Thursday, October 26, 2023


I can not believe it but today would have been my Grandmother's 100th birthday. My grandmother was born Rose Cichoski on October 26, 1923 in the Polish Hill section of Pittsburgh. My grandmother was the oldest of five children. In addition to my grandmother there was: Louis (1926-1996), Florence (1928-2011), Josephine (1930-1985), and Maryann (1943-1946). My Grandmother had a hard upbringing, and she suffered from a few mental breakdowns and even went to live at a convent for awhile.

On May 3, 1944 she married Michael Hornack. The marriage was not successful, and was later anulled. The marriage did produce my mother Donna in 1950, but the couple divorced on March 30, 1955.

Luckily, my grandmother met the love of her life, my "grandfather" John Wachter Jr, and they were married on July 2, 1955. Together, Rose and John raised three children. John was a policeman during the race riots of the late 1960s, so Rose was always stressed not knowing if John would come home or not. 

The years flew by, and Rose would be a devoted grandmother of four grandchildren (I would be the oldest). I did not always have happy memories of my childhood, but I did of my grandmother. Together her and John were the highlight of my happy years. I would go with them to flea markets to try to find the latest bargains. In college, I went to school near where they lived, and I missed many classes because I would go there in between classes for lunch. My grandmother would feed me so much that I would fall asleep on their couch and miss my classes. My grandmother was never the same after John died in 2002, and my grandmother would pass away in 2007.

My grandmother was always nervous and unsure of herself. In reality, I think she had crippling anxiety. I never knew of my biological grandfather until long after she died. Even something like when my wife and I took her out to dinner would cause her to be nervous and not really enjoy herself. In her last few months of life I would call her once a week, and what many people did not know, and maybe she didn't know was that she was a smart, beautiful, and wonderful woman. I honestly do not know if she ever relaxed to enjoy life, but everyone she met enjoyed her. I really miss her...

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


Here is a new photo I discovered of the funeral procession of Al Jolson. He died on October 23, 1950 at the age of 64. Photograph caption dated October 26, 1950 reads, "The casket bearing the body of the mammy singer is shown arriving at the temple. The 10 active pallbearers were Harry Brand, Harry Cohn, Harry Akst, Martin Fried, Louis Epstein, Nathan Kramer, Arthur Stebbins, Johnson Steinberg, Maurice Aroff and Al Goetz, some of the singer's closest friends."

Sunday, October 22, 2023


In 1968 California senator George Murphy moved to a desk in the back row on the Republican side of the Senate Chamber. Senator Murphy had a sweet tooth and always kept candy in his desk. One day, he invited his colleagues to help themselves to the candy supply, and before long other senators began stocking the drawer with their favorite confections. Thanks to Senator Murphy, a new tradition—the “candy desk”—was born, but what about the man behind the tradition?

Born in Connecticut in 1902, George Murphy was athletic and competitive. Those athletic skills gained him a Yale scholarship in 1921, but he never excelled academically. Before long, he left school and started working in a variety of jobs, including as a Pennsylvania coal miner and a messenger on Wall Street. Then, in 1926, he married a young New York actress who taught him to dance. Within a few years they were a successful dance team, performing in nightclubs, in vaudeville, and eventually on Broadway. Hollywood beckoned in 1934 and over the next two decades George Murphy starred in more than 40 films, becoming a popular musical and dramatic actor.

By that time Murphy also was playing an active role in politics. In 1939, along with fellow dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Murphy founded the Hollywood Republican Committee. He became a leader of Hollywood’s conservative bloc, a group that also included a young actor named Ronald Reagan. In fact, it was Murphy more than anyone else who paved the way for Reagan’s successful transition from Hollywood actor to national politician. Among the earliest members of the Screen Actors Guild, Murphy became the guild’s president in 1944—two years before Ronald Reagan assumed that post. Murphy fought against racketeering and promoted better working conditions for screen actors—causes subsequently championed by Reagan. Murphy also took a strong and controversial stand against communist activities in Hollywood—again, well before Reagan. “Fighting communism was not easy,” Murphy later commented, “nor was it pleasant, but it had to be done.”

By 1952, when Murphy quit acting to concentrate on business and politics, he was an influential figure in the national Republican Party. He directed the inaugurations of President Dwight Eisenhower, provided programming for four national party conventions, and served as the party’s principal fundraiser. In 1965, two years before Ronald Reagan became governor of California, George Murphy became a U.S. senator, but his Senate career did not last long. In 1966 he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Surgery successfully removed the cancer, but it also took away his voice, leaving him unable to speak above a whisper—a decided disadvantage on the campaign trail. He lost his bid for reelection in 1970, but remained active in the Republican Party until his death in 1992.

When George Murphy departed the Senate in 1971, he left behind the tradition of the candy desk, but that’s just a small part of his legacy. Today, when senators reach into that well-stocked drawer, they might remember Senator Murphy—a one-time song-and-dance man whose political activism helped to promote a post-war resurgence of the Republican Party and set the stage for one of the party’s most influential leaders. There was a lot more to George Murphy than his sweet tooth...

Thursday, October 19, 2023


 It was hard to make it big in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s if you did not fit the mode of what a Hollywood star was. Through in being a minority, and it was very hard to make it even more. Juanita Moore had a hard time in Hollywood. However, in the years after her death, Juanita is regarded as a wonderful actress, and she could have been an even bigger star if the Hollywood system did not hold her back. Juanita Moore was born on this day in 1914 in Greenwood, Mississippi, the daughter of Ella (née Dunn) and Harrison Moore. She had seven siblings (six sisters and one brother). Her family moved in the Great Migration to Los Angeles, where she was raised. Moore first performed as a dancer, part of a chorus line at the Cotton Club before becoming a film extra while working in theater.

Moore was the vice president of the Original Cambridge Players, who took a Los Angeles production of The Amen Corner to Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater in April 1965. She was friends with Marlon Brando and James Baldwin. It was Moore who asked Brando to lend the funds ($75) to Baldwin to write the play.

After making her film debut in Double Deal (1939),  Moore had a number of bit parts and supporting roles in motion pictures through the late 1930s and 1950s. Moore's performance in the remake of Imitation of Life (1959) as black housekeeper Annie Johnson, whose daughter Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) passes for white, won her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for the role. When the two versions of Imitation of Life were released together on DVD (the earlier film was released in 1934), one of the bonus features was a new interview with Moore.

Juanita continued to make movies and television appearances through 2000. She remained an activist for racial equality as well as a supporter of local theatre. On the anniversary of her birthday today, let us remember Juanita Moore, and what she not only left behind on film but what she left behind for the world...

Saturday, October 14, 2023


Many people remember Bing Crosby as the famous singer but I'm going to read you a few excerpts from the piece about Bing and then we're going to talk about an 'In Terrorem Clause' being included in his will.

So Bing Crosby, they say had a melodious singing voice in easy-going manner that made him one of America's most beloved entertainers for over five decades. He was named Harry Lillis Crosby at his birth in Tacoma, Washington. Married a couple of times and then in June 1977, he formed a will which describes his family as follows, I am married to Kathryn Grant Crosby who in this will is referred to my wife. I have the following children and it goes on to list seven children. In the will, he made several cash requests and three charities in Spokane, Washington where Crosby had studied law at Gonzaga University before dropping out to pursue his interest in music.

Bing made some cash gifts to his wife, $150,000, Kathryn Grant Crosby, his niece Carolyn Miller, $15,000. and then to St. Aloysius Church, $5,000, Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga University $50,000, Gonzaga High School, $50,000. In addition, he gave all of his personal property to his wife, if she survived. If she did not survive him to his residuary estate and again, the residuary estate is what we refer to as the part of your estate, whatever is left over is included in the residual. According to his will, Crosby's residuary estate is given to the Harry L Crosby Trust which he established on the same day he signed his will and again, Harry is Bing Crosby's birth name - Harry Lillis Crosby and this is very smart, he set up a trust plan to, for private administration of his estate because one thing you often see with celebrities, as soon as they die, the newspaper will run down to the courthouse and get a copy of the will and immediately publish the content. So if you're planning to leave your assets through a will, be aware it becomes immediately public following your death and if you're a well-known individual like in this book, the rich and famous, it's almost guaranteed the newspapers are going to get a copy that will and publish it and it will provide endless tabloid fodder after a celebrity's death. That's why, many of the celebrities use a trust to keep all that information private after death including how much they were actually worth and things like that because creditors also come out of the woodwork as soon as that will with, if they used a will, those large amounts are published.

So he left the residuary estate to the Harry L. Crosby Trust which he established on the same day he signed his will which is very common, when I'm doing a revocable trust plan, we will establish the trust and sign a 'Pour Over Will' which is what it sounds like he had here, on the same date. The provisions of that trust are private but the author of this book says, "but it is very telling that the publicly easy going Bing included a very comprehensive In Terrorem Clause in his will that refers to Crosby's children as follows:

Provision against contest - Except as otherwise provided in this will, in the trust referred to in clause 8, I have intentionally and with full knowledge, omitted to provide for my heirs and I have specifically failed to provide for any child of mine whether mentioned in this will, in said trust or otherwise. Finally, so that's what I wanted to bring out of Bing's will today, is this concept of an In Terrorem Clause, you may have heard that term, you may have not. It's Latin and it means 'fear' in Latin and you can use them in different things, you can use In Terrorem in a demand letter and it's basically a threat of legal action but this is the way defines it, I've thought sort of a user-friendly definition: In Terrorem from Latin for in fear, a provision in a will which threatens that if anyone challenges the legality of the will or any part of it, then that person will be cut off or given only a dollar, instead of getting the full gift provided in the will. The clause is intended to discourage beneficiaries from causing a legal ruckus after the will writer, the person who made the will is gone.

So the In Terrorem Clause is designed to discourage someone from disrupting your carefully laid out legal wishes and I have included them in estate plans, I draft wills and trust and if the person I'm working with wants it, I think it's a good idea. Now as this points out, it works with Bing, let's say with his children, what it is designed to do would be discourage them from feuding let's say, with the other children. I don't know what his trust said because it was private but let's assume he left equally among the children. Well if there were seven children or partial to the wife and the children but let's say, the children were going to get 10% each. I'm not sure but if they challenge the will, they could get nothing at all. So they have something to lose, the In Terrorem Clause, if they challenge the will, they could potentially lose their entire inheritance which I'm guessing and I know Bing Crosby did very well, so it was likely millions of dollars...

Sunday, October 8, 2023


According to Paul Donnelly’s remarkable 2007 biography, Garland was a lost child from an early age. When her beloved father Frank Gumm, a flagrant homosexual, died in 1935, the 13-year-old Garland lost her best friend and was left to the mercy of her despicable mother. “My father’s death was the most terrible thing that happened to me in my life,” she repeated over the years. The traumatic period created an unhealthy desire in the girl to seek out older men for love and marriage, many of whom turned out to be homosexual.

“I was always lonesome,” Garland later recalled. “The only time I felt accepted or wanted was when I was on stage performing. I guess the stage was my only friend; the only place where I could feel comfortable. It was the only place where I felt equal and safe.”

She certainly didn’t feel safe in the MGM offices of Louis B Mayer. “In our house the word of Louis B Mayer became the law,” Garland said later. He took to groping her in his offi ce, telling her as he put a hand on her left breast that she “sang from the heart”.

“I often thought I was lucky I didn’t sing from another part of my anatomy,” she once quipped. Blackmailed into a hectic work schedule by the constant fear that their contracts would be torn up, Garland, along with other young stars, were given adrenaline shots, followed by downers like Seconal.

Mayer even sent people to spy on her to see if she was sticking to her daily diet of chicken soup, black coffee and 80 cigarettes to curb her appetite. Cheating would result in a reprimand and a trip to a doctor to be given diet pills, which gave her insomnia.

When songwriter Arthur Freed approached Mayer with The Wizard Of Oz, the mogul immediately saw the potential of the book as a major musical. Although Garland was Freed’s fi rst choice for the role, Mayer preferred Shirley Temple, under contract to rival studio 20th Century Fox. When Fox refused to loan Temple to MGM, Garland won the part. While it was the break she (and Ethel) were waiting for, it was also to initiate the long slow decline that ended with Garland’s death at the age of 47 in 1969.

The child was forced to lose weight and was put on a special diet. Mayer’s spies followed her day and night to make sure she kept to it. Whenever she was caught in a soda fountain eaing one of her favourite sundaes she would be severely reprimanded. Even so, her breasts were bound with tape and she was made to wear a special corset to flatten out her curves and make her appear younger.

Worse still, much of the rest of the adult cast of The Wizard Of Oz resented the attention given to the teenager and were afraid she would upstage them in the movie. Instead of giving the insecure girl the support she desperately needed, she was shunned by the four male leads Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man) and Frank Morgan (Wizard of Oz). Ironically her one lifeline and adult friend on the set was Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West.

Although it seems incredible now, the song that was to make her famous, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, was nearly dropped from the film for being “too sentimental”. One can only imagine how Garland’s career might have progressed if the song had been removed.

Garland received a special juvenile Oscar at the 1940 Academy Awards for her performance in The Wizard Of Oz and her subsequent fi lm, Babes In Arms. It made her one of MGM’s most bankable stars and the most exploited.

Thanks to a deal struck by Mayer with her agent, a former bootlegger and pimp called Frank Orsatti, Garland was earning $500 a week. Her friend at MGM, Mickey Rooney, was on $5,000 a week. It was, as she remarked later, the beginning of the end.

At 17, Garland was a mess; her life was totally controlled by Mayer and Ethel. Even her love life, such as it was, was carefully monitored. Having lost her virginity at 15, Garland was in constant need of male companionship, especially after the death of her father. She had been linked with child stars Freddie Bartholomew, Jackie Cooper and Frankie Darro. Rooney was her best friend but when she began a putative romance with Tyrone Power, Mayer stepped in and scotched it.

Garland could not escape Mayer’s clutches even through a legitimate marriage. In May 1941 she got engaged to band leader David Rose. Despite planning a big wedding, the couple eloped to Las Vegas and married during the early hours of the morning on July 28, 1941, when Garland was 19, with just her mother Ethel and her stepfather Will Gilmore present.

When Garland discovered that she was pregnant in November 1942, Rose and MGM persuaded her to have an abortion in order to maintain her good-girl image. Her “inhumane actions” haunted for the rest of her life...

Sunday, October 1, 2023


Judy Garland was 16 when she won the role of Dorothy in the MGM musical in 1938 and it was to mark both the beginning and the end of her career. The insecure teenager was by that time addicted to barbiturates and amphetamines and was on the road to alcoholism. In addition, she was routinely molested by older men including studio chiefs who considered her little more than their “property”.

In many ways Garland was easy prey for the Hollywood predators. Bulldozed by her mother, Ethel, into movies at a very young age, Garland won a contract with MGM in 1935 and quickly established a pleasing girl-next-door image with her fellow child actor Mickey Rooney. Garland, Rooney and Deanna Durbin were inseparable companions in these early days while they worked their contracts for the studio, waiting for the big break. MGM ran them ragged, starting another film within days, sometimes hours, of the previous one, in order to squeeze as much as possible from their young talents.

Consequently, the teenagers were often too tired to work and were given adrenaline shots and pep pills to keep them awake. When they couldn’t sleep as a result, they were given barbiturates and sleeping pills. In Garland’s case, the pill-popping had begun long before Louis B Mayer, the tyrannical head of MGM, got his grubby paws on her. While on the road as The Gumdrops (a diminutive of her real family name, Gumm), her mother Ethel used to feed Garland and her two sisters pep pills to keep up the punishing schedule and maintain their performances.

But it wasn’t until Mayer was searching for a girl to play Dorothy Gale in the proposed film version of L Frank Baum’s best-selling children’s book, The Wizard Of Oz, that Garland became the studio’s most valuable commodity.

Terrorised by Mayer and his executives, the young Garland was also deeply insecure about her looks. She was surrounded by the most glamorous stars of the decade including Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamarr, Greta Garbo and Claudette Colbert, among others, and considered herself deeply unattractive.

After watching herself in her first feature film, Pigskin Parade in 1936, she remarked: “I was frightful. I was fat – a fat little pig in pigtails.” The fact that Mayer commonly referred to her as “My little hunchback” can’t have done much for her self-esteem either. Indeed, although he thought she could sing, he remained unimpressed by her appearance with the result that Garland was constantly having prosthetics applied to her nose and teeth, her waist was brutally corseted and she was put on a diet that would have killed most people.

Lauren Bacall recalled: “From childhood Judy was placed on drugs – to lose weight or to go to sleep or to wake up. And once you get hooked on pills... it obviously affected her.”