Archive for Stemware

What could be crueler?

Selma Blair, picture of youth. I first saw her as Cecile in Cruel Intentions, circa 1999; I realize that this was 19 years ago, and she was already 27 then, but the numbers inside my head don’t add up.

Selma Blair, sitting in the back seat

Selma Blair, taking a swim

Selma Blair, modeling something or other

But then there’s this:

The BBC reminds us:

There is no cure for MS, but treatment can help manage symptoms. This may include painkillers or drugs to reduce nerve inflammation, physical therapy to ease muscle stiffness, or medication to slow the condition’s progression.

Then again, life itself might well be an incurable disease of sorts.


She belonged

English singer Kathy Kirby, born on this date in 1938, gave off a distinct air of “What if Marilyn Monroe could actually sing?” Same shock of wheaten hair, same pin-up curvature, but seriously high-quality pipes, sort of a Brit version of Doris Day. In fact, Kathy’s biggest hit, in late 1963, was a Doris Day cover, an amped-up version of “Secret Love”:

“Secret Love” made #4 on the official UK charts, helped by pristine Peter Sullivan production and guitar work by Jimmy Page. In 1965, she took “I Belong” to the Eurovision Song Contest, where it came second to the entry from Luxembourg; after that, the hits dried uo, but she continued as a television personality.

Kathy Kirby, singing pinup

Cover of Kathy Kirby's Vol. 2 EP, 1964

Kathy Kirby, sitting just offstage

None of Kathy’s hits made it across the Atlantic, but her late-1965 flop “The Way of Love” got some American airplay and landed at #88 in Billboard:

Most of us who bought it back then, I suspect, found it on the 1967 London/Parrot Records compilation The Greatest Hits from England.

Kathy Kirby went into seclusion after retiring from show biz, and died, reportedly of a heart attack, in 2011. She was seventy-two.

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No more Wish Books

I’m not a Gen X’er like Tam, but we share some common experiences:

If you’re a Gen X’er, like me, Sears loomed large in your childhood. They sent out this huge catalog that was full of cool stuff. When I was home sick from school, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV (being sick wasn’t supposed to be fun) and so I’d while away my time in bed with a calculator, a note pad, and catalogs, “spending” a million dollars. Sears got a lot of that imaginary money, because they had everything.

One of my earlier projects was trying to find out about Mr. Roebuck, and why Mr. Sears hardly ever mentioned him. Turned out that Alvah Roebuck had asked Richard Sears to buy him out, circa 1895. But he didn’t quite stay gone:

After several years in semi-retirement in Florida, the financial losses he suffered in the stock market crash of 1929 forced Roebuck to return to Chicago. By 1933, Roebuck had rejoined Sears, Roebuck and Co., where he largely devoted his time to compiling a history of the company he helped found.

In September 1934, a Sears store manager asked Roebuck to make a public appearance at his store. After an enthusiastic public turnout, Roebuck went on tour, appearing at retail stores across the country for the next several years.

And Roebuck was the one survivor of the Old Days: Richard Sears had died back in 1914. Roebuck died in 1948, and was mentioned only once after that, in Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”: “They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale / The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale.”

I have, of course, my own memories of the Softer Side of Sears:

Sears hosiery ad

That side, too, is gone now.

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Talk about Inna

The last time we looked in on Romanian pop singer Inna, she was haunted by a Photoshop dialog box. But that was seven years ago; now, at 32, she’s probably Romania’s biggest pop star, and she’s added a ™ to her name. In ten years she’s released five albums, none of which made much noise in the States.

Inna on the port side

Inna and a friend go for a walk

Inna takes it easy

That fifth album, Nirvana, came out last year. This was the first single therefrom (not including those two 15-second ad slots):

Not especially cerebral, but you can definitely dance to it.

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Stainless steel

Tisha Campbell-Martin was born here in the 405 exactly fifty years ago today, grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and has been working for forty-four of those fifty years, starting with a one-shot appearance on Big Blue Marble on PBS when she was six. She’s been busy ever since.

Tisha Campbell-Martin on the red carpet in 2008-09

Tisha Campbell-Martin for ABC-TV

Tisha Campbell-Martin at PaleyFest 2016

For five years she played Gina on the series Martin; she wound up suing Martin Lawrence over sexual-harrassment matters. The outcome was remarkable:

She returned to the series March 21 [1997] but only, say sources, after wresting an unusual agreement from Martin’s producers: Whenever Campbell was taping scenes, Martin would not be allowed on the set of his own show. It was, perhaps, a Hollywood first — and definitely a challenge to the show’s writers and editors, who, for Martin’s final, one-hour episode that aired May 1, had to make the pair seem like a loving couple though they never stood in the same room.

Tisha made a few records in the 1990s, but dropped out of the music scene, only to return in 2015 with the single “Steel Here.”

The back-story: at the age of three, she was sexually assaulted; the predator subsequently wrote her a letter of apology. In the video, the words to that letter are written across her body. This is, if you ask me, forgiveness at an epic level.

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Class of 59

Annika Sörenstam is actually 48 today. And retired. She decided on the life of a professional golfer in 1992, and two years later joined the LPGA tour; by the time she put down her wedge in 2008, she’d won 72 LPGA events, including ten majors, and had pocketed over $20 million in prize money.

As slinky as Annika Sörenstam gets

Annika Sörenstam sets a record

Annika Sörenstam addresses the ball

That score card she’s holding in the center photo is unlike any other in the history of the LPGA: it’s the standard form, all right, but she’s shot 13 under par (par was 72) for the round. A fifty-nine. No one had done it before in the LPGA; no one has done it since.

How fierce was the competition that weekend? For the tournament, she shot 65-59-69-68=261 — and won by only two strokes.

And oh, yes, she did play in a men’s tournament in 2003, but just missed the second-round cut. You can’t have everything.

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That blue-beat girl

This is where you know Millie Small from:

The song, written by Bobby Spencer of the R&B group The Cadillacs, had made some chart noise for singer Barbie Gaye in 1956; producer Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, played up the similarities between Gaye’s R&B jump and jive and Millie’s ska-based pre-reggae bounce, and they were repaid with a #2 hit in Britain, where she was billed simply as “Millie,” and in the States. She continued to record for several years before retiring.

Picture sleeve for German issue of My Boy Lollipop

Publicity photo of Millie Small

Cover art for Millie's 1970 album Time Will Tell

Two questions still linger.

“Did Rod Stewart play harmonica on ‘My Boy Lollipop’?” Rod says he didn’t; Millie says he did.

“Can she still sing?”

On the basis of this video, shot 6 October 2015, her 69th birthday, I conclude the answer is Yes.

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And yes, a fine girl

So I’m reading that Brandy (surname “Norwood,” which we’d all forgotten) has sold something like 70 million records, and my first thought was “Whatever happened to her, anyway?” After that car wreck in 2006, she seemed to disappear. She didn’t, of course; it’s just that some of us weren’t paying attention.

A very young, schoolgirlish Brandy

Brandy and er mirror mess with your head

A very grown-up Brandy

She had plenty of acting chops — see any episode of Moesha — but the emphasis was always on the music, and this 2016 single, based on a John Lee Hooker riff, serves notice that any time she wants back on the charts, she knows where to call.

Shug Avery, though, was not available for comment.

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Very little is known about North Korean First Lady Ri Sol-ju, including whether that’s always been her name; the first official mention of her by DPRK officials contained that name and the disclosure that she was married to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. She’s twenty-nine, or she might be thirty-three; she might have sung with a musical group before assuming her official duties. And she has three children, maybe.

Ri Sol-ju at some official function

Perhaps an official portrait of Ri Sol-ju

Ri Sol-ju at some other official function

Those lovable cut-ups at She Politico have obtained seemingly every photo of Ri in proper First Lady garb and spliced them into two and a half minutes of video:

Kim apparently does know how to pick ’em. (Or Kim’s dad does; at least one report claims that Kim Jong-il arranged this marriage for his son after suffering a stroke.)

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Foresti primeval

From last week: “In 2006, actress Florence Foresti played Mme [Ségolène] Royal as an unrepentant sexpot on the talk show On n’est pas couché (“We are not lying”).”

Florence Foresti as Segolene Royal

Foresti, then thirty-two, was considered an Up and Coming comedian in those days, and while she’s never become a superstar, she’s close enough to a household word to merit some further mention here.

Florence Foresti is slightly ruffled

Florence Foresti is very clean

Florence Foresti is weirdly shod

From 2009 to 2011 she did a show with the unlikely title MotherFucker, a title she says she stole from Madonna.

And here’s that infamous talk-show appearance we mentioned at the top:

Yes, that’s a weird set.

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Royalty of a sort

In this barely post-Bernie world, we haven’t quite caught on to one of the more fascinating aspects of polarized existence: there will always be a demand for photogenic socialists.

And so the French offer up Ségolène Royal, very easy on the eyes at sixty-four, and very, very capital-S Socialist. She served several terms in the National Assembly, ran for the Presidency in 2007 (losing to Nicolas Sarkozy in a runoff), and has been the Minister of This or That or Whatever at various times. She has four children by former President François Hollande; they were never bourgeois enough to get married, or even tied together in a civil union.

Ségolène Royal pays attention

Ségolène Royal smiles for the camera

Ségolène Royal climbs the stairs

A recurrent plank in her platform has been an increase in the minimum wage. It’s currently €1498 a month, assuming the default 35-hour week; this is €9.88 an hour.

And nobody complains that the male of the species might gaze upon her. In 2006, actress Florence Foresti played Mme Royal as an unrepentant sexpot on the talk show On n’est pas couché (“We are not lying”). About the same time, some lovesick individual put together this shrine:

She’ll be around for several years yet, I suspect.


Veddy British indeed

According to the anonymous Wikipedant, Tara Fitzgerald is currently appearing at the Globe Theatre as Lady Macbeth. Makes sense to me. (Also at the Globe, she’s played Hermione in A Winter’s Tale.) Now fifty-one, she has an enormous string of credits, and occasional portraits therefrom.

Tara Fitzgerald in black

Tara Fitzgerald in blue

Tara Fitzgerald as a redhead

In the States, you may remember her as Selyse Florent over three seasons of Game of Thrones.

A look at herself, from the Guardian, a few years back:

And she played Topaz Mortmain, Cassandra’s seemingly self-absorbed stepmother, in Tim Fywell’s 2003 film of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, which pretty much demands that she be here somewhere.

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My First Epilator

A local Facebook friend tossed this one out for our consideration:

Ladies, at what age is it appropriate to start shaving legs?

Our 5 year old’s legs look like Sasquatch.

“How bad can this be?” I thought. I mean, she’s five, fercryingoutloud.

A memory from my past then burst in, unbidden:

I remember one girl from high school who apparently had been forbidden to so much as look at a razor, and she wasn’t even slightly blonde. What’s more, she was growing the stuff even faster than I was, and the prescribed school uniforms insured that it was always on display. If it bothered her, though, she never said so, and I never considered it my place to ask.

And this is where things get tricky. It’s not the peach fuzz I remember, exactly; it was the fact that this stuff was growing on one of the nicer pair of stems in the class of ’69, deployed with as much sub-Dietrich skill as any to be seen in those days.

Still, she was sixteen or thereabouts; the parental proscription would presumably be lifted before too awfully long. This is not the sort of predicament that obtains when you are five.

And there’s something a bit offputting about the idea of a beauty ritual being foisted off on someone whose age is still in single digits.

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And never, ever dull

Classical music, says Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, is “far from boring”:

It has all the blood, energy, the sinister dark side, rhythm that rock music has, and all the refined, subtle sensuality that one can ask for.

Just outside Yuja Wang's dressing room

Yuja Wang sits on a piano

Yuja Wang gets down on Friday

“Sinister” used to mean “having to do with the left side,” which brings us to Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961), who lost his right arm in the Great War; he subsequently commissioned several works he could still play, including a piano concerto by Maurice Ravel, which premiered in 1932. Purists — the major exception, perhaps, was Alfred Cortot — still play it with five fingers only. For her part, Miss Wang plays the notes with her left hand and works the iPad with her right.

If you’re keeping score, she’s 31, and this is the eighth time I’ve found Rule 5 space for her.

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The original Money Honey

Back in the 1990s, when Maria Bartiromo was working for CNBC, she managed to get onto the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a place no woman had ever before been. That “Money Honey” stuff started around then; in 2007, she filed a trademark application for the phrase, to be used on a collection of money-related learning materials. Now that’s astute.

Maria Bartiromo in a fuzzy sweater

Maria Bartiromo on a CNBC desk

Maria Bartiromo takes a seat

Maria Bartiromo ruins a perfectly good shoe

Today she turns 51. Her biggest fan ever might have been Joey Ramone (!), who put down his feelings in song:

This does not sound like a man who wants to be sedated, if you know what I mean.

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Smashingly so

Marguerite Chapman may be unique in this regard: at the time she was “discovered” and pointed toward a career in modeling, she was working as a telephone switchboard operator. Weird things can happen to operators — I was once married to one, and apparently Roger Miller, dang him, apparently tried to pick her up — but usually not that weird.

Arriving in Hollywood in 1940, Chapman, then twenty-one, managed to snag a few small roles before Republic Pictures signed her for the female lead in a twelve-part serial. Spy Smasher was released in 1942, with the nation only just getting used to being at war, and it was a big hit, though high costs prevented it from turning much of a profit. The Smasher himself (Kane Richmond) got top billing, of course, but Chapman, as his fiancée, was billed second. For the rest of the Forties, she was booked for A-list roles. Her last appearance in a major motion picture was in 1955’s The Seven-Year Itch, as secretary to the woolgathering Tom Ewell, who spent his time crushing on Marilyn Monroe. She did one more film, Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1960 El Cheapo semi-SF tale The Amazing Transparent Man; weirdly, it was her second Invisible Man film. (The first? The Body Disappears, in 1941.)

Marguerite Chapman wrapped in a whole lot of nothing

Marguerite Chapman in a standard studio portrait

Marguerite Chapman does the backstroke

We return to 1955, with Ewell basically paying no attention to the Chapman charms:

Then again, it may have happened only in his mind.

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Tights budget

Then again, these are hardly budget tights:

Oroblu hosiery package

I suppose this is intended to be dramatic. (You should see Oroblu’s Instagram page.) And fashion is not without its buzzwords:

Oroblu uses the most modern product technology with premium yarn materials. The entire processing and conceptualization of their products are handled by the most admired experts when it comes to product research and development. A high sense of functionally, a good level of comfort, durability and elegance build up the character of every Oroblu product.

Which is presumably why these sell for €11.95 — fourteen bucks a pair.

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Deep irrelevancy

Now and again, Fleet Street gets a case of the sillies, and none of their ructions in recent times were sillier than the presumably Brexit-inspired question of whether UK Prime Minister Theresa May or First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon had nicer legs.

No, seriously. I mean, the Daily Mail went this far:

May’s famously long extremities are demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance — knees tightly together, calves at a flattering diagonal, feet neatly aligned. It’s a studied pose that reminds us that for all her confidence, she is ever the vicar’s daughter, always respectful and anxious not to put a foot wrong.

Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience. It’s a direct attempt at seduction: her stiletto is not quite dangling off her foot, but it could be. “Come, succumb to my revolutionary allure,” she seems to be saying. “You know you want to.”

This sort of discourse is unheard of here in the colonies; otherwise, we’d be halfway through President Palin’s first term by now. But that’s a fantasy for another time. For now, we’ll look at Nicola Sturgeon presumably looking “flirty.”

Nicola Sturgeon in brown

Nicola Sturgeon in blue

Nicola Sturgeon in brown

Nicola Sturgeon in red

There is even, Lord help us, video:

You couldn’t prove it by me, or by those three minutes of video snippets, but I’m sure the First Minister actually owns a pair of flats.

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At the sign of the Z

If you’re carrying around a name like Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, you can hardly be blamed for pushing aside three-quarters of it. So Zendaya she is, she’s 22 today, and, probably due to Disney Channel influence, she’s been around long enough for me to go “Twenty-two? Seriously?”

It’s a pretty long list of credits, too, from an appearance in a Kidz Bop video to her reappearance as Michelle “MJ” Jones in the next Spider-Man theatrical (2019). Interestingly, she’s producing a biography (in which she will star) of Anita Florence Hemmings, the first African-American student at Vassar in the 1890s.

A slightly unbuttoned Zendaya

Zendaya at the 2015 BET Awards

An even more unbuttoned Zendaya

Unsurprisingly for a Disney Channel alumna, she also sings; she cut an eponymous album for Disney’s Hollywood Records label in 2013, featuring the single “Replay.”

“Replay” just barely cracked the Top 40, but it hung around long enough to earn Platinum status. A second LP is in the works, from Republic.

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Much impressed

For a singer who’s released only five studio albums in twenty-five years, Shania Twain has quite the amazing reputation: she got nine — count ’em, nine — singles out of the Up! album; said album was released in three different musical genres at the same time; and if ever there’s a penalty for exclamation-point abuse, she’ll almost certainly hang.

Perhaps I should explain the “genres” reference. There exist three complete versions of Up!: green, a sort of traditional country sound; red, with the pop turned up and the steel guitars banished; and blue, suitable for a Bollywood musical. The performances are essentially identical; only the mixes are different. And if you bought the two-CD set in the States, as I did, you got red and green. Ahead of her time? Well, yeah. But also retro: she’s the first country artist ever to write what could just as easily have been an ABBA tune.

Shania Twain stretches it out

Shania Twain shows some shin

Shania Twain on the sofa

For her 53rd birthday, we’re celebrating with the first of those nine singles from Up! in its red incarnation. Taylor Swift was 14 that year, and had no idea she was going to be a pop star, let alone that this was what she was going to have to compete with.

You turned it up, didn’t you? I thought you might.

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Pretty Schiffy

Claudia Schiffer was working in her father’s law office in a small town in Germany during the day and occasionally going out on the town, or perhaps some other town, in the evenings. The latter activity got her noticed by one of those people whose job it is to notice potential models, who might reasonably have paid attention to a five-foot-eleven blue-eyed blonde. Perhaps she was not destined to be a lawyer after all.

Claudia Schiffer on the edge of the boat

Claudia Schiffer on top of a rock

Claudia Schiffer wearing as little as possible

Claudia Schiffer earning her keep

She turns forty-eight today. And this is what she’s looked like at various points throughout those years:

There’s a lot to be said for aging gracefully.

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Rich, but not crazy, Asian

Let it be said that “Awkwafina” is one of the great stage names of the last hundred years or so, and no, it has nothing to do with that overpriced bottled water from PepsiCo. The actress/rapper formerly known as Nora Lum studied journalism and women’s studies at the State University of New York at Albany, interned at the Times Union, and then took off for China to learn Mandarin.

Awkwafina resplendent in Tory Burch

Awkwafina playing nerd

Awkwafina takes a sip

And if you missed her in Ocean’s 8, you can see her in Crazy Rich Asians.

Oh, yes, she still raps now and then. “Pockiez” is from her 2016 EP In Fina We Trust.

Truth be told, she won me over with that Shaw Bros. logo in the opening.

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The legend of Omarosa

Three things (of many) I did not know about Omarosa Manigault Newman:

  • During the Clinton administration, she had a job in the office of Vice President Al Gore. She did not last long.
  • She is semi-reliably reported to wear a size 11½ shoe.
  • TV Guide put her on their 2013 list of TV’s Nastiest Villains: she was 45th out of 60.

Omarosa on the red carpet

Omarosa on a TV talk show

It's curtains for Omarosa

This was fun: Omarosa vs. Savannah Guthrie.

Graeme O’Neil: “She’s such good TV.” Probably why she’s been on it for almost 15 years.

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Nobody else but Halle

It’s Halle Berry’s 52nd birthday, which means it’s about time she started looking 35 or thereabouts. In general, these photos are self-explanatory.

Halle Berry fiddling with a car seat

Halle Berry on the red carpet

Halle Berry on the purple carpet

Halle Berry stands on her head

Well, maybe not that last one, which she posted on Instagram as a sign of personal progress in yoga.

Then again, who’s gonna argue with Halle Berry? Certainly not I.

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On the bright side

Seventy-two is the sum of four consecutive primes (13 + 17 + 19 + 23), as well as the sum of six consecutive primes (5 + 7 + 11 + 13 + 17 + 19). Seventy-two is also the age, as of today, of Marilyn vos Savant, columnist for Parade magazine, once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ.” (The Book no longer lists this category, having decided that IQ tests were too unreliable to designate a single record holder; Marilyn’s scores varied over a 42-point range, which is consistent with my own scores, even though by comparison I’m dumb as a post.)

Anyway, the tiny picture in Parade doesn’t really do her justice:

Marilyn vos Savant, decently lit

Marilyn vos Savant, perhaps not so well lit

Marilyn vos Savant on the cover of Parade with husband Robert Jarvik

Dr. Robert Jarvik, one of the developers of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, proposed in 1987; she accepted. (He’s her third husband; they’re still together after forty years.)

In 1986, the year she was first lauded by Guinness, she sat for a one-hour interview with New York TV host Harold Channer; I’d say she handles him well.

Vos Savant has written ten books, one with the evocative title Of Course I’m for Monogamy: I’m Also for Everlasting Peace and an End to Taxes (2006).

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Nor is she dingey

I almost missed Merrin Dungey’s birthday — she’s forty-seven today — but she probably didn’t notice: she is one busy actress, and has been since showing up on an episode of Martin half her lifetime ago.

Merrin Dungey hits the deck

Merrin Dungey hits another deck

Merrin Dungey hits yet a different deck

Nine years of The King of Queens, and Merrin became one of those people who can play just about anything you want; most recently she did a season of Fox’s The Resident, as the former CEO of a Great Metropolitan Hospital. Next: the ABC legal drama The Fix. Speaking of ABC, Merrin’s older sister Channing is the head of ABC Entertainment.

and just for the heck of it, here’s a clip from Once Upon a Time, with Merrin as one of three legendary Disney villains of the female persuasion.

Don’t irritate her. You won’t like her when she’s irritated.

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Don’t you just know it?

Nineteen forty-two. The war, for us, has only just begun; the nylon has not yet been drafted. So we got advertising like this:

Advertising for hosiery by McCallum and Propper 1942

Nicely noir-ish, if your tastes ran to that sort of thing.

McCallum and Propper had gone broke in the Thirties, their New York plant in the Elmhurst section of Queens auctioned off, their debts to be paid off at 80 cents on the dollar. George McCallum died in 1942; Leo Propper carried on for a while, but it just wasn’t the same.


Red Harring

By 1985, Laura Elena Martínez Herring had already shortened her name to Laura Harring and had won the title of Miss USA; according to the scorecard, she’d placed only third in the interview, but narrowly won the swimsuit competition and ran away with the evening-gown competition. (She went on to Miss Universe, where she made it to the semi-finals.)

The pageant got her an acting role: in the TV-movie The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory, perhaps a bit of typecasting for a woman born in Mexico and who grew up in San Antonio. She went from there to a soap — General Hospital — and some A-list features, most notably David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

Laura Harring in what can't be a comfortable position

Laura Harring on a sofa

Laura Harring on a duvet

Oh, and she got one more addition to her name: Countess von Bismarck-Schönhausen, following her short-lived marriage to Count Carl-Eduard von Bismarck-Schönhausen, great-great-grandson of Otto von Bismarck.

Yeah, she looks like that. (She’s now 54.) Her hair hasn’t always been red.

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Whoa, Nely!

Nelydia Senrose, twenty-four today, is a Malaysian actress with a long list of credits, dating back to the year she turned thirteen with Spa Q and its presumed sequel Spa Qistina.

Nelydia Senrose sort of relaxing

Nelydia Senrose on a stool

Nelydia Senrose goes picnicking

Now and again a Malay drama comes through with an English title; in 2012, for example, Nelydia appeared in one such, called Friday I’m in Love. And then there was this feature film from the following year:

No way am I going to explain the title.

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A very specific obsession

I’m not entirely sure I understand why this is happening:

Here’s an unexpurgated version of the interview. Now I attended Catholic schools for a time, and I remember their obsession with skirt lengths, but geez, that was 50 years ago.

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