Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Vanessa Rubin

Vanessa Rubin is a jazz singer from Cleveland, Ohio.

Renowned for her seasoned vocals and her penchant for hard-driving swing tunes, Ms. Rubin has issued eight albums, the most one being Full Circle, a 2013 collaboration with saxophonist Don Braden.

Her other albums include 1993's Pastiche, 1999's Language of Love (which features covers of "Love For Sale" and "Nice 'n' Easy"), and a 1994 tribute to Carmen McRae, I'm Glad There Is You.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Suzi Quatro

I think it goes without saying that Suzi Quatro is the sexiest bass player in all of rock - though if you want to suggest Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go's, be my guest. :-D 

The Detroit-born Ms. Quatro had to go to England to make her mark in seventies rock, and there she was a leading figure in the glam scene, coming up with such British hits as 1973's "Can the Can," 1974's "Devil Gate Drive" (her signature song), and the provocatively titled "Your Mamma Won't Like Me," from 1975. Her sex appeal and her hell-raising attitude were daring for their time, and she paved the way for strong women in rock.

She parlayed her fondness for the early rock and roll of the fifties into a recurring guest role on the American TV series "Happy Days" as rock singer Leather Tuscadero, and as a result she got her first hit single in her native country - "Stumblin' In," a duet with British rock singer Chris Norman, which reached number four on the Billboard charts in 1979. In the twenty-first century, she has hosted oldies shows on BBC Radio 2.

The journalist Tom Hibbert summed her up best: "Suzi Quatro, with her tomboy sneers, her bass guitar and her stompingly persuasive teen-tunes, had at least laid down a challenge to the male-dominated rock orthodoxy."

Fun fact: Actress Sherilyn Fenn is Suzi Quatro's niece.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Kellie Pickler

Kellie Pickler is another happy discovery from a TV talent show.

The North Carolina-born country singer was a contestant on the 2006 edition of "American Idol," but she only placed sixth.  That, however, was enough to get the attention of a record label, which signed her later that year.

Her single "Red High Heels" was a breakthrough moment for Ms. Pickler, and it led to other country hits such as "Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind" and "Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You."  Her four albums to date - Small Town Girl, Kellie Pickler, 100 Proof, and The Woman I Am - have all made the top five of the Billboard country album chart.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Beth Orton

Beth Orton is a British singer-songwriter whose blend of folk and electronic music has been called "folktronica."

Originally from Norfolk, Ms. Orton started out as part of a duo in the early nineties called Spill, which paired her with a musician named William Orbit, whom she credits as an important inspiration.  She soon went on to a solo carer that brought her to a wide audience among indie fans.

Among her most notable albums are 1996's Trailer Park, 2002's Daybreaker, and 2006's Comfort of Stangers.  Singles include "Anywhere," "Thinking About Tomorrow," and "Conceived." Her most recent album as of this writing, Kidsticks, was released in Britain in May 2016.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Aimee Mann

If you remember the sixties, you probably weren't there. But if you remember the eighties, you probably were there long enough to hear 'Til Tuesday. That awkwardly named band had a hit with the song "Voices Carry" and featured as the lead singer a female bass player. Her name was Aimee Mann.

'Til Tuesday broke up after three albums and never could replicate the success of "Vocies Carry,," but Aimee Mann went on to have a successful solo career.  She released her first album, Whatever, in 1993 and has released seen more albums since, including 2005's The Forgotten Arm and 2012's Charmer.  Her singles  include "Pavlov's Bell,""Humpty Dumpty,"  "Going Through the Motions," and "Freeway."  Her folk-rock sound has nothing in common with the New Wave sound of 'Til Tuesday. 

Oh yeah, Aimee Mann is also marry to Sean Penn's brother Michael, himself a folk-rock singer/songwriter.  It's nice to see that at least one Penn brother married a woman with genuine musical talent!  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is a prime mover of the "neo-soul" movement in twenty-first century R&B.

Born Alicia Cook, she released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001.  Selling over twelve million copies  globally, it was too huge a success for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences not to notice. Ms. Keys won five Grammys at 2002 awards ceremony, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for "Fallin.'" She became the first American female recording artist and the second American overall to win five Grammys at one ceremony . . . after  Christoper Cross.

Unlike Christopher Cross, Alicia Keys has gone on to have once success after another, with hits such as "You Don't Know My Name," "If I Ain't Got You," "Dairy," "No One," and "Girl On Fire."

Ms. Keys has put out five studio albums.  All but one of them hit number one on the Billboard album charts. The exception, her 2009 album The Element of Freedom - her fourth - "only" made it to number two.

Fun fact: Bob Dylan devoted an entire verse to Alicia Keys in his 2006 song "Thunder On the Mountain."  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding is part of the new generation of British songstresses.

The singer-songwriter, who turns thirty in December, has had hits both in Britain in America with singles such as "Lights" and " Love Me Like You Do."  She credits Joni Mitchell and Björk as musical influences.

While popular with record buyers, Ms. Goulding also has gotten good reviews from the press.  One critic praised her for her "gorgeous high heart-tugging vocals."

Her most recent album as of this writing, Delirium, was released in November 2015. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Shawn Colvin

Shawn Colvin was one of the premier names in the female singer-songwriter movement of the late 1980's. Unfortunately, she debuted at right about the same time that movement began to lose steam on the charts.

You may have heard "Diamond In the Rough," from her 1989 debut album Steady On, and her singles "Round of Blues" and "I Don't Know Why" from her 1992 follow-up LP Fat City, on the piped-in music system in your local supermarket, but none of these singles actually charted, and these LPs didn't do much better on the Billboard album charts.

The South Dakota-born Ms. Colvin still became a favorite among the folk-rock crowd, and in 1997 her persistence paid of when she reached number seven on the Billboard singles chart with "Sunny Came Home," about a young woman who burns down her house to escape her past, from her LP A Few Small Repairs. She won the 1998 Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.  When she was about to receive one of those awards, however, a rapper (not Kanye West) interrupted her to make a self-promotional statement.  

Ms. Colvin was unfazed, having gone on to make more records.  Recent songs of hers include "Fill Me Up" and "All Fall Down."  She has recently been working with Steve Earle. 

Fun fact:  Shawn Colvin sang backing vocals on Suzanne Vega's 1987 surprise hit "Luka."  Ms. Vega returned the favor by singing backing vocals on "Diamond In the Rough." 

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Beauty of Song, Part Three: Adele

Do you really have to tell you who this is?

She's only the female pop singer who's had an album - 21, her second - at the top of the charts longer than any female performer in her native Great Britain or in the United States, and she's also the first female performer to see three of her singles get into the  Billboard Top Ten simultaneously.

Adele Adkins has won the hearts of many a listener with her soul-inspired pop reflecting a style that pays respect to musical tradition and doesn't jive the listener.  Her hits are numerous: "Chasing Pavements" (British English for "following sidewalks"), "Rolling In the Deep," "Rumour Has It," and pne of her most recent, "Hello."  

Critic Jon Pareles summed Adele up best when he said that she "can seethe, sob, rasp, swoop, lilt and belt, in ways that draw more attention to the song than to the singer,."

And we hope she does so for a long, long time. :-)

New Series: The Beauty of Song, Part Three!

Would you believe it's been six years since I last devoted a month to beautiful women in music?  The last series was devoted only to British female musical artist on top of that.

After two series on women in music and a separate series for female recording artists from the U.K. - done in part to compensate for the lack of a British presence in the previous two - I am now dong a third series devoted to women in popular music that has women from both Britain and America.  No Canadians this time and in the first two , though that's not by design;  the ten women I've chosen for this series were the first ten women I could think of that I haven't featured yet.

Enough of this merry banter.  Back soon for the first honoree in my music series! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect, Bonus Post: Sheila Johnson, U.S. Vogue, 1981

Before I wrap it up for June, I thought I'd get one more retrospective post in, and for a top model who's worth the extra attention. :-)

Easily one of the most ubiquitous models of the 1980s, Sheila Johnson has a portfolio that would take a whole separate blog for me to chronicle.  I'm happy to revisit her, though, with three particular pictures taken at the height of her career.  All of them are from issues the U.S. edition of Vogue, and from the the same year, 1981.

The photo at the top of this post, taken by Arthur Elgort, shows Ms. Johnson looking very purposeful in a fashion editorial from Vogue's February 1981 issue, titeld "More Contrast, More Choice, More Chance To Be Yourself." And she certainly strikes a unique pose.

The closeup photo immediately above this text is a picture from the May 1981 issue of Vogue, specifically from an editorial for perfume.  The editorial also shows how Ms. Johnson demonstrates the right look for the ideal perfume to go with - "a pretty softness about makeup and hair, skin-showing clothes, eye-catching accessories . . . "  With her own naturally sweet face, it's a look she demonstrates effortlessly, though the earrings are a nice touch.  The photo is by Richard Avedon.

And just as Sheila Johnson could look soft and alluring in a color closeup, she could look professional and purposeful in black and white, as in this additional Arthur Elgort photo for an editorial on the "A.M. Casual;" look, in U.S. Vogue's August 1981 issue.  

It's her versatility that's one of the things we love her for. :-)

She's a very special model, a very special woman, and very special way to close out the month of June. I'll be back here very soon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect: More Joan Severance!

I couldn't resist one more look (or two more looks, as the case may be, considering there are two  photos here) at Joan Severance, one of those models from the 1980s who could turn any man's knees into jelly.

Certainly this pose from 1983, featured in the Italian edition of Vogue, can!

Perhaps the sweetest pose she's ever struck is right here, in an ad for Revlon's line of Blonde cosmetics line.

Her lipstick and nail polish are both a pale yellow, hence the name of the products.  Blond makeup?  A curious idea, but Joan Severance can make anything look good. :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect: Joan Severance for Dior

Did Joan Severance always look stunning back in the eighties? 

You tell me! :-D

I'd like to say that she looks exquisite in this 1984 photo from Dior, but that would be a gross - a very gross - understatement. :-) 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect: Beverly Lee, Yesterday and Today

This photo from the portfolio of model Beverly Lee may be the most exquisite photo of her that I've ever featured here.

The winter ensemble she sports in this picture leaves you staring directly at her face, and it helps you appreciate her captivating eyes and her sweet, gentle expression.

She was always good at projecting such sweetness, with a touch of seduction at times, as evidenced by the 1978 photo below.

She still has that same captivating look today, in 2016, as the picture below indicates.  I took this photo of her at the same party where I met and photographed Anne Bezamat.  Yes, I met Beverly Lee too . . . and the experience, quite frankly, floored me. :-)

A former Ford client, Ms. Lee remains a legend thanks to her time as designer Hubert de Givenchy's muse. :-) 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect: Anne Bezamat, 2016

Attentive readers of this blog should be aware that I go to parties for people in the fashion and modeling business, thanks largely to my involvement in preserving the work of some of the most prestigious models of my time on this blog.   It was at such a party in May 2016 that I met one particular model I'd wanted to meet for ages - France's Anne Bezamat, who currently lives in New York.

As I explained in an essay published on my regular blog,  Anne Bezamat, though not as big a household name in the 1980s as models such as Kim Alexis or Carol Alt, was a woman I found so incredibly gorgeous that, while trying to write poetry in college,  I gazed at her picture and finished a romantic poem I'd been unable to complete.  So, you could say that, for that one moment, she was my muse.

She's a very sweet and exuberant woman, and that should be obvious beyond a doubt in this candid photo of her which . . . I took with my digital camera. 

See what I mean? :-D :-)

I mentioned in an earlier post devoted to Anne Bezamat that she became a jewelry designer after she left modeling.  Sadly, she no longer designs jewelry.  She does, however, interview cultural figures for a television show that airs outside the U.S.  

Here's a brief reel of her TV work from her YouTube page. :-)


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect: Laura Alvarez

A few more retrospectives before I go into a special series for July . . . starting with this picture of Venezuelan model Laura Alvarez.

She's really rocking it here! :-D

Laura Alvarez was one of the earliest top models from Latin America, having primarily been active in the 1970s.   This is the fourth photo of her that I've featured on this blog.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Beauty of Retrospect, Special Post: Catherine Roberts for Chico's!

A top model of the late seventies and early eighties, Catherine Roberts - a regular subject on this blog - remains on top, continuing to model for various clients, including Chico's, a Florida-based retail women's clothing chain.

As always, Catherine Roberts projects a stylish, confident pose in whatever style of clothes she models.  

All three of these photos, by the way, are from the Chico's online catalog; all of them were taken in 2016.  And there are more I hope to show you in the hopefully not-so-distant future.

In the meantime, here she is modeling jewelry. :-D 

Ms. Roberts is not the only celebrated model appearing for Chico's.  Karen Alexander is among the lovely ladies modeling the company's 2016 collection as well.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Latest Numbers

I have now posted pictures of 978 different women, with only 22 to go before I reach the milestone of one thousand women in concert with this blog's tenth anniversary.  And don't ask me who the one thousandth woman will be because I haven't decided yet.  I'm leaning toward a final decision, but I won't tell you whom I'm considering . . . except to say that it will be someone far down the alphabet.  So it won't be someone whose last name begins with the letter "A."  The woman I choose will end an A-Z series beginning later this summer.

As for July, I'm devoting that month to more women in music.  For the rest of June, I'm going to take some looks back at women I've featured before, with previously unused photos.  The first woman I look back on though, will be represented with literally new pictures.

Stay tuned to see whom I'm talking about. :-)    

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fashion model Grace Yu

Grace Yu grew up poor in Hong Kong and probably never dreamed of becoming a fashion model when she entered a local beauty pageant at her sister's urging.  

She went on to become not only one of the top models of the seventies the first Asian spokesmodel for Christian Dior.  Her tall stature helped her literally stand out in the modeling world.

In 2009, Grace Yu waxed philosophical about her success. "I believe in fate," she said. "If you’re destined to have something, you’ll have it. And if not, no matter how hard you try, you won’t get it."

Friday, June 17, 2016

TV actress Jadyn Wong

Jadyn Wong is best known for a TV character that proves that even outcasts can be in. :-)

The Canadian-born actress plays Happy Quinn on the CBS drama "Scorpion," about a group of misfits at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security led by a computer expert named Walter O'Brien; they assess high-tech threats against America.  Happy is a mechanical engineer whose demons prevent her from living up to her name.

"Scorpion" has been renewed for a third season as of this posting, so you'll be seeing more of Jadyn Wong going forward. :-) 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Actress/singer Léonie Thoms

Léonie Thoms is a young musical performer in Germany.

Born in 1989 in Augsburg, Léonie Thoms is an alumna of the Performing Arts Academy in Vienna, and the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. She's appeared in German musical productions A Man Walks Through the Wall in Essen and in The Witches of Eastwick, the latter based on the John Updike novel, at the Musiktheater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen.

 Could we be seeing a future international star on Broadway?  Maybe! :-)   

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Model Tara Shannon

With her auburn hair and her light complexion, Tara Shannon brought a cool Irish-American look to modeling in the 1980s. No doubt that she was the dream girl of a lot of Irish Catholic schoolboys back in the day.

Besides modeling for designers like Valentino (as in the photo from 1983 above) and Calvin Klein, she also appeared on covers of Vogue and Elle, among others.  But she's  probably best known as an MTV goddess.  She appeared in the promotional videos for the Cars' single "Tonight She Comes" and Huey Lewis and the News' "Doing It All For My Baby."  Yes, she was the "bride of Frankenstein" scared out of her wits by Frankenstein's monster after he turned into . . . Huey Lewis. :-D 

Tara Shannon overcame a tough childhood to make it in the modeling world, and she made a name for herself portraying different types of women in the many assignments she did.  Called the "woman of a thousand faces," her own face was indeed one of numerous expressions.  But she was still that same Irish rose that got several of us guys back in the 1980s - especially those of us who watched a lot of MTV - to fall in love with her in the first place.

And we did our best to give her love that lasts forever. ;-) 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Model Andrea Ross

Andrea Ross is a model from the 1980s.

She worked in Paris and was represented there by the Karins agency before relocating to New York and working through the Wilhelmina and, later, the HV agencies.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Actress Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley got the breakout movie role of a life time - any actress's lifetime - when she got cast in the first movie of the third trilogy (i.e., Episode VII) of Star Wars.

In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she plays Rey, a scavenger who finds herself in the latest civil war in the galaxy far, far away from our own, pitting the First Oder hoping to restore the Empire against the Resistance fighting to keep the New Republic from collapsing.  Rey goes from being a small-time player on the fringe of the galaxy to being a warrior heroine for the Resistance who has begun a journey of finding herself.

That will come in Episode VIII.

The British-born-and-raised Ms. Ridley has had small roles in movies before but this movie ought to propel her toward a long and fruitful career,  May the Force be with you, Daisy! :-)   

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Actress Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore is one of the most beloved television actresses in American history. She started out as a a dancer, and her first big role was in a television commercial for Hotpoint appliances in the 1950s, but she soon catapulted to stardom with her spunk and charm.

Catching the eye of the legendary Carl Reiner, she got cast as Laura Petrie in "The Dick Van Dyke Show," one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s.

But it was her own show of the 1970s, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," that solidified her own legend. She played Mary Richards, a TV news producer and a single woman dealing with idiosyncratic coworkers and a complicated but independent personal life.  Along with Elton John records, it's the best reason to to be nostalgic for the seventies. :-) 

In both shows, she was the woman every woman wanted to befriend and every man wanted to marry. As America's sweetheart, she stunned people in her first big dramatic movie, the 1980 film Ordinary People, about a distant upper-middle-class suburban mom dealing with family tragedy.  (She had also appeared as a nun in one of Elvis Presley's last movies, the punningly - and awfully- titled A Change of Habit.)

Now, as Mary Tyler Moore approaches the age of eighty in December 2016, she has an incredible career to look back on.  We should declare her a national treasure and leave it at that.    

Fun fact:  Mary Tyler Moore doesn't go by her full name out of conceit.  When she first registered for Actors' Equity, another actress named Mary Moore had beaten her to it.  Hence the inclusion of her middle name on her own Actors' Equity card. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Actress Helen Mirren

Is Helen Mirren, pictured below in the late 1960s, one of the greatest actresses of our time?

Yes, when you consider what a journeywoman actress she's been, having done cinematic versions of plays by Strindberg (Miss Julie, in the title role, in 1972) and Shakespeare (Hamlet, as Ophelia and Gertrude, in 1976), as well as movies that are little noted nor long remembered (the last Peter Sellers movie, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and that less said about that, the better).  Her best years as an actress, however, have been later in life.

She's played both English queens named Elizabeth (in Elizabeth I and, as Elizabeth II, The Queen), and she reprised her portrayal of Britain's current monarch on stage for The Audience. In fact, many of her roles have been historical figures - she's played philosopher Ayn Rand in The Passion of Ayn Rand, she's played Austrian Jewish refugee Maria Altmann (who took on the Austrian government to reclaim priceless paintings owned by her family and stolen by the Nazis . . .and won) in Woman In Gold, and she appeared as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in Trumbo (about a blacklisted screenwriter).  But she's also done lighthearted movies, like Calendar Girls, about middle-aged women in Britain who make a calendar with nude photos of themselves for charity.  And much more.

Born Helen Mirinoff to an English mother and to a Russian father whose own father was a Russian diplomat caught in London after the czar was overthrown (her father had the family name anglicized), she began her career with the National Youth Theatre in 1965, which led to her joining the Royal Shakespeare Company a year later.  She would work with different theater companies and eventually appear on Broadway in the U.S., in addition to her film work.  Though she's done a lot of Shakespeare, her Russian heritage would come in handy, not just for Russian plays like Ivan Turgenev's A Month In the Country but for roles such as a Soviet cosmonaut in 2010, the 1984 sequel to 2001 (and who could have known in 1984 that there would be no Soviet Union in the twenty-first century?)    

Fun fact: Helen Mirren is married to film director Taylor Hackford.  You know An Officer and a Gentleman?  Chuck Berry: Hail Hail Rock and Roll?  Him.         

Friday, May 27, 2016

Actress Brie Larson

Brie Larson was the breakout movie star of 2015.

She starred in Room, a drama about Joy Newsome, a kidnapped woman who is kept in shed and bears a child fathered by her abductor.  Joy protects the boy psychologically by letting him believe that their situation is normal, even as she plots their escape.   

Ms. Larson had her first role at the age of ten, in the 1999 movie Special Delivery, and she had small roles in TV shows and in movies - including her role as Kim Townsend in Trainwreck - before Room, which got her the 2016 Best Actress Oscar. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Television actress Erinn Hayes

Erinn Hayes is an actress who dabbled in broadcast television but has become a star on basic cable.

She played a chef on Fox's "Kitchen Confidential" and had a part on CBS's "Worst Week," but neither show was a success.  She hit the jackpot, though, as Dr. Lola Spratt on "Childrens Hospital," a series parodying medical dramas, starring and created by "Daily Show" alumnus Rob Corddry.  The show finished its seventh and final season on the Adult Swim channel in April 2016; it premiered on that channel in July 2010 after having originally aired on the Web for a couple of years.

Fun fact:  Erinn Hayes is in a Notting Hill-type marriage.  Her husband Jack is not in show business; he's a construction supervisor.  They have two daughters.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Canadian model/actress Shalom Harlow

Shalom Harlow is a model who has been active since she left high school.

The Canadian-born-and raised Ms. Harlow was discovered at a Toronto performance of the Cure, one of those bands you might associate with the sort of alternative values that don't go with haute couture. :-D  But that didn't matter, as Ms. Harlow turned out to have the perfect look. :-) 

How perfect?  Well, she's modeled for  Jones New York, Tiffany, Nautica, and Chloé, among others, and she co-hosted MTV's "House of Style" with another high-profile model, Amber Valletta.

She's also gotten into acting, having appeared in movies such as Vanilla Sky, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Melinda and Melinda.