Happy Birthday Harris Glenn Milstead

Today is the 69th birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead, known the world over as the drag queen/performance artist/actor/personality called “Divine.”  I was first introduced to Divine through the subscription of Interview Magazine I had while I was in high school.  This lead to renting the early John Waters movies and so forth.  I adore anyone who is fearless, who is in on the joke, and who plows forward.  Divine had all of those qualities and many more.

divine5

Born: Harris Glenn Milstead 19 October 1945 Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland
Died: 7 March 1988 (aged 42) Los Angeles, California, United States

Divine (October 19, 1945 – March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead, was an American actor, singer and drag queen. Described by People magazine as the “Drag Queen of the Century”, Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women’s clothing in musical performances. Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films. He was often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters’s films, usually in a leading role. Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as “the most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world.”

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a conservative, upper middle class family, he became involved with John Waters and his acting troupe, the Dreamlanders, in the mid-1960s and starred in a number of Waters’s early films such as Mondo Trasho (1969), Multiple Maniacs (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974). These films became hits on the midnight movie and underground cinema circuit in the U.S., and have since become cult classics, with Divine becoming particularly renowned for playing the role of Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos, during which he had to perform a series of extreme acts including eating dog excrement. In the 1970s, Milstead made the transition to theater and appeared in a number of productions, including Women Behind Bars and The Neon Woman, while continuing to star in such films as Polyester (1981), Lust in the Dust (1985) and Hairspray (1988). Meanwhile, in 1981 Divine had embarked on a disco career, producing Hi-NRG tracks, most of which had been written by Bobby Orlando, and went on to achieve chart success with hits like “You Think You’re A Man”, “I’m So Beautiful” and “Walk Like a Man.” Having struggled with obesity throughout his life, Divine died from cardiomegaly in 1988.

The New York Times said of Milstead’s ’80s films: “Those who could get past the unremitting weirdness of Divine’s performance discovered that the actor/actress had genuine talent, including a natural sense of comic timing and an uncanny gift for slapstick.” He was also described as “one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century… [who] was an audacious symbol of man’s quest for liberty and freedom.” Since his death, Divine has remained a cult figure, particularly with those in the LGBT community, of which he was a part, being openly gay.

Due to Divine’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the original comedy-film version of Hairspray, later musical adaptations of Hairspray have commonly placed male actors in the role of Edna, including Harvey Fierstein and others in the 2002 Broadway musical and John Travolta in the 2007 musical film.

A 12 foot tall statue in the likeness of Divine by Andrew Logan can be seen on permanent display at The American Visionary Art Museum in Divine’s home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

Happy Birthday Agatha Christie

Today is the 124th birthday of Agatha Christie.  At one time, I had this grand idea that I was going to read every one of her books in order of publication.  That is a lot of reading.  I didn’t get very far, but it was not her fault, I fall in and out of love with reading.  There are points in my life where reading is much easier, if I have a commute or something.  I love all the Agatha Christie movies, Miss Marple and even the Tommy and Tuppence ones, but especially Hercule Poirot (David Suchet portrayal).  The books are quick and clever and keep you guessing.

NAME: Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie
OCCUPATION: Author, Playwright
BIRTH DATE: September 15, 1890
DEATH DATE: January 12, 1976
PLACE OF BIRTH: Torquay, United Kingdom
PLACE OF DEATH: Cholsey, United Kingdom
AKA: Mary Westmacott
MAIDEN NAME: Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller

BEST KNOWN FOR: Dame Agatha Christie is the bestselling mystery author of all time. Her characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, have been repeatedly portrayed on film.

Dame Agatha Christie DBE (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was a British crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections (especially those featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple), and her successful West End plays.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly four billion copies, and her estate claims that her works rank third, after those of William Shakespeare and the Bible, as the most widely published books. According to Index Translationum, Christie is the most translated individual author, with only the collective corporate works of Walt Disney Productions surpassing her.[2] Her books have been translated into at least 103 languages.[3]
Agatha Christie published two autobiographies: a posthumous one covering childhood to old age; and another chronicling several seasons of archaeological excavation in Syria and Iraq with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan. The latter was published in 1946 with the title, Come, Tell Me How You Live.

Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25 November 1952 and as of 2011 is still running after more than 24,000 performances. In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play. Many of her books and short stories have been filmed, some more than once (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and 4.50 from Paddington for instance), and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics.

In 1968, Booker Books, a subsidiary of the agri-industrial conglomerate Booker-McConnell, bought a 51 percent stake in Agatha Christie Limited, the private company that Christie had set up for tax purposes. Booker later increased its stake to 64 percent. In 1998, Booker sold its shares to Chorion, a company whose portfolio also includes the literary estates of Enid Blyton and Dennis Wheatley.

In 2004, a 5,000-word story entitled The Incident of the Dog’s Ball was found in the attic of the author’s daughter. This story was the original version of the novel Dumb Witness. It was published in Britain in September 2009 in John Curran’s Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: Fifty Years Of Mysteries, alongside another newly discovered Poirot story called The Capture of Cerberus (a story with the same title, but a different plot, to that published in The Labours Of Hercules). On 10 November 2009, Reuters announced that The Incident of the Dog’s Ball will be published by The Strand Magazine.

Happy Birthday Chrissie Hynde

NAME: Christine Ellen Hynde
OCCUPATION: Animal Rights Activist, Songwriter, Guitarist, Singer
BIRTH DATE: September 07, 1951
EDUCATION: Kent State University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Akron, Ohio

BEST KNOWN FOR: Chrissie Hynde came to fame as the frontwoman for the Pretenders. Hits “Brass in Pocket” and “My City Was Gone” became rock anthems in the 1970s and 80s.

Born on September 7, 1951, in Akron, Ohio. Chrissie Hynde was one of the leading women in rock in the 1980s and 1990s as the lead singer of the Pretenders. After studying art at Kent State University for a time, she took off for London, England, where she discovered the emerging new rock genre??punk.

The Pretenders got together in the late 1970s and released a self-titled album in 1980. Chrissie Hynde and bandmate James Honeyman-Scott penned the group’s first hit, “Brass in Pocket.” Subsequent releases produced the hit songs “Middle of the Road,” “Show Me,” and “Back on the Chain Gang” (from 1984’s Learning to Crawl); and “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (from 1986’s Get Close); as well as 1994’s “I’ll Stand by You.”

Chrissie Hynde divorced Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr in 1990 after six years of marriage. Together they have a daughter, Yasmin. Hynde also has a daughter, Natalie, with her former longtime partner Ray Davies of the Kinks.

Happy Birthday Molly Ivins

Today is the 70th birthday of Molly Ivins.

NAME: Molly Ivins
OCCUPATION: Comedian, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: August 30, 1944
DEATH DATE: January 31, 2007
PLACE OF BIRTH: Monterey, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Austin, Texas

BEST KNOWN FOR: Molly Ivins was an American political satirist with a widely syndicated column. She wrote several scathing books about the political career of George W. Bush.

American political satirist (born Aug. 30, 1944 , Monterey, Calif.—died Jan. 31, 2007 , Austin, Texas) wrote a newspaper column from a staunchly liberal point of view that mercilessly and humorously skewered politicians in both her home state of Texas and the federal government. Ivins began her career in 1967 as a reporter for the Minneapolis (Minn.) Tribune. In 1970 she became editor of the liberal biweekly magazine the Texas Observer, and it was there that she developed her distinctive style. Ivins worked (1976–82) for the New York Times before spending 10 years with the Dallas Times Herald. She then wrote her column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.Ivins came to national prominence with the rise to national politics of Texas politician George W. Bush, and her column was widely syndicated. She wrote six books, including, with Lou Dubose, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (2000) and Bushwhacked (2003).

In 1999, Ivins was diagnosed with stage III inflammatory breast cancer. The cancer recurred in 2003 and again in late 2005. In January 2006 she reported that she was again undergoing chemotherapy. In December 2006 she took leave from her column to again undergo treatment. She wrote two columns in January 2007, but returned to the hospital on the 26th for further treatment. Ivins died at her Austin, Texas home in hospice care on January 31, 2007, at age 62.

After her death, George W. Bush, a frequent target of her barbs, said in a statement, “I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words. She fought her illness with that same passion. Her quick wit and commitment will be missed.

Happy Birthday Carol Doda

Today is the 77th birthday of Carol Doda.  She is the subject of a cherished family story. She plays a very important role in the story of how Susie met her soon-to-be brother-in-law Waldie. She was originally going to take him to a classical music concert, but got the days mixed up and the tickets were for a different night. Waldie being Waldie, he said he knew a place he wanted to go and off they went. It turns out the places that Waldie was talking about was the Condor Club, a topless (and for a while, bottomless) bar in North Beach, San Francisco. It was the 1960s. The music started, and Carol Doda was lowered from the ceiling.

At Waldie’s memorial service this past summer, Susie spoke and included the story of how they first met. She referenced Carol Doda by saying “She was the most well-endowed woman I had ever seen” and received laughter and cheers from the family and friends that filled the Chapel at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

NAME: Carol Ann Doda
BORN: 29-Aug-1937
GENDER: Female
ETHNICITY: White
OCCUPATION: Performance Artist
NATIONALITY: United States
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Stripper at San Francisco’s Condor Club

Carol Ann Doda (born August 29, 1937) was a topless stripper in San Francisco, California in the 1960s through 1980s, one of the first of the era.

In 1964 Doda made international news, first by dancing topless at the city’s Condor Club, then by enhancing her bust from size 34 to 44 through silicone injections. Her breasts became known as Doda’s “twin 44s” and “the new Twin Peaks of San Francisco.”

Carol Doda attended the San Francisco Art Institute and worked as waitress and lounge entertainer at the Condor Club, at the corner of Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach section of San Francisco. Doda’s act began with a grand piano being lowered from the ceiling by hydraulic motors; Doda would be atop the piano dancing, as it descended from a hole in the ceiling. She go-go danced the ‘Swim’ to a rock and roll combo headed by Bobby Freeman as her piano settled on the stage. From the waist up Doda emulated aquatic movements like the Australian crawl. She also did the Twist, the Frug, and the Watusi.

On June 19, 1964, when Doda was approximately 23 years old (actually 26), the Condor’s publicist, “Big” Davy Rosenberg gave Doda a “monokini” (topless swimsuit) designed by Rudi Gernreich. She performed topless that night, the first noted entertainer of the era to do so. The act was an instant success. Two months after she started her semi-nude performances, the rest of San Francisco’s Broadway was topless, followed soon after by entertainers across America. Doda became an American cultural icon of the 1960s. The Republican National Convention was held in San Francisco, during the summer of 1964; many of the delegates came to see Carol Doda. She was profiled in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book The Pump House Gang and appeared that same year as Sally Silicone in Head, the 1968 film created by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, and featuring The Monkees. The movie was produced by Columbia Pictures. She appeared in a Golden Boy parody with Annette Funicello, Sonny Liston, and Davy Jones.

Encouraged by her success, Doda soon decided to enhance her breasts with silicone injections, going from size 34 to 44. Doda became renowned for her big bust, and was one of the first well-known performers to be surgically enhanced. She had 44 injections, a large dose of silicone,[4] at a cost of $1,500.

For the topless and waterless Swim, Doda wore the bottom half of a black bikini and a net top which ended where a bathing suit generally began. Doda performed 12 shows nightly so that management could keep crowds moving in and out. The large lit sign in front of the club featured a cartoon of her.

Nicaraguan dictator General Anastasio Somoza Debayle paid an unexpected visit to the Condor Nightclub in November 1973 as seven limousines pulled up before starled parking attendants. About two dozen U.S Secret Service agents accompained the general Somoza’s party of nine and guarded each door. Somoza sent to Doda a word backstage as he departed that he considered her performance “most outstanding”.

From the late-1960s through the late-1970s, Doda was the spokesmodel for what is now the San Jose, California television station KICU-TV Channel 36, then known as KGSC-TV. Filmed from the waist up and wearing clothes which amplified her most prominent physical attributes, she would coo “You’re watching the Perfect 36 in San Jose.” She would also occasionally appear on-air to do editorial commentary on the issues of the day.

In 1982 Doda was again dancing at the Condor three times a night. She was 45 and performed to rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and ragtime. Each act was the same, with Doda appearing in a gold gown, traditional elbow-length gloves, and a diaphanous-wraparound. Her clothing was removed until she wore only a g-string and the diaphanous wraparound. In the final portion she was attired in only the wraparound. Her small body looked slimmer without clothes, a perception which was emphasized by the dwarfing effect of her breasts. At the time she was taking dance and voice lessons but had no definite plans for her future.

Doda retired from stripping in the 1980s and now runs “Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique“, a lingerie shop in San Francisco.

As of 2009 Doda had been performing (fully clothed) for several years at several North Beach (San Francisco) clubs, including Amante’s and Enrico’s Supper Club.

Happy Birthday Edna Ferber

Today is the 129th birthday of Edna Ferber.  If you see one film of hers, see “Giant.”  Everyone is beautiful and the film is perfection.

NAME: Edna Ferber
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: August 15, 1885
DEATH DATE: April 16, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kalamazoo, Michigan
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edna Ferber wrote books and plays that became movies like Show Boat, Giant, and Stage Door.

American novelist and short-story writer who wrote with compassion and curiosity about Midwestern American life.
Ferber grew up mostly in her native Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in Appleton, Wisconsin (in between her family moved to several Midwestern towns). Her father, born in Hungary, was a merchant. She began her career at age 17 as a reporter in Appleton, later working for the Milwaukee Journal. Her early stories introduced a traveling petticoat saleswoman named Emma McChesney, whose adventures are collected in several books, including Emma McChesney & Co. (1915). Emma was the first of Ferber’s strong, enterprising women characters. Ferber’s characters are firmly tied to the land, and they experience conflicts between their traditions and new, more dynamic trends. Although her books are somewhat superficial in their careful attention to exterior detail at the expense of profound ideas, they do offer an accurate, lively portrait of middle-class Midwestern experience in 1920s and ’30s America.

So Big (1924)—about a woman truck gardener who provides for her son by her enterprise in managing the unsuccessful farm her husband left her—won a Pulitzer Prize. Show Boat (1926), the tale of a showboat trouper who is deserted by her husband and in the interests of survival becomes a successful singer, was made into a popular musical play by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Critics hailed Ferber as the greatest woman novelist of the period. Her novels Cimarron (1930), Saratoga Trunk (1941), Giant (1952), and Ice Palace (1958) were all made into motion pictures. Her autobiographies, A Peculiar Treasure (1939), which focuses in part on Ferber’s pride in her Jewish heritage, and A Kind of Magic (1963), evince her genuine and encompassing love for America.

She was associated with the Algonquin Round Table of literary wits, and she collaborated with George S. Kaufman on a number of plays, including Dinner at Eight (1932) and Stage Door (1936).

Happy Birthday Alice Ghostley

Today is the 88th birthday of Alice Ghostley.  Who wouldn’t want a babysitter like Esmerelda or a friend with no social filter like Bernice Clifton?  She stole the scene, the focus, and the laughter over and over again on dozens of TV shows.


NAME: Alice Margaret Ghostley
BORN: 14-Aug-1926
BIRTHPLACE: Eve, MO
DIED: 21-Sep-2007
LOCATION of death: Studio City, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer – Colon
REMAINS: Buried, Oak Hill Cemetery, Siloam Springs, AR

BEST KNOWN FOR: Bernice Clifton on Designing Women

Alice Margaret Ghostley (August 14, 1924 – September 21, 2007) was an American actress. She was best known for her roles as housekeeper Esmeralda (1969-72) on Bewitched, as Cousin Alice (1970–71) on Mayberry R.F.D., and as Bernice Clifton (1986–93) on Designing Women, for which she received an Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1992. Ghostley was also a regular on the James Garner-Margot Kidder NBC western Nichols (1971–72) and the critically acclaimed variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour (1972-73).

A veteran of early television, Ghostley appeared as Joy, one of the ugly stepsisters in the 1957 musical television production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which starred Julie Andrews in the title role. The other stepsister was played by actress Kaye Ballard. Twelve years later, Ghostley guest starred as a harried maternity nurse on Miss Ballard’s comedy series, The Mothers-in-Law.

Ghostley portrayed recurring characters on several situation comedies, beginning with Esmeralda, a shy witch who served as a maid and babysitter to the Stephens’ household beginning in season six of Bewitched. Ghostley’s role of Esmeralda was created after the death in May 1968 of Marion Lorne, who portrayed Aunt Clara. (Coincidentally, Ghostley and Lorne shared a brief scene together in the 1967 film The Graduate, a few months prior to Lorne’s death and before Ghostley was cast in Bewitched.)

Ghostley’s “Esmeralda” appeared in 15 episodes between 1969 and 1972. Ghostley had previously guest starred once as a mortal character, “Naomi”, during Bewitched ‘s second season.

After two plus years on “Bewitched” as a semi-regular, she joined the cast of Mayberry R.F.D., playing Cousin Alice after Frances Bavier’s character, Aunt Bee, was written off the series. She appeared in 14 episodes.

Alice Ghostley

In the spring of 1972, Bewitched was canceled by ABC after eight years. In September of that year, Ghostley was hired as a semi-regular for the ABC-TV variety series, The Julie Andrews Hour. In addition to participating in songs and sketches, Andrews and Ghostley were featured in a recurring segment as roommates sharing a small apartment. The Julie Andrews Hour was canceled by ABC in the spring of 1973 having completed a full season of twenty-four episodes.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Ghostley appeared in episodes of situation comedies such as Hogan’s Heroes (playing Gertrude, General Burkhalter’s Sister), Good Times, Maude, One Day at a Time, The Odd Couple and What’s Happening!!.

Between 1986 and 1993, Ghostley portrayed Bernice Clifton, the slightly off-kilter friend of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker’s mother, Perky, on Designing Women. She later played Irna Wallingsford in six episodes of Evening Shade. She also had a recurring role of Ida Mae Brindle in the sitcom Small Wonder, which ran from 1985 to 1989. Among many other guest roles, she appeared in a flashback episode as the crazed mother-in-law of Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) on The Golden Girls. She made a one-time appearance as “Great-Grandma” in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Ghostley also made a few guest appearances on the daytime drama Passions in 2000, playing the ghost of Matilda Matthews.