Sunday 31 January 2016

"What about giving me one (an Oscar) for playing a straight man?" Ian McKellen

The lack of diversity (i.e. concerning gender and ethnicity/skin tone) in the film industry is currently more openly discussed. Ian McKellen has joined the discussion and recently pointed out that the issue is a wider one (via). In fact, openly gay men and women have won the Oscar before coming out, not while they were out (via).
“No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance.” Ian McKellen

“If you are trying to have a career, as a black or Hispanic actor in a state – California – where white people are now the minority, and you are being judged by an Academy where the vast majority are white, male, middle-aged and old … well, perhaps that is the wrong yardstick.”
Ian McKellen

McKellen expressed sympathy with black actors and actresses who were angry that they were "being ill-treated and underestimated" (via):
“The fact that black people feel underrepresented in studio movies and big movies…well, it’s what women thought for a long time. It’s what gay people like myself still think. And it’s a legitimate complaint and the Oscars has become the focus of those worries. So I sympathize.”
Ian McKellen

His response to Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Penn having won best actor Oscars for playing gay men:
"How clever, how clever. What about giving me one for playing a straight man?" (via).

“My speech has been in two jackets … ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.’ I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.”
Ian McKellen

photographs via and via

Saturday 30 January 2016

Idris Elba's Keynote Speech to Parliament on Diversity in the Media

Thanks for such a warm welcome. I could almost feel at home… In fact we’re not far from where I grew up in East London, but as a young man, I never thought I’d come here. In fact as an older man, I never thought I’d come here. But Oona invited me to speak here today. You know what she's like, she's a bit obsessed with diversity. I told her to get out more, & stop watching TV. Thing is, when you get out more, you see there's a disconnect between the real world & TV world. People in the TV world often aren't the same as people in the real world. And there’s an even bigger gap between people who make TV, and people who watch TV. I should know, I live in the TV world. And although there's a lot of reality TV, TV hasn't caught up with reality. Change is coming, but it's taking its sweet time.

Why change?
1. Because the TV world helps SHAPE the real world. It’s also a window on our world. But when we look out the window, none of us live in Downton Abbey.
2. Because the creative industries are the foundation of Britain's future economy. You guys want to safeguard Britain's economy, right? That's your job?
3. If you want to safeguard the economy, you have to safeguard the Creative Industries; and they rely on TALENT. Talent is our lifeblood - we can't afford to WASTE it, or give it away. But when you don't reflect the real world, too much talent is trashed. Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn't. And talent can’t reach opportunity. Especially on our small island – that’s why British talent gets exported all over the world. We haven’t done enough to nurture our diverse talent. But before I go any further I want to say something really important:

I'm not here to talk about black people; I’m here to talk about diversity. Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour. - it’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and - most important of all, as far as I’m concerned – diversity of thought. Because if you have genuine diversity of thought among people making TV & film, then you won’t accidentally shut out any of the groups I just mentioned. Anyway, on the whole, I don’t think of myself as just a ‘black actor’. I’m an actor, not a number. Just like anyone else. (...)

None of us are just one flavour or one colour. If we were, we’d be one- dimensional. And that’s what used to drive me mad as an up and coming actor. My agent and I, we’d get scripts and we were always asked to read the “black male” character. Or “the athletic type.” And that was just Crimewatch… But when a script called for a “black male”, it wasn’t describing a character. It was a describing a skin colour. A white man - or a caucasian - was described as “a man with a twinkle in his eye”. My eyes may be dark, but they definitely twinkle! (Ask the Mrs…) And I was like “I wanna play the character with a twinkle in his eyes!” So I got to a certain point in my career, and I saw that glass ceiling; I was very close to hitting my forehead on it. I was busy, I was getting lots of work, but I realised I could only play so many “best friends” or “gang leaders”. I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role. I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead. (...)

What all this taught me, is too often people get locked inside boxes. And it’s not a great place to be. Ask women, they’ll say the same thing. Or disabled people. Or gay people. Or any number of under-represented groups. So today I’m asking the TV & film industry to think outside the box, and to GET outside the box. This isn’t a speech about race, this is a speech about imagination. Diversity of thought. Thankfully in our country, we’re free to say what we want. But we’re not as free as we think, because our imagination isn’t that free. We can’t help putting people inside boxes, it’s a national pastime… Funny thing is, it’s not good for the people locked in the box; but it’s also not good for the people deciding what’s ON the box. Audiences don’t want to see caricatures Because the point about a caricature is this: you’ve seen it all before. So I want our incredibly creative and successful TV industry to be more imaginative with the cultural exports we send around the world. (...)

I agreed to speak in Parliament today, because I want to highlight the important discussion taking place tomorrow The CEOs of Channel 4, ITV, and the BBC, are just some of those industry leaders meeting to discuss diversity. And Channel 4’s research for the conference is really interesting. The headline finding is that British TV is awash with low-level sexism. The interesting comparison, is that the same figure for low-level racism was only a tenth of that. This means women on TV are 10 times more likely to be treated negatively than black people on TV. That’s crazy, right? I’m not saying you expect black people to be treated worse than women (although God help black women) But as Viola Davies said last year when she became the first-ever black woman to win an Emmy for drama, “you can’t win an Emmy for a role that’s never been written.” That’s why we need more imagination from our directors, our producers, our casting directors, our writers - especially our writers. So I’m just saying we need to be more aware. (...)

Nelson Mandela said “anything difficult always seems impossible until it’s done.” But the good news is, we’re not trying to put a man on the moon. We’re just trying to redesign the face of British TV. And because British TV helps shape our world, and is the window onto our world, this is a debate for everyone. And yes, let’s make our cultural empire even more successful than our military empire. I'll leave you with this thought: I don't want to give away any spoilers, but in the new Star Wars film, isn't it amazing the princess grows up to be a General??! Seriously: let that sink in: the princess grows up to be a General! That's all I'm asking for: - some proper imagination, - untold stories - the road less travelled Let's think outside the box. In fact let's smash the box. Given we're in London let's "MASH the box." G'wan, mash it up! Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, officers of the Empire, and any princesses, Thank you for listening!

- - - - - - - - - - - -
- speech excerpts via Channel4; speech on YouTube: LISTEN
- photographs via and via and via

Sunday 24 January 2016

Tom Waits on being 'different'

"My kids are starting to notice I'm a little different from the other dads. "Why don't you have a straight job like everyone else?" they asked me the other day.

I told them this story:

In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, "Look at me...I'm tall, and I'm straight, and I'm handsome. Look at're all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you." And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, "Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest." So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day."


Related posting: Quoting Tom Waits: LINK

photographs of Tom Waits by Anton Corbijn via and via and via and via; quote via

Saturday 23 January 2016

Quoting Tom Waits

"When I was younger, I wanted to be older. Now I am older, I am not quite so sure."
Tom Waits

'When I spent my afternoon with Waits in Santa Rosa, I remarked on the irony of a forty-nine-year-old man making grittier music than he'd made half that age. "I always start at the wrong end of everything," he said. "I don't know, maybe I'm raging against the dying light. What do you say? Youth is wasted on the young?"
He stopped and for a second became more philosophical. What he said made it clear that, for him, midlife had been far from a crisis. "Time is not a line, or a road where you get further away from things," he said. "It's all exponential. Everything that you experienced when you were eighteen is still with you."'
Hoskyns (2000)

Tom Waits Mini-Selection:

::: Jockey Full of Bourbon: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Chocolate Jesus: LISTEN/WATCH

- Hoskyns, B. (2009). Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits. London: Faber and Faber
- images by Anton Corbijn via and via and via and via and via

Monday 18 January 2016

Bikinis, Kinky Boots & Hot Pants ... Recruiting Flight Attendants

"The girls must be able to wear kinky leather boots and hot pants or they don't get the job."
A Southwest Airlines male executive in the 1970s

"The airline industry was predominantly male-orientated; chauvinism reigned. Fashion initiatives, such as those introduced by Braniff and Alitalia, reinforced the notion that the aircraft's aisle was something of a stewardess's catwalk in the air, largely for the benefit of the male travellers, not to mention the occupants of the cockpit. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, art imitated life or perhaps it was the other way round, as film screenplays of the time created stereotypes of heart-throb captains and swooning stewardess characters. In real life, dozens of captains and first-officers married stewardesses and dozes of jet-setting, high-powered businessmen plucked trophy wives from the ranks of the stewardess legion. The airline industry opportunistically lapped up the sex theme and served it to their clients. Southwest Airlines of Texas admitted that "sex sells seats" and to prove it clad their stewardesses in thigh-exposing hot pants and knee-high, brilliant-white leather "kinky" boots."
Lovegrove (2000)

Southwest Airlines Co. was founded by Rollin King and Herb Kelleher in 1967. Kelleher studied Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) and used their ideas to create the corporate culture at Southwest, such as the theme "Long Legs And Short Nights". In fact, Southwest Airlines was called a photocopy of PSA.
Flight attendants (at the time called hostesses) were dressed in hot pants and go-go boots - otherwise they wouldn't get the job. "A committee including the same person who had selected hostesses for Hugh Hefner's Playboy jet selected the first flight attendants, females described as long-legged dancers, majorettes and cheerleaders with 'unique personalities'." (via) An inverse relationship between Southwest Airlines and Playboy made headlines in 2007 when a Southwest Airlines employee told 23-year-old college passenger Kyla Ebbert that her outfit was too revealing to fly with the family airline. Ebbert went public, Playboy contacted her attorney, Ebbert posed for Playboy under the heading "Legs in the Air".  (via, via)
"We don't have a dress code at Southwest Airlines, and we don't want to put our employees in the position of being the fashion police but there's a fine line you walk sometimes in not offending other passengers."
"It is quite humorous, given that we were born with hot pants. We're trying to be good-humored about all this."
Gary Kelly, Southwest Chief Executive 
That was in 2007. In 2009, Southwest Airlines plastered a large photograph of a model (not a sportswoman) in a bikini - who spans the length of the fuselage to about Row 23 - on its 737s to promote Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit edition. Not all reactions were positive (via).

Above: photographs of the one-year anniversary celebration

"Our inflight magazine at the time, Southwest Airlines Magazine, had a monthly feature called “Hostess of the Month,” and our Flight Attendants were photographed in a variety of scenic spots all across Texas. The layout included a Playboy-style interview (but not Playboy-style photos!) with similar questions. We really have come a long way since then."
Brian Lusk

Today, Southwest Airlines has an "Affirmative Action Program": "We desire to maintain a heightened awareness of providing equal employment opportunities to women and minorities in every facet of our business through the Affirmative Action Program. This focus includes recruitment, hiring, training, promotions, and Company sponsored program. It is also the policy of Southwest Airlines to provide equal opportunity to all individual and not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, marital status, national origin, genetic information, disability, or veteran status." (excerpt)

Times have changed. At least in the Southwest. In Northeast China, recently more than 1.000 Chinese women posed in bikinis at a beauty competition to get a job either in the fashion industry or the aviation industry. Representatives from both industries observe the women who are "elegant, slim, have sweet voice and have no scars in the exposed part of their skin" and recruit their models and flight attendants based on these criteria (via). By the way, Thailand's Nok Air is not a role model either, neither is Ryan Air (read).

Southwest Airlines commercials on YouTube:
::: Southwest Airlines commercial (1972): WATCH
::: Southwest Airlines commercial "You didn't have hostesses in hotpants. Remember?" (1972): WATCH

- Lovegrove, K. (2000). Airline. Identity, Design and culture. London: Lawrence King Publishing
- photographs via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via

Wednesday 13 January 2016

We have blondes from Barcelona

This nice little blonde from Barcelona will romance you all the way to Spain. And England. And France. And Germany. And...

The theory that all Spanish women are dark haired and flashing eyed is false. As false as the theory that Iberia flies only to Spain.
We have blondes from Barcelona. Redheads from Cadiz. And, of course, a liberal helping of the beautiful brunettes you pictured us having. Happily, they all have one thing in common. A quality of dignity and pride and romance that comes from being raised in a land of dignity and pride and romance.
These, the women of Iberia, are trained as Iberia's acclaimed training facilities in Madrid. But, really, their training begins at birth. And it reflects in the warm, thoughtful way you're cared for wherever you go around the world.
Call Iberia. Or see your Travel agent. We regret you mayn't specify our blonde from Barcelona. But, of course, Iberia specifies lovely ladies on every flight.

- - - - - - - - - -
image (1970) via

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Sammy Davis, Jr. Marries

"Big question: Since the nation’s capital isn’t very integrated will Sammy Davis, Jr., be allowed to share a suite with his bride, May Britt?" Dorothy Kilgallen

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Swedish actress May Britt (his second wife) married on 13 November 1960 ... at a time so-called interracial marriages were prohibited in 31 U.S. states (only in 1967 were they - by then down to 17 states - ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court). The announcement of their wedding led to death threats and Davis hired a 24-hour armed guard. Hate group demonstrations took place. After the wedding, more hate letters and death threats followed (via).

Photograph: Sammy Davis Jr., May Britt and their children

"When the American Nazi Party demonstrated against black entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.'s marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, the German consul in Los Angeles felt compelled to make a public statement distancing the Federal Republic from American storm troopers."
Marable & Kai Hinton (2011)

"But Davis’s marriage to Britt was another public-relations debacle, posing further threats to his career - and life. When he arrived in Washington, D.C., in September 1960 to play the Lotus Club, he was picketed by neo-Nazis bearing signs with scurrilous slogans such as GO BACK TO THE CONGO, YOU KOSHER COON. There were bomb threats in Reno, Chicago, and San Francisco -wherever Davis played. When he was introduced at the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles as an ardent campaigner for John F. Kennedy, the Mississippi delegation stood up and booed." (via)

"How I Got to Officiate at the Wedding of Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt"
by Rabbi William M. Kramer

(...) Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a day in Sammy Davis’ life and he was a day in mine.

In 1961 Sammy Davis and May Britt decided to marry. Their courtship was intense and controversial. Sammy was very black and May was very white. She was Swedish and he American. She was known as a Christian and he was known as a Jew.

They went to the famous scholar and Zionist leader Dr. Max Nussbaum at Temple Israel of Hollywood in order to arrange for their wedding. May presented herself for conversion and Sammy was already Jewishly identified. (...)

When the news came out that Rabbi Nussbaum was going to do the Davis-Britt ceremony on November 13, 1961, according to David Max Eichhorn in his book, Joys of Jewish Folklore, at the Hollywood synagogue, "All hell broke loose."

"The temple office was bombarded with obscene and threatening phone calls. The Temple trustees became frightened. They were afraid that, if the wedding took place in the synagogue, it would cause a race riot. They asked Rabbi Nussbaum not to have the wedding in the Temple and not to officiate. The Rabbi was on the horns of a dilemma. He did not want to offend Sammy or May and he did not want to go against the wishes of his trustees."

I was aware of the controversy, and controversy was no stranger to Temple Israel, where Dr. Nussbausm spoke out courageously and independently on many issues.

All I know was that my senior colleague was suddenly called out of town and that I would be asked to cover for him at the ceremony, which was transferred out of the Temple into Sammy Davis’ home in the Hollywood hills.

If marrying the two of them was dangerous, I was evidently regarded as expendable. For my part, I was delighted. I was a member of Sammy Davis fandom, as was my late wife, Joan. (...)

I recieved (sic) hundreds of life-threatening phone calls and letters. Thank God, nothing happened. After the wedding I spoke on the phone two or three times with Davis and saw May a couple of times. (...)

I have not liked the Rev. Mr. Jess Jackson, and I have found his Rainbow Coalition colorless. But I too prayed in front of my televion set that somehow the death of the great Sammy Davis would make for reconciliation wherever there was difference between Black and Jew.

I did not copy down Jackson’s words, but as I recall them he said that, "in Davis, Black and White and Christian and Jew uniquely met." Sammy was like that. He was a transcender.

I would have felt better if Sammy Davis, the Jew, had had only a Jewish sevice. Still, he was an ecumenical man, a man of cultural blending. Maybe, his was the exception. He was certainly exceptional. (...)

Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr.'s best man and supporter of John F. Kennedy, asked him to postpone the wedding in order to make sure that tensions would not impact votes. After their wedding, Davis's name was removed from the list of entertainers at JFK's inaugural party Sinatra hosted in Washington (via).
"Earlier that year the Democratic Convention took place in Los Angeles where John F. Kennedy would be elected as the Democrats’ presidential nominee. When the introductions of Hollywood celebrities were being announced, Davis was booed by many of the white Southern delegates because he was engaged to a white woman. A headline over a New York Times story the next day read, “Delegates Boo Negro.” JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, was worried that Davis’ marriage to a white woman on the eve of the November election might cost his son votes, so Davis reluctantly postponed the wedding until after the election." (via)

May Britt's contract, by the way, was not renewed when 20th Century Fox studios learned that she was going to marry Davis (via).

"During the 1960s, coverage of African-American entertainers increased from virtually non-existent to occasional features, but never without mention of race. Notably, fan magazine stories began to cover African Americans as individuals struggling to combat racism, although they never criticized the Hollywood establishment itself for discriminating against nonwhite performers. 
For example, a 1963 Photoplay ran a story on Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dick Gregory called "How Two Negro Showmen Fight for Integration." (...)
African Americans could also count on coverage if they were romantically linked with whites (...). "Why is Mommy White?" asks an article that same year (1964 - Ed. Note), allegedly a question that Sammy Davis, Jr.'s children had about their Swedish mother, May Britt."
Sternheimer (2015)

"In 1961, Swedish actress May Britt wrote an article for Ebony called, “Why I Married Sammy Davis Jr.” In this personal narrative, she told the story of their relationship and their love for each other. This story would start a trend of magazine articles showcasing interracial couples, especially famous couples."
Magnuson-Cannady (2005)

"I’m looking for someone to marry. I got the call this morning. I have to marry a black chick, and I’m looking for someone to marry." Sammy Davis, Jr.
In the 1950s, Davis had a relationship with "white" Kim Novak which led to his first wedding ... with Loray White on 10 January 1958. After alleged threats to his life, Sammy Davis Jr. was told to marry a "black" girl ... who happened to be Loray White. They married "midst rumors that his life had been threatened by those whose interests lay with Miss Novak remaining a multi-million dollar movie property" (via). They agreed that Loray White would marry him for a certain sum of money and at the end of the year they would dissolve the marriage (via).
"It was a very dangerous relationship then - a white woman and a black man, no matter his status -it simply didn’t mix publicly. I was suddenly in the eye of a hurricane. . . . My agent told me my career would be over if I continued to see Sammy. Some of my friends wouldn’t even return my telephone calls." Kim Novak

Photograph: Sammy Davis Jr. and his third wife Altovise Davis (1943-2009) whom he married in 1970

Interview with Altovise Davis (CNN, Larry King, aired 27 May 2002), excerpts:

KING: What a life Sammy had: married to a white woman at a time that didn't occur.
A. DAVIS: That's true.
KING: People in the audience may not know what a stir that was. You were a kid, I guess, when he was...
A. DAVIS: When he got married to her?
KING: Yes.
A. DAVIS: Oh, yes, I was a kid when he got married to her.
KING: That was a story that went through...
A. DAVIS: The roof, right?
KING: Ruined her career, right? They stopped giving her movies. But Sammy was gutsy.
A. DAVIS: Yes, he was, always had been.


S. DAVIS: You know, being a celebrity doesn't protect you from racism. I'm even more aware of my brothers and sisters who have to face it who don't have the cloak of celebrity to protect them.
So, you got to fight it every day we can, all of us. And when I say my brothers and sisters, I mean good people, period. I'm not just talking about black or white. I'm talking about everyone who is disenfranchised. But the bitterness is overridden by the fact that I'm in a position. I have survived. And I think and I pray to God that I can do some good and eradicate it more and more. But, personally, I would be dishonest if I said I didn't have a little bit of it.
KING: You will agree, Sammy, that you probably saw less of it than the average American black.
S. DAVIS: Absolutely. Wait a minute. I said that.
The cat on the street, the man on the street, he hasn't got celebrity. That's what I mean. At least you're protected by that. I can buy my way into this now. Those days I couldn't, because they wouldn't let you into the hotels.


- Magnuson-Cannady, M. (2005). "My Daughter Married a Negro": Interracial Relationships in the United States as Portrayed in Popular Media, 1950-1975. UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research VIII, 1-13
- Marable, M. & Kai Hinton, E. (eds.) (2011) The New Black History. Revisiting The Second Reconstruction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
- Sternheimer, K. (2015). Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility. New York & London: Routledge
- photographs via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via

Monday 11 January 2016

Sammy Davis, Jr. Gets a Letter from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We can't answer King's assassination with violence. That would be the worst tribute we could pay him."
Sammy Davis Jr.

Above: Backstage at New York's Majestic Theatre, 1965, by Dave Pickoff

On 20 December 1960, Martin Luther King wrote a letter to Sammy Davis, Jr. thanking him for his "wonderful support" of the upcoming 27 January 1961 Carnegie hall "Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr."

Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sherry-Netherland Hotel
5th Avenue at 59th Street
New York 2 2, New York

Dear Sammy:
I have been meaning to write you for quite some time. A sojourn in jail and a trip to Nigeria among other tasks have kept be behind.
When I solicited your help for our struggle almost two months ago, I did not expect so creative and fulsome a response. All of us are inspired by your wonderful support and the Committee is busily engaged in the preparations forJanuary 27th. I hope I can convey our appreciation to you with the warmth which we feel it.
In the midst of one of my usual crowded sojourns in New York, I had the opportunity to hear the play, “Kicks and Co.” by Oscar Brown at the invitation of the Nemiroffs, at whose home I have previously been a guest. I learned of your interest in it and I am deeply pleased.

To my knowledge, rarely has there come upon the American scene a work which so perceptively mirrors the conflict of soul, the moral choices that confront our people, both Negro and white, in these fateful times. And yet a work which is at the same time, so light of touch, entertaining-and thereby all the more persuasive.
Art can move and alter people in subtle ways because, like love, it speaks through and to the heart. This young man’s work will, in its own special way, affect the conscience of vast numbers with the moral force and vigor of our young people. And coming as it does from a source so eminently influential, the Broadway theatre, and an actor of such stature as yourself, it will be both an inspiration and a sustenance to us all.
In that context, let me share with you again my appreciation for the motives and the wisdom that have led you to it.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
MLK (via)

"The civil rights movement wasn't easy for anybody." 
Sammy Davis Jr.

Original caption, photograph above: 28 May 1963, Los Angeles - Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. strikes a Napoleonic pose on the speakers platform at Wrigley Field during a freedom meeting. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King told the gathering “we want to be free whether we’re in Birmingham or Los Angeles.” Some 35,000 persons attended the meeting.

August 1963: Sammy Davis Jr. and other Hollywood stars at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the largest political rallies where Martin Luther King, Jr. held his speech "I Have a Dream".

Photograph by Spider Martin: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King at a Sammy Davis, Jr. concert.

photographs via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via