Sunday, May 09, 2010

"Party Hard" by Andrew W.K.

In 2001 - the year his album I Get Wet was released - it seemed like Andrew W. K. was everywhere all at once; then, just as quickly, he was gone. There's nothing so strange about that, I guess, since for every Sheryl Crow and John Mayer I have taken to championing early and often there's been an Adam Cohen waiting to prove that even the most astute pundits among us are basically just grasping at straws when it comes to ascertaining the zeitgeist.

On the bright side, the music remains - in this case, a hybrid of dance and metal that was unusually fresh for its time and which, in my case at least, remains freighted with happy memories of my miserable job, crumbling relationship, and self-destructive frame of mind. Good times...

Best wishes on your 30th birthday, Andrew W. K. - wherever you are.

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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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"Diva" by Dana International

On this day in 1998 Dana International did more than win the 43rd annual Eurovision Song Contest for Israel with Tzvika Pick and Yoav Ginai's song Diva - she shattered an untold number of misconceptions in the process. Since Dana was born a boy, conservatives in her homeland campaigned against her selection; their failure, though, was a greater inevitablity than her victory. In the end she and her song scored 174 points, edging out the UK entry Where Are You? by Imaani, which was only able to manage a nevertheless respectable 167.

Still, despite the bigotry she faced back in her at home, she took to the stage in Birmingham with her head held high and from there would take Europe and the world by storm by being a gifted performer, a positive person refusing to be held back by hatred, and an inspiration to everyone who's ever suffered judgement in the name of religion...
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POPnews - May 9th

[Although I've always been partial to the neo-classical designs of the Canadian legislatures and the Gothic pile on Ottawa's Parliament Hill, there's something to be said for the modernist home of Australia's government as well.]

1092 - Lincoln Cathedral was consecrated; from 1300 to 1549 (while its spire stood) it was the world's tallest building.

1450 - 'Abd al-Latif - Timurid monarch of Transoxiana - was assassinated; he was succeeded by his cousin ‘Abdullah, because he'd already killed his father Ulugh Beg and brother 'Abd al-'Aziz.

1671 - Thomas Blood attempted to steal the British Crown Jewels from the Tower of London while disguised as a clergyman.

1726 - Five men arrested during a raid on Mother Clap's molly house in London were executed at Tyburn; the house, once on Field Lane in Holborn, was demolished to make way for the Holborn Viaduct.

1868 - The city of Reno, Nevada, was founded by Myron C. Lake.

1873 - A crash on the Vienna stock market - known as Der Krach - heralded the so-called Long Depression.

1901 - Australia's Parliament convened for the first time, in Melbourne - first at the Royal Exhibition Building, then later at the Parliament House of the state of Victoria.

1904 - George Jackson Churchward's steam locomotive City of Truro became the first steam engine to exceed 100 mph (160 kph) during a special mail run from Plymouth to London's Paddington Station.

1927 - Australia's Parliament convened for the first time in Canberra, where it has sat ever since, although it has not been housed in what is now called the Old Parliament House since 1988.

1941 - The German submarine U-110 was captured by the Royal Navy's HMS Bulldog - not the US Navy, as implied by the Hollywood movie U-571 - as part of the Top Secret mission dubbed Operation Primrose; on board was the latest Enigma cryptography machine which Allied cryptographers working at Bletchley Park later used to break coded German messages.

1945 - As the Allied victory swept across Europe and the final German surrender was given to Marshal Georgy Zhukov at Berlin-Karlshorst - signed by Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff as the representative of the Luftwaffe, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel as the Chief of Staff of OKW, and Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg as Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine - former Nazi second-in-command Hermann Göring was captured by the US Army in Bavaria and Norway's collaborationist Minister-President Vidkun Quisling surrendered to police at Møllergata 19 in Oslo.

1946 - Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in favour of his son, who became Umberto II.

1949 - Rainier III became Prince of Monaco following the death of his grandfather Louis II.

1950 - L. Ron Hubbard first published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

1955 - Jim Henson's Sam and Friends - a five-minute show which aired twice daily - made its debut on WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington, DC. The program would air until 1961, and featured the nascent character Kermit, who was not as yet a frog.

1960 - The US Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Enovid, the world's first oral contraceptive pill.

1974 - As the Watergate Scandal deepened, the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives opened formal and public impeachment hearings against President Richard M. Nixon.

1988 - The new Australian Parliament House was opened in Canberra by the Queen of Australia.

1998 - Israeli transsexual Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest with Tzvika Pick and Yoav Ginai's song Diva.

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