Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Just because it's June, June, JUNE!"

Things are still percolating madly in The Underworld. I was gone the whole weekend at a theatre convention, at which one of my best friend's presentation of Rent (in a 30-minute excerpt) went through the roof. Much late-night, goggled-eyed celebration ensued. Then came a Reds game followed by a poolside cookout, so I haven't been able to dig into a meaty post as of late.

Even though it is nearly past us, we're going to pay a little tribute to June with this photo-essay (which, in true Underworld style, grew longer than I anticipated anyway!) Unlike the more dramatic name Joan (with which I find, almost universally, that I like every star with that moniker as a first name!), the name June seems to bring out the sunny, cheery, lighter personalities. Still, you may find that even these sunny-side-up stars endured their own share of trouble. It's not that I dislike the Junes, I'm just – as a rule – not as crazy for them. I tried to find either good, different or interesting pictures of them as we examine today, alphabetically, some famous Junes. I hope I haven't forgotten too many. I really tried to forage for as many as I could! In a break from tradition, the pictures come first instead of after the text, so that you can see the lady ahead of time before reading about her.
Quite possibly the most famous of all celebrity Junes (and renowned as one of the sunniest) is the one we come to first, Miss June Allyson. Born Eleanor Geisman on October 7th, 1917, she had quite a tragic beginning, abandoned at six months by her alcoholic father with her mother unable to both work and care for her at the same time. She was sent to live with grandparents where – at age eight – a tree branch fell on her, fracturing her skull, breaking her back and even killing her dog, which was with her at the time. Movie were her escape during the long convalescence and years later, after her mother remarried and could provide a stable home life, she took dance and also began to sing. However, when the stepfather died, she dropped out of high school in order to make a living as a dancer, eventually making a splash in Broadway's Very Warm for May, Higher and Higher, Panama Hattie and finally Best Foot Forward, which led to an MGM contract. Many good times followed, but also many bad as the premature death of husband Dick Powell helped lead to depression and her own serious battle with alcohol. All was finally set right in the years before she died in 2006 at the age of eighty-eight.
Next we come to June Blair (born Margaret June Blair.) Blair came into the world on October 20th, 1933 and grew up to be a model and actress. In the mid-1950s, she began to pop up on television and in 1957, she was one of Playboy magazine's “Playmate of the Month.” She became one of Hollywood's more seductive glamour girls, doing a (modest by today's standards) striptease for charity and being seen on the arm of many young hopeful actors such as John Smith, Barry Coe, Michael Callan, Brian Kelly and Bing Crosby's son, Lindsay. In 1960, she costarred in the short-lived TV series Two Faces West (which is what today's photo is from), but the following year she married David Nelson of the famous TV family. On The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, if you married into the family, they wrote you in to the series, playing a version of yourself! Thus, she worked on the show here and there from 1961 to 1966 as June Nelson (she had also done two episodes prior to this as a guest star.) In 1975, David and June, who had two sons together, divorced and she didn't remarry again. She is still with us today at age seventy-eight.
Turning to the world of music for a moment, we come to Valerie June Carter, who you may no better as June Carter Cash. Born June 23rd, 1929 into the famous Carter Family of country music, she began performing at the age of ten in a variety of incarnations of the Carter's long-running act. Though most people associate her with her famous husband (from 1968 until her death) Johnny Cash, he was actually her third spouse! She'd married honky-tonk singer Carl Smith in 1952 and had a daughter before divorcing in 1956, then she'd wed football player-turned-race car driver Rip Nix in 1957 after becoming pregnant. They had a daughter together within eight months, but were divorced in 1966. When she wed Cash in 1968, they had a son together and remained wed until 2003 when she died (and he did the same just four months later.) Aside from her creative endeavors, she was committed to charities as well, particularly the welfare of orphaned or abandoned children. A spirited, amusing performer, she was advised by no less than Elia Kazan to study acting, something she did pursue to a certain degree on various TV shows, specials and TV-movies. Two years after her death, the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line was released and Reese Witherspoon won almost every conceivable acting award portraying June Carter Cash.
Another vocalist, Shirley Luster, was born November 20th, 1925 and started her singing career in earnest at only age thirteen. In her late teens, she changed her name to Sharon Leslie when she sang with a band and in 1945 she changed it again to the one that stuck: June Christy. Aligned with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, she contributed to some of that group's most prominent successes. In the 1950s and '60s, she segued from the big band sound to more cool jazz and was a staple of television variety shows. She also toured the world in concert. Sadly, a battle with the bottle and significant shifts in musical tastes led to her retirement in 1969, though she did return three years later to sing with Stan Kenton's orchestra again at The Newport Jazz Festival and periodically appear elsewhere after that. In 1990, she died of kidney failure at only age sixty-four, but is still hailed among many jazz enthusiasts as a semi-neglected pioneer of her field of music.
Actress June Duprez was born at an alarming time, literally! She appeared in Middlesex, England on May 14th, 1918 during an air raid at the tail end of WWI. As a teen, she began working on stage and in 1936, at age eighteen, made her film debut. Four years later, she landed the female lead in the lavish Technicolor fantasy The Thief of Bagdad, produced and partially directed by Alexander Korda. He began managing her career, though a hefty asking price kept her from winning many of the choice parts available a the time. Two notable films she did appear in were 1944's None But the Lonely Heart and 1945's And Then There Were None (a rendition of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians.) While in Hollywood, she had to fight off lascivious movie moguls who on at least two occasions entered her home uninvited! With her movie career grinding to a slow halt, she moved to the Broadway stage, wed for a second time (the first being to a doctor during the late 1930s who had trouble adjusting to her increasing fame) and retired. The second husband was wealthy and she raised two daughters outside the limelight of the movie business. That marriage dissolved in 1965 and, after having grappled with an undisclosed, lengthy illness, Duprez died in 1984 at age sixty-six.
You would be more likely to have heard this next performer rather than having seen her. June Foray, born on September 18th, 1917, began working on the radio (in a dramatic program) at age twelve. Within three years, she was performing on the air regularly, perfecting her diction and delivery. After her family moved to Los Angeles during hard times in the mid-1930s, she landed small acting gigs and voiceover work at various places including Walt Disney Studios. The diminutive (she's not even five feet tall) lady rarely appeared on screen, but her voice would become one of the most prolific and varied in the business. Unquestionably, her most famous contribution was as Rocky the Squirrel on The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. She not only voiced Rocky, but also the Russian spy Natasha Fatale, Dudley Do Right's girlfriend Nell Fenwick and many others. Working steadily in the voice-acting business, she provided the voices for countless characters on many varied cartoons as well as dubbing lesser-known movie actresses (and little boys!) whose voices may not have passed muster or providing lines in the films that were coming from unseen characters. She was married once, from 1955 to his death in 1976, but had no children. In later years, she took to portraying elderly cartoon characters (plenty of grandmas) even as recently as 2011! She is, as of this writing, ninety-four years of age.
Most of us have heard of “Baby June” and “Dainty June” of the musical Gypsy and this next June is the person who is the source of that role. Ellen Evangeline Hovick (some sources say Ellen June Hovick) was born November 8th, 1912 to Rose Hovick, one of the all-time stage moms. Her mother trucked her and her sister Louise up and down the Vaudeville circuit, first as Baby June and then as Dainty June as she aged into her teens. She ran off with a boy in the act when she was barely sixteen, but her mother called the police and had him arrested. When he was out of jail, they married and she successfully escaped her overbearing mom's control, though the union was short-lived. Next, still only seventeen, she became pregnant with a married man's baby and later gave birth to a daughter, April. In time, she successfully launched a career on Broadway and then in the movies, changing her name to June Havoc, while her sister Louise evolved into burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. Lee wrote a memoir about the girls' and their tempestuous mother called Gypsy, which later formed the basis of the hit (and enduring)musical. As it was, Havoc was not at all happy with the way she was depicted in the book and even less so in the movie. The hurt and anger she felt over the way she was presented led to a lengthy estrangement between the sisters until about 1970 when Lee revealed that she was dying of cancer and wanted to make amends. She gets a bonus point for having appeared in the camp musical debacle Can't Stop the Music as Steve Guttenberg's mother.  Havoc passed away herself in 2010 of natural causes at the age of ninety-seven.
Our next June sometimes gets confused with June Havoc even though they shared very little in common except for their name. June Haver was born June Stovenour on June 10th, 1926, later taking her new last name from her stepfather. A very talented child, she won a contest with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music when she was seven and a year after that won a screen test thanks to her impersonations of acting greats Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn and Helen Hayes. She was prohibited by her mother from pursuing a movie career at so young an age, however. As a teen, she sang with a band and then in 1942, she moved to Hollywood where she performed in local plays. Soon, 20th Century Fox snapped her up and after an initial hiccup, she was refashioned into a fresh, new threat to Betty Grable and Alice Faye (some industry wags even referred to Haver as the “Pocket Grable.”) Haver made several bright and colorful musicals and was popular, but never really rivaled the more established blondes she was pitted against by the studio. In 1947, Haver married a trumpet player she'd known from her band days, but quickly realized it was a mistake. She tried to stick it our due to her religious instruction, but finally had to have it dissolved. Later, she was planning to marry a doctor she loved, but he died from complications of surgery. It was not long after that Haver left the movies and entered a convent to become a nun! In a matter of months, she realized that such a life was ultimately not right for her, so she exited the cloister. All ended well when she then and married Fred MacMurray, a famous actor and widower eighteen years her senior. Though he was reluctant to have more children, Haver kept at him until they adopted twins in 1966 (MacMurray's children from his first wife were by then twenty and twenty-six!) He died in 1991 of throat cancer at eighty-three and Haver (who never again acted after her 1953 decision to enter the convent, but did play herself on a 1957 episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour) died in 2005 at the age of seventy-nine from respiratory failure.
This June had a varied career beginning as a child actress before segueing into motherly roles. June Lockhart (born on June 25th, 1925 to actor Gene Lockhart) made her first film appearance at age thirteen. She proceeded to win roles in such classic films as Meet Me in St. Louis, All This, and Heaven Too and The Yearling. In 1947, she made a splash on Broadway in For Love or Money and even won a Tony Award as Best Newcomer (a category no longer offered.) She married a doctor in 1951, had two children and then divorced in 1959, marrying for the second time that same year. From 1959 to 1964, she was Timmy's mom Ruth Martin on Lassie, going directly from that to Lost in Space, where she played Maureen Robinson from 1965 to 1968. Still not finished, she went directly from Space to Petticoat Junction until 1970, replacing that show's star Bea Benaderet who had just died. She also divorced for the second time in 1970, the marriage having lasted all through he busiest career period. She didn't wed again after that. Though she continued to work over the following four decades, it consisted mostly of guest appearances on other folks' TV series or in the occasional movie. Her lookalike daughter Anne Lockhart was a popular TV actress herself in the late '70s and continues to work now. June isn't completely finished working yet either, having played a small role in a recent independent film despite being eighty-seven now.
We pendulum back to the world of music for our next June. Born November 30th, 1953, June Pointer was raised by a Reverend father and her mother in a house full of music. As a sixteen year-old, she and her sister Bonnie began singing in nightclubs as The Pointers – A Pair. Eventually, another sister Anita joined them and The Pointer Sisters were born. In 1972, a fourth sister, Ruth, joined in. The sisters had quite a bit of success, but even more was to come. Sadly, June Poiter developed a cocaine addiction and had to leave the group briefly in 1976 to attempt treatment. The next year, Bonnie left The Pointer Sisters to pursue a solo career. June married in 1978, though the union would end in 1991. As the late '70s arrived, so did The Pointer Sisters with hits like “Fire,” “He's So Shy,” “Slow Hand” and later “Automatic,” “Jump (for My Love)” and most especially “I'm So Excited,” which was spurred onto success through its vibrant use in the 1983 film National Lampoon's Vacation. After this, she pursued a solo career (with only moderate success) and also posed for Playboy. Though the Pointers were no longer enjoying the high level of success they'd once had, they still performed and toured together, but in 2004, June was removed from the group when her drug habits made working with her too much of a trial. June's niece filled in for her at this time. June was arrested for cocaine possession and ordered to rehab, but less than two years later she suffered a stroke and was discovered to be riddled with incurable cancer. She died in 2006 at only fifty-two years of age.
Let's sashay and shantay to the world of dance now. December 14th, 1917 brought the world June Taylor. Enrolled in dance class at the age of eight, she later became a dancer at the Chicago nightclub Chez Paree at age fourteen by lying about her age! By nineteen, she was working around the U.S. and in London as a professional dancer, but when she was twenty-two, she collapsed on stage and it was discovered that she had tuberculosis. Committed for two years to a sanitarium, upon her release she turned her attentions to choreography where she could explore her love of dance without the punishing physical demands of the art. Successful pretty much from the start, she founded her own troupe in 1942 and the gals performed in tony nightclubs in the midwest and eastern United States. She married in 1944 in a union that would last forty-two years until his death. In 1946, a fateful meeting occurred between Taylor and comedian Jackie Gleason. He was experiencing a case of stage fright and she helped him face it. Two years later, her dancers appeared in The Ed Sullivan Show and still later Cavalcade of Stars, hosted by Gleason. In 1952 Gleason hired her and her gaggle of sixteen dancers to appear regularly on The Jackie Gleason Show. The June Taylor Dancers became closely associated with Gleason as they showed off their Terpsichorean talents in an array of kaleidoscopic routines inspired by Busby Berkley. She won an Emmy in 1955 for her choreography. But for a few years' interruption, she was with Gleason in the various incarnations of his series until 1970. Gleason had moved the production of his show to Miami Beach, Florida and Taylor lived in Ft. Lauderdale as a result. From 1978 to 1990, she choreographed the routines of the Miami Dolphins's cheerleaders, the Starbrites. Miss Taylor passed away in 2004 of natural causes at the age of eighty-six.
One of the lesser-known Junes (to me anyway!) is June Valli. Born June Foglia on June 30th, 1928, she was a singer who began appearing on television while in her early-twenties. She worked on Cavalcade of Stars, the game show Stop the Music and Your Hit Parade, though after one season of the latter, she was replaced by Gisele MacKenzie. She popped up on several variety shows including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tony Bennett Show, The Arlene Francis Show and The Bob Crosby Show (the people determining the titles of these programs were SO creative!) In 1957, she costarred in the similarly creatively-titled summer replacement series The Andy Williams and June Valli Show. Continuing to sing on this show and that (The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson being the last one in 1970), she also provided the voice of Chiquita Banana in television ads for a time. Valli, who was married and divorced twice, died in 1993 of cancer at the age of sixty-four.
Another obscure one for me is June Vincent. She was born Dorothy June Smith on June 17th, 1920. Making her way to Hollywood in her early-twenties, she entered the movies in 1943 and proceeded to a career in B pictures. She worked in those pretty steadily, but branched out into TV in 1951, where she would ultimately find plenty of work. Though she balanced the two media for a while, her last movie was in 1959. She stayed busy, however, on many of the top programs of the '60s and early-'70s. The Loretta Young Show, Have Gun – Will Travel, Perry Mason, Hawaiian Eye and The Virginian are just some of the series she guested on. Her penchant for playing the other woman prompted TV Guide to dub her “Television's Favorite Homewrecker.” Her final role came in 1976 on Maude, though she is still alive today. Married from 1943 until her husband's death in 2002 (and the mother of three), she is eighty-eight at present.
The final June of the day is June Whitfield. Born June Rosemary Whitfield in London, England on November 11th, 1925, her mother enrolled her in dance class at an early age and she appeared on stage for the first time at the tender age of three! Whitfield studied to be a secretary as a skill to fall back on, but also pursued her creative side, earning a diploma from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She began landing radio work in the late-1940s and balanced that with stage and television roles. In 1953, she replaced a departing actress on the radio comedy Take It From Here, which was a big success. Whitfield married in 1955 (with a daughter born in 1960) and remained so until her husband's death in 2001. She performed on the show until it ended in 1960. Many TV roles came, including The Benny Hill Show, along with movies such as Carry On Nurse (with three more parts in that series of films afterwards.) A long run of successful British TV shows included Beggar My Neighbour, Scott On..., Happy Ever After and Terry and June. A brilliant third act in her life came when she was was as Jennifer “Edina” Saunders' primly hilarious mother on the spectacularly successful Britcom Absolutely Fabulous. Miss Whitfield is eighty-six at present.

I hope you've enjoyed this traipse through the Junes. I'm not sure if there are any I missed, but you can tell me if I did. Of course, the title of this post comes from a famous and rousing song called “June Is Bustin' Out All Over” from the Broadway musical Carousel. I've always loved watching that number in the movie version of the show, but apart from that, my favorite rendition is the screamingly hilarious rendition of it that took place when Miss Leslie Uggams attempted to power her way through it at a Washington, D.C. concert with no earthly idea what the lyrics were. The result was a complete and utter train wreck that was captured on video in a clip that has long since gone viral. You can view it here. If you haven't seen it, pee first. If you have, maybe it will bring a smile to your face again!


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