Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dave Clark Five Are "Glad All Over"

Birthday wishes go out to the man who surely has the number one job with the Dave Clark Five, drummer Dave Clark... In the Sixties, as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones took turns in leading the British Invasion, only The Kinks and the Dave Clark Five came close to providing a third alternative*.

As this startling footage shows, it only takes a small group of cocky English lads to turn a stadium fairly brimming with the flower of English womanhood into a crowd of raving slappers - even with those teeth - which is surely not only the exact reaction they'd been hoping for but a pretty powerful weapon to have in your arsenal as well.

*Maybe Herman's Hermits - maybe - although they were always more popular in the US than they were in the UK...
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Gratuitous Brunette: Adam Brody

PhotobucketIn the interest of full disclosure, I can safely say that I've never seen either of the performances - whether as Dave Rygalski on Gilmore Girls or as Seth Cohen on The O.C. - for which our birthday boy Adam Brody has become famous... Something tells me all that is about to change now that he's appeared in the Kevin Smith flick Cop Out, co-starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan*.

I have at best a vague awareness of him because a) he looks like that, and b) I've watched more TMZ than I care to admit, during which he could be counted on to appear on this red carpet or that with someone named Rachel Bilson.

Still, in conducting research for the piece I was pleased to discover that Brody has not only played drums for the band Big Japan but he's developed a comic book for Wildstorm Comics called Red Menace with his ex-girlfriend's father Danny Bilson and Paul DiMeo.

It seems to me that a person as well-rounded as that will continue to interest me, long after his eligibility for Gratuitous Brunette status has gone...

*Once my funding levels are returned to any level above nil, that is...
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Happy Birthday Tim Conway

Here we see birthday boy Mr. Tim Conway in one of television's all-time classic moments, doing what he does best - rendering the audience of The Carol Burnett Show weak with laughter and corpsing his costars in the process; Carol Burnett (dressed as Eunice) succumbs first, then guest star Dick Van Dyke, and by the end even stalwart Vicki Lawrence - who never, ever broke character - is nibblin' a fist...

Lawrence gets the last word, though, ending the sketch by asking 'Are you sure that little a**hole is through?'. At which point even Conway himself hit the floor; fortunately Harvey Korman was nowhere to be found. This bit might have killed him...
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Remembering... Charles Laughton

While you wouldn't exactly call him an oil painting - unless it's one by Lucian Freud - Charles Laughton still managed a distinguished career before the public as an actor on stage, in films, as well as on radio and television; the reason for this grievous lapse - allowing an uggo free run amongst the pretty people - was clearly his staggering talent...

PhotobucketBorn in July 1899, during military service with the Northamptonshire Regiment in World War I he was gassed; originally expected to take over his family's hotel business, he began appearing in amateur theatricals in his home town of Scarborough, and in 1925 he was accepted at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Laughton's first professional stage appearance came in April 1926 at the Barnes Theatre, playing Osip in the comedy The Government Inspector, which later transferred to the Gaiety Theatre; his first film appearances came in 1928. He took his acting skills across the Atlantic in 1931, at which time he made his American debut on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in a stage adaptation of C.S. Forester's novel Payment Deferred. His Hollywood film debut was in 1932's The Old Dark House, opposite another looker, Boris Karloff.

Laughton's enthusiasm for America was matched only by that which he held for men; despite his predilection, he had a long and happy - albeit complicated - marriage to Elsa Lanchester. The Hollywood films for which he was best known - amongst dozens - are The Private Life of Henry VIII (in which he played Henry VIII), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (playing Elizabeth Barrett Browning's domineering father, Edward Moulton-Barrett), Les Misérables (as Javert), Mutiny on the Bounty (as Captain Bligh), Ruggles of Red Gap, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (as Quasimodo). He also had a go at directing; the result was the Robert Mitchum classic, The Night of the Hunter, in 1955.

Charles Laughton died on this day in 1962, having made Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent while terminally ill with bone cancer; he was interred in the Court of Remembrance courtyard, at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His widow survived him until December 1986.

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Gratuitous Brunette: Stuart Townsend

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Possessed of a resume so light its highlight* was his appearance as Lestat de Lioncourt in the ill-fated 2002 film Queen of the Damned (whose leading lady, Aaliyah, died before it was released) it's a good thing Stewart Townsend has a full-time job to fall back on - or, I should say, to fall forward on - namely, keeping leggy South African lovely Charlize Theron sexed up**. Birthday boy Stuart Townsend might just be the next heart-throb in hiding, if he can only get away from his buddy Colin Farrell long enough for people to start noticing him...

Given that he almost played Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world gets to see maybe a little bit of what it was Ms. Theron saw in 2002, during the filming of Trapped. Then again, Townsend recently directed his lovely muse in the film Battle in Seattle, which concerns the protests against the World Trade Organization in November 1999, meaning he could well make a bigger name for himself as a director before his reputation as an actor is even established.

*Although he did play Dorian Gray in the 2003 film adaptation of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
**Sadly, they parted ways in January 2010.
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Bonus Video: "Went With The Wind"

In what may be a perfect storm of a sketch, Carol Burnett and Company tear Gone With the Wind a new one; one wonders what Margaret Mitchell would have made of it all. Guest star Dinah Shore is luminous as ever, but it's Harvey Korman's wicked impression of Clark Gable that steals the show. I'm showing it here in honour of the world premiere - on this date in 1939 - of the acclaimed film version of the famous book.

Containing such classic comedy moments as the curtain dress (complete with tassle hat, curtain rod shoulder pads, and its own picture-perfect punchline: 'I saw it in a window and I just couldn't resist'), an energetic performance by Vicki Lawrence as a high-strung white slave who learns to whup herself, and considerable mishegas on an impossibly long staircase (such as aping Scarlett's tumble in the original), it's almost enough to make you forget what an unfunny place the Old South actually was.
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"To Be A Jew In The Twentieth Century" by Muriel Rukeyser

To be a Jew in the twentieth century
Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse,
Wishing to be invisible, you choose
Death of the spirit, the stone insanity.
Accepting, take full life. Full agonies:
Your evening deep in labyrinthine blood
Of those who resist, fail, and resist: and God
Reduced to a hostage among hostages.

The gift is torment. Not alone the still
Torture, isolation; or torture of the flesh.
That may come also. But the accepting wish,
The whole and fertile spirit as guarantee
For every human freedom, suffering to be free,
Daring to live for the impossible.

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In Memoriam: Muriel Rukeyser

Born on this day in 1913, poet and social justice advocate Muriel Rukeyser's first appearance in print wasn't in 1935 when her poem Theory of Flight was chosen for inclusion in the Yale Younger Poets series by editor Stephen Vincent Benét; that was merely her first published poem.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketUnlike many callow young poets, who come to writing first then must experience the world in order to give themselves something else to write about besides themselves, Rukeyser was already well-acquainted with the world, first covering the Scottsboro case at the age of 18, then later working with International Labor Defense on their appeals.

In addition to poetry and journalism (her expose of the Hawk's Nest incident was proof that poetry could be more than just pretty words), Rukeyser also wrote plays and screenplays, a fictionalized memoir, and biographies - including one of Wendell Wilkie - all of which showcased the broad eclecticism of her interests.

An outspoken feminist and bisexual, she was a single mother to her son William in the 1950s, and there's even an FBI file on her; an apathetic Jew, her poem To be a Jew in the Twentieth Century (1944) was later adopted by and added to Reform and Reconstructionist prayer books.

Rukeyser died in February 1980.

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Pop History Moment: Naismith Invented Basketball

For some reason all of the other contributions Canadians have made to the world - insulin, the telephone, smugness - seem to pale next to basketball; I've never really understood why, but I think it may have to do with the fact that Americans especially took to the sport with such ferocity.

All of which leaves me wondering why some of Canada's more recent contributions to the world - same-sex marriage, liberal drug laws, did I mention smugness - have yet to be more enthusiastically embraced south of the border.

A n y w a y, it was on this day in 1891 that James Naismith oversaw the first game of basketball, which was played according to 13 basic rules laid out by him; the rest, as they say, is pop culture...
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POPnews - December 15th

[Baudouin, King of the Belgians, married Spanish noblewoman Fabiola Fernanda María de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragón in Brussels on this day in 1960; wearing Queen Astrid's 1926 Art Deco tiara and a gown designed by Cristóbal Balenciaga the bride here strikes an uncharacteristically Evita-esque pose. Though it was by all accounts a happy enough marriage, dynastically it proved a heartache, as Her Majesty would suffer five miscarriages but provide no heir; following His Majesty's death in July 1993 she has maintained a high profile in Belgium in support of the new king, her brother-in-law Albert II.]

533 CE - Byzantine general Belisarius defeated Gelimer, King of the Vandals, at the Battle of Ticameron.

1167 - Sicilian chancellor Stephen du Perche moved the royal court from Palermo to Messina in order to prevent a rebellion against King William II's regent and mother, Margaret of Navarre.

1256 - Hulagu Khan captured and destroyed the Hashshashin stronghold at Alamut (in present-day Iran) as part of the Mongol offensive on Islamic southwest Asia.

1467 - At the Battle of Baia, Moldavia's Prince Stephen III defeated Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus, who was later said to have been injured three times at the battle.

1791 - The US Bill of Rights became law upon its ratification by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

1868 - Shogunate rebels founded the Ezo Republic on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaidō.

1891 - The first basketball game was played; invented by Canadian James Naismith while a teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts, the game was apparently derived from a childhood pastime of Naismith's called Duck on a Rock.

1939 - Gone with the Wind had its world premiere, at the Loew's Grand Theater in Atlanta.

1941 - In temperatures hovering around -15 degrees Celsius, Nazi troops executed over 15,000 Jews at Drobitsky Yar, a ravine southeast of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

1960 - Richard Paul Pavlick was arrested for attempting to blow up and assassinate the U.S. President-Elect, John F. Kennedy only four days earlier.

1961 - Adolph Eichmann was sentenced to death in a Jerusalem courtroom after being found guilty of 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership in an outlawed organization.

1965 - As part of NASA's Gemini Program, Gemini 6A - crewed by Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford - was launched from Florida's Cape Kennedy; four orbits later, it achieved the first space rendezvous with Gemini 7.

1967 - 46 people died when the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant, in West Virginia, to Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed into the Ohio River during rush hour; the ruin was demolished and in 1969 the Silver Memorial Bridge was opened to replace it.

1970 - The Illinois State Constitution was adopted at a special election.

1973 - John Paul Getty III, grandson of American billionaire J. Paul Getty, was found alive near Naples, having being kidnapped by an Italian gang on July 10th.

1982 - The gates connecting Gibraltar to Spain were re-opened on humanitarian grounds.

1993 - The Downing Street Declaration was issued by British Prime Minister John Major and Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

2001 - The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened after 11 years and a $27,000,000 restoration to fortify it, without fixing its famous lean.

2005 - The 2005 Atlantic Power Outage began, plunging the American Eastern Seaboard into bitter cold and darkness; owing to the seriousness of the ice storm that'd caused it, power wouldn't be fully restored until December 20th.
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