Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sonny Burke, Songwriter (1914-1980)

Songwriter and Scranton native Ned Washington has a lot in common with songwriter Sonny Burke. Like Washington (who composed songs for Pinocchio), Burke wrote several songs for a popular Disney film--Lady and the Tramp. Also like Washington, Burke wrote several songs that became standards in American music (Black Coffee, Midnight Sun). Finally, like Washington, Burke was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Reginald "Sonny" Burke was born in Scranton, PA on March 22, 1914. After attending University of Detroit and Duke University, Burke arranged for dance orchestras (including Tommy Dorsey), and was artists-and-repertoire director for Decca Records for fourteen years and Reprise Records for three years, and he founded his own company, Daybreak Records. Burke was responsible for many of Frank Sinatra's albums, and he was also bandleader for recordings of leading singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé.

Sonny Burke is probably best known for writing the songs in Disney's 1995 animated classic Lady and the Tramp, including Bella Notte (the "spaghetti-and-meatballs- sharing" song), He's A Tramp (performed in the film by Peggy Lee), the Siamese Cat Song, Peace on Earth, and La La Lu.

Lady and the Tramp wasn't Burke's only experience working in Hollywood films. He also worked on films such as 1948's A Song is Born (orchestrator), 1969's The Wild Bunch (music supervisor), and 1970's There Was A Crooked Man... (music supervisor) and Rabbit Run (musical director).

Burke's other compostions include Black Coffee, Midnight Sun, They Were Doin' the Mambo, You're A Lucky Fellow Mr. Smith, The Dixie Mambo (from 1955's Ain't Misbehavin') and I Guess I'll Dress Up For the Blues.

Reginald "Sonny" Burke passed away on May 31, 1980 in Los Angeles.

The DVD and VHS of Disney's Lady and the Tramp, as well as the CD soundtrack featuring some of Burke's most famous compositions, are available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mike Hill, Research Assistant to Author David McCullough (1776), Has A Local Connection

Norma Reese, one of my favorite patrons (and a true princess of local history), recently told me of a connection between Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough (who will be speaking in Scranton as part of the Library Lecture Series in September) and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Norma told me that the father of McCullough's research assistant Mike Hill was born in Honesdale, PA.

In addition to working with McCullough, Mr. Hill has also co-produced the PBS series The Civil War in 1990, as well as served as the coordinating producer of the PBS series Baseball. Click here to read more about Mike Hill.

Much thanks again to Norma for this reference.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann (1969)

In 1966, Jacqueline Susann shocked the publishing world when her novel Valley of the Dolls, an expose on Hollywood starlets and their experiences with fame, men and "dolls" (sleeping pills), became a #1 mega blockbuster sensation and one of the bestselling novels of all time (it was also made into a 1967 Hollywood film that became a campy cult classic).

In 1969, Susann followed up Valley of the Dolls with her second bestseller, The Love Machine, which includes a brief reference to Scranton. Set in the world of television broadcasting, The Love Machine centers around Robin Stone, a smart and sexy television executive who's climbing the corporate ladder and breaking the hearts of many women along the way.

More than halfway through the book on page 325, Robin is wandering around the streets of New York City and is approached by a prostitute.

"She smiled too. 'Fifty bucks and I got a room.'
'I got a better offer down the street.'
She shrugged. 'Elsie's breaking in a new one. She's turned only three tricks since she got here. And from what I hear, she still belongs back with the coal miners in Scranton.' "

The Love Machine was another bestseller for Susann. She published one final bestselling novel, Once is Not Enough, before her untimely death from breast cancer in 1974. Another novel, Delores, was published posthumously.

Jacqueline Susann was the first novelist to have three consecutive #1 bestsellers.

Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine (as well as her other novels Valley of the Dolls - and Rae Lawrence's 2002 sequel Shadow of the Dolls - Once is Not Enough, and Delores) is available to borrow from libraries throughout the Lackawanna County Library System.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

City of Light by Lauren Belfer (1999)

The utterly awesome Sameera Redkar from the Ousterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, PA recently sent us the following email:

"I thought you would like to know that in the book City of Light, by Lauren Befler, there is a reference to Scranton, PA and Mr. John J. Albright. You can check the reference on page # 27."

I've read the book City of Light about a year ago upon recommendation of my colleague (the lucious Lenore), and it truly is a book you can't put down--full of mystery, suspense, history and scandal.

Set in the spring of 1901, as preparations for the Pan-American Exposition would seem to promise Buffalo, New York, a permanent place in the world, Lauren Belfer's book is narrated by the never-married headmistress of a fashionable girls' school. At 36, Louisa Barrett does her best to free her charges from their societal shackles. What Louisa is most concerned about, however, is her 9-year-old goddaughter, Grace Sinclair, who has grown increasingly unstable since her mother's sudden death. Meanwhile, Grace's father is heading up Buffalo's hydroelectric power plans with dangerous zeal--much to the chagrin of local conservationists who oppose any exploitation of Niagara Falls. Will Tom's intensity, which smacks of fanaticism, extend so far as murder?

Scranton, Pennsylvania is mentioned in connection with John J. Albright, for whom the Albright Memorial Library was named. In addition, there is a dinner party scene in the book in which John J. Albright and Frederick Law Olmstead (the landscape architect of the Albright Memorial Library gardens, as well as Central Park in New York City) interact with each other.

Three copies of City of Light by Lauren Belfer are circulating throughout the Lackawanna County Library System.

To read more about Albright's and Olmstead's roles in the history of Albright Memorial Library, click here.

To read an interview with Lauren Belfer about City of Light, click here.

Much thanks again to Sameera Redkar for this reference. Also a Great Big Thank You to Lenore from Circulation for recommending the book to me.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

William Kotzwinkle, Author (1943- )

Evelyn Gibbons recently told me popular children's author and novelist William Kotzwinkle was born in Scranton, PA.

William Kotzwinkle was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1943. A prolific author and screenplay writer, Kotzwinkle began his career writing popular sci-fi novels such as The Firemen and Elephant Boy, which gave him a huge following. He first gained national attention with his 1982 novelization of Steven Spielberg's blockbuster film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; the novelization was so successful that Kotzwinke wrote a sequel titled E.T. The Book of the Green Planet in 1985.

Kotzwinkle has recently discovered new-found success from the younger set as as the co-author (with Glenn Murray) of the popular Walter, the Farting Dog bestselling picture book series.

Kotzwinkle's film credits include the story for 1988's A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and his novel Jack In The Box was self-adapted into the screenplay for the 1990 comedy Book of Love.

Presently, Kotzwinkle lives on an island off the Maine coast with his wife, author Elizabeth Gundy, who also co-authored Walter, The Farting Dog Goes On A Cruise with her husband.

The Lackawanna County Library System has 36 items authored by Kotzwinkle circulating throughout the county--including Fata Morgana, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, books in the Walter, The Farting Dog series, and several of his sci-fi novels.

Click here to read a 1996 interview with Kotzwinkle about his then-published book The Bear Went Over the Mountain, the story of a bear who journeys to New York City to return a screenplay he finds in the woods, leading to his immediate celebrity.

Much thanks to Evelyn Gibbons for this reference.