Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday

Don Murray (July 31, 1929)

Handsome, square-jawed Don Murray most famously wooed Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop (1956), and was the first husband of lovely Hope Lange.

His career never really took off, despite some fine roles in pictures like Advise and Consent (1962), in which Murray played a Senator With A Secret. Murray's notoriously strict moral code precluded him from taking many roles which he deemed too salacious, so perhaps that's why he never fully capitalized on his obvious beefcake appeal.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Murray! We hope that you're enjoying your 79th birthday.

Betty's Biggest Fan

1980's hottie Michael Biehn (July 31, 1956) celebrates his birthday today. While many filmgoers will best remember him for his role in The Terminator (1984), certain homosexuals (ergo, us) will always remember him as Lauren Bacall's ardent admirer in The Fan (1981) -- perhaps the first, and last, attempt at a hybrid campy musical/slasher flick.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Miss Colbert Regrets She's Unable to Lunch Today

She'll be at her weekly Travis Banton harlequin jumpsuit fitting. And you know how long those can take.

September 13, 1903 - July 30, 1996

Kookie A La Lee

Birthday boy Edd "Kookie" Byrnes (July 30, 1933) apparently had at least one chance to give Miss Peggy Lee fever.

Burke's Law

"It's all about me, bitches!"

MISS DELTA BURKE (July 30, 1956)

The Girl on Wolverton Mountain

Rockabilly's "Blonde Bombshell," Jo-Ann Campbell, turns 69 today. She was a sassy spitfire who was discovered singing at The Apollo, of all places; little-remembered today, she was quite a big star in the late 1950's and early 1960's. She was romanced by Bobby Darin (prior to his marriage to Sandra Dee), made frequent television appearances, and had several hit records, including "(I'm the Girl on) Wolverton Mountain." She even made a handful of film appearances, most famously in the Alan Freed rock-fest, Go, Johnny, Go! (1959). From the looks of it, she certainly had fun along the way.

Jo-Ann Campbell retired from performing in the mid-1960's, and is apparently living a quiet, happily married life in peaceful obscurity.

Beef or Chicken?


Miss Alice Faye


We're quite excited about the upcoming release of The Alice Faye Collection Vol. 2 on DVD; we've become quite enamored of this lovely lady and her liquid gold voice. She began her movie career as a sort of Jean Harlow knockoff, complete with platinum hair, plucked eyebrows and satin on the bias.

But by the time her stardom really began ascending with In Old Chicago (1937) and Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), Faye's appearance had become considerably more refined. Hers was a mature, womanly appeal, in contrast to the more cheerful, girl-next-door image of her contemporary and rival at 20th Century Fox, Betty Grable.

Faye alternated between lavish "prestige" films like Lillian Russell (1940) and the splashy, almost-nonsensical musicals that Fox was famous for in the 1940's; the ultimate of these must be the almost surreal The Gang's All Here (1943), a Busby Berkeley-directed smorgasborg of camp, featuring Faye, Carmen Miranda, the barest whisper of a plot, and lots of very phallic bananas.


After nearly a decade as a major star, Faye walked out on her Fox contract when she realized that her leading role in Fallen Angel (1945) had been minimized by studio head Darryl Zanuck, in order to build up Linda Darnell's supporting role. Blackballed from the film industry by Zanuck, Faye didn't make another film until 1962; apparently letting bygones be bygones, she returned to Fox, for the remake of State Fair.

Unfortunately, although she received positive personal notices, the film was a commercial and critical failure, and didn't lead to any further films for Faye. She kept more than busy, however, with projects including a revival of Good News on Broadway, with her former Fox leading man John Payne; and becoming spokesperson for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, promoting active senior lifestyles.

The lovely Miss Alice Faye passed away on May 9, 1998, just days after her 83rd birthday.

MISS ALICE FAYE (May 5, 1915 - May 9, 1998)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Joan Ate Here

The '21' Club has been a New York City fixture since New Year's Eve, 1929, featured in countless movies and television shows (even if by name only). Just mentioning '21' signified glamour and celebrity, and jockeying for a prime table became a New York obsession. It's been seen in All About Eve, The Opposite Sex and Written on the Wind, among others, so you know it's just fabulous. (If it's good enough for Bette Davis, Dolores Gray and Lauren Bacall, it's good enough for us.)

What set '21' apart from other such swank eateries as The Colony or Le Pavillion or La Cote Basque, was that for all its glamour, it never strayed far from its speakeasy roots: hearty American fare, red-checkered tablecloths and gruff career waiters were the order of the day, rather than fussy French cuisine, starched white linen and preening maitre'd's.

Today, the celebrities have moved on, but '21' still manages to conjure up a little old New York glamour -- even amidst the Japanese tour buses and out-of-town couples. You can close your eyes and almost picture Bennett Cerf, Joan Crawford, James Aubrey, and Robert Benchley all holding court at their respective tables.

Take a look at a sampling of the '21' menu; it's completely stuck in a time warp, but in the best possible way. I'll be there on Friday evening, making my yearly pilgrimage, tucking into a dry martini and Steak Diane.


Boston Bibb Lettuce, blue cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, aged balsamic

’21’ Caesar Salad with garlic croutons and aged Parmesan

Hand-Picked Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, jicama, avocado, lime, extra virgin olive oil

Cold Senegalese Soup, grilled chicken and Granny Smith apples

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, mesclun greens, pickled fresh horseradish

Main Courses

Maine Lobster Salad, bibb lettuce, celery root rémoulade, baby potatoes, fava beans, tomatoes

Mussels Marinara, Roma tomato sauce, garlic, basil

Grilled or Sautéed Dover Sole, asparagus, roasted fingerling potatoes

Creamy Chicken Hash, baby spinach, toast or wild rice

The ’21’ Burger, green beans, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, choice of potato

Steak Diane, flambéed, mashed potatoes, haricots verts

Steak Tartare, mesclun greens, rye toast, prepared to your request

Side Orders: Buttered English Peas • Baby Artichokes • Chilled Asparagus with Hollandaise Creamed Spinach • Potato Purée • Creamed Sweet Corn • Sautéed Mushrooms

Oh, and '21' also earns my unwavering devotion thanks to their continued embrace of the most beautiful two words in the English language: Jacket Required.

Happy Birthday

Tim Gunn (July 29, 1954)

Since it's Tim's birthday, Heidi doesn't say anything when he borrows her clothes. Any other day, she'd smack a bitch up.

We Feel Like Chicken Tonight, Redux

The current issue of Rolling Stone features teen juggernaut The Jonas Brothers on the cover, with 18-year-old Joe (center) resembling something very close to effin' hot.

We feel dirty now.

Class Act


July 29, 1938 - August 8, 2005

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Do the Wrong People Travel?

As our dear friend Muscato pointed out in his corner of the world, there was a time when people dressed like this to travel:

We'd also like to point out that this would have been considered casual day wear, suitable for such sporty events as day tripping after you come into port.

Somewhere along the line, people stopped dressing for travel. Nowadays, when I fly, I feel as if I'm chaperoning a large combination slumber party and fraternity beer blast; the girls are all in their pajamas and yoga pants, while the guys are all in dirty tee shirts, shorts and flip flops.

Look, I get it. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable when they travel, particularly if it's a long international flight. Even if it isn't, dealing with surly security agents, cramped seating and endless delays can wrack your nerves. But that doesn't mean that any of us really want to see you in your pajamas, sans makeup. If we did, we would have married you.

So, dear readers, permit me to get all Joan Crawford/My Way of Life on you and share what I do when I travel abroad, which is usually a 9 hour flight. I typically go twice a year, and my "uniform" rarely varies:

* Dark trousers: black, charcoal grey, midnight navy. They won't show wrinkles as much. And need I mention that they shouldn't be overly baggy (you'll look like you're wearing a Hefty bag after a few hours) or fashion-victim tight (you'll have blood clots in your thighs after a few hours on a plane)?

* A simple shirt. I usually either opt for basic white, or a classic pattern.

* A lightweight V-neck or cardigan sweater. I think this is essential! First of all, the sweater won't show wrinkles nearly as badly as your shirt. Second, airplanes can get ridiculously cold, no matter the season. Ideally, your sweater should be a thin wool or cashmere, which will better stand up to wrinkling.

* A sport coat. I don't necessarily always wear it, but I always at least have a coordinating sport coat over my arm, and I'll tell you why: if your luggage gets lost, you want to be prepared. And when I do arrive at my destination, if I feel like wearing a jacket, I have it ready and unwrinkled. (It would also be wise to pack the most expensive shoes you'll be taking in your carry-on, along with a fresh change of underwear, a clean shirt, and a different pair of trousers.)

* Comfortable shoes. This does not include flip flops or sneakers. I don't know about you girls, but when I fly, my feet swell up like a zeppelin. If I wore constructed loafers, say, I'd never get 'em back on after I slipped 'em off. So I choose either driving shoes or very flexible lace-ups that are more pliable, and easy to get on and off.

* Small, travel- or sample-sized versions of face cleanser, moisturizer, and those weird finger-puppet-style disposable gizmos which brush your teeth. Also, a clean washcloth and a ziploc bag. Before we land, I duck into the lavatory, wash my face, brush my teeth, and throw the washcloth back into the ziploc. I also heartily recommend Kiehl's Eye Alert cream, which combats circles and puffiness; and Bliss' Instant Mattification, which goes on transparently to eliminate shine (and no, butch, it is not makeup). And both of these products are packaged in small, convenient tubes. Also, Visine eye drops are absolutely essential.

* Sunglasses. Because even with the Eye Alert and Visine, you may need them.

Put it all together, and voila! This is how your blogger likes to travel:


Of course, once you reach your destination, it is entirely your prerogative to doff your traveling duds and just relax:

So there you have it, my dears: completely unsolicited, presumptious advice from my little corner of the world. You may thank me later.


Ed Harris, Noir Style

With his rugged good looks, everyday-Joe appeal, piercing eyes and a jawline you could cut glass with, Richard Widmark was the Ed Harris of his day. Unlike Harris, however, Widmark became an above-the-title leading man -- in spite of making his film debut as a maniacal, giggling killer who pushes wheelchair-bound old ladies down the stairs.


Signed to 20th Century Fox, Widmark became one of the most popular stars of the film noir genre, appearing in such classics as Road House (1948, with Ida Lupino), No Way Out (1950, with Linda Darnell and Sidney Poitier) and Pickup on South Street (1953, with Jean Peters). There were a few clunkers along the way, too, including the fascinating misfire, Don't Bother to Knock (1952) -- a static little B-thriller most notable for showcasing a young Marilyn Monroe as an unhinged psychotic.


Widmark ended his association with Fox in 1954, and began freelancing. He appeared in a string of "all-star" spectaculars, some very good (1961's Judgement at Nuremberg; 1962's How the West Was Won; 1964's Cheyenne Autumn) and some very disappointing (1955's The Cobweb; 1960's The Alamo; 1967's The Way West). One refreshing change of pace was the Gene Kelly-directed comedy froth, The Tunnel of Love (1958), opposite Miss Doris Day.


In 1968, Widmark starred in the crisp detective drama, Madigan, which resulted in a series of spin-off TV movies in the early 1970's. He was also part of the elegant cast of characters aboard Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Widmark continued acting well into the 1980's, winding up his career opposite Faye Dunaway in the cable movie Cold Sassy Tree (1989) and in a brief appearance in True Colors (1991), starring up-and-comers John Cusak and James Spader.


Richard Widmark passed away on March 24 of this year; he was 93. A private man, his reputation doesn't loom nearly as large as that of his more colorful contemporaries (Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum), perhaps because he never sought out the limelight when he was away from the cameras. Married to playwright Jean Hazelwood from 1942 until her death in 1997, Widmark remarried in 1999 to socialite Susan Blanchard, his wife at the time of his passing.

Here's to Richard Widmark: a complex anti-hero on the screen, and a class act off of it.

In Praise of Ed Harris

He's been nominated for four Academy Awards, won a Golden Globe, and is a highly respected thespian. But here at Stirred, Straight Up with a Twist, we're frankly more interested in Ed Harris' chest and eyes.

Click to, er...enlarge. Have mercy.


And Why Not?