Tuesday, October 29, 2019

COMING SOON: CLASSIC CHRISTMAS ON PBS

With Halloween just about over, and Thanksgiving is mostly an eating holiday, let's focus on Christmas. Here's a new PBS special which will showcase Christmas music, just like the ones we used to know...



CLASSIC CHRISTMAS (MY MUSIC)
Premieres Beginning Saturday, November 16 on PBS Stations

Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross Host A Nostalgic Celebration of Traditional Carols and Popular Holiday Standards Performed By Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, The Carpenters and Other Legends of Song.

There’s nothing more joyful and heartwarming than the familiar songs of the Yuletide season. Old-fashioned favorites celebrated through the generations performed by legendary artists are featured in A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS (MY MUSIC), part of special programming premiering on PBS stations beginning Saturday, November 16, 2019, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Hosted by Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) and Marion Ross (Happy Days), this nostalgic special spotlights traditional carols (“Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”) as well as popular standards (“White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”), children’s tunes (“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”) and romantic selections (“The Christmas Song,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Merry Christmas Darling”).

Among the great artists featured in rare, archival footage from the 1950s through the 1970s are Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, The Carpenters, Andy Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, Gene Autry, Brenda Lee, Burl Ives, Mitzi Gaynor, The Beach Boys, The Lennon Sisters, Eddy Arnold, Mahalia Jackson, The Harry Simeone Chorale, Jimmy Boyd, Jose Feliciano, The Drifters and, in an all-new performance, Ronnie Spector.

For the first-time ever, these iconic singers and timeless performances spanning the decades are brought together in a festive special for families of all ages to share and enjoy...


Monday, October 28, 2019

CRAIG ROBERTS AND SWING STREET RADIO

Surrounded by shelves containing vintage recordings and a desk filled with various radio broadcasting apparatus, Craig Roberts gestured toward a stack of 78RPM records, “there sits some rare Ella Fitzgerald recordings for our 100th birthday tribute to the Queen of Jazz!”, he said with obvious pride. Roberts, who says his age is “the same as Jack Benny- perpetually 39!” has been collecting rare and vintage big band, swing and early jazz recordings for over 40 years. He recently brought together a group of other fans of music of the swing era to form the ‘Swing & Big Band Preservation Society’, and launched the non-profit organization’s web site called ‘Swing Street Radio’ (www.SwingStreetRadio.org). “These recordings were quickly being lost to time and had to be preserved”, explained Roberts. “So far, we have assembled over 15,000 rare and vintage recordings from the big band era, and are in the process of digitizing, restoring and preserving this great music for future generations.”

As a young boy, Roberts loved to visit his grandmother’s home, where he ventured into his father’s childhood bedroom to discover a collection of 78RPM records. “I played them hours on end. I literally grew up listening to Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and vocal groups like the Mills Brothers.” As a young adult, Roberts followed his passion into radio, where he has served as a program director, talk show host and engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area for some 39 years.

The eventual marriage of Craig’s passion for radio and love of big band and swing music seemed inevitable. “My first job in radio, I anchored live coverage of city council meetings. During the breaks, I would play Glenn Miller tunes to fill the time” explained Roberts. “Soon after, I was given a weekly time slot to showcase this wonderful music.” Early in his career, Roberts worked with Artie Shaw, Tex Beneke and Maxine Andrews of the Andrews Sisters. He produced San Francisco big band leader Del Courtney’s New Year’s Eve show for CBS Radio. 

Del Courtney (1910-2006)

“There is an entire generation that knows nothing about the tremendous role early jazz and swing music contributed to the morale of the Allied Forces and their families back home during the Second World War, and how the music of that period continues to impact popular music to this very day” says Roberts. “Our goal is to not only preserve and promote this great music to new generations, but to foster appreciation for the ‘trail blazers’ of the period.” Roberts considers the big band era ‘the golden age of popular music’.

All of the original big band artists heard on Swing Street Radio come from the organization’s carefully restored digital copies of fragile 78RPM records, or rare radio station transcriptions. “We are fortunate to have several career broadcasters involved in our efforts, so we not only maintain professional quality in our programming, but enjoy some outstanding radio voices as well”, said Roberts who hosts ‘Swing Street Ballroom’ each week on the station.

Periodically, the station offers tributes to specific artists, live performance recordings and even airs old time radio shows for an hour each weekday evening during their syndicated ‘Radio Yesteryear’ program. In addition to the full time music stream that features well-known names of American & British big bands, Swing Street Radio’s website provides extensive artist biographies, a global “current events” calendar, and news from the world of swing and big band.

FOR MORE INFO PLEASE CHECK OUT:  www.SwingStreetRadio.org.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

PHOTOS OF THE DAY: A CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD HALLOWEEN

I love looking at vintage pictures of Hollywood stars at the holidays. My favorites I think are the photos from Halloween. I spotlighted them in 2012 and 2014 so it's been awhile. Here are some classic Hollywood pics celebrating Halloween...


Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis

Jeanne Crain

Jimmy Durante

Clark Gable and Marion Davies

Linda Darnell

Cyd Charisse

A CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD HALLOWEEN (2012)

A CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD HALLOWEEN (2014)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

FORGOTTEN ONES: VIRGINIA O'BRIEN

MGM often boasted that they had "more stars than there are in the heavens' and they were truly right. However for every Judy Garland or Gene Kelly that they had at the studio, they also had "smaller stars" that might night have shined as bright as the others, but nevertheless were worth watching. Singer and actress Virginia O'Brien was one of those stars. Born in 1919, O'Brien might not be remember much 100 years later, but she really added a lot to film musicals of the 1940s.

O'Brien primarily performed in comedic roles during the height of her formal film career. This was in part due to her intentionally humorous singing style, which involved her singing in a deadpan manner, with no facial expressions and very little movement– reportedly she stumbled upon this "gimmick" by accident during a stage show when she became virtually paralyzed with stage fright before singing a number in the Los Angeles stage production Meet the People. The audience found the performance to be hilarious and she was soon hired to repeat this performance in a number of movies beginning in 1940, for which she gained the nicknames "Frozen Face" and "Miss Ice Glacier" amongst others. When she wasn't singing, her acting style was just as emotive as other actresses, and she didn't always employ her gimmick when singing, as evidenced by her performance in the excerpt from Show Boat in the 1946 film Till the Clouds Roll By. She made her Broadway debut in the short-lived musical Keep Off The Grass with Jimmy Durante, and recorded four of the songs for Columbia Records. She also recorded several sides for Decca Records, including two of her signature songs – "The Wild, Wild West" and "Say We're Sweethearts Again."


Among the films she appeared in during her time at MGM were The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers, Lady Be Good (1941) and Ship Ahoy (1942) with Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton, Thousands Cheer (in which she endured ribbing from Mickey Rooney about her singing style), Du Barry Was a Lady (with Skelton and Lucille Ball), the film version of Meet the People with Dick Powell, and The Harvey Girls (with Judy Garland). During the filming of Harvey Girls, Virginia got pregnant with one of her children, and as a result she disappeared from the movie halfway through the film. Only fans of Virginia would know she was gone!

 After appearing once again with Red Skelton in 1947's Merton of the Movies, and after a guest appearance the following year in the short Musical Merry-Go-Round, O'Brien was suddenly dropped from her MGM film contract and she moved into television and back to live performances.


She made two film appearances after this: Francis in the Navy (1955) and a brief appearance in the 1976 Walt Disney Studios comedy, Gus. She was among the stars in a 1972 nostalgia revue entitled The Big Show of 1928 with Allan Jones, Cass Daley, Beatrice Kay and Sally Rand, which toured the country and played New York's Madison Square Garden. In 1984, she created a cabaret act, "Virginia O'Brien Salutes the Great MGM Musicals", which was recorded at the Masquer's Club in Hollywood, and is currently available on CD. She continued to perform well into the 1990s with both her one-woman show and a production of Show Boat co-starring Alan Young, and also headlined The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies.

She died aged 81 at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California from natural causes. She is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.She is survived by three daughters, Terri O'Brien, Liz Watkins and Gale Evans; a son, John Feggo; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren...


Saturday, October 19, 2019

MY GRANDFATHER WAS BUD ABBOTT


Most of you don't know me, but I'm Bud Abbott's first grandchild. My grandfather was retired when I was born, yet everyone still knew who he was.

When my mom (his daughter, Vickie) was in labor with me, my grandfather came to the hospital. He was having fun flirting with the nurses as everyone awaited my arrival. That was at a time when family was not allowed into the birthing room. My grandfather and dad had to wait in the waiting room and began celebrating by drinking Vodka out of styrofoam cups. When I finally entered the world, my grandfather handed out cigars. I'm named Jennie Mae after my grandmother, Bud's wife. And thus, is the start of my life as Bud Abbott's granddaughter.

I never looked at him as being famous. He was simply grandfather to me and my younger brother and sister. As I grew up, I remember spending time and staying over with my grandparents. With grandfather being retired, he was home and loved to kid around. His favorite was for me to try and kiss him on his cheek when he hadn't shaved. I also remember him having a favorite chair in the living room. Here he would sit and smoke his cigarettes that were attached to a long black cigarette holder. He had a table that went with the chair. It was here where he would autograph his pictures for fans.


I was told who grandfather was. You could see his entire career in their home. In the living room was a beautiful piano along with antique furniture. The walls had individual paintings of grandfather, my grandmother, mom and my Uncle Bud. In one of the extra bedrooms, this was considered as one of my grandfather's wardrobe rooms where he kept all of his suits and wardrobe from his films. But, my favorite room was where they had the one-arm bandit slot machine! As kids we would always win a few quarters and grandfather thought the machine was rigged so that we'd win. I also recall the pool that had a blue dolphin painted on the bottom. He loved to go outside to sit and watch me swim.

My grandfather was also a quiet man, but could kid at a moment's notice. He was very much loved by his family, and is still missed today. As an adult, I followed in my grandfather's footsteps and into the entertainment business. I've had the pleasure of working at all the major studios, including their home studio, Universal, of which has a building named after Abbott and Costello.

Very few men could be a straight man. Bud Abbott was the best. Many in the industry looked up to him, including contemporaries such as Jerry Seinfeld. Al Roker from the "Today Show," a fan of the team, will break out in a routine when you least expect it. You'll see from time to time their routines incorporated into today's TV shows, and in films, such as "Rain Man" (1988). Even two alien pods in the 2016 film, "Arrival" were named "Abbott" and "Costello." 

 
From radio, films and TV you can see how my grandfather's timing never failed. His timing was impeccable, and if he did break from the routine, it was due to both of them laughing.

My mom will one day pass the torch to the next generation --- me, my brother and sister. Our goal is to continually protect our grandfather's image and continue the Abbott and Costello legacy. Our goal is for the next generation and generations to follow to know and appreciate the comedic talents of Abbott and Costello. And not just for their comedy, but also for their humanitarian efforts in helping those in need, and the love they had for their fans and family.

My grandfather was a masterful straight man. But he was also a family man, and a man we continue to love and miss each day...



Friday, October 18, 2019

RIP: BILL MACY

Bill Macy, who played the frustrated husband Walter Findlay opposite Bea Arthur on the hit 1970s sitcom Maude, has died. He was 97.

Macy, who also portrayed Sy Benson, the head writer of a 1950s sketch comedy show, in the classic My Favorite Year (1982), died Thursday night in Los Angeles at 7:13 p.m. local time, producer and manager Matt Beckoff told The Hollywood Reporter. He had been a great character actor for over 40 years.

Macy also stood out as the weaselly Charlie Hatter, an old pal of Art Carney's aging detective character, in Robert Benton's The Late Show (1977), and his Stan Fox helped Steve Martin's Navin R. Johnson bring the (ultimately flawed) eyeglass invention the Opti-Grab to market in Carl Reiner's The Jerk (1979).

Born May 18, 1922 in Revere, Mass., Macy was raised in Brooklyn and attended Samuel J. Tilden High School. He drove a taxi for a decade to make ends meet, and in 1958, he landed a role on Broadway as the understudy to Walter Matthau in Once More, With Feeling, also starring Joseph Cotten.


In a 1998 interview with the Archive of American Television, Lear said that he "first saw Bill Macy choking on a chicken bone in an off-Broadway play…it took seven minutes; it was a tour de force." The producer brought him out to Hollywood, where he got a few lines as a cop on an episode of All in the Family and then the life-changing Maude role.

Macy also appeared on such series as St. Elsewhere, The Facts of Life, NYPD Blue, Seinfeld and My Name Is Earl, and in films including Serial (1980), Movers & Shakers (1985) — that one with Matthau — Analyze This (1999) and Surviving Christmas (2004).


My Favorite Year was executive produced by Mel Brooks, who based the film on his experiences as a writer on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Several characters in the movie were modeled after real people, so a case could be made that Macy played a version of head writer Mel Tolkin.

Survivors include his wife since 1975, actress Samantha Harper, a regular on another Lear show, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. They met in the late '60s when both were in the original Broadway production of the zesty Oh! Calcutta!

He retired from performing in 2010...


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS: EDDIE CANTOR

Here is an interesting newspaper article. This sad clipping is in regards to the death of Eddie Cantor. It is taken from the Desert Sun of October 12, 1964 - some 55 years ago...






Friday, October 11, 2019

ON THIS DAY: OCTOBER 11

On this day in entertainment history...



1939: Actor Jackie Coogan (24) divorces actress Betty Grable (22) after 2 years of marriage.


1944: "Laura" directed by Otto Preminger starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews is released in NYC, New York.


1950: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission issues the first license to broadcast television in color, to CBS.


1961: Leonard "Chico" Marx, comedian (Marx Brothers), dies at 74.


1975: "Saturday Night Live" created by Lorne Michaels premieres on NBC with George Carlin as host.


1991: Redd Foxx, American comedian (Sanford & Sons), dies of heart attack at 68.



Monday, October 7, 2019

Friday, October 4, 2019

RIP: DIAHANN CARROLL

Singer and Tony-winning, Oscar-nominated actress Diahann Carroll, the first African American woman to star in her own TV series, has died at at her home in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer. She was 84.

Carroll is perhaps best remembered by younger audiences for her role as the conniving Dominique Deveraux on the nighttime soap “Dynasty” in the mid-’80s. But her first major television assignment was starring as the middle-class single mother Julia in a 1968 sitcom that was praised for featuring an African American in the title role as much as it was criticized for ignoring the civil rights struggle. The series, which ran for three years, was a trailblazer in leading to greater visibility for African American characters on series television.

The actress characterized by svelte cosmopolitan sophistication had come to television via the musical theater. In the early 1960s she won a Tony as the star of Richard Rodgers’ musical “No Strings”; the role had been written especially for her. Carroll had previously been featured in supporting roles in such films as Carmen Jones and Porgy And Bess. She was only the fourth black actress to be nominated for the best actress Oscar, for the 1974 romantic drama Claudine.

Despite her great beauty and undeniable talents as a performer, Carroll sometimes struggled to find roles. When once asked why she did little film work after “Claudine,” she replied incredulously, “Have you seen another film script with a starring role with the character of Claudine? I haven’t.” She told another reporter, “I’m sometimes amazed at how few people realize what it takes for a black woman to survive in this business.”


Carroll made her Broadway debut at age 19 in the Harold Arlen musical “House of Flowers,” and though it was short-lived, Carroll’s notices brought her substantial attention and led to her first movie role in Carmen Jones. It would be followed by a role in the 1959 film version of  Porgy And Bess. Carroll made her TV debut on “The Red Skelton Show” and appeared on other variety programs fronted by Steve Allen, Garry Moore, Jack Paar and Danny Kaye, as well as on “The Ed Sulivan Show.” She acted in TV dramas including “Peter Gunn” and “Naked City.”

Her early recordings include “Porgy and Bess” with the Andre Previn Trio, “Diahann Carroll Sings Harold Arlen,” “Best Beat Forward” and “Showstopper.” Later recordings include her 1978 tribute to Ethel Waters and 1997’s “The Time of My Life.”

Her dramatic film debut came in 1960 in Paris Blues opposite Sidney Poitier, followed by a small role in the French drama Goodbye Again.

After having seen her in House of Flowers, songwriter Richard Rodgers promised he would one day write a vehicle for Carroll. That turned out to be “No Strings,” the 1962 musical about an interracial romance between a writer and a fashion model.


“Miss Carroll brings glowing personal beauty to the role of the model and her singing captures many moods,” the New York Times said. For her work Carroll picked up the Tony as best actress in a musical.

In between concert and nightclub appearances, Carroll appeared in such film dramas as 1967’s “Hurry Sundown” and “The Split,” made the following year. Then in 1968 she starred in the series “Julia,” a first for an African American actress, following in the footsteps of Bill Cosby a few short years earlier in “I Spy.” Premiering at the height of the civil rights struggle, “Julia,” with its decidedly apolitical, middle class heroine, was attacked by militants for being too lenient to the white community. But Carroll persevered, and the series proved popular in its three-season run, opening doors to other series led by African Americans.

The 1974 feature Claudine which co-starred James Earl Jones, was another rarity, a role for a strong, independent African American woman with deep roots in family. Her work brought Carroll an Oscar nomination as best actress.

Several TV movies followed over the next decade including “Death Scream,” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” “Sister, Sister,” “Murder in Black and White,” “From the Dead of Night” and miniseries “Roots: The Next Generation.”


She returned to the bigscreen in 1991 for an appearance in musical film “The Five Heartbeats” and again in 1997 for the well-regarded drama “Eve’s Bayou.”

Carroll also occupied herself with theater projects including “Agnes of God” on Broadway in 1982 and “Same Time, Next Year” in Los Angeles; she starred as Norma Desmond in the Toronto production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” in 1995.

Notable telepics later in her career included “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” alongside Ruby Dee, and “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal.”

Carroll recurred on series including “A Different World” (drawing an Emmy nomination in 1989), “Lonesome Dove: The Series,” “Grey’s Anatomy” (picking up another Emmy nom in 2008), “Diary of a Single Mom” and on USA’s “White Collar” as June Ellington.


Carroll made her first New York nightclub appearance in 40 years with the 2006 offering “The Life and Times of Diahann Carroll,” drawing an ecstatic review from the New York Times: “An astonishingly youthful and glamorous 70-year-old grandmother, she presents herself as a down-to-earth realist about the joys and rigors of show business. … Her air of casually worn grandeur only enhances the unpretentious honesty of her recollections.”

In 2010 she appeared, along with a number of other notable women, in the breast cancer documentary “1 a Minute.”

She appeared in the Tina Gordon Chism-helmed film “Peeples” in 2013.

Carroll was married four times, to talent manager and music producer Monte Kay, retailer Fred Glusman, editor Robert DeLeon and singer Vic Damone. Survivors include a daughter, Suzanne Kay, a journalist and screenwriter, and two grandchildren, August and Sydney...


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

DEATH OF BUDDY CLARK - 70 YEARS LATER

Here is the newspaper report from October 12, 1949, which detailed the sad and untimely death of Buddy Clark...

LOS ANGELES - (U.P.) - Singer Buddy Clark changed seats with another passenger only a few minutes before a plane crashed on a busy Los Angeles boulevard, killing the $l00,000-a-year crooner, newscaster Sam Hayes testified at a coroner’s inquest yesterday. 

The coroner’s jury ruled Clark’s death was accidental but the plane’s pilot contributed to the accident by acting "with a lack of care and caution.” Clark died of a fractured skull at a receiving hospital Oct. 1, shortly after the chartered cabin plane crashed. Four other passengers and the pilot, Jim Hayter, were injured in the crackup.

 Hayes, who suffered head injuries, said the 37-year-old singer moved into a window seat occupied by radio executive Frank (Bud) Berend just before Hayter attempted a forced landing on Beverly boulevard. Hayes said he chartered the four passenger plane from the Mercer Flying Service which assured him the ship could safely carry five passengers in addition to the pilot because there was no baggage...