Zsa Zsa Gabor

mte4mdazndewnzc0odiwmzy2Vivacious actress and socialite, Zsa Zsa Gabor was famous for her take no crap attitude and numerous marriages.  

Born in Budapest, Hungary on February 6, 1917, Sari Gabor was the middle daughter of Vilmos and Jolie Gabor.  Jolie was the heiress to a European jewelry business and a Vilmos was a soldier.  She had two sisters, Eva and Magda, and they all lived a luxurious life in Budapest complete with servants, vacations and expensive boarding schools.  Sari began calling herself “Zsa Zsa” at an early age, and the pet name stuck.  She and her sisters were all blonde, lovely and known on the social circuit.  They were rather like the Kardashians of the early 20th century.

After a stint in a Swiss boarding school, Zsa Zsa was discovered by operatic tenor Richard Tauber.  He invited the 13 year old Zsa Zsa to sing in his new operetta Der Singende Traum or The Singing Dream.  From there she spent time at the Vienna Acting Academy and made her stage debut.  There was some controversy as in 1936, she was crowned Miss Hungary.  Her crown and title were taken away as it was found she had lied about her age.  Not long after she married the first of her nine husbands, Burhan Asaf Belge.  Unusually for the time, Zsa Zsa proposed to him.  However, the marriage was not meant to last and the couple broke up in 1941.

In 1941, the Gabor sisters hit the US.  Eva was already there living with her husband and soon Zsa Zsa and her mother joined them.  There she met hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton, and the two embarked on a passionate affair.  Zsa Zsa would claim later the millionaire offered her $20,000 to go to Florida with him the night they met.  Is that what the kids are calling it these days?  Zsa Zsa refused that indecent proposal, but the pair were married four months later on April 10,1942.  This marriage didn’t last either and the two split in 1946 after having a daughter, Francesca.

Marriages came and went in the glamourous Zsa Zsa’s life.  She once quipped, “I’m a great housekeeper — every time I get a divorce, I keep the house.”  She also quipped, “I have learned that not diamonds but divorce lawyers are a girl’s best friend.” When not getting married, Zsa Zsa was also reported to have had affairs with Porfirio Rubirosa, the Dominican playboy, and with Rafael Trujillo Jr., the son of the Dominican dictator.  Other affair rumors include dalliance with Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and even Henry Kissinger.

In between marriages and affairs, she did have an acting career making her movie debut in 1952’s “Lovely to Look At”.  She also appeared in “We’re Not Married!” with Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen and in “Moulin Rouge” with Jose Ferrer.  She even appeared in Orson Welles noir classic, “Touch of Evil”.  She also appeared as a villain in the 1960’s version of “Batman” and in “Gilligan’s Island”.  However, she was mainly famous for being famous as the saying goes.  Zsa Zsa’s name became synonymous with the jet setting lifestyle as she appeared with jewels, purse dogs and a habit of calling everyone “dahlink”.  In the 1963 song “Donna the Prima Donna”, Dion sang “She wants to be like Zsa Zsa Gabor.”  Everyone knew that meant Donna liked the high life.  2a9adde94f1836e6b5c74fe2f1172e18

Her multiple marriage and dramatic personality put her in the papers for more than just high living.  Zsa Zsa had her share of scandals.  There was a long standing feud with actress Elka Sommer.  Sommer later sued Zsa Zsa and her current husband for comments they made to a German publication and won damages.  Thank God there was no twitter at that time.  The most infamous incident was in 1989 when she slapped a police officer during a traffic stop.  She was sentenced to three days in jail for the assault.  Proving that she did have a sense of humor, Zsa Zsa parodied the incident in the “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear,” the film version of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and an episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.

Her last husband was Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt.  This guy is a story in himself.  He claimed to be a prince or Duke of Saxony, however, the New York Times reports he was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg, the son of a police officer.  He changed his name to mirror the title of Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt, the Duchess of Saxony, after the lady adopted him as an adult.  Zsa Zsa and Frédéric were married in 1986, and the two were together until the end of her life.  Together the tw
o of them fought with Sommer again as well as Zsa Zsa’s daughter, Francesca Hilton.  They accused her of larceny and fraud.  Sadly, Zsa Zsa lost a significant portion of her fortune in the Bernie Madoff scandal in 2009.

Her later life was plagued with ill health.  She had a car crash and numerous falls resulting in broken bones and even a coma in 2002.  Then she had a stroke and a blood clot and had to have her leg amputated.  She finally passed this week of heart failure at the age of 99.

ER

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Gene Wilder

14183933_325264114482344_5994122381752790800_n   “Time is a precious thing. Never waste it”
– Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder)

Jerome Silberman was born on June 11, 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to William J. and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman. He would later adopt “Gene Wilder” as his professional name explaining, “I had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe’s character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. And I was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder.”

Wilder first became interested in acting at age 8, when his mother was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and the doctor told him to “try and make her laugh.” Around the age of 11, he saw his sister, who was studying acting, performing onstage, and eventually asked her teacher if he could become his student at the age of 13. Wilder studied with him for two years.

His mother felt that her son’s pot14199550_325264124482343_6888389323472453793_nential was not being fully realized in Wisconsin, she sent him to Black-Foxe, a military institute in Hollywood, he would later write that his stay there was quite unpleasant, primarily because he was the only Jewish boy in the school. Wilder returned home and became more involved with his local theatre community. At age 15, he performed for the first time in front of a paying audience, Balthazar in a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Wilder graduated from Washington High School in Milwaukee in 1951.

Wilder made his screen debut in the TV-series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. His first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde. His first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote. Wilder is probably best known for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and for his four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak, Stir Crazy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Another You. Wilder directed and wrote several of his own films, including The Woman in Red. He would also write a number of books starting with a a memoir in 2005, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art; a collection of stories, What Is This Thing Called Love?; and the novel My French Whore.

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Wilder met his first wife, Mary Mercier, while studying at the HB Studio in New York. Although the couple had not been together long, they married on July 22, 1960. They spent long periods of time apart, eventually divorcing in 1965. A few months later, Wilder began dating Mary Joan Schutz, a friend of his sister. Schutz had a daughter, Katharine, from a previous marriage. When Katharine started calling Wilder “Dad”, he decided to do what he felt was “the right thing to do”,marrying Schutz on October 27, 1967, and adopting Katharine that same year. Schutz and Wilder separated after seven years of marriage. Wilder met Saturday Night Live actress Gilda Radner on August 13, 1981, while filming Sidney Poitier’s Hanky Panky. Radner was married to guitarist G. E. Smith at the time, but Wilder and she became fast friends. When the filming of Hanky Panky ended, Wilder found himself missing Radner, so he called her. The relationship grew, and Radner eventually divorced Smith in 1982. She moved in with Wilder, and the couple married on September 14, 1984, in the south of France. Radner would eventually be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and pass away on May 20, 1989.

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Following Radner’s death, Wilder became active in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda’s Club. Wilder had previously met Karen Webb (née Boyer), who was a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. Webb had coached him in lip reading for a film he was in. Following Gilda Radner’s death, they reconnected, and on September 8, 1991, they married.

Wilder died at the age of 83 on August 29, 2016, at his home in Connecticut from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Adela

Muhammed Ali

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Born in Kentucky, January 1942, Cassius Clay was one of five children of Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr and his wife Odessa O’Grady. Clay Sr was named for the 19thC abolitionist of the same name and passed the name on to his own son. Clay Sr was the descendant of slaves, Odessa however was the grand-daughter of a white Irish immigrant through her paternal line and the great-grand-daughter of a white man and a slave on her maternal side. Cassius would later adopt the name Muhammed Ali, upon his conversion to Islam, and thereafter refusing to answer to what he called his “slave-name”, despite its link with abolition, rather than slavery.

At the age of twelve, a police officer came across Clay, who was fuming as a thief had taken his bicycle. He told the officer, Joe E Martin, that he was going to “whup” the thief; Martin, also a boxing coach, told the young Cassius that he should learn to box first. Martin went on to train Clay, as well as a number of other high profile boxers, including his own son Joe E Martin Jr who each held the Amateur Golden Gloves title for various weights and states. Clay’s amateur career was later taken over by Chuck Bodak.

As an up and coming star in the ring, Clay was known for his speed first and foremost. Later coining the phrase “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”, Ali as he was now known, perfected many of the techniques he was later known for, including the ability to stay out of reach of an incoming punch, and hit back whilst in motion; Ali was famous for being able to land several return punches, none of which seemed especially hard but would quickly catch up on his opponent, leaving them blurry and fazed. He also used the “rope a dope” method to stunning effect, placing himself laid on the ropes to have a rest, while he took enough hits from his opponent to physically wear them out before launching himself back into the fight.

In all through his professional career he won a total of 56 fights from 61 including 37 knockouts, against such names in the boxing world as Sonny Liston, Joe Bugner, Henry Cooper, Oscar Bonavena, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Alfredo Evangelista and Leon Spinks. Following the famous title fight bout with Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” in October 1974, the latter would later admit that Ali had “Out-thought and out-fought him”. His career was not without controversy however, he was also famed for trash-talk in the lead up to bouts, a trick he learned from professional wrestler “Gorgeous” George Wagner, to throw his opponents into psychological imbalance. He would keep up his insults
during his bouts, leading to his competition getting wound up and as a consequence, sloppy and uncoordinated. However, in one bout, Joe Frazier retorted by breaking Ali’s jaw.13330958_282448308763925_132914591132179500_n

After signing for the draft in 1962 on his 18th birthday, Ali was classed as 1-A on the classification for service, meaning he was declared fit for general service. However, two years later, he was re-classified as 1-Y, meaning to be called up in times of national emergency only, due to the discovery of his IQ being only 78, placing him on the 16th percentile in a time when enlistment required a minimum threshold of 30th percentile. As Ali once stated ‘I said I was the greatest, not the smartest’. In early 1966, the armed forces reclassified again, after lowering the threshold to the 15th percentile, meaning Ali was once again 1-A, the situation in Vietnam was just starting to reach fever pitch.

In 1967, Ali was called up for enlistment; after publicly declaring himself a conscientious objector, citing his religious beliefs – that the war in Vietnam went against the teachings of the Qu’ran, where he was not permitted to take part in any Christian or non-believers war, Ali attended his induction and refused three times to step forward when his name was called. He was warned that his action consisted a felony crime, punishable with a five-year prison term and a fine of $10, 000. Ali refused to step forward a fourth time leading to his arrest. The same day, he was stripped of all his boxing titles and his licence to box firstly by the New York State Athletics Commission, closely followed by the others. He would not be able to fight for three years.

Despite being found guilty of draft-dodging, Ali would stand by his choice, citing that “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” and more famously “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong—no Viet Cong ever called me Nigger.” His stance inspired many to question America’s involvement in Vietnam as time passed, most notably Martin Luther King Jr, who until Ali’s charge had been reluctant to challenge the war for fear of losing the support of the Johnson administration for his civil rights movement.
Ali’s suspension arguably cost him the best years of his career. By the time his appeal came to court and was upheld, the judges voting unanimously 8-0 (Justice Thurgood Marshall abstaining) to overturn his conviction on the grounds that since the Appeal Board gave no reason for the denial of a conscientious objector exemption to Ali, and that it was therefore impossible to determine which of the three basic tests for conscientious objector status offered in the Justice Department’s brief that the Appeals Board relied on, Ali’s conviction must be reversed. Ali was given back his licence to box. His titles, he would have to win again.

Ali and his brother Rahman had converted to the Nation of Islam, in the early 60s, although as a result of his boxing career, Ali was initially rejected. His conversion was pushed by Malcolm X, who became his spiritual mentor. Malcolm X split with the Nation of Islam just 2 weeks after Ali’s conversion became public in 1964, at which point Ali changed his name. Ali would later say the end of his friendship with Malcolm was one of the biggest regrets in his life. Malcolm had slowly grown away from the doctrine of the NOI despite being one of their most prominent leaders for several years. His disillusionment was propelled by their stance on segregation between whites and blacks, claiming black supremacy. The NOI were often cited for their racist agenda opposing integration, even by African-American communities.

Despite his heritage as a descendent of slaves on his father’s side, and white and inter-racial marriage on his mother’s, Ali would argue that “No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters.” And that white man was “the devil” and that white people were not “righteous”. Malcolm X transferred to the more traditional Sunni branch of Islam, still advocating for black rights but completely changing his stance on integration. He was assassinated the following year by three members of the Nation of Islam. Muhammed Ali made his own transition to Sunni in 1975, ten years after the death of his former friend. 30 Years later, Ali would embrace the spiritual practices of Sufis.

In 1979, Ali announced his retirement, however shortly afterwards changed his mind, possibly for financial reasons and the desire to win his fourth WBC Heavyweight belt – something which no boxer had managed before in his weight class. Challenging holder Larry Holmes, Ali was forced to undergo a physical examination to pass him fit to fight, following disturbing evidence of vocal stutters and hand tremors. In an effort to avoid this, Ali checked into the Mayo clinic who passed him as fit. The Nevada Athletic Commission accepted the clearance; The fight was to go ahead. Larry Holmes was extremely reluctant, knowing that Ali had nothing left, all too obvious from his most recent bouts which had been badly fought. Ali was ill-prepared and no longer able to keep up the pace and stamina of his youth.

The fight took place in October 1980, and Sylvester Stallone – who had based his Rocky films on one of Ali’s earlier bouts against Chuck Wepner ‘The Bayonne Bleeder’ after Wepner put him down in the ninth round; Ali later claimed he tripped over Wepner’s foot (remember that scene?) – was ringside. The actor later stated ‘it was like watching an autopsy on a man who is still alive’. Ali’s coach, Angelo Dundee stopped the fight in the eleventh round, the only time in his career Ali lost by a knockout. It was later claimed that the Holmes fight was a major cause of Ali’s Parkinson’s disease, diagnosed three years later, however the evidence suggests he was already demonstrating symptoms prior to the fight. Ali had one more bout in 1981, against Trevor Berbick, losing based on a ten round decision. His career as the world’s greatest heavyweight boxer was over.

Since then Ali has worked as a UN ambassador, visiting high profile conflict zones including Iraq in 1991 to negotiate with Saddam Hussein for the release of American Prisoners, and to Afghanistan in 2002 as a special messenger of peace on a goodwill mission in Kabul. He has been awarded commendations, including both the President’s Medal of Freedom and the Presidents Citizen’s Medal, and appeared on This Is Your Life. He has the only vertically mounted star on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard after asking that his name not be walked on. He was awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Century, and is inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Twice Ali has taken part in Olympic opening ceremonies, once lighting the torch, and on a later occasion being too weak to lift the flag, he was helped to his feet to stand by it. Ali was given the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis title in 2009, during a visit to see the birthplace of his great grandfather Abe Grady, who emigrated from County Clare to Kentucky in the 1860s.
A film ‘Ali’ was made about the Boxer’s life, released in 2001. Despite turning down the role more than once, Will Smith eventually agreed to play the lead role, after Muhammed asked him personally, stating that he was almost as pretty as himself.

In his private life, Ali has been married four times, producing five daughters, Maryum, twins Jamilla and Rasheda, (from his second marriage) Hana and Laila (from his third) and a son Muhammed Jr (also from his second marriage), as well as a second son, Asaad Amin, whom he adopted, at aged 5 months with his present (fourth) wife Lonnie. Ali also has two daughters, Miya and Khaliah from other relationships. Laila, despite opposition from her father, followed in Ali’s footsteps becoming a boxer in 1999 and is currently undefeated in the Super Middleweight category as of 2014, with 24 wins, no losses, no draws.

In February 2013, Ali’s brother Rahman claimed in the Washington Times that Muhammed was in a critical decline and could no longer speak, claiming the champion could be dead within days. This claim was refuted by Ali’s daughter who stated she had not noticed any speech difficulties when she telephoned her father that morning. In late 2014, Ali suffered a bout of pneumonia, for which he was treated. A year later he was hospitalized after being found unresponsive in a hotel; following treatment for a urinary tract infection, he was discharged.

On June 2nd, 2016 Ali was admitted to hospital with a respiratory problem. Reports in the press and media stated that he was placed on life-support; as his condition remained critical, his family gathered at his bedside. He died the following night of 3rd June, aged 74 years old.

Phoebe

Prince

13076766_259869017688521_4989544048018183489_nIt seems like we have been writing way too many of these memorial tributes lately.  2016 had been a rough year, and now we have lost another great musician.  Prince Rogers Nelson was an amazing musician, icon and innovator.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1958, Prince had been interested in music from a young age writing songs as young as seven years old.  He hit the big time when he was 19, with his first commercial album For You in 1978,  He continued his success with four more albums , one of which went platinum. In 1984, Prince and the Revolution, as he had named his backup band, released Purple Rain.  Purple Rain was the soundtrack to a film by the same name, which has become a cult classic.  Purple Rain was voted as one of the greatest albums in music history.  It made it to 15th place in the Time magazine poll in 1993, and it placed 18th on VH1’s Greatest Rock and Roll Albums of All Time countdown.

Prince did not rest on his laurels, and kept making hits.  He was such a prolific songwriter, he wrote under many pseudonyms and for many different artists.  One was the smash hit, Nothing Compares 2 U, which was performed by Sinead O’Connor.  Prince sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best selling artist of all time.  The awards he has garnered for his iconic career are numerous, including seven Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the first year of his eligibility and Rolling Stone has ranked him at 27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Prince was no stranger to controversy as many of his lyrics were sexually explicit and pushed the boundaries.  His song Darling Nikki inspired the controversial Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which sought to put warning labels on music and brought censorship to the forefront of American society.  He also publicly protested financial and artistic control of his music, appearing at a court hearing with the word “slave” painted on his cheek.  Not long after, he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to take back control from his record company.  He explained the change with this statement:

“The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros…

I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.”

Eventually he began referring to himself as Prince again, but this definitely made a statement.  

Over and through all this controversy was the music.  Prince was an amazing musician, playing almost all of the instruments on the first five albums he made.  He played all the instruments on the song “When Doves Cry” as well as singing.

A talented and iconic performer.  He will be missed.
ER

Victoria Wood

13055405_259402331068523_2816194611679196515_nThis is only going to be a short post, dedicated to my favourite female comedian who died on 20th April 2016 following a short battle with cancer.

Victoria was born on 19th May, 1953 in Prestwich, Lancashire, the youngest daughter of Stanley and Nellie Wood, with two sisters and a brother. She received her education at Bury Grammar School then studied drama at University of Birmingham.

Victoria was well known for her style of humour, which played a lot on understated sarcasm, her delivery was very subtle, and yet deadly accurate. I remember the first time I heard ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda (Let’s do it!), a song Victoria composed about a sexually frustrated housewife and her slightly inadequate nervous partner. I was in hysterics, as the scenarios suggested grew ever more ridiculously passionate. If you have never heard it, I suggest you look it up on YouTube as soon as possible. The lyrics have stayed with me since then. If I remember correctly she did an updated version a few years ago.

Victoria worked well with a number of other well-known names in British comedy, most notably Duncan Preston, Celia Imrie and Julie Walters. A group she returned to on several occasions, particularly in such guises as Acorn Antiques and another of my firm favourites, Dinnerladies, where she played the quiet Bren whose life seemed to be passing her by in a cloud of broken toasters, and missed chances. Her mother was played hilariously by Julie Walters in a glorious display of elderly wind, and name-dropping from the confines of a caravan. Also included in the cast were Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston.

Victoria will be remembered for stand up shows, “An audience with Victoria Wood”, and “Victoria Wood: As seen on TV”. She appeared on several celebrity panel shows, notably “QI” most recently, “Desert Island Discs” and “I’m Sorry, I haven’t a clue”. Her list of achievements also include several successful sketch shows, beginning with Wood and Walters, a successful musical tour of “Acorn Antiques, The Musical!” as well as a number of serious drama roles, Housewife, 49 where she starred as a submissive housewife during the Second World War who stood up to her overbearing husband and followed her dream of doing something to help out the troops, and “Eric and Ernie” where she played the role of Eric Morecombe’s mother Sadie. She also presented a documentary series looking at the influence of the British Empire. All this and more proving her versatility both as a comedian, dramatist and presenter.

Victoria received an OBE in 1997, followed by a CBE nine years later. She was also voted as one of the 50 top comedians of all time in several polls. Victoria and her shows were nominated for 14 BAFTA awards during her career spanning 30 years. Her work won several times. She married magician Geoffrey Dunham in 1980, the couple had a son and a daughter, before separating in 2002.
I’m saddened by the loss of Victoria. Her comic genius will be sorely missed as one of the shining examples of humour of the last 30 years.
I’m looking for me friend. ‘Ave yer seen ‘er?

Phoebe