Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Birthday Candice Bergen

In the normal course of events, it's probably a bit weird to be jealous of a puppet*; then again, Candice Bergen's life could never be described as a 'normal course of events', which at least in this case gives her a convenient out. Of course, it's not so much that she was jealous of the puppet as she was offended at having been characterized so often as 'Charlie McCarthy's little sister' - as related in her 1984 memoir Knock Wood - that likely got her ire up.

PhotobucketThe daughter of acclaimed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and Frances Westcott (at one time a well-known model), Bergen - born on this day in 1946 - made her first television appearance in 1958 on You Bet Your Life; when host Groucho Marx asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said 'a fashion designer'.

Well, she did eventually become a fashion model, at least, which led as it so often does down the primrose path to acting; in 1966 she appeared in the acclaimed movie The Sand Pebbles, after which her career took off. Despite roles in several high profile movies, she soon made the transition to television, which she seemed to love as much as it loved her. Offscreen, she became an accomplished photographer.

Bergen made history as the first female host of Saturday Night Live, appearing in that show's fourth episode in November 1975; she would go on to host four more times. It was her performance with the Land of Gorch characters there which the following year landed her a spot as host of Episode 115 in the first season of The Muppet Show, a move seen as clearing the way for her father's appearance as host of Episode 207.

A decade later is when I first remember seeing her in action (or should I say, 'inaction'); in February 1985 she played social climbing shoplifter Elaine Conti in the miniseries adaptation of Jackie Collins' salacious bestseller Hollywood Wives. Though at the time I knew she was known as an actress, her performance in it was as wooden as her ersatz 'brother' and my impersonation of her in it provided our circle with many hours of fun.

So I'm sure I was not alone in being pleasantly surprised when, four years later, she sprang ferociously from the TV like a mouthy liberal tornado in Murphy Brown, a mass of neuroses swaddled in Liz Claiborne separates. During that show's ten-year run she was nominated for seven Emmys and won five (she would have won more but after the last one she voluntarily opted herself out of consideration), tangled with US Vice President Dan 'Potatoe' Quayle over 'family values', and was generally as fabulous as humanly possible.

Long married to (and eventually widowed by) Louis Malle**, during a youthful relationship with Doris Day's son Terry Melcher she lived in the infamous house at 10050 Cielo Drive where Sharon Tate and her friends met their fate at the hands of Charles Manson and his 'family'; another incident in 1967 had her shutting down the New York Stock Exchange by throwing dollar bills onto the trading floor as part of a Yippie prank alongside Abbie Hoffman. Even more shocking is the revelation that she once went on a date with Henry Kissinger.

Having found her niche in television, she continues to be as fabulous as humanly possible, and maybe even more; subsequent appearances as Enid Frick in Sex and the City as well as her current role as Shirley Schmidt in Boston Legal - to name just two - have ensured her a lasting place in the pop culture firmament.

*Of course, I may be just a wee bit jealous of Chumley myself, so what do I know?


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richofbeach said...

Please link to these sites

michael sean morris said...

I visited both of these sites - or tried to... Spooky.