Sunday, April 30, 2023


Frances Langford was received in much the same way throughout all of her performances with Hope. It was often said that sailors, soldiers, airmen, or marines would put their arms around each other, or bow their heads and sometimes cry when they heard her sing a familiar melody. They were transported to a different place and time in different company, but only for a moment. “I’d sing a song, and I could just see the guys getting this faraway expression. I knew they were going home in their minds.”

Her showstoppers with Hope were “Embraceable You,” “You Made Me Love You,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” There was always lots of jostling and lots of wolf-whistling when Langford appeared, but when she began singing everyone went completely still and silent. Hope said, “She knows just how much sex to pour and still be dignified.”

Langford and Hope’s troupe had some other close calls. In the summer of 1943, Hope brought his troupe to a very-recently liberated North Africa and Sicily through the USO Camp Shows Division, which was established to bring entertainment directly to those fighting overseas. The entertainers experienced what it was like to take cover in basements and in foxholes during bombing raids. After witnessing a harrowing Luftwaffe raid on Bizerte from a ditch outside of town, Hope joked that “When it was over, she helped me crawl out and get to the car. I don’t think she carried me, but knowing Frances, she probably tried.”

One columnist referred to Langford as a “one woman blitz” and said that she acted as a sort of “Fairy Godmother” to the GIs. Indeed she was called “Mother Langford” by Hope and by the other members of the troupe, even though she was ten years younger than Hope. In summer 1944, when the troupe toured the Pacific, they were joined by another female member, Patty Thomas. Langford took on the role of older sister and friend. They stayed very close for the remainder of their lives.

During the war, Langford, like Hope and Colonna, wrote about her travels. Purple Heart Diary was Langford’s column for Hearst newspapers, in which she recounted episodes from her visits to wounded troops in hospitals across the country. In 1951, the column was turned into a film, starring Langford. Even though Langford performed hundreds of shows during the war all over the world in a variety of settings, the bedside and wardroom performances in military hospitals became her signature appearances. Although emotionally taxing, this work was extremely gratifying. She often recounted how she would sneak away after a song to cry, always wanting to remain calm and cheerful to her audiences.

From 1946-1951, Langford starred with Don Ameche as part of the verbal sparring married duo, The Bickersons, a popular radio comedy. She later left Hollywood, returning to her native Florida, where she opened a Polynesian club and marina in Jensen Beach. When Langford married her third husband in 1994, Patty Thomas served as her Matron of Honor. Langford died in Florida on July 11, 2005 at age 92. Her voice would live on in the memories and imaginations of a million GIs....


Friday, April 28, 2023


Tuesday, April 25, 2023


Harry Belafonte, the "King of Calypso" who became one of America's endearing and enduring civil rights activists into his 10th decade, has died. He was 96.

Belafonte died Tuesday at his home in New York of congestive heart failure, representative Paula Witt said in a statement Tuesday.

Belafonte will be remembered as one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century, as a singer, musician and actor. But his civil rights work in the 1960s and his anti-apartheid work in the 1980s will be just as enduring.

"I wasn't an artist who became an activist. I was an activist who became an artist," Belafonte wrote in his 2011 memoir. "Ever since my mother had drummed it into me, I'd felt the need to fight injustice wherever I saw it, in whatever way I could."

Belafonte was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in Harlem in 1927, the biracial son of biracial parents, both of whom were born in Jamaica. It made a difference to his musical influences and his later life as a social justice activist that he grew up shuttling between New York and Kingston, Jamaica, still struggling to overcome its colonial past, he said in his 2011 book, "My Song: A Memoir." 

No one who heard it in the mid-1950s could ever forget Belafonte's warm, slightly husky voice on "The Banana Boat Song," better known as "Day-O" for the opening lyrics of the Jamaican song he recorded in 1956 on his third record, "Calypso." (Composer Irving Burgie, who co-wrote “Day-O" and eight of the 11 songs on "Calypso," died Nov. 29 at the age of 95.)

"Day-O" was an instant hit and became Belafonte's signature song. Suddenly, America was mad for the lilting, rhythmic sound of the Caribbean islands. In virtually every live performance, Belafonte's audiences would enthusiastically join in the song's call-and-response melody and refrain. 

Even more impressive, "Day-O," once sung by Jamaican banana workers, helped make "Calypso" the first album to sell more than 1 million copies. Not bad for an entertainer who started out as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes.

"I was good as a singer, but I wasn't the best, and I'd known that from the start," Belafonte wrote in "My Song." "I had to rely on my acting. And in the end, I could make a case that I was the greatest actor in the world: I'd convinced everyone I could sing."

 Belafonte's pop music-turned-folk music career was interrupted by his civil rights activism, but he was still recording as late as 2017 when he released "When Colors Come Together," an anthology of some earlier recordings produced by his son David who wrote lyrics for an updated version of "Island In The Sun," featuring Belafonte's grandchildren Sarafina and Amadeus and a children's choir. 

"Now, let me say this about the songs of the Caribbean – almost all Black music is deeply rooted in metaphor," he told NPR in a 2011 interview promoting his memoir. "The only way that we could speak to the pain and the anguish of our experiences was often through how we codified our stories in the songs that we sang.

"And when I sing the 'Banana Boat Song,' the song is a work song. It's about men who sweat all day long, and they are underpaid, and they're begging the tallyman to come and give them an honest count – counting the bananas that I've picked, so I can be paid." But sometimes, they were paid only in rum, as the song's lyrics describe.

"People sing and delight and dance and love it, (but) they don't really understand unless they study the song that they're singing, a work song, that's a song of rebellion," Belafonte said.

He won three Grammys in the 1960s and won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. In 2022, he received an early influence award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was awarded a Humanitarian Oscar in 2015. He was named a UNICEF goodwill ambassador in 1987, was a recipient of one of the 1989 Kennedy Center Honors for Performing Arts, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994.

By the 1960s, he was just as famous for being on the front lines of civil rights marches as an early ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. By the 1980s, he helped organize the "We Are the World" recording that became the anthem for famine relief in Africa.

Belafonte didn't back down when it came to his politics.

In October 2002, he made remarks about then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, comparing him to a "house slave." Powell, a Republican, refused to inflame the situation, merely commenting that Belafonte's comparison was "unfortunate." (Powell died Oct. 18, 2021, at the age of 84.)

Nor did he slow down. More than a half-century after the March on Washington, Belafonte was an honorary co-chair of the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as president.

To the end, Belafonte wanted to change America and the world...

Monday, April 24, 2023


For those wondering where he has been for the last few years, Richard Lewis has an answer.

The comedian, actor and writer posted a video Sunday on social media to celebrate his completion of filming the 12th season Larry David’s hit series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which Lewis described as “an amazing season.” One of my favorite appearances Lewis made was in the Mel Brooks movie Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993). It's hard to believe that movie is 30 years old now.

Lewis said for more than three years, people have been wondering where he’s been. The actor said it’s been a “rocky” time for him. He’s undergone surgeries for his shoulder, back and hips, and has been dealing with another health challenge.

“Two years ago I started walking a little stiffly, I was shuffling my feet and I went to a neurologist and they gave me a brain scan and I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” Lewis, 75, said in his video. “Luckily, I got it late in life. And they say you progress very slowly, if at all. And I’m on the right meds, so I’m cool.”

Lewis said he’s “finished with standup,” instead “focusing on writing and acting.” He added that he is happy and doing well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s “is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves.”

Other celebs who are also living with Parkinson’s disease include singer Neil Diamond and actor Michael J. Fox...

Sunday, April 23, 2023


In World War II, Bob Hope became the unofficial ambassador to American troops, traveling around the globe to bring entertainment directly to those in service. Some of the most memorable moments of Hope’s shows were due to the female performers in the troupe. To assemble his traveling cast, he leaned on regulars from his radio performances and also called on new talent.

Frances Langford was a core member of Hope’s troupe. She joined him on his first performance for troops at March Field in California in May 1941, then toured with him on his initial long overseas tour in the summer of 1943, and then again in 1944.

By the time Langford joined up with Hope, she was already an established star and vocalist. Langford was born in Florida in 1913. Like Hope, she began her career in vaudeville and then followed it up with radio performances. Her rich tone was perfectly suited for love songs, including her signature, “I’m in the Mood for Love.” She debuted the tune in the 1935 film comedy, Every Night at Eight, in which she plays a young singer working with a bandleader, Tops Cardona.

In 1942, Hope assembled a troupe to undertake a tour for those he called “God’s Frozen People,” in Alaska and the Aleutians. Langford was always at the top of the list. Flying in military transports was risky, accommodations spartan, and they weren’t quite sure what to expect when they arrived at their destinations, but she was game.

On the first trip to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, Frances was the only female member of the group. At some of the larger stops, like Fairbanks, Frances would bunk in the nurses' quarters. But at other places along the tour, there were no accommodations for women and these had to be improvised. Frances showed an adventurous streak on this Alaskan trip as well. The flights were often through ice and snow storms. During one flight from Cordova to Anchorage, the pilot ordered everyone to put on their parachutes and lifebelts. Frances wrote, “This thrilled me more than anything for I’ve always had a desire to make a parachute jump and it really looked like the time had come. Bob and Jerry [Colonna] were really surprised when they saw how excited I was. They thought I would be scared to death and probably pass out completely.” Although the pilot successfully landed the plane, Langford described it as one of the most thrilling experiences of her life...


Thursday, April 20, 2023


Another great star has been gone for one year now. It's hard to believe...

Friday, April 14, 2023


 Two of the world’s greatest singers and performers, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong, struck up a friendship during the golden era of Hollywood, leading to the release of many classic songs and hit movies. Their friendship was based on mutual admiration and respect for each other’s work, as well as a shared sense of fun.

American singer and actor Crosby said in an interview that the happiest times in his entire career were those he spent working with Armstrong, who was a celebrated vocalist, trumpeter, composer and actor. They were friends for almost half a century, after meeting in their youth.

How did they meet?

Crosby, born in May 1903 in Tacoma, Washington, was a fledgling singer working with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago in the 1920s. At the same time, Armstrong, born in New Orleans in August 1901, rose to prominence as an inventive trumpeter and cornet player.

When Bing Crosby met Louis Armstrong, neither of them had begun the Hollywood entertainment careers for which they later became famous. In 1926, Crosby, who was 23 years old at the time, was urged by fellow singer Mildred Bailey to check out Armstrong’s live show at Chicago’s Sunset Café.

Crosby grabbed a front row seat and was mesmerized by 25-year-old Armstrong’s performance. The jazz trumpeter’s unique singing and lively showmanship grabbed the audience’s attention from the outset. He sang and played trumpet with passion and panache, while also injecting humor into his show – a combination which went down a storm.

Crosby and Armstrong started chatting, and 24 years later, Crosby said in an interview that he wished to “acknowledge his debt” to Armstrong, describing him as “the beginning and the end” of music in the United States. Crosby incorporated what he had learned from Armstrong and jazz music into his own singing style.

The respect was certainly mutual, as Armstrong later said that at the time of his Sunset Café gigs, he listened to Crosby’s singing and thought he was a “natural genius”. In 1926, Crosby released his first record, I’ve Got the Girl. He went on to make several records with The Rhythm Boys, which Armstrong also enjoyed.

Armstrong incorporated elements of Crosby’s singing style, known as “crooning”, into his own ballads, such as his 1931 recordings, Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams and Stardust. He said Crosby’s voice had a unique “mellow quality” like “gold poured out of a cup”.

In a 1955 interview with Time magazine, Armstrong described Crosby as “one of the finest guys in this wonderful world” with a “big heart”.

So it was no surprise that the duo realized how well they worked together in the 1930s, when they both became regular fixtures on the NBC radio show, Kraft Music Hall. Crosby was the host of the show and Armstrong made regular appearances. They continued to work together on the radio for many years.

Their first film together was the musical, Pennies From Heaven, in 1936. Crosby, a major star of the era by this time, insisted Armstrong was given equally prominent billing and that he was featured on the film’s poster.

They recorded the soundtrack from the film, including a successful version of the title song, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, achieving commercial success. Over the next decade, Armstrong worked with Bing’s brother, Bob Crosby, a jazz singer, playing on television shows with his band, Armstrong’s All Stars.

They collaborated again on the big screen in 1951 in the Frank Capra film, Here Comes The Groom. The film included a jam session featuring Crosby, Armstrong and Dorothy Lamour. The same year, Crosby and Armstrong played a live version of Gone Fishin’ on a radio show with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra.

It was a huge success, going down so well with the studio audience that Decca later released it as a single and it peaked at number 19 in the US singles chart.

One of the biggest successes of their career was the renowned MGM movie, High Society, in 1956. They starred alongside Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Celeste Holm, with the score composed by Cole Porter. Afterwards, Crosby revealed it was his favourite film of all the movies he made during his long career.

The cast had great fun making the film because Armstrong and his band the All-Stars had impromptu jamming sessions between takes and were always laughing and bantering. Armstrong and Crosby sang Now You Has Jazz, their voices filled with their own unique character, with Crosby adopting a swing style.

Crosby and Armstrong continued to collaborate on records in the 1960s, releasing the album, Bing and Satchmo (Armstrong’s nickname). Containing 12 songs recorded with the Billy May Orchestra, the tracks included Rocky Mountain Moon and At the Jazz Band Ball.

Crosby always had fond memories of recording Bing and Satchmo. He said he had never met anyone who didn’t love Louis, adding, “It was a pleasure to be around him.”

Their final television appearance together was the 1967 show, Hollywood Palace, which ended poignantly with them walking off the stage together through the closing curtains.

The two remained friends until Armstrong’s death in July 1971. Crosby died six years later, in October 1977. His son, Gary Crosby, said that Louis and Bing had a great respect and affection for each other throughout their lives...

Wednesday, April 12, 2023


  Ann-Margret has always spoken in a voice that falls somewhere between a purr and a coo. But at her home on a recent rainy day in Los Angeles, she broke up her usual gauzy tones with deep and gutsy growls. “One, two, three o’clock rock!!!” she half-bellowed and half-yelled over a video chat, echoing the opening line from “Rock Around the Clock,” Bill Haley’s raucous 1954 smash.

A few minutes later, she snarled through the opening salvo of “Splish Splash,” the highly caffeinated 1958 hit by Bobby Darin, only to follow it with the outburst, “I love rock ’n’ roll!” Her tone was far more Joan Jett than Kim McAfee, the sprightly character she played in “Bye Bye Birdie,” the movie that simultaneously made her a household name and the hottest pinup of 1963.

Ann-Margret — pronounced as one name, not two — has always been rock ’n’ roll adjacent, though that’s rarely talked about today given her long and varied career as an actress and a singer of lounge classics. She co-starred with Elvis Presley in one of his most beloved films, “Viva Las Vegas,” provided a flirty foil to a character meant to affectionately send him up in “Birdie,” and had a personal relationship with him of varying description.

Yet, it’s only now, at the improbable age of 81, that Ann-Margret is getting the chance to assert herself as a full-on rock ’n’ roll goddess — if a winking one. She recently released “Born to Be Wild,” the first album in the star’s career of 60-plus years to focus squarely on rock standards, all of which she handpicked, including Steppenwolf’s biker anthem referenced in the title and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” which Elvis famously gyrated through in his own version.

The “Born to Be Wild” album cover drives that home. It reproduces a 1967 poster created for her first Vegas show that finds her in a form-fitting jumpsuit while straddling a Triumph Tiger motorcycle. “I don’t think I can get into that jumpsuit today,” she said, and laughed. “But I can sure try!”

Friday, April 7, 2023


Here are some great Easter photos of Hollywood celebrating this spring holiday just in time for the Easter bunny to be hopping its way into our homes...

Ann Miller

Jimmy Stewart

Shirley Temple

George Reeves

Doris Day

John Candy

Thursday, April 6, 2023


Joanne Woodward's closest friends fear her 16-year battle with Alzheimer's is coming to an end, we have learned.

The 93-year-old screen legend, also widely known for being the widow of Paul Newman, is fortunately in good hands during this fragile time for the family.

One pal in her inner circle revealed Woodward is now receiving at-home hospice care and has been surrounded by the three daughters she shared with the actor, as well as Paul's girls shared with his first wife.

"At this point, the best that can be done for Joanne is to keep her comfortable while waiting for the inevitable," said a pal. "It's a tribute to her courage and determination that she has lived with this debilitating disease as long as she has."

The Three Faces of Eve star was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007. Woodward and Newman had been together 50 years when he died in 2008 from lung cancer. He was 83.

In the future, Woodward's estimated $50 million estate is set to be divided between her daughters for their favorite charitable causes....

Sunday, April 2, 2023


James Andrew Rushing, a vocalist in the Count Basie Band from 1935 to 1950, was born in Oklahoma City, August 26, 1901, to Andrew and Cora Rushing. Jimmy Rushing's father played the tuba in local bands. Jimmy learned to play violin by ear and also learned piano, against his parents' wishes (because of its association with nightclubs; they locked the keyboard when he was home alone). He also studied music at Oklahoma City's Douglass High School. He sang, cooked, and poured root beer at his father's lunchroom on Northeast Second Street or "Deep Deuce," the home of jazz.

Part of a musical family (his father played trumpet and his mother and brother were vocalists), Rushing played violin (reluctantly) and piano while growing up. He studied music theory in high school, attended college at Wilberforce University, and was a professional pianist for a time. After his singing became popular, he switched gears and became a full-time vocalist. Rushing toured the Midwest, worked with a variety of groups, and spent a period living in Los Angeles where he sang with Jelly Roll Morton.

In 1927 Jimmy Rushing moved to Kansas City where he joined Walter Page’s Blue Devils, the top jazz combo in the flourishing city. He was a member of the band for two years and made his recording debut on November 10, 1929, singing “Blue Devil Blues.” During his decade in Kansas City, Rushing also participated in many of the legendary after-hours jam sessions.

Pianist Bennie Moten led the most popular Kansas City big band of the 1920s. Over time he lured the top musicians of the Blue Devils away, including eventually bassist Walter Page himself. Rushing joined Moten in early 1930 and performed regularly with the orchestra for five years. He recorded ten numbers with Moten during 1930-32 including “Won’t You Be My Baby,” “Liza Lee,” “As Long As I Love You,” “Now That I Need You,” and “New Orleans.” Although his voice was higher than it would be during his prime years, Rushing was already quite recognizable and a masterful interpreter of blues and ballads. His singing voice always reminded me of Fats Waller, but Jimmy Rushing had a style all his own. 

When Bennie Moten unexpectedly passed away on April 2, 1935 after a botched tonsillectomy, it was not long before Rushing joined the nucleus of the band which was now led by Count Basie. He was with Basie for over 14 years and became famous as “Mr. Five By Five,” gaining that title due to his portly build. A song of the same name (which he apparently never sang) celebrated him without actually saying his name. It was a hit for both Ella Mae Morse with Freddy Slack and Harry James, containing the immortal lines “He’s five feet tall and he’s five feet wide. He don’t measure no more from head to toe than he does from side to side.”

Jimmy Rushing was a major attraction with the Count Basie Orchestra during its period in Kansas City and throughout its glory years when the band went East and achieved great success in New York. 

Jimmy Rushing, who recorded his first session as a leader in mid-1946 with the backing of much of the Basie band (arranged by Jimmy Mundy), had no desire to leave the Count Basie Orchestra. But when Basie had to break up the band at the end of 1949 due to financial problems, Rushing was out on his own. Unlike most of the other male band singers who faded away, he was able to flourish during the post-swing years simply by performing the mixture of blues, ballads, and standards that he loved.

At first Rushing led a septet but soon he simply became a freelancer. Everyone knew who Jimmy Rushing was and he remained in great demand, performing with Basie alumni and other top musicians in the mainstream swing scene of the 1950s. Rushing led some sessions for the Gotham, King, and Chess labels and hooked up with producer John Hammond (long a champion) for a series of highly enjoyable albums for Vanguard (1954-57) and Columbia (1956-60).

While jazz and the music world continued to evolve at a fast pace during the 1960s, Jimmy Rushing was never idle for long. He was not only considered a living legend but was still rated as one of jazz’s top singers. Often accompanied by big bands on recordings while performing nightly with combos, Rushing continued singing timeless music. He toured Australia and Japan with Eddie Condon in 1964, often utilized tenors Zoot Sims and Al Cohn in his New York club appearances (Dave Frishberg was his regular pianist), and in 1969 had a small role in the movie The Learning Tree, showing that he was a credible dramatic actor. Rushing also made a blues album with the Oliver Nelson big band and made guest appearances on an album with Earl Hines.

Jimmy Rushing’s final recording, 1971’s The You And Me That Used To Be, is perhaps most remarkable in how it was not at all unusual. The 69-year old singer, 42 years after his recording debut, performed in his unchanged style, singing mostly swing standards along with a couple of blues. He was joined by such notables as cornetist-violinist Ray Nance, Zoot Sims, tenor-saxophonist Budd Johnson, Dave Frishberg, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Mel Lewis. He was very much in prime form, his sidemen were clearly inspired by his singing, and the music is as swinging as one would expect.

Jimmy Rushing was still performing in New York clubs just weeks before his death. He passed away on June 8, 1972, at the age of 70 from cancer. He was a jazzman to the end...