DCS: carol hughes

flash! flash!

Catherine Hukill expressed an interest in acting as a teenager in her native Chicago. She performed a song-and-dance act with her cousin in several local productions. In the middle 1920s, she teamed up with Frank Faylen and toured the vaudeville circuit as “Faylen and Hughes,” where she played the role of the “dumb girl” to the delight of audiences. In 1928, she married Faylen. Soon, the couple headed to Hollywood to persue careers in movies.

After signing on as a contract player with Warner Brothers, her name was changed to “Carol Hughes” by studio executives. She was given bit parts in a number of “B” pictures. She worked her way up to speaking roles, eventually landing lead roles in Meet the Boy Friend, Marry the Girl, Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, and The Westland Case, all in 1937.

The late 1930s saw Carol transition to Westerns, appearing opposite Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, the two biggest cowboy stars on the silver screen. In 1940, she was cast in her most notable role — “Dale Arden,” femme fatale to Buster Crabbe’s heroic “Flash Gordon” in the 12-part serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, the last of the “Flash Gordon” serials for Universal Pictures.

The 40s saw Carol’s roles dwindle to small parts in Mighty Joe Young and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. She returned to the stage, although she took a few more small roles in the early 1950s before calling it a career. Her husband, Frank Faylen, enjoyed a successful career as a character actor with more than 200 credits over five decades. Despite appearances in It’s A Wonderful Life, Gone With The Wind, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and even Funny Girl, Faylen is best remembered as irascible grocer “Herbert T. Gillis,” father of the title character on the sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Carol remained married to Faylen for 57 years until his death in 1985.

Carol passed away in 1995 at the age of 85, after being retired from show business for nearly 40 years.

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DCS: duncan hines

let them eat cake

Duncan Hines worked tirelessly, criss-crossing the country selling letter openers and paper clips, as well as printing services for a Chicago based company. His sales routes took him all over, forcing stays in hotels and meals in one restaurant after another. In 1920s America, there were very few (if any) chain restaurants, so Duncan frequented single location eateries — each with varying degrees of quality. Duncan made notes of the good places — the ones that offered a substantial meal at a reasonable price. (A “reasonable price” in Duncan’s opinion was $1.35for a full-course meal.) He began making notes and compiling lists of the best places and the greatest values. He insisted on inspecting the kitchens of each dining establishment he visited. Duncan distributed his list to friends who were traveling. Soon, he self-published his findings in a book called Adventures in Good Eating. The book was so popular, it led to Duncan’s three-day-a-week syndicated column, also called Adventures in Good Eating. The column appeared in newspapers across the country and became the authority for travelers.

Through a deal with the Durkee’s Bakery Company of Homer, New York, Duncan introduced his own line of bread. After a year of success with his first foray into the baked goods business, he teamed up with entrepreneur Roy H. Park to form Hines-Park Foods. The new company licensed the “Duncan Hines” name to various companies, including Nebraska Consolidated Mills, who produced cake mixes. In 1957, Nebraska Consolidated Mills sold the cake mix business to the consumer products company Procter & Gamble. The company expanded the business to the national market and added a series of related products.

Duncan Hines passed away in 1959, eleven days before his 79th birthday. “Duncan Hines” is one of the most widely recognized and respected brands of consumer food products. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t cook.

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inktober52: red

I dood it!
I first became familiar with Red Skelton when I was a kid. My family, like most families across the country, watched Red Skelton’s variety show every Tuesday night. I didn’t know who Red Skelton was or why he had such an unusual first name, but my parents watched, therefore I watched it too. Red had guest stars perform with him on his show, usually some actor or actress that was popular at the time or one of Red’s “show biz” contemporaries, like John Wayne or Jack Benny. He played goofy characters for cheap laughs. He also featured a silent pantomime segment, for which he was apparently famous. His show finally was cancelled after nearly twenty years, in a network-wide “sweep” of variety shows that saw heavy-hitters like Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan get the ax. Red was bitter, since his show rated in the top ten for most of its run.

When I got older, I discovered that Red Skelton had a huge career before his foray into television. It seemed in the 1930s and 40s, Red Skelton was a pretty big star in films. Red often was the featured “comic relief,” most notably in a few of the Dr. Kildare film series. Then he appeared in a succession of films as the inept radio detective “The Fox.” He moved on to lavish musicals opposite Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller and Lucille Ball, playing the unlikely leading man. He was one of the first “movie stars” to make the leap to the new medium of television, doing so in 1951.

Red Skelton, along with fellow redhead Lucille Ball and song-and-dance-man Buddy Ebsen, was one of those rare performers who had success in two separate careers, appealing to two separate generations.

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DCS: herk harvey

cut!

Upon his discharge from the US Navy after World War II, Herk Harvey took a teaching position in the drama department at the University of Kansas. He decided against a career in chemical engineering, the trade he mastered in the service, opting to use the directorial experience he gained before the war.

Herk did some acting on the side at Centron Corporation, an independent industrial and educational film production company in Lawrence, Kansas. He eventually joined the staff at Centron as a director and writer. He made numerous films for corporations and governmental use. He worked with a variety of name stars over the years, including Walter Pidgeon, Rowan and Martin, Dennis Day, Louis Nye, Billy Barty, Anita Bryant, Eddie Albert, Ed Ames, Jesse White, and Ricardo Montalban. He won many awards for his work, including the highest honors from the American Film Festival. Herk was praised for the special effects innovations that he developed while working at Centron.

In 1961, Herk was returning from a work-related film shoot in California. He passed an abandoned resort called Saltair on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. He was taken by the ornate building and recruited John Clifford, a co-worker at Centron, to write the screenplay for a film idea based on the resort. Herk took three weeks off from work to film around Lawrence, Kansas and Salt Lake City, Utah. He raised $17,000 for his initial budget, getting an additional $13,000 on deferment. He hired an assistant director. Reza Badiyi, a young immigrant who was just beginning his film work in the United States. (Badiyi would go on to create some of the most well-known, iconic television series openings and montages, including: Hawaii Five-O, Get Smart, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.) Through arrangements with local government, Herk was permitted free access to film on a bridge, providing he repair any damage his crew created. He ended up paying $38 to fix a guard rail through which a car crashed on the bridge. Herk bribed a salesgirl to allow him to film for thirty minutes in a Lawrence department store. The only cast member that received compensation was Candace Hilligoss, a budding professional actress who played the lead role of “Mary.” Candace received $2000. The result of Herk’s efforts was the supernatural horror film Carnival of Souls.

Released in late 1962, Carnival of Souls was panned by critics. Disappointed by its poor showing, Herk returned to Centron and never directed another commercial film again. However, in later years, Carnival of Souls gained a cult following and has since been praised for its foreboding atmosphere and homage to German expressionist cinema. George Romero and David Lynch have both cited Carnival of Souls as inspiration for their own work.

After retiring from Centron, Herk became a regular on the horror convention circuit where he signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans. When asked why he only directed one film, Herk would quickly reply, “I directed over 400 films!”

Herk passed away in 1996 at his home in Lawrence. He was 71. The Academy Film Archive selected Carnival of Souls for preservation in 2012.

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DCS: ja’net dubois

movin' on up

Jeanette Dubois was born in either New York or Philadelphia on August 5, 1932 or possibly 1938 or maybe even 1945… sources are not clear. It is clear, however, that she appeared with the great Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Gossett Jr. in Golden Boy on Broadway in 1964. In 1970, using the more exotic “Ja’Net” as her first name, she was cast in a small role in the film Diary of a Mad Housewife. The same year, she landed the part of “Loretta Allen” in the popular soap opera Love of Life, making her the first African-American regular cast member on a daytime serial. Ja’Net played the role for three years.

Prolific television producer Norman Lear saw Ja’Net in a production of the play Hot l Baltimore and cast her as feisty outspoken neighbor “Willona Woods” on the TV sitcom Good Times, a spin-off of Maude (which was itself a spin-off from All in the Family) and a vehicle for actress Esther Rolle. During the run of Good Times, Ja’Net’s character adopted a young daughter, played by future superstar Janet Jackson. In 1987, Ja’Net would play Janet’s mother again in the latter’s video for the song “Control.”

After Good Times concluded its network run, Ja’Net was featured in films for the first time in over a decade. Among her big screen appearances were roles in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka and Heart Condition. She also recorded three albums, two of which were released on her own label. Ja’Net’s singing career should come as no surprise. She co-wrote and sang the theme to another one of Norman Lear’s programs — The Jeffersons. She was awarded two Emmys for her voice-over work on the animated show The PJs. She was also recognized with a TV Land Award in 2006 as part of the ensemble cast of Good Times.

Ja’Net passed away in February 2020. Because of her disputed birth year, her actual age was unknown. After her death, Ja’Net’s family made unsubstantiated claims that her birth father was band leader Cab Calloway.

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DCS: mia zapata

evil stig

Mia Zapata learned to play piano and guitar at the age of nine, influenced by Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Sam Cooke. In 1986, at the age of 21, Mia and three friends formed a band called The Gits. After playing around the Yellow Springs, Ohio area and the campus of Antioch College, Mia and her band relocated to Seattle to join the blossoming music scene. Mia took a job at a bar and the band released a series of well-received singles over a period of a few years. They enjoyed popularity on the local music scene and release their first full-length album, Frenching the Bully, in 1992.

Mia was a charismatic focus and a rare female voice in the male-dominated grunge and punk circles in Seattle. Never wishing to be political, Mia felt more comfortable connecting with her audience on a personal level. The Gits gained a rabid fan base among the feminist movement in Seattle, despite the rest of the band being male.

At 2 AM on July 7, 1993, Mia left the Comet Tavern in Seattle. She popped her headphones on to take the block-long walk to the studio apartment she rented. She never reached home. At 2:15 AM, she was attacked in the residential Central District of Seattle. Her assailant brutally strangled, raped and murdered Mia, leaving her body to be discovered an hour later by a woman also walking home. Mia carried no identification. A medical examiner, however, was a fan of The Gits and was able to identify the singer. Mia was 27 years old.

The Seattle music community — including members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden — raised money to hire a private investigator. After three years, funds dried up and they were no closer to solving the crime. The investigator continued to search on her own for another five years, still turning up nothing. In 2003, a Florida fisherman named Jesus Mezquia was arrested in connection with Mia’s murder. A DNA profile for Mezquia was created from saliva found on Mia’s body. A match was reported on a DNA database after Mezquia was arrested for burglary and domestic abuse. He had a history of violence towards woman, as shown by the numerous complaints filed by his ex-girlfriends and his wife. Although he maintained his innocence, Mezquia was sentenced to 37 years in prison. An appeal brought the sentence to 36 years.

In 1994, Enter: The Conquering Chicken, The Gits’ second album — the one they were working on when Mia was murdered — was released.

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inktober52: elephant

It appears, after more than a decade, Illustration Friday (illustrationfriday.com) has packed it in. After failing to post a weekly prompt time and time again, the link (as you will see) now goes right to Illustration Age, the website that hosts the former illustration challenge. I was a regular contributor to Illustration Friday, having never missed a week since 2006. I have 662 posts on my blog tagged “IF.”

Inktober, another illustration website, offers a daily drawing challenge during the month of October. I have participated in the Inktober challenge for a few years now… on my own terms (because I do everything on my own terms). Because I was submitting to Illustration Friday and my own Dead Celebrity Spotlight, I limited my work for Inktober to a weekly submission. Well, just this year, Inktober introduced “Inktober 52.” They are posting a suggestion each week on Instagram, keeping the new one hidden until the week it is revealed. This has been going on since January 2020. In the absence of Illustration Friday, I’m gonna jump in now.

The first word is “elephant,” and I’m trying a different style, too.

never forget

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