Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day


As you soak up the sun (and booze) today, remember to say "Thank you" to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. On a lighter note, speaking of military men, if it's at all possible to fall in love with a commercial illustration, we think we just did.






(Thanks, JASON!)

Hello, Fashion Lovers

A reader recently contacted us, and said that we reminded them of the "fashionista" commentator featured in a series of amusing television spots for the Canadian discount chain, Reitman's.






What sayeth thou, loyal friends?

Hot Pepper

BARBARA PEPPER
May 31, 1915 - July 18, 1969

Hard to believe, but this Alice Faye doppelganger is the same actress who found latter-day fame as slovenly Doris Ziffel, Arnold the pig's "mother" on Green Acres. Born Marion Pepper in New York City, she initially found fame and notoriety as a Ziegfeld Follies girl, then parlayed that success into a film career. Although she never made it past the B film ranks, Barbara Pepper was a frequent name in the gossip columns, and worked steadily through the 1930's and 1940's. A spate of bad breaks, however, culminated in the traffic accident death of her husband in 1949, leaving the actress destitute and faced with the prospect of raising their two young sons alone. Always zaftig, Pepper gained an enormous amount of weight as she battled depression and alcoholism in the aftermath of the accident; her film career effectively over, she took waitressing and laundress jobs to pay the bills. Her lifelong friend and fellow Follies showgirl Lucille Ball passed along bit parts on I Love Lucy whenever she could; Pepper had desperately wanted the Ethel Mertz role, but with William Frawley already on board as Fred, Lucille and Desi both decided that having two alcoholics on the payroll would be too risky. Her role on Green Acres was a welcome, steady paycheck, but by 1968, Pepper's deteriorating health forced her to leave the show. She passed away the following year, at the tragically young age of 54.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Scissor Sisters

RUPERT EVERETT
May 29, 1959

LA TOYA JACKSON
May 29, 1956

The Inspector Gadget/The Next Best Thing movie star and the singer-songwriter, musician, author, television personality, actress, activist, and "David Laurenz for La Toya" fashion entrepreneur are our cutting edge, cut rate, cut up birthday celebs today!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Global Village

New Yorker PAULETTE GODDARD as an Indian/Canadian half-breed in North West Mounted Police (1940)

Czech FLORENCE MARLY in (we think) the Argentinian Western El idolo (1952)

Brooklyn-born, Norweigan-raised SIGRID "The Goddess of the Fjords" GURIE as an Algerian gypsy in Algiers (1938)

British BINNIE BARNES as a Chinese shrew in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)

Isn't Hollywood's open-mindedness refreshing?

Let the Strumpets Blow!

KYLIE MINOGUE
May 28, 1968

CARROLL BAKER
May 28, 1931

Two of our favorite aging sex kittens share a birthday today.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why, Yes!


It is all about you today! Go forth and be fabulous, darlings!

But Remember...


...it's a fine line between narcissism and madness.

Bang Bang

Raquel Welch and her immobile hair (and breasts)! Safety gays! Phallic rifles! A bizarre, old-fashioned, pseudo-Broadway verse tacked on to a quasi-hip go-go arrangement of a Sonny Bono song! We love the Sixties.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bouffantissimo!

Dancing Lady

"It was tough dancing in high heels, but we did change the heels to more of a dance shoe - like a Capezio. You know they kept giving me these skinny high heels and it's like 'Okay, I understand those. My mother wore those.' However, when I was growing up and I saw girls in the chorus, they had a thicker heel and it was a dance shoe and I kept telling them to find those shoes. I knew they existed, and finally they brought out a shoe and I said 'That's the shoe! Now make it in many colors'." - John Travolta



Darlings, if Poseidon's Underworld (from whence we stole these uber-fab images) is not a frequent stop on your blog itinerary, it should be. If your personal A-Z of fabulousness includes Ann Sothern, Brenda Vaccaro, Christopher Atkins, Dana Wynter, Edith Head, Finola Hughes, Gil Gerard, Hugh O'Brian, Irwin Allen, James Franciscus, Karen Black, Lynda Day George, Merle Oberon, Nancy Drew, Olivia de Havilland, Perry King, Ruth Roman, Stella Stevens, Ty Hardin, Virginia Grey, William Holden, Yvette Mimieux and Zorro - well, that's why you're here! But Poseidon3 takes the same icons that SSUWAT holds near and dear, and fleshes them out in breathtaking, enviable detail. You'll have a ball, and spend hours, perusing his funny, thoughtful, scrupulously researched posts. Reading his entries is almost as fun and delightful as watching the So-Swoonily-Bad-They're-Fabulous movies that he loves. So put on your Carol Lynley hot pants and pay him a visit today, and every day, won't you? Bless you.

The Fall and Decline of Civilized Television

We're primarily interested in the falls. Here, four lovely lasses duke it out for the highest ratings and the highest hair on What's My Line? For your consideration:

Miss Jayne Mansfield



Miss Raquel Welch



Miss Jayne Meadows



Miss Joan Crawford


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let the Music Play

HAL DAVID (right) with BURT BACHARACH


Happy Birthday, Hal David (May 25, 1921) and Leslie Uggams (May 25, 1943)! Here's a clip of Leslie singing one of Hal and Burt's lesser-known gems, "Let the Music Play," which was a minor hit for The Drifters and Dionne Warwick.

Oh, Swish!

Millennial fashions, as envisioned by those mad Englishmen in the 1930's. Do you suppose Vivienne Westwood and the late Alexander McQueen were taking notes?


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Hostess with the Mostess


One of our all time favorite tomes is How to Do It, or The Lively Art of Entertaining, by the indefatigable Miss Elsa Maxwell. Miss Maxwell was, in her own words, "...a short, fat, homely piano player from Keokuk, Iowa, with no money or background, [who] decided to become a legend and did just that." Yet for all her unloveliness and lack of Social Register standing, through her ingenious flair for ingratiating herself with the "right" people, Maxwell became society's premiere party giver, hobnobbing with the eclectic likes of Maria Callas, Bernard Baruch, Prince Aly Khan, the Duke of Alba, and practically every other Hollywood and Broadway celebrity, blue blood, and bona fide royal of the last mid-century. Truly, by the 1950's, when How to Do It was first published, Maxwell was every bit as famous (if not more so) than the people she gave parties for and wrote about in her syndicated gossip column.





Unfortunately, Maxwell also had a self-destructive streak which may have found its perfect outlet in the rise and advent of television. As a "name," Maxwell was a frequent guest on the various talk, chat and news programs of the day. The medium gave Maxwell the largest possible audience to whom she could dispense her views and opinions; but it also put into sharp focus the real woman beneath the Patou and Jean Desses gowns. While Maxwell's columns and books had presented her as a basically benign, starstruck name-dropper extraordinaire, Maxwell's television appearances showed a loud, garrulous, inelegant woman with, conflictingly, an intense dislike and distrust for anything outside of her very small realm of "right" society. Armchair psychologists might suggest that Maxwell's loud protestations against those she considered "bores" and "vulgarians" was, in some way, self-flagellation for her own less-than-pristine roots. Widely considered among her friends and enemies as a lesbian, Maxwell also railed vehemently and viciously against homosexuality - which certainly must have been an interesting topic of conversation when she palled around with Noel, Cole and Cecil. (For more on this subject, we direct you to our friend Brooks' fascinating site, An Open Book.)


When Maxwell died in 1963, there were only a dozen mourners at her funeral; she had alienated many of her true friends, and those fair-weather acquaintances who had only wanted a coveted Maxwell party invitation had long outgrown their use for a woman who had become an anachronism by that point. Hindsight being 20/20, though, we can be kind to Elsa Maxwell. She was, after all, "a short, fat, homely piano player from Keokuk, Iowa, with no money or background," and most likely a lesbian, to boot. One can only imagine, given the times and the crowd she desperately wanted to be a part of, how that affected her psychologically, and the obvious conflict it caused within her. With another half-century's worth of perspective behind us, let's simply celebrate the fact that a short, fat, homely piano player could find herself, albeit temporarily, at the very pinnacle of fame and glamour. So throw a party today, for no reason at all, and raise your glass to Miss Maxwell on her birthday. We'll even give you a menu from some of her favorite recipes for the event.

ELSA MAXWELL
May 24, 1881 - November 1, 1963

AN ELSA MAXWELL BIRTHDAY MENU

Mrs. T. Reed (Diana) Vreeland's Consommé Vert-Pré
Mrs. Edgar Leonard's Trout

Valerian Rybar's Artichokes a la Greque
Clare Boothe Luce's Cumberland House Orange Pancakes



Consommé Vert-Pré

Make a very good rich bouillon. Add enough spinach juice to color it green, and just before serving, add finely chopped fines herbes. Serve hot or iced.

Trout

Put juice of 1 lemon in ice cold water. Dip trout into this, then dry with a cloth rubbed in garlic. Salt and pepper the trout inside and dust lightly with flour outside. Saute trout in butter, shaking pan to prevent sticking. Cook about 3 minutes on each side. Remove trout from pan and keep warm. Add more butter to pan and saute 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, until onion is transparent but not brown. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar, 4 or 5 tablespoons white wine, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs. Pour sauce over the trout.

Artichokes a la Greque

Clean 6 choice, large artichokes, and snip off the tip of each leaf. Mix 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with salt, pepper, 1/2 clove of finely chopped garlic, and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley. Then stuff each leaf. Place the artichokes in a pan and 1/2 cup of water, taking care not to spill any on the artichokes. Pour 3 tablespoons of pure olive oil over each artichoke. Salt and pepper lightly, and let simmer for 2 hours, replenishing water when necessary. Serve lukewarm.

Cumberland House Orange Pancakes

Cream 1/4 pound sweet butter with 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Gradually beat in the juice and grated rind of 2 oranges. Turn this orange hard sauce into a jar and let it harden in refrigerator. Beat 3 egg yolks lightly, and add a pinch of salt and 1 cup milk. Stir in gradually 3/4 cup sifted flour, and continue to stir until batter is smooth. Finally fold in 3 egg whites, stiffly beaten. In heavy iron skillet heat a generous amount of sweet butter over a low fire. When butter foams, pour in 1/2 cup of pancake batter. When the pancake sets, loosen it carefully with a turner and keep it afloat in the butter until the underside is golden. Turn the pancake, add more butter, and keep pancake loose by shaking the skillet constantly until the pancake is crisp and brown on both sides. (Keep fire low or the butter will burn.) Repeat until all batter is used. Drain the pancakes on absorbent paper, then fold each quickly around 1 tablespoonful of the cold orange hard sauce., and serve them on a piping hot fireproof dish - so hot the butter sizzles. A dash of Cointreau added at the table enhances the flavor.

Anyone Who Had a Heart

Ever wonder what would happen if you took a Burt Bacharach ballad, gave it Czech lyrics, had a Lana Cantrell lookalike record it, and then filmed it as a surreal, Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? knockoff? Neither have we, but here are the results anyway.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beggin' You for Mercy


This was us at the doctor's office today, begging him for relief from our double-whammy of tonsilitis and sinusitis. Updates to follow when we actually feel human again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Enchanted Evening?


We came out of Mitzi Gaynor's opening night at Feinstein's at the Regency on May 18 liking her so much, we wish we could give her one woman show, Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins, an unqualified rave - especially since it marks the veteran star's New York nightclub debut. Ain't that a kick in the head? After sixty-plus years in films, on television, and on nightclub and casino stages across the globe, La Gaynor has never taken a bite out of the Big Apple.

So when the still-curvaceous, glamorous Gaynor made her grand entrance on Tuesday evening, she was greeted with an ovation that can only be described as tumultuous. It was the climax of a steady hum of delicious tension and expectation which had charged the air with electricity as the audience awaited the start of a hotly-anticipated engagement.

90 minutes later, we exited the ballroom at Feinstein's curiously elated, but a little baffled and wondering what had just happened. Gaynor's song selections were wildly random (ranging from the expected South Pacific medley to a relatively new number from now-defunct Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone), and, we're sorry to report, largely forgettable. Gaynor's greatest assets during her heyday were her charm, vivacity, glamour, great gams, and her sparkling dancing ability. Today, she has charm and vivacity in spades; her glamour, especially as presented in six outrageous Bob Mackie confections, is as potent as ever; and her gams still look splendid. But whether it was because of the confines of the small-ish, awkwardly set up stage in the ballroom of the Regency, or Gaynor's own reluctance to shake her booty at age 78 ("I don't wanna show off no more," she sang, perhaps tellingly, in that number from Chaperone), there were few of the terpsichorean fireworks she once displayed on her legendary television specials. Gaynor's voice was never a prime strength, and now that she relies on it much more than her leggy high-kicking, its limitations are brought sharply into focus.

What kept the audience rapt with attention, then (besides the flouncy entrances with each new Mackie gown), was Gaynor's warmth, piss elegant humor, and magnetic storytelling abilities. She told more than a few howlers; we were in stitches, but her anecdotes, hysterical as they were, tended to ramble and lasted longer than her musical numbers. Which leads us to this conclusion: Mitzeleh (as her friend The Merm used to call her) would be best served nowadays by a touring Q&A program, rather than a full-scale nightclub act. If, as she sang, she doesn't want to "show off no more" - and one left Feinstein's feeling that all Mitzi really wants to do is tell salty stories and look glamorous - then she could sit down on stages with, say, Charles Busch or Bruce Vilanch or Rex Reed; reminisce, tell her tales, and show her vintage clips (which she does screen in her Feinstein's act, and which only serves to remind you of what you're not seeing in the current show). Gaynor did a program like this, in fact, a few years back in Los Angeles, we believe, with great success.

If, however, she truly does still have the urge to get up there and sing her heart out, Gaynor would be wise to eschew the overblown arrangements (her thin, wobbly voice had to compete with the synthesized strings and horns), trim the fat (a few, well-chosen, well-placed anecdotes), and tighten up the program with a carefully selected repertoire of songs which suit her style and range.

Mitzi's at Feinstein's through May 27th. Do we recommend that you go see her? Yes, so long as you know what you're getting into. It may not be the best nightclub act you've ever seen, but you'll have a hell of a good time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Who's the Boss?


Full disclosure here: we could never, ever be 100%, completely impartial when it comes to Diana Ross. We know every eyelash flutter, every hair toss, every nuance to a tee. We don't only love "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Touch Me in the Morning" or "Baby Love" - we will defend the merits of "I Am Me," "Girls," and "Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do" to the death. Having said that, being comparatively sane, we also temper this devotion to all things Ross with a healthy dose of realism, and are affectionately, chidingly remonstrating towards "our diva" when we feel that she doesn't perform to what we know are the best of her abilities. (See: "I Am Me," "Girls," and "Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do," respectively, we say to thee.)

So our feelings about Miss Ross' sold out return to Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday night are decidedly mixed. On the plus side: the 66 year old supreme Supreme still looks absolutely divalicious, her figure now becomingly anointed with the pleasing curves which once eluded The Skinny One in the Middle; she sounds better than she has in years, her whispery, breathy tone satisfyingly (and surprisingly) robust; and most important, she seems to be relaxed, happy, and having a ball on stage. When La Ross made her grand entrance to the strains of "The Boss," bedecked in Bob Mackie's black and silver sequins and chartreuse feathers, we knew from her electric smile and commanding body language that she was not - as she has admittedly done in recent years - just going through the motions. The charge between performer and audience was instantly combustible, and we're not quite sure who was pumping whom up - but it mattered little, as the result was the same: a dynamic, iconic star who was suddenly performing as if she remembered her stature and calling as an entertainer of the first rank - and not just a respected nostalgia act.

Another notch in Ross' belt this time out: her decision to tour with a tight, top-notch 15-piece orchestra, including a live horn and string section, giving symphonic heft to her dazzling, exhaustive catalog of hits - which, if you'll remember, were all recorded with wonderful live musicians, and not a coterie of synthesizers and gadgets. And, speaking of that catalog of hits, consider this: Ross' 28-song set list on Wednesday contained no fewer than sixteen Billboard Number One hits - and she left out nine others. Can any other diva, of any age, making the concert rounds this summer come even close to that tally?

On the down side, Ross' pacing seemed off: the evening grew increasingly ballad-heavy, and even just one or two more uptempo numbers sprinkled in between would have been welcome. The evening's dramatic, heartfelt closing was a tribute to Michael Jackson, which merged Ross' 1984 #1 R&B hit, "Missing You," with Jackson's "You are Not Alone," then segued into a single verse of the tender title track from Ross' most recent, Top 40 album, I Love You (2007). Although the sentiment was clearly from the heart, it seemed almost anticlimactic, following as it did a thunderous performance of Ross' personal anthem, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and a surprisingly effective, energetic encore of the tired disco warhorse "I Will Survive."

Also, Ross' famed interaction with her audience has grown increasingly remote in recent years; although she was clearly thrilled with, and appreciative of, the tumultuous reception that New York gave her, there was little to no patter between songs, no strolls through the audience, no reaching out and touching. And it would have been nice to hear some truly rare, seldom-performed songs in the 100 minute set: while we understand that Ross simply can't omit the biggest hits from her repertoire, "What About Love," an admittedly pretty ballad from the I Love You collection, and "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" - probably her most throwaway solo hit - could easily have been replaced by, say, "It's My Turn" or "Remember Me."

In her defense, though, Ross' set list has more or less been the same for nearly a decade or more, and the changes she did make were welcome: full length versions of Supremes classics she hasn't done complete renditions of in a long time, such as "Reflections," "You Can't Hurry Love," and "Come See About Me"; the surprising inclusion of a little-known ballad that Luther Vandross wrote and produced for her 1987 Red Hot Rhythm & Blues album, "It's Hard for Me to Say," delivered as a bittersweet elegy to her 1960's Motown colleagues; and, while it's not an unfamiliar addition to her shows, Billie Holiday's torchy "Don't Explain" benefited from the diva's stunning new phrasing and interpretation, things the glossy Ross is not often credited with.

In the end, though, our criticisms really stem from the fact that we truly believe that Diana Ross should be held in the same regard and esteem as a Streisand or Minnelli (well...Minnelli, pre-Gest), and while she's undoubtedly a legend and an icon, as an artist, we feel that Diana has never been given her due respect. And when she falls short of the superhuman standards we set for her (and which, at the very pinnacle of her powers, she often achieved), we're only disappointed because we want everyone to also know that she's a winner, baby! Judging by the comments as the audience left Radio City, almost everyone was blown away. (And we keep reiterating: we cannot believe how strong her voice sounded.) It's just that we know she could be even better. As it was, Diana Ross gave 110% of herself at Radio City on Wednesday night, and brought the house down. Brother, if she had given 120%, she would have absolutely leveled midtown, the boroughs, and possibly New Jersey. On that you can depend and never worry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Molto Massimo



MASSIMO GIRROTI
May 18, 1918 - January 5, 2003


Is it any wonder that Visconti had an ossessione?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Connie-Connie-Connie-Chameleon


In the 1930's, Constance Bennett was renowned as a fashion plate even more than she was as a movie star ("I'm a lot more sartorial than thespian," she acknowledged. "They come to see me and go out humming the costumes."). Interestingly, for all her East Coast pedigree, the New York-born and bred Bennett seemed to look southward for her fashion inspiration. To wit: her sleek, polished look of the 1930's was a Hollywoodized magnification of the ultra-chic style of such socialites as the Kentucky-born Mrs. Harrison Williams, later Mona, Countess of Bismarck.


By the 1950's, Connie's screen career had declined, but she found great success in the touring company of Auntie Mame, the fabulous stage play based on Patrick Dennis' novel, and a precursor to the musical. She was the perfect embodiment of brittle, theatrical glamour, and her look seemed to mirror that of Alabama's infamous daughter, Tallulah Bankhead.



As related by our dear friend Poseidon3 over at his utterly fascinating, fabulous blog, Poseidon's Underworld, Bennett made her simultaneous big screen comeback and swan song in Ross Hunter's plush remake of Madame X (1966). In preparation for her return before the cameras, Bennett once again completely transformed herself - this time, apparently taking a page from the Texas handbook of Miss Ann Miller.



And if you're gonna go, you may as well go like Annie!
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