Calloway, Before the Cab Came

blanche calloway to follow

Blanche Calloway (1904-1978) was a Jazz singer, bandleader, and composer from Baltimore, Maryland. And she was the older sister of a guy named Cab…yep, that would be Cab Calloway. While not as many people may recognize her name the same way you do her sibling, she may have been the very first female to lead an all male orchestra. Her brother credited her for inspiring him to begin a career in show business. Blanche’s first recordings was as a sideman in Louis Armstrong sessions in 1925.
You can see the family resemblance. Just another piece of history that seems to have slipped through the cracks.

A Woman of Firsts

helen richey to follow

Helen Richey was Amelia Earhart’s copilot on one flight across the Atlantic. She also was a lot of FIRSTS: first woman hired to be a pilot by a commercial airline in the United States, first woman licensed as an aviation instructor, and the first woman to fly a scheduled mail flight. To top off her brilliant career during WWII she commanded a group of women pilots for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, flying bombs between factories and airbases. She lived a pretty exciting and groundbreaking life, and ended too soon. At the age of 38 she killed herself.

Bacon Left Through the Window

Faith Bacon by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Faith Bacon by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Self-proclaimed inventor of the “Fan Dance” Faith Bacon was born in 1909. Her dancing career began with no training on whim in Paris in the 1920’s. Flowers, bubbles, and fans were used in her all nude revue shows.
Bacon returned to the Unites States and appeared on Broadway in 1928-1929. To sidestep the indecent exposure laws that prohibited dancers from moving while nude on stage, she stood still while lights played over her naked body. While clever and a lovely image it did not stop her from being arrested in 1930 for breaking the exposure law in 1930, the case was eventually thrown out.
Later, in the early 30’s Faith performed in Ziegfeld Follies. Glamming it up for three years with one of the most illustrious revue’s there was during this time. She was voted “The Most Beautiful Showgirl on Broadway”. Her new title allowed Faith to ride on the waves it created for a few years.
In 1933 upon hearing that her rival, Sally Rand, would be performing at the Worlds Fair, she created a show called “The Original Fan Dancer” to rub in it Sally’s face and make it clear to Rand that she felt that she had ripped off her act. Sally seemed to dismiss Bacon’s jibes as petty.

Faith Bacon and her 'Fan Dance'

Faith Bacon and her ‘Fan Dance’

Due to her reputation for being difficult and a bit of a diva, Faith Bacons career began to decline after her World Fair performance. She spent the next several years filing lawsuits, the biggest one against Rand for stealing her “Fan Dance”, but there were several others against various people that she worked for. Until eventually, she could not get a job.
In 1950, she was recognized by a former fellow dancer in an alley way behind a theater in Seattle, Washington, the woman thought she was homeless until she realized who it was.
On September 16th, 1956 a woman leapt from her second story apartment in Chicago. Her roommate had tried to grab her skirt to hold her back, but all she was left with was torn piece of cloth. Faith Bacon, the once beautiful and imaginative dancer, killed herself, pining for the spotlight that eluded her in the end. With on one to claim her body the American Guild of Variety Artists stepped up and arranged for her burial. She was only 46 years old.

Faith Bacon 1930's

Faith Bacon 1930’s

The Million Dollar Legs Ran Down the Funny Man

 

 

 

Susan Fleming

Susan Fleming

Susan Fleming was beautiful she started off as a Ziegfeld Girl, which launched her into a film career that took off like a shooting star (pun totally intended). She was known as “Girl with the Million Dollar Legs” long before Betty Grable was on the scene, due to a movie where she played W.C. Fields daughter with the title “Million Dollar Legs,” 1932. The studio even insured her legs as a publicity stunt

Susan Fleming during her Ziegfeld days

Susan Fleming during her Ziegfeld days

for the million to drum up interest for the film. But, surprisingly she hated being an actress, she found it horribly monotonous.
The unhappy actress was seated next to Harpo Marx at a dinner party, and she was captivated from the start. She pursued him relentlessly; she was not going to let him get away, proposing to him numerous times over four years until he finally said yes. Poor guy had nowhere to hide! The exquisite Fleming happily gave up acting to raise the couples four adoptive children, act as Marx’s valet, pursue the Harp and other musical instruments, make frames for her husband’s paintings and painting her works of art. They were a couple that did everything as a team.
When asked by George Burns in 1948 how many children he planned to adopt Harpo answered: “I’d like to adopt as many children as I have windows in my house. So when I leave for work, I want a kid in every window, waving goodbye.” They were a close family of 6.
After the last Marx movie was filmed they moved to Palm Springs, California. Where they both pursued their

Harpo Marx and Susan Fleming

Harpo Marx and Susan Fleming

interests and became civically involved. On their 28th wedding anniversary, September 28th, 1964 Harpo Marx left his beautiful bride and died at the age of 75.
Susan outlived her husband by 40 years, living as an activist and artist until her death in 2002 at the age of 92.

The Ewwww Factor Rose a Notch

Ed Gein

Ed Gein

This is Edward Theodore Gein or Ed Gein, he was born in 1906 in Plainfield, Wisconsin. Pretty sure with a name like Plainfield, that you wouldn’t think that there would be a body snatcher or murderer, but that is just what Eddie was. He would dig bodies up and “do things” with their bodies. Making trophies and keepsakes out of the flesh and the bones of the corpses. He also confessed to killing two women, tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954 and hardware store owner Bernice Warden in 1957. He was found unfit for trial but in 1968 was sentenced to life inprisonment, which he spent in a mental hospital.
He was the muse for fictional killers; Norman Bates in the movie and the novel “Psycho”. Leatherface (Ewwww…are you getting a picture of what he did with the corpse skin, just in case you are not there was a corset made of skin, and a belt made of nipples?) in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Jame Gumb or Buffalo Bill in the “Silence of the Lambs”, there are quite a few more but I am sure the picture is crystal clear. Gein died in 1984 from lung failure. And yes, I had goose bumps writing this.

Calculating Cupcake and American Icon

marilynmonroe14One month, a smattering of days, and 36 years was how long Norma Jean Mortenson was on this earth. Such a short little burst of time in the grand scheme of things. Iconic, legend, goddess, all words that are associated with the persona that would later be Marilyn Monroe. I think of her has dauntingly strong rather than insipid or soft, a survivor, and scary intelligent than most gave her credit for. Calculating, that is a word that I would use to describe our Icon, because she was as much ours as John Wayne was. She had a crummy early life, passed about, unloved, abused, sold off, and left behind. It scarred her, sure, who wouldn’t be scarred? But, she took stock saw that she had something that others wanted, built it into something that was larger than life, the sexy whisper, the sensual dimwit, suggestive walk, all deceptive…all for the fans. She was clever and shrewd. Her pain did her in, her ghosts followed her no matter where she went, but she fooled us all.
Your Table Awaits
Born June 1, 1926 – Died August 5, 1962

The Day the Crabs Fled and Other Yarns

My Grandfather enlisted in the Marine Corp in 1939. He arrived at Pearl Harbor December 6, 1941. He not only survived the following day December, 7, 1941, he survived during the entire war in the Pacific. He separated from the Marines at the end of WWII and was recalled again in during the Korean War. I lived with him and my Grandmother on and off while growing up, they were the closest

My Grandfather (left)

My Grandfather (left)

thing to a mother and father that I ever experienced. I always thought his war stories were “stories” like the John Wayne movies he forced me to watch. I never understood that his wild stories of bombs going off on beaches and thousands of crabs coming in from the sea were anything more than adventures made up to entertain a little girl who loved to hear her Grandfather talk and was easily impressed. I understand now that a lot of those narratives were tales of him losing his buddies, of choices made that meant life or death. Now that he is many years gone, I get it. I know that to my older cousins he is a hero because of his medals and service records. He is a smell to me, a sound, and a story. I miss him.

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