Tuesday, January 22, 2019

RIP: KAYE BALLARD

Kaye Ballard, whose long career as a comedian, actress and nightclub performer included well-regarded runs in “The Golden Apple” and “Carnival!” on Broadway and a classic turn as a television mother-in-law, died on Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. She was 93.

Her death was announced by her lawyer, Mark Sendroff.

Ms. Ballard wasn’t a top-flight singer, an Oscar-caliber actress or a drop-dead beauty — she once played one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters — but she made up for any shortcomings with determination and a sheer love of performing.

Even after she became well known, Ms. Ballard was not above taking parts in touring shows and regional theaters, and she rode the nightclub circuit for years, though she found the pace exhausting. In 2000, in her mid-70s, she brought a cabaret show to Arci’s Place in Manhattan called “Another Final Farewell Appearance,” but there was nothing final about it: Later in the decade she was still hard at work, including in tours of “The Full Monty” and “Nunsense.”


For the last 40 years or so of her performing career, wherever she was appearing people would mention one particular item from her lengthy résumé: “The Mothers-in-Law,” an NBC sitcom in which she and Eve Arden played neighbors whose children married, turning the newly minted mothers-in-law into partners in meddling.

Ms. Ballard was born Catherine Gloria Balotta in Cleveland on Nov. 20, 1925, the second of four children. Her father, Vincenzo, and her mother, Lena (Nacarato) Balotta, had both immigrated from Italy. Her father laid concrete sidewalks for a living. “He used to take me all over Cleveland showing me his work,” Ms. Ballard wrote.

Even as a child she wanted to be an entertainer, and she passed up a scholarship to Cleveland Art College to pursue that goal. She got her first laughs doing impressions, a skill that served her well for decades in her nightclub acts. (She did a pretty good Bette Davis. She and a second impressionist once appeared on the TV game show “To Tell the Truth” along with Davis herself; four masked panelists asked questions and tried to guess which of the three was the real thing. Davis received three votes, but Ms. Ballard got the other.)


Ms. Ballard found an agent in Cleveland and played some local spots, calling herself Kay Ballad; the first name soon acquired an E and the last an R. Then, not yet 20, she was booked on a burlesque tour, doing impressions and skits, which led to a job in Detroit at the Bowery Room, whose owner knew the bandleader Spike Jones and spoke highly of her to him. She hopped a plane to Los Angeles to try to talk her way into Jones’s show and succeeded, winding up singing and also, using her high school band skills, playing flute and tuba.

Stage appearances all over the country followed in the next several years. Then, in 1954, she won the part of Helen (as in “of Troy”) in “The Golden Apple,” an unusual musical with book and lyrics by John Latouche and music by Jerome Moross that drew on “The Iliad” to tell a story set in early-20th-century Washington State.

The show opened at the Phoenix Theater in the East Village and, riding strong reviews, moved to Broadway soon after, running there for 125 performances. Ms. Ballard’s part included the song “Lazy Afternoon,” which Brooks Atkinson, in The New York Times, called “a triumphant number and the high point of the show.” The song was later recorded by many artists, including Barbra Streisand, but Ms. Ballard was the first to release it as a single; on the flip side of that record she introduced another song later made far more famous by others (including, memorably, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra), Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” (then called “In Other Words”).

Her next Broadway role, in 1961, was also in an atypical musical: “Carnival!,” with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill and a book by Michael Stewart. Unlike “The Golden Apple,” though, this one enjoyed a sustained Broadway run, lasting almost two years. Ms. Ballard was the Incomparable Rosalie, a magician’s assistant. For one song, “Always, Always You,” she was in a basket into which her boss, Marco the Magnificent (James Mitchell), kept thrusting swords.


Breast cancer, diagnosed in 1994, slowed her down only briefly. Her successes after that included an appearance in a widely acclaimed revival of “Follies” at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 1998.

Ms. Ballard, who never married but said she had been engaged four times, leaves no immediate survivors.

Last week, a new documentary about her career by Dan Wingate, “Kaye Ballard — The Show Goes On!,” was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Despite her name recognition, Ms. Ballard knew that she was never an A-list star. Instead, she viewed herself as being in the honorable second tier of performers who work hard but might not achieve lasting fame. Another was Billy De Wolfe, a character actor and friend who died in 1974, and whom she honored with a brief chapter in her book.

“He’s yet another performer who falls into the category of brilliant ‘supporting players’ who I feel left the public’s consciousness much too soon after they passed away,” she wrote. “Who knows, perhaps I have a fear that the same thing will happen to me.”


Saturday, January 19, 2019

FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT BETTY GRABLE

Her movie career is a distant memory now, but there was a time when Betty Grable was the hottest thing going in Hollywood. Born 100 years ago Dec. 18, 1916, Grable was a massive star of the 1940s, one whose airy comedies and musicals helped lighten the national mood during the tense times of World War II. And her famous pinup picture was beloved by countless soldiers and sailors while they served, her sunny smile reminding them of home.

Whether you're a fan from way back or just discovering her recently, here are five facts you might not know about Betty Grable....


1. She was the highest-paid woman in America.
When we say Grable's career was hot, we mean it was sizzling. Throughout the 1940s, she was the top-earning female star in Hollywood, and in 1943, she was named by theater owners as the top box office draw of them all, beating out major competition including Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, and Humphrey Bogart. Her unbeatable star power was thanks in large part to cheerful, fun films including "Springtime in the Rockies," "Coney Island," and "Pin Up Girl." Back then Grable was paid reportedly paid $300,000 a year.

2. She had the ideal legs. 
You may have heard that Grable's legs were insured for $1 million by Lloyd's of London – her studio, Twentieth Century Fox, took out the ostentatious policy as a publicity stunt after promoting a dubious beauty contest and naming their top star the winner of the "best legs" competition. But her legs really were the best, according to hosiery specialists. The proportions of her legs – 18.5-inch thigh, 12-inch calf, and 7.5-inch ankle – were considered the ideal of the time.

3. That famous pinup inspired an empire
Grable's was the most popular pinup photo of the World War II era, surpassing other beloved and beautiful stars like Rita Hayworth and Veronica Lake. The 1943 image is unforgettable – her back to the camera, Grable turns her head and shoulders back to grin at the camera. Her blond hair is piled high on her head, but it's her legs that we notice first, revealed by her bathing suit and enhanced by high-heeled pumps. It sold millions of copies – one out of five U.S. servicemen in World War II owned a copy. One of the many soldiers who stared at it from their overseas bunks was a young Hugh Hefner, who served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. He later reported that Grable's unforgettable pinup gave him the early germ of the idea for the magazine that would become a media empire, Playboy.


4. She was good friends with Marilyn Monroe. 
You're excused if you thought the opposite because Hollywood gossip portrayed the two blond stars as bitter rivals. Grable, 10 years older, was nearing the end of her career as Monroe's star began to rise, and she was supposed to have been jealous of the young and beautiful woman who was being touted as "the next Betty Grable." But when they starred together in 1953's "How To Marry a Millionaire," they didn't clash – in fact, they formed a close friendship. Monroe greatly admired Grable, looking to her as an inspiration for her career. And for her part, Grable found in Monroe a source of friendly support.

5. She was the namesake of an atomic bomb
On May 25, 1953, at the height of the era of nuclear testing in the Nevada desert, the U.S. detonated a weapon as part of the Upshot-Knothole series of tests. The weapon was named "Grable" – one of many tested nuclear weapons named after people, this one was dubbed in direct homage to the big-screen star. Talk about a bombshell...



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

RIP: CAROL CHANNING

Carol Channing's trademark platinum blond hair framed a face that always seemed to be smiling, her wide-eyed innocent style belied a very savvy mind, and her voice was unmistakable. She died Tuesday morning, her publicist told Broadway World. She was 97 years old.

Born in Seattle, Wa., in 1923, Channing's parents were Christian Scientists. She recalls that she got her first glimpse of backstage delivering copies of The Christian Science Monitor to theaters.

"Some nights they're hyper, some nights they're slow, some nights they're sleepy, we have to nurse them; we have to find the way in to communicate with them. ... It's an electric thing for the performer; it's like plugging me in the wall."

"It came over me that I was looking at the stage and backstage of a cathedral, a temple, a mosque, a mother church," Channing wrote in her memoir Just Lucky, I Guess. "I know I'm using adult words to describe a child's feelings, but I don't know how else to tell you this simple reaction of a child to a holy place."

Channing's near religious connection to her audience gave her an astounding amount of energy, and she grew irritated with those who tried to diminish the importance of theater in people's lives.


"Live theater is something that can't possibly die because we're working on their metabolism," said Channing. "Some nights they're hyper, some nights they're slow, some nights they're sleepy, we have to nurse them; we have to find the way in to communicate with them and slowly the anodes and cathodes in and it's an electric thing for the performer; it's like plugging me in the wall."

Channing's first great role was also her first big break as Lorelei Lee in the 1949 original Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But the role with which Channing will always be identified is Dolly.

It was this role in Hello, Dolly! that Channing loved most because it was life affirming in every sense. She had great respect for the show's creator, Thorton Wilder, and was deeply touched by the character's gradual ascent in this most optimistic of Broadway shows.


As a film actress, she won the Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Other film appearances include The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) and Skidoo (1968). On television, she appeared as an entertainer on variety shows, from The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s to Hollywood Squares. She had a standout performance as The White Queen in the TV production of Alice in Wonderland (1985), and had the first of many TV specials in 1966, An Evening with Carol Channing.

"It's easy to slide downhill, but who are the ones that just won't do it? Who are the diamonds in the rough that go upstream against everything?" said Channing. "That's what it was all about, that's what Thornton Wilder kept writing about."

It was the same lesson she shared with the audiences who watched her perform thousands of times in Hello, Dolly!: "Dolly Gallagher Levi stop talking to your dead husband and rejoin the human race!"

On a personal note, I had the honor to see Miss Channing performing live in Hello Dolly in 1994 when she came to Pittsburgh. It was the best performance I ever saw live. Carol Channing will be missed...


Monday, January 14, 2019

WHAT A CHARACTER: EDMOND O' BRIEN

What I love about character actors is that even though they may not be top billed in a movie or have the most lines, they usually will steal the movie away from the star. One such character actor like this was Edmond O'Brien. O'Brien was born Eamon Joseph O'Brien in Brooklyn, New York, on Septmeber 10, 1915.

He put on magic shows for children in his neighborhood with coaching from a neighbor, Harry Houdini. He performed under the title, "Neirbo the Great" ("neirbo" being "O'Brien" spelled backwards). An aunt who taught high school English and speech took him to the theatre from an early age and he developed an interest in acting. O'Brien began acting in plays at school. After attending Fordham University for six months, he went to Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre on a scholarship. He studied for two years under such teachers as Sanford Meisner; his classmates included Betty Garrett.

O'Brien's subsequent theatre work attracted the attention of Pandro Berman at RKO, who offered him a role as the romantic lead in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). He returned to Broadway to play Mercutio opposite Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in Romeo and Juliet.


RKO offered O'Brien a long term contract. His roles included A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) and Parachute Battalion (1941). The latter starred Nancy Kelly who O'Brien would later marry, although the union lasted less than a year.

During World War II, O'Brien served in the U.S. Army Air Forces and appeared in the Air Forces' Broadway play Winged Victory by Moss Hart. He appeared alongside Red Buttons, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Gary Merrill, Barry Nelson, and Martin Ritt. When the play was filmed in 1944, O'Brien reprised his stage performance, co-starring with Judy Holliday. He toured in the production for two years, appearing alongside a young Mario Lanza.

In 1948, O'Brien signed a long-term contract with Warner Bros., who cast him in the screen version of Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest. This starred Fredric March, who also appeared with O'Brien in An Act of Murder(1948).


He was then cast as the undercover cop in White Heat (1949) opposite James Cagney. "He [Cagney] said he had only one rule," O'Brien noted. "He would tap his heart and he would say, "Play it from here, kid." He always did and I believe it's the best rule for any performer. He could play a scene 90 ways and never repeat himself. He did this to keep himself fresh. I try to do this whenever possible. O'Brien's role in this film was my personal favorite of his career, and it is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Following an appearance in Backfire (1950), his contract with Warner Bros. ended. Struggling with his weight and health problems, his career in movies suffered. He did more work in the 1950s on television. However, O'Brien hit the plateau of his moving actor when he won a Best Supporting Oscar for his role in 1955's The Barefoot Contessa. By the mid 1960s, his film career was winding down. Fantastic Voyage was his only movie in 1966, with two foreign flicks in 1967.

O'Brien seemed to have aged dramatically, looking much older than his 50-something years. He was still guest starring on episodic television, but made only one small, indie film over the next two years.


In 1972, he had a small role in They Only Kill Their Masters with James Garner. Orson Welles had cast him in a similarly minor role in his The Other Side of the Wind, which remained unfinished for decades. A few years ago, Peter Bogdanovich (who was an actor in the film) was trying to complete and release the film but the rights were split up between three competing parties. He did complete and edit the film but distribution is now being held up by the Iranian government, which owns the rights.

He made one more film, 99 and 44/100% Dead, a low-budget gobbler. Now on DVD, most critics originally hated the film but today there are a few fans. One of the latter calls it "mind-bending psychedelic neo-noir" and "pop art gangster satire." TV Guide describes it as "a perplexing mix of styles (that) clash and sputter." Variety is more vehement. "(It) starts like a house on fire, with directorial style to burn, but self-incinerates within the first half hour . . . a sophomoric and repulsive screenplay." O'Brien's role is described as "an elderly mobster" who hires hit man Richard Harris to eliminate his rival. Characterizing O'Brien as elderly at 59 inadvertently revealed the ravages of his illnesses.

By this time, the Alzheimer's disease which ultimately claimed him was becoming much more apparent. Little is known about his life during these years, but his children in later interviews says that the disease ravaged O'Brien quickly. Then, the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills did not accept patients with any kind of mental disease, so O'Brien lived out his final years in a rest home in Santa Monica. He died on May 9, 1985 at 69 and is buried in Culver City, CA. It was a sad end to a versatile and gifted character actor...


Friday, January 11, 2019

HEALTHWATCH: JERRY STILLER

Actor Jerry Stiller is doing OK after a medical scare Wednesday night put him in the hospital.

The 91-year-old “Seinfeld” and “King of Queens” star was taken to a New York City medical facility after the person he was with grew concerned about his health. But after a complete evaluation, doctors said all was well.

“There are no signs of a stroke. He’s resting and they’re going to send him home in a couple days. He’s totally fine,” a source close to the family told the Daily News.

Stiller’s family was with him Wednesday night, the source added.

The beloved comic is the father of fellow actors Ben Stiller and Amy Stiller. His longtime wife and comedy partner, Anne Meara, died in 2015.

Stiller’s most famous for portraying two offbeat TV fathers: Frank Costanza, dad to the hapless George, played by Jason Alexander in “Seinfeld,” and later Arthur Spooner, parent of Leah Remini’s character Carrie Heffernan, on “The King of Queens.”



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

THE FINAL WORD ON YLENIA CARRISI

While searching for updates on the disappearance of Tyrone Power's granddaughter 25 years ago, I came across this story by the investigator from 2017...

I still receiving many e-mails from different part of the world in different languages in reference to Ylenia Carrisi case,and once for all I will make this statement I will NOT give out ANY information on Ylenia case. And this is the last time that I will give you my final report on this case, therefore read it very careful with an open mind and I am sure you will get the answer to your question's.:

Getting lost in New Orleans has long had a certain cachet. The people who lives there saying the city is unique, the food spicier, the music livelier, the mysteries stranger. But the mystery of Ylenia is distinctive even by New Orleans standards.

The main characters are a former American matinee idol's granddaughter and a mesmerizing street musician. The scene is the waterfront and the streets of the French Quarter. Swirling in the background is the blend of Spanish, French and African cultures that has drawn writers like Lafcadio Hearn and William Faulkner and apparently Ylenia working on her book.

The Italian news media, which has recounted every twist of the mystery on newscasts and in newspapers news full of incorrect information’s and defamatory accusation’s including a possible sic relation with Masakela and the uses of narcotics from Ylenia all shallow low blows to increment the sale of a magazine. In addition they (Italian Media) even hinted of voodoo. Semi celebrity in Italy, simply horrible individuals like GENTE, STOP, CHI L’HA VISTO and the surrounding sharks in the picture like Roberto Fiasconaro only there for the news and the $.

Ylenia Carrisi, a 23-year-old blonde with green eyes, disappeared on Jan. 6, a week after arriving in New Orleans, leaving behind her passport and some baggage. That night A young woman, whose body has never been found, jumped into the Mississippi River at the edge of the French Quarter and vanished. The questions she left behind are still unanswered.


Ylenia is a minor television celebrity in Italy, for a short time a counterpart of Vanna White on an Italian game show. But she is best known as the daughter of two Italian singers, Al Bano and Romina Power, and as the granddaughter of the American actor Tyrone Power and his actress wife, Linda Christian.

Ylenia and her parents came to New Orleans on vacation last July, says Fabrizio Mazza, the Italian Consul in New Orleans, and Ylenia meat again street musician, Alexander Masakela, a 54-year-old cornet player Individual that already meet the Carrisi and Ylenia in Italy at the Carrisi city of Cellino with a Jamaican accent. Enchanted by the city and apparently by Masakela, Ylenia stayed behind when her parents went on to Florida, saying she wanted to continued write her book.

According to our investigative discovery Ylenia rushed to Florida two days later, telling her parents that she feared that two men were trying to drug and kill her.

Nevertheless, Ylenia, who was on leave from her studies at the University of London, returned to New Orleans on Dec. 30. Our investigative discovery quoted that Romina as saying that her daughter wanted to "find characters for a book she was writing." And no fear for her daughter to return after Ylenia clearly stated “two men trying to drug me and kill me” No Police report nothing!!

Then Ylenia mingled with street musicians and the homeless, and took notes. She stayed with Masakela in a scruffy hotel on St. Charles Street, five blocks from the French Quarter, where Masakela played his cornet for donations.

Mike Stark, who owns a French Quarter mask and hat store called The Little Shop of Fantasy, said that some homeless people he knows told him that Ylenia worked "very hard at being a street person."

On Jan 6. At 11 P.M., A young woman jumped into the Mississippi River near the Aquarium of the Americas, on the edge of the French Quarter. Shortly before, she had told a security guard, Albert Cordova wearing very thick vision glasses “I belong in the water." The woman swam through the fast brown currents about 100 yards toward the middle of the river.

A barge then came by, making waves. The woman screamed for help and then vanished. The Coast Guard searched 90 miles of the river, almost to the Gulf of Mexico, and found only the body of an unidentified man.

The security guard, Albert Cordova, has uncertainly identified photos of Ylenia as depicting the woman who spoke to him.

According to our investigations and interview’s local residences told us there is a magic about that river. People who've been drinking too much can believe, 'I can swim that damn thing.' "
Ylenia parents last heard from their daughter on Jan. 1, and despite her deceptive drowning, they say they fear she is being held hostage. Why??


On Feb. 18 they issued a statement from Switzerland, saying, "The investigations to find our daughter alive, and probably held against her will, are actively being pursued." It also said "there have been numerous and reliable sightings worthy of pursuit." That very week, for example, came an unconfirmed report that Ms. Carrisi had been seen in St. Augustine, Fla. But an NCIC was issued to Ylenia Maria Sole Carrisi that # M705944984 number that later on will disappeared.

Masakela has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but Ylenia parents say they are suspicious of him. He had "some kind of power over her, Romina said at a New Orleans news conference after her daughter vanished.

Masakela has no official address and has proved elusive in recent weeks, but in an interview he said Ylenia "I believe she is safe."

The police say only that the investigation is continuing as an inactive case!

During our investigations in New Orleans we interview many residents, who note that it would not be the first time a stranger has come to the city and disappeared from her previous life.

And many including laws officers told me New Orleans is "a magical town" that attracts many people "who are trying to escape from wherever they've been." This what append to Ylenia? That she was trying to escape from wherever she’s been? We know and we can prove that the jumping into the river was the biggest untruth story ever told. And in addition Ylenia body was never found therefore my friends no body Ylenia Maria Sole Carrisi she is alive and I be acquainted with this facts and why all this happened? Remember some peoples trying to escape from wherever they've been and live a new life! And I am ok with this now that I know the actuality of the facts.

Frank Crescentini
Private Investigator
California, State License PI # 18368
Missing Persons, Evidence Investigator

AXJ MEMBER and CEO in charge of Cold Cases, Missing Children or Adults