Monday, March 31, 2014


I always like to hear that when a fan meets a celebrity and has a good experience. When I was younger I was in awe of celebrities and nervous if I met one. However, as I get older I have realized that these famous people are just people too. Here are some experiences "common" people have had with celebrities - good and bad!


Dinah Shore - I had a friend at the time who was cataloging all of her film and TV appearances. He worked out of her house on Oxford in Beverly Hills and she had film and video cases scattered all through the house. He had nothing but great things to say about her.

Jimmy Stewart - a friend of mine sent Stewart a case of apples one fall from Wenatchee, Washington and got a very nice personal letter back from Stewart. So a year later he knocks on Jimmy's door and the housekeeper answers. She freaks out a little but asks him to wait and closes the door. Ten minutes later Jimmy opens the door and not only remembers the gift, but his name too. They spoke for about 5 minutes and my friend says he just reeked of class.

Met the Queen of Broadway, Bernadette Peters, at the stage door after seeing her on Broadway in "Gypsy" a couple of years ago--she was so charming (even when obviously exhausted). Not only did she autograph everything we had, she also let us take a few pics with her and even reminded me to remove my hand from in front of the shutter of my camera (I was a bit nervous)! AND--she stayed there until every autograph had been signed, every picture had been taken--what a pro! LOVE her!

One celebrity was Art Carney. I sat right next to him on a flight from Boston to Fort Myers, FL back in 1978. Long story short (again), half way through the flight, he asked me about Fort Myers to which I told him that I had never been before so sorry, but couldn't help him. I did not know who he even was until his supposed 'wife' (short, heavy red-headed woman who sat BEHIND us???) tapped me on the shoulder and told me who I was sitting with. So, of course, knowing that celebs don't like to be fussed over (ahem!), I asked for an autograph and he said 'sure' as long as I didn't tell anybody on the plane that he was on it. I was 19...I didn't say a word.

I met June Lockhart from Lassie and Lost in Space fame She attends NASA parties here in Houston. Anyway, she is very friendly. I saw her in the Space Center gift shop talking with one of the very young employees who had no idea who she was. June made sure she introduced herself to the employee several times.

Only one experience to relate...I met Harriet Nelson once. She was, believe it or not, taking a tour of the Queen Mary in Long Beach and during a break, sat down beside me. She was very sweet, very glad that people remembered her, but did seem to be a little bit "slow". She signed an autograph for my sister, and spelled my sister's name (Jane)incorrectly. She tried to erase it with the end of the pen (no eraser) and then wet her finger and tried to wipe the incorrect letters off. This was in September before Ricky died on New Years Eve - 1985 I think.

I met Tony Curtis in St. Croix years ago. He stuck out like a sore thumb. He was wearing an all-black leather outfit with a big black cowboy hat and it was very hot and humid. If he was wearing anything else, I probably wouldn't have noticed him. But yes, he was very kind and allowed us to take a picture.

Tina Louise-a book signing near my home. A children's book. In her little speech said it took her 10 years to write it! It's a 10-12 page book in the vein of Go Spot Go. Geez. We had to buy the book (donated it to my elementary school) for her to sign. Took our Gilligan's Island DVD's. Assistant saw us with them & said she wouldn't sign anything but the book. I was going to leave it, but my hubby showed them to her and said, "I guess you hate even looking at these, right?" jokingly. She said " Well, I just like looking at my book more." When we said we still watch the DVD's all the time, she just said, "Really?" very bored and dismissive like. No one would be buying her dumb book if it wasn't for Gilligan. Bad skin & hair, too.

Dad was a training sergeant during WWII and never made it overseas because of bad eyes - as a result, he trained countless soldiers during his 4 years of service - was stationed in Fort Sam Houston TX and was sitting having coffee when some guy comes in and sits down - not in uniform - middle aged with a "mop of hair" (in those days it was unusual for men to have a lot of hair). At any rate my Dad and this guy get talking for about 30 minutes about usual BS and then my father says: gee, I'm from Massachusetts but it seems like I have met you before: the guy says, you may have seen me at the movies: short story, it was Harpo Marx! Hell of a guy according to my Dad - no aires, signed his autograph to send back home to my Dad's parents; told him in he was in town for a USO tour and if my Dad ever made it out to LA to look him up (he never did go) and he'd buy him a beer. In short, a very nice guy to an unknown soldier.



Thursday, March 27, 2014


One of my favorite actresses that never quite got the recogintion she deserved was Alice Faye. She was born (1915) and died (1998) the same year as my Grandmother. Alice has a lasting beauty that only got better with age. Here is some proof of her beauty...

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Today's celebrities are maintained by Botox, hair extensions, straightening irons and spray tans galore ... and that's just Justin Bieber. But before we start going cray-cray about the good ol' days when men looked like Cary Grant, let's not forget that the movie stars of Old Hollywood weren't exactly "natural beauties" either. In fact, as this little trip down memory lane will attest, many of these bizarre old-school beauty tricks would make even Joan Rivers wince. If she could.

Marilyn Monroe was as famed for her radiant Hollywood glow as she was for her flirtatious on-screen presence. However, she used an odd technique to maintain her glowing complextion – hormone cream. The actress would layer Active pHelityl Cream and a powder foundation on top of each other to create a radiant base that shimmered and shined on camera. The downside was that she grew a fine layer of peachy-blonde hair over her face due to the active hormones in the face cream. She was encouraged to shave it off, but refused because of the glow it gave her in photographs.

Audrey Hepburn was an incredibly dainty Hollywood beauty, who pioneered the baby doll look with a slick of liquid kohl and a super-fine layer of mascara on the upper lashes. Rumour has it that she got her lashes so plush and natural-looking by pain-stakingly separating them with a pin after each layer of mascara she applied.

Joan Crawford didn’t use fancy products to keep her legendary face smooth and taut – She chewed gum in the belief that it firmed up her jaw and helped to drain the toxins out from under her chin. She was also religious about her cleansing regime, and would splash her face 25 times with ice cold water after every wash.

German actress Marlene Dietrich is considered to be one of the greatest actresses of all time, but was also highly prized for her sculptured glamour. She believed in accentuating the natural lines of her face with shading, shaping and contouring. One of her most startling features were her perfectly shaped brows. She achieved this look by shaving them off and drawing them on with a brow pencil, as was the fashion in the 1930s. She also never used mascara on her lower lashes, as she believed it cast a shadow below the eyes and made her look tired.
Ever wondered where the phrase ‘blonde bombshell’ originated from? Look no further than platinum-haired 1930s starlet, Jean Harlow. Although, she had a rather unorthodox method of obtaining her baby blonde locks – she lightened her hair with a potent mixture of peroxide, ammonia and Lux Flakes (an old fashioned washing powder).

Italian screen siren Sophia Lorenwas stunningly beautiful in her 1960s hay-day, and still is now. Her secret? Olive oil. Sophia’s Mediterranean diet ensured that she was able to include at least two tablespoons of the stuff in her food every day, while routinely rubbing a small amount into her skin kept her complexion glossy and moisturized. She even added a few capfuls into a hot bath.
These Hollywood stars of today could save a lot of money on plastic surgery if they tried some of the interesting remedies their predecessors used to fight off old father time...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


To the world, he was the famous silent film star Buster Keaton, but to Melissa Talmadge Cox of Cloverdale, he was simply Grandpa Buster. Melissa Talmadge Cox is the granddaughter of Buster Keaton and a long time resident of Cloverdale. Cox remembers him as being a lot of fun, and she always enjoyed visits to his big house on more than an acre in the San Fernando Valley. Grandpa Buster was a
model train buff with an elaborate set up in his garage, says Cox. He designed the tracks so they went outside through an opening in the wall, up and over the swimming pool, and around to a patio table and chairs on the other side.

When Cox and her brothers would visit, they’d sit at that table waiting for their snacks to arrive on little flat cars. Her dad, James Talmadge, was Grandpa Buster’s oldest son from his marriage to Natalie Talmadge. He was a publicist/photographer at 20th Century Fox, so Cox grew up with and around many Hollywood celebrities. When she was in second grade, she appeared in the “Kids Say the Darndest Things” segment of Art Linkletter’s television show. At 10, she bobbed for apples with Jayne Mansfield’s daughter. ”I even have a picture of myself sitting on Hugh O’Brien’s lap when I was in 4th grade,” she says with a laugh. It wasn’t until she was in college that she actually saw one of her grandfather’s movies.

“They were having a Silent Film Festival at Berkeley,” she recalls, “and the main show featured grandpa. I was stunned. I’d never seen him as a young man. “Watching him that day, I totally fell in love with silent films.” Since then, silent film festivals and fan clubs have become quite trendy. One of the most popular clubs is The Damfinos, better known as the International Buster Keaton Society ( Cox serves on its Board of Directors, and in 2010, she and her mom, Barbara, were special guests at The Damfino’s Annual Convention in Muskegon, Michigan.

Cox has a number of special keepsakes from her grandpa, including one of his signature pork-pie hats and a tie he hand-stitched. She takes many of these treasured items to the conventions and festivals she attends. After her step-grandmother Eleanor died in 1998, Cox became the family’s Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of her Grandpa Buster. Today, she regularly travels around the country, attending film festivals and conventions in his honor. Last year, she went to Germany for a Buster Keaton Film Festival.

Cox moved with her family to Cloverdale in the mid 70’s, and with a degree in horticulture, quickly landed a job she dearly loved at a nursery. People started asking her to help design their yards, so she enrolled at SRJC and soon became certified by the California Association of Nurserymen. For the past 25 years, she has been successfully self-employed as a landscape designer. When the last of her three children went to college, Cox took up painting. She had no art background, but for some reason the idea appealed to her. After taking a weekend watercolor class about 11 years ago, she discovered a talent she didn’t know she had. Since then, Cox has taught watercolor classes and won numerous awards, including three Best of Show honors. She is a member of the Watercolor Artists of Sonoma County (WASCO) and the First Street Gallery of Cloverdale, where several of her original watercolors are available for purchase, as well as prints, cards and bookmarks. Her paintings also hang in many private homes across the United States.

A few years ago, Cox drove to the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills to deliver 20 boxes of photographs that had belonged to her Aunt Norma Talmadge and had been in her attic for more than 30 years. With the help of her dad (who died in 2007), Cox was able to identify many of the people in the photos, and the Academy now calls it the best original silent film photo collection ever...

Monday, March 17, 2014


One of the greatest singers of our time was Nat King Cole. No matter what genre of music you like, he had a voice that transcended the decades. On this day March 17th, he was born in 1919. Coles had three brothers: Eddie, Ike, and Freddy, and a half-sister, Joyce Coles. Ike and Freddy would later pursue careers in music as well. When Cole was four years old, he and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where his father, Edward Coles, became a Baptist minister. Cole learned to play the organ from his mother, Perlina Coles, the church organist. His first performance was of "Yes! We Have No Bananas" at age four. He began formal lessons at 12, eventually learning not only jazz and gospel music, but also Western classical music, performing, as he said, "from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff".

The family lived in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Cole would sneak out of the house and hang around outside the clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jimmie Noone. He participated in Walter Dyett's renowned music program at DuSable High School.

Inspired by the performances of Earl Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid-1930s while still a teenager, adopting the name "Nat Cole". His older brother, Eddie, a bass player, soon joined Cole's band, and they made their first recording in 1936 under Eddie's name. They also were regular performers at clubs. Cole, in fact, acquired his nickname, "King", performing at one jazz club, a nickname presumably reinforced by the otherwise unrelated nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. He also was a pianist in a national tour of Broadway theatre legend Eubie Blake's revue, "Shuffle Along". When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to remain there. He would later return to Chicago in triumph to play such venues as the famed Edgewater Beach Hotel.

Cole's first mainstream vocal hit was his 1943 recording of one of his compositions, "Straighten Up and Fly Right", based on a black folk tale that his father had used as a theme for a sermon. Johnny Mercer invited him to record it for his fledgling Capitol Records label. It sold over 500,000 copies, proving that folk-based material could appeal to a wide audience. Although Cole would never be considered a rocker, the song can be seen as anticipating the first rock and roll records. Indeed, Bo Diddley, who performed similar transformations of folk material, counted Cole as an influence.

Beginning in the late 1940s, Cole began recording and performing pop-oriented material for mainstream audiences, in which he was often accompanied by a string orchestra. His stature as a popular icon was cemented during this period by hits such as "The Christmas Song" (Cole recorded that tune four times: on June 14, 1946, as a pure Trio recording, on August 19, 1946, with an added string section, on August 24, 1953, and in 1961 for the double album The Nat King Cole Story; this final version, recorded in stereo, is the one most often heard today), "Nature Boy" (1948), "Mona Lisa" (1950), "Too Young" (the #1 song in 1951),[7] and his signature tune "Unforgettable" (1951) (Gainer 1). While this shift to pop music led some jazz critics and fans to accuse Cole of selling out, he never totally abandoned his jazz roots; as late as 1956, for instance, he recorded an all-jazz album After Midnight. Cole had one of his last big hits in 1963, two years before his death, with the classic "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer", which reached #6 on the Pop chart. Nat died way too young, but he left behind a ton of vocal treasures...

Friday, March 14, 2014


LOS ANGELES - Screen legend Doris Day is celebrating a landmark birthday with an auction to benefit her favorite cause: animals.

A spokesman for Day said Tuesday the nonprofit Doris Day Animal Foundation will mark her 90th birthday in April with a bash in Carmel, Calif.

A sold-out fundraising celebration at Day's Cypress Inn will include a doggie fashion show, adoption event and an April 4 tribute dinner for fans and friends.

Items autographed by Day and celebrity pals including Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett will be auctioned off online and at the dinner. Online bidding ends April 1.

In a statement, Day said she doesn't care much for celebrating birthdays with cards or gifts, inviting fans to help animals instead. As Day put it: "I'm all about the four-leggers."

Day was born on April 3, 1924, spokesman Charley Walters said, although other sources list her birth year as 1923. As a teenager, she sometimes provided different ages to get work and that may have led to confusion, Walters said.

Day starred in more than three dozen films from the 1940s to the 1960s, including "Pillow Talk" and "Calamity Jane," and recorded hit songs including "Que Sera, Sera." She released the compilation album "My Heart" in 2011.

She lives in the seaside city of Carmel in Northern California and has devoted herself to animal welfare since stepping out of show business.

"There is so much work still to do to rescue animals, and to inform people about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets," Day said


Wednesday, March 12, 2014


It is very hard to find Eddie Cantor movies on DVD. It is sad but he had such a wonderful talent that is being lost in the passages of time. So, I was overjoyed when I saw that 1934's Kid Millions was being released on DVD. I had not seen the film in over ten years, but the forgotten film is still pretty enjoyable. The film not only boasts Eddie Cantor performing great numbers like "Mandy", "Okay Toots", and "When My Ship Comes In", but the film also showcases the early screen appearances of George Murphy, Ann Southern, and the super talented Nicholas Brothers.

In New York City, 1934, we meet jazz singer, Dot Clark, and her shady gangster boyfriend, Louie The Lug ("An Earful of Music"). After having an affair with the deceased Professor Edward Wilson, Dot is now technically his common-law wife and heiress to 77 million dollars. She has to go to Egypt to claim the money, and sets off with Louie in hopes of getting the cash. Former assistant to Edward Wilson, Gerald Lane, informs the law offices of Benton, Loring, and Slade of Professor Wilson's death and the fact that Edward's son, Eddie Wilson Jr is the rightful heir to the money. Mr. Slade, the lawyer, goes to a barge in Brooklyn where Eddie is living with his adopted father, Pops, an old stevedore, and his three sons, Oscar, Adolph, and Herman, who roughhouse Eddie.

However, Eddie is managing to live a nice life nonetheless, with his girlfriend, Nora 'Toots', and his care for all the kids on the barge. He dreams of the day when he will have enough money to live his own life outside of the dirty barge ("When My Ship Comes In"). Moments later, Eddie is informed that he has inherited the 77 million dollars and boards a ship bound for Egypt to claim the money. Aboard the ship, we meet Colonel Henry Larrabee, a gentleman from Virginia who sponsored Eddie Sr's exploration endeavors and wants a share of the money as well. Eddie befriends his beautiful niece, Joan, and Dot and Louie realize that they are not the only ones traveling to Egypt. In an elaborate scheme to trick Eddie into signing over the inheritance, Dot disguises herself as Eddie's mother and almost succeeds in duping him but Louie ruins the plan at the last minute. Meanwhile, Gerald Lane has boarded the ship and we see that he is in love with Joan Larrabee.

In the ship's bar, the Colonel, Gerald, and Louie realize they are all traveling for the same reason, and Gerald calls Colonel Larrabee a liar. Joan overhears and becomes angry with him, much to Jerry's dismay. Louie tries to get Eddie to hand over the cash by trying to bump him off by pushing him off the ship's deck in a wheelchair. The duo thinks they have succeeded in getting rid of Eddie, but they are foiled again. Eddie tries to help Jerry win back Joan, and suggests they rehearse a number for the ship's concert the next evening. They rehearse ("Your Head On My Shoulder"), but Joan is still frosty toward him. At the ship's concert, Jerry, Eddie, Dot, Joan, and members of the chorus perform a big minstrel show number featuring a specialty tap by the Nicholas Brothers ("Mandy N' Me"). The ship lands in Alexandria, Egypt, and we see that Joan is still angry with Jerry. Eddie, still convinced that Dot is his mother and Louie is his uncle, wants to see a magician performing at the ship's port. When the magician taunts Louie and calls him a coward, Louie gets in the magic basket and ends up getting beaten by Egyptian slaves. Eddie chases a little dog running through the marketplace and lands literally in the lap of the sheikh's daughter, Princess Fanya, who falls instantly in love with Eddie. She forces him to come with her back to the palace, where Eddie meets her father, Sheikh Mulhulla, and her fiancé, Ben Ali, who is extremely jealous. Fanya hyperbolizes the encounter with the dog, saying that Eddie saved her from a lion's attack instead of a puppy.

Eddie then is invited to stay at the palace, much to Fanya's delight. However, soon Sheikh Mulhulla learns of the Americans being in Egypt who have come to take the 77 million dollar treasure that he believes is rightfully his. He tells Eddie about this and Eddie begins to worry about his mother and his uncle, along with the others. In a comical scene, the Sheikh and Eddie smoke a hookah pipe and the Sheikh tells him of the affair he is having with a famous dancer who lives in the village. The harem women try to seduce Eddie, but he is steadfast to remain faithful to Nora 'Toots' ("Okay Toots"). Princess Fanya has a plot to get Eddie to marry her and she tells her father that Eddie kissed her on the camel when they first met. The Sheikh then decrees that Eddie must marry Fanya or die, and has him suspended over a large bowl of soup. Eddie then agrees to marry Fanya, and is kept in a room on a dog collar until the next morning, when Ben Ali comes in with a gun in a jealous rage.

Eddie convinces Ben Ali that he does not want to marry Fanya, and Ben Ali is convinced and lets him go. However, Joan, Jerry, the Colonel, Dot, and Louie arrive at the palace and are immediately accosted by the guards. In the tomb, Eddie and the men disguise themselves as the spirits of the Sheikh's ancestors and tell him to let the Americans go free. The Sheikh is so scared by the prophecies, he agrees to let them go on one condition: Eddie will never be able to see Fanya ever again. He agrees and boards a plane home to New York City, where he uses the 77 million dollar inheritance to open a free ice cream factory with Toots, thus realizing their lifelong dream ("Ice Cream Fantasy Finale").

It was kind of creepy the gags about Ethel Merman ticking her "son" Eddie Cantor, and the movies never seemed to find a place for Ethel Merman. However, she was enjoyable in her big number "An Earful Of Music". The film's "ice cream fantasy sequence" was Goldwyn's first attempt at film with three-strip Technicolor. The cast of Our Gang appear among the children in this sequence. This movie by far had the biggest budget of any Eddie Cantor movie up until that time, and it made the most money. If you like Eddie Cantor, then you have to see this movie, because watching this movie is like meeting up with an old friend...


Monday, March 10, 2014


Dancers like Cyd Charisse and Ann Miller are remembered more than hoofer Ruby Keeler. However, Keeler was a big part of the early American movie musical in the 1930s. She survived a marriage to the egotistical Al Jolson and various illnesses to live to the good age of 82. Keeler died on February 28, 1993. I remember going to college and seeing this on the cover of the paper. Here is her obituary from the New York Times on March 1st, 1993...

Ruby Keeler, the innocent-faced tap-dancing sweetheart of nine Warner Brothers musicals in the 1930's, died yesterday morning at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. She was 82 years old.

The cause of death was cancer, said her daughter Kathleen Lowe.

In seven of those musicals, including "42d Street," "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "Footlight Parade," Miss Keeler was teamed with Dick Powell, and they became one of the most popular screen couples of the early 1930's. Among the songs she introduced were "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "42d Street," "Honeymoon Hotel," "She's a Latin From Manhattan" and "Too Marvelous for Words."

In 1971, 30 years after she had retired from show business, Miss Keeler starred on Broadway in a revival of the 1925 musical "No, No, Nanette." The show, which ran for 871 performances, was among the season's surprise hits and won warm critical notices for its star, whose return to show business at the age of 60 was hailed one of the most remarkable show business comebacks in years.

Miss Keeler was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Aug. 25, 1910, and moved to New York City with her family when she was 4. At the age of 13, after receiving three months of dance instruction, she got her first job in the chorus of the George M. Cohan show "The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly." For the next three years she worked in New York nightclubs, and in 1926, she was discovered at a dance contest by Earl Lindsay, a stage director who cast her in the Broadway revue "Bye, Bye, Bonnie."

At her next Broadway appearance, in the musical "Lucky," she was spotted by Florenz Ziegfeld, who offered her a role in the musical "Whoopee," starring Eddie Cantor. But before rehearsals began, she went to Los Angeles for a brief stage engagement. There she met Al Jolson, whom she married in 1928. Although signed to star in the Ziegfeld extravaganza "Show Girl," she dropped out of the show during tryouts to join Jolson on the West Coast. Five years later she made her film debut in the movie musical "42d Street."

In the film, which is regarded as the quintessential backstage musical, Miss Keeler played Peggy Sawyer, a smiling young member of the chorus line who takes over for the leading lady on opening night, saves the show, and finds happiness with Billy Lawler (Mr. Powell). Among the numbers she sang were "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" and the title song. Busby Berkeley's Style.

The film introduced the elaborately choreographed routines of Busby Berkeley in which dozens of toe-tapping, high-kicking dancers were arranged in fantastic kaleidoscopic designs. After its success, the same formula was applied to "Gold Diggers of 1933" and "Footlight Parade," which also teamed Miss Keeler with Powell, and again had choreography by Berkeley and songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

Miss Keeler went on to star in six more films for Warners before leaving the studio at Jolson's insistence. The films included "Dames" and "Flirtation Walk" (both 1934), "Go Into Your Dance" (her only film with Jolson) and "Shipmates Forever" (both 1935), "Colleen" (1936) and "Ready, Willing and Able" (1937).

"Mother Carey's Chickens" (1938), under a new contract with RKO, was a failure. She made her last film, "Sweetheart of the Campus," in 1941.

In 1940, her marriage to Jolson ended, and she retained custody of their 5-year-old adopted son, Al Jr. The next year, she married John Homer Lowe, a real estate broker in Pasadena, Calif., and retired. They had three daughters and a son.

Shortly after her husband's death in 1969, the producer Harry Rigby called Miss Keeler and invited her to return to Broadway in "No, No, Nanette." Her name had been suggested, he said, by Berkeley, the show's production supervisor, who was then 74. Miss Keeler ended up staying with the show for its full two-year run and then touring with it for two more years.

In 1974, Miss Keeler had a brain aneurysm. She later became spokeswoman for the National Stroke Association, which established the Ruby Keeler Fellowship Memorial.

In addition to her daughter Ms. Lowe and her son Al Jolson Jr., she is survived by another son, John Lowe Jr., and two other daughters, Theresa Hall and Christine Pratt...


Friday, March 7, 2014


One of the most beautiful visions of 1940s films was that of Veronica Lake. With her "peek-a-boo bang" she was an iconic image of film noirs. Some of her popular films of the time included ‘This Gun for Hire’, ‘The Hour Before Dawn’, ‘Hold That Blonde’, and ‘Out of this World’ among others. Veronica was a big screen name in the 1940s and her success in acting seemed unstoppable.

By the early 1950's however, Lake's career had hit the skids. Still suffering from schizophrenia, and in a state of paranoia, she turned to drinking heavily to relieve herself from the burden. This only added to her deteriorating mental state and, with the stress of three broken marriages, a domineering stage mother, a manic depressive personality, and a self destructive addiction to liquor she pushed herself over the edge. After 1952, she would make only two more films, both grade B horror flicks. The beautiful super star with the peekaboo hair do, who entertained and inspired so many, never received the professional help which would have saved her from the mental suffering and she would endure it alone. She eventually frequented cheap hotels in New York City and worked as a bartender where she obtained a steady supply of booze. She never revealed her true identity and even her co-workers were in the dark about her glamorous past.

By the late 1960's she had reached rock bottom, holing up in her apartment out of paranoid fears that the FBI was following her and tapping her phone. Those who knew her in the 60's said that the once great beauty had turned into a worn out mess, with rotting teeth, unwashed hair, and the pasty complexion of a bloated alcoholic. Saranac Lake native, James Quigley, recalls an encounter with her while she was working at a popular New York City bar at #1 Fifth Avenue in the 60's. He introduced himself as a Saranac Laker and Veronica seemed happy to meet someone from her old hometown. Jim said "I went to the bar at #1 Fifth Avenue, a very chic and popular bar for New Yorkers. Veronica was tending bar and when I told her I was from Saranac Lake she cried, kissed me and continuted to work. What a moment!"

  In the early 1970s Veronica made a brief return to the spotlight with the publication of her autobiography, which earned her enough cash to relocate to the British Isles. She married for a fourth time- to an English sea captain, a commercial fisherman known as "Captain Bob" but that soon ended in divorce. In early 1973, she returned to the states. According to the doctors who treated her, she was already "pretty far along" with an acute case of hepatitis and she was not long in Saranac Lake before she was admitted to Will Rogers Hospital. According to her doctor in Vermont, Warren Beeken, Saranac Lake did not have the resources to treat her as well as the Medical Center in Burlington, so on June 26, 1973 she was transferred to the Fletcher Allen Hospital.

 Her presence in the hospital was not publicized- because, according to her publicist William Roos- "Frankly, I didn't think she was going to die". He was not aware of the extreme state of her medical condition. According to Dr. Beeken, her case of hepatitis had persisted for some time before she entered the Fletcher Allen Hospital, and her condition had deteriorated rapidly. Word of her true identity quickly spread throughout the facility, and the hospital staff visited her room to pay their respects. She visibly brightened due to the attention, signing autographs for the nurses and speaking confidently of future plans. According to one nurse who attended her in her final days, "She was very cheerful and friendly, happy and looking forward to the future, and still retained a shadow of her former beauty." Yet, she was also utterly and completely alone- with no guests or phone calls, a sad state for one once so well known. Dr. Beeken looked in on her one last time on the evening on July 6, when acute renal failure had set in.

Early on the morning of July 7, 1973, Veronica Lake passed away, alone and forgotten at age of 50. After hearing of his mother's death, her son Michael, who lived in Hawaii, asked his father, Lake's 3rd ex-husband, Andre de Toth, for money to fly to Vermont, but his request was denied. Michael had to take a loan out to fly to Vermont to claim the body from the Corbin Palmer funeral home, located near the Fletcher Allen hospital. She was then cremated but her ashes were stored at the funeral home until payment could be made. Her sparsely attended Manhattan memorial service was paid for by a friend, veteran ghostwriter Donald Bain, who penned Lake's incomplete autobiography.

Not even her ashes made the event; as they were still stored at the funeral home in a squabble over money. Her ashes remained there until March 1976, when two friends volunteered to bring Lake's ashes to Florida. Bain sent the funeral home $200 to cover the back storage fees, and the ashes were shipped to the Park Avenue residence of a friend, William Roos. Roos and Dick Toman supposedly took the ashes south for their ceremonial deposit in the water off Miami but it appears that this isn't the end of the story. It is claimed that the ashes somehow found their way to a curio shop in the Catskills, a place called 'Langley's Mystery Spot', in Phoenicia, N.Y. Even in death, Veronica Lake did not get the respect and recognition she deserved. It was a shame and a tragedy...


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Here is an excellent music review from one of the best albums my favorite female singer, Jo Stafford made. While I do not agree with everything the author writes, it is a great review of a great artist...

Jo Stafford: "Jo + Jazz" (Corinthian 108)
by Thomas Cunniffe

When remembering Jo Stafford, many musicians cite her purity. The term not only refers to Stafford’s clear voice, but to the musical mind that controlled it. Stafford’s advanced harmonic knowledge and precise intonation allowed her to sing passages that would defeat a lesser vocalist (and to hear her satirize lesser vocalists, check out the hilarious recordings she made under the names Cinderella G. Stump and Darlene Edwards). In one of his last interviews, Lester Young included her among his favorite singers, and while she never claimed to be a jazz vocalist, Stafford showed her affinity to jazz in her albums “Once Over Lightly” (with Art Van Damme), “Ballad of the Blues” and “Do I Hear A Waltz” (both with her husband, Paul Weston) and in a wonderful jam session with Ella Fitzgerald from Benny Goodman’s first “Swing Into Spring” television special.

However, Stafford’s finest jazz album was the 1960 Columbia LP, “Jo + Jazz”. Surrounded by an all-star band which combined stars from the Ellington band (Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, Lawrence Brown and Ray Nance) and the West Coast jazz scene (Jimmy Rowles, Don Fagerquist, Conte Candoli, Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon, Shelly Manne and Mel Lewis), Stafford sings in a light, attractive tone, swinging gently, and creating definitive performances. The band was arranged and conducted by Johnny Mandel, and the play list includes three gems from the Ellington book (“Just Squeeze Me”, “Day Dream” and “I Didn’t Know About You”), big band era classics (“For You”, “Dream of You”, “S’posin’” and “What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry”), standards (“You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, “I’ve Got The World On A String” and “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”) and jazz-inspired songs (“Midnight Sun” and “Imagination”).

The joys of this album come in the small details: the way Stafford gently imitates Hodges’ scooping sound on “Just Squeeze Me”, the creamy sound of her voice on “Day Dream”, the sincerity as she sings the long lines of “For You”, her lazy, reflective rendition of “I Didn’t Know About You”, and her seemingly effortless reading of the descending chromatic line on “Midnight Sun”. One senses the respect Stafford has for her material. She can perform a song like “Folks Who Live on the Hill” with an elegant simplicity and let the message of the lyrics carry the listener along. On the other hand, she creates a soaring melodic variation on “What Can I Say” that represents a distinct improvement over the original. Webster played on several vocal albums during this period, and his big breathy sound is present on nearly every cut. Rowles and Fagerquist perform delightful solos as well, but my favorite touch is another small detail—the rumbling bass clarinet of Harry Carney that spices several of Mandel’s arrangements. (This might be the best place to note Tim Weston’s superb re-mixing of the album for the Corinthian CD release, which offers a better mix of instrumental colors and vocals than the original Columbia LP).

We could have had many more albums like “Jo + Jazz”. By the end of the 1960s, Stafford’s pitch was starting to fail her (no doubt exacerbated by her long addiction to cigarettes) and she effectively retired from singing. A few years later, Carl Jefferson of Concord Records offered Stafford a contract, but the singer decided not to accept it due to her personal dissatisfaction with her voice and her reluctance to tour again (the same offer was accepted by Rosemary Clooney). “Jo + Jazz” stands as one of the finest vocal jazz albums ever recorded. It is also a fascinating glimpse of what Jo Stafford might have been, but rarely was: a true jazz singer....



Monday, March 3, 2014


Growing up in the 1980s, one of my first television memories was watching the sitcom "Mork & Mindy". The show really showcased the raw talent of comedian Robin Williams. However, I always enjoyed his love interest and voice of reason on the show - Pam Dawber. I started thinking the other day that I haven't seen her much lately, and it is a shame because she was a great actress of the 1980s. Anyone that could even attempt to act around Robin Williams, has a talent in some way!

Dawber was born in 1951 in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Thelma M. (née Fisher) and Eugene E. Dawber, a commercial artist. She attended North Farmington High School and Oakland Community College. She began her career as a fashion model with Wilhelmina Models and went on to a career as an actress. From 1978 to 1982, she played one of the title roles in the ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy: Mindy McConnell, the comedic foil and eventual love interest for the extraterrestrial Mork from the planet "Ork", played by Robin Williams. The show was extremely popular in its debut season, when it averaged at #3 in the Nielsen ratings for the year.

Dawber sang in a 1980s Los Angeles Civic Light Opera production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, based on the Joseph Papp/New York Shakespeare Festival production. Her role, as Mabel, had been played by Linda Ronstadt in the New York run of the show.

From 1986 to 1988, Dawber again had the title role in a TV series, playing Samantha Russell in the CBS sitcom My Sister Sam, co-starring Rebecca Schaeffer. The series was a success in its first season, but suffered a massive ratings drop in its second after moving to Saturday night. My Sister Sam left the air in April 1988, with half of the second season's episodes never airing on CBS, but eventually airing (along with all previous episodes) on USA Network. In July 1989, over a year after the show's demise, Schaeffer was shot and killed by an obsessed fan in front of her apartment, which devastated Dawber. Reportedly, this was one of the reasons why Pam wanted to leave the business. Dawber, and her My Sister Sam co-stars Joel Brooks, David Naughton and Jenny O'Hara reunited to film a public service announcement about violence prevention.

She has been married to actor Mark Harmon since March 21, 1987. They have two sons: Sean Thomas Harmon (born April 25, 1988) and Ty Christian Harmon (born June 25, 1992). Pam has retired from the limelight to raise her two boys. Dawber is a national spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Her last movie to date was the television movie Don't Look Behind You (1999), and her last appearance on film was in a 2006 documentary on astronaut Christa McAuliffe. Pam still makes appearances with her husband Mark, and even over 60 now, Pam Dawber is as beautiful as ever...

Saturday, March 1, 2014


The Oscar ceremony of today is much different than the classic ceremonies of the past. Hollywood was so much different in the classic days. Movie stars were true legends, and the Oscars was THE event of the year. Here are some memories of those classic days...