Happy Birthday Alexander Calder

Today is the 116th birthday of Alexander Calder.  I am lucky enough to live in a city where I can visit (and walk through) an Alexander Calder sculpture whenever I desire.  People walk by it every day, exercising, walking their dogs, but I hope they realize the gift they are experiencing.  Not everyone on their morning jog can experience world-class art.

NAME: Alexander Calder
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: July 22, 1898
DEATH DATE: November 11, 1976
EDUCATION: Art Students League
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lawnton, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
NICKNAME: Sandy Calder

BEST KNOWN FOR: Alexander Calder was an influential American artist and sculptor who invented the mobile.

Alexander Calder (born July 22, 1898, Lawnton, Pa., U.S.—died Nov. 11, 1976, New York, N.Y.) U.S. sculptor. He was the son and grandson of sculptors, and his mother was a painter. He studied mechanical engineering, and in 1923 attended the Art Students League, where he was influenced by artists of the Ash Can school. In 1924 he contributed illustrations to the National Police Gazette. In 1926 he moved to Paris and began making toylike animals and circus figures of wood and wire; from these he developed his famous miniature circus. In the 1930s he became well known in Paris and the U.S. for his wire sculptures, as well as for portraits, continuous-line drawings, and abstract, motor-driven constructions. He is best known as the inventor of the mobile, a forerunner of kinetic sculpture. He also constructed nonmovable sculptural works known as stabiles. Although Calder’s early mobiles and stabiles were relatively small, he increasingly moved toward monumentality in his later works. His art was recognized with many large-scale exhibitions.

Two months after his death, Calder was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, by President Gerald Ford. However, representatives of the Calder family boycotted the January 10, 1977 ceremony “to make a statement favoring amnesty for Vietnam War draft resisters.”

Happy Birthday Ernest Hemingway

Today is the 115th birthday of Ernest Hemingway.

NAME: Ernest Hemingway
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: July 21, 1899
DEATH DATE: July 2, 1961
EDUCATION: Oak Park and River Forest High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois
PLACE OF DEATH: Ketchum, Idaho

BEST KNOWN FOR: Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway is seen as one of the great American 20th century novelists, and is known for works like A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois. Clarence and Grace Hemingway raised their son in this conservative suburb of Chicago, but the family also spent a great deal of time in northern Michigan, where they had a cabin. It was there that the future sportsman learned to hunt, fish and appreciate the outdoors.

In high school, Hemingway worked on his school newspaper, Trapeze and Tabula, writing primarily about sports. Immediately after graduation, the budding journalist went to work for the Kansas City Star, gaining experience that would later influence his distinctively stripped-down prose style.

He once said, “On the Star you were forced to learn to write a simple declarative sentence. This is useful to anyone. Newspaper work will not harm a young writer and could help him if he gets out of it in time.”

In 1918, Hemingway went overseas to serve in World War I as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army. For his service, he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery, but soon sustained injuries that landed him in a hospital in Milan.

There he met a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky, who soon accepted his proposal of marriage, but later left him for another man. This devastated the young writer but provided fodder for his works “A Very Short Story” and, more famously, A Farewell to Arms.

Still nursing his injury and recovering from the brutalities of war at the young age of 20, he returned to the United States and spent time in northern Michigan before taking a job at the Toronto Star.

It was in Chicago that Hemingway met Hadley Richardson, the woman who would become his first wife. The couple married and quickly moved to Paris, where Hemingway worked as a foreign correspondent for the Star.

In Paris, Hemingway soon became a key part of what Gertrude Stein would famously call “The Lost Generation.” With Stein as his mentor, Hemingway made the acquaintance of many of the great writers and artists of his generation, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. In 1923, Hemingway and Hadley had a son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. By this time the writer had also begun frequenting the famous Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain.

In 1925, the couple, joining a group of British and American expatriates, took a trip to the festival that would later provided the basis of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. The novel is widely considered Hemingway’s greatest work, artfully examining the postwar disillusionment of his generation.

“Grace under pressure” – Hemingway’s famous phrase in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (20 April 1926), published in Ernest Hemingway : Selected Letters 1917-1961 (1981) edited by Carlos Baker. In the letter, he wrote that he was “not referring to guts but to something else.” The phrase was later used by Dorothy Parker in a profile of Hemingway, “The Artist’s Reward,” in the New Yorker (30 November 1929)

Soon after the publication of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway and Hadley divorced, due in part to his affair with a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer, who would become Hemingway’s second wife shortly after his divorce from Hadley was finalized. The author continued to work on his book of short stories, Men Without Women.

Soon, Pauline became pregnant and the couple decided to move back to America. After the birth of their son Patrick Hemingway in 1928, they settled in Key West, Florida, but summered in Wyoming. During this time, Hemingway finished his celebrated World War I novel A Farewell to Arms, securing his lasting place in the literary canon.

When he wasn’t writing, Hemingway spent much of the 1930s chasing adventure: big-game hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, deep-sea fishing in Florida. While reporting on the Spanish Civil War in 1937, Hemingway met a fellow war correspondent named Martha Gellhorn (soon to become wife number three) and gathered material for his next novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which would eventually be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Almost predictably, his marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer deteriorated and the couple divorced. Gellhorn and Hemingway married soon after and purchased a farm near Havana, Cuba, which would serve as their winter residence.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Hemingway served as a correspondent and was present at several of the war’s key moments, including the D-Day landing. Toward the end of the war, Hemingway met another war correspondent, Mary Welsh, whom he would later marry after divorcing Martha Gellhorn.

In 1951, Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which would become perhaps his most famous book, finally winning him the Pulitzer Prize he had long been denied.

The author continued his forays into Africa and sustained several injuries during his adventures, even surviving multiple plane crashes.

In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Even at this peak of his literary career, though, the burly Hemingway’s body and mind were beginning to betray him. Recovering from various old injuries in Cuba, Hemingway suffered from depression and was treated for numerous conditions such as high blood pressure and liver disease.

He wrote A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his years in Paris, and retired permanently to Idaho. There he continued to battle with deteriorating mental and physical health.

Early on the morning of July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in his Ketchum home.

Hemingway left behind an impressive body of work and an iconic style that still influences writers today. His personality and constant pursuit of adventure loomed almost as large as his creative talent.

When asked by George Plimpton about the function of his art, Hemingway proved once again to be a master of the “one true sentence”: “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

Happy Birthday Howard Shultz

Today is the 61st birthday of Howard Shultz.howard shultz

NAME:  Howard Schultz

OCCUPATION:  Activist
BIRTH DATE:  July 19, 1953
EDUCATION:  Northern Michigan University
PLACE OF BIRTH:  Brooklyn, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Howard Schultz is CEO and chairman of Starbucks, the highly successful coffee company.

Howard D. Schultz was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 19, 1953, and moved with his family to the Bayview Housing projects in Canarsie, a neighborhood in southeastern Brooklyn, when he was 3 years old. Schultz was a natural athlete, leading the basketball courts around his home and the football field at school. He made his escape from Canarsie with a football scholarship to Northern Michigan University in 1970.

After graduating from the university with a Bachelor of Science degree in communication in 1975, Schultz found work as an appliance salesman for Hammarplast, a company that sold European coffee makers in the United States. Rising through the ranks to become director of sales, in the early 1980s, Schultz noticed that he was selling more coffee makers to a small operation in Seattle, Washington, known then as the Starbucks Coffee Tea and Spice Company, than to Macy’s. “Every month, every quarter, these numbers were going up, even though Starbucks just had a few stores,” Schultz later remembered. “And I said, ‘I gotta go up to Seattle.’”

Howard Schultz still distinctly remembers the first time he walked into the original Starbucks in 1981. At that time, Starbucks had only been around for 10 years and didn’t exist outside Seattle. The company’s original owners, old college buddies Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker and their neighbor, Zev Siegl, had founded Starbucks in 1971. The three friends also came up with the coffee company’s ubiquitous mermaid logo.

“When I walked in this store for the first time—I know this sounds really hokey—I knew I was home,” Schultz later remembered. “I can’t explain it. But I knew I was in a special place, and the product kind of spoke to me.” At that time, he added, “I had never had a good cup of coffee. I met the founders of the company, and really heard for the first time the story of great coffee … I just said, ‘God, this is something I’ve been looking for my whole professional life.’” Little did Schultz know then how fortuitous his introduction to the company would truly be, or that he would have an integral part in creating the modern Starbucks.

A year after meeting with Starbucks’ founders, in 1982, Howard Schultz was hired as director of retail operations and marketing for the growing coffee company, which, at the time, only sold coffee beans, not coffee drinks. “My impression of Howard at that time was that he was a fabulous communicator,” co-founder Zev Siegl later remembered. “One to one, he still is.”

Early on, Schultz set about making his mark on the company while making Starbucks’ mission his own. In 1983, while traveling in Milan, Italy, he was struck by the number of coffee bars he encountered. An idea then occurred to him: Starbucks should sell not just coffee beans, but coffee drinks. “I saw something. Not only the romance of coffee, but … a sense of community. And the connection that people had to coffee—the place and one another,” Schultz recalled. “And after a week in Italy, I was so convinced with such unbridled enthusiasm that I couldn’t wait to get back to Seattle to talk about the fact that I had seen the future.”

Schultz’s enthusiasm for opening coffee bars in Starbucks stores, however, wasn’t shared by the company’s creators. “We said, ‘Oh no, that’s not for us,’” Siegl remembered. “Throughout the ’70s, we served coffee in our store. We even, at one point, had a nice, big espresso machine behind the counter. But we were in the bean business.” Nevertheless, Schultz was persistent until, finally, the owners let him establish a coffee bar in a new store that was opening in Seattle. It was an instant success, bringing in hundreds of people per day and introducing a whole new language: the “cafe latte”—both the beverage and the word—was introduced to Seattle in 1985.

But the success of the coffee bar demonstrated to the original founders that they didn’t want to go in the direction Schultz wanted to take them. They didn’t want to get big. Disappointed, Schultz left Starbucks in 1985 to open a coffee bar chain of his own, Il Giornale, which quickly garnered success.

Two years later, with the help of investors, Schultz purchased Starbucks, merging Il Giornale with the Seattle company. Subsequently, he became CEO and chairman of the Starbucks (known thereafter as the Starbucks Coffee Company). Schultz had to convince investors that Americans would actually shell out high prices for a beverage that they were used to getting for 50 cents. At the time, most Americans didn’t know a high-grade coffee bean from a teaspoon of Nescafé instant coffee. In fact, coffee consumption in the United States had been going down since 1962.

In 2000, Schultz publicly announced that he was resigning as Starbucks’ CEO. Eight years later, however, he returned to head the company. In a 2009 interview with CBS, Schultz said of Starbucks’ mission, “We’re not in the business of filling bellies, we’re in the business of filling souls.”

In 2006, Howard Schultz was ranked No. 359 on Forbes magazine‘s “Forbes 400″ list, which presents the 400 richest individuals in the United States. In 2013, he was ranked No. 311 on the same list, as well as No. 931 on Forbes’s list of billionaires around the globe.

Today, no one company sells more coffee drinks to more people in more places than Starbucks. By 2012, Starbucks had grown to encompass more than 17,600 stores in 39 countries around the world, and its market capitalization was valued at $35.6 billion. The incredibly popular coffee company reportedly opens a new store every 12 hours and attracts close to 44 million customers per week. According to the company’s website, Starbucks has been “committed to ethically sourcing and roasting the highest-quality arabica coffee in the world” since 1971.

In March 2013, Schultz made headlines and won wide applause after making a statement in support of the legalization of gay marriage. After a shareholder complained that Starbucks had lost sales due its support for gay marriage (the company had announced its support for a referendum to legalize gay union in the state of Washington), Schultz responded, “Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38 percent shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38 percent over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.” The CEO then added, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

Howard Schultz currently resides in Seattle, Washington, with his wife, Sheri (Kersch) Schultz, and two children, Jordan and Addison.

Happy Birthday Molly Brown

NAME:  Molly Brown
OCCUPATION:  Film Actor/Film Actress, Philanthropist
BIRTH DATE:  July 18, 1867
DEATH DATE:  October 26, 1932
EDUCATION:  Carnegie Institute
PLACE OF BIRTH:  Hannibal, Missouri
PLACE OF DEATH:  New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Molly Brown was best known for her social welfare work on behalf of women and children, and for surviving the Titanic sinking.

Philanthropist Margaret Tobin, better known as Molly Brown, was born on July 18, 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri. Sometimes referred to as “the Unsinkable Molly Brown,” this survivor of the 1912 Titanic disaster has become the subject of many myths and legends throughout the years. Her early years were relatively quiet; she grew up in an Irish-Catholic family with five siblings. At the age of 13, Molly Brown went to work in a factory. After two of her siblings headed to Colorado to seek opportunity with the silver mines there, she followed, moving to Leadville in 1886. The town was like a giant mining camp, and Brown found work doing sewing for a local store. Her life soon changed when she met J.J. Brown, a mining superintendent. The couple fell in love and married in September 1886. Molly and J.J. Brown struggled financially in the early days of their marriage. They had their first child, Lawrence Palmer Brown, in 1887, and a daughter, Catherine Ellen, followed two years later. As her husband rose up the ranks at the mining company, Brown became active in the community, helping miners and their families and working to improve the town’s schools. Molly Brown was never interested in fitting in with the other leading citizens of Leadville, preferring to dress in dramatic hats. Achieving great prosperity through the discovery of silver at one of J.J.’s mines in 1893, the Brown family moved to Denver, Colorado. Molly Brown helped found the Denver Women’s Club. She also raised money for children’s causes and continued to help mine workers. With her wealth, Brown also expanded her own horizons, taking numerous trips around the world. It was during one such trip in April 1912, after hearing that her grandson was ill, that Brown decided to take the first ship back to the United States; a ship named the RMS Titanic. It was the maiden voyage of the vessel that was supposed to be nearly indestructible. However, on the night of April 14, 1912, the ship failed to live up to its reputation. The Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, around 11:40 p.m., and sank in only a few hours. Molly Brown was able to get on one of the ship’s few lifeboats and was later rescued by the Carpathia. Aboard the Carpathia, she did whatever she could to help the other survivors. Her acts of heroism, which made news, earned her the nickname “the Unsinkable Mrs. Brown.” With her newfound fame after the disaster, Molly Brown spoke out for many causes, including women’s suffrage and workers’ rights. During World War I, she worked with the Red Cross in France. Molly Brown died on October 26, 1932, in New York City.

Happy Birthday Louis B. Mayer

Today is the 130th birthday of the first movie mogul, Louis B. Mayer.

Mayer

NAME: Louis B. Mayer
OCCUPATION: Business Leader, Producer
BIRTH DATE: c. July 12, 1884
DEATH DATE: October 29, 1957
PLACE OF BIRTH: Minsk, Russia
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
Full Name: Louis Burt Mayer
AKA: Louis Mayer
Originally: Eliezer Mayer

Best Known For:  Louis B. Mayer was a film mogul and the most influential person in Hollywood from the mid-1920s to the late-1940s.

Film producer and executive Louis Burt Mayer was born to an Eastern European Jewish family in Minsk, Russia. Though he was reportedly born on July 12, 1884, Mayer would claim throughout his life that he was born on the Fourth of July; he was similarly unclear about the exact location of his birth. The future mogul was the middle child of five siblings, with two sisters and two brothers, all of whom grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

At the age of 12, Mayer quit school to help his father run the family scrap metal business. When he was 19, he moved to Boston, expanding the father-son scrap enterprise into the United States. Soon after he arrived, Mayer met and married a butcher’s daughter, Margaret Shenberg. The couple had two daughters, Edith Mayer (1905-1987) and Irene Mayer (1907-1990), who would both go on to marry movie executives.

It wasn’t long before Mayer grew tired of the family business and began to look for a less gritty line of work. Luckily, a friend in the know tipped him off to a burlesque theater for sale in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a joint known derisively as the “Garlic Box.” It was a rundown theater with a bad reputation, but the enterprising young Mayer smartly chose to premiere a religious film at the establishment’s opening, immediately currying favor with community skeptics.

The budding businessman soon got a taste for success and began to acquire more and more old theaters in the area, rebuilding their reputations and facades in equal measure. After taking over all five of Haverhill’s theaters, he partnered with Nathan Gordon to gain control of a large theater chain in New England.

In 1914, Mayer made his first foray into film distribution when he bought exclusive rights to the landmark picture The Birth of a Nation with the money he earned pawning his wife’s wedding ring. He would also start a distribution agency in Boston and a talent-booking agency in New York. However, the siren song of Hollywood couldn’t be ignored for long; in 1918, Mayer moved to Los Angeles to form Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation.

By then the producer had gained a reputation for his hunger, audacity and ability to spot talent. Far from a hands-off studio honcho, Mayer cultivated a specialty for acquiring talent and roaming the back lots looking for his next glamorous lead. Some of Mayer’s landmark discoveries included Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Clark Gable and Fred Astaire.

The producer’s watershed moment would come when Marcus Loew came knocking on his door. Recently having merged his company with Samuel Goldwyn’s studios to give birth to Metro-Goldwyn, Loew found himself without a head executive for the company. Soon Metro-Goldwyn became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the iconic MGM Studios was born. Over the next 25 years, Mayer built the studio’s reputation on a string of glamorous and mostly uncontroversial films. Some of the biggest hits of Mayer’s era were Ben-Hur (1925), Grand Hotel (1932),  Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Good Earth (1937).

At its height MGM, was Hollywood’s kingmaker (and queenmaker), churning out more films and stars than any other studio. The MGM lot itself was legendary—over 150 acres and as self-sufficient as a town, complete with its own opium den, barbershop and 24-hour dining establishment. Also housed on the property was none other than the iconic MGM lion, whose digs amounted to an onsite zoo.

Louis B. Mayer himself had gained a reputation of leonine proportions not long after his arrival in Hollywood. Characterized by his strong will and tell-it-straight relationships, Mayer once told Robert Young, “Put on a little weight and get more sex, we have a whole stable of girls here.” Clearly, the approach worked; MGM was the most successful studio in Hollywood, even managing to stay profitable through the Great Depression. For almost a decade Mayer held the rank of highest paid man in America, a far cry from his days diving in the Bay of Fundy for scrap metal.

By 1948, the heyday of the Hollywood studio era had begun to fade. MGM had gone years without an Oscar and relations between Mayer and other executives began to fray as profit margins thinned. In 1951, Mayer left MGM after 27 years at the helm. Six years later, on October 29, 1957, the legendary producer and executive died of leukemia.

One of Hollywood’s first true moguls, there is no denying his influence on the early years of the film industry’s boom, but as Mayer himself once said, “The sign of a clever auteur is to achieve the illusion that there is a sole individual responsible for magnificent creations that require thousands of people to accomplish.”

Happy Birthday Anjelica Huston

Today is the 63rd birthday of Anjelica Huston.  Third generation Academy Award winner? That is heritage. She is all angles and attitude, cheeks and confidence. Her beauty is intoxicating and addictive. Her longevity is something to admire and strive for.

NAME: Anjelica Huston
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Television Actress
BIRTH DATE: July 08, 1951
PLACE OF BIRTH: Santa Monica, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Anjelica Huston is an American actress, well known for starring as Morticia Addams in The Addams Family (1991) and for her collaborations with director Wes Anderson.

Anjelica Huston (born July 8, 1951) is an American actress. Huston became the third generation of her family to win an Academy Award, for her performance in 1985′s Prizzi’s Honor, joining her father, director John Huston, and grandfather, actor Walter Huston. She later was nominated in 1989 and 1990 for her acting in Enemies, a Love Story and The Grifters respectively. Among her roles, she starred as Morticia Addams in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), receiving Golden Globe nominations for both. Huston also played the Grand High Witch in the children’s classic The Witches in 1990 and is, more recently, known for her frequent collaborations with director Wes Anderson.

Anjelica Huston was born in Santa Monica, California, and is the daughter of director and actor John Huston and Italian–American prima ballerina Enrica ‘Ricki’ (née Soma), from New York. Huston spent most of her childhood in Ireland and England. She grew up in Saint Clerns House near Craughwell, County Galway. In 1969, she began taking a few small roles in her father’s movies. In that same year, her mother, who was 39 years old, died in a car accident, and Huston relocated to the US, where she modeled for several years. While she modeled, she worked with photographers such as Richard Avedon and Bob Richardson. On the photoshoots with Avedon, her hair was often done by Ara Gallant.

Huston has an older brother, Tony, a younger maternal half-sister named Allegra, whom she called “Legs”, and a younger paternal half-brother, actor Danny Huston. She is the aunt of “Boardwalk Empire” actor Jack Huston.

 

Happy Fourth of July

As a child of the 70′s/80′s, I will ALWAYS think of this on the Fourth of July:

And then Norman Rockwell.

Today is Independence Day. On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, and the United States officially broke from the rule of England.  The document was approved and signed on July 2, and was formally adopted on July 4.  John Adams always felt that the Second of July was America’s true birthday, and he refused to appear at Fourth of July celebrations for the rest of his life in protest.

 

scarlet letterToday is the birthday of Nathaniel Hawthorne, born Nathaniel Hathorne in Salem, Massachusetts (1804).  He married Sophia Peabody in 1842, and soon after their wedding, Hawthorne wrote to his sister, “We are as happy as people can be, without making themselves ridiculous, and might be even happier; but, as a matter of taste, we choose to stop short at this point.”

When he lost his job at the Salem Custom House, Sophia surprised him with money she’d put away out of her household allowance just so he could write a book. And he did: The Scarlet Letter (1850), about Hester Prynne, a young Puritan woman who bears a child out of wedlock and must wear a red letter “A” for adultery as her punishment.

leaves-of-grass_mm

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was first published on this date in 1855. The first edition consisted of 12 poems and was published anonymously. Whitman helped set the type himself. He kept adding to the collection and, eight editions and 36 years later, the final “death-bed edition” contained almost 400 poems. The first edition received several glowing — and anonymous — reviews in New York newspapers. Most of them were written by Whitman himself. One such review read, “An American bard at last!” But there were legitimate reviews too; one by popular columnist Fanny Fern called the collection daring and fresh. Emerson felt it was “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed.” But not everyone loved it; many called it filthy, disgusting, or repulsive, and John Greenleaf Whittier threw his copy into the fire.

James Joyce and Nora Barnacle on the day of their marriage in 1931

It was on this date in 1931, at the Kensington Registry Office in London, that James Joyce and Nora Barnacle were wed, after living together for 26 years. They had had their first date in 1904, and had only been dating a few months when Joyce decided that he wanted to leave Ireland to live in Europe. He couldn’t face going without her, so even though he had only tenuous prospects, he plucked up the courage to ask her to come along. To his amazement, she agreed. The next night, he wrote to her, “The fact that you can choose to stand beside me in this way in my hazardous life fills me with great pride and joy.” They lived all over Europe, had two children, and were usually broke — until Joyce published Ulysses in 1922. It was a financial success, and Joyce wanted to make sure that Nora and their children could inherit the royalties, so they finally tied the knot.

Happy Birthday Pearl S. Buck

NAME: Pearl S. Buck
OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist, Women’s Rights Activist, Author
BIRTH DATE: June 26, 1892
DEATH DATE: March 06, 1973
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hillsboro, West Virginia
PLACE OF DEATH: Danby, Vermont
AKA: Sai Zhenzhu
ORIGINALLY: Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker

BEST KNOWN FOR: Pearl S. Buck was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her novel The Good Earth won the Pulitzer in 1932.

Today is the birthday of novelist Pearl S. Buck, born in Hillsboro, West Virginia (1892). Her parents were Christian missionaries in China who returned to America for Pearl’s birth. But when she was three months old, they headed back to China. Buck’s father, Absalom, was a fundamentalist Presbyterian preacher — and a distant father. In many of the villages where he traveled, he was the first white person the villagers had ever seen, and they were put off by him. They were unimpressed by his fire-and-brimstone sermons, and he estimated that he converted about 10 people over the course of 10 years. Still, he kept trying. Pearl’s mother, Caroline, resented being so far from her home in West Virginia. She tried her best to keep the mud walls and floors of their hut clean, and she planted American flowers everywhere. Finally, when Pearl was four, she told her husband that they were moving to a city or she was going home. So they moved to the city of Zhenjiang, but all they could afford there were three crowded rooms in an apartment in one of the poorest sections of the city, a district full of prostitutes and drug addicts. Absalom and Caroline receive a small stipend for their work as missionaries, but Absalom squandered much of the family’s budget on his pet project: translating the New Testament into Chinese. He spent 30 years working on it. Buck wrote: “He printed edition after edition, revising each to make it more perfect, and all her life [my mother] went poorer because of the New Testament. It robbed her of the tiny margin between bitter poverty and small comfort.

Chinese was Buck’s first language, and her nurse told her bedtime stories about dragons and tree spirits. As a young girl in the village, she wandered through the countryside. In the city, she and her brother explored the streets and markets, watching puppet shows and sampling food. She was embarrassed by her blue eyes and blond hair, but she didn’t let it hold her back. She enthusiastically joined in local celebrations, big funerals and parties.

When Buck was a teenager, her parents sent her to an English-language school for foreign girls like her. She did not fit in and was lonely, but fascinated by Shanghai. As a pupil, she was required to teach a knitting class at the Door of Hope, a shelter for girls and women who had been forced into prostitution and sex slavery. Usually, the white students from Miss Jewell’s did not speak Chinese, but since Buck did, the women there told her all their stories of rape, abuse, and violence.

After a year there, Buck went to Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She arrived as a total misfit. A woman named Emma Edmunds, a rural girl who became one of Buck’s best friends at college, said about that first day: “I saw this one girl and she looked even more countrified than me. Her dress was made of Chinese grass linen and nobody else had anything like that. It had a high neck and long sleeves, and her hair was in a braid turned under at the back.” But she cut her hair and bought some American clothes, and she managed to fit in well enough.

After college, Buck went back to China, where she met an American agricultural economist and missionary named John Lossing Buck. They were married, and in 1921 she gave birth to a daughter, Carol. But things began to fall apart. Her mother died not long after Carol was born, and her father moved in with the young couple. Her father and husband disliked each other, and increasingly, she didn’t like either of them very much. Her daughter, Carol, had a rare developmental disability. On top of everything, the political situation in China was so tense that at one point the Bucks had to hide in the basement of a peasant family’s home to escape Nationalist soldiers, and they ended up fleeing to Japan as refugees.

In 1929, Buck took nine-year-old Carol to an institution in New Jersey, where she hoped she would receive better care than Buck could provide — she called it “the hardest thing I ever did.” She didn’t have enough money to pay for the expensive tuition, so she borrowed money from a member of the Mission Board. Her marriage fell apart, and she was even more desperate for money, so she started writing. Her first novel was called East Wind, West Wind (1930), and she hoped it would cover the school fees, but it didn’t sell well. The following year she published The Good Earth (1931), chronicling the dramatic life of a Chinese peasant farmer named Wang Lung from his wedding day through his old age. The Good Earth was a huge best-seller, and Buck won the Pulitzer Prize and, a few years later, the Nobel Prize in literature.

In her Nobel acceptance speech, she said: ” My earliest knowledge of story, of how to tell and write stories, came to me in China. [...] Story belongs to the people. They are sounder judges of it than anyone else, for their senses are unspoiled and their emotions are free.”

Happy Birthday Wallis Simpson

Today is the 118th birthday of Wallis Simpson.

 

NAME: Wallis Simpson
OCCUPATION: Duchess
BIRTH DATE: June 19, 1896
DEATH DATE: April 24, 1986
PLACE OF BIRTH: Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
AKA: Wallis Warfield Simpson
Originally: Bessie Wallis Warfield
AKA: Wallis Simpson
Full Name: Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
AKA: Wallis Spencer

Best Known ForAmerican socialite Wallis Simpson became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. Edward abdicated the throne to marry her, a period known as the Abdication Crisis.

Wallis Simpson was born Bessie Wallis Warfield on June 19, 1896, in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. The daughter of Baltimoreans Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague, Wallis dropped her first name during her youth. Her father died of tuberculosis when she was a baby, and Wallis and her mother became dependent on the charity of Wallis’s Uncle Warfield. Wallis became the poor relation, which led to an insecurity that followed her into adulthood. Uncle Warfield paid for Wallis to attend Oldfields School, the most expensive girls’ school in Maryland, where she was at the top of her class and was known for always being immaculately dressed.

In 1916, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a U.S. Navy aviator. The couple married six months later. Win, as her husband was known, was an alcoholic, and in the course of their marriage was stationed in San Diego, Washington, D.C., and China. He and Wallis would be separated for months at a time. When their marriage began to break down, Wallis spent what she called her “lotus year” in China, traveling alone. Win and Wallis divorced in 1927. Wallis then married Ernest Aldrich Simpson, an English-American shipping executive. They wed in London and moved into a large flat with several servants.

Around this same time, Wallis met Lady Furness, then the mistress of Edward, Duke of Windsor (then known as the Prince of Wales), and on January 10, 1931, Wallis was introduced to the Prince of Wales at an event at Burrough Court. The prince later remembered that Wallis had a cold that night and was not at her best.

In January 1934, Wallis became Prince Edward’s mistress. He denied this to his family, who were outraged at his behavior, but by 1935 she had been presented at court and the couple had vacationed in Europe multiple times together.

On January 20, 1936, George V died, and Edward ascended the throne. It had become clear that Edward planned to marry Wallis as soon as she divorced Simpson. This caused a scandal in Britain that is now known as the “abdication crisis.” The consensus from the Church of England and the conservative British establishment was that Edward could not marry a divorced woman who still had two living ex-husbands. The king’s ministers also disapproved, finding Wallis’s behavior unacceptable. Britons were reluctant to accept an American as queen. During this time, Wallis fled to France to avoid the heavy press coverage.

On December 5, 1936, after Edward was told that could not keep the throne and marry Wallis, he decided to abdicate.

On December 11, 1936, Edward made a BBC broadcast, saying he could not do his job as king without the support of “the woman I love.” In May of the following year, Wallis’s divorce was made final, and on June 3, 1937, she became the Duchess of Windsor.

Wallis and Edward referred to themselves as “W.E.”—their initials, but also a dig at the royal “we,” which refers to a person in high office using a plural pronoun rather than a singular one to refer to him- or herself. Subversive and playful, their nickname reflects their relationship. Wallis had charisma and sex appeal. She was famous for her wit and her style. Though seemingly unimportant, Wallis played a cataclysmic role in the future of the British monarchy.

Happy Birthday Isabella Rossellini

Today is the 62nd birthday of Isabella Rossellini.  Have you seen Blue Velvet recently?  Watch it again, you will fall in love all over again.

NAME: Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Model
BIRTH DATE: June 18, 1952
PLACE OF BIRTH: Rome, Italy

BEST KNOWN FOR: The daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini, Isabella Rossellini is an Italian-born actress known for such films as Blue Velvet, Cousins, and Immortal Beloved.

IIsabella Rossellini appeared in her first film in 1976, and has since made over 50 other films, including Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and Big Night. She was also the face of Lancôme cosmetics for 14 years.

After growing up in Italy, Isabella Rossellini came to the United States when she was 19 and studied at Finch College and the New School for Social Research in New York City. Rossellini made her first movie appearance in 1976, with a small part in her mother’s film A Matter of Time. She then appeared in several European TV dramas before her first big-screen starring role in 1979′s The Meadow.

In the early 1980s, Rossellini’s acting career went on a brief hiatus so she could focus on modeling, becoming the face of Lancôme cosmetics in 1982 (a post she held until 1996). While her modeling career has since become secondary to her acting career, she has appeared on the covers of such magazines as Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and Elle. In 1985, she returned strongly to film, appearing in the hit White Nights and in the ultimate cult classic, Blue Velvet, in 1986. In Blue Velvet she played Dorothy Vallens, an abused small-town nightclub singer. The character proved to be her breakthrough role. Soon after, she starred with Ted Danson in Cousins, receiving noteworthy reviews for her performance.

Isabella Rossellini kicked off the 1990s by appearing in the controversial David Lynch film Wild at Heart. The film went on to become yet another Lynch cult classic, and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, all while offending audiences and critics alike. Her next several films included more mainstream fare, and she found herself in big-budget Hollywood films such as Death Becomes Her, Wyatt Earp and Immortal Beloved.

The year 1995 was a good one for Isabella Rossellini, as she starred in the hit Big Night, which had a powerhouse cast and was released to wide American and international acclaim. On the heels of Big Night, she starred again in offbeat films, such as Abel Ferrara’s The Funeral (1996), the Dutch film Left Luggage (1998), and the 1998 comedy The Imposters. Despite her success in larger films, Rossellini continued to seek out roles in small, sometimes oddball, films such as The Saddest Music in the World, My Dog Tulip and Chicken with Plums.

In addition to her work as an actress, Isabella Rossellini is also known for her activism. She holds prominent roles in such groups as the Wildlife Conservation Network, the George Eastman House, and the Central Park Conservancy.