Archive for Stemware

Pinch hitter

The fact that singer Bat for Lashes is of Pashtun descent and British and Pakistani ancestry doesn’t tell you anything about, well, for one thing, why she goes by “Bat for Lashes.” (It says “Natasha Khan” on her birth certificate.) Her second album, Two Suns (2009) yielded up her largest-selling single to date, “Daniel,” which she described at the time as “the most straightforward, naive and purposely simple song I’ve ever done.”

This video drew a nomination for Best Breakthrough Video at the 2009 VMAs, which may or may not say something about MTV.

Bat for Lashes in 2012

Bat for Lashes wears a cap

Bat for Lashes in 2015

In 2015, she started a side project with the band TOY and producer Dan Carey, under the name “Sexwitch”; they released an EP with tracks like “Helelyos,” which turns out to be, um, Iranian funk.

In 2016, she has an album called The Bride, a narrative by a young woman whose fiancé was killed in a car crash on the way to their wedding. “Joe’s Dream,” track two, was the third single.

I’m not quite sure what musical niche might easily accommodate Bat for Lashes, though my first thought was “a more subdued Siouxsie Sioux.”

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Though she’s not mad about me

For your consideration: Saffron Burrows, 44 today, briefly a model, then a working actress, currently in Amazon’s series Mozart in the Jungle, season three of which begins airing in December.

Saffron Burrows from about 10 years ago

Saffron Burrows from about 1 year ago

Saffron Burrows strikes a pose

“Incandescently lovely,” said Craig Ferguson, and of course he was correct:

Her most recent feature film, Quitters, was released this past summer after debuting at SXSW in 2015.

Burrows, an American citizen since 2009, is married to Alison Balian, a writer for Ellen DeGeneres’ daily talk show; they have one son.

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To a Summers day

In 2014, Russell Johnson — the Professor — died, leaving only two survivors from Gilligan’s Island: Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) and Mary Ann Summers (Dawn Wells). Back in the Sixties, Ginger vs. Mary Ann was as serious a topic for debate as Ford vs. Chevy, and it’s just about as persistent today. I declared for Mary Ann early on, mostly because she (along with the Professor) was given short shrift in the theme song: they mention “a movie star,” of course, but then it was “and the rest.” This was corrected in subsequent seasons, but I am not one to be forgiving in such matters.

That said, non-Gilligan-related photos of Dawn Wells, who was, after all, Miss Nevada in the 1960 Miss America pageant, are drowned out by three-hour tour guides and such. We try harder:

Dawn Wells at the entrance

Dawn Wells takes a seat

Dawn Wells at the window

A bit of weirdness: in 1982-83, CBS aired something cartoonoid called Gilligan’s Planet, featuring all the original Gilligan cast except one. Tina Louise was otherwise occupied, and so Ginger was voiced by, um, Dawn Wells. Maybe the two of them were more interchangeable than we thought.

Oh, and today is Dawn’s 78th birthday.

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Variations on a theme

However many it takes to tango, the subsequent record album is expected to look pretty much the same. From 2003:

The Best Tango Album in the World Ever, 2003

From 2008:

Jan Vogler Tango, 2008

And new, from 2016:

Let's Dance Tango 2016 from Le Chant du Monde

You’d almost think they were trying to get my attention or something.


Requiem for none

This is Harris Faulkner, a minor character in the fourth generation of Littlest Pet Shop toys by Hasbro:

Harris Faulkner on LPS

And this is Harris Faulkner, Fox News Channel reporter and anchor for the last decade or so:

Harris Faulkner on Fox News

Now if you ask me, which the United States District Court for the State of New Jersey did not, there’s not a whole lot in the way of resemblance here. That said, after initially denying a Hasbro motion to dismiss, the court has dismissed Fox’s Faulkner’s lawsuit “with prejudice”: it cannot be refiled. Did the warring parties settle? We’ll probably never know.

That said, Harris Faulkner the newsperson does well with simple colors:

Harris Faulkner on the Fox Report

Harris Faulkner on the sofa

But never, ever cartoonish, am I right?

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead

From Chris Walton’s interim report on the Chevrolet Camaro in Motor Trend’s long-term test fleet:

[W]e wonder if other 2016 Camaro owners have been treated to a reflection of the passenger’s seat when peering at the sizable color touchscreen. We love the proximity, its quick responses, the crisp graphics, and Apple CarPlay, but we wish we could somehow alter the angle of the screen or change its reflectivity. Front-seat passengers wearing miniskirts be warned.

Me, I just wonder where all these front-seat passengers wearing miniskirts might be.

(Title courtesy of Paul Evans.)

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And the Diamonds

How Marina Diamandis became “Marina and the Diamonds”:

“I created the name ‘Marina and the Diamonds’ [in 2005] and I never envisaged a character, pop project, band or solo artist. I saw a simple group made up of many people who had the same hearts. A space for people with similar ideals who could not fit in to life’s pre-made mold. I was terribly awkward for a long time! I really craved to be part of one thing because I never felt too connected to anybody and now I feel I have that all around me.”

Appropriate, I guess, for a singer/songwriter with a strong DIY ethos.

Marina and the Diamonds in pink

Marina and the Diamonds on the Froot tour

Marina and the Diamonds spinning about

Thirty-one this week, Marina has recorded three albums, the most recent 2015’s Froot. I first noticed her in “Oh No!,” back in 2010.

Hard not to notice under those conditions, know what I mean?

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Zooeypalooza 24!

Has it been almost a year without a Zooeypalooza? This cannot be allowed to stand. Or to sit prettily, either.

Zooeypalooza 24!

Embiggenment, as always, comes with clickage.

Paloozas of yore: 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.

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A beacon she would be

“You can’t be a beacon,” warned Donna Fargo, “if your light don’t shine.” Not a whole lot of women in country music were writing their own stuff in the 1970s, and to their credit, neither of the major labels for which she recorded — Dot, then not yet on the wane, and Warner Bros., new to Nashville — pushed her (much) to record covers of other people’s songs. She’s probably best remembered for “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.,” but at least some album-cover compilers thought of her as the leggiest girl in the land. This is the liner of the Dot Happiest Girl LP:

Liner of The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA on Dot DOS-26000

Five years later, the jacket of her Warners album Shame On Me:

Liner of Shame On Me on Warner Bros. BS 3099

And from the fall of 2016, a compilation of her Warner Bros. work on Varése Sarabande:

Cover art of That Was Yesterday CD

Just to put the emphasis back on Donna’s way with words, here’s a deep cut from the Happiest Girl LP which has so far escaped reissue:

I love that. “Society’s got us by the you-know-what” — but doesn’t it always?

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License to gawk

All I know about this is that it came out in the middle Sixties, a period when, if I had a dollar to spare, I bought a phonograph record:

Leg Watchers' League application

Then again, at that tender age I had yet to see even one issue of Tip Top magazine, a periodical that apparently did not concern itself with matters above the waist. (Their slogan: “Fron the tip of the toes to the top of the hose.”) Their editors would likely despair at our present-day barelegged era. And the mag itself has long since gone away: the address is currently occupied by B A Marble and Granite.


And the rest of her

A few days back, reporting on a Russian movie, I said something to the effect that “the semi-invisible girl, however, was kind of cute.” It occurred to me that there should be a picture, and so we have one:

Some of Oksana Akinshina

We may assume that this was before she gained any sort of mastery of her powers. And of course, I got curious as to what else Oksana Akinshina had been up to:

Oksana Akinshina on the sofa

Oksana Akinshina on the love seat

Inevitably, there would be magazine covers:

Oksana Akinshina on the cover of FHM

And there would be lots of movies; perhaps she’s best known in this country for The Bourne Supremacy (2004), in which she plays the daughter of one Vladimir Neski, whom Bourne had previously killed but forgot about.

Lest we get too serious, though, here’s a 2011 TV appearance in which Oksana sings “The Song of the White Elephant”:

Maybe I will wait up for SuperBobrovy 2.

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Yes, she can can

“Immoral,” sniffed Nikita Khrushchev during a visit to the Can-Can set, his Soviet sensibilities evidently upset by the dancing of Juliet Prowse. My own thinking is that it was 1959, and therefore Khrushchev’s objections were probably good for a 20- to 30-percent boost in the American box office for Can-Can. (Today’s communists are inexplicably treated with less disdain.)

Juliet Prowse signs her name across your heart

About this time, Prowse costarred with Elvis Presley in G. I. Blues.

Juliet Prowse with Elvis Presley

Not quite so successful was Mona McCluskey, a 1965 NBC sitcom that starred Prowse as an actress married to an Air Force sergeant; the shtick was that they were going to live on his salary. Mona lasted 26 episodes and was not renewed.

Just your average military wife

And when the roles became fewer and farther between, well, there were always commercials:

In 1994, Juliet Prowse was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; the disease went into remission for about a year, allowing her one final tour in Sugar Babies with the evergreen Mickey Rooney. But cancer, as it too often will, returned, and she died in September 1996, a few days short of her 60th birthday.

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September in the rain

It was in fact raining on Saturday when I got the notification of a new box set:

Dinah Washington 3-CD box set released October 2016

Which gave me an excuse to spin Dinah Washington’s last pop hit, from 1963:

Quite apart from the pop stuff, Washington was known as a blues singer, and in that same year of 1963 she cut an album called Back to the Blues, some of which was actually bluesy. (See, for instance, the last track, “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning.”)

Autographed photo of Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington does some album art

And sadly, in that same year of 1963, Dinah Washington, only thirty-nine, died, after having apparently dabbled in barbiturates. Meanwhile, in 2016, the rain has stopped for now.

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And here’s to you, Mrs. Brooks

If you’re a Certain Age, this may be the most famous female leg in (your) history:

Mrs. Robinson is trying to seduce Benjamin

As it happens, Anne Bancroft was only six years older than Dustin Hoffman, and she was apparently of two minds about The Graduate: it was one of her signature roles, but she worried that it overshadowed the rest of her body of work.

Anne Bancroft gives you the stare

Anne Bancroft claims the love seat

Not that you can overshadow this. From somewhere around 1983, when Bancroft’s doting spouse Mel Brooks remade Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be, a possibly impromptu song-and-dance number:

They’re doing it from Pole to Pole.

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Vague holiday gestures

Girls, we all know, mature faster than boys, and it’s worse when the boy is much younger than his alleged peer group: the seventh-grade version of me, barely ten years old, was not at all able to deal with thirteen-year-old classmates in skirts. There’s a line in Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl in which some lad is extolling the virtues of Gregory’s younger sister Madeline: “She’s only ten,” he declared, “but she has the body of a woman of thirteen.” Fortunately for me, this film didn’t come out until I was nearly thirty.

That said, I once came up with the Dave Barry-esque idea of tacking up a pair of sheer stockings on the mantel, in the hope that Santa might see fit to, um, fill them up. The parental units did not approve, and the scheme was never implemented. And I’m not about to claim that I’m the only person who ever thought along these lines:

Sears Cling-alon hosiery ad

Actual Sears catalog displays were, if anything, even more endearing, which probably explains why I don’t have any of them anymore.

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I am not a lawyer

Nana Tanimura finished her pre-law coursework in the spring of 2010, but decided not to go further:

Tanimura told fans that she was pleased to have graduated, but “I want to concentrate on my music from now on.” She said she didn’t join in many activities while she was at university, “not even ‘gokon’ (matchmaking parties).”

Three years before, she’d begun recording for Japan’s Avex Group. I think my favorite Nana track is “If I’m Not the One,” recorded in 2008:

Nana Tanimura in a sailor suit

Nana Tanimura in the sink

Nana Tanimura doesn't look happy

If she doesn’t look too happy in that last shot, it may be a reflection of her dwindling music career: Avex put out a Greatest Hits compilation in 2011, and we really haven’t heard from her since, except via social media.

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Lest we forget

From the summer of ’15, a perfectly irrelevant comment, as is my wont, about then-Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina:

The skirtwatcher side of me gives her a solid B, not bad for sixty: ahead of Bachmann, behind Palin.

Today being her sixty-first, I figure I may as well expand upon that irrelevancy:

Carly Fiorina waiting her turn

Carly Fiorina hits her stride

Carly Fiorina hobnobs with Jimmy Fallon

Of course, since she is past sixty, we’re expected to be concerned about her health. Here she seems to take a spill:

Not sure what happened there, but she seems to recover quickly enough.

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Don’t step on the puppy

Seriously. Just don’t:

1946 advertisement for Fine Feathers hosiery

Some of those postwar shoe styles might be au courant even today.

Miller-Smith Hosiery Mills was located in Chattanooga, and they last renewed the Fine Feathers trademark in 1969; it has since fallen into desuetude.


Where she danced

“The most beautiful girl in the world,” said producer Walter Wanger about Yvonne de Carlo, whom he chose for the lead role in 1945’s Salome, Where She Danced, an implausible story that nonetheless made her a star at twenty-three.

And hey, I’m not one to argue with Walter Wanger:

Yvonne de Carlo, 1940s

Yvonne de Carlo, 1940s

Yvonne de Carlo, 1940s

The film roles began to dry up in the early 1960s; Universal talked her into a TV series.

Yvonne de Carlo as Lily Munster

After The Munsters was canceled, de Carlo made her way to the stage; her signature role, perhaps, was Carlotta Campion in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

Yvonne de Carlo died in 2007 at eighty-five.

(With thanks to Van Dyke Parks. Yes, that Van Dyke Parks.)

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X marks the spot

Xenia Tchoumitcheva was born in the Urals in 1987 but grew up in Switzerland speaking Italian. She studied economics, worked in London banks, but decided the take would be better as a model — or, in her term, a “digital influencer.”

Xenia Tchoumi looks at you

She does do formal modeling work, but it’s secondary to her writing and video work. She also runs a fashion blog called Chic Overload.

Xenia Tchoumi thinks about it

Last year, she decided to shorten her public name to “Xenia Tchoumi,” saying that it’s easier to pronounce.

Xenia Tchoumi by the pool

And, perhaps inevitably, she’s staking out a position as a YouTube vlogger:

Clearly a woman of many facets.

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Meanwhile in the Southern Hemisphere

I suppose you couldn’t run an ad like this today:

Fiesta hosiery ad from Australia

A poodle in a sombrero? Sure, why not? And I smile at that bit about “made in an air-conditioned factory where nylon cannot contract.” Said factory, incidentally, was in Australia; Bond’s Industries sold it off in 1958, citing a decline in demand for its uncontracted products.


Modern art, folks

A statue by Colombian artist Juan Sebastián Peláez was unveiled earlier this year and is currently on display at the Biennale for Contemporary Art in Berlin. The subject of the statue? Rihanna, from here down. An explanation, of sorts, from the Biennale:

Titled “Ewaipanoma (Rihanna)”, the piece makes reference to a mythical race of headless humanoids purported to have been discovered by British explorer Walter Raleigh in Venezuela at the end of the 16th century.

The Biennale website describes the artist’s work as containing “upright, oversize photo-cutouts of headless human bodies — captured in athletic positions, sporting bikini swimwear, or posing in the limelight in glitzy, bling gowns — with faces surreally integrated into their chests. Both the bodies and faces are sourced from pop queens and soccer stars from the Caribbean or Latin America.”

Rihanna, very sensibly, Snapchatted herself in front of this, um, thing:

Rihanna poses in front of a statue of her in Berlin

Should you find these weirdly compelling, there are others.

Elsewhere in Berlin that week:

Rihanna poses in Berlin

I’m pretty sure that incident didn’t give her any ideas, except maybe to sit back and relax:

Rihanna on the sofa

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Very Italian

Sylva Koscina will always be remembered as an Italian actress; a few wise guys might point out along the way that she was born on the Dalmatian coast of what used to be Yugoslavia, but nobody listens to them.

As is essential for an Italian actress of this vintage, she rocks the Little Black Dress:

Sylva Koscina sitting there

Sylva Koscina has finished her drink

Or, should the situation demand, even less:

Sylva Koscina standing there

In 1968, she did a segment of the anthology film Vedo Nudo (“I See Naked”), playing a woman identified as The Diva. She is not actually naked in this clip:

She does, however, get to drive an Italian sports car. You don’t usually get this kind of deal in Yugoslavia.

Sylva Koscina would have been 83 today; she was struck down by breast cancer in her early 60s.

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It’s bad for you

Dear Granny of KTRK-TV Houston weighs in on a question close to my heart:

Note: 30-second ad before content; other stories follow.

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Taiwanese actress Annie Wu came to prominence in Jackie Chan’s Police Story 4: First Strike in 1996; Chan had said, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that her Cantonese was terrible, and whether it was true or not, all of her lines were dubbed for the final release.

Annie Wu in black

Annie Wu in white

Still, Wu, thirty-eight tomorrow, has sustained a career, mostly in Chinese TV, occasionally in a feature film like From Vegas to Macau:

Not that she has a whole heck of a lot to do in those films.

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An institution unto herself

Over the weekend, Halle Berry turned 50.


Halle Berry in something shiny

Halle Berry takes a walk

Halle Berry in something else shiny

Halle Berry takes a Lexus

You gotta figure she’ll make it at least to 91, equaling the old Cleveland department store Halle Brothers Company, for whom she was named.

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Little Guadalupe

It’s not too startling, perhaps, to discover that Lupita Nyong’o was the first, um, Mexican to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (for 12 Years a Slave): her parents are indeed Kenyan, but she was born in Mexico City. Being the superficial soul I am, I noticed something else: she’s absolutely fearless on the red carpet. I mean, she can wear anything, any style, any color. Examples:

Lupita Nyong'o in red

Lupita Nyong'o in a car

Lupita Nyong'o in a yellow bikini

Bonus points if you noticed that “Lupita” is, in fact, the diminutive of “Guadalupe.” Says Wikipedia on the subject: “It is a tradition of the Luo people to name a child after the events of the day, so her parents gave her a Spanish name.”

And I dearly loved her 73 Questions for Vogue:

This series is always good, but Nyong’o’s episode might be the best of them all.

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Meanwhile in France

I got silly one afternoon — Monday, if you care — on Google, and typed in: “politicians with nice legs.”

Result the first:

Valerie Pecresse seated

Valérie Pécresse, forty-nine, is the President of the Regional Council
of Île-de-France; she has served on the Council for twelve years. She is a member of a center-right party called The Republicans, formed from the remains of Jacques Chirac’s Union for a Popular Movement. (Could you imagine an American center-right party called the Republicans? I didn’t think so.)

Valerie Pecresse standing

Valerie Pecresse standing

Since I generally react like Gomez Addams to a woman speaking French, here’s Mme. Pécresse debating French academic Axel Kahn:

Which is not to say she’s emotionally wedded to her language. She speaks four, and one of them got her into trouble in 2009:

They were giving out the annual Prix de la Carpette Anglaise the other day. Literally it means the English Rug Prize, but doormat would be the better translation.

As the citation explains, the award goes to the French person or institution who has given the best display of “fawning servility” to further the insinuation into France of the accursed English language… topping the poll for grave disservices to the mother tongue is France’s higher education minister, Valérie Pécresse.

Her crime: proclaiming to the press that she had no intention of speaking French when attending European meetings in Brussels, because, she said, it was quite obvious that English was now the easiest mode of communication.

Perhaps she should have tried Russian. Or Japanese.

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Sweet bird of youth

Japanese model Risa Hirako, doing a commercial for Somewhere Else Entirely:

The industry is always looking for fresh faces, especially when they come attached to bodies like this:

Risa Hirako in a short dress

Risa Hirako in lingerie

Risa Hirako wearing nothing but shoes

If any of this rouses romantic notions, well, yes, as it happens, she was born on Valentine’s Day.

The 14th of February, 1971. She is forty-five years old.

She has over 100,000 followers on Instagram. I can’t for the life of me imagine why.


That’s as May be

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, someone asked me what differences we could expect. Unthinkingly, I responded: “Well, she has nicer legs than David Cameron.”

This is of course irrelevant to her new position, but I will stand by that statement:

Theresa May

Theresa May

Theresa May

Theresa May

I am not buying the theory that Prime Minister May actually has three legs.

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