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.
If at times it seems that girl groups in the K-pop universe are competing to see how much thigh can be revealed in a short time, well, I am not one to complain about such things, and YouTube is cooperating by recommending videos that conform to this stereotype. AOA, which seems to be an abbreviation for “Ace of Angels,” whatever that may mean, put out this jaunty little number in 2014:
Although at the very end, kitteh reminds you what really matters.
“Miniskirt” is just a hair closer to R&B than most K-pop, which I attribute to the presence of composer/producer Brave Brothers (Kang Dong-chul), who is pushing 40 and has had far more musical influences along the way than have the usual aggregations of a half-dozen post-adolescent singers.
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.
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.
Andy Crossett’s Celebrity Legs Gallery has been running on the World Wide Web for just about as long as there’s been a World Wide Web to run it on, and each fall he polls the readership. Jennifer Aniston won for about 130 years in a row, and then finally newer specimens began showing up in the count. Last year it was Taylor Swift, followed by Ariana Grande; this year it’s Ariana Grande, followed by Taylor Swift.
The proffered explanation is that last year, Tay had a huge hit record and Ariana didn’t; this year, Ariana had a huge hit record and Tay didn’t. What perplexes me most this year, as it did last year, is the big 10-inch height difference between the two: Grande is officially listed at 5’0″, which suggests to me that she might well be 4’11”; Swift is supposed to be 5’10”, though I’d swear she’s carrying another inch.
Now it’s always seemed to me that your hypertall gals with legs that go on for days would have an advantage over the spinners who barely have time to squeeze in a long lunch — but just the same, Gidget and company can lay claim to a more easily measured Cute Quotient than, say, the strutting Elle Macpherson, and I speak as someone who once (okay, more than once) dated a woman who was almost, but not quite, too tall for the dwarves’ union.
And really, finishing high in the poll is not necessarily something you want mentioned on your tombstone. Novelist Lionel Shriver, taller than Ariana and shorter than Taylor, is worthy of contention, but she’s quick to tell you that she doesn’t consider this an accomplishment, exactly:
The most fetching parts of our bodies came that way in the box. I am merely fortunate. The sculptural rhythm to these narrow ankles, full calves, and slender knees is not of my making. (Since the fundamental shapes of all our bodies are neither to our credit nor our fault, it’s peculiar that we ever conflate our looks and our selves.) After all, when someone else is generous and tasteful enough to give you well-proportioned wine glasses for Christmas, the appropriate response is gratitude, not arrogance. So for me to submit that I was blessed with fine stemware is not a boast. All that falls within my power is to ruin them — to drop the glasses on the floor.
In the long run, this is probably the most healthful attitude.
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.
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.
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:
One of the more bearable aspects of Twitter is the opportunity to get exposed to a wide range of music. I don’t recall the context, but a chap I’d known from the BBS days — we’re talking 25-30 years or so — sent me a link to this:
Intrigued, I went looking for more, and learned about Cindi Mayweather, created as a fembot, who exceeds the technical specifications by falling in love with a human — the punishment for which is “immediate disassembly.” I knew little or nothing about Janelle Monáe, but I figured, if she could engage at this level of world-building, she’s one up on about 95 percent of popular music. Maybe more.
“The Archandroid, Cindi, is the mediator, between the mind and the hand. She’s the mediator between the haves and the have-nots, the oppressed and the oppressor. She’s like the Archangel in the Bible, and what Neo represents to the Matrix.”
Janelle Monáe is thirty-three today, and she’s been singing for almost the whole time:
On the 6th of December, she will be presented with the Trailblazer Award at the annual Women in Music event.
English actress Samantha Bond, fifty-seven today, these days is perhaps best known for portraying Lady Rosamund Painswick, sister to Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey, but she’s had a remarkably diverse career on the British stage, and some of us remember her as Miss Moneypenny of MI6 from the days when Pierce Brosnan was James Bond (no relation).
Some of her thoughts on wrapping up Downton Abbey:
To be honest, it’s been mostly a matter of logistics that has kept us from working together until now. We’ve got two teenagers, and although we had proper child care until they were about 10, since then we’ve tried for only one of us to be in the theater at a given time. Otherwise there’s no one at home.
They did, however, appear together in a West End revival of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband in 2011. And as to why she didn’t continue as Miss Moneypenny:
It’s not that I didn’t want to do it with Daniel [Craig], but I felt when I was first offered the job that I would play the role with Pierce [Brosnan], and that was that. It’s a funny thing: Moneypenny was sort of a double-edged sword. It finished Lois Maxwell’s career, and I didn’t want to be that person however many years on.
And the next James Bond film turned out to be Casino Royale, in which Moneypenny does not appear at all.
Few actors inhabit a character the way Angela Bassett does; whether she’s playing Betty Shabazz or Tina Turner, you get up from your theater seat thinking that you’ve just seen an exceptionally well-researched documentary. At sixty, she’s at the top of her game; the remarkable thing is that she’s been there since her twenties.
In three seasons of American Horror Story, she played three wildly disparate characters. In our third photo, she’s Desiree Dupre.
Most recently, she was Queen Ramonda in Black Panther. In an interview around the premiere date, she made a few observations about the production:
That Jamaican lad from How Stella Got Her Groove Back would be about forty now. I’d like to imagine that they’re still together after all these years.
She Politico, the YouTube channel that spends a couple of minutes zooming in on still photos of the legs of women in, or adjacent to, politics, went silent for rather a long time. I assume they were out of subjects, and the thumb reaction to their last video, featuring then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, was largely favorable but decidedly sparse, with fewer than 2500 views in two years. Only Karen Pence, wife of the Vice President, was less of a draw.
Anyway, after long silence and a glance at the election results, they’re back; last week they presented Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and this week Senator Krysten Sinema (D-AZ). I’m hoping they get around to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
I have about a thousand hosiery ads in Ye Olde Archives, and I don’t spend a whole lot of time looking at them — when it’s warm out, anyway. Once it turns cold, and we had actual, if not substantial, snowfall this past week, I have more reason to thumb through the folder. I’ve had this one for about five years, but it never made it to the front of my mind. For one thing, the poor model here seems a bit, um, undernourished, and I don’t think it’s all photomanipulation. (See Joe Tex, “Skinny Legs and All,” 1967.)
The de-clincher, if you will, was what I thought was a reference to Siberia. But dyslexia can warn without striking, and eventually it dawned on me that this was in fact “Sideria,” which, I am told, is a “bicomponent yarn” produced by Japanese manufacturer Kanebo, and it’s specifically intended for — wait a minute, did that say 5 denier? Five? If I remember my technical jargon, “5 denier” means that 9000 meters of this fiber — that’s a little over five miles — weighs all of five grams.