Venus Ramey, a pretty 20-year-old from the northern Kentucky town of Asheville, was crowned Miss America on September 9, 1944. She was the first Miss America to be photographed in color, no doubt because she was also the first Miss America with red hair.
Riding on her pageant fame, Venus was wooed by Hollywood, but found show business not to her liking. She returned to Kentucky, but not before selling $5 million worth of War Bonds during World War II. She received a special citation from the US Treasury for her efforts. A B-17 of the 15th Air Force, 301st bomb group was nicknamed “Venus Ramey” in her honor. It was one of the longest commissioned bombers of the war.
She ran for Kentucky House of Representatives and became an outspoken advocate for women’s’ rights. She spearheaded a campaign to recognize the Cincinnati area “Over-the-Rhine” for historical certification.
In 2007, at age 82, Venus confronted intruders who had entered a building on her Kentucky farm. She had previously been the victim of theft and was very protective of her property. She used a snub-nose .38 revolver, steadying the weapon on the crossbar of her walker, to shoot out the tires on the thieves’ pickup truck, then flagged down a car and had the driver call 911. She held the would-be thieves at gun-point until the sheriff arrived. “I didn’t even think twice.” she said. “If they’d even dared come close to me, they’d be six feet under by now.”
Venus passed away in June 2017 at the age of 92.
Pizza guy! Who ordered the double cheese and sausage?
15 year-old Josephine Baker began her career dancing on the streets of St. Louis. She was recruited to perform in the vaudeville circuit and eventually traveled to New York. She was a chorus girl during the Harlem Renaissance and was featured in Broadway revues alongside the great Adelaide Hall. Josephine, along with most African-American performers of the time, took the stage in blackface.
Josephine soon sailed to Paris and, at 19, performed erotic and suggestive dancing — almost completely nude — at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Her dancing act soon included exotic and outrageous costumes and props, including a skirt of bananas and a live cheetah with a diamond collar. Frequent audience member Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”
After a brief stint with the Ziegfeld Follies in 1936, Josephine returned to France. She married a native and became a French citizen. She even helped the French Resistance during World War II, smuggling messages in her underwear to be delivered after performances. She became revered for her patriotic efforts for her adopted country and was welcomed at the Folies Bergere. She regularly packed the house and was invited back to the United States. However, Josephine was a harsh critic of segregation and rumors spread of her involvement with Communists. These accusations prompted the termination of Josephine’s work visa, forcing her to cancel all her remaining engagements and return to France. It was almost a decade before U.S. officials allowed her back into the country.
In 1973, Josephine returned to play Carnegie Hall in an effort to help her failing finances. Now in her mid-60s, her strenuous performances were exhausting. She also had trouble remembering lyrics, and her speeches between songs tended to ramble.
In 1975, she starred in a career retrospective at a Paris music hall. Seating was at a premium. The audience included such fans as Sophia Loren, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, and Liza Minnelli. Four days after the show, Josephine was found unresponsive in her bed. She was comatose, the result of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead at 68 years old.
Ever gentle on my mind
I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!
Sally Dennison, a Hollywood casting director, saw Mark Frehette, a Boston carpenter, yelling at a woman on the street. The angered Mark hurled a flowerpot at the woman from his third-floor vantage point and continued his vicious shouting. Sally was captivated. She quickly brought the young hothead to her director, Michelangelo Antonioni. She explained, “He’s twenty and he hates.” After a year-long search for the perfect actor, Antonioni cast Mark in the lead role of his up-coming film Zabriskie Point, despite having no acting experience. Mark and the director butted heads and disagreed during the entire duration of filming.
The film was a critical and box office failure (although it reached cult status many years later), but Mark enjoyed new-found fame. He appeared on the cover of numerous magazines and on various talk shows.
Later, he joined the Fort Hill commune, a notorious counter-culture organization in Boston. In late summer 1973, Mark and two members of Fort Hill attempted to rob the New England Merchant’s Bank in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. One of his colleagues was killed by police and Mark, along with fellow Fort Hill member Sheldon T. Bernhard, was arrested. Mark was sentenced to six to fifteen years in prison.
Three years into his sentence, Mark was working out in the prison gym. He was killed when a 150 pound barbell fell on his throat. Mark was 27 years old.
Jimmy Stewart had some pretty interesting neighbors in Rear Window.
Lynne Frederick aspired to be a math teacher, but her delicate, “fairy tale princess” looks pointed her towards a career as an actress. As a teenager, she was featured in numerous films in her native England, including the historical drama Nicholas and Alexandra in 1971 and Henry VIII and His Six Wives a year later. She was named “Best New Actress” by British newspaper The Evening Standard and continues a successful run of films through the 70s. Her final film role was in 1979 in Prisoner of Zenda, opposite her husband, actor Peter Sellers.
Lynne’s marriage to Sellers was a rocky one. Sellers was 29 years older than Lynne. After a few years, Sellers began making arrangements to exclude Lynne from his will. He died from a sudden heart attack before his changes to the document were finalized. 25-year old Lynne inherited 4.5 million pounds (valued by today’s standards at nearly 18 million dollars). She then excluded Sellers’ children from previous relationships. She also successfully sued the producers of the 1982 film Trail of the Pink Panther, which was made with outtake footage and released after Sellers’ death. Lynne was awarded 1 million pounds as a result.
Lynne sunk into a deep depression after Sellers’ passing and created a shrine to her late actor-husband at her Swiss home, which she inherited. However, she briefly married talk-show host David Frost for a short 17 months in 1981-1982. In 1982, Lynne married an American surgeon. When she divorced her third husband, Lynne sunk deeper into depression. Her health deteriorated and she began using drugs and drinking heavily. On a rare visit, Victoria Sellers, Peter’s daughter with actress Britt Ekland, found Lynne barely able to move, dressed in dirty clothes and swigging vodka straight from a jug. Three weeks later, Lynne was dead at age 39, a suspected suicide. She was survived by her 11-year old daughter Cassie from her third marriage. Cassie inherited all of Lynne’s assets and possessions. None of Peter Sellers’ three biological children saw a dime of their father’s wealth.
Anchors Aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh.
Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, budding filmmaker George Romero was making commercials and shooting segments for the popular children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He teamed up with writer John Russo and wrote a script for a comedy-horror film called Monster Flick. The pair raised $114,000 and shot the film in and around their native Pittsburgh with borrowed equipment. The result was the renamed Night of the Living Dead. With its shoestring budget and improvised props (Bosco chocolate syrup substituting for blood and roasted hams standing in for human flesh), the film gained a cult following, but soon cemented itself as the origin of the modern zombie movie.
The story was actually a sly commentary on current social situations and race relations. And, considering the genre that it started, Night of the Living Dead never used the word “zombie” at all. It eventually became a financial success and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.
George made a series of films in the “zombie” genre, as well as several general horror films. He worked with writer Stephen King on a few projects.
George made frequent appearances at horror conventions. He loved meeting his fans. Declining health limited his appearances in later years and failing eyesight prevented him from signing autographs.
George passed away in July 2017 at the age of 77, after a brief battle with lung cancer.
He may be coming to get you, Barbara.