Nearly a week-and-a-half before the Oscars, an occurrence both magical and momentous was transpiring at the venerable old Max Factor building, otherwise known as the Hollywood Museum. While you were all at work, stuck in traffic, or starting to think you had it all just a li-ttle more ‘figured out’ than your life coach after witnessing them break down crying over a bowl of Museli and milk on the very morning they ‘promised’ they would engage you in a New Year’s cleansing fast, Hollywood Museum founder/president Donelle Dadigan and Steve Nyckelmoe were hard at work putting the finishing touches on what would be The Hollywood Museum’s latest, greatest exhibit opening in the 16th year of the 21st Century: The “Celebration of Entertainment Awards”!
Yes, just past the preliminary barricades peppering Hollywood Blvd. in preparation for the big evening roughly a fortnight hence, and beneath the noted billboard of Chris Rock’s big ol’ beaming head, the Hollywood Museum ushered in costumes galore keepsakes, pictures and all manner of nostalgic knick knacks for the exhibit’s opening on Tuesday February 16th!
Included in the films nominated for this year’s 88th Academy Awards were also recipients of alternate current honors such as the Golden Globes along with legendary award winners in history and iconic TV shows not the least of which included: The Big Short, The Danish Girl, Brooklyn, Trumbo, Inside Out, Peanuts, Orange is the New Black, The Good Wife, Bessie, The Walking Dead, VEEP, Mad Men, Ray Donovan, The Knick, Silicone Valley, Transparent, House of Lies and Straight Outta Compton. All in all a diverse, sundry, and eclectic mélange as vast and varied as Donald Trump’s voluminous array of colored toupees and all the two faced reactions accompanying them. It was surreal to incongruous as one witnessed George Chakiris aka Bernardo, posing in front of his Oscar for West Side Story, Alice Amter (aka Mrs. Koothrappali) of Big Bang Theory fame—deriving from a show evocative of how it all started– lingering in front of The Walking Dead Display—a program ostensibly revolving around how it could all end, and a big, tall, strapping Ron Moss Sauntering past the Peanuts display—just because, well…who would ever conceive of such a pairing?!?!
Costumes were the primary piece de resistance sitting all pert and billowy in their glass cases as if floated in on the ethereal hands of Edith Head’s most masterful ghost! An outfit or two from Peanuts or Inside Out might’ve been nice too but far be it from Edith Head to endorse anything that was born of the cartoonist’s hand! Ha ha ha!—Okay, no really. I’ll stop!
All in all, the bounty of memorabilia and surplus of celebrities was more voluminous than any number of Whiskeys from which Don Draper ever suffered any form of headache or hangover and each guest had their studied to hilarious observations, recommendations, and appraisals along the way!
“There are so many favorite parts [to this exhibit],” enthusiastically exclaimed Anson Williams most fondly remembered as Potsie Weber on the beloved series Happy Days. “I was just blown away by the costumes: Everything from A Star is Born to Star Trek to Star Wars—all the originals. It’s wonderful. I brought two of my daughters and they were enamored and it was just so nice to be able to talk about Judy Garland and to talk about all these greats and to see the actual gowns worn, their actual make up, their actual costumes… It’s a wonderful important collection that should inspire generations to come!”
“So far I saw the Mad Men exhibit and one of my many hobbies is sewing and I could tell that those costumes were actual vintage costumes that they’ve refurbished,” adeptly appraised lovely lounge singer Laura Pursell. “They weren’t reconstructions. Those dresses are…of the original 1960s era…and I could tell by the stitching so of course I was fascinated by that…I love Mad Men… That’s my favorite part so far!”
“Oh I don’t have a favorite,” declared Gilligan’s Island’s Mary Ann herself, Dawn Wells. “If there weren’t so many people, you could spend 20 or 30 minutes with each exhibit. The hand tied sequins… all of the stuff you don’t realize goes into a costume… I mean Gilligan’s Island shorts were a big deal. I had to get them to curve my navel. I had to trim ‘em so that it wouldn’t make my body look heavy. Look at these beautiful gowns on these beautiful stars years and years ago. That glamour is not equaled anymore.”
“My favorite part of [the] exhibit was seeing all of my friends here tonight,” proudly declared Ro Brooks of Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots. “Seeing Alice [Amter] from the Little Bang Theory and just looking at these great actors, these great outfits—oh my favorite [film] was Straight Outta Compton. That was an awesome movie. It was a great exhibit.”
LA Beat-I can’t believe they got his son to play him [Ice-Cube] too!
Ro Brooks-They say he auditioned for the role!
“I was looking at the stuff with The Danish Girl ‘cause I got the screener for that and I need to watch it. That looked really fabulous with all the paintings and everything and…of course I like the clothes from Mad Men,” cooed Alison Arngrim aka bad girl Nellie Oleson of Little House on the Prairie fame.
According to both Stan Livingston of My Three Sons and Robert Peters, from Lincoln and Everwood there is no place they would have rather been than anyplace horrific…well…under the auspices of the museum and its display:
Stan Livingston– The Dungeon: I grew up in Hollywood so any kind of monster stuff I’m into. I saw a picture of Jack Pierce, the famous make-up guy who created Frankenstein and the Wolf Man and one of the highlights of my career was, we did a Chevrolet commercial for My Three Sons and he was the make-up guy! So I actually can say I was made up by Jack Pierce.
LA Beat- And yours Robert?
Robert Peters-I would say it’s a tie for me, the dungeon; you can’t help but love the dungeon, but I also love the room where you see all the photos of old Hollywood and…you see how different Los Angeles and Hollywood has become and also the old pictures of all the stars throughout the years. It’s really cool.
Stan Livingston–Especially the old pictures. The worst part is, I’m so old, I actually remember when it looked like that. That’s scary!
LA Beat-If you’re feeling old you’ve gotta get Jack Pierce to give you a make-up job where you look like a very young monster maybe…
Stan Livingston-Yeah, that’d make me look a lot younger.
And really, what makes this display the most superlative, according to Steven Wishnoff best known for his role as Tony Masters on the HBO series OZ is:
“Seeing stuff like The Danish Girl, next to How to Get Away with Murder, next to Transparent across from Mad Men [and] Bessie all together in one place…and the one thing they have in common, other than the fact that I like them all, is they’ve all been honored for excellence in one form or another. That is amazing!”
To add to the texture and tapestry of the night’s festivities I could not help but wonder what each star’s favorite memory from film/television was and what they would include if they were able to contribute to said display. The answers were as wide-ranging and even surprising as the musical stylings of Marcel Marceau—well the imagined ones really. I hear he had quite the distinct and deafly adept ear!
Aside from Judy Garland being her most favorite part of the display, The Facts of Life’s Geri Jewell was adamant about one other stellar lady in showbiz history both current and former:
“When Carol Burnett wore the curtain rods on The Carol Burnett Show, if that still exists, that costume, is phenomenal… It was a spinoff of Gone with the Wind and the spoof was called Went with the Wind. Remember when Scarlett O’Hara came down those stairs…? Well Carol Burnett came down playing that role but had curtain rod drapes on her instead of the dress. It got the longest laugh in television history and ironically enough…I was in the studio audience in the front row…I was probably about 16 or 17….I wasn’t even in the industry yet!”
“Oh, I think Billy Crystal—in that uh… Oh my God with Robert DeNiro in that movie…the gangster movie with the psychiatrist…?” declared noted singer Barbara Van Orden—and an even more noted DeNiro fan! “Analyze This! [That’s what I would include!] Oh then of course my engagement party was all Casablanca [themed]. The whole place was blanketed with Casablanca lilies…it was 60 people and it was beautiful. [It had] waterfalls and [we had] props from the movie and I even had the piano; the so-called Play it again Sam. Only [my husband] didn’t say ‘Play it again Sam’ he said, ‘You know what I wanna hear.’ Then we had a fellow that does Bogart and all the men had to come in white jackets and they had red Fezes on…raspberry/cranberry colored Fezes like they would have if they had been in Rick’s place and the women wore black. So it was black and white and I had all the Casablanca films interwoven with all the Casablanca lilies!”
Singer Laura Pursell’s response and the fortuitous opportunity afforded thereafter can only thoroughly and aptly be captured via that of a mini-script (to be read dramatically or humorously, take your pick, play around with it…I don’t know… Either way, ‘twill be a most edifying little acting exercise to be reckoned with!):
Laura Pursell— Well [I would include] anything from Gillian’s Island, obviously.
LA Beat– Dawn Wells is here!
Laura Pursell- I know. I have to go introduce myself to her!… I love Gilligan’s Island… Oh! You know what I would love? Anything from Little House on the Prairie. Anything.
LA Beat-Alison Arngrim’s here too!
Laura Pursell-She is!?
Laura Pursell-I didn’t know that.
LA Beat-Well you wanna walk through and see if we can find her?
Dawn Wells would not so obviously have included anything from Gilligan’s Island and had absolutely NO SUGGESTIONS WHATSOEVER—well…at first…
“Wow I think they’ve got everything here you could possibly want.”
LA Beat-What about Gilligan’s Island?
Dawn Wells– Oh I know but that’s just a palm tree and the hammock. I think [I would include] Marilyn Monroe and the dress and the glamour of the 40s and the 50s—we don’t see much of that anymore you know? … Or Gone with the Wind maybe…
Or Went with the Wind perhaps… In kind, Alison Arngrim’s opinion on what might have been included is nearly just as hilarious as the aforementioned Carol Burnett sketch itself:
“Oh you know what they need; since Stallone from Creed is getting the nomination and everything…? They need the moment when Rocky runs up the stairs. They need to do the Philadelphia stairs. I’ve run those stairs. I was in Philadelphia doing a show and my friends were like ‘Ahaha, dare you. Dare you!’ And they were like ‘Dude we’re putting this on YouTube. Get the camera. Get the phone, we’re doing this!’ And I’m a big Rocky freak and I said, ‘I am going to run up those stairs’; with the wig, we had the wig! And I said, ‘Okay, I’m probably going to get half way up, start heaving and coughing and vomit and fall down, but it’ll be great footage. It’ll be lovely. I’ll be in the wig, I’ll be collapsed lying on the stairs etc…’ and I started going up them and I got some kind of second wind and apparently I’m in better shape than I thought. I do try to keep in shape, and I started picking up pace… The Spirit of Rocky [kicked in] and I started taking two stairs at a time like in the movie and I ran all the way! And as I was going up–because all these tourists had come to do the same thing–I saw people half my age [panting], giving up and I was like ‘Seeya!’ –and ran all the way to the top and did the dance, spun around and my friend with the camera said ‘I do not believe I just saw that! You just ran all the way up the freakin’ stairs!’ So I was pleased. I was then in pain for the rest of the day. I was exhausted. I collapsed after. I couldn’t do anything for like two days, I couldn’t move. I did do it but I was shocked that I was able to do it…so I think they need something from Rocky here.”
Aaand after all that, Anson Williams’ rejoinder was just as arresting, albeit completely diametrically opposed:
“I would [include] Thomas Edison who invented it, where it all started,” and ever the history buff, he is right on target!
Stan Livingston’s rejoinder was similar but completely divergent:
“Fred McMurray’s toupee,” all rounded out in an entirely shocking moment in history—televised or otherwise. He wore a toupee? Shows how much I know about men’s hair ware!
As to Livingston’s partner in benevolent speech crime for the night, Robert Peters had a most remarkable inclusion if not still burgeoning aspiration:
“The experience I [would bottle] would be the time I was a production assistant on a movie and I asked Warren Beatty to read my script and we read it together. True story! He looked at me [after I asked] for what felt like ten minutes and then he goes, ‘Yeah, you know what, come inside [my trailer] and let’s read it together.’ He liked it. It was a comedy called Mutual Love Life that I ended up directing and it’s been my most successful film I’ve directed. I’ve sold it to HBO and I still, to this day, want to make it into a full length movie but at the time it came out of a short sketch comedy thing that I did and then I made it into a short film. But I went by his trailer and it was such a stupid move.” –at the time anyway according to Peters. Then again, hindsight is 20/20.
Rex Smith in all his poetic, deliciously trippy stream of consciousness bard-like musings had this to say:
I’ll tell ya what, when I was in the elevator, there was an 8 foot [poster] of Casablanca and it’s got every face in it… It’s kinda blue and white and then there’s Bogart in color. You can’t see it. It’s kinda hidden. It shouldn’t be obscured. But that right there is the beauty of it. It’s compounded like a beautiful glorious strawberry sundae. A.) they didn’t know what they were making B.) People were on loan: let’s knock this out or whatever. It’s one of those things where you put in ingredients, it starts to bubble over the lip of the cup and you go holy moly we’ve got something! I think that movie has been imitated and repeated probably plot-value line more than any other movie, in the Buddy pictures. That last line, “It’s the start of a beautiful friendship,” was the start of “48 Hours”…
LA Beat-What about Girl buddy movies, was it the beginning of that?
Rex Smith– Thelma and Louise… That was the END of a beautiful friendship…
Naturally and subsequently, the subject of Pirates of Penzance arose to which Smith fondly referred:
“I’m not Norma Desmond. I’ve had my close up all right, but Pirates was, in a surfing analogy, like riding the best wave and riding it all the way to the beach and stepping off the board eight times. And…we all did the movie but Man the entire eight months of filming did not feel like the overfill on the Wednesday matinee… Kevin [Kline] is the godfather of my youngest daughter Savannah of five children. Kevin is my mentor and our friendship and brotherhood was melded in a cauldron that’s not Wicked [the musical]. It’s not a machine pushin’ it out. It was Pirates. It was 100 years old the night we opened. It was Gilbert and Sullivan and we just treated it like the ink wasn’t dry on the paper!”
Steven Wishnoff, best known for HBO’s OZ, then asked, “So if somebody came up to you and said, ‘I have a script for you and Kevin…’
“Tell him where to find me…” Smith could only respond.
And of course the LA Beat couldn’t help but put in their two cents worth, “You could do another buddy movie like Casablanca…”
All in all an incredibly rousing, festive, and inspiring night filled with Hollywood history, wine and storied intrigue. Ro Brooks would add that his favorite scripts to see in a display would have to be “New Jack City, Menace to Society, Juice, and Five Heartbeats by Robert Townsend. Rex Smith would disclose that he attended Xenon rather than Studio 54 in the 70s as he lived on the East Side and just “Wasn’t it all good before these wicked things came in? (referring to cell phones) It was just you. A nod was as good as a wink and an adventure was as good as a night!” Yeah, kinda like the one we just had! And Steven Wishnoff would serenade us out with the perfect bookend of sentiment:
“It’s hard for me is because my tastes are incredibly eclectic. So if you were to bottle something from my childhood, it would have to be the original Dark Shadows, if you could get it–warts and all–which was part of the joy of it… [i.e.] to see the things that would go wrong because it was done live at the time, and being on the East Coast…we got it live… But I would really like to see the work of different writers or actors or directors from different points in their career so there might be one exhibit dedicated to the work of Norman Lear alongside one dedicated to the work of Patty Duke, alongside one dedicated to the work of Betty White alongside one dedicated to the work of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball… I look at how they’ve evolved over time…Patty Duke for example you might start with the Patty Duke Show and you might look at Miracle Worker, and you might look at Valley of the Dolls, and you find those bench mark moments, each one of them, for different reasons but then you could include a card or recording of that person or someone really close to that person…talking about how that came about…or what that next project was…and this is why I think it’s fascinating: If you were to look at retrospectives of a person, whether it’s a writer or a director or an actor a wardrobe person, a designer, a make-up person, you would find an amazing series that are all intertwined all informing each other and to me it’s fascinating!”
And he’s right. It’s all conncected!
Celebration of Entertainment Awards is on display at the Hollywood Museum until May 1st.
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