Archive for Rule 5

Silver standard

When you get as old as I am, you start snickering at the phrase “younger woman”: aren’t they all younger women? Of course not. But I’m long past the point where anyone over 29 seems to have gone to seed.

Of course, it helps if you’re in a position to take care of yourself, as is Christine Lagarde, sixty-one, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, now in her second term despite this little contretemps:

From 1993 to 2008 there was a long legal battle between [Bernard] Tapie and the Crédit Lyonnais bank (partly state-owned bank). Crédit Lyonnais had allegedly defrauded Tapie in 1993 and 1994 when it sold Adidas on his behalf to Robert Louis-Dreyfus, apparently by arranging a larger sale with Dreyfus without Tapie’s knowledge.

In 2008 a special judicial panel ruled that Tapie should receive compensation of €404 million from the French Ministry of Finance, headed by Christine Lagarde. She decided not to challenge the ruling. On December 3, 2015, a French court ruled that Tapie should return this compensation with interest. A few days later, the Court of Justice of the Republic ordered that Lagarde should stand trial for negligence. On December 19, 2016, Lagarde was convicted of negligence; however, the conviction was not deemed a criminal record and Lagarde was not sentenced to a punishment.

The US has been supportive of Lagarde, who has been something of a hardliner in office, but only to a point: for example, as Greece circled the drain in 2015, she called for massive debt relief, but when concrete plans for such relief were not forthcoming, she subsequently declined to assist the Eurozone.

Behold the hardliner:

Christine Lagarde on the rise

Christine Lagarde in silver

Christine Lagarde stretches out

Looking for brief samples of her voice, I stumbled across this AP squib from the IMF spring meetings — not quite a minute and a half — in which Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin complains about the US tax code.

I think she just might be sympathetic to the cause.

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Keeping it Friel

It’s Courtney Friel’s thirty-seventh birthday, and I suspect rather a lot of folks think she’s still stirring somewhere in the mighty Fox News machine. Um, no. For the moment, she’s the weekend anchor on KTLA, the Los Angeles affiliate of The CW. Then again, as a former Fox person, it is likely that she possesses certain, um, decorative qualities, and no one is likely to mention her BA in Political Science from San Diego State.

Courtney Friel, probably not on YouTube

Courtney Friel all almost-dressed up

Courtney Friel in the director's chair

I suspect this picture was not taken in Los Angeles:

Courtney Friel in the winter

She’s originally from Philadelphia. Do women from there typically wear flip-flops in the snow?

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Standing on her own

“Schrödinger’s pants,” quipped a Facebook wag. The truth of the matter is not much more plausible:

[L]et us focus on the pant. Yes, pant. I don’t think it can be called “pants” if one half has been deleted. If you’re wondering what it looks like from the back … well, so am I, and she perhaps wisely did not indulge that curiosity. The culprit did at least thoughtfully leave the waistband so that her belt would have a soft place to land, but otherwise this is an extremely clean and almost surgical amputation.

“Forget that,” you show me. “Show me the damn pant.”

Ryan Destiny wearing something vaguely resembling pants

Anyway, this is Ryan Destiny Irons, twenty-two, from Detroit, currently appearing in Lee Daniels’ musical drama Star on Fox. Sensibly enough, she’d shortened up her billing to “Ryan Destiny” several years before, and she spent a few years in a girl group called Love Dollhouse.

“Can I” came out in 2014; the group broke up the next year, and Destiny signed a solo deal, though she probably won’t be doing any recording while Star goes on. Still, there’s always the bedroom cover, a staple of YouTube, and in this one, she’s singing Beyoncé’s “I Miss You.”

In the meantime, let’s dress her up a bit:

Ryan Destiny in leather

Ryan Destiny at the Star premiere

Apparently wearing half a pair of pants is not something she usually does.

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The lonely princess

This is the poster for the 70th anniversary edition of the Cannes Film Festival:

Official poster for Cannes 2017

And it’s all of a sudden controversial, because of the image of Claudia Cardinale at its center.

Claudia, who turns 79 today, is not concerned about it:

Despite the rumblings in the French press and social media, Cardinale … described the controversy as a “fake row.” Speaking to The Huffington Post, the Leopard star said, “[T]his image has been retouched to accentuate this effect of lightness and transpose me into a dream character.”

She added: “This concern for realism has no place here, and as a committed feminist, I see no affront to the female body. There are many more important things to discuss in our world. It’s only cinema.”

Through more than 140 films, she’s played plenty of dream characters, some of whom might have seemed awfully down to earth.

Claudia Cardinale on the balcony

Claudia Cardinale on the cover of Tempo

Claudia Cardinale on the rocks

I have to figure this was the inevitable fate of the woman who won the title of “Most Beautiful Italian Girl in Tunisia” at nineteen, and who appeared in many Italian films before she ever learned to speak Italian well.

(Mr Johnston is a cultural historian at University College, London. The title here is a reference to Claudia’s character in 1963’s The Pink Panther.)

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Uee, Uee

Her family named her Kim Yu-jin, but for most of her life she’s been simply Uee, and you might think that one does not adopt a name shorter than Cher’s without some attitude slipping in. I’m not seeing any myself. I’d mentioned yesterday that she’d had a solo hit in 2011, and there were others, but most of her musical career has been spent as a member of the girl group After School.

Uee recommends this soft drink

Uee stretches out

Uee stands tall-ish

“First Love,” whose title would seem to belie its pole-dancing imagery, sold over 600,000 copies for After School in 2013.

And Uee’s a far better singer, or actor, or dancer even, than she is a pitcher:

She’d be the first to admit it, too.

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The go-go bhoot

The sort of person who sends me a link to something like this can be safely said to, um, know me entirely too well:

A young man Kanan (Suraj Sharma) returns to India from Canada to marry his long-term girlfriend Anu (Mehreen Pirzada), but comes to know that as he is a manglik (born under an unlucky star) he has to get married to a tree before getting married to her. He very reluctantly marries the tree, which is duly chopped down after the completion of the ceremony. As a result, from that day onwards he is haunted by the spirit of a woman named Shashi (Anushka Sharma), who lived in that particular tree and hence claims to now be “married” to him.

This is consistent with Hindu astrology:

In Hindu astrology, Mangal Dosha is an astrological combination that occurs if Mars (Mangal) is in the 1st, 2nd (Considered by South Indian Astrologers), 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of the ascendant chart. A person born in the presence of this condition is termed a manglik.

It is believed to be unfavorable for marriages, causing discomfort and tension in relationship, leading to severe disharmony among the spouses and eventually to other bigger problems. This is believed to be caused due to the “fiery” nature of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war.

There is a belief that the negative consequences for a single-manglik marriage can be resolved if the manglik first performs a ceremony called a kumbh vivah, in which the manglik “marries” a banana tree, a peepal tree, or a silver or gold idol of the Hindu God Vishnu.

And what of this mysterious tree-dweller?

Anushka Sharma looking pensive

Anushka Sharma, twenty-eight, is a model turned motion-picture star; according to one source, she was the highest-grossing actress in all of India in 2016.

Anushka Sharma posing for one of those lad mags

Anushka Sharma strikes a pose

Her first release in 2017 is Phillauri, which doesn’t seem to have anything much to do with famed Hindu writer Shardha Ram Phillauri. There is, however, a lot of poetry, and, as mentioned before, a wedding to a tree. This being Bollywood, there is also a lot of music:

She has almost 10 million Twitter followers. I can’t imagine why.

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Not that she’s incendiary or anything

Singer/songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs regrets to inform you that her show at Union Hall in Brooklyn has been cancelled:

I’m the most bummed to report that my show on 4/8 at Union Hall is cancelled due to the recent fire at the venue. So glad everyone was okay and that the venue will be able to reopen soon, and I’ll look forward to rescheduling next time I’m out east!

Jenny Owen Youngs working that Jackie De Shannon look

Jenny Owen Youngs gives you that look

Over her twelve-year career, she has opened for a dizzying number of acts, headlined a number of shows, and recorded three albums.

Jenny Owen Youngs' first album, Batten the Hatches

Her first album, Batten the Hatches, was self-released back in 2005 and picked up for reissue by the Nettwerk label two years later, largely on the strength of this song:

The song in question (1) appeared in the second-season premiere of the Showtime series Weeds and (2) was not, um, blipped therein as it is here.

In 2013, she exited The Closet for good and was wed to longtime girlfriend and LGBTQ activist Kristin Russo.

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A likely story

Jane Powell, I am delighted to report, is still with us today, her 88th birthday. She’s been performing for more than 75 years; before she was 13, she had a singing gig on a radio station in Portland, Oregon, making music and selling Victory Bonds for the war effort. (Yes, that war.) She was Suzanne Burce back then; in 1943, after winning a talent competition, she auditioned for Louis B. Mayer of MGM, was signed to a seven-year contract, and was promptly loaned out to United Artists for the lead in the 1944 musical Song of the Open Road, not at all related to the Walt Whitman poem of that title, playing a child star named, um, Jane Powell. MGM thought this name was swell, and before the film was even released, assigned her the stage name “Jane Powell.”

Jane Powell does a boudoir shot

Jane Powell stands tall

Apparently she wasn’t impressed by life in MGM’s musical unit:

Those movies didn’t reflect reality. I was at MGM for 11 years and nobody ever let me play anything but teenagers. I was 25 years old with kids of my own and it was getting ridiculous. Publicity was froth. Everything you said was monitored. With me, they didn’t have to worry. I never had anything to say, anyway.

She did, however, have things to sing:

Jane Powell's The Girl Most Likely LP

The Girl Most Likely, a 1958 RKO picture, starred Jane as a girl who wound up engaged to three guys. Capitol issued no single from the soundtrack, though I remember “I Don’t Know What I Want”. She did have one hit single: a cover of Cole Porter’s “True Love,” from the soundtrack of High Society (1956), where it was sung by Bing Crosby with a couple of words from Grace Kelly.

Jane’s recording (Verve 2018) charted at #15, not bad at all for a one-hit wonder, but nothing was going to beat der Bingle, who claimed the #3 spot.

Jane Powell was married five times, the last time to child star turned PR man Dickie Moore, whom she met in 1984 while he was writing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: (But Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car) They had 27 years together, from 1988 until Moore’s death last year.

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Madame President

Roberta Anastase, born on this date in 1976, served as the first female President of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, from 2008 to 2012. She was a member of the Democratic Liberal Party, which held 115 of the 334 seats in the Chamber. In 2009, the Social Democratic Party, which held 114 seats, withdrew from the governing coalition; the government subsequently fell in a vote of no confidence, though Anastase held on to her seat until 2012.

Roberta Anastase at work

Roberta Anastase waits

Before all this political stuff, Anastase represented Romania in the 1996 Miss Universe competition, though this took some time on the pageant circuit:

Roberta Anastase in the swimsuit competition

Peripheral note: Before you ask: 1996 was the first year that Donald Trump (remember him?) owned the Miss Universe operation; he is no longer connected to Miss Universe.

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Leeza, Leeza

Leeza Gibbons has been on television almost as long as there’s been television to be on, or so it seems sometimes: in her 60 years (as of tomorrow) she’s hosted several hit shows, including one bearing her name. She even had a nice, long run on the radio, and she’s done dozens of informercials. Her latest gig: co-hosting the Rose Parade on New Year’s.

Leeza Gibbons, one shoe off, one shoe on

Leeza Gibbons, easily suede

Leeza Gibbons on a red carpet

And in 2015, she won Celebrity Apprentice:

The best part of that, perhaps, is that she defeated Geraldo Rivera.

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Bai now, enjoy the rush

The thing about Bai Ling, I think, is that she’s cheerfully exhibitionistic without being prurient about it: she may be trying to turn your head, but she doesn’t seem to be trying to turn you on. (At the ripe old age of 50, this is a perfectly reasonable stance to be taking.)

She’s also not much of a singer, but this hasn’t discouraged her in the slightest. From 2012, her single “Tuesday Night 8 PM”:

These photos are from the last 10 days or so of her Twitter feed.

Bai Ling as something of a Transformer

Bai Ling on the floor

This one is below the jump, in case your sensibilities are subject to outrage by such things:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Not the usual J-pop

Kana Nishino gets a mention here because:

  • It’s her 28th birthday;
  • Unlike many J-pop artists, she writes most of her own lyrics.

Neither of these necessarily explains why she had a hit record titled “Esperanza”:

Still, why shouldn’t the Japanese be treated to an occasional Latinesque beat?

Of course, Kana ranks high on the Disturbingly Cute scale, as is seemingly mandatory in J-pop:

Photo from session for Kana Nishino's album To Love

Kana Nishino in cover art

Portrait of Kana Nishino

Okay, one more single. This is “Aitakute Aitakute” (“I miss you, I miss you”), which is perhaps more typical J-pop:

For some reason, I never get tired of this stuff.

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It should have been

We should have spent the weekend celebrating Christina Grimmie’s 23rd birthday. One of a very few YouTubers who made the jump to the Big Time, she appeared in season four of The Voice and finished third; Usher, one of the many who were impressed, dubbed her a “baby Céline Dion.” She wound up with a recording contract and a devoted fan base.

Christine Grimmie stretches out a bit

Christine Grimmie stands up for herself

Christine Grimmie takes notes

Then came that horrible night in June 2016 in Orlando:

Florida authorities answered one of the major questions in the shooting death of Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old singer who made her name on NBC’s “The Voice.”

The man who killed her was Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Florida, according to Orlando police. But they didn’t give any background on Loibl or offer a possible motive.

Loibl, tackled by Christine’s brother Marcus, turned the gun on himself. It was subsequently concluded that Loibl was obsessed with her and at one time had hoped to win her affections, although one has to wonder how he was going to do that with a Glock 9mm.

And two nights later, another madman opened fire on The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing forty-nine.

This was Christine’s very first YouTube video, a cover of “Don’t Wanna Be Torn” by Hannah Montana:

There will be one last release, an EP titled Side B (there already has been a Side A), due later this month. This is the first single:

Happy birthday, Christina, wherever you may be.

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A modest spectacle

Singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb, forty-nine today, is probably best known for her trademark eyeglasses, which she eventually developed into a full line of designer specs. She’s also recorded 13 albums.

Lisa Loeb attends a BMI function

Lisa Loeb sits up

Lisa Loeb goes casual

Her 1994 single “Stay (I Missed You)” was played over the credits of Ben Stiller’s film Reality Bites, and eventually climbed to the very top of the Billboard Hot 100, despite the fact that Loeb didn’t have a recording contract at the time.

Ethan Hawke, who lived across the street from Loeb in those days, was the one who talked Stiller into buying her song for the film soundtrack; he also directed Loeb’s music video.

I frankly find it hard to believe she’s 49 years old. Must be the glasses.

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Not suddenly slinky

Singer Işın Karaca was born in London on this date in 1973 to a Cypriot mother and a Turkish father. (Perhaps understandably, she shortened her surname from Büyükkaraca.) Despite a degree in theatre, she didn’t start singing in earnest until her middle twenties, when she recorded songs for the Turkish version of Disney’s Hercules.

Işın Karaca in blue

Işın Karaca in red and blue

Işın Karaca with singing partner Sefa Chesmeberah

By the middle of last decade she’d put on something like 30 kg, and in 2005 she wrote a book titled Büyümek İçin Küçümek Lazĭm (“Need to get smaller to grow”), which, she said, would not be published until she got down to a size 36. The book came out in 2007.

The chap with her in the third picture is singer Sefa Chesmeberah, who duets with her on the single “Sevmekten Anladığım” (“What I understand about love”), from her so-far-unreleased album Eyvallah (“Okay,” more or less):

The single, the second from the album, was released this past January.

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ABCD

Which stands for “Australian-born confused desi,” an epithet sometimes used on Vimala Raman, the most successful Australian actor — she was born in Sydney — in Indian cinema history. She doesn’t seem so confused to me; India produces motion pictures in five different languages, and after some forty-odd films, Vimala speaks them all. What’s more, she studied the Bharatanatyam dance, and has a degree in, um, Information Systems from the University of New South Wales.

Vimala Raman on a plastic chair

Vimala Raman in Desi Dukes

Vimala Raman in a hammock

Don’t even think about dubbing that denim in the middle picture “Desi Dukes.”

Love life? “I don’t have one yet,” she says:

See? Not confused at all.

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Exactly the right size

Cush Jumbo will brook no mockery of her name, which was bestowed on her by parents Angela and Marx Jumbo. (She’s British; he’s Nigerian.) She’s thirty-one and has quite a CV, including her own play Josephine and I, about jazz singer Josephine Baker:

Cush Jumbo in Josephine and I

She’s also done film and television, including the last season of CBS’ The Good Wife, which led to a role in CBS’ current streaming series The Good Fight, from the same producers.

Cush Jumbo at the BAFTAs

Cush Jumbo at the Legend of Tarzan premiere

Unsurprisingly, she’s promoted herself and her series on CBS talkers, including this weird encounter with the Late Show’s Stephen Colbert that descends into Synchronized Shakespeare:

Clearly someone worth watching for the next three or four decades.

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Beyond blonde

Joan Blondell first appeared on stage in the winter of 1906-07, aged four months. (She was an infant in a cradle; she had no actual lines to learn.) Fortunately, no one remembered her, so when she decided to strike three years off her age, changing her birth date to 30 August 1909, there was no outcry.

In 1930, she starred on Broadway with James Cagney (!) in the short-lived Penny Arcade, which lasted long enough to be her ticket to Hollywood, where it became the feature film Sinners’ Holiday. This was before the Production Code, so Blondell found herself playing some occasionally salacious roles.

Joan Blondell rejected!

Joan Blondell in 1933

Joan Blondell places a call

Did I say “salacious”? Here’s Joan with Barbara Stanwyck in Night Nurse (1931), in which there’s an awful lot of lingerie on display:

Blondell died on Christmas Day 1979; her last appearance was in the 1981 The Woman Inside, playing the perplexed aunt of a Vietnam vet who’s contemplating sexual-reassignment surgery. Not at all salacious, of course.

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Flying like a stream of thunder

Tahliah Debrett Barnett was tagged with the nickname “Twigs,” supposedly for her creaky joints, something you don’t expect in a slight-ish woman of twenty-four. When pop duo The Twigs complained, she adopted the tag “FKA twigs,” though she denies the prefix stands for “Formerly Known As.”

It’s not that you couldn’t tell them apart, either. FKA twigs sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and is quite unapologetic about it:

“When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: ‘I’ve never heard anything like this before, it’s not in a genre.’ And then my picture came out six months later, now she’s an R&B singer. I share certain sonic threads with classical music; my song ‘Preface’ is like a hymn. So let’s talk about that. If I was white and blonde and said I went to church all the time, you’d be talking about the ‘choral aspect’. But you’re not talking about that because I’m a mixed-race girl from south London.”

See what you think of “Preface.”

FKA twigs for Calvin Klein

FKA twigs puts her hands up

FKA twigs on the red carpet

Twigs and heartthrob Robert Pattinson have been an item for more than two years now.

My own favorite twigs tune, perhaps because it’s fearfully intense while still keeping its distance, is “Two Weeks,” which, like “Preface,” comes from her first LP, LP1. “Two Weeks” made it to #42 on the Billboard dance chart.

You might not want to play “Two Weeks” at work.

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J_ST T_RN_D S_XT_

Yes, boys and girls, it’s true: Vanna White, she who has turned the letters on Wheel of Fortune for the last 35 years, has just turned sixty. It took me a few moments to remember that Vanna was the second letter-turner for Wheel; Susan Stafford did it first, from 1975 to 1982, and for one week in 1986 while Vanna was mourning her fiancé, who was killed in a plane crash.

From time to time, she’s done non-Wheel stuff, but her main gig has kept her in yogurt and yarn for all these years, and there’s no sign it’s going to get away from her.

Vanna takes a break to knit

Vanna raids the fridge

Vanna on the red carpet, though not all that red

Oh, and there’s this little artifact from 1987. I still have the 12-inch single:

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Waiting for 222

It’s Valentine’s Day. Why don’t we hear anything about Karen Valentine anymore?

Well, she’s not working as hard as she used to. Her most recent credit was opposite John Larroquette in a 2004 Hallmark Channel movie, Wedding Daze, directed by Georg Stanford Brown, who appeared in an episode of (yes!) Room 222, the series that made her famous. A long way from Walt Whitman High, perhaps, but aren’t we all?

Karen Valentine with John Larroquette in 2004

I did learn that at five foot four, she’s about two inches taller than I thought.

Karen Valentine in some insubstantial shoes

Karen Valentine at practice

Can you ignore this face?  I didn't think so

A lot of the vintage pictures of Karen have turned up in this five-minute video thing:

The first half of that was a B-side by the Surfaris (“Wipe Out”) that later was recorded by the Beach Boys for a TV series called Karen, which was not Karen Valentine’s 1975 series Karen.

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This big-eyed girl

If you, like me, tend to think of Christina Ricci in terms of Wednesday Addams, you will flinch, as I did, when you hear that she’ll be thirty-eight tomorrow. What she won’t be, however, is any taller:

Christina Ricci says she doesn’t think she’ll ever be a major star because she’s too short. “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen for me,” the Black Snake Moan star tells Premiere. “I’m five-one first thing in the morning, and I tend to look really small on camera. I can probably go as far as Holly Hunter went, then I think that’s going to be it. I have a feeling I am way too small.”

Perhaps being small enough to fit into the fridge is indeed too small. However, she’s hard to overlook:

Christina Ricci at the British Academy Awards

Christina Ricci stretches out, sort of

Christina Ricci goes blonde

Of late, she seems to have opted for blondness. She still does a good disembodied voice, though: you’ll be able to hear her as Terra in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, due later this year, and if you don’t want to wait that long, you can hear her in bite-size (sorry) segments in Beck’s 2005 record “Hell Yes.”

(Title, if you were curious, comes from Siouxsie and the Banshees.)

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Poor Marie

Marie Prevost made 121 pictures in her abbreviated career, some of them bordering on great: she got excellent reviews in the 1922 The Beautiful and Damned, though F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t like her; Ernst Lubitsch thought enough of her to cast her three times, most notably in Three Women; she had the lead in Howard Hughes’ The Racket. What all these had in common was a lack of a soundtrack; she proved capable in talkies, but she had other problems. One of those problems was Howard Hughes; Marie was already depressed and drinking a bit, and a brief affair with Hughes made things worse for her. In the 1930s, she was both drinking and overeating.

Marie Provost in publicity still for The Beautiful and Damned

Marie Provost in proper Twenties costume

Marie Provost in publicity still

In the 1970s, British rocker Nick Lowe turned out a song about Marie, which proved to be something of a stretch, particularly the chorus: “She was a winner / Who became a doggie’s dinner / She never meant that much to me / Poor Marie.” This untimely demise was described by Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon; it is true that after she died in January 1937 — it was two days before her body was found — that her dachshund had bitten her on the legs in an attempt to rouse her, but the little hound wasn’t that hungry.

Prevost’s plight did have one positive outcome: Hollywood stars and executives would forthwith create the Motion Picture (later, “& Television”) Country House and Hospital, a place to care for ill stars and nonstars. The facility was operational through 2008; after some dollar-related crises, it has since reopened on a firmer financial footing.

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Tangled up in whom

Your assignment today, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out Gabrielle Anwar’s character in the Showtime series The Tudors, which despite its title was all about Henry VIII.

Give up? Here’s the scoop:

The character of Henry’s sister, called “Princess Margaret” in the series, is actually a composite of his two sisters: the life events of his younger sister, Princess Mary Tudor, coupled with the name of his elder sister, Margaret Tudor. This was reportedly done to avoid confusion with Henry’s daughter, Mary I of England.

Then again, it’s not like they were going for Absolute Historical Accuracy in the series.

Gabrielle Anwar’s most recent major role was as Fiona in Burn Notice.

Gabrielle Anwar at rest

Gabrielle Anwar in a swimsuit

Gabrielle Anwar in a scene from Burn Notice

And you may remember her tango-ing with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman:

She’s forty-seven today.

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Suzanne, the plans they made

Suzanne Pleshette was twenty in 1957 when she made her theatrical debut, in Meyer Levin’s Compulsion. (Her film debut, the following year, in Jerry Lewis’s The Geisha Boy, might have been a tad less prestigious.) It was generally accepted that she could do Just About Anything, up to and including a couple of voices for the English dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

Suzanne Pleshette wearing not a whole lot

Suzanne Pleshette looking demure

Suzanne Pleshette still wearing not a whole lot

Suzanne Pleshette being carried by Steve McQueen

This last is a still from Nevada Smith, from 1966, in which Suzanne is a Cajun girl working in the Louisiana rice fields and is here carried off by Steve McQueen. (Just About Anything, remember?)

A lot of us, though, remember her as Emily Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show, and, unexpectedly, in the last scene of another Newhart show entirely. She explains how this came to be:

And “this,” of course, might have been the greatest last scene from a situation comedy in the history of the universe:

Suzanne Pleshette, alas, is no longer with us; she died of respiratory failure in 2008. She would have been 80 today.

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Street where she lived

Start here:

Secretary, twenty-seven, quiet, fast as hell on her feet, had been places. Worked in a carnival or side show, knows all the lines, hard-boiled exterior, quietly efficient, puzzled over the lawyer, chestnut hair, trim figure, some lines on her face, a hint of weariness at the corners of her eyes.

This was Erle Stanley Gardner’s description of one Della Street, a character in his then-unpublished novel Reasonable Doubt. An editor at William Morrow liked the character but wasn’t prepared to accept the novel; Gardner rewrote the story, retitled it The Case of the Velvet Claws, and gave Della Street a new day job: secretary to criminal-defense lawyer Perry Mason.

That was 1933. Barbara Hale was eleven years old and had no idea that she’d become Della Street in 1957 for what would be 271 episodes of the Perry Mason TV series plus dozens of TV-movies thereafter. When she arrived in Hollywood, she got mostly uncredited bit parts along the lines of “stocking salesgirl” (from Gildersleeve on Broadway, 1943); it took her a few years to become a household word, and a little bit longer to realize that Della Street would take over her life.

Barbara Hale in black and white

Barbara Hale with summer grooming tips

Barbara Hale looking pretty

Portrait of Barbara Hale, in landscape

Okay, maybe not her entire life:

I had a Radarange. (It said “Amana,” it did. And it probably said “hernia” to the burglar who stole it.)

Barbara Hale died yesterday at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was ninety-four years old.

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When you’re wasting time

Diane Birch, born 34 years ago today in Michigan, isn’t one to waste time. In 2006, she was playing piano at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel when she was noticed by Prince, who asked her to sit in with his band; she apparently took that as a sign, put her name on a publishing contract (outside the Purple Machine), and began writing songs for what would become the Bible Belt album.

Diane Birch in 2013

Diane Birch in 2010

Diane Birch in 2014

In 2013, her second album, Speak a Little Louder, appeared. It was the title song of that album that I first noticed. There is no official video, but she’s sung the song all over the place: we have here a clip from CBS This Morning.

“Without depression,” she once said, “I’d have no songs.” Let’s try not to cheer her up too much.

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Zooeypalooza 25!

Let us celebrate the birthday girl on her, um, thirty-seventh.

Zooeypalooza 25!

Embiggenment doth follow clickage.

Paloozas of the past: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16, ZP 17, ZP 18, ZP 19, ZP 20, ZP 21, ZP 22, ZP 23, ZP 24.

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First-degree Bern

For the moment, Simonetta Sommaruga is head of the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, a position she has held since 2010. In 2014, she served as Vice President of the Swiss Confederation; the following year, she ascended to the Presidency — which, under Swiss law, is something like being Mayor rather than a head of state — and resumed her previous duties a year later. Born in Zug in 1960, she’s a Social Democrat and a gardener.

Simonetta Sommaruga on the sofa

Simonetta Sommaruga in the garden

Simonetta Sommaruga in black

Switzerland has four official languages, and we know she speaks at least two of them. Here, on her first day as President, she gives basically the same interview in French and in German:

The French version, for some reason, runs twenty-two seconds longer.

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Somehow the eighth

I was mildly dismayed to learn that Octavia Spencer is just one of seven children; I was so hoping that there would be one more sibling, to make the name fit. Not that she’s concerned about such silly things: she’s very busy these days, what with the recent opening of Hidden Figures, now in theaters, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Octavia Spencer at the HFAs

Octavia Spencer head shot

Octavia Spencer has just arrived

In the upcoming The Shack, she plays God, which bothers some people:

The Shack, a film based on a New York Times bestseller of the same name, is stirring controversy among evangelicals because a black woman — Octavia Spencer — is playing God.

Is this a major overreaction?

The fictional book written by William P. Young about a father who finds his way back to faith and healing after the brutal murder of his daughter, has drawn the ire of many Christians who have labeled it heresy.

I think the operative word here is “fictional.” Here’s the trailer:

It seems to me that if George Burns or Alanis Morissette can play God, so can Octavia Spencer.

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