character, Quincy Magoo, a nearsighted fellow with a very selective take on reality, would become so hugely popular. Backus spent about three decades as Magoo in his various incarnations from cartoon shorts to television series to a full-length film.

On the small screen, Backus spent three years on the sitcom I Married Joan, which debuted in the fall of 1952. He played Judge Bradley Stevens, husband to Joan Stevens (Joan Davis). Each episode featured a case in front of Bradley, a domestic judge, and its parallels to his domestic life. After the series ended, Backus gave some of his best film performances. He earned praise for his work on the comedy Francis in the Navy (1955) and the teenage drama Rebel Without a Cause (1955) with James Dean. In Rebel Without a Cause, Backus played Dean’s father, a man befuddled by his son’s actions and oppressed by his domineering wife.

Based in part on his earlier character, Hubert Updyke III, Backus again inhabited the persona of a privileged, uptight rich man on Gilligan’s Island. Thurston Howell III was one of seven castaways marooned on an island together after a terrible storm sent their boat crashing onto its shores. In addition to his wife, Mrs. Howell, who his character always called “lovey,” there were the ship’s captain Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) and his first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver), the professor (Russell Johnson), the movie star Ginger (Tina Louise) and a simple farm girl named Mary Ann (Mary Ann Summers). Created by Sherwood Schwartz, the broad comedy was dismissed by reviewers but adored by many viewers. “The critics assassinated it, but the kids flipped for it,” Backus later said, according to an article in The New York Times. “I’ve been watching the reruns, and confess I’m hooked on it myself.”

While the show was only on network television from 1964 to 1967, Gilligan’s Island has had a healthy life in syndication and can still be seen today. Backus voiced an animated version of Thurston Howell III for the Saturday morning cartoon series, The New Adventures of Gilligan in the mid-1970s. Reprising his famous role, he appeared for the 1978 television movie Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. That same year, Backus received a heartbreaking diagnosis. He was having some trouble with his legs and learned that he had Parkinson’s disease.

Despite this setback, Backus continued acting. He made his final film appearance in 1980’s There Goes the Bride with Tom Smothers and Phil Silvers. On the small screen, he appeared in The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island (1981) and made guest appearances on such shows as Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.

In addition to acting, Backus had authored Rocks on the Roof (1958) on his own and several other works with his wife Henny. Married since 1943, the couple used their life experiences for such personal works as What Are You Doing After the Orgy (1962), which was about their marriage, and Backus Strikes Back (1984), which tackled his struggle with Parkinson’s.

In late June of 1988, Backus was admitted to St. John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He died of pneumonia on July 3, 1988. Over the course of his long career, Backus had appeared in roughly 80 films and 500 film and television episodes as Quincy Magoo. And each day, he wins new fans as they watch Gilligan’s Island in syndication.

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Happy Birthday Zeppo Marx

Today is the 114th birthday of Zeppo Marx.  He was the youngest, most handsome, and most mechanically inclined Marx Brother.  Pay attention to him in the first five movies next time you watch them (you do watch them, don’t you?) and appreciate his quite-often under-appreciated talent. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Zeppo Marx
OCCUPATION: Actor, Comedian, Engineer, Inventor
BIRTH DATE: February 25, 1901
DEATH DATE: November 30, 1979
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Rancho Mirage, California
FULL NAME: Herbert Manfred Marx
NICKNAME: Herbie
AKA: Zeppo Marx
NICKNAME: Zep
AKA: Herbert Marx

BEST KNOWN FOR: The youngest of the Marx Brothers, Zeppo Marx was the handsomest sibling, but often under-appreciated as the straight man and young romantic lead. He left the famous comedic team to become a millionaire inventor.

The youngest of the Marx Brothers, Zeppo Marx was born Herbert Manfred Marx on February 25, 1901, in New York City. Like his brothers, he was a first-generation American, born to Sam “Frenchie” and Minnie (Schoenberg) Marx, of French and German Jewish extraction, who both came from Europe but met in New York. The first of their six sons, Manfred, died in infancy; Zeppo’s middle name honored him.

The origin of his nickname varies depending on the source: Both Groucho and Zeppo’s second ex-wife said it was derived from the zeppelins of the time. One story is simply that their father called him “Zep” when he came home one day, and the moniker stuck. Another is that the name was adapted from Mr. Zippo, a trained chimpanzee, according to brother Harpo’s autobiography. According to the book, Herbie’s athletic prowess and acrobatics echoed the chimp’s act, but his objection morphed the nickname into Zeppo.

Minnie Marx, a former dance teacher, was a fervent stage mother, getting the boys on the vaudeville circuit to make money. She added Herbie, who had a tendency toward pugilism, to the brother act in an effort to keep him from fighting. The Marx patriarch “was a very bad tailor,” according to Zeppo, “but he found some people who were so stupid that they would buy his clothes, and so he’d make a few dollars that way for food.”

Being the youngest, and by all account the most handsome, Zeppo was always cast in the role of straight man and romantic lead. He was reportedly frustrated that he couldn’t be funny, even though comedy rarely works without a good foil. The brothers apparently agreed that he was the funniest, but Groucho has been noted for both saying that the team was funnier without him, and that he felt threatened by Zeppo when he understudied him in the play Animal Crackers. Groucho was unable to perform in the production because he was having surgery to remove his appendix at the time, and some said that Zeppo was better than Groucho.

Though Zeppo only had a few moments to shine, including the dictation-taking scene in Animal Crackers, he left the brother act after just five films, which also included Duck Soup and Monkey Business, to join Gummo, the other non-performing Marx brother, in running a talent agency.

Zeppo’s other talents included an extraordinary grasp of mechanics and engineering, and he has been credited with keeping the family car running when they were touring in the early days. He also held various jobs, including as a commercial fisherman and citrus farmer. Zeppo founded Marman Products in 1941, which made clamping devices that were used in WWII to secure the atomic bombs transported on the Enola Gay. He also held three patents, two of which pertained to his invention of a watch that monitored the pulse of heart patients. It was this business that helped make Zeppo a multimillionaire.

Zeppo married twice, first to Marion Benda, with whom he had two adopted sons, Timothy and Thomas. Five years after their divorce in 1954, Zeppo marred Barbara Blakeley, whose son Bobby took his surname, though he was never officially adopted. Barbara married Frank Sinatra after the couple divorced in 1973.

The last of the Marx Brothers to pass away, Zeppo Marx died of lung cancer on November 30, 1979, in Rancho Mirage, California. His ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

Critics still argue about whether Zeppo Marx was instinctively funny.

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Happy Birthday Hubert de Givenchy

Today is the 88th birthday of the fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy.  His continuously classic modern style cannot be copied and his longevity is unmatched.  The world is lucky that he is still in it.

 

NAME: Hubert de Givenchy
OCCUPATION: Fashion Designer
BIRTH DATE: February 21, 1927
DID YOU KNOW?: Hubert de Givenchy designed Audrey Hepburn‘s costumes for several films, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
EDUCATION: École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris)
PLACE OF BIRTH: Beauvais, France
FULL NAME: Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy
AKA: Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy

BEST KNOWN FOR: French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy is known for his elegant haute couture designs and professional relationships with clients like Audrey Hepburn.

Hubert de Givenchy Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born on February 21, 1927, in the city of Beauvais in northern France. His parents, Lucien and Béatrice (née Badin) Taffin de Givenchy, gave him and his brother, Jean-Claude, an aristocratic heritage. After Lucien Taffin de Givenchy died in 1930, Givenchy was raised by his mother and his maternal grandmother.

In 1944, Hubert de Givenchy moved to Paris, where he studied art at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Though he briefly considered a career in law, he decided to enter the world of fashion and, at the age of 17, began an apprenticeship with designer Jacques Fath. After his time with Fath, Givenchy worked for several famous French couture houses in the 1940s: Lucien Lelong, Robert Piquet and Elsa Schiaparelli.

Givenchy opened his own design house in 1952. His debut collection was a hit. It featured separates such as long skirts and tailored blouses, including the “Bettina blouse,” named after model Bettina Graziani. In his following collections, he also designed elegant evening gowns, feminine hats and tailored suits, and the Givenchy name became synonymous with Parisian chic.

In 1953, Givenchy met Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, whom he greatly admired. In 1957, the two designers teamed up to introduce a new silhouette called the “sack,” a loose form without any waistline.

By the 1960s, Givenchy, setting new trends and embracing certain aspects of youth culture, had begun to favor shorter hemlines and straighter silhouettes in his designs.

Givenchy designed for many celebrity clients, but his best-known client (who became a close personal friend) was Audrey Hepburn. Givenchy and Hepburn met in 1953, when she was just a rising star; he designed her costumes for Sabrina (1954) and helped to define her classic, gamine style. Over the following decade, he designed her costumes for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), Paris When It Sizzles (1964) and How to Steal a Million (1966). The Givenchy brand also released a fragrance inspired by Hepburn called L’Interdit.

Among the other well-known women of style dressed by Givenchy were U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore a Givenchy gown during an official visit to Paris in 1961; Princess Grace of Monaco; Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor; and socialite Babe Paley.

After selling his business to the luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey in 1988, Givenchy designed for seven more years, retiring and presenting his final collection in 1995. He was succeeded as head designer by enfant terrible John Galliano.

Designers to later serve as head designer at Givenchy include Alexander McQueen and Riccardo Tisci.

Givenchy lives in retirement at a country estate called Le Jonchet in the French countryside. His work has been shown in retrospective exhibitions at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the Musée Galliera in Paris, and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1996.

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Happy Birthday Kurt Cobain

Today is the 48th birthday of Kurt Cobain.  I drive by his old house daily and even 20 years after his death, there are still people lighting candles and leaving flowers on the bench in the park  it is next to.  He was the reluctant crown-prince of my generation.  Had he lived, he would  an Indie Rock God Legend or a bloated cliche or a recluse.  There is no way to predict something that will never be.  We will always remember him as beautiful, and sad.  My family settled in  Aberdeen when they came to The United States.  The rain was heavy and constant.  There is a beautiful old mausoleum in the cemetery where my great-grandparents  are buried and when I am there, I wonder if Kurt liked it there.  If I were a kid growing up in Aberdeen, I would have made it one of my haunts, it is very quiet and empty and full of the forgotten founders of a town whose prime has passed.  The world was a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

Kurt Cobain

NAME: Kurt Cobain
OCCUPATION: Singer
BIRTH DATE: February 20, 1967
DEATH DATE: April 05, 1994
PLACE OF BIRTH: Aberdeen, Washington
PLACE OF DEATH: Seattle, Washington
FULL NAME: Kurt Donald Cobain

BEST KNOWN FOR:  A talented yet troubled grunge performer, Kurt Cobain became a rock legend in the 1990s with his band, Nirvana. He committed suicide at his Seattle home in 1994.

Singer, songwriter. Born Kurt Donald Cobain on February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. A talented, troubled performer, Kurt Cobain became a rock legend with his band Nirvana in the 1990s. Growing up in a small logging town, Cobain showed an interest in art and music. He excelled at drawing, so much so that his talents were even apparent in kindergarten. He also learned to play piano by ear and enjoyed a kiddie drum kit his parents had given him. At his father’s urging, Cobain also played little league baseball. He sometimes spent time with his little sister Kim who was born in 1971, but both Cobain children had to deal with their parents yelling and fighting as their marriage became increasingly stormy.

After his parents divorced when he was nine, Cobain became withdrawn. He went to live with his father after the divorce. On the weekends, he would visit his mother and his sister. When his father remarried, Cobain resented his stepmother Jenny and her two children. One of the bright spots of this difficult time was a present he received from his uncle Chuck—a guitar. Although the instrument was fairly beat up, it inspired Cobain to learn to play and it offered him a respite from his unhappiness at home. Alienated and angry, he believed that his father always took his stepmother’s side and favored her children and his half-brother Chad who had been born in 1979. Cobain began experimenting with drugs in his mid-teens, and he pushed himself farther away from his father.

In 1982, Cobain left his father’s place and bounced around from relative to relative for several months. He then went to live with his mother who was with her boyfriend Pat O’Connor at the time. (They later married.) Attending high school in Aberdeen, he impressed teachers and students with his artistic talents. Cobain seemed to have odd tastes in subject matter, drawing a sperm transforming into an embryo for one project, according to Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross.

Cobain’s life changed when he started listening punk rock. Discovering a local punk band, the Melvins, he befriended Buzz Osbourne, a member of the group. Osbourne introduced him to some other punk bands, such as the Sex Pistols. The Melvins often practiced in a space near drummer Dale Crover‘s house and a lot of fans, including Cobain, came to these sessions and hung out. As high school progressed, he was doing more drinking and drugging. Cobain also got into fights with his mother who was also drinking a lot, and he could not stand his stepfather.

Cobain spent much of 1984 and 1985 living in various places. He spent time living with friends when he could and sleeping in apartment building hallways and a hospital waiting room when he did not have any other place to crash. In July 1985, Cobain was arrested for spray painting buildings in town with some of his friends. His friends got away, but Cobain was caught and taken to the police station. He later received a fine and a suspended sentence for his actions. Several months later, Cobain started his first band, Fecal Matter. They recorded a few songs together at his aunt Mari’s house, but they never played any gigs.

The next year Cobain was in trouble with the law again after being found wandering around an abandoned building drunk at night. As a result, he ended up spending several days in jail. Cobain started playing music with bassist Krist Novoselic who was two years older than him. They knew each other from Novoselic’s younger brother Robert and from hanging around The Melvins. A local drummer named Aaron Burckhard soon joined in. Their first gig was a house party in 1987. This same year, Cobain started going out with Tracy Marander, his first serious girlfriend. The two eventually were living together in Olympia. Although they struggled financially, the couple seemed to enjoy the rock and roll lifestyle. Cobain spent a lot of his time exploring different creative outlets—writing, painting, drawing, and making collages.

In 1988, Cobain was able to make some of his rock ambitions come true. He finally settled on the name Nirvana for the group. They made their first single, “Love Buzz,” which was released by the small independent label Sub Pop Records. By this time, Burckhard was out and Chad Channing had taken over drumming duties. Nirvana’s popularity in the Seattle music scene was growing, and they released their debut album, Bleach, in 1989. While it failed to make much of a splash, the recording showed signs of Cobain’s emerging talent as a songwriter, especially the ballad “About a Girl.” Their signature sound, which included elements of punk and heavy metal, was also apparent on the album. Cobain felt mistreated by Sub Pop, believing that the company devoted more resources toward promoting other acts such as Soundgarden and Mudhoney.

While his band was struggling to make it, Cobain made a fateful connection in his personal life. In 1990, Cobain met his match in an edgy rocker named Courtney Love. The two met at a show at the Portland, Oregon nightclub Satyricon. While they were interested in each other, their relationship did not get off the ground until much later.

That same year, he got a chance to know some of his rock and roll heroes when the band toured with Sonic Youth. Nirvana was going through some internal changes at the time. Their friend Dale Crover filled in on drums as Cobain and Novoselic had kicked out Channing. After the tour, they finally found a replacement in Dave Grohl who had played with Washington, D.C., hardcore band Scream.

Despite their antiestablishment and punk tendencies, Nirvana made the leap to a major label in 1991 when they signed with Geffen Records. That same year, they released Nevermind, which spearheaded a music revolution. With the raw edges of punk and the blistering guitars of metal, their sound was labeled “grunge” for its murky and rough qualities.

The single “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—like many Nirvana tracks—modulated between the soft and the thrashing. And Cobain was equally convincing as he sang the song’s mellow chorus and as he screamed its final lines. It proved to be the group’s biggest single and helped take the entire album to the top of the charts.
Soon, Cobain was being called one of the best songwriters of his generation. This along with the rapid rise of the group put pressure on the talented and sensitive 24-year-old. Cobain began to worry about how his music was being received and how to regain control of a seemingly uncontrollable future. He had started using heroin in the early 1990s. The drug provided an escape as well as some relief for his chronic stomach problems.

Before Nevermind’s release, Cobain met up again with Courtney Love, now the lead singer and guitarist with Hole, at an L7 concert in Los Angeles. She was friends with Jennifer Finch, a member of the band who was also dating Dave Grohl at the time. Later that year, Cobain and Love started a whirlwind relationship that included letters, faxes, and numerous phone calls as the two were traveling with their respective bands. In February 1992, they got married and welcomed their daughter Frances Bean Cobain in August of that year. Both Cobain and Love were into drugs and often used together. They found themselves being investigated by social services after Love told Vanity Fair that she had taken heroin while pregnant. After a costly legal battle, Cobain and Love were able keep custody of their daughter.

Always volatile, Cobain’s relationship with Love was becoming more strained. The Seattle police came to their house after the two had been in a physical altercation over Cobain having guns in the house in 1993. As a result, he was arrested for assault. The police also took the guns from the home.

While his personal life was in turmoil, Cobain had continued success professionally. Nirvana’s highly acclaimed album In Utero was released in September 1993 and went to the top of the album charts. Full of highly personal lyrics by Cobain about his many life struggles, the recording featured a fair amount of hostility toward people and situations that Cobain reviled. He took on the recording industry with “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.” It also had some more tender moments with “Heart-Shaped Box,” which is supposed to be about his marriage to Love. Guitar Player magazine described the album as having “a startling level of anger, energy, and jaded intelligence.”

While the band earned raves for the new album, Cobain had become more distant from the other members.

But he continued to press on, playing a gig with Nirvana in New York City in November 1993 for MTV’s Unplugged series and touring Europe that winter. Cobain and Love often fought about his drug use.

On a break during the tour, Cobain spent some time in Europe with his family. On March 4, 1994, while in his hotel room in Rome, Italy, he attempted suicide by taking an overdose of drugs. Love woke up and discovered that Cobain was in trouble. He was rushed to the hospital in a coma. While official reports said that it was accidentally overdose, Cobain had clearly meant to kill himself, having left a suicide note.

Returning to the United States, Cobain became a hermit, spending much of his time alone and high. Love called the police on March 18 to report that Cobain was suicidal. He had locked himself inside a closet with some guns and some medication, according to the police report. After interviewing Love and Cobain, it was determined that he had not threatened to kill himself, but Love called the authorities because he had locked himself in and would not open the door. She knew that he had access to guns. For their safety, the police took the guns and the medications.

A few days later, Love had an intervention for Cobain, trying to convince him to get off drugs. She herself traveled to Los Angeles after the event to try to get clean. Cobain eventually checked into a chemical dependency clinic in Los Angeles, but left after only a few days.

On April 5, 1994, in the guest house behind his Seattle home, a 27-year-old Cobain committed suicide. He placed a shotgun into his mouth and fired, killing himself instantly. He left a lengthy suicide note in which he addressed his many fans as well as his wife and young daughter. Despite the official ruling of his death as a suicide, some have wondered whether it was murder and whether Love had been involved in his death.

Even after death, Cobain continued to intrigue and inspire fans. The group released Unplugged in New York shortly after Cobain’s death and it went to the top of the charts. Two years later, a collection of their songs entitled From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah was released, and again the group scored a huge hit, reaching the number three spot on the album charts.

With Cobain gone, there has been a struggle about what to do with what he left behind. Grohl and Novoselic fought with Love for years over Nirvana’s music. In September 2002, Love announced that they had finally resolved their long legal battle over unreleased material. An anthology of their songs, Nirvana, was released that year, including the previously unreleased track “You Know You’re Right.” Two collections that included other previously unreleased material followed with 2004’s With the Lights Out and 2005’s Sliver: The Best of the Box.

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