Saturday, 17 March 2018

St. Patrick's Day 2018

As I am not Catholic, Irish, Montserratian, Nigerian, an engineer, or a paralegal, I do not celebrate St. Patrick's Day myself. That having been said, I love holidays and I appreciate that many people do celebrate it. With that in mind, here are some St. Patrick's Day themed pictures of actresses of Irish descent for those of you who do observe St. Patrick's Day!

First up is Angela Greene, who was born in Dublin.

Next is lovely actress and television producer Gail Patrick, who was born Margaret Fitzpatrick.

Next up is Maureen O'Sullivan, who was born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland (I don't know where the puppies were born).

Finally is Maureen O'Hara and a friend. Miss O'Hara was born in Dublin!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, 16 March 2018

50 Years Ago Today "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" Hit no. 1

It was fifty years ago today that "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Mr. Redding had started writing the song while on tour with The Bar-Kays in August 1967. He was on a houseboat in at Waldo Point in Sausalito, California. He continued to work on the song while on tour and finally recorded the song between November 22 and December 7 1967.

Sadly, Otis Redding would not live to see the song's success. It was on December 9 1967 that Otis Redding appeared on the local television show Upbeat in Cleveland, Ohio, and had also played three concerts at the club Leo's Casino there. Their next date was in Madison, Wisconsin. Unfortunately that night saw fog and heavy rain. The plane's pilot radioed Truax Field in Madison for permission to land once they were four miles away. It never made it. The plane crashed into Lake Monona near Madison. Only one person survived, Ben Cauley of The Bar-Kays. As Mr. Cauley was unable to swim (he stayed afloat by holding onto a seat cushion), he could not save anyone else aboard the plane. Otis Redding and four of the other Bar-Kays died (bassist James Alexander was on another plane).

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was released on January 8 1968, around a month after Otis Redding's death. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 16 1968. It was the first single to top the charts after its singer's death.

Here is Otis Reding performing the classic "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Ventures Guitarist Nokie Edwards Passes On

Nokie Edwards, lead guitarist for The Ventures, died on March 12 2018 at the age of 82. The cause was an infection following hip surgery.

Nokie Edwards was born on May 9 1935 in Lahoma, Oklahoma. He came from a family of talented musicians and by the time he was five years old was already familiar with several stringed instruments. In his late teens he began playing for various country bands in his local area. He played for a time with Buck Owens. It was in 1959 that Bob Bogle and Don Wilson recruited Nokie Edwards as the bassist for their band The Ventures. It was in 1961 that Nokie Edwars took over playing lead guitar for the band, while Bob Bogle took over the bass.

The Ventures proved to be enormously successful, to the point that they may well be the most successful instrumental group of all time. Their 1960 single "Walk Don't Run" peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. They would have another huge in 1968 with "Hawaii Five-O", the theme to the TV show of the same name. The Ventures would see even more success with their albums. Their first album, Walk, Don't Run, went to no. 11 on the Billboard album chart.  Their 1963 album The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull went to no. 8 on the Billboard album chart. Their 1969 album Hawaii Five-O went to no. 11. At one point The Ventures had five different albums in the top 100 of the Billboard album chart at the same time.

Nokie Edwards left The Ventures for a time in 1969 to pursue a solo career. He released two solo albums, Nokie! in 1970 and Again! in 1972. Nokie Edwards returned to The Ventures in 1973 and recorded several more albums with them before leaving again in 1984. He recorded several solo albums, as well as albums with Texas Western swing band The Light Crust Doughboys. He collaborated with Art Greenhaw on several albums. In 1999 he began playing with The Ventures again on occasion and continued to do so until 2012. He also appeared on the HBO Western Deadwood.

As mentioned earlier, The Ventures may well be the most successful instrumental band of all time. They would have a far reaching influence. While they did not consider their work to be surf music, they would have a lasting influence on surf musicians from Dick Dale to The Chantays. Such diverse artists as George Harrison and John Fogerty counted The Ventures of influence. Much of the reason The Ventures were so influential was Nokie Edwards's guitar playing. He was a virtuoso on the instrument, and it was in full display in The Ventures' many records.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Godspeed Sir Ken Dodd

Legendary Liverpudlian comedian Sir Ken Dodd died on March 11 at the age of 90. His career spanned over sixty years and he still performed up to last year.

Sir Ken Dodd was born in Knotty Ash, Liverpool on November 8 1927. He sang in the choir at St. John's Church in Knotty Ash and attended Knotty Ash School. Ultimately, he called Knotty Ash his home his entire life, dying in the same house in which he was born. Mr. Dodd attended Holt High School in Childwall, but left when he was 14 to go to work for his father, who was a coal merchant. It was as a teenager that he became interested in show business, sending off for a book on ventriloquism advertised in a comic. Not long afterwards his father bought him a ventriloquist's dummy. He then started performing at various community functions and the local orphanage. When he turned 18 he became a travelling salesman and performed in comedy clubs at night.

His big break came in 1954 when he performed at the Empire Theatre in Nottingham. He made his television debut in 1955 in an episode of The Good Old Days. That same year he appeared in a TV episode of  It's a Great Life (not to be confused with the American sitcom of the same name) and the television special Red Riding Hood. He guest starred on such shows as Northern Showground, Six-Five Special, and Stars at Blackpool. He was a regular on the show Points North. It was in 1959 that the long running Ken Dodd Show began. It aired until 1969.

In the Sixties Mr. Dodd appeared on the TV shows Juke Box Jury, Top of the Pops, Omnibus, and Thank Your Lucky Stars. He appeared frequently on The Good Old Days, while continuing to star on The Ken Dodd Show. For a time he starred on Doddy's Music Box. In 1969 when The Ken Dodd Show ended, he began starring in Ken Dodd and the Diddymen. His single "Happiness" charted in 1964 and his single "Tears" became one of the best selling singles of the Sixties in the United Kingdom. Beginning in 1965 he spent 42 weeks at the London Palladium.

Ken Dodd continued to be a presence on British television in the Seventies. He starred on the shows Ken Dodd in Funny You Should Say That, Ken Dodd's World of Laughter, and The Ken Dodd Show. He appeared on The Good Old Days, Top of the Pops, Seaside Special, Stars on Sunday, and The Golden Shot. At the Royal Court Liverpool 1974 he set the record for the longest joke-telling session. It lasted three hours, thirty minutes, and six seconds. The record is still listed in The Guinness Book of Records to this day.

In the Eighties Ken Dodd starred in Dodd on his Todd, Doddy!, Ken Dodd's Showbiz, A Question of Entertainment, and Ken Dodd at the London Palladium on television. He guest starred on the show Doctor Who, as well as The Good Old Days, The Saturday Show, Looks Familiar, Saturday Night Out, and Sunday, Sunday, among others. In the Nineties he starred on An Audience with Ken Dodd on television. He guest starred on The Stuart Hall Show, Dennis the Menace, and The Canterbury Tales, as well as Noel's House Party, GMTV, Face to Face, and Heroes of Comedy, among others. He appeared in the TV movie Alice in Wonderland and the feature film Hamlet (1996).

In the Naughts Mr. Dodd starred on Another Audience with Ken Dodd and Ken Dodd's Happiness on television. He appeared on the shows Behind the Laughter, The South Bank Show, The Best of the Royal Variety, Dawn French's Boys Who Do Comedy, Parkinson, Arena, This Morning, and Newsnight. In the Teens he starred in Talking Comedy and Ken Dodd: In His Own Words. He appeared on such programmes as My Favourite Joke, Timeshift, Fern Britton Meets..., Mastermind, and Granada Reports, among others.

Sir Ken Dodd was considered "the last great music hall entertainer" and it would be difficult to argue with that assessment. He had a gift for one-liners, which he could often issue rapid-fire. This was made all the more remarkable by the length of his performances, which could last hours. What is more, he was not only talented at telling jokes, but he was a skilled ventriloquist and could sing as well. While the Diddy Men were part of Merseyside lore before Mr. Dodd popularised them, he made them an integral part of his act. Sir Ken Dodd was such a success for so long simply because his humour appealed to nearly everyone. It was broad, could often be silly, and when he was cheeky it was in such a way that it would not offend anyone, not even parents with small children in the audience. While many of his contemporaries fell by the wayside, Sir Ken Dodd remained popular until the very end.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Godspeed Count Hubert de Givenchy

Well known fashion designer, Count Hubert de Givenchy died on March 10 at the age of 91.

Count de Givenchy was born on February 20 1927 in Beauvais, Oise, France. His parents were Marquis Lucien Taffin de Givenchy and the former Béatrice ("Sissi") Badin. He studied at the the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He went to work for Swiss designer Robert Piguet and later Lucien Lelong. From 1947 to 1952 he worked for designer Elsa Schiaparelli. It was in 1952 that he opened his own house. His first show, held in February 1952, turned out to be a rousing success.

It was after the filming of Roman Holiday (1953) that Audrey Hepburn sought him out to inspire the fashions of Sabrina Fairchild, the title character in the film Sabrina (1954).  Although Edith Head was credited for the costumes on the film, it was the Hubert de Givenchy who was responsible for many of the designs that Miss Hepburn wore in the movie. The film marked a long partnership between Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy, who would remain her favourite designer for the rest of her life. He designed her wardrobe in the films Funny Face (1957), Love in the Afternoon (1957), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Charade (1963),  and Paris - When It Sizzles (1964). He also designed Miss Hepburn's gowns in the TV movie Love Among Thieves (1973).  He also served as costume designer on Crack in the Mirror (1960) and designed Kay Kendall's wardrobe for Once More, with Feeling! (1960) and Brigitte Bardot's wardrobe in Don Juan ou Si Don Juan était une femme... (1973).

Count Hubert de Givenchy also designed clothing for many other famous women besides Audrey Hepburn, including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Maria Callas, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jeanne Moreau, and Babe Paley, among others.

Hubert de Givenchy was both one of the most successful and most iconic designers of the late 20th century. Indeed, it is very difficult to think of Audrey Hepburn without thinking of her as being dressed in Count de Givenchy's designs. Hubert de Givenchy's designs combined elegance with innovation. He was remarkable for finding inspiration from a variety of sources, not simply haute couture. It is little wonder Audrey Hepburn loved his work so.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Pinups for My 39th Birthday

As regular readers of A Shroud of Thoughts know, on many holidays I post classic pin ups here. Since today is my birthday I thought that I would post pin ups of fellow Pisceans (one of whom I actually share my birthday with). Without further ado, then here are this year's pinups.

Jon Hamm, who is further proof that the handsomest, coolest men were all born on March 10 in Missouri!

Joan Bennett, born February 27

Ann Sheridan, born February 21

Paula Prentiss, born March 4

Peggy Dow, born March 18

Jessie Matthews, born March 11

Cyd Charisse, born March 8

Friday, 9 March 2018

TCM Backlot Now $7.97 a Month

It was on April 27 2016 that Turner Classic Movies announced the launch of their first official fan club, TCM Backlot. According to the press release at the time, "TCM Backlot will give fans unprecedented access to all things TCM including exclusive content, never-before-seen talent interviews, archival videos from the TCM vault, an exclusive TCM podcast, as well as opportunities to win visits to the TCM set, attend meet and greets with TCM hosts and the opportunity to influence programming through online votes." TCM Backlot was eagerly embraced by Turner Classic Movies fans, although it presented many of them with one major problem. A subscription to TCM Backlot cost $87.

Sadly, the annual subscription cost put TCM Backlot out of reach for many fans on limited budgets, myself included. Fortunately it was earlier this year that TCM announced a monthly plan whereby people can pay only $7.97 a month to be a part of TCM Backlot.. I joined nearly as soon as I got the email. I cannot speak for every fellow TCM fan living on a limited budget, but I know for myself that $7.97 a month was a much more affordable option than $87 a year.

Of course, I know many of you might be asking whether TCM Backlot is worth it even at $7.97 a month. I would say that it most definitely is. The archival videos from the TCM vault alone are worth the price of admission. Just this past week I watched the TCM Launch Featurette, several old introductions by Robert Osborne, and the TCM Remembers for Robert Osborne. TCM Backlot also has contests regularly, whereby one can win anything from a visit to TCM in Atlanta to tickets to Fathom Events and TCM's Big Screen Classics series. There also interviews, behind the scenes looks, and much more. If one can afford the $7.97 a month to join, I highly recommend joining TCM Backlot.