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.

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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 Jacob Lawrence

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I am lucky enough to be able to view this mural in person whenever I want. It is so comforting to know that it is in the convention center.

NAME: Jacob Lawrence
OCCUPATION: Academic, Painter
BIRTH DATE: September 07, 1917
DEATH DATE: June 09, 2000
PLACE OF BIRTH: Atlantic City, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: Seattle, Washington
Best Known For:  Jacob Lawrence was an American painter, and the most widely acclaimed African-American artist of the 20th century. He is best known for his Migration Series.

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Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 7, 1917, Jacob Lawrence moved with his parents to Easton, Pennsylvania, at the age of 2. When his parents separated in 1924, his mother deposited him and his two younger siblings in foster care in Philadelphia, and went to work in New York City. When he was 13, Lawrence joined his mother in Harlem.

Lawrence was introduced to art shortly after his arrival, when his mother enrolled him in Utopia Children’s Center, which had an after-school art program. He dropped out of school at 16 but took classes at the Harlem Art Workshop with Charles Aston and frequently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1937, Lawrence won a scholarship to the American Artists School in New York. When he graduated in 1939, he received funding from the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. He had already developed his own style of modernism, and began creating narrative series, painting 30 or more paintings on one subject. He completed his best-known series, Migration of the Negro or simply The Migration Series, in 1941. The series was exhibited at Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in 1942, making Lawrence the first African-American to join the gallery.

At the outbreak of World War II, Lawrence was drafted into the United States Coast Guard. After being briefly stationed in Florida and Massachusetts, he was assigned to be the Coast Guard artist aboard a troopship, documenting the experience of war around the world. He produced 48 paintings during this time, all of which have been lost.

When his tour of duty ended, Lawrence received a Guggenheim Fellowship and painted his War Series. He was also invited by Josef Albers to teach the summer session at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Albers reportedly hired a private train car to transport Lawrence and his wife to the college so they wouldn’t be forced to transfer to the “colored” car when the train crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.

Back in New York after his stint in the south, Lawrence continued to paint. He grew depressed, however, and in 1949, he checked himself into Hillside Hospital in Queens, where he stayed for 11 months. He painted as an inpatient, and the work created during this time differs significantly from his other work, with subdued colors and people who appear resigned or in agony.

After leaving Hillside, Lawrence turned his attention to the theater. In 1951, he painted works based on memories of performances at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He also began teaching again, first at Pratt Institute and later the New School for Social Research and the Art Students League.

In 1971, Lawrence accepted a tenured position as a professor at University of Washington in Seattle, where he taught until he retired in 1986. In addition to teaching, he spent much of the rest of his life painting commissions, producing limited-edition prints to help fund nonprofits like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He also painted murals for the Harold Washington Center in Chicago, the University of Washington and Howard University, as well as a 72-foot mural for New York City’s Times Square subway station.

Lawrence painted until a few weeks before he died, on June 9, 2000.

Happy Birthday Yvonne DeCarlo

Today is the 92nd birthday of Yvonne DeCarlo.  Reinvention.  I love it.  There are risks and challenges, but also great rewards.  One being the confusion of others.  It is not only in Hollywood that people get typecast.  People love to attach quick descriptors to people, to categorize them for easy processing.  When you do something that appears to be out of character, it messes with people’s heads and is brilliant.  Moses’ mother and Lilly Munster?  What?  That is the same women?

NAME: Yvonne DeCarlo
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Television Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: September 01, 1922
DEATH DATE: January 08, 2007
PLACE OF BIRTH: Point Gray, Canada
PLACE OF DEATH: Woodland Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Actress Yvonne DeCarlo was Moses’ wife in DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, but is better known for playing the matriarch on TV’s The Munsters.

Yvonne De Carlo (September 1, 1922 – January 8, 2007) was a Canadian-born American actress of film and television. During her six-decade career, her most frequent appearances in film came in the 1940s and 1950s and included her best-known film roles, such as of Anna Marie in Salome Where She Danced (1945); Anna in Criss Cross (1949); Sephora the wife of Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956), starring Charlton Heston; and Amantha Starr in Band of Angels (1957) with Clark Gable. In the early 1960s, De Carlo accepted the offer to play Lily Munster for the CBS television series The Munsters, alongside Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Yvonne De Carlo was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6124 Hollywood Blvd. and a second star at 6715 Hollywood Blvd. for her contribution to television.

The year 1964 was a rocky one for De Carlo, as she was deeply in debt. After having worked for over 30 years, her film career came to a sudden end, and she was suffering from depression. She signed a contract with Universal Studios after receiving an offer to perform the female lead role in The Munsters opposite Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster. She was also the producers’ choice to play Lily Munster when Joan Marshall, who played Phoebe, was dropped from consideration for the role. When De Carlo was asked how a glamorous actress could succeed as a ghoulish matriarch of a haunted house, she replied simply, “I follow the directions I received on the first day of shooting: ‘Play her just like Donna Reed.’

In her autobiography, published in 1987, she listed 22 intimate friends, including Prince Aly Khan, Billy Wilder, Burt Lancaster, Howard Hughes, Robert Stack and Robert Taylor.

Happy Birthday Shirley Booth

Today is the 116th birthday of Shirley Booth.  She was an amazing actress, capable of showing unflattering, unpopular, and raw emotions. On the other end of that, she was Hazel, of the same-titled TV show from the 1960s. Her acting on that show was so effortless and invisible, most people thought she was exactly like Hazel in real life.NAME: Shirley Booth
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Television Actress
BIRTH DATE: August 30, 1898
DEATH DATE: October 16, 1992
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: North Chatham, Massachusetts
ORIGINALLY: Marjory Ford

BEST KNOWN FOR: Shirley Booth was an American actress who played Lola Delaney in the drama Come Back, Little Sheba, for which she received a Tony Award in 1950.

Shirley Booth (August 30, 1898 – October 16, 1992) was an American actress. Primarily a theatre actress, Booth’s Broadway career began in 1925. Her most significant success was as Lola Delaney, in the drama Come Back, Little Sheba, for which she received a Tony Award in 1950. She made her film debut, reprising her role in the 1952 film version, and won both the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her performance. Despite her successful entry into films, she preferred stage acting, and made only four more films.

From 1961 until 1966, she played the title role in the sitcom Hazel, for which she won two Emmy Awards, and was acclaimed for her performance in the 1966 television production of The Glass Menagerie. She retired in 1974.

Shirley Booth has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6840 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

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.