Monday, May 16, 2022

A Surprising Friendship

I must again thank my Goodreads Friend Damon Evans for this wonderful post! He always passes on such fascinating stories, so thank you, Damon!

If anyone had ever asked me what Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald had in common just a few days ago, I would have thought absolutely nothing. After all, what would a legendary African American jazz singer have in common with a 1950s superstar sex symbol? What I recently learned, however, was that these two were great friends and had quite a bit in common!

Here are some excerpts from Biography.com's article on their surprising friendship:

When once asked about her favorite singers, Marilyn Monroe answered, "Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she's the greatest, and that's Ella Fitzgerald." Not only was Monroe a Fitzgerald fan, but she was also a friend who used her status as a Hollywood star to boost Fitzgerald's career.

One reason for the connection between Monroe and Fitzgerald may have been the number of life experiences they had in common, beginning with their traumatic childhoods. Monroe grew up during the Great Depression unaware of who her father was and coping with a birth mother who was mentally unstable. She was moved among many different homes and was subjected to sexual abuse.

Fitzgerald was 15 when her mother's death in 1932 upended her world. Her stepfather became abusive, so she went to live with an aunt in Harlem. She left school to earn money, taking jobs, like brothel lookout, that skirted the law. Her truancy led to Fitzgerald being placed in a segregated reform school in upstate New York, where staff didn't hesitate to brutalize residents.

By the 1950s, Fitzgerald's enthralling singing voice had won her fans across the country. But the venues that hired her were often smaller clubs; some places weren't interested in having an overweight Black woman perform for them, no matter her talent. Fitzgerald reportedly once told her press agent, "I know I make a lot of money at the jazz clubs I play, but I sure wish I could play at one of those fancy places."

Movie star Monroe had spent hours listening to Fitzgerald's recordings (a music coach had recommended this to improve the star's own singing). In November 1954, she got to see Fitzgerald perform in Los Angeles. The two were soon friends, so when Monroe learned of Fitzgerald's inability to get a gig at the Mocambo, a famous L.A. nightclub, she decided to help.

Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt had already performed at the Mocambo, so Fitzgerald wouldn't have been the first African American to sing there. But the club's owner felt the heavyset Fitzgerald lacked the glamour to draw crowds. So Monroe approached him with a proposition — if he booked Fitzgerald, she promised to sit at the front of the house every night and to bring along other celebrities. Monroe made clear the amount of publicity this would garner, so the club owner agreed to hire Fitzgerald for a couple of weeks in March 1955.

During Fitzgerald's run, Monroe kept her word to sit up front, and Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland showed up on opening night. However, such celebrity firepower wasn't that necessary — Fitzgerald's shows sold out, and the owner even added a week to her contract. This successful engagement changed Fitzgerald's career trajectory. She later told Ms. magazine, "After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again."

As the song goes, that's what friends are for! What a beautiful friendship. For the complete story, click here.

Did you know about this surprising friendship? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Band of Angels

I happened to read about this movie while doing a little research and thought it sounded interesting. I love historical interracial love stories, and this one is based on a novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. This is TMC's synopsis of Band of Angels, produced in 1957 and starring Clak Gable, Yvonne De Carlo and Sidney Poitier.

In antebellum Kentucky, the beautiful Amantha "Manty" Starr arrives home from finishing school in Cincinnati just after the death of her father, kindly plantation owner Aaron Starr. During the funeral, it is revealed that Manty's mother, who had died years before, was one of Starr's slaves and that Manty, now considered chattel of the estate, is to be sold by a slave trader to whom Starr had been deeply in debt.

At a slave auction in New Orleans, a wealthy gentleman named Hamish Bond pays a huge sum for Manty, intending to treat her as a lady in his household. Because she assumes she is to be a kept woman, however, she rebuffs his offer of friendship. Michele, the head housekeeper, who is herself in love with Hamish, secretly gives Manty a ticket to Cincinnati, but Rau-Ru, an educated slave who helps Hamish manage his business affairs, prevents Manty from boarding the boat. 

Later Hamish confesses that he is tormented by his past, and Manty, who now sees another side of Hamish, kisses him. The next morning,
Hamish takes Manty to his largest plantation and offers to free her. She hesitates but decides to remain with Hamish. Soon afterward, Hamish learns that war has been declared. While he visits another of his plantations, Manty accepts the attentions of his wealthy white neighbor, Charles de Marigny, which leads Rau-Ru to accuse her of betraying her people by attempting to live as a white woman. When de Marigny attacks Manty, however, Rau-Ru strikes him, and subsequently is forced to run away to the North. There he becomes a Union soldier under the command of Seth Parton, a self-righteous minister who had courted Manty when she was at finishing school. 

Hamish returns to the plantation and, in defiance of Union general Benjamin Butler's order, sets his own crops ablaze in order to keep them out of Yankee hands. As his fields burn, Hamish confesses to Manty that in his younger days, he had been a ruthless slave trader. With some reluctance, Manty leaves Hamish to begin a new life in New Orleans, and there she encounters Parton, who threatens to tell her new sweetheart, Ethan Sears, that she is black unless she makes love to him. Horrified, Manty returns to Hamish's New Orleans home, where she learns that he is on the run for burning his crops. 

Rau-Ru, who despises Hamish for having treated him with kindness, which he calls, "the worst kind of bondage," discovers where his old master is hiding and holds him at gunpoint. When Hamish tells Rau-Ru that he rescued him from a slave trader's bullet when he was an infant, however, Rau-Ru decides to let Hamish go. At that moment, Union troops arrive and Rau-Ru, while loudly proclaiming that he has captured Hamish, quietly slips his former owner the handcuff keys. Hamish escapes from the Union soldiers as Rau-Ru leads Manty to the cove where Hamish plans to rendezvous with an old seafaring friend. Bidding farewell to Rau-Ru, Hamish and Manty embrace and then board the boat that will take them to safety.

Ever seen it? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Thoughts from Anne Lamott on Avoiding Perfectionism

Anne Lamott

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life...I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a lot better than you and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


All non-perfectionists can now breathe a sigh of relief! Don't you love Ms. Lamott's wise words on avoiding it? 

In her wonderful book on writing she shows us that perfectionism is detrimental, because when striving for it in our manuscripts, we try not to leave too much of a mess to clean up.  

But she points out that the clutter we leave behind can hide precious treasures that we'll discover later. And those treasures can be put to good use by providing more material to work with once we go back to revise and edit.

Being too tidy, according to Ms. Lamott, suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. 
The important thing is to finish.  Plow ahead, make a mess! Don't worry about every little detail or whether or not it's polished enough.  That comes later, at revision time.

Have fun with that first draft; avoiding perfectionism allows a really great story to unfold!  Do you struggle with perfectionism? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!