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Now in their 80s, these two divas have been called by many names over the years: Debbie Reynolds has been described as America’s sweetheart or the quintessential girl-next-door. Rita Moreno has been called a spicy Latin spitfire, and MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer once called her “a Spanish Elizabeth Taylor.” Now these stars have written memoirs that are must-reads for anyone who wants to explore their lives beyond those labels.
The title of Reynolds’ book — Unsinkable: A Memoir — refers to her Academy-Award-nominated role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. This memoir picks up from the last chapter of her previous autobiography, Debbie: My Life, which came out in 1988. In that book’s closing pages, she wrote about finally finding love with her new husband after two broken marriages. This one, she believed at the time, would last for the rest of her life — but life seldom works out the way we plan. No matter how painful the subject matter, the actress shares, in excruciating detail, a very personal account of her husband and money troubles — and how the one caused most of the other. The immediate, “you-are-there“ style that Reynolds and co-author Dorian Hannaway use makes this book hard to put down..
Over the latter half of Reynolds’ life, she has become known and celebrated for her astounding collection of cinematic memorabilia, including Marilyn Monroe’s “subway” dress from The Seven Year Itch and Audrey Hepburn’s “Ascot “ gown and hat from My Fair Lady. Throughout much of the 1980s and ’90s, her quest was to find a permanent home to house these items.
She thought she had finally found one when she opened a hotel and museum in Las Vegas. Within a few years, however, Reynolds discovered that her husband had betrayed her emotionally and financially -- she even writes how, at one point, she feared for her life from this man she thought she knew. Along the way, her dream was destroyed and much of her incredible collection was lost. Yet this same collection would ultimately save her from financial ruin. Though it’s heartbreaking to read about someone’s dream crashing and burning, it is equally inspiring that Reynolds refused to give up and continues to prevail.
In the second half of the book, Reynolds lightens the mood considerably by recounting her film career, movie by movie, and sharing memories and juicy stories about each one. These include how she once found Tony Randall jumping up and down in the dressing trailer next to hers, completely nude, and how dancer Bob Fosse groped her on the set of Give the Girl a Break. (“Bobby would come up behind me and press his ‘gift’ into my backside,” she writes.) Among her lighter anecdotes are those involving her long friendships with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra, and how she co-starred with the Lincoln Futura that would, in due course, become TV’s Bat-mobile.
By contrast, Rita Moreno: A Memoir is a full-on autobiography She is one of the very few artists — and the only one of Hispanic descent — to be awarded an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and two Emmys. Moreno triumphed over many boundaries in her career, easing the way for countless performers.
“Pretend to be someone I’m not,” Moreno writes; “this idea has lasted most of my life — it is how I coped — but not without profound consequences.”
Born Rosita Dolores Alverio in Puerto Rico, she relates how, when she was 5 years old, her mother took her to New York City, leaving behind a baby brother she would never see again. After a harrowing ocean voyage, they eventually wound up in the barrios of the Bronx.
While studying Spanish dance with Paco Cansino, an uncle of Rita Hayworth, she made her nightclub debut performing opposite him at age 9. She made her Broadway debut at 13. Before long she was signed by MGM, and numerous pages of her memoir are devoted to stories of her adventures there, including one memorable publicity tour with Ann Miller where they encountered a flirtatious soon-to-be President John F. Kennedy.
Show-biz enthusiasts will also love reading about the making of West Side Story for which Moreno won the Academy Award for best supporting actress. In the book, she characterizes the film’s original choreographer, Jerome Robbins, as being “filled with a puzzling self-loathing that spilled over onto all the people with whom he worked. He was never mean to me, but he was brutally hard on me.”
Several years later, Moreno added a Tony Award to her Oscar for portraying the outrageous Googie Gomez in Terrence McNally’s classic comedy The Ritz. But Moreno’s absorbing narrative is also heart-wrenching, particularly when she admits to being involved in a number of toxic and often obsessive relationships with several Hollywood heavy-hitters. Not the least of these was her passionate — and passionately dysfunctional — romance with the mercurial Marlon Brando, which led her to attempt suicide.
Each book offers a refreshing glimpse into the family lives of these entertainers. Moreno has been married once — to physician Lenny Gordon – a union that lasted for 45 years, until his death in 2010. She discusses her loss in an especially poignant chapter titled “Losing Lenny.” And she expresses the “incomparable” joys of being the mother of her beloved daughter Fernanda. Reynolds, too, devotes plenty of space in her book to her close relationship with her children, Todd and Carrie Fisher — without whom, she says, she would never have made it through all that she has.
It’s interesting to note where the two actresses’ lives have intersected. For instance, leading man Gene Kelly personally hired Moreno for her supporting part in Singin’ in the Rain, but that was not the case with Reynolds. and she reports that early on, the actor even seemed to resent her, driving her to tears during production. In another coincidence, Moreno alludes to a “disastrous” date that she went on with Harry Karl, heir to the Karl Shoes dynasty, who eventually became Reynolds’ second husband.
More recently, Moreno starred on the hit TV show Oz from 1997 to 2003, and she will receive the coveted Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in January 2014. Reynolds has had supporting roles in films such as In and Out and this summer’s Liberace: Behind the Candelabra.
These two incredible women are American treasures, and their stories are valuable to all of us, as well.
Unsinkable: A Memoir, published by William Morrow, and Rita Moreno: A Memoir, published by Celebra Books, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets.
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.