some went to heaven
we all prayed
some went to heaven
we all prayed
There is a sixth dimension
beyond that which is known to man
It is a dimension
as vast as space
and as timeless as infinity
It is the middle ground
between language and emotion
between wit and drama
and it lies between the pit of man’s fears
and the summit of our knowledge
This is the dimension of creativity
It is an area which I call
“The WordPress Zone”
(based on the Twilight Zone intro)
Today I am featuring my all time favorite director of film and series. This man needs no introduction to those who are fans of his works or art yet some may not know yet of this extravagant artist who shows us that it’s ok to get lost in dreamscapes. Anyone who has watched any of his series Twin Peaks or films like Lost Highway will know what I’m talking about. David Lynch is also a very positive person and patient with his staff and film crew, allowing them to get the best out of themselves.
David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, painter, musician, writer and actor. His films led to him being labeled “the first popular surrealist” by film critic Pauline Kael. A recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 2019, Lynch has received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, and the César Award for Best Foreign Film twice, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival. In 2007, a panel of critics convened by The Guardian announced that ‘after all the discussion, no one could fault the conclusion that David Lynch is the most important film-maker of the current era’, while AllMovie called him “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking”.
Lynch initially studied painting before he began making short films in the late 1960s. His first feature-length film, the surrealist horror Eraserhead (1977), became a success on the midnight movie circuit, and he followed that by directing The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), and Blue Velvet (1986). Lynch next created his own television series with Mark Frost, the popular murder mystery Twin Peaks (1990–91), which ran for two seasons. He also created the film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), the road film Wild at Heart (1990), and the family film The Straight Story (1999) in the same period. Turning further towards surrealist filmmaking, three of his subsequent films operated on dream logic non-linear narrative structures: Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), and Inland Empire (2006). Lynch and Frost reunited in 2017 for a third season of Twin Peaks, which aired on Showtime. Lynch co-wrote and directed every episode, and reprised his onscreen role as Gordon Cole.
Lynch’s other artistic endeavors include his work as a musician, encompassing the studio albums BlueBOB (2001), Crazy Clown Time (2011), and The Big Dream (2013), as well as music and sound design for a variety of his films (sometimes alongside collaborators Alan Splet, Dean Hurley, and/or Angelo Badalament; painting and photography; writing the books Images (1994), Catching the Big Fish (2006), Room to Dream (2018), and numerous other literary works; and directing several music videos (such as the video for “Shot in the Back of the Head” by Moby, who, in turn, directed a video for Lynch’s “The Big Dream”) as well as advertisements, including the Dior promotional film Lady Blue Shanghai (2006). An avid practitioner of Transcendental Meditation (TM), in 2005 he founded the David Lynch Foundation, which seeks to fund the teaching of TM in schools and has since widened its scope to other at-risk populations, including the homeless, veterans and refugees.
David Keith Lynch was born in Missoula, Montana on January 20, 1946. His father, was a research scientist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and his mother, Edwina “Sunny” Lynch was an English language tutor. Two of Lynch’s maternal great-grandparents were Finnish-Swedish immigrants who arrived in the U.S. during the 19th century. He was raised a Presbyterian. The Lynches often moved around according to where the USDA assigned Donald. Because of this, Lynch, moved with his parents to Sandpoint, Idaho, when he was two months old; two years later, after his brother John was born, the family moved to Spokane, Washington. Lynch’s sister Martha was born there. The family then moved to Durham, North Carolina, Boise, Idaho, and Alexandria, Virginia. Lynch adjusted to this transitory early life with relative ease, noting that he usually had no issue making new friends whenever he started attending a new school. Of his early life, he remarked: “I found the world completely and totally fantastic as a child. Of course, I had the usual fears, like going to school … for me, back then, school was a crime against young people. It destroyed the seeds of liberty. The teachers didn’t encourage knowledge or a positive attitude”.
Alongside his schooling, Lynch joined the Boy Scouts, although he later said he only “became a scout so I could quit and put it behind me”. He rose to the highest rank of Eagle Scout. As an Eagle Scout, he was present with other Boy Scouts outside the White House at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, which took place on Lynch’s 15th birthday. Lynch was also interested in painting and drawing from an early age, and became intrigued by the idea of pursuing it as a career path when living in Virginia, where his friend’s father was a professional painter.
At Francis C. Hammond High School in Alexandria, Lynch did not excel academically, having little interest in schoolwork, but he was popular with other students, and after leaving he decided that he wanted to study painting at college. He began his studies at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C., before transferring in 1964 to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he was roommates with musician Peter Wolf. He left after only a year, saying, “I was not inspired AT ALL in that place.” He instead decided that he wanted to travel around Europe for three years with his friend Jack Fisk, who was similarly unhappy with his studies at Cooper Union. They had some hopes that they could train in Europe with Austrian expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka at his school. Upon reaching Salzburg, however, they found that Kokoschka was not available; disillusioned, they returned to the United States after spending only two weeks in Europe.
Back in the United States, Lynch returned to Virginia, but since his parents had moved to Walnut Creek, California, he stayed with his friend Toby Keeler for a while. He decided to move to Philadelphia and enroll at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, after advice from Fisk, who was already enrolled there. He preferred this college to his previous school in Boston, saying, “In Philadelphia there were great and serious painters, and everybody was inspiring one another and it was a beautiful time there.” It was here that he began a relationship with a fellow student, Peggy Reavey, whom he married in 1967. The following year, Peggy gave birth to their daughter Jennifer. Peggy later said, ” Lynch definitely was a reluctant father, but a very loving one. Hey, I was pregnant when we got married. We were both reluctant.” As a family, they moved to Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, where they bought a 12-room house for the relatively low price of $3,500 due to the area’s high crime and poverty rates. Lynch later said: We lived cheap, but the city was full of fear. A kid was shot to death down the street … We were robbed twice, had windows shot out and a car stolen. The house was first broken into only three days after we moved in … The feeling was so close to extreme danger, and the fear was so intense. There was violence and hate and filth. But the biggest influence in my whole life was that city.
Meanwhile, to help support his family, he took a job printing engravings. At the Pennsylvania Academy, Lynch made his first short film, Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) (1967). He had first come up with the idea when he developed a wish to see his paintings move, and he began discussing doing animation with an artist named Bruce Samuelson. When this project never came about, Lynch decided to work on a film alone, and purchased the cheapest 16mm camera that he could find. Taking one of the Academy’s abandoned upper rooms as a workspace, he spent $150, which at the time he felt to be a lot of money, to produce Six Men Getting Sick. Calling the film “57 seconds of growth and fire, and three seconds of vomit”, Lynch played it on a loop at the Academy’s annual end-of-year exhibit, where it shared joint first prize with a painting by Noel Mahaffey. This led to a commission from one of his fellow students, the wealthy H. Barton Wasserman, who offered him $1,000 to create a film installation in his home. Spending $478 of that on the second-hand Bolex camera “of [his] dreams”, Lynch produced a new animated short, but upon getting the film developed, realized that the result was a blurred, frameless print. He later said, “So I called up [Wasserman] and said, ‘Bart, the film is a disaster. The camera was broken and what I’ve done hasn’t turned out.’ And he said, ‘Don’t worry, David, take the rest of the money and make something else for me. Just give me a print.’ End of story.”
With his leftover money, Lynch decided to experiment with a mix of animation and live action, producing the four-minute short The Alphabet (1968). The film starred Lynch’s wife Peggy as a character known as The Girl, who chants the alphabet to a series of images of horses before dying at the end by hemorrhaging blood all over her bed sheets. Adding a sound effect, Lynch used a broken Uher tape recorder to record the sound of Jennifer crying, creating a distorted sound that Lynch found particularly effective. Later describing what had inspired him, Lynch said, “Peggy’s niece was having a bad dream one night and was saying the alphabet in her sleep in a tormented way. So that’s sort of what started The Alphabet going. The rest of it was just subconscious
Learning about the newly founded American Film Institute, which gave grants to filmmakers who could support their application with a prior work and a script for a new project, Lynch decided to send them a copy of The Alphabet along with a script he had written for a new short film that would be almost entirely live action, The Grandmother. The institute agreed to help finance the work, initially offering him $5,000 out of his requested budget of $7,200, but later granting him the additional $2,200. Starring people he knew from both work and college and filmed in his own house, The Grandmother featured a neglected boy who “grows” a grandmother from a seed to care for him. The film critics Michelle Le Blanc and Colin Odell wrote, “this film is a true oddity but contains many of the themes and ideas that would filter into his later work, and shows a remarkable grasp of the medium”.
In 1971, Lynch moved with his wife and daughter to Los Angeles, where he began studying filmmaking at the AFI Conservatory, a place he later called “completely chaotic and disorganized, which was great … you quickly learned that if you were going to get something done, you would have to do it yourself. They wanted to let people do their thing.” He began writing a script for a proposed work, Gardenback, that had “unfolded from this painting I’d done”. In this venture he was supported by a number of figures at the Conservatory, who encouraged him to lengthen the script and add more dialogue, which he reluctantly agreed to do. All the interference on his Gardenback project made him fed up with the Conservatory and led him to quit after returning to start his second year and being put in first-year classes. AFI dean Frank Daniel asked Lynch to reconsider, believing that he was one of the school’s best students. Lynch agreed on the condition that he could create a project that would not be interfered with. Feeling that Gardenback was “wrecked”, he set out on a new film, Eraserhead.
Eraserhead was planned to be about 42 minutes long (it ended up being 89 minutes), its script was only 21 pages, and Lynch was able to create the film without interference. Filming began on May 29, 1972, at night in some abandoned stables, allowing the production team, which was largely Lynch and some of his friends, including Sissy Spacek, Jack Fisk, cinematographer Frederick Elmes and sound designer Alan Splet, to set up a camera room, green room, editing room, sets as well as a food room and a bathroom. The AFI gave Lynch a $10,000 grant, but it was not enough to complete the film, and under pressure from studios after the success of the relatively cheap feature film Easy Rider, it was unable to give him more. Lynch was then supported by a loan from his father and money that he earned from a paper route that he took up, delivering The Wall Street Journal. Not long into Eraserhead’s production, Lynch and Peggy amicably separated and divorced, and he began living full-time on set. In 1977, Lynch married Mary Fisk, sister of Jack Fisk.
Lynch has said that not a single reviewer of the film understood it in the way he intended. Filmed in black and white, Eraserhead tells the story of Henry (Jack Nance), a quiet young man living in a dystopian industrial wasteland, whose girlfriend gives birth to a deformed baby whom she leaves in his care. It was heavily influenced by the fearful mood of Philadelphia, and Lynch has called it “my Philadelphia Story”.
Due to financial problems the filming of Eraserhead was haphazard, regularly stopping and starting again.
Eraserhead was finally finished in 1976. Lynch tried to get it entered into the Cannes Film Festival, but while some reviewers liked it, others felt it was awful, and it was not selected for screening. Reviewers from the New York Film Festival also rejected it, but it was screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where Ben Barenholtz, the distributor of the Elgin Theater, heard about it. He was very supportive of the movie, helping to distribute it around the United States in 1977, and Eraserhead subsequently became popular on the midnight movie underground circuit, and was later called one of the most important midnight movies of the 1970s, along with El Topo, Pink Flamingos, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Harder They Come and Night of the Living Dead. Stanley Kubrick said it was one of his all-time favorite films.
After Eraserhead’s success on the underground circuit, Stuart Cornfeld, an executive producer for Mel Brooks, saw it and later said, “I was just 100 percent blown away … I thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. It was such a cleansing experience.” He agreed to help Lynch with his next film, Ronnie Rocket, for which Lynch had already written a script. But Lynch soon realized that Ronnie Rocket, a film that he has said is about “electricity and a three-foot guy with red hair”, was not going to be picked up by any financiers, and so he asked Cornfeld to find him a script by someone else that he could direct. Cornfeld found four. On hearing the title of the first, The Elephant Man, Lynch chose it.
The Elephant Man’s script, written by Chris de Vore and Eric Bergren, was based on a true story, that of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in Victorian London, who was held in a sideshow but later taken under the care of a London surgeon, Frederick Treves. Lynch wanted to make some alterations that would alter the story from true events but in his view make a better plot, but he needed Mel Brooks’s permission, as Brooks’s company, Brooksfilms, was responsible for production. Brooks viewed Eraserhead, and after coming out of the screening theatre, embraced Lynch, declaring, “You’re a madman! I love you! You’re in.”
The Elephant Man starred John Hurt as John Merrick (the name changed from Joseph) and Anthony Hopkins as Treves. Filming took place in London. Though surrealistic and in black and white, it has been called “one of the most conventional” of Lynch’s films. The Elephant Man was a huge critical and commercial success, earning eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay
After The Elephant Man’s success, George Lucas, a fan of Eraserhead, offered Lynch the opportunity to direct the third film in his Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi. Lynch refused, arguing that Lucas should direct the film himself as the movie should reflect his own vision, not Lynch’s. Soon, the opportunity to direct another big-budget science fiction epic arose when Dino de Laurentiis of the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group asked Lynch to create a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965). Lynch agreed, and in doing so was also contractually obliged to produce two other works for the company. He set about writing a script based upon the novel, initially with both Chris de Vore and Eric Bergren, and then alone when De Laurentiis was unhappy with their ideas. Lynch also helped build some of the sets, attempting to create “a certain look”, and particularly enjoyed building the set for the oil planet Giedi Prime, for which he used “steel, bolts, and porcelain”.
Dune is set in the far future, when humans live in an interstellar empire under a feudal system. The main character, Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), is the son of a noble who takes control of the desert planet Arrakis, which grows the rare spice melange, the empire’s most highly prized commodity. Lynch was unhappy with the work, later saying, “Dune was a kind of studio film. I didn’t have final cut. And, little by little, I was subconsciously making compromises” (to his own vision). Much of his footage was eventually removed from the final theatrical cut, dramatically condensing the plot. Although De Laurentiis hoped it would be as successful as Star Wars, Dune (1984) was a critical and commercial dud; it had cost $45 million to make, and grossed $27.4 million domestically.
Lynch was contractually still obliged to produce two other projects for De Laurentiis, the first a planned sequel to Dune, which due to the film’s failure never went beyond the script stage. The other was a more personal work, based on a script Lynch had been working on for some time. Developing from ideas that Lynch had had since 1973, the film, Blue Velvet, was set in the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina, and revolves around a college student, Jeffrey Beaumont (MacLachlan), who finds a severed ear in a field. Investigating further with the help of friend Sandy (Laura Dern), he discovers that it is related to a criminal gang led by psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who has kidnapped the husband and child of singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and repeatedly rapes her. Lynch has called the story “a dream of strange desires wrapped inside a mystery story”.
Lynch included pop songs from the 1960s in the film, including Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” and Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet”, the latter of which largely inspired the film. Lynch has said, “It was the song that sparked the movie … There was something mysterious about it. It made me think about things. And the first things I thought about were lawns—lawns and the neighborhood.” Other music for the film was composed by Angelo Badalamenti, who wrote the music for most of Lynch’s subsequent work. De Laurentiis loved the film, and it received support at some of the early specialist screenings, but the preview screenings to mainstream audiences were very negatively received, with most of the viewers hating the film. Lynch had found success with The Elephant Man, but Blue Velvet’s controversy with audiences and critics introduced him into the mainstream, and it became a huge critical and moderate commercial success. The film earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Woody Allen, whose Hannah and Her Sisters was nominated for Best Picture, said Blue Velvet was his favorite film of the year.
Around this time, he met the television producer Mark Frost, who had worked on such projects as Hill Street Blues, and while talking in a coffee shop, Lynch and Frost had the idea of a corpse washing up on a lakeshore, and went to work on their third project, initially called Northwest Passage but eventually Twin Peaks (1990–91).
A drama series set in a small Washington town where popular high school student Laura Palmer has been murdered, Twin Peaks featured FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (MacLachlan) as the investigator trying to identify the killer, and discovering not only the murder’s supernatural aspects but also many of the townsfolk’s secrets; Lynch said, “The project was to mix a police investigation with the ordinary lives of the characters.” He later said, “Mark Frost and I worked together, especially in the initial stages. Later on we started working more apart.” They pitched the series to ABC, which agreed to finance the pilot and eventually commissioned a season comprising seven episodes.
During season one Lynch directed two of the seven episodes, devoting more time to his film Wild at Heart, but carefully chose the other episodes’ directors. He also appeared in several episodes as FBI agent Gordon Cole. The series was a success, with high ratings in the United States and many other countries, and soon spawned a cult following. Soon a second season of 22 episodes went into production, but ABC executives believed that public interest in the show was decreasing. The network insisted that Lynch and Frost reveal Laura Palmer’s killer’s identity prematurely, which Lynch grudgingly agreed to do, in what Lynch has called one of his biggest professional regrets. After identifying the murderer and moving from Thursday to Saturday night, Twin Peaks continued for several more episodes, but was canceled after a ratings drop. Lynch, who disliked the direction that writers and directors took in the later episodes, directed the final episode. He ended it with a cliffhanger (like season one had), later saying, “that’s not the ending. That’s the ending that people were stuck with.”
Also while Twin Peaks was in production, the Brooklyn Academy of Music asked Lynch and Badalamenti, who wrote the music for Twin Peaks, to create a theatrical piece to be performed twice in 1989 as a part of the New Music America Festival. The result was Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted, which starred frequent Lynch collaborators such as Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage and Michael J. Anderson, and contained five songs sung by Julee Cruise. Lynch produced a 50-minute video of the performance in 1990. Meanwhile, he was also involved in creating various commercials for companies including Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and the Japanese coffee company Namoi, which featured a Japanese man searching Twin Peaks for his missing wife.
While Lynch was working on the first few episodes of Twin Peaks, his friend Monty Montgomery “gave me a book that he wanted to direct as a movie. He asked if I would maybe be executive producer or something, and I said ‘That’s great, Monty, but what if I read it and fall in love with it and want to do it myself?’ And he said, ‘In that case, you can do it yourself’.” The book was Barry Gifford’s novel Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula, about two lovers on a road trip. Lynch felt that it was “just exactly the right thing at the right time. The book and the violence in America merged in my mind and many different things happened.” With Gifford’s support, Lynch adapted the novel into Wild at Heart, a crime and road movie starring Nicolas Cage as Sailor and Laura Dern as Lula. Describing its plot as a “strange blend” of “a road picture, a love story, a psychological drama and a violent comedy”, Lynch altered much of the original novel, changing the ending and incorporating numerous references to The Wizard of Oz. Despite a muted response from American critics and viewers, Wild at Heart won the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.
After Wild at Heart’s success, Lynch returned to the world of the canceled Twin Peaks, this time without Frost, to create a film that was primarily a prequel but also in part a sequel. Lynch said, “I liked the idea of the story going back and forth in time.” The result, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), primarily revolved around the last few days in the life of Laura Palmer, and was much “darker” in tone than the TV series, with much of the humor removed, and dealing with such topics as incest and murder. Lynch has said the film is about “the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest”. The company CIBY-2000 financed Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and most of the TV series’ cast reprised their roles, though some refused and many were unenthusiastic about the project. The film was a commercial and critical failure in the United States but a hit in Japan, and some critics, such as Mark Kermode, have called it Lynch’s “masterpiece”.
After his unsuccessful TV ventures, Lynch returned to film. In 1997 he released the non-linear, noiresque Lost Highway, which was co-written by Barry Gifford and starred Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette. The film failed commercially and received a mixed response from critics.
Lynch then began work on a film from a script by Mary Sweeney and John E. Roach, The Straight Story, based on a true story: that of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), an elderly man from Laurens, Iowa, who goes on a 300-mile journey to visit his sick brother (Harry Dean Stanton) in Mount Zion, Wisconsin, by riding lawnmower. Asked why he chose this script, Lynch said, “that’s what I fell in love with next”, and expressed his admiration of Straight, describing him as “like James Dean, except he’s old”. Badalamenti wrote the music for the film, saying it was “very different from the kind of score he’s done for [Lynch] in the past”.
Among the many differences from Lynch’s other films, The Straight Story contains no profanity, sexuality or violence, and is rated “G” by the Motion Picture Association of America, which came as “shocking news” to many in the film industry, who were surprised that it “did not disturb, offend or mystify”. Le Blanc and Odell write that the plot made it “seem as far removed from Lynch’s earlier works as could be imagined, but in fact right from the very opening, this is entirely his film—a surreal road movie”.
The same year, Lynch approached ABC again with ideas for a television drama. The network gave Lynch the go-ahead to shoot a two-hour pilot for the series Mulholland Drive, but disputes over content and running time led to the project being shelved indefinitely. But with $7 million from the French production company StudioCanal, Lynch completed the pilot as a film, Mulholland Drive. The film, a non-linear narrative surrealist tale of Hollywood’s dark side, stars Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux. It performed relatively well at the box office worldwide and was a critical success, earning Lynch Best Director at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival (shared with Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Best Director from the New York Film Critics Association. He also received his third Academy Award nomination for Best Director. In 2016, the film was named the best film of the 21st century in a BBC poll of 177 film critics from 36 countries.
With the rising popularity of the Internet, Lynch decided to use it as a distribution channel, releasing several new series he had created exclusively on his website, davidlynch.com, which went online on December 10, 2001. In 2002, he created a series of online shorts, DumbLand. Intentionally crude in content and execution, the eight-episode series was later released on DVD. The same year, Lynch released a surreal sitcom, Rabbits, about a family of humanoid rabbits. Later, he made his experiments with Digital Video available in the form of the Japanese-style horror short Darkened Room. In 2006, Lynch’s feature film Inland Empire was released. At three hours, it is the longest of his films. Like Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, it does not follow a traditional narrative structure. It stars Lynch regulars Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton and Justin Theroux, with cameos by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring as the voices of Suzie and Jane Rabbit, and a performance by Jeremy Irons. Lynch has called Inland Empire “a mystery about a woman in trouble”. In an effort to promote it, he made appearances with a cow and a placard bearing the slogan “Without cheese there would be no Inland Empire”.
On October 6, 2014, Lynch confirmed via Twitter that he and Frost would start shooting a new, nine-episode season of Twin Peaks in 2015, with the episodes expected to air in 2016 on Showtime. Lynch and Frost wrote all the episodes. Since the last episode of The Return aired, there has been speculation about a fourth season. Lynch did not deny the possibility of another season, but said that if it were to happen, it would not air before 2021.
Lynch is reportedly working on a new project for Netflix under the working titles Wisteria and Unrecorded Night. He is set to write and direct 13 episodes with an $85 million budget; production will begin in May 2021 in Los Angeles.
“I look at the world and I see absurdity all around me. People do strange things constantly, to the point that, for the most part, we manage not to see it. That’s why I love coffee shops and public places—I mean, they’re all out there”.
Lynch has said his work is more similar in many respects to that of European filmmakers than American ones, and that most films that “get down and thrill your soul” are by European directors. He has expressed his admiration for such filmmakers as Federico Fellini, Werner Herzog, Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, and Jacques Tati, along with Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder. He has said that Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard is one of his favorite pictures, as are Kubrick’s Lolita, Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Herzog’s Stroszek. He has also cited Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls and Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End as influences on his work.
Several themes recur in Lynch’s work. Le Blanc and Odell write, “his films are so packed with motifs, recurrent characters, images, compositions and techniques that you could view his entire output as one large jigsaw puzzle of ideas”. One of the key themes they note is the usage of dreams and dreamlike imagery and structure, something they relate to the “surrealist ethos” of relying “on the subconscious to provide visual drive”. This can be seen in Merrick’s dream of his mother in The Elephant Man, Cooper’s dreams of the red room in Twin Peaks and the “dreamlike logic” of the narratives of Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.Of his attitude to dreams, Lynch has said, “Waking dreams are the ones that are important, the ones that come when I’m quietly sitting in a chair, letting my mind wander. When you sleep, you don’t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made or discovered; a world I choose … You can’t really get others to experience it, but right there is the power of cinema.” His films are known for their use of magic realism. The motif of dreams is closely linked to his recurring use of drones, real-world sounds and musical styles.
Another of Lynch’s prominent themes is industry, with repeated imagery of “the clunk of machinery, the power of pistons, shadows of oil drills pumping, screaming wood mills and smoke billowing factories”, as seen in the industrial wasteland in Eraserhead, the factories in The Elephant Man, the sawmill in Twin Peaks and the lawnmower in The Straight Story. Of his interest in such things, Lynch has said, “It makes me feel good to see giant machinery, you know, working: dealing with molten metal. And I like fire and smoke. And the sounds are so powerful. It’s just big stuff. It means that things are being made, and I really like that.”
Yet another theme is the dark underbelly of violent criminal activity in a society, such as Frank Booth’s gang in Blue Velvet and the cocaine smugglers in Twin Peaks. The idea of deformity is also found in several of Lynch’s films, from The Elephant Man to the deformed baby in Eraserhead, as well as death from head wounds, found in most of Lynch’s films. Other imagery common in Lynch’s works includes flickering electricity or lights, fire, and stages upon which a singer performs, often surrounded by drapery.
Except The Elephant Man and Dune, which are set in Victorian London and a fictitious galaxy respectively, all of Lynch’s films are set in the United States, and he has said, “I like certain things about America and it gives me ideas. When I go around and I see things, it sparks little stories, or little characters pop out, so it just feels right to me to, you know, make American films.” A number of his works, including Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway, are intentionally reminiscent of 1950s American culture despite being set in later decades of the 20th century. Lynch has said, “It was a fantastic decade in a lot of ways … there was something in the air that is not there any more at all. It was such a great feeling, and not just because I was a kid. It was a really hopeful time, and things were going up instead of going down. You got the feeling you could do anything. The future was bright. Little did we know we were laying the groundwork for a disastrous future.”
Lynch also tends to feature his leading female actors in “split” roles, so that many of his female characters have multiple, fractured identities. This practice began with his casting Sheryl Lee as both Laura Palmer and her cousin Maddy Ferguson in Twin Peaks and continued in his later works. In Lost Highway, Patricia Arquette plays the dual role of Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield; in Mulholland Drive Naomi Watts plays Diane Selwyn/Betty Elms and Laura Harring plays Camilla Rhodes/Rita; in Inland Empire Laura Dern plays Nikki Grace/Susan Blue. The numerous alternative versions of lead characters and fragmented timelines may echo and/or reference the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics and perhaps Lynch’s broader interest in quantum mechanics. Some have suggested that Lynch’s love for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which employs a split lead character (the Judy Barton and Madeleine Elster characters, both portrayed by Kim Novak) may have influenced this aspect of his work.
His films frequently feature characters with supernatural or omnipotent qualities. They can be seen as physical manifestations of various concepts, such as hatred or fear. Examples include The Man Inside the Planet in Eraserhead, BOB in Twin Peaks, The Mystery Man in Lost Highway, The Bum in Mulholland Drive, and The Phantom in Inland Empire. Lynch approaches his characters and plots in a way that steeps them in a dream state rather than reality.
Lynch is also widely noted for his collaborations with various production artists and composers on his films and other productions. He frequently works with Angelo Badalamenti to compose music for his productions, former wife Mary Sweeney as a film editor, casting director Johanna Ray, and cast members Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Nance, Kyle MacLachlan, Naomi Watts, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie, and Laura Dern.
David Lynch has recently given a Masterclass on directing which is a very interesting watch. A person could learn a thing or two if one would be interested in pursuing a career in the field of dreamscapes.
Some perceive his work to be somewhat weird or odd. I like weird and odd as it unlimits my way of creative thinking. It’s because of people like him I’ve learned to think and write “outside the box”. David Lynch, a one-of-a-kind unique persona, a great director, you gotta love the man…
Check him out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Today I’m featuring a man who has made a vast variety of interesting documentaries on unusual topics across the world and has made an impression on me by the way with the way he asks his questions: he seems to ask the right ones. One could almost call him the king of documentaries and interviewees always seem at ease and comfortable sharing things they wouldn’t share with others. This sincere bespectacled English eccentric is very nonjudgmental in his approach and he touches well on the sensitive sides of matters and seemingly bonds effortlessly with most people.
Louis Sebastian Theroux (May 1970) is a British-American documentary filmmaker, journalist, broadcaster, and author. He has received two British Academy Television Awards and a Royal Television Society Television Award.
Born in Singapore to an English mother and American father (the writer Paul Theroux), Theroux moved with his family to London when he was a child. After graduating from Oxford, he moved to the U.S. and worked as a journalist for Metro Silicon Valley and Spy. He moved into television as the presenter of offbeat segments on Michael Moore’s TV Nation series and later began to host his own documentaries, including Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends, When Louis Met…, and several BBC Two specials.
Louis Sebastian Theroux was born in Singapore on 20 May 1970, the son of American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux and his English then-wife Anne (née Castle). His paternal grandmother, Anne (née Dittami), was an Italian-American grammar school teacher, and his paternal grandfather, Albert Eugène Theroux, was French-Canadian and a salesman for the American Leather Oak company. He holds both British and American citizenship. His older brother, Marcel, is a writer and television presenter. His cousin, Justin, is an actor and screenwriter. Theroux is the nephew of novelist Alexander Theroux and writer Peter Theroux.
Theroux moved with his family to England at the age of one, and was brought up in London. He was educated at Tower House School and then at Westminster School, a public school within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. While there, he became friends with comedians Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish,and the Liberal Democrat politician Nick Clegg, with whom he travelled to America. He also performed in a number of school theatre productions including Bugsy Malone as Looney Bergonzi, Ritual for Dolls as the Army Officer, and The Splendour Falls as the Minstrel. Theroux later read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford (1988–1991), graduating with first-class honours.
Theroux’s first employment as a journalist was in the United States with Metro Silicon Valley, an alternative free weekly newspaper in San Jose, California. In 1992, he was hired as a writer for Spy magazine. He also worked as a correspondent on Michael Moore’s TV Nation series, for which he provided segments on off-beat cultural subjects, including selling Avon to women in the Amazon Rainforest, the Jerusalem syndrome, and attempts by the Ku Klux Klan to rebrand itself as a civil rights group for white people.
When TV Nation ended, Theroux was signed to a development deal by the BBC, through which he developed Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends. He has guest-written for a number of publications, including Hip Hop Connection, and he continues to write for The Idler.
In Weird Weekends (1998–2000), Theroux followed marginal (mostly American) subcultures such as survivalists, black nationalists, white supremacists, and porn stars, often by living among or close to the people involved. His documentary method often subtly exposed the contradictions or farcical elements of some seriously held beliefs. He described the aim of the series as:
Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it’s almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don’t have to play up that stuff. I’m not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd.
In the series When Louis Met… (2000–02), Theroux accompanied a different British celebrity in each programme in their daily lives, interviewing them as they go. His episode about British entertainer Jimmy Savile, When Louis Met Jimmy, was voted one of the top documentaries of all time in a 2005 survey by Britain’s Channel 4. Some years after the episode was filmed, the NSPCC described Savile as one of the most prolific sex offenders in Great Britain.
In an interview in 2015, Theroux expressed his intention to produce a follow-up documentary about Savile for the BBC to explore how the late entertainer had continued his abuse for so long, to meet people he knew closely, and examine his own reflections on his inability to dig more deeply into the first case. This follow-up documentary, with the title Savile, aired on BBC Two on Sunday, 2 October 2016, and lasted 1 hour, 15 minutes.
In When Louis Met the Hamiltons, the former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine were arrested during the course of filming, due to false allegations of indecent assault.
In When Louis Met Max Clifford, Max Clifford tried to set up Theroux, but he was caught lying as the crew recorded his live microphone during the conversations.
After this series concluded, a retrospective called Life with Louis was released. Theroux made a documentary called Louis, Martin & Michael about his quest to get an interview with Michael Jackson. Selected episodes of When Louis Met… were included as bonus content on a Best-Of collection of Weird Weekends.
In these special programmes, beginning in 2003, Theroux returned to American themes, working at feature-length and in a more natural way. In March 2006, he signed a new deal with the BBC to make 10 films over the course of three years. Subjects for the specials include criminal gangs in Lagos, Neo-Nazis in America, ultra-Zionists in Israel. He also visits child psychiatry, and the prison systems in California and Florida. A 2007 special, The Most Hated Family in America, received strong critical praise from the international media.
In October 2016, Theroux premiered a feature length documentary entitled My Scientology Movie. Produced by Simon Chinn—a schoolfriend of Theroux’s—and directed by John Dower, the film covers Theroux attempting to gain access to the secretive Church of Scientology. The film premiered at the London Film Festival in 2015 and was released in cinemas in the UK on 7 October 2016.
Theroux published his first book, The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, in Britain in 2005. In it he recounts his return to the United States to learn about the lives of some of the people he had featured in his television programmes.Theroux also released an autobiography titled Gotta Get Theroux This in September 2019.
In April 2020, during a lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Theroux started the BBC Radio 4 podcast Grounded with Louis Theroux, recorded at his home, where he interviews well known people that he finds particularly fascinating, who he would not necessarily have had a chance to speak to before the pandemic
Theroux makes a few appearances on The Adam and Joe Show DVD and has been a guest many times on Adam & Joe’s radio shows as well as on The Adam Buxton Podcast.
As part of the Weird Weekends episode “Porn”, Theroux agreed to film a cameo in the 1997 gay pornography film Take a Peak. He did not perform sexual acts in the film, but made a brief appearance as a park ranger in search of a criminal. In the Weird Weekends episode “Infomercials”, he was featured as a live salesman for an at-home paper shredder for the Home Shopping Network.
In December 2015 Theroux captained the team representing Magdalen College, Oxford, on BBC Four’s Christmas University Challenge. In their first-round match the team beat University of Exeter by 220 to 130 and Theroux’s team went on to win the tournament.
Theroux’s first marriage was to Susanna Kleeman from 1998 to 2001; he later told Sathnam Sanghera of the Financial Times, “What happened was that my girlfriend was living with me in New York. She was having trouble finding work … legally. So we got married, to make it easier for her. We never really considered ourselves married in the full sense – there were no wedding photos or anything like that. It was really a marriage of convenience.”
While filming a 2011 BBC programme, Theroux was asked “Why pose a difference between religion and ethics?” He responded, “Because I don’t believe in God.” In his 2011 documentary, The Ultra Zionists, he confirmed his atheism. In a 2012 masterclass, Theroux spoke of the challenges of combining family life with the need to go away to work on projects.
Theroux married longtime girlfriend Nancy Strang on 13 July 2012. They have three sons. He and his family lived in Harlesden, London until they temporarily moved to Los Angeles, California in early 2013, allowing him more time to focus on his LA Stories series. In August 2017, Theroux again relocated to Los Angeles.
In 2018 Theroux was targeted by cyber security firm Insinia to highlight a longstanding security flaw in Twitter’s system.
During a 2018 interview with The Guardian, he revealed that he was a nervous flyer.
Theroux has stated that while he acknowledges that it is an intoxicant and can be a trigger to mental health issues, he supports the legalisation of cannabis.
This incredibly good journalist knows there are boundaries and things he shouldn’t cross. He blends in well and is an easy confidant to all. There is a sense, watching Theroux talk to the people in his interviews, that he’s not putting words in their mouths but is instead drawing out something they already want to say. This geeky, nerdy-looking Brit is a national treasure.
Check him out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, Radio Times, interweb, poetpas
~photo by The Telegraph
that I see
when I push
To continue my Featuring series I will be featuring nobody less than Rik Mayall.
This comedian had a huge impact on British comedy and did as well on me. Often working with Ade Edmondson he is mostly known for the series The Young Ones and Bottom which I would like to describe as anarchistic slapstick. Rik Mayall’s briljant sense of black humor is right up my street. Sadly, like many others great ones he left our mortal coil too soon…
Richard Michael Mayall (7 March 1958 – 9 June 2014) was an English stand-up comedian, actor and writer. Mayall formed a close partnership with Ade Edmondson while they were students at Manchester University and was a pioneer of alternative comedy in the 1980s.
Mayall starred in numerous cult classic sitcoms throughout his career, including The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents…, Blackadder, Filthy Rich & Catflap, The New Statesman, Bottom and Believe Nothing. Mayall also starred in the comedy films Drop Dead Fred and Guest House Paradiso, and won a Primetime Emmy Award for his voice-over work in The Willows in Winter. His comedic style was described as energetic “post-punk”.
Rik Mayall was born on 7 March 1958 at 98 Pittmans Field in Harlow.
He had an older brother, Anthony, and two younger sisters, Libby and Kate. When Mayall was three years old, he and his parents—who taught drama—moved to Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, where he spent the rest of his childhood and performed in his parents’ plays.
He attended King’s School, Worcester, where he obtained a free scholarship and failed most of his O-levels and scraped through A-levels. In 1975, Mayall went to the University of Manchester to study drama. He has claimed that he failed his degree, or that he did not even turn up to his finals but in reality he graduated with lower second-class honours in 1978. It was there that he met his future comedy partner Ade Edmondson, Ben Elton, a fellow student, and Lise Mayer, with whom he later co-wrote The Young Ones.
Edmondson and Mayall gained their reputation at The Comedy Store, from 1980. Apart from performing in their double act, 20th Century Coyote, Mayall developed solo routines, using characters such as Kevin Turvey and a pompous anarchist poet named Rick. This led to Edmondson and Mayall, along with Comedy Store compere Alexei Sayle and other upcoming comedians, including Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, French and Saunders, Arnold Brown and Pete Richens, setting up their own comedy club called “The Comic Strip” in the Raymond Revuebar, a strip club in Soho. Mayall’s Kevin Turvey character gained a regular slot in A Kick Up the Eighties, first broadcast in 1981. He appeared as “Rest Home” Ricky in Richard O’Brien’s Shock Treatment, a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He played Dentonvale’s resident attendant as the love interest to Nell Campbell’s Nurse Ansalong.
Mayall’s television appearances as Kevin Turvey led to a mockumentary based on the character titled Kevin Turvey – The Man Behind The Green Door, broadcast in 1982. The previous year, he appeared in a bit role in An American Werewolf in London. His stage partnership with Edmondson continued, with them often appearing together as “The Dangerous Brothers”, hapless daredevils whose hyper-violent antics foreshadowed their characters in Bottom. Channel 4 offered the Comic Strip group six short films, which became The Comic Strip Presents…, debuting on 2 November 1982. The series, which continued sporadically for many years, saw Mayall play a wide variety of roles. It was known for anti-establishment humour and for parodies such as Bad News on Tour, a spoof “rockumentary” starring Mayall, Richardson, Edmondson and Planer as a heavy metal band.
At the time The Comic Strip Presents… was negotiated, the BBC took an interest in The Young Ones, a sitcom written by Mayall and his then-girlfriend Lise Mayer, in the same anarchic vein as Comic Strip. Ben Elton joined the writers. The series was commissioned and first broadcast in 1982, shortly before Comic Strip. Mayall played Rick, a pompous sociology student and Cliff Richard devotee. Mayall maintained his double-act with Edmondson, who starred as violent punk Vyvyan. Nigel Planer (as hippie Neil) and Christopher Ryan also starred, with additional material written and performed by Alexei Sayle.
The first series was successful and a second was screened in 1984. The show owed a comic debt to Spike Milligan, but Milligan disapproved of Mayall’s style of performance. Milligan once wrote: “Rik Mayall is putrid – absolutely vile. He thinks nose-picking is funny and farting and all that. He is the arsehole of British comedy.”
In 1986, Mayall played the private detective in the video of “Peter Gunn” by Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy.
Mayall continued to work on The Comic Strip films. He returned to stand-up comedy, performing on Saturday Live—a British version of the American Saturday Night Live—first broadcast in 1985. He and Edmondson had a regular section as “The Dangerous Brothers”, their earlier stage act. In 1985, Mayall debuted another comic creation. He had appeared in the final episode of the first series of Blackadder as “Mad Gerald”. He returned to play Lord Flashheart in the Blackadder II episode titled “Bells”. A descendant of this character, Squadron Commander Flashheart, was in the Blackadder Goes Forth episode “Private Plane”. In the same episode, he was reunited with Edmondson, who played German flying ace Baron von Richthofen the “Red Baron”, in a scene where he comes to rescue Captain Blackadder from the Germans. A decade later, Mayall also appeared in Blackadder: Back & Forth as Robin Hood.
In 1986, Mayall joined Planer, Edmondson and Elton to star as Richie Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap, which was billed as a follow-up to The Young Ones. The idea of Filthy Rich and Catflap was a reaction to comments made by Jimmy Tarbuck about The Young Ones. The series’ primary focus was to highlight the “has been” status of light entertainment. While Mayall received positive critical reviews, viewing figures were poor and the series was never repeated on the BBC. In later years, release on video, DVD and repeats on UK TV found a following. Mayall suggested that the series did not last because he was uncomfortable acting in an Elton project, when they had been co-writers on The Young Ones. In the same year, Mayall had a No. 1 hit in the UK Singles Chart, when he and his co-stars from The Young Ones teamed with Cliff Richard to record “Living Doll” for the inaugural Comic Relief campaign. Mayall played Rick one last time in the Comic Relief stage-show and supported the Comic Relief cause for the rest of his life. 1987 saw Mayall co-star with Edmondson in one episode of the ITV sitcom Hardwicke House, although adverse reaction from press and viewers saw ITV withdraw the series after two episodes, leaving their appearance unbroadcast. He appeared on the children’s television series Jackanory. His crazed portrayal of Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine proved memorable. However, the BBC received complaints “with viewers claiming both story and presentation to be both dangerous and offensive”.
In 1987, Mayall played fictional Conservative MP Alan Beresford B’Stard in the sitcom The New Statesman written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. The character was a satirical portrait of Tory MPs in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and early 1990s. The programme ran for four series—incorporating two BBC specials—between 1987 and ’94 and was successful critically and in the ratings. In a similar vein to his appearance on Jackanory, in 1989 Mayall starred in a series of bit shows for ITV called Grim Tales, in which he narrated Grimm Brothers fairy tales while puppets acted the stories. In the early 1990s, Mayall starred in humorous adverts for Nintendo games and consoles. With money from the ads, he bought his house in London which he called “Nintendo Towers”.
In 1991, Edmondson and Mayall co-starred in the West End production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Queen’s Theatre, with Mayall playing Vladimir, Edmondson as Estragon and Christopher Ryan as Lucky. Here they came up with the idea for Bottom, which they said was a cruder cousin to Waiting for Godot. Bottom was commissioned by the BBC and three series were shown between 1991 and 1995. Mayall appeared in Bottom as Richard ‘Richie’ Richard alongside Edmondson’s Eddie Elizabeth Hitler. The series featured slapstick violence taken to new extremes, and gained a strong cult following.
In 1993, following the second series, Mayall and Edmondson decided to take a stage-show version of the series on a national tour, Bottom: Live. It was a commercial success, filling large venues. Four additional stage shows were embarked upon in 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003, each meeting with great success. The violent nature of these shows saw both Edmondson and Mayall ending up in hospital at various points. A film version, Guest House Paradiso, was released in 1999. A fourth TV series was also written, but not commissioned by the BBC.
Mayall starred alongside Phoebe Cates in Drop Dead Fred (1991) as the eponymous character, a troublesome imaginary friend who reappears from a woman’s childhood. He also appeared in Carry On Columbus (1992) with other alternative comedians. Mayall also provided the voice of the character Froglip, the prince of the goblins, in the 1992 animated film adaption of the 1872 children’s tale The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. In 1993, he appeared in Rik Mayall Presents, six individual comedy dramas (Micky Love / Briefest Encounter / Dancing Queen / The Big One / Dirty Old Town / Clair de Lune). Mayall’s performances won him a Best Comedy Performer award at that year’s British Comedy Awards, and a second series of three was broadcast in early 1995. He provided the voice for Little Sod in Simon Brett’s How to Be a Little Sod, written in 1991 and adapted as ten consecutive episodes broadcast by the BBC in 1995. In the early 1990s, he auditioned for the roles of Banzai, Zazu and Timon in The Lion King (1994); he was asked to audition by lyricist Tim Rice, but the role of Zazu finally went to Rowan Atkinson.
In 1995, Mayall featured in a production of the play Cell Mates alongside Stephen Fry. Not long into the run, Fry had a nervous breakdown and fled to Belgium, where he remained for several days, and the play closed early. In 2007, Mayall said of the incident: “You don’t leave the trenches … selfishness is one thing, being a cunt is another. I mustn’t start that war again.” Edmondson poked fun at the event during their stage tours. In Bottom Live: The Big Number Two Tour, after Mayall gave mocking gestures to the audience and insulted their town in a silly voice, Edmondson said, “Have you finished yet? It’s just I’m beginning to understand why Stephen Fry fucked off.” In Bottom Live 2003: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts Tour, after Richie accidentally fondles Eddie, he replies, “I see why Stephen Fry left that play.” Towards the end of the Cell Mates run, Mayall revealed a replica gun—a prop from the play—to a passer-by in the street. Mayall was cautioned over the incident and later conceded that this was “incredibly stupid, even by my standards”. From 1999, Mayall was the voice of the black-headed seagull Kehaar, in the first and second series of the animated television programme, Watership Down. In the late 1990s Mayall was featured in a number of adverts for Virgin Trains.
In 1998, Mayall was involved in a serious quad bike accident. The pair wrote the first draft of their feature film Guest House Paradiso while Mayall was still hospitalised. They planned to co-direct, but Edmondson took on the duties himself. Mayall returned to work doing voice-overs. His first post-accident acting job was in the 1998 Jonathan Creek Christmas special, as DI Gideon Pryke, a role he later reprised in 2013.
In 2000, Mayall voiced all characters for the PlayStation and Windows PC video game Hogs of War. Also that year, Mayall appeared in the video production of Jesus Christ Superstar as King Herod. He joked in the “making of” documentary, which was included on the DVD release, that “the real reason why millions of people want to come and see this is because I’m in it! Me and Jesus!” In 2001 Mayall acted as Lt Daniel Blaney in the episode “The White Knight Stratagem” from the series “Murder Rooms: The Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes.” In 2002, Mayall teamed up with Marks and Gran once more when he starred as Professor Adonis Cnut in the ITV sitcom, Believe Nothing. However, the sitcom failed to repeat the success of The New Statesman and lasted for only one series.
Persistent speculation amongst critics and fans of the American cartoon comedy television sitcom Family Guy consider that the character Stewie Griffin was closely modelled on Mayall’s performance in the character of ‘Richard Richard’ in Bottom.
Following 2003’s Bottom: Live tour, Bottom 5: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts, Mayall stated that he and Edmondson would return with another tour.
In 2004 Mayall had a starring cameo role playing the record boss in the video short “ABBA: Our Last Video Ever”.
Mayall voiced Edwin in the BBC show Shoebox Zoo. In September 2005, he released an ‘in-character’ semi-fictionalised autobiography titled Bigger than Hitler, Better than Christ. At the same time, he starred in a new series for ITV, All About George. In 2006, Mayall reprised the role of Alan B’Stard in the play The New Statesman 2006: Blair B’stard Project, written by Marks and Gran. By this time B’Stard had left the floundering Conservatives and become a Labour MP. In 2007, following a successful two-month run in London’s West End at the Trafalgar Studios, a heavily re-written version toured theatres nationwide, with Marks and Gran constantly updating the script to keep it topical. However, Mayall succumbed to chronic fatigue and flu in May 2007 and withdrew from the show. Alan B’Stard was played by his understudy, Mike Sherman during his hiatus.
Mayall was cast as the poltergeist Peeves in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), the first of the Harry Potter films, although all of his scenes were cut from the film. He had not been made aware that his scenes had been cut until the full film was officially unveiled at the premiere. During filming the children in the cast were unable to suppress their giggles when he was filming and would corpse. Since Mayall’s death there has been an outcry for the release of this footage from his fans. He told the story of this hiring/firing on his second website blog for his film, Evil Calls: The Raven (2008). For Evil Calls, Mayall’s role as Winston the Butler was shot in 2002, when the film was titled Alone in the Dark. The film was not completed until 2008, and was released under its new Evil Calls title, to distance it from the Alone in the Dark computer game film.
Mayall provided the voice of the Andrex puppy in the TV commercials for Andrex toilet paper, and also had a voice part in the Domestos cleaning product adverts. He performed the voice of King Arthur in the children’s television cartoon series, King Arthur’s Disasters, alongside Matt Lucas who plays Merlin. Mayall also had a recurring role in the Channel Five remake of the lighthearted drama series, Minder. He also provided the voice of Cufflingk in the 2005 animated film Valiant.
In September 2009, Mayall played a supporting role in the television programme Midsomer Murders—shown on ITV1 and made by Meridian Broadcasting—as David Roper, a recovering party animal and tenuous friend of the families in and around Chettham Park House.
In April 2010, Motivation Records released Mayall’s England Football anthem “Noble England” for the 2010 FIFA World Cup which he recorded with producer Dave Loughran at Brick Lane Studios in London.The release, on 26 April, was designed to coincide with St George’s Day and the baptism of Shakespeare. On the track, Mayall performs an adapted speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. In June 2010, the official BBC Match of the Day compilation CD (2010 Edition) was released by Sony/Universal featuring Noble England. After Mayall’s death in 2014, a campaign led by Jon Morter began to get “Noble England” to No. 1 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It rapidly climbed the official charts in the United Kingdom and reached no. 7.
In September 2010, an audio book, narrated by Mayall, Cutey and the Sofaguard was released by Digital Download. The book was written by Chris Wade and released by Wisdom Twins Books. In this same month, Mayall played the voice of Roy’s Dad and recorded five episodes of animation. In November, Mayall provided narrative for five different characters for CDs accompanying children’s books published by Clickety Books. The books aid speech and language development by bombarding the child with troublesome sound targets. He recorded introductions and narratives for the titles.
On 5 March 2011, Mayall appeared on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief in which he came on stage and attacked Ade Edmondson with a frying pan during his performance of The Dying Swan ballet. Edmondson mentioned backstage that it was the first time in eight years they had done something like that together and claimed Mayall had left his head with a small bump. It would be the last time the duo performed together in public.
In April 2011, Mayall again revived the character of Alan B’Stard to make an appearance in a satirical television advertisement for the No2AV campaign prior to the 2011 voting reform referendum in the UK. The character is shown being elected under the alternative vote system, then using his newly gained position of power to renege on his campaign promises. In his personal life, Rik Mayall did not support the alternative vote. In May, Mayall became the eponymous ‘Bombardier’ in a TV advertising campaign for Bombardier Bitter in the UK. The adverts landed broadcaster UKTV Dave in trouble with Ofcom when they were found to breach the Ofcom code for linking alcohol with sexual attractiveness or success.
On 23 August 2012, the BBC announced that Edmondson and Mayall’s characters of Richie and Eddie would be returning in 2013 in Hooligan’s Island, a television adaptation of their 1997 tour of the same name. However, on 15 October 2012, Edmondson announced during an interview with BBC radio presenter Mark Powlett that the project was cancelled prior to production as he wished to pursue other interests.
In September 2012, Mayall starred in The Last Hurrah, a six-episode, full-cast audio series that he also co-wrote with Craig Green and Dominic Vince.
In November 2012, Mayall narrated several children’s books on the Me Books app, such as The Getaway and Banana! by children’s illustrator and author Ed Vere.
In October 2013 he appeared in Channel 4 sitcom Man Down, playing the father of the protagonist, Greg Davies—despite being only ten years older.
On 7 May 2014, Mayall made one of his last recorded performances in the form of poetry and voice-overs read on English rock band Magic Eight Ball’s second album ‘Last Of The Old Romantics’ (released on 10 November 2014).
Mayall’s final TV appearance was in the first episode of the second series of Crackanory, which was broadcast posthumously on 24 September 2014 on Dave.
Mayall married Scottish make-up artist Barbara Robbin in 1985, and the couple had three children. The couple met in 1981 while filming A Kick Up the Eighties and embarked on a secret affair. At the time, Mayall was in a long-term relationship with Lise Mayer. Upon discovering that Robbin was pregnant, Mayall left Mayer (who was also pregnant with his child at the time) while on a shopping trip with her and Ben Elton, and eloped with Robbin to Barbados. Mayer would later suffer a miscarriage. In a 2002 newspaper article, Mayall said that Mayer had since forgiven him.
Mayall twice publicly involved himself in political campaigns. In 2002 he dressed up as Adolf Hitler for a cinema advertisement opposing the United Kingdom abolishing its national currency the Pound sterling in favour of the Euro, as a part of its membership of the European Union. In the United Kingdom Alternative Vote Referendum of 2011 he appeared in a television broadcast for the ‘No’ campaign in character as Alan B’Stard to oppose the adoption of an alternative non-proportional electoral system for Westminster Parliamentary elections.
On 9 April 1998, Mayall was injured after crashing a quad bike near his home in Devon. Mayall’s daughter Bonnie and her cousin had asked him to take them for a ride on the bike—a Christmas gift from his wife—but he refused because of bad weather approaching, and he went on out alone. Mayall remembered nothing about the accident. His wife Barbara looked out of the window and saw him lying on the ground trapped beneath the quad, which had turned over on top of him. Mayall later joked that his wife believed he was fooling around and initially left him for a few minutes. He was airlifted to Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital, with two haematomas and a fractured skull. During the following 96 hours, he was kept sedated to prevent movement which could cause pressure on his brain. His family was warned that he could die or have brain damage. He was in a coma for several days. After five days doctors felt it safe to bring him back to consciousness. In a BBC Radio 2 interview in 2000, Mayall said that when filming Guest House Paradiso, Edmondson would make sure he had afternoons free to rest from filming following the accident.
During Mayall’s hospitalisation, The Comic Strip special, Four Men in a Car, was broadcast for the first time. The film involves Mayall’s character being hit by a car. Mayall and Edmondson joked about the event in stage versions of Bottom, Edmondson quipping “If only I’d fixed those brakes properly,” Mayall referring to “quad bike flashbacks”, and Mayall referring to himself: “You must know him, that tosser who fell off the quad bike.” In his 2005 spoof autobiography, Mayall claims that he rose from the dead.
On 9 June 2014, Mayall died at his home in Barnes, Richmond-upon-Thames, London, from a sudden heart attack after jogging. His funeral took place on 19 June 2014 in St. George’s Church in Dittisham, Devon. Among those who attended were Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Richardson, Alan Rickman and Mayall’s Young Ones co-stars Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Alexei Sayle, and Young Ones co-writer Ben Elton. Edmondson also served as a pallbearer.
Mayall was buried on his family estate, Pasture Farm, near Totnes in Devon.
BBC Television director Danny Cohen praised him as a “truly brilliant” comedian with a unique stage presence, whose “fireball creativity” and approach to sitcom had inspired a generation of comedy stars.
“He’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard,” AdeEdmondson stated after his passing.
He and his humor is missed by many, including me…
Check him out (or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
you smelly fart
you think you’re smart
but you’ve no brain
an ugly stain
with golden plane
please be a sport
and leave again…
Harvey the Hog
and Jeffrey the Jackal
were looking for femmes
to put in a shackle
lured by fame
they tricked them with tricks
demanding indecent proposals
to do with their pricks
the molested femmes
took the animals to court
ensuring their stay
in a restrained resort
Jeffrey got hanged
by petrified peers
leaving hog Harvey crippled
by shame and fears
My best Bond,
left us all
and went to heaven…
ging ons voor
just like many
net als velen
heeft mogen delen
Today I’m featuring Karl Pilkinton, a sidekick of Ricky Gervais (whom I will feature on another occasion) for some time. This man always makes me laugh with his dry sense of humor and his sober look on things. He says what he thinks and in a deadpan kind of way. The good thing is he’s actually just being himself.
Karl Pilkington is an English television presenter, author, comedian, radio producer, actor and voice actor.
Pilkington gained prominence as the producer of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s radio programme on XFM. He appeared on The Ricky Gervais Show, presented the Sky travel comedy series An Idiot Abroad, and made his full acting debut (following a cameo appearance in the final episode of Extras) on Gervais’s 2012 comedy–drama series Derek. Pilkington is a co-founder, along with Gervais and Merchant, of RiSK Productions, a television production company. Pilkington also starred in the Sky 1 travel documentary comedy series The Moaning of Life (2013–2015). In 2018, Pilkington starred in a new scripted comedy series, Sick of It.
Pilkington was born in 1972 in Manchester. He grew up on the Racecourse Estate in Sale, Greater Manchester along with his siblings, and attended Ashton on Mersey Secondary School on Cecil Avenue, Sale. Pilkington moved to London from Manchester to work with XFM as a producer, where he was later promoted to head of production. While there, he unintentionally caused Gail Porter to leave the station in tears after only one show; he criticised her performance, which Pilkington defended as an attempt to encourage improvement. After several years he began work on The Ricky Gervais Show. Initially, Pilkington was solely the programme’s producer. As Gervais and Merchant began to frequently invite him to make a cameo appearance, Pilkington’s quirky persona came to light and his popularity increased. Pilkington was eventually included as a main presenter of the broadcasts, with large amounts of airtime devoted to his unusual thoughts on various subjects, or various childhood stories. He also increased in popularity due to the many features he created for the XFM shows, including Monkey News, Rockbusters, 15 Taiwan, Educating Ricky and many others. In December 2005, Pilkington stood in for two BBC 6 Music shows for Nemone, and co-presented the shows with Russell Brand.
Pilkington’s presence on The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts significantly increased his fame. He has often been mentioned in interviews given by Gervais, and is often the victim of Gervais’ practical jokes. After Pilkington said, “I could eat a knob at night” rather than for breakfast on the podcast (in relation to I’m a Celebrity contestants eating a kangaroo penis), Gervais encouraged his listeners to sample the sound bite and mix it into dance music. The phrase spawned several dance music mixes, T-shirts, and other merchandise. Many of Pilkington’s quotes have since gained publicity, particularly on the Internet. Reuters, commenting on this issue, described Pilkington as a “phenomenon” who had made “Internet history”.
On 23 November 2010, while appearing live on Richard Bacon’s Radio 5 Live afternoon show, Gervais surprised Pilkington with an on-air phone call. This led to a conversation where Pilkington, who claimed to have been interrupted while grouting his kitchen, said he had not yet been paid for his work on An Idiot Abroad and concluded the interview with an off-the-cuff link into the hourly news.
Pilkington has worked independently of Gervais and Merchant on several projects. He appeared as a guest on the shows Flipside TV and The Culture Show, and appeared in several short films as part of the Channel 4 project 3 Minute Wonders.
Merchant and Gervais have repeatedly denied claims that Pilkington’s persona is their creation. In an on-air response to similar claims made by Chris Campling during a broadcast on XFM, Merchant stated that he would be “ashamed” if the radio show was scripted, and added that “I would not have squandered a character that good on this poxy radio station”. Gervais concurred, pointing out that writing a single series’ worth of six half-hour episodes of shows such as The Office and Extras took the two of them up to a year. An interviewer for The Daily Telegraph concluded that Pilkington’s persona is genuine.
Pilkington appeared in an interview on Ricky Gervais’s live stand-up comedy DVD, Politics. The DVD of Gervais’s film The Invention of Lying contains a special feature called Meet Karl Pilkington which documents his participation in the movie as a non-speaking caveman in another special feature, The Dawn of Lying. He was given a small role in the final episode of Extras.
In September 2010, Pilkington presented An Idiot Abroad, a light-hearted travel documentary series that aired on Sky1 and that was produced by Gervais and Stephen Merchant, in which he visits the New 7 Wonders of the World while being directed by Gervais and Merchant into various activities along the way. He wrote a book to accompany the series.
Following the success of the first series, Pilkington starred in the second series subtitled The Bucket List, which debuted on 23 September 2011 on Sky 1. The premise of the series involves Pilkington trying to experience “ultimate things to do before you die” except that the list of activities is not entirely of his choosing. In June 2011, he won the Best Presenter award for An Idiot Abroad at the Factual Entertainment Awards. The third series of the show, An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Round premiered in November 2012 and showed Pilkington and Warwick Davis travelling the Marco Polo route.
Pilkington has performed voiceover work for such clients as One Stop Office Shop, FreeView, Vodafone, HMV, Sony PSP, WHSmith, Wickes, and Unilever.
He made his acting debut on 12 April 2012 in the Channel 4 comedy-drama Derek, portraying caretaker and bus driver Dougie. He left the show after the first episode of the second series.
In 2013–2015, he starred in a two-series Sky 1 documentary called The Moaning of Life.
In 2018, he co-wrote and starred in a Sky 1 scripted sitcom called Sick of It, a very funny deadpan comedy show.
In 2014, Pilkington designed and signed his own card for UK charity Thomas Coram Foundation for Children. The campaign was launched by crafting company Stampin’ Up! UK, and his card, along with those designed and signed by other celebrities, was auctioned off on eBay in May 2014.
Pilkington has been in a long-term relationship with Suzanne Whiston, a former producer at the BBC, since the 1990s.He has supported Manchester United since the 1990s, having previously supported Manchester City as a child.
Check him out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Today a tribute to potentially one of the greatest female singers of all time, Amy Winehouse moved, and moves me still, with her improvisational skills. A diamond in the rough, a rarity to see a young woman having a jazz soul and who sadly died far too young. I wrote a poem about her, called Dear Amy, which you can read at the end.
Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter. She was known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul, rhythm and blues and jazz.
A member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra during her youth, Winehouse soon recorded a number of songs before signing a publishing deal with EMI. Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, was released in 2003. Many of the album’s songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, were co-written by Winehouse. Frank was a critical success in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. The song “Stronger Than Me” won her the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.
Winehouse released her follow-up album, Back to Black, in 2006, which went on to become an international success and one of the best-selling albums in UK history. At the 2007 Brit Awards it was nominated for British Album of the Year, and she received the award for British Female Solo Artist. The song “Rehab” won her a second Ivor Novello Award. At the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008, she won five awards. Winehouse was plagued by drug and alcohol addiction. She died of alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011, at the age of 27. After her death, Back to Black temporarily became the UK’s best-selling album of the 21st century. She was ranked 26th on their list of the 100 Greatest Women in Music.
Winehouse was born on 14 September 1983 at Chase Farm Hospital in north London, to Jewish parents. Her father, Amy had an older brother, Alex and the family lived in London’s Southgate area, where she attended Osidge Primary School. Winehouse attended a Jewish Sunday school while she was a child. During an interview following her rise to fame, she expressed her dismissal towards the school by saying that she used to beg her father to permit her not to go and that she learned nothing about being Jewish by going anyway. In the same interview, Winehouse said she only went to a synagogue once a year on Yom Kippur “out of respect”.
Many of Winehouse’s maternal uncles were professional jazz musicians. Amy’s paternal grandmother, Cynthia, was a singer and dated the English jazz saxophonist Ronnie Scott. She and Amy’s parents influenced Amy’s interest in jazz. Her father, Mitch, often sang Frank Sinatra songs to her, and whenever she got chastised at school, she would sing “Fly Me to the Moon” before going up to the headmistress to be told off. Winehouse’s parents separated when she was nine, and she lived with her mother and stayed with her father and his girlfriend in Hatfield Heath, Essex, on weekends.
After toying around with her brother Alex’s guitar, Winehouse bought her own when she was 14 and began writing music a year later. Shortly afterwards she began working for a living, as an entertainment journalist for the World Entertainment News Network and also singing with local group the Bolsha Band. In July 2000, she became the featured female vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra; influenced by Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, the latter of whom she was already listening to at home. Winehouse’s best friend, soul singer Tyler James, sent her demo tape to an A&R person. She signed to Simon Fuller’s 19 Management in 2002 and was paid £250 a week against future earnings.
While being developed by the management company, Winehouse was kept as a recording industry secret, although she was a regular jazz standards singer at the Cobden Club. Her future A&R representative at Island, Darcus Beese, heard of her by accident when the manager of The Lewinson Brothers showed him some productions of his clients, which featured Winehouse as key vocalist. When he asked who the singer was, the manager told him he was not allowed to say. Having decided that he wanted to sign her, it took several months of asking around for Beese to eventually discover who the singer was. However, Winehouse had already recorded a number of songs and signed a publishing deal with EMI by this time. Incidentally, she formed a working relationship with producer Salaam Remi through these record publishers.
Beese introduced Winehouse to his boss, Nick Gatfield; the Island head shared his enthusiasm in signing the young artist. Winehouse was signed to Island, as rival interest in her had started to build with representatives of EMI and Virgin starting to make moves. Beese told HitQuarters that he felt the excitement over an artist who was an atypical pop star for the time was due to a backlash against reality TV music shows, which included audiences starved for fresh, genuine young talent.
Winehouse’s debut album, Frank, was released on 20 October 2003. Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, Winehouse co-wrote every song. The album received critical acclaim with compliments given to the “cool, critical gaze” in its lyrics. Winehouse’s voice was compared with those of Sarah Vaughan and Macy Gray, among others.
The album entered the upper reaches of the UK album chart in 2004 when it was nominated for the Brit Awards in the categories of “British Female Solo Artist” and “British Urban Act.” It went on to achieve platinum sales. Later in 2004, she and Remi won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song, for their first single together, “Stronger Than Me.” The album was also shortlisted for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same year, she performed at the Glastonbury Festival – Jazzworld, the V Festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. After the release of the album, Winehouse commented that she was “only 80 percent behind the album” because Island Records had overruled her preferences for the songs and mixes to be included.
In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Winehouse’s focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Winehouse hired New York singer Sharon Jones’s longtime band, the Dap-Kings, to back her up in the studio and on tour. Mitch Winehouse relates in Amy, My Daughter how fascinating watching her process was: her perfectionism in the studio and how she would put what she had sung on a CD and play it in his taxi outside to know how most people would hear her music. In May 2006, Winehouse’s demo tracks such as “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab” appeared on Mark Ronson’s New York radio show on East Village Radio. These were some of the first new songs played on the radio after the release of “Pumps” and both were slated to appear on her second album. The 11-track album, completed in five months, was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them. Ronson said in a 2010 interview that he liked working with Winehouse because she was blunt when she did not like his work. Promotion of Back to Black soon began and, in early October 2006 Winehouse’s official website was relaunched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs. Back to Black was released in the UK on 30 October 2006. It went to number one on the UK Albums Chart for two weeks in January 2007, dropping then climbing back for several weeks in February. In the US, it entered at number seven on the Billboard 200. It was the best-selling album in the UK of 2007, selling 1.85 million copies over the course of the year. The first single released from the album was the Ronson-produced “Rehab.” The song reached the top ten in the UK and the US. Time magazine named “Rehab” the Best Song of 2007. Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Winehouse for her confidence, saying, “What she is is mouthy, funny, sultry, and quite possibly crazy” and “It’s impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that references four decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you’ve got the best song of 2007.” The album’s second single and lead single in the US, “You Know I’m No Good,” was released in January 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah. It ultimately reached number 18 on the UK singles chart. The title track, “Back to Black,” was released in the UK in April 2007 and peaked at number 25, but was more successful across mainland Europe. “Tears Dry on Their Own,” “Love Is a Losing Game” were also released as singles, but failed to achieve the same level of success.
On 10 February 2008, Winehouse received five Grammy Awards, winning in the following categories: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single “Rehab,” and Best Pop Vocal Album. The singer also earned a Grammy as Best New Artist, earning her an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act. Additionally, Back to Black was nominated for Album of the Year. Ronson’s work with her won the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, in the non-classical category. She ended her acceptance speech for Record of the Year with, “This is for London because Camden town ain’t burning down,” in reference to the 2008 Camden Market fire. Performing “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab” via satellite from London’s Riverside Studios at 3 a.m. UK time, she couldn’t be at the ceremony in Los Angeles as her visa approval had not been processed in time.
After the Grammys, the album’s sales increased, catapulting Back to Black to number two on the US Billboard 200, after it initially peaked in the seventh position. On 20 February 2008, Winehouse performed at the 2008 Brit Awards at Earls Court in London, performing “Valerie” with Mark Ronson, followed by “Love Is a Losing Game.” She urged the crowd to “make some noise for my Blake.” A special deluxe edition of Back to Black topped the UK album charts on 2 March 2008. Meanwhile, the original edition of the album was ranked at number 30 in its 68th week on the charts, while Frank charted at number 35.
In Paris, she performed what was described as a “well-executed 40-minute” set at the opening of a Fendi boutique in early March. By 12 March, the album had sold a total of 2,467,575 copies—318,350 copies had been sold in the previous 10 weeks—putting the album on the UK’s top-10 best-selling albums of the 21st century for the first time. On 7 April, Back to Black was in the top position of the pan-European charts for the sixth consecutive and thirteenth aggregate week. Amy Winehouse – The Girl Done Good: A Documentary Review, a 78-minute DVD, was released on 14 April 2008. The documentary features interviews with those who knew her at a young age, people who helped her achieve success, jazz music experts, and music and pop-culture specialists.
At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards in May, Winehouse became the first-ever artist to receive two nominations for the top award: best song, musically and lyrically. She won the award for “Love Is a Losing Game” and was nominated for “You Know I’m No Good.” “Rehab,” a Novello winner for best contemporary song in 2006, also received a 2008 nomination for best-selling British song. Winehouse was also nominated for a 2008 MTV Europe Award in the “Act of the Year” category.
Although her father, manager and various members of her touring team reportedly tried to dissuade her, Winehouse performed at the Rock in Rio Lisboa festival in Portugal in May 2008. Although the set was plagued by a late arrival and problems with her voice, the crowd warmed to her. In addition to her own material she performed two Specials covers. Winehouse performed at Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday Party concert at London’s Hyde Park on 27 June 2008, and the next day at the Glastonbury Festival. On 12 July, at the Oxegen Festival in Ireland she performed a well-received 50-minute set which was followed the next day by a 14-song set at T in the Park.
On 16 August she played at the Staffordshire leg of the V Festival, and the following day played the Chelmsford leg of the festival. Organisers said that Winehouse attracted the biggest crowds of the festival. Audience reaction was reported as mixed. On 6 September, she was Bestival’s Saturday headliner, where her performance was described as polished—terminated by a curfew as the show running overdue, after Winehouse started an hour late—and her storming off stage.
A clip of Winehouse’s music was included in the “Roots and Influences” area that looked at connections between different artists at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, which opened in December 2008. One thread started with Billie Holiday, continued with Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige, and then finished with Winehouse.
Back to Black was the world’s seventh-biggest-selling album of 2008. The album’s sales meant that the market performance of Universal Music’s recorded music division did not drop to levels experienced by the overall music market.
Winehouse and Ronson contributed a cover of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” to the Quincy Jones tribute album Q Soul Bossa Nostra, released in November 2010. She had agreed to form a group with Questlove of the Roots but her problems obtaining a visa delayed their working together. Salaam Remi had already created some material with Winehouse as part of the project. According to The Times, Universal Music pressed her for new material in 2008, but as of 2 September that year she had not been near a recording studio. In late October, Winehouse’s spokesman was quoted as saying that Winehouse had not been given a deadline to complete her third album, for which she was learning to play drums.
In May 2009, Winehouse returned to performing at a jazz festival in St. Lucia amid torrential downpours and technical difficulties. During her set, it was reported she was unsteady on her feet and had trouble remembering lyrics. She apologised to the crowd for being “bored” and ended the set in the middle of a song. During her stay in St. Lucia, however, she worked on new music with Salaam Remi. On 23 August that year Winehouse sang with the Specials at the V Festival, on their songs “You’re Wondering Now” and “Ghost Town”.
Island claimed that a new album would be due for release in 2010. Island co-president Darcus Beese said, “I’ve heard a couple of song demos that have absolutely floored me.” In July 2010, Winehouse was quoted as saying her next album would be released no later than January 2011, saying “It’s going to be very much the same as my second album, where there’s a lot of jukebox stuff and songs that are… just jukebox, really.” Ronson, however, said at that time that he had not started to record the album. She performed “Valerie” with Ronson at a movie premiere but forgot some of the song’s lyrics. In October, Winehouse performed a four-song set to promote her fashion line. In December 2010, she played a 40-minute concert at a Russian oligarch’s party in Moscow, with the tycoon hand selecting the songs.
In January 2011, Winehouse played five dates in Brazil, with opening acts of Janelle Monáe and Mayer Hawthorne. The following month she cut short a performance in Dubai following booing from the audience. Winehouse was reported to be tired, distracted and “tipsy” during the performance.
On 18 June 2011, Winehouse started her twelve-leg European tour in Belgrade. Local media described her performance as a scandal and disaster; she was booed off the stage due to her apparently being too drunk to perform. It was reported that she was unable to remember the city she was in, the lyrics of her songs or the names of the members of her band. The local press also claimed that Winehouse was forced to perform by her bodyguards, who did not allow her to leave the stage when she tried to do so. She then pulled out of performances in Istanbul and Athens which had been scheduled for the following week. On 21 June, it was announced that she had cancelled all shows of her tour and would be given “as long as it takes” to sort herself out.
Winehouse’s last public appearance took place at Camden’s Roundhouse on 20 July 2011, when she made a surprise appearance on stage to support her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield, who was singing “Mama Said” with the Wanted. Winehouse died three days later. Her last recording was a duet with American singer Tony Bennett for his latest album, Duets II, released on 20 September 2011. Their single from the album, “Body and Soul,” was released on 14 September 2011 on MTV and VH1 to commemorate what would have been her 28th birthday.
Winehouse joined a campaign to stop a block of flats being built beside the George Tavern, a famous London East End music venue. Campaign supporters feared the residential development would end the spot’s lucrative sideline as a film and photo location, on which it relies to survive. As part of a breast cancer awareness campaign, Winehouse appeared in a revealing photograph for the April 2008 issue of Easy Living magazine. Winehouse had an estimated £10m fortune, tying her for tenth place in the 2008 The Sunday Times listing of the wealth of musicians under age 30. The following year her fortune had dropped to an estimated £5m. Her finances are run by Mitch and Janis Winehouse. It was reported she earned about £1m singing at two private parties during Paris Fashion Week as well as another £1m to perform at a Moscow Art Gallery for Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Winehouse loaned a vintage dress used in her video for “Tears Dry on Their Own” as well as a DVD to the British Music Experience, a new museum dedicated to the history of British pop music. The museum, located at the O2 Arena in London, opened on 9 March 2009.
In January 2009, Winehouse announced that she was launching her own record label. Her first album, featuring covers of classic soul records, was released on 12 October 2009. Winehouse is the backing singer on several tracks on the album and she performed backing vocals for Bromfield on the BBC’s television programme Strictly Come Dancing on 10 October.
Winehouse and her family are the subject of a 2009 documentary shot by Daphne Barak titled Saving Amy. Winehouse entered into a joint venture in 2009 with EMI to launch a range of wrapping paper and gift cards containing song lyrics from her album Back to Black. On 8 January 2010, a television documentary, My Daughter Amy, aired on Channel 4. Saving Amy was released as a paperback book in January 2010.
Winehouse collaborated on a 17 piece fashion collection with the Fred Perry label. It was released for sale in October 2010. According to Fred Perry’s marketing director “We had three major design meetings where she was closely involved in product style selection and the application of fabric, colour and styling details,” and gave “crucial input on proportion, colour and fit.” The collection consists of “vintage-inspired looks including Capri pants, a bowling dress, a trench coat, pencil skirts, a longline argyle sweater and a pink-and-black checkerboard-printed collared shirt.” At the behest of her family, three forthcoming collections up to and including autumn/winter 2012 that she had designed prior to her death will be released.
Winehouse was known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul, (sometimes labelled as blue-eyed soul and neo soul), rhythm and blues, and jazz. The BBC’s Garry Mulholland called Winehouse “the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation”. According to AllMusic’s Cyril Cordor, she was one of the UK’s premier singers during the 2000s; “fans and critics alike embraced her rugged charm, brash sense of humor, and distinctively soulful and jazzy vocals”. In The Guardian, Caroline Sullivan later wrote that “her idolisation of Dinah Washington and the Ronettes distinguished her from almost all newly minted pop singers of the early 2000s; her exceptionally-susceptible-to-heartbreak voice did the rest”. Soon after Winehouse’s death, a number of prominent critics assessed the singer’s legacy: Maura Johnston from The Village Voice said, “When she was on, Winehouse had few peers—she wasn’t an octave-jumper like other big divas of the moment, but her contralto had a snap to it that enriched even the simplest syllables with a full spectrum of emotion”; Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker proclaimed, “Nobody can match Winehouse’s unique transitions or her utterly weird phrasings. She sounded like an original sixties soul star, developed when the landscape had no rules. But now untrammeled traditionalism is in the lead and her beautiful footnote has been cut short. American soul—through visionaries like Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae and Jill Scott—had moved on. But Winehouse was a fine shepherd of the past.”
By contrast, Robert Christgau dismissed Winehouse as “a self-aggrandizing self-abuser who’s taken seriously because she makes a show of soul”. In his opinion, the singer “simulated gravitas by running her suicidal tendencies through an amalgam of 20th-century African-American vocal stylings—the slides, growls, and melismatic outcries that for many matures are now the only reliable signifiers of pop substance”. In March 2017, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan said he was enjoying listening to Winehouse’s last record (Back to Black), and called her “the last real individualist around.”
Winehouse’s greatest love was 1960s girl groups. Her hairdresser, Alex Foden, borrowed her “instantly recognisable” beehive hairdo and she borrowed her Cleopatra makeup from the Ronettes. Her imitation was so successful, as The Village Voice reports: “Ronnie Spector—who, it could be argued, all but invented Winehouse’s style in the first place when she took the stage at the Brooklyn Fox Theater with her fellow Ronettes more than 40 years ago—was so taken aback at a picture of Winehouse in the New York Post that she exclaimed, “I don’t know her, I never met her, and when I saw that pic, I thought, ‘That’s me!’ But then I found out, no, it’s Amy! I didn’t have on my glasses.”
The New York Times style reporter, Guy Trebay, discussed the multiplicity of influences on Winehouse’s style after her death. Trebay noted, “her stylish husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, may have influenced her look.” Additionally, Trebay observed:
She was a 5-foot-3 almanac of visual reference, most famously to Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes, but also to the white British soul singer Mari Wilson, less famous for her sound than her beehive; to the punk god Johnny Thunders…; to the fierce council-house chicks… (see: Dior and Chanel runways, 2007 and 2008) … to a lineage of bad girls, extending from Cleopatra to Louise Brooks’s Lulu and including Salt-n-Pepa, to irresistible man traps that always seemed to come to the same unfortunate end.
Former Rolling Stone editor Joe Levy, who had put her on the magazine’s cover, broke her look down this way: Just as her best music drew on sampling – assembling sonic licks and stylistic fragments borrowed from Motown, Stax, punk and early hip-hop – her personal style was also a knowing collage. There was a certain moment in the ’90s when, if you were headed downtown and turned left, every girl looked like Bettie Page. But they did not do what Winehouse did, mixing Bettie Page with Brigitte Bardot and adding that little bit of Ronnie Spector.
Winehouse’s use of bold red lipstick, thick eyebrows and heavy eyeliner came from Latinas she saw in Miami, on her trip there to work with Salaam Remi on Back to Black. Her look was repeatedly denigrated by the British press. At the same time that the NME Awards nominated Winehouse in the categories of “Best Solo Artist” and “Best Music DVD” in 2008, they awarded her “Worst Dressed Performer.” Winehouse was also ranked number two on Richard Blackwell’s 48th annual “Ten Worst Dressed Women” list, behind Victoria Beckham.
By 2008, her drug problems threatened her career. As Nick Gatfield, the president of Island Records, toyed with the idea of releasing Winehouse “to deal with her problems”, he said, “It’s a reflection of her status [in the US] that when you flick through the TV coverage [of the Grammys] it’s her image they use.” Post-Grammys, some questioned whether Winehouse should have been honoured with the awards given her recent personal and drug problems, including Natalie Cole, who introduced Winehouse at the ceremony and who herself battled substance-abuse problems while winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1975. (Winehouse was prevented from travelling to and performing at the Grammy Awards ceremony in the US due to failing a drug test. In a newspaper commentary, the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said that the alleged drug habits of Winehouse and other celebrities sent a bad message “to others who are vulnerable to addiction” and undermine the efforts of other celebrities trying to raise awareness of problems in Africa, now that more cocaine used in Europe passes through that continent. Winehouse’s spokesperson noted that “Amy has never given a quote about drugs or flaunted it in any way. She’s had some problems and is trying to get better. The U.N. should get its own house in order.”
In January 2008, her record label stated it believed the extensive media coverage she had received increased record sales. In an April 2008 poll conducted by Sky News, Winehouse was named the second greatest “ultimate heroine” by the UK population at large, topping the voting for that category of those polled under 25 years old. Psychologist Donna Dawson commented that the results demonstrated that women like Winehouse who had “a certain sense of vulnerability or have had to fight against some adversity in their lives” received recognition.
In July 2008, BBC Radio Scotland’s head, Jeff Zycinski, stated that the BBC, and media in general, were complicit in undermining celebrities, including Winehouse. He said that public interest in the singer’s lifestyle did not make her lifestyle newsworthy. Rod McKenzie, editor of the BBC Radio One programme Newsbeat, replied: “If you play [Amy Winehouse’s] music to a certain demographic, those same people want to know what’s happening in her private life. If you don’t cover it, you’re insulting young licence fee payers.” In The Scotsman, British singer and songwriter Lily Allen was quoted to have said – “I know Amy Winehouse very well. And she is very different to what people portray her as being. Yes, she does get out of her mind on drugs sometimes, but she is also a very clever, intelligent, witty, funny person who can hold it together. You just don’t see that side.”
Winehouse dated chef-musician Alex Clare (sometimes referred to as Alex Claire) in 2006, while on a break from her on-off boyfriend and future husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. She and Clare lived together briefly, and in a pattern that Fielder-Civil would later repeat, Clare sold his story to the News of the World, which published it under the headline “Bondage Crazed Amy Just Can’t Beehive in Bed.”
Fielder-Civil, a former video production assistant, had dropped out of Bourne Grammar School and, aged 16, moved to London from his native Lincolnshire. He married Winehouse on 18 May 2007, in Miami Beach, Florida. In a June 2007 interview, Winehouse admitted she could sometimes be violent toward him after she had been drinking, saying: “If he says one thing I don’t like, then I’ll chin him.” In August 2007, they were photographed, bloodied and bruised, in the streets of London after an alleged fight, although she contended her injuries were self-inflicted. Winehouse’s parents and in-laws publicly reported their numerous concerns, the latter citing fears that the two might commit suicide. Fielder-Civil’s father encouraged fans to boycott Winehouse’s music, and Mitch Winehouse said this would not help. Fielder-Civil was quoted in a British tabloid as saying he introduced Winehouse to crack cocaine and heroin. During a visit with Mitch Winehouse at the prison in July 2008, Fielder-Civil reportedly said that he and Winehouse would cut themselves to ease the pain of withdrawal.
From 21 July 2008 to 25 February 2009, Fielder-Civil was imprisoned following his guilty plea on charges of trying to pervert the course of justice and of grievous bodily harm with intent. The incident, in July 2007, involved his assault of a pub landlord that broke the victim’s cheek. According to the prosecution, the landlord accepted £200,000 as part of a deal to “effectively throw the [court] case and not turn up,” and he testified that the money belonged to Winehouse, but she pulled out of a meeting with the men involved in the plot, to attend an awards ceremony. Mitch Winehouse, as manager of his daughter’s money, has denied the payoff came from her.
When Winehouse was spotted with aspiring actor Josh Bowman on holiday in Saint Lucia, in early January 2009, she said she was “in love again, and I don’t need drugs.” She commented that her “whole marriage was based on doing drugs” and that “for the time being I’ve just forgotten I’m even married.” On 12 January, Winehouse’s spokesman confirmed that “papers have been received” for what Fielder-Civil’s solicitor has said are divorce proceedings based on a claim of adultery. In March, Winehouse was quoted in a magazine as saying, “I still love Blake and I want him to move into my new house with me—that was my plan all along … I won’t let him divorce me. He’s the male version of me and we’re perfect for each other.” Nonetheless, an uncontested divorce was granted on 16 July 2009 and became final on 28 August 2009. Fielder-Civil received no money in the settlement.
She was in a relationship with a British writer and director of films, Reg Traviss, from early 2010 until she died. According to media reports and a biography written by Winehouse’s father, Traviss and Winehouse had planned to marry and intended to have children.
After Winehouse’s death, Pete Doherty said that he and Winehouse had been lovers at one point. However, in July 2008, when Rolling Stone reporter Claire Hoffman asked Winehouse about her relationship with Doherty, Winehouse replied: “We’re just good friends”, and added: “I asked Pete to do a concept EP, and he made this face, he looked at me like I’d pooed on the floor. He wouldn’t do it. We’re just really close”.
Winehouse’s battles with substance abuse were the subject of much media attention. In 2005, she went through a period of drinking, heavy drug use, and weight loss. People who saw her during the end of that year and early 2006 reported a rebound that coincided with the writing of Back to Black. Her family believes that the mid-2006 death of her grandmother, who was a stabilising influence, set her off into addiction. In August 2007, Winehouse cancelled a number of shows in the UK and Europe, citing exhaustion and ill health. She was hospitalised during this period for what was reported as an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol. In various interviews, she admitted to having problems with self-harm, depression, and eating disorders.
Winehouse told a magazine that the drugs were to blame for her hospitalisation and that “I really thought that it was over for me then.” Soon afterward, Winehouse’s father commented that when he had made public statements regarding her problems he was using the media because it seemed the only way to get through to her. In an interview with The Album Chart Show on British television, Winehouse said she was manic depressive and not alcoholic, adding that that sounded like “an alcoholic in denial”. A US reporter writes that Winehouse was a “victim of mental illness in a society that doesn’t understand or respond to mental illness with great effectiveness.”
In December 2007, Winehouse’s spokesman reported that the singer was in a physician-supervised programme and was channelling her difficulties by writing a lot of music. The British tabloid The Sun posted a video of a woman, alleged to be Winehouse, apparently smoking crack cocaine and speaking of having taken ecstasy and valium. Winehouse’s father moved in with her, and Island Records, her record label, announced the abandonment of plans for an American promotion campaign on her behalf. In late January 2008, Winehouse reportedly entered a rehabilitation facility for a two-week treatment program.
On 23 January 2008, the video was passed on to the Metropolitan Police, who questioned her on 5 February. No charges were brought. On 26 March 2008, Winehouse’s spokesman said she was “doing well”. Her record company reportedly believed that her recovery remained fragile. By late April 2008, her erratic behaviour—including an allegation of assault—caused fear that her drug rehabilitation efforts had been unsuccessful. Winehouse’s father and manager then sought to have her detained under the Mental Health Act of 1983. Her dishevelled appearance during and after a scheduled club night in September 2008 sparked new rumours of a relapse. Photographers were quoted as saying she appeared to have cuts on her legs and arms.
According to her physician, Winehouse quit using illegal substances in 2008. In an October 2010 interview, speaking of her decision to quit drugs, Winehouse said, “I literally woke up one day and was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.'” However, alcohol emerged as a problem, with Winehouse abstaining for a few weeks and then lapsing into alcohol abuse. Her physician said that Winehouse was treated with Librium for alcohol withdrawal and anxiety and underwent psychological and psychiatric evaluations in 2010, but refused psychological therapy.
In 2006, Winehouse admitted to punching a female fan in the face for criticising her having taken Blake Fielder-Civil as a husband. She then attacked her own spouse as he attempted to calm her down, kneeing him in the crotch. In October 2007, Winehouse and Fielder-Civil were arrested in Bergen, Norway, for possession of seven grams of cannabis. The couple were later released and fined 3850 kroner (around £350). Winehouse first appealed the fines, but later dropped the appeal.
On 26 April 2008, Winehouse was cautioned after she admitted to police she slapped a 38-year-old man in the face, a “common assault” offence, her first of two. She voluntarily turned herself in and was held overnight. Police said, at her arrival she was “in no fit state” to be interviewed. Ten days later, Winehouse was arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs after a video of her apparently smoking crack cocaine was passed to the police in January, but was released on bail a few hours later because they could not confirm, from the video, what she was smoking. The Crown Prosecution Service considered charging her, but cleared her when it could not establish that the substance in the video was a controlled drug. Some members of Parliament reacted negatively. Two London residents were subsequently charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and ecstasy to Winehouse. One of the pair was sentenced to two years in prison on 13 December 2008, while the other received a two-year community order.
On 5 March 2009, Winehouse was arrested and charged with common assault following a claim by dancer Sherene Flash that Winehouse hit her in the eye at the September 2008 Prince’s Trust charity ball. Winehouse’s spokesperson announced the cancellation of the singer’s US Coachella Festival appearance in light of the new legal issue, and Winehouse appeared in court on 17 March to enter her plea of not guilty. On 23 July, her trial began with prosecutor Lyall Thompson charging that Winehouse acted with “deliberate and unjustifiable violence” while appearing to be under the influence of alcohol or another substance. She testified that she did not punch Flash, but tried to push her away because she was scared of her; she cited her worry that Flash would sell her story to a tabloid, Flash’s height advantage, and Flash’s “rude” behaviour. On 24 July, District Judge Timothy Workman ruled that Winehouse was not guilty, citing the facts that all but two of the witnesses were intoxicated at the time of the incident and that medical evidence did not show “the sort of injury that often occurs when there is a forceful punch to the eye.”
On 19 December 2009, Winehouse was arrested for a third time on charges of common assault, plus another charge of public order offence after assaulting the front-of-house manager of the Milton Keynes Theatre after he asked her to move from her seat. Winehouse plead guilty to the charges and was given a conditional discharge.
With the paparazzi taking photographs of her wherever they could, Winehouse obtained an injunction against a leading paparazzi agency, Big Pictures, under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; the resultant court order issued by the High Court in 2009 banned them from following her. Photographers were also banned from following her within 100 metres of her London home and photographing Winehouse in her home or the homes of her friends and relatives. According to a newspaper report, sources close to the singer said legal action was taken out of concern for the safety of Winehouse and those close to her.
On 23 June 2008, Winehouse’s publicist corrected earlier misstatements by Mitch Winehouse that his daughter had early stage emphysema, instead claiming she had signs of what could lead to early-stage emphysema. Mitch Winehouse had also stated that his daughter’s lungs were operating at 70 percent capacity and that she had an irregular heartbeat. He said that these problems had been caused by her chain smoking crack cocaine. The singer’s father also reported that doctors had warned Winehouse that, if she continued smoking crack cocaine, she would have to wear an oxygen mask and would eventually die. In a radio interview, Mitch Winehouse said the singer was responding “fabulously” to treatment, which included being covered with nicotine patches. British Lung Foundation spokesman Keith Prowse noted this type of condition could be managed with treatment. Prowse also said the condition was not normal for a person her age but “heavy smoking and inhaling other substances like drugs can age the lungs prematurely.” Norman H. Edelman of the American Lung Association explained that if she stopped smoking, her lung functions would decline at the rate of a normal person, but continued smoking would lead to a more rapid decline in lung function.
Winehouse was released from the London Clinic 24 hours after returning from a temporary leave to perform at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday and at a concert in Glastonbury, and continued receiving treatment as an outpatient. In July 2008, Winehouse stated that she had been diagnosed with “some areas of emphysema” and said she was getting herself together by “eating loads of healthy food, sleeping loads, playing my guitar, making music and writing letters to my husband every day.” She also kept a vertical tanning bed in her flat. Winehouse began precautionary testing on her lungs and chest on 25 October 2008 at the London Clinic for what was reported as a chest infection. Winehouse was in and out of the facility and was granted permission to set her own schedule regarding home leave. She returned to the hospital on 23 November 2008 for a reported reaction to her medication.
Winehouse’s bodyguard said that he had arrived at her residence three days before her death and felt she had been somewhat intoxicated. He observed moderate drinking over the next few days, and said she had been “laughing, listening to music and watching TV at 2 a.m. the day of her death”. At 10 a.m. BST on 23 July 2011, he observed her lying on her bed and tried unsuccessfully to rouse her. This did not raise much suspicion because she usually slept late after a night out. According to the bodyguard, shortly after 3 p.m., he checked on her again and observed her lying in the same position as before, leading to a further check, in which he concluded that she was not breathing and had no pulse; he said he called emergency services. At 3:54 p.m., two ambulances were called to Winehouse’s home in Camden, London. Winehouse was pronounced dead at the scene at the age of 27. Shortly afterwards, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that she had died.
After her death was announced, media and camera crews appeared, as crowds gathered near Winehouse’s residence to pay their respects. Forensic investigators entered the flat as police cordoned off the street outside; they recovered one small and two large bottles of vodka from her room. After her death, the singer broke her second Guinness World Record: for the most songs by a woman to simultaneously appear on the UK singles chart, with eight. A coroner’s inquest reached a verdict of misadventure. The report released on 26 October 2011 explained that Winehouse’s blood alcohol content was 416 mg per 100 ml (0.416%) at the time of her death, more than five times the legal drink-drive limit. According to the coroner, “The unintended consequences of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden death.”
Winehouse’s record label, Universal Republic, released a statement that read in part: “We are deeply saddened at the sudden loss of such a gifted musician, artist and performer.” Many musical artists have since paid tribute to Winehouse including U2, M.I.A., Lady Gaga, Marianne Faithfull, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Keisha Buchanan, Rihanna, George Michael, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Courtney Love, and the punk rock band Green Day, who wrote a song in her tribute titled “Amy”. In her 2012 album Banga, singer Patti Smith released “This Is the Girl,” written as a homage to Winehouse. Mark Ronson dedicated his UK number one album Uptown Special to Winehouse, stating: “I’m always thinking of you and inspired by you.” There was a large amount of media attention devoted to the 27 Club once again. Three years earlier, she had expressed a fear of dying at that age. Winehouse did not leave a will; her estate was inherited by her parents. Winehouse’s parents set up The Amy Winehouse Foundation to prevent harm from drug misuse among young people; her brother Alex is an employee.
On 17 December 2012, British authorities reopened the probe of Winehouse’s death. On 8 January 2013, a second inquest confirmed that Winehouse died of accidental alcohol poisoning. In a June 2013 interview, Alex Winehouse revealed his belief that his sister’s eating disorder, and the consequent physical weakness, was the primary cause of her death:
She suffered from bulimia very badly. That’s not, like, a revelation – you knew just by looking at her… She would have died eventually, the way she was going, but what really killed her was the bulimia… I think that it left her weaker and more susceptible. Had she not had an eating disorder, she would have been physically stronger.
Family and friends attended Winehouse’s private funeral on 26 July 2011 at Edgwarebury Lane Cemetery in north London. Her mother and father, Janis and Mitch Winehouse, close friends Nick Grimshaw and Kelly Osbourne, producer Mark Ronson, goddaughter Dionne Bromfield and her boyfriend Reg Traviss were among those in attendance at the private service led by Rabbi Frank Hellner. Her father delivered the eulogy, saying “Goodnight, my angel, sleep tight. Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much.” Carole King’s “So Far Away” closed the service with mourners singing along. She was later cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. The family planned to sit a two-day shiva. On 16 September 2012, Winehouse’s ashes were buried alongside her grandmother’s, Cynthia Levy at Edgwarebury Lane Cemetery.
precious jazzy jewel
diamond in the rough
colourful and bright
tender and yet tough
with innocent delight
left with struggle
lost her daily fight
afraid of fame
a broken frame
a devotee she’ll find in me
wine in my house
please sing for me!
Check her out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
I came across this remarkable odd and funny character Latka Gravas whilst watching one of my favorite American comedy shows Taxi in the 80ties. Not until much later I realized he wasn’t just some oddball actor. Later I realized he had subconsciously affected me in the sense that being weird is ok. I recommend you watch Man on the Moon, a movie starring Jim Carrey (who else) which is a great and accurate version of Andy Kaufman. Such a shame he died at such an early age…
Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman (January 17, 1949 – May 16, 1984) was an American comedian, entertainer, actor, wrestler, and performance artist. While often called a comedian, Kaufman described himself instead as a “song and dance man”. He has sometimes been called an “anti-comedian”. He disdained telling jokes and engaging in comedy as it was traditionally understood, once saying in a rare introspective interview, “I am not a comic, I have never told a joke. … The comedian’s promise is that he will go out there and make you laugh with him… My only promise is that I will try to entertain you as best I can.”
After working in small comedy clubs in the early 1970s, Kaufman came to the attention of a wider audience in 1975, when he was invited to perform portions of his act on the first season of Saturday Night Live. His Foreign Man character was the basis of his performance as Latka Gravas on the hit television show Taxi from 1978 until 1983. During this time, he continued to tour comedy clubs and theaters in a series of unique performance art / comedy shows, sometimes appearing as himself and sometimes as obnoxiously rude lounge singer Tony Clifton. He was also a frequent guest on sketch comedy and late-night talk shows, particularly Late Night with David Letterman. In 1982, Kaufman brought his professional wrestling villain act to Letterman’s show by way of a staged encounter with Jerry “The King” Lawler of the Continental Wrestling Association.
Kaufman died of lung cancer in 1984, at the age of 35. Because pranks and elaborate ruses were major elements of his career, persistent rumors have circulated that Kaufman faked his own death as a grand hoax. He continues to be respected for the variety of his characters, his uniquely counterintuitive approach to comedy, and his willingness to provoke negative and confused reactions from audiences.
Kaufman was born on January 17, 1949, in New York City, the oldest of three children. Andy, along with his younger brother Michael and sister Carol, grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in Great Neck, Long Island. He began performing at children’s birthday parties at age 9, playing records and showing cartoons. Kaufman spent much of his youth writing poetry and stories, including an unpublished novel, The Hollering Mangoo, which he completed at age 16. Following a visit to his school from Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji, Kaufman began playing the congas.
After graduating from Great Neck North High School in 1967, Kaufman took a year off before enrolling at the now defunct two-year Grahm Junior College in Boston, where he studied television production and starred in his own campus television show, Uncle Andy’s Fun House. In August 1969, he hitchhiked to Las Vegas to meet Elvis Presley, showing up unannounced at the International Hotel. Soon after, he began performing at coffee houses and developing his act, as well as writing a one-man play, Gosh (later renamed God and published in 2000). After graduating in 1971, he began performing stand-up comedy at various small clubs on the East Coast.
Kaufman first received major attention for his character Foreign Man, who spoke in a meek, high-pitched, heavy-accented voice and claimed to be from “Caspiar”, a fictional island in the Caspian Sea. It was as this character that Kaufman convinced the owner of the famed New York City comedy club The Improv, Budd Friedman, to allow him to perform on stage.
As Foreign Man, Kaufman would appear on the stage of comedy clubs, play a recording of the theme from the Mighty Mouse cartoon show while standing perfectly still, and lip-sync only the line “Here I come to save the day” with great enthusiasm. He would proceed to tell a few (purposely poor) jokes and conclude his act with a series of celebrity impersonations, with the comedy arising from the character’s obvious ineptitude at impersonation. For example, in his fake accent Kaufman would say to the audience, “I would like to imitate Meester Carter, de president of de United States” and then, in exactly the same voice, say “Hello, I am Meester Carter, de president of de United States. T’ank you veddy much.” At some point in the performance, usually when the audience was conditioned to Foreign Man’s inability to perform a single convincing impression, Foreign Man would announce, “And now I would like to imitate the Elvis Presley,” turn around, take off his jacket, slick his hair back, and launch into a rousing, hip-shaking rendition of Presley singing one of his hit songs. Like Presley, he would take off his leather jacket during the song and throw it into the audience, but unlike Presley, Foreign Man would immediately ask for it to be returned. After the song’s finale, he would take a simple bow and say in his Foreign Man voice, “T’ank you veddy much.”
Kaufman first used his Foreign Man character in nightclubs in the early 1970s, often to tell jokes incorrectly and do weak imitations of famous people before bursting into his Elvis Presley imitation. The character was then changed into Latka Gravas for ABC’s sitcom Taxi, appearing in 79 of 114 episodes in 1978–83. Bob Zmuda confirms this: “They basically were buying Andy’s Foreign Man character for the Taxi character Latka.” Kaufman’s longtime manager George Shapiro encouraged him to take the gig. Kaufman disliked sitcoms and was not happy with the idea of being in one, but Shapiro convinced him that it would quickly lead to stardom, which would earn him money he could then put into his own act. Kaufman agreed to appear in 14 episodes per season, and initially wanted four for Kaufman’s alter ego Tony Clifton. After Kaufman deliberately sabotaged Clifton’s appearance on the show, however, that part of his contract was dropped. His character was given multiple personality disorder, which allowed Kaufman to randomly portray other characters. In one episode of Taxi, Kaufman’s character came down with a condition that made him act like Alex Rieger, the main character played by Judd Hirsch. Another such recurring character played by Kaufman was the womanizing Vic Ferrari.
Sam Simon, who early in his career was a writer and later showrunner for Taxi, stated in a 2013 interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that the story of Kaufman having been generally disruptive on the show was “a complete fiction” largely created by Zmuda. Simon maintained that Zmuda has a vested interest in promoting an out-of-control image of Kaufman. In the interview Simon stated that Kaufman was “completely professional” and that he “told you Tony Clifton was him”, but he also conceded that Kaufman would have “loved” Zmuda’s version of events.
Kaufman was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television for Taxi in 1979 and 1981.
Another well-known Kaufman character is Tony Clifton, an absurd, audience-abusing lounge singer who began opening for Kaufman at comedy clubs and eventually even performed concerts on his own around the country. Sometimes it was Kaufman performing as Clifton, sometimes it was his brother Michael or Zmuda. For a brief time, it was unclear to some that Clifton was not a real person. News programs interviewed Clifton as Kaufman’s opening act, with the mood turning ugly whenever Kaufman’s name came up. Kaufman, Clifton insisted, was attempting to ruin Clifton’s “good name” in order to make money and become famous.
As a requirement for Kaufman’s accepting the offer to star on Taxi, he insisted that Clifton be hired for a guest role on the show as if he were a real person, not a character. After throwing a tantrum on the set, Clifton was fired and escorted from the studio lot by security guards. Much to Kaufman’s delight, this incident was reported in the local newspapers.
At the beginning of an April 1979 performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Kaufman invited his “grandmother” to watch the show from a chair he had placed at the side of the stage. At the end of the show, she stood up, took her mask off and revealed to the audience that she was actually comedian Robin Williams in disguise.
Kaufman also had an elderly woman (Eleanor Cody Gould) pretend to have a heart attack and die on stage, at which point he reappeared on stage wearing a Native American headdress and performed a dance over her body, “reviving” her.
The performance is most famous for Kaufman’s ending the show by taking the entire audience, in 24 buses, out for milk and cookies. He invited anyone interested to meet him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning, where the show continued.
The Taxi deal with ABC included giving Kaufman a television special/pilot. He came up with Andy’s Funhouse, based on an old routine he had developed while in junior college. The special was taped in 1977 but did not air until August 1979. It featured most of Andy’s famous gags, including Foreign Man/Latka and his Elvis Presley impersonation, as well as a host of unique segments. There was also a segment that included fake television screen static as part of the gag, which ABC executives were not comfortable with, fearing that viewers would mistake the static for broadcast problems and would change the channel—which was the comic element Kaufman wanted to present. Andy’s Funhouse was written by Kaufman, Zmuda, and Mel Sherer, with music by Kaufman.
In 1981, Kaufman made three appearances on Fridays, a variety show on ABC that was similar to Saturday Night Live. In his first appearance, during a sketch about four people out on a dinner date who excuse themselves to the restroom to smoke marijuana, Kaufman broke character and refused to say his lines.
In response, cast member Michael Richards walked off camera and returned with a set of cue cards and dumped them on the table in front of Kaufman, who responded by splashing Richards with water. Co-producer Jack Burns stormed onto the stage, leading to a brawl on camera before the show abruptly cut away to a commercial.
Richards has claimed that this incident was a staged practical joke that was known only to him, associate producer Burns, and Kaufman, but Melanie Chartoff, who played Kaufman’s wife in the sketch, has stated that, just before airtime, Burns told her, Maryedith Burrell, and Richards that Kaufman was going to break the fourth wall.
Kaufman appeared the following week in a videotaped apology to the home viewers. Later that year, Kaufman returned to host Fridays. At one point in the show, he invited a Lawrence Welk Show gospel and standards singer, Kathie Sullivan, on stage to sing a few gospel songs with him and announced that the two were engaged to be married, then talked to the audience about his newfound faith in Jesus (Kaufman was Jewish). That was also a hoax. Later, following a sketch about a drug-abusing pharmacist, Kaufman was supposed to introduce the band The Pretenders. Instead of introducing the band, he delivered a nervous speech about the harmfulness of drugs, while the band stood behind him ready to play. After his speech, he informed the audience that he had talked for too long and had to go to a commercial.
At some point Kaufman began wrestling women and proclaimed himself “Intergender Wrestling Champion of the World”, taking on an aggressive and ridiculous personality based on the characters invented by professional wrestlers. He offered a $1,000 prize to any woman who could pin him. He employed performance artist Laurie Anderson, a friend of his, in this act for a while.
Kaufman for a time in the 1970s, acting as a sort of “straight man” in a number of his Manhattan and Coney Island performances. One of these performances included getting on a ride that people stand in and get spun around. After everyone was strapped in, Kaufman would start saying how he did not want to be on the ride in a panicked tone and eventually cry.
Kaufman never married. His daughter, Maria Bellu-Colonna (born 1969), was the child of an out-of-wedlock relationship with a high-school girlfriend and was placed for adoption. Bellu-Colonna learned in 1992 that she was Kaufman’s daughter when she traced her biological roots by winning a petition of the State of New York for her biological mother’s surname. She soon reunited with her mother, grandfather, uncle, and aunt. Bellu-Colonna’s daughter, Brittany, briefly appeared in Man on the Moon, playing Kaufman’s sister Carol as a young child.
In December 1969, Kaufman learned Transcendental Meditation at college. According to a BBC article, he used the technique “to build confidence and take his act to comedy clubs”. For the rest of his life, Kaufman meditated and performed yoga three hours a day. From February to June 1971, he trained as a teacher of transcendental meditation in Majorca, Spain.
Lynne Margulies, who met Kaufman during the filming of My Breakfast with Blassie, was in a relationship with Kaufman from 1982 until 1984.
At Thanksgiving dinner on Long Island in November 1983, several family members openly expressed worry about Kaufman’s persistent coughing. He claimed that he had been coughing for nearly a month, visited his doctor, and been told that nothing was wrong. When he returned to Los Angeles, he consulted another physician, and then checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a series of medical tests. A few days later, he was diagnosed with large-cell carcinoma, a rare type of lung cancer.
After audiences were shocked by his gaunt appearance during January 1984 performances, Kaufman acknowledged that he had an unspecified illness that he hoped to cure with natural medicine, including a diet of all fruits and vegetables, among other measures. Kaufman received palliative radiotherapy, but by then the cancer had spread from his lungs to his brain. His final public appearance was at the premiere of My Breakfast With Blassie in March 1984, where he appeared thin and sported a mohawk (radiation treatments made his hair fall out). The following day, he and Lynne Margulies flew to Baguio, Philippines, where as a last resort, Kaufman received treatments of a pseudoscientific procedure called psychic surgery.
Kaufman died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 16, 1984, at the age of 35.
Kaufman often spoke of faking his own death as a grand hoax, with rumors persisting, often fueled by sporadic appearances of Kaufman’s character Tony Clifton at comedy clubs after his death. Kaufman’s official website describes the faked death story as an “urban legend” and includes a picture of his death certificate.
“Clifton” performed a year after Kaufman’s death at The Comedy Store benefit in Kaufman’s honor, with members of his entourage in attendance, and during the 1990s made several appearances at Los Angeles nightclubs. Jim Carrey, who portrayed Kaufman in Man on the Moon, stated on the NBC special Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman that the person doing the Clifton character was Bob Zmuda.
In 2013, responding to rumors following the appearance of an actress who claimed to be Kaufman’s daughter and that he was still alive, Los Angeles County Coroner’s office re-released Kaufman’s death certificate to confirm he was indeed deceased and buried at Beth David Cemetery.
In 2014, Zmuda and Lynne Margulies, Kaufman’s girlfriend at the time of his death, co authored Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, a book claiming that Kaufman’s death was indeed a prank, and that he would soon be revealing himself, as his upper limit on the “prank” was 30 years.
Check him out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Diane … 6:18 a.m., room 315, Great Northern Hotel up here in Twin Peaks. Slept pretty well. Non-smoking room. No tobacco smell. That’s a nice consideration for the business traveller. A hint of douglas fir needles in the air. As Sheriff Truman indicated they would, everything this hotel promised, they’ve delivered: clean, reasonably priced accommodations … telephone works … bathroom in really tip-top shape … no drips, plenty of hot water with good, steady pressure … could be a side-benefit of the waterfall just outside my window … firm mattress, but not too firm … and no lumps like that time I told you about down in El Paso … Diane, what a nightmare that was, but of course you’ve heard me tell that story once or twice before. Haven’t tried the television. Looks like cable, probably no reception problems. But the true test of any hotel, as you know, is that morning cup of coffee, which I’ll be getting back to you about within the half hour … Diane, it struck me again earlier this morning; there are two things that continue to trouble me, and I’m not just speaking as an agent of the Bureau but also as a human being: what really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys? And who really pulled the trigger on JFK?
Today my tribute is to one of the Best footballers of all time. George Best was also a very flamboyant character outside the pitch. I’ve never seen a football player that was so talented in both sports and drinking.
George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a Northern Irish professional footballer who played as a winger, spending most of his club career at Manchester United. A highly skillful dribbler, Best is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1968 and came sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century vote. Best received plaudits for his playing style, which combined pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders.
In international football, Best was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1977. A combination of the team’s performance and his lack of fitness in 1982 meant that he never played in the finals of a major tournament. He considered his international career as being “recreational football”, with the expectations placed on a smaller nation in Northern Ireland being much less than with his club. He is regarded as one of the greatest players never to have played at a World Cup. The Irish Football Association described him as the “greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland”.
With his good looks and playboy lifestyle, Best became one of the first media celebrity footballers, earning the nickname “El Beatle” in 1966, but his extravagant lifestyle led to various personal problems, most notably alcoholism, which he suffered from for the rest of his life. These issues affected him on and off the field, often causing controversy. Although conscious of his problems, he was publicly not contrite about them; he said of his career: “I spent a lot of money on booze, women and fast cars – the rest I just squandered”. After football, he spent some time as a football analyst, but his financial and health problems continued into his retirement. He died in 2005, age 59, due to complications from the immunosuppressive drugs he needed to take after a liver transplant in 2002.
A highly skilful winger, considered by several pundits to be one of the greatest dribblers in the history of the sport, Best received plaudits for his playing style, which combined pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders. Recalling Best’s career and style of play, Patrick Barclay said: “In terms of ability he was the world’s best footballer of all time. He could do almost anything – technically, speed, complete mastery of not only the ball but his own body. You could saw his legs away and he still wouldn’t fall because his balance was uncanny, almost supernatural. Heading ability, passing ability, I mean it goes without saying the dribbling – he could beat anybody in any way he chose. For fun he’d play a one-two off the opponent’s shins.”
“People were transfixed, bewitched and delighted by the impish, cheeky skills of Best that invariably brought a smile to all except the defenders who had to face him.”
— BBC journalist John May in an article titled, “Was Georgie the Best?”.
Although Best was mostly renowned for his dribbling skills, he has also drew praise for his ability as a creator; in regard to this ability, Tony Dove commented: “I only had the opportunity to see George play once in person – Man U played a tour game in Auckland, New Zealand, late in the 60s. His brilliance was simply dazzling – player after player from the New Zealand national team queued up to try to tackle him and he gave them all dancing lessons. I clearly remember one run, starting almost from the goal-line, from a roll-out by Stepney, when he evaded every player in the NZ team, one after the other, until he reached the opposite end of the pitch and produced a perfectly floated centre for Charlton’s head. His grace, agility and ball skills were only eclipsed by his unselfish passing – many love to remark on his goal scoring but he was prodigious as the set-up man. On the field you couldn’t ask for a better football role-model. Let the man pass with what dignity remains to him. Remember him at his best.”
In an interview Alex Stepney said, “Best would knock the ball on to the goalkeeper’s shin, who would be rushing towards his feet to close down the angle, and the ball would bounce back to him and he would score. No one has been able to emulate that in football. Not only did he do it in training but he did it against Manchester United’s arch rivals Liverpool at Anfield.”
Best was discovered at 15 years old by Manchester United and played there from 1963 to 1974. Best scored a total of 178 goals in his 466 career games with Manchester United. After that he played for other clubs in England, the US and in Australia. Best was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. Largely surrounded by teammates of lesser ability with Northern Ireland than with his club and lower expectations as a result, Best considered his international career as being “recreational football”.
During his early years at Old Trafford, Best was a shy teenager who passed his free time in snooker halls. However, he later became known for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, and appeared on Top of the Pops in 1965. He opened a nightclub called in Manchester in 1973 and owned restaurants and fashion boutiques.
In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol—it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.
— Best quips on his lifestyle.
Best married Angela MacDonald-Janes in 1978. Their son, Calum, was born in 1981, but they separated the following year and divorced in 1986. He married Alex Pursey in 1995. They divorced in 2005 with no children.
In 2007, GQ magazine named him as one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years. When Best played football, salaries were a fraction of what top players earn today, but, with his pop star image and celebrity status, Best still earned a fortune. He lost almost all of it. When asked what happened to the money he had earned,
Best quipped: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds (women) and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
Best suffered from alcoholism for most of his adult life, leading to numerous controversies and, eventually, his death. In 1981, while playing in the United States, Best stole money from the handbag of a woman he did not know in order to fund a drinking session. “We were sitting in a bar on the beach, and when she got up to go to the toilet I leaned over and took all the money she had in her bag.” In 1984, Best received a three-month prison sentence for drunk driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail. He spent Christmas of 1984 behind bars at Ford Open Prison. Contrary to popular belief and urban legend he never played football for the prison team. In September 1990, Best appeared on the primetime BBC chat show Wogan in which he was heavily drunk and swore, at one point saying to the host, “Terry, I like screwing”. He later apologised and said this was one of the worst episodes of his alcoholism.
Best was diagnosed with severe liver damage in March 2000. His liver was said to be functioning at only 20%. In August 2002, he had a successful liver transplant. He haemorrhaged so badly during the operation that he nearly died. The transplant was performed at public expense on the NHS, a decision which was controversial due to Best’s alcoholism. The controversy was reignited in 2003 when he was spotted openly drinking white wine spritzers.On 2 February 2004, Best was convicted of another drink-driving offence and banned from driving for 20 months.
Best continued to drink, and was sometimes seen at his local pub in Surbiton, London. On 3 October 2005, he was admitted at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, suffering from a kidney infection caused by the side effects of immuno-suppressive drugs used to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted liver. On 27 October, newspapers stated that Best was close to death and had sent a farewell message to his loved ones. Close friends in the game visited his bedside to make their farewells, including Rodney Marsh, and the two other members of the “United Trinity”, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. On 20 November, the British tabloid News of the World published a picture of Best (at his own request) showing him in his hospital bed with jaundice, along with a warning about the dangers of alcohol with his message: “Don’t die like me”. In the early hours of 25 November 2005, treatment was stopped; later that day he died, aged 59, as a result of a lung infection and multiple organ failure.
Tributes were paid to Best from around the world, including from arguably three of the greatest football players ever, Pelé, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff. Maradona commented: “George inspired me when I was young. He was flamboyant and exciting and able to inspire his teammates. I actually think we were very similar players – dribblers who were able to create moments of magic.” Fellow Manchester United legend Eric Cantona gave a eulogy to Best: “I would love him to save me a place in his team, George Best that is, not God.”
He was simply the Best!
Check him out (or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
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 (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 (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
In light of his 69th birthday this week I shall be featuring one of my most favorite comedians on screen. He often made me laugh out loud at times with his impersonations of various characters on tv shows and movies not to forget. He’s been an uplifting spirit for me over the years; he moves me, up and down and in all other directions and ways…
I wrote a poem about him which I will add at the end. Check him out (or not):
Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor and comedian. He is often regarded by critics as one of the best comedians of all time. He was known for his improvisation skills, and the wide variety of memorable voices that he created. He began performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles during the mid-1970s, and rose to fame for playing the alien Mork in the sitcom Mork & Mindy (1978–1982).
After his first starring film role in Popeye (1980), Williams starred in several critically and commercially successful films including The World According to Garp (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), Patch Adams (1998), One Hour Photo (2002), and World’s Greatest Dad (2009). He also starred in box office hits such as Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), and the Night at the Museum trilogy (2006–2014). He was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. He also received two Primetime Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four Grammy Awards.
In August 2014, at age 63, Williams committed suicide by hanging at his home in Paradise Cay, California. His widow, Susan Schneider Williams—as well as medical experts and the autopsy—attributed his suicide to his struggle with Lewy body disease.
Robin McLaurin Williams was born at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21, 1951. His father was a senior executive in Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury Division. His mother was a former model and Williams credited her as an important early influence on his humor, and he tried to make her laugh to gain attention.
When Williams attended public elementary school he described himself as a quiet child who did not overcome his shyness until he became involved with his high school drama department. His friends recall him as very funny.
As both his parents worked, Williams was partially raised by the family’s maid, who was his main companion. Williams attended Redwood High School in nearby Larkspur. At the time of his graduation in 1969, he was voted “Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “Funniest” by his classmates. After high school graduation, Williams enrolled at Claremont Men’s College in Claremont, California, to study political science; he dropped out to pursue acting. Williams studied theatre for three years at the College of Marin. According to adrama professor, the depth of the young actor’s talent became evident when he was cast in the musical Oliver! as Fagin. Williams often improvised during his time in the drama program, leaving cast members in hysterics.
In 1973, Williams attained a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York City. He was one of 20 students accepted into the freshman class, and he and Christopher Reeve were the only two accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school that year. William Hurt and Mandy Patinkin were also classmates. Reeve remembered his first impression of Williams when they were new students at Juilliard: “He wore tie-dyed shirts with tracksuit bottoms and talked a mile a minute. I’d never seen so much energy contained in one person. He was like an untied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released. I watched in awe as he virtually caromed off the walls of the classrooms and hallways. To say that he was ‘on’ would be a major understatement.”
Williams left Juilliard during his junior year in 1976 at the suggestion of Houseman, who said there was nothing more Juilliard could teach him. Gerald Freedman, another of his teachers at Juilliard, said Williams was a “genius” and that the school’s conservative and classical style of training did not suit him; no one was surprised that he left.
Williams began performing stand-up comedy in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1976. He gave his first performance at the Holy City Zoo, a comedy club in San Francisco, where he worked his way up from tending bar. In the 1960s, San Francisco was a center for a rock music renaissance, hippies, drugs, and a sexual revolution, and in the late 1970s, Williams helped lead its “comedy renaissance”, writes critic Gerald Nachman. Williams says he found out about “drugs and happiness” during that period, adding that he saw “the best brains of my time turned to mud.”
Williams moved to Los Angeles and continued performing stand-up at clubs including The Comedy Store. Williams said that partly due to the stress of performing stand-up, he started using drugs and alcohol early in his career. He further said that he neither drank nor took drugs while on stage, but occasionally performed when hung over from the previous day. During the period he was using cocaine, he said it made him paranoid when performing on stage.
Williams once described the life of stand-up comedians:
It’s a brutal field, man. They burn out. It takes its toll. Plus, the lifestyle—partying, drinking, drugs. If you’re on the road, it’s even more brutal. You gotta come back down to mellow your ass out, and then performing takes you back up. They flame out because it comes and goes. Suddenly they’re hot, and then somebody else is hot. Sometimes they get very bitter. Sometimes they just give up. Sometimes they have a revival thing and they come back again. Sometimes they snap. The pressure kicks in. You become obsessed and then you lose that focus that you need. Williams felt secure that he would not run out of ideas, as the constant change in world events would keep him supplied. He also explained that he often used free association of ideas while improvising in order to keep the audience interested.
During an interview in 1992, Williams was asked whether he ever feared losing his balance between his work and his life. He replied, “There’s that fear—if I felt like I was becoming not just dull but a rock, that I still couldn’t speak, fire off or talk about things, if I’d start to worry or got too afraid to say something. … If I stop trying, I get afraid.” While he attributed the recent suicide of novelist Jerzy Kosiński to his fear of losing his creativity and sharpness, Williams felt he could overcome those risks. For that, he credited his father for strengthening his self-confidence, telling him to never be afraid of talking about subjects which were important to him.
After the Laugh-In revival and appearing in the cast of The Richard Pryor Show on NBC, Williams was cast by Garry Marshall as the alien Mork in a 1978 episode of the TV series Happy Days, “My Favorite Orkan”. Sought after as a last-minute cast replacement for a departing actor, Williams impressed the producer with his quirky sense of humor when he sat on his head when asked to take a seat for the audition. As Mork, Williams improvised much of his dialogue and physical comedy, speaking in a high, nasal voice. The cast and crew, as well as TV network executives were deeply impressed with his performance.
Mork’s appearance proved so popular with viewers that it led to the spin-off television sitcom Mork & Mindy, which co-starred Pam Dawber, and ran from 1978 to 1982; the show was written to accommodate his extreme improvisations in dialog and behavior. Although he portrayed the same character as in Happy Days, the series was set in the present in Boulder, Colorado, instead of the late 1950s in Milwaukee. Mork & Mindy at its peak had a weekly audience of sixty million and was credited with turning Williams into a “superstar”. Mork became popular, featured on posters, coloring books, lunch-boxes, and other merchandise. Mork & Mindy was such a success in its first season that Williams appeared on the March 12, 1979, cover of Time magazine.
His first starring film performance is as the title character in Popeye (1980), in which Williams showcased the acting skills previously demonstrated in his television work; accordingly, the film’s commercial disappointment was not blamed on his performance. He went on to star as the leading character in The World According to Garp (1982), which Williams considered “may have lacked a certain madness onscreen, but it had a great core.
His first major break came from his starring role in director Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), which earned Williams a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film is set in 1965 during the Vietnam War, with Williams playing the role of Adrian Cronauer, a radio shock jock who keeps the troops entertained with comedy and sarcasm. Williams was allowed to play the role without a script, improvising most of his lines. Over the microphone, he created voice impressions of people, including Walter Cronkite, Gomer Pyle, Elvis Presley, Mr. Ed, and Richard Nixon. “We just let the cameras roll,” said producer Mark Johnson, and Williams “managed to create something new for every single take”.
In 1989, Williams played a private-school English teacher in Dead Poets Society, which included a final, emotional scene that some critics said “inspired a generation” and became a part of pop culture. Similarly, his performance as a therapist in Good Will Hunting (1997) deeply affected even some real therapists. In Awakenings (1990), Williams plays a doctor modeled after Oliver Sacks, who wrote the book on which the film is based. Sacks later said the way the actor’s mind worked was a “form of genius”. In 1991, he played an adult Peter Pan in the film Hook, although he had said he would have to lose 25 pounds for the role. Terry Gilliam, who co-founded Monty Python and directed Williams in two of his films, The Fisher King (1991) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), said in 1992 that Williams had the ability to “go from manic to mad to tender and vulnerable … [Williams had] the most unique mind on the planet. There’s nobody like him out there.”
Other performances Williams had in dramatic films include Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Awakenings (1990), What Dreams May Come (1998), and Bicentennial Man (1999). In Insomnia (2002), Williams portrays a writer/killer on the run from a sleep-deprived Los Angeles policeman (played by Al Pacino) in rural Alaska.
His roles in comedy and dramatic films garnered Williams several accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Good Will Hunting as well as two previous Academy Award nominations, for Dead Poets Society, and as a troubled homeless man in The Fisher King, respectively.
Among the actors who helped him during his acting career, he credited Robert De Niro, from whom he learned the power of silence and economy of dialogue when acting. From Dustin Hoffman, with whom he co-starred in Hook, he learned to take on totally different character types, and to transform his characters by extreme preparation. Mike Medavoy, producer of Hook, told its director, Steven Spielberg, that he intentionally teamed up Hoffman and Williams for the film because he knew they wanted to work together, and that Williams welcomed the opportunity of working with Spielberg. Williams benefited from working with Woody Allen, who directed him and Billy Crystal in Deconstructing Harry (1997), as Allen had knowledge of the fact that Crystal and Williams had often performed together on stage.
Williams voiced characters in several animated films. His voice role as the Genie in the animated musical Aladdin (1992) was written for him. The film’s directors said they had taken a risk by writing the role. At first, Williams refused the role since it was a Disney movie, and he did not want the studio profiting by selling merchandise based on the movie. He accepted the role with certain conditions: “I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything—as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.” Williams improvised much of his dialogue, recording approximately 30 hours of tape, and impersonated dozens of celebrities, including Ed Sullivan, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Groucho Marx, Rodney Dangerfield, William F. Buckley, Peter Lorre, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Arsenio Hall. His role in Aladdin became one of his most recognized and best-loved, and the film was the highest-grossing of 1992; it won numerous awards, including a Golden Globe for Williams. His performance led the way for other animated films to incorporate actors with more star power. He was named a Disney Legend in 2009.
Williams married his first wife, Valerie Velardi, in June 1978. Their son Zachary Pym “Zak” Williams was born in 1983. Velardi and Williams were divorced in 1988.
In 1989, Williams married Garces, who was six months pregnant with his child. They had two children, Zelda Rae Williams and Cody Alan Williams. In March 2008, Garces filed for divorce from Williams, citing irreconcilable differences. Their divorce was finalized in 2010. Williams married his third wife, graphic designer Susan Schneider, in 2011.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Williams had an addiction to cocaine. He was a casual friend of John Belushi, and the Saturday Night Live comic’s death in 1982 from a drug overdose, which happened the morning after the two had partied together, along with the birth of his own son Zak, prompted him to quit drugs and alcohol: “Was it a wake-up call? Oh yeah, on a huge level. The grand jury helped, too.” Williams later said of Belushi’s death, “It sobered the shit out of me.” Williams turned to exercise and cycling to help alleviate his depression shortly after Belushi’s death; according to bicycle shop owner Tony Tom, Williams said, “cycling saved my life.” In 2003, Williams started drinking again while working on a film in Alaska. In 2006, he checked himself into a substance-abuse rehabilitation center in Newberg, Oregon, saying he was an alcoholic. Years afterward, Williams acknowledged his failure to maintain sobriety, but said he never returned to using cocaine, declaring in a 2010 interview: No. Cocaine—paranoid and impotent, what fun. There was no bit of me thinking, ooh, let’s go back to that. Useless conversations until midnight, waking up at dawn feeling like a vampire on a day pass. No.
In March 2009, he was hospitalized due to heart problems. He postponed his one-man tour for surgery to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve, and correct his irregular heartbeat. His publicist, Mara Buxbaum, commented that he was suffering from severe depression before his death. His wife, Susan Schneider, said that in the period before his death, Williams had been sober, but was diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease, which was information he was “not yet ready to share publicly”. An autopsy revealed that Williams had diffuse Lewy body dementia, which had been diagnosed as Parkinson’s. This may have contributed to his depression. In an essay published in the journal Neurology two years after his death, Schneider revealed that the pathology of Lewy body disease in Williams was described by several doctors as among the worst pathologies they had seen. She described the early symptoms of his disease as beginning in October 2013. Williams’ initial condition included a sudden and prolonged spike in fear and anxiety, stress and insomnia; which worsened in severity to include memory loss, paranoia, and delusions. According to Schneider, “Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it. He kept saying, ‘I just want to reboot my brain’.
On August 11, 2014, at his home in Paradise Cay, California, Williams committed suicide by hanging. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over San Francisco Bay the next day. The final autopsy report, released in November 2014, concluded that he “died of asphyxia due to hanging”. Neither alcohol nor illegal drugs were involved, and prescription drugs present in his body were at therapeutic levels. The report also noted that Williams had been suffering from depression and anxiety. An examination of his brain tissue suggested Williams suffered from “diffuse Lewy body dementia”. Describing the disease as “the terrorist inside my husband’s brain”, his widow Susan Schneider Williams said.
Williams credited comedians including Jonathan Winters, Peter Sellers, Nichols and May, and Lenny Bruce as influences, admiring their ability to attract a more intellectual audience with a higher level of wit. He also liked Jay Leno for his quickness in ad-libbing comedy routines and Sid Caesar, whose acts he felt were “precious”. Jonathan Winters was his “idol” early in life; Williams, aged eight, first saw him on television and paid him homage in interviews throughout his career. Williams was inspired by Winters’ ingenuity, realizing, he said, “that anything is possible, that anything is funny … He gave me the idea that it can be free-form, that you can go in and out of things pretty easily.”
During an interview in London in 2002, Williams told Michael Parkinson that Peter Sellers was an important influence, especially his multi-character roles in Dr. Strangelove, stating, “It doesn’t get better than that.” British comedy actors Dudley Moore and Peter Cook were also among his influences, he told Parkinson.
Williams was also influenced by Richard Pryor’s fearless ability to talk about his personal life on stage, with subjects including his use of drugs and alcohol, and Williams added those kinds of topics during his own performances. By bringing up such personal matters as a form of comedy, he told Parkinson it was “cheaper than therapy” and gave him a way to release his pent-up energy and emotions.
my dear pierrot
you made me smile
why did you go
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas