Sunday, February 14, 2016

HOLLYWOOD LOVE: DESI ARNAZ AND LUCILLE BALL

I have to preface this story by saying I think Lucille Ball is overrated. I feel she is overrated as a funny lady. I feel she was more an actress doing comedy than an actual comedienne. I think her success as a funny lady was due to one person – her husband Desi Arnaz. Years later it would seem ironic that they met, in 1940, on the RKO set of a picture called Too Many Girls. She was a 28-year-old contract player with a string of forgettable films, he, at 23, a dashing, Cuban-horn nightclub bandleader. They married six months later. While she tended a soaring Hollywood career, but mediocre film career, he toured the country with his rumba band. 

By 1950 Lucy was starring on radio with actor Richard Denning in the popular CBS show My Favorite Husband. When the network launched a version of the show for the new medium of television, she insisted that Desi be cast as her spouse. The formula was magic. In its six-year run, I Love Lucy, making perfect use of Ball's vibrant talent and Desi's behind-the-scenes business savvy, would become the most successful comedy series on TV and earn millions for the couple's production company, Desilu. Each week 40 million viewers watched the onscreen antics of the Ricardo family. But off-screen, the Arnaz marriage, which produced two children before ending in a 1960 divorce, was a volatile interplay of alcoholism, infidelity—and a surpassing love that endured for nearly 50 years.

A lot of people though only knew the couple from what they saw on I Love Lucy, but there was a lot more to their marriage. Lillian Briggs Winograd, one of Lucy's closest friends once said: “Lucy had two or three miscarriages before she gave birth to little Lucie (on July 17, 1951. three months before the show's debut). She thought that having a baby would hold them together. Some of Desi's womanizing was alleviated from the moment little Lucie was born. I think he felt more sensitive about those things and stopped some of that. For a while, at least.”

Many people who knew them said Lucy was very bright, but Desi was the brains. He was the staunch one. He ran the whole thing. Lucy just deferred to him. When they were beginning I Love Lucy, Desi bargained for ownership of those 179 episodes, so they could show them to their children. There was no concept of reruns in those days. A few years later Desi sold them all back to CBS for millions. However, Desi always knew she was the star. While Desi had the affairs and drank, Lucy was tough on him. Family friend Bob Weiskopf had this to say: “There were a lot of occasions when Lucy insulted Desi—usually indirectly. She'd mention to someone else, Vivian [Vance, who played Ethel Mertz], for example, what had happened in a poker game over the weekend in Palm Springs. In front of him, she'd talk about what stupid plays he had made. I thought, "Jesus Christ, this guy's a saint." I would have punched her in the nose.”



In the mid-1950s, the magazine Confidential came out with a story saying Desi was a womanizer. A copy was given to Desi, and Lucy said, "I want to read this story." It was during a rehearsal day, and she went into her dressing room. Everybody was frozen on the set. She finally came out, tossed the magazine to Desi and said, "Oh, hell, I could tell them worse than that."

Veteran reporter Jim Bacon had this to say about the final straw: “Lucy put up with it quite a bit, but then it just became too embarrassing. Especially when he got arrested on Hollywood Boulevard. That was sometime in the '50s. The cops picked him up, drunk, standing in front of this whorehouse, singing Cuban songs.”

Desi was the love of Lucy's life. It was romantic, passionate, everything you could imagine in a love affair, and she was deeply hurt by what happened. They had tried like three times to get a divorce, but Lucy had always stopped it. Finally she planned to move to Switzerland, take her kids and get out of Hollywood. At the time, in 1960, she had one final commitment to do Wildcat on Broadway.

After their divorce in 1960, Lucille went on to marry comedian and producer Gary Morton (1924-1999). He was a dependable guy but not the love of Lucille’s life. Ball would go on to have two more sitcom hits back to back – The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Ball became a very rich woman, but Desi Arnaz did not fare as well. Arnaz buried himself in a life of booze, women, and gambling. When his good friend Jimmy Durante died in 1980, he was visibly drunk at the funeral and had to be walked out. He didn't know where he was. He was even bombed that day.

Desi died of lung cancer on December 2, 1986. Ball visited him two days earlier and was visibly shaken. Lucy loved Desi till the day she died [following heart surgery on April 26, 1989], and she never recovered fully after his death.. He was the father of her kids. Close friends said that even after she married Gary, she'd still run home movies of her and Desi and the kids when they were little. Everybody was in them, smiling by the pool, running up real fast, waving hello, Lucy walking knock-kneed and doing her Lucy faces. She'd sit there giving commentaries. She loved watching those movies.

Was Lucille Ball the funniest woman? Was the marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball the greatest marriage? The answer is maybe not, but he helped to make Ball the icon she remains to be 25 years after her death. Lucy was the beauty and the talent, and Desi was the brains. Fans remember the happy times of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the screen, and maybe that is what is most important...





Friday, February 12, 2016

THE LAST DAYS OF CHRISTINE CHUBBUCK

The last time Greg Chubbuck saw his sister, Christine, was at their mother's house for Sunday night dinner.

"In retrospect there was an uncomfortable calm about her," recalls Greg. "She was more resolved than she usually was about everything. At the time, I didn't see that."

The following day, Monday, July 15, 1974, the 29-year-old broadcast journalist shot herself in the head on live television during her civic affairs show, Suncoast Digest. She died 15 hours later at a Sarasota hospital.

Chubbuck's death made headlines around the country and inspired the 1976 film Network, starring Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch.

Now, 40-years later, Chubbuck's tragic tale is being explored in two films that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last month: Christine, which delves into the up-and-coming reporter's final days, and Kate Plays Christine, a pseudo documentary on Chubbuck's life.

"My family adored my sister," says Greg. "She was an interesting, gifted, flawed person."

He adds: "She was flawed from the time she was a little girl. Emotionally flawed in many ways."

Greg says his sister struggled with bipolar disorder, a condition that was not remedied despite their parents spending nearly $1 million over 20 years searching for a treatment to "help Chrissie find peace."

Christine, her older brother Tim and younger brother Greg, were raised in the posh suburb of Hudson, Ohio, about a half-hour from Akron. The only daughter of salesman, George, and housewife Peg, Christine, who stood 5'11 at the age of 13, was a bright student who "used to make up words for things that didn’t have a word," recalls Greg. "She just loved language."

A nationally ranked kayaker by the age of 16, she had a flair for puppetry and acting, landing the lead role in a play by the University of North Carolina's summer acting program.

"She managed to be the lead in the summer play and won outstanding acting," says Greg. "And never once ever acted in a play again. She had a lot of things that she was exceptionally good at and once she showed she could do it she lost interest and went on to the next thing. "

She was a "marvelous person and had this great sort of dry wit about her and a bit of a sharp tongue," says Greg. But he adds, "She never felt like she fit in and in a sense she never did."


Despite her personal demons, Christine attended Ohio State University and graduated from Boston University with a degree in broadcasting. She attended a summer NYU film workshop, and worked at public TV stations in Pittsburgh and Canton, Ohio. At 21, she began dating a man in his early 30s, but her father disapproved, and the relationship was short lived.

"Chrissie then literally quickly came to Florida and sort of restarted her life," says Greg. "She never really had another boyfriend after that."

It was in Florida where she got her big break as a reporter and host of WXLT-TV's Suncoast Digest.

"She was an ambitious reporter, good at her job, and liked by co-workers," recalls former WXLT reporter Craig Sager.

"She was a unique person," remembers friend Pauline Lunin. "She was different. It was the 70s and we were into folk things and the earth colors and she dressed in a bright way. I thought she was very talented."

News director Gordon Galbraith recalls the quirky side of Christine: "Christine had a bizarre sense of humor," he says. "She was 29 years-old and she had no problem admitting she was a virgin. So one afternoon we were doing a mock newscast and because she had no qualms about being virginal at 29 she named herself 'Pristine Buttocks.' 'I am Pristine Buttocks and here is the news.'"

Greg says despite Christine's success at work, "She never felt like she was good enough and she was constantly doubting herself. And I mean morosely doubting herself."

"My mom would try to help her and I would do what I could do, my grandparents would do what they could," he adds.

"And she would come out of it and she would be better, and we would think with all the outside help with the professionals, maybe this would be the time she would get her wind and be fine. But it just never really happened completely for her. It is a really sad tragic circumstance."

On that Sunday, the day before she died, Greg says Christine was playing with puppets with his young daughter. After she shot herself, coworkers discovered that the bag she used to hide the .38 caliber pistol also contained two of her handmade puppets.

"She had her puppets around and she had them with her on the day she shot herself on the show," says Greg. "It was very eerie"...


SOURCE

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

BOBBY DARIN AND HIS FORGOTTEN SECOND WIFE

Despite getting a divorce, many fans believe that Bobby Darin's true love was Sandra Dee. They seemed to have a love that was timeless. However, Darin was married to another woman for a short time before his death. His second wife had her story published in the National Enquirer. The article This article, written by Al Coombes, appeared in the January 20, 1974 issue of the National Enquirer Magazine...


Only days before Bobby Darin's tragic death, his ex-wife lamented" "If Bobby doesn't quit his overworked pace, he'll kill himself."

Andrea Yeager Darin made this grim prophesy to an Enquirer reporter. Eight days later, the man Andrea loved was dead.

Bobby Darin, who had suffered for years from a severe heart condition, died on December 20 at the age of 37 - after having his second open heart operation in 2 years.

In an exclusive interview on December 12, Andrea - without makeup and looking gaunt from sleepless nights of worry - revealed how Darin's medical problems led to the breakup of their short-lived marriage.

"Bobby's been ill for a long time and he's been working too hard - trying to cram too much into too short a time," sighed 32-year-old Andrea, nervously picking at her long fingernails as she sat hunched over with elbows on knees in her small Beverly Hills apartment. "No matter how hard I pleaded for him to slow down, he wouldn't let up...and now he's in the hospital."

Darin had been rushed to the intensive care unit of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles on December 10 with congestive heart failure. Andrea, her classically beautiful face drawn with sadness said, "Bobby divorced me last October after only 4 months of marriage. I'm convinced he did it to save me the pain and anxiety I was going through worrying about his health." Andrea's soft eyes brimmed with tears as she recalled the scene that destroyed her marriage.

"It was October 1 and we were outside his doctor's office. I begged Bobby to take a long rest and find out why he was progressively losing his strength. He didn't say a word. He just left me and walked off. He never came home...." Her voice trailed off in anguish.

"Two days later I read in the trade newspapers that we were getting a divorce. That's how I found out! I had no idea," she stammered. "Our life together was beautiful for three years when we lived together. Then we got married, but the timing was wrong."

They were married in June, just days after Darin was released from the hospital where he spent six weeks for treatment of an infection of his heart valve. We went on vacation, then Bobby worked for four weeks at Las Vegas and worked some more at Lake Tahoe. He never recuperated. He refused to take it easy. He was such a perfectionist that everything had to be done right."

No one could stop Darin's gritty drive for perfection even though his private physician shared Andrea's concern that the entertainer needed rest. "Bobby puts so much energy into his act - he should slow down," Dr. Raymond Weston told the Enquirer shortly after Darin entered the hospital for the last time.

"Bobby's had some difficulty recovering from his open heart surgery in 1971. This is because he contracted inflammation of the lining of the heart and its valves last May and this always leads to complications. This seems to be the cause of his present condition."

Throughout the interview with Andrea, who daily visited Darin's bedside, she fought a losing battle to control her emotions. "I'm still in shock about the divorce. If only he slows down so he won't kill himself, maybe we could get back together. You see, I still love Bobby very much."


Friday, February 5, 2016

MY FATHER AND HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY

It is bittersweet for me to be commemorating my Father Frank Lobosco's today, February 5th. My Father would have been 70 today. It is hard to picture my dad being that old. He died when I was so young. My Father died days before his 45th birthday on January 31, 1991. At the time of my Father's death I had a strained relationship with him. A year before his death, my Mother and Father divorced and for the most part I felt that I was not really wanted in my Father's life. I was 16 at the time and had my own normal teenage demons to deal with as well as coping with coming from a divorced home and now coming to grips with my Father dying suddenly of a heart attack.

I did want most teenage boys would do I guess, I buried it all deep inside. I did not visit my Father's grave site for five years after his death, and I rarely talked about him as I finished up high school and entered college. I saw a distorted view of my Father's life, and it never occurred to me to look into what made my Father withdrawn and distant to me.

In 1969, my Father was in the kitchen with his father (my Grandfather that I never met), and my Grandfather had such a massive heart attack that he almost tore out the kitchen cabinets as he fell to the ground and died in front of my Dad. I also discovered much later after my Father died that he was married to a woman before my Mother. Two weeks after they were married, his first wife died of a seizure. My Father had had a fight with her before he left for work, and it was the last time he talked to her. She had stopped taking her seizure medicine because she was pregnant at the time.

All of that distorted my Father's life to the point that by the time I came along and was growing up, he was a sad and lonely man. I never got the opportunity to talk to my Father and get advice that fathers usually give their sons. I never got the opportunity to ask him why he did the things he did. However, what I finally realized was it is better to remember the happy times than the sad times. I remember my Father teaching me how to play chess. I remember sitting with him as he played records from his huge 45rpm collection. I remember tasting his spaghetti sauce and his pizza (although I am sad I never got his recipe).

I wish he could see the man that I became. Hopefully he is looking down on me, and he is proud of the husband and father that I have become. He never got to achieve greatness as a father or husband, but his life was not in vein. His grandchildren that he never met are extensions of his legacy, and I hope wherever my Father is now he is happy and content knowing this as I remember my Father fondly on his 70th birthday...


Sunday, January 31, 2016

BORN ON THIS DAY: JEAN SIMMONS

On this last day of January, legendary actress Jean Simmons was born in 1929. Simmons was born in Lower Holloway, London, to Charles Simmons, a bronze medalist in gymnastics at the 1912 Summer Olympics, and his wife, Winifred (née Loveland) Simmons. Jean was the youngest of four children with siblings Edna, Harold and Lorna. She began acting at the age of 14. During the Second World War, the Simmons family was evacuated to Winscombe, Somerset. Her father, a physical education teacher, taught briefly at Sidcot School, and sometime during this period Simmons followed her elder sister on to the village stage and sang songs such as "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow Wow". Returning to London and just enrolled at the Aida Foster School of Dance, Simmons was spotted by the director Val Guest, who cast her in the Margaret Lockwood vehicle Give Us the Moon.

Small roles in several other films followed including the high profile Caesar and Cleopatra, produced by Gabriel Pascal. Pascal saw potential in Simmons and in 1945 he signed her to a seven-year contract. Prior to moving to Hollywood, she played the young Estella in David Lean's version of Great Expectations (1946) and Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), for which she received her first Oscar nomination. She played an Indian girl in the Powell-Pressburger film Black Narcissus (1947).

It was the experience of working on Great Expectations that caused her to pursue an acting career more seriously:

"I thought acting was just a lark, meeting all those exciting movie stars, and getting £5 a day which was lovely because we needed the money. But I figured I'd just go off and get married and have children like my mother. It was working with David Lean that convinced me to go on."


Playing Ophelia to Olivier's Hamlet made her a star while still in her teens, although she was already well known for her work in other British films, including her first starring role in the film adaptation of Uncle Silas, and Black Narcissus (both 1947). Olivier offered her the chance to work and study at the Bristol Old Vic, advising her to play anything they threw at her to get experience; she was under contract to the Rank Organisation who vetoed the idea. In 1949 Simmons starred with Stewart Granger in Adam and Evelyne. In 1950 she was voted the fourth most popular star in Britain. In 1951 Rank sold her contract to Howard Hughes, who then owned the RKO Pictures.

In 1953 she starred alongside Spencer Tracy in The Actress, a film that was one of her personal favourites. Among the many films she appeared in during this period were The Robe (1953), Young Bess (1953), Désirée (1954), The Egyptian (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Big Country (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), (directed by her second husband, Richard Brooks), Spartacus (1960), All the Way Home (1963) and The Happy Ending (1969), for which she received her second Oscar nomination. In the opinion of film critic Philip French, Home Before Dark (1958) saw her give '"perhaps her finest performance as a housewife driven into a breakdown in Mervyn LeRoy's psychodrama".


By the 1970s Simmons turned her focus to stage and television acting. She toured the United States in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, then took the show to London, and thus originated the role of Desirée Armfeldt in the West End. Performing in the show for three years, she said she never tired of Sondheim's music; "No matter how tired or off you felt, the music would just pick you up."

She made a late career appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead" as a retired Starfleet admiral and hardened legal investigator who conducts a witch-hunt. In 1991 she appeared in the short-lived revival of the 1960s daytime series Dark Shadows, in roles originally played by Joan Bennett. From 1994 until 1998 Simmons narrated the A&E documentary television series, Mysteries of the Bible. In 2004 Simmons voiced the lead-role of Sophie in the English dub of Howl's Moving Castle.

Jean died in 2010 of lung cancer, days before her 81st birthday...


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

CHRISTINE CHUBBUCK: THE SAGA CONTINUES

"In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first," 29-year-old broadcast journalist Christine Chubbuck told her television audience during her final on-air broadcast on Monday, July 15, 1974. "Attempted suicide."

The morning host of Sun Coast Digest on WXLT in Sarasota, Florida, then pulled a .38 caliber revolver from under her desk and shot herself in the head. She died 15 hours later and became the first on-air suicide in the United States.

"My grandparents lived across the street from my sister and she was extremely close to both of them," Chubbuck's brother Greg tells PEOPLE. "They watched every one of her shows, except my grandfather had an appointment with his doctor and he didn't feel like driving so my grandmother drove him and they missed the only show they had ever missed my sister on – the show she killed herself. She knew they weren't going to be watching that show."

Chubbuck's death made headlines around the country and helped inspire the 1976 film Network starring Faye Dunaway and Peter Finch.

Now, 40-years later, Chubbuck's tragic tale is the driving force behind two films selected to debut at the Sundance Film Festival, underway in Park City, Utah.

Christine, directed by Antonio Campos and starring British actress Rebecca Hall, chronicles the newswoman's final days. The second film, Kate Plays Christine, is a documentary by director Robert Greene that follows House of Cards actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she gets ready to play the role of the statuesque 5-foot, 11-inch brunette in a forthcoming movie.


Chubbuck's brother Greg says he doesn't plan to watch either film. "Nobody wants to know who Christine Chubbuck was," he says. "They want to sensationalize what happened at the end of her life. A public suicide is not a source of joy for a family."

Christine Chubbuck grew up in the upscale Ohio suburb of Harbor with her parents, George and Peg, and two brothers, older brother Tim and younger brother Greg. The only daughter of a high-end automotive and manufacturing industry salesperson and a housewife, Christine was talented and smart. While in middle school, she was a flutist in the high school marching band. She later developed an interest in acting at private school and enrolled in the University of North Carolina summer acting program.

Christine was a bright, gifted student with a sharp wit and a nationally ranked kayaker, but since she was about 10 she never felt that she fit in.

Greg recalls his older brother, Tim, taking him aside and telling him their time with "Chrissie" would be short-lived. 


"We have to hug Chrissie extra hard because we aren't going to have her very long," Greg recalls. "He was 12 and I was 8 and in the back of our minds we always knew that our time with her was not going to be infinite."

Greg says his parents spent over $1 million over 20 years with psychiatrists and psychologists to "help Chrissie find peace."

Greg now believes his sister suffered from bipolar disorder, a mood disorder defined by periods of highs and periods of depression. At the time, Greg says she was only being treated for depression.

"If you are treating someone for general depression and they have bipolar depression they actually get worse," he says. "So with that in mind, you can imagine my parents' 20-year odyssey to try and help my sister understand why she didn't look at the world the way everybody else did, while very expensive did not turn out to be fruitful. That never made my parents give up on my sister or quit loving her. Her two brothers adored her. My wife at the time and my little girl just worshipped my sister and none of that made any of the outcomes change."

Christine's emotional wellbeing was further tested at 16 when her 23-year-old boyfriend was killed in a car accident. 


"I think truly that this fellow, Dave the kayaker, he was truly the love of her life," says Greg.

Nonetheless, Christine went on to earn a degree in broadcasting at Boston University, worked at a Florida cable station, attended a summer film workshop at NYU, and then got a job at public television stations in Pittsburgh and Canton, Ohio. The 21-year-old began dating a man in his early 30s, but Greg says their father disapproved of his age and his religion – he was Jewish – and the relationship was short lived.

"She never really had another boyfriend after that," Greg said.

Christine moved to Florida to live with her mother after her parents divorced. She worked as a hospital computer operator before landing a job as a reporter, then host at WXLT in Sarasota, Florida.

"It was her show," says Greg. "It was one person doing all of it with very low pay."

Everyone in the family went out of their way to help Christine with her television career. Her mother paid for designer dresses to make sure she looked good on air.

"In 1974 there weren't too many local TV personalities wearing $2,000 designer dresses, and she did," says Greg. 


Despite having her own morning television show, Greg says his sister never felt she was good enough – and was constantly doubting herself.

"She was very gifted and she never felt like she was good enough and she was constantly doubting herself, and I mean morosely doubting herself," says Greg. "And she would come out of it and she would be better and we would think with all the outside help with the professionals maybe this would be the time she would get her wind and be fine. But it just never really happened completely for her. It is a really sad, tragic circumstance."

The final Monday show started off normally. Then, Christine introduced a segment about an officer-involved shooting. The news footage jammed and that was when Christine – looking relaxed and determined – said the words that would make headline news, drew a revolver, pointed it at her head and shot herself behind her right ear.

A few weeks before her suicide, Christine interviewed a deputy sheriff about suicide.

"She asked him if someone were to kill themselves where they would put the gun to make sure it was effective," Greg recalls. "I learned this from the deputy sheriff. He was in tears."

Christine's family immediately got an injunction preventing the release of the tape of her suicide. After it was seized as evidence by authorities, it was turned over to their mother, Peg.

"I don't know to this day where it is," Greg says. "But I know no one knows where it is and no one ever will if I have anything to say about it."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RIP: ABE VIGODA

Abe Vigoda, the beloved actor known for playing Det. Fish on Barney Miller and mobster Sal Tessio in The Godfather, and for weathering years of mistaken reports about his death, died in his sleep in New Jersey on Tuesday, January 26, at the age of 94.

Audiences first got to know the actor in 1972’s The Godfather, when the then 51-year-old actor played Tessio, a longtime friend and associate of the Corleone family who’s killed when the Corleones find out he’s been working with a rival mob family.

In 1975, Vigoda began playing Det. Phil Fish on the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning ABC sitcom Barney Miller. Fish was a cantankerous New York City detective whose advancing age had led to a lot of physical ailments, namely a persistent hemorrhoids issue that fed his grumpiness and made the squad’s bathroom one of his frequent hangouts.

The role earned Vigoda three Emmy nominations, and led to a spin-off, Fish, in which an eventually-retired Fish and his wife Bernice (Florence Stanley) raised a group of foster children (including one played by a pre-Diff’rent Strokes Todd Bridges). The series ran for two seasons on ABC.

The star, born in Brooklyn on Feb. 24, 1921 to parents who immigrated from Russia, began his acting career in 1947, and appeared in several Broadway productions before his breakout role in The Godfather.


He also guest-starred on TV shows like Dark Shadows, Kojak, and Hawaii Five-0, and, post-Barney Miller and Fish, had memorable roles in Cannonball Run, Look Who’s Talking, Joe Versus the Volcano, and Good Burger.

Vigoda, who always looked a bit older than his actual age, also played along with what became a running joke: premature reports of his death. In 1982, People magazine mistakenly printed a story that referred to him as “the late” Abe Vigoda, which prompted him to pose, sitting up, in a coffin, holding a copy of People, for a photo that ran inVariety to prove he was very much alive.

Various TV reports, late-night TV hosts David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, and numerous Websites either mistakenly reported his death or poked fun at the idea that he was frequently the subject of such rumors. A pair of Websites — Abe Vigoda Status and Is Abe Vigoda Dead? — exist solely to keep tabs on whether or not he’s still alive, and Vigoda won a whole new fanbase for his good humor and longevity as faux reports of his death became a meme...