Ronald Tolkien was an amazing writer who can not go unnoticed in my series featuring those that have made an impact or impression on me. Although I am not much of a reader, the films Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit got me interested in this Einstein of lingo (as I would call him) and these wonderful translations of some of his finest works. So check him out if you want (or not).
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic. He was the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
He served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, from 1945 to 1959. He was at one time a close friend of C. S. Lewis—they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972. After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda and Middle-earth within it. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.
While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature—or, more precisely, of high fantasy. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. Forbes ranked him the fifth top-earning “dead celebrity” in 2009.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on 3 January 1892 in South Africa which was later annexed by the British Empire, to Arthur Reuel Tolkie, an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel both with German roots.
As a child, Tolkien was bitten by a large baboon spider in the garden, an event some think later echoed in his stories, although he admitted no actual memory of the event and no special hatred of spiders as an adult.
When he was three, he went to England with his mother and brother on what was intended to be a lengthy family visit. His father, however, died in South Africa of rheumatic fever before he could join them. This left the family without an income, so Tolkien’s mother took him to live with her parents in Kings Heath, Birmingham. Soon after, in 1896, they moved to a Worcestershire village, later annexed to Birmingham. He enjoyed exploring Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog and the Clent, Lickey and Malvern Hills, which would later inspire scenes in his books, along with nearby towns and villages such as Bromsgrove, Alcester, and Alvechurch and places such as his aunt Jane’s farm Bag End, the name of which he used in his fiction. Ronald, as he was known in the family, was a keen pupil. She taught him a great deal of botany and awakened in him the enjoyment of the look and feel of plants. Young Tolkien liked to draw landscapes and trees, but his favourite lessons were those concerning languages, and his mother taught him the rudiments of Latin very early.
Tolkien could read by the age of four and could write fluently soon afterwards.
In 1904, when J. R. R. Tolkien was 12, his mother died of acute diabetes. She was then about 34 years of age. After his mother’s death, Tolkien grew up in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham and attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and later St. Philip’s School. In 1903, he won a Foundation Scholarship and returned to King Edward’s. In Edgbaston, Tolkien lived there in the shadow of Perrott’s Folly and the Victorian tower of Edgbaston Waterworks, which may have influenced the images of the dark towers within his works. Another strong influence was the romantic medievalist paintings of Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery had a large collection of works on public display.
While in his early teens, Tolkien had his first encounter with a constructed language, Animalic, an invention of his cousins, Mary and Marjorie Incledon. At that time, he was studying Latin and Anglo-Saxon. Their interest in Animalic soon died away, but Mary and others, including Tolkien himself, invented a new and more complex language called Nevbosh. The next constructed language he came to work with, Naffarin, would be his own creation. Tolkien learned Esperanto some time before 1909. Around 10 June 1909 he composed “The Book of the Foxrook”, a sixteen-page notebook, where the “earliest example of one of his invented alphabets” appears.Short texts in this notebook are written in Esperanto.
In 1911, while they were at King Edward’s School, Tolkien and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Bache Smith and Christopher Wiseman, formed a semi-secret society they called the T.C.B.S. The initials stood for Tea Club and Barrovian Society, alluding to their fondness for drinking tea in Barrow’s Stores near the school and, secretly, in the school library. After leaving school, the members stayed in touch and, in December 1914, they held a “council” in London at Wiseman’s home. For Tolkien, the result of this meeting was a strong dedication to writing poetry.
In 1911, Tolkien went on a summer holiday in Switzerland, a trip that he recollects vividly in a 1968 letter, noting that Bilbo’s journey across the Misty Mountains (“including the glissade down the slithering stones into the pine woods”) is directly based on his adventures as their party of 12 hiked from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and on to camp in the moraines beyond Mürren. In October of the same year, Tolkien began studying at Exeter College, Oxford. He initially studied classics but changed his course in 1913 to English language and literature, graduating in 1915 with first-class honours. Among his tutors at Oxford was Joseph Wright.
At the age of 16, Tolkien met Edith Mary Bratt, who was three years his senior. With two people of their personalities and in their position, romance was bound to flourish. Both were orphans in need of affection, and they found that they could give it to each other. During the summer of 1909, they decided that they were in love.
On the evening of his 21st birthday, Tolkien wrote to Edith, who was living with family friend C. H. Jessop at Cheltenham. He declared that he had never ceased to love her, and asked her to marry him. Edith replied that she had already accepted the proposal of George Field, the brother of one of her closest school friends. But Edith said she had agreed to marry Field only because she felt “on the shelf” and had begun to doubt that Tolkien still cared for her. She explained that, because of Tolkien’s letter, everything had changed.
On 8 January 1913, Tolkien travelled by train to Cheltenham and was met on the platform by Edith. The two took a walk into the countryside, sat under a railway viaduct, and talked. By the end of the day, Edith had agreed to accept Tolkien’s proposal. She wrote to Field and returned her engagement ring. Field was “dreadfully upset at first”, and the Field family was “insulted and angry”. Upon learning of Edith’s new plans, Jessop wrote to her guardian, “I have nothing to say against Tolkien, he is a cultured gentleman, but his prospects are poor in the extreme, and when he will be in a position to marry I cannot imagine. Had he adopted a profession it would have been different.” Following their engagement, Edith reluctantly announced that she was converting to Catholicism at Tolkien’s insistence. Jessop, “like many others of his age and class … strongly anti-Catholic”, was infuriated, and he ordered Edith to find other lodgings. Edith Bratt and Ronald Tolkien were formally engaged at Birmingham in January 1913, and married at St. Mary Immaculate Roman Catholic Church, Warwick, on 22 March 1916. In his 1941 letter to Michael, Tolkien expressed admiration for his wife’s willingness to marry a man with no job, little money, and no prospects except the likelihood of being killed in the Great War.
In August 1914, Britain entered the First World War. Tolkien’s relatives were shocked when he elected not to volunteer immediately for the British Army. In a 1941 letter to his son Michael, Tolkien recalled: “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly. It was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage.”
Instead, Tolkien, “endured the obloquy”, and entered a programme by which he delayed enlistment until completing his degree. By the time he passed his finals in July 1915, Tolkien recalled that the hints were “becoming outspoken from relatives”. He was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers on 15 July 1915. He trained with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, for 11 months. In a letter to Edith, Tolkien complained: “Gentlemen are rare among the superiors, and even human beings rare indeed.” On 5 June 1916, Tolkien boarded a troop transport for an overnight voyage to Calais. While waiting to be summoned to his unit, Tolkien sank into boredom. To pass the time, he composed a poem entitled The Lonely Isle, which was inspired by his feelings during the sea crossing to Calais. To evade the British Army’s postal censorship, he also developed a code of dots by which Edith could track his movements.
Tolkien arrived at the Somme in early July 1916. In between terms behind the lines at Bouzincourt, he participated in the assaults on the Schwaben Redoubt and the Leipzig salient. Tolkien’s time in combat was a terrible stress for Edith, who feared that every knock on the door might carry news of her husband’s death. Edith could track her husband’s movements on a map of the Western Front.The Schwaben Redoubt, painting by William Orpen. Imperial War Museum, London
On 27 October 1916, as his battalion attacked Regina Trench, Tolkien contracted trench fever, a disease carried by the lice. He was invalided to England on 8 November 1916. Many of his dearest school friends were killed in the war. Among their number were Rob Gilson of the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, who was killed on the first day of the Somme while leading his men in the assault on Beaumont Hamel. Fellow T.C.B.S. member Geoffrey Smith was killed during the same battle when a German artillery shell landed on a first aid post. Tolkien’s battalion was almost completely wiped out following his return to England.A weak and emaciated Tolkien spent the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties, being deemed medically unfit for general service.
During his recovery in a cottage in Little Haywood, Staffordshire, he began to work on what he called The Book of Lost Tales, beginning with The Fall of Gondolin. Lost Tales represented Tolkien’s attempt to create a mythology for England, a project he would abandon without ever completing. Tolkien was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant on 6 January 1918. When he was stationed at Kingston upon Hull, he and Edith went walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and Edith began to dance for him in a clearing among the flowering hemlock. After his wife’s death in 1971, Tolkien remembered, I never called Edith Luthien—but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire. In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing—and dance. But the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos. On 16 July 1919 Tolkien was officially demobilized, at Fovant, on Salisbury Plain, with a temporary disability pension.
On 3 November 1920, Tolkien was demobilized and left the army, retaining his rank of lieutenant. His first civilian job after World War I was at the Oxford English Dictionary, where he worked mainly on the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin beginning with the letter W. In 1920, he took up a post as reader in English language at the University of Leeds, becoming the youngest professor there. While at Leeds, he produced A Middle English Vocabulary and a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with E. V. Gordon; both became academic standard works for several decades. He translated Sir Gawain, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. In 1925, he returned to Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, with a fellowship at Pembroke College.
In mid-1919, he began to tutor undergraduates privately, most importantly those of Lady Margaret Hall and St Hugh’s College, given that the women’s colleges were in great need of good teachers in their early years, and Tolkien as a married professor (then still not common) was considered suitable, as a bachelor don would not have been. During his time at Pembroke College Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings. He also published a philological essay in 1932 on the name “Nodens”, following Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s unearthing of a Roman Asclepeion at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, in 1928.
In the 1920s, Tolkien undertook a translation of Beowulf, which he finished in 1926, but did not publish. It was finally edited by his son and published in 2014, more than 40 years after Tolkien’s death and almost 90 years after its completion.
Ten years after finishing his translation, Tolkien gave a highly acclaimed lecture on the work, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”, which had a lasting influence on Beowulf research. Lewis E. Nicholson said that the article Tolkien wrote about Beowulf is “widely recognized as a turning point in Beowulfian criticism”, noting that Tolkien established the primacy of the poetic nature of the work as opposed to its purely linguistic elements. At the time, the consensus of scholarship deprecated Beowulf for dealing with childish battles with monsters rather than realistic tribal warfare; Tolkien argued that the author of Beowulf was addressing human destiny in general, not as limited by particular tribal politics, and therefore the monsters were essential to the poem. Where Beowulf does deal with specific tribal struggles, as at Finnsburg, Tolkien argued firmly against reading in fantastic elements. In the essay, Tolkien also revealed how highly he regarded Beowulf: “Beowulf is among my most valued sources”, and this influence may be seen throughout his Middle-earth legendarium. According to Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien began his series of lectures on Beowulf in a most striking way, entering the room silently, fixing the audience with a look, and suddenly declaiming in Old English the opening lines of the poem, starting “with a great cry of Hwæt!” It was a dramatic impersonation of an Anglo-Saxon bard in a mead hall, and it made the students realize that Beowulf was not just a set text but “a powerful piece of dramatic poetry”.
Decades later, W. H. Auden wrote to his former professor, thanking him for the “unforgettable experience” of hearing him recite Beowulf, and stating “The voice was the voice of Gandalf”.
In the run-up to the Second World War, Tolkien was earmarked as a codebreaker. In January 1939, he was asked whether he would be prepared to serve in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office in the event of national emergency. He replied in the affirmative and, beginning on 27 March, took an instructional course at the London HQ of the Government Code and Cypher School. In 1945, Tolkien moved to Merton College, Oxford, becoming the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, in which post he remained until his retirement in 1959. He served as an external examiner for University College, Dublin, for many years. In 1954 Tolkien received an honorary degree from the National University of Ireland. Tolkien completed The Lord of the Rings in 1948, close to a decade after the first sketches.
During his life in retirement, from 1959 up to his death in 1973, Tolkien received steadily increasing public attention and literary fame. In 1961, his friend C. S. Lewis even nominated him for the Nobel Prize in Literature.The sales of his books were so profitable that he regretted that he had not chosen early retirement. In a 1972 letter, he deplored having become a cult-figure, but admitted that “even the nose of a very modest idol … cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense!”
Fan attention became so intense that Tolkien had to take his phone number out of the public directory, and eventually he and Edith moved to Bournemouth, which was then a seaside resort patronized by the British upper middle class. Tolkien’s status as a best-selling author gave them easy entry into polite society, but Tolkien deeply missed the company of his fellow Inklings. Edith, however, was overjoyed to step into the role of a society hostess, which had been the reason that Tolkien selected Bournemouth in the first place. The genuine and deep affection between Ronald and Edith was demonstrated by their care about the other’s health, in details like wrapping presents, in the generous way he gave up his life at Oxford so she could retire to Bournemouth, and in her pride in his becoming a famous author. They were tied together, too, by love for their 4 children and grandchildren.
In his retirement Tolkien was a consultant and translator for the Jerusalem Bible, published in 1966. He was initially assigned a larger portion to translate, but, due to other commitments, only managed to offer some criticisms of other contributors and a translation of the Book of Jonah.
Edith died on 29 November 1971, at the age of 82. Ronald returned to Oxford, where Merton College gave him convenient rooms near the High Street. He missed Edith, but enjoyed being back in the city. Tolkien died 21 months later on 2 September 1973 from a bleeding ulcer and chest infection, at the age of 81, he was buried in the same grave. God rest his soul..
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, 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
By chance and coincidence, after watching the movie Barfly, I learned that the story was based on the life of Charles “Hank” Bukowski. I started to get interested when I read some of his poetry and became a fan of his writing. Alcohol seemed to be the fuel and inspiration for most of his works. His poetry has always inspired and motivated me and has definitely had a big influence on the way that I write.
Henry Charles Bukowski (born Heinrich Karl Bukowski; August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) was a German-American poet, novelist, and short story writer.
His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambiance of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column Notes of a Dirty Old Man in the LA underground newspaper Open City.
Bukowski published extensively in small literary magazines and with small presses beginning in the early 1940s and continuing on through the early 1990s. As noted by one reviewer, “Bukowski continued to be, thanks to his antics and deliberate clownish performances, the king of the underground and the epitome of the littles in the ensuing decades, stressing his loyalty to those small press editors who had first championed his work and consolidating his presence in new ventures such as the New York Quarterly, Chiron Review, or Slipstream.” Some of these works include his Poems Written Before Jumping Out of an 8 Story Window, published by his friend and fellow poet Charles Potts, and better known works such as Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. These poems and stories were later republished by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press as collected volumes of his work.
In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife”. Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal … [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”
Since his death in 1994, Bukowski has been the subject of a number of critical articles and books about both his life and writings, despite his work having received relatively little attention from academic critics in the United States during his lifetime. In contrast, Bukowski enjoyed extraordinary fame in Europe, especially in Germany, the place of his birth.
Charles’ father Henry Bukowski was German-American and a sergeant in the United States Army serving in Germany after Germany’s defeat in 1918. Afterwards, Henry Bukowski became a building contractor, set to make great financial gains in the aftermath of the war. However, given the crippling postwar reparations being required of Germany, which led to a stagnant economy and high levels of inflation, Henry Bukowski was unable to make a living, so he decided to move the family to the United States. On April 23, 1923, they sailed from Bremerhaven to Baltimore, Maryland, where they settled.
The family moved to Mid-City, Los Angeles, USA in 1930, the city where Charles Bukowski’s father and grandfather had previously worked and lived. Young Charles spoke English with a strong German accent and was taunted by his childhood playmates with the epithet “Heini,” German diminutive of Heinrich, in his early youth. In the 1930s, the poet’s father was often unemployed. In the autobiographical Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski says that, with his mother’s acquiescence, his father was frequently abusive, both physically and mentally, beating his son for the smallest imagined offense. During his youth, Bukowski was shy and socially withdrawn, a condition exacerbated during his teen years by an extreme case of acne. Neighborhood children ridiculed his German accent and the clothing his parents made him wear. In Bukowski: Born Into This, a 2003 film, Bukowski states that his father beat him with a razor strop three times a week from the ages of six to 11 years. He says that it helped his writing, as he came to understand undeserved pain. The depression bolstered his rage as he grew, and gave him much of his voice and material for his writings.
In his early teen years, Bukowski had an epiphany when he was introduced to alcohol by his loyal friend William “Baldy” Mullinax, depicted as “Eli LaCrosse” in Ham on Rye, son of an alcoholic surgeon. “This [alcohol] is going to help me for a very long time,” he later wrote, describing a method (drinking) he could use to come to more amicable terms with his own life. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bukowski attended Los Angeles City College for two years, taking courses in art, journalism, and literature, before quitting at the start of World War II. He then moved to New York to begin a career as a financially pinched blue-collar worker with dreams of becoming a writer.
By 1960, Bukowski had returned to the post office in Los Angeles where he began work as a letter filing clerk, a position he held for more than a decade. In 1962, he was distraught over the death of Jane Cooney Baker, his first serious girlfriend. Bukowski turned his inner devastation into a series of poems and stories lamenting her death. In 1964 a daughter, Marina Louise Bukowski, was born to Bukowski and his live-in girlfriend Frances Smith, whom he referred to as a “white-haired hippie”, “shack-job”, and “old snaggle-tooth”.
E.V. Griffith, editor of Hearse Press, published Bukowski’s first separately printed publication, a broadside titled “His Wife, the Painter,” in June 1960. This event was followed by Hearse Press’s publication of “Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail,” Bukowski’s first chapbook of poems, in October, 1960.
In 1969 Bukowski accepted an offer from legendary Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin and quit his post office job to dedicate himself to full-time writing. He was then 49 years old. As he explained in a letter at the time, “I have one of two choices – stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.” Less than one month after leaving the postal service he finished his first novel, Post Office. As a measure of respect for Martin’s financial support and faith in a relatively unknown writer, Bukowski published almost all of his subsequent major works with Black Sparrow Press, which became a highly successful enterprise owing to Martin’s business acumen and editorial skills. An avid supporter of small independent presses, Bukowski continued to submit poems and short stories to innumerable small publications throughout his career.
Bukowski embarked on a series of love affairs and one-night trysts. One of these relationships was with Linda King, a poet and sculptress. Critic Robert Peters reported seeing the poet as actor in Linda King’s play Only a Tenant, in which she and Bukowski stage-read the first act at the Pasadena Museum of the Artist. This was a one-off performance of what was a shambolic work. His other affairs were with a recording executive and a twenty-three-year-old redhead; he wrote a book of poetry as a tribute to his love for the latter, titled, “Scarlet” (Black Sparrow Press, 1976). His various affairs and relationships provided material for his stories and poems. Another important relationship was with “Tanya”, pseudonym of “Amber O’Neil” (also a pseudonym), described in Bukowski’s “Women” as a pen-pal that evolved into a week-end tryst at Bukowski’s residence in Los Angeles in the 1970s. “Amber O’Neil” later self-published a chapbook about the affair entitled “Blowing My Hero”.
In 1976, Bukowski met Linda Lee Beighle, a health food restaurant owner, rock-and-roll groupie, aspiring actress, heiress to a small Philadelphia “Main Line” fortune and devotee of Meher Baba. Two years later Bukowski moved from the East Hollywood area, where he had lived for most of his life, to the harborside community of San Pedro, the southernmost district of the City of Los Angeles. Beighle followed him and they lived together intermittently over the next two years. They were eventually married by Manly Palmer Hall, a Canadian-born author, mystic, and spiritual teacher in 1985. Beighle is referred to as “Sara” in Bukowski’s novels Women and Hollywood.
In May, 1978, he returned to Germany and gave a live poetry reading of his work before an audience in Hamburg. This was released as a double 12″ L.P. stereo record titled “CHARLES BUKOWSKI ‘Hello. It’s good to be back.'” His last international performance was in October 1979 in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was released on DVD as There’s Gonna Be a God Damn Riot in Here. In March 1980 he gave his last reading at the Sweetwater club in Redondo Beach, which was released as Hostage on audio CD and The Last Straw on DVD. In 2010 the unedited versions of both The Last Straw and Riot were released as One Tough Mother on DVD.
In the 1980s and 1990s, cartoonist Robert Crumb illustrated a number of Bukowski’s stories, including the collection The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship and the story “Bring Me Your Love.”
In the 1980s, he collaborated with illustrator Robert Crumb on a series of comic books, with Bukowski supplying the writing and Crumb providing the artwork.
Bukowski has been published in Beloit Poetry Journal.
Bukowski died of leukemia on March 9, 1994, in San Pedro, aged 73, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp. The funeral rites, orchestrated by his widow, were conducted by Buddhist monks. He is interred at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes. An account of the proceedings can be found in Gerald Locklin’s book Charles Bukowski: A Sure Bet. His gravestone reads: “Don’t Try”, a phrase which Bukowski uses in one of his poems, advising aspiring writers and poets about inspiration and creativity. Bukowski explained the phrase in a 1963 letter to John William Corrington: “Somebody at one of these places […] asked me: ‘What do you do? How do you write, create?’ You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or, if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.”
Bukowski was an atheist.
Bukowski’s work was subject to controversy throughout his career, and Hugh Fox claimed that his sexism in poetry, at least in part, translated into his life. In 1969, Fox published the first critical study of Bukowski in The North American Review, and mentioned Bukowski’s attitude toward women: “When women are around, he has to play Man. In a way it’s the same kind of ‘pose’ he plays at in his poetry—Bogart, Eric Von Stroheim. Whenever my wife Lucia would come with me to visit him he’d play the Man role, but one night she couldn’t come I got to Buk’s place and found a whole different guy—easy to get along with, relaxed, accessible.”
In June 2006, Bukowski’s literary archive was donated by his widow to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Copies of all editions of his work published by the Black Sparrow Press are held at Western Michigan University, which purchased the archive of the publishing house after its closure in 2003.
Ecco Press continues to release new collections of his poetry, culled from the thousands of works published in small literary magazines. According to Ecco Press, the 2007 release The People Look Like Flowers at Last will be his final posthumous release, as now all his once-unpublished work has been made available.
Bukowski often spoke of Los Angeles as his favorite subject. In a 1974 interview he said, “You live in a town all your life, and you get to know every bitch on the street corner and half of them you have already messed around with. You’ve got the layout of the whole land. You have a picture of where you are…. Since I was raised in L.A., I’ve always had the geographical and spiritual feeling of being here. I’ve had time to learn this city. I can’t see any other place than L.A.”
Bukowski also performed live readings of his works, beginning in 1962 on radio station KPFK in Los Angeles and increasing in frequency through the 1970s. Drinking was often a featured part of the readings, along with a combative banter with the audience. Bukowski could also be generous, for example, after a sold-out show at Amazingrace Coffeehouse in Evanston, Illinois on Nov. 18, 1975, he signed and illustrated over 100 copies of his poem “Winter,” published by No Mountains Poetry Project. By the late 1970s, Bukowski’s income was sufficient to give up live readings.
One critic has described Bukowski’s fiction as a “detailed depiction of a certain taboo male fantasy: the uninhibited bachelor, slobby, anti-social, and utterly free”, an image he tried to live up to with sometimes riotous public poetry readings and boorish party behavior.A few critics and commentators also supported the idea that Bukowski was a cynic, as a man and a writer. Bukowski denied being a cynic, stating: “I’ve always been accused of being a cynic. I think cynicism is sour grapes. I think cynicism is a weakness.”
Over half of Bukowski’s collections have been published posthumously. Posthumous collections have been known to have been ‘John Martinized’, with the poems having been highly tampered and edited, at a level which was not present during Bukowski’s lifetime.
One example of a popular poem, “Roll the Dice” (when comparing the original manuscript to “What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire”), themes such as alcoholism are removed. The creative editing present includes changing lines from “against total rejection and the highest of odds” to “despite rejection and the worst odds”.
Check him out(or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Withered rope you hang what’s
Empty can’t remain to put it simply
In time cry the hollow words
To sing with false disguise
Smothered hope fly from sorrow
For a new divine tomorrow
I just don’t want to know anymore
Life shifts up and down
Everybody knows it’s wrong
Why don’t you care? Now do it seem fair?
It’s not in the rhyme or reason
So it goes with every season crawl to
Top fall through bottom
First hand love is really rotten
Slice of life find what’s plenty
Inch towards a sanctuary
Light with me inside the womb
I know everyone everybody knows it’s me
It’s my voice, my voice cries out
Obscenity, sightless eye regard
My past sometimes it should
I just don’t want to know anymore
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
Shadows settle on the place, that you left
Our minds are troubled by the emptiness
Destroy the middle, it’s a waste of time
From the perfect start to the finish line
And if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky ones
‘Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs
Setting fire to our insides for fun
Collecting names of the lovers that went wrong
The lovers that went wrong
We are the reckless
We are the wild youth
Chasing visions of our futures
One day we’ll reveal the truth
That one will die before he gets there
And if you’re still bleeding, you’re the lucky ones
‘Cause most of our feelings, they are dead and they are gone
We’re setting fire to our insides for fun
Collecting pictures from the flood that wrecked our home
It was a flood that wrecked this
And you caused it
And you caused it
And you caused it
Well I’ve lost it all, I’m just a silouhette
A lifeless face that you’ll soon forget
My eyes are damp from the words you left
Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest
Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest
And if you’re in love, then you are the lucky one
‘Cause most of us are bitter over someone
Setting fire to our insides for fun
To distract our hearts from ever missing them
But I’m forever missing him
And you caused it
And you caused it
And you caused it
After watching Schindler’s List, which is one of my most favorite films, I was interested to learn about this “life saver” Oskar Schindler and became intrigued by his mission to rescue and save as many lives as he could during the Holocaust in World War 2. I have nothing but respect for this man, who in time, realized life was more important than death. A true hero…
Schindler was born on 28 April 1908, into a German family in Zwittau, Moravia, Austria-Hungary. After attending primary and secondary school, Schindler enrolled in a technical school, from which he was expelled in 1924 for forging his report card. He later graduated, but did not take exams that would have enabled him to go to college or university. Instead, he took courses in Brno in several trades, including chauffeuring and machinery, and worked for his father for three years.
On 6 March 1928, Schindler married Emilie Pelzl. The young couple moved in with Oskar’s parents and occupied the upstairs rooms, where they lived for the next seven years. Soon after his marriage, Schindler quit working for his father and took a series of jobs. After an 18-month stint in the Czech army, where he rose to the rank of lance corporal in the 31st Army, Schindler returned to Moravian Electrotechnic, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. His father’s farm machinery business closed around the same time, leaving Schindler unemployed for a year. He took a job with Jaroslav Šimek Bank of Prague in 1931, where he worked until 1938. Schindler was arrested several times in 1931 and 1932 for public drunkenness. Also around this time he had an affair with Aurelie Schlegel, a school friend. She bore him a daughter, Emily, in 1933, and a son, Oskar Jr, in 1935. Schindler later claimed the boy was not his son.
Schindler joined the separatist Sudeten German Party in 1935. Although he was a citizen of Czechoslovakia, Schindler became a spy for the Abwehr, the military intelligence service of Nazi Germany, in 1936. He later told Czech police that he did it because he needed the money; by this time Schindler had a drinking problem and was chronically in debt.
His tasks for the Abwehr included collecting information on railways, military installations, and troop movements, as well as recruiting other spies within Czechoslovakia, in advance of a planned invasion of the country by Nazi Germany. He was arrested by the Czech government for espionage on 18 July 1938 and immediately imprisoned, but was released as a political prisoner under the terms of the Munich Agreement, the instrument under which the Czech Sudetenland was annexed into Germany on 1 October. Schindler applied for membership in the Nazi Party on 1 November and was accepted the following year.
Schindler was promoted to second in command of his Abwehr unit and was involved in espionage in the months leading up to Hitler’s seizure of the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March. His wife helped him with paperwork, processing and hiding secret documents in their apartment for the Abwehr office. As Schindler frequently travelled to Poland on business, he and his 25 agents were in a position to collect information about Polish military activities and railways for the planned invasion of Poland. One assignment called for his unit to monitor and provide information about the railway line and tunnel in the Jablunkov Pass, deemed critical for the movement of German troops. Schindler continued to work for the Abwehr until as late as fall 1940.
Schindler first arrived in Kraków (Krakau) in October 1939, on Abwehr business, and took an apartment the following month. In November 1939, he contacted interior decorator Mila Pfefferberg to decorate his new apartment. Her son, Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, soon became one of his contacts for black market trading. They eventually became lifelong friends.
Also that November, Schindler was introduced to Itzhak Stern, an accountant for Schindler’s fellow Abwehr agent Josef “Sepp” Aue, who had taken over Stern’s formerly Jewish-owned place of employment as a Treuhander (trustee). Property belonging to Polish Jews, including their possessions, places of business, and homes were seized by the Germans beginning immediately after the invasion, and Jewish citizens were stripped of their civil rights. Schindler showed Stern the balance sheet of a company he was thinking of acquiring, an enamelware factory called Rekord Ltd owned by a consortium of Jewish businessmen that had filed for bankruptcy earlier that year. Stern advised him that rather than running the company as a trusteeship he should buy or lease the business, as that would give him more freedom from the dictates of the Nazis, including the freedom to hire more Jews.
With the financial backing of several Jewish investors, including one of the owners, Abraham Bankier, Schindler signed an informal lease agreement on the factory on 13 November 1939 and formalised the arrangement on 15 January 1940. He renamed it Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik (German Enamelware Factory) or DEF, and it soon became known by the nickname “Emalia”. He initially acquired a staff of seven Jewish workers and 250 non-Jewish Poles. At its peak in 1944, the business employed around 1,750 workers, a thousand of whom were Jewish.
Schindler’s ties with the Abwehr and his connections in the Wehrmacht and its Armaments Inspectorate enabled him to obtain contracts to produce enamel cookware for the military. These connections also later helped him protect his Jewish workers from deportation and death. As time went on, Schindler had to give Nazi officials ever larger bribes and gifts of luxury items obtainable only on the black market to keep his workers safe. Schindler himself enjoyed a lavish lifestyle and pursued extramarital relationships with his secretary, Viktoria Klonowska, and Eva Kisch Scheuer, a merchant specialising in enamelware from DEF. Emilie Schindler visited for a few months in 1940 and moved to Kraków to live with Oskar in 1941.
Initially, Schindler was mostly interested in the money-making potential of the business and hired Jews because they were cheaper than Poles—the wages were set by the occupying Nazi regime. Later he began shielding his workers without regard for cost. The status of his factory as a business essential to the war effort became a decisive factor enabling him to help his Jewish workers. Whenever Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) were threatened with deportation, he claimed exemptions for them. He claimed wives, children, and even people with disabilities were necessary mechanics and metalworkers. On one occasion, the Gestapo came to Schindler demanding that he hand over a family that possessed forged identity papers. “Three hours after they walked in,” Schindler said, “two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded.”
On 1 August 1940, Governor-General Hans Frank issued a decree requiring all Kraków Jews to leave the city within two weeks. Only those who had jobs directly related to the German war effort would be allowed to stay. Of the 60,000 to 80,000 Jews then living in the city, only 15,000 remained by March 1941. These Jews were then forced to leave their traditional neighbourhood of Kazimierz and relocate to the walled Kraków Ghetto, established in the industrial Podgórze district. Schindler’s workers travelled on foot to and from the ghetto each day to their jobs at the factory. Enlargements to the facility in the four years Schindler was in charge included the addition of an outpatient clinic, co-op, kitchen, and dining room for the workers, in addition to expansion of the factory and its related office space.
In fall 1941, the Nazis began transporting Jews out of the ghetto. Most of them were sent to the Bełżec extermination camp and murdered. On 13 March 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and those still fit for work were sent to the new concentration camp at Płaszów. Several thousand not deemed fit for work were sent to extermination camps and murdered; hundreds more were murdered on the streets by the Nazis as they cleared out the ghetto. Schindler, aware of the plans because of his Wehrmacht contacts, had his workers stay at the factory overnight to prevent them coming to harm. Schindler witnessed the liquidation of the ghetto and was appalled. From that point forward Schindler changed his mind about the Nazis. He decided to get out and to save as many Jews as he could.
Płaszów concentration camp opened in March 1943 on the former site of two Jewish cemeteries. In charge of the camp was SS-Hauptsturmführer Amon Göth, a sadist who would shoot inmates of the camp at random. Inmates at Płaszów lived in constant fear for their lives. Emilie Schindler called Göth “the most despicable man I have ever met.”
Initially Göth’s plan was that all the factories, including Schindler’s, should be moved inside the camp gates. However, Schindler, with a combination of diplomacy, flattery, and bribery, not only prevented his factory from being moved, but convinced Göth to allow him to build (at Schindler’s own expense) a subcamp at Emalia to house his workers plus 450 Jews from other nearby factories. There they were safe from the threat of random execution, were well fed and housed, and were permitted to undertake religious observances.
Schindler was arrested twice on suspicion of black market activities and once for breaking the Nuremberg Laws by kissing a Jewish girl, an action forbidden by the Race and Resettlement Act. The first arrest, in late 1941, led to him being kept overnight. His secretary arranged for his release through Schindler’s influential contacts in the Nazi Party. His second arrest, on 29 April 1942, was the result of his kissing a Jewish girl on the cheek at his birthday party at the factory the previous day. He remained in jail five days before his influential Nazi contacts were able to obtain his release. In October 1944, he was arrested again, accused of black marketeering and bribing Göth and others to improve the conditions of the Jewish workers. He was held for most of a week and released. Göth had been arrested on 13 September 1944 for corruption and other abuses of power, and Schindler’s arrest was part of the ongoing investigation into Göth’s activities. Göth was never convicted on those charges, but was hanged by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland for war crimes on 13 September 1946.
In 1943, Schindler was contacted via members of the Jewish resistance movement by Zionist leaders in Budapest. Schindler travelled there several times to report in person on Nazi mistreatment of the Jews. He brought back funding provided by the Jewish Agency for Israel and turned it over to the Jewish underground.
As the Red Army drew nearer in July 1944, the SS began closing down the easternmost concentration camps and evacuating the remaining prisoners westward to Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Göth’s personal secretary, Mietek Pemper, alerted Schindler to the Nazis’ plans to close all factories not directly involved in the war effort, including Schindler’s enamelware facility. Pemper suggested to Schindler that production should be switched from cookware to anti-tank grenades in an effort to save the lives of the Jewish workers. Using bribery and his powers of persuasion, Schindler convinced Göth and the officials in Berlin to allow him to move his factory and his workers to Brünnlitz, in the Sudetenland, thus sparing them from certain death in the gas chambers. Using names provided by Jewish Ghetto Police officer Marcel Goldberg, Pemper compiled and typed the list of 1,200 Jews—1,000 of Schindler’s workers and 200 inmates from Julius Madritsch’s textiles factory—who were sent to Brünnlitz in October 1944.
On 15 October 1944 a train carrying 700 men on Schindler’s list was initially sent to the concentration camp at Gross-Rosen, where the men spent about a week before being re-routed to the factory in Brünnlitz. Three hundred female Schindlerjuden were similarly sent to Auschwitz, where they were in imminent danger of being sent to the gas chambers. Schindler’s usual connections and bribes failed to obtain their release. Finally after he sent his secretary, Hilde Albrecht, with bribes of black market goods, food and diamonds, the women were sent to Brünnlitz after several harrowing weeks in Auschwitz.
In addition to workers, Schindler moved 250 wagon loads of machinery and raw materials to the new factory. Few if any useful artillery shells were produced at the plant. When officials from the Armaments Ministry questioned the factory’s low output, Schindler bought finished goods on the black market and resold them as his own. The rations provided by the SS were insufficient to meet the needs of the workers, so Schindler spent most of his time in Kraków, obtaining food, armaments, and other materials. His wife Emilie remained in Brünnlitz, surreptitiously obtaining additional rations and caring for the workers’ health and other basic needs. Schindler also arranged for the transfer of as many as 3,000 Jewish women out of Auschwitz to small textiles plants in the Sudetenland in an effort to increase their chances of surviving the war.
In January 1945 a trainload of 250 Jewish people who had been rejected as workers at a mine in Golleschau in Poland arrived at Brünnlitz. The boxcars were frozen shut when they arrived, and Emilie Schindler waited while an engineer from the factory opened the cars using a soldering iron. Twelve people were dead in the cars, and the remainder were too ill and feeble to work. Emilie took the survivors into the factory and cared for them in a makeshift hospital until the end of the war. Schindler continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the slaughter of his workers as the Red Army approached. On 7 May 1945 he and his workers gathered on the factory floor to listen to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announce over the radio that Germany had surrendered, and the war in Europe was over.
As a member of the Nazi Party and the Abwehr intelligence service, Schindler was in danger of being arrested as a war criminal. Bankier, Stern, and several others prepared a statement he could present to the Americans attesting to his role in saving Jewish lives. He was also given a ring, made using gold from dental work taken out of the mouth of Schindlerjude Simon Jeret. The ring was inscribed “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” To escape being captured by the Russians, Schindler and his wife departed westward in their vehicle, a two-seater Horch, initially with several fleeing German soldiers riding on the running boards. A truck containing Schindler’s mistress Marta, several Jewish workers, and a load of black market trade goods followed behind. The Horch was confiscated by Russian troops at the town of Budweis, which had already been captured by Russian troops. The Schindlers were unable to recover a diamond that Oskar had hidden under the seat.They continued by train and on foot until they reached the American lines at the town of Lenora, and then travelled to Passau, where an American Jewish officer arranged for them to travel to Switzerland by train. They moved to Bavaria in Germany in the fall of 1945.
By the end of the war, Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black market purchases of supplies for his workers. Virtually destitute, he moved briefly to Regensburg and later Munich, but did not prosper in postwar Germany. In fact, he was reduced to receiving assistance from Jewish organisations. In 1948 he presented a claim for reimbursement of his wartime expenses to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and received $15,000. He estimated his expenditures at over $1,056,000, including the costs of camp construction, bribes, and expenditures for black market goods, including food. Schindler emigrated to Argentina in 1949, where he tried raising chickens and then nutria, a small animal raised for its fur. When the business went bankrupt in 1958, he left his wife and returned to Germany, where he had a series of unsuccessful business ventures, including a cement factory. He declared bankruptcy in 1963 and suffered a heart attack the next year, which led to a month-long stay in hospital. Remaining in contact with many of the Jews he had met during the war, including Stern and Pfefferberg, Schindler survived on donations sent by Schindlerjuden from all over the world. He died on 9 October 1974 and is buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the only member of the Nazi Party to be honoured in this way. For his work during the war, on 8 May 1962, Yad Vashem invited Schindler to a ceremony in which a carob tree was planted in his honor on the Avenue of the Righteous. He and his wife, Emilie, were named Righteous Among the Nations, an award bestowed by the State of Israel on non-Jews who took an active role to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, on 24 June 1993.
Writer Herbert Steinhouse, who interviewed him in 1948, wrote that “Schindler’s exceptional deeds stemmed from just that elementary sense of decency and humanity that our sophisticated age seldom sincerely believes in. A repentant opportunist saw the light and rebelled against the sadism and vile criminality all around him.”In a 1983 television documentary, Schindler was quoted as saying, “I felt that the Jews were being destroyed. I had to help them; there was no choice.”
In 1980, Australian author Thomas Keneally by chance visited Pfefferberg’s luggage store in Beverly Hills while en route home from a film festival in Europe. Pfefferberg took the opportunity to tell Keneally the story of Oskar Schindler. He gave him copies of some materials he had on file, and Keneally soon decided to make a fictionalised treatment of the story. After extensive research and interviews with surviving Schindlerjuden, his 1982 historical novel Schindler’s Ark (published in the United States as Schindler’s List) was the result.
The novel was adapted as the 1993 movie Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg. After acquiring the rights in 1983, Spielberg felt he was not ready emotionally or professionally to tackle the project, and he offered the rights to several other directors. After he read a script for the project prepared by Steven Zaillian for Martin Scorsese, he decided to trade him Cape Fear for the opportunity to do the Schindler biography. In the film, the character of Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley) is a composite of Stern, Bankier, and Pemper. Liam Neeson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Schindler in the film, which won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.
Other film treatments include a 1983 British television documentary produced by Jon Blair for Thames Television, entitled Schindler: His Story as Told by the Actual People He Saved (released in the US in 1994 as Schindler: The Real Story),and a 1998 A&E Biography special, Oskar Schindler: The Man Behind the List.
In 1997 a suitcase belonging to Schindler containing historic photographs and documents was discovered in the attic of the apartment of Ami and Heinrich Staehr in Hildesheim. Schindler had stayed with the couple for a few days shortly before his death in 1974. Staehr’s son Chris took the suitcase to Stuttgart, where the documents were examined in detail in 1999 by Dr. Wolfgang Borgmann, science editor of the Stuttgarter Zeitung. Borgmann wrote a series of seven articles, which appeared in the paper from 16 to 26 October 1999 and were eventually published in book form as Schindler’s Koffer: Berichte aus dem Leben eines Lebensretters; eine Dokumentation der Stuttgarter Zeitung (Schindler’s Suitcase: Reports from the Life of a Lifesaver). The documents and suitcase were sent to the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem in Israel for safekeeping in December 1999.
In early April 2009, a carbon copy of one version of the list was discovered at the State Library of New South Wales by workers combing through boxes of materials collected by author Thomas Keneally. The 13-page document, yellow and fragile, was filed among research notes and original newspaper clippings. The document was given to Keneally in 1980 by Pfefferberg when he was persuading him to write Schindler’s story. This version of the list contains 801 names and is dated 18 April 1945; Pfefferberg is listed as worker number 173. Several authentic versions of the list exist, because the names were re-typed several times as conditions changed in the hectic days at the end of the war.
One of four existing copies of the list was offered at a ten-day auction starting on 19 July 2013 on EBay at a reserve price of $3 million. It received no bids.
Even though Schindler made a bad choice becoming a member of the Nazi party (which was a common thing to do back in the day) he saved over a 1000 lives. The people he saved went on and had children and they had children… and thus saving generations of life. At the end of the movie Schindler’s List there was a beautiful quote: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire”…
Here are some clips from the movie, which I consider to be one of the best movies of all time (also because of the beautiful music). It still gives me goosebumps:
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
Today I am featuring a man famous for his roles in Ghostbusters, Scrooged, Meatballs and Groundhog Day. I first saw him on Saturday Night live, an American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show for which he received an Emmy Award. I love his black sense of humor and deadpan delivery and is one of my favorite comedians. He makes weird seem obvious and depression normal.
William James Murray was born on September 21, 1950, was raised in Wilmette, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. Bill and his eight siblings were raised in an Irish-Catholic family. As a youth, Murray read children’s biographies of American heroes like Kit Carson, Wild Bill Hickok, and Davy Crockett. During his teen years, he worked as a golf caddy to fund his education at the Jesuit high school. During his teen years he was the lead singer of a rock band called the Dutch Masters and took part in high school and community theater. After graduating from Loyola Academy, Murray attended Regis University in Denver, Colorado, taking pre-medical courses. He quickly dropped out, returning to Illinois. Decades later, in 2007, Regis awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. On September 21, 1970, his 20th birthday, the police arrested Murray at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for trying to smuggle 10 lb (4.5 kg) of cannabis, which he had allegedly intended to sell. The drugs were discovered after Murray joked to the passenger next to him that he had packed a bomb in his luggage. Murray was convicted and sentenced to probation.
With an invitation from his older brother, Brian, Murray got his start at The Second City in Chicago, an improvisational comedy troupe, studying under Del Close. In 1974, he moved to New York City and was recruited by John Belushi as a featured player on The National Lampoon Radio Hour. In 1975, an Off-Broadway version of a Lampoon show led to his first television role as a cast member of the ABC variety show Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. On several projects, Murray rose to prominence in 1976. He officially joined the cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live for the show’s second season, following the departure of Chevy Chase. Murray was with SNL for three seasons from 1977 to 1980.
Murray landed his first starring role with the film Meatballs in 1979. He followed this with a portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson in 1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam. In the early 1980s, he starred in a string of box-office hits, including Caddyshack, Stripes, and Tootsie. Murray was the first guest on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman on February 1, 1982. He later appeared on the first episode of the Late Show with David Letterman on August 30, 1993, when the show moved to CBS. On January 31, 2012 – 30 years after his first appearance with Letterman – Murray appeared again on his talk show. He appeared as Letterman’s final guest when the host retired on May 20, 2015.
Murray began work on a film adaptation of the novel The Razor’s Edge. The film, which Murray co-wrote, was his first starring role in a dramatic film. He later agreed with Columbia Pictures to star in Ghostbusters—in a role originally written for John Belushi—to get financing for The Razor’s Edge. Ghostbusters became the highest-grossing film of 1984 and the highest-grossing comedy of all-time. The Razor’s Edge, which was filmed before Ghostbusters but not released until after, was a box-office flop.Frustrated over the failure of The Razor’s Edge, Murray stepped away from acting for four years to study philosophy and history at Sorbonne University, frequent the Cinémathèque in Paris, and spend time with his family in their Hudson River Valley home.
Murray returned to films with Scrooged in 1988 and Ghostbusters II in 1989. In 1990, Murray made his first and only attempt at directing when he co-directed Quick Change with producer Howard Franklin. His subsequent films What About Bob? (1991) and Groundhog Day (1993) were box-office hits. After Groundhog Day, he appeared in a series of well-received supporting roles in films like Ed Wood, Kingpin, and Space Jam (where he appeared as himself). However, his starring roles in Larger than Life and The Man Who Knew Too Little were not as successful with critics or audiences. In 1998, he received much critical acclaim for Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, for which he won Best Supporting Actor awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Murray decided to take a turn towards more dramatic roles and experienced a resurgence in his career, taking on roles in Wild Things, Cradle Will Rock, Hamlet and The Royal Tenenbaums. In 2003, he appeared in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and went on to earn a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, and an Independent Spirit Award, as well as Best Actor awards from several film critic organizations. He was considered a favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, but Sean Penn ultimately won the award for his performance in Mystic River. In an interview included on the Lost in Translation DVD, Murray states that it is his favorite movie in which he has appeared. Also in 2003, he appeared in a short cameo for Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, in which he played himself “hiding out” in a local coffee shop.
During this time Murray still appeared in comedic roles such as Charlie’s Angels and Osmosis Jones. In 2004, he provided the voice of Garfield in Garfield: The Movie, and again in 2006 for Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. Murray later said that he only took the role because he was under the mistaken impression the screenplay, co-written by Joel Cohen, was the work of Joel Coen. In 2004, he made his third collaboration with Wes Anderson in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and in 2005 his second collaboration with Jim Jarmusch in Broken Flowers. That same year, Murray announced that he was taking a hiatus from acting as he had not had the time to relax since his new breakthrough in the late 1990s.
Murray was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the 2014 film St. Vincent. He played a music manager in 2015’s Rock the Kasbah. In 2016, he was the voice of Baloo in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau. There had been speculation that he might return to the Ghostbusters franchise for a rumored Ghostbusters 3, but he dispelled such rumors in an interview with GQ. In March 2010, Murray appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and talked about his return to Ghostbusters III, stating “I’d do it only if my character was killed off in the first reel.” In an interview with GQ, Murray said: “You know, maybe I should just do it. Maybe it’d be fun to do.” In the interview, when asked “Is the third Ghostbusters movie happening? What’s the story with that?”, Murray replied, “It’s all a bunch of crock”.
In 2019, Murray was part of the ensemble cast of the zombie-comedy The Dead Don’t Die directed by Jim Jarmusch. On February 2, 2020, a Jeep commercial starring Murray aired during the Super Bowl referencing his role in the film Groundhog Day as Phil, with him stealing the groundhog and driving him to various places in the orange Jeep Gladiator.
During the filming of Stripes, Murray married Margaret Kelly on January 25, 1981. Margaret gave birth to two sons, Homer and Luke. Following Murray’s affair with Jennifer Butler, the couple divorced in 1996. In 1997, he married Butler. Together, they have four sons: Caleb, Jackson, Cooper, and Lincoln. Butler filed for divorce on May 12, 2008.Murray stated in a 1984 interview: “I’m definitely a religious person, but it doesn’t have much to do with Catholicism anymore. I don’t think about Catholicism as much.
Murray has been known for his mood swings, leading Dan Aykroyd to refer to him as “The Murricane”. Murray has said of his reputation: “I remember a friend said to me a while back: ‘You have a reputation.’ And I said: ‘What?’ And he said: ‘Yeah, you have a reputation of being difficult to work with. ‘But I only got that reputation from people I didn’t like working with, or people who didn’t know how to work, or what work is’.
I love this man, this comedian, his philosophy, oddness and everything else about him.
Check him out (or not)
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Groucho Marx is one of my comical inspirators who makes me laugh out loud with his sharp and witty one liners. I used to watch the Marx Brothers films which he and his 4 brothers made. It was like life can be: chaotic, lyrical and humorous. I would like to think that his sense of humor is catchy and perhaps some may have noticed that I caught it.
Groucho Marx was considered the most recognizable of the Marx Brothers. Groucho-like characters and references have appeared in popular culture both during and after his life, some aimed at audiences who may never have seen a Marx Brothers movie. Marx’s trademark eyeglasses, nose, mustache, and cigar have become icons of comedy—glasses with fake noses and mustaches are sold by novelty and costume shops around the world.
Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977) was an American comedian, actor, writer, stage, film, radio, and television star. He is generally considered to be a master of quick wit and one of America’s greatest comedians.
He made 13 feature films as a team with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born. He also had a successful solo career, primarily on radio and television, most notably as the host of the game show You Bet Your Life.
His distinctive appearance, carried over from his days in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, spectacles, cigar, a thick greasepaint mustache, and eyebrows. These exaggerated features resulted in the creation of one of the most recognizable and ubiquitous novelty disguises, known as Groucho glasses: a one-piece mask consisting of horn-rimmed glasses, a large plastic nose, bushy eyebrows and mustache.
Julius Henry Marx was born on October 2, 1890, in Manhattan, New York. It was populated with European immigrants, mostly artisans. Marx started his career in vaudeville in 1905 when he joined up with an act called The Leroy Trio. In 1909, Marx and his brothers had become a group act. The brothers’ mother, Minnie Marx, was the group’s manager, putting them together and booking their shows. The group had a rocky start, performing in less than adequate venues and rarely, if ever, being paid for their performances. Eventually one of the brothers would leave to serve in World War I and was replaced by Herbert (Zeppo), and the group became known as the Marx Brothers.
Groucho made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Marx developed a routine as a wisecracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint mustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, he and his brothers starred in a series of popular stage shows and movies.Their first movie was a silent film made in 1921 that was never released, and is believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made two of their Broadway hits—The Cocoanuts and Animal Cracker—into movies. Other successful films were Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera.
Marx also worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was a short-lived series in 1932, Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, costarring Chico. Though most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress. In 1947, Marx was asked to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life. It was broadcast by ABC and then CBS before moving to NBC. It moved from radio to television on October 5, 1950, and ran for eleven years. Filmed before an audience, the show consisted of Marx bantering with the contestants and ad-libbing jokes before briefly quizzing them. The show was responsible for popularizing the phrases “Say the secret word and the duck will come down and give you fifty dollars,” “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” and “What color is the White House?” (asked to reward a losing contestant a consolation prize).
Marx’s three marriages ended in divorce. His first wife was chorus girl Ruth Johnson. The couple had two children, Arthur Marx and Miriam Marx. His second wife was Kay Marvis. Marx was 54 and Kay was 21 at the time of their marriage. They had a daughter, Melinda Marx. His third wife was actress Eden Hartford. He was 64 and she was 24 at the time of their wedding. During the early 1950s, Marx described his perfect woman: “Someone who looks like Marilyn Monroe and talks like George S. Kaufman.”
Despite his lack of formal education, he wrote many books, including his autobiography, Groucho and Me (1959) and Memoirs of a Mangy Lover (1963). He was a friend of such literary figures as Booth Tarkington, T. S. Eliot and Carl Sandburg. Much of his personal correspondence with those and other figures is featured in the book The Groucho Letters (1967) with an introduction and commentary on the letters written by Marx, who donated his letters to the Library of Congress. His daughter Miriam published a collection of his letters to her in 1992 titled Love, Groucho.
As he passed his 81st birthday in 1971, Marx became increasingly frail, physically and mentally, as a result of a succession of minor strokes and other health issues. On the 1974 Academy Awards telecast, Marx’s final major public appearance, Jack Lemmon presented him with an honorary Academy Award to a standing ovation. The award honored Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo as well: “in recognition of his brilliant creativity and for the unequalled achievements of the Marx Brothers in the art of motion picture comedy. Noticeably frail, Marx took a bow for his deceased brothers. “I wish that Harpo and Chico could be here to share with me this great honor,” he said, naming the two deceased brothers. Marx’s final appearance was a brief sketch with George Burns in the Bob Hope television special Joys. His health continued to decline the following year; when his younger brother Gummo died at age 83 on April 21, 1977, Marx was never told for fear of eliciting still further deterioration of his health.
Marx maintained his irrepressible sense of humor to the very end, however. George Fenneman, his radio and TV announcer, good-natured foil, and lifelong friend, often related a story of one of his final visits to Marx’s home: When the time came to end the visit, Fenneman lifted Marx from his wheelchair, put his arms around his torso, and began to “walk” the frail comedian backwards across the room towards his bed. As he did, he heard a weak voice in his ear: “Fenneman,” whispered Marx, “you always were a lousy dancer.” When a nurse approached him with a thermometer during his final hospitalization, explaining that she wanted to see if he had a temperature, he responded, “Don’t be silly — everybody has a temperature.” Actor Elliott Gould recalled a similar incident: “I recall the last time I saw Groucho, he was in the hospital, and he had tubes in his nose and what have you,” he said. “And when he saw me, he was weak, but he was there; and he put his fingers on the tubes and played them like it was a clarinet. Groucho played the tubes for me, which brings me to tears.”
Marx was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with pneumonia on June 22, 1977, and died there nearly two months later at the age of 86 in August that year.
Marx was cremated and the ashes are interred in the Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. He was survived by his three children and younger brother Zeppo, who outlived him by two years. His gravestone bears no epitaph, but in one of his last interviews he suggested one: “Excuse me, I can’t stand up.”
Groucho Marx once said, ‘Anyone can get old — all you have to do is to live long enough’.
Check him out (or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, Brainyquote, interweb, poetpas
My all time favorite movie this is. It has everything in it: drama, comedy, good story and plot, great actors and solid acting. I personally think that this is Jack Nicholson’s best performance. He was well casted and personified a perfect McMurphy. And so was Louise Fletcher who played nurse Ratched. I must have watched it over 100 times.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 1975 American drama film directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Kirk Douglas acquired the rights to the screenplay and Micheal Douglas was the producer. The film stars Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy, a new patient at a mental institution, and features a supporting cast of Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Will Sampson, Sydney Lassick, Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd in his film debut.
Filming began in January 1975 and lasted three months, taking place on location in Salem, Oregon, and the surrounding area, as well as on the Oregon coast. The producers decided to shoot the film in the Oregon State Hospital, an actual mental hospital, as this was also the setting of the novel.
Considered by some to be one of the greatest films ever made, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director and Screenplay). It also won numerous Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. In 1993, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Plot: (contains spoilers!)
In 1963 Oregon, recidivist malefactor Randle Patrick McMurphy is moved to a mental institution after serving a short sentence on a prison farm for several charges of assault, and statutory rape of a 15-year-old. Though not actually mentally ill, McMurphy hopes to avoid hard labor and serve the rest of his sentence in a relaxed environment. Upon arriving at the hospital, he finds the ward run by nurse Mildred Ratched, a cold, passive-aggressive tyrant who uses her rules and authority to intimidate her charges into a restrictive, joyless existence.
The other patients include anxious, stuttering Billy Bibbit; Charlie Cheswick, who is prone to childish tantrums; delusional and innocent Martini; the well-educated, paranoid Dale Harding; belligerent and profane Max Taber; epileptics Jim Sefelt and Bruce Fredrickson, the former of whom gives his medicine to the latter; quiet but violent-minded Scanlon, “Chief” Bromden, a very tall Native American deaf-mute, and several others with more chronic conditions. Ratched soon sees McMurphy’s lively, rebellious presence as a threat to her authority, and she confiscates the patients’ cigarettes and rations them, and suspends their card-playing privileges. During his time in the ward, McMurphy gets into a battle of wills with Ratched. He steals a hospital bus, escaping with several patients to go on a fishing trip, encouraging his friends to discover their own abilities and find self-confidence.
After learning that the judge’s time sentence doesn’t apply to the hospital, and he could remain there indefinitely, McMurphy makes plans to escape, encouraging Chief to throw a hydrotherapy console through a window. It is also revealed that McMurphy, Chief, and Taber are the only non-chronic patients sentenced to staying at the institution, as the rest are self-committed and could voluntarily check-out at any time, but are too afraid to do so. McMurphy, Chief, and Cheswick get into a fight with the orderlies after the latter becomes agitated over his confiscated cigarettes. Ratched sends them to the “shock shop”, where McMurphy discovers Chief can actually speak and hear, having feigned his deaf-muteness to avoid engaging with anyone. After being subjected to electroconvulsive therapy, McMurphy returns to the ward pretending to have brain damage, although he reveals the treatment has made him even more determined. McMurphy and Chief make plans to escape, but decide to throw a secret Christmas party for their friends after Ratched leaves for the night.
McMurphy sneaks two women, Candy and Rose, into the ward, bringing bottles of alcohol, and bribes the night guard. After a night of partying, McMurphy and Chief prepare to escape, inviting Billy to come with them. Not ready to leave the hospital, he refuses. Billy asks for a “date” with Candy and McMurphy arranges for him to have sex with her. Ratched arrives in the morning to find the ward in disarray and most of the patients passed out drunk. She discovers Billy and Candy together, and aims to embarrass Billy in front of everyone. Billy manages to overcome his stutter and stands up to Ratched, until she threatens to inform his mother about his escapade. Billy’s stutter returns and he cracks under the pressure. Nurse Ratched has him placed in the doctor’s office to wait for the doctor to arrive. Moments later when McMurphy is trying to escape, Billy commits suicide. McMurphy flies into a rage and pins Ratched to the floor, choking her with both hands until Washington knocks him out. Some time later, Ratched comes back with a neck brace and a scratchy voice, and Harding now leads the now-unsuspended card-playing. Rumors spread that McMurphy has escaped in order to avoid being taken “upstairs”. Later that night, Chief sees McMurphy being returned to his bed. When McMurphy is utterly unresponsive and physically limp, Chief discovers lobotomy scars on his forehead. In an act of mercy, Chief smothers McMurphy to death with a pillow. He then finally is able to lift the hydrotherapy foundation out of the floor, throws it through the window, and escapes into the night, cheered on by Taber.
I feel that this is a movie that everyone must have seen at least once in their lives. You can’t not watch it; it’s too good not to…I also have a top 10 list of movies if anyone’s interested 😊
Check it out (or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
random in rhyme
you treat my ears
to unpredictable chyme
Not known to everyone, this guitarist has changed my life in a way that is impossible for me to put into words. His compositions, play and melodies are beyond explanation, and even comprehension I might add. In my view, he is technically the best guitarist I have ever heard (with the use of only 3 fingers). His music influenced my life and writing and changed my view on music. It was also my introduction to the world of jazz, which made me discover other great musicians which I will feature in other posts.
Django Reinhardt (23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953) was a Belgian-born Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer. He was the first jazz talent to emerge from Europe and remains the most significant.
With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt formed the Paris-based Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. The group was among the first to play jazz that featured the guitar as a lead instrument. Reinhardt recorded in France with many visiting American musicians, including Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, and briefly toured the United States with Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1946. He died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 43.
Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become standards within gypsy jazz, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages”. Jazz guitarist Frank Vignola claims that nearly every major popular-music guitarist in the world has been influenced by Reinhardt. Over the last few decades, annual Django festivals have been held throughout Europe and the U.S., and a biography has been written about his life. In February 2017, the Berlin International Film Festival held the world premiere of the French film Django.
When Django was 18 he nearly died. On the night of 2 November 1928, Reinhardt was going to bed in the wagon that he and his wife shared in the caravan. He knocked over a candle, which ignited the extremely flammable celluloid that set his wagon on fire. Reinhardt survived but suffered extensive burns over half his body. His ring finger and pinky of his left hand were badly burned. Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again. Reinhardt applied himself intensely to relearning his craft, however, making use of a new guitar bought for him by his brother Joseph.
While he never regained the use of those two fingers, Reinhardt regained his musical mastery by focusing on his left index and middle fingers, using the two injured fingers only for chord work. During the years after the fire, Reinhardt was rehabilitating and experimenting on the guitar that his brother had given him. While developing his interest in jazz, Reinhardt met Stéphane Grappelli, a young violinist with similar musical interests. He and Grappelli frequently jammed together and formed the band Hot Club de France in 1934. Reinhardt also played and recorded with many American jazz musicians, such as Adelaide Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, etc. He participated in a jam session and radio performance with Louis Armstrong. Later in his career, Reinhardt played with Dizzy Gillespie in France.
During WW II Django was fortunate enough to be able to survive and play as Roma and Sinti, or better known as gypsies, were deported by Nazis and jazz music was prohibited. Yet some German officers were impressed by Django’s virtuosity leaving him to travel and play in France.
Many guitar players and other musicians have expressed admiration for Reinhardt or have cited him as a major influence. Jeff Beck described Reinhardt as “by far the most astonishing guitar player ever” and “quite superhuman”.
Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, both of whom lost fingers in accidents, were inspired by Reinhardt’s example of becoming an accomplished guitar player despite his injuries. Garcia was quoted in June 1985 in Frets Magazine: His technique is awesome! Even today, nobody has really come to the state that he was playing at. As good as players are, they haven’t gotten to where he is. There’s a lot of guys that play fast and a lot of guys that play clean, and the guitar has come a long way as far as speed and clarity go, but nobody plays with the whole fullness of expression that Django has. I mean, the combination of incredible speed – all the speed you could possibly want – but also the thing of every note has a specific personality. You don’t hear it. I really haven’t heard it anywhere but with Django.
Django had a son Babik who was also an accomplished and talented guitar player. Bireli Lagrene, Angelo Debarre are amongst many interpreters that play the Gypsy jazz music style still today.
Check him out (or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, poetpas
This man has been my main and ultimate inspirer for writing poetry. From my (post) punk days I have developed a taste for his poetry which is full of wit and sarcasm. His rapidfire delivery system attracted me to explore his work and occasionally try to apply some of his style to my own.
John Cooper Clarke is an English performance poet who first became famous during the punk rock era of the late 1970s when he became known as a “punk poet”. He released several albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and continues to perform regularly.
Clarke was born in Salford, Lancashire, in 1949. He became interested in poetry after being inspired by his English teacher. He began his performance career in Manchester folk clubs, working with Rick Goldstraw and his band the Ferrets. Clarke has attributed his early success in part to the influence of the English poet Pam Ayres. Her run of success on the British TV show Opportunity Knocks led both Clarke and his mother to believe that he could make a living at poetry.
In 1979 he had his only UK top 40 hit with “Gimmix! Clarke toured with Linton Kwesi Johnson, and has performed on the same bill as bands such as the Sex Pistols, the Fall, Joy Division, the Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elvis Costello, Rockpile and New Order. His set is characterised by lively, rapid-fire renditions of his, usually performed a cappella. Often referred to as “the bard of Salford”, he usually refers to himself on stage as “Johnny Clarke, the name behind the hairstyle”.
In July 2013, Clarke was awarded an honorary doctorate of arts in “acknowledgement of a career which has spanned five decades, bringing poetry to non-traditional audiences and influencing musicians and comedians” by the University of Salford. Upon receipt, Clarke commented: “Now I’m a doctor, finally my dream of opening a cosmetic surgery business can become a reality.” His poem “I Wanna Be Yours” was adapted by Arctic Monkeys and frontman Alex Turner for the band’s fifth album, AM.
I love this man, the bard of Salford, his work, his intelligence, looks and appearance, free spirit, wit, sarcasm, etcetera, etcetera…Without having known him I wouldn’t have written what I’ve written, so far…
Check him out (or not):
Photo: Gerald Jenkins.
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, johncooperclarke.com, Amazon, poetpas
on radio and tv
all too phoney
too much crap
instilled in me
Most of us have heard of the Dalai Lama and Tibet. After China took control over Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama resettled in India as spiritual leader. Through following him and taking an interest in Tibetan Buddhism I learned about another inspiring teacher named Rinpoche Yongey Mingyur.
Mingyur Rinpoche was born in Nepal in 1975. From the age of nine, his father taught him meditation, passing on to him the most essential instructions of the Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions. At the age of eleven, Mingyur Rinpoche began studies in northern India. Two years later, Mingyur Rinpoche began a traditional three-year retreat. At the age of nineteen he studied the primary topics of the Buddhist academic tradition, including Middle Way philosophy and Buddhist logic.
In June 2011, Mingyur Rinpoche left his monastery in Bodhgaya to begin a period of extended retreat. Rinpoche left in the middle of the night, taking nothing with him, but leaving a farewell letter. He spent four years as a wandering yogi.
During the first few weeks of this retreat, Rinpoche had a near-death experience, likely due to a severe form of botulism. This may have been the result of choosing to eat only the meals that were free and available to him after allowing himself to run out of money. The near-death experience, according to Rinpoche, was one of the most pivotal and transformative experiences of his life. After continuing with his retreat for four years, he later returned to his position as abbot.
Yongey Mingyur is a very amusing little man who brought me much wisdom and insight into meditation and Tibetan buddhism. Through him I have found more inner peace. He was scientifically tested and proven to be the happiest man on the planet. His thoughts on having a “monkey mind” in our brain that tries to control our lives are very interesting and helpful. This man has positively changed my life big time.
Check him out (or not):
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, Amazon, interweb, poetpas
I first learned about Jim White when I saw his movie Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Searching for The Wrong-Eyed Jesus is a captivating and compelling road trip and follows “Alt Country” singer Jim White through a gritty terrain of churches, prisons, truck stops, biker bars and coal mines. This is a journey through a very real contemporary Southern U.S., a world of marginalised white people and their unique and home-made society. Along the way are road-side encounters with modern musical mavericks including The Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd, Dave Eugene Edwards, old time banjo player Lee sexton; rockabilly and mountain Gospel churches and novelist Harry Crews telling grisly stories down a dirt track.
This movie had a certain impact on me and left me wondering if there was more to this Jim White. After I checked him out on YouTube I realized he is a very sensitive, smart and sincere person.
Jim White (born Michael Davis Pratt) was influenced in his childhood by gospel. He has been a comedian, a fashion model, a boxer, a preacher, a professional surfer, and a New York City cab driver before embarking on a music career. White attended film school at New York University. Soon after finishing his lengthy thesis at the university, White entered a self-described “deep hole of sickness and depression and poverty.” However, during a party organized by film school friends, White began to perform, and began writing material for an album soon afterward.
White’s live shows, particularly when touring solo, can be characterized as off-beat, blending his playlist with open discussion with the audience, anecdotal storytelling derived from his own life experiences, all of which is typically humorous and insightful, with a deep sense of his feeling for the broken beauty of humanity.
Check him out (I would):
Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia, YouTube, interweb, poetpas
Photo: By Tecumseh1973 Wikipedia