Happy Birthday Twiggy

Today is the 65th birthday of Twiggy.

NAME: Twiggy
OCCUPATION: Pin-up, Animal Rights Activist
BIRTH DATE: September 19, 1949
PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England, United Kingdom
FULL NAME: Lesley Lawson
MAIDEN NAME: Lesley Hornby

BEST KNOWN FOR: In the mid-1960s, Twiggy became one of the world’s first supermodels as well as the face of London’s “mod” scene.

Born Lesley Hornby on September 19, 1949 in London, England, Twiggy first rose to fame as a model in the 1960s. She has since established herself as an actress, singer and television personality. Twiggy is the youngest of three sisters. One of her earlier nicknames during her school years was “Sticks.” But the name she is famous for was given to her as a teenager. She dropped out of school around the age of 15.

Before long, Twiggy became one of the world’s top models. She had her career breakthrough when she was named the face of 1966 by the Daily Express newspaper. With her thin build, dramatic eyes and boyish hair style, Twiggy captured the spirit of the “swinging sixties” in London’s Carnaby Street mod scene. She soon appeared on the cover of many leading fashion magazines, including Elle and British Vogue.

Twiggy was one of the first models to parlay her success as a model into other business ventures. In 1967, she came to the United States to promote her own clothing line as well as model. The trip also afforded her a chance to work with famed photographer Richard Avedon. Twiggy became so popular in America that she even inspired her own Barbie doll. More Twiggy merchandise soon followed, including a board game and a lunch box. Fans would even copy her distinctive eye look with their own set of Twiggy fake eyelashes.

Twiggy started acting in the 1970s, making her film debut in Ken Russell’s musical The Boy Friend (1971) with Tommy Tune. More movie roles followed, including appearances in The Blues Brothers (1980) with John Belushi and Madame Sousatzka (1988) with Shirley MacLaine. Twiggy also enjoyed some success on the stage. In 1983, she made her Broadway debut in My One and Only with Tommy Tune.

Over the years, Twiggy has also made numerous television appearances as well. She was briefly co-presenter of ITV’s popular This Morning program in 2001. On American television, Twiggy also served as a judge on Tyra Banks‘s popular modeling-competition show America’s Next Top Model.

Twiggy became the face of Marks & Spencer in 2005. In addition to modeling for the company, she sells a line of clothing through its website. Twiggy has also been a model for Olay beauty products in recent years. She also remained a subject of great interest and fascination with several books and documentaries made about her life and career. In 2009, Twiggy: A Life in Photographs was published.

In 1977, Twiggy married actor Michael Witney. The couple had one daughter, Carly, before Witney’s death in 1983. She married her second husband, actor Leigh Lawson, in 1988. Twiggy is an advocate of animal welfare and is recognized for her support of breast cancer research groups.

Happy Birthday Margaret Sanger

Tomorrow is the 135th birthday of Margaret Sanger.

margaret sangerNAME: Margaret Sanger
BIRTH DATE: September 14, 1879
DEATH DATE: September 6, 1966
EDUCATION: Claverack College, Hudson River Institute
PLACE OF BIRTH: Corning, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Tucson, Arizona

BEST KNOWN FOR: Margaret Sanger was an early feminist and women’s rights activist who coined the term “birth control” and worked towards its legalization.

Activist, social reformer. Born Margaret Higgins on September 14, 1879, in Corning, New York. She was one of 11 children born into a Roman Catholic working-class Irish American family. Her mother, Anne, had several miscarriages, and Margaret believed that all of these pregnancies took a toll on her mother’s health and contributed to her early death at the age of 40 (some reports say 50). The family lived in poverty as her father, Michael, an Irish stonemason, preferred to drink and talk politics than earn a steady wage.

Seeking a better life, Sanger attended Claverack College and Hudson River Institute in 1896. She went on to study nursing at White Plains Hospital four years later. In 1902, she married William Sanger, an architect. The couple eventually had three children together.

In 1910, the Sangers moved to New York City, settling in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. The area was a bohemian enclave known for its radical politics at the time, and the couple became immersed in that world. They socialized with the likes of writer Upton Sinclair and anarchist Emma Goldman. Sanger joined the Women’s Committee of the New York Socialist Party and the Liberal Club. A supporter of the Industrial Workers of the World union, she participated in a number of strikes.

Sanger started her campaign to educate women about sex in 1912 by writing a newspaper column called “What Every Girl Should Know.” She also worked as a nurse on the Lower East Side, at the time a predominantly poor immigrant neighborhood. Through her work, Sanger treated a number of women who had undergone back-alley abortions or tried to self-terminate their pregnancies. Sanger objected to the unnecessary suffering endured by these women, and she fought to make birth control information and contraceptives available. She also began dreaming of a “magic pill” to be used to control pregnancy. “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother,” Sanger said.

In 1914, Sanger started a feminist publication called The Woman Rebel, which promoted a woman’s right to have birth control. The monthly magazine landed her in trouble, as it was illegal to send out information on contraception through the mail. The Comstock Act of 1873 prohibited the trade in and circulation of “obscene and immoral materials.” Championed by Anthony Comstock, the act included publications, devices, and medications related to contraception and abortion in its definition of obscene materials. It also made mailing and importing anything related to these topics a crime.

Rather than face a possible five-year jail sentence, Sanger fled to England. While there, she worked in the women’s movement and researched other forms of birth control, including diaphragms, which she later smuggled back into the United States. She had separated from her husband by this time, and the two later divorced. Embracing the idea of free love, Sanger had affairs with psychologist Havelock Ellis and writer H. G. Wells.

Sanger returned to the United States in October 1915, after charges against her had been dropped. She began touring to promote birth control, a term that she coined. In 1916, she opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. Sanger and her staff, including her sister Ethel, were arrested during a raid of the Brooklyn clinic nine days after it opened. They were charged with providing information on contraception and fitting women for diaphragms. Sanger and her sister spent 30 days in jail for breaking the Comstock law. Later appealing her conviction, she scored a victory for the birth control movement. The court wouldn’t overturn the earlier verdict, but it made an exception in the existing law to allow doctors to prescribe contraception to their female patients for medical reasons. Around this time, Sanger also published her first issue of The Birth Control Review.

In 1921, Sanger established the American Birth Control League, a precursor to today’s Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She served as its president until 1928. In 1923, while with the league, she opened the first legal birth control clinic in the United States. The clinic was named the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. Also around this time, Sanger married for her second husband, oil businessman J. Noah H. Slee. He provided much of the funding for her efforts for social reform.

Wanting to advance her cause through legal channels, Sanger started the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in 1929. The committee sought to make it legal for doctors to freely distribute birth control. One legal hurdle was overcome in 1936, when the U.S. Court of Appeals allowed for birth control devices and related materials to be imported into the country.

For all of her advocacy work, Sanger was not without controversy. She has been criticized for her association with eugenics, a branch of science that seeks to improve the human species through selective mating. As grandson Alexander Sanger, chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council, explained, “She believed that women wanted their children to be free of poverty and disease, that women were natural eugenicists, and that birth control, which could limit the number of children and improve their quality of life, was the panacea to accomplish this.” Still Sanger held some views that were common at the time, but now seem abhorrent, including support of sterilization for the mentally ill and mentally impaired. Despite her controversial comments, Sanger focused her work on one basic principle: “Every child should be a wanted child.”

Sanger stepped out of the spotlight for a time, choosing to live in Tucson, Arizona. Her retirement did not last long, however. She worked on the birth control issue in other countries in Europe and Asia, and she established the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1952. Still seeking a “magic pill,” Sanger recruited Gregory Pincus, a human reproduction expert, to work on the problem in the early 1950s. She found the necessary financial support for the project from Katharine McCormick, the International Harvester heiress. This research project would yield the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960.

Sanger lived to see another important reproductive rights milestone in 1965, when the Supreme Court made birth control legal for married couples in its decision on Griswold v. Connecticut. She died a year later on September 6, 1966, in a nursing home in Tucson, Arizona. Across the nation, there are numerous women’s health clinics that carry the Sanger name—in remembrance of her efforts to advance women’s rights and the birth control movement.

Happy Birthday Jacob Lawrence

lawrence1

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.

lawrence2

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 Los Angeles

los angeles

Los Angeles was founded on on this day in 1781, by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve. It became a part of Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican–American War, Los Angeles and the rest of California were purchased as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thereby becoming part of the United States. Los Angeles was incorporated as a municipality on April 4, 1850, five months before California achieved statehood.

1928-hollywood-bowl

 

Happy Birthday Shirley Manson

Today is the 48th birthday of Shirley Manson.  I am have been fully obsessed with the band Garbage for nearly two decades, in no small part due to her.  I am a sucker for a misfit badass and a fuck-all outsider.  I adore her passion, her vision, her apologetically living on her own terms, her artistry, her charity, and her singing.  I press repeat whenever “Not Your Kind of People” plays in my ears at the gym, it is my not-so-secret anthem as of late.

Shirley_Manson

NAME: Shirley Manson
OCCUPATION: Singer
BIRTH DATE: August 26, 1966
EDUCATION: City of Edinburgh Music School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Best Known For:  Shirley Manson is a Scottish singer best known as the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band Garbage.

Born on August 26, 1966, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Shirley Manson is best known for her work as the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band Garbage. Before fronting Garbage, Manson played keyboards and sang back-up with Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and performed as the lead singer of Angelfish. In 1995, Garbage released its self-titled debut album, which went double platinum due to hits such as “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl” and “Vow.” Manson went on to release four more albums with Garbage, including Not Your Kind of People (2012).

Shirley Manson was born on August 26, 1966, in Edinburgh, Scotland. The musician was the second of three daughters born to John Manson, a geneticist, and Muriel Manson, a former big-band vocalist.

Manson began taking piano lessons at age 7, and her love of music led her to eventually study at the City of Edinburgh Music School. Perhaps music was a refuge for the young girl, who was bullied relentlessly in school. The harassment took its toll; Manson fell into a deep depression and began cutting herself.

In 1984, Manson found an outlet to express herself: She became a member of the band Autumn, and later joined the group Wild Indians. Manson dropped out of high school at age 16, and soon joined the band Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie as a back-up vocalist and keyboardist. She performed with the band until 1992.

Manson joined the band Angelfish as its lead singer, and together they released the EP Suffocate Me in 1993. Though the album failed to produce hits, it did get Manson noticed by Butch Vig, drummer for the band Garbage, when he saw her on MTV. He contacted Manson, who auditioned for Garbage twice before joining the band as its lead singer in 1994.

Garbage’s self-titled debut album in 1995 went double platinum in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia due to hits such as “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl” and “Vow.” Three years later, the band released its second album, Version 2.0, with Manson serving as not only the face and voice of Garbage, but also its primary lyricist. During the band’s two-year tour, Manson modeled for Calvin Klein to promote the album.

shirley manson 2

In 1999, Manson co-produced the theme for the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, starring Pierce Bronson as James Bond, the iconic character created by author Ian Fleming. Garbage’s third album, beautifulgarbage, was released in 2001 to lackluster sales. Infighting between members ensued, and Garbage broke up in 2003. The split didn’t last long, and the band reunited to release its fourth album, Bleed Like Me, in 2005. Led by the hit “Why Do You Love Me,” the album met with international success and, reaching Top 5 in the United States.

The reunion was brief, and the band took a hiatus for several years. During this time, Manson made attempts to create a solo album, but to no avail.

Her label refused to release the album. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Manson revealed, “I had a collection of songs that I thought were really strong. I took them in [and] played them for the record company. They weren’t interested. They told me they were too dark. They wanted me to have international radio hits and ‘be the Annie Lennox of my generation.’ I kid you not; I am quoting directly.”

Manson made her acting debut in 2008, playing cyborg Catherine Weaver on the second season of the show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. She returned to Garbage in 2010, when the band returned to the studio to write and record music for its fifth album, Not Your Kind of People, released in 2012.

Manson married Scottish actor Eddie Farrell in 1996. The couple split in 2001 and finalized their divorce in 2003.

In May 2010, Manson married record producer and Garbage sound engineer Billy Bush, who helped produce the 2012 album Not Your Kind of People. They live with their terrier named Veela.

Manson has no children, but that’s by choice. She told the Daily Mail UK, “I just missed that whole baby calling. I feel a lot of women think you’re a freak if you feel like that, and maybe I am strange, I never got that feeling.”

Manson and her husband reside in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.

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)