Saturday, December 30, 2023


Another year has passed. Another year of losing wonderful entertainers that made our world a brighter place. Here is a look at some of the wonderful people we have lost in 2023. It is not a complete list, but it is a highlight of some of the amazing people that are no longer with us...

Norman Lear

Television icon NORMAN LEAR, died at the age of 101 on December 5th. He was a screenwriter and producer who produced, wrote, created or developed over 100 shows.Lear was known for creating and producing numerous popular 1970s sitcoms, including All in the Family (1971–1979), Maude (1972–1978), Sanford and Son (1972–1977), One Day at a Time (1975–1984), The Jeffersons (1975–1985), and Good Times (1974–1979). During his later years, he had continued to actively produce television, including the 2017 remake of One Day at a Time and the Netflix revival of Good Times in 2022. Lear received many awards, including six Primetime Emmys, two Peabody Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 1999, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017, and the Golden Globe Carol Burnett Award in 2021. Lear is spotlighted in the 2016 documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. On July 29, 2019, it was announced that Lear had teamed with Lin-Manuel Miranda to make an American Masters documentary about Rita Moreno's life, tentatively titled Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It. In 2020, it was announced that Lear and Act III Productions would executive produce a revival of Who's The Boss? Norman Lear worked until the end.

Singer LISA MARIE PRESLEY, died of a cardiac arrest on January 12th at the age of 54. She was the only child of singer and actor Elvis Presley and actress Priscilla Presley, as well as the sole heir to her father's estate. Presley developed a career in the music business and issued three albums: To Whom It May Concern in 2003, Now What in 2005, and Storm & Grace in 2012. Her first album reached Gold certification with the Recording Industry Association of America. Presley also released non-album singles, including duets with her father using tracks he had released before he died.

Singer, DON WILLIAMS,  died at the age of 100 on January 6th. He was the last surviving member of The Williams Singing Group, which also included famous brother Andy Williams. The brothers scored a huge hit in 1944 singing with Bing Crosby on the Decca recording of "Swinging On A Star" The brothers subsequently split their band, but reunited annually – from 1962 until 1990 – for The Andy Williams Christmas Special.

Actress GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA, died on January 16th at the age of 95. She not only was a popular international actress, first catching the eye of Howard Hughes, but she was a photojournalist, and a politician. She was one of the highest-profile European actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s, a period in which she was an international sex symbol. At the time of her death, she was among the last high-profile international actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

Actor and bandleader LES BROWN JR. passed away on January 9th at the age of 82. He acted on various TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, but he is more widely known as the son of bandleader Les Brown. When Les Brown died in 2001, Les Jr took over the band and ran it for the next 20 years until covid curtailed most big band activities.

Tony Bennett

Singer TONY BENNETT died at the age of 96 on July 21st. He had many accolades, including 20 Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Bennett was named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree and founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York. He sold more than 50 million records worldwide. His first hit was "Because Of You" in 1952 for Columbia, and his other mega hits included "Rags To Riches" in 1953 and "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" in 1962. He struggled with drugs and a faltering career in the 1970s, but he made a comeback in the 1990s. In 2016, Tony was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and he made his last record, a duet album with Lady Gaga called "Love For Sale" in 2021. He retired from performing on August 5, 2021. In announcing Bennett's retirement in August 2021, son Danny Bennett stated that the Alzheimer's was mainly affecting his father's short-term memory and that he would often forget he had just performed after a concert; his long-term memory remained intact and he could still fully remember all the lyrics to his repertoire when performing.

Actress MELINDA DILLON, died at the age of 83 on January 9th. She received a 1963 Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut in the original production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her roles as Jillian Guiler in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Teresa Perrone in Absence of Malice (1981). She is well known for her role as Mother Parker in the holiday classic A Christmas Story (1983). Her other film roles include: Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991), and Magnolia (1999). She retired from acting in 2007.

Actress STELLA STEVENS, died of Alzheimer's Disease on February 17th at the age of 84. She was a popular actress of the 1960s and 1970s who began her acting career in 1959 and starred in such popular films as Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), The Silencers (1966), Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Her last movie was made in 2010.

Singer TINA TURNER, died on May 24th at the age of 83. Tina was] Known as the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll", she rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before launching a successful career as a solo performer. Despite suffering from health problems for years like stroke and heart ailments, she continued to record through this year.

Composer BURT BACHARACH, died at the age of 94 on February 8th. He was an American composer, songwriter, record producer, and pianist who composed hundreds of pop songs from the late 1950s through the 1980s, many in collaboration with lyricist Hal David. A six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Academy Award winner, Bacharach's songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 different artists. Songs that he co-wrote which have topped the Billboard Hot 100 include "This Guy's in Love with You" (1968), "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969), "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (1970), "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (1981), and "That's What Friends Are For" (1986).

Harry Belafonte

Activsit and entertainer HARRY BELAFONTE, died on April 25th at the age of 96. Belafonte was best known for his recordings of "The Banana Boat Song", with its signature "Day-O" lyric, "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)", "Jamaica Farewell", and "Mary's Boy Child". He recorded and performed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. He also starred in several films, including Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Belafonte considered the actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson a mentor, and he was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout his career, Belafonte was an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa. From 1987 until his death, he was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He made his last recordings in 2017, and his last movie in 2018.

Actress RAQUEL WELCH, died of heart failure and Alzheimer's Disease on February 15th at the age of 82. Welch first won attention for her role in Fantastic Voyage (1966), after which she won a contract with 20th Century Fox. They lent her contract to the British studio Hammer Film Productions, for whom she made One Million Years B.C. (1966). Although Welch had only three lines of dialogue in the film, images of her in the doe-skin bikini became bestselling posters that turned her into an international sex symbol. She later starred in Bedazzled (1967), Bandolero! (1968), 100 Rifles (1969), Myra Breckinridge (1970), Hannie Caulder (1971), Kansas City Bomber (1972), The Last of Sheila (1973), The Wild Party (1975), and Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)Her final film was How to Be a Latin Lover (2017).

Singer and actor ED AMES, died at the age of 95 on May 21st. He is known for playing Mingo in the television series Daniel Boone, and for his pop number #1 hits of the mid-to-late 1960s including "My Cup Runneth Over", "Time,Time", and "When the Snow Is on the Roses". He was also part of the popular 1950s singing group with his siblings, the Ames Brothers.

Actor ALAN ARKIN, died on June 29th at the age of 89. Arkin began his career with the sketch comedy group The Second City before acting on the Broadway stage, starring as David Kolowitz in the Joseph Stein play Enter Laughing in 1963, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. For his performance as a foul-mouthed grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.Arkin gave his final two film-acting roles in 2020 and 2022. His starred alongside Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke in the 2020 Netflix film Spenser Confidential. His final performance was voicing the character Wild Knuckles in the animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru, which was released to critical and commercial success.

Actress JOSEPHINE CHAPLIN, died at the age of 74 on July 13th. Born the daughter of screen legend Charlie Chaplin, her first screen appearance came in 1952 when she appeared in her father's movie Limelight. In 1972, Chaplin began forging her own path with a prominent role in the Italian film adaptation of The Canterbury Tales. That same year, she starred in the politically charged Escape to the Sun, about a group of people attempting to flee oppression in the Soviet Union.

Paul Reubens

Actor PAUL REUBENS died of cancer at the age of 70 on July 30th. Best known for playing Pee Wee Herman in the 1980s and 1990s on film and television. Rubens made numerous appearances in film in movies such as Tim Burton's Batman Returns (Reubens portrayed the Penguin's father) and 1996's Matilda. One of his greatest roles was as a flamboyant hairdresser turned drug dealer in Ted Demme's 2001 drama Blow. His last performance was voice work on the animated series Bob's Burgers earlier this year.

TV host BOB BARKER, died on August 26th at the age of 99. Barker was an American television game show host. He hosted CBS's The Price Is Right, the longest-running game show in North American television history, from 1972 to 2007. He also hosted Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1975.

Actor MATTHEW PERRY, died at the age of 54 on October 28th of an apparent drowing. He starred as Chandler Bing on the NBC television sitcom Friends from 1994 to 2004. He also received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performances in The West Wing (2003) and The Ron Clark Story (2006). He gained a leading role in the NBC series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which aired from 2006 to 2007. Perry also became known for his leading film roles in Fools Rush In (1997), Almost Heroes (1998), Three to Tango (1999), The Whole Nine Yards (2000), Serving Sara (2002), The Whole Ten Yards (2005), and 17 Again (2009).

Actor RICHARD MOLL, died on October 26th at the age of 80.He was best known for playing Aristotle Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon, a bailiff on the NBC sitcom Night Court from 1984 to 1992 and voicing Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the DC Animated Universe series Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. For a time he was also married to Milton Berle's daughter. Richard had some productions he was working on at the time of his death.

Actress CINDY WILLIAMS, died at the age of 75 on January 25th.She was known for her role as Shirley Feeney on the television sitcoms Happy Days (1975–1979), and Laverne & Shirley (1976–1982). She also appeared in American Graffiti (1973) and The Conversation (1974).She continued to make television appearances and movies through 2020.

Glenda Jackson

Actress GLENDA JACKSON, died on June 15, 2023 at the age of 87. Jackson won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, for the romance films Women in Love (1970) and A Touch of Class (1973), but she did not appear in person to collect either due to work commitments.In February 2021, it was reported that Jackson would star with Michael Caine in The Great Escaper, a film telling the true story of Bernard Jordan's escape from his care home to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France. Caine would play Jordan, with Jackson as his wife Rene. Caine and Jackson previously starred together in The Romantic Englishwoman (1975). Jackson had completed filming on The Great Escaper in September 2022; it was to be her last film. It was released on October 6, 2023.

Stylist and radio personality RALPH CIRELLA, died of cancer on December 5th at the age of 58. Ralph was Howard Stern's stylist, and he became an on air personality associated with the Stern show for years. He had been associated with Stern since the mid 1980s and developed quite a following on social media. 

Actress SUZANNE SOMERS, died on October 15th - a day before her 77th birthday. She played the television roles of Chrissy Snow on Three's Company (1977–1981) and Carol Foster Lambert on Step by Step (1991–1998). Somers wrote more than 25 books, including two autobiographies, four diet books, and a book of poetry. She was also well known for advertising the ThighMaster, an exercise device. Her last acting role was in 2017.

Comedian TOM SMOTHERS, died at the age 86 on December 26th. He best known as half of the musical comedy duo the Smothers Brothers, alongside his younger brother Dick. Smothers and John Lennon played acoustic guitar during the live recording of Lennon's 1969 song "Give Peace a Chance".  Tom largely retired in 2010, but he still continued to make appearances with his brother.

We lost a lot of wonderful stars in 2023, and I lost a dear friend with the passing of NICK NARDELLA of Chicago on November 19th at the age of 80. I had known him since 1999. His love of music was amazing, and he was a wonderful man. Like Nick Nardella, all of these stars that shared their talents with the world are gone, but they will never be forgotten...

Sunday, December 24, 2023


Friday, December 22, 2023


Last night I watched the movie bio Maestro, which was the biography of conductor Leonard Berstein. I was amazed that actor Bradley Cooper, not only starred in the film but produced it, directed it, and co-wrote it. It was an amazing accomplishment in cinema. The film centers on the relationship between American composer Leonard Bernstein, played by Cooper, and his wife Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan. The supporting cast includes Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, and Sarah Silverman. The film was produced by Martin Scorsese, Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Fred Berner and Amy Durning.

The movie flashes back and forth between from 1940s and 1950s; when he was an upcoming composer and conductor, and when he met his wife, to the 1970s and then even later to the 1980s. The romance between Berstein and his wife really touched me. However, the movie did not shy away from how his fame hurt their marriage as well as his bi-sexual affairs. Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan deserve to win an Oscar for their portrayal of these complicated characters.

The project had been in development at Paramount Pictures, with Martin Scorsese initially planning to direct the film. He stepped down as director to work on The Irishman, allowing Bradley Cooper to join the film in May 2018 as director and to star as Bernstein. Scorsese continued as producer alongside Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was also initially considering directing the film and had approached Cooper to star, but offered the director position to Cooper after a screening of A Star Is Born. In January 2020, the project was moved to Netflix, with filming expected to begin in 2021.

Although Netflix does not publicly report box office grosses, IndieWire estimated the film made about $200,000 from eight theaters in its opening weekend (and a total of $300,000 over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), which would make it the most successful debut for the company since at least 2019. The movie has mostly received great reviews. other than a little controversy in regards to Bradley Cooper using a large prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein, who was Jewish, was criticized by some as an example of "Jewface", Bernstein's children defended Cooper's use of prosthetic makeup to portray him, stating that they worked with Cooper throughout the filmmaking process and that their "dad would have been fine with it."

It is hardly noticeable, and I am amazed at how Cooper was able to become Leonard Bernstein. It is one of the closest physical portrayal of a real person on film since Robert Downey Jr played Charlie Chaplin in 1992's Chaplin bio film. The movie does a good job of having you like as well as hate Leonard Bernstein. He was severely flawed as all geniuses are, but he truly loved his wife. I have to admit by the end of the movie, to my wife's annoyance, I had a look in my eye looking at her and realizing how lucky I am. Even though I think this is a great movie, the movie is shot a little artsy for my tastes and is sometimes hard to follow, but the acting is superb. I never followed the career of Leonard Bernstein much, but I learned a lot about him just from this film. Bravo Bradley Cooper!

MY RATING: 9 out of 10

Saturday, December 9, 2023


I really love looking at some of these behind the scene photos from classic movies. Most of us have just viewed the end product, but here is some of the film making it took to make the beloved classic White Christmas. As you know this classic musical starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen...

Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Writer-producer-developer Norman Lear, who revolutionized American comedy with such daring, immensely popular early-‘70s sitcoms as “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son,” died on Tuesday. He was 101.

Lear’s publicist confirmed to Variety that he died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. A private service for immediate family will be held in the coming days.

“Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” Lear’s family said in a statement. “Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being.”

Lear had already established himself as a top comedy writer and captured a 1968 Oscar nomination for his screenplay for “Divorce American Style” when he concocted the idea for a new sitcom, based on a popular British show, about a conservative, outspokenly bigoted working-class man and his fractious Queens family. “All in the Family” became an immediate hit, seemingly with viewers of all political persuasions.

Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, homosexuality, the Vietnam war — by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of “All in the Family” revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.

Their fresh outrageousness turned them into huge ratings successes: For a time, “Family” and “Sanford,” based around a Los Angeles Black family, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. “All in the Family” itself accounted for no less than six spin-offs. “Family” was also honored with four Emmys in 1971-73 and a 1977 Peabody Award for Lear, “for giving us comedy with a social conscience.” (He received a second Peabody in 2016 for his career achievements.)

Some of Lear’s other creations played with TV conventions. “One Day at a Time” (1975-84) featured a single mother of two young girls as its protagonist, a new concept for a sitcom. Similarly, “Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-86) followed the growing pains of two Black kids adopted by a wealthy white businessman.

Other series developed by Lear were meta before the term ever existed. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” (1976-77) spoofed the contorted drama of daytime soaps; while the show couldn’t land a network slot, it became a beloved off-the-wall entry in syndication. “Hartman” had its own oddball spinoff, “Fernwood 2 Night,” a parody talk show set in a small Ohio town; the show was later retooled as “America 2-Night,” with its setting relocated to Los Angeles.

Lear always maintained that the basic formula for his comedies always boiled down to the essential: Keep ‘em laughing.

He said in a 2005 Onion A.V. Club interview, “Originally, with all the shows, we went looking for belly laughs. It crossed our minds early on that the more an audience cared – we were working before, on average, 240 live people – if you could get them caring, the more they cared, the harder they laughed.”

Lear’s big-screen credits included the scripts for “Come Blow Your Horn” (1963); “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” (1968); “The Thief Who Came to Dinner” (1971); “Stand by Me” (1986) and “The Princess Bride” (1987), both of which were directed by former “All in the Family” co-star Rob Reiner; and “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991).

Lear was born in New Haven, Conn., on July 27, 1922. Both his parents were Jews of Russian origin; he claimed in interviews that his father and mother were the inspirations for the characters of Archie and Edith Bunker. He dropped out of Boston’s Emerson College to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in 1942, and served as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 bombers in the European theater, flying 52 missions.

After the war, Lear pursued a career as a press agent, and moved to Los Angeles to set up shop. But he moved into comedy writing after partnering with Ed Simmons, his cousin’s husband. The pair’s first major break came writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, then the country’s hottest comedy act, during a run of 1952-53 appearances on “The Colgate Comedy Hour.” Teaming with Bud Yorkin, he became an in-demand scribe for the variety shows of Martha Raye, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Celeste Holm and George Gobel.

In the ‘60s, Lear rang up credits writing and (with Yorkin, his partner in Tandem Productions) producing specials starring Bobby Darin, Danny Kaye, Andy Williams and Henry Fonda (star of a Western series, “The Deputy,” which was created by Lear).

Though Lear had scattered credits on theatrical films in the late ‘60s, he vaulted to the top rank of TV producers with Tandem’s development of “All in the Family,” which was inspired by a similarly acerbic, long-running British series, “Till Death Do Us Part.” Originally picked up by ABC, which grew skittish about its content and dropped it, the show was acquired by CBS, where it became the first U.S. sitcom to be filmed in front of a live audience.

The vibrant new series became an instant smash, riding the terrific chemistry of its four stars: Carroll O’Connor as the conservative, bigoted, foul-mouthed Archie, Jean Stapleton as his dizzy, warm-hearted wife Edith; Sally Struthers as their hard-headed daughter Gloria; and Rob Reiner as Gloria’s hippie hubby Michael “Meathead” Stivic. The show reeled in 22 Emmys over the course of its run; O’Connor collected four Emmys for his work on the show, Stapleton three, Reiner two and Struthers one. (An ABC special about the series and its spinoff “The Jeffersons,” executive produced by Lear, won a 2019 Emmy.)

The show became a cottage industry, spinning off one series after another: “Maude,” with Bea Arthur as Edith’s feisty, acid-tongued cousin (purportedly based on Lear’s second wife Frances); “The Jeffersons,” starring Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as the Bunkers’ African American former next-door neighbors; “Gloria,” with Struthers reprising her role (following the character’s divorce); “Checking In,” with Marla Gibbs as Florence Johnston, the Jeffersons’ onetime maid; and, in the ‘90s, “704 Hauser,” a poorly-received show that was set in the Bunkers’ old house. “Archie Bunker’s Place,” a sort of spinoff of itself set in the titular character’s Queens bar, ran from 1979-83.

Though “All in the Family” and its successors changed TV forever with their sharp political edge and theretofore unseen frankness, Lear later took a cool look back on what the show ultimately achieved.

He averred, “I didn’t see it changing television at all. We had a Judeo-Christian ethic hanging around a couple thousand years that didn’t help erase racism at all. So the notion of the little half-hour comedy changing things is something I think is silly.”

Lear’s last two creations, the sitcoms “Sunday Dinner” and “704 Hauser,” both saw brief runs in the early ‘90s. While he had nothing to do with its production, he had an executive producer credit on the reboot of “One Day at a Time,” set in L.A.’s Echo Park and focusing on a Latino family, which ran from 2017-2020.

Lear’s latter-day productions included the features “Way Past Cool” (2000) and “El Superstar: The Unlikely Rise of Juan Frances” (2008). His documentary productions included “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song” (2007). He is survived by his third wife Lyn Davis, six children and four grandchildren...

Saturday, December 2, 2023


In this new feature we will show case stories and memories of classic Hollywood stars...

I am Ileana Rothschild, and Vera Ellen was my aunt by marriage. I was born in 1967 and my mother and I went for my first visit to my aunt Vera’s home on Outpost Cove in Hollywood, CA.My mother became one of her very close friends, and Aunt Vera gave her many of her baby Victoria’s personal items for me.
I know for a fact that Vera never stopped taking dance classes and maintained her slim figure always. 

Vera was an avid swimmer and she took me for my very first swim with her in her beautiful heated pool when I was only one month old.

My mother and Vera stayed good friends and often had dinner together. At times when having dinner at Vera’s home they were accompanied by Vera’s aged mother. At this time Aunt Vera had been recovering from a mild stroke and would use a regimented swimming program as part of her total recovery: but had no eating disorder. My aunt Vera Ellen was a fine loving and kind person with a beautifully toned body, which she always maintained...

Saturday, November 25, 2023


As we entered a new decade in 1950, movie audiences were beginning to change as well. Who they were going to see on the movie screen was changing as well. Here are the biggest box office draws in 1950...



Wednesday, November 22, 2023


The great Boris Karloff was born in England, found fame as Frankenstein’s monster (and also played Frankenstein, thank you, readers, for the correction) in Hollywood, and finished his career in Mexico (awesome example at the end of this post). Somewhere along the way he developed a strong affinity for Mexican food. His recipe for guacamole has an English twist, with a dash of sherry thrown in along with more common ingredients:

2 avocados

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1 small onion, minced

1 tbsp. chopped canned green chiles

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp sherry

Dash cayenne (optional)

Salt, pepper

Peel and mash avocados. Add onion, tomato and chiles, then stir in lemon juice, sherry and seasonings to taste, blending well. Serve as a dip for tortilla pieces or corn chips or as a spread. Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings.


 I  lost a dear friend this week with the passing of Nick Nardella of Chicago. A fan of all things nostalgia, his favorite singers were Bing Crosby and Al Jolson. I personally met him in 1999, and we started a taping correspondence. He never even had a computer, but we met through our love of music. He was there in my life for all of the important points of my life like my marriage and birth of my children. I have known Nick longer than I have known my wife. He always had encouraging words for me, and he was a geniune and good person. His music collection was as big as his heart.

Nick passed away peacefully on November 19, 2023. Nick is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Laverne M. Nardella nee Peterson; caring brother of John Nardella and Geraldine Kruger; cherished brother-in-law to the late Jim (Kathy) Peterson, Marilyn (James Sr.) Nemecek, the late Eileen Tomazin; fond uncle to Michael and Richard (Kim) Kruger, James Jr. (Michelle) Nemecek, Tracy (Joseph) Buchholz, Eric Peterson, Julie (David) Westerman, TJ Tomazin; caring great-uncle to Brooke (Cody) Mudd, Seth and Emily Kruger, Justin, Jacob, Jared, and Makayla Buchholz, Charlie and Danny Westerman; devoted great-great-uncle to Amberleigh Mudd. He is preceded in death by his parents Henry and Antoinette Nardella.

Nick proudly served in the Army as an Administrator, stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War era. Upon returning from his time in the service he fondly worked at World Book, and several years later went on to meet the love of his life, Laverne. Music and sports were Nick’s second love, being a devout fan of artists from the 1940’s and all sports teams from Chicago. He also was a member of "The Browsers", a Chicago based record collector group that shared their knowledge on local radio. 

I am a better person because I had the honor of knowing Nick Nardella....


Monday, November 20, 2023


There were so many great entetainers in the 1930s and 1940s that it is easy to lose track of one. One such singer that I listened to when my Grandfather was alive, and then I lost track of her was Rose Murphy. Murphy was born in Xenia, Ohio, United States on April 28, 1913. Described by AllMusic's Scott Yanow as having "a unique place in music history", Murphy was known as "the chee chee girl" because of her habit of singing "chee chee" in many of her numbers. She was also known as "the girl with the pale pink voice".

Murphy began her musical career in the late 1930s, playing intermission piano for such performers as Count Basie, and became popular in the United States and United Kingdom in the late 1940s. She is best known for her high-pitched singing style, which incorporated scat singing, giggling, and percussive sound effects. "Busy Line", one of her most well-known songs, made use of perhaps her most famous vocal sound effect: the 'brrp, brrrp' of a telephone ring.  A version of the song was later used in 1990 by BT Cellnet in a television commercial, which was such a success that RCA reissued the original recording. Princess Margaret became a fan after "Busy Line" became a hit in England. She attended Murphy's concerts in London, imitated her while playing the piano and sang "Busy Line" at parties. Murphy was known for her highly personalized rendition of ''I Can't Give You Anything but Love.''

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Murphy continued to play at many of the top clubs in New York, such as the Cookery, Michael's Pub and Upstairs At the Downstairs. She was normally accompanied by bassist Slam Stewart or Morris Edwards. These were interspersed with engagements in London and tours of Europe.

During a two-week engagement at Hollywood Roosevelt's Cinegrill in June 1989, Murphy became ill and returned to New York City. She died in New York aged 76 on November 16, 1989, and, though married four times, left no direct descendants. Her final marriage, from 1950 to 1977, was to Eddie Matthews,  a businessman who, from 1928 to 1933, had been married to Ethel Waters. Rose Murphy and her radio broadcasts in the UK are referred to in the novel, Under the Pink Light, by the British author Brian Hurst. Rose Murphy is now forgotten, but she doesn't deserve to be...

Friday, November 17, 2023


 Here is how some classic Hollywood celebrated Thanksgiving (aka turkey day)...

Andy Devine

Shirley Temple

Lillian Harvey

Howard Keel

Jeanne Crain

Alfred Hitchcock

Thursday, November 16, 2023


Villa Collina, a Mediterranean Revival masterpiece nestled in the hills of Los Feliz in the shadow of Griffith Observatory, has a historic Hollywood pedigree stretching back almost a century. Designed by architect Henry Harwood Hewitt in 1927, the four-bedroom, four-bath estate was built for Olympian Clement E. Smoot, who was part of the 1904 gold medal-winning golfing team. A later resident was Artur Rodzinski, famed Polish conductor of the LA Philharmonic.

But Villa Collina became famous as the home of legendary English director James Whale in the 1930s.

One of the most prolific directors of the decade, Whale — portrayed by Ian McKellen in the 1998 feature Gods and Monsters — directed horror classics including Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein and appropriately, The Old Dark House. He also directed classics including Showboat and The Man in the Iron Mask. “A director must be pretty bad if he can’t get a thrill out of war, murder, robbery,” he once said.

The extensively refurbished home features handmade tiles, a chef’s kitchen with glass Sub Zero refrigerator, a half-acre of gardens with a Roman pool and gazebo, a private tower room and a newly redesigned hotel-style guest apartment that doubles as a spa with a marble steam shower.

Previously sold in 2021 for $5.62 million, the house has been co-listed by Nourmand & Associates agent Konstantine Valissarakos and Richard Yohon at Sotheby’s. For $7.24 million, a buyer can become the owner of a true Hollywood classic. But knowing Villa Collina’s history, they might have to share it with a ghost or two...

Monday, November 13, 2023


Barbra Streisand is opening up about her experience working with Gene Kelly. In one chapter of the Academy Award winner's new memoir My Name Is Barbra, Streisand peels back the curtain on her impressions of Kelly when he directed her in 1969's Hello, Dolly!

In the memoir, Streisand, 81, recalls that she felt a disconnect between herself and Kelly, himself a Hollywood star famous for his roles in Singin' in the Rain, among other Golden Age of Hollywood films.

Streisand, who describes Kelly as a childhood celebrity crush, writes that she did not spend any significant amount of time discussing her character Dolly Levi with her director, though she notes she later discovered the filmmaker felt the whole project was pressed for time, while researching her new memoir.

"I was disappointed when the reality of the man didn’t live up to the fantasy I had from watching him on‑screen," Streisand writes. "One day he was so rude to a female dancer that I asked him privately, 'Why were you so mean to her?' And he basically laughed it off and said, 'Yeah, I was pretty tough on her, but that’s okay. I used to yell like that at another dancer, and she became my wife.' "

Streisand writes that Hello, Dolly!'s co-screenwriter and producer Ernest Lehman "was always receptive" to her ideas and questions on-set. She considered Lehman, who died in 2005 at 89, one of her few allies on the 20th Century Fox production.

"I don’t think I’m paranoid, but I felt as if Gene and Walter [Matthau] had an attitude toward me, and it was not positive . . . especially on Walter’s part," she writes in the memoir. "In fact, he was overtly hostile, and I couldn’t figure out why."

"He closed his eyes and yelled, 'Who the hell does she think she is? I’ve been in this business thirty years, and this is only her second movie . . . the first one hasn’t even come out yet . . . and now she’s directing?' " Streisand recalls Matthau saying. "And then he looked at me with pure venom and said, 'You may be the singer in this picture, but I’m the actor! I have more talent in my farts than you have in your whole body!' "

Streisand writes that she was "stunned" by his comments. "I had no defense," she writes. "I had no words. I just stood there and was so humiliated that I ran off the set, crying. I’m not proud of that."

"I wish I could have answered him back. But I never want to be mean or malicious," Streisand adds in the memoir. "That’s not who I am. I want to be strong, not unkind."

Hello, Dolly! went on to win three Academy Awards at the 1970 Oscars (Best Art Decoration-Set Decoration, Best Sound and Best Score). The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing.

My Name Is Barbra is now available for purchase...

Saturday, November 11, 2023


The late great Bruce Kogan is back with another review for these pages...

Curiously enough after I viewed my VHS copy of Love Me or Leave Me, I went to the movies and saw Walk the Line. One of the things that struck me was that while Joaquin Phoenix had a much tougher job because Johnny Cash was performing almost up to the end and had a distinctive sound that I didn't think anyone could match, Phoenix did a very good job in capturing him.
On the other hand Ruth Etting had not been seen in films for over 20 years, nor had she made a record in that length of time either. She was living very quietly in retirement. So except with older members of the public, Doris Day did not have to compete with an image people had in their minds.

Also people left out of this story include Martin Snyder's first wife and his daughter from that marriage. Also the fact that Snyder was Jewish. My guess is that MGM did not want a false issue of anti-Semitism raised.

There sure were enough issues anyway. Ruth Etting, a girl from the sticks with lots of singing talent, is determined to succeed. So she latches on to a small time Chicago hood named Martin Snyder who gets her career started and in gear.

I remember reading that in her life with Snyder, Etting found it impossible to socialize due to Snyder's boorish behavior. One of the few other show business personalities that she did socialize with was her co-star in Kid Boots on Broadway, Eddie Cantor. Cantor who was brought up on the Lower East Side of New York, lived with guys like Snyder in his youth so he was used to it and put up with him. Very few others would.

Incidentally the title tune Love Me or Leave Me comes from the score of Kid Boots.

In Love Me or Leave Me, we don't have Doris doing an imitation of Ruth Etting, we have Doris singing like Doris which is just fine for me. She sings the songs that were identified with Etting very well. The album for this film sold very well for her.

James Cagney made his third and final trip to the Oscar Derby with his portrayal of Martin "the gimp" Snyder. In its way Snyder is as complex a role as Cagney's Cody Jarrett. He's an uneducated kid from the slums who made it in the rackets, but feels terribly inferior around all the show business creative types that his wife now by necessity has to associate with, where ironically due to his drive has pushed her there. Cagney lost the Oscar race to Ernest Borgnine for Marty. Ain't that a piece of irony itself.

Cameron Mitchell as Johnny Alderman (real first name Myrl) does very well as the man who eventually became her second husband as does the rest of the cast.

All three of the people that Day, Cagney, and Mitchell portray were still alive at the time that Love Me or Leave me was being filmed. All signed off on the picture, I assume all parties were satisfied with it.

And so should you...

BRUCE'S RATING: 8 out of 10
MY RATING: 10 out of 10

Wednesday, November 8, 2023


Jane Froman died in 1980, but she very much is alive in Carol Peck’s home on Hilton Head Island. Inside the Sea Pines home, a variety of framed photos of Froman, one of America’s finest female singers from the 1930s to the 1960s, have prominence. If you ask the exuberant, golden-haired Carol “Why Froman?” her answer is simple: “She was a wonderful example to me, and if I could have had a second mother, I’d have chosen her.” Ask more questions and the story unwinds of Froman, a brave and determined woman, and her friendship with a fan such as Carol.

The story of this friendship begins on an April day in 1952 in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Carol, a high-school teenager from Chicago, was vacationing with her family. She couldn’t go golfing with her parents because walking for Carol was difficult due to the cerebral palsy she had been born with, so that day she decided to go to a movie.

She chose “With a Song in my Heart,” a screen biography of Jane Froman, a choice that would affect her life deeply.

Before seeing the movie, Carol knew nothing about Froman, a woman whose life had been nearly ruined by massive injuries from a plane crash. During World War 11, on Feb. 22,1943, the amphibious Pan American Yankee Clipper carrying her and other USO entertainers to Europe, landed badly in the Tagus River near Lisbon, Portugal. It topsy­turvied and split apart.

Of the 39 aboard, 15 survived, including Froman. The injuries included a broken arm, a nearly severed leg, a dislocated pelvis, broken ribs and pieces of wood and metal imbedded in her skin.

Through bravery and determination, she returned to the world of entertaining less than a year after the crash with the help of specially constructed stage settings to help her stand.

As Carol watched the movie, she formed an empathetic connection to Froman’s world of medical difficulties because she, too, had persisting physical difficulties. For two years, the teenager read everything she could find about Froman. From her home near Chicago, Carol also started a lengthy and informative correspondence with a group of similarly aged and impacted fans in New York who had baptized themselves the “Fromanettes.”

Carol pieced together more than the movie told about Froman, whose mother, a music teacher, recognized early that her daughter had a rare singing voice. From the St. Louis area, they settled in Columbia, Mo., where Jane attended Christian (now Columbia) College. After graduation, in 1928 Froman went to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, sang in programs over that city’s powerful radio station WLW and got a contract to sing for three years with the Paul Whiteman orchestra. Helped by Don Ross, a public relations man who would become her first husband, by 1934 she was on Broadway in that year’s Ziegfeld Follies, sharing the stage with the famous Fanny Brice.

Recordings and radio appearances brought her national fame, such that when the famed Broadway producer Billy Rose was asked to name the 10 best female vocalists, he replied: ”There is Jane Froman and nine others.” Naturally, Hollywood called, but her movie appearances were few because of a significant problem: she stuttered. Strangely enough when she performed on stage, her stuttering disappeared.

For Carol, all the information she gathered about the singer solidified her determination to see Froman in person.

The opportunity arose when, on Oct. 18, 1952, only six months after Carol had seen “With a Song in My Heart,” Froman began a weekly television program, which Carol watched religiously. She finally convinced her mother to go with her to see the “Jane Froman Show” in New York and hopefully even meet Froman.

On April 1, 1954, Carol and her mother were in the show’s audience. Earlier in the day they had met many of the Fromanettes. But meeting the singer was not to be; that would occur three years later.

While Carol attended college, she continued her correspondence with the Fromanettes. In their long letters they decried the end of Froman’s TV show after three years, as well as their surprise that the singer’s second marriage was now over. Carol also joined a Chicago Froman fan club and early in 1957 the club’s president, Jack Lewis, found out that Froman would be appearing at The Beverly Hills Country Club in Covington, Ky., not far away.

Carol, Jack and Carol Kennedy, another longtime fan, arranged to attend two nights in a row. During those two evenings, carol recalls, “Magic happened, and we never got over that magic.”

Froman welcomed them backstage both nights. She wanted to know all about them. On the second night, she arranged for them to sit at a front-row table. After announcing that her encore would be “I Believe,” the song that had been written for her, she also announced it was dedicated to “three friends of mine who came all the way from Illinois.”

After that, there was no doubt in Carol’s mind of the affection Froman had for her closest fans.

During the next two years, Froman withdrew from all performing for more back surgeries and rehabilitation. In 1959, she returned to performing at Chicago’s famed Chez Paree. Carol, now out of college and working near Chicago, set a record by seeing Froman’s show 13 times, with more than a few visits backstage with the singer.

Two years later in 1961, Froman surprised everyone by announcing her retirement. She sought quiet time back in Columbia and stayed for a year at the home of her mother. Then a new friend came into her life: Rowland Smith, a journalist and longtime resident of Columbia.

The two Carols and Jack got a pleasant surprise in June 1962 — an invitation to Froman’s wedding to Smith. It was at the reception that Froman’s Columbia friends were heard to ask: “Who are these young people?” Unknown to so many there, Jane, who never had any children, had relied on her special fans, her “children,” for emotional support during many of her numerous medical difficulties.

Throughout the 1960s, the two Carols visited Froman and Smith in their new home. She told them of the joy of renewing a supporting role for her alma mater, Columbia College. Unhappily in some visits, they found Froman bedridden from cardiac issues and lung problems, constant off-shoots of the airplane crash, but she always welcomed them, even if they had to sit around her bed as they chatted.

When Carol and her father and mother moved to Hilton Head Island in 1972, she continued to fly out to Columbia to visit Froman at least a couple times a year. Carol’s new friends on Hilton Head, learning that her visits were to Jane Froman, were puzzled.

“My friends,” Carol remembers, “thought of fans as the kind that frenetically grabbed at their idols as they passed by. They couldn’t realize what a wonderful example she had been for me.”

Nor could these friends understand what the fans meant to Froman. An episode helped explain that bond.

After one of the few shows that Jane gave in the Columbia area during her retirement, Esther Griswold, a local broadcast reporter, went to speak to Froman. She found the singer chatting comfortably with Carol and four other longtime “children.” In the interview, Esther questioned Froman about her closeness with the fans. As Esther was leaving, Carol introduced herself and told her how important Froman had been to her over the years. The reporter, reflecting on what she heard from Froman, told carol the simple truth: “Don’t forget that it’s a two-way street.” Few statements made it clearer to Carol what she and others meant to their close friend.

On April 22, 1980, Jane Froman died. Carol and several others of the “children” attended the funeral. Smith, Froman’s husband, decided against a eulogy and only the playing of “I Believe” by the organist brought something of Jane alive to the mourners.

During the service, Carol recalled that several years before she died, Froman had brought her “children” face to face with that eventuality. During a visit with them, she asked them not to grieve when she died. One of them ran out of the room crying, but Carol looked directly at the woman who had been her strong guide and inspiration and said: “I promise I won’t grieve, but we will miss you.”

Carol, whose life has been transformed by a movie and a resulting friendship with Jane Froman, often wonders how many others in the years ahead will be affected by this story of the woman whose beautiful voice and resurgent life shows the human spirit at its finest. Meanwhile, she treasures the memories of the time spent in a “two-way street” with a most heroic woman...