What follows is a list of 125 household-name artists grouped by the last years in which they appeeared on a single that hit the Top 40 of Billboard's "Hot 100" chart in America. As a recovering teen chart nut, I find this stuff fascinating. It speaks to their relevance as artists in some cases, but speaks to the relevance of having a "hit single" in cases where the artists are clearly still quite successful by other measures.
Most of all, it's just wow-inducing to see how long it's been for some of these artists, who have sold millions and millions of records in their storied careers. It's also interesting seeing the groups of artists who enjoyed their last Top 40 success together...Gloria Gaynor and Patti Smith, for example.
(Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong on any; it's hard juggling artists' singles, featured appearances, etc.)
Gwyneth Paltrow is rumored to be interested in a full-scale Go-Go's musical, and all of the members—even Paula Jean Brown—are said to be involved. It would be nice to have their important place in music and pop-culture history immortalized in a meaningful way; they seem forgotten in comparison to the impact they had.
My new pal Matt helps me prepare a Mitzi Gaynor sandwich
Last weekend, I went on one of my now monthly work trips to L.A., but had some time for a few very memorable playdates.
I was staying at the Beverly Garland hotel. If you're not familiar with her, Beverly Garland was a profilic TV actress perhaps best known for a stint on My Three Sons, but who was also a regular on Scarecrow and Mrs. King and 7th Heaven, along with appearing in countless other movies and TV shows. Her husband opened the hotels decades ago, including tributes to wifey's brilliant career in the lobby. Sadly, Garland died in 2008, breaking news I had not heard when I arrived until I Googled her. (Thankfully, I didn't ask the front desk if she might pop in during my stay!)
Exterior, biographical video in each room, room-service menu, career gallery & lobby of the Beverly Garland
It's actually a lovely Holiday Inn, even if one can easily be mesmerized watching the badly dated video loop of all her most memorable appearances that plays on the default channel of every in-room TV. (My definition of badly dated is that it refers to Garland being in her second 50 years in the biz and very much alive.) The hotel used to host autograph shows of the ilk that I attend far too regularly.
Loved spending more time at the French Quarter in my buddy Roy's Baby Jane of Hollywood, the place for movie memorabilia and naked pictures of leading men. He hooked me up with some Jane Withers photos—the explanation for why I needed those comes later.
But first, I was honored to be invited to have dinner with the great Billie Hayes, 80 this year, a respected stage actress with many TV credits to her name—yes, I am obsessed with her as Witchypoo from H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1970) with cute (and now dead from oral cancer!) Jack Wild and as Weenie the Genie from Lidsville (1970-1973). Billie told us wonderful stories about her friendship with Alice Ghostley (when Alice died, Billie took responsibility for her dog), her charity Pet Hope (she's lost count of how many times she's pulled over to save an animal in distress), getting to meet The Wizard of Oz's Margaret Hamilton (meeting Hamilton for The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, the ultimate witch told Billie she was her favorite witch!) and hanging with Kate Hepburn.
Meeting Witchypoo was a magical experience!
Her Hepburn story was unique in that Billie was coming from a place of not wanting to meet the legend—too intimidating—and then being impressed by how friendly Hepburn actually was. Imagine seeing Hepburn in Coco at the Dorothy Chandler and then being summoned to the small cottage she shared with Spencer Tracy for a late-night, informal gathering? I couldn't, but Billie described it so vividly I felt I'd been there.
She also talked about her fabulous friends Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde (with whom she debuted on Broadway in New Faces of 1956), describing them as polar opposites—Reilly gregarious and easy-going, Lynde rather tortured and serious.
Billie was a doll, very attentive to all her dinner companions—a group of gay dudes fixated on a kiddie show she'd done 40 years earlier. She graciously signed my Li'l Abner cast album, ticking off what had happened (as far as she knew) to the entire cast. [Did you know Valerie Harper was in that? Her face is even (barely) discernible on the LP sleeve!]
If you click to enlarge, Val's the gal next to the boy in horizontal stripes
Are people who play witches always so the opposite?
On the red carpet and, for once, not wearing black
The next day, a group of us—myself, Don, Brian, another Matt and Julie—headed to The 25th Annual Gypsy Awards, a function of The Professional Dancers Society. This year, they were honoring Dame Julie Andrews and had attracted a lot of big names (and even more not-so-big names) to show up and in some cases participate. It was held at the Beverly Hilton and had a small red carpet but a medium-sized contingent of attendees who were strictly there to get autographs from and pictures of the old-time idols.
Some of the hardcore fanboys had items for people to sign. When I spotted one with an "Ann-Margrock" illustration, I figured Ann-Margret had to be coming.
But they had items for everyone from honoree Andrews to rumored participants who never even showed, like Debbie Reynolds. There were also multiple, still rather doable former-dancer gay menz in the house, many paired off like silver candlesticks. Any number of them could've been good candidates for work on IWouldntSayNoGramps.com. I was dying to pull them aside and ask them for all their stories from being sexy dancers in the Golden Age of Hollywood, but that will have to wait for an encounter I have set up for next trip.
With Miriam Nelson
The first luminary we pounced on was Miriam Nelson, a famed choreographer and Paramount actress who at 89 looks and acts a good deal younger. She was charming, and was later feted from the stage by Mitzi Gaynor as one of the most good-hearted human beings of all time. I see she has a memoir out called My Life Dancing with the Stars with a foreword by Andrews and the late Blake Edwards—bet that's a lively read considering the list of stars she worked with (Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly) and the fact that she choreographed the opening day at Disneyland.
Let's hope we all live to 92 and look like this
When 92-year-old Marge Champion (the original model for Snow White, pictured) entered with her strapping, 55-year-old director son Gregg, half the lobby descended upon her. Once the wife of famed choreographer Gower, Marge is no slouch herself in that department, apparently still teaching after having worked as an actress and choreographer throughout the '30s, '40s and '50s. She looks amazing and was happy to sign and only slightly less happy to pose for pictures, asking my pal Matt if he'd been a dancer himself. Actually, I owe him for helping me to "get" Marge, as her dreamy son seemed keenly interested in making blond Matt's dreams of an autograph with Mama come true.
Marge and in charge!
I missed a wheelchair-bound Teri Garr, 64, who suffers from MS, because I had been in a mad dash to replenish my batteries (time for a new camera). Jane Withers, 85, and nightclub singer Barbara Van Orden (around 70?) were milling about, as was Honeymooner Jane Kean, 87 (whom I've met).
As of midnight last night, it was exactly six years since my first post. It's been a tough thing to keep up with a dayjob and outside activities, and just when I think I might walk away, a valuable connection or interesting opportunity or a kind word comes my way. Thank you all for reading me.
Participating in a recent forum on how to effectively market at-home HIV testing, I got a $200 gift card. Not wanting to spend it on a hustler, I instead gave $150 of that to The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead's Planned Parenthood, I Am Here for You fundraiser that happened here in NYC last night—and it was not only a good investment but also a good investment.
Joan Walsh & Lizz Winstead
I showed up at 6:30PM at the Gramercy for the VIP reception to find a handful of non-famous women spiked with the evening's famous females—Winstead, Salon editor Joan Walsh, Sandra Bernhard and Lisa Lampanelli. I was the only dude for the longest time in a room filled with women and several womyn.
Adding Sandra Bernhard to the mix
Lisa Lampanelli (L) and Judy Blume (R) join a mom and her baby, Rosie
My new friends with the A-list
All together now!
Talking to a few attendees about the art of the photo op, I figured out we were supposed to meet and greet the stars on our own—there was no formal line happening. This makes it a bit awkward because you don't really want to shoehorn yourself between Winstead and Bernhard when they're engrossed in a conversation about their bodies/their selves. Especially when you're announcing that you blog at something called Boy Culture.
Oh, Fudge! Fawning over Judy Blume
But it was totally fine and the women were absolutely gracious and eager to pose for photos and chat. Winstead is the ultimate feminist to me—unswerving on principle, unbothered by political correctness, utterly hilarious. She was in boots and a dress that looked macramaed from a distance. She reminds me of Laurie Metcalf and Barrie Longfellow.
Since Thursday, I've been away from The Big Apple of Irene's eye, New York City, and holed up in 110-degree Dallas; my brilliant idea had been to hit up one of the last few Go-Go's VIP meet-and-greets in a city where my "in-laws" (nothing legal about it as José and I are no more than best friends in the eyes of the law) live. Of course, everything is 40 minutes away in Dallas, so the trip itself has consisted of many car rides, lots of eating out and definitely some fun times, even if being apart from José and our dog-children during what was potentially going to be a damaging hurricane stressed us both out far more than a spirited rendition of "We Got the Beat" could make up for.
109 degrees, but my presence *did* make it rain one day in Dallas
Now that things have settled—and FUCK YOU to New Yorkers tripping over themselves to make sarcastic remarks about how Irene was overhyped when people died and damage happened even if not to them—I can summarize my trip in a nutshell.
I was dropped off at the House of Blues in Dallas Friday for The Go-Go's, where I was immersed in a lively crowd of 40something marrieds who arrived pre-loaded to the gills. Not as gay a crowd as their gig outside Chicago. I had instructions to meet at the Park Avenue Room (as if it wasn't already hard enough to forget about NYC for a few hours), so we all gathered around a long table that was set up there. I met several nice fans, including a sports writer who'd forgotten to bring anything for them to sign and a guy and girl (one of whom has a granddaughter, but didn't look it) who'd left their camera in the car. So, since the girls were only signing ONE item PERIOD, I gave my extra CD cover to the first guy and then told the pair I'd let them use my camera and e-mail them the photos. The fan-karma paid off with a pretty flawless night.