Featuring: Ricky Gervais

Today I’m featuring a comedian who is funny, daft, sensitive and deadly honest. I love this man as he always searches for truths and can turn sadness into laughter. He is a realist and makes many of us aware of our human emotions, all in good spirit.

Ricky Dene Gervais (1961) is an English comedian, actor, director, and writer. He is best known for co-creating, co-writing, and acting in the British television mockumentary sitcom The Office (2001–2003). He has won seven BAFTA Awards, five British Comedy Awards, two Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and the Rose d’Or twice (2006 and 2019), and has been nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2007, he was placed at No. 11 on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and at No. 3 in their 2010 list. In 2010, he was included in the Time 100 list of World’s Most Influential People.

Gervais initially worked in the music industry. He attempted a career as a pop star in the 1980s as the singer of the new-wave act Seona Dancing, and managed the then-unknown band Suede before turning to comedy. He appeared on The 11 O’Clock Show on Channel 4 between 1998 and 2000, garnering a reputation as an outspoken and sharp-witted social provocateur. In 2000, he was given a Channel 4 spoof talk show, Meet Ricky Gervais. He achieved greater mainstream fame the following year with his BBC television mock documentary series The Office, followed by Extras in 2005, both of which he co-wrote and co-directed with Stephen Merchant, and in which he played the lead roles of David Brent (The Office) and Andy Millman (Extras). He starred in the 2016 comedy film David Brent: Life on the Road, which he also wrote and directed.

Gervais began his stand-up career in the late 1990s. He has performed five multinational stand-up comedy tours, and he wrote the Flanimals book series. Gervais, Merchant, and Karl Pilkington created the podcast The Ricky Gervais Show, which has spawned various spin-offs starring Pilkington and produced by Gervais and Merchant. Gervais has also starred in the Hollywood films Ghost Town, the Night at the Museum trilogy, For Your Consideration, and Muppets Most Wanted. He wrote, directed, and starred in The Invention of Lying and the Netflix-released Special Correspondents. He hosted the Golden Globe Awards in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, and again in 2020. Gervais also appeared on the game show Child Support. He is also the creator, executive producer, director, and writer of the Netflix comedy series After Life, where he plays the lead role of Tony Johnson.

Gervais attended Whitley Park Infants and Junior Schools and received his secondary education at Ashmead Comprehensive School. After a gap year which he spent working as a gardener at the University of Reading, he attended University College London (UCL) in 1980. He intended to study biology but changed to philosophy after two weeks, and was awarded an upper second-class honours degree in the subject from University of London in 1983. During his time there, he met Jane Fallon, with whom he has been in a relationship since 1982.

In 1983, during his final year as a student at University College London, Gervais and his best friend Bill Macrae formed the new wave pop duo Seona Dancing. They were signed by London Records, which released two of their singles—”More to Lose” and “Bitter Heart”. The songs failed to make the UK Singles Chart. Despite not being successful in the UK, Seona Dancing did manage to score a hit in the Philippines with “More to Lose”. Gervais also worked as the manager for Suede before they became successful in the 1990s.

In 2013, Gervais performed a live tour as David Brent along with his band Foregone Conclusion, Brent’s fictional band in The Office. He and the band performed songs written under the Brent character, including “Equality Street” and “Free Love Freeway”. Gervais also produced a series of YouTube videos, ‘Learn Guitar with David Brent’, featuring acoustic guitar versions of nine songs.

In 2016, as part of the Life on the Road film promotion, Gervais published the David Brent Songbook of 15 songs, which he also recorded for the album Life on the Road as David Brent and Foregone Conclusion.

After the first series of The Office, Gervais and Merchant worked at Xfm in November 2001 for a Saturday radio show, where they began working with Karl Pilkington, who produced the shows and later collaborated with them on their series of podcasts. In October 2017, Gervais began hosting the weekly radio show Ricky Gervais Is Deadly Sirius on Sirius XM, which ran until 2019.

Ricky also did some podcasting featuring Gervais, Merchant, and Karl Pilkington. Throughout January and February 2006 the podcast was consistently ranked the number 1 podcast in the world. It appeared in the 2007 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most-downloaded podcast, with an average 261,670 downloads per episode during its first month. Two more series, each with six podcasts, were released between February and September 2006.

In late 2006, three more free podcasts were released. Together called “The Podfather Trilogy”, they debuted individually at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.These three were known by Gervais and Merchant as “The Fourth Season”. In October 2007 another free full-length podcast was released through iTunes, after being originally given out for free during a performance of Gervais’s Fame stand-up tour in London. On 25 November 2007 Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington released another free podcast of just over one hour.

In August 2008, Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington recorded their fifth series of audiobooks, totalling four chapters, which were released on 16 September 2008, and described as the ‘Guide To…’ series. As of May 2011, there are 12 ‘Guides’ to Medicine, Natural History, Arts, Philosophy, The English, Society, Law & Order, The Future, The Human Body, The Earth, The World Cup 2010, and Comic Relief. The conversations typically begin on topic and go out on tangents about other subjects.

In 2021, Gervais launched a paid-for audio series, Absolutely Mental, of his conversations with philosopher Sam Harris. Season 2 was also launched in 2021, followed by season 3 in March 2022.

Initially Gervais was most famous for the series The Office. The Office started when Stephen Merchant had to make his own short film while on a BBC production course. In August 1999 he made a docu-soap parody, set in an office, with help from Ash Atalla who was shown a 7-minute video called ‘The Seedy Boss’. Thus the character of David Brent was created. Merchant passed this tape on to the BBC’s Head of Entertainment Paul Jackson at the Edinburgh Fringe, who then passed it on to Head of Comedy Jon Plowman, who eventually commissioned a full-pilot script from Merchant and Gervais.

The first six-episode series of The Office aired in the UK in July and August 2001 to little fanfare or attention. Word-of-mouth, repeats, and DVDs helped spread the word, building up momentum and anticipation for the second series, also comprising six episodes. Following the success of The Office’s second series, Gervais was named the most powerful person in TV comedy by Radio Times.

In 2004, The Office won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy as well as Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy for Gervais, who said in a 2015 BBC interview that the award was the gateway to America for him.

The Office brand has since been remade for audiences in Sweden, France, Germany, Quebec, Brazil, Chile, The Czech Republic, Finland, India, Israel, Poland and the United States. Gervais and Merchant are producers of the American version, and they also co-wrote the episode “The Convict” for the show’s third season. Gervais has said that the episode “Training” is his favourite, where Brent plays his guitar and sings. In 2021, on the show’s 20th anniversary, he suggested the show would not have been produced in 2021 due to cancel culture: “I mean, now it would be cancelled. I’m looking forward to when they pick out one thing and try to cancel it. Someone said they might try to cancel it one day, and I say, ‘Good let them cancel it—I’ve been paid!’

Ricky also starred in a series called Extras. Extras had its debut on the BBC on 21 July 2005 and was directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The sitcom ran for twelve episodes and starred Gervais as Andy Millman, a background artist. Millman is more self-aware and intentionally humorous than Gervais’s The Office character David Brent. Guest stars on the first series of Extras include Ross Kemp, Les Dennis, Patrick Stewart, Vinnie Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet and Francesca Martinez. A second series began on 14 September 2006 in the UK and featured appearances by Daniel Radcliffe, Dame Diana Rigg, Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellen, Chris Martin, Keith Chegwin, Robert Lindsay, Warwick Davis, Ronnie Corbett, Stephen Fry, Richard Briers, Patricia Potter, Sophia Myles, Moira Stuart, David Bowie, Robert De Niro and Jonathan Ross.

A Rolling Stone article remarks that in making Extras, Gervais was influenced by Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, particularly in the format of celebrities making fools of themselves or subverting their public personas. I might like to add that Gervais don’t shy away from a good old ‘roast’, something that some comedians do, like Don Rickles, when they take the piss out of another celebrity just for fun.

In 2007, Gervais won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of Andy Millman in the second series of Extras. As Gervais was not present at the awards ceremony, the trophy was accepted on his behalf by Steve Carell, the actor who starred as regional manager Michael Scott—the counterpart to Gervais’s David Brent—on the American adaptation of The Office.

The Ricky Gervais Show is an animated TV show that debuted on US cable network HBO on 19 February 2010. In the UK, the first series began airing on 23 April 2010 on Channel 4. The show was developed using original podcast recordings from The Ricky Gervais Show starring Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington. After receiving an enthusiastic following in the US, HBO recommissioned the show for a second series, which aired in 2011, and a third series which started airing in April 2012.

Life’s Too Short began airing on BBC Two on 10 November 2011.Gervais and Stephen Merchant wrote this sitcom from an idea by Warwick Davis. It is described by Gervais as being about “the life of a showbiz dwarf” and as “a cross between Extras and The Office”. The show stars actor Davis playing a fictionalised version of himself, as well as Gervais and Merchant. Premium cable channel HBO, which co-produced the series with the BBC, had the US rights and began airing the series on 19 February 2012.

Another of creations was a show called An Idiot Abroad, a travel documentary where a reluctant Karl Pilkington travels around the world, with his reactions to people and places recorded. Occasionally, Gervais and Merchant call to surprise him with a new place to visit or task to do. Pilkington reports back mostly complaining about the situation. Gervais says there is no planning; a camera crew follows his friend around filming for many hours, which Gervais edits down to an hour each episode.

Two series and a Christmas special have aired; series one involves Pilkington visiting the Seven Wonders of the World. In the second show he chooses to complete tasks from a bucket list provided by Gervais and in the special Warwick Davis joins Pilkington on a journey following Marco Polo’s route from Italy to China.

In November 2011, Gervais filmed in London a 35-minute pilot episode for a potential comedy-drama series called Derek, which aired on Channel 4 on 12 April 2012.The pilot is solely written and directed by Gervais and features him in the title role of Derek Noakes, a 49-year-old retirement home worker, who “loves animals, Rolf Harris, Jesus, Deal or No Deal, Million Pound Drop, and Britain’s Got Talent.” The character first appeared in a 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe sketch as an aspiring comedian who loves animals and still lives with his mother. Gervais’s co-host Karl Pilkington makes his acting debut as Derek’s friend and facilities-caretaker Dougie who also works in the retirement home. British comedian Kerry Godliman plays Derek’s best friend Hannah and David Earl plays Kev.

Gervais said that the series is about “kindness [being] more important than anything else”. He added “It’s about the forgotten—everyone’s forgotten. It’s all these arbitrary people who didn’t know each other, and they’re in there now because they’re in the last years of their life. And it’s about the people who help them, who themselves are losers and have their own problems. It’s about a bunch of people with nothing, but making the most of it, and they’re together.” He chose to set the sitcom in a retirement home after he watched Secret Millionaire—”It was always these people with huge problems who were helping other people. I thought about having Derek help old people because no one cares about old people in this country … I think it’s perfect for now.”

On 9 May 2018, it was announced that Netflix had given a production order for the first season of the comedy drama After Life. It was created and directed by Gervais, who also starred in it and executive-produced it with Duncan Hayes, with Charlie Hanson as producer; the series premiered on 8 March 2019.On 3 April 2019, Netflix renewed the series for a second season, which launched on 24 April 2020.In May 2020 it was announced that Gervais had signed a new deal with Netflix, including a third season of After Life. Before the announcement Gervais said, “For the first time ever, I would do a series three, because the world’s so rich. I love the characters, I love all the actors in it, I love my character, I love the town, I love the themes… I love the dog!”

Gervais began his stand-up career in the late 1990s. His first successful show was at the Cafe Royal as part of the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Titled Rubbernecker, it also featured Jimmy Carr, Robin Ince and Stephen Merchant.

Gervais toured the UK in 2003 with his stand-up show Animals. The Politics tour followed a year later. Both shows were recorded for release on DVD and television broadcast. The third part of the themed live trilogy, Fame, took place in 2007. It started in Glasgow in January and ended in Sheffield in April. Blackpool reported selling out of tickets within 45 minutes of them going on sale.

Ricky Gervais also does stand-up comedy, animation, he writes children’s books and is often a guest on talk shows and sometimes hosts the Golden Globe Awards, etc.

Gervais’s film career has included small roles as the voice of a pigeon, Bugsy, in 2005’s Valiant, as a studio executive in 2006’s For Your Consideration,as museum director Dr. McPhee in 2006’s Night at the Museum and its sequels Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and as “Ferdy the Fence” in the 2007 film Stardust.

Gervais starred in Ghost Town (2008) as a dentist who sees spirits, and was in Lowell, Massachusetts during May 2008 filming his next project, The Invention of Lying (2009), in which he starred alongside Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Louis C.K.. The social comedy was co-written and co-directed by Gervais and Matt Robinson.

Gervais directed and starred in, Special Correspondents, which began filming in May 2015. The comedy stars Eric Bana as a journalist and Gervais as his assistant. They pretend to report news from a war torn country but in actuality they are safe in New York. The film was released on Netflix. Gervais directed and starred in the 2016 film David Brent: Life on the Road, a mockumentary following David Brent, a character first seen in The Office series, as he lives his dream of being a rockstar. On 5 November 2015 Gervais signed up to play Ika Chu, a villainous cat, in an animated film Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, originally known as Blazing Samurai. The movie is about a dog (Hank) played by Michael Cera, who wants to be a warrior and fights with Ika Chu for the town of Kakamucho.

Gervais has homes in Hampstead, London, and Marlow, Buckinghamshire. He also has an apartment in the Barbizon 63 building in New York City. He has been in a relationship with producer and author Jane Fallon since 1982, and says they chose not to marry because “there’s no point in us having an actual ceremony before the eyes of God because there is no God” or have children because they “didn’t fancy dedicating 16 years of [their] lives … and there are too many children, of course”.

He is a vegan, an atheist and a humanist, and states that he abandoned religion at the age of eight. In December 2010, he wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal defending his atheism. He is an honorary associate of the UK’s National Secular Society and a patron of Humanists UK, a British charity that promotes the humanist worldview and campaigns for a secular state and on human rights issues. On 3 September 2019, he received the 2019 Richard Dawkins Award, which recognises people who proclaim “the values of secularism and rationalism, upholding scientific truths wherever it may lead.” Gervais received the award during a Centre for Inquiry-sponsored ceremony at London’s Troxy Theatre. Dawkins praised Gervais as a “witty hero of atheism and reason.”

Gervais is a fan of the UFC and Reading F.C. He is a music fan and has stated that his hero is David Bowie, with his favourite song being “Letter to Hermione”. He has also stated that his first experience of a live music gig was watching Iggy Pop. In 2013, he wrote that Lou Reed was “one of the greatest artists of our time” following Reed’s death.

Gervais is a fervent supporter of gay rights and has praised the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales as “a victory for all of us”, saying “anything that promotes equality, promotes progress … You can’t take equality ‘too far’.”

Gervais joined Twitter in December 2009 when he first hosted the 66th Golden Globes. After a two-year hiatus, he returned to the platform in September 2011.In 2012, Gervais won a Shorty Award for Lifetime Achievement for his popular presence on social media. As of April 2022 he was followed by 14.7 million fans whom he calls ‘Twonks’.

Gervais uses social media to promote his work to his fans. After ten years he brought back his character Brent on his YouTube channel in a web series Learn Guitar with David Brent. He uses many ways to promote his new series, for example for Derek, he posts contests or questions for his fans.

Gervais uses social media to raise awareness of animal welfare. He tweets links to petitions to rescue animals from captivity, he highlights the plight of animals being used for testing, and he encourages people to adopt dogs instead of buying them from breeders. He won the Genesis Award from the Humane Society in March 2015 for his contribution to raising awareness for animal welfare on social media. In 2014, he was named most influential London Twitter user.

Gervais has cited Laurel & Hardy, Groucho Marx, Peter Cook, and Christopher Guest as significant influences.

Gervais is a supporter of animal rights and has stated that he will leave his fortune to animal charities. Gervais named an Asian black bear, also known as a moonbear, Derek after the protagonist from his series Derek. In December 2013, Gervais bought a $1000 cake shaped like a moonbear to raise funds for Animal Asia. Gervais is active in the prevention of illegal wildlife trade; he supported the handing over of ivory trinkets to the Metropolitan police in London.

In 2015, Gervais donated a signed acoustic guitar to help raise funds for Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Ontario, Canada, with a special call-out to Pockets Warhol. The guitar which was signed by Gervais was purchased by Danny Young from the United Kingdom who has since had the guitar signed by several celebrities in order to raise further funds for the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary. Celebrities who signed the guitar include: Brian May, Will Ferrell, Bryan Cranston, Dhani Harrison, Peter Frampton, Ricky Warwick, and Steve Cutts.

In 2017, Gervais was awarded the Lord Houghton Award for Service to Animal Welfare from Animal Defenders International Gervais was also awarded the Humane Society International Cecil Award in 2018 for his frequent social media efforts to end trophy hunting.

Check him out (or not):

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas

Featuring: Tom Waits

Today I’m featuring this man, this musician (and actor) whom I love for his style and gravelly dark voice, his intelligence and dark humor. Not known to everybody, this extraordinary individual brings with his own distinct, off-kilter brand of weirdness to his music and acts the boozy troubadours and raspy-voiced noir loners who populate his songs. Using his distinct voice, Tom Waits conjures up boozy ballads designed to be played low at 3 a.m. and melodies that might echo off the broken-down rides of an abandoned, haunted carnival. His is an eclectic style, combining blues, jazz, cabaret, Spooky Sounds of Halloween sound effects tapes, and more. This distinct, unmistakable style goes beyond Waits’ musical accomplishments, finding its way into his acting in the two dozen or so film appearances the singer has made.

Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and actor. His lyrics often focus on the underbelly of society and are delivered in his trademark deep, gravelly voice. He worked primarily in jazz during the 1970s, but his music since the 1980s has reflected greater influence from blues, rock, vaudeville, and experimental genres.

Waits was born and raised in a middle-class family in Pomona, California. Inspired by the work of Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation, he began singing on the San Diego áfolk music circuit as a teenager. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1972, where he worked as a songwriter before signing a recording contract with Asylum Records. His first albums were the jazz-oriented Closing Time (1973) and The Heart of Saturday Night (1974), which reflected his lyrical interest in nightlife, poverty, and criminality. He repeatedly toured the United States, Europe, and Japan, and attracted greater critical recognition and commercial success with Small Change (1976), Blue Valentine (1978), and Heartattack and Vine (1980). He produced the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola’s film One from the Heart (1981), and subsequently made cameo appearances in several Coppola films.

In 1980, Waits married Kathleen Brennan, split from his manager and record label, and moved to New York City. With Brennan’s encouragement and frequent collaboration, he pursued a more experimental and eclectic musical aesthetic influenced by the work of Harry Partch and Captain Beefheart. This was reflected in a series of albums released by Island Records, including Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), and Franks Wild Years (1987). He continued appearing in films, notably starring in Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law (1986), and also made theatrical appearances. With theatre director Robert Wilson, he produced the musicals The Black Rider and Alice, first performed in Hamburg. Having returned to California in the 1990s, his albums Bone Machine (1992), The Black Rider (1993), and Mule Variations (1999) earned him increasing critical acclaim and multiple Grammy Awards. In the late 1990s, he switched to the record label ANTI-, which released Blood Money (2002), Alice (2002), Real Gone (2004), and Bad as Me (2011).
Despite a lack of mainstream commercial success, Waits has influenced many musicians and gained an international cult following, and several biographies have been written about him. In 2015, he was ranked at No. 55 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

There is a lot more information to be found on Wikipedia which is too much to mention here and I don’t want to bore readers with endless details. I do suggest you check him out, his music and his acting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Waits

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas

Some advice from Kurt

In 2006 a high school English teacher asked students to write a famous author and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut was the only one to respond – and his response is magnificent:

“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!”
Kurt Vonnegut

I will be doing a feature post on him another time…

Witty word: Permanend

Definition for permanend
/ pur-muh-nuhnd /

Adjective
1 in constant or indefinite state of an end or ending:
his life seemed to be one long permanend drag

Noun
1 the bottom or end part of a permanent wave where hair seems to be shriveled up to bits:
she was so beautiful but her permanend made her look like a poodle

2 perpetual state or declining condition of something:
despite all warnings the human species kept destroying the earth driven by greed for personal gain and by producing more humans and human waste, leaving it in a permanend state of decay

Origin of permanend
2021; poetpas ©; Modern English, based on late Middle English > Latin

Featuring: Erroll Garner

Today I am featuring a man who I consider to be the best jazz piano player that I’ve ever heard, Erroll Garner, famous for creating the song Misty that was played in Clint Eastwood’s film Play Misty for Me (1971). However, he deserves way more recognition and credit than a link to a white man’s fim. It’s actually sad to learn so little is written about him whilst he was one of the best, or maybe even “the best”.

Erroll Louis Garner (June 15, 1921 – January 2, 1977) was an American jazz pianist and composer known for his swing playing and ballads. Garner was born with his twin brother Ernest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 15, 1921, the youngest of six children in an African-American family. He attended George Westinghouse High School (as did fellow pianists Billy Strayhorn and Ahmad Jamal).

His best-known composition, the ballad “Misty”, has become a jazz standard. Scott Yanow of Allmusic calls him “one of the most distinctive of all pianists” and a “brilliant virtuoso.” He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6363 Hollywood Blvd. His live album, Concert by the Sea, first released in 1955, sold over a million copies by 1958 and Scott Yanow’s opinion is: “this is the album that made such a strong impression that Garner was considered immortal from then on.”

Garner began playing piano at the age of three. His elder siblings were taught piano by Miss Bowman. From an early age, Erroll would sit down and play anything she had demonstrated, just like Miss Bowman, his eldest sister Martha said. Garner was self-taught and remained an “ear player” all his life, never learning to read music. At age seven, he began appearing on the radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh with a group called the Candy Kids. By age 11, he was playing on the Allegheny riverboats. In 1937 he joined local saxophonist Leroy Brown.
He played locally in the shadow of his older pianist brother Linton Garner.

Garner moved to New York City in 1944. He briefly worked with the bassist Slam Stewart, and though not a bebop musician per se, in 1947 played with Charlie Parker on the “Cool Blues” session. Although his admission to the Pittsburgh music union was initially refused because of his inability to read music, it relented in 1956 and made him an honorary member. Garner is credited with a superb musical memory. After attending a concert by the Russian classical pianist Emil Gilels, Garner returned to his apartment and was able to play a large portion of the performed music by recall. Garner made many tours both at home and abroad, and regularly recorded. He was, reportedly, The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s favorite jazz musician, appearing on Carson’s show many times over the years.

Short in stature (5 feet 2 inches [157 cm]), Garner performed sitting on multiple telephone directories. He was also known for his vocalizations while playing, which can be heard on many of his recordings. He helped to bridge the gap for jazz musicians between nightclubs and the concert hall.
Called “one of the most distinctive of all pianists” by Scott Yanow, Garner showed that a “creative jazz musician can be very popular without watering down his music” or changing his personal style. He has been described as a “brilliant virtuoso who sounded unlike anyone else”, using an “orchestral approach straight from the swing era but … open to the innovations of bop.” His distinctive style could swing like no other, but some of his best recordings are ballads, such as his best-known composition, “Misty”, which rapidly became a jazz standard – and was featured in Clint Eastwood’s film Play Misty for Me (1971).
Garner may have been inspired by the example of Earl Hines, a fellow Pittsburgh resident but 18 years his senior, and there were resemblances in their elastic approach to timing and use of right-hand octaves. Garner’s early recordings also display the influence of the stride piano style of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. Fats Waller had been the one Erroll had looked up to and was his prime example of how and what he wanted to be like. He developed a signature style that involved his right hand playing behind the beat while his left strummed a steady rhythm and punctuation, creating insouciance and tension.

The independence of his hands also was evidenced by his masterful use of three-against-four and more complicated cross-rhythms between the hands. Garner would also improvise whimsical introductions—often in stark contrast to the rest of the tune—that left listeners in suspense as to what the piece would be. His melodic improvisations generally stayed close to the theme while employing novel chord voicings. Pianist Ross Tompkins described Garner’s distinctiveness as due to ‘happiness’. Erroll Garner often muttered, moaned and grunted along his solos, so much so that it felt a humorous distraction from the music to some. His would sometimes be a sheep like sound which was rather comical yet most possibly a musical expression.

In 2012 a film on Garner was released by Atticus Brady called No One Can Hear You Read, which Garner used to say when asked why he had never learned to read music. Footage of the piano prodigy playing and speaking was intercut with interviews: with admirers (including Woody Allen, Steve Allen and his fellow musicians Ahmad Jamal, also from Pittsburgh and Ernest McCarty, his bassist for many years); with family members, including his big sister Ruth Garner Moore and daughter Kim Garner; with George Avakian, the producer of Concert by the Sea; and with Jim Doran his biographer. The film attempts to address Garner’s fall from prominence after his death, reminding viewers how popular and original he was in his day as well as why he is considered in many quarters a legend, one of the true greats of jazz. On June 15, 2015, the estate of Martha Glaser, Garner’s longtime manager, announced the formation of the Erroll Garner Jazz Project, a major new archival and musical celebration of Garner. The project includes the donation of the Erroll Garner Archive—a huge trove of newly discovered historical material from Garner’s life—to the University of Pittsburgh.
On September 18, 2015, Concert by the Sea was re-released by Sony Legacy in an expanded, three-CD edition that adds 11 previously unreleased tracks.
On September 30, 2016, Ready Take One was released on Sony Legacy/Octave featuring 14 previously unreleased tracks. In 2016, Downtown Music Publishing entered an exclusive worldwide administration agreement with Octave Music Publishing Corp. The deal covers all of Garner’s works including “Misty”, as well as Garner’s extensive archive of master recordings, many of which remain unreleased.On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Erroll Garner among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

Garner sadly died at the young age of 56 of cardiac arrest related to emphysema on January 2, 1977. He is buried in Pittsburgh’s Homewood Cemetery. May he play in heaven with all the other great ones. (I personally would have loved hearing or seeing him play with Django Reinhardt).

Check him out:

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, Nocturne, Erroll Garner Jazz Project, poetpas

Featuring: Laurel & Hardy

Nothing amuses and amazes me more than one of the best comic couples of all times, Laurel & Hardy. These great kind souls brought me so much joy and laughter and inspiration over the years, and still do. For me they are the ultimate and perfect yin and yang of comedy.

Laurel and Hardy were a comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of Englishman Stan Laurel and American Oliver Hardy. They became well known during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy.

Prior to emerging as a team, both actors had well-established film careers. Laurel had appeared in over 50 films as an actor (while also working as a writer and director), while Hardy had been in more than 250 productions. The two comedians had previously worked together as cast members on the film The Lucky Dog in 1921. However, they were not a comedy team at that time and it was not until 1926 that they appeared in a short movie together, when both separately signed contracts with the Hal Roach film studio. Laurel and Hardy officially became a team in 1927 when they appeared together in the silent short film Putting Pants on Philip. They remained with the Roach studio until 1940 and then appeared in eight comedies for 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1941 to 1945. After finishing their movie commitments at the end of 1944, they concentrated on performing in stage shows and embarked on a music hall tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland. They made their last film in 1950, a French-Italian co-production called Atoll K. They appeared as a team in 107 films, starring in 32 short silent films, 40 short sound films, and 23 full-length feature films.

Stan Laurel

Stan Laurel (June 16, 1890 – February 23, 1965) was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire, England into a theatrical family. His father was a theatrical entrepreneur and theatre owner in northern England and Scotland who, with his wife, was a major force in the industry. In 1905, the Jefferson family moved to Glasgow to be closer to their business mainstay of the Metropole Theatre, and Laurel made his stage debut in a Glasgow hall called the Britannia Panopticon one month short of his 16th birthday. His father secured Laurel his first acting job with the juvenile theatrical company of Levy and Cardwell, which specialized in Christmas pantomimes. In 1909, Laurel was employed by Britain’s leading comedy impresario Fred Karno as a supporting actor, and as an understudy for Charlie Chaplin. Laurel said of Karno, “There was no one like him. He had no equal. His name was box-office.”
In 1912, Laurel left England with the Fred Karno Troupe to tour the United States. Laurel had expected the tour to be merely a pleasant interval before returning to London; however, he decided to remain in the U.S. In 1917, Laurel was teamed with Mae Dahlberg as a double act for stage and film; they were living as common law husband and wife. The same year, Laurel made his film debut with Dahlberg in Nuts in May. While working with Mae, he began using the name “Stan Laurel” and changed his name legally in 1931. Dahlberg demanded roles in his films, and her tempestuous nature made her difficult to work with. Dressing room arguments were common between the two; it was reported that producer Joe Rock paid her to leave Laurel and to return to her native Australia. In 1925, Laurel joined the Hal Roach film studio as a director and writer. From May 1925 until September 1926, he received credit in at least 22 films. Laurel appeared in over 50 films for various producers before teaming up with Hardy. Prior to that, he experienced only modest success. It was difficult for producers, writers, and directors to write for his character, with American audiences knowing him either as a “nutty burglar” or as a Charlie Chaplin imitator.

Oliver Hardy

Oliver Hardy (January 18, 1892 – August 7, 1957) was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia. By his late teens, Hardy was a popular stage singer and he operated a movie house in Milledgeville, Georgia, the Palace Theater, financed in part by his mother. For his stage name he took his father’s first name, calling himself “Oliver Norvell Hardy”, while offscreen his nicknames were “Ollie” and “Babe”. The nickname “Babe” originated from an Italian barber near the Lubin Studios in Jacksonville, Florida, who would rub Hardy’s face with talcum powder and say “That’s nice-a baby!” Other actors in the Lubin company mimicked this, and Hardy was billed as “Babe Hardy” in his early films.
Seeing film comedies inspired him to take up comedy himself and, in 1913, he began working with Lubin Motion Pictures in Jacksonville. He started by helping around the studio with lights, props, and other duties, gradually learning the craft as a script-clerk for the company. It was around this time that Hardy married his first wife, Madelyn Salosihn. In 1914, Hardy was billed as “Babe Hardy” in his first film, Outwitting Dad. Between 1914 and 1916 Hardy made 177 shorts as Babe with the Vim Comedy Company, which were released up to the end of 1917. Exhibiting versatility in playing heroes, villains and even female characters, Hardy was in demand for roles as a supporting actor, comic villain or second banana. For 10 years he memorably assisted star comic and Charlie Chaplin imitator Billy West, Jimmy Aubrey, Larry Semon, and Charley Chase. In total, Hardy starred or co-starred in more than 250 silent shorts, of which roughly 150 have been lost. He was rejected for enlistment by the Army during World War I due to his size. In 1917, after the collapse of the Florida film industry, Hardy and his wife Madelyn moved to California to seek new opportunities.

Laurel and Hardy

Hal Roach has described how the two actors came together as a team. First, Hardy had already been working for Roach when Roach hired Laurel, whom he had seen in vaudeville. Laurel had very light blue eyes, and Roach discovered that, due to the technology of film at that time, Laurel’s eyes wouldn’t photograph properly — blue photographed as white. This problem is apparent in their first silent film together, The Lucky Dog, in which an attempt was made to compensate for the problem by making-up Laurel’s eyes very heavily. For about a year, Roach had Laurel work at the studio as a writer. Then panchromatic film was developed, they did a test for Laurel, and found that the problem was solved. Laurel and Hardy were then put together in a film, and the two seemed to complement each other. Usually comedy teams were composed of a straight man and a funny man, but these two were both comedians; however, they both knew how to play the straight man when the script needed it. Roach said, “You could always cut to a close-up of either one, and their reaction was good for another laugh.”

The humor of Laurel and Hardy was highly visual, with slapstick used for emphasis. They often had physical arguments with each other (in character), which were quite complex and involved cartoon violence, and their characters precluded them from making any real progress in the simplest endeavors. Much of their comedy involves milking a joke, where a simple idea provides a basis from which to build multiple gags without following a defined narrative.
Stan Laurel was of average height and weight, but appeared small and slight next to Oliver Hardy, who was 6 ft 1 in (185 cm) tall and weighed about 280 lb (127 kg) in his prime. Details of their hair and clothing were used to enhance this natural contrast. Laurel kept his hair short on the sides and back, growing it long on top to create a natural “fright wig”. At times of shock, he would simultaneously cry while pulling up his hair. In contrast, Hardy’s thinning hair was pasted on his forehead in spit curls and he sported a toothbrush moustache. To achieve a flat-footed walk, Laurel removed the heels from his shoes. Both wore bowler hats, with Laurel’s being narrower than Hardy’s, and with a flattened brim. The characters’ normal attire called for wing collar shirts, with Hardy wearing a neck tie which he would twiddle and Laurel a bow tie. Hardy’s sports jacket was a tad small and done up with one straining button, whereas Laurel’s double-breasted jacket was loose fitting.
A popular routine the team performed was a “tit-for-tat” fight with an adversary. This could be with their wives—often played by Mae Busch, Anita Garvin, or Daphne Pollard—or with a neighbor, often played by Charlie Hall or James Finlayson. Laurel and Hardy would accidentally damage someone’s property, and the injured party would retaliate by ruining something belonging to Laurel or Hardy. After calmly surveying the damage, they would find something else to vandalize, and the conflict would escalate until both sides were simultaneously destroying items in front of each other. An early example of the routine occurs in their classic short Big Business (1929), which was added to the National Film Registry in 1992. Another short film which revolves around such an altercation was titled Tit for Tat (1935).
One of their best-remembered dialogues was the “Tell me that again” routine. Laurel would tell Hardy a genuinely smart idea he came up with, and Hardy would reply, “Tell me that again.” Laurel would attempt to repeat the idea, but, having forgotten it, babble utter nonsense. Hardy, who had difficulty understanding Laurel’s idea when expressed clearly, would understand the jumbled version perfectly. While much of their comedy remained visual, various lines of humorous dialogue appeared in Laurel and Hardy’s talking films. Some examples include:
“You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led.”
“I was dreaming I was awake but I woke up and found meself asleep.”
“A lot of weather we’ve been having lately.”

In some cases, their comedy bordered on the surreal, in a style that Stan Laurel called “white magic”. For example, in the 1937 film Way Out West, Laurel clenches his fist and pours tobacco into it as if it were a pipe. He then flicks his thumb upward as if working a lighter. His thumb ignites and he matter-of-factly lights his “pipe”. Amazed at seeing this, Hardy unsuccessfully attempts to duplicate it throughout the film. Much later he finally succeeds, only to be terrified when his thumb catches fire. Laurel repeats the pipe joke in the 1938 film Block-Heads, again to Hardy’s bemusement. This time, the joke ends when a match Laurel was using relights itself, Hardy throws it into the fireplace, and it explodes with a loud bang.
Rather than showing Hardy suffering the pain of misfortunes, such as falling down stairs or being beaten by a thug, banging and crashing sound effects were often used so the audience could visualize the scene themselves. The 1927 film Sailors Beware was a significant film for Hardy because two of his enduring trademarks were developed. The first was his “tie twiddle” to demonstrate embarrassment. Hardy, while acting, had received a pail of water in the face. He said, “I had been expecting it, but I didn’t expect it at that particular moment. It threw me mentally and I couldn’t think what to do next, so I waved the tie in a kind of tiddly-widdly fashion to show embarrassment while trying to look friendly.” His second trademark was the “camera look”, in which he breaks the fourth wall. Hardy said: “I had to become exasperated so I just stared right into the camera and registered my disgust.” Offscreen, Laurel and Hardy were quite the opposite of their movie characters: Laurel was the industrious “idea man”, while Hardy was more easygoing.

The catchphrase most used by Laurel and Hardy on film is: “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” In popular culture the catchphrase is often misquoted as “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” The misquoted version of the phrase was never used by Hardy and the misunderstanding stems from the title of their film Another Fine Mess. Numerous variations of the quote appeared on film. For example, in Chickens Come Home Ollie says impatiently to Stan “Well. … ” with Stan replying, “Here’s another nice mess I’ve gotten you into.” The films Thicker than Water and The Fixer-Uppers use the phrase “Well, here’s another nice kettle of fish you pickled me in!” In Saps at Sea the phrase becomes “Well, here’s another nice bucket of suds you’ve gotten me into!” The catchphrase is used in its original form in the duo’s 1951 film Atoll K, where it fittingly serves as the final line of dialogue in what is the final Laurel and Hardy film. Most times, after Hardy said that phrase, Laurel would start to cry, exclaiming “Well, I couldn’t help it…” and begin to whimper while speaking gibberish. Another regular catchphrase, cried out by Ollie in moments of distress or frustration, as Stan stands helplessly by, is “Why don’t you do something to help me?”

The first feature film starring Laurel and Hardy was Pardon Us from 1931. The following year The Music Box, whose plot revolved around the pair pushing a piano up a long flight of steps,won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Subject. While many enthusiasts claim the superiority of The Music Box, their 1929 silent film Big Business is by far the most consistently acclaimed. The plot of this film sees Laurel and Hardy as Christmas tree salesmen involved in a classic tit-for-tat battle with a character played by James Finlayson that eventually destroys his house and their car. Big Business was added to the National Film Registry in the United States as a national treasure in 1992. The film Sons of the Desert from 1933 is often claimed to be Laurel and Hardy’s best feature-length film. The 1934 film Babes in Toyland remains a perennial on American television during the Christmas season. When interviewed Hal Roach spoke scathingly about the film and Laurel’s behavior during the production. Laurel was unhappy with the plot, and after an argument was allowed to make the film his way. The rift damaged Roach-Laurel relations to the point that Roach said that after Toyland, he no longer wished to produce Laurel and Hardy films. Nevertheless, their association continued for another six years. Hoping for greater artistic freedom, Laurel and Hardy split with Roach. Laurel and Hardy signed with 20th Century-Fox in 1941 and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1942. However, the working conditions were now completely different as they were simply hired actors, relegated to both studios’ B-film units, and were initially not allowed to contribute to the scripts or improvise, as they had always done. In 1950–51, Laurel and Hardy made their final feature-length film together, Atoll K.

Following the making of Atoll K, Laurel and Hardy took some months off to deal with health issues. Upon their return to the European stage in 1952, they undertook a well-received series of public appearances, performing a short sketch Laurel had written called “A Spot of Trouble”. Hoping to repeat the success the following year Laurel wrote a routine entitled “Birds of a Feather”. On September 9, 1953, their boat arrived in Cobh in the Republic of Ireland. Laurel recounted their reception:
The love and affection we found that day at Cobh was simply unbelievable. There were hundreds of boats blowing whistles and mobs and mobs of people screaming on the docks. We just couldn’t understand what it was all about. And then something happened that I can never forget. All the church bells in Cobh started to ring out our theme song “Dance of the Cuckoos” and Babe (Oliver Hardy) looked at me and we cried. I’ll never forget that day. Never.

In 1956, while following his doctor’s orders to improve his health due to a heart condition, Hardy lost over 100 pounds (45 kg; 7.1 st), nonetheless suffering several strokes resulting in reduced mobility and speech. Despite his long and successful career, Hardy’s home was sold to help cover the cost of his medical expenses. He died of a stroke on August 7, 1957, and longtime friend Bob Chatterton said Hardy weighed just 138 pounds (63 kg; 9.9 st) at the time of his death.

For the remaining eight years of his life, Stan Laurel refused to perform and even turned down Stanley Kramer’s offer of a cameo in his landmark 1963 movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In 1960, Laurel was given a special Academy Award for his contributions to film comedy but was unable to attend the ceremony, due to poor health, and actor Danny Kaye accepted the award for him. Despite not appearing on screen after Hardy’s death, Laurel did contribute gags to several comedy filmmakers. During this period most of his communication was in the form of written correspondence and he insisted on personally answering every fan letter.
Laurel lived until 1965 and survived to see the duo’s work rediscovered through television and classic film revivals. He died on February 23 in Santa Monica and is buried at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.

As for music the duo’s famous signature tune, known variously as “The Cuckoo Song”, “Ku-Ku” or “The Dance of the Cuckoos”, was composed by Roach musical director Marvin Hatley as the on-the-hour chime for the Roach studio radio station. Laurel heard the tune on the station and asked Hatley if they could use it as the Laurel and Hardy theme song. The original theme, recorded by two clarinets in 1930, was recorded again with a full orchestra in 1935. Leroy Shield composed the majority of the music used in the Laurel and Hardy short sound films. A compilation of songs from their films, titled Trail of the Lonesome Pine, was released in 1975. The title track was released as a single in the UK and reached #2 in the charts.

Laurel and Hardy’s influence over a very broad range of comedy and other genres has been considerable. Lou Costello of the famed duo of Abbott and Costello, stated “They were the funniest comedy duo of all time”, adding “Most critics and film scholars throughout the years have agreed with this assessment.” Writers, artists and performers as diverse as Samuel Beckett, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers, Steve Martin, John Cleese,and Kurt Vonnegut amongst many others, have acknowledged an artistic debt. Starting in the 1960s, the exposure on television of (especially) their short films has ensured a continued influence on generations of comedians.

Since the 1930s, the works of Laurel and Hardy have been released again in numerous theatrical reissues, television revivals (broadcast, especially public television and cable), 16 mm and 8 mm home movies, feature-film compilations and home video. Numerous colorized versions of copyright-free Laurel and Hardy features and shorts have been reproduced by a multitude of production studios. Although the results of adding color were often in dispute, many popular titles are currently only available in the colorized version. The color process often affects the sharpness of the image, with some scenes being altered or deleted, depending on the source material used. Their film Helpmates was the first film to undergo the process and was released by Colorization Inc., a subsidiary of Hal Roach Studios, in 1983. Colorization was a success for the studio and Helpmates was released on home video with the colorized version of The Music Box in 1986.

There are three Laurel and Hardy museums. One is in Laurel’s birthplace, Ulverston, United Kingdom, where I have been and another one is in Hardy’s birthplace, Harlem, Georgia.The third one is located in Solingen, Germany.

In 2018 a film was made about their lives called Stan & Ollie, a biographical comedy-drama based on the later years of their lives. The film stars Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
The film focuses on details of the comedy duo’s personal relationship while relating how they embarked on a grueling music hall tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland during 1953 and struggled to get another film made.

I often watch Laurel & Hardy on dvd as they’re not much on tv anymore. Sadly, broadcasters seem to think now everything has to be fast and flashy…
I am glad I grew up with their revival in the seventies and eighties and gladly look back to the times after school watching them tv, laughing my head off.

Check them out (or not):

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas

Featuring: Oskar Schindler

After watching Schindler’s List, which is one of my most favorite films, I was interested to learn about this “life saver” Oskar Schindler and became intrigued by his mission to rescue and save as many lives as he could during the Holocaust in World War 2. I have nothing but respect for this man, who in time, realized life was more important than death. A true hero…

Schindler was born on 28 April 1908, into a German family in Zwittau, Moravia, Austria-Hungary. After attending primary and secondary school, Schindler enrolled in a technical school, from which he was expelled in 1924 for forging his report card. He later graduated, but did not take exams that would have enabled him to go to college or university. Instead, he took courses in Brno in several trades, including chauffeuring and machinery, and worked for his father for three years.
On 6 March 1928, Schindler married Emilie Pelzl. The young couple moved in with Oskar’s parents and occupied the upstairs rooms, where they lived for the next seven years. Soon after his marriage, Schindler quit working for his father and took a series of jobs. After an 18-month stint in the Czech army, where he rose to the rank of lance corporal in the 31st Army, Schindler returned to Moravian Electrotechnic, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. His father’s farm machinery business closed around the same time, leaving Schindler unemployed for a year. He took a job with Jaroslav Šimek Bank of Prague in 1931, where he worked until 1938. Schindler was arrested several times in 1931 and 1932 for public drunkenness. Also around this time he had an affair with Aurelie Schlegel, a school friend. She bore him a daughter, Emily, in 1933, and a son, Oskar Jr, in 1935. Schindler later claimed the boy was not his son.

Schindler joined the separatist Sudeten German Party in 1935. Although he was a citizen of Czechoslovakia, Schindler became a spy for the Abwehr, the military intelligence service of Nazi Germany, in 1936. He later told Czech police that he did it because he needed the money; by this time Schindler had a drinking problem and was chronically in debt.
His tasks for the Abwehr included collecting information on railways, military installations, and troop movements, as well as recruiting other spies within Czechoslovakia, in advance of a planned invasion of the country by Nazi Germany. He was arrested by the Czech government for espionage on 18 July 1938 and immediately imprisoned, but was released as a political prisoner under the terms of the Munich Agreement, the instrument under which the Czech Sudetenland was annexed into Germany on 1 October. Schindler applied for membership in the Nazi Party on 1 November and was accepted the following year.
Schindler was promoted to second in command of his Abwehr unit and was involved in espionage in the months leading up to Hitler’s seizure of the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March. His wife helped him with paperwork, processing and hiding secret documents in their apartment for the Abwehr office. As Schindler frequently travelled to Poland on business, he and his 25 agents were in a position to collect information about Polish military activities and railways for the planned invasion of Poland. One assignment called for his unit to monitor and provide information about the railway line and tunnel in the Jablunkov Pass, deemed critical for the movement of German troops. Schindler continued to work for the Abwehr until as late as fall 1940.

Schindler first arrived in Kraków (Krakau) in October 1939, on Abwehr business, and took an apartment the following month. In November 1939, he contacted interior decorator Mila Pfefferberg to decorate his new apartment. Her son, Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, soon became one of his contacts for black market trading. They eventually became lifelong friends.
Also that November, Schindler was introduced to Itzhak Stern, an accountant for Schindler’s fellow Abwehr agent Josef “Sepp” Aue, who had taken over Stern’s formerly Jewish-owned place of employment as a Treuhander (trustee). Property belonging to Polish Jews, including their possessions, places of business, and homes were seized by the Germans beginning immediately after the invasion, and Jewish citizens were stripped of their civil rights. Schindler showed Stern the balance sheet of a company he was thinking of acquiring, an enamelware factory called Rekord Ltd owned by a consortium of Jewish businessmen that had filed for bankruptcy earlier that year. Stern advised him that rather than running the company as a trusteeship he should buy or lease the business, as that would give him more freedom from the dictates of the Nazis, including the freedom to hire more Jews.
With the financial backing of several Jewish investors, including one of the owners, Abraham Bankier, Schindler signed an informal lease agreement on the factory on 13 November 1939 and formalised the arrangement on 15 January 1940. He renamed it Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik (German Enamelware Factory) or DEF, and it soon became known by the nickname “Emalia”. He initially acquired a staff of seven Jewish workers and 250 non-Jewish Poles. At its peak in 1944, the business employed around 1,750 workers, a thousand of whom were Jewish.
Schindler’s ties with the Abwehr and his connections in the Wehrmacht and its Armaments Inspectorate enabled him to obtain contracts to produce enamel cookware for the military. These connections also later helped him protect his Jewish workers from deportation and death. As time went on, Schindler had to give Nazi officials ever larger bribes and gifts of luxury items obtainable only on the black market to keep his workers safe. Schindler himself enjoyed a lavish lifestyle and pursued extramarital relationships with his secretary, Viktoria Klonowska, and Eva Kisch Scheuer, a merchant specialising in enamelware from DEF. Emilie Schindler visited for a few months in 1940 and moved to Kraków to live with Oskar in 1941.

Initially, Schindler was mostly interested in the money-making potential of the business and hired Jews because they were cheaper than Poles—the wages were set by the occupying Nazi regime. Later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. The status of his factory as a business essential to the war effort became a decisive factor enabling him to help his Jewish workers. Whenever Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) were threatened with deportation, he claimed exemptions for them. He claimed wives, children, and even people with disabilities were necessary mechanics and metalworkers. On one occasion, the Gestapo came to Schindler demanding that he hand over a family that possessed forged identity papers. “Three hours after they walked in,” Schindler said, “two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded.”
On 1 August 1940, Governor-General Hans Frank issued a decree requiring all Kraków Jews to leave the city within two weeks. Only those who had jobs directly related to the German war effort would be allowed to stay. Of the 60,000 to 80,000 Jews then living in the city, only 15,000 remained by March 1941. These Jews were then forced to leave their traditional neighbourhood of Kazimierz and relocate to the walled Kraków Ghetto, established in the industrial Podgórze district. Schindler’s workers travelled on foot to and from the ghetto each day to their jobs at the factory. Enlargements to the facility in the four years Schindler was in charge included the addition of an outpatient clinic, co-op, kitchen, and dining room for the workers, in addition to expansion of the factory and its related office space.

In fall 1941, the Nazis began transporting Jews out of the ghetto. Most of them were sent to the Bełżec extermination camp and murdered. On 13 March 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and those still fit for work were sent to the new concentration camp at Płaszów. Several thousand not deemed fit for work were sent to extermination camps and murdered; hundreds more were murdered on the streets by the Nazis as they cleared out the ghetto. Schindler, aware of the plans because of his Wehrmacht contacts, had his workers stay at the factory overnight to prevent them coming to harm. Schindler witnessed the liquidation of the ghetto and was appalled. From that point forward Schindler changed his mind about the Nazis. He decided to get out and to save as many Jews as he could.
Płaszów concentration camp opened in March 1943 on the former site of two Jewish cemeteries. In charge of the camp was SS-Hauptsturmführer Amon Göth, a sadist who would shoot inmates of the camp at random. Inmates at Płaszów lived in constant fear for their lives. Emilie Schindler called Göth “the most despicable man I have ever met.”

Initially Göth’s plan was that all the factories, including Schindler’s, should be moved inside the camp gates. However, Schindler, with a combination of diplomacy, flattery, and bribery, not only prevented his factory from being moved, but convinced Göth to allow him to build (at Schindler’s own expense) a subcamp at Emalia to house his workers plus 450 Jews from other nearby factories. There they were safe from the threat of random execution, were well fed and housed, and were permitted to undertake religious observances.
Schindler was arrested twice on suspicion of black market activities and once for breaking the Nuremberg Laws by kissing a Jewish girl, an action forbidden by the Race and Resettlement Act. The first arrest, in late 1941, led to him being kept overnight. His secretary arranged for his release through Schindler’s influential contacts in the Nazi Party. His second arrest, on 29 April 1942, was the result of his kissing a Jewish girl on the cheek at his birthday party at the factory the previous day. He remained in jail five days before his influential Nazi contacts were able to obtain his release. In October 1944, he was arrested again, accused of black marketeering and bribing Göth and others to improve the conditions of the Jewish workers. He was held for most of a week and released. Göth had been arrested on 13 September 1944 for corruption and other abuses of power, and Schindler’s arrest was part of the ongoing investigation into Göth’s activities. Göth was never convicted on those charges, but was hanged by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland for war crimes on 13 September 1946.
In 1943, Schindler was contacted via members of the Jewish resistance movement by Zionist leaders in Budapest. Schindler travelled there several times to report in person on Nazi mistreatment of the Jews. He brought back funding provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel and turned it over to the Jewish underground.

As the Red Army drew nearer in July 1944, the SS began closing down the easternmost concentration camps and evacuating the remaining prisoners westward to Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Göth’s personal secretary, Mietek Pemper, alerted Schindler to the Nazis’ plans to close all factories not directly involved in the war effort, including Schindler’s enamelware facility. Pemper suggested to Schindler that production should be switched from cookware to anti-tank grenades in an effort to save the lives of the Jewish workers. Using bribery and his powers of persuasion, Schindler convinced Göth and the officials in Berlin to allow him to move his factory and his workers to Brünnlitz, in the Sudetenland, thus sparing them from certain death in the gas chambers. Using names provided by Jewish Ghetto Police officer Marcel Goldberg, Pemper compiled and typed the list of 1,200 Jews—1,000 of Schindler’s workers and 200 inmates from Julius Madritsch’s textiles factory—who were sent to Brünnlitz in October 1944.

On 15 October 1944 a train carrying 700 men on Schindler’s list was initially sent to the concentration camp at Gross-Rosen, where the men spent about a week before being re-routed to the factory in Brünnlitz. Three hundred female Schindlerjuden were similarly sent to Auschwitz, where they were in imminent danger of being sent to the gas chambers. Schindler’s usual connections and bribes failed to obtain their release. Finally after he sent his secretary, Hilde Albrecht, with bribes of black market goods, food and diamonds, the women were sent to Brünnlitz after several harrowing weeks in Auschwitz.
In addition to workers, Schindler moved 250 wagon loads of machinery and raw materials to the new factory. Few if any useful artillery shells were produced at the plant. When officials from the Armaments Ministry questioned the factory’s low output, Schindler bought finished goods on the black market and resold them as his own.[69] The rations provided by the SS were insufficient to meet the needs of the workers, so Schindler spent most of his time in Kraków, obtaining food, armaments, and other materials. His wife Emilie remained in Brünnlitz, surreptitiously obtaining additional rations and caring for the workers’ health and other basic needs. Schindler also arranged for the transfer of as many as 3,000 Jewish women out of Auschwitz to small textiles plants in the Sudetenland in an effort to increase their chances of surviving the war.
In January 1945 a trainload of 250 Jewish people who had been rejected as workers at a mine in Golleschau in Poland arrived at Brünnlitz. The boxcars were frozen shut when they arrived, and Emilie Schindler waited while an engineer from the factory opened the cars using a soldering iron. Twelve people were dead in the cars, and the remainder were too ill and feeble to work. Emilie took the survivors into the factory and cared for them in a makeshift hospital until the end of the war. Schindler continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the slaughter of his workers as the Red Army approached. On 7 May 1945 he and his workers gathered on the factory floor to listen to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announce over the radio that Germany had surrendered, and the war in Europe was over.

As a member of the Nazi Party and the Abwehr intelligence service, Schindler was in danger of being arrested as a war criminal. Bankier, Stern, and several others prepared a statement he could present to the Americans attesting to his role in saving Jewish lives. He was also given a ring, made using gold from dental work taken out of the mouth of Schindlerjude Simon Jeret. The ring was inscribed “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” To escape being captured by the Russians, Schindler and his wife departed westward in their vehicle, a two-seater Horch, initially with several fleeing German soldiers riding on the running boards. A truck containing Schindler’s mistress Marta, several Jewish workers, and a load of black market trade goods followed behind. The Horch was confiscated by Russian troops at the town of Budweis, which had already been captured by Russian troops. The Schindlers were unable to recover a diamond that Oskar had hidden under the seat.They continued by train and on foot until they reached the American lines at the town of Lenora, and then travelled to Passau, where an American Jewish officer arranged for them to travel to Switzerland by train. They moved to Bavaria in Germany in the fall of 1945.

By the end of the war, Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black market purchases of supplies for his workers. Virtually destitute, he moved briefly to Regensburg and later Munich, but did not prosper in postwar Germany. In fact, he was reduced to receiving assistance from Jewish organisations. In 1948 he presented a claim for reimbursement of his wartime expenses to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and received $15,000. He estimated his expenditures at over $1,056,000, including the costs of camp construction, bribes, and expenditures for black market goods, including food. Schindler emigrated to Argentina in 1949, where he tried raising chickens and then nutria, a small animal raised for its fur. When the business went bankrupt in 1958, he left his wife and returned to Germany, where he had a series of unsuccessful business ventures, including a cement factory. He declared bankruptcy in 1963 and suffered a heart attack the next year, which led to a month-long stay in hospital. Remaining in contact with many of the Jews he had met during the war, including Stern and Pfefferberg, Schindler survived on donations sent by Schindlerjuden from all over the world. He died on 9 October 1974 and is buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way. For his work during the war, on 8 May 1962, Yad Vashem invited Schindler to a ceremony in which a carob tree was planted in his honor on the Avenue of the Righteous. He and his wife, Emilie, were named Righteous Among the Nations, an award bestowed by the State of Israel on non-Jews who took an active role to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, on 24 June 1993.

Writer Herbert Steinhouse, who interviewed him in 1948, wrote that “Schindler’s exceptional deeds stemmed from just that elementary sense of decency and humanity that our sophisticated age seldom sincerely believes in. A repentant opportunist saw the light and rebelled against the sadism and vile criminality all around him.”In a 1983 television documentary, Schindler was quoted as saying, “I felt that the Jews were being destroyed. I had to help them; there was no choice.”

In 1980, Australian author Thomas Keneally by chance visited Pfefferberg’s luggage store in Beverly Hills while en route home from a film festival in Europe. Pfefferberg took the opportunity to tell Keneally the story of Oskar Schindler. He gave him copies of some materials he had on file, and Keneally soon decided to make a fictionalised treatment of the story. After extensive research and interviews with surviving Schindlerjuden, his 1982 historical novel Schindler’s Ark (published in the United States as Schindler’s List) was the result.
The novel was adapted as the 1993 movie Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg. After acquiring the rights in 1983, Spielberg felt he was not ready emotionally or professionally to tackle the project, and he offered the rights to several other directors.[99] After he read a script for the project prepared by Steven Zaillian for Martin Scorsese, he decided to trade him Cape Fear for the opportunity to do the Schindler biography. In the film, the character of Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley) is a composite of Stern, Bankier, and Pemper. Liam Neeson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Schindler in the film, which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.
Other film treatments include a 1983 British television documentary produced by Jon Blair for Thames Television, entitled Schindler: His Story as Told by the Actual People He Saved (released in the US in 1994 as Schindler: The Real Story),and a 1998 A&E Biography special, Oskar Schindler: The Man Behind the List.

In 1997 a suitcase belonging to Schindler containing historic photographs and documents was discovered in the attic of the apartment of Ami and Heinrich Staehr in Hildesheim. Schindler had stayed with the couple for a few days shortly before his death in 1974. Staehr’s son Chris took the suitcase to Stuttgart, where the documents were examined in detail in 1999 by Dr. Wolfgang Borgmann, science editor of the Stuttgarter Zeitung. Borgmann wrote a series of seven articles, which appeared in the paper from 16 to 26 October 1999 and were eventually published in book form as Schindler’s Koffer: Berichte aus dem Leben eines Lebensretters; eine Dokumentation der Stuttgarter Zeitung (Schindler’s Suitcase: Reports from the Life of a Lifesaver). The documents and suitcase were sent to the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem in Israel for safekeeping in December 1999.

In early April 2009, a carbon copy of one version of the list was discovered at the State Library of New South Wales by workers combing through boxes of materials collected by author Thomas Keneally. The 13-page document, yellow and fragile, was filed among research notes and original newspaper clippings. The document was given to Keneally in 1980 by Pfefferberg when he was persuading him to write Schindler’s story. This version of the list contains 801 names and is dated 18 April 1945; Pfefferberg is listed as worker number 173. Several authentic versions of the list exist, because the names were re-typed several times as conditions changed in the hectic days at the end of the war.
One of four existing copies of the list was offered at a ten-day auction starting on 19 July 2013 on EBay at a reserve price of $3 million. It received no bids.

Even though Schindler made a bad choice becoming a member of the Nazi party (which was a common thing to do back in the day) he saved over a 1000 lives. The people he saved went on and had children and they had children… and thus saving generations of life. At the end of the movie Schindler’s List there was a beautiful quote: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire”…

Here are some clips from the movie, which I consider to be one of the best movies of all time (also because of the beautiful music). It still gives me goosebumps:

WARNING: SPOILERS

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas

Featuring: Jim White

I first learned about Jim White when I saw his movie Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Searching for The Wrong-Eyed Jesus is a captivating and compelling road trip and follows “Alt Country” singer Jim White through a gritty terrain of churches, prisons, truck stops, biker bars and coal mines. This is a journey through a very real contemporary Southern U.S., a world of marginalised white people and their unique and home-made society. Along the way are road-side encounters with modern musical mavericks including The Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd, Dave Eugene Edwards, old time banjo player Lee sexton; rockabilly and mountain Gospel churches and novelist Harry Crews telling grisly stories down a dirt track.

This movie had a certain impact on me and left me wondering if there was more to this Jim White. After I checked him out on YouTube I realized he is a very sensitive, smart and sincere person.

Jim White (born Michael Davis Pratt) was influenced in his childhood by gospel. He has been a comedian, a fashion model, a boxer, a preacher, a professional surfer, and a New York City cab driver before embarking on a music career. White attended film school at New York University. Soon after finishing his lengthy thesis at the university, White entered a self-described “deep hole of sickness and depression and poverty.” However, during a party organized by film school friends, White began to perform, and began writing material for an album soon afterward.

White’s live shows, particularly when touring solo, can be characterized as off-beat, blending his playlist with open discussion with the audience, anecdotal storytelling derived from his own life experiences, all of which is typically humorous and insightful, with a deep sense of his feeling for the broken beauty of humanity.

Check him out (I would):

Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Photo: By Tecumseh1973 Wikipedia

Featuring: Featuring:

From this day forth, every now and (only)(until) then, dear boys and girls, I shall be posting an occasional post titled Featuring:

In these posts I shall feature somebody or something that has moved me or made an impression on me. These posts shall most possibly appear weekly, most likely on a Sunday (god willing) so check it out and enjoy…or don’t.