Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I did some filming today for a new documentary. It will honor 80 years of sound pictures

This is me looking as a historian should look...historical!

This is my get up for the documentary. It will be really nice. I am very proud to be a small part of it. The history of motion pictures and movies with sound. This is being done by Time Warner.
Of course, where I come from in it's history is the early part of it... Such as Muybridge, Dickson, and Edison. But I was able to add quite a few good quotes including the closer for the first part of the show...

It will be on sale later this year in a box set with the re-release of Warner Brothers 1927 Vitaphone hit, "The Jazz Singer". It may also be playing on Turner Movie Classics as well. Well I will let you know when it comes out. I have done a number of programs for TV..But this was quite a bit more extensive.

There may be more to the story if we can make it happen.. We may be able to record someone special for this program on cylinder and match it with film as they did in the old days...If it happens I will talk about it...But since it would happen in Hollywood, California..It seems there may have to be some talks done to see if it will happen at costs, timing, personal...etc.

But it was a great day for me today and I look forward to the program when it comes out later this year.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Maude Adams 1872-1953....A great actress...The first Peter Pan

An original playbill from a performance of Peter Pan in 1907Maude Adams in a photo from that program

This is a short introduction to Maude Adams. I will go into much more detail in a later posting.
She was known for her beauty, charm and theatrical gifts.

She was promoted by Charles Frohman who saw the great appeal she had. She toured the country in many plays.She was a major star..and was loved by so many.

She was very popular...Many a man swooned as she performed...

Charles Frohman was killed on the Lusitania in May of 1915...Oddly his last words were from Peter Pan..Basically saying that death is the greatest adventure of life. She retired after his death and never really performed again.

She worked with General Electric for a while in designing better theatrical lighting systems.
Later, she headed the drama department at Stephens College in Missouri from 1937 to 1943, becoming well known as an inspiring teacher in the arts of acting.

She died, aged 80, at her summer home, Caddam Hill, in Tannersville, New York and is interred in the cemetery of Cenacle Convent, Lake Ronkonkoma, New York.

The character of Elise McKenna in Richard Matheson's 1975 novel Bid Time Return and its 1980 film adaptation "Somewhere in Time", in which the character was played by Jane Seymour, was based upon her.

Appearances on Broadway
Lord Chumley - 1888
A Midnight Belle - 1889
Men and Women - 1890
The Masked Ball - 1892
The Butterflies - 1894
The Imprudent Young Couple - 1895
Christopher, Jr. - 1895
Rosemary - 1896
The Little Minister - 1897
L'Aiglon - 1900
Quality Street - 1901
The Pretty Sister of Jose - 1903
The Little Minister - 1904
'Op o' Me Thumb - 1905
Peter Pan – 1905, 1906, 1912, 1915
Quality Street - 1908
The Jesters - 1908
The-Merry-Go-Round - 1908
What Every Woman Knows - 1908
Chantecler - 1911
The Little Minister - 1916
A Kiss for Cinderella - 1916

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Funeral address before Congress on Lafayette..(1757-1834)..The original papers from Congress 1835......The first of only 2 honorary Americans

These are the rare original papers from that address printed by the House of Representatives in 1835.
These I acquired a number of years ago. They are a proud part of my personal library.

The amazing history of Adams is one that is unlike almost any other American. He was by far the greatest, the smartest, and perhaps the best tutored President, Congressman, Ambassador, Secretary of State, Peace commissioner...

His teachers were Benj. Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and his father John Adams.. He knew all the heads of state throughout Europe. He was already his fathers personal secretary at the tender age of 10.
He was in France in the age of Voltaire ...And was given tours through France by Benj. Franklin....He spoke and read 7 languages fluently...He was a dear friend to Lafayette...And no one on earth at the time was better suited to speak on the merits of that great Frenchman, than the one of America's greatest..John Quincy Adams

Lafayette was a great French soldier who served under George Washington, A friend of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and so many others. He returned to the United States for the last time in 1824. He visited an aged Thomas Jefferson, visited Washington's grave, spoke before Congress, was awarded the title of Honorary American.

He finally traveled to Quincy to see the great sage John Adams. He spent quite a bit of time in the area with John Adams and John Quincy Adams. He was helped around by Joshua Quincy, who was the son of the Mayor of Boston, Mass, he would live into the 1880's and write much on this period of time.

When spending time with John Adams the old patriots talked for a long time. After it was all over John Adams said "Lafayette is not like the Lafayette I used to know"...When Lafayette left the old house at Quincy he remarked that "John Adams is not like the John Adams I used to know"...They were not the same Adams was almost 89 years of age and Lafayette was near 70....

He laid the corner stone for the Bunker Hill monument in 1824...John Adams, too ill to make the journey could hear the cannons from Bunker Hill as his son John Quincy had near 50 years earlier as he stood with his mother and watched the battle.

When it was all over Lafayette requested that a large case of American earth be sent to him. So his grave would be filled with American soil. He was paid by Congress for his services in the American Revolution to the amount of $200.000.

When he died in 1834, his friend John Quincy Adams spoke before Congress. The address was delivered before both houses of Congress on December 31, 1834.

The man who spoke had watched the battle of Bunker Hill as a boy in 1775. Now he spoke as the last of the great revolutionaries was remembered.

I always remember the great line said by General Pershing's aide, Charles E. Stanton. Who said during World War One as he walked on shore from the first troopship in 1917 to help France..

"Lafayette we are here"....Better words have never been said.

Meeting Yogi Berra in 2001 and recording him at the Yogi Berra Museum at Monclair University

Yogi Berra and I after he made some recordings

Poster from an event I set up at Barnes and Nobles with Yogi Berra

Yogi signed the poster on the face of the book where he usually signed...This is a really special item, that brings back memories of that event. He is a really cool guy,

I have met Yogi Berra many times over the years..The first time was in the 1960's..Later in the days when I was a performer I sang for him...He would often be at the meadowland Raceway at the Pegasus Restaurant with Robert Merrill. They would often be at the racetrack with a small battery powered TV, watching the ball game!!

In later years I got to do an event with Yogi Berra at a Barns and Noble book store..That was quite an event. He even signed a poster from the event for me.

I finally recorded him in 2001 at his museum in Monclair University. He was fun and full of all the enjoyment of life that has made him a universal icon. He was fun as was his wife Carmen Berra. It was a great day at his museum.

Thank you Yogi!

A wonderful day speaking at York Prep school in New York City.

I was invited to speak at York Prep School in New York. It was a wonderful experience. The level of Educational prowess and dedication by the staff is most remarkable. It is of course a private school and does not suffer from the lack of interest and stupidity of Teachers Unions and the like. Therefore they are engaged in the complete art of teaching. I have spoken there before and every time I walk away with a renewed respect for the staff and students of that institution.

I spoke on many subjects ...All dealing with history. But there was a special moment when all of the educators involved in history came together. We started talking of the Presidency. It was amazing that everyone when asked who was the most intellectual, and most learned President..and the one who in their lifetime did the most to effect and improve this country...It was a universal agreement..John Quincy Adams.

He of course is one of my heroes...I have a few, but he truly ranks high on my list of great and noble men who walked the earth. It is rather sad today that few really know much about him...For if they did their jaws would drop in admiration and awe...for what he did.

To York Prep School...Do keep up the wonderful example of education that you provide...I envy those kids..I wish I had the chance to have gone to such a school...But at least now as an older adult I get to share in the joy of learning with the students and teachers there..

To Mike Roper who is perhaps one of the best teachers I have ever seen..I take off my hat to you...He is beloved by all of his students....He is truly an amazing man there at York Prep. I am honored to know him and call him my friend.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New York City and the Hippodrome 1905-1939 The largest theater ever in New York..

The Hippodrome which was once located on 6th Avenue and between 43rd and 44th Street in New York City

An original cover from a program at the Hippodrome in 1906

Here is the inside of the program...I bet the fountains that they speak of here were amazing...

Some remarks about the Hippodrome as it was in 1906

I have been thinking of old New York as it was a century ago...I was just reading a book lent to me by a dear friend called "Turn west on 23rd" by Robert Baral. The book brought to my mind many things I remembered of New York and also reminded me of an old scrap book I had bought in Florida in 1990...It was filled with programs and items from a rather well to do family from Chicago..Who often came to New York and saw the sites... It is a treasure trove of New York Theatrical history...This family spend a few weeks in New York in 1906. It was quite a year..Stanford White had been shot in his own building Madison Square Garden by Harry K. Thaw...All over the charms of a devilish woman called Evelyn Nesbit...But that is another story in which I will get into another time.

This family went to see the Hippodrome in its first full year of operation. It had opened in 1905 and to rave reviews. But it was just too big! It was amazing with hidden 8000 gallon water tanks that could be raised to the stage...Elephants were all over..It was truly an event!

There were the courts of the Golden Fountains...Houdini often did his shows there.....Everyone who was anyone was there...But the problem was too big and costly to run.

By 1923 it was pretty much over. The motion picture had won the hearts of the public and the age of the great show was over..It was a Sports arena for a while...But New York is a constantly evolving city...and it was torn down in 1939...Because of the economics of the time the space where the great theater once stood remained an empty lot till well into the 1950's...It was a sad end for such a noble venture.

A little historical info

The Hippodrome Theatre stood in New York City from 1905 to 1939. It was called the world's largest theatre by its builders.

The Hippodrome was built by Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy, creators of the Luna Park amusement park at Coney Island. The theatre was located on Sixth Avenue between Forty-third and Forty-fourth streets. Its auditorium seated 5,300 people and it was equipped with what was then the state of the art in theatrical technology. The theatre was acquired by The Shubert Organization in 1909.

The Hippodrome's huge running costs made it a perennial financial failure, and a series of producers tried and failed to make money from the theatre. It became a location for vaudeville productions in 1923 before being leased for budget opera performances, finally becoming a sports arena. The building was torn down in 1939, though an office building that today stands on the same site claims the name "Hippodrome."

One most unusual biography of Kaiser Wilhelm by Arthur N. Davis

I will not go into great detail on this book. But it is an interesting one and a rather fascinating read. It was written by the last person you would ever think would write a book on the Kaiser....His Dentist!

The book mixes history with repairing crowns,fillings, abscesses, and royal tooth aches. It has in it the banter that would go on between a doctor and a client.

It opens the world of the Kaiser to us better than one would get from a more scholarly book. It shows him at his weakest, when he had tooth ache. Also at his strongest, when he had a cleaning.

But also the Kaiser tells the good doctor all that is wrong and right with America, and the problems that she would face in the future. The book was written in 1918...It is most interesting to see what he had to say...But that will be in a future posting.

Till then Brush your teeth!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The ever shrinking beard of Abraham Lincoln

This is Lincoln as he was when he started his beard in Springfield, Illinois.

Lincoln in Washington right before his inauguration in 1861

Lincoln standing in a picture in 1862...with heavy beard.

This was when his beard was its heaviest in 1862

Lincoln in 1863...His beard starts to change as the White House barbers go to town on it and change it quite a bit from its original form.

Lincoln in 1864, and showing a slightly lighter beard.

The famous "crew Cut" photo of Lincoln taken in later 1864

This picture shows how much less a beard he had around the time of his assassination. Most docu-dramas show Lincoln with a heavy full beard. But as you can see that was not the case.

Abraham Lincoln in color...... This shows how little a beard was left when he was assassinated. It was more of a Goatee

I think this is a great picture of Lincoln...I do not know who colored it...But it really looks great. This was from a series of photographs taken of Lincoln in 1865. Lincoln was an amazing man...But as the story of Lincoln's assassination is often shown. It has Lincoln with a very large beard...Now as you can see by this photo taken in 1865 how little of the beard there was. It was trimmed down by the barbers at the White House till it was little more than a goatee than anything else.

I just like to see history shown right in Docu-Dramas....So take heed Directors and Producers when you show Lincoln in 1865. Show him as he really was at that time. Not like he was in 1862.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Franklin Pierce ..1804-1869..14th President of the USA...He was perhaps the most handsome of our Presidents and one of the saddest as well

Franklin Pierce

He was very stylish and dapper

Historians all seem to think he was the best looking of all our Presidents

Mrs. Pierce Another sad story of depression and despair

He was perhaps our handsomest President and I would say one of the saddest and most depressed. He seemed to be surrounded with sorrow, and also seemed to find comfort in the bottle. He had a wife who was always depressed, he lost all of his children to illness and accident. He had a bitter and sad Presidency as the country was pulling slowly apart.

His wife never got over their sons death. Their last surviving son was killed right before their eyes in a train wreck. I can understand how amazingly traumatic that can be. His wife would forever after wear mourning clothes and shun the world from her life. She made Mary Lincoln look like a positive person.

After his sad term in the White House he was not even offered a chance at a second term. He left the office saying.."After the White House, what is there to do but drink"... That is what he did.......How very sad.

He returned to New Hampshire and soon after traveled with his friend author Nathaniel Hawthorne...

His wife died in 1863 and he started to drink in heavy amounts

While traveling together Hawthorne died with Pierce. Pierce became more depressed and drank more.

He made public announcements saying that the Civil War is wrong and proclaiming himself in favor of the protection of slavery in the south. All of his friends walked away from him.

When Lincoln was assassinated there was a mob at his home and it got very ugly...There were attempts at violence..but no one was hurt.

He was greatly disliked by most of the people of his town.... He drank more and finally died in 1869.....

He was buried and it was many years before he was honored with statue in his own town....

Yes he was perhaps the most handsome of Presidents...But he was one of the most haunted of Presidents as well.....

I am reminded of a joke that was told about him when he was running for President and discussing his military career. It said...."He was the victor of many a hard fought bottle".....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Meeting and recording Larry Hagman in California in 2003

I was in California to do a talk and show. It was while I was there that the group I came to speak for had set it up for me to record Larry Hagman. He is an interesting man, who lives in a remarkable home with his wife. By the way the home was designed by his wife. It was so huge! They were very nice to me and we made a few recordings. He signed this picture for me while I was there.

His mother was Mary Martin and he of course was in many TV shows. Today many people remember him as JR from Dallas. He was also in I dream of Jeannie.

We spent some time together on at his home. We talked about the TV shows he was in and his mother. His career from its beginnings and of course the politicians. It was at this time that there was war brewing over a new Governor for California and the sitting Governor was kicked out...He had quite a bit to say about all of that......

It was an interesting experience.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The first presidential funeral in Washington D.C. ...President William Henry Harrison in 1841

On April 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison breathed his last.

It was 12:30 am ...It was near exactly one month from the time he had become President.
He was elected in 1840 running with John Tyler. They were Whigs. Tyler was more a Whig in name only. But he was from the south and it evened the ticket. It also led to one of the more colorful campaign slogans..."Tippecanoe and Tyler too".

Harrison who was a general earlier in his life was the victor in the battle against the Indian chief Tippecanoe. There after he was called "Old Tippecanoe"....If he was a great hero or not, the Whigs made him one.

He was selected by the Whigs for the reason basically that he would be a good puppet President and could be under the control of Webster, Clay and others.

He ran on the Hard cider ticket....It encouraged others to partake of hard cider and vote for the Whig candidate. They won, easily beating Martin Van Buran who was running for re-election...

Once Harrison arrived in Washington he was ambushed by tons of office seekers..On March 4th, He gave his inauguration speech..It was freezing outside, the speech was one hour and forty minutes long, Harrison was not dressed in a coat, Harrison was 68 years old, Harrison was frozen by the end of the speech. A few days later he was drenched in a terrible storm and was soaked to the bone. He started to become very ill.

Here is a detailed bit of info on Harrison's illness and death.

He took the oath of office on March 4, 1841, an extremely cold and windy day. Nevertheless, he faced the weather without his overcoat and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history. At 8,445 words, it took nearly two hours to read (even after his friend and fellow Whig, Daniel Webster, had edited it for length). He later caught a cold, which then developed into pneumonia and pleurisy. (According to the prevailing medical misconception of the times, it was believed that his illness was caused by the bad weather, when, in fact, he was likely a victim of the virus that causes the common cold.) He sought to rest in the White House, but could not find a quiet room, as he was deluged with people seeking his favor in the hope that he would appoint them to the numerous offices the president then had at his disposal.

His doctors tried everything to cure him, applying opium, castor oil, Virginia snakeweed, and even actual snakes. But the treatments only made Harrison worse and he went into delirium. He died a month later, at 12:30 a.m., on April 4, 1841, of right lower lobe pneumonia, jaundice, and overwhelming septicemia, becoming the first American president to die in office. His last words were "Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."

Now that he was dead, they had to contact the Vice President John Tyler in Virginia.

He took the oath of office, announced he was President. It is interesting that no one else thought so. He was labeled "acting President".

Every man who has assumed the office in succession as Vice President owes a lot to the John Tyler. To put it it bluntly, He had balls!!!!!
He fought everyone till he was considered President, of course many left him and he was dropped by the Whig party...But he held true to his convictions. He was the President. He won, but in doing so lost.

Now there was a dead President to deal with, and no one had any idea what to do! There had never been a death in the Presidency, nor was there any protocol. There was a lot of work to do..

The first major funeral ceremony in Washington D.C. was for William Henry Harrison, the first president to die in office.

Alexander Hunter, a Washington merchant, was commissioned to design the ceremony. He was the hero in all of this.
He had the White House draped in black ribbon and ordered a curtained and upholstered black and white carriage to carry the coffin.

He was laid out in the East Room of the White House in a special coffin that was huge! It was several coffins in one. On the top was a window where the Presidents face was visible. The coffin was placed on ice, as there was no embalming done on the body.

I would imagine the window was closed after a while.

He was first buried in the Congressional Burying Grounds, Washington D.C.; his body was moved later to North Bend, Ohio.

There was also quite an expense for the funeral ceremony.....

Harrison's funeral cost to the United States was $3,088.09, $20 of which was paid for shaving and dressing the deceased.
The rest was for the massive coffin, and the black ribbons, carriage to carry the remains, and the eventual transportation to Ohio. It was also Hunter who set up much of the events at this point.

So through it all the beginnings of a presidential funeral was started...But remember, the man who started it all was Alexander Hunter.... A name truly lost to history.