Amoeblog

Lena Horne 1917 - 2010

Posted by Whitmore, May 10, 2010 12:05pm | Post a Comment
Lena Horne
 
Lena Horne, the legendary jazz singer, icon of American popular music and award winning actress -- and as far as I’m concerned, one of the most captivating women ever to walk this planet -- died yesterday, Sunday, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She was 92. Called "one of the incomparable performers of our time," she was best known for her plaintive signature song "Stormy Weather" from the film of the same name and her starring roles in such pictures as Cabin in the Sky, Panama Hattie, and The Wiz.
 
Horne had an easy, sultry singing voice, insanely beautiful, and her compelling sex appeal may have at first overshadowed her talents, but she wasn’t just another pretty face. When she signed with MGM Pictures, she was among the handful of black actors to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio, though it was never easy. Her life long battle against bigotry took its psychic toll; Horne was perpetually frustrated with the public humiliation of racism. A pivotal moment took place in 1945 as she entertained at an Army base in Europe and saw that German prisoners of war were seated up front while black American lena Hornesoldiers were relegated to the back. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. Her involvement in various social and political organizations and her friendship with Paul Robeson, who was just as well known as a singer as for his communist leanings, had Horne’s name placed on the era’s blacklists during the red scare witch hunts of the early 1950’s and the age of Joseph McCarthy.
 
Born Lena Mary Calhoun Horne in Brooklyn on June 30, 1917, she dropped out of school at 16 to help support her family. She joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club, the mythical Harlem night spot where the entertainers were black and the clientele white. By the spring of 1934, she had a featured role in the Cotton Club Parade. She left the club in 1935 to tour with Noble Sissle's orchestra, then billed as Helena Horne. Horne was also one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band when she joined Charlie Barnet's orchestra in 1940. She was the first black performer to play the Copacabana nightclub in New York City.
 
In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical Stormy Weather. Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and put her name center stage for the next several decades.
 Lena Horne
Horne became one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement of the late 50’s and 1960’s. She made headlines for once throwing a lamp, an ashtray and several glasses at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant, bloodying the man's forehead. In 1963 Horne joined with some 250,000 others in the March on Washington, D.C. when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. That same year Horne spoke at a NAACP rally with another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, just the weekend before his assassination.
 
In the early 1970’s Horne went into seclusion. In a period of just over a year, her father, son and husband all died. She became too grief-stricken to perform or even see anyone but her closest friends. Oddly enough, comedian Alan King was the one who convinced her to return to the stage and public life.
 
Horne had her first big Broadway success as the star of  Jamaica in 1957, but in 1981, for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, she won a special Tony Award and the 333 performances still hold the record for the longest-running solo performance in Broadway history. In it, she sang two versions -- one straight and the other gut-wrenching -- of "Stormy Weather" to give audiences a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey she had taken in of her five-plus decade long career. In 1984 she was Kennedy Center Honors recipient for extraordinary talent, creativity, and perseverance. And of her four Grammy Awards, the one she received in 1989 was the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.



Happy Birthday Virgina O'Brien

Posted by Whitmore, April 18, 2010 09:23pm | Post a Comment
virginia o'brien
So here is my annual tribute to one of my all time favorite comedic actresses and peculiar lady of song, Virginia O’Brien. Today is her birthday, though she passed away back in 2001. She was also a popular singer in the 1940’s, though never a big star. Often co-starring with Red Skelton in several MGM musicals/comedies, she is best known for her deadpan expression as she sang, a gimmick she stumbled upon by accident at the Los Angeles Assistance League Playhouse's virginai o'brienopening night performance of a musical comedy revue called Meet the People.
 
Some of her films include The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers, Ship Ahoy (1942), Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), and Merton of the Movies (1947), all with Red Skelton. Then there are Thousands Cheer (1943), The Harvey Girls (1946) with Judy Garland, Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Francis in the Navy (1955) and Gus (1976).

After a guest appearance in 1948’s short film Musical Merry-Go-Round, O'Brien was dropped from her MGM contract, a victim of the old Hollywood studio star system fading.

Here are some of Ms O’Brien’s great musical numbers.



Happy 90th birthday Ken Nordine!!

Posted by Whitmore, April 13, 2010 11:11pm | Post a Comment
Ken Nordine
Ken Nordine
You may not know it, but you do know Ken Nordine, and you know him well. His deep resonant, baritone voice, gritty in a perfect kind of way, has sliced through television and radio ads for decades now. But you should know him for his "word jazz." He recorded his first Word Jazz album back in 1957, backed by the Chico Hamilton band. Nordine’s pieces play in the common -- words, bopping and shifting, wit pedaling to and fro in between the everyday bits of everyday life nimbly budging the predictable out of the way. Colorful is the perfect adjective, absurd is another word that should have a turn here too. Mundane is not in his vocabulary.

Anyway, today the legendary wordsmith is 90 years old -- Happy Birthday, Ken Nordine!






Art Clokey 1921 - 2010

Posted by Whitmore, January 12, 2010 08:31am | Post a Comment
Art Clokey
Art Clokey
, the animator who created Gumby and Davey and Goliath, both coming into being by way of stop motion clay animation, died this last weekend at his home in Los Osos, California. He was 88.
 
Fashioned from a little green slab of clay, Gumby made his television debut in 1956 on The Howdy Doody Show. The following year The Gumby Show premiered. Along with his constant pony pal and sidekick Pokey, together they rambled though what could best be described as a series of gentle but weird LSD trips. Their colorful adventures against a toy strewn landscape often included Gumby's pestering nemseses, The Blockheads. (According to his son, Clokey did try LSD once, but under medical supervision and years after he created Gumby. I like to think he tripped with Cary Grant and Steve Allen.)Gumby and Pokey
 
Though the initial show was short-lived, Gumby enjoyed a comeback in 1961 running through 1968, then again in the 1980s and once again in the 1995 feature film, Gumby: The Movie, also directed by Art Clokey. Eventually 233 episodes were produced. Davey and Goliath, which ran in the 1960’s and 70’s, had over 300 episodes underwritten by the Lutheran Church of America.
 
Born as Arthur Charles Farrington in Detroit on Oct. 12, 1921, he lived with his father after his parents divorced. But at age nine Art’s father was killed in an automobile accident and instead of rejoining his mother, he was placed in an orphanage near Hollywood. Art was adopted sometime later by Joseph Waddell Clokey, an established composer and music professor at Pomona College in Claremont.
 
Art Clokey earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Ohio and later attended Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, intent on becoming an Episcopal priest. He left soon after and entered the University of Southern California, where he studied film with Slavko Vorkapich, a pioneer in modern montage techniques. In 1955, Clokey made a student film, Gumbasia, with animated clay shapes gyrating to a jazz score. The film was the inspiration for the later television series. (The film is included on the DVD Gumby Essentials, released in 2007 by Classic Media.)
 
In 2006 Art Clokey was the subject of a documentary film, Gumby Dharma.
 
Art Clokey’s first marriage, to Ruth Parkander ended in divorce. His second wife, Gloria, died in 1998. He is survived by his son, Joe, a stepdaughter, Holly Harman, and three grandchildren. Another daughter, Ann, died in 1974.

Soupy Sales 1926 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, October 22, 2009 11:11pm | Post a Comment
SOUPY SALES

Soupy Sales
has died. After some 25,000 pies to the face and more than 5,000 live TV appearances over the past six decades, the comedian, actor, kids show host, author and raconteur passed away at 9:51pm, Thursday at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx, New York. Sales had been having health problems and entered the hospice last week. He was 83.
 
Best known for his long-running local and network kids television shows like Lunch with Soupy Sales, he was the king during the 1950s and '60s. Known as the man who would do almost anything for a laugh including bad puns and cheap gags, his trademark was his pie-throwing and his style was improvisational; kids of all ages loved his manic zaniness and slightly blue antics and innuendos. A-list celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine would stop by and seldom left pie free. A friend of mine tonight commented that Sales was like a “cool, hilarious soupy salesbig brother.”
 
The name Soupy Sales originates from a childhood nickname, "Soupy” and "Sales" was the suggested by a television station executive who knew another comic named Chic Sale. Born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926, in Franklinton, North Carolina, Soupy was the youngest of three sons and his parents ran a dry-goods store; according to legend his family, the only Jewish family in town, sold sheets to the Klu Klux Klan. Sales grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and received his B.A. in Journalism from Marshall University. During the Second World War he served in the Navy in the South Pacific, and it was there he created some of his strange characters he would use years later, such as “White Fang, the meanest dog in all the United States.”
 
Sales began his Television career in 1950 on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, hosting America's first teen dance show, Soupy's Soda Shop. In 1951 in a skit on his late night comedy series Soupy's On!, he got his first pie in the face on television. Two years later he moved to Detroit and WXYZ-TV, where his kids show Lunch with Soupy Sales was a huge success. After seven years on the air in Michigan he moved to Los Angeles in 1961.
 
He really hit his stride in 1964 when he moved the show to WNEW-TV in New York. The Soupy Sales Show, had amazing ratings and was syndicated throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand during its two year run. When the series ended, Sales had appeared on 5,370 live television programs, the most in the TV history.
 
In the mid sixties Sales recorded two albums and had a Top Ten single in 1965 with "Do the Mouse;" Sales even performed "The Mouse" on the Ed Sullivan Show. Eventually his single in New York City alone sold 250,000 copies.
 
His most notorious stunt took place in New York on New Year's Day, 1965 when he ended his live broadcast by telling his viewers to “take some of those green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln and Jefferson from their parents’ wallets and send them to him and he would send them a postcard from Puerto Rico.” Unfortunately the bit worked a little too well and money started rolling in, and though the money was returned, he was still suspended by WNEW for a two weeks. Of course, kids showed up picketing Channel 5 over Sales’ suspension and his popularity went through the roof.
 
During the 1970’s and 80’s Soupy was a regular on game shows like What's My Line, To Tell the Truth, The $10,000 Pyramid and Match Game. In 1985 he joined WNBC-AM as a disc jockey, and is perhaps best remembered as having the show between the two shock jocks, Don Imus and Howard Stern.
 
Over the last ten years Sales turned to writing. In 2003 he published his autobiography, Soupy Sez!: My Zany Life and Times, and a collection of his humor, Stop Me If You've Heard It!: Soupy Sales' Greatest Jokes. Finally in 2005, Soupy Sales received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
 
Soupy Sales is survived by his wife, Trudy, and two sons, Hunt and Tony, famous in their own right as musicians who have worked with the likes of David Bowie, Todd Rundgren and Iggy Pop.
 
"Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you."




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