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Bon Anniversaire, Julia Child

I don’t know anyone, at least of my foodie friends, who didn’t want to rush home to make bouef bourguignon after watching Meryl Streep play Julia Child in Julie and Julia. Not many actually gave it a try, as far as I know, not having been invited for dinner, but it’s not too late to crank up the oven to 450 degrees and break out the beef, bacon, and Beaujolais, young and full-bodied.  Her recipes are all over the Internet and her many cookbooks are still in print.

Photo by: WorthThe Whisk

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the popular chef and television personality, this past August restaurants nationwide took part in a Julia Child Restaurant Week.  I offer some of her thoughts on cooking right (if not light), dining out, and eating well.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

“This is Julia Child.  Bon appetit.”

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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“Very fine hamburger.”  Julia Child with Dave Letterman:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHX0pv8_JOE

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Marilyn Monroe Revisited

One hundred years ago on August 5, the International Herald Tribuneran the following article:

Marilyn and Shrek on Hollywood Boulevard. Photo by: Susan Marg

“A Call for Modest Dressing”

NEW YORK — An appeal is addressed by Miss G. Trenholm, the settlement worker, to fashionable women to inaugurate an era of modest dressing. Miss Trenholm declares that the greatest problem confronting the United States is the extravagance, inefficiency, lack of modesty, and selfishness of its women and young girls. Working girls, she says, slavishly imitate the styles of dress set by their fashionable sisters. She said there is quite a “subtle poisoning of all our femininity, and it is not working upward from poverty into prosperity, but downward from prosperity into poverty.”

—–

Values change.  Styles change.  And life in these United States changes.

Fifty years later, also on August 5, The International Herald Tribune ran the following article:

Marilyn Monroe Dies”

HOLLYWOOD — Actress Marilyn Monroe, sex symbol of her generation, was found dead early today [Aug. 5], her nude body lying face down on her bed and her hand clutching a telephone. Police said Miss Monroe, 36, took an overdose of barbiturates. A bottle which contained 40 to 50 sleeping pills was found empty by her bed when police arrived.

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This past August on the same date, 20th Century Fox, which had employed Monroe for most of her career, released a seven-disc Blu-Ray boxed set with five remastered Fox titles in which she starred, including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, River of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, as well as Some Like It Hot and The Misfits from United Artists.  The New York Times described the image and sound quality as “simply superb.”

Now recognized as much as being a fashion icon for her form-fitting, curve-enhancing attire, platinum blonde hair, and bright red lipstick as for her star turns on the big screen, Marilyn Monroe lives on.

Some things never change.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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‘Tis the 75th Season: In Old Del Mar

This week it was off to the races at the Del Mar Racetrack, celebrating its 75thanniversary.

Bing Crosby sings. Photo by: Thomas Hawk

Bing Crosby, a horseracing enthusiast, convinced his Hollywood friends, like Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Durante, to raise money to build the venue.  He personally greeted the arriving guests when the Turf Club opened to the public in July 1937.  At a time when the sport was second only to popularity to major league baseball, the success of the venture was never in doubt.

It was somewhat of a surprise, however, when Crosby’s horse, High Strike, won the first race.  The fix wasn’t in, but it might have seemed that way.

This year opening-day attendance of 47,339 set a record, the eighth in a row.  They bet $14.1 million, compared to $13.2 million a year ago.

Jockey Chantal Sutherland on trainer Kristin Mulhall’s Miss California won the first race.   This was hardly surprising.  The petite, of course, blonde jockey with the model-good looks is closing in on 1,000 races and $45 million dollars in earnings.  In 2011 she was the first woman to win the Santa Anita Handicap, and she had won the Hollywood Gold Cup only a couple of weeks earlier.

But even the poster girl in the racetrack’s advertising campaign this season has her moments.  Just after the start of the seventh race she was – how to say this nicely – dumped by her mount Sir Hamilton.  She wasn’t hurt, except maybe for her pride, and she was given the okay to ride in the tenth race.

One of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” in 2006 she has a good sense of her chosen profession.  “This game is tough,” she declared after being thrown. “One minute you’re on top and winning, the next you’re gum at the bottom of someone’s shoe.”

Bing Crosby couldn’t have said it better, even if he put it to music.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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For anyone for whom Christmas can’t be here soon enough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8swRkzkO2s&feature=related

 

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Good Housekeeping Hollywood Style

Despite her quips on her housekeeping, Zsa Zsa Gabor purchased her current abode in 1973 for $250,000.  Now on the market for $15 million, she claims that both Howard Hughes and Elvis Presley had once lived there (although not together), which may or may not be true.

For Sale – Just Reduced

Regardless, the gated French Regency-style mansion in the exclusive Bel Air neighborhood was the scene of countless parties attended by la crème de la crème.  Queen Elizabeth of England and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, a queen in her own mind, attended one dinner.  Other frequent guests included Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Kirk Douglas, who enjoyed eating sausage with her and one of her  sisters in the kitchen.

The 6,393 square-foot edifice built in 1955 sits on a one-acre site.  It is comprised of 28 rooms, including the master bedroom with a two-room closet, four guest bedrooms, five baths, breakfast nook, butler’s pantry, an enclosed patio, an oversized dining room, a recreation room with a fifteen-foot long bar, a formal sitting room, a roof top terrace, and staff quarters.

There’s also a heated pool where Zsa Zsa swam naked in the morning.

Inside or out, the views of downtown Los Angeles and westward to Santa Monica and Catalina Island are magnificent,

Movie-star glamour is evident everywhere, from Zsa Zsa’s portraits to her photographs posing with a veritable who’s who of twentieth-century society, here and abroad. “It’s like walking through a museum,” effusively exclaimed Christophe Choo, the listing agent.

While Choo admits the property needs some remodeling, he estimates, “I think a potential buyer would come in and spend a million dollars or so… and make it special.”

It’s certainly worth a look:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5KBgxmwSkk

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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The Girl with the Pet Dragon

Photo by: Oolong

Betty White doesn’t really have a pet dragon, but I bet she would if she could.  She adores animals –fast or slow, tame or wild, or on the land or in the water. She considered Koko the gorilla her friend, and she fell in love with a great white whale named Beethoven.  She has a collection of stuffed animals, too.

Betty’s love affair with all creatures big and small are just some of the many anecdotes she recounts in her book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), published in 2011.  She was eighty-nine years old when she wrote her latest memoir long hand and starring in the hit television comedy Hot in Cleveland.  It’s a wonder she found the time – or the energy.

There are no surprises here, but some great stories.

Okay, I was surprised to learn that Ms. White joined The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the Happy Homemaker, Sue Ann Niven, in its fourth season, and at most she appeared in less than half of the twenty-two episodes produced each year.  I distinctly remember her entering the newsroom to look for Lou or rub Murray’s bald spot at least once every program.

With Betty playing against type, her husband Allen Ludden was frequently asked, “How close to Sue Ann is Betty?”  To which he replied, “They’re really the same character – except Betty can’t cook.”

I wasn’t surprised that Ludden was the love of her life, and she believes that he is always with her.

Betty admits she occasionally meets someone she might like to know better, but she has always preferred men who are older than she is.  At her age, they’re very hard to come by.

As far as getting older, Ms. White points out that it helps to be in sound health and have a good sense of humor, while best friends are a joy all life through.  They gathered around on her televised 90th birthday party to wish her well.

During the special, some very good-looking young men swept her off her feet in a song and dance number.  Although no cougar, she is young-at-heart and handled the situation with the spirit of a twenty-something.

She has no comment on getting a tattoo.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Justice Ginsburg Rights a Wrong

Imagine having to evacuate a plane using the emergency chutes and finding out that one of your fellow passengers was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  This happened earlier this week to 197 passengers bound for San Francisco from Dulles International Airport after the pilot noticed something was wrong with the engine.

Lady Justice rules. Photo by: bobosh t

“I am shaking.  I don’t yet know why.  People were screaming,” tweeted one traveler.

There were no reports of Ginsburg screaming.  Staying cool, calm, and collected under pressure is a trait all Supreme Court Justices should possess, especially one who is the second woman elevated to the nation’s highest court, the first being Sandra Day O’Connor.

With the court on break until October, the justice has been traveling.  A couple of weeks ago she attended the four-day Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference held at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California.

I was having dinner with a friend at the hotel’s BlueFire Grill when I noticed a large party near the maitre d’ waiting to be seated.   A tiny, older woman in the middle of the group looked very familiar. She was nicely dressed, slightly hunched over, her hair pulled back tight in a bun, and wearing oversized glasses.  Did I know her? I couldn’t quite place her.  And who were those big, burly guys in suits with the walkie-talkies and microphones jammed into their ears?

Oh, yes, the Secret Service.  And the woman was none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  It was thrilling.

Conference-attendees were also pleased to see Ginsburg.   “It says a lot about the justices personally that they come here,” noted one.

Justice Ginsburg’s role at the conference was to preside over a re-enactment of an 1872 case brought by Myra Bradwell against Illinois for twice denying her application to the state bar because of her gender in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Illinois Chief Justice, in explaining their decision, stated,  “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action.”

The United States Supreme Court was no more unbiased.  It ruled that the right to practice a profession was not guaranteed by the amendment and backed the state of Illinois.

One of the justices wrote, “The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life… The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

Well, thank God, times have changed.

Ginsburg herself, after ruling in Bradwell’s favor, commented, “I was very lucky to be born at the right time.”  She continued, “If I had been born a generation earlier, my arguments would have fallen on deaf ears.”

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Betty White: Not Just Hot, But Trustworthy, Too.

Would you trust this woman? Yes! Yes! And, yes! Photo by: Hysterical Bertha

Every time Allen Ludden, the bespectacled, gentlemanly host of the popular 1960s television game show Password, proposed to the queen of television Betty White, and he proposed often over the course of a year, she said “no.”  She said “no” for so long that when she finally said “yes” Ludden had used up most of his vacation courting her.

Rather than waiting until there was more time to plan a lavish ceremony and go someplace exotic for their honeymoon, the couple opted instead for a quickie wedding in Las Vegas followed by a short holiday in Laguna Beach, California.

But sometimes there are hitches when getting hitched.  Allen, who had never missed a plane in his life, missed his plane from New York to Los Angeles because he was caught in a traffic jam on his way to the airport.  Betty, upset and angry, thought it was a bad sign.

But she believed in him.  When Allen caught the next flight out, the soon-to-be-newlyweds were on their way to Las Vegas as planned. Betty’s parents were witnesses to the ceremony that took place in the wedding suite at the Sands Hotel on June 14, 1963.

The Luddens had a strong, happy marriage. It lasted until Allen’s death eighteen years later. In her book In Person Betty wondered why she hesitated for so long before accepting his proposal. Yet she knows that they stayed together because they thought of themselves as a unit, rather than two separate entities

Ah, it’s a matter of trust.  She trusted him to have her back, and he trusted her.  Trust goes a long way in building a relationship.

It turns out many of us trust Miss White, not in love and marriage, but when shopping.  In a recent survey, more respondents named Betty as the celebrity whose endorsement they were most likely to consider when deciding between one brand and another.  Paris Hilton, not so much.  She was at the bottom of the list.

A sense of humor helps, too.  And Betty has that in spades.

She starred in sitcoms in the fifties, including Life with Elizabeth and Date with the Angels.  Okay, not too many of us remember either show. But who can forget her as Sue Ann Nivens, the host of “The Happy Homemaker” on the Mary Tyler Moore Show? She was ingratiating on camera and just the opposite in the office.

Or what about sweet and caring, if a bit naïve, Rose Nylund on Golden Girls?  Now that was a character audiences could get behind.

As Catherine Piper on Boston Legal, she said what she thought, never playing softball.  Telling her boss, lawyer Alan Shore, what she thought of him, she declared, “Most people aren’t able to see that beneath your slick and sensitive exterior, deep down you really are douche bag.” Still, he kept her from a life behind bars for murdering her murderous boyfriend.

Betty’s role in a 2010 Snickers commercial brought her new fans. After a vigorous Facebook campaign lobbying for her to host Saturday Night Live, she finally said “yes.”   In her introduction on the show, she noted, “Many of you know I’m 88 and a half years old.  It’s great to be here for a number of reasons.”

Now she’s beloved in Hot in Cleveland.  Paris, no longer hot, can take a cue from Betty White.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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I hate failure and that divorce was a Number One failure in my eyes. It was the worst period of my life. Neither Desi nor I have been the same since, physically or mentally.

— Lucille Ball

 

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I Love Lucy. Who Doesn’t?

All dressed up. Photo by: elena-lu

I Love Lucy premiered on CBS on October 15, 1951.

The first four episodes put it in the top ten shows on the air.  In three months it was overshadowing Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts with its variety acts, then the most popular series on television.

By its second season, thirty-four million regulars viewers regularly tuned in to watch the madcap Lucy Ricardo, her husband Ricky, the fiery Cuban bandleader, and their neighbors the Mertzes go about their everyday lives that by the end of the day were turned inside out and upside down.

It was part of the pleasure that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz who played Lucy and Ricky were married to each other.

Looking back, if you love Lucy, not only the television character, but also the woman behind the comic persona, you have to admire Desi.

Without a doubt it was Ball’s innate comic genius that made her character Lucy as enduring as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Yet, it was Desi who gave her the support and encouragement for her to shine.

And it was Desi whose business sense created their television empire.

They formed Desilu Productions in 1950 to prove that the public would accept them as husband and wife.  Within a few short years, the company expanded to include a studio, and it bought RKO Pictures, bringing the total number of sound stages in its domain to thirty-three, more than either MGM or Twentieth Century-Fox in the same period, with over two thousand people on their payroll.

Meanwhile the couple had been starring in an average of thirty episodes for each of the first six seasons of I Love Lucy.  It was a labor of love, but they were drowning in work.

To keep their heads above water, they changed the format to one hour, reduced the number of episodes, and renamed the program The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.  It lasted another three seasons.

It must be love. Photo by: elena-lu

Life preservers only work if one holds on.  Desi couldn’t.  His schedule was jam-packed with meetings, phone calls, paperwork, and rehearsals.  He had always been a drinker, and he began drinking more.  He enjoyed the Del Mar racetrack, making it a second home, and he took pleasure in the company of women.  When he was arrested for driving drunk in a well-known Los Angeles red-light district, it was only a matter of time before the couple broke up.

As unhappy as Lucy was, however, she wouldn’t let go.  She tried to rescue their relationship, insisting on family vacations, consulting with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, doing whatever she thought might make a difference, but nothing changed.

The day after filming the very last episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1960, she filed for divorce, charging her husband with extreme cruelty and subjecting her to grievous mental suffering.

Their divorce was a bombshell.  Despite gossip columnists hinting at it for months, their fans believed that Lucy and Desi could work out their problems.  Hadn’t they been doing so for years right in front of their very eyes?

Despite the harsh accusations and angry words, Lucy and Desi remained friends.  And sixty years later we continue to watch, to laugh, to love.


© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Feeling Hot Hot Hot in Chicago

That platinum blond hair.  Those red-lacquered toenails and bright lipstick.  A white halter dress… and matching panties.

Yep, that’s Marilyn Monroe looming over passersby in Chicago’s Pioneer Court.  The 26’ tall statue by artist Seward Johnson was revealed  last week as the sweltering day gave way to a more comfortable summer evening.  It received both criticism and acclaim.  Is it sexy or sexist?  Public art or a tourist ploy?  And why Chicago?

Photo by: Joshua Melin

“Forever Marilyn” captures the iconic moment in Billy Wilder’s 1955 The Seven Year Itch in which Monroe stands over a New York subway grate, enjoying the breeze created by passing trains below.

While the scene was actually filmed on a soundstage in Hollywood, movie stills were taken at Lexington and 52nd Street creating a great deal of publicity.  Stories about Marilyn had dominated the news for days.

When she arrived in town to begin filming, one paper ran the headline, “Marilyn Wiggles In.”

Another announced, “There won’t be any admission charge when Marilyn appears for the shooting of street sequences for her new film… Miss Monroe’s costume is expected to be more revealing than the one she wore yesterday to stop traffic.”

Not surprisingly, fifteen hundred fans showed up, including her husband, Joe DiMaggio.  He had followed her from Los Angeles to the Big Apple, concerned about her welfare, as well as being disturbed by the commotion she was causing.  He was the jealous type.

Dropping by Toots Shor’s, a hangout for celebrities of the day, he met up with columnist Walter Winchell who induced him to check out the scene.  And what a scene!

The crowd was whooping and hollering, cheering and shouting.  “More, more, Marilyn,” they chanted. “We want to see more.”  With the aid of a wind-blowing machine, her skirt whipped around and flew up and down, exposing not only her bare legs but also her dark pubic hair through two pairs of panties.  The spectacle continued for  five long hours.

The media hype disgusted DiMaggio, as did his belief in his wife’s willing participation in the promotion.  “I’ve had it,” he shouted and left.  There were reports that he knocked her around later that night.

Two months later Monroe filed for divorce.  The marriage of the movie star and the Yankee Clipper had lasted less than ten months.  The lustful leering goes on forever.

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved