Wednesday, September 30, 2020

COMING SOON: BING CROSBY WEEK

On October 14, it will mark 43 years since Bing Crosby died on the golf course in Spain. It is amazing how the years have flown by. To commemorate his sad passing, we are going to have a week of music breaks in his honor from October 10 through October 16.

On October 14, we will play the last song Bing ever recorded - the touching Once In A While. Join me and let's pay tribute to the greatest entertainer of the modern age - Bing Crosby...


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

RIP: HELEN REDDY

Australian singer Helen Reddy, who became a global superstar on the back of her hit I Am Woman, has died in Los Angeles at the age of 78.

Her children, Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers, confirmed her death in a statement on Reddy's official Facebook page on Wednesday morning.

"It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen Reddy, on the afternoon of September 29th 2020 in Los Angeles," they wrote.

"She was a wonderful Mother, Grandmother and a truly formidable woman. Our hearts are broken. But we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever."

Earlier, Sommers posted a picture with his mother captioned with three purple hearts.

The Melbourne-born Reddy, whose trailblazing life was dramatised in the recent bio-pic I Am Woman, was regarded as the queen of 1970s pop with her hits including Delta Dawn, Angie Baby, Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) and Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady.

After arriving in New York as a 24-year-old single mother of a three-year-old with just over $US200 to her name, she overcame years of struggle in the US to become the world's top-selling female singer in 1973 and 1974.


She won a Grammy for I Am Woman, had her own weekly prime-time television variety show and branched into an acting career on screen and stage that included a Golden Globe nomination for Airport 1975.

Reddy was born into a show business family in 1941 and began performing as a child. In 1966, she won a singing competition on the television show Bandstand to travel to New York and audition for a recording contract. When that opportunity vanished on arriving, she stayed - after a brief diversion to Canada for visa reasons - in the US.

After marrying Jeff Wald, who was her manager, Reddy's recording career initially took off with the B-side to her second single - a cover of I Don't Know How To Love Him from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar - becoming a moderate chart success.

She went on to have three number one hits and another dozen songs in the US top 40.

It was 1972's I Am Woman - she wrote the empowering lyrics ("I am woman, hear me roar/ In numbers too big to ignore") with Australian singer-songwriter and friend Ray Burton providing the music - that became her enduring legacy.

At a time when a woman could not get a credit card or a mortgage in her own name, Reddy emerged to become one of the world's highest paid entertainers.

Diagnosed with dementia in 2015, she had been living in a nursing home for retired Hollywood talents in Los Angeles...



HEALTHWATCH: STELLA STEVENS

Stella Stevens was Jerry Lewis' leading lady in the classic The Nutty Professor (1963) and was trapped on a capsized boat in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), but today some decades later the beautiful Stella Stevens is suffering in a nursing home from the effects of dementia. 

In 1983, Stevens began a long-term relationship with rock guitarist Bob Kulick; for many years they shared Stevens’ Beverly Hills home. Unfortunately, he died in May of 2020. In 2005, Stevens received the Reel Cowboys Silver Spur Award for her contributions to the Western genre. According to American Media.

Kulick was forced to place Ms. Stevens in a nursing home when she began having difficulty talking nearly six years ago. They reported that her friend said, “It’s horrible to see a woman, once so vibrant, have to struggle to even string a simple sentence together.”

According to that story, Stella was placed in a facility in Los Angeles that specializes in carting for people with memory issues. “The disease has taken a terrible toll on her.”


Her rocker-boyfriend Bob Kulick could no longer give her the care she needed. “Watching Stella became a 24 hour-a-day job for Bob. However, he still came back often to L.A. to visit her.”

Stella’s home in Beverly Hills in 1965 was sold in March of 2016 for $1.25 million and she then moved into a $10,000 a month long-term care facility. “Stella’s family did not want her walking out the front door and wandering out in traffic. If she left, she would most likely not be able to find her way back.”

Stella Stevens, who is now 81 has one son - Andrew, who is 65. Stella made her last movie in 2010...



Saturday, September 26, 2020

HISTORY OF A SONG: GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

One of my favorite song of the 1970s, is this different song "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". There is something about it I have always loved. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is a ballad performed by musician Elton John. Lyrics for the song were written by Bernie Taupin and the music composed by John for his album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Its musical style and production were heavily influenced by 1970s soft rock. It was widely praised by critics, and some critics have named it John's best song.

The song was released in 1973 as the album's second single, and entered the Top Ten in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It was one of John's biggest hits, and surpassed the previous single, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", in sales and popularity quickly following its release. In the US, it was certified Gold on 4 January 1974 and Platinum on 13 September 1995 by the RIAA.


The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends are instructed to follow the yellow brick road in search of the Wizard of Oz, only to find that they had what they were looking for all along. The road leads to the Emerald City in the land of Oz, often referred to as a metaphor for "The road that leads to life's fantasies" or "The road that leads to life's answers." The lyrics describe wanting to go back to a simpler existence after living what the narrator thought was the good life, but realizing they had simply been treated like a pet.

The Wizard of Oz was reportedly the first film that Elton John's songwriting partner Bernie Taupin had ever seen, and he used the imagery in the lyrics relating to his own life as his desire to "get back to [his] roots.


John's One Night Only: The Greatest Hits Live at Madison Square Garden had this song done as a duet with Billy Joel.This is my favorite version. Billy Joel really makes the song his own, and I prefer it to the original recording that Elton did.

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" is still regularly included in John's live performances, although since 1997 he has transposed the key of the song downward (from F major to E-flat major) due to no longer being able to sing its high falsetto chorus...


Saturday, September 19, 2020

NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS: FRANK FONTAINE

Here is a great news story on singer/comedian Frank Fontaine. It appeared in the Boston Globe of December 13, 1959. Sadly Fontaine died young in 1978 at the age of 58...


TV Star Frank Fontaine Sticks Close to His Family of 9
By EDWARD L. JAMIESON

Frank Fontaine, the 33-year-old TV, radio and movie comedian whose livelihood depends on his ability to make people double up with laughter, is quite ready to tell anyone who wants to listen one thing that isn’t a joke.
That, says Frank, is raising a large family, a subject on which he and his wife, who has just given birth to their ninth child, are experts.
* * *
“Having nine kids may seem funny to other people,” says the creator of the muddle-headed John L.C. Sovoneeeyy, whose grimaces and buffoonery send thousands of people into gales of laughter, “but it isn’t funny to us. It’s a job.”
It’s a job, as a matter of fact, that Frank takes with a deadly seriousness that would startle his fans. “It just happened that way,” he said. “I didn’t intend to have 1000 kids. It’s not hard to have nine children. That’s not a big thing. But when all the kids grow up and are fine citizens, have good educations, and are married to nine people, then I have done something in life. That’s when I want to take my bows.”
In order to insure that his kids will grow up the way he wants them to, Frank Fontaine has turned his back on countless enticements of the entertainment work and settled for a moderate professional pace that gives him plenty of time to be with his family.
* * *


“I can’t have nine children and bring them up properly if I’m in Chicago, New York or California and away from them all the time,” he says. “A father really has to be there. It’s really fair to my wife or the kids if I’m not at home, so I mix my family with my business. I work in New York or somewhere two or three weeks and stay at home for two or three weeks.”
* * *
To provide their growing family with sufficient space the Fontaines have just moved from a seven-room home in Medford, where they lived for many years, to an expansive 11-room home in Winchester. Since Frank received his start in the big-time on the Ed Sullivan show in 1948, he has twice taken his family to Hollywood to live, has twice returned because his wife became lonesome for her family and friends in Greater Boston.
“I said if she’s not happy I won’t be, so we moved back here,” says Frank. “Now I know that this house is our home for sure, and I’m not going to leave here again.
“N.B.C. offered me a show like Sid Caesar’s and C.B.S. offered me a show like Jackie Gleason’s, but that would mean rehearsing five days a week to do the show the sixth day. I’d spend one night with my family. That’s not good, and that’s why I didn’t take the shows. I could go like a son of a gun, gain a lot of momentum, and multiply my salary many times, buy that would mean not seeing my family nine months or more of the year.”
Frank did 13 bimonthly TV shows from New York last year only because it allowed him to spend every other week with his family. He’s made nine movies, done many radio and TV shows, and appeared frequently in the country’s leading night spots. But he’s turned down anything that threatened to separate him from his family, including a bid to appear in London’s Palladium.
* * *
“I didn’t become a great big star,” he says, “and I’m content not to become one. I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m with my family and I haven’t burned myself out. I’m still a new face in motion pictures and a new face on TV.”
* * *
A couple of weeks ago, when Mrs. Fontaine, a handsome, dark-haired woman the same age as her husband, was expecting their ninth child, Frank came home and took over the household reins. Last week a new son, Eugene, arrived to bring the family up to seven boys and two girls.
Before Mrs. Fontaine and the baby left the hospital recently, Frank was kept busy getting their new Winchester home in shape to receive them. As usual, he had lots of help. All but the youngest of the Fontaine family are experts in some household chore. Bobby, 11, straightens out the clothing drawers and leads his brothers and sisters in prayers before they go to bed at 8 o’clock every night. Frankie Jr., who is 15, wakes everybody up in the morning and gets breakfast. Peter, 8, is responsible for cleaning the yard and making the beds of his brothers and sisters. Irene, 13, sets the table, helps do the dishes, and takes care of Alma, 4 ½; Paul, 3 ½; Lawrence, 6, and Christopher, 2.
* * *
You get mixed up a lot of times and pick the wrong name if you want something in a hurry,” says Frank. But any name is all right in the Fontaine household, because it’s sure to bring someone running. This help is invaluable to Mrs. Fontaine, who, even when assisted by a maid, has all she can do to keep track of her lively brood. “Everybody has got to do his part here, or you’d be walking around all day doing nothing but picking up towels,” Frank says.
* * *


Walking into the Fontaine home is an experience a visitor is not likely to forget. First he is surrounded by youngsters, a circumstance he might have expected. But then he notices with considerable shock that the children are all similar in a way that he could hardly have foreseen. They all roll their eyes wildly, stretch their mouths from ear to ear, and give out with a special brand and tone of lingo that is punctuated with idiot-like sounds. In short, they are living, walking miniatures of John L.C. Sovoneeeyy, the fictional character who shot their father to fame.
Frank is perhaps prouder of the children’s imitation of his act than any of their other accomplishments. “Anytime I want to make up a show around here I can do it,” he says. As a matter of fact, his four oldest youngsters have already appeared on a Hollywood radio show with him. Frank, Jr., who plays the guitar, will start out in show business on his own when he becomes 16 in February. All the others have similar ambitions.
* * *
The desire of all Fontaine’s children to follow his footsteps in the entertainment world, however premature it may be, is an indication of the veneration they have for their father. “They are,” says Frank, “my most appreciative audience. They think I’m terrific, the funniest, handsomest guy in the world.”
Both Mrs. Fontaine and every member of the family who was old enough at the time have seen all of Frank’s nine movies, some of them more than once. The children always inform their father delightedly that everyone in the theatre laughed at him and that he was, of course, the best one in the picture. Neither Mrs. Fontaine or the children ever miss a radio or TV show on which Frank appears, and they have even gone to nightclubs to see some of his early shows.
Fontaine, who now describes himself as a “comfortable” but “not a wealthy” man, came up from poverty and hard times, and still has a sort of child-like amazement that he is able to give his children some of the things he never had. But neither he nor his wife allow them to become spoiled. When he wants them to do something, he may use a little psychology by clowning with them in John L.C. Sovoneeeyy fashion, but his wishes are promptly obeyed.
Fontaine’s large family has made him the object of jokes and puns which increased as he had more children until they now number, by his own account, “40,000 a day.” People accused him of running a school without a license, sent every lost kid in the area to his house, asked him how he found room to eat at the table, and reminded him when he had only eight children that he needed one more to make a baseball team.
* * *
“I don’t want my family to make me a star,” he says. “When you go to a night club you like to do your act. You don’t want to talk about nine kids 24 hours a day. Anyway, I got confused answering particulars about each one. If nobody mentions the kids, I don’t, but when I’m asked about them naturally I joke about it.”
* * *
Frank will stay at his Winchester home until New Year’s, doing one-night guest shots in New York and flying home. In January he will appear at the Copa Cabana in Miami for three weeks, then come home for three weeks, go to Las Vegas for a three-week appearance, and while he’s there hop to Hollywood for a week or two to do a quick movie and a guest shot on the Jack Benny show.
But wherever he goes, he won’t stay away from his Winchester home very long. “After all,” he says, “entertaining is my occupation, but my family is my career.”




SOURCE

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

WALTER MATTHAU VS BARBRA STREISAND

During the 1960s, even with the changing music scene, big movie musicals were being made. One of the biggest Broadway hits of that decade was "Hello, Dolly!", starring Carol Channing. Channing was not a movie actress so Barbra Streisand was brought in to star. Her co-star Walter Matthau did not like her and a feud commenced.

Once filming began, it didn’t take long for Walter Matthau and Barbra Streisand, who were separated in age by 22 years, to start arguing. Streisand was known for requesting retakes on Funny Girl, and when she started doing it on Hello, Dolly!, Matthau, who had just won an Oscar for The Fortune Cookie, was annoyed and then outraged. He called her “Miss Ptomaine.” As things deteriorated further, he refused to be in the same room with the actress who was supposed to be his love interest, except when they were filming a scene.


“I have more talent in my smallest fart than she does in her entire body,” Matthau was quoted as saying.

And that was not all. Matthau also said, “The trouble with Barbra is that she became a star long before she became an actress. Which is a pity, because if she learned her trade properly, she might become a competent actress instead of a freak attraction–like a boa constrictor.”


As for Streisand, she loathed him just as much, calling him “old sewer mouth.” When it came time for the two to kiss at their wedding, Matthau refused to do it, and a variety of camera angles were used to create the impression that their lips touched without actually meeting.

No less a writer than Nora Ephron, profiling Streisand for Good Housekeeping magazine, reported on the personality clashes, and took Streisand’s side. Wrote Ephron: “People who worked on Hello, Dolly! insisted that Matthau was to blame for the difficulty. ‘It’s a very simple story,’ said a friend of mine who was there. ‘She’s twenty-six years old and she’s the biggest star in town. Can you imagine how a big spoiled crybaby like Matthau reacts to playing second fiddle to that?’ Matthau reportedly became so upset he went to complain to Richard Zanuck, the head of 20th Century-Fox. ‘Do I need a heart attack?’ asked Matthau. ‘Do I need an ulcer?’ Zanuck listened politely until Matthau finished whining. ‘I’d like to help you out,’ he replied, ‘but the film is not called Hello, Walter.’ ”

The film was a box office flop...


Saturday, September 12, 2020

THE LAST DAYS OF BUSTER KEATON

Buster Keaton was on of the greatest film comedians of all-time. As a silent era comedian, there was no comparison with the exception of Charlie Chaplin maybe. What MGM did to Keaton in the late 1920s to 1930s is a crime, but he regained some of his reputation in his final years. He conquered his addiction to alcohol, and he had a successful third marriage. Audiences rediscovered the genius of Buster Keaton, and thankfully he was still alive to see it.

As Buster turned 70 in 1965, he was starting to slow down. He did an Italian movie in the summer of 65. He was there for six weeks and not feeling well. As far as he knew, he had bronchitis and continued to smoke. Then he went up to the Venice Film Festival where he became quite sick. A lot of it was exhaustion. From there he went to Spain, where he did A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Keaton has a grueling schedule for a 70 year old, let alone a 70 year old who is sick.

On the flight home, they had to give him oxygen, so Keaton called the doctor when he got home and they took x-rays. The doctors has a disturbing prognosis for his wife as half of one lung was working and the other lung was gone. The doctors gave him a week to three months. Buster knew he was sick but did not know the problem. No one ever told him he had lung cancer. The doctor said not to tell him, that it would scare the wits out of him. They put him on a strong drug program, and it seemed to do a lot of good. Keaton kept smoking though.With lung cancer, you have little pain because the lungs have no nerves. He would get long winded easily though and had to rest often.


The last day, January 30, 1966 he was playing bridge with wife, and he started having breathing and speech problems. He was taken to the hospital, and the doctors thought at first he had had a stroke, but that wasn't the case. The cancer had metastisized and gone to his brain. He was gone in 24 hours. His third and final wife, Eleanor died in 1998 at the age of 80. She also died of lung cancer, the same disease that killed Buster. He died with no pain, and personally I am glad because he suffered so much pain during his life...



Thursday, September 10, 2020

RIP: DIANE RIGG


English actress Dame Diana Rigg, known for her work in “The Avengers,” “Game of Thrones” and as James Bond’s wife in “Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service” has died at age 82.

Rigg’s agent Simon Beresford said she died Thursday morning at home with her family.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we announce that Dame Diana Rigg died peacefully early this morning. She was at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time. Dame Diana was an icon of theatre, film, and television,” Beresford told Fox News in a statement. “She was the recipient of BAFTA, Emmy, Tony and Evening Standard Awards for her work on stage and screen. Dame Diana was a much loved and admired member of her profession, a force of nature who loved her work and her fellow actors. She will be greatly missed.”

Rigg’s daughter, Rachael Stirling, said she died of cancer that was diagnosed in March.

“My Beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family,” Stirling said in a statement. “She died of cancer diagnosed in March, and spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession. I will miss her beyond words.”


Born Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg on Dec. 20 1938, Rigg grew up in India before returning to the UK to attend boarding school. Shortly after completing her schooling, she enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1955 where her long and successful career in acting began.


In recent years, she was perhaps best known for her role as Lady Olenna, the no-nonsense matriarch of House Tyrell in HBO's "Game of Thrones." However, prior to that, she was one of the co-stars of the popular “Avengers” TV show, where she played agent Emma Peel in the 1960s alongside Patrick Macnee’s bowler-hatted John Steed. The pair was an impeccably dressed duo who fought villains and traded quips in a show whose mix of adventure and humor was enduringly influential.


Other television roles included the Duchess of Buccleuch in period drama “Victoria,” and Rigg starred alongside her daughter in the gentle British sitcom “Detectorists.”

Rigg spent several years in the 1960s as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and combined screen work with a major stage career, in plays including William Shakespeare's “Macbeth,” Bertolt Brecht's “Mother Courage” and Tom Stoppard's “Jumpers” at the National Theatre in London.

She had several acclaimed roles in the 1990s at London's Almeida Theatre, including Martha in “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the title role in Greek tragedy “Medea.”

Rigg won a Tony Award for “Medea” on Broadway, and was nominated on three other occasions — most recently in 2018 for playing Mrs. Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”

When it came to film, Rigg set herself above the average Bond girl by having the accolade of being the only woman to ever marry the intrepid British agent with a license to kill.

Her illustrious acting career earned her multiple award nominations and made her both an Emmy and Tony Award winner. However, in 1994, she received perhaps her biggest accolade when she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Rigg made her professional acting debut in a production of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” as part of the 1957 York Festival, according to BBC News, which first reported her death...



Saturday, September 5, 2020

THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK: A 1941 REVIEW

The little know film The Face Behind The Mask (1941) is one of my favorite film noir of all time, but when the movie came out the initial review was not too kind. I 100% disagree with this review. Here is the original review that appeared in the NY Times on February 7, 1941...


Despite a certain pretentiousness toward things psychological, "The Face Behind the Mask," current at the Rialto, may safely be set down as just another bald melodramatic exercise in which the talents of Peter Lorre again are stymied by hackneyed dialogue and conventional plot manipulations. 

As an immigrant whose hopes of acquiring a footing in the new world are dashed after his face is horribly disfigured in a boarding house fire, Mr. Lorre strives earnestly to present a psychological study of a man who is driven, to crime against the dictates of his conscience in order to finance a plastic surgery operation. But this theme is not fully developed by the scenarists, nor is it pointed up to any extent by Director Robert Florey. 

The deliberate pace at which the story unfolds tends more to expose its flaws than to create a brooding atmosphere of conflict between the mind and soul of the protagonist. Peter Lorre is wasted in this one dimensional role as is the young and beautiful Evelyn Keyes. Both actors must be fullfilling a contract obligation to Columbia Pictures to make a film so beneath them...