Monday, November 12, 2018

FORGOTTEN ONES: DICK STABILE

This article was written by my good friend BG on his Geezer Music club blog. He gave me permission to republish the excellent story here. Here is a link to his page and the original story: Geezer Music Club!

One of the things I enjoy about reading biographies of entertainment legends is learning about the less famous people whose lives revolved around the stars, like the guy I ran across in a book about Dean Martin. An accomplished saxophonist who’d gotten his start in the early big band era, Dick Stabile was the musical director for Martin and Lewis at the height of their fame as a comedy team, and for many years also backed up Dino on some of his best records. Along the way he found time to have a pretty good career as a bandleader.

Growing up in Newark meant that Stabile was just a stone’s throw from New York, and he wasted no time moving there in the 1920s to make a living as a professional musician. Still just a teenager, he bounced around a while and ended up in the well-regarded Ben Bernie’s orchestra, where he would spend the next decade learning the music business inside and out.

By the late 1930s Stabile had formed his own band and he found a lot of work in New York nightspots, including hotels and ballrooms, a fertile field for bands at that time. He also married singer Gracie Barrie, which proved to be a good move. Not only was she popular with fans of the band, she was also the one who kept the outfit going when Stabile later left for service in World War II.


In the post-war years the big band era was in decline and Stabile began to change with the times, working more in radio and eventually relocating in Los Angeles, where he later began to work with Martin and Lewis. He would spend a number of years as the duo’s musical director, appearing on stage with them and eventually on TV too. Even after the comedy team split, he continued to provide musical accompaniment for Martin on some of his best records. He also recorded with other stars — Della Reese for one — before eventually returning to the leadership of a band of his own. In his later years he relocated to New Orleans, where he was a popular part of the local music scene until his death in 1980, at age 71....


Friday, November 9, 2018

JONI MITCHELL AT 75

As an adoring-but-anxious crowd wondered if she'd appear at an all-star concert celebration on her 75th birthday, Joni Mitchell was stuck in traffic. It was only fitting for a singer and songwriter whose music helped define the experience of modern Southern California.

Glen Hansard could have been describing the guest of honor when he sang of "a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway" in his rendition of Mitchell's "Coyote" soon after the show finally began, nearly an hour late.

James Taylor, Chaka Khan, Kris Kristofferson, Rufus Wainwright and Seal were also among those serenading Mitchell with her own songs Wednesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

Mitchell didn't speak or say a word all night, but just showing up was a triumph. For 3 1/2 years, she has been almost completely absent from public life after an aneurysm left her debilitated and unable to speak, and little has been revealed of her condition since.

"You know, Joni has had a long and arduous recovery from a really major event," Taylor, one of Mitchell's oldest friends, told The Associated Press before the show. "But she's doing so much better."

Mitchell needed help walking in and getting to her seat in a front corner. She suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015. The audience greeted her with a standing ovation and spontaneous chorus of "Happy Birthday."


The crowd's love for Mitchell was matched by the artists themselves, especially the women, many of whom said Mitchell was much more than a musical influence.

"Joni Mitchell is an inspiration to every girl who ever picked up a guitar," Emmylou Harris said after singing Mitchell's "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire." That inspiration apparently has its limits. Harris didn't play guitar on the song, saying with a laugh that the "chords are too hard for me."

The songs were interspersed with photos of Mitchell and audio clips of her speaking throughout her career, allowing her to serve as the evening's narrator even as she remained silent.

Later in the evening, film director and Mitchell mega-fan Cameron Crowe presented her with the Music Center's Excellence in the Performing Arts Award at a dinner gala whose guests included David Geffen, Lily Tomlin, Anjelica Huston and Tom Hanks.


The concert brought four decades of songs that showed the twisting career path of the onetime Canadian folkie who became the quintessential California singer-songwriter behind albums like "Blue" and "Court and Spark" and then took her music to places her soft-rock contemporaries would never dare go.

Diana Krall showed the depth of Mitchell's jazz influence as she sat at the piano and sang "Amelia" from 1976. Kristofferson and Brandi Carlile showed that Mitchell could be a little bit country with their version of 1971's "A Case of You" and its memorable chorus, "I could drink a case of you darling. Still I'd be on my feet."

As the show approached its end, the curtain fell and the crowd chanted for an encore. They went wild when it rose to show Mitchell standing at the front of the stage in a long red coat, black hat and cane.
She blew out candles on a birthday cake and swayed to the rhythm as all of the night's musicians combined for 1970's "Big Yellow Taxi."

Monday, November 5, 2018

RECENTLY VIEWED: THE NUTCRACKER & THE FOUR REALMS

It's hard to imagine that Christmas movies are already coming out, but that is what is happening! This past weekend I took my daughter to see The Nutcracker And The Four Realms. Sadly it looks like the movie is not doing well in the box office, (It made $20 million in its opening weekend off of $125 million plus budget), but I found it to be pretty good. It does not compare to last year's Beauty And The Beast, but this was a fun movie to take my six year old to.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a fantasy adventure film directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston and written by Ashleigh Powell. It is a retelling of E. T. A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's The Nutcracker, about a young girl who is gifted a locked egg from her deceased mother and sets out in a magical land to retrieve the key. The film stars Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman.

All Clara wants is a key - a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer's annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key-which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It's there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip, a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers, and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger, to retrieve Clara's key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world.


Mackenzie Foy was really good in the female lead playing Clara. She best known for appearing as Renesmee Cullen in the 2012 film The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Also veteran actors like Morgan Freeman and Helen Merrin are their usual bests. They never put in a bad performance in any rule. However, the stand out for me was Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I never really thought much of her as an actresses, but she was unrecognizable in her role, and she really did a great job on her character.

The movie is not perfect. I feel that the poor box office is due the movie being released too early in the holiday season. Also, i think that more explanation is needed for how the Four Realms were created. However, to a six year old and her father (who is always trying to make time for his beautiful daughter), this film was great. I had a tear in my eye during some parts of the movie, and as the lights came up on the movie theater I walked out with my very independent daughter, and she grabbed my hand to hold. I think this movie did it's job...

MY RATING: 8 OUT OF 10


Sunday, November 4, 2018

HISTORY BREAK: EVA PERON

“Evita! Evita! La santa Peronista!” Anyone who has seen Andrew Lloyd Weber’s operetta Evita knows at least a little something about the life of Eva Perón, one of Argentina’s most beloved and controversial political figures. While she was never an elected official, Evita had a profound and lasting impact on the social and political landscape of Argentina.

Born in 1919 in the town of Los Toldos, Argentina, Maria Eva Duarte grew up with her parents and four siblings. Her family was quite prosperous at the time she was born. Evita’s father, Juan Duarte, was given the role of Deputy Justice of the Peace in 1908, and the family enjoyed a great deal of prominence. At this time, the leftist Radical Party had won the presidency, and conservative ideologies continued to become increasingly unpopular: bad news for Juan Duarte, who was solidly affiliated with the Conservatives.

After moving to Buenos Aires, Evita worked as an actress, and made her way in the big city as best she could without any real financial stability. It wasn’t until 1944 that Evita would meet Juan Perón, who, as a result of his involvement with a military coup that resulted in a takeover of the Argentine government, was currently the Secretary of War and Labor.


Evita and Juan Perón were married in 1945, and in that same year, Juan Perón was imprisoned by opposition from within his party over fears that he would eclipse the presidency. Released a short time later, Juan Perón went on to win the presidency, and thus came the rise of Evita as an influential political figure.

The Peróns were both popular among the poor and working classes and unions in Argentina. The particular set of policies and beliefs held by Juan Perón eventually became a political party and political philosophy known as Perónism. While Perónism was popular among lower socioeconomic classes in Argentina, Argentina didn’t necessarily have too many sympathetic friends abroad, particularly in Europe.

As first lady, Evita was tasked with meeting foreign leaders in Europe, and in 1947, an invitation by the president of Spain lead Evita on a trip known as the Rainbow Tour. On this tour, Evita met with leaders in Italy, Portugal, France, Switzerland, and Monaco, as well as Argentina’s South American neighbors, Brazil and Uruguay. Evita used these special visits to promote her husband’s agenda abroad. She was also accompanied by a huge entourage, and traveled in style.


Despite criticism against her (some justified, some not), Evita is credited with many wonderful accomplishments. She was instrumental in passing a law that gave women the right to vote in Argentina in 1947. In 1948, she established the Maria Eva Duarte de Perón Foundation, which served poor children and elderly people. Evita is perhaps best known for championing the rights of the descamisados (meaning “the shirtless ones,” referring to working class laborers). Throughout her political career, Evita supported legislation that would improve working conditions and wages for some of Argentina’s poorest workers.

Eva Perón experienced and accomplished all of this on only 33 years, the age when she died of cervical cancer. Evita died in 1952, but the legacy she and Juan Perón left behind when they started the Peronist movement is every bit as active in Argentina today as it was when they first rose to prominence. The subject of endless debate, Evita’s Peronism (and its opposition) is still very much a defining political and social feature of Argentina. Because of this, Argentina’s future will forever be entwined with the history of La Santa Peronista...



SOURCE

Monday, October 29, 2018

CELEBRITY ADS: LYNN BARI

With Halloween right around the corner, I figured it would be fun to find a classic Hollywood advertisement from the holidays. I found this cool ad featuring Lynn Bari hawking Sinclair Motor Oil. This advertisement is circa 1948, and Bari was currently appearing in the movie The Man From Texas...


Monday, October 22, 2018

FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT BORIS KARLOFF

One of my favorite times of the year is Halloween. I love everything about the holiday, especially I love the Halloween movies. One of the best of the classic movie horror stars was Boris Karloff. A lot of people love his acting but don't know too much about the man...


1. No one really thought Frankenstein would be such a success and the studio never imagined that Karloff would emerge as its star. Another British actor, Colin (“It’s alive! It’s alive!”) Clive got top billing as Dr. Frankenstein – remember, Frankenstein is the creator, not the monster. Second billing went to the literal bride of Frankenstein, Mae Clarke, perhaps most well-known for being on the receiving end of James Cagney’s grapefruit in Public Enemy. The opening credits don’t even list Karloff’s name, just a question mark, a promotion gimmick certainly, but one the studio probably would not have used with a more famous actor.

2. There was no bad blood between Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Daughter Sara Karloff told an interviewer that rumors of a rivalry between Karloff and Lugosi were simply untrue. The two worked together on many films, she said, and there was no “personal animosity or professional jealousy – that was all studio hype – and it worked – the studios fed on that, and it made for good box office.”


3. Boris Karloff was one of the founding members of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Karloff’s legendary performance in Frankenstein was also a grueling one, said Museum of the Moving Image curator David Schwartz. Although the role made his career, the hours of makeup were brutal and made him realize how important safe working conditions were to actors – leading him to become one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild, said Schwartz.

4. Boris Karloff loved cricket and gardening – and all things British. Although he left England for Canada in 1909, he never gave up his British citizenship. He did, however, shed his name, perhaps to shield his family from the disdain they feared from having an actor in the family. Publicly, Karloff said that Pratt seemed like an unfortunate name for an actor, suggesting pratfalls.

5. Boris Karloff’s favorite actor was George Kennedy.When she was asked who her father’s favorite actors were, Sarah Karloff said the only performer whose craft he’d ever specifically mentioned to her was veteran American actor George Kennedy, who’s been in more 200 movies and TV shows and who won an Oscar for his performance in Cool Hand Luke...