from my sketchbook: sebastian cabot


Stints as a mechanic, a chauffeur, valet and chef were not a good fit for Sebastian Cabot. He wanted to act — a type of lying, as he called the profession.

Sebastian worked regularly in films for thirty years, beginning with his debut in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1936 thriller Secret Agent. (Actors Michael Rennie and Michael Redgrave also made their debuts in the film.) He was just as comfortable in Shakespearean tales as he was in science fiction and adventure films.

In the 60s, he was recruited  by Disney and made memorable voice-over contributions to The Jungle Book, The Sword and The Stone and several Winnie-the Pooh featurettes. He also joined the cast of the TV sitcom Family Affair as the stuffy Giles French, “gentleman’s gentleman” to wealthy bachelor Bill Davis (played by Brian Keith).

After five seasons, Family Affair was canceled, but Sebastian remained a staple on television. He appeared in several made-for-television Christmas-themed movies and hosted an anthology series of ghost stories (aptly titled Ghost Story). He even recorded an album of Bob Dylan songs, with unintentional hilarious results.

In the late 70s, he resided in British Columbia. After suffering his second stroke in three years, Sebastian died in 1977 at the age of 59.

In 2012, during an interview on the Late Show with David Letterman, comedian Billy Crystal mentioned Sebastian Cabot’s name. Letterman remarked that the actor’s name hadn’t been heard in 30 years. As the show broke for a commercial, Sebastian’s picture was displayed on camera in tribute.

from my sketchbook: faith bacon

Well I guess it would be nice/If I could touch your body/I know not everybody/Has got a body like you

As a teenager traveling through Paris in the 1920s, Faith Bacon began her career as a dancer through a chance meeting with singer Maurice Chevalier. She performed in Paris reviews exclusively in the nude, using bubbles, flowers and fans as props.

When she returned to the United States, she appeared in Earl Carroll’s notorious nude Broadway showcase Vanities. New York law prohibited performers from moving while appearing nude. Faith skirted the law by introducing fans into the act, claiming that they were technically “clothing.” She became synonymous with “The Fan Dance.” In July 1930, when the club was raided for indecent exposure, Carroll defended Faith with claims that she wore a thin cover of chiffon, and only gave the illusion of being nude. He, too, maintained that the fans used in the act could (and should) be considered coverings. Charges were dropped and Faith continued to perform a slightly “toned-down” version of the dance.

Faith landed a spot in the renowned Ziegfeld Follies, where she was a regular feature for three years. During her run, she sued popular (and rival) burlesque dancer Sally Rand, who also performed a fan dance. Rand countered by saying the fan dance had been around since Cleopatra’s time. The lawsuit was thrown out, but Faith insisted on being billed as the “Original” fan dancer.

In 1933, Faith was giving a performance atop a glass drum, when it cracked. She fell through, badly cutting her thighs on the broken glass. When the cuts healed into disfiguring scars, Faith sued the Lake Theater Corporation for $100,000. She settled for $5,000, which she foolishly spent on a ten carat diamond.

Soon, Faith found it difficult to secure work. She had gained a reputation for being difficult and eager to sue. In 1948, she sued a carnival promoter, accusing him of putting tacks on the stage on which she was dancing barefoot. Again, Faith lost the case.

On September 26, 1956, depressed with no money and no prospects, Faith jumped to her death out of a Chicago hotel room window, falling two stories and landing on the roof of an adjacent saloon. Her friend, grocery store clerk Ruth Bishop, tried to grab Faith’s skirt as she climbed out of the window but Faith tore free. Faith was 46 years old.

from my sketchbook: laura branigan

How Am I Supposed to Live Without You
After a stint as a backup singer on for Leonard Cohen on an early 70s European tour, Laura Branigan knew she wanted a career as a professional singer.

Impressed by her four-octave range, Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun signed Laura to a contract. She released her debut album, a collection of up-beat pop songs and ballads, in 1982. The record’s lead single, “Gloria,” earned Laura a Grammy nomination. It was featured in the popular film Flashdance, although it did not appear on the soundtrack album. She was a guest star on the 1983 edition of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, where she performed her hits “How am I Supposed to Live Without You” and “Solitaire.”

The 80s saw Laura’s greatest success with a slew of albums and singles, including her biggest hit “Self Control” and guest appearances on popular TV series like CHiPs and Knight Rider. In the 90s, Laura concentrated on versions of songs made famous by other artists, including Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around.”

In 2002, Laura performed the title role in Love, Janis, an off-Broadway musical based on the life of Janis Joplin. Her time with the production was short-lived, as a misunderstanding in filing with the Actors’ Union forced her to drop out.

Laura died in her sleep, in 2004, of a previously undetected cerebral aneurysm. She had been experiencing regular headaches, but did not seek medical attention. Laura was 47. Her management company still maintains her musical catalog and has released three “Greatest Hits” packages, as well as re-releases of all of her studio albums, in the years since her death.

IF: repeat

here's a story

Almost a full year before Jan nearly screwed up Mom and Dad’s anniversary gift when she misunderstood that the engraving on a silver platter was 85 cents a letter, not for the entire thing, she almost screwed up another anniversary gift.

Under Dad’s suggestion, the Brady kids secretly gather to have a photographer take a formal portrait for Mom and Dad’s anniversary. Then, while at the playground, Jan, the regularly troubled middle Brady daughter, mistakenly took another girl’s bicycle. It is revealed that Jan is having difficulty with her vision. Soon, things get worse when her grades begin slipping because she can’t see the blackboard. Recognizing there is a problem, myopic Jan was fitted with a teeny pair of wire frame glasses. Jan becomes angered, declaring that the specs will make her look like a dork, especially when she’s trying to attract boys. (y’know… Marcia’s castoffs.) Jan finally concedes to her parents’ wishes for her to wear the glasses. But, as soon as she leaves the house, she whips them off.

The framed portrait is hidden in the garage in the days before the anniversary, but blind-as-a-bat Jan crashes her bike into it when she wasn’t wearing her glasses. It is ruined. So, the kids gather together to take a duplicate picture and no one will be the wiser. The portrait is finally presented to Mom on the big day. She is ferklempt and notes how pleased she is that Jan wore her glasses. As the family retires to the living room for cake and ice cream, Dad calls Jan for a private conference. Dad confronts Jan, knowing that when he arranged for the portrait she had not yet worn glasses. Realizing the jig is up and that Dad can’t be outsmarted, Jan confesses and waits to receive punishment. Dad sentences her to a week without her bike. Jan, fighting back tears, asks for different penance. In a twist on The Gift of the Magi, Jan explains that she sold her bike to pay for the replacement picture. Dad smirks, believing Jan has learned her lesson.

But, she hadn’t. Jan was a repeat offender. In later episodes, Jan will wish to be an only child, weasel her sister Marcia out of a job at Mr. Haskell’s ice cream parlor, make a bunch of empty promises to her classmates in order to get elected “Most Popular Student,” and conspire with Marcia to make younger sister Cindy believe she’s the next Shirley Temple. All that in addition to sinking her siblings fifty-six bucks in debt over that damn silver platter.

No wonder Marcia was the favorite.