Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers is one of those Hollywood figures who transcended mere stardom, and became a cultural icon.

In the 1930s she and her dance partner Fred Astaire dominated American film.

Her talent was apparent early on. At age 14, she wanted Charleston dance contest.

And before long she was in vaudeville, then Broadway, and finally the movies.

And then RKO Pictures paired her with Fred Astaire, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And it was famously said of her that she could do everything Fred Astaire could do, but backwards and in high heels. You’ll hear more about that in this interview…

Finally, in 1991 at age 80 Ginger Rogers wrote her autobiography. And that’s when I met her.

Wheelchair-bound, and looking a bit frail, Rogers nevertheless melted my heart.

So here now, from 1991, Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers died in 1995, at the age of 84. But had she lived, she would have marked her 110th birthday today, July 16th.

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Lionel Hampton

When you begin to list the greatest American Jazz percussionists of all time, near the top of that list has to be the great Vibe the harpist and drummer Lionel Hampton.

In a career that began in the 1920s, when he was a teenager, Lionel Hampton rose to primnence in the jazz community, playing alongside such names as Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.

Later, Hampton became a bandleader himself.

He wrote a memoir in 1989, and that’s what I met him

So here now, from 1989, the great Lionel Hampton.

Lionel Hampton died in 2002. He was 94.

James Cameron

WARNING: What you’re abiyt ti gear is a true story, told by the suvivor of a violent and horrisying attack. You need to know that some of the descriptions are graphic, some of the words used are offensive.

James Cameron was born in 1914 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. When he was a child, his family moved to Marion, Indiana.

It was there, in the summer of 1930, that James Cameron survived a lynching attempt.

He was a suspect in a robbery-and-murder case in Marion, Indiana along with two older teenagers. Both of them were lynched, and died. Cameron was to be the third victim of the Ku Klux Klan-led mob.

They tied a noose around Cameron’s neck, and death appeared imminent. But just as he was about to be hanged, a mysterious female voice was heard, saying Cameron was innocent.

A star local football player then stepped up, removed the noose and saved Cameron.

He did do prison time, but lived to tell about it.

I met him in the spring of 1994, when he wrote a book about his near-lynching.

So here now, from 1994, James Cameron.

In later years, Cameron became a civil rights activist and founded three chapters of the NAACP in Indiana.

James Cameron died in 2006. He was 92.

Kitty Carlisle Hart

Regular listeners of Now I’ve Heard Everything know that I don’t often get starstruck. But this was one of those times.

If you grew up in the ’60s, as I did, you may best remember Kitty Carlisle as a panelist on the game show “To Tell the Truth.” But her acting career went back many decades before that.

In fact, Kitty Carlisle was a featured performer in the 1935 Marx Brothers classic “A Night at the Opera.”

In 1988, Kitty Carlisle Hart Road an autobiography. That’s what I met her.

So here now, from 1988, Kitty Carlisle Hart:

Kitty Carlisle Hart died in 2007 at age 96.