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Monday, May 16, 2005

More Elsie Houston discoveries 

Thanks to Daniella Thompson for correcting me on some points and tipping me off to some tantalizing resources out there. Look for annotated annotations in the near future.
Also, did a little Library of Congress digging and found some radio broadcasts and 78s in their collection.

Elsie Houston on the radio.

Jan 6 1938
The Rudy Vallee show
8:00 NBC Red Network
With Tommy Riggs, J.B. Priestly, Sybil Thorndyke, Sugarfoor & Sassafrass.

November 6 1940
Pan American Fiesta
9:35 pm: NBC Blue
(Misspelled "Huston")

June 5 1942
June 19 1942
July 3 1942
July 17 1942
Songs by Elsie Houston
6:45 NBC White
Not clear what this is, whether it was one segment repeated four times, or four separate fifteen minute shows.

Feb 11 1943 (Nine days before her death)
Music of the new world/Songs of romanticism and sentimentality
11:30 pm NBC
with Margaret Daum, Fred Hufsmith, Phil Duey, Frank Black

78 Recordings

Liberty Music Shop L232 Fado (Portuguese love song) ; Jongo (Brazilian magic song)

Victor 13667 Foi n'uma noite calmosa (Night of dreams, o night of fancy) (No. 5 modinha carioca,"Song of Rio") ; Bahia (Carateristica) ; Dansa de caboclo (The frog song)

Victor 13668 Benedicto pretinho (A little piccaninny) ; Bia-ta-t ; Berimbau (Amazon legend)

Victor 13669 Tres potos de santo (Brazilian magic themes): Chario; Aruanda; Estrella do Mar ; Tayras; Bambalel

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Quahogs live! 

As in "living," a long time. This site on the "ocean quahog" says
Ocean quahogs of about 100 years and older are common; a maximum shell length of 140 mm (5.5 inches) and a maximum longevity estimate of 225 years have been reported (Ropes 1985).

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Brazilian blog on Elsie Houston 

Finally, a whole page devoted to Elsie Houston, only it's in Portuguese! Thankful anyway. Some blanks filled in. For example, the name of her radio program (on NBC from 1939-1940) was "Fiesta Pan Americana."
Here's some more photos, newspaper microfiche quality, from the stories I referenced last post.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Real Robert Porter Sightings and Elsie Houston discoveries 

Robert Porter is not my real name. But occasionally I run across people whose name it really is. I take it as an omen. It happened today at the dentist. I looked over the counter when I was making an appointment, and there was a chart for "Robert Porter." In my town, at my dentist, getting his gums pricked in the room next to mine. So what does it mean?

Today it meant the rebirth of my Elsie Houston obsession. I had stumbled upon a Time Magazine reference during a routine, out-of-boredom, Yahoo search. (Gull City Press seems to blink on and off as far as Yahoo is concerned; forget Google.) So why not go straight to the library to check it out? Apparently in 1954,Victor released an LP Elsie Houston Sings Brazilian Songs. (Remember that LP technology was fairly new; the songs had been released originally on 78s.) Not only was it favorably reviewed in both Time and the Saturday Review, the reviewers seem to go out of their ways to conjure up the strangeness of her performances.

She could trumpet like a fishwife or trill like a bird....In nightclubs she liked to dim the lights to a pair of candles, pick up a finger drum, and let her voice go up in smoke for a savage voodoo number or wail some agonizing quarter tones in an ox driver's lament. Then she would startle her listeners by a playful ditty sung with a lilting girlish quality.

Saturday Review:
Elsie Houston entered this great drawing room like an African queen, like a priestess, like the reigning hetaera, in short, like an artist. She carried some small drums and was tuggin two huge candlesticks, because she was wanted to sing in the dark. I was drawn to her like a moth. I helped her get the waist-high candlesticks into place (nobody else was helping), lit the candles, and sat on the floor enslaved...What was she like? She seemed tall. Her features were rather Mayan: arced nose, proud eyes, black hair. Or so I remember. Her appearance changed from time to time.

A couple of other random notes:
Elsie Houston is credited with discovering the great Broadway arranger, Hershy Kay.
She once told the writer, Iles Brody, that Brazilians get turkeys drunk before killing them.

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