A Brief History
Americans celebrate Women’s History Month in March and frequently hold up the example of Rosie the Riveter as emblematic of great American women, but who was the real woman behind the propaganda poster? Over the years many characters in popular culture and our everyday life get to be so familiar they almost become part of the background. Many of these people or characters or their real personae are nearly anonymous despite their fame, a contradiction addressed here.
10. Thurl Ravenscroft.
If this name does not ring a bell, it should! This guy was the voice of Tony the Tiger pitching Kellog’s Frosted Flakes for about 50 years. He is also the deep bass voice that sang “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”in the cartoon How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). This guy should win an award just for having the coolest name not found in a video game. Thurl’s deep bass went to sleep forever in 2005.
9. Bamboo Harvester.
If you think this name is goofy, think how goofy it must seem to a horse, for this is a horse’s name, that of television star Mister Ed. Baffle your friends with your knowledge of television trivia when you tell them the palomino horse starring in the 1961-1966 television show, Mister Ed, was named Bamboo Harvester and lived from 1949 to 1970. The stand in horse used on the show was just known as “Mister Ed” and does not have a nifty name like the real deal. (Yes, we know a horse is not a person.)
8. Ron Dante.
Born Carmen Granito in 1945, this velvet voiced singer was the lead singer for the cartoon rock band, The Archies. If you are too young to remember The Archies, named after the teen age star of the comic books, their hit song “Sugar Sugar” was the number 1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100 list for 4 weeks in 1969 and was the number 1 single of the year (and that year included classic hits such as “Hair,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “Come Together,” “Proud Mary” by CCR, and “Gitarzan.”) Dante went on to be the lead singer of the Cuff Links and produce records for Barry Manilow.
7. Don Pardo.
That wonderful silver tongued announcer from numerous game shows, including The Price is Right, Jeopardy, and Three on a Match, Pardo also lent his vocals to the NBC Nightly News and The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but is most famous as the announcer for Saturday Night Live. He died in 2014.
6. Stuart Sutcliffe.
The “5th Beatle,” Sutcliffe along with John Lennon came up with the name “Beetles” for the group, but left the soon to be “Fab Four” in 1961 before dying of a brain aneurysm in 1962, after doctors in Germany sent him home saying there was nothing wrong with him. His head injury probably occurred during a fight outside a club in 1961.
5. Pete Best.
Born Randolph Peter Scanland, Best was the drummer for the Beatles from 1960 to 1962 before being fired by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison and being replaced by Ringo Starr. Best floundered around the music industry for several years, failing to find success until giving up and becoming a civil servant. Upon retirement from government service, Best started a new band and has fronted The Pete Best Band since 1988. Not surprisingly, Best is sometimes referred to as “The 5th Beatle.”
4. Cassandra Peterson.
Better known as “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” since 1981, the hostess (with the mostess, cleavage that is!) of late night horror movies. Riding this persona to fame and fortune, Peterson’s sexy Morticia Addams like character wearing a low cut long black dress and a long black wig was not only sexy, but hilariously funny as well. Despite her vampiric appearance, her demeanor matched that of a “valley girl” and magnified her sexiness all the more. Her television success led to making a couple of low budget films and appearances in other movies, television commercials, and home video movies. A comic book using her character was also produced, as were video games and pinball tables. Prior to her success as Elvira, Peterson had many entertainment jobs such as go-go dancer (in a gay club), music and comedy entertainer, showgirl, bit parts in movies, and modeling for men’s magazines. Peterson even auditioned for the role of Ginger Grant for the third Gilligan’s Island movie in 1981. Been there, done that, describes Peterson, as she dated Elvis Presley as a 17 year old and claims to have lost her virginity to Tom Jones.
3. Clint Eastwood.
Born Clinton Eastwood, Jr., the guy you may know as “Dirty Harry” from the violent cops and robbers movies, or perhaps a “The Man with No Name” from the spaghetti westerns is much more than just a tough guy actor. Unlike many action hero actors, Eastwood actually served in the US Army and survived the crash of a Douglas Skyraider bomber he was a passenger in and had to swim 3 miles to land. Weighing a whopping 11 pounds 6 ounces when born, he is descended from a Mayflower pilgrim and besides acting and directing, has also served as the mayor of Carmel, California. Despite being a Republican and infamously talking to an invisible President Obama (an empty chair) at the 2012 Republican convention, Eastwood has actually opposed US foreign intervention in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Middle East and has at times supported liberal Democrat politicians. He claims to be more of a Libertarian than a Conservative. If all these different sides to this complex actor are not enough, he also has composed the musical scores to several movies. Eastwood and his films have won 5 Academy Awards.
2. Eliot Ness.
The hard charging G-Man of television and film, you may think of the Robert Stack or Kevin Costner portrayals of this uber-lawman as a sort of superhero crime fighter. The real man was a University of Chicago graduate (and frat boy) with a degree in economics. Working as an investigator for a Chicago credit firm, he took an interest in Criminology and earned a Masters degree in that field from his alma mater. Talked into joining the Treasury Department in 1927 by his brother, an agent with what would become the FBI, Ness headed the team known as “The Untouchables,” 11 agents famous for not being corrupt or bribable. Although given credit on the screen for taking down Al Capone, Ness actually did not put together the tax evasion case against the mobster. In the beginning of 1934 Ness was an enforcement agent in southern Ohio and Appalachia fighting the moon-shiners found there, and soon transferred to Cleveland, Ohio where the mayor hired him as Safety Director. Ness remained in Cleveland until 1942, his reputation somewhat tarnished by his drinking, and went to Washington, D.C. to fight prostitution and venereal disease at military installations. Ness entered the corporate world without a lot of success, and failed in his run for mayor of Cleveland in 1947. Ness died in 1957, and his book, The Untouchables, was published soon after his death. The success of the book created the television and movie legend we are familiar with now, but ignores much of the real man behind the character.
1. Geraldine Doyle.
Unless you are a World War II history buff, you probably do not recognize this name, but most people with even minimal knowledge of World War II would know “Rosie the Riveter.” Rosie was a character played up by American propaganda to lionize the contribution of American women in the industrial workplace filling in for men who were off to fight in the war. The iconic poster titled “We Can Do It!” was not actually even connected to the Rosie character, but is the image most Americans have of that persona. The real woman behind the poster might actually be someone else, Naomi Parker, further muddling the picture. Doyle, born Geraldine Hoff in 1924, worked as a metal presser in the war industry when she was photographed by a UPI photographer with that photo subsequently used (maybe) as the model for the famous poster. Ironically, Hoff only worked at the plant a couple weeks as she feared injuring her hands (she was a cellist). Geraldine married a dentist in 1943 and died in 2010. The iconic image of the poster appeared on a 1999 US postage stamp. Whether Hoff or Parker, the image is hypnotic and quite memorable.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other characters would you put on this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Rosie The Riveter Action Figure. Accoutrements.
Signorelli, James, dir. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Image Entertainment, 2011. DVD.