Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Okay, you readers will probably laugh at me but this past weekend I just saw the best movie I have seen this year - Barbie! Yes, it is a girl's movie and a kid's movie, which is sometimes is, but it also has some adult themes, and the message behind the movie is pretty profound. Barbie is a 2023 American fantasy comedy film directed by Greta Gerwig and written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach. Based on the Barbie fashion dolls by Mattel, it is the first live-action Barbie film after numerous computer-animated direct-to-video and streaming television films. The film follows Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) on a journey of self-discovery following an existential crisis. It features an ensemble cast that also includes America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, and Will Ferrell.

A live-action Barbie film was announced in September 2009 by Universal Pictures with Laurence Mark producing. Development began in April 2014, when Sony Pictures acquired the film rights. Following multiple writer and director changes and the casting of Amy Schumer and later Anne Hathaway as Barbie, the rights were transferred to Warner Bros. Pictures in October 2018. Robbie was cast in 2019, and Gerwig was announced as director and co-writer with Baumbach in 2021. The rest of the cast were announced in early 2022. Filming took place primarily at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, in England and on the Venice Beach Skatepark in Los Angeles from March to July 2022.

Barbie premiered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on July 9, 2023, and was theatrically released in the United States on July 21, 2023, by Warner Bros. Pictures. Its simultaneous release with Oppenheimer led to the "Barbenheimer" phenomenon on social media, which encouraged audiences to see both films as a double feature. The film received positive reviews, and has grossed $382 million worldwide to date.

Margot Robbie is also a producer on the film and had pitched the film to Warner Bros early on. During the green-light meeting, Robbie had compared the film to Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993) and had also jokingly suggested that it would gross over a billion dollars. Later on, she approached Greta Gerwig as the screenwriter as she enjoyed Gerwig's previous films, particularly Little Women (2019). Gerwig was in post-production for another film, and accepted the role on the condition that her partner, Noah Baumbach, would also write the screenplay. Gerwig signed on to also direct the film in July 2021. Robbie said that the film's aim was to subvert expectations and give audiences "the thing you didn't know you wanted".

The film could very well make a billion dollars. As a father of a beautiful daughter, I try to instill her that women can do anything but also making her aware of the harsh world she'll be facing. This movie does a great job of not only being optimistic but realistic as well. The movie theather was full of young children, but some of the adult jokes will go over their head so be prepared to explain some of the jokes afterwards, but this film had it all - fun, tears, laughs, and an important message to not only young girls but society in general...


Tuesday, July 25, 2023


It has been three years now since the great broadcaster Regis Philbin has died. He is still missed...

Saturday, July 22, 2023


It was while with the Goodman band that Martha Tilton met her second husband, Leonard Vannerson. Leonard was Goodman's manager and when he saw Martha he fell in love. It was not quite the same for Martha, for Leonard tipped the scale at a portly 200 pounds. She would kid him about his weight and before long he went on a strict diet, shed 50 pounds and won himself a wife.

The Tilton-Vannerson wedding was held in 1940 at the Wee Kirk of the Heather chapel in Forest Lawn. Her only attendant was sister Liz, while Benny Goodman stood as Leonard's best man.

Martha's next job was with Paul Whiteman's Philco radio show Hall of Fame at NBC. She also did dubbed the singing voices for film actresses like Barbara Stanwick, Maria Montez, Anne Gwynne and Martha O'Driscoll.

During the early 1940s, Martha got her own radio show on NBC; this is where the nickname "Liltin' Martha Tilton" was conjured up. The nickname stuck with her ever since. Martha also did a number of recordings for Standard Transcriptions in 1941. These were made to supply radio stations with music during a large ASCAP strike. She recorded 17 songs during this time and another seven later.

Martha also sang briefly with Artie Shaw, recording two sides with his band, "Dreamin' Out Loud " and " Now' We Know."

In 1942, Martha's career really took off, when she was contacted by Johnny Mercer to join Capitol Records; Mercer had just co-founded the new label with Buddy DeSylva and Glenn Wallichs and Martha became their first signed artist. Unlike working with Goodman, Martha got to choose many of the songs she recorded at Capitol. There, she produced many of her hit recordings: "I'll Walk Alone," "A Stranger In Town," "A Fine Romance." "Connecticut," "I'll Remember April" (Martha's favorite song), "The Angels Cried," and to my ears the best recording of "And The Angel Sings."

It was in 1943 that Martha's son Jonathan was born. But she wasn't slowed down much. During World War II, in the years 1943 and 1944, Martha traveled with Jack Benny's U.S.O. Show to the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters to perform for troop morale. Carol Landis accompanied her on these tours. Then during the Summer of 1945 Martha traveled again with Jack Benny's U.S.O. Show for a short tour of Germany. This tour included Martha, Jack, Ingrid Bergman, and Larry Adler.

In the May 14, 1945 issue of Newsweek magazine, Martha was featured as the weekly pin-up, a feature added to the issues sent to servicemen. And what serviceman wouldn't fall in love with her after she sang, "I'll Walk Alone"? Unlike most pinups, who wore sexy attire, Martha was pictured in an evening gown and the warm beautiful smile she was famous for; a classic example of the "girl next door."

In 1947, Martha's marriage to Leonard Vannerson ended in divorce; Martha retained custody of her two sons. Martha and her sons formed a close-knit family from that point on.

Leaving Capitol in 1949, Martha continued to sing on radio shows like The Jack Benny Show, The Bob Hope Show, and many more. She also recorded on smaller record labels like Coral, Crown, and Majestic. These fine recordings are becoming hard to find.

In 1955, Martha played herself in "The Benny Goodman Story," recreating their 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Hollywood took its usual liberties, having her sing "And The Angels Sing," which was not performed in the actual concert; in real life, they wouldn't perform it for another year.

In 1952, at a U.S. Treasury Bond drive at a local North American Aircraft plant in 1952, Martha met the love of her life; a 6 foot tall pilot named Jim Brooks. Jim had been a World War II ace and was now a test pilot for North American. He was given the job of showing Martha around the plant; at the end of their tour, he ask her to dinner that evening. She accepted and it just kept getting better after that.

Very important to Martha about her growing relationship with Jim was how her sons felt about it. Jerry was now 16 and John was 10 and the two indirectly asked if she was going to marry Jim. This put her in a bit of a predicament; what to tell them. With out really knowing how they might react, she asked them if they thought she should. The answer came back an overwhelming "yes."

Her concern now was how a bachelor would handle being the instant father of two boys. This proved no problem for Jim; he adapted to the challenge quickly, and what American boy wouldn't want a fighter ace and test pilot as their new father?

Shortly after marrying, the lovebirds found a house close to both their work places, on Mandeville Canyon Blvd. in Los Angeles. They have lived there ever since.

Martha gave birth to their daughter, Cathy, on Sept 13, 1955. From this point on, Martha devoted most of her time to her family and pretty much ceased performing. She also devoted time to charity work, appearing in several PBS big band programs and doing a few big band tours both overseas and in the States. Her last tour was to Australia and throughout the United States in the mid-1990s with John Gary and Horace Heidt. She was honored in the Big Band Academy of America's "Golden Bandstand" at their annual reunion in March 1997.

Martha and Jim Brooks, married for over 50 years, enjoyed a healthy life together in their home on Mandeville Canyon Blvd. Jim eventually retired as an Executive Director with North American Aviation and they enjoyed spending time with their five grandchildren (her son, Jon Vannerson's children Elise and Spenser; her daughter, Cathy Smith's children Maura, Virginia and Jimmy). Martha also kept busy with her dogs and enjoyed needlepoint as a hobby.

Martha passed away on December 8, 2006, peacefully and in her home.

Martha and Jim had a true love of life; their marriage held true to the 1953 article written about them, it was "... Happily Ever After." Martha said she enjoyed her years with the big bands and is proud of the contribution she made to those great organizations. While she considered the pop music of today "not very good" to her ears, she was "very happy" with the revival of Swing music that is in, if you'll pardon the word play, "full swing."

Friday, July 21, 2023


Tony Bennett, the legendary New York pop and jazz singer died on Friday aged 96.

A statement posted on his Twitter account said: "Tony left us today but he was still singing the other day at his piano and his last song was Because of You, his first #1 hit.

"Tony, because of you we have your songs in our heart forever."

Bennett's death was confirmed by his publicist Sylvia Weiner in a statement to the Associated Press.

She said he died in his hometown of New York. No specific cause of death was announced, but Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016. Sir Elton John led the tributes on social media, writing in a statement posted on his Instagram that he was "so sad to hear of Tony's passing".

"Without doubt the classiest singer, man, and performer you will ever see," Sir Elton said. "He's irreplaceable. I loved and adored him. Condolences to Susan, Danny and the family."

The White House released a statement saying that "Tony Bennett didn't just sing the classics - he himself was an American classic" and praising his enduring contributions to American life.

Former US first lady Hillary Clinton described Bennett as a "true talent, a true gentleman, and a true friend". She tweeted: "We'll miss you, Tony, and thanks for all the memories."

Singer Carole King said: "RIP Tony Bennett. Such a big loss. Deepest sympathy to his family and the world."

In a statement to Rolling Stone, singer Billy Joel said: "Tony Bennett was the one of the most important interpreters of American popular song during the mid to late 20th Century. "He championed songwriters who might otherwise have remained unknown to many millions of music fans. His was a unique voice that made the transition from the era of Jazz into the age of Pop.

"I will always be grateful for his outstanding contribution to the art of contemporary music. He was a joy to work with. His energy and enthusiasm for the material he was performing was infectious. He was also one of the nicest human beings I've ever known."

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, to a family of Italian immigrants, Bennett was just nine years old when his father died, plunging the family further into poverty. As a teenager he became a singing waiter before enrolling to study music and painting at New York's School of Industrial Art. He was drafted into the US army in 1944 to fight in France and Germany towards the end of World War Two. "It's legalised murder," he said of the scarring experience in an interview with the Guardian in 2013.

After returning home, his singing career continued - first under the name Joe Bari - and his breakthrough came in 1951 the song Because of You, which gave him first number one. He changed his name to the Americanised Tony Bennett on the say so of fellow entertainer Bob Hope. Bennett soon became a teenage icon, releasing his first album in 1952. The same year his wedding was besieged by female fans in mourning.

He went on to chart in the US in every subsequent decade of his life, building a reputation for making timeless swinging jazz-inflected pop hits - like Blue Velvet and Rags to Riches - and, later, show tunes and big band numbers.

His 1962 version of a song from the previous decade, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, sent his star into an even bigger orbit, winning him two Grammys. However, with the arrival of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones into the US, as the decade rolled on his relevance faded. Personal problems followed, including the end of two marriages and drug addiction. He performed through the pain, recording two records with pianist Bill Evans.

After hiring his son Danny to become his manager and reuniting with his pianist and musical director Ralph Sharon, his fortunes began to change. He enjoyed a revival in the 1980s and 1990s, when Grammy awards flooded in for the star, then in his sixties. His 1986 comeback album, The Art of Excellence, got the ball rolling again for the star who had returned to New York from Las Vegas.

He followed it with the chart-topping Perfectly Frank, a tribute to his musical hero Sinatra, before 1994's MTV Unplugged saw Bennett win the Grammy for album of the year. In an interview with the Independent in 2008, Bennett said he had not been surprised by his renewed success.

"Good music is good music," he said. "I'm not concerned with whether someone who listens to me is old or young. In fact, in many ways, I'm not interested in the young at all.

Bennett remained perpetually cool enough to win over new legions of fans. The Alzheimer's diagnosis from 2016 forced Bennett to finally retire in August of 2021...

Sunday, July 16, 2023


One of the most beautiful of the musical songbirds was the great  Martha Tilton. This bio of the Liltin' Martha Tilton was taken from a website dedicated to her. A link to the great website is provided below...

Born on November 14th, 1915, her family moved to Edna, Kansas a short time after; then, in 1922, they settled on Laurel Avenue in Los Angeles. Her father worked as a banker in Los Angeles. and he did well (considering this was during the Great Depression), he soon moved his family to a nice home at 507 Highland Avenue in Los Angeles. This is the home Martha's parents lived in for the remainder of their lives and which Martha only recently sold.

The Tiltons were a close-knit family; aunts and uncles and grandparents all lived within a few blocks of each other. Martha's mother played piano and her father had a beautiful singing voice, and the whole extended family loved to sing whenever they got together. Some of Martha's favorite singers at the time were Ruth Etting and Connee Boswell.

Martha also had a younger sister named Liz who was born in 1918, whom Martha claims was even prettier then she (although it's hard to believe). Liz was also a talented singer, singing with Jan Garber's orchestra in the mid-1940s and also Bob Crosby's band; her recordings are rare, so we have included a few on this site for your enjoyment (see "Audio" page). When Liz's husband returned from WWII, Liz left the music business. Liz passed away a few years ago, in 2003.

While Martha attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, she met up with a girl friend who had an older sister dating a fellow from U.S.C. college. These fellows had a small band that performed on a local radio station. She went on to sing at the Ambassador Hotel's Coconut Grove with Sid Lippman's Band.

In 1937, Martha joined the Jimmy Dorsey Band and spent a few months with that organization. During that time Dorsey recorded many records, but none included Martha unfortunately.

Still in 1937, she appeared in her first movie, the Roland Young film "Topper," with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett. She had an uncredited part as a lounge singer, fronting the group "Three Hits and a Miss."

Besides appearing in the movie "Topper," Martha also appeared in the films "Irene," "You'll Never Get Rich," "Sunny," "Strictly In The Groove," "Crime Inc.," "Swing Hostess" and "The Benny Goodman Story." Her last film, "The Queen of the Stardust Ballroom," was made in 1975. Most of these movies are available for purchase online.

While with "Three Hits and a Miss," Martha was the first girl singer to sing four-part harmony with a pop group. About this time, Benny Goodman was in Hollywood filming "Hollywood Hotel" and became aware of Martha, and she was asked to audition to replace Helen Ward. Goodman seemed to be going through a lot of girl singers at this time. Martha later commented that the band worked 365 days straight for two years, with no breaks. With that kind of a schedule, one can see why some singers and band members might leave looking for easier work hours.

During her years with Goodman, Martha made over 80 recordings--some really great, some pretty bad. According to Martha, Benny would record anything that came along, knowing his established popularity would make them hits. Unfortunately, performers like Martha who sang with a popular big band got little recognition. While she lent her beautiful voice to a recording (and without her voice, a song may not have been nearly as popular), Benny Goodman got the credit.

Early in her career with the Goodman organization, Martha was singing at the SunnyBrook Ballroom in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. When it came time for Benny to introduce her, he gave her a big buildup: "Here is a pretty gal from Hollywood that's really going places." But Martha missed her cue. When she didn't appear on stage, after a moment Benny ad-libbed, "She's not going places, she's already gone."

One of the biggest hits Martha had with Goodman was the song "And The Angels Sing." This tune was recorded on the spur of the moment, after the band had just come off a road trip. Johnny Mercer was still working on the lyrics as they went into the recording studio. After each take, Johnny would make changes and they'd do it all over again. Ziggy Elman, trumpet player, had a lengthy solo in the second half of the record; needless to say, after so many takes, his lips had taken a pretty bad beating.

After the song was put to bed, Martha commented to Harry James that this particular tune would never be a hit. Much to her surprise, she was wrong. "And The Angels Sing" is one of those songs that will endure forever and no one has ever sang it as beautifully as Martha. Of the many different recordings of the song she made over the years, I prefer the one done in 1955 with Capitol Records.

January 16, 1938 was a very special day; not just for Martha, but also for the Goodman organization and the wonderful music they brought to the world. That evening, the Goodman band broke tradition when they played swing music to a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Martha was 23 years old and must have felt a strong sense of fulfillment when she sang "Lock Lomond" and received the longest ovation of the entire evening. She also sang "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon." I believe this solidly set Martha as one of the great swing vocalists.

Martha's career with Goodman ended in April 1939, when the band broke up. This was bound to happen considering the rigorous schedule Goodman worked under. Also a number of strong solo performers had started out by working for Benny: Lionel Hampton, Harry James, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, to name a few; they were ready to make their own marks on the music world. The remaining members of the band were saddened by Martha's leaving. Louise Tobin, who was then married to Harry James, replaced her....



Tuesday, July 11, 2023


I doubt this beer maker is still in business, but here is Fred MacMurray advertising it in 1949...