Archive for Rule 5

So doggone cute

Not to get into that whole kawaii business, which requires a more practiced eye than my own, but some people are the very personification of “cute,” and Yuri Ebihara has long been one of them:

Yuri Ebihara in flight-attendant hosiery

A 2006 wire story from Tokyo reflects Yuri’s, um, standards:

Model-cum-actress Yuri Ebihara, 26, widely viewed here as the personification of cute, commands such influence the clothes she sports in a fashion magazine, such as lacy pastel skirts, are instant sellouts.

“I make it a point never to forget to smile,” said Ebihara, often seen in TV ads and on billboards. “If someone doesn’t find me cute, I want to know why because then I’ll work on it to get better at being cute.”

And hey, I can’t argue with that.

Yuri Ebihara is almost looking at you

But she was twenty-six then. Today, she’s thirty-five. Can she still pull it off?

Yuri Ebihara on the cover of AneCan, March 2014

On the evidence of this 2014 magazine cover, I’d say yes.


Oh, and Hernando says hello

Debelah Morgan, thirty-eight this week, long ago faded from public view. She started out in gospel — she was teaching gospel choir at the college level while still a teenager — and the last we heard from her was the Let the Worship In/Champions Live 2 set five years ago. In between, though, a lot of things happened to her, including bouncing from Atlantic to Motown and back to Atlantic again.

Debelah Morgan photo by Roy Zipstein circa 2000

Debelah Morgan album art

That second stay at Atlantic produced this nifty dance number, based rather blatantly on “Hernando’s Hideaway” from The Pajama Game. (TPG composer Jerry Ross and lyricist Richard Adler are duly credited on the label.) It doesn’t use anywhere near all of Debelah’s reputed five-octave range, but damn if it isn’t catchy.

There are dozens of songs called “Dance With Me”; Debelah got hers to #8 in Billboard towards the end of 2000.

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She didn’t just come here to dance

Former Canadian Idol competitor Carly Rae Jepsen has, for me anyway, taken over the position of Girliest Pop Star At This Moment: she’ll be 30 in a couple of months, but she still sounds nineteen no matter what she’s singing. It probably doesn’t hurt that she doesn’t look much over nineteen:

Carly Rae Jepsen on the Today Show

Carly Rae Jepsen doesn't drop the mic

She definitely rates as an International Star of some stature, judging by this video shot at a Philippines concert:

Most of the entire concert seems to be floating around YouTube.

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Still no slouch

Last week, while gawking shamelessly at Kerry Washington, I allowed that maybe Bellamy Young was no slouch. In retrospect, this seems awfully dismissive. We’ll begin with another shot from the same photoshoot that yielded up that EW cover:

Bellamy Young and Kerry Washington draped over Tony Goldwyn

And by herself:

Bellamy Young fashion spread

Bellamy Young on the carpet

Minor point of interest: the name “Bellamy” came about because there was already an Amy Young on the rolls of the Screen Actors Guild.


Kerry aloft

So this arrived in the mailbox a few days ago, and all of a sudden I’m thinking Tony Goldwyn as Consummate Actor:

Entertainment Weekly cover issue 1380

I mean, if I have Kerry Washington on my shoulder, her knee at my eye level, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have difficulty looking straight at the camera. (Bellamy Young is no slouch either, but we’re talking Kerry freaking Washington here.)

This led me to wonder if I reacted similarly to dissimilar poses with similarly charming displays, and:

Kerry Washington reads the news

Kerry Washington in InStyle May 2013

Damn, that Goldwyn guy is good.

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I’ve seen just enough Gossip Girl to be able to recognize Yin Chang as bookworm Nelly Yuki; she did the first two seasons, departed, and returned in the sixth, having become a fashion reporter, as does every Merit Scholar, right? (Hmmm. I won … um, never mind.) There is, of course, no reason a bookworm can’t look like this:

Yin Chang in a director's chair

Yin Chang for Mochi

I had a few more pictures in the archive, but in each and every one, “the girl behind the glasses” was not wearing glasses, which perplexed me enough to go looking for screenshots where she was. And so we have:

Yin Chang in Nelly Yuki's spectacles

This humongous metal contraption around her neck is, I am told, from Oscar de la Renta, and a budding fashionista would of course have to wear such a thing, am I right?

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One true musical pairing

Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome are Garfunkel and Oates, though not in that order; as a comedy-folk duo with slightly foul mouths, they are nonpareil. Besides, they’re freaking gorgeous:

Garfunkel and Oates on the sofa

Really, they are:

Garfunkel and Oates standing tall

For some reason, their current album (released yesterday on the No One Buys Records label) is called Secretions:

Secretions by Garfunkel and Oates

A marginally more polished version of this song is included, which may explain the title:

You might not want to play this in front of the Overly Sensitive.

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The most unromantic person you’ll meet

Besides me, I mean. This is something Bollywood actress Amyra Dastur actually said about herself late in a 23-minute Web interview, though she’s played a love interest in all three of her films.

Amyra Dastur on a rail

She also seems to suffer from anxiety:

After Issaq, I feel anxious about every film I do now. I remember I saw Issaq on the opening night and I was shattered. It was not that it was a good film and that it did not do well, it was not a good film. Within the first five minutes of seeing it, I knew it was not going to be nice. I had my whole family there luckily, but it is hard when at the end people start that slow clap, you know that it is a pity applause. It was heartbreaking.

Perhaps the world wasn’t ready for a version of Romeo and Juliet set in Benares. Her second film, Anegan, in which she plays multiple roles, was well-received, and most recently she appeared in Mr. X.

Amyra Dastur in pre-production for Mr. X

The reviews so far have not been good. One example:

A desi attempt to Bollywoodize the 2000 Kevin Bacon film Hollow Man, Mr X is a shoddy gimmick at trying to put together a sorry excuse of a plot to make a 3D film. Emraan Hashmi and Amyra Dastur play two anti-terrorist department agents whose love story takes an unexpected turn when their chief played by Arunoday Singh decides to go rogue on them.

Next stop: Ticket to Bollywood, not the 2014 reality-TV series, but a sendup of such things, concocted by Faraz Haider. If it’s a flat-out comedy, as Haider’s War Chhod Na Yaar was, I think she’ll be happier.


Returning to the fray

Rebecca Black shows up at the VMAs:

Rebecca Black at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards

MTV’s publicity machine actually tweeted her arrival, which suggested to me that they Know Something. And this, I suspect, is what they Knew:

I’m guessing that this will be the first track we get to hear from that New Album that’s presumably going to drop some Friday when I least expect it.

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Yet another brick falls

It was something like 28 years ago when I saw this in the store:

Debbie Gibson Out of the Blue cover art

Upside: Got that whole blonde-with-nice-legs thing going on. Downside: Why did she draw a face on her knee? Well, she was just seventeen — you know what I mean? — and girls not quite on the brink of adulthood do things like this. I bought the album, and played it through something like three times in a row: it was that good.

Still, I did not anticipate that I’d be paying attention to Debbie Gibson by the time she turned forty-five, which is, um, today. By the time her record sales started to droop in the States, the Japanese had embraced her:

She turned to Broadway, to television, to anywhere she could find an audience. And she always found one, even in places you’d never have expected her:

Debbie Gibson Playboy photo 2005

In 2013, she was stricken with Lyme disease; it looked for a while like she was wasting away.

Photo from Debbie Gibson's Instagram

Healthier now, she’s as busy as ever, and if she’s not topping the charts — here, anyway; her 2010 Ms. Vocalist album, released by Sony Japan, produced the #1 single “I Love You” — she’s all over the papers and the tube.

Debbie Gibson on the Meredith Vieira Show

And I couldn’t be happier for her.


Long-stemmed flower

In 2012, there was a brief tizzy when Angelina Jolie’s right leg, following some world-class exposure at the Academy Awards, got its own Twitter account. Familiar as I am with the concept of letting the legs do the talking, I of course followed, but the account was dropped shortly after the first of the year. Few knew that there was precedence for this even before Twitter: the right leg of Mexican singer/actress Lucero did a walk-on, so to speak, on a sketch-comedy series, probably XHDRbZ, and was duly interviewed by the host.

La pierna de Lucero

La pierna de Lucero

And I suppose that this was inevitable, since Lucero Hogaza León, born this date in 1969, was almost always known for these gams. (Well, maybe not; as a tween, she starred on a kids’ show called Chiquilladas, in one episode playing Olive Oyl.)

Lucero strikes a pose

Lucero has had long careers in music and in television, particularly in telenovelas. In 2010, she put out her 19th album, Indispensable, from which the lead single was “Dueña de tu amor” (“Owner of your heart”):

A Special Edition of Indispensable was released in the US, and you have to figure the label knew what it was doing:

Lucero Indispensable US cover art

It is incumbent upon some sectors of the press, of course, to find fault with people who look like this.

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It’s only just begun

Scottish singer/songwriter Amy Macdonald first got my attention with the brilliant single “Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over,” from her 2010 album A Curious Thing, which wasn’t released in the States, but that doesn’t matter anymore, does it?

She’s anything but a one-trick pony, it appears: the Daily Record out of Glasgow named her “Scottish Person of the Year” in 2008, and she was nominated twice for Scottish Fashion Icon, winning in 2014.

Amy Macdonald at the 2014 MTV European Music Awards

Amy Macdonald looking pensive

And this amuses me greatly:

In February 2013, she appeared in the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment of BBC’s Top Gear, driving a Kia Cee’d to a time of 1:44.4, the fastest lap time recorded for a female star at that time.

Jeremy Clarkson had a habit of pronouncing the name of that car “Cee-apostrophe-dee.” It’s not sold in the States. (Imagine that.)

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A girl who once had a dream

Yukiko Okada — call her “Yukko” — always wanted to sing. She’d appear at any audition for anything, hoping to get a break; at sixteen, she finally broke through on one of those TV talent shows and was signed to Japan’s Sun Music Productions.

It didn’t hurt that she had That Look:

Yukiko Okada stretches out

Yukiko Okada in a swimsuit

Her first single, “First Date,” came out early in 1984; her third, “Dreaming Girl,” was enough to win her Best New Artist in the annual Japan Record Awards. It’s — well, listen for yourself:

Why, yes, it is vaguely reminiscent of Tracey Ullman’s cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know.”

Sponsorship and television deals followed, and Yukko was on her way. But something, somewhere, went terribly wrong:

Okada was found with a slashed wrist in her gas-filled Tokyo apartment, crouching in a closet and crying.

And then two hours later:

[S]he committed suicide on April 8th by jumping off from the roof of the Sun Music building. She was only 18 at the time. Her suicide made headlines and sent shockwaves across Japan. To top it off, several fans of hers followed suite. It caused such a commotion that the term “Yukko Syndrome” came into being to connote follow-on [copycat] suicides. That year (1986), the suicide rate in Japan jumped to an all-time high.

In 2002, the song “Believe In You” was rescued from the vaults and given an orchestral overlay, becoming Yukko’s last single. If only she’d believed a little more in herself.

She would have been forty-eight today.

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Classic Bouquet

Carole Bouquet, born on this date in 1957, has appeared in more than 40 movies, first drawing attention in Luis Buñuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire as half of a flamenco dancer. (For some reason, Buñuel alternated between two actresses playing the same role, the other being Angela Molina; the late Maria Schneider, originally cast, then cast aside, perhaps should have taken pride in the fact that it took two women to replace her.)

We may know Bouquet best in the States, though, for the role of Melina Havelock in For Your Eyes Only, far and away the most serious of the James Bond films starring Roger Moore. And we probably saw her most recently in an NBC four-hour miniseries based on Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, which aired in the spring of 2014.

Carole Bouquet closer to then

Carole Bouquet closer to now

Weirdly, while Binging about for pictures — I didn’t actually have any on hand — I was tossed the string “Carole Bouquet Is a Man.” Um, no. Not even close. Where this came from, evidently, was confusion with Caroline Cossey, a trans woman who played a small role in For Your Eyes Only, who got a lot of “Bond Girl Is a Boy” tabloid chatter in those days.

And besides, Bouquet dated Gérard Depardieu for about a decade. Had she had, um, nonstandard hardware, we’d almost certainly have heard about it from him.


Forever 21st

Actually, Australian model Madeline Stuart is only 18, but 21 is the number that rules her life: she has three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome. This is Down syndrome, and as a general rule, women with Down syndrome don’t walk the fashion runways.

Until now:

The fashion industry is often criticized for lacking diversity on runways and in fashion campaigns. But, after years of fighting for equal representation of every type of woman, new headway is being made. This year, Madeline Stuart, the Australian modeling sensation with Down Syndrome, will walk the runway during New York Fashion Week.

Serving as an inspiration to many around the globe, the 18-year-old is on a mission to change the way people think about those with disabilities. According to her website, Stuart sees Down Syndrome as “a blessing” and “something to be celebrated.”

“People will stare,” Harry Winston once said. “Make it worth their while.” Stuart has set this as one of two quotations on the front page of that site.

Madeline Stuart in florals

Madeline Stuart in florals

And you know, just seeing a runway model not scowling is something of a delight.

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Paparazzo 101

One of the first things they teach you at Pesky Photographer School, I suspect, is candid shots taken at a time when the subject is actually busy doing something. This explains why we see Kylie Jenner — and happy 18th to you, K — fueling up in deepest, darkest Studio City:

Kylie Jenner fuels up her Mercedes-Benz G63

Wait a minute. What the heck is that she’s driving?

Kylie Jenner fuels up her Mercedes-Benz G63

Because, of course, one needs something like a Geländewagen to negotiate the tough terrain of the San Fernando Valley.

And haven’t I seen those shoes before? Let’s see:

Kylie Jenner in Stuart Weitzman Nudist shoes

Yep. This is Stuart Weitzman’s “Nudist” sandal in black. As shoes worn by this clan tend toward the ridiculously ornate, I’m sort of happy to see something simple — and, at under $400, not overly pricey, except perhaps by the pound — on the youngest of the crew.

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The 8th of August — think of it as 8-8 — doubles up a classic Chinese lucky number, so I’m guessing that good fortune has been smiling on Chinese actress Ni Ni, born on this date in Nanjing in, um, ’88.

Ni’s Nanjing origins, it turns out, were a factor in Zhang Yimou’s 2011 historical drama The Flowers of War, set in Nanjing during a particularly heinous period in the second Sino-Japanese War; Zhang spent rather a lot of time auditioning the local talent. Ni plays Yu Mo, unofficial leader of the local girls for hire, so to speak, opposite John Miller (Christian Bale), an American mortician who had come simply to bury a priest but found himself increasingly caught up in the carnage.

Ni Ni in 2012, after the release of The Flowers of War

The Flowers of War turned out to be the most expensive film ever made in China, with a budget of some $94 million. A release in the States was inevitable, since much of the film was shot in English, and this is the trailer:

Ni won the 2012 Asian Film Award for Best Newcomer.

Ni Ni in a 2014 fashion photoshoot

And this stereo-effect name of hers foils the standard Wikipedia caution on Chinese names:

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Ni.

Which is, it turns out, a fairly common family name.

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Farewell, Cilla

Perhaps the very definition of ironic: the first I heard about the death of an iconic Liverpool star was from two girls trying to make it big in Liverpool fifty years later.

It was just last year that I got around to writing about Cilla Black (born Priscilla White in 1943), one of few entertainers anywhere who sustained a career for half a century without stirring up any tabloid stories. I admit that I was not overly fond of her first record, a Lennon-McCartney number called “Love of the Loved”, but her take on “Anyone Who Had a Heart” hit the top of the British charts:

She followed with a second Number One, “You’re My World,” which even won me over.

Cilla Black takes a seat

From her obituary in the Telegraph:

“I didn’t choose television. Television chose me,” she said. “I was a bit of fun and a bit of Scouse rough and everybody liked me, I was normal. I could have been the kid next door. And then I turned into the auntie next door. And now I’m the granny next door.”

Cilla Black tips her hat

This is about as far as she ever wanted to go:

“Seventy-five is a good age to go if things start to drop off,” she said. “I don’t want to linger. I don’t want to be a burden on anybody. I know 75 is only four years away, but I take each day as I find it.”

And if things dropped off just a little early, well, you know she smiled as she watched them go.

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Having blossomed

This site has never run short of Rebecca Black pictures, although I had never submitted one for the weekly Rule 5 babefests for the most obvious of reasons. I mean, she was thirteen when “Friday” went viral in the spring of 2011.

At eighteen, she’s shed a bit of the Dorky Teenager look, and if she’s going to be a fixture at the premieres of low-budget features, there may be more of these to come.

Rebecca Black at the premiere of Bad Night July 2015

Rebecca Black at the premiere of Smosh July 2015

RB being a major YouTuber, it should not surprise you that both these films have a YouTube connection. Smosh is based on the highly successful YT channel of the same name; Bad Night is an adventure film starring two YouTubers.

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Demure in gravure

You’re never too old to learn, or at least I’m not, and this phrase crossed my screen for the first time this week:

A gravure idol is a Japanese female model who primarily models in magazines, especially those marketed to men, photobooks or DVDs. Gravure idols, in most cases, emphasize their sexual attractiveness and often model in swimsuits … Contrary to popular foreign belief, gravure idols never appear fully nude in their photos but their poses often can be labeled as semi-provocative.

Gravure models may be of any age but usually range from their late teens to their mid-twenties.

Presumably a cousin to “rotogravure,” in which you were seen in your Easter bonnet.

To illustrate this definition, I bring you Rina Aizawa, twenty-four:

Rina Aizawa sitting in the back seat

Rina Aizawa sitting but not in the back seat

Rina Aizawa obligatory swimsuit picture

I honestly don’t know how I missed that term for all these years, especially since I was an early convert to LaserDisc, which happily vended lots of Japanese nonporn along exactly these lines in the 1980s. A lot of it looked like this:

Like I said, never too old to learn.

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World’s hottest politician

So said Maxim, once upon a time. Mara Carfagna, currently a member of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, started out as an actress and model; in 2004 she entered politics, and two years later won a seat as a member of the party Forza Italia. (Blatherskite Silvio Berlusconi, then in his second term as Prime Minister, quipped that Forza Italia, his own party, practiced the rule of droit du seigneur; this wouldn’t be the first time Berlusconi said something untoward about her.)

Mara Carfagna strikes a pose

For three years Carfagna served in Berlusconi’s cabinet as Minister of Equal Opportunity; when he resigned in 2011, she returned full-time to her seat in the Chamber of Deputies.

Mara Carfagna strikes a pose

And she also blogs. A recent post [Google translation, slightly tweaked]:

A run scored on behalf of all Italians. The OK by the Chamber’s Judiciary Committee to the proposals of Forza Italia who wanted tougher sentences for property crimes, such as robbery and burglary, is a small step forward to make citizens feel safer, or at least to make them feel more protected.

Mara Carfagna strikes a pose

Incidentally, that Maxim list showed up in 2008. (You’d never believe who came second. Or maybe you would. I think I would.)

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Big Shot Becky

Becky Hammon’s #25 jersey is proudly displayed at Colorado State’s Moby Arena. Weirdly, she went undrafted by the WNBA, but managed to get signed by the New York Liberty, which installed her as the second-string point guard. Eventually she worked herself into the starting lineup, and in 2007 she was dealt to the San Antonio Stars.

Becky Hammon as a San Antonio Star

In 2013, she tore an ACL and spent a year in rehab; during that time she looked for a coaching gig, and found one in San Antonio — with the NBA’s Spurs, on Gregg Popovich’s staff of assistants. Said Pop at her hiring:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.

Becky Hammon as a San Antonio Spurs coach

This past season’s Spurs finished 55-27 and took the Clippers to seven games in the playoffs before bowing out. This summer, Pop dispatched Hammon to coach the Spurs’ summer-league team in Salt Lake City. They finished 1-2, in a three-way tie for second. (The Jazz won all three of their games to claim the championship.) Undaunted, the Spurs proceeded to the Las Vegas summer-league extravaganza (24 teams!) and won that one.

Oh, and here’s Hammon subtly suggesting that one of the opposing players just might have taken one too many steps:

Okay, maybe not so subtly.

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Grexit sign

I happened to find these two pictures of model Anastasia Perraki, who turns 30 on Monday, and somehow they seem to bracket the ongoing financial crisis in her native Greece. The first is from a local Vogue pictorial, shot in and around a classic Cadillac, circa 2012. Note the invocation in the corner:

Anastasia Perraki in the back seat

More somberly, an official photo of Perraki from her modeling agency:

Anastasia Perraki is represented by Ace Models, Athens

You can almost read it: “Yeah, fine, austerity. Whatever.”

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It’s all in the delivery

Deborah Mailman, forty-three today, was the first Aboriginal to win the Australian Film Institute (now Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, for her 1998 performance in Radiance. (In 2015, she co-hosted the AACTA award show with Cate Blanchett.)

Deborah Mailman in a pose of sorts, 2012

Deborah Mailman on an unred carpet, 2013

And Mailman truly delivers: she’s been nominated five times for AACTA awards, and won every time.

Among her most notable TV work is Offspring, which ran five years on Network Ten and was cancelled, partially because the showrunners had new projects to work on, and partially because the show had run 65 episodes, meaning no further subsidies from Screen Australia.


Oh, Denise, ooby-doo

Hmmm. Who’s this getting out of the Benz?

Denise Richards exits a Mercedes

Wait a moment…

Denise Richards exits a Mercedes

Why, it’s Denise Richards, from whom we haven’t heard a whole lot lately. She had a substantial role in Twisted, which ran for 19 episodes on ABC Family but was not renewed for 2014-15. Won’t keep her from her yoga class, though.

About thirty years ago, she was featured in a music video. The Swiss duo Double — which, incidentally, is pronounced “DOO-blay” — made this perfectly wonderful song in 1986 called “The Captain of Her Heart.” The video, which featured the two members plus the occasional glimpse of a sideman, was apparently deemed insufficiently interesting to American audiences, and so an Official US Version was shot:

Denise was fifteen at the time, if the math works out correctly, and why shouldn’t it?

(Title courtesy of Randy and the Rainbows.)

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Turn the Vangsness up to 11

The eleventh season of CBS’ Criminal Minds begins this fall, and of course Kirsten Vangsness will return as FBI analyst Penelope Garcia, a role she says was originally intended for a guy:

The story on Garcia was that they had a man whose name was Garcia. They shot the scenes with all the other characters talking to this man named Garcia. When they looked at the footage later, they suddenly realized that they had this pilot that was going to come out, but it was too guy heavy. There wasn’t enough female characters. So they thought they’d put in these two lines, have a woman come in and say those two lines and figure it out from there.

Even then, it wasn’t much of a role, but she got to put her stamp on it early:

It was just this little two-line thing. I remember they called me and said, “Bring your own clothes because it’s just going to be this one scene.” I’m a size 10-12, and in Hollywood, there’s either a size 0 or a size 22. Middle ground is kind of rare sometimes.

I’m a very creative dresser, so when I brought in my clothes, they said, “Are you crazy? This is the FBI. You can’t wear any of this!”

This was, of course, before they discovered she was so popular they had to make her a regular. And at forty-three, she will still wear what she will:

Kirsten Vangsness at GLSEN 2014

Wait a minute. We need a shot of her in glasses:

Kirsten Vangsness promo photo

Her love life has taken an odd curve, also. Having once described herself as “queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna,” she’s now on a somewhat straighter path:

My boyfriend and I are going to go on a meditation retreat at the end of April. That’ll be fun. I fell in love with this guy, which is like the craziest thing. I was engaged to a woman. I was perfectly comfortable and happy with the nature of our relationship, but sometimes relationships fall apart. The last thing I would’ve thought was that I would meet a guy and fall in love. But I did it.

And hey, it’s not like she’s been re-routed to the office of Too Frickin’ Bad.

(Quotes from

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General Lee speaking

As The Dukes of Hazzard vanishes from cable channels, the Friar gets what ought to be the final word:

Both TV Land and Country Music Television (CMT) were airing Dukes, but are no longer. TV Land will replace it with reruns of Bonanza, a series free of racism and noted for its enlightened portrayal of Chinese immigrant cooks.

Oh, and comparatively speaking:

For the record, I enjoy Bonanza much more than Dukes, because the latter is very very dumb and there’s only so much dumb Catherine Bach’s legs can erase.

If you’d like to test that latter assertion:

Catherine Bach suitably attired

Now: do you feel smarter? Even a little?

One more try:

Catherine Bach suitably attired

Brilliance surely is within your grasp.

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This is an ex-princess

Given my not-quite-an-obsession with the trappings of royalty, wicked monarchist that I am, it seems only natural to look in on someone who rose to heady heights and then opted for something a bit closer to the ground.

I give you, therefore, Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg, 51 today, who was a full-fledged princess when she was married to Prince Joachim of Denmark, younger son of Queen Margrethe II.

Countess Alexandra

She and the prince were wed in 1995, separated in 2004, and divorced in 2005; she retained the title of Countess, is addressed as “Your Excellency,” and draws an allowance of $330,000 a year. (Their two children are still officially princes.) What broke the couple apart is not officially disclosed, though there has been no shortage of speculation.

Countess Alexandra

Alexandra’s ancestry is gloriously mixed: English and Chinese on her father’s side, Czech and Austrian on her mother’s. She remarried in 2007, to photographer Martin Jørgensen, fourteen years her junior.

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Alsou Ralifovna Abramova, thirty-two today, is a Russian singer who is mostly, though not entirely, unknown in the States. This wallpaper with her image dates to about 2004:

Alsou wallpaperized

She made the cover of the Russian edition of InStyle in 2010:

Alsou on the cover of InStyle

Born in Tatarstan, she and her family moved to Siberia when she was a year old. She showed musical promise early, and released her first album in 1999. “Winter Dream” was the first of three singles.

The next year, she turned up at Eurovision with an English-language song called “Solo”:

“Solo” won second place for Russia.

Perhaps her most elusive recording is a duet with Jon Bon Jovi on a 2003 remake of “Livin’ On A Prayer”, which was released to Russian radio with the This Left Feels Right album; for some reason, the Russian CD release contained the same version we got in the States, with Olivia d’Abo instead of Aisou.

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Perhaps a tad less well

Welsh singer Duffy, born on this date in 1984, burst onto the scene in 2008 with two dynamite singles, the forceful “Mercy” and the pensive “Warwick Avenue”; the Rockferry album won her a Grammy in 2009 for Best Pop Vocal Album. She also, I am informed, puts on a heck of a live show:

Duffy in concert

Then this happened:

Cover of Endlessly by Duffy

Perhaps the blame lay with the one and only single released from the album, which seemed to go over well but which charted low in Europe and not at all in the States:

That was October ’10. The following February, her new management announced that there would be no further singles from Endlessly, and that Duffy would be taking a two-year break from the music biz. I haven’t heard from her since.

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