Thursday, April 29, 2021


Many of my fellow blog readers will be familiar with the name of Bruce Kogan. He did the guest reviews for this blog and many others. He has countless review on IMDB. Being a movie lover, as well as a music historian, Bruce had a wide knowledge of the great world of nostalgia. Bruce died on April 26th, after a long and brave battle with cancer. He was 73.

Bruce Kogan was a powerhouse. He came to Buffalo (from NYC) to RETIRE - which says multitudes about him right out of the gate. He was a pit bull for justice to all in the Empire State, but especially LGBTQ New Yorkers. He was an advocate in Buffalo and anywhere his help was needed. His insights into the mechanisms of government, including but not limited to Law Enforcement, the Crime Victims Board, and countless policy issues were uncanny. Once he was involved with a case, he just couldn't do enough for you. And he did it with compassion.

Born in Brooklyn, Bruce Kogan spent his life in the service of others. In the late 1990s, Bruce moved to Buffalo and became a part of our family. During his career at the NYS Crime Victims Board, and his lifetime spent as an advocate of equality and justice for all communities, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Bruce never gave up the fight. A former president of SDWNY who served our organization in many roles throughout the years, Bruce is forever an essential part of the work of SDNWY and all LGBTQ advocacy in WNY, across New York State and throughout our nation. With every meeting attended, lobby visit made and heart changed, Bruce helped bring about the monumental progress the LGBTQ community has made in the last decades. Whether LGBTQ youth protections, Marriage Equality, transgender civil rights and every issue that touched our community, Bruce was there. Every woman, man and child in our community is the better and more equal for Bruce and his life’s work.

A central passion of Bruce’s life was his advocacy for LGBTQ crime victims. Bruce never stopped being an advocate for those victims, and pressing the issue of their justice. Among his work on this issue, Bruce never stopped fighting for justice for Winthrop “Winkie” Bean, writing the play “Call Me Winkie,” which has been performed multiple times here in WNY. We commit now and every day to continuing that advocacy in Bruce’s name.

Our hearts and thoughts are heavy, are they are with Bruce, his family, friends and all who loved and knew him. There are no words that will ever properly thank Bruce Kogan for dedicating his life to making the world a better place, for more people than will ever be known. Thank you, Bruce. Happy trails.

I will miss you friend...

Saturday, April 24, 2021


Legendary actress Katharine Hepburn was one of the greatest actresses of all-time in movies, but she was also a homebody who prided herself as a great cook - especially in later years. Here is Miss Hepburn's recipe for brownies...

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened baker’s chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well. Pour into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 325˚ F for 40 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Saturday, April 17, 2021


I always forget that Edward Arnold died a long time ago in the 1950s. He was in so many movies, that I didn't think he died that long ago! Nevertheless, Edward was a prolific character actor who starred in over 100 films.  Arnold was born in New York on February 18, 1890 to German immigrant parents. Orphaned at 11, Arnold supported himself with a series of manual labor jobs. He made his first stage appearance at 12, playing Lorenzo in an amateur production of The Merchant of Venice at the East Side Settlement House. Encouraged to continue acting by playwright/ journalist John D. Barry, Arnold became a professional at 15, joining the prestigious Ben Greet Players shortly afterward. After touring with such notables as Ethel Barrymore and Maxine Elliot, he did bit and extra work at Chicago's Essanay Film Studios and New Jersey's World Studios during the early 'teens. Hoping to become a slender leading man,

Arnold found that his fortune lay in character parts, and accordingly beefed up his body: "The bigger I got, the better character roles I received," he'd observe later. Following several seasons on Broadway, Arnold made his talking picture debut as a gangster in 1933's Whistling in the Dark. He continued playing supporting villains until attaining the title role in Diamond Jim (1935), which required him to add 25 pounds to his already substantial frame; he repeated this characterization in the 1940 biopic Lillian Russell. Other starring roles followed in films like Sutter's Gold (1936), Come and Get It (1936) and Toast of New York (1937), but in 1937 Arnold's career momentum halted briefly when he was labelled "box office poison" by a committee of film exhibitors (other "poisonous" performers were Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn!) Undaunted, Arnold accepted lesser billing in secondary roles, remaining in demand until his death.

A favorite of director Frank Capra (who frequently chided the actor for the "phony laugh" that was his trademark), Arnold appeared in a trio of Capra films, playing Jimmy Stewart's millionaire father in You Can't Take It With You (1938), a corrupt political boss in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and a would-be fascist in Meet John Doe (1941). Despite the fact that he was not considered a box-office draw, Arnold continued to be cast in starring roles from time to time, notably Daniel Webster in 1941's The Devil and Daniel Webster and blind detective Duncan Maclain in Eyes in the Night (1942) and The Hidden Eye (1945).

During the 1940s, Arnold became increasingly active in politics, carrying this interest over into a radio anthology, Mr. President, which ran from 1947 through 1953. He was co-founder of the "I Am an American Foundation," an officer of Hollywood's Permanent Charities Committee, and a president of the Screen Actors Guild. Though a staunch right-wing conservative (he once considered running for Senate on the Republican ticket), Arnold labored long and hard to protect his fellow actors from the persecution of the HUAC "communist witch-hunt." Edward Arnold's last film appearance was in the "torn from today's headlines" potboiler Miami Expose (1956). After a career than spanned over 50 years, he died suddenly at the age of 66 of a cerebral hermorrhage at his home in Encino, California on April 26, 1956...

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


1950s singer Jill Corey of Pittsburgh, formerly of Los Angeles, Calif., and New York City, N.Y., passed away Saturday, April 3, 2021, at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh at the age of 85. She was born Norma Jean Speranza, Monday, Sept. 30, 1935, in Avonmore, the daughter of the late Bernard and Clara Grant Speranza.

Before her good-bye performance for a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall, she signed a contract to the Columbia Records label, she appeared on our "Hit Parade" and was on the cover of Life Magazine in 1953. It was said that she had a voice that would break your heart. She was an avid bird watcher in Central Park, had a dazzling wit, was a loving mother and devoted wife to the late Donald Albert Hoak.

Jill took an eight-year hiatus in her singing career to travel with her husband of eight years. He had the distinction of playing for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, being part of both of the 1955 and 1960 World Series. After the death of the love of her life she made a comeback in her career.

She is survived by her only daughter and best friend, Clare Hoak (Greg Damjanovic) and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, three brothers, Bernard, Dominic and Earl, and a sister, Alice Yockey. At her request, all services are private. Interment will take place at the family plot in Westview Cemetery, in Avonmore...

Saturday, April 10, 2021


J.O. Cole was the richest man in Indiana. His father had been a shoemaker, but J.O.--the initials stood for James Omar--went out to California during the Gold Rush and came back a wealthy man to Indiana, where he multiplied his wealth by way of timber and coal and other enterprises. J.O. married Rachel Henton, and when their daughter, Kate Cole, was born in 1862, nothing could be too good for J.O.'s girl. J.O. gave Kate expensive clothes, expensive tastes, and an expensive education that included music and dance.

J.O. naturally expected his Kate to choose a husband from the ambitious world of high-powered businessmen, someone who could take over his financial empire if and when J.O. ever chose to let go of the reins. But Kate Cole had a mind of her own, and the husband she selected was Sam Porter, said to be a weak and ineffectual, although modestly successful, pharmacist from her hometown of Peru, Indiana. One can only speculate, but one can at least suspect that Kate was too much like her father to want to marry a man of her father's stamp, and instead deliberately chose a husband that shecould rule.

J.O. fumed and grumbled, but in the end Kate got her way, and J.O. paid first for the wedding and then for the expensive lifestyle of the wedded couple. And then, on June 9, 1891, in Peru, Indiana, Kate's son, J.O.'s grandson, was born, and they named him Cole Albert Porter.

From the age of six, the little boy studied first violin and then, at age eight, piano, and soon he showed real talent for both. When he decided that he didn't like the violin, he devoted all his energies to the piano, practicing two hours every day. Frequently, his mother Kate would join him at the piano, and together they would make up wicked parodies of the popular songs of the day.

Kate knew that her son had talent, and did everything she could to pave the way for musical fame. Early on, she subsidized the student orchestra at the local music school, making sure that her son, dressed in velvet and lace, was the featured violin soloist. There were rumors that she also took steps to ensure that the local papers gave her son the right reviews. When Cole was ten years old, he began composing music, and his mother paid to have his compositions published and sent copies to family and friends. And when, at age 14, she sent Cole off to the exclusive Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, she decided that people would be more impressed with her son's accomplishments if her son were only twelve instead of fourteen. And so, she made Cole twelve, officially at least, by arranging some small changes in his school records.

When Cole was sent east to boarding school, J.O. was furious. J.O.'s plan was that his grandson would stay in Indiana, learning about the family business empire and preparing to eventually take it over. J.O. was so angry, in fact, that for two years he refused to speak to Kate. But, as always, Kate got her way.

Cole's stay at the Worcester Academy was a successful one. In later years, he remembered one of his instructors there, Dr. Abercrombie, as an important influence. Cole said that Abercrombie taught him about language and meter, and that, in a song, "Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one." When he graduated from the Academy in 1909, Cole was the class valedictorian.

Next came Yale, and Cole's undergraduate years at Yale were one of the richest periods of his life. He was a huge social success, famous on campus for the songs he was constantly writing and singing. He sang solos with the Yale Glee Club. He wrote football fight songs, some of which continued to be sung long after he left Yale, especially "Bingo Eli Yale" and the "Yale Bulldog Song". And he wrote songs for six full scale musical comedies, produced by the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and by the Yale Dramatic Association. Some of these shows went on tour around the country, and Cole toured with them, reveling in the parties and good fellowship that went with the tours. In all, Cole wrote around 300 songs while he was at Yale. And when he graduated in 1913, his classmates voted him the "most entertaining" member of his class. In his Yale years, Cole made many connections that would be professionally and personally important to him for the rest of his life.

At J.O.'s insistence, Cole then enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he roomed with a young man named Dean Acheson--yes, the Dean Acheson who would become Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953. But Cole had no interest in becoming a lawyer, and his activities continued to be mostly musical. Many of Cole Porter's stories about himself were inventions, but, according to Cole, the Dean of the Law School, Ezra Ripley Thayer, took him aside one day, during Cole's second year at the Law School, and told him, "Don't waste your time--get busy and study music." Whether the advice really came from Thayer or not, Cole took it, and transferred to Harvard's School of Arts and Sciences in 1915, where he studied for a graduate degree in Music. Cole told his mother Kate about the change in career plans, but both of them allowed J.O. to believe that Cole was still earnestly pursuing his Law School degree.

Cole left graduate school in 1916 and moved to New York City, where he lived at the Yale Club. His first show, See America First (1916), lasted for only 15 performances, but the audience was full of prominent socialites, and Cole himself quickly became a familiar figure in social circles in New York.

In July 1917, Cole moved to Paris. The First World War was raging, and Cole invented stories about joining the French Foreign Legion and performing numerous heroic exploits that were duly reported in the press back home and that remained part of Cole's official biography throughout his life. Not a word was true. In fact, Cole was enjoying Paris's fabulous social life, an endless stream of extravagant parties full of international celebrities, members of the minor nobility, cross dressers, artists, and eccentrics, accompanied by alcohol and other drugs, and featuring an assortment of gay and bisexual activity.

Linda Lee Thomas from Louisville, Kentucky, was another prominent socialite in Paris. Divorced from an abusive husband, wealthy, and considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, Linda soon became one of Cole's closest friends. She was older than Cole, and was quite aware of his homosexual preferences and activities. Nevertheless, on December 19, 1919, Cole and Linda were married. Although sex was never a part of their relationship, they truly liked each other, and Linda was deeply dedicated to Cole's career, so, in its own way, their marriage proved a close, successful, and mostly happy one.

Cole and Linda led a glittering social life in Paris, Venice, and the Riviera. Their Paris home had platinum wallpaper and zebra skin chairs. For one extravagant party in Venice they hired 50 gondoliers and a troupe of circus acrobats. For another party, they hired an entire ballet company.

But while his social life was dazzling, Cole's career was moving frustratingly slowly. He studied briefly with the noted French composer Vincent d'Indy. He had a few small successes, contributing songs to such shows as Hitchy-Koo 1919 and the Greenwich Village Follies of 1924. And in 1923 he had a success in Paris with a short ballet called Within the Quota. But Broadway producers had little interest in his work. However, in 1928, Irving Berlin recommended Cole to the producers of a "musicomedy" called Paris, starring Irene Bordoni. Cole wrote five songs for the show, and one of those songs "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)", became Cole's first big success....

Saturday, April 3, 2021


I don't really watch the Oscars anymore. I can not remember the last time I watched them all the way through. It might have been when "Blame Canada" was nominated for Best Song from the South Park movie, but I do love to follow Oscar history. I wanted to take a look at three of the biggest surprises in Oscar history...

1. In 1951, Judy Holliday won best actress for Born Yesterday. This was the year of the ultimate diva battle between Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard playing a Grand Guignol gargoyle and Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve playing a Grand Guignol gargoyle. This was a battle royale equal to King Kong vs. Godzilla. Gloria had won all of the awards up to that point and she was expected to bag the Oscar. I think Gloria and Bette ended up cancelling each other out, which was combined with the fact that Anne Baxter was also nominated in that category for All About Eve and may have taken some of the votes away, so Judy just snuck in there.  . It wasn't really highway robbery that she won, but it was a surprise that has stood the test of time.

 2. The second biggest upset in Oscar history was in 1954, when Judy Garland was nominated for A Star is Born. She was actually [recovering from just giving birth] to Joey Luft the night of the Oscars, so a camera crew had gathered around her to film her acceptance speech from her hospital bed. The winner, however, was Grace Kelly for The Country Girl. Are you noticing a trend here? It's always the younger, prettier actress who wins -- it's still the case today. Grace Kelly had drabbed herself down for The Country Girl and proved she really had the chops, but most people thought she couldn't compare to Judy's incredible, luminous performance in A Star is Born. The problem, however, was that A Star Is Born was kind of a mess -- it was badly edited and just sort of all over the place -- and it didn't make much money. So Grace won and Judy sat there while the camera crew unplugged and left without saying a word. Poor Judy the loser.

3. In 1993, they announced Best Supporting Actress as Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny. This was one of the biggest shocks of all time. Not just in the Oscars but in history. She was up against four really grand divas with hoity-toity accents, where as Marisa was featuring sort of a pre-Jersey Shore demeanor in My Cousin Vinny. She was a gum-popping Guidette and beat out Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Miranda Richardson. Conspiracy theories started immediately that they had read the wrong name, or that something really fishy had happened. But, like Judy Holliday, in retrospect, I don't think its horrible that she won. And she acquitted herself really well. She got two other nominations after that for In the Bedroom and The Wrestler, so she had the last laugh after that, proving herself to be a real Academy Award-type of actress. But, it really....people's jaws just dropped when she won. That had to have been rough for her...