28 February 2011

Jane Russell RIP

Jane Russell (1921 - 2011)

When Jane Russell and I spent some time together on a couch: In March 1991, I was covering a fundraiser for my newspaper. It was at some fancy private house, probably in Scottsdale. The chairwoman of the event was Russell.

I had arranged in advance to have an interview with her; so, when I arrived, the host told me to have a seat on the couch and that Russell would be there shortly. A few minutes later she walked into the living room -- making a grand entrance just for me. Although there was plenty of room on the couch, she sidled up next to me close enough that I could have easily handled her two most famous assets. She probably thought she was giving me the thrill of my life, not realizing I was gay. Yes, it was a thrill to meet and interview her, but most likely not for the reasons she thought. She was very nice and gracious and gave me her autograph and a great interview. (Side note: I sat next to Gene Autry at dinner. I got his autograph, too. That was a hoot!)

24 February 2011

The End of the Dream

In 1970, the MGM studios in Hollywood conducted an event that is still talked about today, more than 40 years later: a big auction of thousands of costumes and props from decades of movie making. One of the buyers was Debbie Reynolds -- an actor who had worked at MGM. Her plan was to save these important historical items and feature them in a museum. A few years later, she bought more history -- this time, from the store houses of Twentieth Century Fox.

In 1993, the museum opened as the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel and Motion Picture Museum. (See photograph.) It did not do well, closing in 1997. There were plans to open a new museum in Hollywood (where it belongs) and then Tennessee.

Today, there is no museum, and decades worth of Hollywood memorabilia will be put back on the auction block to be sold to the highest bidder. Despite her best efforts, Hollywood history will once again drift on the winds to the four corners of the globe -- never, it would seem, to be together again.

Hollywood has a long and storied history of neglecting its heritage. Why didn't anyone help Reynolds make her dream a reality? With all the money in Hollywood, how would they ever miss the few million it would have taken to preserve and exhibit these rare, unique objects?

Unless they step up now and buy these items at auction, Hollywood will have again proven derelict in its duty to preserve the past.

You can read about Reynolds' efforts

Some of her massive collection is viewable

You can read more about the auction

20 February 2011

Billions and Billions

You know you did it: went around intoning in a grave and deep manner Carl Sagan's unlikely catch phrase "billions and billions." Although he never officially said it, he did use the word "billions" when talking about the simple mathematical possibility of the number of planets in our galaxy.

Now, scientists have come up with an estimate based on the number of planet-like objects that have been discovered by a telescope named Kepler. And that estimate is pretty much what Sagan thought all along: billions. In fact, about 50 of those billions -- of which about 1 percent (about 500 million) fit into the not-too-hot not-too-cold segment that could conceivably harbor life in some form.

The numbers start getting really massive when you consider that ours is only one galaxy, and scientists estimate there are 100 billion galaxies. How many habitable worlds would that indicate? You do the math.

You can read more about the new estimate here.

17 February 2011

The Changing Meaning of Words

Yesterday I went to the cinema to see the film "The King's Speech" (which was really well done). During the course of the film, it kept striking me as odd to hear people constantly talking about the "wireless" which, when used in the early years of the twentieth century, referred to radio. This was to differentiate radio communication from telegraphy -- which was communication sent along actual wires strung up from one place to another.

Once radio stopped being a new thing, people just started calling it "radio" and stopped using "wireless."

Now, of course, the word "wireless" is back in vogue -- this time, referring to computing devices that are connected to their service providers or each other without the use of wires.

Interesting how a word can go out of fashion only to come back decades later meaning something entirely different.

12 February 2011


Overheard while walking to the coliseum today to the huge annual VNSA book sale: "If I'm going to spend all that money on a wedding, why shouldn't I make it my dream wedding?"

10 February 2011

More Lost Films Found

Being the huge fan that I am of early Hollywood, I am always so happy when I hear that more previously-thought-lost films have been found. Well, here's another story about 10 more films found -- this time in Russia -- that are being restored and will (one hopes) be made available for viewing by new audiences. You can read more about this cool find here.

04 February 2011