Among the gifts that Robin Williams had in his acting toolbox were his smiles. There were several of them, from the goofy to the wholehearted. I often noticed a sweet or gentle smile, barely there, or one like the smile above, a crease with upturned lips, often possessed of a secret. As always, Robin Williams' eyes were more revealing, and told a story that was much more complex. It was long ago obvious (in part because of his battles with drug addiction) that his eyes told stories that went far beyond laughter.
Robin Williams took his own life on Monday. He was a big part of my world when I was growing up I played Reality ... What a Concept as much as any other album I had at the time. Mork was one thing, but his stand-up was electrifying. Then came movies, and unexpected choices like The World According to Garp, which proved not just his wish to do more than tell jokes but his talent, waiting to be untapped.
If you look closely at the cover of Rick Wakeman's Six Wives of Henry VIII, which was photographed at the Madame Tussaud's in London, you can see a wax figure of Richard Nixon in the far background, his head just above a couple of the wives.
For its promos of the fourth season of Game of Thrones, HBO wisely used a comic take of Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau hamming it up as Tyrion walked to the dock for one of the episodes of his trial for regicide; the full sequence is at the end of this blooper reel.
Earlier today, I found myself silently singing "Whoa-ah, whoah" ... and not sure where that came from. The subconscious served it up: it's Cath, a single by the Bluebells, from no less than (coughs) 30 years ago.
This is an obviously lip-synced performance from UK television. (Whoa-ah, whoah.)
I walked home this afternoon by way of taking the trail along Kent's Pond, and was grateful to have noticed this scene: a mother duck, guarding her ducklings as she nudged them to keep moving through the woods. I presume they would eventually make their way to the pond!
It wasn't even a soft-shoe performance, as there were no shoes at all ... at least not on Bert Cooper, who famously eschewed shoes in the office. Mad Men sent Bert on his way this Sunday, in the mid-season finale that will have to do us for most of the next year. What a great way to have Robert Morse say goodbye: a song and a dance, and a wink.
I loved the scene. And, really, didn't the choice of song - The Best Things In Life Are Free - not only tip its hat to that episode's moon landing plot but more importantly to the very crux of the ending episodes, between material success and emotional happiness?
David Bowie's performance of Wild Is the Wind was the first I had been aware of, but once I learned that he modelled his version on Nina Simone and thus tracked down her recording of it, I now think of the song as hers. It was actually brought to the public eye, or ear, by Johnny Mathis, but five decades on, it's still Simone's song.
This is my mother, Sheila Gushue, when she was about 10 years old, near Rennie's River in St. John's. When she was a girl, going along Rennie's River meant going for a walk into the country; now, of course, it's long been in the heart of the city, or even just its east end.
Nick assembled this and other photographs for a heritage project a few months ago. I love seeing photos of Mom when she was growing up, just as much as I love seeing her today.
It's always amazed me that Britain, which gave us the Beatles (not to mention the Kinks, the Who, the Stones, the Faces, David Bowie, Queen and Dusty Springfield, just to get some names roling), have had a bizarre habit over the years of putting godawful songs at the No. 1 position in the charts. I still remember Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce, which somehow made its way to the top in 1981.
This week, courtesy of the BBC Radio 4 serial drama The Archers, I learned of another. The characters in the fictional village of Ambridge are getting ready for a Seventies-themed party. The fantasy of the younger folk is matched by the weary "well, we were actually there" of the older ones. Jazzer, one of the characters, remembers a band he recalls being called "Captain Pigeon, was it?" with "somebody's mum playing the piano."
I was curious, and found the band was actually Lieutenant Pigeon, which went to the top in October 1972 ... and yes, somebody's mum actually did play the piano on the song, Mouldy Old Dough. And yes, it was No. 1 for four weeks in a row!
And ... it's wretched! As best I know, the song did not travel much across the Atlantic.
1972 turns out to be a spotty year for No. 1 singles in the U.K. Yes, there was Rod Stewart's You Wear It Well and T. Rex's Telegram Sam, but there were also appearances by Donny Osmond and Jimmy Osmond ... you can see the full list here.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.