The Original Mickey Mouse Club Television Show

MMC - show opening

In honor of Mickey Mouse’s birthday (November 18, 1928), this post will be about the original Mickey Mouse Club Television Show.  The show was created by Walt Disney and produced by the Walt Disney Company and was shown on the ABC television network from October 3, 1955 to September 25, 1959.  But first let’s start with some background information …

Before the television show, Mickey Mouse made his official debut in the short film, “Steamboat Willie (1928) which was one of the first sound cartoons.  Mickey went on to appear in over 130 films such as “The Band Concert” (1935) and Fantasia (1940).  Shortly after Mickey’s first appearance in films, the Mickey Mouse Fan Club was started and this lead to the first official gathering of fans on January 4, 1930 at the Fox Dome Theater in Ocean Park, California.  Soon, Mickey Mouse Fan Club meetings were being held throughout the 1930s in theaters across the country.  On April 15, 1930 the Club’s first newsletter, the “Official Bulletin of the Mickey Mouse Club” was published and by 1932 the Club had approximately one million members.

First Mickey Mouse Club meeting  4.0.4

Then, in the 1950s, Walt Disney started the “Disneyland” television show as a way to generate interest, promote and finance his new theme park that was being built in Anaheim, California; it would open on July 17, 1955.  Over the following years new shows were created and produced by the Walt Disney Company, such as “Zorro” and the “Davy Crockett Show” (I know you baby boomers will remember the catchy Davy Crockett theme song and might have even had your very own “coon-skin” hat!!)

So, in the mid-1950s, Disney was looking to produce another television series and he came up with the idea of the Mickey Mouse Club that would be specifically aimed at a young audience to be shown during the afternoon.  The show would feature musical and dance segments, short serials such as “The Adventures of Spin and Marty”, newsreel segments and also short animation cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters.  Picked to host the show as the “Head Mouseketeer” was Jimmie Dodd, a Walt Disney Studios songwriter, and the “Big Mooseketeer” Roy Williams, who was a staff artist at the Walt Disney Studios.  Alvy Moore, a comedy actor with stage and film experience, was also used for hosting and narrating newsreel segments and short serials shown within the show. 

Jimmie and Roy

The Mickey Mouse Club television show cast also featured a group of talented children which became known as the “Mouseketeers”.  Disney representatives spent a lot of time traveling the country attending local school plays and musical and dance productions to select the children for the show.  It was important to Walt that the children chosen would be “ordinary” children with no previous professional experience but of course this idea was quickly changed and the twenty-eight children selected for the first season almost all had prior professional experience.  This made perfect sense since the rehearsal and production time required to film a weekly television show would be very fast paced and they need children that were quick learners and that acted responsibly while on the set.

Mouseketters MMC Mouseketeers 1957

Each hour-long show would begin with the opening theme song, the “Mickey Mouse March”, which was written by Jimmie Dodd, who also wrote many of the other songs used in the show.  The song was shown with an animated section showing Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters including an angry Donald Duck that is not happy with his friend, Mickey, getting all the attention!!  After the theme song opening was the Roll Call scene which introduced each of the Mouseketeers wearing the iconic Mickey Mouse ears hats and dressed in matching shirts with their names printed on the chest, boys would wear pants and girls would wear pleated skirts. The most famous nine “Mouseketeers” were: Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Lonnie Burr, Tommy Cole, Annette Funicello, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O’Brian, Karen Pendleton and Doreen Tracey.

MMC - Mouseketter intro

Each day of the week had a different theme: Monday was Fun with Music Day, Tuesday was Guest Star Day, Wednesday was Anything Can Happen Day, Thursday was Circus Day and Friday was Talent Round-up Day.  The show would be filled with a variety of musical and dance segments, short serials such as “Spin and Marty”, newsreel segments and also short animation cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters.  To end the show, the “Mouseketeers” would gather together and led by Jimmie Dodd, the “Head Mouseketeer”, they would sing the theme song in a much slower, somewhat melancholy version. 

MMC 3  MMC 2

MMC - Thursday

Even though the show remained popular for over three seasons with the television audience, ABC decided to cancel the show after the fourth season with Disney and ABC unable to negotiate a renewal.  ABC subsequently prohibited Disney from taking the Mickey Mouse Club show to another network; Disney filed a lawsuit and won a financial settlement but did agree that the previous episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club show would not be aired on another network.  (Ironically, the successful Disney Company went on to buy the ABC network in 1996) 

The Original Mickey Mouse Club Television Show Trivia

  • Bill Walsh and Chuck Keehne helped to create the Mickey Mouse Club television show after Walt Disney became too busy with his work at both the Disney Studios and the Disneyland theme park.

Mouseketeers with Walt

  • Jimmie Dodd, the “Head Mouseketeer”, had previously enjoyed a brief movie career; he appeared in a small role in the 1948 MGM film “Easter Parade”, before becoming a songwriter and eventually the host on the Mickey Mouse Club television show.  Dodd composed and sang many of the songs on the show that he sometimes played on his unusual Mickey-shaped guitar.

Jimmie Dodd

  • Roy Williams, the “Big Mooseketeer”, was a staff artist at the Disney Studios when he was personally picked by Walt Disney to be on the Mickey Mouse Club television show.  Williams is credited for coming up with the original concept for the iconic Mickey Mouse ears hat worn by the cast on the show.


  • California Labor Laws regarding children in the entertainment industry were strict about limiting only four hours of work, three hours of school work with a one hour break for lunch daily Monday thru Friday, the children also worked on Saturday with less restrictions.  To maintain these standards for the first season, the cast was divided into three teams; Red, White and Blue.  When one team would be rehearsing, another would be filming and the other would be in school.
  • The Red Team was considered the core unit of twelve “Mouseketeers” that would be seen most frequently on the show; they appeared daily in the opening “Roll Call” scene and in the ending “Alma Mater” scene that closed each show.  The White and Blue Teams had six “Mouseketeers” each and they were used less frequently for musical numbers and skits.  Cleverly, the Disney Studio also used it as a way of controlling the children or the overbearing stage parents because if they were not performing adequately or were causing problems they would be moved to a lower priority team.  Needless to say, during the first season several of the children left or contracts were not renewed.
  • Perhaps the most famous “Mouseketeer” was Annette Funicello, she was personally selected by Walt Disney to be on the Mickey Mouse Club television show.  Walt later guided her career at the Disney Studios with roles in movies such as, “The Shaggy Dog” (1959) and “Babes in Toyland” (1961).  Annette went onto to be a recording artist and also starred in the “Beach Movie” series of films with Frankie Avalon.  Sadly, in 1992 Annette announced that she had Multiple Sclerosis; she died of complications from the disease in 2013.

Annette 1a  Annette 2

  • Bobby Burgess was another popular “Mouseketeer” who later went onto be a regular on “The Lawrence Welk Show” from 1961 to 1982.  While appearing on the show Bobby meet Kristin Floren, his future wife and the daughter of the famous Myron Floren who was the famous accordionist on the Welk show.  The couple had fur children and Bobby is still active in the entertainment industry and also owns a dance studio.

Bobby 1

  • Another “Mouseketeer”, Cheryl Holdridge, went onto to act in the “Leave it to Beaver” television series as Julie Foster, the girlfriend of Wally Cleaver.  She also made guest appearances on other shows, such as “My Three Sons”, “Bewitched” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.  In 1964, Cheryl got married and left her acting career behind, she did some documentary work in the mid-2000s and she died in 2009 from lung cancer.

Cheryl Holdridge Leave it to Beaver

  • The two youngest “Mouseketeers” were Cubby O’Brien and Karen Pendleton; the pair were sometimes called the “Meeseketeers”.  Cubby was known as a great drummer and played several times on the Mickey Mouse Club show.  After the show ended, he worked as a drummer on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show” and later with the Carpenters pop duo.  Karen left show business after the Mickey Mouse Club ended to concentrate on school; she later earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology.  In 1983, Karen was involved in a serious car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Karen and Cubby

  • Throughout the years following the end of the Mickey Mouse Club, several of the “Mouseketeers” would get together to do promotional work for the Disney Company.  In 2005, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland theme park and also the Mickey Mouse Club television show, a group of “Mouseketeers” performed at the celebration.  Some of those in attendance were Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Tommy Cole, Don Grady and Cheryl Holdridge.

Mouseketeers - Disneyland 50th

Charles Worth and the House of Worth

Charles Worth 2

Charles Worth (born: October 13, 1825 died: March 10, 1895) was a British born fashion designer based in Paris, France.  He was the founder of the House of Worth that designed dresses for wealthy clients like Alice and Ava Vanderbilt, created stage costumes for actresses such as Sarah Bernhardt and Jenny Lind and royal clients like Queen Victoria, Czarina Maria Feodorovna of Russia and his most important client the Empress Eugenie of France.

Charles Frederick Worth was born in the small town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, England.  His parents were William Worth and Ann Quincey, his father was a solicitor and in 1836 he abandoned the family leaving them penniless and without any means of financial support.  So, at the age of 11, Worth was sent to work in a printer’s shop. Then after a year, the young Worth went to London to work for several different textile manufacturers that supplied material for the local seamstresses and this is how he became interested in dress manufacturing.  Worth learned about the different types of fabrics and which worked best for a particular dress design and also the intricate structure of a dress and the sewing process required to make it.  Worth would sometimes go to the National Gallery in London to study the classic portraits and the clothing of the people in the paintings; this would be the inspiration for his future dress designs.

In 1845, Worth moved to Paris, France to work for a company called Gagelin and Opigez that provided material for the royal court dressmakers.  Worth soon became the lead salesman and later opened a small dressmaking department within the company.  In 1851, Worth married Marie Vernet and they had two sons, Gaston born in 1853 and Jean Philippe born in 1856.  Marie wore many dresses made by Worth and customers always inquired as to “who made your dress” and soon Worth decided to branch out with his own dressmaking company.  In 1858, Worth began a partnership with Otto Bobergh and they opened their store at 7 rue de la Paix in the fashion district of Paris.  Worth became one of the first men in the fashion industry to have his own store that designed and manufactured women’s dresses exclusively.  Worth’s designs were produced with the most beautiful and luxurious fabrics accented with beading or embroidery and he custom fit each dress to the client’s specific body requirements.

 Charles Worth 1  Marie-Vernet-Worth 2 

To promote his business Worth developed new and innovated ways to market his fashions to his wealthy clients.  The main showroom had a wall of mirrors with mannequins placed in front to display the various dresses of the collection; female employees were standing by if the client requested the dress to be modeled.  In another room the client would have the opportunity to try on the dress before making a decision to buy and then there was a room in which the client could select the fabric and accents to use for the dress.  Worth became the first fashion designer to sew labels and soon women throughout Paris were eager to have a custom made “Worth dress”.    

Worth store - interior 1

PARIS - ATELIER DE COUTURE WORTH  Worth store - interior 3

worth and bobergh label

Worth’s fashions were targeted for the wealthy women of Paris but soon he was custom designing dresses for one of the most important women in France … she was Empress Eugenie, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III.  The commission kept Worth very busy because the Empress’ royal duties required her to change her wardrobe several times during the day for various events.  The Empress needed numerous dresses for both day and evening wear as well more elaborate ball gowns for special occasions and Worth designed and made them all.  (An example of the quantity of dresses Worth designed for his royal client is that for the Empress’ short trip to Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 Worth created 250 dresses)

Worth dress - Empress Eugenie by Winterhalter 1853

By 1862, Paris fashion magazines started commenting on everything the Empress wore and that Worth designed from the unique blue color of her dress (Empress blue) to the shorter dress hemline that exposed her beautiful shoes to her startling choice to omit wearing a shawl or cloak in public (unheard of at the time for a proper lady to do) because she didn’t want to hide her elegant Worth dress.  Eventually, Worth and the Empress collaborated on a new dress design that would eliminate the need for crinoline (a stiff material sometimes made of horsehair used in a petticoat to add fullness to a skirt) which was something that they both greatly disliked.  The dress design was known as the fourreau, which was straight and narrow in the front to daringly show the shape of a women’s body with extra material in the back that formed a bustle, it proved to be an instant success.  (Shown below are photos of the front and back of a beautiful Worth fourreau dress)

Worth dress 1883 front  Worth dress 1883 back

Worth’s business continued to grow steadily and eventually Worth’s connection with Empress Eugenie led commissions to design dresses for many other women of the royal courts of Europe.  Worth designed dresses for Queen Victoria of England, Czarina Maria Feodorovna of Russia and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  The beautiful Elisabeth was wife of Franz Joseph of Austria and she was known for her slim figure, long brunette hair and exquisite taste in fashion.  She was already the Empress of Austria when the royal couple was officially crowned King and Queen of Hungary in June 1867.  (Shown below is the Worth dress she wore for the coronation.  Also shown below is another dress created by Worth, it is a lovely pink tulle ball gown the Empress Elisabeth wore with sparkling star pins in her long hair for a famous Winterhalter portrait)

Worth court dress - Empress Elisabeth of Austria 1867  Empress Eugenie - dress by Worth portrait by Winterhalter

Unfortunately, Worth’s company closed for the duration of the Franco-Prussian War (July 19,1870 – May 10,1871).  The brief war resulted in the collapse of the Second Empire, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie were exiled from the country.  (While the Empress remained in exile, Worth would send her a large bouquet of violets tied together with a mauve ribbon embroidered with his name in gold thread)  Worth had lost his best client and had enjoyed his collaborations with the Empress throughout the previous years but now with the royal court gone he did not take any new commissions since many of his wealthy clients had left Paris when the war started.

After the war, Worth decided to reopen his company but without his previous partner Bobergh.  Worth was now working with his two sons, Gaston and Jean Phillippe, and he named the new company the House of Worth.  To promote his new business Worth put on fashion shows to advertise his twice annual collections and he also started supplying “ready-made” dresses to department stores, such as Le Printemps and La Samaritaine in Paris and the famous Harrods in London, England.  Buyers would come each year to view the latest dress designs and then place an order for the department stores.  English women were now able to purchase French style fashions at a reasonable price.

worth label

Meanwhile, word about his wonderful dresses quickly spread overseas to the United States.  Wealthy Americans that travelled to Paris would order an entire wardrobe made by Worth.  It would include morning dresses, afternoon tea dresses, elaborate evening dresses and ball gowns as well as undergarments and nightgowns.  The House of Worth also custom designed costumes for Sarah Bernhardt and Jenny Lind to wear for their stage performances.

Worth evening dresses 1910

Worth evening dresses  Worth evening dress 1900

The House of Worth began designing custom dresses for rich Americans women such as Alice Vanderbilt, the wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt.  One dress of special note was designed for the famous Vanderbilt Costume Ball of 1883, hosted by William and Ava Vanderbilt.  It was a very unique and perhaps one the most famous dresses of New York high society and it was made for Alice Vanderbilt, the sister-in-law of the host.  It was the “Electric Light” dress which was a stunning costume made of golden satin with a dark blue velvet underskirt and a skirt that formed a bustle in the back of the dress.  The entire dress was accented with golden thread embroidery and gold beading used to create lightning bolts and starburst shapes.  The dress was also embellished at the shoulders with gold metallic tinsel and beaded tassels with golden fringe at the neckline and golden tulle attached at the shoulders that flowed down the back of the dress.  The dress cleverly featured hidden batteries so that Alice would be able to switch on to light up the dress like an electric light bulb, which was a recent invention of Thomas Edison.  (Shown in the photo below, which was taken at the ball, Alice also holds a torch in her hand that was battery operated)  Special Note: If you are interested in additional information about the Vanderbilt Ball that “changed New York society”, please click on the link.

Alice Vanderbilt dressed as the Electric Light for the ball 3-26-1883

Alice Vanderbilt - Electric Light dress by Worth  Alice Vanderbilt - Electric Light dress by Worth detail

In the years since the House of Worth opened, Worth’s sons began to take more control over the daily business involved with the company; such as management, finance and design decisions, leaving Worth with some free time at home.  He had a house in the Champs-Elysees and a villa near Bois Boulogne which had a garden and a stable of horses, it is said that some of the statues and stones which were used in the garden came from the Tuileries Palace which was former home of the Empress Eugenie.  In his final years, Worth’s health began to deteriorate with a variety of medical problems, most notably severe migraines.  Sadly, Charles Worth died in 1895 from pneumonia, he was 69 years old.  His wife, Marie died three years later.

By the time of Worth’s death, Paris was becoming the center of “haute couture”, which is defined as the custom designing and the making of high-quality and expensive clothes by a prestigious fashion house.  Worth sons, Gaston and Jean-Philippe, continued to run the family business.  During the turn of the century, the House of Worth made two dresses of special note for Mary Curzon, the wife of George Curzon the Lord of Kedleston and later Viceroy of India.  The first dress was made in 1903 and is called the Oak Leaf dress and shows remarkable design and beautiful detailing.  The silk satin dress features over 400 oak leaves created individually with an outline of satin cord to create the shape of each leaf and then filled with chenille thread, the darker leaves were created by cutting the fabric in the shape of the leaf and then putting silk netting attached to the back. (The photos below show the entire dress and the old leaf detailing)

Worth dress 1906 - Lady Mary Curzon - oak leaf dress  Worth dress 1906 - Lady Mary Curzon - oak leaf dress detail

The second dress was commissioned for the Delhi Durbar in 1903 and is called the Peacock dress.  The Durbar was held in celebration of the coronation of King Edward VII.  The detailed gold fabric was made entirely in India to the specifications of the House of Worth and features a pattern of overlapping peacock feathers made of gold beading attached with gold thread.  An unusual element of the dress was the item used to create the eye of each individual peacock feather; it is the iridescent green wing of the scarab beetle.  When the elaborate beadwork was finished the fabric was sent to Paris and the completed dress also featured white fabric roses at the hemline and an intricate beaded bodice; the completed dress weighted over 10 pounds.  (Special Note: The Peacock dress is now over 100 years old, a little tarnished but still spectacular!  The dress is currently on display at the Curzon home, Kedleston Hall, located in Derby, England)

Worth dress 1903 - Lady Mary Curzon - peacock dress Worth dress - Lady Mary Curzon for Delhi 1903 1 detail

The Ed Sullivan Show

The Ed Sullivan Show

In honor of the birthday of Edward “Ed” Sullivan (born: September 28, 1901 died: October 13, 1974) birthday, this post will discuss both his personal and profession life.  Sullivan started as a sports and entertainment reporter with a syndicated column in the New York Daily News.  He created and hosted “The Toast of the Town” television variety show, it was later renamed “The Ed Sullivan Show” that ran on CBS for 23 years.  Sullivan became known as the “star maker” because many of the featured guests on his show went on to be entertainment stars, such as Elvis Presley and the Beatles.  (Special Note:  As I was writing this post I had a lot of fun watching all the performances by Elvis and the Beatles … I suggest that you search the internet for the videos and do the same after you are done reading this!!)

The Ed Sullivan Show

The Ed Sullivan Show was “must watch” television on Sunday nights for almost three decades; it ran on CBS from June 20, 1948 to June 6, 1971.  The Ed Sullivan Show was an hour of great entertainment featuring a variety of popular singers and bands, opera singers, ballet dancers, Broadway shows, comedians, and sometimes jugglers, plate spinners and acrobats.  People of the baby boomer generation will remember the show for the first performances of the most popular musical acts of the 1950s to 1970s such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Supremes and the Jackson 5.

The “Toast of the Town” show was originally created and produced by Marlo Lewis and Ed Sullivan was hired as the host of the show in 1948.  The show was filmed and broadcasted live from the Maxine Elliott Theatre and in a few years the show’s name changed to “The Ed Sullivan Show”.  In 1953 the show moved to the CBS TV Studio 50 and later the building’s name was changed to the Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967.  (Special Note: Several years later “The Late Show with David Letterman” filmed there from August 1993 until May 2015 and now the new “The Late Show with Steven Colbert” started filming there in September 2015)

The show was arranged in six segments which allowed each act almost ten minutes for each guest performance, the commercials were done live at the beginning.  At the start of each segment, Sullivan would introduce the act, they would perform and then afterwards he would briefly talk to them.  The show was very popular and it was great entertainment for the whole family to watch together.

Over the years the show’s format remained basically unchanged.  At first the show was filmed in black and white and then with technological advancements the show started filming in color.  To keep the show relevant, Sullivan made sure to schedule the best and most current entertainment but by the late 1960s the show’s ratings began to decline.  Finally in 1971, the Ed Sullivan Show was canceled and Sullivan went on to produce a few television specials for CBS until his death in 1974.

Listed below are three of the most famous acts to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show:

Elvis Presley –

Elvis Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956.  Presley was causing a sensation with his music, good looks and wild stage presence especially with teenage girls.  A few months earlier, Presley’s performances on the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle and Steve Allen shows were highly criticized for being too sexually suggestive.  Initially, Sullivan declined to put Presley on his show because he thought it would be inappropriate because of the show’s family audience.  Later, Sullivan reconsider and agreed to have Presley on the show with the stipulation that his performance only to be shot from the waist up to avoid any offending gyrations been seen.

On the night of the broadcast, Presley was in Hollywood filming his first movie, “Love Me Tender” and his performance on The Ed Sullivan Show would be telecast from the CBS Studios in Los Angeles.  Also Sullivan had recently been in an almost fatal car accident and Charles Laughton was the guest host.  For the first segment, Presley sang “Don’t Be Cruel” his current record and “Love Me Tender” the title song from his new movie.  The second segment featured the song “Ready Teddy” and a brief message from Presley to Sullivan wishing him a speedy recovery and return to TV and then he gave a short rendition of “Hound Dog”.  Presley gave a great performance on the show that night, he was extremely professional in his manner and maybe even a little bit subdued.  The show that night was seen by 60 million television viewers.

Elvis 1st appearance on Ed Sullivan 9-9-1956 2a   Elvis 1st appearance on Ed Sullivan 9-9-1956 1a

A few months later, Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the second time on October 28, 1956.  This time Sullivan was back hosting the show and for his first segment Presley performed the same song as before, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender”. Then, as Sullivan spoke to the audience, Presley standing behind him playfully started shaking his leg and the studio audience screamed.  By the time Sullivan turned to look at Presley he was innocently standing still.  For his second segment, Presley sang “Love Me” and then a full version of “Hound Dog”.

Elvis 2nd appearance on Ed Sullivan 10-28-1956 2  Elvis 2nd appearance on Ed Sullivan 10-28-1956 1

The next year Presley made his third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 6, 1957.  For the first segment Presley performed a medley of “Hound Dog”, “Love Me Tender” and “Heartbreak Hotel” and a full version of “Don’t Be Cruel”.  For the second segment Presley sang “Too Much and “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”.  The last song he sang was the ballad, “Peace in the Valley” with the Jordanaires as the back-up singers.  For this final appearance on the show, Presley wore an unusual outfit with a shiny shirt, vest and baggy pants.  Before the show closed that evening Sullivan praised Presley as a good, decent guy and a consummate professional.

Elvis 3rd appearance on Ed Sullivan 1-6-1957 2

Years later, Sullivan tried to book Presley for another appearance on the show and Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, who wanted an outrageous fee and had a long list of conditions … Sullivan declined and Presley never appeared on the show again.

The Beatles –

While Sullivan happened to be at Heathrow Airport in 1963 as the Beatles were returning from a performance in Stockholm, Sweden and their fans greeted them with mass hysteria.  Sullivan took note and he immediately called their manager, Brian Epstein, to book them on his show.  It took a few months until Sullivan and Epstein could reach an agreement and the band was signed to three consecutive appearances on the show.

The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964.  Prior to their arrival in America the Beatles new single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, had been released and was already climbing the record charts.  Teenage girls were anxiously anticipating the “Fab Four” arrival from England and the excitement was building for the British invasion … Beatlemania was about to hit the United States!

The Beatles arrived at JFK Airport in New York on February 7, 1964 and they were greeted by a crowd of screaming fans.  A brief press conference was held at the airport by Capitol Records before the Beatles left for The Plaza Hotel to prepare for their appearance on The Ed Sullivan show.  The scene at the hotel was crazy with teenage girls camping outside and some even trying to sneak inside.  Meanwhile, the demand for tickets to the show had reached 50,000 requests for a theater that only held about 700.

Beatles arrival in US 1964 1  Beatles arrival in US 1964 2

Beatles 1st appearance - outside the Plaza Hotel  Beatles 1st appearance - outside the theater

On February 9, 1964 Sullivan opened the show by reading a telegram from Elvis Presley congratulating the Beatles.  The band opened with “All My Loving” and the audience of mostly teenage girls started screaming!  The next song was a slower ballad, “Till There Was You”.  During the song the camera focused on each individual Beatle with their name flashed on the screen and when they got to John the television screen read “Sorry girls, he’s married”.  To finish the segment the Beatles sang “She Loves You” and then walked over to Sullivan for a quick hello and wave to the audience. For the Beatles’ second segment, which concluded the show, they sang “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.  The show that night was watched by 73 million people and it went down in history as one of the most important rock and roll performances.

Beatles 1st appearance 2-9-1964  2  Beatles 1st appearance 2-9-1964 3

Then a week later the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the second time on February 16, 1964.  Their segments were shot live from the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida because everyone was in town for the Cassisus Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) and Sonny Liston boxing match.  Much like the craziest of their stay at the Plaza Hotel the previous week, teenage fans were crowded outside the hotel and some made their way into the lobby and were blocking the Beatles from entering the ballroom for their performance.  Sullivan had to quickly go to a commercial break and with the help of the security guards the Beatles made their way into the ballroom for their delayed introduction.  The Beatles started the first segment with “She Loves You”, followed by the ballad “This Boy” and closed the set with “All My Loving”.  For the second segment, the Beatles once again closed the show with “I Saw Her Standing There”, “From Me to You” and end with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

Beatles 2nd appearance on Ed Sullivan 2-16-1964 Deuville Hotel Miami Beach  Beatles at the Deuville Hotel Miami Beach

Beatles 2nd appearance on Ed Sullivan 2-16-1964 1  Beatles 2nd appearance on Ed Sullivan 2-16-1964 2

The Beatles third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast on February 23, 1964; their performance was actually taped back at the beginning of February.  The Beatles sang “Twist and Shout”, “Please Please Me” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

Beatles 3rd appearance on Ed Sullivan 2-23-1964 1

The Beatles did appear on The Ed Sullivan Show one more time a year later on September 12, 1965.  The band performed “I Feel Fine”, “I’m Down”, “Act Naturally”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Yesterday” and “Help!”  This appearance on the show was actually taped on August 14, 1965 the day after the Beatles started their first North American Tour with a sold-out concert at Shea Stadium in New York City.

(Personal Note: The Beatles’ performance on The Ed Sullivan Show is one of those days that people remember exactly what they were doing when it happened.  For me, my memory is being an almost six year old sitting on the living room floor watching the program in black and white on TV with my family and quite frankly all I remember is the Beatles shaking their heads … yeah, yeah, yeah!!!)

Topo Gigio –

Topo Gigio was a mouse puppet that performed on Italian and Spanish children’s televisions shows in the early 1960s.  The character had originally debuted in 1959 and he was created by artist Maria Perego and voiced by Giuseppe Mazzullo.  Topo Gigio first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 9, 1962.

Topo Gigio 2

Topo Gigio was a 10” tall mouse with large eyes made of foam and it took four people to “operate” the puppet, three to move the puppet and one to voice the character.  To help create the illusion, the puppet was set on a special-made small black portable stage with black velvet curtains to hide the puppeteers who were completely dressed in black.  The puppeteers operated three different parts of Topo Gigio’s body by wooden dowel rods that were also painted black to create the illusion that the mouse was moving independently.  The illusion worked remarkably well and Topo Gigio appeared to actually walk on his feet, gesture with his hands and move his mouth to talk and sing.  After one of the puppet’s appearances on the show, Sullivan asked the puppeteers to come out and take a bow.  Topo Gigio appeared on more than fifty Ed Sullivan shows and he had the honor of closing the final show to be broadcast in 1971.

Ed Sullivan

The personal and professional life of Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan was born in Harlem, New York City on September 28, 1901; his parents were Peter Sullivan and Elizabeth Smith.  Sullivan had a twin brother named Daniel and a sister named Elizabeth, both died as children.  Eventually, the family moved to Port Chester, New York and Sullivan attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and later Port Chester High School where he excelled at sports.

After Sullivan graduated he went to work for the New York Evening Mail until it closed in 1923.  He then went to work for the Associated Press and his articles appeared in several prominent newspapers on the East Coast.  In 1927 Sullivan took a job at The Evening Graphic as a sports writer and soon became the sports editor.  Then when a fellow reporter, Walter Winchell, left to join the Hearst newspaper syndicate Sullivan became the Evening Graphic’s entertainment columnist specializing on Broadway shows and gossip which was a big departure from reporting on sports.  In the years that followed Sullivan and Winchell became competing rivals.

During the 1920s and 1930s, while Sullivan worked for the newspaper he began producing vaudeville shows; he also served as the master of ceremonies for the shows.  Then, during World War II, he directed a local radio program at WABC and organized special variety shows that raised money for several war-related causes.

After the war, Sullivan was the master of ceremonies for an annual event called the Harvest Moon Ball.  The event was broadcast on a local television which led to Sullivan being hired as the host of the CBS TV show, “Toast of the Town” which debuted in June 1948 at the Maxine Elliott Theatre.  It proved to be so successful and Sullivan did such a great job that the name of the show was soon changed to “The Ed Sullivan Show” and in 1953 it moved to the CBS TV Studio 50.  The building’s name was later changed to the Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967 and it filmed there until 1971.

Throughout the years, Sullivan also had an uncanny ability for spotting rising talent and during the show’s long 23 year run it featured a wide variety of performances by comedians, Broadway musicals and some of the biggest musical acts in the entertainment business.

The only criticism that Sullivan received about the show was directed at him personally.  The comments stated that Sullivan showed no personality when announcing his guests and that he appeared stiff, slightly awkward and his speaking voice was sometimes garbled.  In fact, Sullivan had such a good sense of humor that he even had comedian impersonators such as Frank Gorshin and Rich Little on the show that would imitate him … and he loved it!

In regards to Sullivan’s personal life, he married Sylvia Weinstein on April 28, 1930.  They had one daughter, Betty, who was born on December 22, 1930, many years later she married Bob Precht, a producer of “The Ed Sullivan Show”.  Sullivan and his wife were so devoted to each other that he would call her immediately after every show to get her opinion; the show was seen live on the East Coast and taped for airing on the West Coast.

In September 1974, about three years after the show ended, Sullivan was diagnosed with esophageal cancer with only a short time to live.  In discussions with the doctor, the family decided not to tell him and he believed his illness was due to complication from gastric ulcers.  It has also been speculated the Sullivan struggled with Alzheimer’s disease during his last years.  Sadly, Sullivan died five weeks later on October 13, 1974.  Sullivan is buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Ed Sullivan - grave 1  Ed Sullivan - grave

The Wizard of Oz

the Wizard of Oz

Over 75 years ago today (August 25, 1939) the spectacular “Wizard of Oz” premiered at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.  The MGM movie is one of the best-loved films of all time and it starred Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion.  The movie was one of the most expensive films that MGM studio had produced to date and it is based on the 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book

A brief synopsis of “The Wizard of Oz” movie

The movie is centered on a young girl named Dorothy Gale who is suddenly blown away with her little dog Toto by a tornado which carries her house from the farmlands of Kansas to the magical world of Oz.  It seems that when she landed in Oz at a place called Munchkin Land her house has fallen on the Witch of the East.  The munchkins are happy that the Witch was dead and there is a celebration.  Dorothy is confused and anxious to be surrounded by all the little people celebrating the demise of the horrible witch when suddenly Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, appears to explain it all to Dorothy. (when Dorothy accidentally killed the Witch of the East the ruby red slippers of the witch suddenly appeared on Dorothy’s feet and the Wicked Witch of the West wants the shoes back because they have magical powers!)  The Good Witch sets Dorothy on the path along the yellow brick road which leads to the Emerald City where she will find the Great Wizard of Oz who can help her get back to Kansas.

The Witch is dead  The Wicked Witch with Dorothy and Glinda

Along the yellow brick road, Dorothy meets a trio of characters that are also in need of help from the Wizard of Oz and they join her and Toto on the journey to the Emerald City.  The first character Dorothy encounters is the Tin Man who is in need of a heart, then the Scarecrow who is in need of a brain and lastly the Lion who is in need of courage.  Dorothy tells them to come with her to see the Wizard who could possibly grant them their wishes too.  Meanwhile, during their journey to the Emerald City they encounter the Wicked Witch of the West who warns them that Dorothy will pay for killing her sister, the Witch of the East, and she will take back the ruby slippers.

We're off to see the Wizard 1  Dorothy and the friends

The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz

Upon arriving at the Emerald City, the Wizard says that maybe if the trio brings him the Wicked Witch’s broom he will be able to grant them their wishes and find some resolution to their problems.  But unfortunately when they return to the Emerald City after accidentally killing the Wicked Witch the trio quickly learns that the great and powerful Wizard of Oz is simply an ordinary traveling salesman who had also been swept away from Kansas many years earlier in another dangerous storm.  Dorothy and her friends are sadly distressed when the Wizard turns out to be a fake and they were hoping that he would be able grant them their wishes and help with the things that they so desperately needed. (a trip back to Kansas for Dorothy, a heart for the Tin Man, a brain for the Scarecrow and courage for the Cowardly Lion!)  The Wizard tells them that they didn’t need him all along and that maybe they had what they needed the whole time but that they just didn’t know it.  Dorothy learns that all she had to do to return home is to click the heels of the ruby slippers three times while saying the words “there’s no place like home”.  Suddenly Dorothy is back in Kansas and reunited with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.

Behind the curtain  Scarecrow gets a brain

Tin Man gets a heart  Courage

The making of “The Wizard of Oz” movie

In 1934, Samuel Goldwyn bought the film rights to the children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum which was originally published in 1900.  Goldwyn paid $75,000 for the rights and was hoping to turn it into a major motion picture and considered casting Shirley Temple as Dorothy and Eddie Cantor as the Scarecrow.  (The Oz story had been previously adapted into a Broadway musical, which debuted in 1903, and also several different versions of the story were made into silent films)

At the beginning of 1938, Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studios bought the rights from Samuel Goldwyn.  The screenplay went through several revisions before the final draft was approved in October 1938.  The principal roles were cast with Judy Garland as Dorothy (she was only 17 years old at the time production started and after the movie was released it would make her a major motion picture star), Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West and Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz.  Buddy Ebsen was originally cast in the role of the Tin Man; he filmed a few scenes and then was eventually replaced with Jack Haley.  (For more interesting casting notes, please see “The Wizard of Oz” movie trivia section later in this post)

Judy Garland_ - Dorothy  
Ray Bolger - Scarecrow  Scarecrow

Bert Lahr - Lion  Cowardly Lion

From the start of production, George Cukor was the creative advisor but soon left in November 1938 to direct Gone with the Wind and Victor Fleming was brought in to take on the directorial duties of “The Wizard of Oz”. The first scenes filmed were with Judy Garland wearing a blonde wig as the character of Dorothy dressed in a rather garish costume but it was soon changed to her natural brown hair and wearing the iconic checkered jumper with a white blouse, although the white blouse was actually light pink in color because it photographed better in Technicolor.  Also, to disguise Judy’s more mature figure and to give her the appearance of a much younger Dorothy are depicted in the book she had to wear a tight corset under her costume.  The Wicked Witch (played by Margaret Hamilton) costume and make-up were also changed from the one described in the book to reflect a more sinister character that the movie screenplay required.  As a result of these changes, those first scenes need to be re-filmed.

Dorothy make-up and costume test 1    Dorothy screen test

The original Baum book was an important inspiration to the production team and it determined several ways in which the movie was to be filmed.  Let me explain … in the book Baum describes Kansas as having landscape and even buildings severely weathered with colors muted into shades.  Even Dorothy’s Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are described as an older couple having gray hair and wearing clothes lacking in color.  So, when the first portion of the movie was filmed it was cleverly shot in black and white for the scenes in Kansas and later colored sepia tone in post-production.  Then, for the portion of the movie with scenes taking place in the Land of Oz, it was filmed in Technicolor which helped to create the bright and colorful look of a fantasy land, filming of the Technicolor scenes took over six months to film.  Special attention was given to the numerous details pertaining to color, such as the perfect shade of yellow used to paint the yellow brick road and the silver slippers mentioned in the book were changed to a vibrant ruby red color, which was the idea of MGM head Louis B Mayer, because it worked better in Technicolor.

The yellow brick road

During filming there were numerous problems involving the actor’s costumes and make-up, especially when filming required long hours spent on set under the heat of the klieg lights.  Also during production there were other difficulties involving the cast members and even some serious accidents.  One accident that happened during filming involved the actors playing the Winged Monkeys of the Wicked Witch and they were injured when the piano wires used to hold them up during their “flying” scene in the enchanted forest snapped during filming and they fell to the ground. Another dangerous accident happened to Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch) during the scene in Munchkin Land.  When the elevator used to make her disappear in a puff of fire and smoke malfunctioned and the result was that she suffered second-degree burns on both her face and hands requiring a six week convalescent stay in the hospital.  (For more interesting production notes, please see “The Wizard of Oz” movie trivia section later in this post)

Then in February 1939, while the movie was still in production, Victor Fleming left the film to replace George Cukor as director of “Gone With the Wind” which was having some problems between Cukor and the cast members.  King Vidor was brought in as director to finish the filming of “The Wizard of Oz” and at that time most of the Oz scenes had been completed and just a few Kansas scenes such as the tornado scene and the scene in which Judy Garland sings “Over the Rainbow”, needed to be filmed.

After an extremely long and tedious production schedule, principal filming finally ended in March 1939 and then post-production started which required sound editing and filming re-shoots that lasted until June.  One of the most complicated post-production processes was the section of the film that transitions the story from the sepia tone Kansas into the Technicolor Land of Oz.  Initially it was planned to hand-tint each frame of the Kansas scenes to maintain a consistent sepia color but this proved to be too expensive as well as a long and tedious process.  Instead the scenes when Dorothy lands in Oz and opens the door of the house that has fallen on the Witch of East were re-shot.  Dorothy (actually Judy Garland’s stand-in) was filmed wearing a sepia colored duplicate of the gingham dress standing just inside the house set which was completely re-painted in sepia color and then as Dorothy (now using footage previously shot of Garland as she steps into the doorway and walking into the colorful land of Oz) was only section of film that was hand-painted in sepia color.

Transition scene 1  Munchkin Land

Finally, after several test screenings the movie was finished and on August 25, 1939 the film premiered at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.  When the movie was first released it received good reviews but ticket sales were very disappointing and this was unfortunate because at the time it was one of the most expensive films that the MGM studio had produced. The Wizard of Oz was nominated for six Academy Awards that year, unfortunately it lost the Best Picture award and the Oscar went to Gone with the Wind but it did win Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow” which was sung by Judy Garland in the film.

Many years later, the “Wizard of Oz” finally achieved its long overdue commercial success when it was broadcast on CBS in 1956, it would eventually become an annual tradition for families to watch.  With the release of the movie first on VHS and then of DVD, “The Wizard of Oz” became one of the most favorite movies for several generations and a perennial classic film.


“The Wizard of Oz” movie trivia

  • Several sets of the iconic ruby red slippers were made for the character of Dorothy which was played by Judy Garland; this was not unusual for a movie studio to do with an important piece of costume.  The ruby red slippers started out as white silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company of Los Angeles.  The shoes were then dyed red, a burgundy organza overlayed with approximately 2,300 hand-sewn red sequins attached and the finishing touch was a red leather bow with a large rectangular buckle that was embellished with red rhinestones.  The shoes range in size from 5 to 6 in a variety of widths, Garland specifically requested a large size to use because her feet became slightly swollen after many hours on the set.  Three of the pairs of shoes had orange felt soles to deaden the sound while walking or dancing during a scene.  Five pairs of the ruby red slippers are known to still exist, one pair is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. and unfortunately one pair was stolen in August 2005 and never recovered.

Ruby red slippers  Ruby red slippers 2

  • As previously mentioned, Buddy Ebsen (best known as Jed Clampett on the classic TV show, “The Beverly Hillbillies”) was originally cast in the role of the Tin Man.  Shortly into filming Ebsen suffered a severe reaction to the aluminum powder make-up that he wore for the part.  He was hospitalized for a lung condition after having to daily breath in the aluminum powder as it was applied.  His long recovery time to clear his lungs required the part to be re-cast with Jack Haley and Ebsen’s scenes were re-shot.

Buddy Ebsen - Tin Man

  • When Jack Haley took over the role as the Tin Man, the make-up process changed.  First, a thin layer of white greasepaint was applied and then the aluminum paste (which replaced the powder that was used before) was applied.  Even with this change Haley still contracted an eye infection.  The Tin Man’s costume was very stiff and Haley was unable to sit down comfortably so in between scenes and during breaks a “leaning board” was used for him to relax.
  • Because of the use of the toxic make-up for the other cast members, they could not eat any food while wearing the make-up and many of the actors had to drink from straws during filming. 
  • The Cowardly Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr was made from real lion pelts creating a very heavy costume, it was reported to weigh 90 pounds, and it caused him to become extremely overheated when wearing it to shoot the scenes under the hot Klieg lights.

Lion screen test

  • The part of the Wicked Witch was originally cast with Gale Sondergaard set to play the role, but during the writing of the screenplay the character was changed from a somewhat glamorous witch to the one seen in the movie that is (well, let’s be honest) not the most attractive witch.  Sondergaard was displeased with the changes and she dropped out even before the production started, Margaret Hamilton was cast into the role three days before filming started.  Hamilton’s performance was so good that some of her scenes were thought to be too frightening and were edited or cut entirely from the final film.

Gale Sondergaard screen test

Actress Margaret Hamilton  The Wicked Witch

  • While the screenplay was being written, the part of the Wizard was specifically written with W.C. Fields playing the part.  After salary and contract negotiations with Fields went on too long and proved too difficult so another actor named Frank Morgan was given the role.

Frank Morgan as the Wizard

  • The part of Dorothy’s dog Toto was played by a small female Cairn terrier named Terry.  During the scene of Dorothy, Toto and the others skipping down the yellow brick road caused quite a problem for trainer Carl Spitz and Terry, it took over 12 takes for Toto to be shot running alongside the actors.  Despite all the troubles caused, Terry the terrier was paid $125 a week for her work in the film (it was more money than what the salary of most of the little people playing the Munchkins, they only received $50 per week)


  • Speaking of Munchkins … the celebration scene after the death of the Witch of the East required over one hundred little people were hired to play the parts of the numerous Munchkins.  To organize the chaos with that many actors, the MGM costume and wardrobe department devised a plan to stay organized and each Munchkin was photographed in costume and detailed notes were taken regarding make-up so that everything could be duplicated during the long days of filming.
  • The film had many special effects that seem very primitive now with our modern techniques of film production.  The tornado that sweeps Dorothy’s family house away in the movie was actually a 35 foot-long muslin stocking that was spun around among a miniature dusty set of the Kansas farms and fields.  To show Dorothy’s house falling into the Land of Oz, a miniature house was dropped from reasonable height onto a sky painted onto a canvas placed flat on the stage floor, then the film was reversed to make it appear as if the house was falling from the sky and towards the camera.

Tornado  Tornado with house

  • It is hard to believe that the most famous song from “The Wizard of Oz”, “Over the Rainbow”, was almost cut from the final version of the film.  Some studio executives thought that the song felt out of place in the storyline and the meaning would be lost on the targeted children audience, the movie’s producers and the director had to fight to keep it in the film.  It was a good decision, the song went on to win the Academy Award for Best Song and Judy Garland became forever identified with “Over the Rainbow”.

Somewhere ove the rainbow

  • Of course “The Wizard of Oz” is known for some classic movie lines, such as: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”, “Are you a Good White or a Bad Witch?”, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” and “There’s no place like home”.




Coco Chanel (Part One)

Coco Chanel - 1909Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (born: August 19, 1883 died: January 10, 1971) was a French fashion designer who drastically changed the dress design style of what women had been previously wearing for a century.  When Chanel began her first business designing fashionable hats, women had been wearing long dresses, stiffly corseted and made in heavy materials.  Then, when Chanel could not find stylish and comfortable clothing to fit her own needs, she started her own fashion line which featured innovative designs of loose fitting dresses made in easy care fabric.  Her clothing line proved to be an enormous success and her designs set many of the trends that women are still wearing.  Chanel also expanded her fashion line to include accessories, such as jewelry, handbags and fragrance Chanel No. 5 still remains one of the bestselling perfumes of all times.

In Part One of the two part series on Coco Chanel I will discuss her personal and professional life.  In Part Two I will discuss some of Chanel’s contributions to the world of fashion.

The Personal and Professional Life Of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel had an improvised childhood, her mother was Eugenie “Jeanne” DeVolle who was a laundrywoman and her father was Albert Chanel a traveling salesman who was frequently absent.  Sadly, when Gabrielle was only 11 years old her mother died of bronchitis.  With her father constantly away from home, the decision was made to send her brothers to work as farm laborers and Gabrielle and her two sisters were sent to a convent.  Aubazine, located in central France, was run by the nuns of the Sacred Heart of Mary as a home for abandoned or orphaned girls.

Life at Aubazine was harsh and when Gabrielle turned 18 years old, she went to live in a Catholic girls boarding home in the small town of Moulins.  During her years at the convent, the nuns had taught Gabrielle how to sew and she soon found work as a seamstress at a small store in Moulins.  To earn more money, Gabrielle often sang at the local cabaret which was frequented by French cavalry officers.  It has been said that the beautiful and flirtatious Gabrielle received the name “Coco” from the officers because one of the most popular songs she sang was “Ko Ko Ri Ko” or another more scandalous possibility was that the name was a reference to cocotte, the French word for a prostitute.

In 1906, Chanel had moved to the small resort town of Vichy to seek work as a stage performer but she failed at finding employment as a singer.  Eventually, she was able to find work in a small shop dispensing glasses of mineral water for the tourists, Vichy was known as a spa town and the water there was said to have curative powers.  Unfortunately the work at Vichy was only seasonal and Chanel soon moved back to Moulins.

Soon after returning to Moulins, Chanel met a former cavalry officer and wealthy heir to a textile fortune named Etienne Balsan.  By the age of twenty-three Chanel had become his mistress and she moved into his chateau, Royallieu, located in Compiegne.  Chanel’s lifestyle improved immensely and she was soon living a leisurely and lavish life with days spent in equestrian pursuits and nights socializing with Balsan and his friends.  Balsan indulged Chanel’s every whim and showered her with gifts of beautiful dresses and jewelry.  But Chanel had many hours of idle time and she was looking for a diversion to fill the hours of the day.  So, she began making her own hats mostly because she could not find the styles that she preferred.  Some of the women that came to Royallieu liked her hats and requested that Chanel make ones for them.

Coco Chanel 10

In 1908, while Chanel was living at Royallieu, she met the man that would become the “love of her life”.  Captain Arthur “Boy” Capel was an English aristocrat and he was a close friend of Balsan.  By 1908, Chanel and Capel had fallen deeply in love and Chanel had left Balsan and she moved to Paris staying in an apartment paid for by Capel.

Capel also financed Chanel’s first venture into the fashion industry.  After Chanel arrived in Paris she wanted to earn her own money which she felt would give her more independence.  In 1910, she decided to start a milliner business and she opened up a small store, Chanel Modes, located at 21 rue Cambon.  Initially she sold to the upper class acquaintances that she met through Balsan and Capel but her business grew when a French actress named Gabrielle Dorziat wore one of Chanel’s hats in a play and it caught the attention of the fashionable women in Paris.  This led to Dorziat wearing several of Chanel’s hats in a French fashion magazine, Les Modes, in 1912.  The ladies of Paris all wanted a Chanel hat.

Then, while on a vacation with Capel to Deauville, Chanel once again came up with a fashion idea out of the necessity of not finding any resort clothing that met her style.  She borrowed clothing from Capel, such as a striped shirt, a knit sweater, a pair of comfortable pants and she even wore a mariniere, a shirt usually worn by sailors.  Chanel caused a sensation wearing these outfits and immediately found a need for women visiting the resort who also wanted comfortable clothing.  Chanel soon developed a line of loose fitting dresses made in an unusual light-weight jersey fabric.  Capel, aware of another good business opportunity, decided to finance a store for Chanel located in Deauville where she would be able to easily sell her new fashion line. She recruited her two sisters, Antoinette and Adrienne, to wear her dress designs on promenades down the boardwalk and around the town to advertise.  Business was so good that Chanel opened a second store location in Barritz, which opened in 1915, it also proved to be very successful and Chanel was able to pay back the loan from Capel.

Coco Chanel 1920 - 1    Chanel dress sketch 1917

Despite the fact that Chanel and Capel were very much in love, their affair ended in 1918 when Capel was obligated to marry an English women, Lady Diana Wyndham.  After being together for almost ten years, Chanel was heartbroken and then totally devastated when a year later Capel died in a tragic car accident.  After the death of Capel, Chanel dedicated herself to her new clothing business concentrating on new designs and marketing to increase sales.   After a period of mourning, Chanel also moved forward with her personal life and she briefly became romantically involved with the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the cousin of Nicolas II who was the last czar of Russia.  After their relationship ended, Chanel and the Grand Duke were still able to maintain their friendship which lasted throughout the years.

In 1919, Chanel’s fashion business had become so profitable that she was able to buy the entire building at 31 rue Camdon, the site was not very far from her previous location in Paris.  After the building renovations were completed she opened the doors of the beautiful new store and it set the standard for future fashion stores where not only dresses but an extended variety of accessories could be sold.

31 Rue Cambon

In 1920, Chanel met the composer, Igor Stravinsky, who was working with the Ballets Russes in Paris.  When Stravinsky needed a place for his family to stay, Chanel let them stay at a property she owned in a suburb of Paris.  During that time Chanel took on a commission for Stravinsky to design the costumes for the Ballet Russes production of “The Rite of Spring” as a personal favor but in the end when the project had been completed Chanel had taken a huge financial loss.

The first real relationship that Chanel entered into after the death of Capel was with the French poet, Pierre Reverdy.  Chanel and Reverdy were together from 1921 to 1926 and afterwards they went their separate way they were still able to maintain a forty year friendship.  Reverdy became a great mentor for her and he is largely credited for writing many of Chanel’s published statements.

Coco Chanel 1920 - 2

Chanel continued to find professional fulfillment in her fashion designs but throughout the years was still constantly looking for ways to expand her business.  In 1922 she was introduced to Pierre Wertheimer, the director of the Bourgeois perfume and cosmetics company through her connections to Theophile Bader.  Chanel worked with Ernest Beaux, a Russian-French perfumer to create the chemical formula for a special fragrance.  At that time upper class women wore traditional perfumes made from the pure essence of a single flower while ladies of the lower class wore more sensual perfumes made from animal musk.  Chanel No. 5, which was sold exclusively in the Chanel stores, was a combination of the two different scents perfectly blended for the new modern women of the 1920s.

After entering into the agreement with Wertheimer and Bader, a separate company was created called Parfums Chanel.  The arrangement was that Wertheimer would receive seventy percent, Bader would receive twenty percent and Chanel would have the remaining ten percent but she would have no involvement in the actual running of the business.  Years later, Chanel realized her error in being “tricked” into such a low percent of the company when the profits of the sale of the perfume reached nine million dollars annually.  She was also concerned that the original formula for Chanel No. 5 had been altered and was being produced inexpensively with inferior ingredients to meet the high consumer demands.  It would take twenty years of legal battles to finally reach a settlement and a new arrangement was agreed upon paying Chanel retroactive outstanding profits not paid to her and also increasing her percentage of the future profits, her earnings from Chanel No. 5 sales would be almost twenty-five million dollars annually.

In the mid-1920s, Chanel was introduced to Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster while on a trip to Monte Carlo.  This would be her opportunity to enter into the privilege world of the British nobility moving in the same circles as Winston Churchill and Edward, the Prince of Wales.  Chanel and the Duke quickly became romantically involved and he set her up in an apartment in the prestigious area of London known as Mayfair.  The Duke lavished Chanel with extravagant jewels and expensive gifts and paintings.  In 1927, the Duke gave Chanel the deed to land that he had purchased on the French Riviera.  A charming villa was built on the property and she named it La Pausa which translated as “restful pause”.  When planning her new home Chanel had included the architect included features inspired by Aubazine, the convent where she spent her childhood.  The love affair of Chanel and the Duke lasted ten years and during that time the Duke introduced her to Edward, the Prince of Wales.  The Prince and Chanel enjoyed a brief flirtation but he was destined for another romance that would eventually cost him the throne of England.

Coco Chanel 1931

In 1931 Chanel met Samuel Goldwyn, the famous Hollywood movie studio owner, through an introduction by her longtime friend, the Grand Duke Pavlovich.  Goldwyn would eventually hire Chanel to design costumes for MGM.  She traveled twice a year to Hollywood but, despite the fact that she was paid an exorbitant salary, she disliked the work and her fashion designs did not translate well on the movie screen.  Chanel went on to design costumes for several French films but these projects were temporary work and her fashion design business remained her major focus.

On a personal level, Chanel had associated herself with a group of elite members of the Parisian art world; one of those was her good friend Misia Sert.  It was said that this bohemian group was known to be right-wing politics and they were also known to be sexually provocative and emotionally unstable probably fueled by their drug addictions.  French illustrator, Paul Iribe, was one of the members of this group and Chanel and Paul soon became romantically involved.  The couple was together from 1931 until Iribe’s death in 1935.  During that time Chanel collaborated with Iribe on designs for a jewelry collection featuring diamond set in platinum which was commissioned by the Guild of International Diamond Merchants, the exhibition of the jewelry drew large crowds.  Chanel was to become Iribe’s muse and her image appeared in several of his published drawings throughout the years.

By 1935, the House of Chanel had become a very prosperous business that employed four thousand people but a year later, everything changed with the onset of World War II, Chanel closed several of her stores and 3,000 employees were let go during the general labor strike.  Even though Chanel retained her apartment above the store on 31 rue Camdon, during the German occupation of France, Chanel choose to live at the Hotel Ritz.   Most citizens of Paris fled with the invasion of France by the Germans, so it seemed an unusual choice for Chanel to remain in the occupied city living at the Ritz where several German military officers had move into.  Years later there has been some documentation that proves that Chanel was possibly working with the Germans as a Nazi spy during the war.  When charges were brought against Chanel it is said that Wintson Churchill intervened on her behalf and the charges were dropped without further inquiry.

Coco Chanel - pearls 1

In 1945, after World War II had ended, Chanel moved to Switzerland where she stayed until 1954 but before returning to Paris, Chanel sold her French Riviera villa.  With her personal life in order, Chanel decided to revive her professional career.  The world of fashion had drastically changed and the industry was dominated by men, such as Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.  But once again, Chanel thought that the 1940s style of padded shoulder jackets and tight waisted skirt and dresses were impractical and very restrictive for women to wear and she was inspired to design again.  Oddly, Chanel’s new venture back into fashion and the reestablishment of the House of Chanel was financed by an old enemy, Pierre Wertheimer.


In 1954, when Chanel’s new fashion line debuted there was very limited favorable response for most of Europe, this could possibly be attributed to the stories because of Chanel’s association with Nazis but it did not stop the British and American customers from favoring her collection.  It was during this time that Chanel designed some of her most iconic fashions, such as the classic Chanel two piece day suits made in tweed and fully lined that is still very popular today.

Chanel dress sketch 2

By 1971, Chanel had grown noticeably disagreeable and sometime hostile to her employees and was generally unhappy in her professional life.  She also felt very lonely in her personal life and had been without a male companion for several years.  On the day before she died, she had been working on her Spring fashion collection and when she returned from a long drive she was feeling very ill.  The next morning, January 9, 1971, she died of natural causes at the Hotel Ritz, she was 87 years old.  Coco Chanel is buried in the Bois de Vaux Cemetery in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Chanel grave

For more information a fun craft post including a list of supplies and instructions, please click on the link to Chanel-Inspired Shadowbox.