Friday, June 14, 2019

HOLLYWOOD URBAN LEGEND: MARTHA RAYE

URBAN LEGEND: Actress and comedian Martha Raye tended to wounded soldiers while performing during the Vietnam War

STATUS: 100% True


Many may be too young to have known the comedian, Martha Raye. She was a loud mouth actress/comedian from several years ago, much unlike the foul mouthed four letter word spewing comics of today. This is a little known fact about what she did, but truly a patriotic, good American by any standards.

For going to Vietnam, Col. Raye was considered a “hawk”. Hollywood blacklisted her for more then ten years. Most of the old time entertainers were made out of a lot sterner stuff than today’s crop of activists and whiners.

The following is from an Army Aviator friend who takes another trip down memory lane:

It was just before Thanksgiving ’67 and we were ferrying dead and wounded from a large GRF west of Pleiku, Vietnam. We had run out of body bags by noon, so the Hook (CH-47 CHINOOK) was pretty rough in the back.

All of a sudden, we heard a ‘take-charge’ woman’s voice in the rear. There was the singer and actress, Martha Raye, with a SF (Special Forces) beret and jungle fatigues, with subdued markings, helping the wounded into the Chinook, and carrying the dead aboard. ‘Maggie’ had been visiting her SF ‘heroes’ out ‘west’.


We took off, short of fuel, and headed to the USAF hospital pad at Pleiku. As we all started unloading our sad pax’s, a ‘Smart-Ass’ USAF Captain said to Martha…. Ms Ray, with all these dead and wounded to process, there would not be time for your show!

To all of our surprise, she pulled on her right collar and said… Captain, see this eagle? I am a full ‘Bird’ Colonel in the US Army Reserve, and on this is a ‘Caduceus’ which means I am a Nurse, with a surgical specialty…. now, take me to your wounded. He said, yes ma’am…. Follow me.

Several times at the Army Field Hospital in Pleiku, she would ‘cover’ a surgical shift, giving a nurse a well-deserved break.

Martha is the only woman buried in the SF (Special Forces) cemetery at Ft. Bragg...

Saturday, June 8, 2019

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: ONE YEAR LATER

It is hard to believe that world traveler and famous chef Anthony Bourdain has been gone one year already. A year after his sad suicide, there are still many sad questions that never will be answered. However, since his death some remarkable stories have come out about Bourdain. Anthony Bourdain was a remarkable man who led an amazing life.

Evan Benn, the editor-and-chief of Miami Indulge, wrote on Twitter that he was covering an Anthony Bourdain book stop when a boy in the audience, who had leukemia, asked Bourdain where he should travel when he’s in remission.Bourdain told the boy that he should visit Spain. But then, Benn says that Bourdain reached out to him privately, wanting to arrange for that boy in the audience to get a trip to Spain. With the help of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the boy did end up getting to go to Spain. But nobody knew until recently that Bourdain was involved; he took none of the credit for it.


Bourdain was a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, and he has evidently been fighting against sexual harassment in the workplace for years.Vera Papisova, a writer for Teen Vogue, shared on Twitter that she was once sexually harassed by a busboy while working at a restaurant. Although she was vocal about the issue, the managers finally took it seriously when Bourdain spoke up.

He wanted to make sure Harvey Weinstein paid for his actions. After Bourdain’s death, journalist Yashar Ali took to Twitter to honor him. Ali said that while many people moved on from the Harvey Weinstein story, Bourdain didn’t, and he continuously texted him with information.“He texted me repeatedly with ideas and every time a Weinstein survivor was attacked he would let me know because he was determined to stop Harvey’s machine,” Ali wrote. Ali also said that Bourdain was so incredibly proud of his girlfriend, Asia Argento, and would send him a clip of every one of her press appearances. Finally, on a personal note, Ali said that he went through a bout of depression earlier this year, but Bourdain was able to inspire him to keep going.


Back in 2017, Ali Allouche, a teenager who was being treated for bone cancer, decided he wanted to travel the country and eat the best foods in every state. Bourdain had inspired him to do so. When Bourdain himself found out about Allouche’s story, he donated $3,600 to his trip, the amount of money needed to reach his goal, according to Now This News. Bourdain himself also told The New York Post at the time that he was “incredibly moved and humbled” to hear about the story and that “I hope as well to meet with the young man at the earliest opportunity.”


Comic artist Shivana Sookdeo says that she bumped into Bourdain at a food festival, and it sounds like he was incredibly approachable. Rather than saying hello, he said, “hey kid, you hungry?”

“He spent the ten minutes listening to me talk about the home country of my parents, Trinidad & Tobago, with the utmost engagement,” she wrote. “Like an ambassador studying up, ready to go.”

She says that at the end of the conversation, Bourdain “thanked me for my time like he’d had an appointment with me all along.” I really wish we would have the opportunity to thank Anthony Bourdain for his time just one more time...


Monday, June 3, 2019

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: CANDID WILLIAM POWELL

One of the greatest actors and yet the most elusive was William Powell (1892-1984). He left Hollywood in 1955, and he never looked back. Here are some great candid pics of the great actor...

William in 1899 at the age of 7

William his mother and agent leaving Jean Harlow's funeral in 1937

With his only son William David.. His son would commit suicide in 1968 at the age of 43

William with Marilyn Monroe in 1954


William Powell and his wife Diana Lewis enjoying retirement in the 1960s

Last known photo of William Powell at the age of 86 in 1978.


Friday, May 31, 2019

BORN ON THIS DAY: DON AMECHE

On this day some 111 years ago, actor Don Ameche was born. He was really an underrated actor who never really got his due until later in life. Ameche was born Dominic Felix Amici in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 31,1908. His father, Felice Amici, was a bartender from Italy from Montemonaco, Ascoli Piceno, Marche. His mother, Barbara Etta Hertel, was of Scottish, Irish, and German ancestry. He had three brothers, Umberto (Bert), James (Jim Ameche), and Louis, and four sisters, Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary and Anna. Ameche

Ameche was married to Honore Prendergast from 1932 until her death in 1986. They had six children. One, Ron Ameche, owned a restaurant, "Ameche's Pumpernickel" in Coralville, Iowa. He had two daughters, Connie and Bonnie. Ameche's younger brother, Jim Ameche, was also a well-known actor. His brother Bert was an architect who worked for the U.S. Navy in Port Hueneme, California, and then the U.S. Postal Service in Los Angeles, California.


Ameche had done well in college dramatics at Marquette University, and when a lead actor for a stock company production of Excess Baggage did not turn up, a friend persuaded him to stand in for the missing actor. He enjoyed the experience and got a juvenile lead in Jerry For Short in New York, followed by a tour in vaudeville with Texas Guinan until she dropped him from the act, dismissing him as "too stiff". He made his film debut in 1935, and by the late 1930s, had established himself as a major actor in Hollywood. He appeared in such films as Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), and as the title character in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939). It led to the use of the word, "ameche", as slang for telephone in common catchphrases, as noted by Mike Kilen in the Iowa City Gazette (December 8, 1993): "The film prompted a generation to call people to the telephone with the phrase: 'You're wanted on the Ameche.'" In the 1940 film Go West, Groucho Marx proclaims, "Telephone? This is 1870, Don Ameche hasn't invented the telephone yet". While in the 1941 film Ball of Fire, Barbara Stanwyck's character discusses the "ameche" slang usage, "Do you know what this means: I'll get you on the Ameche."


In 1940, he was voted the 21st-most-popular star in Hollywood. In 1944 he reportedly earned $247,677 for 1943, making him the second highest earner at 20th Century Fox after Spyros Skouras. Ameche played so many roles based on real people that on one of his radio broadcasts, Fred Allen (who shares a birthday with Ameche)  joked, "Pretty soon, Don Ameche will be playing Don Ameche." Soon afterwards, in It's in the Bag! (1945), which starred Allen, Ameche indeed played himself in a bit part.

Don Ameche continued to work on television and movies until his death from cancer in 1993...


Friday, May 24, 2019

PAST OBITS: DUKE ELLINGTON

It's hard to believe but jazz genius Duke Ellington died on this day 45 years ago. This obituary appeared in The New York Times on May 25th...

Duke Ellington, who expanded the literature of American music with compositions and performances that drew international critical praise and brought listening and dancing pleasure to two generations, died here yesterday at the age of 75.

He entered the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center's Harkness Pavilion at the end of March for treatment of cancer of both lungs, a condition that was complicated last Wednesday when he developed pneumonia.

At his death, the phrase “beyond category,” which Edward Kennedy Ellington had used as his highest form of praise for others, could quite literally be applied to the Duke himself, whose works were played and praised In settings as diverse as the old Cotton Club, Carnegie Hall and Westminster Abbey,

Mr. Ellington was born in Washington on April 29, 1899, the son of James Edward Ellington and the former Daisy Kennedy. His father was blueprint maker for the Navy Department, who also worked occasionally as a butler, sometimes at the White House.


In high school, the Duke, whose nickname was given to him by an admiring neighborhood friend when he was years old, was torn between his interests in painting and in music. He won a poster contest sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in 1917 was offered a scholarship by the Pratt Institute of Applied Art. He turned it down, however, to devote himself to music.

He wrote his first composi“Soda Fountain Rag,” “en, while he was working after school as a soda jerk at thePoodle Dog Cafe. Some piano lessons he had received at theto age of 7 comprised the only formal musical education hehad. He learned by listening to the “two‐fisted piano play‐‐‐” of the period, paying particular attention to Sticky Mack, Doc Perry, James P. Johnson and Willie (The Lion) Smith.

By the time he was 20 he was making $150 a week playing with his small band at parties and dances. In this year, 1919, Sonny Greer became Mr. Ellington's drummer and remained with him until 1950, setting a pattern of longevity that was to be followed by Ellington sidemen. many

In 1922 Wilbur Sweatman, then a successful bandleader, asked Mr. Greer to join his band in New York. Mr. Ellingtop and three other members the group went along, too, ‘3’ but jobs in New York were so scarce that soon they were all back in ‘Washington. However, the visit gave Mr. Ellington an opportunity to hear the Harlem pianists who became prime influence on his own playing — Willie (The Lion) Smith, James P. Johnson and Johnson's protege Fats Waller.

At Mr. Waller's urging, Diike Ellington and his men returned to New,York in 1923. This time they got a job playing at Barron's in Harlem with Elmer Snowden, the group's banjoist, as nominal leader. When they moved downtown to the Hollywood Club (later known as the Kentucky Club) at Broadway and 49th Street, Mr. Snowden left the group and Mr. Ellington assumed the leadership.


During the four and a half years that Ellington's Washingtonians remained at the Kentucky Club, the group made its first records and ‘ did its first radio broadcasts. Late in 1927, when the band had’ expanded to 10 men, the Cotton Club, gaudy Harlem showplace, found itself in sudden need of an orchestra when King Oliver, whose band was scheduled to open there, decided he had not been offered enough money.

Mr. Ellington got thebooking, but first he had to be released from a theater engagement in Philadelphia. This was arranged when the operators of the Cotton Club asked some associates in Philadelphia to call on the theater manager with a proposition: “Be big or you'll be dead,” He was big and Duke Ellington began five‐year association with the Cotton Club.

A crucial factor in spreading the fame of the Ellington hand was a nightly radio broadcast from the Cotton Club that was heard across the country, introduced by the Ellington signature theme “East St. Louis Toodle‐Oo,” with Bubber Miley's growling trumpet setting the mood for the stomping and often exotic music that followed. Mr. Ellington's unique use of growling brass (identified as his “jungle” style) and the rich variety of tonal colors that he drew from his band brought musicians of all schools to the Cotton Club.

In 1930 the Ellington band appeared in its first featurelength movie, “Check and Double Check,” and in 1933 it went ‐overseas for the first time, to ‘Britain and Europe. During the thirties, the band appeared in several more films —“Murder at the Vanities,” “Belle of the Nineties” and The Hit Parade” — and made a second European tour ‘ in 1939.


When the furor over swing bands rose in the late thirties, the Ellington band was overshadowed by the glare of publicity that fell on the bands of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. But as the swing era faded, the Ellington band hit one of its peaks in 1941 and 1942, years when all the greatest of Mr. Ellington's star sidemen (except Bubber Miley) were together in the band and when Mr. Ellington himself was in an extraordinarily creative. period as a composer.

By 1943, however, he was leaving the early phases of his career, behind him and turning to the extended compositions and concert presentations that would be an increasingly important part of his work.

In the fifties, when Interest in big bands dropped So low that all but a handful gave up completely or worked on a part‐time basis, Mr. Ellington kept his band together even when the economic basis became very shaky. The fortunes of the Ellington band started to rise again in 1956 when, at the Newport Jazz Festival, a performance of a composition Mr. Ellington had written 20 years before, “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,” propelled by a 27chorus. solo by the tenor ,saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, Set off dancing in the aisles that reminded observers of the joyous excitement that Benny Goodman had generated at’ New York's Paramount Theater in the thirties.


During the next 15 years, Mr. Ellington's orchestra was heard in all areas of the world, touring the Middle East, the Far East and the Soviet Union under the auspices of the State Department, playing in Africa, South America and Europe. Mr. Ellington wrote !scores for five ‘films — “Paris !Blues,” “Anatomy of a Murder,” “Assault on a Queen,” “Change of Mind” and a German picture, “Janus.”

He composed a ballet, “The River,” in 1970 for Alvin Ailey and the American Ballet Theater. In 1963 he wrote a pageant of black history, “My People,” which was presented in Chicago. He had also written for the theater earlier in his career —a musical, “Jump for Joy,” produced in Los Angeles in 1941, and a score with lyrics by, John Latouche for “Beggar's Holiday,” an adaptation of John Gay's “Beggar's Opera” on Broadway in 1947.

Honors were heaped on him. In 1969, at a celebration of his 70th birthday at the ‐White House, President Nixon awarded him. the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Georges Pompidon of ‘France in 1973 gave ‘him the Legion of ??


Through all ‐this, Mr. Ellington kept up the steady pace of composing and performing and traveling that he had maintained since the late nineteentwenties. Everywhere he went, his electric piano went with him, for there was scarcely a day in his life when he did not compose something.

“You know how it is,” he said. “You go home expecting to go right to bed. But then, on the way, you go past the piano and there's a flirtation. It flirts with you. So, you sit down and try out a couple of chords and when you look up, it's 7 A.M.”

Quite logically Mr. Ellihgton called his autobiography, published in 1973, “Music Is My Mistress.”

“Music is my mistress,” he wrote, “and she plays second fiddle to no one.”

Mr. Ellington married Edna Thompson in 1918. Their son, Mercer, was born the following year. The couple were divorced in 1930 and Mr. Ellington's second m'arriage, to Mildred Dixon, a dancer at the Cotton Club, also ended in divorce.

Surviving besides his son, Mercer, is his widow, Bea (Evie) Ellis; a sister, Ruth, and three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held on Monday at 1 P.M. at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Amsterdam Aveye and 112th Street.

Mr. Ellington's body went on view last night at the Walter B. Cooke funeral chapel at Third Avenue and 85th Street. Viewing hours will continue between 8 A.M. and 10 P.M. today and tomorrow...



Tuesday, May 21, 2019

NEW BOOK: SEEN FROM THE WINGS: LUISE RAINER: MY MOTHER, THE JOURNEY

I will be reviewing this book soon, but secure your copy now. It is an excellent look at the life of a child of Hollywood royality...


Seen from the Wings:
Luise Rainer. My Mother, The Journey
(Publication Date: June 3, 2019 by BookBaby)

There have been several autobiographies written by the children of illustrious film actresses―Christina and Joan Crawford, Maria Riva and Marlene Dietrich, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Each book lays bare the stark reality of being raised in Hollywood, where the glamour and drama of being raised by world-renowned parents is tempered by the pressure to succeed in life and love in the shadow of Hollywood perfection.

Now, add to that list the story of Francesca Knittel Bowyer, daughter of Luise Rainer ― the first woman to win back-to-back Oscars® (The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937) - before the age of 30. Rainer died at the age of 104 in December of 2014, just two weeks short of her 105th birthday.

In Seen From The Wings: Luise Rainer. My Mother, My Journey, Knittel Bowyer describes her desperate need to become independent from a mother who was almost never pleased, especially when she felt upstaged, and chronicles her journey to find her life's purpose and to define herself as an individual.

Knittel Bowyer's is a life woven with adventure. She went from theater actress to editor at Harper’s Bazaar Magazine; recognizably as the first Devil Wears Prada girl, then from art dealer to executive at a highly prestigious advertising agency.


Meanwhile, she worked tirelessly as a devoted and sometimes single mother raising two daughters and while escaping abusive relationships and marriages.

In this poignant, true story of a daughter, wife and mother who escapes from the trappings of her golden upbringing in the villas of Europe and the mansions of Beverly Hills, Knittel Bowyer reveals how her imperious mother and gentle-hearted father affected her relationships, choices and happiness.

Seen From The Wings is not simply about her mother, who has always been the key factor in her life, but rather about her mother's influence on her life. Luise Rainer weaves her way through the story with threads of possessive love, jealousies and passionate opinions about her daughter's every move.

This is a story of the fine line between love and hate and of the importance of loyalty. It is a story about people whose lives and minds are so different, yet whose worlds and persuasions follow a parallel path. There are no mistakes, only learning experiences and a host of stories to tell.

All these life experiences resulted in Francesca Knittel Bowyer catapulting herself into a new and positive life path of faith, peace and self-acceptance...

You can purchase the book from Amazon HERE


Monday, May 20, 2019

JANE WYMAN: DIGNITY IN DIVORCE

Jane Wyman could have had a bestseller.

But the Oscar-winning actress wouldn’t dish about her ex-husband. Not when Ronald Reagan was governor of California and not when he made history as the nation’s first divorced president.

Before Reagan, men with failed marriages were considered too tainted for the White House. Nelson Rockefeller’s divorce may have cost him the Republican primary nomination for president in 1964.

But by the time Reagan took the oath in 1981, with Nancy Reagan by his side in her royal blue suit and hat, the country was ready for the first lady to be a second wife.

And Wyman didn’t get in the way, though she surely knew plenty from her nine years of marriage to Reagan during Hollywood’s heyday.

Their time together — which included the birth of one child, the adoption of another and the death of a third — received little attention. Reagan never mentioned her in public. And Wyman got no more than a paragraph in his autobiography:

“The same year I made the Knute Rockne movie, I married Jane Wyman, another contract player at Warners. Our marriage produced two wonderful children, Maureen and Michael, but it didn’t work out, and in 1948, we divorced.”

That’s it.


And she honored him with similar silence.

Asked in 1968, right after Reagan became California’s 33rd governor, why she never spoke of her ex-husband’s political transformation and new starring role, Wyman was wry and succinct.

“It’s not because I’m bitter or because I don’t agree with him politically,” she said in 1968. “I’ve always been a registered Republican. But it’s bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that’s all. Also, I don’t know a damned thing about politics.”

Bad taste. Remember when there was such a thing?

But today, rather than a former film actor, we have an ex-reality-TV star in the White House. And his leading ladies are going at it, reality-show style.

It’s a good time to remember that as recently as the 1980s, when the first Trump union made Donald and Ivana the toast of Manhattan’s gilded crowd, Wyman was exercising Victorian decorum. Even if decorum didn’t describe the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s.


Reagan played off his good looks and broad-shouldered Everyman charm well into his old age. But his early days in Hollywood? A parade of biographies and tell-alls describe him as a player.

From Elizabeth Taylor to Lana Turner to Marilyn Monroe, the Gipper was a guy who allegedly got around.

Wyman and Reagan fell in love on the set. Their marriage in 1940 was his first and her third. They divorced in 1949, after Wyman reportedly fell in love with another co-star, Lew Ayres.

She didn’t marry Ayres, but her part in “Johnny Belinda” helped her win an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1948. She went on to marry two more times — both times to the same man — before finally giving up on nuptials. She remained a star on the small screen, starring in the television series “Falcon Crest,” as her third ex-husband won the Cold War and championed conservative family values.


She finally broke her silence about Reagan when he died in 2004.

“America has lost a great president,” Wyman said. “And a great, kind and gentle man.”

Wyman died three years later in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at the age of 90. Or maybe it was 93. She wasn’t that forthcoming about her birthday either...