Variety, the world’s premier source of entertainment news, celebrated its 100th anniversary with the publication on Tuesday of a centennial edition. The centerpiece of this special issue is Variety’s list of the Top 100 Entertainment Icons of the Century – the men and women who have had the greatest impact on the world of entertainment in the past 100 years.
The choices were made by Variety’s editors, critics and reporters, with input from notables in the global entertainment community.
As mentioned earlier in the Everything Lucy Blog, The Beatles came in on the top spot at #1 followed by Louie Armstrong and then Lucille Ball in the third spot. In fourth place was another favorite of mine, Marlyn Monroe!
Although they were topping the charts in 1963, the Beatles were still considered provincial, faddish and well below the radar of unforgivingly hip London.
But at a show in Bedford, Andrew Loog Oldham, in his ’60s memoir “Stoned,” remembers the pandemonium: “Onstage, you could not hear the Beatles for the roar of the crowd and the roar I heard was the roar of the whole world. The audience that evening expressed something beyond repressed adolescent sexuality. The noise they made was the sound of the future. I didn’t see it – I heard and felt it.”
On April 14, 1964, Billboard Magazine reported the Beatles at Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 31, 41, 46, 58, 65, 68 and 79.
The music spoke directly to young people’s own sense of alienation and disenfranchisement. Most important, it was a joyful noise, a celebration over adversity. It provided a jolt that jump-started a thousand bands.
The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison – were less concerned about shedding their influences than in finding their own sound.
His smile alone would captivate millions around the world, but it was Armstrong’s distinctive trumpet playing and singing style that set him apart from virtually every American musician who came before or since.
The songs Armstrong made between 1925 and ’29 include some of the most important recordings in the history of jazz, which was then breaking out as America’s most popular music and would become its greatest export to the world. His solos were the models for millions of musicians’ solos that followed over the next eight decades.
Armstrong’s first recordings as a leader – with his Hot Five – were made in late 1925: “Gut Bucket Blues,” “My Heart” and “Yes! I’m in the Barrel.” Those discs, along with his sides made with the Hot Seven, have made it through the 78, vinyl album and CD eras. In a world in which each generation discards the pop music of its predecessor, that’s a unique achievement.
The Grammy Hall of Fame has inducted eight of his recordings.
The red hair, the giant eyes, the rubber face: Those were the physical tools that Lucille Ball used to ply her comic craft so expertly. In the process of trying to make viewers laugh, she also stole their hearts.
When she died in 1989 at 78, the White House issued a statement noting that “no television program in history was better-named than ‘I Love Lucy.’ ... She was Lucy, and she was loved.”
The depth of feeling for Ball spoke to the power of the medium she helped popularize. Thanks to television, viewers around the world would form an intimate bond with the comedienne, thinking of her not as a star like Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall but as a part of their extended family who dropped by on Monday nights. It’s no surprise that the episode including the birth of her small-screen son was seen by more Americans than Eisenhower’s inauguration.
But at first she had to fight CBS, who didn’t want anything to do with Desi Arnaz, who became one of the top straight men ever to roll his eyes on television. To prove that the audience would accept them as a couple, the pair created a vaudeville act and toured. It got rave reviews – “a socko new act,” Variety said – and CBS gave in.
She first came to notice in a couple of 1950 movies, “Asphalt Jungle” and “All About Eve.” The ripe blonde who was supposed to be both ornamental and negligible – a Hollywood cliche. But the moviegoer’s eye kept drifting her way. There was something about the lushness of her lips, the glow of her skin and hair, and the delicious, post-coital languor of her eyes, that altogether exuded luminous sensuality. It seemed like her voluptuous image...
Variety’s Top 100 Icons of the Century!
These are the top entertainers of the century:
1. The Beatles
2. Louie Armstrong
3. Lucille Ball
4. Humphrey Bogart
5. Marlon Brando
6. Charlie Chaplin
7. James Dean
8. Marilyn Monroe
9. Mickey Mouse
10. Elvis Presley
The remaining entertainers are in alphabetical, not numerical, order:
Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Josephine Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Benny, Irving Berlin, Chuck Berry, Lenny Bruce, James Cagney, Maria Callas, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Kurt Cobain, Gary Cooper, Bill Cosby, Walter Cronkite, Bette Davis, Miles Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Kirk Douglas, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Duke Ellington, Federico Fellini, Aretha Franklin, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, D.W. Griffith, Woody Guthrie, Vaclav Havel, Edith Head, Jimi Hendrix, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Billie Holliday, Harry Houdini, Hope and Crosby, Michael Jackson, Robert Johnson, Al Jolson, Janis Joplin, Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly, Laurel and Hardy, Lassie, Bruce Lee, Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, Sophia Loren, Madonna, Bob Marley, The Marx Brothers, Marcello Mastroianni, Edward R. Murrow, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Laurence Olivier, Pac Man, Edith Piaf, Mary Pickford, Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, Will Rogers, Rogers and Hammerstein, The Rolling Stones, Mickey Rooney, The Sex Pistols, Tupac Shakur, Frank Sinatra, Steven Spielberg, Jimmy Stewart, Igor Stravinsky, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, Quentin Tarantino, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Rudolph Valentino, John Wayne, Orson Welles, Mae West, Hank Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder
I have one complaint - where's Carol Burnett?