Saturday, November 14, 2020

Google Celebrates Maria Tallchief

The Google doodle for today, November 14 2020, celebrates Maria Tallchief. For those of you who might never have heard of her, Maria Tallchief was the first major prima ballerina from the United States, as well as the first Native American prima ballerina. She was born a member of the Osage Nation with the name Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on January 24 1925. Her Osage family name was Ki He Kah Stah Tsa. She trained from a very young age in ballet. It was when she was eight years old that her family moved to Los Angeles to further the careers of both Betty Marie (as she was called) and her sister Marjorie. When she was 17 years old she moved to New York City, where she took the name "Maria Tallchief." She danced for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After the New York City Ballet was founded, she became its first major star. In her career she danced with the American Ballet Theatre and became the first American to dance with Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. She later danced with the Hamburg Ballet. After retiring from dance, she served as the director of ballet for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and later founded the Chicago City Ballet.

Below is Google's doodle paying tribute to Maria Tallchief and below that a video on the making of the doodle.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Godspeed Norm Crosby

Norm Crosby, the comic known for his many malapropisms, died on November 7 2020 at the age of 93. The cause was heart failure.

Norm Crosby was born on September 15 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts.  He attended Dorchester High School and then studied advertising illustration at the Massachusetts Institute of Art. Rather than continue his education, he enlisted in the Coast Guard where he served as a radar operator. His hearing would be permanently damaged by depth charges while he was on anti-submarine patrol in the North Atlantic during World War II.

Following the war, Norm Crosby worked in advertising for a women's shoe store chain in the Boston area.  He would eventually become chain's advertising manager. On the side he performed comedy at clubs around New England. In an interview he said that at the time he was doing everybody's material. He found his niche as a comedian when he encountered a club owner who made a malapropism in an offhand comment to him. Norm Crosby then began misusing words in his act. It took time for Mr. Crosby to catch on, but he eventually found himself booked at the Latin Quarter in New York City for 18 weeks. Afterwards he was represented by the William Morris Agency. It was not long before he began appearing on television.

Norm Crosby made his television debut on The Garry Moore Show in 1963. In the Sixties he appeared on such variety shows, game shows, and talk shows as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Perry Como Show, The Jimmy Dean Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, George Jessel's Here Come the Stars, Della, The Joey Bishop Show, It Takes Two, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The David Frost Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Merv Griffin Show. He was a regular on The Phyllis Diller Show. He guest starred on the musical sitcom That's Life.

In the Seventies he appeared on such variety shows, talk shows, and game shows as The Dean Martin Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, American Bandstand, The Bobby Vinton Show, Celebrity Bowling, Dinah!, and The Hollywood Squares. He was the host of The Comedy Shop. He guest starred on the police drama Adam-12 and the semi-anthology The Love Boat.

In the Eighties he appeared on such variety shows, talk shows, and game shows as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Palace, Lou Rawls Parade of Stars, Thicke of the Night, It's Garry Shandling's Show, and The New Hollywood Squares. He was a regular on the short-lived show The Boys.

In the Nineties, Norm Crosby appeared in the movie The Misery Brothers (1995). He appeared on the shows L.A. Law, Roseanne, The Larry Sanders Show, Alright Already, and Diagnosis Murder. He was a guest voice on Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. He appeared in the movies Amore! (1993) and The Misery Brothers (1995).

In the Naughts he guest starred on Arli$$. He was a voice in the animated movies Eight Crazy Nights (2002) and Farce of the Penguins (2006). He appeared in the movie Cougar Club (2007). His last appearance on film was in the movie Grown Ups 2 (2013).

An argument can be made that Norm Crosby was the undisputed master of malapropisms. No one mangled words like Mr. Crosby did. Much of what made his comedy so funny was that his persona, that of a good natured guy next door. On stage, Mr. Crosby was the neighbour or the guy down the block who was always choosing the wrong words. He was definitely one of the best comics to emerge from the mid to late 20th Centuy.

Monday, November 9, 2020

The Late Great Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek, the long-time host of the game show Jeopardy, died yesterday, November 8 2020, after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. In addition to hosting Jeopardy, he also worked a good deal with Turner Classic Movies and was active with multiple charities.

Alex Trebek was born George Alexander Trebek in Sudbury, Ontario on July 22 1940. He was named after his father, George Edward Trebek, a chef who had emigrated from Ukraine to Canada. He received his first job when he was 13, working as a bellhop at the hotel at which his father was a chef. He attended Sudbury High School before enrolling at the University of Ontario. He graduated from the university in 1961 with a degree in philosophy.

It was in 1961, before he had even graduated, that Mr. Trebek began working at the Canadian Broadcasting Company. There he would eventually read the national news and he would cover a wide array of special events and sports for both radio and television. In 1963 he hosted his first television show, the CBC music program Music Hop. Afterwards he hosted the shows Vacation Time, Reach for the Top, and Strategy.

From 1971 to 1972 Alex Trebek hosted I'm Here Til 9, CBC Toronto's morning drive radio show. He hosted the CBC game shows Pick and Choose and Outside Inside. It was in 1973 that Alex Trebek moved to the United States. In the Seventies he hosted the  game shows The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, High Rollers, and Card Sharks.

From 1981 to 1983 he hosted Battlestars. It was in 1984 that Alex Trebek began his long run as the host of Jeopardy. His final taping on the show was October 29 2002. It was on June 13 2014 that Guinness World Records named Mr. Trebek as the game show host with the world record of the most game show episodes hosted. He continued to host other shows, including Lou Rawls Parade of the Stars, Super Jeopardy!, and Classic Concentration. He contineud to host Jeopardy in the Nineties.

In the Naughts he continued hosting Jeopardy and he was a TCM Guest programmer in 2008. In the Teens he continued his long run on Jeopardy. On TCM he was the host of Robert Osborne's 20th Anniversary Tribute.

Of course, Alex Trebek also appeared in many TV shows and movies, usually as himself. Among those shows were Vega$, Cheers, Pacific Station, The Golden Girls, Rugrats, The Larry Sanders Show, Beverly Hills 90120, The Nanny, The X-Files, The Magic School Bus, Seinfeld, The Weird Al Show, The Simpsons, Ned and Stacey, Baywatch, Mad About You, Pepper Ann, Ladies Man, Arthur, Saturday Night Live, Married to the Kellys, Family Guy, How I Met Your Mother, and Jack Ryan. He appeared in the movies Dying Young (1991), White Men Can't Jump (1992), Short Cuts (1993), Jane Austen's Mafia! (1998), Random Hearts (1999), The Male Swagger (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Finding Forrester (2000), Little Manhattan (2005), and Phil (2019).

Alex Trebek had close ties to Turner Classic Movies. As mentioned above, he was a guest programmer in 2008 and hosted Robert Osborne's 20th Anniversary Tribute. He attended the TCM Classic Film Festival and was a guest on the TCM Classic Cruise. At both he conducted trivia contests. At the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival he introduced Wuthering Heights (1939), his wife's favourite movie of all time.

A very good argument can be made that Alex Trebek is the greatest game show host of all time. He was congenial, friendly, and warm. Not only did he clearly enjoy the game, but he was also clearly a man of considerable knowledge himself. Alex Trebek always encouraged learning and the acquisition of knowledge. He instilled a love for trivia in multiple generations.

As Alex Trebek attended both the TCM Classic Film Festival and TCM Classic Cruise, I know people who have actually met Mr. Trebek in person. He was exactly what one would expect from seeing him on Jeopardy. Mr. Trebek was warm, friendly, witty, and erudite. As far as TCM personalities go, he was among the best loved. The many tributes from former Jeopardy contestants confirm that Mr. Trebek was truly a good man. They weren't simply grateful to have been on Jeopardy, but to have gotten to spend time with a truly decent person. Alex Trebek was no mere game show host. He was a scholar and a gentleman in the truest sense.