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.
And in 2015, she won Celebrity Apprentice:
The best part of that, perhaps, is that she defeated Geraldo Rivera.
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.
This one is below the jump, in case your sensibilities are subject to outrage by such things:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Don’t even think about dubbing that denim in the middle picture “Desi Dukes.”
The topic, originally, was the humdrum light bulb, and the conversation went something like this:
“My major objection to the Compact Fluorescent,” I said, “is that if you drop one you have to call in the hazmat people.”
“To be honest,” she replied, “I dropped one once, and cleaned up the area myself. I don’t think there was any stray mercury, and I didn’t suffer any ill effects. Except, of course, for the extra head.”
I did something between giggling and guffawing. “Let me know if you add an extra arm or two.”
“I thought you were more interested in legs.”
She’s got me there, I had to admit.
Shortly thereafter, I remembered this little viral photo:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Oh, and there’s this little artifact from 1987. I still have the 12-inch single:
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?
I did learn that at five foot four, she’s about two inches taller than I thought.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
And you may remember her tango-ing with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman:
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.
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.
“Today to get the public to attend the picture show
It’s not enough to advertise a famous star they know
If you wanna get the crowds to come around
You gotta have glorious Technicolor
Breathtaking CinemaScope and stereophonic sound.”
I’m not aware of any way stereophonic sound will improve the looks of your legs, but CinemaScope is happy to step up:
Of course, they have to work in a reference to the film they’re pushing:
“New, slim-whip seams and fashion-trim heels spell total glamour in “true-life” colors … that show him it’s a woman’s world.”
Which would seem to contradict the actual film poster:
“It’s a great big wonderful Woman’s World — because men are in it!”
Doesn’t sound like he was exactly shown, if you know what I mean.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What prompted this outburst? I had caught an episode of Henry Danger, a sort-of-superhero series on Nickelodeon, and there’s Ella Anderson, eleven, who plays Henry’s sister Piper, gliding onto the sofa like a foreshortened Claudia Cardinale. I couldn’t remember any eleven-year-old girls doing that during the period when I could legitimately be interested in eleven-year-old girls; for that matter, when I was eleven, the girls in closest proximity were fourteen or fifteen and that much closer to Grown Up, whatever that meant at the time.
Here follows a screencap of Ella as Piper, followed by a picture I found at IMDb, suggesting that this is nothing unusual for her:
Of course, I couldn’t justify bringing this up here without at least one more qualification. Apparently the young lady is a Russell Westbrook fan:
My pesky Inner Child, a nine-year-old girl, wants to know when she can have this much of my attention. I think I’ll just tell her to sit for awhile.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Ritu Barmecha’s Twitter bio: “Actor-traveller-lover of life-Authentic-cafe person-movie lover-die-hard romantic-and a very happy girl.”
Not a bad way to be, really.
She’s currently starring in the soap opera Agar Tum Saath Ho (Hindi: “If you are with…”) on Zindagi TV, describable thusly:
It is the story of love transcending class differences; the story of Neema and Ravi who belong to two completely different worlds. Neema, the daughter of an affluent and caring father falls in love with a simple middle class boy Ravi and marries him against her father’s wishes. However, her over-protective father showers luxuries on his daughter on his own accord. His constant interference brings in misunderstandings and differences between the couple to the extent that they consider parting ways. Will class difference and an opposing father destroy the relationship? Or will love prove stronger against all odds?
Now there’s a classic plot.
Also from the realm of the familiar, this scene from her first film, the Telugu-language Aha Naa Pellanta:
How did this happen? Yeah, you’ve probably seen this scene a few times too.
In 1970, Principal moved to Hollywood. She had no money, no car, no agent, and no prior television or movie-making experiences beside the commercials she had made in her teenage years. She reportedly supported herself by teaching backgammon. Nine months later she had a car, an agent, a little money but auditioned and won her first film role as Marie Elena, a Mexican mistress, in Paul Newman’s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), for which she earned a Golden Globe Nomination as Most Promising Newcomer.
In 1973, Playboy beckoned; Principal would do a pictorial and would take the female lead in The Naked Ape, an R-rated flesh-fest that Desmond Morris had nothing to do with.
But she’s probably best known for her nine years as Pamela Barnes Ewing on the prime-time soap Dallas.
Principal opted out of the 2012 Dallas revival. She had Good Deeds to Do, one of which was funding the American Humane Association’s Red Star Rescue Team, which worked here in central Oklahoma to reunite lost pets with their families after the 2013 tornado on the city’s southern edge, through Moore.
Savannah Guthrie, co-host of NBC’s Today Show since 2012, turns forty-five, um, today. What you might figure: she has the requisite eye-candy quality for broadcast TV. What you might not have figured: she has her J.D. degree — magna cum laude, at that — from Georgetown University Law Center.
As a TV person, though, she is expected to be on camera a lot. This first picture is from 2014, a couple months before the birth of her first child — she’s married to Democratic political consultant Michael Feldman — in which she gets to show off her “baby bump.”
I have no idea what the heck is going on here, but Natalie Morales (I assume) seems awfully amused, and for Matt Lauer, I have to assume this is in character.
And then there’s this, with Idina Menzel and Ryann Redmond: