Gilda Radner, in character as Candy Slice, a perpetually strung out rock star who bore a striking resemblance to Patti Smith
After her death from ovarian cancer in 1989, comedian and actress Gilda Radner’s husband Gene Wilder started “Gilda’s Club,” a support group for cancer patients and their loved ones. Gilda’s Club operates under the credo that “no one has to live with cancer alone.” The title was a bit tongue in cheek; in Radner’s book, It’s Always Something, she described cancer as “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to.”
Now, however, many local Gilda’s Clubs are dropping her name for fear that it might date the organization or “confuse” possible beneficiaries. The Executive Director of the Madison Wisconsin Gilda’s Club says,
We want to make sure that what we are is clear to them and that there’s not a lot of confusion that would cause people not to come in our doors.
One of the realizations we had this year is that our college students were born after Gilda Radner passed, as we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis,
I’m in my 20s, and to me, it seems pretty tacky to drop the name of the person your organization was created in commemoration of. You have a history and legacy rooted in the life of a human being, and this just underscores how people who die of cancer eventually become nameless.
I might be biased, though. I love Gilda, and while comedy (even great comedy) rarely has a strong shelf life or intergenerational resonance, her influence and talent still have spark for me.
For those with an interest in the charismatic actor, there’s an exhibition called Eternal James Dean, which opens at the Indiana State Museum from November 23, 2012, until June, 3rd, 2013.
Eternally young, sexy and intense. That’s the image of James Dean. But who was James Dean the man? Born in Marion, Indiana, Dean made just three films before his death in 1955 at age 24. Eternal James Dean will take a look at his Indiana roots, his brief time as an actor in California and New York, his films and his passion for motorcycles and racing.
A former US Navy sonar technician, and programmer, Stalking Cat was famous for having had extensive cosmetic surgery to adopt the likeness of his totem animal, the tiger, in accordance with Huron traditions. His body modifications included a split lip, transdermal whisker-holding implants, dental surgery, and silicone injections. He was also extensively tattooed.
Russell Means (left) and Dennis Banks, at Pine Ridge Reservation at Wounded Knee in 1973, instructing occupants how to hold their ground against the US government
Russell Means will not be counted among the great civil rights leaders of the 60s and 70s “New Left” movements, and I doubt that he would want to be. Means was at the forefront of a new generation of native rights advocates, and their struggle was largely isolated from popular progressive discourse. He is best known for the armed occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, when the American Indian Movement (AIM) took up arms and reclaimed Wounded Knee, the historical battle site and small town, for the Lakota Nation.
Political strife had plagued local tribal politics for years, and Means was perceived as a firebrand by many established leaders, some seen as overly-cozy with the U.S. government. AIM was very much a youth movement in inception, and the desperation felt by many of its members was rooted in what they felt to be ineffectual or corrupt leadership. Demanding justice for police brutality, extreme poverty, broken treaties, and the destruction of native land, AIM took up arms after efforts to impeach the standing Oglala Lakota Tribal President had failed. Means and others had participated in occupations before (Alcatraz, the seizing of the Mayflower II replica, and Mount Rushmore, to name a few), but the “Incident at Wounded Knee” wasn’t just a protest, it was a battle.
With Means as spokesman, nearly 200 men and women held Wounded Knee for 71 days; there was regular gunfire between the activists and the 50 U.S. Marshals. The shootout that ended the standoff resulted in the deaths of a U.S. Marshal and two activists. What followed was was a scattering of AIM members, some who were later convicted and jailed despite questionable evidence (Leonard Peltier), others, like Anna Mae Aquash, were killed under mysterious circumstances. Means was among the lucky, and went on to continue his activism, become more involved in tribal politics, and eventually write his autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread.
In an 1980 interview with Mother Jones, Russel Means reasserted his commitment to the cause, saying,
“I work primarily with my own people, with my own community. Other people who hold non-European perspectives should do the same. I believe in the slogan, “Trust your brother’s vision,” although I’d like to add sisters into the bargain. I trust the community and the culturally based vision of all the races that naturally resist industrialization and human extinction.”
Russell Means was resisting the colonists, not trying to break bread with them. It’s nearly unfathomable to consider 200 people taking up arms against the US government, holding a town hostage to demand basic rights, but this is what makes the legacy of AIM and Means so much more powerful in a sea of peaceful sit-ins and impotent political theater. When the youth of the tribal nation felt ignored by their leaders, they turned to a man who literally pissed on Mount Rushmore. When “peace and love” was the dominant narrative of the left-leaning, Russell Means and the American Indian Movement were attempting armed revolution.
Cult film actress Sylvia Kristel has died at the age of 60.
“She died during the night during her sleep,” her agent, Marieke Verharen, told the AFP news agency.
Kristel had cancer and had been admitted to hospital in July after suffering a stroke.
Best known for her iconic starring role in the 1974 soft-porn movie Emmanuelle, Kristel also worked with some of European cinema’s most acclaimed directors, starring in Claude Chabrol’s Alice ou la Derniere fugue, Robbe-Grillet’s Playing with Fire, and Roger Vadim’s Une Femme Fidele.
In the 1980s, Kristel moved to Hollywood, where she found producers were unable to see beyond her “soft porn” image. Kritsel was often cast as the love/sex interest in such ill considered films as The Concorde…Airport 79, co-starring Alain Delon, Robert Wagner, David Warner and George Kennedy; the disastrous Mel Brooks inspired The Nude Bomb with Don Adams, and the wearily predictable soft core Mata Hari.
Kristel made a return to form working again with Just Jaeckin, on his version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But she never broke free of her association Emmanuelle, and continued to make spin-off films and TV series during the eighties and nineties.
Sylvia Kritsel was born in Utrecht in 1952. She lived with her sister Marianne in Room 21 of the Commerce Hotel, which her parents owned. Raised a strict Calvinist, Kristel was convent educated, but ran away as a teenager, finding work as a secretary and then as a model. Kristel went on to enter and win Miss TV Holland and Miss TV Europe. Encouraged by her partner, the novelist Hugo Claus, Kristel pursued an acting career.
After appearing in a couple of films, including Because of the Cats, Kristel attended an audition for a soap powder commercial. By chance auditions for the film Emmanuelle, where being held next door. Kristel accidentally arrived at the Emmanuelle auditions, where the director Just Jaeckin offered her the role.
“He asked me to take my dress off,” Kristel later said. “Luckily it was an easy dress to take off.”
Emmanuelle made Sylvia Kristel an international star, and brought adult themes and sexual relationships to a wider audience. The film was banned in Paris, though it eventually ran for 11 years at a cinema on the Champs-Elysees. In Britain the film caused considerable controversy and was heavily edited, though it became a major box office hit.
The success of the film was to have a damaging effect on Kristel. Her parents were alcoholics, and Kristel soon became addicted to drink and drugs.
In her 2006 autobiography, Kristel wrote an incredibly honest and moving account of the cost of her addictions, and said in interview:
“I sometimes needed a shot before doing certain scenes,” she said. “It definitely comforted me and gave me courage. But then it turned out that I almost couldn’t start a day without a drink.”
In the 1980s, Kristel moved to America, where she set up home with actor Ian McShane. It was a tempestuous relationship, which. Kristel later said failed because their personalities were too alike. Her marriage to American millionaire Alan Turner, lasted only 5 months, Kristel said she had made “a terrible mistake.” Her second marriage to would-be director Philippe Blot, proved equally disastrous, as she bankrolled his films, all of which flopped at the box-office. She left the marriage with $400 to her name. Kristel later said:
“If I’d known then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with any of the relationships I was involved in, with the exception of Hugo [Claus].”
In the 1990s, Kristel continued to act on her return to France, but gave up appearing nude after her son Arthur was teased at school. She then began a new career as a painter. In 2001 Kristel was diagnosed with lung and throat cancer.
Musician B.B. (Blake Baker) Cunningham Jr. was shot and killed Sunday in Memphis. Cunningham was a member of Jerry Lee Lewis’s band and the vocalist and keyboard player for 1960s’ rockers The Hombres.
The Hombres’s 1967 hit “Let It All Hang Out” has particular significance for me because my band The Nails covered it on our debut album and it was released as our first single for RCA records.
I grew up with “Let It All Hang Out” and always loved its indelible hook and surreal lyrics. Written and sung by Cunningham, the tune clearly pokes fun at the music of Bob Dylan and Cunningham’s sly vocals really makes it work. His laid back drawl with its southern twang delivers the Dylanesque lyrics with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheekiness to be funny without being stupid. Far better than your average novelty song, “Let It All Hang Out” has stood the test of time, endured and inspired guys like me to attempt to replicate its punk charm. But nobody will ever nail it as well as B.B Cunningham.
Cunningham was shot while working as security guard at an apartment complex on Memphis’ southeast side. He was 70 years old.
The Nails cover “Let It All Hang Out” after the jump…
When I think of Iggy and Stiv together, I might think of their mutual penchant for self-mutilation and animalistic performances. That it was supposed to have been Stiv who passed Iggy that famous jar of Skippy. Or maybe I think of midwestern punk and my heart swells with vulgar, snotty pride. At the very least, I think of their unbelievable drug stories I read about in Cheetah Chrome’s book. What I tend to forget is that they were friends and colleagues. It’s an unsettlingly earnest moment to watch, but when you get past the creeping threat of voyeurism one tends to feel at such a naked display of emotion, the warmth and sincerity of the eulogy is one of the most loving moments in punk rock.
Peter Sellers didn’t know he was dying, he believed he was going to live until he was seventy-five. That’s what his spirit guide, the ghost of Victorian Music Hall performer, Dan Leno had told him.
Sellers was terribly superstitious, his film career had often turned on the say-so of his clairvoyant, Maurice Woodruff. By the early 1970s, Sellers believed he was similarly able to communicate with the spirit world. He also recounted to his friends how he had been various famous people in various past lives. His colleague and friend Spike Milligan, poked fun at Sellers’ beliefs, pointing out that he was always Napoleon, or Ceaser, or Leonardo da Vinci in his past life, rather than some ordinary joe.
Perhaps Sellers should have listened to Milligan, for he may not have been so credulous. He may even have uncovered that his faithful clairvoyant Woodruff was in the pay of the film studios, and his advice on starring roles was not inspired by Tarot, but rather on the size of check Woodruff received. Similarly he may found out his beloved Leno had died babbling insane, a victim of tertiary syphilis.
If Sellers had stuck more to the real world, then he may have accepted Dr. Christiaan Barnard’s offer in 1976 of open-heart surgery and the bypass that would have certainly lengthened his life. Though he attended a heart operation and photographed Barnard at work, Sellers was fearful he would die on the operating table as he had in 1964, after suffering 8 heart attacks.
Come 1980, with the failure of his third marriage to Lynne Frederick, and a grueling work schedule, Sellers was physically exhausted. As before at such times, he reached out to those people who had created some of his happiest working days: his fellow Goons, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe.
Two months before he died, Sellers wrote to Milligan in the hope that the 3 of them would once again work together on some new comedy shows. Sadly it wasn’t to be, as hours before the 3 men were about to meet, on the 22nd of July, Sellers suffered a fatal heart attack.
28 MAY 80
MR SPIKE MILLIGAN
DEAR SPIKE I AM DESPERATE TO HAVE SOME REAL FUN AGAIN WITH YOU AND HARRY. PLEASE CAN WE GET TOGETHER AND WRITE SOME MORE GOON SHOWS? WE COULD PLACE THEM ANYWHERE I DONT WANT ANY MONEY I WILL WORK JUST FOR THE SHEER JOY OF BEING WITH YOU BOTH AGAIN AS WE WERE.
Now a classic Goon Show sketch, “What time is it, Eccles?”
It was the summer holidays and we were visiting my grandparents. It was warm and giddy, and there was a rippling excitement at the thought of a man landing on the Moon.
No one actually doubted it, but then, no one was really sure it would happen. All we knew was that somewhere above our heads a rocket was hurtling its crew towards their fateful destination.
It was to be shown live on TV. The time difference meant it that the landing was set for the wee small hours of our morning. That night we bought cones from the ice cream man, who still claimed the Moon was made of cheese and the mice would see these astronauts off. He meant well, but I was 7, and didn’t believe him.
Later, sleepily awake, we sat huddled on the sofa, a flickering black and white picture, that suddenly burst with the pock-marked surface of the Moon. It was unbelievable. It was fantastic. And as the Lunar Module Eagle landed, I wondered how this would change our lives? For it seemed to me then that we had gone in search of dreams and had only discovered a rock.
But I was wrong. This was only the beginning.
As the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong was a hero. More, his actions had a greater significance: they cut away the hold of superstition and ignorance from controlling our destiny.
The Moon landing changed this, and we were at last able to begin our examination of the Universe.