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Monday, July 25, 2016

Richard Nixon: Legendary President

Source Of Countless Phrases

Richard Nixon

Richard Milhouse Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, was, is, and undoubtedly will be a political lightning rod. Even today, this week as I write this, new political "revelations" about Nixon are bruited about as significant for today's world. There are very, very few politicians who leave a mark as deep and lasting as Dick Nixon.

Richard Nixon beach

Everybody knows the basic Nixon story: served in the US Army despite having a legitimate out as a Quaker, elected to Congress, gained reputation as a big anti-Communist, then VP, went through a period as a political outcast, then a return as President, then a tragic downfall with Watergate causing his resignation, then a return as a respected elder statesman. Whew.

Richard Nixon Apollo 11

However, that is just the start. There is much, much more to the Nixon legend. For starters: every human being who has ever left earth's orbit in the history of the world did so during Richard Nixon's Presidency.

Richard Nixon Leonid Brezhnev

Nixon has gained the reputation of being this, that and the other thing, but he managed to guide the United States through an extremely difficult time in its history: the end of the Vietnam War. This required extremely sensitive handling of Soviet relations.

Richard Nixon Fidel Castro

Many of the world leaders with whom Nixon hobnobbed are still very much with us. Fidel Castro, for instance, met Nixon when he was Vice President. Castro and his brother Raul stils rule Cuba to this day.

Richard Nixon John Kasich

John Kasich just made a lot news with a run for the Presidency. He's currently the Governor of Ohio. There he is, shaking hands with Richard Nixon in 1970.

Richard Nixon Bill Clinton

Toward the very end of his life, Nixon advised new President Bill Clinton. Clinton's wife, of course, is a big Presidential hopeful in 2016.

Richard Nixon Queen Elizabeth II

Nixon spent a day with Queen Elizabeth II - the same Queen who sits on the throne today.

Richard Nixon Winston Churchill

However, Nixon sat at a unique crossroads in history. Many of the great figures of the World War II were still around during his time as Vice President in the 1950s, such as Winston Churchill, above.

Richard Nixon Walt Disney

Walt Disney also got to know Richard Nixon. Above, they are together in one of the new rides at Disneyland.

Richard Nixon Dwight D. Eisenhower

Nixon, of course, owed much of his success to "The General," as he called him: President Dwight David Eisenhower. Above, Nixon introduces The General to his daughters.

Richard Nixon Elvis Presley

The 1970 visit by Elvis Presley to the White House on the spur of the moment has become one of the most recognizable moments of the Nixon years. The picture above has for many years been the one that is most requested by the public from the National Archives - out of every picture ever taken of anything or anyone.

Richard Nixon Chuck Connors

Nixon, in fact, was a bit of a celebrity hound. Above, he poses with Chuck Connors, "The Rifleman." It was much more common in the 1970s for celebrities to be openly conservative than it has become more recently.

Richard Nixon

At heart, Nixon always was the overachiever from Whittier. He was a three-letter man in college and good at all of his sports.

Richard Nixon

Nixon's run for the President in 1960 was one of the closes losses in Presidential history. Above, he greets a crowd during the campaign.

Richard Nixon Iran

Richard Nixon has the distinction of being the last President to visit Iran. Above, some Iranian weavers create an awesome portrait of Nixon in honor of his visit.

Richard Nixon Mao Zedong

Nixon's unexpected 1972 visit to China was a turning point in US relations with Asia. It spawned, among other things, an opera and the phrase "Nixon goes to China" to depict a completely unexpected, but successful, decision by a President.

Richard Nixon US Navy

Nixon wasn't a classical war hero. He was a bureaucrat supporting the troops invading nearby islands. However, he became a hero to many in the sense that he could have taken a conscientious objector pass, but didn't because he wanted to serve his country.

Richard Nixon Ronald Reagan Jimmy Carter Gerald Ford

Part of the Nixon mystique is that he always bounced back. Even after he resigned the Presidency, he remained the former President with the greatest mystique.

Richard Nixon Ray Charles

Nixon also played a peculiar role in race relations. He came up with the "Southern Strategy" which flipped the political calculus and made the south a Republican bastion. In some ways, he may have saved the Republican Party. This is one of many of his cynical decisions which many will never forgive him for, but it worked and made him President.

Richard Nixon Robocop

Nixon never took himself too seriously. He became a part of the cultural milieu after he left office in a less partisan and more archetypical way than during his Presidency (though he did get a pointed reference in the Broadway hit "Grease" at the time). Aside from posing with Robocop, his character has starred in (and not just made cameo appearances) films such as the 2007 "Watchmen" and 2014's "X-Men: Days of Future Past." I am not trying to make a political point here when I say that it will be a long time coming before you see Jimmy Carter or George Bush (either of them) as meaningful characters in a fictional Hollywood blockbuster.

Richard Nixon Sammy Davis Jr.

If you go through the political lexicon, Nixon created (either himself, or having it said about him) more memorable phrases than just about anyone:

  • "I am not a crook."
  • "The coverup is worse than the crime."
  • "The new Nixon."
  • "Peace with honor."
  • "...gate."
  • "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more."
  • "Tricky Dick."
  • "I gave them a sword."
  • "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
  • "Let me make one thing perfectly clear."
  • "Only Nixon could go to China."
  • "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
  • "Expletive deleted."
  • "I have lost my base of support in Congress."
There are many others. For instance, the first President to say "God bless America" in a speech? Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon Frank Sinatra

Richard Nixon scaled the highest heights in American political history - he won 49 states in 1972, the most in history and only matched by Ronald Reagan in 1984. He also became the only President who was forced to resign "because I have lost my base of support in Congress." Throught it all, and while many people hated him then and hate him now, he survived with a good sense of grace and dignity until his passing in 1994.

Richard Nixon John Wayne

There is much, much more to Richard Nixon, but that will wait for another day. However, Nixon once again topped them all by making the most dramatic exit in Presidential history, so let's let him say goodbye himself.

Richard Nixon


Monday, May 30, 2016

Marilyn Monroe, Icon of Icons

Marilyn Monroe

While Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) is probably the biggest starlet that Hollywood ever produced, her life is not very well known. Born in Los Angeles to a single mother, Monroe spent much of her childhood with a foster family. Although her birth certificate gives her name as Norma Jeane Mortensen, she was later called Norma Jeane Baker.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn in 1940, at age 14.

"I had this long walk to school, it was just sheer pleasure," she told Life of her high school years. "Every fellow honked his horn-the world became friendly."

Marilyn Monroe
 Marilyn with her half sister Berniece Baker Miracle (left), mother Gladys (right) and niece Mona Rae (bottom center).

Marilyn was patriotic, and wound up working in a Burbank defense plant during World War II. In 1945, a fellow in charge of promoting the military and war effort sent a photographer to the plant to get some shots for publication.

Marilyn Monroe

The photographer chose Norma Jeane, who worked at spraying fire-retardant coatings on planes. Oh, the fellow who sent the photographer to the plant? Captain Ronald Reagan.

Marilyn Monroe
Working on a radioplane. These later became known as "drones," and, yes, they had them in World War II.

The war promo shots were the first professional shots for Marilyn. The photographer had a buddy who was just starting out and need a portfolio. He told him about Marilyn, and the shot below is one from that set. It was Marilyn's first paid gig - she got $20, which was good money in those days.

Marilyn Monroe
From Marilyn's first paid modelling gig.

Marilyn now was interested in modelling for a living. She looked for jobs, and her first was an ad for bandages. It starred her and an adorable dog.

Marilyn Monroe
This is a shot from Marilyn's very first paid ad. It was for bandages. Notice the cute dog? Reviewing the shots, Marilyn felt that the pooch completely upstaged her and was furious, refusing to do any more shoots with canines. You will search in vain on the Internet for any more shots of Marilyn with dogs - at least the four-legged kind - and that is not by accident.

Marilyn got herself registered at the Blue Book Modeling Agency in Hollywood and started getting noticed quickly. The way it worked - and still does - is that photographers are given a selection of girls, and they decide which to shoot. Choosing Marilyn out of a stack of model cards was a no-brainer, and that is how she became a successful model.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn took shots such as the ones above and below to promote herself - or, more accurately, for the photographer to promote himself and, as part of that process, to promote Marilyn as well. That is an iconic spot for such shots, which became even more iconic because Marilyn was there. The one above is the most iconic shot ever taken in the most iconic spot in the world for ingenues.

Marilyn Monroe

This November 1945 photoshoot by Andre de Dienes - their very first together - in the Hollywood Hills on US 101 north of Hollywood has become legendary. In fact, Marilyn so blew out the stops with this set that the spot has become a bit of a cliché for someone announcing that she is the new girl in town.

Marilyn Monroe

Andre and Marilyn remained friends and colleagues for the rest of Marilyn's life. She was very loyal. Even after she became a huge movie star, Marilyn would call Andre on a whim late at night and have him shoot her in some odd corner of town that matched her mood.

Marilyn Monroe
How can you not like this girl?

Things happened quickly for Marilyn after that. Below is a shot of Marilyn in 1946, completely transformed, already giving her autograph. She has a new hairstyle, a more professional look, but the same devastating smile.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn is 20 years old and thrilled to be giving an autograph.

Marilyn still had fresh-faced innocence well into the 1950s.

Marilyn Monroe

However, don't let that innocent, pert cuteness fool you. Marilyn Monroe was very down to earth about her modelling career. She took quite a few cheesecake shots early in her career. She understood the business and what the public wanted and was not fussy about what she would do.

Marilyn Monroe

She could turn on the sex appeal any time she wanted, whether on a dusty highway or a dingy Hollywood backlot.

Marilyn Monroe
A promo shot taken on a Hollywood backlot.

Then, she could go back to that wholesome, girl next door look.

Marilyn Monroe
This was a promo shot for 20th Century Fox, which had just signed her.

Everybody knows Marilyn's big, brassy successes, such as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Some Like It Hot." However, her breakthrough role was a little film called "Niagra."

Marilyn Monroe
Make-up artist Allen 'Whitey' Snyder, Marilyn's friend, took this on the set of "Niagra."

Marilyn has a few saucy scenes, including one where she absolutely steals the entire film just by walking down the street.

Marilyn Monroe

Hollywood was really starting to notice her now, but Marilyn was still just plain old Norma Jeane inside.

Marilyn Monroe

It was around this time that Marilyn became Marilyn. Mickey Rooney later was to claim that he gave Marilyn her stage name, but in fact it was dreamed up by the studio - and not by Mickey Rooney.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn never forget her roots in the defense industry. She entertained the troops in Korea in the early 1950s and always retained a bond with servicemen.

Marilyn Monroe

Her personal life began to get a great deal of attention, too. Her marriage to baseball legend Joe Dimaggio filled the tabloids.

Marilyn Monroe
Joltin' Joe really did love her.
Naturally, as one of the leading ingenues of the day, everyone wanted to take a shot with her.

Marilyn Monroe
Groucho was verrrrrry careful with his hands.

Of course, they had other reasons to like being around her, too. Marilyn was just fun to be around.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Humphrey playing along for the paparazzi at the premiere of "How To Marry A Millionaire" on November 4, 1953 in Los Angeles.

Everyone is familiar with that famous painting showing Marilyn, Elvis, Humphrey Bogart and James Dean together in a diner (or the one of them at a pool hall, or the one of them together at a bar, or the one of them at the ....). As the pictures above show, Bogart did meet Marilyn (and was quite impressed by her). However, Marilyn never met Elvis - though she was famous enough to have met him and he probably would have liked to meet her, they just never crossed paths. Unfortunately, despite the fine attempts by the photoshop/drawing artists as reflected in the next two pictures, she never met James Dean, either. :(

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Sadly, the top picture is a composite, the bottom just a (remarkable) drawing.

Okay, back to reality. Marilyn was ahead of her time in all sorts of ways. She was shooting bows and arrows long before "The Hunger Games."

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn gave other girls some tips on taking care of themselves.

Marilyn Monroe

Her spread in "Pageant" magazine is full of youthful shots of Marilyn out in nature.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn, though, was becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. Below, she still has a fresh, natural look, but notice the monogrammed blouse.

Marilyn Monroe

There is no question that despite her fame, Marilyn Monroe stayed a free-spirited girl all along. "The Seven Year Itch" was another tremendous hit.

Marilyn Monroe

Probably her biggest cinematic triumph was "Some Like It Hot," the Billy Wilder comedy with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.

Marilyn Monroe

Even a lot of fans don't know that Marilyn won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for "Some Like It Hot."

Marilyn Monroe
On the set of "Some Like It Hot."

Marilyn was such a big star by the time of "Some Like It Hot" in 1958 that she almost didn't take the role, considering it "just another dumb blonde role." Well, maybe it was, but she took the role anyway and rolled with it.

Marilyn Monroe
With Jack Lemmon on the set of "Some Like It Hot."

"Some Like It Hot" became a monster hit, and Marilyn was entitled to 10% of the film's profits in addition to her standard pay.

Marilyn Monroe
This was in 1957, when Marilyn was doing "The Prince and the Showgirl" with Laurence Olivier.

Marilyn had been having some difficult times on some of her projects. Working with Laurence Olivier on "The Prince and the Showgirl" was a trial; in fact, it was so bad that she fired her long-time collaborator, Milton H. Greene, who had produced the film. Marilyn took some time off after "Hot," finally going back before the cameras in 1959 for "Let's Make Love."

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn was exhibiting some diva-like symptoms by this time. "Let's Make Love" was not a hit, and she was known for being late and the usual no-longer-cares kinds of attitudes that many mega-stars get.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn's last film was "The Misfits," which was filmed in Nevada in late 1960. It is considered a great film, but it was a real strain on everyone involved. Marilyn's marriage to playwright Arthur Miller ended, and co-star Clark Gable passed away just after filming wrapped.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn had a series of health problems. Ex-husband Joe Dimaggio, who she had not seen since divorcing him in 1955, came back to help her through it. During this time, Marilyn hung out with celebrities like President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, and other other top stars of the day.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn sometimes hung out with the Rat Pack. Here they are at Peter Lawford's (back to camera) beach house. I'm not sure, but that appears to be Angie Dickinson and (Shirley MacLaine at the gathering as well.

Marilyn began working on her next film, "Something's Got To Give," but she missed some days of filming and was fired from the film - which was never made. After doing some print work, she was found dead in her Brentwood, California home one morning, an event which remains full of mystery and debate to this day.

Marilyn Monroe