Reflections on My First Year #AtoZ Challenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

This was my first year participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge and I learned a lot. I thought I had done everything in advance that I needed to do. I chose a theme [Golden Age of Hollywood], plotted my alphabet topics, found most of my research sources, even had my first ten posts written and scheduled. What I failed to take into account was Murphy’s Law, or more like laws.

Murphy’s Laws

  1. If anything can go wrong, it will [MacGillicuddy’s Corollary: At the most inopportune time]
  2. If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong
  3. If anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway
  4. If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop [Corollary: It will be impossible to fix the fifth fault, without breaking the fix on one or more of the others]
  5. Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse
  6. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something
  7. Nature always sides with the hidden flaw [Corollary: The hidden flaw never stays hidden for long]
  8. Mother nature is a bitch: and not an obedient one at that

golden age of hollywood headerThe first thing that went wrong for me was computer problems. I had used ESET’s Nod32 antivirus for years with no problem, but the last time it came time to renew, I was broke, so I decided to use the free, somehow highly rated, Avast antivirus. It gave me some false positives, but seemed to be working fine . . . until it wasn’t. It let in some malware that attacked both of my browsers (Chrome and Firefox) and kept freezing things up. I’m a more advanced user, but it took me a week to find and fix all the issues.

I managed to get a couple more posts done before some bad weather rolled in and triggered a major fibro flare. On normal days I battle fatigue and pain, but when I’m having a flare, it’s almost impossible to get out of bed, much less to sit in a chair (oh, I miss my recliner) long enough to do much on my desktop computer. I’m truly hoping I can get a laptop soon, which will help. It’s hard to be productive with anything on an 8″ tablet.

By the time I felt better, I was seriously behind and by the time I caught up, I was suffering from serious burnout. However, none of this has made me decide not to take part next year. I enjoyed the challenge despite everything and found some wonderful bloggers to follow. And I’m still finding more as I didn’t have the time before to go through the list of participants and explore.

I’d like to give a special shout out to Sarah Zama of The Old Shelter. Her theme of “Jazz Age Jazz” nicely juxtaposed with my theme at certain points and was enjoyable, enlightening, and well-written.


I’m not sure how, but I made it through my first AtoZ Challenge. And I have some valuable lessons for next year, especially about preparing my posts in advance. I had my theme and almost all of my post topics by the time it started, but I didn’t worry about doing them in advance, and that was a bad decision because Murphy’s Law struck three-fold. I also didn’t take into account how much research and editing time it would take for most of the posts. Admittedly, by the time I caught up enough in the last week to finally get a couple of posts ahead, I was flat worn out and my editing was limited. Anywho, the whole point of this post is that ALL OF US should be celebrating, whether a newbie or veteran.

I will, however, be spending the next week or two catching up with all the posts I had to push aside for lack of reading time.

Z is for Zsa Zsa Gabor #AtoZChallenge

I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house. ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor

Born Sari Gabor on February 6, 1917, in Budapest, Hungary, Zsa Zsa has been a celebrity and socialite for decades mostly for being herself. She’s acted in films with Fred Allen, José Ferrer and Orson Welles. Her television resume includes Gilligan’s Island, Batman, The Love Boat and countless talk show appearances.

Zsa Zsa (Sari) Gabor was the middle daughter of Vilmos Gabor, a soldier, and Jolie Gabor, the heiress to a European jewelry business. Gabor and her two sisters, Eva and Magda, lived a life of luxury, which included a staff of servants, extensive vacations and stints at expensive boarding schools. Sari started referring to herself as “Zsa Zsa” during childhood.

At the age of 13, Gabor was sent to Switzerland to attend boarding school. While finishing her studies at Madame Subilia’s, Gabor was discovered by the famous operatic tenor Richard Tauber, who invited the teenager to sing the soubrette in his new operetta Der singende Traum, or The Singing Dream. After spending three months at the Vienna Acting Academy, Gabor made her stage debut. In 1936, Gabor was crowned Miss Hungary, though she was later disqualified as she’d fibbed about her true age. In 1937, she married her first husband, 35-year-old Turkish government official Burhan Asaf Belge, to whom she proposed. In celebration of the engagement, Gabor’s parents gave their daughter a 10-karat diamond, among other lavish gifts.

Gabor’s marriage began to deteriorate and by 1941 Gabor and her husband agreed to go their separate ways. That same year, Gabor’s parents also began the process of divorce. Gabor and her mother decided to head to the U.S. to join Eva, who was already living in the country with her new husband. Zsa Zsa applied for an official divorce shortly after she was on American soil.

Not long after her arrival in the U.S., Gabor met hotel magnate and recent bachelor Conrad Hilton. The couple began flirting at an upscale club and, according to Gabor, the millionaire offered Zsa Zsa $20,000 to go with him to Florida that night. She refused. Four months later, on April 10, 1942, the two married. They had one child together, daughter Francesca. According to Gabor’s 1991 autobiography One Lifetime Is Not Enough, her pregnancy resulted from rape by then-husband Conrad Hilton. She was the only Gabor sister to have a child.

Zsa Zsa’s good looks and charm landed her a film career in Hollywood, and in 1952 she made her big-screen début in Lovely to Look At. That same year, she also had a part in We’re Not Married! with Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen, and a starring role in Moulin Rouge with José Ferrer. Gabor later appeared in Death of a Scoundrel (1956) and had a small role in Orson Welles’ classic Touch of Evil (1958).

Over the years Gabor worked in television as well, making guest appearances on such shows as The Life of Riley, Playhouse 90, Matinee Theatre, Burke’s Law, Gilligan’s Island and Batman. Vivacious and humorous, Gabor was also a popular guest on talk shows and celebrity game shows.

What audiences seemed most interested in, however, was Zsa Zsa’s personal life. To many, she appeared as an icon of European glamour, luxury and self-indulgence. Often portrayed as a wily seductress, she frequently appeared on television as an alluring, witty and sometimes challenging guest who had a habit of calling nearly everyone “darling.” But as a vivacious and dramatic personality, Gabor quickly became tabloid fodder, more famous for her marriages and conspicuous wealth than for her acting abilities.
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Y is for Yvonne De Carlo #AtoZChallenge

Born on September 1, 1922 in Point Grey (now Vancouver), British Columbia, Canada, as Margaret Yvonne Middleton, Yvonne De Carlo was Moses’ wife in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, but is better known for playing the matriarch on TV’s The Munsters.

She was the sole child born to Marie Middleton, who was only 17 when her husband deserted her and their daughter. Marie supported Yvonne’s decision to drop out of high school and pursue a career as an entertainer. In order to ease her family’s financial troubles, Yvonne spent most of her teens performing in nightclubs and on stage. Needing a new name to go with her budding career, she used her mother’s maiden name, and was then billed as Yvonne De Carlo.

De Carlo and her mother sought greater opportunities in the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California in 1940. A year later, the ambitious actress caught the attention of Paramount Studios, who signed her to a weekly contract. Like many newcomers, she found herself in some minor, sometimes uncredited, movie roles.

She obtained her breakthrough role in Salome, Where She Danced (1945). The film was forgettable, but De Carlo’s performance as an exotic dancer turned spy earned her the recognition she sought. Similar seductive roles followed in the Song of Scheherazade and Slave Girl (both 1947). De Carlo’s projects during the ’40s bolstered her visibility, but at the same time, limited her roles to that of a sultry screen vixen in films such as Criss Cross (1949) and The Captain’s Paradise (1953). The year 1956 defined a turning point in De Carlo’s career when she was cast in Cecil B. DeMille’s landmark production of The Ten Commandments. De Carlo’s performance as Moses’ wife Sephora, opposite Hollywood icons Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, marked a place for her in films. Her next project paired her with Clark Gable and Sidney Poitier in the flat costume epic Band of Angels (1957).

In the early 1960s, De Carlo starred in a string of B-features, which inspired little interest in audiences. With the demise of her film career, the struggling actress transitioned to television. In 1964 she was chosen to play ghoulish mom Lily Munster, the wife of Herman Munster, in the CBS sitcom The Munsters (1964–1966). Her portrayal of Lily Munster in the horror-spoof sitcom marked her television début and introduced her to a whole new generation of audiences.

In the early 1970s, the middle-aged actress found renewed success in the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Follies (1971). Eventually, she settled into a routine of lowbrow comedy—Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)—and horror films, such as Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977),Silent Scream (1980) and Vultures (1983).

De Carlo continued to appear in occasional films throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including a guest appearance in the 1995 television movie Here Come the Munsters. In 1987, she published an autobiography, titled Yvonne.

In 1955, De Carlo married Hollywood stuntman, Robert Morgan, who lost his leg while filming How the West Was Won (1963). The couple had two sons, Bruce and Michael, before they divorced in the mid-1970s. De Carlo died of heart failure on January 8, 2007 at age 84.

X is for Xavier Cugat #AtoZChallenge

My thanks to whomever it was (sorry I have such a bad memory) that tipped me to Xavier Cugat for my ‘X’ post. Though I had heard his name and probably some of his music, it would never have occurred to me to use a musician in my theme. When you/I think of Hollywood, the inclination is to think of actors and actresses or movies, not the music that comes with them. And it turns out that Xavier Cugat was not only a talented musician, but a caricature artist as well.Dining at Melvyn's - X Cugat art

“I like women-all women…. Also, there is my temperament. I am Latin. I excite. For me, this is life.” ~ Xavier Cugat

Xavier Cugat, in full Francisco De Asis Javier Cugat Mingall De Brue Y Deulofeo, was born on January 1, 1900, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain.

Cugat was two years old when his father moved the family to Havana, Cuba. Two years later, a neighbor and violin maker gave the boy a 1/4-sized violin as a Christmas present. Cugat’s exceptional talents were soon evident, as he developed into a musical prodigy. He played professionally when he was just nine years old, and at age twelve he became first violinist for the Teatro Nacional Symphonic Orchestra. While performing with the Metropolitan Opera Company in Havana, Cugat met Tenor Enrico Caruso and accompanied him on a world tour at the age of fifteen.

Cugat was taught how to draw caricatures and the young man hoped to use this skill to improve his prospects and went to work for the Los Angeles Times. While he had considerable talent as an artist he soon grew tired of the situation and quit the next year to form a seven-piece dance band, The Gigolos. Also joining Cugat on the bandstand was his wife-to-be Carmen Castillo as lead singer. The year was 1928 and Latin music was not yet popular. However, the band landed a gig playing during intermissions at the famed Coconut Grove in Los Angeles.

In the late 1920s, as sound began to be used in films, Cugat put together a tango band that had some success in early short musical films. By the early 1930s, he began appearing with his group in feature films. His first notable appearance occurred in 1942, in the Columbia production You Were Never Lovelier with Rita Hayworth, Fred Astaire, and Adolphe Menjou. Most of his subsequent movies were made at MGM studios, including Week-End at the Waldorf (1945),Holiday in Mexico (1948), A Date with Judy (1948), Luxury Liner (1948), and the Esther Williams musicals Bathing Beauty (1944), This Time for Keeps (1947), On an Island with You (1948), and Neptune’s Daughter(1949). Cugat’s caricatures were often featured in his films.

The job that served as Cugat’s springboard to fame was at the new Starlight Roof at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. The bandleader made a modest start there in 1933, but was soon ensconced in the hotel’s “Cugat Room.” He the Waldorf-Astoria’s highest-paid bandleader, making $7,000 a week plus a cut of the cover charge take. For 16 years, Cugat helmed the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s orchestra, shuttling between New York and Los Angeles for most of the next 30 years. One of his trademark gestures was to hold a chihuahua while he waved his baton with the other arm. In 1934, Cugat’s band played a three-hour network radio program on Saturday nights. Continue reading

W is for Mae West #AtoZChallenge

I’m no model lady. A model’s just an imitation of the real thing. ~ Mae West

Born Mary Jane “Mae” West on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York, Mae West hit her Hollywood stride in her late 30s, when she might have been considered in her “advanced years” for playing sexy harlots, but her persona and physical beauty overcame any doubt. The blunt sexuality of her films aroused the wrath and moral indignation of several groups, but this sexuality is what she is remembered for today.

Known for her bawdy double entendres, West made a name for herself in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer in the motion picture industry. For her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute named West 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema.

One of the more controversial movie stars of her day, West encountered many problems, including censorship. When her cinematic career ended, she continued to perform in Las Vegas, in the United Kingdom, and on radio and television, and to record rock and roll albums. Asked about the various efforts to impede her career, West replied: “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.”

West was five when she first entertained a crowd at a church social, and she started appearing in amateur shows at the age of seven. She often won prizes at local talent contests. She began performing professionally in vaudeville in the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907 at the age of 14. When work was slow, which it often was for many performers in Vaudeville, she would go on the burlesque circuit playing before a predominantly male working-class audience, where she thrived and honed her performance skills.

Her first appearance in a Broadway show was in a 1911 revue A La Broadway. The show folded after eight performances, but at age 18, West was singled out and discovered by the New York Times. She got her big break in 1918 in the Shubert Brothers revue Sometime. As more parts came her way, West began to shape her characters, often rewriting dialogue or character descriptions to better suit her persona. She eventually began writing her own plays. Continue reading

V is for Vincent Price #AtoZChallenge

Despite Vincent Price being irrevocably regarded as one of the most iconic and beloved horror movie actors in the world, he actually got his start as a dramatic actor. His tall, lanky frame and distinctive voice lent themselves nicely to character parts. He appeared on stage, television, radio, and in over one hundred films. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures, and one for television. His career spanned many genres, including film noir, drama, horror, mystery, thriller, and comedy.

The “Master of Menace” was born on May 27, 1911, and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of four children born to an upper-middle-class family. Price was educated in private schools, studied art history and English at Yale University, and then traveled to England to pursue the fine arts at University of London.

As any fan of classic horror movies knows, the name Vincent Price is synonymous with elegance, humor, and charm. Throughout his over 60-year movie and TV career, Price established himself as one of the most popular actors–beloved by both his fans and his peers.

Price’s remarkable career began on Broadway opposite Helen Hayes and ended in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands with Johnny Depp. One of Price’s most famous early roles was in the film noir classic Laura (1944) which was directed by Otto Preminger and also starred Gene Tierney.

Price delved into disturbing territory with the 3D hit House of Wax (1953), in which he plays a deranged and disfigured artist who makes wax sculptures using real people. In the 1960s, he appeared in a number of Roger Corman’s low-budget scare-fests. He also starred in several film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories, including The Masque of the Red Death and The Tell-Tale Heart.

Part of Price’s appeal as a villain was the humor he could inject into those sinister roles. His distinctive voice also contributed to his ability to create tension in films. He spoke in rich, deep tones, which sometimes had an eerie and unsettling quality. Price thought nothing of his famous speech patterns. “To me, I sound like everybody else in Missouri. I think I sound like Harry Truman,” he once said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Price enjoyed success in many arenas outside of cinema; he made many television appearances, ranging from The Brady Bunch to Batman to The Muppets. In the 1980s, he hosted the PBS series Mystery. His voice added the ominous air to Michael Jackson’s 1983 Thriller video in an opening monologue.

A lifelong art aficionado, Price wrote several books on his passion. A popular lecturer on art, Price also donated some of his art collection to establish the Vincent Price Gallery at East Los Angeles College. Also a devoted gourmet, Price co-wrote several cookbooks.

About the same time Price was filming Edward Scissorhands, he discovered that he had lung cancer. He died of the disease on October 25, 1993, at his Los Angeles home.