News Babes, as they were once (or twice, or more) called, make for relatively simple research for Your Humble Narrator: they’ve spent most of their lives as News Babes, and there area always lots of pictures to be had. Such is the case with Erica Ruth Hill, forty-three today, who’s logged 21 years in the business, starting at TechTV — you remember TechTV, don’t you? — later moving to CNN, CBS, NBC, and back to CNN.
Inevitably with News Babes, there are guys with obsessions, one of whom crammed these bits into a single video:
She is not related to News Babe E. D. Hill, 57 next week, who has also been kicking around the business for years; she was last seen on, um, CNN.
Audiences, of course, dearly love pianist Yuja Wang: she sells out concerts all over the world. And it’s always seemed to me that the camera adores her, too, which makes her a must-follow on Facebook, especially if I feel like beating myself over the head for not being where she’s playing that week.
That second picture leads inevitably into this performance last month in Vienna. Rhapsody in Blue, anyone?
A measured pace throughout, though this fits with Gershwin’s intention that jazz should be played strictly in time for reasons of danceability. The crowd, of course, loved it.
Have you ever met anyone named “Thylane”? Neither have I. Which means that if Thylane Léna-Rose Loubry Blondeau wants to be known henceforth simply as Thylane, there probably won’t be too many objections raised. Besides, she’s pretty well known already: at six, she was named by a panel of independent critics as the Most Beautiful Girl in the World. And at six, she’d already been modeling for two years, the sort of phenomenon that got her into something called Vogue Enfants at ten, where there was a brouhaha reminiscent of Brooke Shields’ early days: mere child made up to look grown-up.
At seventeen, that same Panel of Independent Critics gave her that same Most Beautiful title once more; she just turned 18 this past spring.
And in 2015, she had a small role in Belle & Sebastian: The Adventure Continues, which I presume is a sequel to the original. She dished to a French paper at the time:
Frankly, I thought she came off more appealing as a 14-year-old child actress than as a model of any age. Maybe it’s that whole models-are-supposed-to-scowl thing.
Once in a while, a name drops out of my mind, and then is suddenly summoned again for some reason. Thus it was with Garcelle Beauvais, Francesca “Fancy” Monroe on The Jamie Foxx Show for five years, and Valerie Heywood on NYPD Blue for twelve: easy to picture, hard to identify.
Until, of course, she wasn’t:
If your first thought was “Are there any more at home like you?” — and why wouldn’t it be? — be advised that she’s the youngest of seven, relocated as kinds from Haiti to Boston. And this isn’t as weird as it sounds:
I remember thinking “Geez, she must be at least 40 by now.” Well, 52 does qualify.
3. She’s hot. Marianne Williamson isn’t just hot for a 66-year-old woman, she’s just plain hot-hot. Have we ever really had a hot president? I know a lot of people said this guy, but I never saw it. No offense to President Trump, but Marianne is way hotter. Time for an upgrade!
Said she in Healing the Soul of America (1997):
It is a task of our generation to recreate the American politeia, to awaken from our culture of distraction and re-engage the process of democracy with soulfulness and hope. Yes, we see there are problems in the world. But we believe in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right. Such is the divine authority of love: to renew the heart, renew the nations, and ultimately, renew the world.
Number 4, Jim: she can use words like “politeia” and not sound ridiculous.
Maybe the name sounds like it could be, but Stacy Keibler, somewhere around five foot eleven, is not elfin in the least. (I have no idea whether she bakes.) Actress, model, wrestler — she’s done a lot in her 39 years.
She retired from wrestling back in 2006, did some television work, and here, she does the fox trot:
One of the DWTS judges tagged her as a “Weapon of Mass Seduction.” It didn’t help her in the long run; she finished third.
I had no ideas for this week’s Rule 5 stuff, so I decided that I would go with whoever came up next in the wallpaper rotation. So I waited a minute and fifteen seconds, and the desktop manager popped up a photo of Eva Longoria.
Okay. What didn’t I know about her? I mean, there was that Desperate Housewives gig (eight years), there was the marriage to now-retired NBA star Tony Parker (not quite four years), and the usual fawning coverage by lad mags (since puberty, it seems). Well, there’s that Master’s degree in Chicano Studies, a term they probably don’t use anymore, from Cal State Northridge. And apparently she didn’t learn Spanish until her mid-twenties.
And if you’re into Good Dresses or the series Grand Hotel, here she is with Seth Myers:
There is no circumstance under which I would not celebrate Rebecca Black’s birthday, and today, her twenty-second, the fans get the present:
A lyric video is already out, with what appears to be footage from the upcoming “real” video, due next week.
And 22 is old enough for the full Rule 5 treatment, right?
And purely by accident (yeah, right), I took a peek at her IMDb page, and was startled out of what wits I have:
From “Anyway” on down, this list contains a lot of music videos, some Web stuff, and that animation from China in which she did a voice character. I was not expecting to see two feature films. They’re both in post-production, which can mean any number of things; the most likely, I’m guessing, is “looking for a distributor.” Still, assuming IMDb hasn’t messed up the names, which seems unlikely: (1) it’s IMDb and they just don’t do that and (2) if she’s paying dues to the Screen Actors Guild, there’s nobody else billed with that name. I have yet to find a trailer, though, for either American Reject or Bad Impulse.
The other day, I mentioned somewhere that I could use a few more celebrity wallpapers; a couple of hours later, this link showed up in my inbox, and I decided that mere wallpaper wasn’t enough.
And so we get to talk about Kerry Washington, forty-two this year and looking every bit of twenty-nine. Half a lifetime ago, she graduated from George Washington (no relation) University with a double major in sociology and anthropology, and, oh yes, a Phi Beta Kappa key.
She is perhaps best known as Scandal’s fixer Olivia Pope, and more recently she appeared in Confirmation, a retelling of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas story on HBO. Here, she discusses both with Stephen Colbert:
And she’s married to Nnamdi Asomugha, retired Oakland Raiders cornerback turned actor; they have three children.
The truly wondrous aspect of Gypsy Rose Lee, aside from her, um, visual assets, turns out to be that she was a smartaleck almost before she was a stripper. The Wikipedant tells the story in his own imitable style, or lack thereof:
Eventually, it became apparent that Louise [Hovick, her real name] could make money in burlesque, which earned her legendary status as an elegant and witty striptease artist. Initially, her act was propelled forward when a shoulder strap on one of her gowns gave way, causing her dress to fall to her feet despite her efforts to cover herself; encouraged by the audience’s response, she went on to make the trick the focus of her performance.
The gownless evening strap! The mind boggles.
Louise had a younger sister, June, who made her way to the silver screen as June Havoc. They weren’t always the best of friends; the musical Gypsy, based on Louise’s memoirs, was apparently unkind to June, whose sympathies were bought off by the producers.
In the late 1930s, Gypsy Rose Lee was one of several prominent American showbiz backers of the Popular Front during the Spanish Civil War; the Front eventually collapsed due to intramural infighting, and Francisco Franco took over as dictator. (Franco died in 1975 and is still dead.)
The musical Pal Joey contains a song called “Zip,” which purports to be the innermost thoughts of Gypsy Rose Lee during her act. Bebe Neuwirth gives it a spin here:
Then again, it’s not hard to imagine Gypsy herself doing this song. Playing herself in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen:
She died at fifty-nine in 1970; lung cancer took her away. We shall not see her like again.
My current desktop-wallpaper switcher contains about 400 files, some of which can be explained. I was scratching around for a name for a Rule 5 piece, and as the tenth minute concluded, Windows duly coughed up the next picture in the queue, and, said I, “Why not?”
So say hello to Cecily Strong, thirty-five, a regular on Saturday Night Live since the fall of 2012. She has a BFA in theatre from CalArts, experience with the legendary Second City troupe, and a portfolio of SNL characters, including one known simply as “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.”
Speaking of SNL, here’s Cecily as Judge Jeanine Pirro:
This is not the source of our second photo. More’s the pity.
As usual, my 60-minute psychotherapy session ended up with me talking for 110 minutes or so, and at some point the topic of conversation was New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, about whom I said this: “I don’t agree with much of what she says, but by gawd, she’s fun to watch.”
Someone else of whom I might say that is New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who apparently drew some flak for her shoes, of all irrelevant — and yet interesting — things. Shortly thereafter, this appeared on her Facebook page:
Ardern dwells in some of the same political space as AOC: she’s the head of the Labour party, which is definitely left-leaning without being as insane as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in the UK; she has a domestic partner, TV presenter Clarke Gayford, but they are not technically wed just yet. (Wikipedia uses the word “fiancé,” which suggests a ceremony to come.) Their daughter was born while Ardern was in office; she’s only the second head of government to give birth while head of government. (The first? The late Benazir Bhutto, of Pakistan, in 1990.)
Ardern on the Christchurch killer this year: “Speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them.”
Before Kimberley Busteed was Miss Universe Australia — this would be 2007 — she was a competitive swimmer, and she’s dusted off her swimsuit a couple of times since then. Mostly, though, she is, per her Web site, “an Australian media personality, television presenter and media producer,” which sums her up pretty well.
Happy 38th to singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, a woman of many musical styles anchored to a single point: “I’ve gone through all sorts of vocal phases, from pop to blues to R&B,” she has said, “but no matter what I do, I just can’t get the country and western out of my voice.” And indeed, some of her most compelling work is the sort of girl-with-guitar stuff that many do, but that few do consistently well.
That last picture: Catherine Shepherd was a charity coordinator for Paul McCartney when she and Brandi met; they were married in 2012. They have two daughters.
My own introduction to Brandi Carlile was the song “That Year,” from her third album, Give Up the Ghost (2009). It’s pitched so subtly that it takes a couple of listens to take in the whole story:
Give Up the Ghost made it to #26 on the Billboard Hot 200; each new album — she’s done six — has climbed just a little higher.
Given my keen grasp of the obvious, it seems implausible that I would get through all these iterations of the month of May without once making a reference to Swedish actress May Britt, which turns out to be her first name: she was born Maybritt Wilkens in 1934.
For some reason, in 1959, 20th Century-Fox decided to remake Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 classic The Blue Angel, with May Britt as Lola-Lola. May had legs, and she knew how to use them, but the reviews were terrible, and Sternberg actually sued Fox for allegedly diminishing the value of his original. They settled out of court.
Also in 1959, she caught the eye of Sammy Davis, Jr.; they dated for a year, and were married in 1960. The usual suspects were utterly scandalized; apparently this event was sufficiently traumatic that JFK felt compelled to disinvite Davis, whom everyone had expected to perform at the Kennedy inauguration.
The Davises had one child and adopted two more; they split in 1968 after Davis allegedly set his sights on Lola Falana.
About four minutes of The Blue Angel will show you that May Britt had the talent to hold her own, but Marlene Dietrich she wasn’t.
For the past couple of weeks, the Cultural Arbiters have been spewing about how the state of Alabama is some sort of Fourth World hellhole; most of my memories of the place are pretty positive, and so I decided to open this space to someone from Alabama with major talent and, yes, a great smile. So happy birthday, Octavia Spencer (47 we won’t mention the number). She was born in Montgomery and graduated from Auburn, and since we haven’t looked in on her in a couple of years, it seems like a good time to catch up.
Last time, release of The Shack was imminent, and some people got their BVDs knotted over it. Reviews were generally hostile. The box-office take, however, was formidable.
Coming up next week: Ma, an atypical horror film with a black lead, and a female black lead at that.
And she has three films coming out in 2020 — so far.
To touch on that whole “smile” business, we have two clips. First, some lighthearted banter with Ellen:
And the very antithesis of “lighthearted,” a scene from 2011’s The Help, which got Octavia the first of three Academy Award nominations and an actual win:
Katharina Andresen, said Forbes this spring, is the third youngest billionaire on the planet, worth around $1.4 billion; she owns 42.2 percent of the Norwegian conglomerate Ferd AS. (She has a kid sister, Alexandra, who owns the same percentage and who obviously is a younger billionaire.) The Instagram photo above, I’m guessing, is intended to give you a look at that probably very expensive piece of jewelry.
Andresen was pulled over in her Audi and found to have a blood-alcohol content three times Norway’s legal limit.
In Norway, fines for drunk driving are based on one’s wealth. This week, Andresen was fined the equivalent of $30,400.
In fact, the Associated Press reported, the price of the fine could have been a whole lot greater.
“Oslo City Court said the penalty could have been up to 40 million krone ($4.9 million) if based on Andresen’s assets, but they ‘have not yielded any dividend yet’ and she has no fixed income,” the wire service said. “The court did increase the fine because of her estimated wealth, however.”
Norwegian press reported Andresen’s sentence also included 18 days of imprisonment and a 13-month license suspension.
The Norwegian standard — 0.02 BAC — is extremely stiff; triple that would be legal in most of the US.
The news report was pretty severe in its own right.
So I had copied a bunch of images into my wallpaper directory, which now has about 370 items, one of which is swapped in every ten minutes. More than once, I’ve seen an image come up and wondered “Who the heck is that?” A little research revealed not only her name, but the fact that she’d been featured here before — in a photo from the same shoot, at that.
Madhu Shalini really hasn’t boosted her profile in the six years since; she does a couple of films a year, she keeps in touch with her social-media followers — her Twitter profile reads “Actor. Dancer. Entrepreneur. Whacko” — and every now and them someone puts out a Where Are They Now? story about her.
I have no idea what is meant by that “18th May” inscription, but clearly it has to be here today.
Most recently, she’s appeared in Goodachari, which is Telugu for “Spy.” And that’s the role she plays: a new graduate from spy school, posted to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“I wanna get some rice in my hair,” sang the Lemon Pipers in 1968, when Condoleezza Rice was all of fourteen. This was a good three dozen years before Forbes named her the most powerful woman in the world — before she ever served as Secretary of State.
So far as I can tell, she was at least 59 in all these shots. Forbes doesn’t notice such things, of course.
The first picture in this utterly gratuitous video reminds me that she was one of the first women to be admitted to the hallowed halls of the Augusta National Golf Club.
Oh, and she’s no slouch at the piano, either. Here she and cellist Yo-Yo Ma take on Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces for, um, clarinet and piano. (By now I’ve heard them more often with a cello than with an actual clarinet.)
Fortunately, I am no longer subject to hopeless crushes.
For every young, cute, chirpy singer I fixate upon, there are a couple of dozen I manage to miss entirely. One of the latter is Sabrina Carpenter, twenty today, who’s been acting as long as she’s been singing. At 12, she had a teensy role in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; shortly thereafter, the Disney Channel picked her up for Girl Meets World alongside Rowan Blanchard, and inevitably, she had a single promoted on Radio Disney:
If she comes off here as a younger Meghan Trainor, you will not be surprised to hear that M-Train wrote this one.
[A]n “utter and complete transformation” is what Carpenter had been craving — a creative vacation as she was in the midst of crafting her shimmery, dance-driven third studio album, Singular: Act I, released last fall. “I was looking forward to stripping down in every aspect. I wanted to dye my hair for a role. I wanted to be able get into a character in a way where I’d look in the mirror and not even recognize myself. And that’s exactly what I was able do with Nola,” she says. “Ani [Simon-Kennedy, writer-director of The Short History of the Long Road] asked me, “Are you OK with no makeup?’ I was like, ‘Please!’ She asked, ‘Are you OK with not shaving?’ Again, I was like, ‘Please!'”
As Carpenter points out, “This girl, living in a van her whole life with her dad, doesn’t care about her appearance at all. There’s no self-awareness, only an appreciation for what’s going on inside of herself and others. And Nola’s story is one of survival and autonomy, which I think is very empowering for young girls to see.”
That said, Singular: Act II is on the way, containing this song:
In which “chirpy” meets “melancholy.” I promise to start paying attention.
When Sabrina Lentini was ten years old, she was singing Leonard Cohen:
That was the summer of 2008. This past weekend:
I’m not sure which counts for more: her strong yet sweet voice or her legendary work ethic. I’ve characterized her before as the hardest-working singer in Orange County, and rare is the week when she doesn’t have at least a couple of gigs. It doesn’t even have to be in the OC:
And shortly, she’ll be heading for Nashville for a couple of weeks:
Margaery persuades the High Sparrow, the leader of the Faith, to release Loras if he surrenders his claim as heir of House Tyrell and joins the Faith. However, when Cersei fails to arrive for her trial Margaery deduces Cersei is plotting something and tries to convince the High Sparrow to evacuate the Sept of Baelor, but the High Sparrow refuses and has the Faith Militant bar the exits. Moments later, wildfire that had been ignited beneath the Sept on Cersei’s orders explodes, and Margaery is killed in the explosion, along with all others present. Her death, and those of her brother and father, lead Olenna to accept a proposal by the Sand Snakes (who currently lead the Reach’s ancient rival, Dorne) in supporting Daenerys Targaryen’s invasion of Westeros.
What gets to me is that while playing Margaery for five seasons of Game of Thrones (two through six), Natalie Dormer was also portraying Jamie Moriarty in Elementary, a Sherlock Holmes series, which not unexpectedly has complications of its own, Moriarty having assumed the name of Irene Adler, girlfriend to Holmes. (With Moriarty eventually imprisoned, Holmes was ruefully philosophical: “The love of my life,” he said, “is an unrepentant homicidal maniac.”)
Later this year for Dormer: The Professor and the Madman, a long-brewing Mel Gibson project, and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, a follow-up to the original Penny Dreadful TV series.
And while we’re at it, here’s the destruction of the Sept of Baelor:
Even the brightly illuminated scenes of Game of Thrones come off as dark and brooding.
There is Pre-Code, and there is post-Code; while there were plenty of performers on either side of the divide, not quite so many managed to hold onto their stardom while Hollywood was in Hays Office-inspired turmoil. Ruth Chatterton (1892-1961) was nominated for two Academy Awards under the old rules; then again, perhaps her best performance was in the Code-era (1936) film of Sinclair Lewis’ novel Dodsworth.
She retired from film in 1938, but she had plenty to do: she continued as a stage actress, and she flew. Literally. She was an accomplished pilot, a friend of Amelia Earhart’s, and made several solo transcontinental flights. And somewhere amidst all this activity, she wrote four novels, starting with Homeward Borne in 1950.
Still, she is best remembered for her pre-Code stuff, some of which looked like this:
Her very last acting job was on a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV production of Hamlet in 1953, as (of course) Gertrude.
Not a lot of 19-year-olds show up in this department, at least partly due to the fact that I’m past sixty and have spent thirty years listening to Steely Dan complain (I think) about a woman of that age. Still, I have a perfectly good reason for talking about Bailee Madison, who doesn’t hit 20 until this fall. and who captured several Young Artist awards the year she turned nine.
Since 2015, her main gig is as Catherine Bell’s daughter on the Hallmark Channel’s Good Witch, season five of which begins this coming June.
But every now and then we find her in something like this:
If this was Meghan Trainor’s idea, it was a good one.
So this weekend, I’ve been decompressing from tax season, doing some catching up with a sister-in-arms I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and watching a lot of TV while doing the first two things. Part of that TV has been the second season of Archer, which is quite possibly the best spoof of James Bond and other spy thrillers out there. One of the main characters of Archer is Lana Kane, super-competent and quite sexy spy who is Archer’s former (and still occasional) girlfriend and frequent mission partner. The voice of Lana is actress Aisha Tyler, who’s rather easy on the eyes herself.
[A]n exhibit on the subject of why I’ve got it bad for Aisha Tyler, from her book Swerve: Reckless Observations of a Postmodern Girl, on why doing charity work makes you more interesting:
“The next time you’re out with a bunch of people and they’re all babbling on about how their new SUV came with six cup holders instead of the standard factory-issue four, or how they’re pissed because they couldn’t find a pair of Super Humanity Force Five Superlow Cut Frayed Über-Denim jeans, you can talk about how you spent a weekend building a house for a low-income family and learned how to use a compound mitre saw. In metric. They will be cowed. But they will also be fascinated. Girls will think you’ve got balls, and boys will imagine you with a hammer in your hand, wearing nothing but a utility belt. Everybody wins.”
That was 2004. In the 15 years since, we’ve run a couple of pictures of Ms Tyler, but the last one was 2012. Why not renew an acquaintance?
Eleanore Whitney was born (as Eleanore Wittenberg) in 1917 in Cleveland, and spent her teenaged years studying dance and appearing in vaudeville. (She was serious about that dance stuff: one of her primary teachers was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.) By the time she was eighteen, she was deemed ready for the silver screen.
She did fifteen films in four years, and then abruptly left the industry in 1939 for personal reasons:
And so far as is known, Mr and Mrs Backer lived happily ever after, or at least until death do them part; Eleanore passed away in 1983 at sixty-six.
Ellen Barkin is sixty-five today, and not counting a brief (and uncredited) bit in Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, she’s been pretty busy for the last 37 years, starting with Barry Levinson’s Diner in 1982. The next year, Bruce Beresford cast her in Tender Mercies, a move that star Robert Duvall later applauded: “She was young and attractive and had a certain sense of edge, a danger to her that was good for that part.”
There’s still a danger to her. This is the trailer from Cam Archer’s Shit Year (2011), in which Barkin plays a fading actress who thinks she’ll find a measure of peace in a cabin in the woods:
Kate Upton has done three covers for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, reason enough to mention her here. And in fact, she’s been mentionedtwice in these pages with not so much as a single photo, which of course will not do.
She first appeared in SI in 2011, was named their Rookie of the Year, and did the next two covers.
Before all that swimsuit stuff, she was a nationally-ranked equestrian, placing high in various American Paint Horse Association events.
She made her film debut in 2011, in Tower Heist. And before you ask, yes, she can do the dougie:
The Clippers went 32-50 that season, all the more reason to keep the cameras trained on the stands.
Angela Lansbury had been a working actress for over twenty years when she got her first starring role, as Mame Dennis in the musical Mame in 1966. The show ran for two years and won her a Tony Award. I suspect no one had thought of her as a song-and-dance girl; lyricist Jerry Herman had been hoping to get Judy Garland, then 44, but her management apparently thought Judy wasn’t up to it, and the role fell to 42-year-old Angela.
Can she sum up a seven-decade career in ten minutes? Let’s see:
Though frankly, I could listen to her all day.
(Number of times I’ve seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks: eleven.)