Monday, February 4, 2013

Colfax Avenue Walk of Fame

     Many famous stars, politicians, and pop cultural heroes were born or spent a great deal of time in Colorado, and on Colfax Avenue. I proposed to the City Council the idea of turning Colfax Avenue into a Colorado Walk of Fame, much like Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, where each resident of note would get a star; hopefully it happens... Here are suggestions for the first inductees:

     Broncos Quarterback John ElwayChauncey Billups (born in Denver, point guard and team captain for the Detroit Pistons, 2004 NBA Champions), country music legend Chet Atkins (once lived in the western Denver suburbs near Colfax Avenue and Simms before becoming a major operative in the Nashville music scene. Chet's brother, Jimmy, was a longtime KOA radio program director in Denver), the Unsinkable Molly Brown (activist, social reformer, survived the sinking of the Titanic), Singer Judy Collins (attended East High School), Pat Hingle (lived in Denver, Commissioner Gordon in Batman movies), Neal Cassady (Beat hero, honed his writing skills at East High School), Jack Kerouac (once owned a house in Lakewood, CO), Don Cheadle (nominated for a 2005 Academy Award for his portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda), Dianne Reeves (received a Grammy Award of "Best jazz vocal album" for A Little Moonlight in 2004), Ruth Handler (went to East High School, invented the Barbie doll in 1959 and co-founded the Mattel Toy Company), Hattie McDaniel (America's first ever black Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress, playing Scarlet's servant in the 1939 epic film Gone With the Wind), Peter O'Fallon (Hollywood film director, who was publicized for the film Suicide Kings in 1998), Spanky (of Our Gang, the early-1900's comedy serial reportedly lived in Denver), Dean Reed ("The Red Elvis", performer, activist, born in Lakewood), Jack Earle (once billed as "The World's Tallest Man"), legendary guitarist Tommy Bolin, folk singer John Denver, India.Arie, The Fray (nominated for two Grammy Awards), DeVotchKa (nominated for a Grammy Award), David Miller (member of international opera sensation, Il Divo), actor/comedian T.J. Miller, musician/actor Chuck E. Weiss, big band leader Glenn Miller, actress Debra Paget (born in Denver, starred with Elvis Presley in the film "Love Me Tender"), one-time Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir, and Sue Lyon (best-known for her role in the 1962 movie "Lolita,", but it was only a few years later that she was living at the Bugs Bunny Motel at 6218 W. Colfax Ave. It is rumored that she threatened to throw herself out of a window, but the motel is only one-story).

     Denver also has many other claims to rock and roll fame: Led Zeppelin's first ever American tour date at the Denver Auditorium, Queen's first ever American tour date at Regis College and the Jimi Hendrix Experience's last ever appearance together at the Denver Pop Festival at Mile High Stadium in 1969.


Paul Whiteman (born in Denver, Colorado on March 28, 1890) was a popular American orchestral leader. He started out as a classical violinist and violist, and played viola in the Denver Symphony Orchestra from 1907 and in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra from 1914. He then started leading a jazz-influenced dance band which became locally popular in San Francisco, California in 1918. In 1920 he moved his band to New York City where they started making recordings for Victor Records which propelled Whiteman and his band to national prominence. Whiteman became the most popular band leader of the decade. In the late 1920s he recorded for Columbia Records. His band was one of the most successful in history. Their first hit, "Whispering," sold two million copies in 1920, about one for every record player in the country. It was the first of more than 20 number-one hits that the band would record in the Twenties.
      In the 1920s and early 1930s Whiteman was dubbed (self proclaimed) "The King of Jazz". He recorded Hoagy Carmichael singing and playing Washboard Blues to the accompaniment of his orchestra in 1926. While today most fans of jazz consider improvisation to be essential to the musical style, Whiteman thought the music could be improved by scoring the best of it. While modern revisionists might look back & say "that wasn't the True Jazz", his notions were critically popular and commercially successful at the time, and Whiteman's music was often the first jazz of any form that some people heard. Duke Ellington wrote in his autobiography: "Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity."
Paul Whiteman

     Whiteman commissioned George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which was premiered by Whiteman's Orchestra with Gershwin at the piano in 1924. Another familiar piece in Whiteman's repertoire: Grand Canyon Suite, by Ferde Grof (much of which was used in the score of A Christmas Story). Whiteman appreciated jazz musicians and hired many of the best jazz men for his band, including Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Steve Brown, Mike Pingitore, Gussie Mueller, Jack Teagarden, and Bunny Berigan. Whiteman gave them constant chances to improvise, paid them top salaries and encouraged them to make small band jam recordings on the side. Paul Whiteman was primarily responsible for revolutionizing the dance orchestra and dance music after World War I. Prior to that time, dances were played by military bands, string ensembles, or small combinations. Working in 1918-19 with arranger Ferde Grof and in parallel with fellow San Francisco bandleader Art Hickman, Whiteman introduced the saxophone section as musical unit of equal weight with the brass. This set a standard for instrumentation that defined the dance orchestra, and remains in big bands to this day.
     Before Whiteman, musical arrangements were very cut-and-dried, with much repetition. Whiteman and Grof introduced arrangements that instead of repeating, changed keys, textures and rhythms over their course, much like symphonic music. This innovation, combined with the jazz elements mentioned above, plus his insistence on using top notch, concert-calibre musicians, made Paul Whiteman's orchestra a vanguard force that changed the face of popular music in the 1920s. Whiteman was also one of the greatest of all talent scouts. For over 30 years, he sought out and encouraged musicians, vocalists, composers, arrangers and entertainers who looked promising. It is worth repeating that Whiteman not only premiered George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in 1924, but commissioned him to write it, much to Gershwin's surprise at the time. Both Bing Crosby and Mildred Bailey got their start singing with the Whiteman Orchestra. In 1931, Whiteman married motion picture actress Margaret Livingston. After he disbanded his Orchestra, in the 1940s and 1950s Whiteman worked as a music director for the ABC Radio Network. He also hosted several television programs and continued to appear as guest conductor for many concerts.

Paul Whiteman died at the age of 77 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania

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Douglas Fairbanks (born in Denver, Colorado, on May 23, 1883 as Douglas Elton Ullman) was an American actor, screenwriter, director and producer, who became noted for his swashbuckling roles in silent movies such as The Mark of Zorro (1920), The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and The Black Pirate (1926).

     Douglas Fairbanks began acting on the Denver stage at an early age, doing amateur theatre. He was in summer stock at the Elitch Gardens Theatre, becoming a sensation in his teens. He attended East High School, and was once expelled for dressing up the campus statues on St. Patrick's Day. He left during his senior year. He said he attended Colorado School of Mines, then Harvard University for a term. No record of attendance has been located, but an article about whether or not he attended Mines recounts a professor once saying Fairbanks was asked to leave because of a prank not long after he began.

     He moved to New York in the early 1900s to pursue an acting career, joining the acting troupe of British actor Frederick Warde who had discovered Fairbanks performing in Denver. He worked in a hardware store and as a clerk in a Wall Street office before his Broadway debut in 1902. On July 11, 1907 in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, he married Anna Beth Sully, the daughter of wealthy industrialist, Daniel J. Sully. They had one son, Douglas Elton Fairbanks (actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who was born on December 9, 1909 and who died on May 7, 2000). The family moved to Hollywood in 1915.

     Fairbanks signed a contract with Triangle Pictures in 1915 and began working under the supervision of D.W. Griffith. His athletic abilities were not appreciated by Griffith, however, and he was brought to the attention of Anita Loos and John Emerson, who wrote and directed many of his early romantic comedies. He met actress and businesswoman Mary Pickford at a party in 1916 and they began having an affair. In 1917, they, along with Charlie Chaplin, traveled across the U.S. by train selling war bonds. Pickford and Chaplin were then the two highest paid movie stars in Hollywood. Fairbanks set up his own production company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation. Within eighteen months of his arrival, Fairbanks' popularity and business acumen raised him up to be the third highest paid. To curtail these stars' astronomical salaries, the large studios attempted to monopolize the distributors and exhibitors.

     To avoid being controlled by the studios and to protect their independence, Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith formed United Artists in 1919, which created their own distributorships and gave them complete artistic control over their movies and the profits generated. The company was kept solvent in the years immediately after its formation largely from the success of Fairbanks' films. Fairbanks was determined to have Pickford become his wife, but she was still married to actor Owen Moore. They were both concerned about bad publicity and the effect it could have on the moviegoing public, who might boycott their efforts at the theater should they marry each other. He finally gave her an ultimatum. She then obtained a fast divorce in the small Nevada town of Minden on March 2, 1920. Fairbanks leased the Beverly Hills mansion Grayhall and was rumoured to have used it during his courtship of Pickford. (Grayhall was subsequently owned by, among others, the financier Bernard Cornfeld.) The couple were married March 28, 1920, by the pastor of Temple Baptist Church, at his residence on West Fourth Street in Los Angeles. Pickford's divorce from Moore was contested by Nevada legislators, however, and the dispute was not settled until 1922. Even though the lawmakers objected to the marriage, the public went wild over the idea of "Everybody's Hero" marrying "America's Sweetheart." The couple was greeted by crowds of up to 300,000 people in London and Paris during their European honeymoon, becoming Hollywood's first celebrity marriage. During the years they were married, Fairbanks and Pickford were regarded as "Hollywood Royalty," and they were famous for entertaining at their Beverly Hills estate, Pickfair.
      By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine films (twenty-eight features and one two-reel short), which showcased his ebullient screen persona and athletic ability. By 1920, he had the inspiration of staging a new type of adventure-costume picture, a genre that was then out of favor with the public. In the The Mark of Zorro, Fairbanks combined his appealing screen persona with the new adventureous, costume element. It was a smash success and parlayed the actor into the rank of superstar. For the remainder of his career in silent films, he continued to produce and star in ever more elaborate, impressive costume movies. Fairbanks spared no expense and effort in these films, which established the standard for all future swashbucking films. In 1921, he, Pickford, Chaplin, and others, helped to organize the Motion Picture Fund to assist those in the industry who could not work, or were unable to meet their bills. During the first ceremony of its type, he and Pickford placed their hand and foot prints in wet cement at the newly opened Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on April 30, 1927. Fairbanks was elected first President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that same year, and he hosted the first Academy Awards presentation (then held as a banquet, rather than today's big ceremony). Fairbanks' also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7020 Hollywood Boulevard.
     In his final years he resided at 705 Ocean Front (now Pacific Coast Highway) in Santa Monica, California, although much of his time was spent traveling abroad. In December, 1939, at 56, Fairbanks had a heart attack in his sleep and died a day later at his home in Santa Monica. His funeral service was held at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather Church at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, where he was placed in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum. He was deeply mourned and honored by his colleagues and fans for his contributions to the film industry and Hollywood. Two years following his death, he was removed from Forest Lawn by his widow, who commissioned an elaborate marble monument for him, with long rectangular reflecting pool, raised tomb, and classic Greek architecture, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The remains of his son Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. were was also interred here upon his death in 2000. There is a witty reference to him in the David Lean film 'A Passage to India' (set in Edwardian India) in which one of the characters performs acrobatic feats on the side of a train calling, "I am Douglas Fairbanks!"
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Pam Grier (born on May 26, 1949 as Pamela Suzette Grier) is an iconic American actress. She came to fame in the early 1970s, after starring in a string of moderately-successful women-in-prison and blaxploitation films, and has since then remained in the public spotlight, appearing in a large number of films, including B-movies, and more notably in mainstream films such as the title character in the 1974 film Foxy Brown as well as director Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film, Jackie Brown.
     Because of her father's military career, Pam's family moved frequently during her childhood, such as living in England, and eventually settling in Denver, Colorado, where Pam attended East High School. While there she appeared in stage productions. Pam participated in beauty contests in order to make money for college tuition.
     Pam Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired as a receptionist at the American International Pictures company. She was discovered by director Roger Corman, who cast her in his women in prison films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). She became a staple of the blaxploitation movies of the early 1970s, playing big, bold, buxom, roles, beginning with 1973's Coffy, in which Pam plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers; her film character was advertised in the trailer as the "baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!". The film, which was filled with sexual and violent elements typical of the genre, was successful at the box office, and Grier was noted as the first African American female to headline a film, as previously the protagonists of blaxploitation films had exclusively been male. In his review of Coffy, film critic Roger Ebert noted that Pam Grier was an actress of "beautiful face and astonishing form" and that she possessed a kind of "physical life" missing from other actresses. Grier subsequently played similar characters in the films Foxy Brown (1974), Friday Foster, and Sheba, Baby (both 1975).
Pam Grier
     With the demise of blaxploitation, Grier's career went into hiatus for several years. She worked her way into progressively larger character roles in the 1980s, including notably the stoned prostitute in Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), a witch in Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983), and Steven Seagal's detective partner in Above the Law (1988). She became a regular on the hit television detective series Miami Vice in 1985. She also appeared in a guest appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air cast as a woman who slept with her daughter's boyfriend, Will Smith.
     Grier highlighted a successful television series during the '90s on BET. She once again appeared in a leading role in 1997 as a stewardess in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, which many consider her best work so far. Grier is currently appearing in the television series The L Word as Kit Porter.
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Tim Allen (born on June 13, 1953 in Denver Colorado as Timothy Alan Dick) began his career as a stand-up comedian. On a dare from one of his friends, he participated in an open-mic night at a nightclub in Detroit. He soon became a regular average act at the city's Comedy Store. He later moved to Los Angeles and became a member of The Comedy Store there. He began to do stand-up appearances on late-night talk shows and specials on record and film. He became a member of the "dirty-dozen", a group of stand-up comedians popular for their adult-oriented humor.
Tim Allen
     He rose to fame in acting with the television series Home Improvement (1991-1999) on ABC in which he played Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. At one point in late 1994, he starred in the most watched television show, Home Improvement, the highest grossing film, The Santa Clause, and had the best selling book in North America, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, simultaneously. The following year he provided the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the blockbuster Toy Story. His Home Improvement fame spawned Tim Allen Signature Tools, a line of power tools distributed by Ryobi.
     Allen's material consists mainly of discussions on masculinity, male-female relationships, raising children, hardware and tools, themes which make him accessible to a wide audience. He writes in his first book that although he is enthusiastic about hardware, he is far from expert. This became the basis for his sitcom. Near the end of the show, Allen published I'm Not Really Here, a book detailing his thoughts on quantum philosophy, intergender relationships, and the male mid-life crisis.
      Tim Allen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Blvd.
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Philip Bailey
Philip Bailey (born May 8, 1951, Denver, Colorado) is an American R&B, soul, Gospel and funk singer, best known as one of the founding members of Earth, Wind & Fire. Before joining Earth, Wind & Fire in 1971, Bailey was a vocalist for the Phoenix Horns.
     Bailey found fame singing lead on EW&F songs such as "Devotion," "Head to the Sky," "Reasons," "Shining Star," and "Let's Groove" and though in the latter he sung in tenor, he mostly has sung the EW&F classics in falsetto. He often notes legendary singers Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations and Smokey Robinson as influences and mentors and preceding disco singer Sylvester.
     Bailey is currently the on-stage leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, along with bassist Verdine White, vocalist/percussionist Ralph Johnson and vocalist/percussionist B. David Whitworth. Bailey has also recorded as a solo artist, as well as duets with Phil Collins and Eric Benet. His most notable song was a duet with Phil Collins, "Easy Lover" from his solo album Chinese Wall. Phil Collins, during a radio interview, was asked how "he discovered" Philip Bailey. Annoyed at the lack of knowledge of the interviewer he made up a story about how he had been filling his car with gas/petrol when he heard the attendant singing...and that turned out to be Philip Bailey. The interviewer believed the whole story, which was also picked up by other media outlets. Philip is married to vocalist and EWF backup singer Krystal Bailey.

(Mary) Antoinette Perry (June 27, 1888 – June 28, 1946), was an actress, director, and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing. From Born in Denver, Colorado, she attended East High School on Colfax Avenue, and spent her childhood aspiring to replicate the thespian artistry of her aunt and uncle, both of whom were well-respected touring actors. She appeared opposite David Warfield in Music Master in 1906 when she was only eighteen years old. Her career was on the rise, yet she left the stage a star in 1909, to marry Denver businessman Frank W. Frueauff and start a family. Years later, her daughters would follow in her footsteps, likewise pursuing careers in the theatre, Elaine as a producer and Margaret as a stage manager.

Mary Antoinette "Toni/Tony" Perry
     Following Frank Frueaff's death in 1922, Perry returned to the stage, appearing notably in Kaufman & Ferber's Minick. She took up directing in 1928. In partnership with Brock Pemberton she produced several successful plays, including Divorce Me Dear, Ceiling Zero, Red Harvest, Strictly Dishonorable, Personal Appearance, and Kiss the Boys Goodbye. Their most famous production was probably the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mary Chase classic Harvey, which enjoyed moderate success on Broadway and lasting success as a film, both starring Jimmy Stewart. Perry died from a heart attack during the play's lengthy Broadway run on June 28, 1946. 
      Perry helped found, and was chairman of the board and secretary of, the American Theatre Wing, which operated the Stage Door Canteens during World War II, providing entertainment to servicemen in several American cities. After her death, her friends and colleagues took action to memorialize her contribution to the high standards of American theatre. Brock Pemberton suggested that the American Theatre Wing create a series of awards to be given in her honor. Since 1947, the Antoinette Perry Awards have been given annually for distinguished achievement in theatre, and are one of the theatre world's most coveted honors. They are universally known by their nickname, the Tony Awards.

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