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Brigitte Bardot is 89 years old today
Brigitte Bardot is 89 years old today.
Bardot is a former French actress, singer and fashion model, who later became an animal rights activist. She was one of the best known sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s, and was widely referred to simply by her initials.
Starting in 1969, Bardot became the official face of Marianne (who had previously been anonymous) to represent the liberty of France.
Bardot was an aspiring ballerina in early life. She started her acting career in 1952 and, after appearing in 16 routine comedy films with limited international release, became world-famous in 1957 with the controversial film, And God Created Woman.
She later starred in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film, Le Mépris.
Bardot was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress for her role in Louis Malle's 1965 film, Viva Maria!
Bardot caught the attention of French intellectuals. She was the subject of Simone de Beauvoir's 1959 essay, The Lolita Syndrome, which described Bardot as a "locomotive of women's history" and built upon existentialist themes to declare her the first and most liberated woman of post-war France.
Bardot retired from the entertainment industry in 1973. During her career in show business, she starred in 47 films, performed in several musical shows and recorded over 60 songs. She was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1985, but refused to receive it.
After her retirement, she established herself as an animal rights activist. During the 1990s, she generated controversy by criticizing immigration and Islam in France, and has been fined five times for inciting racial hatred.
Bardot adopted a Bohemian lifestyle that was to include four husbands, assorted lovers and a dress code far from the sophistication of Hollywood stars of the time.
"She goes barefoot, and turns her back on elegant grooming, jewels, perfumes, make-up, on all these tricks," the French feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir noted with approval. "She does what she wants and that is what is so troubling."
Bob Dylan is said to have written his very first song about Bardot as a teen, and John Lennon is said to have suffered so badly from nerves that he took LSD before meeting her.
William Windom, actor, was born 100 years ago today.
Windom was perhaps best known for his work on television, including two episodes of The Twilight Zone.
In the 1969–1970 NBC series, My World and Welcome to It, Windom played the James Thurberesque lead and received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series.
After the cancellation of the series, Windom toured the country for a time in a one-man Thurber show. I saw the show. It was such a powerful portrayal, that I became a Thurber fan myself.
Windom’s most common recurring character, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, was on the CBS series Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury.
Windom died on August 16, 2012, at the age of 88 at his home in Woodacre, California, from congestive heart failure.
Ed Sullivan and his wife, Sylvia, in the water on Cote d'Azur during vacation, 1965
Photo by Hecht
Ed Sullivan was born 122 years ago today.
An entertainment writer and television host, Sullivan was best known as the presenter of the television variety program, The Toast of the Town, now usually remembered under its second name, The Ed Sullivan Show.
Broadcast for 23 years from 1948 to 1971, it set a record for long-running variety show in U.S. broadcast history. In 1996, Ed Sullivan was ranked #50 on TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.”
Sullivan, of Irish decent, was born in Harlem. A former boxer, Sullivan began his media work as a newspaper sportswriter for The New York Evening Graphic.
When Walter Winchell, one of the original gossip columnists and the most powerful entertainment reporter of his day, left the newspaper for the Hearst syndicate, Sullivan took over as theater columnist. His theater column was later carried in The New York Daily News.
Sullivan’s column, “Little Old New York,” concentrated on Broadway shows and gossip, as Winchell's had. Like Winchell, he also did show business news broadcasts on radio.
Again echoing Winchell, Sullivan took on yet another medium in 1933 by writing and starring in the film, Mr. Broadway, which has him guiding the audience around New York nightspots to meet entertainers and celebrities.
Sullivan soon became a powerful starmaker in the entertainment world himself, becoming one of Winchell's main rivals, setting the El Morocco nightclub in New York as his unofficial headquarters against Winchell's seat of power at the nearby Stork Club. Sullivan continued writing for The News throughout his broadcasting career and his popularity long outlived that of Winchell.
In 1948, the CBS network hired Sullivan to do a weekly Sunday night TV variety show. Debuting in June, 1948, the show was broadcast from CBS Studio 50 at 1697 Broadway (at 53rd Street) in New York City.
In 1967, the theatre was renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater. It was home of the Late Show with David Letterman and now Stephen Colbert.
Television critics gave the new show and its host poor reviews. Harriet Van Horne alleged that "he got where he is not by having a personality, but by having no personality." The host wrote to the critic, "Dear Miss Van Horne: You bitch. Sincerely, Ed Sullivan."
Sullivan had little acting ability. In 1967, 20 years after his show's debut, Time magazine asked, "What exactly is Ed Sullivan's talent?" His mannerisms on camera were so awkward that some viewers believed the host suffered from Bell's palsy.
Time in 1955 stated that Sullivan resembled “a cigar-store Indian, the Cardiff Giant and a stone-faced monument just off the boat from Easter Island. He moves like a sleepwalker; his smile is that of a man sucking a lemon; his speech is frequently lost in a thicket of syntax; his eyes pop from their sockets or sink so deep in their bags that they seem to be peering up at the camera from the bottom of twin wells.”
The magazine concluded, however, that "Yet, instead of frightening children, Ed Sullivan charms the whole family." Sullivan appeared to the audience as an average guy who brought the great acts of show business to their home televisions.
"Ed Sullivan will last," comedian Fred Allen said, "as long as someone else has talent." Frequent guest, Alan King. said "Ed does nothing, but he does it better than anyone else in television."
He had a newspaperman's instinct for what the public wanted, and programmed his variety hours with remarkable balance. There was something for everyone. A typical show would feature a vaudeville act (acrobats, jugglers, magicians, etc.), one or two popular comedians, a singing star, a hot jukebox favorite, a figure from the legitimate theater and for the kids, a visit with puppet "Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse," or a popular athlete.
Sullivan had a healthy sense of humor about himself and permitted — even encouraged — impersonators such as John Byner, Frank Gorshin, Rich Little and especially Will Jordan to imitate him on his show. Johnny Carson also did a fair impression, and even Joan Rivers imitated Sullivan's unique posture.
The impressionists exaggerated his stiffness, raised shoulders and nasal tenor phrasing, along with some of his commonly used introductions, such as "And now, right here on our stage…," "For all you youngsters out there…," and "a really big shew" (his pronunciation of the word "show"). He had a knack for identifying and promoting top talent and paid a great deal of money to secure that talent for his show.
When Elvis Presley became popular, Sullivan was wary of the singer's bad-boy style and said that he would never invite Presley on his program. However, Presley became too big a name to ignore, and Sullivan scheduled him to appear on September 9, 1956.
In August, however, Sullivan was injured in an automobile accident that occurred near his country home in Southbury, Connecticut. Sullivan had to take a medical leave from the series and missed Presley's appearance.
Charles Laughton wound up introducing Presley on the Sullivan hour. After Sullivan got to know Presley personally, he made amends by telling his audience, "This is a real decent, fine boy."
Sullivan's failure to scoop the TV industry with Presley made him determined to get the next big sensation first. In Feb. 9, 1964, he achieved that with the first live American appearance of The Beatles, the most-watched program in TV history to that point and still one of the most-watched programs of all time.
The Beatles appeared three more times on the Sullivan show in person, and submitted filmed performances later. Sullivan struck up such a rapport with the Beatles that he agreed to introduce them at their momentous Shea Stadium concert on August 15, 1965.
The Dave Clark Five, heavily promoted as having a "cleaner" image than the Beatles, made 13 appearances on the Sullivan show — more than any other UK group.
There was another side to Sullivan. He could be very quick to take offense if he felt he had been crossed, and could hold a grudge for a long time. This could sometimes be seen as a part of his TV personality. Jackie Mason, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and The Doors became intimately familiar with Sullivan's negative side.
On November 20, 1955, Bo Diddley was asked by Sullivan to sing Tennessee Ernie Ford's hit "Sixteen Tons." Diddley sensed the choice of song would end his career then and there, and instead sang his #1 hit, "Bo Diddley." He was banned from the show.
In 1963, Bob Dylan was set to appear on the show, but network censors rejected the song he wanted to perform, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues," as potentially libelous to the John Birch Society.
Refusing to perform a different song, Dylan walked off the set at dress rehearsal. Sullivan, who had approved the song at a previous rehearsal, backed Dylan's decision. The incident resulted in accusations against the network of engaging in censorship.
In early September, 1974, X-rays revealed that Sullivan had advanced esophageal cancer. Only his family was told, however, and as the doctors gave Sullivan very little time, the family chose to keep the diagnosis from him.
Sullivan, still believing his ailment to be yet another complication from a long-standing battle with ulcers, died five weeks later, on October 13, 1974.
His funeral was attended by 3,000 at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York on a cold, rainy day.
Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Network, 1976
Peter Finch, British-born Australian actor, was born 107 years ago today.
Finch is best remembered for his role as "crazed" television anchorman, Howard Beale, in the film 1976 film, Network.
The film earned him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor, his fifth Best Actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and a Best Actor award from the Golden Globes.
He was the first of two people to win a posthumous Academy Award in an acting category. The other was Heath Ledger, also Australian.
After suffering a heart attack in the lobby of The Beverly Hills Hotel, Finch died on January 14, 1977 at the age of 60.
Here, Finch does his infamous “Mad as Hell” speech from Network.
Ben E. King, Russian Tea Room, New York City, 2008
Photo by Joe Kohen
Ben E. King, soul singer and former lead singer of the Drifters, was born 85 years ago today.
King is perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of "Stand by Me," a U.S. Top 10 hit in both 1961 and 1986. He was one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group, The Drifters.
Born in Henderson, North Carolina, King moved to Harlem at age nine. In 1958, King joined a doo wop group called The Five Crowns. Later in 1958, The Drifters' manager, George Treadwell, fired the members of the original Drifters and replaced them with The Five Crowns.
King had a string of R&B hits with the group on Atlantic Records. He co-wrote and sang lead on the first Atlantic hit by the new version of the Drifters, "There Goes My Baby" (1959).
He also sang lead on a succession of hits by the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, including "Save the Last Dance for Me," "This Magic Moment" and "I Count the Tears."
King only recorded thirteen songs with The Drifters — eleven lead vocal performances and three backing other lead singers — including a non-single called "Temptation" (later redone by Drifters vocalist, Johnny Moore).
Due to a dispute over his contract, including a salary increase and a fair share of royalties, King was never again given a chance by Drifters manager, George Treadwell, to perform with the group on tour or on television. After the dispute settled, King was hired only to sing until a replacement for him was found.
On television, fellow Drifters member, Charlie Thomas, usually lip synched the songs that King had recorded with the Drifters. This end gave rise to a new beginning.
In May, 1960, King left the Drifters, assuming the more memorable stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a successful solo career. Remaining on Atlantic Records’ Atco imprint, King scored his first solo hit in 1961 with the ballad, "Spanish Harlem."
His next single, "Stand by Me," written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, would become a classic hit.
King died of coronary problems on April 30, 2015 at the age of 76.
Here, King performs “Stand by Me.”
Al Capp in 1946
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt
Al Capp, cartoonist and humorist best known for the satirical comic strip, Li'l Abner, was born 114 years ago today.
Capp created the strip in 1934 and continued writing and (with help from assistants) drawing until 1977. He also wrote the comic strips, Abbie an' Slats (in the years 1937-45) and Long Sam (1954).
He won the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year, and their 1979 Elzie Segar Award (posthumously) for his "unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning."
Comic strips dealt with northern urban experiences until the year Capp introduced "L'il Abner," the first strip based in the South.
Although Capp was from Connecticut, he spent 43 years teaching the world about Dogpatch, reaching an estimated 60 million readers in over 900 American newspapers and 100 foreign papers in 28 countries.
M. Thomas Inge says Capp made a large personal fortune on the strip and "had a profound influence on the way the world viewed the American South.”
Miles Davis, 1955
Photo from Express Newspapers
On September 28, 1991 — 32 years ago today — jazz trumpet legend Miles Davis died in a California hospital at the age of 65.
Today, our vocabulary may no longer be adequate to describe the nature of an artist like Miles Davis. In a career that spanned parts of six decades, Davis didn't simply evolve as an individual musician. He drove the very evolution of the art form he worked in, pulling much of the jazz world along with him as he moved from one new sound to the next with utter disregard for the critical or popular reaction.
And though the reception to some of the directions Davis took was strongly negative, it never kept him from pursuing new ones. As he once said of himself, "I have to change....It's like a curse."
Miles Dewey Davis III was given his first trumpet on the day he turned 13, and by the time he was 15, he was a card-carrying member of the local musicians' union in Saint Louis, Missouri. He left St. Louis for New York City in 1944 to pursue a degree in music at Juilliard, though he immersed himself in the world of professional jazz while still receiving his classical training.
In the clubs on 52nd Street in postwar Manhattan, a new sound was being born, and Davis had a hand in its creation. As a member of Charlie Parker's quintet in 1945, Davis played on some of the earliest recordings made in the hugely popular style that became known as be-bop. By 1948, he was leading his own quintet on the first of his many departures from the jazz mainstream.
First came "cool jazz," a highly cerebral and highly unpopular style that nevertheless sparked a whole new movement. Then came "hard bop," a style he developed in the mid-1950s after several years lost in the early part of the decade to heroin addiction.
The decade that followed was the period of Davis's greatest popularity — a period during which he not only continued to break new musical ground on albums like Miles Ahead (1957), Kind of Blue (1959) and Sketches of Spain (1960).
He also managed to introduce the world to many other jazz greats he employed as sidemen: John Coltrane, Red Garland, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.
From the mid-1960s onward, the rate of Davis's evolution only increased as he went through periods of experimentation with rock and funk, among other new sounds.
In early September 1991, Davis checked into St. John's Hospital near his home in Santa Monica, California, for routine tests. Doctors suggested he have a tracheal tube implanted to relieve his breathing after repeated bouts of bronchial pneumonia. The suggestion provoked an outburst from Davis that led to an intracerebral hemorrhage followed by a coma.
After several days on life support, his machine was turned off and he died on September 28, 1991 at age 65. His death was attributed to the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure. Davis was taking azidothymidine (AZT), a type of antiretroviral drug used for the treatment of HIV and AIDS, during his treatments in hospital.
Davis is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City, with one of his trumpets, near the site of Duke Ellington's grave.
In the summer of 1959 — 64 years ago — Miles Davis released his classic album, Kind of Blue.
This video was made for the 50th anniversary of this album by Legacy Recordings for its collector's box set.
Photo by Alexandre Meneghini