Friday, August 10, 2018

EDDIE CANTOR AND THE MARCH OF DIMES

Here's a great story on how Eddie Cantor started the March of Dimes...

Comedian Eddie Cantor (1892-1964) holds a very special place in the history of the March of Dimes, for it was he who coined the phrase “March of Dimes” used to identify the Foundation today. Eddie Cantor was a multi-talented performer – vaudeville star, singer, actor, comedian, radio and television personality – whose rise to fame began in the New York City theatrical revue, the Ziegfeld Follies, in 1917. Beloved by the American public and known as “banjo eyes” for his wide-eyed visage, Eddie Cantor had a deep well of compassion to match his enormous talent, for he embraced a variety of humanitarian causes over the course of his long career in show business. One of these was the March of Dimes, and the story of how he created this name has special distinction.

Beginning in 1934, the fight against poliomyelitis (also known as infantile paralysis, or polio) was commonly associated with the annual Birthday Balls held each January 30th in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday. These lively fundraising parties were organized in cities throughout the United States just as the country emerged from the Great Depression and were unique in their appeal to ordinary citizens to join the campaign of finding a solution to this dreaded disease. After FDR issued his proclamation announcing the creation of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis on September 23, 1937, to carry on the battle against polio on a national basis, it was left to Eddie Cantor and other promoters to organize a fundraising strategy for the next Birthday Balls in California. On November 22, 1937, Cantor met with W. S. Van Dyke II and Harry Mazlish of Warner Brothers in the office of John Considine, Jr. in the studios of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to discuss their plans. In the meeting, Cantor recalled a successful 30-second radio appeal for relief funds after a catastrophic Mississippi River flood. Applying this idea to the National Foundation, Cantor said, “I am sure that all of the national radio programs originating in Hollywood would devote 30 seconds to this great cause!” He suggested that the money raised could be directed to the White House, pending the approval of the President. After another moment of reflection he suggested, “We could call it the March of Dimes.” This idea brought the general approval of everyone in the meeting.


Naturally, neither Cantor nor the others immediately realized the historic importance of this lively catchphrase, but they instantly understood its appeal, based as it was on a pun on the contemporary newsreel, The March of Time. They continued to prepare for the 1938 Birthday Ball and the special radio appeal for the President's birthday. The United States comptroller for the currency, J. F. T. O'Connor, wrote to the President, “I have never discussed the matter with men who were more enthusiastic about anything as they were over the aid which they were anxious to render to disabled children.” Cantor worked vigorously on the campaign and enlisted the support of Nicholas Schenk at Twentieth Century Fox as well as the most popular entertainers of the day – Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Deanna Durbin, Lawrence Tibbett, Jascha Heifetz, Joe Penner, Kate Smith, and Edgar Bergen and “his wooden-headed friend,” the puppet Charlie McCarthy.

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was officially incorporated on January 3, 1938, and the first March of Dimes radio appeal occurred during the week preceding the Birthday Ball events scheduled for January 30. As Cantor himself stressed, “The March of Dimes will enable all persons, even the children, to show our President that they are with him in this battle against this disease. Nearly everyone can send in a dime, or several dimes. However, it takes only ten dimes to make a dollar and if a million people send only one dime, the total will be $100,000.” This optimistic pitch collided head-on with the dismal news that the appeal garnered only a trickle of dimes in the days following the first broadcast. In fact, only $17.50 had been sent in to the White House in two days. But what followed became a deluge: by January 29, over 80,000 letters with dimes and dollars flooded the White House mailroom to the extent that official correspondence to the President was literally buried in an avalanche of donations, a total of 2,680,000 dimes or $268,000. On the eve of his birthday, President Roosevelt went on the air to express his thanks.


With the first “March of Dimes,” the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis was off to a very promising start. Eddie Cantor had not only jump-started the fundraising program of the new foundation, he demonstrated the enormous value of an appeal for the inexpensive participation by everyone, young or old, rich or poor, simply by contributing a dime. What is more, Cantor's knack of hitting on a catchy phrase that would be universally remembered was a stroke of genius. The name “March of Dimes” – the annual fundraising campaign – became recognizable to more people than the name of the foundation itself. Eddie Cantor continued to support the March of Dimes through the 1950s as communities throughout the U.S. embraced it as the single means to eliminate the scourge of polio from America. With the polio vaccines developed by Jonas Salk, MD in 1955, and Albert Sabin, MD in 1962, made possible by March of Dimes funds, the polio epidemics in the United States swiftly abated. With that success, the Foundation changed its mission to birth defects prevention in 1958, and in 1979 it officially changed its corporate name to the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation...


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

RIP: MARY CARLISLE

One of Bing Crosby's earliest co-stars has passed away. Mary Carlisle made her last movie in 1943, but she was one of the most beautiful actresses of her time.

She also appeared in Garbo's Grand Hotel and opposite the likes of Jack Benny, John Barrymore and Basil Rathbone.

Mary Carlisle, the lovely blonde actress who was the object of Bing Crosby's crooning affection in three breezy musical comedies of the 1930s, has died. She was 104.

Carlisle, who appeared in more than 50 films in the decade, died early Wednesday morning at the Motion Picture Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills, a spokeswomen for the home told The Hollywood Reporter.

Carlisle also played a giggling honeymooner in Greta Garbo's Grand Hotel (1932) and showed no favorites when it came to one of college football's biggest rivalries back then, starring in Hold 'Em Navy (1937) and then Touchdown, Army (1938).


The 5-foot-1 Carlisle displayed a cozy chemistry with Crosby in the Paramount movies College Humor (1933), Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938).

In their first pairing, Crosby performed "Moonstuck" as she looked on, and in the second he employed shadow puppets as he sang "It's the Natural Thing to Do" to her. And in the last, Crosby serenaded a park statue with "My Heart Is Taking Lessons" as Carlisle watched on horseback nearby.

Carlisle's co-stars also included Jack Benny (It's in the Air), John Barrymore (Should Ladies Behave), Basil Rathbone (Kind Lady), Will Rogers (Handy Andy), Buster Crabbe (The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi), Maureen O'Hara (Dance, Girl, Dance) and Lloyd Nolan (Tip-Off Girls).

After appearing with George Zucco and horror-film icon Dwight Frye in Dead Men Walk (1943), she retired from the movies.

Carlisle was married to James Blakeley — an actor and later a film editor and head of postproduction at 20th Century Fox, where he worked on such series as Peyton Place and Batman— from 1942 until his death in 2007 at age 96.


Born Gwendolyn Witter in Boston on Feb. 3, 1914, she was brought to Hollywood by her widowed mother. At age 14, while they were having lunch at the Universal commissary, the blue-eyed girl was spotted by producer Carl Laemmle Jr. and given a screen test, though she did not sign with the studio.

After completing high school, however, Carlisle met a casting director at MGM, then showed up in uncredited roles in such films as Madam Satan (1930) — as Little Bo Peep — The Great Lover (1931) with Adolphe Menjou and then Grand Hotel.


In 1933, Carlisle received a big career boost when she was selected as a "Baby Star" — a young actress thought to be on the threshold of stardom — by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers. (Others picked that year included Gloria Stuart and Ginger Rogers.)

After she was finished with acting, Carlisle managed an Elizabeth Arden beauty salon in Beverly Hills.

Survivors include her son, James Blakeley III, and two grandchildren...


HISTORY BREAK: AMELIA EARHART

Just hours after her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, Amelia Earhart — the woman who, in 1937, set out on a mission to be the first to circumnavigate the globe — sat in her defunct Lockheed Electra surrounded by knee-deep water, stranded amid the reef of a tiny, uninhabited island, new research suggests.

Earhart’s disappearance has been shrouded in mystery for decades; her death was declared in absentia two years after she was lost at sea. Now, over 80 years later, researchers have a new theory as to what may have happened. According a recent paper, which analyzed radio distress calls in the days after Earhart vanished, she may have spent her last days marooned on a desert island after her plane crashed on July 2, 1937.

To arrive at this theory, experts at the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) sourced from government and commercial radio operator records to find 57 credible radio signals. Through research analysis, they came across a slew of messages that they believe to have come from Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. One, transcribed by a 15-year-old girl listening to the radio in Florida, contained chilling phrases like, “waters high,” “water’s knee deep — let me out” and “help us quick.” Another, recorded by a housewife in Toronto: “We have taken in water … we can’t hold on much longer.”


From the available evidence, TIGHAR thinks that Earhart and Noonan likely took refuge on Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro, a then-uninhabited small island located 2,600 miles off the cost of New Zealand. According to the group’s hypothesis, the pilot and her navigator could only call for help when the tide was so low that it wouldn’t flood the plane’s engine, which would mean the distress calls would have occurred in short bursts.


“These active versus silent periods and the fact that the message changes on July 5 and starts being worried about water and then is consistently worried about water after that — there’s a story there,” TIGHAR director Ric Gillespie told the Washington Post.

Notably, these radio messages form evidence that runs counter to the U.S. Navy’s official conclusion — that Earhart and Noonan died shortly after crashing into the Pacific — Gillespie said.

The group is releasing more information to the public in “bite-sized chunks,” Gillespie added, but he believes the evidence is adding up. Not only does the group possess dire messages recorded over the span of six days, but several bones were found on the island in 1940, along with parts of a woman’s shoe and a man’s shoe. Gillespie hopes that when the information is all released, “people will smack their foreheads like I did.”

Friday, July 27, 2018

THE LAST DAYS OF BOB HOPE

It is hard to believe but Bob Hope has been gone for 15 years now. Bob Hope was, without much argument, the most popular and beloved comedian of the 20th century. His career as a comedian is entirely unparalleled and unrivaled.

Hope was a hit in every possible entertainment medium. He was a star in Vaudeville, a hit on the Broadway stage, and had long-running #1 radio shows. Hope starred in almost 70 movies and shorts, including the classic and beloved seven "road pictures" he made with Bing Crosby over a 22-year span from 1940 to 1962.

His television specials began in 1950 and ran for over 40 years on NBC. In their heyday, these shows garnered some of the highest ratings in television history.

Hope hosted the Academy Awards a record 18 times and is still generally acknowledged as the best-ever Oscar host by all who remember his hilarious hosing chores.

But perhaps most important and significant was Hope's ever-present willingness to entertain the American troops in four different wars.


Hope was a self-confessed ham, always needing and craving the applause and the spotlight. But after an incredibly successful career, unlike other comedy notables, including Lucille Ball and Johnny Carson, Hope just didn't know when to "get off the stage.” His health had been deteriorating and by the early 1990's, his once hilarious, sharp monologues had become ordeals, lessened by Bob's slower reflexes and delivery, and his slightly slurred speech. Nonetheless, he kept booking gigs and making appearances.

By the time of his 90th birthday, on May 29, 1993, NBC was presented with a challenge. A big celebration was clearly called for, but Bob's eyesight and hearing were so bad he could no longer carry the show on his own. The network put on a lavish three-hour ceremony in which Hope was largely a bystander.

To help him follow what was going on, Hope was given a small microphone to wear in his ear, so that his daughter Linda, who was sitting in the control room, could brief him on who was there and what was happening.

The special came off well, and did well in the ratings- it would have been a perfect "farewell" event, but Hope refused to retire. He refused to leave NBC, who obviously couldn't "fire" a national institution. He continued to do his specials on the network.


His specials -now mostly shunted to low-viewership on Saturday nights- were getting the worst ratings of his career. His family tried to coax Hope into retirement. In 1995, he planned a trip to Europe to celebrate and entertain in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of V-E day. His wife Dolores threw up her hands, “We're doing this one,” she stated firmly, "but this has got to be the last.”

Hope's last NBC special “Laughing with the Presidents,” aired on November 23, 1996. The special came off without embarrassment and Bob Hope began his "golden" years of very well-deserved (if not desired) retirement.

Besides his fading hearing and eyesight, signs of dementia were now showing. In his few public appearances, at various dinners and ceremonial events, Hope seemed disoriented and confused. His short term memory was spotty and he had trouble recognizing people.

At home, Bob settled into a comfortable routine. He still slept late, as always, waking up between 10 and 11 AM. His caretaker, J. Dennis Paulin, would read to him from the morning L.A. Times. Large-print editions were made of business documents that he needed to see.

Hope loved to watch Jeopardy! on TV (with headphones, so he could hear).

He had always loved taking late night walks, and still did, but now they were indoors, up and down the aisles of the local Von's supermarket in Toluca Lake. Paulin would let him take the wheel of his golf cart and play and drive the five blocks to lakeside to play a few holes of his beloved golf. Afterwards, he would go to the clubhouse for a fake brandy alexander.

In 1996, after a lifetime of dilatory churchgoing, Hope acceded to his devout wife's wishes and was baptized into the Catholic Church.


Reports of his failing health occasionally made the tabloids, along with unsympathetic photos of his stooped frame and red-rimmed eyes, accompanied by the usual headlines of Bob Hope's "tragic last days.”

He made a few trips to Washington for events honoring him- including a visit to the White House, where President Clinton signed a congressional resolution making Hope the first honorary veteran of the US Armed Forces. In 2000, he he was proudly present for the opening of the Bob Hope Gallery of Entertainment at the Library of Congress.

Bob lingered on for three more years- bedridden most of the time- but brought out by Dolores in a wheelchair for family get-togethers, He was, by now, almost completely blind.

On May 29, 2003, he celebrated his one hundredth birthday (he received over 2,000 birthday cards from everyone from President George W. Bush to Queen Elizabeth). Thirty-five states proclaimed his birthday "Bob Hope Day.”

Bob Hope died a few weeks later, on July 27, 2003, at the ripe old age of 100.

His last words were, fittingly, quite humorous. Towards the end, when his wife Dolores asked him where he wanted to be buried, the amazing Bob Hope quipped, “Surprise me.”

Sunday, July 22, 2018

URBAN LEGEND: BILL MURRAY

URBAN LEGEND: Comedy legend Bill Murray does not have a cell phone, and the only way to contact him is through his 1-800 line.

STATUS: It is 100% True!


Bill Murray famously doesn't have an agent -- or assistant or anything -- so if you want to make an appointment with him, you have to call and leave a message at his 1-800 number. It doesn't matter if you're a director or a dentist, that's the only way you'll get to Murray (that, or have a wedding).

He recently told GQ why he only screens movie pitches through his voicemail: "Well, it's what I finally went to. I have this phone number that they call and talk. And then I listen." I hope the director of Garfield 3 does not have his number!...


Thursday, July 19, 2018

RIP: GARY BEACH

Gary Beach, a Broadway and TV veteran whose portrayal of a truly terrible theater director in Mel Brooks’ monster hit “The Producers” won him a Tony Award in 2001, has died, according to his agent, Steven Unger. He was 70.

Unger said Beach died Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, California. No cause was given.

Beach’s other Broadway roles included Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast” and Albin in the 2004 revival of “La Cage aux Folles,” both of which earned him Tony nominations.

“The Producers” opened in 2001 and starred Nathan Lane as Max and Matthew Broderick as Leo, and featured Cady Huffman as Ulla and Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia.

Beach played the self-absorbed and beyond-flamboyant director who gets to go on as Hitler and leads the cast in “Springtime For Hitler,” the show’s most famous number. He reprised the role in the 2005 film.


Born in Alexandria, Virginia, Beach at age 11 saw the original road tour of “The Music Man,” starring Forrest Tucker, at Washington’s National Theatre and was hooked on musical theater.

“I always wanted to be a performer, but it never occurred to me to be a television performer or a movie actor,” Beach told The Associated Press in 2001. “To me, it was always Broadway.”

Beach started college at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia, as a political science major but read a magazine article about the North Carolina School of the Arts, where “show business goes to school” — and found his true calling.

He did over 1,000 performances in New York and on the road of three musicals: “Annie,” ‘’Les Miserables” and “Beauty and Beast,” and over 800 performances in “1776,” the show that got him to Broadway.


He survived flops — “The Mooney Shapiro Songbook,” a one-performance bomb in 1981 — and moments of intense gladness, like the comedy “Legends” by “Chorus Line” author James Kirkwood starring two real-life theater legends, Mary Martin and Carol Channing. Gary also starred opposite actress Betty Hutton in a production of "Annie".

After nearly 20 years in New York, Beach moved to Los Angeles. “I fell in love with the idea of having a car like an adult,” he said. There, he acted in such shows as “The John Larroquette Show,” ‘’Murder, She Wrote,” ‘’Saved by the Bell” and “Will & Grace.”


He stayed in California for 13 years, only coming back to do “Beauty and the Beast.” He broke his ankle during the run after falling off a stack of dishes, went back to Los Angeles and got a call asking him to do a reading of “The Producers.”

Beach then told Brooks, “You know what you’ve done? You’ve made ‘The Producers’ the toughest satire on Broadway.”

In a statement, The Baruch Frankel Routh Viertel Group, the producers of “The Producers,” honored Beach as “an actor of consummate skill and artistry, was a glorious human being; a gifted, generous and incredibly funny actor whose presence in a rehearsal room or on the stage lifted everyone’s spirit and inspired them to be the best they could be.”


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

RIP: WAYNE MARTIN

A sad day for fans of Bing Crosby. Earlier this year Wayne Martin, the editor and vice-president of Club Crosby until 2003 died...


Wayne LeRoy Martin, 87 of Higginsville, Missouri died on Friday, February 23, 2018, at his home. Born Tuesday, March 11, 1930 in Corder, Missouri, he was the son of the late LeRoy Martin and the late Golda Belle Welliver. He married Sandra Hostetter Martin on July 16, 1974. She survives of the home. He was a Veteran of the Korean War serving in the United States Army. He received a masters degree in Library Sciences from the University of Colorado and a masters degree in English from Central Missouri State University.

He was a former editor for the Bing Crosby magazine and the Director of Libraries for Brentwood, Missouri school systems, retiring in 1989. He was a member of United Church of Christ in Kirkwood, Missouri prior to moving to Higginsville in 2011. Surviving are one daughter, Robin Teter and her wife, Sandra Martin. A funeral service will be held at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at the Hoefer Funeral Home with Rev. Dr. Tommy Faris officiating. Interment will be in the City Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at Hoefer Chapel. Memorial contributions may be sent to Beacon of Hope in Oak Grove, MO...