Lisa Snowdon is still around, as fashion models and TV presenters always seem to be. It’s perhaps worth noting that her parents spelled that surname “Snawdon,” with an A; she changed it when she signed with a modeling agency. She hadn’t planned on being a model, but she apparently decided it was better than pole-dancing.
Her first television job was on MTV UK; she went on to several medium-profile gigs, including Sir David Frost’s sidekick on Through the Keyhole, and the host of Britain’s Next Top Model.
Presumably unrelated to her work, in 2010 she contracted viral meningitis, and after recovering became a fundraiser for research into the disease.
Of course, it takes two to tango:
She and her partner finished third on that season of Strictly Come Dancing.
Aisling Bea scares me. She’s thirty-five (today, actually) and she’s funny and she’s beautiful and she talks very fast and I know I’d be sitting in the audience utterly rapt and I’d be the one person in the crowd she’d never, ever see. Of course, she’s spent half her life on stage and in front of the camera learning every possible way to frighten the likes of me, though that was never what she had intended.
She studied French and philosophy at Trinity College in Dublin. I know of no better way to prepare oneself for doing stand-up comedy.
There’s always room for her on a panel show, be it 8 Out of 10 Cats or Insert Name Here or Duck Quacks Don’t Echo or Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
I’m sad you killed yourself, because I really think that, if you could see the life you left behind, you would regret it. You didn’t get to see the Berlin wall fall or Ireland qualify for Italia 90. You didn’t get to see all the encyclopedias that you bought for us to one day “use at university” get squashed into a CD and subsequently the internet. You have never got to hear your younger daughter’s voice — it annoys me sometimes, but it has also said some of the most amazing things when drunk. I think you would have been proud to watch your daughter do standup at the O2 and sad to see my mother watching it on her own. Then again, if you hadn’t died, I probably wouldn’t have been mad enough to become a clown for a living. I am your daughter and I am really fucking funny, just like you. But, unlike you, I’m going to stop being it for five minutes and write our story in the hope that it may help someone who didn’t get to have a box turn up, or who may not feel “in their right mind” right now and needs a reminder to find hope.
Let us dial back to the beginning of Kyle XY, a SF-ish series that ran on ABC Family (now Freeform) starting in 2006. Kyle, as the letters might suggest, is identified as a teenaged boy, who lacks a navel or any memory of where he came from. It seems only fair that there be an XX, and in season two, we met Jessi, a girl with a background similar to Kyle’s, and behold, there’s the obligatory love interest. Jessi was played by Jaimie Alexander, who does indeed appear to be sporting XX chromosomes:
After Kyle XY ran its course, Alexander materialized as Sif, companion to Thor in a couple of live-action films from the ever-popular Marvel Universe.
On the set of Thor: The Dark World, Alexander took a spill off a metal staircase and missed a month of filming.
While shooting the NBC-TV series Blindspot, playing an amnesiac found wandering around Times Square, she suffered many more injuries, including:
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $168,575 in the United States from 613 theaters with a per-screen average of $261, becoming the second worst US box office opening for a wide release film of all time.
I wouldn’t pester the production company for a sequel. However, you may, and perhaps should, wish Jaimie Alexander a happy 35th birthday.
I don’t do much with Tumblr these days, mostly because all the nudists were kicked off, but once in a while I find something that addresses the needs of this site, which is why you’re getting a link to “crazy about legs”. As is the case for most of us who spend too much time checking out hemlines, our anonymous blogger has his favorites, and some of them are perhaps a little more obvious than others. There’s lots of Selena Gomez and Chloe Grace Moretz, but scarcely a day goes by that he doesn’t toss up a Taylor Swift pic. Shortly after this dawned on me, I scrolled back three pages, and each page had at least one photo of Tay-Tay. This, I decided, means something, and these were the three, as snagged last night:
The squad member in that third shot is model Karlie Kloss.
The fun challenge of writing a pop song is squeezing those evocative details into the catchiest melodic cadence you can possibly think of. I thrive on the challenge of sprinkling personal mementos and shreds of reality into a genre of music that is universally known for being, well, universal. You’d think that as pop writers, we’re supposed to be writing songs that everyone can sing along to, so you’d assume they would have to be pretty lyrically generic … AND YET the ones I think cut through the most are actually the most detailed, and I don’t mean in a Shakespearean sonnet type of way, although I love Shakespeare as much as the next girl. Obviously. (See “Love Story,” 2009.)
And if lately she seems deliberately anti-melodic at times, well, look what you made her do. Meanwhile, here’s “Love Story,” set in Verona High School, or some such place:
I need to go through the Swift directory and check for duplicates. Out of 518 items, there almost has to be a few of them.
There are sites where kindly folk like myself will attempt to answer your questions, and it’s disheartening to discover that the majority of those questions boil down to “I did this. How do I escape the consequences?”
Then there was one question I stumbled upon that I wasn’t even close to expecting: “Who is the most beautiful woman in the world?” I decided that the first name I encountered would go into this very slot, and that is why you’re seeing photos of H’Hen Niê, who won Miss Universe Vietnam 2017, and went on to Miss Universe 2018, where she made the semifinals.
Much was made of her being one of the Rade people of southern Vietnam and northern Cambodia. The Rade are matrilineal: the female line determines descent, and women are the owners of family property.
[S]he was undoubtedly the most impressive and bravest contestant in the Miss Universe pageant this year. She is compassionate, kind, fierce, courageous, beautiful and inspiring to women all around the world.
I think when you’re a beauty queen, they have to talk about you like that.
Early in 3rd Rock from the Sun, the results of a competition:
Dick: Sally, I want you to observe her, find out what women on this planet do.
Sally: Why can’t Harry do it?
Dick: Because you’re the woman.
Sally: That brings up a very good question: why am I the woman?
Dick: Because you lost.
And so the pseudonymous “Sally Solomon,” a highly trained, decorated, combat specialist and military tactician, became, for purposes of this mission, a woman. And she didn’t much care for it — at first.
Kristen Johnston, an accomplished stage actress, really wanted that part on 3rd Rock, and won two Emmy Awards for her six seasons of work.
She has worked steadily since, most recently in the CBS sitcom Mom.
This latter shot perhaps needs some explanation. Around 1988, still a struggling starlet, so to speak, Johnston did a fashion shoot for Los Angeles magazine; I don’t quite remember what the concept was supposed to have been, but there she is without her head, and still better-looking than, say, Celty Sturluson.
In this clip, she explains her role in Mom:
Yeah, she’s put on a few kilograms. She used to drink heavily, but quit; she’s been fighting lupus for the last five years. Life can be like that sometimes.
Today Jessica Tuck is fifty-six, and she has enough screen credits, big screen or small, to make you wonder how she ever had time to do all that. To pick three not entirely at random: Megan Gordon Harrison, One Life to Live (1988-93, plus ghost guest appearances afterward); Gillian Gray, Judging Amy (1999-2005); Nan Flanagan, True Blood (2008-2011).
From deepest 1988, here’s Jessica Tuck in Video Girlfriend, a very short short from 1988:
As Eighties stuff goes, you can’t get a whole lot Eightier than that.
“The smartest thing anyone can learn,” asserted Burt Bacharach.
With that in mind, let’s look at German tennis pro Annika Beck, born on this day in 1994.
Her professional debut in 2009 was not auspicious, but by 2012 she’d climbed into the list of ranked players, and occasionally she’d make the main draw at a tournament without having to go through a qualifying round. She finished the year near the bottom of the Top 100.
She won her first WTA title in 2014, her second the following year. But 2016 was not a particularly good year for Beck, and she began thinking about her next career, which, she decided, would be in the field of medicine.
I suspect relatively few rhythmic gymnasts from the city that used to be Leningrad wound up completing high school in Secaucus, New Jersey. Margarita Levieva, who did exactly that, wound up with a degree in economics from NYU and the urge to act; at twenty-five, she was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in New York by New York magazine, and started getting small roles.
If you kept up with the ABC-TV drama Revenge, you’ll remember a character named Emily Thorne. If your next observation is “Wasn’t that Emily VanCamp?” the answer is kinda sorta: “Emily Thorne” turned out to be a vengeful-minded woman named Amanda Clarke; her cellmate in juvie was, um, the real Emily Thorne, played by Margarita Levieva, and now I’m more confused than I was when the series aired.
Levieva’s most recent project is HBO’s The Deuce, which begins its third and final season later this year; she plays a college student who drifts into activism — and into a relationship with an entrepreneur in the porn business.
In this clip (with fairly terrible audio), she talks about her early days:
It’s hard to imagine anyone in show business who had worse managers than Daisy and Violet Hilton, born on this day in 1908 in England and always sold as a package deal.
The sisters were fused at the pelvis and shared the circulatory system, but had their own organs. Separation was considered, but ruled out as possibly fatal.
They weren’t technically Hiltons: Kate Skinner, their mother, basically sold them to her boss, Mary Hilton, who took over their training and their exploitation until her death in 1926, when they were handed over to Hilton’s daughter.
Their last semi-decent gig was in Tod Browning’s Freaks in 1932; a second film, Chained for Life (1951) gave them some work in their later years, playing drive-in theaters.
In 1960, following a show in Charlotte, their last manager abandoned them; they spent the rest of their days working in a grocery store. In 1969, a strain of the Hong Kong flu killed them — about three days apart.
Leslie Zemeckis’ 2012 documentary Bound by Flesh tells the girls’ story:
Like perhaps too many Bond girls, Strawberry Fields, played by Gemma Arterton, comes to an unfortunate end. Still, it’s part of the gig, and Quantum of Solace was Arterton’s breakout role, though I have to wonder if maybe it got her typecast early on as Woman To Be Tortured: in The Disappearance of Alice Creed, her titular character is abducted by a couple of sadists and treated just as cruelly as possible without risking an X certificate for the film. She joked later that the film crew kept the ball gag around in case she got overly chatty.
In general, Gemma Arterton comes off as someone to whom Things Happen; when she was born, thirty-three years ago today, it was discovered that she had inherited the family tendency to polydactylism:
In 2018, Arterton starred as Vita Sackville-West in Vita and Virginia, with Elizabeth Debicki as Virginia Woolf. I’m guessing no torture was involved.
“Gangtai” is a subset of Chinese pop music, romantic rather than revolutionary, not allowed on the mainland until the middle 1970s, though it flourished in Taiwan and Hong Kong before Beijing decided to let it come across. One of the first actual hits from gangtai was “The Moon Represents My Heart,” sung by several but not truly iconic until Teresa Tang recorded it in 1977.
Teng, born in Taiwan in 1953, got her first record deal at fifteen; five years later, she managed to crack the Japanese market, and recorded material in Cantonese and Mandarin in the expectation that she could do the same in China.
Beijing decided shortly thereafter that this bourgeois love-song stuff was incompatible with the revolution after all. Red China, however, was not prepared for the black market, and the ban didn’t last long. Unfortunately, neither did Teresa Teng; while on holiday in Thailand in 1995, she suffered a severe asthma attack and died.
“The Moon Represents My Heart” remains a popular-music icon today, covered by famous Pacific Rim singers like, um, Jon Bon Jovi.
“Mortimer,” says Behind the Name, is “derived from a place name meaning ‘still water’ in Old French.” And frankly, I like that better than the more obvious “dead sea.”
Anyway, it’s time we met English actress Emily Mortimer, who in twenty-five years (she’s 47) has rolled up enough credits to suggest that she runs deep, as still waters are believed to do; she’s appeared as a regular in an Aaron Sorkin series (The Newsroom), Inspector Clouseau’s love interest in the 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, and voice-actor roles as diverse as Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (as young Sophie) and Cars 2 (as Holley Shiftwell).
In this clip, she explains to James Corden why you should not Google yourself:
For the record, I didn’t get the same results looking her up.
Piper Laurie is 87 today, and, per her Wikipedia page, still acting; she had a role in the 2018 film White Boy Rick as the grandmother of a teenaged FBI informant, not quite an inversion of her 1950 role as Spring Byington’s daughter. (Her brother was played by Ronald Reagan, whom Laurie dated briefly.)
Laurie was nominated for three Academy Awards: as Fast Eddie’s ill-fated girlfriend in The Hustler, as the estranged mother of a deaf woman in Children of a Lesser God, and the pious-to-a-fault mother of a girl with telekinetic powers in Carrie. Here, she discusses the latter role:
If all those roles seem a tad off plumb, you need to go binge-watch the original Twin Peaks, in which she played Catherine Martell, mostly-estranged husband of a lumberjack; she runs a sawmill, and there’s a plot to burn that mill down.
With those words, interior designer Kirstie Alley became Lt. Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, arguably the best of the Trek films with the, um, original cast. And I figure that after dealing with intergalactic horndog James T. Kirk, Beantown horndog Sam Malone must have been a cinch.
Come to think of it, how did our beloved Backseat Becky deal with Sam?
In 1999, Zöe Salmon was named Miss Northern Ireland; she was the last winner under the old rules, in which she’d go on to the Miss United Kingdom competition. (Starting in 2000, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales send representatives to Miss World, and the one who places highest is given the Miss United Kingdom title. I never could figure out these beauty pageants.) She has a law degree from Queen’s University in Belfast, so naturally she wound up as a host on a kids’ show.
Salmon served as a presenter on Blue Peter for three and a half years, departing in mid-2008. In the decade since, she’s appeared on a dizzying variety of television programs, including Al Murray’s Compete for the Meat, a 2011 game show on the Dave network in which contestants compete for, well, meat.
And here, she gears up for a dip into a not-even-slightly-warm pool:
I am told that these were outtakes from Blue Peter. Wow.
Carrie Ann Inaba was one of the original Fly Girls on the In Living Color series, appearing in the first three seasons. (Which means that for one season she was dancing alongside Jennifer Lopez, but let that pass.) This was the first place we saw her, but we might have heard her before that, if we were Japanese record buyers, which, alas, we aren’t. She recorded a handful of singles in the late 1980s, the most popular of which was “Party Girl,” before returning to the States.
Inaba and Diane Mizola played twin sisters Fook Yu and Fook Mi (subtle!) in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002). She was the lead choreographer for the Miss America pageant for five years. And as of this week, she’s a permanent member of the panel on the CBS series The Talk:
I have always assumed that, in this country anyway, the fawning over a New Year’s baby serves mostly as consolation for not having a December birth and the personal exemption for the whole previous year. This may or may not be a fluke of our tax system. I am pretty sure, however, that no one gets anything for being born on the second of January.
With that in mind, say hello to Yoon Se-ah, born 2 January 1978 in South Korea, a working actor for the last 14 years or so, doing lots of television and the occasional film. These aren’t exactly prestige productions, I’m guessing: one’s expectations for a film called Funny Neighbors (2011) or a TV series with the title The King of Head-Butts (2006) tend to be on the modest side.
She is, as it turns out, fun to watch. From early 2018, a scene from the TV series Good Witch:
“Hello, Fourteenth District. You’ve just elected a callow youth to the House of Representatives. How do you feel?”
I suspect they feel just fine. If nothing else, people will now know the district exists, because said Representative has a knack for gathering headlines:
I doubt Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ever actually said that, but I have no doubt she’s capable of coming up with stuff on that level; her ability to troll the press is second only to that of Individual-1. And while I generally can’t abide her politics, I have yet to find a reason to find her dislikable. Maybe that’s just me.
If at times our relationship with Turkey seems a bit muddled, at least some of it has to do with our traditional American insularlty: often, we can’t be bothered to find out what’s happening on the street. I didn’t do such a hot job of it when I was actually there, though I can pass off “security” as a reasonable excuse.
I wasn’t there when Makbule Hande Özyener was born in 1973. (Got there about 14 months later.) Of course, I had no way of knowing that she was destined to be a pop star. In 2000 she released her first album, Senden İbaret, from which “Yalanın Batsın” (“you lie down”) was the lead single, heard here in a clip from a TV show:
Senden İbaret moved about three-quarter of a million copies, and Hande Yener, her newly shortened name, was on her way. She continued to make serious chart noise until about 2007, when she abruptly turned to purely electronic sounds. Perhaps anticipating the response, she titled her 2007 album Nasıl Delirdim? “When did I go crazy,” indeed.
Some received the new style well; others turned on Yener after singer Serdar Ortaç somehow incurred her wrath. Said Yener:
“I’m not making music only for commercial purposes and I don’t make a music that can’t be understood. Every time one of his albums are released, he keeps talking about me in his interviews. I don’t want to be compared to those who make ‘grocery music’.”
This sounded even more pretentious than it was, and Ortaç shot back:
“If I’m making grocery music I’m proud of it. Grocery is a music genre that appeals to every corner of the society.”
The feud eventually played itself out, and after one more album of electronica to fulfill her record contract, she signed with another label, only to find herself at odds with the label’s management. Lawsuits ensued.
And Hande Yener’s life is still turbulent; now considered a gay icon, and a friend, or perhaps an enemy, of the ruling AKP party, her image now seems protean. If you say this sounds kind of like Madonna, she’ll probably smile.
The current single, her first in English, is called “Love Always Wins.”
Sounds a little Madonnaesque, now that I think about it.
Agnes Milowka would have been thirty-seven tomorrow.
Born in Poland in 1981, she wound up with several university degrees, although the one perhaps most pertinent was her 2007 degree in Maritime Archaeology from Flinders University in South Australia. Underwater photography was a specialty, although she might have told you that getting there is more than half the fun. National Geographic once brought her to the Bahamas, where she served as an underwater grip and as a photographer.
Here, she tackles a cave in north Florida:
James Cameron was the executive producer for Sanctum, which opened the first week of February 2011, and which contains this scene:
While exploring the entrance to the new system, Judes (Allison Cratchley) experiences a problem with her air tank hose. She loses use of her air mask forcing Frank (Richard Rosburgh) to buddy breathe. After a few exchanges, Judes panics and tries to keep the mask on, but Frank forces the mask off of her knowing he will not have enough air otherwise to make it back to the team.
Katarina Kresal is an ex-politician from Slovenia, born in 1973 in Ljubljana. She completed her law degree in 1996 and hung out her shingle in 2003 as part of the law firm of Miro Senica, with offices in Ljubljana and, inevitably in the EU, in Brussels. (She and Senica have since wed.)
In 2007, Kresal became the head of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia party, which at the time was suffering severe losses in national elections, having lost the plurality it had held for over a decade. In 2008, the party won only five of 90 seats, but did join the governing coalition, and Kresal became the Minister of the Interior.
In 2011, scandal struck: the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption found some questionable deal-making regarding the new headquarters of the National Bureau of Investigation. Kresal, while admitting nothing, resigned from her seat in the Assembly, and subsequently left LDS party leadership. The next year, she founded the European Centre for Dispute Resolution, mediators and/or arbitrators for hire.
Judging from this clip from an LDS convention, she also plays piano.
In the summer of 1964, the peak of the British Invasion, there was still a place on the American charts for non-white non-English non-boys, and into that place, as smoothly as could be, slid Nancy Wilson, who made it to #11 with “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am.” It was a jazzier piece than its florid arrangement might have let you think; “I wish I were an artist,” she sings, and you think, “Oh, honey, you don’t have to worry about that.”
Her last album, recorded in 2006 under the auspices of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh, was called Turned to Blue. This was the last track:
Brenda Lee’s first record, in 1956, was a cover of the Hank Williams and/or Moon Mullican standard “Jambalaya”:
The label on Decca 30050 bills her as “Little” Brenda Lee, and in parentheses: “9 Years Old.” Um, no. She was already 11 when this track was cut.
Then again, they say that a lack of height contributes to the appearance of youth, and Brenda Mae Tarpley, born on this date in 1944, never climbed above about four foot nine. In 1957, she cut a tune called “Dynamite,” and she was Little Miss Dynamite thereafter. And this being December, a radio station near you is playing this 1958 recording:
To this day, this site gets visits from people wanting an explanation of “the new old-fashioned way.”
And a 1966 single of hers got an unexpected shout-out in 1973 — in a Dutch progressive-rock number, no less — and remains part of her set list to this day, her 74th birthday.
Brenda Lee has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is the only woman so honored.
Now and then, I go through the work box and try to organize the 8300 or so tracks located thereupon, and occasionally this effort produces a question. This time it was “How the hell did I get so many Ingrid Michaelson songs?” They show up in the iTunes “Purchased” folder, so I must have bought them at some point. So I decided I should look up the lady in question, just to see if I could figure out why. I did learn that she has a degree in theater from Binghamton University, and sang with the school’s a cappella group. And she has two RIAA-certified platinum singles despite never charting higher than #37 on the Billboard Hot 100.
This latter garment was issued in 2016 to promote a single:
Which I didn’t have, so I guess I’ll have to go buy it.
It’s not that we’ve never written about an Indonesian pop star before. In fact, we have; but it’s not easy to climb onto the radar here, awash as we are in pop stars from all over the place.
Sheryl Sheinafia Tjokro was born on this date in 1996, and was by all accounts a fairly accomplished musician in her teens. Blessed with an abundance of Teh Cute, she found herself in demand for TV and film; her most recent acting role was in The Underdogs (2017), a tale of “4 friends who tried to become famous by being Youtubers.” Like that ever works.
Perhaps the high point in Sheryl Sheinafia’s life up to now was meeting John Mayer:
And I am quite fond of her 2017 single “Sweet Talk,” the video for which looks for all the world like they shot it on a smartphone: