My mom, circa late 1939.
My mom, circa late 1939.
A runner-up in the 1951 Miss Universe pageant, Anita Ekberg was offered a “starlet’s contract” by Universal Pictures, despite speaking very little English. She was given small roles in a handful of films including Blood Alley, Hollywood or Bust and the Martin & Lewis comedy Artists and Models. However, Anita was the darling of the gossip columns. Much was written about her romantic trysts with Frank Sinatra, Rod Taylor, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. An incident involving Anita’s dress popping open in the lobby of London’s Berkeley Hotel was a publicity stunt prearranged by a photographer.
In 1960, Anita starred in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the role for which she is best known, She cavorted in Rome’s Trevi Fountain with actor Marcello Mastroianni in an iconic scene. In 1962, she lost the role of “Honey Rider” in the first James Bond film Dr. No to Ursula Andress. She would co-star with Andress the next year in 4 for Texas. Anita was recruited by Fellini two more times in The Clowns and Intervista.
Anita was known to be very outspoken, often telling reporters which famous people she disliked. In a 1999 New York Times interview, Anita bragged that it was Fellini who owed his success to her, rather than vice versa.
In 2011, it was reported that 80-year-old Anita was having financial difficulty after a fire wiped out her home and robbery resulted in the loss of jewelry and furniture. She humbly (or arrogantly) approached the Fellini Foundation for financial support.
Anita died at 83 after a long illness. Despite being a long-time resident of Italy, she was cremated and her remains were returned to her native Sweden.
As much as he tried, Eddie just could not resist Linda’s brownies.
Mary Frances Penick was given the nickname “Skeeter” by her grandfather because she was a bundle of energy. The outgoing youngster met Betty Jack Davis in high school and the two became best friends. Going by the name “The Davis Sisters,” Skeeter and Betty sang in school, in church and, eventually, on a Detroit radio station. In 1951, the teenage duo signed a recording contract with RCA Records.
Highlighting their vocal harmonies, RCA released “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” as a single in 1953. The song spent eight weeks at Number 1 on the Country charts. In August of the same year, Betty Jack and Skeeter were involved in a car accident. Skeeter suffered major injury, but Betty Jack was killed. After the accident, Skeeter continued to duo with Betty Jack’s sister, Georgia, but decided to retire the act in 1956.
After two years, Skeeter returned to the music business. She toured with musician Ernest Tubb and worked in the studio with the great Chet Atkins. Atkins played guitar in the sessions and double tracked Skeeter’s vocals to replicate the sound of the Davis Sister’s harmonies. Skeeter scored chart-topping hits through the end of the 50s and into the 60s. In 1959, she became the first female singer to be nominated for a Grammy.
In 1963, Skeeter released “The End of the World,” the song for which she is best known. It was one of the first songs to “crossover” from the Country charts to the Pop charts. It even reached Number 5 on the Rhythm & Blues charts, an astounding feat for a Caucasian artist. She continued to record well into the 70s, releasing several albums of covers, including full-length tributes to Buddy Holly and Flatt and Scruggs.
Skeeter remained an active member of the Grand Ole Opry, making her last appearance in 2002, two years before her death from breast cancer at the age of 72. She has been cited as an influence on the careers of both Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.
He has given us a sign! The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example! Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise.
A clerk at a Chicago Marshall Fields department store, Mary Dorothy Slaton was spotted by band leader Herbie Kay in a local talent show. Herbie introduced her to the vaudeville circuit, where she sang under the stage name “Dorothy Lamour,” a play on her stepfather’s surname of “Lambour.” Soon, Dorothy had her own fifteen minute radio show on the NBC Network and made appearances on crooner Rudy Vallee’s show, as well. Dorothy married Herbie Kay in 1935. The couple divorced after four years.
1936 was a turning point in Dorothy’s career. She moved to Hollywood and landed a screen test for Paramount Pictures. After signing a contract, she was “Ulah” in The Jungle Princess. Her costume for the entire film was a colorful sarong designed by Edith Head. She was tagged as “The Sarong Queen” for her entire career. She worked with such Hollywood names as John Wayne, Henry Fonda and John Barrymore in the late 30s. In 1940, Dorothy starred alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the first of seven “Road to…” pictures. Road to Singapore, the first of the series, was a huge hit. Dorothy held her own against the antics of Hope and Crosby and introduced several songs that went on to become standards. She had a cameo role in the final Road picture in 1962, though her regular co-star spot was taken over by Joan Collins.
Dorothy worked tirelessly for the war effort during the 1940s. She volunteered on tours promoting war bonds and mingled with servicemen at the famed Hollywood Canteen. A popular pin-up, Dorothy earned herself the nickname “The Bomb of the Bombshells.” She remained a popular and sought-after actress into the 50s, with appearances in many films including the 1952 Best Picture The Greatest Show on Earth. The 1960s and 1970s had Dorothy turning to musical theater and nightclubs. She starred in a touring company of Hello Dolly! for over a year.
After a few guest roles on TV dramas, Dorothy returned to the big screen for one final time, taking an unfortunate turn as George Kennedy’s wife in a segment of the low-budget horror anthology sequel Creepshow 2. Speaking about her role in the film, Dorothy quipped, “Well, at my age you can’t lean against a palm tree and sing “Moon of Manakoora.” People would look at that and say, ‘What is she trying to do?”
Dorothy retired to the Baltimore suburbs with her second husband. After his death, she moved back to Hollywood where she lived for nearly twenty years before passing away in 1996 at age 81.
After signing with an agent at five years-old, Erin Moran was cast as a regular in the wildlife adventure series Daktari in 1968. She went on to film several theatrical movies, including Melvin Van Peebles’ social commentary Watermelon Man and the family drama 80 Steps to Jonah in which she played a blind girl. Erin appeared in numerous guest roles on comedy and drama series, including episodes of Family Affair, My Three Sons, Gunsmoke and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
In 1972, the ABC anthology series Love, American Style ran an episode called “Love and The Happy Days,” which was a pilot for a proposed series by Garry Marshall. The series was picked up, although some of the roles were recast. Series star Anson Williams, who played “Potsie,” suggested Erin Moran for the role of star Ron Howard’s little sister “Joanie,” Erin stayed with the show for eleven seasons and 234 episodes. She left to star in a spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi, which followed the adventures of her character and her husband (played by Scott Baio). Joanie Loves Chachi only lasted 17 episodes before its cancellation. She returned to Happy Days for its final season.
After Happy Days, Erin had difficulty finding regular work. She appeared on game shows, reality shows and a few episodes of Love Boat, but was unable to secure a steady role. In 2011, she filed a joint lawsuit, along with some of her Happy Days co-stars (excluding Ron Howard and Henry Winkler). The suit, a breach-of-contract accusation, claimed that cast members had not been paid for merchandising revenues owed under their contracts. CBS (who now owned the show) estimated it owed the actors between $8,500 and $9,000 each, most of it from slot machine revenues, but the group said they were owed millions. The case was settled before going to trial and Erin and her co-stars each received a payment of $65,000.
Aside from the lawsuit, Erin had fallen on hard times. She was living in a trailer park in Indiana and was, reportedly, abusing drugs and alcohol and suffering from depression from a lack of acting work. She was evicted from the trailer park and was homeless for a time.
On April 22, 2017, authorities were alerted to an unresponsive female, later identified as Erin Moran. First responders pronounced her dead at the scene. She was 56. Initial reports were sketchy, but it is believed that Erin was hiding the the latter stages of throat cancer. Despite recent reports, no illegal substances were found in Erin’s home.
Joan Blondell placed fourth in the 1926 Miss America Pageant, but used the opportunity to get jobs as a model and eventually a Broadway actress. She caught the eye of Al Jolson, who cast her opposite James Cagney in the musical Penny Arcade. It was the first of several films in which Joan would appear with Cagney. She most famously starred as Cagney’s pal Matt’s (as played by Edward Woods) gilrfriend in 1931’s The Public Enemy. It was around this time that Joan cemented her standing as one of Hollywood’s “Blonde Bombshells.” She posed for a discreetly shot, though nude, publicity photo that was soon banned by the rules of the strict Hays Code that ruled Hollywood well in the 1950s.
Joan appeared in nearly 100 films in her career, garnering an Oscar nomination in 1951 for The Blue Veil. She returned to Broadway several times as well, appearing opposite Tallulah Bankhead in the play Crazy October and playing the nagging mother, Mae Peterson, in the national tour of Bye Bye Birdie. Joan took numerous roles on television, including guest appearances in Twilight Zone, Family Affair, The Real McCoys and Petticoat Junction. She was set to take the role of Lucy’s best friend on The Lucy Show, until she walked off the set after Lucille Ball humiliated her in front of a live audience. She received two consecutive Emmy nominations for her ongoing role as “Lottie Hatfield” on the series Here Come the Brides.
Joan continued to act into the 1970s, changing her persona from “sex symbol” to “brassy broad.” She had supporting roles in the big-screen musical Grease and the remake of The Champ, the latter being her final screen appearance. Joan died of leukemia on Christmas Day 1979. She was 73.
A gnat flew over the meadow with much buzzing for so small a creature and settled on the tip of one of the horns of a bull. After the gnat had rested for a short time, he got ready to fly away. But before he left, he begged the bull’s pardon for having used his horn for a resting place.
“You must be very glad to have me go now,” the gnat said.
“It’s all the same to me,” replied the bull. “I did not even know you were there.”
As the gnat flew away, the bull muttered under his breath, “Asshole.”
Moral: The smaller the mind the greater the conceit.