What We Want for Christmas

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From Picture Week, December 20, 1955.

What We Want for Christmas… by 20 Celebrities

With the visit from the cherubic old gent at the left only two weeks away, Picture Week decided to pay a holiday call on 20 of the celebrities who have graced its pages during the past year. Each of the 20 was asked one question: “What would you like for Christmas?” The answers follow, with a prefatory note to anxious fan clubs: the suggested sources for these particular Christmas gifts are : local retail stores, hospitals, banks, and any diplomatic table in the world.

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Steve Allen: 48 hours on uninterrupted sleep.

Milton Caniff: A Rube-Goldberg-like couch, with a cybernetic brain machine that does all the work needed to turn out Steve Canyon. When it is finished, you kick a pedal and the money rolls out.

Walter Slezak: I want a new boat. I lost my old one in a storm.

Al Capp: I’d like my little friend, the Bald Iggle (who makes people tell the truth), to be by my side and yours this Christmas and the year ahead. I expect we’ll be needing him.

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Ed Sullivan: It’s not very original, but the only thing I’d like is world peace.

Margaret Truman: I’d like a gadget to wake me gently, open the Venetian blinds, close the window, and have a cup of steaming hot coffee at my bedside.

Bess Myerson: I’d like things to remain the same as they are for me and my family. And I hope for Peace on earth, good will toward men, because it was never needed more than today.

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Nejla Ates: I don’t know what Christmas is; they don’t have it in Turkey. I can have anything I want? A million dollars and I’ll use it to buy the Majestic Theatre.

Hal March: . . . three and half acres of bamboo fields in Calcutta. But seriously, I’d like peace in this world; and for myself, I’d like my life to continue as it’s been for as long as it can.

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Harry Belafonte: I would like to see a definite and appreciable gain in the lot not only of the Negro professional but the Negro laborer in this country as well.

Henry Morgan: I will not tell you in a hundred words what I want for Christmas, I will tell you in three words: Surcease from travail.

Raymond Loewy: A non-fattening turkey, ten pounds of dietetic marons glace, and the address of a nearby drugstore that would not send iced coffee and cream when I order tea and lemon.

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Mr. Magoo: Mae West under the mistletoe.

Charles Atlas: My wish for Christmas is that every man in this country be healthy and strong. A strong America is a peaceful America.

Dave Garroway: I want most for Christmas a 1932 PII Rolls Royce, just because I like cars.

Robert Harrison: A good, Juicy scandal [Harrison was the publisher of Confidential].

G. David Schine: Customers at the Roney Plaza, the McAllister, the Gulf Stream, the Ambassador. I want plenty of customers for Christmas.

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Ernie Kovaks: The gift I want most for Christmas I already have, and it comes gift-wrapped all year: The greatest wife and two daughters that Santa ever handed out.

Dick Shawn: My Christmas package arrived last Tuesday – a 7-lb baby girl. But I could use a spare 2,000 dispensable diapers. I’m getting dishpan hands.

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Gwen Verdon: I’d like a miniphone – a little portable recorder that you can attach to the body. It would be invaluable for practicing accent, intonation, dialect and so forth.

When a Girl’s Beautiful

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When A Girl’s Beautiful: The Life and Career of Joi Lansing


Koper is at it again with his biography of 1950s starlet, Joi Lansing. Koper has previously written on the likes of Jayne Mansfield, Barbara Nichols, and an encyclopedia of 1950s blondes. Joi has had one book written about her previously, written by her rumored lover, Alexis Hunter. Koper hits the mark on the 1950s bombshell, showcasing a life and career that leaves one constantly thinking “What If?”


Koper begins with the usual biographic fare. We learn Joi had a rather difficult childhood with an overbearing mother and an absentee father. He traces her marriages, career, and personal life on a subject who is relatively difficult to find information on. As always, his book is full of photographs and little tidbits on her life that bring “Joi Lansing” to life. Her struggles are relatable (she always seemed to be two steps away from hitting it big, her eventual issues with botched plastic surgery). Her highs are notable, if not always memorable to audiences of today. One of the biggest bombshells (no pun intended) is Joi’s affair with Sinatra, with her agent, Bill Corcoran telling Koper, “Joi was very smart and very sweet. She was not a playgirl and I was surprised she started dating and even moved in with Frank Sinatra. She told me she couldn’t stand Sinatra drinking all night, although she said he was wonderful to her and his best attribute was that he wanted to please any girl he was having sex with, and that included just about every starlet in Hollywood.”


This shouldn’t be taken as another sleaze ball biography. Koper, as always, remains respectful of his subject. We learn Joi was not the Mormon-girl-next-door she claimed to be but liked the stories circulating so she could be perceived as a “good girl.” Koper has interviewed everyone under the sun who had even the slightest interaction with Joi, including Mamie Van Doren, Gloria Pall, Hunter, John Shupe (Joi’s cousin), Beverly Watkins (another cousin), and a host of other players in Joi’s life.


My only real issue is a story given to Koper by Hunter which details Marilyn Monroe propositioning Joi for an affair. There has never been anything that has come to light from Monroe’s estate or any other star’s to support the rumors of Marilyn dallying in lesbianism. This should not be taken as anything homophobic by me (if she was, she was) but I always prefer some sort of documentation to avoid Scotty Bowers/Darwin Porter vibes. There have also been whispers about Hunter exaggerating her relationship with Joi. Again, I am not able to comment on these besides saying Hunter has provided a handful of documents and a photo that solidifies some sort of relationship (I touched upon this in my review of Hunter’s book).


Overall, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a sneak-peak on the girl who was almost always close to stardom but never quite there. Koper’s work is some of the best in the field and I will always recommend his books to anyone who wants to find out more on 1950s blondes. Buy by clicking here.


Final Rating: 9/10


Zsa Zsa’s Never Found in New Book

Finding Zsa Zsa: The Gabors Behind the Legend by Sam Staggs promises to finally uncover the truth about the mysterious, glamorous Gabors from Hungary. Claiming to have exclusive interviews and never before seen information, one is promised the removal of the iron curtain the Gabor women hid themselves behind.

Sam Staggs has written several books before tackling the bombshells from Budapest. I am familiar with his previous work, and have long held  All About “All About Eve” in high regard.  Eve is (for the most part) properly sourced and an excellent volume for behind-the-scenes gossip most movie fans enjoy reveling in. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we’re historical voyeurs. We take delight in finding out the nitty-gritty on our favorite movies and stars. I would put the Gabors (as a unit) in my top two favorite stars. I love reading about all four of them and have lapped up the few books released here and there, including their own tomes. Knowing Staggs from his previous work, I looked forward to seeing him delve deep into the most mysterious family in Hollywood.

Staggs opens his book with major events affecting the Gabors through the 1950s. They’re pretty well-known for Gabor aficionados but I understand that very few people who will read Staggs’ book are going to be deep in the fandom. The next two chapters deal primarily with Jolie and her recollections of raising three of the most famous women of the Golden Era. The rest of the book simply traces the family until their deaths, with a timeline concocted via their scandals. The book is basic, but, again, I wasn’t expecting a scholarly study on the family. As the title alludes, Zsa Zsa is the primary focus – the rest of the Gabors are more like footnotes in Zsa Zsa’s life. Unfortunately, we’re not really getting anything new. One of the biggest “mysteries” presented in the book is the Gabors’ real ages. Fact checks on the Gabors’ ages were accomplished years ago, with Zsa Zsa’s real age being paraded around once she was diagnosed with dementia. It was (again) confirmed when her estate auction transpired in April of 2018.

Staggs’ viewpoint is rather confounding. Does he like them? Does he dislike them? I believe he actually does hold some affection for the marvelous Hungarians, and I will be the first person to admit an author does need to remain as unbiased as possible, but the bitchery throughout the book is jarring. Look – I get it… Staggs wants this book to come across like the reader is having a proper dish-fest with the author but comparing Zsa Zsa to an old drunk or claiming that she was menopausal by 38 tends to become grating. These slight digs pepper the book like the Gabor’s paprika-d their chicken: they’re overabundant; but, unlike the satisfying ending you receive from the Gabors’ paprika-caked anything, you’re likely to just feel a burn all the way through.

I’m going to be blunt. The sourcing isn’t here for this book. There are no end notes or footnotes because the author apparently felt they were unnecessary even though he read “thousands” of papers and printed memorabilia related to the family. He also claims to have hours of interviews with Francesca Hilton (Zsa Zsa’s daughter and the only direct descendant of the sisters), and access to her unpublished memoir, but nothing is sourced besides a one sentence mention about contacting her in 2010 and (apparently?) having contact with her until her passing in 2015. When did these interviews take place? How? Is there any documentation? We don’t know. None of this is sourced. Anthony Turtu, author of  Gaborabilia, is mentioned throughout the book as well. Again, when did these interviews take place? Again, we don’t know. Staggs seems to have gleamed some of his documented evidence from Turtu. Most of the information in this book stems directly from the Gabors’ various memoirs. Staggs admits as much in his “notes” section (which also has a painfully self-serving review of every previously printed book on the Gabors and why this material sucks – yet is used throughout the book). The book also houses a fair amount of tittle-tattle with no supporting evidence such as Eric Drimmer (Eva’s first husband) being a spy (huh?) or the author’s convoluted thought process about why Zsa Zsa went to the ’59 Khrushchev luncheon when his answer was painfully obvious for anyone with a remote knowledge of mid-20th-century world history. Eva is also plagued by rumors regarding her sexuality, which have never been supported (if she was a lesbian, great, but there has to be some evidence – not hearsay from undocumented Francesca interviews).

There are a couple rare gems in the book, such as a photo of Zsa Zsa after placing in the Miss Hungary contest, but the supposed footage of the contest (which has never been seen by previous authors) is written off as “in a Hungarian library.” Most researchers attempt to help their colleagues by properly sourcing their finds. We want people to use our work as a stepping stone to further the narrative. Staggs has set the narrative back. I know of at least one book in the works on Zsa Zsa as well as eternally hoping Turtu releases a book as well. Hold out for the confirmed project. If you need a Gabor fix now, buy their memoirs (Zsa Zsa: 3, Eva: 1, and Jolie: 2 (one is a cookbook), double check their ages on Wikipedia, and have fun.

Final Rating: 1/5

Three Really Quick Tips for Grauman’s (and a map)


Map and legend from 1992’s Hollywood At Your Feet

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As usual, I visited Grauman’s when I went out to Los Angeles this week. While I wish that TCL (it’ll always be Grauman’s to me) Chinese Theatre sold an updated map, this one will do. Here’s a quick guide to the world famous theatre.

First off, Grauman’s is always packed unless you’re going at 10 pm.

Second, Grauman’s does not move or remove their prints. The map above lines up exactly with what is seen there today. Some prints have been cut down, such as Cantiflas’, in order to make more room. If a print is removed it is for one of two reasons: it needs to be restored or it was temporary *side-eyes Herbie*.

Third, people are rude and will not get out of your way. People tend to flock around the prints of modern people (Michael Jackson is a big one right now). Because of this, certain areas are less congested (especially the center right and left).

P.S. Some stars are in really poor condition. I am hoping that they are fixed:


Who Was Virginia Rappe?

Virginia Rappe was a woman many would not know of today but in 1921 she was headline news: she had allegedly been killed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. But who was Virginia to the public before her death made headlines? The Day the Laughter Stopped by David Yallop dedicated a little under a page to a biography on Virginia:


Room 1912 pays Virginia the respect she deserves with an entire chapter dedicated to Virginia’s life, a debunking of the supposed venereal disease that Yallop alleged, as well as Andy Edmonds’ claims in Frame Up that Virginia was trying to blackmail Arbuckle for abortion money. The abortion story comes from Josephine (Roth) Rafferty, who testified that Virginia had come to her for four abortions, and a birth, starting in 1908 and ending in 1910. I personally cannot find anything that either proves or disproves Rafferty’s claims but it should be noted that Rafferty’s story changed midway through her testimony – Virginia went from having five pregnancies to four. What became of the child who was supposedly birthed is unclear.

Virginia Rappe was actually born Virginia Caroline Rapp on July 7th, 1891, to Mabel Rapp, who was 17 or 18, in Chicago. Her father is unknown. Mabel was a part time chorus girl and model (and theorized to have been a prostitute or escort) who made headlines at least three times in Chicago papers. The first time as on December 23, 1892 when Mabel was locked in the Veteran’s Protective Association and Ebert’s restaurant building by a janitor after she refused to walk through a saloon.

The second time Mabel made the papers was after she had been shot by Eva Bennett after attempting to speak to Joseph Culbertson in 1893. The full story follows:

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Finally, on March 8, 1898, Mabel was accused of whipping a dressmaker and owing her money along with an associate. Again, the story follows:


To say that Virginia’s life would have been a whirlwind during her early years is an understatement. By 1902, Mabel had passed away and Virginia moved back to Chicago to live with a woman she assumed was her grandmother, named Caroline Rapp, but Merritt insists Caroline was of no relation in Room 1219. It’s possible that Caroline, who was aided in the rearing of the child by a former friend of Mabel’s named Kate Hardebeck, had been an employer of Mabel or simply someone who had adopted Mabel in everything but name. Regardless, Virginia began to earn her keep by 1907, when she changed the spelling of her last name from “Rapp” to “Rappe” (pronounced Rap-pay) and embarked on a modeling career. In 1908, Virginia, like her mother before her, made the pages of the Chicago Tribune albeit for reasons more positive than attempted kidnapping, being shot, and passing bad checks.


Virginia would continue to model and penned a column in 1913, advising women to work outside of the jobs typically reserved for them, like becoming a stenographer. She also made news for the outfits she wore, with vivid descriptions such as the following, both from 1913:

In 1914, Virginia made headlines when she danced in her nightgown on a passenger ship:


In 1915, Virginia became more of a household name when she started designing her own clothes. Virginia had a special affinity for millinery:

Virginia also announced her engagement to an Argentinian diplomat, Alberto M. D’Alakine, on July 28th, 1915, but the engagement was over by September of that year.

From 1916-1919, Virginia’s relationship with the public began to decline a bit. She would still model but her own designs weren’t featured like they had been before. In 1917, she made a picture with Metro entitled Paradise Garden. It was announced in 1918 that she had signed with Henry Lehrman, whom she would eventually embark on a romantic relationship with and who would be buried next to Virginia when he died nearly twenty years after her.

Contrary to what Yallop alleges, Virginia hadn’t been out of work for nearly two years. Her first movie with Lehrman, Twilight Baby had a gradual release between 1918 and 1920. Virginia took a tour of the US and Canada during this time starting in 1919. Whatever her reason for taking the trip is unclear but she was praised as being a fine comedian in Twilight Baby. In December of 1920, Lehrman released The Punch of the Irish which once again received praise from critics for Virginia’s performance. A popular photo run after her passing was this one, which was from the movie:


Whatever happened to Rappe over the course of Labor Day weekend in 1921 is a mystery but her death shouldn’t be her legacy. She was a fashion innovator and gifted comedian who was sadly taken from us too soon.