Monday, June 17, 2019

The Devil in the White City

Before a visit to Chicago a few years ago, a friend told me to be sure to read Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America

While in Chicago, one of the places we visited was the Museum of Science and Industry. It's housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which was part of "The White City."

According to Wikipedia, "The World's Columbian Exposition (the official shortened name for the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition, also known as The Chicago World's Fair) was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. The iconic centerpiece of the Fair, the large water pool, represented the long voyage Columbus took to the New World. Chicago bested New York City;Washington, D.C.; and St. Louis for the honor of hosting the fair." 

Before we planned our trip, I'd known a few things about the Chicago World's Fair. However, I'd never heard about the existence of a serial killer there! That story is told in Larson's The Devil in the White City. Wikipedia says,"The book is set in Chicago, circa 1893, intertwining the true tales of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect behind the 1893 World's Fair, and Dr. H. H. Holmes, the serial killer who lured his victims to their deaths in his elaborately constructed 'Murder Castle.'"

There was talk about the book being made into a movie. Yet now it seems it'll be a TV series. Here's the latest from The Hollywood Reporter:

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese's Devil in the White City project is going from a film to a TV series.
Hulu and Paramount Television are developing a small-screen adaptation of Erik Larson's New York Times best-selling nonfiction thriller. The news was announced onstage Monday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.
The Devil in the White City tells the chilling true story of two men, an architect and a serial killer, whose fates were forever linked by the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Each embodied American ingenuity at the dawn of the 20th century: Daniel H. Burnham, a brilliant and fastidious architect racing to make his mark on the world, and Henry H. Holmes, a handsome and cunning doctor who fashioned his own pharmaceutical "Murder Castle" on fair grounds — a palace built to seduce, torture and mutilate young women.
The project has been in development at various studios since 2003. It was previously at Warner Bros., before moving to Paramount — but the studio let the rights lapse in 2004 and again in 2007, as the period setting posed budgetary challenges. At one point, Tom Cruise was set to star in and produce an adaptation, and later Kathryn Bigelow was attached to direct and produce. It wasn't until 2010 that DiCaprio, said to be long fascinated by the dark subject matter, nabbed the rights himself.
The whole story is morbid, yet fascinating, and I admit,  I am looking forward to seeing it as TV series! Did you know about Dr. H.H. Holmes, the serial killer at the Chicago World's Fair? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips

Not great, but it's only the first draft...

Here are ten hard-hitting writing tips from Cody Delistraty's article 21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors.  

1. The first draft of everything is sh**. -Ernest Hemingway

2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious a**. -David Ogilvy

3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker

4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux

5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee

6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London

7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham

9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King


10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

For all 21 tips, click here.

Do you have a harsh but eye-opening tip to share?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally published 12/12/16 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Theda Bara: First Sex Symbol of the Silver Screen

My hometown of Cincinnati is the hometown of some very famous screen legends including mega-director Steven Spielberg, actress/singer Doris Day and actress/dancer Vera-Ellen. Another famous legend who hailed from these parts is Theda Bara, the silver screen's first sex symbol.

As a sex symbol, Theda's real life didn't exactly fit that mold. She experienced no scandals, had no substance abuse problems, and she was only married once, and happily at that. And although she retired from the screen while still in her prime before the advent of talking pictures, when she passed away decades later in 1955 at the age of sixty-nine, she died wealthy.

Here's more about this unconventional sex symbol from Wikipedia:

Bara was one of the most popular actresses of the silent era, and her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname The Vamp (short for vampire). Bara made more than 40 films between 1914 and 1926, but most were lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. After her marriage to Charles Brabin in 1921, she made two more feature films and retired from acting in 1926.


She was born Theodosia Burr Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was Bernard Goodman (1853–1936), a prosperous Jewish tailor born in Poland. Her mother, Pauline Louise Françoise (née de Coppett; 1861–1957), was born in Switzerland.

The origin of Bara's stage name is disputed; The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats says it came from director Frank Powell, who learned Theda had a relative named Barranger, and that "Theda" was a childhood nickname. In promoting the 1917 film Cleopatra, Fox Studio publicists noted that the name was an anagram of Arab death, and her press agents claimed inaccurately that she was "the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara."

At the height of her fame, Bara earned $4,000 per week. She was one of the most popular movie stars, ranking behind only Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Bara's best-known roles were as the "vamp", although she attempted to avoid typecasting by playing wholesome heroines in films such as Under Two Flags and Her Double Life. She also appeared as Juliet in a version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Although Bara took her craft seriously, she was too successful as an exotic "wanton woman" to develop a more versatile career.

To read more about Theda Bara, click here.

Are you familiar with Theda Bara? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally published 3/20/17

Monday, May 27, 2019

Famous Actors Who Served in the Military

On this Memorial Day, I want to extend many thanks to the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving our country. 

During World War II, many actors put their careers on hold to serve, and the most decorated American soldier of WWII returned home a hero and then became an actor! Below are listed just a few celebrities who served from a list on Toptenz.net:
 Audie Murphy - Murphy was a true American hero and the only actor to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In fact, Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II who, besides receiving the CMOH, was also awarded 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations, including five from France and one from Belgium. He later went on to appear in 44 films—mostly westerns and a few army films—before he died in a plane crash near Roanoke, Virginia three weeks shy of his 46th birthday. Not surprisingly, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
James Stewart - Stewart was an up and coming actor when he chose to give it all up and join the Army Air Corp in 1942. Considering how dangerous the skies over Europe were and the very high rate of attrition suffered by allied pilots, it’s a miracle he survived at all. Flying no fewer than 20 combat missions over Germany at the controls of the famous B-17 bomber, he received six battle stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal and even the famous French decoration, the Croix de Guerre with Palm. He even stayed active in the U.S. Air Force reserve after the war, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1968.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. - Few would have guessed the dashing actor and first husband to Joan Crawford would give up the sparkling lights of Hollywood to serve his country, but that’s exactly what he did. Commissioned an officer at the outbreak of World War Two, the actor served on Lord Louis Mountbatten’s staff in England where he observed the British make cross-channel raids on German positions designed to confuse and deceive the enemy. Taking that knowledge back to America, he was made part of a unit called the “Beach Jumpers” whose job it was to make bogus beach landings designed to confuse the enemy as to the location of the real landings. Serving in this capacity in North Africa, Sicily, and France, he was awarded several medals for bravery, chief among them the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the British Distinguished Service Cross, and even the French Croix de guerre. Fairbanks stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war and ultimately retired a captain in 1954.
For all 10 actors featured in the article click here. I knew that some of these actors had served, but I wasn't aware of all their accomplishments. What about you?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Originally posted May 30, 2016

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hawaiian Chicken

Summer is quickly approaching, and with summer comes vacation planning!

I don't know about you, but I'd love to go to Hawaii!  Unfortunately, with two kids in college, that won't happen any time soon. 

But I can always dream, and this Hawaiian Chicken recipe makes me feel like I'm there... well not really, but it sure tastes good!

Hope you enjoy it, too! It's a crock pot recipe and only takes minutes to assemble, but you will need to set aside up to five hours for it to cook. It's delicious over rice!

This recipe is from my General Electric Slow Cooker Recipe Book.

Hawaiian Chicken

3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved (I use thighs)
1 16 ounce can pineapple slices, drained (I use chunks)
1 15 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in the crock. Stir well. Cover and cook on:
Low - 4 to 5 hours or High - 2 to 3 hours

Where will yo be vacationing this summer? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!