Rich Or Famous

Mid-Century Modern – Vogue Magazine’s September Issue

Suzy Parker in Vogue Magazine, September 1957. Photo source: Vogue

Suzy Parker in Vogue Magazine, September 1957.

The September 1957 issue of Vogue Magazine was probably not the iconic behemoth that currently arrives at the newsstand with a thud each fall to profile and advertise the season’s couture. But the Conde Nast bible of style, then under the editorial directorship of Jessica Daves, had much to do with guiding the taste and flair of 1950s closets. With mid-century modern bringing back a neo-50s vibe, this editorial image of Suzy Parker from September, 1957 feels right at home with the trends of today (possibly minus the green fuzzy hat).

Texan redhead Suzy Parker was one of the first very-supermodels. In addition to her editorial work for fashion magazines, Parker frequently appeared in advertisements for cosmetics and other consumer products. She was the first model to earn over $100,000 per year. Suzy was also one of the first in a long line of fashion models who made the crossover to movies. Two films released in 1957 slated Suzy for small roles: Kiss Them for Me, with Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield; and Funny Face, with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Fashion photography legends Richard Avedon, Horst P. Horst, and Irving Penn were inspired by Parker and their images, in turn, inspired 1950s women to pursue elegance with a flash of Texas sizzle. John, Paul, George, and Ringo – raging adolescents in 1957 – collectively wrote and recorded a tribute to Suzy in 1969, which was included in the soundtrack of the 1970 documentary, Let it Be.

Image Credit: Vogue Magazine

September 3, 1957 – How Bobby Fischer Spent His Summer Vacation

Bobby Fischer in 1957

On September 3, 1957, 14-year-old chess prodigy Bobby Fischer woke up with a new championship title and an extra $125 dollars in his bank account.  Bobby started his summer by winning the United States Junior Chess Championship in July, then went on to defeat Arthur Bisguier  at the prestigious US Open Chess Championships in August.  On September 2nd, Fischer defeated James T. Sherwin in the seventh and final round of the New Jersey Open, played at the Independent Chess Club in East Orange, New Jersey.

The final game between Fischer and Sherwin, a King’s Indian Reversed variation, is well-known and studied in the rarefied air of international chess competition.  Annotated versions of the game can be found in several sources, the first one appearing in the October 1957 edition of Chess ReviewAnnotation is a kind of chess “code” that specifies all the moves of a game in order, including which piece was moved, where it was moved to, whether it captured another piece, and the  individual annotator’s editorial comments in the form of punctuation or other symbols (! – good move, !! – excellent move, ? – mistake, ?? – blunder, and ?! or !? – that was either brilliant, weird, or stupid, not everyone agrees).  Bill Wall of Palm Bay, Florida, retired Air Force officer, former NASA engineer, chess journalist and author of over 600 chess-related articles, considers the September 2nd Fischer-Sherwin game “number one in My 60 Memorable Games by Fischer.”

The son of a German biophysicist, Robert James Fischer was born in Switzerland and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and Brooklyn, New York.  He started picking up the game at age 6, and began formal training at the Brooklyn Chess club at age 8.  After winning his first US Junior championship in 1956, he never looked back.  He won every United States Chess Championship he entered, starting in 1957-1958, and in 1963-1964 won by a perfect 11-0 score, the only chess player ever to do so.  He achieved Grandmaster ranking at the youngest age to that date – 15 1/2 – and won a Cold-War “Match of the Century” against Boris Spassky in 1972 to become the World Chess Champion.  Publicity surrounding the televised championship and Bobby’s achievement spurred wide-spread interest among all ages in learning the game.  Membership in the United States Chess Federation skyrocketed.  Fischer’s career had been virtually unstoppable and his withdrawal from the chess scene shortly after the 21-game event against Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland, surprised the nation and chess players everywhere.  It would be twenty years before he re-emerged to play Spassky in “The Revenge Match of the Twentieth Century”.

Brilliant, enigmatic, vitriolically anti-Semitic and a Holocaust-denier, Bobby lived a nomadic, unsettled life as a fugitive from the American legal system in Hungary, the Philippines, Japan and Iceland before his death in 2008.  He has been called a “genius”, “mad”, a “mythologically-shrouded figure”, a “revolutionary”, a “legend in his own time”, and “the greatest player who ever lived.”

Image Credit: Sam Falk/New York Times

Vintage 1957 – A Comedy Revolution

 

In the 1950s, stand-up comedy went through something of a revolution. In broad outline, comedy of the 1930s most often took the form of physical slapstick in the movies – think the Marx Brothers, Abbot & Costello, etc. In the 1940s, the rising popularity of radio broadcasts ushered in less physical and more verbal comedy. Bob Hope, Jack Benny, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Henny Youngman all perfected the art of one-liners, story gags, and “groaners” (“I just flew in from St. Louis . . . and boy are my arms tired!” or “Take my wife . . . please!”).

Comedy in the 1950s turned topical. Journalist and author Gerald Nachman, who covered entertainment news for the New York Post, the Oakland Tribune, the New York Daily News, and the San Francisco Chronicle, shines a light on the shift in his 2009 book, Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. Nachman provides detailed biographies of 26 comedians, including Woody Allen, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, and Steve Allen. Politics, sex, race relations, drugs, self-angst, pop media and celebrity, all were suddenly fair game for public airing, often in satirical or cynical ways.

How does comedy work? What makes us laugh?

Laughter can be cathartic. It can lighten our spirits in difficult times. The Great Depression and World War II of the 1930s and 1940s were dark times. People looked to comedy for relief from anxiety and despair.

But laughter also serves as a leveler. It can burst bubbles and open eyes, providing a wake-up call for others or for ourselves. It can be a subtle instrument or sharp weapon against complacency, pretension, self-absorption, mindless conformity, and attitudes of superiority and arrogance. It can slip in “under the radar” to powerfully say, “Take a look at yourself and your culture.”

The comedians of the 1950s – subtle or blunt – had new, sometimes uncomfortable things to say. And they were heard.

Image Credits: ABC Films; NBC Television; New York World-Telegram & Sun; Towpilot; Rollins & Joffe; Allan Warren; AP; Concord Jazz

September 2, 1957 – The Final Rally of Billy Graham’s New York City Summer Crusade

On September 2, 1957, the Reverend Billy Graham concluded his summer crusade in New York City with a massive rally in Times Square.  Crowds in excess of one hundred thousand jammed the streets to hear Graham on the final night of an outreach for Christ that began in Madison Square Garden on May 15th.  Hundreds of thousands of people heard Billy at the Garden through the summer.  He packed Yankee Stadium on July 20th with an overflow crowd of one hundred thousand-plus which included Vice President Richard Nixon, who brought greetings from President Eisenhower.  Graham also invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join him on stage the night of July 18th, acknowledging Dr. King as a leader of the “great social revolution going on in the United States today.”

Newspapers in New York City gave the crusade a lot of coverage.  ABC decided to sell air time to broadcast crusade services, inaugurating a new approach to evangelism.  More people were able to hear and watch Graham’s appeal over the airwaves than in person.  Letters and money from viewers across the nation poured in supporting Graham’s cause.  Support also came from local Protestant churches and prayer teams formed by Billy’s organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  The association claimed at its conclusion that the revival had drawn over 2 million attendees and received over 1.5 million letters.

Image Credit: American Broadcasting Company

September 1, 1957 – Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo Garcia Born in Havana, Cuba

Embed from Getty ImagesGloria Estefan, with her husband Emilio, at the 2014 Tony Awards

On September 1, 1957, a baby girl entered the politically charged world of Havana, Cuba.  Her father, Jose Fajardo, was a Cuban soldier and bodyguard to embattled President Fulgencio Batista.  Her mother, also named Gloria, was the granddaughter of emigres from Asturias and Logrono, Spain.  Baby Gloria was still very young when her family was forced to flee Cuba during Castro’s revolution, landing first in Lafayette, Indiana, then settling in Miami, Florida.   Jose joined the United States military, served in Viet Nam, and eventually revisited Cuba as part of the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Gloria attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Miami, and graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in psychology, minoring in French.  During her college years, Gloria worked at the Miami International Airport in the customs department as an English/Spanish/French translator.  She was approached by the CIA during this time as a possible employee, due to her language skills.

In 1976, Gloria met Emilio Estefan of the Miami Sound Machine and they married in 1978.  Gloria joined Emilio’s band and during the mid-1980s the Sound Machine produced several Top-10 hits and released an album that went multi-platinum.  In 1988, the band’s name was changed to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine; in 1989, the band’s name was dropped and Gloria was credited as a solo artist with the Sound Machine as her backup.

In 1990, Gloria suffered a fractured spine when a semi-truck struck her tour bus.  Two titanium rods were implanted near her spinal column and she recovered completely after a year of intensive physical therapy.  She later formed the Gloria Estefan Foundation to help others with spinal cord injuries.

Over the years, Gloria Estefan has continued to record chart-topping hits, performed at the 1995 and 1999  Super Bowls and 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, toured the United States and the world, appeared in movies and on television, written children’s books, and become a restaurant and hotel owner.  Her awards include seven Grammys, the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the Hispanic Heritage Award, the 1993 National Music Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award, and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A musical based on Gloria and Emilio’s life story premiered on Broadway at New York City’s Marquis Theatre in October of 2015. On Your Feet! shares the story “of two people who – through an unwavering dedication to one another and their pursuit of the American dream – showcased their talent, their music, and their heritage to the world.”

August 23, 1957 – The Curtain Rises on “The Sun Also Rises”


On August 23, 1957, Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel, The Sun Also Rises, came to life on silver screens across America.  Set in 1920s France and Spain during the dissolute backlash following World War I, the story centers around wounded expatriate American journalist Jake Barnes, lovely but careless British Lady Brett Ashley, her fiance Mike Campbell, Jake’s college friend Bill Gorton, Jake’s other college friend Robert Cohn (Jewish, tortured, ex-boxer), and a young hunk bullfighter named Pedro Romero.

Hemingway shared his obsessions and passions for drinking, bullfighting, fishing, writing, and sex in The Sun Also Rises.  In producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s and director Henry King’s film treatment, Tyrone Power plays the semi-autobiographical role of Jake.  Jake loves Lady Brett but, to the infinite frustration of both, can’t sustain a relationship with her for a mysterious reason related to his “war wound.”  Ava Gardner (Frank Sinatra’s at-the-time main squeeze) played Lady Brett with her liberated short hair, short skirt, and tendency to short lead-time-before-hopping-in-the-sack with Robert, Mike, Jake, and finally, Pedro.  Errol Flynn played Mike, Eddie Albert played Bill, Mel Ferrer played Robert, and a young actor named Robert Evans played the initially pure and beautiful artist of the bullring, Romero.

Yes, that Robert Evans.  Bob claims he was a persona non grata on the set.  Hemingway, Power, Gardner, and most of the cast and crew wanted him fired from the production, he later wrote in his autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture.  Zanuck refused to get rid of Evans, saying – you guessed it – “the kid stays in the picture.”

Later in his career, Robert certainly proved his prowess as a producer of blockbuster hits.  Starting in the 1970s with Chinatown, Marathon Man, and Black Sunday, in the 1980s with Urban Cowboy, Popeye, and The Cotton Club, and tapering off in the 1990s with The Two Jakes, The Phantom, and The Saint, Evans made a big name and a big fortune for himself in Hollywood – where success is possibly more tricky to achieve and survival more in doubt than in any bullfight ring.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Vintage 1957 – A Tale of Two A&Ws

Hot Shoppe

The year 1957 was pivotal for two very different A&W franchisees.

A&W got its start when Roy Allen and Frank Wright (“A” and “W”) partnered in a Sacramento root beer stand in 1922. Allen bought out Wright and then began franchising the brand in 1925.

Two years later, in 1927, newlyweds J. Willard and Alice Marriott partnered with Hugh Colton to open Washington, DC’s first A&W. Hot summers in the capitol created demand for the signature “frosty mug” of root beer, along with the hot food items at the aptly-named “Hot Shoppe”. One year later, Willard and Alice open two more Hot Shoppes, one of which was DC’s first drive-in. Adding to their string of firsts in 1937, the Hot Shoppes expanded into catering by delivering box lunches to travelers at nearby Hoover Airport. In 1953, Hot Shoppes stock went public and sold out in two hours of trading.

Who was this savvy couple? Their business minds came up with an entirely new venture in 1957 – motor hotels. Arlington, Virginia was the first site of many to come, bearing the family name, Marriott. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Root Beer StandTwo other couples followed in the first steps of the Marriotts by franchising an A&W in 1957. Mick and Nancy Ridenour, along with Jim and Catherine Clark – Nancy’s parents – opened Sharonville, Ohio’s A&W Root Beer Stand on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Their location on one of the main north-south routes from Michigan to Florida guaranteed them a steady string of thirsty truckers and drivers, along with local residents. Since Mick was a school teacher, the stand was a summer-only operation. Catherine’s chili recipe led the hot offerings ferried to waiting customers by the black and white-clad car hops.

In 1982, the Ridenours and Clarks let go of their franchise identification. “The Root Beer Stand” remained a summer season favorite at the original, only slightly expanded location. In 1990, the Clarks had both passed away and the Ridenours were ready for retirement. Scott and Jackie Donley purchased the stand. Today, Cincinnati Magazine’s “best place to quaff a root beer” and number 12 on the list of “Top 100 Places in Cincinnati” is run pretty much as it always has by the Donley’s daughter Abby and her husband Eric. You’ll need to stop by soon – before the summer season is over – to sample their small-batch root beer with a side of Catherine’s chili.

World-wide domination versus small-town favorite. Either way, success can taste “frosty” and sweet.

Image Credits: Marriott International; The Root Beer Shop