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Legend of the month – Leonard Cohen

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Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was born in 1934. An early writer and guitarist, Cohen began to compose and release folk-rock and pop songs by the mid-1960s. One of his most famous compositions is “Hallelujah,” a song released on 1984’s Various Positions. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, and he received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2010. Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 82.

Buckskin Boy

Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, in a suburb of Montreal, Canada. Part of an intellectual, middle-class Jewish family, he was encouraged by his parents to pursue his interests in poetry and music and was also thoroughly immersed in Jewish theology and the stories of the Old Testament. In many ways, these early interests and influences provided the blueprints for much of his later work, which straddles the worlds of literature, mythology, poetry and song with a masterful lyricism that is one of its defining features.

Another of Cohen’s primary lifelong interests—women—led him to take up the guitar at age 13, and he was soon playing country music in Montreal’s cafes, eventually forming a group called the Buckskin Boys. Their gigs typically involved performing traditional numbers at square dances. However, at this early stage, it was still poetry that most consumed Cohen, driven by his affinity for the likes of Federico García Lorca and Jack Kerouac, and when he attended McGill University to study English beginning in 1951, his writing would often take priority over his other studies. Cohen graduated in 1955, and the following year the university published his first collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, which received good reviews but did not sell particularly well, setting yet another precedent for Cohen’s future career.ADVERTISEMENT

Beautiful Loser

Around this time, Cohen briefly attended Columbia University before returning to Montreal, where he worked various jobs while continuing to write poetry. However, when his next book, The Spice-Box of the Earth, was published in 1961, it marked the beginning of what would be one of Cohen’s most fruitful periods. Both a critical and commercial success, Spice-Box established Cohen as an important literary voice and also earned him enough royalties that combined with the proceeds from a Canadian writing grant and a small family inheritance allowed him to buy a modest house on the Greek island of Hydra, where he would live on and off for much of the next seven years and “write and swim and sail.”

Cohen’s output from this time includes the poetry collections Flowers for Hitler (1964) and Parasites of Heaven (1966), as well as the novels The Favorite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), the latter earning Cohen lofty comparisons to James Joyce, and public outrage in Canada for the book’s overtly sexual content. Despite all of the attention, however, Cohen was beginning to feel that he would not be able to make his living as a writer alone, and he began to explore music again, seeing it not only as a natural vehicle for his poetry but also a potentially more lucrative one. He would not be wrong on either count.

First We Take Manhattan

Returning to the United States, Cohen settled in New York and began to explore the city’s music scene. By this time well into his 30s, Cohen was significantly older than his contemporaries and was on more than one occasion discouraged by agents from attempting a career as a performer. However, fellow folk singer Judy Collins had already recognized Cohen’s significant talents, performing covers of his songs “Suzanne” and “Dress Rehearsal Rag” on her popular 1966 album In My Life. With her encouragement, Cohen made his debut at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival, where among the audience members was A&R rep John Hammond, who quickly added Cohen to his impressive roster—which already included such superstars as Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan—by signing him to Columbia Records.

Released later that year, Cohen’s debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, is among his very finest, combining soft, sparse arrangements with his distinctive, untrained baritone to deliver masterful, melancholy lyrics about sexuality, love, spirituality and despair in songs that somehow manage to be simultaneously simple and complex. Based on the strength of tracks such as “Suzanne,” “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”—to name just a few—the album just barely cracked the Top 100 but earned Cohen a devoted following. 

After publishing a new poetry collection in 1968, Cohen followed up with Songs from a Room, which although not quite as strong overall as his debut effort, surpassed it on the charts by reaching No. 63. It contains the classic Cohen tracks “The Partisan,” “Lady Midnight” and “Bird on a Wire,” which has been covered by countless artists over the years, most notably Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. It would also be one of the tracks Cohen performed the following year at the Isle of Wight Festival in England, where he appeared alongside such big-name acts as Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Miles Davis and many others.

Another of the numbers he performed during his Isle of Wight set was “Famous Blue Raincoat.” A song about a cuckolded husband writing to his wife’s lover, it is one of Cohen’s best and among the highlights—with “Avalanche” and “Joan of Arc”—from his third album, 1971’s Songs of Love and Hate. That same year, Cohen’s music reached an even wider audience when three of his songs were featured on the soundtrack of the Robert Altman western McCabe & Mrs. Miller, starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, but it would be another three years before he would return to the studio. 

However, Cohen was far from inactive during this stretch, releasing a new book of poetry, The Energy of Slaves, in 1972, the same year that his girlfriend, Los Angeles artist Suzanne Elrod, gave birth to their first child, Adam, followed two years later by their daughter, Lorca. Cohen also continued to tour, released a live album and had his songs featured in a 1973 musical called The Sisters of Mercy.

New Skin

In 1974, Cohen returned to studio recordings with New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which while maintaining Cohen’s characteristically downbeat mood also featured fuller arrangements than his previous albums. Among the standout tracks from this offering are “Who by Fire,” “Take This Longing” and “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” about a romantic encounter that Cohen once had with singer Janis Joplin. Cohen toured in support of New Skin before releasing a 1975 best-of album and hitting the road once again, enjoying the adoration of a devoted core of fans, if not the commercial success that his label might have hoped for.

But if Columbia was expecting different results with his next album, they were to be disappointed, as would be his fans and, indeed, Cohen himself. Working with legendary and notoriously troubled producer Phil Spector, Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man was problematic from the start, with Spector’s erratic behavior culminating in him holding a gun to Cohen’s head. Spector also mixed the recording without Cohen’s input, resulting in the overblown end product that Cohen himself has described as “grotesque” and identified as his least favorite album. Perhaps hoping to right his ship, the following year Cohen released the similarly titled collection of poetry and prose Death of a Lady’s Man, followed by 1979’s Recent Songs, which, although it saw Cohen return to the sparser arrangements of his earlier work, failed to perform well commercially.

After a five-year hiatus, during which Cohen released no new material, he made up for lost time in 1984 with the publication of the poetry collection Book of Mercy and the album Various Positions, both of which focus more specifically on themes of spirituality, most notably on the song “Hallelujah.” Counted among Cohen’s best-known, best-loved and most-often-performed songs of all time, “Hallelujah” has been covered by hundreds of artists since, including Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. The album, however, failed to gain much recognition, and it would be another five years before Cohen would release anything new.

I’m Your Man

Resurfacing in 1988, Cohen released the synth-heavy I’m Your Man, which although failed to chart in the United States, was a smash in Canada and Europe and features the notable tracks “Everybody Knows” and “First We Take Manhattan,” as well as the memorable title song. Introducing Cohen to a new generation of fans, the album was followed by 1992’s The Future, from which several songs were included in the Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers, which also helped establish his standing with a younger audience. 

Cohen’s relevance would be further underlined by the tribute albums I’m Your Fan (1992)—which included covers of his songs by alternative acts such as the Pixies, R.E.M. and Nick Cave—and Tower of Song (1995), which featured heavy hitters of the rock and roll world including Billy Joel, Elton John and Peter Gabriel. But rather than bask in the spotlight, in 1994 Cohen turned inward, retreating to the Mount Baldy Zen Center, where he took a vow of silence and studied under a Zen master for the next five years.

Cohen reemerged in 1999, and two years later released his first album in nearly a decade, the plainly titled Ten New Songs, as well as the live recording Field Commander Cohen, which documented performances from a 1979 tour. Next came Dear Heather, something of a departure for Cohen, in that it included songs for which he did not write lyrics, followed by the 2005 tribute album and movie Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, which featured performances by Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, U2, Antony, Beth Orton and many others. 

Unfortunately for Cohen, while he was being celebrated, he also discovered he was being ripped off, and he filed suit against former manager Kelley Lynch, who had embezzled millions of dollars from him over the years. Though Cohen won a $7.9-million-dollar in 2006, he was never able to recoup the money, and the now-72-year-old bard was left without his retirement funds.

Dance Me to the End of Love

Not that he was without his prospects. In 2006, Cohen also published a new collection of poetry, Book of Longing, and in 2008, after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he embarked on a two-year-long world tour to rebuild his finances, which was chronicled on the albums Live in London (2009) and Songs from the Road (2010). In the midst of the tour, Cohen received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, and the following year Columbia Records released The Complete Studio Albums Collection, gathering together all of Cohen’s studio work into one box set.

By this point a grandfather and nearing his 80s, Cohen was, however, no mere relic of the past, and in early 2012 he released a new album of songs titled Old Ideas, which saw him return to the folk arrangements of his earlier and arguably best work. Reaching No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Canada and several European countries, it was the highest-charting album of Cohen’s career, rivaled only by his 2014 album Popular Problems, perhaps an indication that Cohen, like a fine wine, just got better with age. Prolific till the end, three weeks before his death, Cohen released You Want It Darker, recorded in his home while his health was rapidly declining. His son Adam produced the album, and told Rolling Stone magazine, “At times I was very worried about his health, and the only thing that buoyed his spirits was the work itself.”

Leonard Cohen died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82. At the time of the public announcement of Cohen’s passing on November 10, few details were revealed as to the circumstances. A week later, his manager Robert B. Kory stated the songwriter had fallen during the evening of November 7 and died in his sleep that night. “The death was sudden, unexpected and peaceful,” said Kory. 

Fans and celebrities reacted to the music legend’s passing on social media, often quoting his profound and poetic lyrics. 

In January 2018, Cohen was posthumously awarded a Grammy for Best Rock Performance, for “You Want It Darker.” It was his first competitive Grammy win in a career that spanned a half-century.

Legend of the month – Hugh Hefner

Who Was Hugh Hefner?

Born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, Hugh Hefner transformed the adult entertainment industry with his groundbreaking publication Playboy. From the first issue featuring Marilyn Monroe in December 1953, Playboy expanded into a multimillion-dollar enterprise mirroring the often controversial sensibilities of its founder. By the 1970s, Hefner set himself up at the Playboy Mansion West in California, remaining editor-in-chief of the magazine he founded. In more recent years he starred in the reality TV series The Girls Next Door.

Background and Early Life

Hugh Marston Hefner, born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, was the eldest of two sons born to Grace and Glenn Hefner, who were strict Methodists. Hefner went to Sayre Elementary School and then to Steinmetz High School, where, reportedly, his IQ was 152 though his academic performance was generally modest. While in high school, Hefner became president of the student council and founded a school newspaper—an early sign of his journalistic talents. He also created a comic book entitled School Daze, in which the generally reticent youngster was able to be at the center of his own imagined universe.

Hefner served two years in the U.S. Army as a noncombatant toward the end of World War II, and was discharged in 1946. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute for a summer before enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in psychology. Hefner earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949, the same year he married his first wife, Mildred Williams. He later did a semester of graduate school work in the area of sociology, focusing on the sex research institute established by Alfred Kinsey.

By the early 1950s, Hefner had landed a copy-writing job at the Chicago office of Esquire magazine, which featured literary works by such writers as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as illustrations from pinup artists like George Petty and Alberto Vargas. Hefner opted not to remain with the publication, which moved to New York, when he was denied a $5 raise.

Starting ‘Playboy’

Out on his own, Hefner was determined to start his own publication. He raised $8,000 from 45 investors—including $2,000 from his mother and brother Keith combined—to launch Playboy magazine. Hefner had planned to title the magazine “Stag Party” but was forced to change the name to avoid a trademark infringement with the existing Stag magazine. A colleague suggested the name “Playboy,” after a defunct automobile company. Hefner liked the name, as he thought it reflected high living and sophistication.

Hefner produced the first edition of Playboy out of his South Side home. It hit newsstands in December 1953, but did not carry a date because Hefner was unsure as to whether or not a second issue would be produced. To help ensure its success, Hefner had purchased a color photograph of actress Marilyn Monroe in the nude—which had been taken some years earlier—and placed it in the centerfold of the magazine. The first issue quickly sold more than 50,000 copies, and became an instant sensation.

America in the 1950s was attempting to distance itself from nearly 30 years of war and economic depression. For many, the magazine proved to be a welcome antidote to the sexual repression of the era. For those who initially dismissed the magazine as a pornographic publication, Playboy soon broadened its circulation with thoughtful articles and an urbane presentation.

Developing a Voice

The Playboy logo, depicting the stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, appeared in the second issue and remained the trademark icon of the brand. Hefner chose the rabbit for its “humorous sexual connotation” and because the image was “frisky and playful”—an image he fostered in the magazine’s articles and cartoons. Hefner wanted to distinguish his magazine from most other men’s periodicals, which catered to outdoorsmen and showcased he-man fiction. Hefner decided his magazine would instead cater to the cosmopolitan, intellectual male and feature more overt sexual imagery.

In a series of 25 editorial installments presented during the 1960s, Hefner promoted what became known as the “Playboy Philosophy.” An evolving manifesto on politics and governance, the philosophy espoused Hefner’s fundamental beliefs about free enterprise and the nature of man and woman, calling for what he viewed as reasoned discourse on the truths of human sexuality. However, Hefner never lost sight of the fact that it was pictures of nude women which ultimately sold the magazine.

Work on the publication consumed much of Hefner’s life and marriage. By the late ’50s, Playboy‘s circulation had surpassed that of rival magazine Esquire, with sales reaching a million copies a month. But personal issues loomed. Hefner and his first wife divorced in 1959 after having had two children, Christie and David. As a single man, Hefner had many girlfriends and became known for his romantic, unpretentious presence. Yet he also earned a reputation for being controlling and trying to enforce double standards.

The Golden Age

In the 1960s, Hugh Hefner became the persona of Playboy: the urbane sophisticate in the silk smoking jacket with pipe in hand. He adopted a wide range of pursuits and socialized with the famous and wealthy, always in the company of young, beautiful women. As the magazine’s increased success came to the attention of the mainstream public, Hefner was happy to portray himself as the charismatic icon and spokesperson for the sexual revolution of the ’60s.

This was also Playboy‘s golden age as ever-increasing circulation allowed Hefner to build a vast enterprise of “private key” clubs that, among other traits, were racially inclusive in a time where segregation was still legally enforced. (A documentary on Hefner that focused on his civil rights activism later received a NAACP Image Award nod.) Hostesses, known as Playboy Bunnies for their scanty outfits made up of rabbit ears and puffy tails, staffed these high-end establishments. The Bunnies often did quite well financially via tips and were directed to keep a certain professional distance from ordinary patrons. The women also had strict conditions placed on them in regards to appearance, including size.

Over the years, Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises also built hotel resorts, started modeling agencies and operated a number of media endeavors. Hefner hosted two short-run television series, Playboy’s Penthouse (1959–60), which featured the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Tony Bennett, and Playboy After Dark (1969–70), with guests like Milton Berle and James Brown. Both programs were weekly talk shows set in a bachelor pad full of Playboy Playmates, who chatted with Hefner and his special guests about various subjects.

The publication itself began to garner a reputation for serious journalism, as author Alex Haley launched the “Playboy Interview” in 1962 with jazz great Miles Davis. But Hefner’s success didn’t come without controversy. In 1963, he was arrested and stood trial for selling obscene literature after an issue of Playboy featured nude photos of Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict, and the charge was eventually dropped. The publicity didn’t affect the reputation of Hefner or Playboy Enterprises. In 1964, Hefner founded the Playboy Foundation to support endeavors related to fighting censorship and researching human sexuality.

Challenges and Downsizing

By 1971, Hefner had built Playboy Enterprises into a major corporation. The company went public, and the magazine’s circulation hit 7 million copies a month, earning a $12 million profit in 1972. Hefner also began dividing his time between two large mansions, one in Chicago and the other in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. When he wasn’t home, he was globetrotting in the Big Bunny, a converted black DC-30 jet complete with a living room, a disco, movie and video equipment, a wet bar and sleeping quarters. The jet also featured a circular bed for Hefner himself.

In the mid-1970s, however, Playboy Enterprises fell on hard times. The United States hit a recession, and Playboy faced increasing competition from more explicit men’s magazines such as Penthouse, helmed by rival Bob Guccione. At first, Hefner responded by presenting more revealing photos of women in less wholesome poses and circumstances. Some advertisers rebelled, and circulation fell even further. From then on, Hefner concentrated the company’s operations on magazine publishing. Playboy Enterprises eventually divested itself from its unprofitable clubs and hotels and downsized its ancillary media endeavors. The magazine kept its new photography standards and began presenting features like “Girls of the Big Ten.”

Over the years a range of female celebrities have appeared in Playboy, including Madonna, Kate Moss, Jenny McCarthy, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Sinatra and, appearing on the most covers, Pamela Anderson. However, the magazine has also been targeted by critics who take issue with its objectification of women and barely veiled emphasis on commercialism. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem famously went undercover as a bunny waitress in 1963 to showcase what female workers endured for a two-part Show magazine article. (Steinem’s exposé was later made into a 1985 TV movie starring Kirstie Alley.)

In 1975, Hefner decided to make Los Angeles his permanent home so he could more closely supervise his interests in television and film production. He became involved in the restoration of the famed Hollywood sign and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And in 1978 he started the Playboy Jazz Festival, an annual event featuring some of the best jazz musicians in the world.

Transitions and Other Projects

In 1985, Hefner suffered a minor stroke, with the entrepreneur blaming it on stress from director Peter Bogdanovich’s book The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which profiled the life and murder of a former Playmate. The stroke served as a wake-up call for Hefner. He stopped smoking, began to work out and adopted a slower pace in his pleasurable pursuits. He married his longtime girlfriend, Kimberly Conrad, in 1989, and for a time, the Playboy Mansion reflected an atmosphere of family life. The marriage produced two sons, Marston and Cooper. The Hefners separated in 1998 and officially divorced in 2009. After the separation, Kimberly and the two boys lived on an estate next door to the Playboy Mansion.

In 1988, Hefner turned over control of Playboy Enterprises to his daughter Christie, naming her chair and chief executive officer. She played a key role in directing Playboy’s ventures in cable television, video production and online programming, with Hugh continuing to serve as the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Christie Hefner stepped down from her position in January 2009.

While the magazine saw more modest sales in a changing publishing landscape, the Playboy brand remained a formidable entity in terms of global licensing opportunities. The famed logo also made inroads into various avenues of pop culture, as seen with its display on a chain regularly worn by fashionista Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City.

In his later years, Hugh Hefner devoted much of his time to philanthropy and civic projects. He directed his foundation in 1993 to launch the annual Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Hefner also gave the University of Southern California $100,000 for its “Censorship in the Cinema” course, and went on to donate $2 million to its film school in 2007. Additionally, he made major contributions to the restoration of classic films, one of his great passions.

‘The Girls Next Door’

Hefner received numerous awards for his contributions to society and the publishing industry. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors in 1998, which, ironically, was the same year Steinem earned induction. In the new millennium, he received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award and became an honorary member of TheHarvard Lampoon.

2005 saw the premiere of The Girls Next Door, a reality series focusing on the lives of Hefner and his girlfriends at the Playboy Mansion, on the E! cable television network. The show’s earlier seasons featured Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, with later seasons featuring twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon and Crystal Harris, who would later become engaged to Hefner. True to form, the series served as a promotional vehicle for many of Hefner’s projects.

The 2009 season finale of Girls Next Door chronicled more changes in Hefner’s life, as Marquardt left the mansion and began her own TV series. Wilkinson left soon after, pursuing a relationship with NFL player Hank Baskett. Madison also vacated the mansion. She later penned the 2015 memoir Down the Rabbit Hole, detailing Hefner’s off-camera machinations and the severe unhappiness she experienced living at the mansion.

Third Marriage and Rebranding

Hefner reportedly was in discussions with Hollywood studio executives for many years to create a biopic about his life. Director Brett Ratner was linked to the film at one point, with several major stars named as prospects for the lead role, including Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr.

Hefner and Harris became engaged in December 2010. Not long after, in June 2011, the couple made headlines when Harris called off the engagement. Hefner and Harris were then back in the public eye in 2012, after announcing their re-engagement. The couple tied the knot at a Playboy Mansion ceremony on New Year’s Eve in 2012. After the ceremony, 86-year-old Hefner tweeted: “Happy New Year from Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hefner,” with a photo of himself and his 26-year-old bride.

Meanwhile, Playboy was set to undergo a transformation: In October 2015, chief content officer Cory Jones revealed to the New York Times that he and Hefner had agreed to stop using photos of fully unclothed women. The change was part of a strategic decision to secure more advertisers and better placement on newsstands, as well as a response to the proliferation of internet pornography that had made the magazine’s spreads seem old-fashioned. The March 2016 issue featured bikini-clad model Sarah McDaniel on the cover, the first time Playboy presented itself as a non-nude magazine.

However, the change was short lived. Not long after Hefner’s son Cooper took over as chief creative officer in 2016, it was announced that Playboy would again feature unclothed models. “Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem,” the creative chief tweeted in February 2017. “Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are.”

Cooper Hefner had also voiced his displeasure with the Playboy Mansion going up for sale, though he was unable to have his way on that issue. In the summer of 2016, it was announced that the mansion had been sold for $100 million to a neighbor, under the agreement that Hefner and his wife would continue living there until his death.

Death

Hefner died on September 27, 2017, at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in Holmby Hills, California. He was 91. “Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy Enterprises confirmed in a statement. “He was 91 years old.”

Hefner bought the mausoleum drawer next to Marilyn Monroe in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, where he will be buried.

 

Princess Diana – Legend of the month

Born Diana Spencer on July 1, 1961, Princess Diana became Lady Diana Spencer after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She married heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, on July 29, 1981. They had two sons and later divorced in 1996. Diana died in a car crash after trying to escape the paparazzi in Paris on the night of August 30, 1997.

Aristocratic Upbringing

British royalty Princess Diana Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, near Sandringham, England. Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the most adored members of the British royal family. She was the daughter of Edward John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and Frances Ruth Burke Roche, Viscountess Althorp (later known as the Honorable Frances Shand Kydd). Her parents divorced when Diana was young, and her father won custody of her and her siblings. She was educated first at Riddlesworth Hall and then went to boarding school at West Heath School.

She became Lady Diana Spencer after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. Although she was known for her shyness growing up, she did show an interest in music and dancing. Diana also had a great fondness for children. After attending finishing school at the Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland, she moved to London. She began working with children, eventually becoming a kindergarten teacher at the Young England School.

Diana was no stranger to the British royal family, having reportedly played with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward as a child while her family rented Park House, an estate owned by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1977, she became reacquainted with their older brother, Prince Charles, who was 13 years her senior.

As the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles was usually the subject of media attention and his courtship of Diana was no exception. The press and the public were fascinated by this seemingly odd couple—the reserved, garden-loving prince and the shy young woman with an interest in fashion and popular culture. When the couple married on July 29, 1981, the ceremony was broadcast on television around the world, with millions of people tuning in to see what many considered to be the wedding of the century.

Marriage and Divorce

On June 21, 1982, Diana and Charles had their first child: Prince William Arthur Philip Louis. He was joined by a brother, Prince Henry Charles Albert David—known widely as “Prince Harry”—more than two years later on September 15, 1984. Initially overwhelmed by her royal duties and the intense media coverage of nearly every aspect of her life, she began to develop and pursue her own interests. Diana served a strong supporter of many charities and worked to help the homeless, people living with HIV and AIDS and children in need.

Unfortunately, the fairy tale wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles did not lead to a happily-ever-after marriage. The two became estranged over the years, and there were reports of infidelities from both parties. During their union, Diana struggled with depression and bulimia. The couple’s separation was announced in December 1992 by British Prime Minister John Major, who read a statement from the royal family to the House of Commons. The divorce was finalized in 1996.

Death and Legacy

Even after the divorce, Diana maintained a high level of popularity. She devoted herself to her sons and to such charitable efforts as the battle against the use of land mines. Diana used her international celebrity to help raise awareness about this issue. She also continued to experience the negative aspects of fame—her 1997 romance with Egyptian film producer and playboy Dodi Al-Fayed caused quite a stir and created a media frenzy. While visiting Paris, the couple was involved in a car crash after trying to escape from the paparazzi on the night of August 30, 1997.

Diana initially survived the crash, but later succumbed to her injuries at a Paris hospital a few hours later. Al-Fayed and the driver were also killed, and a bodyguard was seriously injured. French authorities investigated the crash and the driver was found to have a high level of alcohol in his system at the time of the accident. The role of the pursuing photographers in the tragedy was also scrutinized.

News of her sudden, senseless death shocked the world. Thousands turned out to pay tribute to the “people’s princess” during her funeral procession. The funeral was held at Westminister Abbey, which was broadcast on television. Her body was later buried at her family’s estate, Althorp.

In 2007, marking the tenth anniversary of her death, her sons, Princes William and Harry, honored their beloved mother with a special concert to be held on what would have been her 46th birthday. The proceeds of the event went to charities supported by Diana and her sons.

Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton also remembered Diana when naming their second child, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, who was born on May 2, 2015.

Continuing her charitable efforts is the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. Established after her death, the fund provides grants to numerous organizations and supports initiatives to provide care to the sick in Africa, help refugees, and stop the use of land mines.

Anna Nicole Smith – Legend of the month

 

Born on November 28, 1967, in Mexia, Texas, Anna Nicole Smith rose to fame as a model. She was named Playboy‘s Playmate of the Year in 1993. In 1994, she wed 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, who soon died. Smith spent years fighting for a share of her late husband’s estate. She starred in her own reality show from 2002 to 2004. Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in 2007.

Early Life

Anna Nicole Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on November 28, 1967, in Mexia, Texas. A high school dropout, Smith’s dramatic life began quietly in the small Texas town of Mexia. She had a difficult childhood, growing up without her father who left the family when she was only a baby. 

As a teenager, Smith worked at a local fried chicken restaurant. There she met cook Billy Smith, and the pair married when she was only 17 years old. The couple had a son named Daniel in 1984, but the marriage later broke up. Not content with small-town life, Smith dreamed of becoming the next Marilyn Monroe.

Before her big break, Anna Nicole Smith worked numerous jobs, including as a Wal-Mart employee and a dancer. She left her son in the care of her mother, Virgie Arthur, to work in Houston at a strip club. In 1991, Smith met Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II while working at a club. She soon had her own reversal of fortune.

Fight for Fortune

Smith married Marshall in 1994. At the time, she was 26 and he was 89. The tremendous age difference between the couple surprised many, and Smith endured allegations of only being after Marshall’s sizeable fortune. According to People magazine, the bride took off for Greece without her groom shortly after the wedding. The pair also weren’t living together in Marshall’s final days, and the unusual union ended with Marshall’s death in 1995. 

Smith claimed that Marshall had promised a share of his estate, but he had not put her in his will. She spent years fighting his son, E. Pierce Marshall, in court. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006, with the court’s decision opening the door for Anna Nicole Smith to collect money from her late husband’s estate, though the case was not yet settled. 

Reality Star and Spokesperson

In 2002, television viewers got an inside look at Smith and her wacky, quirky ways with a new series. The Anna Nicole Show, a reality program, followed her through her daily activities. At times, the show was difficult to watch as Smith seemed disoriented or confused, but the audience continued to tune in to see what Smith might do or say next. She was often shown in the company of Howard K. Stern, her attorney. While the show went off the air in 2004, Anna Nicole Smith remained popular with the American public.

Having struggled with her weight on and off for years, Anna Nicole Smith became a spokesperson for a line of diet products in 2003. She lost a significant amount of weight and did some modeling and acting. In 2006, Smith starred in the science fiction-comedy Illegal Aliens. Her son Daniel also worked on the project with her.

Personal Problems

While her professional life appeared to be on the rise, Anna Nicole Smith experienced both joy and tragedy in her personal life. She announced that she was pregnant during the summer of 2006, and gave birth to a daughter on September 7, 2006, at a hospital in Nassau, Bahamas. She named her child Dannielynn, and was thrilled to be a mother again. But her happiness was short-lived. Her 20-year-old son Daniel died only three days later from an apparent drug overdose. Later reports indicated that the interaction of methadone and two different types of antidepressants may have caused his death. Anna Nicole Smith never truly recovered from the loss.

Smith found herself in the middle of media frenzy with reports on her son’s death appearing on entertainment news programs on an almost daily basis. She also became embroiled in a paternity lawsuit regarding her daughter. Her ex-boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, claimed to be Dannielynn’s father. Smith stated that her attorney, Howard K. Stern, was the child’s father, and he is listed on the child’s birth certificate. In the midst of all this heartbreak and legal battles, Smith and Stern held a small commitment ceremony, after which they ate fried chicken and drank champagne. While the event symbolized their devotion to each other, it was not legally binding.

Death and Legacy

Anna Nicole Smith died on February 8, 2007, at the age of 39, after being found unconscious in her hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. In death as in life, Anna Nicole Smith made headlines around the world. As a tribute, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner told the press at the time: “She was a very dear friend who meant a great deal to Playboy and to me personally.”

After Smith’s death, there was much speculation regarding the paternity of her daughter, including one claim made by Prince Frederick von Anhalt, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband. He told the Associated Press that he had an affair with Anna Nicole Smith and believed that he was Dannielynn’s father. In April 2007, it was determined by DNA test results that Larry Birkhead was the biological father of Dannielynn. Howard K. Stern did not contest this ruling and legal custody was granted to Birkhead.  

There was also speculation over the cause of the reality star’s death, with authorities eventually announcing that it was an accidental drug overdose. Smith had been taking nine different kinds of medication in the days before her death. Stern and two others were later found guilty of crimes associated with her death. All of these convictions were thrown out in 2011 except for a misdemeanor against Smith’s psychiatrist.

That year, the battle over Smith’s claims on Marshall’s estate once again made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, it was determined that the earlier Texas probate court finding against Smith would stand. Legal proceedings would continue until 2014, with a judge ruling against another lawsuit brought forth by Smith’s team.

In 2012, Stern again faced legal consequences for his alleged role in supplying Smith’s prescription drug habit. The Second District Court of Appeal objected with the vacating of these convictions against Stern. The court stated that it believed that Stern may have “knowingly participated in conduct designed to avoid detection and scrutiny” in regard to the prescription drugs used by Smith, according to Eonline.com.

While ridiculed by some for her spacey persona, Smith was also admired for her rise to success despite so many personal obstacles. Perhaps the quintessential underdog, Smith had lots of fans rooting for her to overcome the recent tragedies. Unfortunately, that was not to be. After her death, she has been compared to many of Hollywood’s beautiful women who died too young, including Jean Harlow and Anna Nicole Smith’s personal favorite, Marilyn Monroe.

Smith continues to be a subject of great fascination and speculation to this day. Her life and sudden death has inspired numerous books, documentaries and movies. In 2011, an opera entitled Anna Nicole—telling Smith’s tragic tale in song—debuted in London to mostly favorable reviews. In 2013, Lifetime TV network released The Anna Nicole Story, with Agnes Bruckner starring as the troubled pin-up and Martin Landau portraying J. Howard Marshall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legend of the month – Stephen Hawking

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Stephen William Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 (exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. His parents’ house was in north London but during the second world war Oxford was considered a safer place to have babies. When he was eight his family moved to St. Albans, a town about 20 miles north of London. At the age of eleven, Stephen went to St. Albans School and then on to University College, Oxford (1952); his father’s old college. Stephen wanted to study mathematics although his father would have preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he pursued physics instead. After three years and not very much work, he was awarded a first class honours degree in natural science.

In October 1962, Stephen arrived at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge to do research in cosmology, there being no-one working in that area in Oxford at the time. His supervisor was Dennis Sciama, although he had hoped to get Fred Hoyle who was working in Cambridge. After gaining his PhD (1965) with his thesis titled ‘Properties of Expanding Universes‘, he became, first, a research fellow (1965) then Fellow for Distinction in Science (1969) at Gonville & Caius college. In 1966 he won the Adams Prize for his essay ‘Singularities and the Geometry of Space-time’. Stephen moved to the Institute of Astronomy (1968), later moving back to DAMTP (1973), employed as a research assistant, and published his first academic book, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, with George Ellis. During the next few years, Stephen was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (1974) and Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at the California Institute of Technology (1974). He became a Reader in Gravitational Physics at DAMTP (1975), progressing to Professor of Gravitational Physics (1977). He then held the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (1979-2009). The chair was founded in 1663 with money left in the will of the Reverend Henry Lucas who had been the Member of Parliament for the University. It was first held by Isaac Barrow and then in 1669 by Isaac Newton.  From 2009, Stephen was employed as the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at DAMTP.

Professor Stephen Hawking worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes (1970). These results indicated that it was necessary to unify general relativity with quantum theory, the other great scientific development of the first half of the 20th century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit ‘Hawking’ radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear (1974). Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science. Towards the end of his life, Stephen was working with colleagues on a possible resolution to the black hole information paradox, where debate centres around the conservation of information.

His many publications included The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravitation, with W Israel. Among the popular books Stephen Hawking published are his best seller A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell, The Grand Design and My Brief History.

Professor Stephen Hawking received thirteen honorary degrees. He was awarded CBE (1982), Companion of Honour (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009). He was the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes, most notably the Fundamental Physics prize (2013), Copley Medal (2006) and the Wolf Foundation prize (1988). He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In 1963 Stephen was diagnosed with ALS, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, shortly after his 21st birthday. In spite of being wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication Stephen continued to combine family life (he has three children and three grandchildren) with his research into theoretical physics, in addition to an extensive programme of travel and public lectures. Thanks to the Zero-G Corporation, he experienced weightlessness in 2007 and always hoped to make it into space one day.