King Charles VII ruled France from 1422 until 1461, with his wife Queen Marie d’Anjou. The King, however, had a little something on the side. And that “little something” was Agnès Sorel.
Agnès was a 20 year-old “social climber,” who was known as Dame de beauté (Lady of Beauty). As was common at the time, Agnès was an intimate companion of the King. In fact, she became the first “official” Royal Mistress, though her duties included serving as “lady-in-waiting” to the Queen. But there was no waiting for Agnès or King Charles. Agnès bore the King four children during the course of his reign. Agnès also served as an advisor to King Charles on matters of state.
Agnès also fancied herself a fashion innovator and trend setter. She had dresses designed to her specifications. She popularized low-cut gowns for women, but hers were specially cut so one of her breasts was fully exposed. This was scandalous in the eyes of the King’s staff and other officials, especially Jean Juvénal des Ursins, the archbishop of Reims, who demanded that Agnès be forced to cover up. King Charles would have none of it. Agnès’s presence had brought the King out of a long depression, but her behavior made her many enemies.
Agnès died at the age of 28, the cause of which is debated. Some reports claimed she died of dysentery, a common malady of the time. Others say she was poisoned by enemies… another fairly common cause of death at the time.
In 1939, four-year old Jo Ann Marlow was discovered by a director from Warner Brothers Studios while on a family vacation to Hollywood. Star struck, her family relocated to Southern California and little Jo Ann made her motion picture debut in Yankee Doodle Dandy playing a younger version of Jeanne Cagney’s character “Josie.” She would go on to appear in over a dozen more films including 1946 Best Picture Mildred Pierce, the Cole Porter biopic Night and Day and the big screen adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.
In the early 1950s, Jo Ann left her show business career for Loyola University and a law degree. After graduation, she soon became Chief Trial Lawyer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. She had no desire to return to her life in Hollywood and she had no regrets.
In 1968, just after finalizing her divorce, Jo Ann was involved in a serious car accident that left her in a coma. She remained in a coma for the next 22 years until her death in January 1991 at the age of 56.
When I try to sleep at night/I can only dream in red
Steve Biko only wanted what was right.
As a student at University of Natal, he was an active participant in anti-apartheid rallies and demonstrations organized on campus and beyond. He was at the forefront of the Black Consciousness Movement, a vocal opponent of apartheid. Under the pseudonym “Frank Talk,” Steve wrote and published articles expressing his views.
In the late 1960s, Steve was instrumental in the development of South African Students’ Organisation (SASO), a group focus on unifying activities among black college students. He continued his efforts to promote equality, adopting the phrase “Black is Beautiful” from a movement in the United States and making it an international slogan for his cause.
The government of South Africa sought to stop Steve Biko.
Steve was arrested at a roadblock specifically set up to trap him. He was taken to a police station, where he was beaten and interrogated relentlessly. In early September 1977, Steve was transferred to a police facility in Port Elizabeth. He was shackled and beaten for approximately 22 hours. Police officers later claimed that Steve attacked an officer, but that was impossible. His movements were greatly restricted by the manacles on his wrists and ankles. A government doctor examined him, stating he could find no physical injuries.
Steve died alone in a cell on September 12, 1977. He was 30 years old.
Steve Biko’s dream was that the Black Consciousness Movement would not degenerate into anti-white racism. He wished for a positive course of black self-confidence, with no hatred of anyone.
Angus Scrimm was best remembered for his portrayal of “The Tall Man” in Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm and its four sequels. With his imposing height and menacing scowl, Angus was the perfect choice for the role of the mysterious, supernatural undertaker that was the center of the film series.
But, Angus was the opposite of his big screen persona. He started his career as Lawrence Guy, a prolific and respected journalist, whose writing appeared in TV Guide and The Los Angeles Herald. He also worked for Capitol Records, contributing liner notes to releases from everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beatles. In 1974, he won a Grammy for his efforts.
Angus made his acting debut in 1951 in an 18-minute Encyclopedia Britannica educational film in which he portrayed Abraham Lincoln. After a twenty-year gap, Angus was featured in the psychological thriller Sweet Kills, using the name “Rory Guy.” He made a few more films until he was cast in Phantasm in 1979 under his new stage name “Angus Scrimm.” He went on to a productive career in film and television, with guest roles on Quincy, Trapper John MD and a recurring role in Alias. He even played Walt Disney’s father in a dramatization of the icon’s life on a segment of The Wonderful World of Disney.
I met Angus at a collector’s convention years ago, where he was seated behind a folding table signing autographs for fans. After purchasing a photo, I asked if he would mind posing for a photo with my son. At first he was hesitant, expressing his concern for my son’s health, as he revealed that he was currently battling a “nasty head cold.” He agreed to the photo, however, keeping a safe distance from my son. He sported a wide smile. He was soft-spoken, gracious and gentle — a surprising contrast from the malevolent figure he cut on the silver screen.
Angus passed away in 2016 at the age of 89, making one final appearance in a Phantasm film that was released posthumously.
Pretty Janis Dremann headed for New York City after graduating college in her native Cleveland. She adopted her grandmother’s easier to spell and pronounce surname “Carter” and dreamed of becoming an opera star on the New York stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Unfortunately, a case of the nerves at her audition dashed her singing dreams. Janis, however, was determined and she found a comfortable home on the Broadway stage, landing roles in DuBarry was a Lady and Panama Hattie. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was in the audience on the evening of her debut in Panama Hattie. Impressed with her performance, he signed the 27-year old actress to a movie deal.
Janis made her screen debut in Cadet Girl, alongside Carole Landis and George Montgomery in 1941. Over the next years, Janis co-starred in 30 films, appearing with popular box-office draws like Glenn Ford and John Wayne. After co-starring with Robert Young in the 1952 Western The Half-Breed, Janis bid farewell to Hollywood, returning to New York to try her hand at the budding television industry.
Finding plenty of roles in TV comedies and drama, Janis settled into a hostess role on the game show Feather Your Nest with host Bud Collyer. Although popular, it was a stint that would only last two years. In 1956, Janis married lumber tycoon Julius Stulman and she promptly left her show business career behind. Janis and her husband moved south where Janis became active in cultural and community activities.
Out of the spotlight for over forty years and living in near anonymity, Janis suffered a fatal heart attack in 1994. She passed away at the age of 80.
At 20 years old, Vanessa Marquez made her acting debut in the 1988 drama Stand By Me. She landed guest roles in television series and several forgettable movies before securing the part of “Nurse Wendy Goldman” in the popular medical drama ER. Later, she took a turn at comedy in a recurring role on the sitcom Malcolm & Eddie.
It was on a 2005 episode of the reality series Intervention where she was confronted by a group of friends and family trying to convince the actress to seek help with her on-going depression. Vanessa was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and agoraphobia that essentially ended her acting career. Friends later revealed that the treatment Vanessa received was unsuccessful.
In August 2018, police were called to Vanessa’s South Pasadena apartment. Her home was in disarray and she told officers and accompanying medical personnel that she was having a seizure. However, when authorities approached her front entrance, Vanessa raised and pointed a gun at them. The officers — who at first retreated — called for her to drop the weapon. When she refused and continued to advance on them, they fired. Vanessa was shot and killed. It was later determined that Vanessa’s weapon was a BB gun. An investigation concluded that officers acted in self-defense. Vanessa was 49 years-old.
In February 2019, Vanessa’s mother filed a wrongful death claim against the City of South Pasadena. The claim alleged a number of charges including battery, negligence, unlawful entry, wrongful death, negligent training, conspiracy, seizure of property, failure to summon prompt medical care and violation of the Bane Act, which forbids acts of violence because of race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.
In March 2020, bodycam footage released by the police department show Vanessa pleading with police to kill her while she wielded the gun.
Vanessa’s cremated remains were scattered at the Hollywood sign.