Memories of Lena
“Like many youngsters growing up in the mid-1970s I watched ‘Sesame Street.’ In addition to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, ‘Sesame Street’ provided me with my first glimpse of the likes of Stevie Wonder, Richie Havens, Paul Simon and Madeline Kahn amongst many, many others. And then there was Lena Horne.
“Although Horne had four decades of show business under her belt the first thing I think of when I hear her name are those appearances on Sesame Street. …
“First of all there was her ageless beauty. One look at her face and you would never forget those striking features. Then there was that voice. She could sing anything and make it mean something including the alphabet.
“But perhaps what came across most strongly was her warmth. It radiated at its brightest when she helped Grover overcome his shyness through song. Well, it worked. Perhaps it worked too well. Whatever tendencies towards reticence Grover might have had were certainly gone by the height of the Disco era.”
- Aaron Goldstein, writing on “Memories of Lena Horne: The Calm After Stormy Weather,” on May 10 at the American Spectator
Around the Duke
“More than half a century after the Civil War, the most famous night club in New York was a mock plantation. The bandstand was done up as a white-columned mansion, the backdrop painted with cotton bushes and slave quarters. And the racial fantasy extended well beyond decor: whites who came to Harlem to be entertained were not to be discomfited by the presence of non-entertaining Negroes. …
“Ironically, it was the Cotton Club that allowed [Duke] Ellington to expand his talents, by employing him to arrange and compose for a variety of dancers, singers, miscellaneous acts, entr’actes, and theatrical revues.
“His most extraordinary talent, however, may have been for making the best of tainted opportunities. For the big revues, with their plots about black savages and threatened maidens, he devised music of sophistication and cheekily exotic allure, under such titles as ‘Jungle Blues,’ ‘Jungle Night in Harlem,’ and - sinister little masterpiece - ‘The Mooche.’ But even before the band sounded a note it delivered a statement: impeccably dressed in matching tuxedos and boutonnieres, its members were of a class with the biggest swells in the room.”
- Claudia Roth Pierpont, writing on “Black, Brown, and Beige: Duke Ellington’s music and race in America,” in the May 17 issue of the New Yorker
Return of Sue Ann
“What the heck is it with Betty White? Her agent is logging a lot of overtime lately (all while shrieking ‘Honey, I Blew Up the Commission Check’). But who is writing her material - Andrew Dice Clay? Many parts of White’s recent hosting gig on Saturday Night Live could only be described as demeaning and vulgar. …
“Betty White is a TV trailblazer and icon - popular actress on the groundbreaking Mary Tyler Moore Show and an hysterical off-beat widow on The Golden Girls. Her work earned numerous Emmy Awards, the first coming in 1952 for a comedy White starred at her local TV station - a long and admirable career to say the least! Now, this Golden Girl has entered the Twilight Zone.”
- Jason Killian Meath, writing on “Betty White on ‘SNL’: Where’d My Legacy Go?” on May 11 at the Andrew Breitbart blog Big Hollywood
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