Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A lot of people recognize Bing Crosby as one of the first crooners. However, there are a lot of singers that were around before the Crosby years. Some excellent singers even predated the modern microphone. One of those singers is the now forgotten singer Irving Kaufman. He was born Isidore Kaufman in Syracuse, New York on February 8, 1890. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he was a member of The Kaufman Brothers, along with his brothers Phillip and Jack.

Kaufman began recording in 1914, and recorded for Victor, Columbia, Vocalion, Gennett, Edison, Harmony, as well as all of the dime labels (Banner, Perfect, etc.). Early in his career, when recording for Edison and RCA Victor, he recorded under his own name, but he also used a number of (non-Jewish-sounding) aliases. Sometimes, as in the case of several of his 1927 "Broadway Bell-Hops" vocals, he was merely credited as "Vocal Chorus". He was often credited as "vocal refrain by George Beaver" on the dime store labels.

Kaufman was a singer in the vaudeville style; certainly not considered a jazz singer, he nonetheless sang on recordings accompanied by some of the foremost jazz figures of the 1920s, including Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, The Dorsey Brothers, Red Nichols, Miff Mole, and Eddie Lang. (His voice recorded well - both acoustically and electrically - and was one of the most prolific singers during the 1920s.)

His recording output slowed down in the mid 1930s and early 1940s as the swing era made his style of singing sort of passe. He continued making the occasional 78 rpm recording until 1947, the last being "The Curse of an Aching Heart" coupled with "Think It Over Mary" (originally issued on the Sterling label, also issued on the Bennett label). Around this time he also recorded for Sterling some Yiddish comedy songs like "Moe the Schmo Makes Love" and "Moe the Schmo Takes a Rhumba Lesson".

Kaufman retired after a heart attack in 1949, and made no further commercial recordings until 1974, when a 2-LP set titled Reminisce With Irving Kaufman was released. It consisted mostly of transcriptions of his old recordings, but included several new cuts of Kaufman singing, accompanied by his second wife, Belle Brooks (1904–93). Upon retirement he lived in Palm Springs, California. He died January 3, 1976 in Indio, California. Even in 1976, Kaufman was forgotten but hopefully with the internet newer fans will turn up, because Irving Kaufman was really a remarkable singer that deserves to be remembered...

Monday, August 26, 2013


When Marjorie Lane died on October 2, 2012 - she had reached 100 years old. However, for the most part no one new anything about her or her life. For the 100 years she was a part of this world she was a beauty - inside and out. Petite, auburn-haired, Kansas-born beauty Marjorie Lane (her real name) is best remembered as the singing voice of dancing icon Eleanor Powell in late 1930s Hollywood, but she actually garnered more personal attention at the time as a popular singing attraction in Los Angeles niteries. While she eventually gave up her modest career to become Mrs. Brian Donlevy and a mother, Marjorie still deserves more than just a footnote in the Hollywood annals.

Born on February 21, 1912 in Manhattan, Kansas, Marjorie was the daughter of Charles W. Lane, head of a Santa Fe public relations department. With no prior vocal training, she arrived in Hollywood with her mother in the mid-1930s and first earned notice at the popular Trocadero Club on Sunset Boulevard. While there she caught the eye of none other than Louis B. Mayer who quickly signed her to an MGM contract. While working for MGM, Marjorie continued her busy schedule of performing studio assignments by day and showing up nightly at the Trocadero. In 1935 she recorded "What a Wonderful World" for Tommy Dorsey's outfit.

Mayer primarily signed up the pretty hopeful for her voice. One of her first jobs was to dub the voice of Isabel Jewell in Shadow of Doubt (1935). However, once she provided the singing voice for dancing legend Eleanor Powell in Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) on the songs "You Are My Lucky Star" and "Sing Before Breakfast," Marjorie found a Marni Nixon-like cushy spot that would provide steady employment for the next few years--even if she was more heard than seen. The singer followed Powell into her next picture Born to Dance (1936) and dubbed the songs "Easy to Love," "Rap Tap on Wood" and "Hey Babe Hey" for the dancer.

Actor Brian Donlevy met Marjorie in 1935 while she was performing at the Trocadero. They married at Christmas time in 1936, and settled in Beverly Hills. Marjorie continued her behind-the-camera singing career by once again giving good voice to Eleanor Powell in the films Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), covering the songs "Yours and Mine," "I'm Feelin' Like a Million" and "Follow in My Footsteps," and Rosalie (1937), with "I've Got a Strange New Rhythm in My Heart".

Donlevy's cinematic career on the rise during this time, with superior work in Beau Geste (1939) (Oscar nomination), The Great McGinty (1940), The Glass Key (1942) and Wake Island (1942). As a result, Marjorie's career quickly took a back seat. Daughter Judith Ann Donlevy was born on February 20, 1943. The marriage fell apart, however, and the couple divorced in 1947.

Instead of returning after her divorce, Marjorie withdrew from the limelight completely. Her second marriage in 1952 to a Los Angeles-area doctor also ended in divorce. Her third marriage to Sumner Bates, an ice cream manufacturer, was by far the happiest and only ended with his death. Up until this past year she was living healthy and independently in Santa Monica, California. She died at the surprisingly advanced age with her family around it. She had fame in her younger years and quiet happiness in her later years - sounds like a perfect life for a 100 year old to live...

Saturday, August 24, 2013



Every Tuesday my dad would do two radio shows, one on the east coast at 5pm and then he’d fly over and be on the radio at 8pm live from Los Angeles for his west coast audience. But in between the shows my mother, Dolores, my brother Tony, and I would meet him at Brown Derby, a little restaurant near the NBC studios in West Hollywood (our brother and sister were babies and stayed at home). My mother always made us get dressed up, and insisted we behave properly at the dinner table. But Dad was like her fifth child – he was always up for having fun. Often while Mother was explaining something, like which forks to use, suddenly a napkin would come flying out of nowhere, sent over by Dad. It would crack us up.

My father came from very humble beginnings. He was born Leslie Townes Hope in 1903 in Eltham, south-east London, but the family moved to America in 1907. His father was a stonemason and had gone ahead to find work, leaving my grandmother to come across in steerage on her own with six boys. But because everyone was using steel and concrete, my grandfather never found much work. So Dad was out at a young age (he left school at nine) trying to earn a living.

He found he was good at entertaining; he would busk and perform stand-up on the boardwalk. As soon as he was old enough he changed his name to Bob. He hated his real name – at school the teachers would read his surname first, so they called out 'Hope, Les’, and he was bullied. He started as a dancer in vaudeville, where he was 'discovered’ in the 1920s, and then he became a radio and film star in the 1930s and 40s. I was never all that keen to listen to him though – I always liked Jack Benny – but as I got older I started to appreciate what a genius he really was.

We could never go out to eat without people asking him for an autograph, but he loved the attention. I am the oldest of four (all adopted as babies) and throughout our lives he was famous so we didn’t know it any other way. But we did get the benefit of having him in private too. Some people say comedians are quite dark, but not Dad. He was always entertaining. He would sometimes knock underneath the table while we were eating dinner and then jump up and have a conversation with Bessie, our next-door neighbour out of the window. He’d say, 'Bessie, are you out at this hour of the night?’ and then reply, in a falsetto voice, 'Yes, I came to see if Lin and Tony could come out to play.’ That was the start of this whole routine and we absolutely adored it. We believed him for ages. Even when we finally caught on we pretended we didn’t know, because it was such fun...


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


On Christmas Day 2013, it will mark the 100th birthday of singer, actor, and entertainer Tony Martin. I was hoping Tony would make it to his 100th birthday, but unfortunately he died on July 27, 2012. Here are some great picture memories on this underrated crooner...




Monday, August 19, 2013


    UPDATE: Sadly Ann Reinking died at the age of 71 on December 14th, 2020. You can read more about it: HERE

My three year old does not watch television much. However, just recently he watched his first movie from beginning to end: Annie (1982). It a musical with cheesy good news that even my wife got into. She wanted to know who played Grace Farrell ,who was the secretary to Daddy Warbucks. I told her it was the great Ann Reinking, and I started wondering what she is doing now some thirty years after the movie came out.

Born on November 10, 1949, Reinking originally trained as a ballet dancer. She studied with Marian and Illaria Ladre, a professional ballet couple who had danced for years with the Ballets Russes which later became the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After working as a chorus girl in Coco, Wild and Wonderful, and Pippin, Reinking came to critical notice in the role of Maggie in Over Here! (Theatre World Award).

Reinking went on to originate roles in Goodtime Charley (for which she received Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress in a Musical) and Bob Fosse's Dancin' (Tony nomination). She also took over leads in A Chorus Line (1976), Chicago in 1977, and Sweet Charity (1986).

In 1979 Reinking appeared in Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical film All That Jazz, in a role loosely based on her own life and relationship with Fosse. In the film, Reinking starred opposite Leland Palmer, Jessica Lange, Ben Vereen, John Lithgow, and Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon (a role loosely based on Bob Fosse). All That Jazz and Annie would be the two most popular films that Reinking would appear in.

She founded the Broadway Theater Project, a Florida training program connecting students with seasoned theater professionals, in 1994. In 1995, she choreographed the ABC television movie version of the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie.

After retiring from performing, Reinking returned to the stage as Roxie Hart in the revival of Chicago in 1996. In 1996, she was asked to create the choreography ("in the style of Bob Fosse") for an all-star four-night-only concert staging of Chicago for City Center's annual Encores! Concert Series. When the producers could not obtain a suitable actress for the role of Roxie Hart, Reinking agreed to reprise the role again after almost 20 years. This concert staging of Chicago was a hit, and a few months later the production (in its concert staging presentation) was produced on Broadway, along with its cast. In November 2009 the revival celebrated its 13th year on Broadway. The revival of Chicago won numerous Tony Awards, and Reinking won the Tony Award for Choreography. She recreated her choreography for the 1997 London transfer of Chicago which starred Ute Lemper and Ruthie Henshall.

In 1998 she co-created, co-directed and co-choreographed the revue Fosse, for which she received a Tony Award co-nomination for Best Direction of a Musical.

Reinking is perhaps best known for popularizing the dance step that would later be known as "raising the roof." Reinking insisted on including the step in the choreography for the musical number "We've Got Annie" in the 1982 screen adaptation of Annie, describing it as "the expression of pure joy."

Since 2010, Reinking is focusing on a cause that's close to her heart: the fight against the negative body image associated with Marfan's Syndrome. Marfan's is a rare genetic disorder of the connective tissues. It can affect the bones, eyes and heart; people with Marfan's usually have limbs that are disproportionately long. Long perhaps, but appealing to a choreographer like Reinking.

Dance is "one of the greatest loves on my life," Ann Reinking told ABC News. "I just fell in love, that's all I wanted to do." So she set out to highlight the beauty of being different through choreographed dance, choosing to focus on accentuating the long lines and silhouettes of people struggling with Marfans.

It is a cause that is close to her heart - her son Chris was diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder 15 years ago. It is a painful disease, and those with Marfans can undergo countless surgeries to correct their spines and vision; they also must remain constantly vigilant that their hearts don't grow too large.

Renking has recently been quoted as saying "The human spirit is the greatest thing on earth. To be a part of that, whether it is to have people forget their problems … we're all of a sudden tangible, right there, you can truly touch it, you can truly see it's there. That's the best thing for me."

Friday, August 16, 2013


Jane Harvey, who recorded with the Benny Goodman orchestra in the 1940’s and later sang with Desi Arnaz, died at her home in Los Angeles Aug. 15. The cause was cancer. She was 88.

Born Phyllis Taff in Jersey City, NJ, on Jan. 6, 1925, she auditioned for nightclub owner Barney Josephson shortly after finishing high school, and was offered a gig at his celebrated Greenwich Village nightclub, Café Society. Before she took the stage, Josephson changed her name to Jane Harvey. Soon Benny Goodman came to hear her and subsequently hired her to record "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me" with his band, in December 1944 for Columbia Records. She stayed with the band for six months, cutting tracks for the best-selling "Close as Pages in a Book," "Up in Central Park," "Only Another Boy and Girl" and "He’s Funny That Way." She joined the Desi Arnaz orchestra in 1946, recording several titles with him for RCA Victor, including "Mi Vida" and "A Rainy Night in Rio" and also appearing with him for a successful engagement at Ciro’s. When the band left to go on the road, she chose to remain at the club.

Ms. Harvey entertained the troops in Europe on a 1948 USO tour with Bob Hope and Irving Berlin. Upon returning to the States, she made her Broadway debut in the 1950 Harold Rome musical Bless You All with Pearl Bailey. She married record producer Bob Thiele and retired temporarily to raise their son.

In 1958, she sang two tracks with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Ms. Harvey recorded several albums through the years, including "Leave It to Jane," "I’ve Been There," the Fats Waller tribute "You Fats, Me Jane," "Jane Harvey" and "The Other Side of Sondheim." She resumed her cabaret career in 2011 with appearances at Feinstein’s in New York and the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, and reissued five CDs of her previous recordings including an unreleased session that she had done with guitarist Les Paul. Harvey remarried and is survived by her husband William King, her son Bob Thiele Jr., daughter-in-law Amy Kanter Thiele, and a grandson, Owen Thiele...


During the Big Band era and beyond there were icons like Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller, but there were also some smaller organizations that just had a wonderful sound. To start out this new feature dedicated to the big bands, I wanted to profile a little known band leader by the name of Chuck Foster.

Foster was born close to the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania on August 26, 1912. His big break came a few years after he took over the leadership of a 10-piece band in California. He was a logical choice to be the new front man, since, besides playing saxophone and clarinet, he was handsome, sang a little, and could m.c. a floor show.

In 1939, Foster and his orchestra were hired for two weeks at the Biltmore Bowl, a hotel in Los Angeles, but wound up staying there seven months. They went back in 1940 and ‘41, for a total of 18 months time! During that period, they made lots of network radio broadcasts.

Their very first recordings were made as transcriptions for radio stations only, for Standard in 1939 and United in 1940. Okeh Records signed them for commercial discs, and the band recorded a total of eight sides in October 1940 and June 1941, including their theme song, Oh, You Beautiful Doll, and I’ve Been Drafted (Now I’m Drafting You). It was stated that in 1941-42 Foster and his orchestra traveled more than 50,000 miles in private automobiles and played in 28 states, mostly one-night stands or theaters, with a few steady gigs in hotels and ballrooms.

A special highlight for the band was working the Academy Awards ceremony held in Hollywood in 1941, and which named, among other honors, the best picture ("Rebecca"), best actor (James Stewart in "The Philadelphia Story," his only Oscar win), and best actress (Ginger Rogers as "Kitty Foyle").

In June of ‘42, the band added the nearby Oriental Theatre to its appearances. When they returned to the Oriental that December, former Chick Webb vocalist Ella Fitzgerald shared the bill. Then, on April 7, 1943, Foster opened an engagement at the Blackhawk Restaurant, also in Chicago's "Loop," and in August of that year, it was back to the Oriental, this time with the Mills Brothers vocal group.

After his brief service in the Army during World War II, Foster organized a new band in early 1944, opening at the Chanticleer nightclub in Baltimore, MD. They then headed back to the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago for, as was typical, several months.

When they operated out of New York City, they played, for example, the Hotel New Yorker in-town or the Steel Pier in nearby Atlantic City. Starting in the ‘40s, he would take trips to the Hotel Peabody in Memphis, TN for a couple of lengthy engagements each year.

In 1953, Foster officially moved to the Chicago area, where he could continue to star at the Blackhawk, work the Aragon or Trianon ballrooms four or five months a year, and go elsewhere around the Midwest dance circuit.  He played a “battle of dance music” with Eddy Howard at the Aragon on July 31, 1955, and a similar “battle” was held between Foster and Ralph Marterie at the Aragon on June 17, 1956. (Howard’s and Marterie’s bands were also big Chicago favorites.)

Foster and his orchestra recorded for Mercury in 1946-48, on Vocalion in 1949, and around the late 1950s made what seems to have been his only 12" LP, “Chuck Foster at the Hotel Peabody Overlooking Old Man River,” for Philips International. He decided to return to California in 1965, ready to retire. But a band was needed at Myron’s Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, so he agreed to go there. He stayed for 8 years, stocking his playlists both with standards (Easter Parade, Avalon, Hindustan) and more-current pops (Born Free, King of the Road, Tijuana Taxi).

Even into the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was still willing to play for a gathering of dancers, whether in southern California or somewhere back East, like the Willowbrook or Holiday ballrooms in Chicago. Sadly though, Chuck Foster died in relatively obscurity on December 13, 2001 at the age of 89. He was married for close to fifty years to one of his band's former vocalists Delores Marshall. He was survived by her, three daughters, and his music that never will die...

Monday, August 12, 2013


Jerry Lewis’ 1972 The Day the Clown Cried is one of the most famous unreleased films of all time — a movie so bad that Lewis has sworn it will never see the light of day. Until now, all we've seen is a few still images and the original screenplay, but that all changed when a YouTube user named unclesporkums uploaded seven minutes of footage from the set of the forgotten film, which was then posted by Entertainment Weekly. Reddit user mvuijlst points out that the original footage is from a 1972 broadcast of Flemish TV program Première-magazine.

So why is Lewis so determined to keep the movie under wraps? The plot revolves around a clown at a Nazi concentration camp who ends up befriending the children imprisoned there. The film ends as Lewis’ character, overcome with grief at having led the children into a gas chamber, chooses to stay with the children as they are all killed. One of the few people to actually see it, actor and comedian Harry Shearer, said "the closest I can come to describing the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz."

The Day the Clown Cried (and its cringe-inducing ending) reportedly tested so poorly with early audiences that Lewis vowed to keep it locked up forever. But while the video above offers a glimmer of hope for film historians and others hoping for the relic to finally be released to the public, Lewis doesn't sound like he's letting it go anytime soon. In a Reuters interview from May, the original Nutty Professor star said "you will never see it, no one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work."

You can see this new 7 minute video here.


Now that I have young children, I do not get to go the movies often. As a matter of fact, the last movie I saw in a theatre was Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell in 2010. So for the first movie my son ever saw in a theatre I figured that the Smurfs 2 (2013) would be a safe film to take him to. I thought my son would be afraid of the dark, but he loved it. Unfortunately, like me, he found the movie to be boring. Even some kid's movies do not make great sequels.

The plot goes like this: Smurfette is having nightmares about betraying her fellow Smurfs and turning them over to Gargamel to be captured. Meanwhile, the Smurfs are preparing a surprise party for Smurfette's birthday, but as Smurfette tries to find out what her fellow Smurfs are planning, none of them are saying a word. She takes this to mean that she is now unwelcome in the village as a Smurf.

In France, Gargamel is now a star attraction, amazing people with his sorcery, but he sees that he is running low on the Smurf essence that gives him his magic powers. With his new creations, the Naughties Vexy and Hackus, Gargamel plans on opening a portal to the Smurf village by using the Eiffel tower as a conduit so that he can kidnap Smurfette and, through her, get Papa Smurf's secret formula for creating Smurfs. However, as the portal he created is not big enough for him to go through, Gargamel takes Vexy and sends her through to the portal to grab Smurfette and bring her to Paris.

One of the Smurfs witnesses the abduction of Smurfette and informs Papa Smurf. Papa Smurf uses his magic to create crystals that would allow several of his Smurfs to travel directly to Patrick Winslow's residence in New York City in order to get his help to rescue Smurfette.

Papa originally intended for Brainy, Hefty, and Gutsy to use the crystals, but instead through an accident Clumsy, Grouchy and Vanity use them. Papa and the three Smurfs arrive in the apartment right after the celebration of Blue's fourth birthday where they meet both the Winslows' young boy and Patrick's stepfather Victor Doyle, a man who is a constant embarrassment to Patrick. The Smurfs soon discover where Gargamel is, and so they and the Winslows set off for Paris in order to find him.

After their arrival in Paris, Patrick and his wife Grace work together with Victor to distract Gargamel during one of his performances while the Smurfs sneak backstage in order to find Smurfette, only to discover what Gargamel is planning. At the same time, Smurfette escapes from the prison and Vexy and her partner Hackus chase after her. Upon her return to Gargamel's hotel suite with the Naughties, Gargamel presents her with a tiny dragon wand as a feigned act of kindness, claiming that he was Smurfette's father all along and that Papa Smurf had no interest in her.

Smurfette is still reluctant to give Gargamel what he wanted until she sees that the Naughties are dying due to a lack of Smurf essence. Faced without an alternative to save them, Smurfette quickly writes it down and Gargamel mixes it up to turn the Naughties into real Smurfs. Immediately after they become Smurfs, the evil wizard puts them into his Smurfalator so he can carry out the rest of his plan.

Meanwhile Patrick, Victor, and the Smurfs work together to rescue Smurfette. The Smurfs are soon captured and put into the Smurfalator, powering Gargamel's "Wanda" (a large-sized dragon wand). Patrick and Victor arrive just in time to destroy the Smurfalator, causing the Smurf-created formula to be destroyed in blue pixie dust that in turn vanquishing the secret formula. Gargamel has gained enough power to use his new wand against the Smurfs and their allies. Vexy and Hackus team up with the Smurfs against their former master and use the new wand to blast him away. They become Smurfs and go back to the Smurf village while the Winslows go home. In the post credits, Gargamel is transported back to his old castle.

Neil Patrick Harris is great in anything he does and any movie he is in, and on a sad note it was Jonathan Winters last work. He returned for the voice of Papa Smurf. Winters died on April 11, 2013. The film was released on July 31, 2013 and dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Winters. It is always fun to see the Smurfs in action, and they were not the problems. The plot was. It was too complicated for young minds to grasp. My son had a great time seeing his first movie in a theater, but it's just that Smurfs II wasn't that smurfy of a movie...


Saturday, August 10, 2013


Concert and recording superstar Eydie Gormé, who – performing everything from ballads to bossa nova with singing partner and husband Steve Lawrence – made an indelible impression on American audiences during the swingin' '60s, died Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, her spokesman, Howard Bragman, tells the Associated Press. She was 84.

"Legendary singer and performer Eydie Gorme passed away peacefully today at Sunrise Hospital following a brief illness," Bragman said in a statement. "She was surrounded by her husband, son and other loved ones at the time of her death." In his own statement, Steve Lawrence said: "Eydie has been my partner on stage and in life for more than 55 years. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and even more the first time I heard her sing." He added: "While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time."

A favorite on The Ed Sullivan Show, in showrooms in the Catskills and in Las Vegas – where they married on Dec. 29, 1957, and later took up permanent residence – as well as on stages, including Carnegie Hall, Steve and Eydie, as they were known, sang popular hits of the day, including Broadway standards, and exchanged pointed personal banter – all of which their audiences ate up. A Gift for Languages and for Singing Born in the Bronx to a tailor originally from Sicily and a mother from Turkey, Gormé was a Sephardic Jew whose real name was Edith Garmezano. Spanish was spoken in the home, while at William Howard Taft High School she became the Taft Swing Band's lead female vocalist. Her gift for languages helped land her a job as a translator at the United Nations shortly after high-school graduation, and her mellifluous voice soon got her an audition with Tex Beneke's Big Band. A year's tour followed, as did a contract with Coral Records. She met Lawrence, a cantor's son (his original surname was Leibowitz), in September 1953 on Steve Allen's Tonight show. Booked for two weeks as the program's vocalist, she ended up staying five years. Lawrence was also a regular on the show, and the two were often paired in musical numbers and comic sketches.

Once married, in 1958 they had their own summer TV show, which was canceled after the one season because Lawrence was drafted into the Army. Gormé then performed in nightclubs around Washington, D.C., where he was stationed, and after his discharge in 1960, the "Steve and Eydie" act was born, as was their legend. So accustomed were the two to appearing together, that when Lawrence did a show by himself in 2009 – Gormé had retired and took up blogging on her and her husband's website – he told Newsday that it was strange. "It's also about the first time in 50 years I'll be able to finish a sentence without being interrupted." Not that they didn't have successes on their own. In 1962, Lawrence had his great hit, "Go Away Little Girl." A year later, Gormé scored on the Billboard charts with "Blame It on the Bossa Nova." The bouncy number made her an international star, and she became a Latin crossover artist when she began singing in Spanish the following year.

Gormé and Lawrence had two sons: David, and composer, and Michael, who died in 1986, at 23, from an undiagnosed heart condition. Steve and David Lawrence survive her, as does a granddaughter and generations of fans. "Services are pending and will be private," said Bragman. "A prolific 93 albums, 12 Emmys, 2 Grammys and innumerable national tours later, they're still singing together," The New York Times reported in 2004, when the two headliners performed to an appreciative crowd in Westbury, Long Island. The newspaper added: "At the end of a show that lasted nearly three hours, Ms. Gormé's sign-off, 'God bless us all,' prompted a standing ovation."



Friday, August 9, 2013


I missed this obituary from earlier in the year. The widow of Dennis Day died. She survived her famous husband by nearly 26 years...

Margaret McNulty also known as Peggy Day of Orange, California died February 1, 2013 at her home. Memorial Mass will be held at 10:00 a.m. Friday March 8th, at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Orange California. There will be a private burial at Holy Cross Cemetery. Shannon-Bryan Mortuary is assisting with the arrangements.

Peggy was born December 22, 1923 in Denver, Colorado to Arthur Almquist and Margaret Bahan of New York. She was a businesswoman. Peggy was predeceased by her husband Dennis Day the famous Irish tenor and one of the stars of the Jack Benny Show.

Peggy and Dennis were married on January 29, 1948. Dennis passed away in their Brentwood home in 1988. She is survived by her 10 children, 19 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and her brother Robert Almquist.

Peggy attended US Berkeley and USC. She entertained with beauty and grace and turned her passion for decorating into a successful gift shop business, The Old House in Santa Monica for over 17 years. Peggy moved to the island of Maui where she and Dennis had owned their second home. She continued to share her amazing talents during the holidays, decorating the Ritz Carlton Hotel and opened her own home for a successful "Old House Collections Christmas Show". She also helped her daughter Eileen establish her day spa, "Savage Hair and Body Treatments".

After spending 17 years in Maui, Peggy returned to the mainland in 2006 and settled in Orange County. Her passion and talents continued to flourish with lending her daughter, Mary a helping hand to re-establish her gift shop, "The Red-Eyed Grasshopper," currently open in Orange CA...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


This excellent article on Glenn Miller's most famous recording and theme song is taken from the excellent site: The Geezer Music Club.

Miller’s theme song is one of the most familiar sounds from the big band era, but “Moonlight Serenade” actually evolved from an earlier Miller melody, one that went by the awkward title “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep.” It had been written by Miller around 1935 and over the next few years went through some rewrites, a couple of name changes, and more than one set of lyrics. It finally showed up as an instrumental named “Moonlight Serenade” on the ‘B’ side of Miller’s 1939 recording of “Sunrise Serenade.” It was mostly meant to be a similarly-named complement to the ‘A’ side, but it had something special going for it — and therein lies a story.

Whether you choose to believe the scene from the 1954 movie The Glenn Miller Story doesn’t really matter, because the fact remains that the song did showcase what became known as the Glenn Miller Style — a clarinet-led, sax-driven, amazingly smooth sound that fans absolutely loved. The record became a best-seller and the song would forever be identified with Glenn Miller, but it didn’t take long for some of Miller’s contemporaries to start edging in — a common practice in the big band era. That same year, Count Basie recorded the song but his version had lyrics added, which brings up another interesting story.

Although “Moonlight Serenade” had gone through various sets of lyrics during its stages of evolution, and was occasionally performed as a vocal, it was mostly known as an instrumental. In fact, an earlier scene in The Glenn Miller Story shows him being unhappy at hearing a speeded-up vocal of the song performed in a night club. But it was performed as a vocal from time to time, and in 1965 a lot of publicity was generated by the song’s inclusion on Frank Sinatra’s new album, Moonlight Sinatra. In the years since it’s been recorded by countless artists — as both instrumental and vocal — and has also shown up on dozens of TV and movie soundtracks.


Monday, August 5, 2013


I recently rewatched a bunch of  "Twilight Zone" episodes on television, and I caught one that I hadn't seen before. It featured an actor I have seen before but could not place where. The actor is Richard Haydn, and I have seen him in everything from a Bing Crosby movie to co-starring role in The Sound Of Music (1965). I had to learn more about him, so this is what I found out. He was born George Richard Haydon March 10, 1910 in London, he was known for playing eccentric characters, such as Edwin Carp, Claud Curdle, Richard Rancyd and Stanley Stayle. Much of his stage delivery was done in a deliberate over-nasalized and over-enunciated manner. He was possibly best noted in his performance as the voice of the Caterpillar in the 1951 Disney animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Haydn was particularly memorable as the manservant Rogers in the 1945 adaptation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

Richard Haydn had a laborious start to his show business career, selling tickets in the box office of London's Daly Theatre. This was followed by an unsuccessful stint with a comedy act in musical revue. For a change of pace, he became overseer of a Jamaican banana plantation only to see it wiped out by a hurricane. Returning home, he appeared in the 1926 West End production of 'Betty of Mayfair' and, soon after, also began to act on radio. It was in this medium, where he first found success, creating his signature character, the perpetually befuddled nasally-voiced fish expert and mother's boy Edwin Carp. Haydn later immortalised the character in a book, The Journal of Edwin Carp.

The Carp routine opened the door for Haydn to appear with Beatrice Lillie on Broadway in Noel Coward's 'Set to Music' (1939) and this, in turn, resulted in a contract with 20th Century Fox. While his screen debut in Charley's Aunt (1941) was relatively straight-laced, he was more often seen in comedic roles where his lugubrious face and dignified, sometimes unctuous presence could be employed to scene-stealing effect. His notable characterisations in this vein include the over-enunciating Professor Oddly in Ball of Fire (1941), Rogers the butler in And Then There Were None (1945) and Mr. Wilson in Cluny Brown (1946). He essayed a rare villainous role as the odious Earl of Radcliffe in the period drama Forever Amber (1947) and was back in his best form as Mr.Appleton in Sitting Pretty (1948). In The Late George Apley (1947), he played the character of Horatio Willing, 'with a broad edge of wheezy burlesque' (Bosley Crowther, New York Times, March 21 1947). In the late 40's, Haydn made a brief foray into directing. Of his three films for Paramount, the Bing Crosby vehicle Mr. Music (1950) enjoyed the best critical reviews. He also appeared with Crosby in The Emperor Waltz (1948) as Emperor Franz-Josef.

Haydn usually performed as a nasally odd ball character. However, he basically played it straight as the family friend of the Trapp family in The Sound Of Music (1965). It was his most acclaimed role which he played the von Trapps' family friend Max Detweiler. In the film he plays an amusing opportunist Jew, who is good friends with both the baroness and the Captain. His role was based on Father Franz Wasner, who, in the real life von Trapp story, became a life long family friend, as well as composer, conductor and arranger for The von Trapp Family Choir. Max is one of very few people who call the Captain by his first name, Georg. Max is looking for a new act for The Salzburg Music Festival, and is the person who encourages the Captain to let his children sing on stage.

He moved on to television in the 1960s, but he was lured back to Hollywood for another movie classic - a Mel Brooks comedy. In the classic comedy Young Frankenstein (1974), he played solicitor Herr Falkstein. According to the DVD commentary of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks said that Haydn used gardening and horticulture as a means of escape from the Hollywood grind and eschewed the Hollywood lifestyle.

In the Twilight Zone episode "A Thing About Machines", he portrayed Mr. Bartlett Finchley, a quirky, self-absorbed, technophobe who is confronted by every machine in his home. On 1 April 1964, he reprised the Edwin Carp character, a poet and an expert on fish, in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show which saluted several old-time radio performers. On 11 April 1968 he appeared as a Japanese businessman on an episode of Bewitched entitled "A Majority of Two".

Richard Haydn never married but he was engaged to Marlene Dietrich's daughter briefly in the 1940s. Pretty much a recluse, Haydn died after a heart attack on April 25, 1985 in Los Angeles, California...

Sunday, August 4, 2013


My long suffering wife celebrates her birthday on August 4th. I wanted to see who she shared a birthday with. The little lady is lucky enough to share her birthday with Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. They were born more than seventy five years apart, and apart from the birthdate they have very little in common. However, they both can relax me with their voices alone!

Armstrong often stated that he was born on July 4, 1900, a date that has been noted in many biographies. Although he died in 1971, it was not until the mid-1980s that his true birth date of August 4, 1901 was discovered by researcher Tad Jones through the examination of baptismal records. Armstrong was born into a very poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana, the grandson of slaves. He spent his youth in poverty, in a rough neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans, known as “Back of the Town”, as his father, William Armstrong (1881–1922), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant and took up with another woman. His mother, Mary "Mayann" Albert (1886–1942), then left Louis and his younger sister Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987) in the care of his grandmother, Josephine Armstrong, and at times, his Uncle Isaac. At five, he moved back to live with his mother and her relatives, and saw his father only in parades.

He attended the Fisk School for Boys, where he likely had early exposure to music. He brought in some money as a paperboy and also by finding discarded food and selling it to restaurants, but it was not enough to keep his mother from prostitution. He hung out in dance halls close to home, where he observed everything from licentious dancing to the quadrille. For extra money he also hauled coal to Storyville, the famed red-light district, and listened to the bands playing in the brothels and dance halls, especially Pete Lala's where Joe "King" Oliver performed and other famous musicians would drop in to jam.

After dropping out of the Fisk School at age eleven, Armstrong joined a quartet of boys who sang in the streets for money. But he also started to get into trouble. Cornet player Bunk Johnson said he taught Armstrong (then 11) to play by ear at Dago Tony's Tonk in New Orleans, although in his later years Armstrong gave the credit to Oliver. Armstrong hardly looked back at his youth as the worst of times but instead drew inspiration from it, “Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans... It has given me something to live for.”

He also worked for a Lithuanian-Jewish immigrant family, the Karnofskys, who had a junk hauling business and gave him odd jobs. They took him in and treated him as almost a family member, knowing he lived without a father, and would feed and nurture him. He later wrote a memoir of his relationship with the Karnofskys titled, Louis Armstrong + the Jewish Family in New Orleans, La., the Year of 1907. In it he describes his discovery that this family was also subject to discrimination by "other white folks' nationalities who felt that they were better than the Jewish race... I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the White Folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for." Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life and wrote about what he learned from them: "how to live—real life and determination". The influence of Karnofsky is remembered in New Orleans by the Karnofsky Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to accepting donated musical instruments to "put them into the hands of an eager child who could not otherwise take part in a wonderful learning experience."

Armstrong with his first trumpet instructor, Peter Davis, in 1965.Armstrong developed his cornet playing seriously in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where he had been sent multiple times for general delinquency, most notably for a long term after firing his stepfather's pistol into the air at a New Year's Eve celebration, as police records confirm. Professor Peter Davis (who frequently appeared at the Home at the request of its administrator, Captain Joseph Jones) instilled discipline in and provided musical training to the otherwise self-taught Armstrong. Eventually, Davis made Armstrong the band leader. The Home band played around New Orleans and the thirteen-year-old Louis began to draw attention by his cornet playing, starting him on a musical career. At fourteen he was released from the Home, living again with his father and new stepmother and then back with his mother and also back to the streets and their temptations. Armstrong got his first dance hall job at Henry Ponce’s where Black Benny became his protector and guide. He hauled coal by day and played his cornet at night.

He played in the city's frequent brass band parades and listened to older musicians every chance he got, learning from Bunk Johnson, Buddy Petit, Kid Ory, and above all, Joe "King" Oliver, who acted as a mentor and father figure to the young musician. Later, he played in the brass bands and riverboats of New Orleans, and began traveling with the well-regarded band of Fate Marable, which toured on a steamboat up and down the Mississippi River. He described his time with Marable as, "going to the University," since it gave him a much wider experience working with written arrangements.

In 1919, Joe Oliver decided to go north and resigned his position in Kid Ory's band; Armstrong replaced him. He also became second trumpet for the Tuxedo Brass Band, a society band. The rest is sweet musical history, and Armstrong would continue a exciting and monumental jazz career for the next fifty years...

Friday, August 2, 2013


Thirty one years ago this past month, a Hollywood star was decapitated while shooting a scene for a movie. The actor was Vic Morrow, the veteran star of the TV series Combat. He was killed, along with child actors Renee Chen and Myca Dinh Le, by a falling helicopter during filming of The Twilight Zone, a feature-length adaptation of Rod Serling’s television series.

Morrow played a bigot who skipped through time getting a taste of his own medicine. In the scene that would prove fatal, he was earning some Serling-style redemption by trying to rescue a pair of Vietnamese children from an American air raid. Mainly, the setup was an excuse for director John Landis to capture immense explosions on film.

At the controls of the helicopter that was “bombing” the village was Dorcey Wingo, an actual Vietnam veteran. Wingo was new to the movie business, so even when the rehearsal explosions that buffeted his chopper scared him witless, he swallowed his concerns, especially as Landis, who had a reputation for being dictatorial on set, screamed expletives into the California night. (The shooting was taking place at a disused motorcycle track at Indian Dunes Park, a few miles north of Los Angeles.)

When the cameras rolled, pyrotechnic fireballs engulfed Wingo’s helicopter, forcing him down into a river where the actors waded. As a hundred or so people looked on, the right skid of the aircraft crushed 6-year-old Renee, who was a few feet from Morrow (the aging star had dropped her). The helicopter then toppled over, and its main blade sliced through Morrow and 7-year-old Myca. According to Stephen Farber and Marc Green’s exhaustive book on the incident, Outrageous Conduct, there was shocked silence until Renee’s mother started shrieking as she kneeled over her daughter’s lifeless body. Morrow never got to deliver his scripted line: “I’ll keep you safe, kids. I promise. Nothing will hurt you, I swear to God.”

Civil suits against the studio and Landis were settled, but Warner Bros., Landis, Wingo, and three others couldn’t avoid criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the tragedy. The defendants freely admitted that the production broke child labor laws, but they maintained that the crash was an unavoidable accident. After three years of legal wrangling, the suit finally went to trial in L.A. in 1985. Despite an emotional bit of prosecution by Deputy District Attorney Lee D’Agostino—she theatrically offered Landis tissues after he teared up during his testimony, hissed “murderer” at him in full view of reporters when he happened to walk past outside the courtroom, and summed up her case by booming, “It isn’t that John Landis decided to violate the law, it’s that he thinks he’s above it!”—she failed to win a conviction. Landis and his co-defendants were acquitted of serious charges, and the director went on to make Coming to America, a hit that put the tragedy in his rearview mirror.

Terrible as the Twilight Zone accident was, some good did come of it. At Warner Bros., a behind-the-scenes revolution was set in motion, as a vice president named John Silvia was determined to tighten up the industry’s approach to safety. Silvia convened a committee that created standards for every aspect of filmmaking, from gunfire to fixed-wing aircraft to smoke and pyrotechnics. All the unions and guilds in the business were represented. “It was like lawmaking,” says Chris Palmer, a risk-management consultant who was part of the committee. “The committee had to parse words like ‘would, shall, and must’ because of the possibility of negligence lawsuits overtaking Hollywood if they were too strict in the wording.” The committee’s codicils were collected into a group of standards called Safety Bulletins. The studios then issued a manual to their employees based on the bulletins, known as the Injury and Illness Prevention Program...