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Dracula on drugs: Bela Lugosi ‘fesses up to being a dope fiend, 1955
10:39 am



Bela Lugosi was perhaps the first Hollywood star to openly admit to his drug addiction. Lugosi had become dependent on drugs after being prescribed opiates for relief of painful sciatica in the late 1940s. As his habit grew, his career slid into shitsville Z-list movies and his dope fiend reputation kept producers from hiring the legendary actor. Lugosi was forced into making his money through repertory tours in the US and England and special guest appearances on late-nite TV and double bills at the local movie theater.

Living the junkie life in direst poverty, Lugosi was given the chance of a comeback by the infamous Ed Wood, who offered the actor work on Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster. Grateful for the chance to turn his life around, Lugosi checked himself into a rehab clinic, before moving onto the local hospital. Lugosi went “cold turkey” and spent three months (90 days was the state minimum) getting straight. When he left the hospital in 1955, he gave what is thought to be his last filmed interview, where he talked about his drug treatment, his plans for a new film with Ed Wood and how he felt like a million dollars. The feeling wasn’t to last, by August 1956, the legendary Bela Lugosi was dead.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Even in death women are not free of sexist idiots
04:02 pm

The wrong side of history


Yesterday, the best-selling author and neuroscientist Colleen McCullough died at the age of seventy-seven. McCullough was one of Australia’s best-known and most popular novelists, whose success was firmly established with the publication of her second novel The Thorn Birds in 1977. It was later made into a highly successful TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain. McCullough followed on her success with a string of bestsellers including An Indecent Obsession (1981), The Ladies of Missalonghi (1987), The Touch (2003) and her Masters of Rome series of historical novels. McCullough’s books have sold in excess of 30 million copies.

But McCullough had originally studied medicine before successfully moving into neuroscience and becoming a respected teacher at the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, CT.

By any standard, most people would be content with just one of McCullough’s incredible careers, and one would think that a national newspaper like The Australian might write a glowing obituary, eulogizing this talented and brilliant Australian woman. Well, most of us would, but that’s not what The Australian decided to focus on when writing her obituary, instead they considered her most relevant attributes as being “plain of feature, and certainly overweight,” though she was also “a charmer.”

It’s dispiriting to think how this ever got past the paper’s sub editor’s desk—unless of course the paper is completely staffed by sexist idiots—which, who knows, perhaps it is? What is more disturbing and inexcusable is how a woman of such great achievement should be so casually demeaned and undervalued.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom as the stupidity of the Australian’s obituary has seen an amusing response from the Twittersphere, where people (including writers Caitlin Moran, Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris and comedians Katy Brand and Craig Ferguson) have been tweeting their own mock obituaries (#myozobituary), which you can read below.





H/T Metro.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Andy Warhol shoots and paints Farrah Fawcett
09:57 am



If it’s true that all’s fair in love and war, then it’s the share of the spoils after death and divorce that cause the most problems.

When Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett died in June 2009, her will donated all of her art collection to the University of Texas—her old alma mater where she had studied before becoming an actress. Amongst Farrah’s treasured possessions was a portrait painted by Andy Warhol in 1980. This was in fact one of two paintings Warhol had made of the actress—the second was very soon to become the focus of a trial between the University of Texas and Fawcett’s ex-lover, the actor Ryan O’Neal.

O’Neal’s claim to the second painting rested on his testimony that he had first introduced Farrah to Warhol and had asked him to paint Fawcett’s portrait. He also claimed he had asked Warhol to make a second portrait so he and Farrah could have one each.
Andy Warhol shoots Farrah Fawcett.
In 1997, Fawcett split-up with O’Neal after she caught him in bed with another woman. O’Neal kept his portrait of Farrah above his bed, but as his girlfriends found the picture a tad off-putting, he asked Fawcett to hold on to it for him.

This Fawcett did until her death, when O’Neal removed the 40-inch by 40-inch silkscreen from her house. This action led to a trial between O’Neal and the University in December 2013 as to who was the rightful owner of the Warhol painting.
During the trial lawyers acting on behalf of the University of Texas attempted to discredit O’Neal’s story by using an edition ABC’s 20/20 where Fawcett is apparently seen asking Warhol to paint her portrait and is later filmed by the ABC news crew as Warhol snaps thirty Polaroid pictures of the actress in preparation for making the portrait.

O’Neal did not dispute that one of the Warhol’s belonged to his former long-term partner, it was the second painting that he claimed was his. Without any evidence to dispute this claim, the University were unlikely to win the case. O’Neal upped the ante by telling the jury he spoke to Farrah’s portrait every day:

“I talk to it. I talk to her. It’s her presence in my life and her son’s life. We lost her. It would seem a crime to lose it.”

O’Neal was on an operating table having a skin cancer removed when he heard the jury’s verdict that he was the rightful owner of the painting by nine jurors to three. Though the painting has an estimated worth of $12 million, O’Neal said he would never sell the picture as it meant too much to him, and it will be handed-down to their son Redmond after he dies.

This is that episode of 20/20 which featured so prominently in the trial. Originally made as a profile of Andy Warhol this short documentary does give some insight into the pop artist’s working techniques and has some typically Warholian moments.

Part II after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A fate worse than death: Your dead pet sings from beyond the grave!
10:26 am



As astonishing awfulness goes, pet memorial videos from have a TON of poor-taste bases covered, all crammed in to an uncomfortable interstice between bathos, death, and cute animal pics. Pet Photo Fun specializes in animating pet photos, so your adorable furry companion appears to be speaking or singing. They’ll do this with customized messages, so for example you can send your best pal a birthday e-card featuring his or her favorite quadruped companion singing a birthday tribute.

Prepare yourself for a gainer into a bottomless well of impossible mawkishness.

Ain’t that somethin’? The digital pitch-shifting applied to the “animal” voice just ramps the discomfort factor up through the roof. So take that level of delirious, treacly maudlinism and apply it to a creepily animated photo of a deceased pet delivering its lifetime human companion a message from beyond the grave. For $30, the pet will sing Pet Photo Fun’s purpose-composed and heavy-handed original song “Think of Me and Smile.” For $60, the song will be delivered with an additional personalized message.

I realize that as tacky and ghoulish as this all is, there are folks out there who’d be genuinely moved to receive one, and I wouldn’t dream of invalidating their grief, but all things being equal, when her time comes, I’d be perfectly happy with my dog’s picture just in a frame.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Robin Williams’ friendship with the Stranglers
10:10 am



When Robin Williams died in August, one of the most unexpected eulogies came from JJ Burnel, the bassist and singer in the Stranglers, who says that he and Williams struck up a friendship in the early 80s. Burnel writes that Williams visited England in 1982 and stayed at the house of drummer Jet Black, where the Stranglers were rehearsing the songs for Feline. Williams then stayed at Burnel’s house in Cambridgeshire, where the comedian and his first wife, Valerie Velardi, reportedly conceived their son Zak. Burnel remembers:

It is with great sadness that I woke up on Tuesday 12th of August to learn of the death of Robin Williams, the actor, comedian, musician and all round genius.

The word genius is often too readily used but having known the man I can vouchsafe the term is appropriate in his case.

I met him through a girlfriend of mine in the early eighties. She had met him in Los Angeles through a film cameraman called Dave Stump, a friend with whom he played in a band. At the time he had just become famous through a tv series called Mork and Mindy and the film Popeye.

When the Stranglers were to play on the west coast of the US he had invited me to stay at his house on his ranch in the Napa valley. He was a wonderful host and I soon started to appreciate his fame when I went out to dinner with him in San Francisco and saw the effect he had on a whole restaurant when he entertained them as a distraction to afford us, his guests, a diversion from the attention.

I reciprocated the gesture when he flew over to Europe with his then wife Val and met him at Heathrow. The Stranglers were in the middle of preparing Feline at Jet’s house in the west country and he was going to hang out with us at Jet’s and then come over to my house in Cambridgeshire for a few days.

Every evening we would stop rehearsals to go down to a local pub before resuming work. He would come down with us and that was when we would discover the multiple personalities and the continuous flow of ideas and comic repartee that had us all in stitches. He would literally have conversations with himself and the other personalities he inhabited.

After a week at Jet’s I drove him over to my house. I would like to think that it was the laid back atmosphere on the Fens that allowed him to conceive his son Zak at my house in the summer of 1982. At least that’s what his wife told me later.

After that, as his Hollywood career took off, he would call me whenever he was in London.

Over the years we lost touch but I have nothing but very fond memories of a very talented and genuine person.

If it is true as to the way of his death it is only testimony to his great sensibility and humanity and the world is a much poorer place for his disappearance.

The Stranglers’ original vocalist and guitarist, Hugh Cornwell, devoted two pages of his 2004 book A Multitude of Sins to memories of encounters with singer Robbie Williams, drummer Robert Williams, and comedian Robin Williams. Cornwell’s account would put Robin Williams’ visit with the Stranglers about a year earlier than Burnel’s, but Zak was born in 1983, so Cornwell is either mistaken about which album they were working on or recalling a separate visit.

I’m jogging with Robin Williams in Gloucestershire. John Burnel has met him somewhere at a celebrity dinner and he’s come down to hang out with us while we rehearse before recording the La Folie album. He’s a lovely bloke and expresses a desire to come running with me first thing every morning. He’s in good shape and is keeping up with me, even though I’ve been doing it regularly. He’s a bundle of energy and constantly comes up with funny life observations. Jet’s got a souped-up Fiesta with lots of lights mounted on the front bumper and Robin asks me if he has to pull a trailer carrying a battery for the extra lights.


Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Norma Bates: Woman slept with dead mother for five years
11:22 am



The emotional trauma caused by the death of a loved one can cause humans to grieve in some tragic and bizarre ways. I was once at a funeral where a distraught wife attempted to hurl herself on top of her husband’s coffin as it was lowered into the ground. This is nothing compared to the poor grief-stricken 55-year-old German woman who slept beside the mummified remains of her dead mother at their home in the suburb of Blumenau, Munich, for five years.

As The Local reports, neighbors became suspicious over the mother’s disappearance and contacted authorities. A local social worker then tried several times by telephone to arrange a visit to the daughter, but was fobbed off with various excuses. The social worker then decided to visit the apartment in person.

When the daughter wouldn’t open the door, he called the police. They and the fire service were able to get the door open and discovered the body inside in a double bed which the daughter had been sharing.

The daughter later admitted during questioning that her mother had died during March of 2009. She has been sent to a psychiatric institution.

An autopsy produced no evidence of foul play in the mother’s death.

Sleeping with the bodies of dead partners or relatives is not that uncommon. In 2013, New York police made a grim discovery when they visited the apartment of 28-year-old Chava Stirn, where they found the distraught young woman had been living with the skeletal remains of her dead mother. Stirn would sleep beside her mother’s remains she had placed on a chair. She would also lay the body on the table during meal times.
The body of Marcel H.
In 2013, Belgian police discovered a 69-year-old woman had been sleeping with the mummified remains of her dead 79-year-old husband, Marcel H. for almost a year. The woman had been too distraught to notify the authorities over her husband’s demise after an asthma attack and had kept him in bed. The police were only notified after the woman had failed to pay her rent.

Le Van, a 55-year-old Vietnamese man, exhumed his dead wife, wrapped her in a paper effigy, and slept with the corpse for five years.
Le Van and his dead wife.
In 2003, Xie Yuchen was found to have slept with his dead wife for eight years, after she died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1995, while a woman in Argentina traveled to Mexico to sleep in the mausoleum of her dead husband. She told police:

“When you love someone, you do all sorts of things.”


H/T The Local.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
R.I.P. Jack Bruce of Cream
12:22 pm



This morning, the home page of the great British blues/rock bassist Jack Bruce announced his passing, of unspecified causes.

Bruce was of course best known as the bassist and singer of Cream, the heavy blues-rock band of the late ‘60s that is justly credited with contributing to the invention of heavy metal, and which also featured guitarist Eric Clapton and completely insane drummer Ginger Baker. After that band’s dissolution, Bruce was the only band member not to join Blind Faith, instead pursuing a career playing bass in jazz and blues trios, and working solo, and notably, he was the bassist on almost all of Lou Reed’s high-watermark album Berlin.

Just six months ago, Bruce released his first solo album in over ten years, Silver Rails. It will presumably be his last word, though there will surely be some posthumous blood-from-a-stone compilations in the offing. There’s excellent background info on Bruce’s early career (and terrific recent interview footage with him) in the must-see Ginger Baker documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, which is streaming on Netflix. The 1969 documentary on Bruce, Rope Ladder To The Moon details his early solo career. You can watch it here. Among other great performance moments to be seen here, about 17 minutes in there’s some SCORCHING live footage of Bruce playing upright jazz bass with Dick Heckstall-Smith and John Hiseman of the British prog/jazz/rock band Colosseum. The song is “Over the Cliff” from the 1970 LP Things We Like. Naturally there’s Cream footage included, as well.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Guided By Voices have broken up
06:25 pm



Fans of that great Dayton, OH indie band Guided By Voices have been greeted with a rather startling and not terribly informative goodbye on the band’s tour date page:

Guided By Voices has come to an end. With 4 years of great shows and six killer albums, it was a hell of a comeback run. The remaining shows in the next two months are unfortunately canceled. Our sincere apologies to those that have purchased tickets and made travel plans. Thanks to everyone who has supported GBV.

The band’s classic lineup from the 1993-‘96 era reunited in 2010, and immediately set about becoming as insanely prolific as they were the first time around. 2014 alone saw two full length releases, Motivational Jumpsuit and Cool Planet. The band’s fall tour would have kicked off in Portland, OR next week. Given the number of incarnations the band has been through, though, it hardly seems out of the question that one of the 1998-2005 lineups could be resurrected if Doug Gillard could be tempted away from Nada Surf.

Here’s one of the band’s last songs (unless/until singer Robert Pollard gets a wild hair up his ass to do it again…), “Planet Score” from Motivational Jumpsuit.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Dick’ Butt, rest in peace
02:17 pm



They played it straight when they posted this one over at Death and Taxes this morning, for obvious reasons:

On Friday, 93-year-old Richard A. “Dick” Butt passed away in his hometown of Spokane, Washington, after struggling with heart disease for several months. He was born in Washington state on April 4, 1921, and had seven siblings. His parents, Will and Helen Butt, raised him on a farm. The obituary in the Spokesman Review noted that, in high school, Dick “was remembered for his pitching prowess.”

He’s probably recalled for something else, too…


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Robin Williams immortalized in street art
06:25 pm



A nice Robin Williams tribute spotted in Belgrade, Serbia. The artist at this time is unknown. If you know who did this I will update the post.

Apparently Williams was in early stages of Parkinson’s disease according to his widow’s statement.


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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