Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Birthdays!

Happy Halloween!

I was curious about those born on this eeriest of holidays. Did (do) they suffer teasing at the hands of schoolmates? Did/do they worry that they were somehow flawed or subject to paranormal leanings? My mother was born on Friday the 13th, and she always spoke as if that fact had skewed her luck for life. She was a bit of a pessimist, to be sure.

Born today were:
Peter Jackson, New Zealand filmmaker, of the Lord of the Rings franchise, King Kong; Happy 47th, Peter! (For his birthday, he wants The One Ring…)

John Candy, Canadian actor much beloved in our household; favorites are Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the annoying but amiable shower curtain ring salesman, and who could forget his portrayal of Barf, the “mawg” (half man, half dog) in the classic Spaceballs? Candy was taken from us much too soon; he was 43 when he passed on 3/4/04, a victim of a heart attack.

Dale Evans, cowgirl extraordinaire and wife to sweetheart cowboy hero Roy Rogers. She really did write “Happy Trails To You.” 1912 – 2001.

And… Michael Landon, eternally youthful heartthrob of the Ponderosa. (“Little Joe’s” hair would be a good rival for Patrick Dempsey’s today…) Michael was born Eugene Orowitz to Jewish and Irish Catholic parents, grew up in the East. Many people remember him for that role as the youngest Cartwright on Bonanza, and probably even more think of Charles Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie where he played one of TV’s most endearing dads.

But did you know he was married three times, and had nine children (including two step-children) that range thirty years in age? That his sports specialty was javelin throwing, which got him into UCLA on a scholarship? That he smoked up to 4 packs of unfiltered menthol cigarettes a day? (He later attributed his pancreatic cancer to years of poor eating habits, moderate drinking and, of course, the smokes. He was diagnosed just three months before his death at 54.)

He wore “lifts” when shooting with comparable giants Dan Blocker and Lorne Greene, his co-stars on Bonanza. It is said that he was devastated by the deaths of Blocker, and later, his Highway to Heaven co-star, Victor French. He counted among his close friends Johnny Carson, Ronald Reagan and Ernest Borgnine.

As to his stage name, Landon said he picked the name out of a Los Angeles telephone directory.

Landon is credited with saying, “I want people to laugh and cry, not just sit and stare at the TV. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think viewers are hungry for shows in which people say something meaningful.” I tend to agree, and would venture to apply his philosophy to today’s viewers as well.

As a young child, I had quite the crush on Little Joe. (I swooned over Pernell Roberts until I was told he wore a wig!)

Oh, and Patrick Dempsey? I just couldn't resist. It's the hair, you know. You'll have to wait until January 13th for more on McDreamy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

October 24: Chantilly Lace an' a Pretty Face

Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., was born in Sabine Pass, Texas, on this day in 1930. His career span reminds me of a bottle rocket; once lit, it soared quickly skyward and then extinguished at the height of its brilliance, leaving stunned watchers behind. J.P. got his start as a deejay in Beaumont, Texas, establishing a world record in May of 1957 for broadcasting for six days straight, during which time he lost 35 pounds! [Note: my voice begins to go after one weekend at a bookfair.] That same year, the self-named “Big Bopper” (after the dance “The Bop”) recorded his big hit, “Chantilly Lace” which went on to become the 3rd biggest hit of 1958. (Remember, “a wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk”? Would today’s listeners dig that crazy sound?)

J.P., or “Jape” as he came to be known, toured throughout 1958, thrilling teen audiences with “Oh, baby, that’sa what I like!” It was on one such tour, tagged the Winter Dance Party of 1959, when Jape came down with the flu. Along with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Waylon Jennings, the group rolled into Clear Lake, Iowa, in early February, 1959, amid freezing temperatures and snow. When Holly chartered a four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza to take his band on to their next gig, Jape asked Jennings if he’d give up his seat on the plane so that the Bopper could get to some medical care. Jennings complied, and the plane took off in a blinding snowstorm. It crashed in a cornfield eight miles away. Remembered by Don McLean in “American Pie” as the Day the Music Died, the February 3, 1959 accident took the lives of Holly, Valens, the Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson.

Jape was 28, and left behind his wife Adrianne and two year old Debra Joy; Adrianne gave birth to son Jay Perry two months later. Over time, rumors grew out of the discovery of a gun near the crash site; conspiracy theorists were convinced that the handgun, with two rounds missing, had played a part in the downing of the plane, and that Richardson was somehow involved. By early 2007, son Jay had had enough, and ordered his father be exhumed for examination. No bullet wounds were found, and the Big Bopper was again laid to rest.

According to our friends over on Wikipedia, an upcoming film spotlighting J.P. Richardson is slated for release on the February '09, 50th anniversary of the crash. The title? The Day the Music Died.

A bit of ironic trivia: It is said that when Holly found out Jennings had opted out of the plane ride Holly had paid $36 a seat for, he quipped, "I hope your old bus freezes up!", to which Waylon reportedly responded, "I hope your damned plane crashes!" The late Jennings, of course, went on to become a huge country star, despite years of experiencing survivor's guilt over his perceived part in the deaths of his pals.
(Jennings died in 2002, due to complications from long term diabetes.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's My Line?

Thank you for coming here. I know, am acutely aware of how many words are competing to be read every day. I have a handful of blogs I follow, in addition to reading the daily news on-line, and there isn’t enough time in the day for all the information and entertainment I want to absorb. Since I began posting my mini-bios, my readership has gone up considerably, and this tickles me to no end since I like knowing that other people are interested in, well, other people. So thanks again for stopping by.

How do I pick whom to blog about? Mostly they are just people I find interesting myself, or I discover something surprising I think others would like to know. Using “born today” lists, I can mine for writers, entertainers, remarkable people or ordinary people with remarkable stories. For example, my choices for Friday include US writers Sarah Hale, Moss Hart, Denise Levertov and Brenda Ueland; blind US harmonica player Sonny Terry; cartoonist Bob Kane, creator of Batman. Also sharing October 25 are actors Kevin Kline and F. Murray Abraham, and rocker J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson.
They are like cyber faces imploring, “Pick me! Pick me!” Who will it be?
Tune in Friday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Literary Giants Born Today

Not a lot of blog time this morning but couldn’t let October 16th pass. If you were born today, you share your birthday with some great literary talent, too much so to ignore as coincidence, right?

Happy Birthday to playwright Eugene O’Neill, born this date in 1888. O’Neill, who spent much of his life plagued by depression and alcoholism, won the 1936 Nobel Prize for Literature and a number of Pulizers for popular works such as Beyond the Horizon, Anna Christie, and Strange Interlude. Some of his plays were made into films The Iceman Cometh, Mourning Becomes Electra, and Desire Under the Elms to name a few. Sadly, O’Neill disowned his daughter Oona for marrying comic film star Charlie Chaplin, and both of his sons committed suicide as a result of various addictions they suffered. O’Neill’s spirit is said to inhabit a dorm room at Boston University, the former Sheraton hotel room where he died in 1953.

Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde would have been 154 today. The author of The Picture of Dorian Gray was born in Dublin, but left Ireland permanently when his then love interest became engaged to writer Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame). He later lived in London, Paris and U.S., and spent years in prison over issues arising from his many homosexual and bisexual relationships. Also famous for the play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Like O’Neill, Wilde’s Dorian Gray, his only novel, has been brought to the big screen more than once. Wilde succumbed to cerebral meningitis in 1900.

Called the "Father of American Scholarship and Education", Noah Webster also shares this popular birthdate. The title is well-deserved; who hasn’t referred to a Webster dictionary in their lifetime?

While she is not known as an author herself, she plays one on TV: Angela Lansbury, sometimes better known as Jessica Fletcher from “Murder, She Wrote”, turns 83 today. Ms. Lansbury deserves a whole blog page onto herself, and will get one in the near future.

Friday, October 10, 2008

October Ninth: Lennon and Browne

Where were you the first time you saw or heard John Lennon sing? I remember well, 1963, when we had a little black and white portable on a shiny gold wire rolling stand in the eating area of our kitchen. Someone (probably me) yelled, "fix the antenna!" and my dad lumbered over to adjust the rabbit ears so that we could get a better picture of the The Beatles doing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was in 4th grade.

Likewise, I remember exactly where I was seventeen years later when the announcer on my car radio sadly proclaimed that John Lennon had been shot and killed. Today, October 9th, is the 68th anniversary of this genius' birth, tagged "Imagine Day" by followers. It is also the birthday of his younger son, Sean Ono Lennon, aged 33. "Imagine", the song probably most representative of Lennon's philosophies and non-materialistic ways, paid homage to his belief in the possibility of an ideal world.

Like Lennon, American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne is no stranger to expressing political and social convictions through music. Born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1948, Browne has been called "precociously gifted" and "introspective", writing and performing tunes that fueled the confessional movement of the early 70's.

His roots were folksy. In 1966, Browne was a member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He later wrote songs performed by Joan Baez, Tom Rush, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and the Byrds, but signed with Asyllum Records in 1971 and began his solo career with the release of "Doctor My Eyes" in 1972. He has since become an icon of socially conscious efforts, participating in organizations such as Musicians United for Safe Energy ("MUSE") and No Nukes, playing numerous concerts benefiting Farm Aid and various presidential campaigns. A longtime liberal, Browne supported Ralph Nader, John Kerry (as part of the "Vote For Change" tour) and most recently, John Edwards. In August of this year, he sued John McCain and the Republican party for using his 1977 hit "Running on Empty" in a campaign attack against Barack Obama. As one of the most politically immersed artists of his generation, Browne was "incensed" at the illegal use of his material.

In 2007, Jackson Browne covered John Lennon's "Oh My Love" on the album "Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur."

It would appear that these two music giants share more than just a birthdate.

~Anne - Beacon Street Books

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Loss of a Hero

I was going to begin this piece with, "Cancer steals another of my heroes…" but I didn't want the focus to be on either me or on cancer. This insidious scourge already gets more press than it should.

Still, Paul Newman was nothing if not a hero. He was my hero, for as long as I can remember watching him on the big screen. So much so that he became a sort of "role model" for Dane Pierce, the classic bad boy anti-hero of STARCROSSED HEARTS, my first big contemporary romance (Wings ePress, Sept, 2001)

Apparently, I am not alone in my appreciation of this sexy, shining star. Nominated 9 times for Academy Awards, he took Oscar home only once for "The Color of Money." He remained married to his second wife, Joanne Woodward, for fifty years. He created a charitable empire unrivaled by his peers.

One of my favorite experiences of Paul was his appearance on "Inside The Actors Studio" (he was their first guest) where he was interviewed by James Lipton. Normally elusive, this serious Hollywood icon was candid, comic, self-effacing and charming. I couldn't stop smiling during the entire program.

I can't really add anything to the multitude of eulogies being written this week about Paul. I loved him, I'm grieving, and I feel so much remorse over his suffering. My heart goes out to Joanne and their daughters, who most certainly are devastated at his passing.

Here is a brief video prepared by NEWMANS OWN organization. Grab a hanky.

Rest in peace, dear Paul.

Friday, October 03, 2008

MEME! 6 Book Things About Me!

Okay, Mary Cunningham tagged me to write 6 "book" things about myself. I liked her old-timey photo so added one of my own, taken at Big Bear Lake in 19xx...

1. I took Creative Writing in junior high school because it sounded interesting. That was my first inkling that I might like to write. We wrote mostly short stories. In high school, I took every lit class they offered: American Lit, Modern Lit, World Lit and English Lit. (In retrospect, most of it was pretty boring and I cheated more than once with Cliff's Notes. Dostoevsky just wasn't my cup of tea.)

2. During those middle school years, my best friend Jayne and I would create stories and tell them to each other. The rules were that our stories had to be about and for each other, and had to involve the other's favorite rock star. Most often, they were vignettes about how we would meet George Harrison or Mickey Dolenz in an elevator and fall in love. Simple, right?

3. Because I am now considered a legitimate writer (Ha!), it is always me called upon whenever anything needs writing. Last year, I wrote a wedding ceremony for my nephew and niece. I wrote the announcements for the loud speaker at Relay For Life. I wrote the flyers and announcements and reviews for our school PTA. Household correspondence has always been my job, too, but should that include eulogies for relatives?

4. Sad but true. My first publisher, WAY back in 1998, was a fledgling ebook pub. He accepted my first novel instantly, did very little editing (and I was sap enough to believe it was so perfect he couldn't find anything) and then published it on CD and diskette. I was as naive as they come. I sat back and waited to get rich and famous. There was an "ebook bestseller list" on the web that claimed to be expert enough to know. One day, my book appeared on that list, alongside successful books being put out by popular and respected publishers. I got a certificate from my local RWA chapter. All exciting. Then one day, with a little digging, I discovered that a large number of copies sold all went to a company purchaser. And lo and behold, that company was owned by my publisher. I was humiliated and shamed. I stuffed the certificate in a drawer and immediately began looking for a new publisher. And he couldn't understand why I wanted to leave.

5. I have become an ebook snob. Yes, it's true. I buy only ebooks, unless there is something I absolutely need to have that's not available for download. Yeah, I "get" all that about the feel (and smell!) of a real book, yada yada yada. But for me, it's all about the story, convenience, cost, and environment. The story will be good in any format. I love being able to read in bed, lights off, not disturbing the hubby. I can buy 2 or 3 books for the price of one. And don't you know I just hate the waste of trees. Even with my bad inaugural experience with ebooks, I love them. For the record, I prefer reading in Microsoft Reader on a Pocket PC. Will I buy a Kindle or Sony Digital Reader? Probably. Right now I'm not fond of the price or the non-backlit technology.

6. Something most people don't know: I have 3 writing personas. One for my romantic mysteries, one for my middle grader readers and one for some experimental, edgier stuff.

And that's it~! Boring, but all true.