Happy Birthday Mae West

Tomorrow is the 121st birthday of Mae West.

NAME: Mae West
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Theater Actress, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: August 17, 1893
DEATH DATE: November 22, 1980
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Mae West started in Vaudeville and on the stage in New York, and later moved to Hollywood to star in films known for their blunt sexuality and steamy settings.

Mae West was an American screen legend and erotic icon famous for her voluptuous figure, sexy innuendos, and irrepressible wit. A free thinking and independent woman far ahead of her time, West expressed herself boldly, both sexually and creatively. She famously surrounded herself with handsome muscle men, both onscreen and off, and accrued a long list of famous and powerful lovers. Notably, West was one of the first female American playwrights, and actresses, to demand and receive creative control over her work. West’s creative expression encompassed nearly every facet of the entertainment spectrum including theatre and screenwriting, film, radio, television, and audio recording. And with a career spanning some 80+ years, she holds the further distinction of having performed both vaudeville and rock and roll. As a cultural icon she is immortalized by imitators, biographers, and even an assortment of snacks and devices bearing her name. Her trademark phrases have been translated into numerous languages, including Mandarin, Mongolian, Norwegian, and Lithuanian.

She was born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, the bare knuckles prizefighter Battlin’ Jack West, was a native New Yorker from the lower east side. A heavy smoker and drinker, he turned to violence when thwarted. Her mother, “Tillie”, was a former corset and fashion model, and frustrated actress, who had immigrated to America from Germany with her parents. Although Mae West always claimed that Tillie was Jewish, records show that the family listed their religion as Lutheran upon arrival in America. West’s paternal grandmother had also immigrated as a child — an Irish Catholic, she married Mae’s paternal grandfather, John Edwin, while only 12 years old. Edwin’s own ancestry remains enigmatic. But according to West biographer Jill Watts, he may have been a light-skinned African American who passed for white.

Arising from this milieu of adversity, Mae learned early on that her unusual talent and good looks were an advantage that just might leverage her into a better life — if she played it smart. Encouraged by her mother, she used her sexuality to build alliances with, or dominate, nearly every man who crossed her path. And she learned to view marriage as a double edged institution – one that offered legal protection and social acceptance, but which robbed women of their independence and sexual freedom. According to most sources she took refuge in marriage just once, with fellow actor and lover Frank Wallace. When she tired of Wallace, and discovered she was not pregnant as feared, she ended the relationship. She neglected to file for divorce however, and Wallace showed up years later, in 1937, with marriage certificate in hand to receive a share of West’s ample earnings. She may have been simultaneously married to musician Guido Deiro, divorcing him in 1920. West allegedly used the alias Catherine Mae Belle West when marrying Deiro to avoid bigamy charges.

While West’s attitudes toward men were heavily influenced by her mother so was her choice of career. Tillie West had once longed to follow in the footsteps of idol Lillian Russell, even having her portrait painted in such way as to highlight a certain resemblance. She started Mae off in show business as early as age 5, according to some reports, and by age 7 Mae had won the gold medal in a talent show, with Tillie billing her as “Baby Mae.” By age 12 she was appearing on the vaudeville circuit and was soon performing as the sexy “Baby Vamp.” At 18 she introduced vaudeville to the “shimmy”, a sexy full body undulation that she had first observed in the blues bars of Chicago.

In the 1920s she had moved on to playwriting. A shameless self promoter, she is said to have single billed herself on works that were in fact jointly authored. Nonetheless both on the stage and later in film she showed tremendous wit and intelligence for writing dialogue, especially for those parts she played herself. But while West is chiefly remembered for her clever dialogue and powerhouse sensuality, much of her work dealt also with spiritual matters and West was herself a deeply and eclectically spiritual person for most of her life. Not surprisingly, her tendency toward frankness and maverick free thinking, on all subjects, often put her at odds with moralists and hard line religious leaders.

Her first major run in with censorship laws came in 1926 when she was jailed for the play Sex, which she both wrote and starred in. West was sentenced to 10 days in jail on obscenity charges. However she allegedly received star treatment in prison, dining each night with the warden and getting two days off for good behavior. Despite this fact she was sympathetic to those less fortunate, and upon her release she penned an article about the women she had met behind bars. Putting her money where her mouth was, she also made a donation on their behalf to fund a prison library.

In 1927 West was back in trouble again. Her new play Drag, about a homosexual party, was a big hit in New Jersey. But it was banned from Broadway and was soon bogged down in extensive legal battles. She bounced back the following year with her naughty, but more acceptable Diamond Lil. Not only was it a big hit on Broadway, but it more significantly catapulted her toward Hollywood stardom. West debuted on film in 1932 with what was supposed to be a small part in Night After Night, starringGeorge Raft. However West insisted on rewriting all her lines, and the result was pure gold — for West and for the film. Building on this success West was able to translate her Broadway play Diamond Lilto the big screen as She Done Him Wrong in 1933. Audiences went wild, and the film was a huge success, garnering an Academy Award nomination and catapulting male lead Cary Grant, to stardom. The picture saved its studio, Paramount Pictures, from bankruptcy.

West’s next film, I’m No Angel, was also a big hit with moviegoers. But her empowered sexuality and ribald wit, that so entranced movie goers, incensed religious leaders and moralists. The Catholic Church in particular launched a campaign to put an end to the “filth” churned out by West, and to an extent, by the studios in general. By July of 1934 Hollywood was being squeezed toward more exact compliance with the strict Motion Picture Production Code. Since West was not one to give in easily and she managed for a while to pull a clever bait and switch with the censors. She laded scripts with obvious material for them to cut, while slipping in more subtle elements they would overlook. Most famous of these were her sly double entendres, lines she rolled out with such droll understatement that fans were never quite sure what was a straight line and what was intentional innuendo.

But censors could not be duped indefinitely, not with more clever moralists writing them outraged letters. And so West found her work in Hollywood more and more constrained. She churned out several more films, including My Little Chickadee, in which she starred alongside nemesis W. C. Fields (1940). But 1943’s The Heat’s On proved to be her last offering, until her film rebirth in the 1970s.

For the next few decades she returned her attention to writing and performing for the more liberal environment of the stage. One of West’s favorite roles was her 1944 Broadway production ofCatherine Was Great. West’s version of the famed Russian empress was a woman after her own heart — a powerful, lusty, independent woman who surrounded herself with tall muscle men. According to West, an ardent spiritualist, this likeness was appropriate as she herself was the reincarnation ofCatherine the Great.

Like the historic Catherine, West’s identity as a sexual titan who seemed untarnished by age. West still demanded daily sex well into her 60s and held onto a girlish figure through an assortment of eccentric practices. According to West, she avoided sunlight to preserve her skin, massaged her breasts for two hours a day with cold cream to keep them firm, had her men massage warm baby oil into her skin to keep it soft, and began each day with an enema to rid her body of toxins and keep her skin silky smooth.

Determined never to be a “has been” (she hotly turned down Billy Wilder‘s invitation to play Norma Desmond in Sunset Strip) West frequently managed to reinvent and reintroduce herself to the American public. She had her own Las Vegas show in the 1950s. And in the 1960s, she appeared on the album sleeve for The Beatles “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, she popped up on a number of popular television programs (including The Red Skelton Show and Mr. Ed), and she even cut two rock and roll albums. In 1970 she at last returned to the big screen with Gore Vidal‘s Myra Breckinridge.

But although the time seemed ripe for West’s bawdy humor to make a come back, with society and censors more open to sexuality, age was catching up with her. Now in her mid 80s, she was struggling with diabetes and other ailments. During the 1978 filming of Sextette, her last film, she often needed to rest during scenes. And she forgot her lines so often that it was necessary to fit her with an earpiece so she could be prompted with her lines. But the indomitable Mae insisted on playing a woman in her late 20s, and she behaved as if she were still the knockout sex goddess that every man wanted to make love too. Despite such handicaps and eccentricities her co-stars would remember West as a grand lady. And when the film finally premiered her cult of longtime fans still found her adorable and embracedSextette, viewing the flaws of the film as delightful self-parody. But the public in general was not so impressed and despite added talent from the likes of Timothy Dalton, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton,Tony Curtis, Walter Pidgeon and George Raft, the film fell flat at the box office.

Two years later West’s decline culminated in a series of strokes, and she died on November 22, 1980 from stroke related complications. Two days later her former lover and longtime friend, George Raft, who had co-starred with West in both her first film and her last, died as well, of leukemia. Like Raft, West is memorialized by a Motion Pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like only a handful of other stars her trademark gestures and phrases (such as “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie”, “When I’m bad I’m even better”, and “Come up and see me sometime”) have entered into the pop culture lexicon.

Mae West’s films continue to be released on video and DVD and some of her plays remain in current publication. She continues to be immortalized as well by assorted drag queens and festivals who celebrate her talent and persona. More than 20 years after her death biographies of West continue to abound, including Mae West: An Icon in Black and White by Jill Watts (2003), Becoming Mae Westby Emily Worth Leider (2000), and Mae West: Empress of Sex, by Maurice Leonard (1992). West’s autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, first appeared in 1959 and has been republished a number of times.

 

Happy Birthday Randall Shilts

Today is the 63rd birthday of Randy Shilts, the author of the Harvey Milk biography and the book And The Band Played On, of which I can see my copy as I type this.  You absolutely have to read the book and/or watch the film, it is your job as a human to understand, empathize, and learn.  Always strive for more understanding.  I first read And The Band Played On one Summer in Interlochen, it was before I had any direct connection to HIV/AIDS.  Since then, I have worked with, befriended, and loved people living with HIV.  I have volunteered hundreds of hours and raised thousands of dollars to support people living with HIV/AIDS, to educate youth about HIV/AIDS, and to research a cure for HIV/AIDS.  I have lost friends and mentors along the way to it.  As I have often said:  Every birthday wish, every coin in the fountain…

randy shilts

NAME: Randall Martin Shilts
BORN: 8-Aug-1951
BIRTHPLACE: Davenport, IA
DIED: 17-Feb-1994
DEATH LOCATION: Guerneville, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: AIDS
REMAINS: Buried, Redwood Memorial Gardens, Guerneville, CA
GENDER: Male
RELIGION: Methodist
RACE: White
OCCUPATION: Journalist, Author
NATIONALITY: United States
BEST KNOWN FOR: Chronicler of AIDS, biographer of Harvey Milk

Randy Shilts was the first openly gay reporter at a mainstream metropolitan newspaper, and the author of three landmark books: the biography of his assassinated friend Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street; the definitive account of the early years of the battle against AIDS, And the Band Played On; and the study of the US military’s “Stalinesque” discrimination against gay soldiers, Conduct Unbecoming.

Shilts grew up in Aurora, Illinois, where as a young man he organized a local chapter of the conservative/libertarian group Young Americans for Freedom. Attending college in Oregon, he came out as gay at 19 years of age in 1971, and became a leader in the newly-formed Gay People’s Alliance. After earning a degree in journalism he went to work to The Advocate, and later covered San Francisco news on local radio, television, and in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. He covered the first outbreaks of the new “gay cancer”, first called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) but now knows as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). As the pandemic developed, Shilts became the Chronicle‘s lead reporter on the disease, and battled editors over both the explicit language necessary for covering AIDS and the paper’s early tendency to hide his reports deep in the Chronicle‘s inner pages.

By the time AIDS made the front pages, Shilts had criticized both the Reagan administration and some prominent gay groups for effectively pretending AIDS did not exist. He was called “a gay Uncle Tom” for reporting on common but dangerous sex practices in the city’s infamous bathhouses, but his call for safer sex practices has since come to be accepted as simply common sense. A frequent patron of the bathhouses himself before the danger was understood, Shilts was only 42 when he died of AIDS on 17 February 1994. He wrote the last chapters of his third book from his hospital bed, and in a pre-publication interview told the New York Times, “HIV is certainly character-building. It’s made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I’d rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character.”

Father: Bud Shilts (prefabricated housing salesman)
Mother: Norma Shilts (alcoholic)
Mother: Patricia Shilts (stepmother)
Brother: Gary Shilts
Brother: Reed Shilts
Brother: Dennis Shilts
Brother: David Shilts (fetal alcohol syndrome)
Boyfriend: Barry Barbieri (b. circa 1970, comm. 31-May-1993)

High School: West Aurora High School, Aurora, IL (1969)
University: BS Journalism, University of Oregon (1975)

Young Americans for Freedom
The Advocate (reporter, 1974-77)
KQED Radio (reporter, 1977-79)
KTVU-TV (reporter, 1979-81)
The San Francisco Chronicle (reporter, 1981-93)

Author of books:
The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982, biography)
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1987, social studies)
Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military (1993, social studies)

Happy Birthday Ricardo Romero Cortez Duque

Today is the birthday of Ricardo Romero Cortez Duque.  You can visit the full collection of his art HERE.  Here are some of my favorites:

Some of his work is in the current show at Vernissage:

Vernissage
Seattle Design Center
5701 6th Ave S, Ste. 268
Seattle, WA 98802
United States

 

 

Happy Birthday Barack Obama

Today is the 53rd birthday of the President of the United States of America, Barak Obama.  I chose to highlight his style as most of us are aware of his biography.

NAME: Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.
OCCUPATION: Lawyer, U.S. President, U.S. Representative
BIRTH DATE: August 04, 1961
EDUCATION: Punahou Academy, Occidental College, Columbia University, Harvard Law School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Honolulu, Hawaii

Best Known For:  Former Illinois Senator Barack Obama is the 44th and current president of the United States. Inaugurated on January 27, 2009, he is the first African-American to serve as U.S. president.

Why He’s A Style Icon

Barack Obama has transcended politics and become an American Icon by adhering to the very old rule of dressing for the job you want. Most campaign-trail politicians in America like to appear in jeans to show they are one of the people, but Obama’s campaign already had that image and feel, so he never had to dress down for the cameras. In the process, he has taught men how to wear suits again. The clean lines and drape of his jacket never seem ill-fitting or bulky. The trouser cuffs break across his cap-toe oxfords just enough to perfectly end the slim silhouette that begins with the soft shouldered jacket. More importantly, by always wearing a suit so well, he never looks out of place. Few realize that he began his campaign wearing Ermenegildo Zegna suits, but just as Nicolas Sarkozy was lauded in France for wearing Prada, Obama soon found himself at the center of sartorial questions. Rather than change his look, however, he merely changed to similarly designed and fitted suits from Hart Schaffner Marx. Here, then, is another lesson to be learned: Be yourself and true to your own style no matter the designer or manufacturer.

Dress The Obama Way

The foundational rule of Barack Obama’s style is to keep your wardrobe simple with finely made dark suits, a crisp white shirt and the camera-friendly pale blue tie or a deep red tie just to change things up. At his most casual, you might see him wearing the suit without the tie or perhaps without the jacket and the tie with his sleeves rolled up just above the wrist. It is here at this moment that all men who aspire to greatness should take note: Obama rolls his sleeves in even folds revealing his only accessory — a sublime watch given to him as a gift from his Secret Service detail. At the beginning of his campaign, he sported a Tag Heuer on a black leather band, but nowadays he wears the Secret Service chronograph, which bears the seal of the United States Secret Service on a black dial with a black Buffalo leather strap.

Happy Birthday Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

Today is the 85th birthday of Jacky O.


NAME: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
OCCUPATION: U.S. First Lady
BIRTH DATE: July 28, 1929
DEATH DATE: May 19, 1994
EDUCATION: Vassar College, Paris-Sorbonne University, George Washington University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Southampton, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, noted for her style and elegance, was the wife of President John F. Kennedy and later married Aristotle Onassis.

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis (July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994)[1] was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Five years later she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis; they remained married until his death in 1975. For the final two decades of her life, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had a successful career as a book editor. She is remembered for her contributions to the arts and preservation of historic architecture, her style, elegance, and grace. A fashion icon, her famous pink Chanel suit has become a symbol of her husband’s assassination and one of the lasting images of the 1960s. A book containing the transcripts of interviews with Kennedy from 1964 was released in September, 2011.

During her husband’s presidency, Jacqueline Kennedy became a symbol of fashion for women all over the world. She retained French-born American fashion designer and Kennedy family friend Oleg Cassini in the fall of 1960 to create an original wardrobe for her as First Lady. From 1961 to late 1963, Cassini dressed her in many of her most iconic ensembles, including her Inauguration Day fawn coat and Inaugural gala gown as well as many outfits for her visits to Europe, India and Pakistan. In her first year in the White House, Kennedy spent $45,446 more on fashion than the $100,000 annual salary her husband earned as president. Her clean suits with a skirt hem down to middle of the knee, three-quarter sleeves on notch-collar jackets, sleeveless A-line dresses, above-the-elbow gloves, low-heel pumps, and famous pillbox hats were an overnight success around the world that quickly became known as the “Jackie” look. Although Cassini was her primary designer, she also wore ensembles by French fashion legends such as Chanel, Givenchy, and Dior. More than any other First Lady her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and a large segment of young women.

In the years after the White House, her style changed dramatically. Gone were the modest “campaign wife” clothes. Wide-leg pantsuits, large lapel jackets, gypsy skirts, silk Hermès head scarves and large, round, dark sunglasses were her new look. She often chose to wear brighter colors and patterns and even began wearing jeans in public.  Beltless, white jeans with a black turtleneck, never tucked in, but pulled down over the hips, also was a fashion trend that she set.

Throughout her lifetime, Kennedy acquired a large collection of exquisite and priceless jewelry. Her triple-strand pearl necklace designed by American jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane became her signature piece of jewelry during her time as First Lady in the White House. Often referred to as the “berry brooch,” the two fruit cluster brooch of strawberries made of rubies with stems and leaves of diamonds, designed by French jeweler Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., was personally selected and given to her by her husband several days prior to his inauguration in January 1961. Schlumberger’s gold and enamel bracelets were worn by Kennedy so frequently in the early and mid-1960s that the press called them “Jackie bracelets”. His white enamel and gold “banana” earrings were also favored by her. Kennedy wore jewelry designed by Van Cleef & Arpels throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Her sentimental favorite was the wedding ring given to her by President Kennedy, also from Van Cleef & Arpels.

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.”