Tuesday, February 13, 2018

MORE HARASSMENT IN CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

In a story I posted last month, I took a look at the harassment that Judy Garland had to face at the hands of MGM head Louis B. Mayer. Judy Garland was not the only starlet that faced harrassment at the hands of powerful men. Judy was not the first and unfortunately she will not be the last.


In her memoir Child Star, actress Shirley Temple claimed that an MGM producer known to have an 'adventuresome casting couch' unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her during their first meeting in 1940. She was 12. Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded with nervous laughter and he threw her out of his office. Fortunately, she had already signed her contract with MGM.

Joan Collins says she lost out on the lead role in Cleopatra because she wouldn't sleep with the studio head. 'I had tested for 'Cleopatra' twice and was the front-runner. He took me into his office and said, "You really want this part?" And I said, "Yes. I really do." "Well," he said, "then all you have to do is be nice to me." It was a wonderful euphemism in the Sixties for you know what. But I couldn't do that. In fact, I was rather wimpish, burst into tears and rushed out of his office.' The role went to Elizabeth Taylor.


Marilyn Monroe was no stranger to lecherous studio chiefs and filmmakers, and in her memoir, My Story, she didn't hold back: 'I met them all. Phoniness and failure were all over them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes - an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.'

Hedren, one of Alfred Hitchcock's favorite leading ladies, came forward with sexual assault allegations against the famed director in October 2016, after keeping silent for over 50 years.

In her latest memoir, Hedren says Hitchcock assaulted her on multiple occasions, the first of which took place when they were working together on his 1963 film The Birds. According to Hedren, Hitchcock "threw himself" on top of her while they were in the back of a limo and attempted to kiss her. 


Later, on the set of 1964's Marnie, Hitchcock allegedly assaulted Hedren again, when she was alone in her dressing room. Hedren said she tried to fight him off, but he only became "more aggressive" and threatened to ruin her career. Afterward, Hedren said, Hitchcock refused to talk to her, even though they had to continue production on the film.

Hedren said her experiences with Hitchcock—and other men in Hollywood—came rushing back after the landslide of allegations against Weinstein.

"This is nothing new, nor is it limited to the entertainment industry," Hedren wrote in an October tweet. "I dealt with sexual harassment all the time, during my modeling and film career. Hitchcock wasn't the first."

Monday, February 12, 2018

RIP: VIC DAMONE

Vic Damone, whose mellow baritone once earned praise from Frank Sinatra as "the best pipes in the business," has died in Florida at the age of 89, his daughter said.

Victoria Damone told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday that her father died Sunday at a Miami Beach hospital from complications of a respiratory illness. Damone retired from performing back in 2002 after a  stroke, but he did perform one more time in 2011 at the Kravis Performing Arts Center in Palm Beach. He reportedly did it to show himself and his grandchildren that he still had it.

Damone's easy-listening romantic ballads brought him million-selling records and sustained a half-century career in recordings, movies and nightclub, concert and television appearances.

Damone's career began climbing in the 1940s after he won a tie on the radio show "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hunt." His hit singles included "Again," ''You're Breaking My Heart," ''My Heart Cries for You," ''On the Street Where You Live" and, in 1957, the title song of the Cary Grant film An Affair To Remember (1957).

Damone's style as a lounge singer remained constant through the years: straightforward, concentrated on melody and lyrics without resorting to vocal gimmicks. Like many young singers of his era, he idolized Sinatra.

"I tried to mimic him," Damone said in a 1992 interview with Newsday. "I decided that if I could sound like Frank maybe I did have a chance. I was singing his words, breathing his breaths, (doing) his interpretation, with the high notes, the synergy."


Sinatra and Damone, along with Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Dean Martin and others, formed a group of Italian Americans who dominated the postwar pop music field. And far from resenting the mimicry, Sinatra praised Damone's singing ability.

Born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn, New York, on June 12, 1928 to immigrants from Bari, Italy, Damone dropped out of high school after his father, an electrician, was injured on the job.

Damone adopted his mother's maiden name when he began his career, after catching an early break while working as an usher at the Paramount Theater in New York City, according to a family statement.

Damone still drew crowds in nightclubs and concerts into his 70s, before illness prompted his retirement to Palm Beach with his fifth wife, fashion designer Rena Rowan.


Damone appeared in several MGM musicals and he was originally cast in "The Godfather," but the role of a budding singer seeking mob help in a Hollywood career eventually went to Al Martino.

In 1954, Damone married the Italian actress Pier Angeli, after her mother refused to allow her to marry James Dean. The couple had a son and named him Perry before divorcing in 1959.

Marriages to actress Judy Rawlins, with whom he had three daughters, and Houston socialite Becky Ann Jones also ended in divorce. In 1987, Damone and actress-singer Diahann Carroll married after a long romance, and they paired for night club and concert tours. They divorced in 1996.

Rowan died in November 2016.

Damone is survived by two sisters, his three daughters and six grandchildren...


Monday, February 5, 2018

RIP: JOHN MAHONEY

John Mahoney, who was best known as Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce's irascible dad Martin Crane on Frasier, has died. He was 77. Mahoney died Sunday in Chicago, publicist Paul Martino told The Hollywood Reporter. As a curmudgeonly retired cop, Mahoney received two supporting actor Emmy nominations for his work on the 1993-2004 NBC hit.

A former Midwestern medical-magazine editor who quit his day job at nearly 40 to study acting in Chicago, Mahoney had taught English at Western Illinois University in the early 1970s. He became a fixture at Chicago's fabled Steppenwolf Theater and soon ventured to the New York stage. He distinguished himself in an off-Broadway production of Orphans, for which he received a Theatre World Award. Mahoney won a Tony Award in 1986 for his performance in a revival of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves. The production was videotaped for PBS' Theatre in America series.


In 2007, he was back on Broadway in a revival of Prelude to a Kiss.

In movies, Mahoney garnered recognition in Barry Levinson's Tin Men (1987), playing Richard Dreyfuss' business partner. The same year, he was memorable in Moonstruck as a depressed college professor who regularly had affairs with his students.

His other film credits include a performance as a trial judge in Suspect (1987), the manager of the White Sox in Eight Men Out (1988) and a protective father beleaguered by John Cusak's interest in his daughter in Say Anything (1989).

Although he was offered numerous series after Frasier, Mahoney moved back to Illinois in 2003 and began acting again with the Steppenwolf company, first starring as Tom Garrison in I Never Sang for My Father. The following year, he played Sir in The Dresser.

His dulcet warble was recognizable in voice work on such animated films as Antz (1998), The Iron Giant (1999) and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001).


John Mahoney was born June 20, 1940, in Blackpool, England, where his family had been evacuated following a Nazi bombing of Manchester. He developed an early interest in acting, joining the Stretford Youth Theatre.

After World War II, he ventured to Illinois, where his older sister lived as a war bride. He studied at Quincy University and, to speed up his citizenship application, enlisted in the U.S. Army and, not surprisingly, lost his British accent.

(He could readily call up the accent, though, as when he tweaked Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), his English therapist and housekeeper, on Frasier.)


In Chicago, Mahoney quickly distinguished himself, winning roles in such works as The Misanthrope, The Price, What the Butler Saw and The Water Engine. In 1977, he met actor John Malkovich, a founder of the Steppenwolf theater, and was invited by him to join the troupe.

At Steppenwolf, Mahoney thrived, performing in such productions as The Hothouse, And a Nightingale Sang, Loose Ends, Of Mice and Men, Balm in Gilead and Death of a Salesman.

Fittingly, one of Mahoney's first TV credit was for a role on NBC's Chicago Story in 1982. More recently, he had a recurring role as Betty White's love interest on Hot in Cleveland. It was his last role in 2014...


FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT LESLEY GORE

Lesley Gore was one of my Father's favorite singers. (As a coincidence, my Father would have turned 72 today) He constantly would play me the 45rpm of It's My Party. Gore died suddenly of lung cancer in 2015, but a new generation is be introduced to her. My five year old daughter knows every word to You Don't Own Me. Here are som facts about the singing legend that you might not know...



1. Quincy Jones and Lesley Gore made each other stars

Demos recorded by Gore's vocal coach when she had just turned 16 reached Jones while he was an A&R man on the rise at Mercury Records. He called her up, and at the end of March, they entered a studio together, and by June 1 It's My Party had topped the American charts. Within the year, Quincy Jones had become the first African American vice-president of Mercury Records. Gore and Jones went on to release a handful of Top 10 songs together, four of which (It's My Party, Judy's Turn to Cry, She's a Fool and You Don't Own Me) went on to sell more than a million copies a piece.


2. It's My Party went on the 'maybe pile'

Gore, still in junior high when she recorded the Grammy-nominated hit, wasn't convinced when she first heard the John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner-written song. Reportedly, she said: "That's not half bad. I like it. Good melody. Let's put it on the maybe pile". But it was the best of a bad bunch, and due to being the only demo Jones and Gore agreed on, they recorded it.


3. She released a feminist anthem at 17

Gore's last top 10 single was also her most politically important. You Don't Own Me was written by John Madara and David White and recorded by Gore in 1963. Although she remembers at the time thinking that "it had an important humanist quality", its lyrics ("And don't tell me what to do / And don't tell me what to say") were picked up by the second wave feminist movement and still had resonance five decades later, when celebrities including Tavi Gevison, songwriter SIA and actress and director Lena Dunham mimed to it in a campaign video against Mitt Romney's family planning policies. In 2010, Gore said of the song: "I don’t care what age you are — whether you’re 16 or 116 — there’s nothing more wonderful than standing on the stage and shaking your finger and singing, ‘Don’t tell me what to do."



4. She played Catwoman's sidekick

Gore made a foray into acting in 1967, when she guest-starred as Pussycat, Catwoman's musical minion, and mimed to California Nights and Scat! Darn Catwoman.


5. Gore was openly gay

Her third album may have been called Boys, Boys, Boys, but in 2004 Gore hosted LGBT news show In the Life. She revealed the next year that she was lesbian, and had been living with her long-term partner, jewellry designer Lois Sasson for 23 years. As for why she hadn't come out "on the record" earlier, Gore explained: "I just never found it was necessary because I really never kept my life private. Those who knew me, those who worked with me were well aware."




Saturday, February 3, 2018

WHAT CHRISTOPHER WALKEN KNOWS

When news broke recently that Robert Wagner is officially a “person of interest” in the 1981 death of Natalie Wood, actor Christopher Walken — one of the last people to see Wood alive — didn’t make a statement. But don’t expect him to say much on the topic — ever.

Walken was one of the three people on Wood and Wagner’s boat, the Splendour, when she was found dead, floating in the water off California’s Catalina Island, on Nov. 29, 1981. The third person was Dennis Davern, the boat’s captain. While Wagner wrote about the tragedy in his 2009 memoir, Pieces of My Heart: A Life, and Davern has given interviews to the likes of Today and TMZ, Walken has rarely commented.

He gave a curt quote to People magazine about Wood’s death in 1986: “I don’t know what happened,” Walken said. “She slipped and fell in the water. I was in bed then. It was a terrible thing. Look, we’re in a conversation I won’t have. It’s a f***ing bore.” The magazine noted that Walken “snapped” his response and that his eyes were “icy.”


However, Walken opened up more in a 1997 interview with Playboy, theorizing how Wood ended up in the water.

“Anybody there saw the logistics — of the boat, the night, where we were, that it was raining — and would know exactly what happened,” Walken told the magazine (and recently referenced in the Hollywood Reporter). “You hear about things happening to people — they slip in the bathtub, fall down the stairs, step off the curb in London because they think that the cars come the other way — and they die. You feel you want to die making an effort at something; you don’t want to die in some unnecessary way.”

Walken had accompanied Wood, his co-star in the 1983 thriller Brainstorm, and her famous husband on their Thanksgiving weekend trip.

“What happened that night only she knows, because she was alone,” Walken said. “She had gone to bed before us, and her room was at the back. A dinghy was bouncing against the side of the boat, and I think she went out to move it. There was a ski ramp that was partially in the water. It was slippery — I had walked on it myself. She had told me she couldn’t swim; in fact, they had to cut a swimming scene from [Brainstorm]. She was probably half asleep, and she was wearing a coat.”

Walken suspected that Wood also might have hit her head before falling into the water....

Thursday, February 1, 2018

ROBERT WAGNER: PERSON OF INTEREST

Nearly 40 years after Natalie Wood died under mysterious circumstances, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators say her widower Robert Wagner is a person of interest in the case.

“As we’ve investigated the case over the last six years, I think he’s more of a person of interest now,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant John Corina said in an upcoming interview with CBS’ 48 Hours. “I mean, we know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared.”

Wagner’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

The Hollywood starlet was married to Wagner from 1972 until her death.

Wood died on Nov. 29, 1981, off of Catalina Island in California. The incident happened while the 43-year-old actress was sailing with her husband on their yacht, Splendour. Christopher Walken, Wood’s then-costar in the movie Brainstorm, and the boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, were also on board.

Robert Wagner called "person of interest" in mysterious Natalie Wood death.

Investigators tell "48 Hours" they have a person of interest in the mysterious death of actress Natalie Wood. In November 1981, the "Rebel Without a Cause" actress drowned after disappearing from her family's yacht. Wood's death was originally ruled an accident, but in 2011, the Los Angeles County sheriff's department re-opened the investigation. "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty joins "CBS This Morning" to preview her report, which airs Saturday, Feb. 3, at 10/9c on CBS.


At the time, her death was classified as an accidental drowning, but the case was reopened in 2011.

Wagner has refused to speak with investigators since they began to look into the circumstances surrounding Wood’s death again.

“I haven’t seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case,” Corina said of Wagner. “I think he’s constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don’t add up.”

Detectives who spoke with 48 Hours noted that there were numerous bruises on Wood’s body that appeared to be new, according to her autopsy report.

“She looked like a victim of an assault,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Ralph Hernandez.

When asked if Wood’s death was a murder rather than a tragic accident, Corina said, “I think it’s suspicious enough to make us think that something happened.”



In Wagner’s 2008 memoir, Pieces of My Heart, he wrote that after a night of drinking, he got into an argument with Walken over Wood’s career.

At one point, the now 87-year-old actor wrote, “I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces.”

As for what caused her to fall off the boat, Wagner wrote it was “all conjecture. Nobody knows. There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened.”


In 2016, Wagner spoke to PEOPLE about his family’s heartbreak and his close bond with his stepdaughter and Wood’s daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner.

“We were all so shattered by the loss, and we were hanging on to each other,” Wagner said. “My bond with Natasha is very, very intense. We’ve hung onto each other through the years and she means the world to me.”

The 48 Hours report includes the latest information from interviews with the detectives and Wood’s sister Lana, as well as archival interviews with Wagner, Davern and others. The show’s efforts to get comment from Wagner and Walken were unsuccessful.

Natalie Wood: Death in Dark Water will air Saturday, Feb. 3, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS...