Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Birthday Roundup (at the Dodge City Corral)


Some days simply dazzle with the range and odd juxtapositions of people who happen to share it as a birthday.  Here to sing us into a consideration of today's is television's prototypical bad girl with a heart of gold, Miss Amanda Blake, in a most peculiar novelty number from, of all places, Hee Haw (and when did you think that particular gem of American culture would show up in these parts?.

Today she's remembered, if at all, as an early Hollywood AIDS casualty (she died in 1989; in 1984, she had a short-lived marriage to a gentleman who shortly after their divorce died of pneumonia, and therein I fear lies a tale).  For two decades, though, she was Miss Kitty of the Long Branch Saloon, a stalwart of television's longest-running prime-time series and for many years its most beloved.  Although they never married (hell, they never even held hands, from all we saw) she and Sheriff Matt Dillon clearly had an understanding of some kind.  She wasn't all that bad a singer, as it turns out.  Novelty songs like this are pretty much dead as a dodo, aren't they?  The other one like it that comes to mind is Bette Davis crooning "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?", and that's enough to put me off my feed for a week...

Sharing the day is a raft of luminaries, from one of the daughters of Edward VII (Louise, Duchess of Fife, who among other things survived a shipwreck off Morocco that did in the Duke) to an heiress of a rather different kind, Miss Patty Hearst (now best known, I suppose, as a member of John Waters's repertory company).  Two additional jet-setters are celebrating today, each in their own I would assume rather different ways - one wonders if Gloria Vanderbilt and Ivana Trump have ever met, and if so what they made, each of the other?

Music is more than adequately represented, with diva Mary Garden, folky Buffy Sainte-Marie, jazz thrush Nancy Wilson, and tragic grunger Kurt Cobain all sharing a cake.  Wouldn't they make a heck of a barbershop quartet?

It's a good day for actors, too, including Gale "Mr. Mooney" Gordon, Richard "West Side" Beymer, Sidney "Guess Who's Coming to" Poitier, and dishy Anthony "Prime Minister" Head blowing out candles.  Let's not forget the ladies, too, who run the gamut from Sandy Duncan to Brenda Blethyn, taking in Jennifer O'Neill and Imogen Stubbs on the way.  If only fellow birthday boy Russel Crouse had penned a script that would suit them all, to be directed, surely, by the also-celebrant Robert Altman.  Shutterbug Ansel Adams could have taken the cast photo, as they opened their presents.

Finally, it's hard to imagine a greater argument against any affinities conveyed by the accident of birth than to note that also born today are this strange pair:  one of the great toads of the twentieth century, the hideous Roy Cohn - and the fantabulously extravagant, inimitably transgressive performer/underground superstar, Dr. Vaginal Creme Davis.  If that doesn't make your horoscope want to take a bromide and lie down, nothing will.

In any case, many happy returns to all of them (except Roy, may he rot).  Take it away, Amanda...

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