WHAT IS AN ICON?
This past week, VH1 joined the ranks of other sources and revealed their list of the 200 top icons of all time. Webster has several definitions of the word, the majority of them having to do with religion. The closest pop culture definition reads: a usually pictorial representation. To me this refers to such classics as the Pillsbury Doughboy and Mickey Mouse. To VH1, the majority of their icons are major celebrities. Their top 10, in reverse order:
10. Michael Jackson. Icon? Perhaps. Sadly his status now is less about his musical achievements and more about his very bizarre personal life.
9. Princess Diana. Icon? No. Unless you were living in England did you really know anything about this woman other then what you read in the tabloids? Sadly, she will always be remembered for the way she died then the good deeds she did while alive.
8. Michael Jordan. Icon? Could be. Next to Muhammad Ali, Jordan is the most recognizable athlete in the world. Even marital problems and a lawsuit from his mistress has not slowed his endorsement deals.
7. Madonna. Icon? Yes. The power and ability to completely change your image and music seemingly on will is what makes her the star she is.
6. Marilyn Monroe. Icon? Oh, yeah! Celebrity marriages, hanging with John and Bobby Kennedy and her still suspicious death make her, more then 40 years after she died, still the image of the movie bombshell.
5. Tom Cruise. Icon? Nope. After Harrison Ford he's the most popular movie star of all time. But still just an actor. If I had my pick, James Dean would be here.
4. Lucille Ball. Icon? Hell yes! Every sitcom actress for the last 50 years has paled in comparison to the great red head's talent.
3. Elvis Presley. Icon? Duh! For proof, you only need to look at the hype surrounding daughter Lisa Marie's first album, released more then 25 years after the King had left us.
2. Superman. Icon? Exactly. This is an icon in it's truest form.
1. Oprah Winfrey. Icon? Hard to tell. She went from hosting a local morning show in Baltimore to a national talk show in Chicago. Add to that an Oscar nomination for her first film role and the fact that she has the power to turn John Steinbeck's novel, "East of Eden," into a best seller 50 years after it had first been published. Not sure if anyone will ever use the term "Oprahesque," but if they do they will prove that she belongs on this list.
Congratulations to former Baltimore Oriole Eddie Murray who, this past Sunday, was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just the 38th player ever elected on his first ballot, Murray is one of only three players in history to amass more then 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Having had the opportunity to manage Eddie's movie theatre of choice in Baltimore, I could spend the next three weeks relating my fondest memories. Eddie left town bitter after the 1988 season when the local media placed the reasons for the teams poor performance on his shoulders. He returned in 1996 and was able to hit his 500th home run in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Well, sadly, the American Legion season ended badly for the Lansing Huskies as they lost a heartbreaker 7-5 and were eliminated from the Zone tournament. Sadder still is that it was the final Legion game for my son, Phillip. Proud as hell to note that he got a hit in his last at bat and scored the final run of the season. I had promised myself that I wouldn't become a blubbering fool like I had at the end of last season, but once again I brought the entire team to tears with my end of the year speech. Please click here to read all about it. Phillip is 4th from the left in the photo. The handsome man in the back with the sunglasses on top of his hat is me!
WHO'S WATCHING THE KIDS?
I was a big fan of the show "Happy Days" from it's debut up until Ron Howard left the show. Working nights kept me from viewing the final episode (when Joanie and ChaChi were married) when it first ran. I finally caught it this past week and was puzzled when Mr. Cunningham made a toast, commenting that he and Mrs. C had raised "two great children." I immediately thought back to the first season, which included big brother Chuck. Wow, I didn't know it was that easy to get rid of a kid in the early 60's.
I BURIED THE LEAD
The above words were uttered by Albert Brooks while confessing his love to Holly Hunter in the film, Broadcast News. Those words sprung to mind as news hit the streets that the obituary that was run for Bob Hope in the New York Times was written by well known film critic Vincent Canby. Unfortunately for the newspaper, Canby was so well known that many people mourned his death 3 YEARS AGO!! Apparently, as is the case at many major newspapers concerning older celebrities, Canby had written a tentative obit of Hope shortly before he (Canby) died in October 2000. In the Time's defense, "not much had happened to Mr. Hope since the obituary had been written. Since Vincent's byline was on the article, we felt no need to remove it."
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
Not having heard about him since the big hoopla concerning his 100th Birthday Celebration, I must admit that I was genuinely shocked to learn of the passing of Bob Hope. Out of the public eye for several years and in declining health, Mr. Hope passed away at his home in Toluca Lake, California. Well known for his comedic work in radio, television and film, to me Hope's legacy will always be his 50 years of service to his adopted country while entertaining our troops overseas. Born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England on May 29, 1903, Hope moved with his family to the US in 1907, settling in Cleveland, Ohio. He began appearing in vaudeville shows, but found the time to become a US citizen in 1920. Moving to New York City, he made his stage debut in 1927 in the show Sidewalks of New York. In 1933, he made his Broadway debut in Roberta. Moving to Hollywood, he made his first film appearance a memorable one. In The Big Broadcast of 1938, he and costar Shirley Ross introduced the song "Thanks for the Memory," which would become Hope's signature number. He made seven of the popular "Road" movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Among his other hits: Son of Paleface and My Favorite Blonde. He was the long time host of the annual Academy Awards ceremony and received a record five honorary awards. But it was his work entertaining the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen of the world that will be remembered forever. In early 1941, Hope made his first appearance before the troops stationed at March Field in California. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hope traveled with the USO, appearing at bases in England, North Africa and Sicily. Hope actually wanted to enlist in the military but was talked out of it by President Roosevelt, who told him his greatest contribution would be to boost the morale of US troops all over the world. Hope took his USO show to every part of the world. From World War II to Korea, from Vietnam to Desert Storm, Hope would bring a piece of America to men and women who were sometimes thousands of miles away from home. Tuesday, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell proposed a resolution that would allow Hope to be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Though the resolution passed, Hope's family declined the honor, preferring he be buried close to his wife and children in California.
Sam Phillips, best known as the man who first recorded Elvis Presley, died Wednesday at St Francis Hospital in Memphis. He was 80. Born in Florence, Alabama, he began his career in radio working as an engineer and disc jockey for local stations. He moved to Memphis in 1945 and started Sun Records in 1950. At first known for it's black artists, including B.B. King and Rufus Thomas, the company branched out to country and blue grass music. In 1954, a young man named Elvis Presley recorded "That's All Right, Mama" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and the era of rock and roll was born. Phillips sold Presley's contract to RCA for $35,000 in 1956. Other early Sun artists include Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty and Charlie Rich. Phillips sold Sun Records in 1969. The original studio is still open on Union Avenue. True to the Sun motto: "We record anything, anywhere, anytime," I recorded two songs there in 1997.
John Schlesinger, Oscar-winning director of Midnight Cowboy, Day of the Locust, Marathon Man and other films, passed away Friday due to complications from a stroke. He was removed from life support equipment the previous day. Born in London in 1926, he began his show business career by appearing in local stage shows. He moved into film by working on documentaries. His first major feature was Billy Liar, starring an unknown actress named Julie Christie. His next film, Darling, earned him an Academy Award nomination for best director as well as the Best Actress trophy for Christie. For his US debut, he chose the story of a male hustler who learns the hard way about the streets of New York in Midnight Cowboy. Released in 1967 and starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, the film was nominated for seven Oscars and won three - Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Director for Schlesinger. Due to the film's subject matter it was originally rated X and remains the only film with that rating to win the Best Picture award. By the time the film was reissued for it's 25th anniversary the subject matter was deemed tame enough to warrant an R rating. Among his more memorable films is 1971's Sunday Bloody Sunday, which featured a then unheard of on screen kiss between Peter Finch and Murray Head. He made moviegoers fear the dentist with his 1976 thriller Marathon Man. The film featured a torturous scene between Hoffman and Laurence Olivier and made the question, "Is it safe?" one of the most popular film lines in history. Other films include Yanks and The Falcon and the Snowman. His last film was 2000's The Next Best Thing.
Erik Braunn, lead guitarist for the group Iron Butterfly, died of cardiac arrest Friday. He was 52. A violin prodigy who began his musical career at the age of 4, Braunn joined Iron Butterfly at the age of 16. He toured with the from 1967 - 1969 and played one of the most recognizable riffs in the 17-minute classic "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."
Well, that's it for now. Have a great week. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.