Fame is one of those things that skews the reality behind the famous person, often times over-shadowing the other accomplishments that person might have had in life. Comedy Central’s Drunk History will be looking into the effects that massive popularity can have on a person’s career on the next episode, titled, appropriately enough, “Fame.”
Hedy Lamarr designs the first modern airplane wing, Eartha Kitt’s activism provokes the ire of Lady Bird Johnson, and Alexis Pulaski’s poodle becomes a huge star.
Okay, let’s break these down a little, starting with Hedy Lamarr. Lamarr was, to put it bluntly, a freaking genius. When she wasn’t making movies for MGM, Lamarr was creating inventions, some of which changed the world forever.
Aviation buff Howard Hughes was a former flame of Lamarr’s, and he had a problem. His planes weren’t as fast as he would have liked them to be, so Lamarr redesigned them by studying the way birds flew. She created a design for wings based off of the fastest birds, and aviation changed forever.
Lamarr is also widely credited with creating the first type of wi-fi signal while developing secure communications systems for the United States government. No big deal, right?
Now, let’s take a look at Eartha Kitt. The actor and singer was at the top of her career in 1967, even having starred as Catwoman on the classic Batman series with Adam West. She was invited to visit the White House due to her work with at-risk kids, and attended a luncheon with the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.
The invitation asked attendees to bring ideas on how to reduce youth related crimes, and Kitt was convinced that the ongoing Vietnam War was the root of unrest among the youth of the U.S.:
“The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippiesfor no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons — and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson — we raise children and send them to war.”
The younger generation was rebelling against the establishment because they knew they were only being viewed as cannon-fodder as far as Kitt was concerned. The First Lady was aghast, and began to cry.
That speech ruined her career, with venues cancelling performances, and co-stars lambasting her for speaking her mind. It turns out that President Johnson had turned the CIA out against Kitt, essentially burning her career to the ground, going so far as to label her a “sadistic nymphomaniac.”
Luckily, her popularity in Europe never waned, but she found it hard to get work in the U.S. until the year 2000, when the was cast to play Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove.
Finally, we get to “Count” Alexis Pulaski, who claimed to be the personal groomer of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dog. He was a documented anti-communist fighter during the Russian Civil War, before immigrating to the U.S. in 1926.
He ingratiated himself into the upper-crust of New York high society, ultimately becoming a star in his own right through selective breeding techniques he used to bring about championship dogs.
Ultimately, Pulaski bred a poodle that he called “Pulaski’s Masterpiece,” who went on to become the most famous dog in the world, with stud services running $500 per session. Keep in mind, this is in the late 1940’s and early ’50s… $500 was an awful lot of money.
Masterpiece even went on to become a model, and sired over 350 dogs.
Now you know the backgrounds for the three stories Drunk History will be covering on “Fame.” That doesn’t mean we know a damned thing about how that history is going to play out once the drinking starts!
Drunk History airs Tuesday nights on Comedy Central.