Category Archives: Celebrity Chatter

Gossip galore: Immerse yourself in “Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Lee Radziwill”

I’ve seen Jackie Kennedy at a Broadway theater, explaining to her then-lover Maurice Tempelsman what a CD was. (That item ran in Liz Smith’s column.) I’ve seen Ethel Kennedy go nuts on Hyannis’ Main Street. Now I am getting closer to other Kennedy kin with Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99).

To truly understand Jackie, one of the most iconic women of the 20th century, is to understand the powerful bond she shared with her mother Janet Auchincloss, and younger sister, the enormously complex Lee Radziwill. The relationship between the three women and how it came to impact Jackie’s life as one of the most famous of America’s First Ladies has never before been revealed in its entirety, until now. J. Randy Taraborrelli breaks through the mystery surrounding the lives of these enigmatic women and takes readers into the big and small moments of their lives, weaving a captivating psychological portrait of two famous sisters and their ferociously protective and ambitious mother.

Jackie Kennedy, JFK, and Princess Lee Radziwill at the christening of Lee’s daughter, Anna Christina Radziwill, Crypt Chapel, Westminster Abbey, 1961.

Janet Lee Bouvier was a formidable woman from a wealthy family who, in 1928, married the dashing but unpredictable Jack “Black Jack” Bouvier.  Though she had two children with him—Jackie and Lee—Janet’s marriage was far from a happy one as she had to cope with her husband’s infidelity. She flouted convention by defying her powerful, religious father James T. Lee and chose divorce at a time when it was taboo. Janet would then make the ultimate sacrifice for her daughters when she wedded the well-heeled Hugh Auchincloss. Though he could guarantee financial stability, he also made it clear to Janet that he could never consummate the marriage. A woman stunningly ahead of her time, Janet bore a daughter—Jackie’s and Lee’s half-sister, Janet— using her own version of artificial insemination, a science practically unheard of in the 1940s.

The story continues with Jackie’s marriage to Senator Jack Kennedy, (who becomes President of the United States in 1960), and Lee’s royal union to the dashing Prince Stanislaw Radziwill.  But soon, the Greek shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis enters Lee’s life and begins an affair with her. Rather than allow Lee to bring scandal to the steps of the White House, Janet forces her to choose family over her love for Onassis.

The First Lady and her sister Lee Radziwill ride a camel in India. Jackie’s agent, Clint Hill, signaled to them to cross their legs, to avoid any embarrassing photos being taken.

Taraborrelli breaks astonishing new ground by also telling the story of Jackie’s war with Bingham Morris, her mother’s third husband. After she realizes that Janet is the victim of shocking elder abuse, it becomes the greatest battle of Jackie’s life to vanquish Morris from her mother’s home. As the 1980s came to a close and Janet slips into Alzheimer’s disease, Jackie continues to care for her daily while Lee finds herself emotionally ill-equipped to do so, causing significant turmoil between the sisters. This stunning family story is based on never-before-published letters from Jackie, herself.\

Wow.

“Up in Smoke” is 40! The film “started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time” says Cheech

Fire up the home entertainment system and call your buds because the ultimate stoner comedy is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  The high-larious cannabis cultural epic  breakthrough Up in Smoke will “grab you by the poo poo” all over again when it arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD April 10 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  A special Deluxe Collector’s Edition, pairing the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl LP in deluxe packaging, will arrive the following week from Rhino, featuring a newly recorded 2018 version of the title song “Up In Smoke.”

In 1978, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong made their feature film debut in Up in Smoke, the outrageously funny classic inspired by their now legendary comedy routines of the early ’70s.  Following massive success with more than 10 million comedy albums sold, four Grammy nominations and a win for Best Comedy Recording for Los Cochinos, Cheech and Chong took Hollywood by storm when Up in Smoke became a smash hit, establishing the pair as the reigning comedy duo of a new generation.  Today, the film still has viewers rolling in the aisles and maintains surprising cultural relevance four decades after its original release.

“The greatest thrill is making your first movie and this one has been seen and been influential all over the world for over forty years,” says Richard “Cheech” Marin.   “Up in Smoke started stoner movies and is still going strong so smoke it up one more time.”

Adds Thomas Chong: “Where did the time go? Fortyyears ago we made low budget movies that grossed over 100 million and are still being watched all over the world. And it also helped legalize an important medicine.  I am so proud that a movie bearing a title of a simple song I wrote would be so influential for so many years.”

Cheech and Chong play wannabe musicians and stoners who unwittingly smuggle a van made of marijuana from Mexico to L.A.  Their drug-laced humor keeps their spirits high as they unknowingly elude the police and meander their way to an outrageous finale at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong plays drums in a red body suit with a Quaalude logo.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack features a brand new short-form documentary entitled “How Pedro Met the Man: Up In Smoke at 40,” which chronicles the duo’s comedy history, as well as the origins and impact of the film itself. Capturing a complex and fascinating pop culture odyssey, the documentary incorporates new interviews with Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong and producer/director Lou Adler along with archival footage.  The Combo Pack is also loaded with previously released bonus material including deleted scenes, commentary, a music video and more.

The Deluxe Collector’s Edition is presented in a 12 x 12 package, limited to 5,000 copies.

The set pairs the Blu-ray with the original soundtrack on CD and Vinyl, as well as a 7-inch picture disc, oversized “Up In Smoke” rolling papers, a film poster and booklet with new essays by both Cheech and  Chong, along with rare and unseen photos. In addition to the new version of “Up In Smoke,” the CD also features another previously unreleased version of the song from 1978 with an additional Spanish verse by Cheech.

Harry Thaw, Evelyn Nesbit. Stanford White. This murder/rape case was the true crime of the century

When the weather thaws, I go off to Allegheny Cemetery, where I visit the graves of the (in)famous. My fave: Harry Kendall Thaw (February 12, 1871–February 22, 1947). I have been fascinated with Thaw for decades . . . not because he was the son of a Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron; not because he was heir to a multimillion-dollar mine and railroad fortune; not because he was plagued by mental illness since childhood;  not because he spent money lavishly to fund his obsessive partying, his drug addiction, his sexual appetite.

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I am fascinated by the wacko because of what gave him an historical legacy: On June 25, 1906, on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, Thaw murdered renowned architect Stanford White, a partner of the firm McKim, Mead & White.

White had previously sexually assaulted Thaw’s wife, model/chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit, when she was 16.  During the opening-night performance of Mam’zelle Champagne, audience members noticed Thaw repeatedly glaring at White. Thaw eventually got up, crossed over to White’s seat and shot him point-blank while the show onstage was in the midst of a number titled “I Could Love a Million Girls”.

Keep in mind: Nesbit was considered the most beautiful and notorious woman of her day; she was one of artist Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girls”; fans showered her with $50 bills wrapped around stems of roses tossed at her feet. White kept a Fifth Avenue love nest, where he pushed her in a red velvet swing as she wore nothing but the jewels he gave her.

The trial of Thaw and its aftermath mesmerized the nation. Americans overwhelmingly supported Thaw–he had avenged his wife’s honor; what else mattered? But the district attorney, Travers Jerome, ferocious, brilliant, and unflappable, was determined to send Thaw to the electric chair.

Nesbit’s scandalous testimony, that White had drugged and raped her, caused a sensation. The president of the United States,  Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to prevent distribution of her verbatim
account by the newspapers; and Thaw’s appeal eventually went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The murder of White cast a long shadow: Harry Thaw twice attempted suicide and Nesbit battled a cocaine addiction during her acting career in Hollywood in the ’20s.

This riveting story–the first scandal of the century–broke Victorian taboos, heralded a new understanding of sex and sexuality, and ushered in the modern era. Simon Baatz has dome a magnificent job chronicling, detailing and dishing out the sensational story in The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (Mulholland Books, $29).

Image result for evelyn nesbitNow, for the first time, comes an authoritative account of the brutal rape of Nesbit by famed architect White, whose attack of Evelyn Nesbit should have been called rape. The penalty for rape in 1901 was severe, more severe than in 2017, a prison sentence of 20 years under brutal conditions in the state penitentiary with no possibility of parole. Public opinion in 1906 (after the murder of White) overwhelmingly condemned White as a pedophile and rapist. But over the years, to burnish White’s
reputation as an architect, the rape was whitewashed as a
“seduction.”

Baatz’s book is a fascinating true-crime story, a thrilling account based on exhaustive research in the newspapers of the day. In 1901, Evelyn Nesbit, 16, an artist’s model and aspiring actress, dined alone with Stanford White, 47, at White’s Manhattan townhouse. That evening they drank champagne and Evelyn lost consciousness. She awoke, naked in bed, White lying next to her, tell-tale spots of blood on the bedsheets.

Picture of
White’s grave

Four years later Evelyn married Harry Thaw, playboy millionaire. One evening, at a performance of the musical comedy Mam’zelle Champagne, Thaw shot and killed White before hundreds of theatregoers. The trial of Thaw and its aftermath mesmerized the nation. Americans overwhelmingly supported Thaw–he had avenged his wife’s honor; what else mattered? But the district attorney, Travers Jerome, ferocious, brilliant, and unflappable, was determined to send Thaw to the electric chair.

 

Another bio on Prince Harry shares royal secrets and insights into his life, loss and loves

Katie Nicholl, “with her authoritative research and access to royal confidantes”, promises to bring readers closer to Prince Harry “than ever before.” (Another bio by another royal expert: theentertainmentreport.org/prince-harry-gets-his-inside-story-told-twice-in-one-good-book-and-one-nasty-tabloid-ouch.)

From his earliest public appearances as a mischievous redheaded
toddler, Prince Harry has captured the hearts of royal enthusiasts
around the world. Now, with his marriage to actress Meghan Markle set for May 19, comes a new biography that offers rare insight into Harry’s personal life and how he fell in love with his future bride. In Harry: Life, Loss and Love (Hachette Books, $27), Nicholl offers an unprecedented look at everyone’s favorite prince. She sheds new light on growing up royal, Harry’s relationship with his mother, and his troubled youth and early adulthood. She also traces Harry’s transformation from a wayward royal rebel into the beloved people’s prince. With insights from her unrivaled sources, Nicholl delivers the inside scoop on the relationships, romances, and personal experiences that shaped him as a young man.

From the devastating loss of his mother, Princess Diana, at the age of 12, to Harry’s mental health struggles and his military service in Afghanistan, which ultimately inspired him to create his legacy, The
Invictus Games, Nicholl speaks to Harry’s friends, colleagues, and former flames to paint a compelling portrait of his life. The book also features fascinating insights into Harry’s romance with Markle, including stories of their secretive early meetings and how they kept their relationship hidden from the world. She brings the romance right up to date, covering their engagement day, their forthcoming wedding and their plans for the future.

The book includes a series of compelling full-color photos of Harry from boyhood until present day, Harry: Lee, Loss, and Love is an unprecedented, exclusive look at a prince who has captured the hearts of the world.

“Diving for Starfish” is a 14-karat mystery, wrapped among the rich and famous and 71 cabochon rubies and 241 amethysts

It’s a fascinating read, a sparkling mystery wrapped in the world of the super-rich and priceless jewels. Literally. In Diving for Starfish: The Jeweler, the Actress, the Heiress, and One of the World’s Most Alluring Pieces of Jewelry (St. Martin’s Press, 26.99), Cherie Burns takes readers on a search for a dazzling, elusive starfish pin—one of the most coveted pieces of jewelry in the world. 

Created in the early 1930’s by a young designer in the workroom of the famous Parisian jeweler Boivin, the starfish pin was distinctive because its five rays were articulated, meaning that they could curl and conform to the bustline or shoulder of the women who wore it. The House of Boivin crafted only three of these gold starfish, each one encrusted with 71 cabochon rubies and 241 small amethysts. The women who were able to capture the rare starfish were as fabulous as the pin itself.

Millicent Rogers, socialite and fashion icon, and Claudette Colbert, Hollywood leading lady, were two of the women adorned by one of the three pins that exist today. Obsessed with the pin after she saw it in the private showroom of a Manhattan jewelry merchant, Burns set off on a journey to find out all she could about the elusive pins and the women who owned them. Her search took her around the world to Paris, London, New York and Hollywood.

Image result for starfish pin colbert
Millicent Rogers wearing her starfish brooch.

Both a history of fine jewelry coming out of Paris in the Golden Age and a tour through the secretive world of high-end, privately-sold jewelry, Diving for Starfish is a stylish detective story with a glittering piece of jewelry and the equally dazzling women who loved them.

The road to all things Broadway can be found in architect Fran Leadon’s “Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles”

They say the neon light are bright on Broadway. But Manhattan’s “Broadway” is much more than flashing marquees and glitzy shops. It is a 13-mile street stretch that runs from State Street at Bowling Green through the borough of Manhattan. (There’s 2 miles through the Bronx, exiting north from the city to run an additional 18 miles through the municipalities of Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and Tarrytown, and terminating north of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.
Broadway is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in New York City, dating to the first New Amsterdam settlement, although most of it did not bear its current name until the late 19th century. The name Broadway is the English language literal translation of the Dutch name, Brede weg.

The road to all things Broadway can be found in architect Fran Leadon’s Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles (W.W. Norton, $35).

Broadway takes us on a mile-by-mile journey that traces the gradual evolution of the 17th-century’s Brede Weg, a muddy cow path in a backwater Dutch settlement, to the 20th-century’s Great White Way. We learn why one side of the street was once considered more fashionable than the other. We witness construction of the Ansonia Apartments, Trinity Church, and the Flatiron Building and the burning of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. We discover that Columbia University was built on the site of an insane asylum.
Library of Congress
Our fave Broadway site: the Flatiron Building, way back when
Along the way we meet Alexander Hamilton; Edgar Allen Poe; John James Audubon; Emma Goldman; “Bill the Butcher” Poole; “Texas” Guinan, and the assorted real estate speculators, impresarios, and politicians who helped turn Broadway into a living paradigm of American progress, at its best and worst. With maps and more than 75 black-and-white photos throughout, Broadway tells the vivid story of what is arguably the world most famous thoroughfare.

What do Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey have in common? Bob Roth’s “Strength in Illness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation”. Ohmmm . . .

Ohmmmm.

I have been practicing TM, Transcendental Meditation to some, for many years.  Stress melts. Tightness dissolves. The mind opens, relaxed and rested.

I have been telling people about TM for decades. Let’s face it: Everyone we know is stressed. No matter where we come from, or what we do, stress is an epidemic that threatens our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. While there is no cure, there is a simple practice that dramatically changes how we respond to life’s challenges: the Transcendental Meditation technique. This 5,000 year‑old technique has a clear impact on our 21st century problems.

book cover

Ohmmmm.

I have been telling people about TM for decades. But instead an introduction to Bob Roth. The co‑founder and vice president of the David Lynch Foundation has studied and taught Transcendental Meditation for more than 40 years. Once a skeptic, he is now one of the most experienced and sought‑after experts in the world. He has brought TM to millions of people, working not only with celebrities and business leaders, but also with inner‑city schools, veterans’ hospitals, women’s shelters, HIV/AIDS clinics, and prisons.  Medical experts agree that the epidemic of stress is damaging our physical and emotional health at younger and younger ages. While there is no one single cure, the Transcendental Meditation technique is a simple practice that dramatically changes how we respond to stress and life’s challenges.

In Strength in Illness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation ($24), Roth breaks down the science behind meditation in a new, accessible way. He highlights the three distinct types of meditation—focused attention, open monitoring, and self-transcending—and showcases the evidence that Transcendental Meditation is the most effective way to reduce stress, access inner power, and build resilience. The book is so free of gimmicks, mystical verbiage and over‑inflated research studies.

Roth’s  clients include Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Dalio, Ellen DeGeneres,  Howard Stern, Tom Hanks and Gisele Bündchen.  Another client:  Gwyneth Paltrow, who calls the book “the simplest, most engaging, and easiest-to-understand guide to Transcendental Meditation.”

All together now: Ohmmmm . . . 

Walk in famous female footsteps with the novel ” Women’s London: A Tour Guide to Great Lives”

A book that’s a most novel idea! Women’s London: A Tour Guide to Great Lives (IMM Lifestyle, $19.99) provides the perfect opportunity to explore sights, statues, plaques and buildings associated with famous and some not so famous women who have left their mark on London’s heritage, culture and society.

Save the date: The book will be released March 15.

Super stories include scientists; reformers and royals; military and medical pioneers; authors and artists; fashion and female firsts. From the women who made up the suffragette movement, to the first Muslim woman to enter Albert Hall, to one of the first women to climb Mount Everest without oxygen support, women have been making amazing strides in London throughout history. And you can follow those female footsteps, thanks to author Rachel Kolsky.  Equally compelling: Color photography and specially commissioned maps.

Prince Harry gets his “inside story” told twice … in one good book and one nasty tabloid. Ouch!

Love is in the air. When in Great Britain. And everyone [well, almost everyone] is just wild about Harry.

Prince Henry of Wales has made headlines all over the world with his unruly antics [think Nazi], but instead of being sidelined as the House of Windsor’s biggest liability,  Harry has emerged as the jewel in the crown of the modern British Monarchy.

Prince Harry: The Inside Story by [Larcombe, Duncan]

Take a poll, and Harry [usually] ranks as the most popular member of the monarchy after Her Majesty herself. He has won the public’s heart as the lovable rogue prince and royal heartthrob for girls and women around the world. What sets Harry apart from the rest of his family is the twinkle in the eye . . . the ability to rip up the rule book and let his natural cheekiness shine through. Wonder is that red hair has something to do with this?

Prince Harry: The Inside Story (Harper360, $16.99), Duncan Larcombe’s insightful and entertaining biography of the rebellious royal, recalls Harry’s Eton exploits, his military career and his tempestuous love life, as well as revisiting some events that the prince would probably prefer to forget, such as his notorious Nazi fancy dress which landed him in a global storm of criticism. But despite a string of incidents that would normally destroy the career of any aspiring public figure, Harry has a mysterious gift. The more scrapes Harry gets in, the more the public seem to love him.

harry

But with his military career over, Harry is at a crossroads facing not just the pressure of full-time Royal work ahead, but the possibility of carrying the burden of the British throne in the future. Will charm and personality be enough to prepare him for a life under the microscope of Royal work?

Perhaps causing the most stress is Harry’s upcoming marriage to “actress”  Meghan Markle.   Since Duncan’s tome doesn’t come out until March 16, maybe he should update the Markle material? A palace insider also says that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall spun into a drunken rage shortly after the couple’s engagement announcement. The thing that particularly irked Camilla was the fact the ring features two diamonds from Princess Diana’s personal gem collection.

A palace insider told the Globe that Prince Charles’ wife has been whispering vicious comments about Markle while attending parties and events with Britain’s elite. Camilla allegedly branded the Suits actress a “brazen hussy” and “an embarrassment to the royal family.”

glone

Camilla has apparently taken issue with things like Meghan being older than Harry. She’s also said to be unhappy that Meghan is previously divorced, a commoner and not even British.

A royal mess?

 

And awaaay we go! Time Life releases “The Jackie Gleason Show” in color

Everything about Jackie Gleason was big: his huge talent, his outsized personality, and his expansive waist line.  Even his grave, which we visited when we were in Miami. (June Taylor, best known as the founder of the June Taylor Dancers who appeared on The Great One’s show, is buried close to Jackie’soutdoor mausoleum.)
Jackie and June’s dancers.

Even bigger was The Jackie Gleason Show, his successful TV Variety show, taped in color from his hometown of Miami Beach from 1966 to 1970.  Tomorrow, Time Life releases the inaugural DVD release of Jackie’s show, one of the ’60s most beloved programs . . . . and unseen for nearly 50 years! (The master tapes had resided in a vault in South Florida until now.)

Gleason was everyone’s working-class hero, and his smash-hit show delivered an hour of non-stop entertainment every single week.  Enthralled home audiences were treated to entertainment of the highest order, singing, dancing, hilarious comedy and Jackie at his very best as Ralph Kramden and on stage with all his famous friends, including Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, Phil Silvers.  The single disc features four never-before-released, remastered episodes of the show including three unreleased Honeymooners sketches, all unseen for more than 50 years!
 Image result for jackie gleason grave

 

The Jackie Gleason Show had been broadcast live and later taped in New York City since 1952, but in 1964, Gleason wanted to be based where he could play golf all year round.  Hank Meyer, a longtime South Florida publicist, knew just the spot and convinced Jackie to bring his show to Miami Beach, the sun and fun capital of the world.  However, back in the ’60s, it was a novel undertaking to broadcast from Miami Beach, and more than a hundred families relocated to stay with the show.  Plus, there was barely any production infrastructure in South Florida, which all had to be created by Jackie and his team.  It paid off and the revamped show was a huge success.

This postcard was sent to fans who requested tickets to the show. Note a very tanned Gleason.
The Jackie Gleason Show delivered, Ralph Kramden, Gleason’s most indelible and legendary creation, as well as an unforgettable gallery of characters he himself created and fine-tuned. Most memorably, Gleason and Art Carney revived their Honeymooners roles, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean added as the new Alice and Trixie, all presented in glorious color for the first time.
So cue the travelin’ music and heed the big man’s message before he glides offstage: “And awaaay we go!”