“Hey. Nice twirl you got there. You know who invented that, don’t you?”
“Hey. Nice twirl you got there. You know who invented that, don’t you?”
Glamorous Jane Harker enjoyed a whirlwind career in Hollywood in the middle 1940s. She was featured in 20 different roles, but was only given on-screen credit for three. The others, including her long-standing role of the suffering “Alice McDoakes” in the popular series of “So You Want To…” short subjects opposite George O’Halloran as the hapless “Joe McDoakes,” were all uncredited.
Jane was usually cast as characters without a name, like “Bar Patron,” or “Cigarette Girl,” or the classic “Redhead Snob with Sid at Party.” However, in 1947, Jane starred alongside Ann Sheridan in The Unfaithful (along with Peggy Knudsen), a film for which she was listed in the credits.
In 1948, Jane called it a career and left Hollywood behind. She settled in Minneapolis where she lived in near obscurity until her death in 2000 at the age of 77.
A guy is sitting in his living room, watching television, when he hears a knock at the door. He gets up and opens the door to find a snail on his front porch. The guy looks around and sees no one. Angered by the interruption to his TV watching, he reaches down, grabs the snail and throws it, in a wide arc, across his front lawn. He slams the door and goes back to his program.
Seven years later, the guy hears a knock at his front door. He opens the door and there’s the snail, screaming, “What the hell did you do that for?!?!”
Vickie Hogan was born in Houston, Texas, but was shuffled around with a family of half siblings, the result of several of her mother’s relationships. Vickie was briefly raised by an aunt until she was reunited with her estranged mother. Vickie was soon known as “Nikki Hart,” choosing a new first name and pairing it with her new stepfather’s surname. A poor student, she failed her freshman year of high school and dropped out soon after. In 1985, the 18-year-old was working at Jim’s Fried Chicken Restaurant in Mexia, Texas when she married Billy Smith, a cook at the same restaurant.
In 1992, now calling herself “Vickie Smith,” she appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine and was featured in the centerfold of the May issue. As a result, Vickie, now calling herself “Anna Nicole Smith,” was signed as the replacement for supermodel Claudia Schiffer as the “face” of Guess Jeans. Photographers exploited Anna Nicole’s resemblance to 50s movie bombshell Jayne Mansfield and shot her in similar poses made famous by the late screen siren. Giant billboards of Anna Nicole’s provocative ads for Guess were plastered everywhere and full page ads graced the pages of the most popular fashion magazines. She soon became an international representative for H & M stores, appearing in oversized outdoor ads in Norway and Sweden.
In 1994, at the height of her modeling career, New York magazine ran a story about “white trash” in America. A candid, unflattering shot of Anna Nicole appeared on the magazine’s cover. In the photo, a smirking Anna Nicole is seen in a short skirt with a bag of Cheez Doodles between her spread legs. Through legal representation, Anna Nicole sued the magazine for five million dollars, claiming unauthorized use of the photo. New York claimed that it was one of dozens of photos shot specifically for the cover. “I guess she just didn’t like the one we chose.,” stated the editor. The case was settled out of court.
In 1991, while working as a stripper, Anna Nicole met 89 year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, whose net worth was over one billion dollars. After a quick divorce from Billy Smith, 26 year-old Anna Nicole married the octogenarian Marshall. She never lived with her new husband and rarely kissed him, but, nevertheless, claimed that she loved him. Thirteen months after the marriage, Marshall died and Anna Nicole assumed she had just inherited a fortune. Marshall’s grown children, specifically E. Pierce Marshall, disputed her claim to half of Marshall’s estate. After a decade long battle, during which Anna Nicole filed bankruptcy, awards were granted and rescinded and Marshall’s son passed away, a final decision was still never reached.
Anna Nicole enjoyed a brief foray into movies and television. She appeared in a popular E! Network reality show that focused on her outrageous behavior and her personal relationships. After two seasons, America grew bored with her over-the-top antics and the series was canceled.
Anna Nicole gave birth to a daughter, sparking a tabloid controversy over the the identity of the father. Everyone from a photographer to her attorney to Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband claimed to have fathered the child. While visiting Anna Nicole in the hospital, her 20 year-old son Daniel died in her room. It was determined the caused was a lethal combination of various drugs.
Anna Nicole herself was addicted to painkillers and she was allegedly receiving rehabilitation treatment. On February 8, 2007, Smith was found dead in Room 607 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Emergency personnel were unsuccessful, despite their quick response. The cause of death was attributed to the huge amount of many different prescription drugs, most of which were prescribed to her attorney. Anna Nicole was 39 year-old. Legal battles delayed her burial and, due to the lack of embalming and some of the drugs in her system, her body began to decompose at a faster-than-normal pace. She was finally buried at a cemetery in The Bahamas, one month after her death.
A 2014 ruling denied a request from Anna Nicole Smith’s estate to sanction the estate of E. Pierce Marshall.
At 21, tall, statuesque Bess Myerson was entered into the Miss New York beauty pageant by a photographer for whom she had modeled in college. The entry was sent without Bess’s knowledge. At first, she was angered, but soon came to enjoy the competition, especially the fact that, at five foot ten inches, she towered over the other contestants. Bess won the pageant and headed for the Miss America competition.
As the victim of substantial antisemitism, it was suggested that Bess, the child of Russian immigrants, change her surname to something “less Jewish-sounding.” She refused. She was crowned “Miss America 1945,” and despite her win coming on the heels of World War II and the Holocaust, three of the pageant’s five sponsors withdrew from having her represent their companies. While on her year-long tour as Miss America, Bess encountered “No Jews” signs posted in places such as hotels and country clubs. These experiences led her to offer lectures on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League. She became a vocal opponent of antisemitism and racism and her speaking tour became the highlight of her Miss America reign. At the time, Bess was heralded as a hero to the Jewish community. One writer noted that “In the Jewish community, she was the most famous pretty girl since Queen Esther.”
In the 1950s, Bess became a popular panelist on television game shows, including I’ve Got a Secret, where she was considered part of the show’s regular cast. She also served as host of the television broadcast of the Miss America pageant from 1954 to 1968.
In 1969, Bess was appointed the first Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs by then-mayor John Lindsay. In her position, she became a strong advocate for consumer rights, as well as serving on several presidential commissions on violence, mental health, workplace issues, and hunger. She was a frequent companion of mayoral hopeful Ed Koch. In 1980, Bess ran for a US Senate seat, but was unsuccessful.
When Koch was elected mayor of New York City, Bess was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs. While in office, she became romantically involved with a married sewer contractor. It was soon revealed that the judge presiding over the contractor’s divorce case was socializing with Bess. After the contractor’s child support payments were greatly reduced, investigations began as to whether or not the judge had been bribed. When questioned, Bess invoked the Fifth Amendment and was forced to resign her position with the Koch administration. She was tried on federal charges of conspiracy, but was subsequently acquitted. The scandal became known as the “Bess Mess.” To make matters worse, just prior to her trial, Bess was arrested for shoplifting in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Bess avoided the public spotlight during the later years of her life. She made donations towards building expansion at the Jewish Museum of Florida. In 2013, it was reported that Bess was suffering from dementia. She passed away in December 2014 at the age of 90, although her death was not made public until the summer of 2015.
“How’s about a quick snap for the boys at The Trib!”
Ace newshounds. Always lookin’ for a scoop!
Twin sisters Emi and Yumi Ito were discovered singing in a small club in their native Nagoya, Japan. Their act consisted of Japanese-translated covers of popular songs mixed with traditional Japanese folk songs. They were signed by Sho Watanabe of the powerhouse talent agency Watanabe Productions. Watanabe controlled and represented the vast majority of the entertainment industry in 1960s Japan. The sisters, now dubbed The Peanuts, recorded the pop number “Kawaii Hana.” It became an instant hit. A string of Japanese hits followed. They toured extensively, delighting audiences with their unique ability to sound like a single voice recorded with reverb. This was achieved with simultaneous singing. Since the girls were nearly identical, their voices were at similar timbre, as well.
Soon, The Peanuts were appearing internationally, with stints in the United States on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Danny Kaye show. They established a reciprocal relationship with German singer Caterina Valente. They traded cover songs with Valente and gained a loyal following in West Germany.
In 1961, The Peanuts were tapped to appear in the sci-fi film Mothra from famed Toho Studios. The sisters played “Shobijin” (little beauties), a pair of tiny fairy spokespersons for the mighty title monster. They reprised the roles in the 1964 releases Mothra vs. Godzilla and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
Japanese women in the entertainment business in the 1960s were expected to maintain certain social status, and the pursuit of a career after marriage was frowned upon by the rigid rules of society. Emi married in 1975, forcing The Peanuts into immediate retirement. The sisters disappeared from the public eye until 2012, when Emi’s obituary appeared in Japanese newspapers. She was 71. Four years later, Yumi passed away.
“Heroes need monsters to establish their heroic credentials. You need something scary to overcome.”
— Margaret Atwood
Aida Overton Walker refused to be a stereotype.
Born in New York City in 1880, Aida had extensive musical training and joined The Octoroons, a notable performing group of the late 19th century. Soon, the teenage Aida joined the Black Patti Troubadours, another popular singing and dancing group. Although the group consisted of dozens of performers, Aida stood out and became a featured vocalist and dancer.
Aida joined up with renowned comedy team Bert Williams and George Walker, and appeared in all of their shows. Soon, she married Walker and became the director and choreographer of all of their productions, in addition to a featured performer.
A talented dancer, Aida enhanced and elaborated upon popular dances and became known as “The Queen of the Cakewalk,” a seductive dance popular around the turn of the 20th century. She refused to play the typical roles reserved for female African-American performers, shunning slaves and servants in favor of high society ladies.
Aida and her husband, along with Williams, toured the country, often breaking new ground by performing in vaudeville venues that typically banned African-Americans. The troupe’s popularity was too great for prejudice. George Walker, however, took ill and Aida retired to care for him. George passed away in 1911. Aida took to the stage within two months with a tribute show, performing his songs, dances and jokes in his clothing.
She worked for charitable causes and as a mentor for aspiring young female African-American performers. She helped with and served as an inspiration for costumes and dance routines, in hopes of squashing the perception that African-American women were loose and promiscuous and passing along her vision of African-American performance as refined and elegant. In the last years of her life, she produced shows for two such female groups — the Porto Rico Girls and the Happy Girls.
Aida passed away suddenly in 1914 at the age of 34. But, she set the stage for the likes of Lottie Gee, Florence Mills, Ethel Waters and Josephine Baker.