Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Remembering James Gandolfini September 18, 1961 - June 19, 2013

The New Yorker magazine put it this way "Success came relatively late to James Gandolfini-if not by the standards of scholars, judges, and surgeons, then at least by the standards of actors."But when it arrived, it came in huge fashion.  Among his achievements were three Emmy Awards, three Screenwriters Awards, one Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series-all achieved after the age of 37.

James Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey.  His dad was a bricklayer and head custodian at Paramus Catholic High School and his mom was a high school lunch lady.  James was proud of his Italian heritage.  After graduating from Park Ridge High School in Park Ridge, New Jersey where he played basketball and acted in school plays, he continued his studies at Rutgers University having earned his undergraduate degree in communication.  While at Rutgers, he earned his spending money by being a bouncer at  a local bar.  He also worked as a bartender in Manhattan before pursuing his acting career.  While in New York City, he visited an acting class and enrolled in the Gately Poole Conservatory.

One of his first gigs was in the 1992 Broadway production of "On the Waterfront" He also got one of his first acting roles having played a mob enforcer in the film, "True Romance."He earned other roles that included "Terminal Velocity" "Get Shorty"  and "The Juror"

Gandolfini in The Sopranos
Gandolfini is most remembered for his role as lead character, "Tony Soprano" in one of the most successful television series in history, having played a mob boss that showed on HBO.  The series debuted in 1999 and ended in 2007.  The series made him #42 on Entertainment Weekly's list of Greatest Television
Icon's of All Time.  At the end of the Soprano's rein, he produced a documentary for HBO that focused on injured Iraq War veterans and the devotion they had for America.  He was also the executive producer of "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq" that was nominated for an Emmy.  He soon found himself back on Broadway for a role in "God of Carnage" and performed the part of the Mayor of New York in "The Taking of Pelham 123.  He continued to produce other documentaries and HBO films.

During his success in the entertainment industry, Goldolfini never forgot his roots.  He continued to support his hometown.  He and his first wife bore a son, Michael and following his divorce, Gandolfini remarried and he and his second wife had a daughter.

In June, 2013, James decided to take a brief vacation to Rome, Italy.  He had planned to travel to Sicily
 to accept an award at the Taormina Film Fest.  On June 19, 2013 following a day of blistering heat while sightseeing with his son, Michael, James returned to his room.  His 13 year old son entered the room at about 10pm and found his dad unconscious on the bathroom floor.  The paramedics were called and James was rushed to the hospital and upon arrival, was pronounced dead at 11pm.  He was 51 years of age.  An autopsy was performed and the cause of death was ruled a heart attack.  When New Jersey got the news of James passing, flags were lowered to half staff on June 24.
James Gandolfini funeral

The remains of James Gandolfini were returned to the United States on June 23.  James was honored with the dimming of the lights on Broadway on June 26.

Gandolfini funeral program
James Gandolfini's funeral was held on June 27, 2013 at the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Morningside Heights, New York (program pictured).  Nearly 1500 friends and family members gathered to pay respect.  Among them was the entire crew of cast members from the Sopranos.  Also in attendance was Gov. Chris Christie and actor Alec Baldwin.  Among those who paid tribute to Gandolfini was the creator of the Sopranos, David Chase.  Chase recounted several memories of Gandolfini from the shooting of his landmark series, including one from early on in the first season when, between takes on a hot summer day, he saw Gandolfini sitting with pant legs rolled up, black shoes and black socks exposed, a damp handkerchief draped across his forehead.  It was, for Chase, an emblematic pose of working class Italian-American life, as if he were looking back through time at his own father or grandfather "It made me so proud of our heritage to see you do that.  I always felt that we were brothers."  "James was described as the most giving, generous person everyone here as ever known."

James Gandolfini was cremated following the services and returned to his family.  His place of rest is unknown.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Remembering Iron Eyes Cody April 3, 1904 - January 4, 1999

On America's first -ever Earth Day in 1971, he paddled his canoe up a polluted stream past a belching smokestack and walked to the edge of a busy highway strewn with trash.  As the camera moved in for a closeup, a single tear rolled down his cheek as a narrator said, "People start pollution and people can stop it."  The man that created that powerful message and is remembered for that "Keep America Beautiful" announcement was Iron Eyes Cody. The public service announcements  took place in the early 70's.  He was known as the "Crying Chief."

Iron Eyes Cody was born Espera Oscar de Corti in 1904 in southwestern Louisiana and was one of three children.  His parents ran a small grocery store in Gueydan, Louisiana until his father left his family and moved to Texas.  His mom remarried and had five additional children.  During Cody's teenage years, the three children joined their dad in Texas and shorted their last name to Corti.  They eventually relocated to California and began acting in movies in the early 30's.

Iron Eyes Cody claimed to be of the Cherokee-Cree ancestry and from an early age supported numerous Native American causes.
Earth Day campaign

He appeared in more than 200 films during his career that included "The Big Trail" in 1930 with John Wayne.  His first film was D.W. Griffith's "The Massacre" in 1912.  Other successful films followed that included "The Scarlet Letter," played Crazy Horse in "Sitting Bull," "Nevada Smith," with Steve McQueen, "A Man Called Horse" with Richard Harris and took on the role as Chief Split Cloud in "Ernest Goes to Camp"  He also played in numerous successful television productions that included "The Restless Gun" "The Tall Man" and "The Rebel."

Through his dedication to the Native American culture, Iron Eyes became very popular with many tribal chiefs as well as his close relationship with heads of government.  He became one of the most recognized faces of generations of Americans.  He touched the lives of virtually every actor who had appeared in movies during the era.

Iron Eyes Cody memorial program
He was known to provide costumes and props from his vast private collection of Indian clothing and artifacts.  He donated many of his works to various museums around the world and did so in honor of his late wife, Birdie, who was an archaeologist for several prominent southwest museums.

During the pinnacle of his career, it was revealed that Iron Eyes was not a Native American but instead of Italian descent.  The Native American community continued to honor him because of his charitable deeds and his dedication to the Indian heritage.  Iron Eyes continued to claim his Indian heritage up to his final breath.

That final breath occurred on January 4, 1999 following a series of strokes.  He was 94 years old.

Following his memorial service in the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles (program pictured), Iron Eyes Cody was laid to rest beside his wife, Bertha in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Remembering Salvatore "Sonny" Bono February 16, 1935 - January 5, 1998

"He had a vision of the future and just how he was going to build it, and his enthusiasm was so great that he just swept everyone along with him.  We didn't know where he was going, but we just wanted to be there."  -Cher

Sonny the Congressman
These were the words spoken by his former wife and singing partner at the funeral of Sonny Bono, the recording artist, record producer, actor, and politician whose career spanned over three decades.

Savatore "Sonny" Bono was born in Detroit, Michigan to Italian immigrants.  He was the youngest of three children that included his two older sisters.  Sonny attended Inglewood High School in Inglewood, California but did not graduate.

Sonny the performer
He always had a love for writing music.  Initially he wrote music for other performers.  He penned a popular song in 1965 called "Needles and Pins" that was recorded by The Searchers.  He also wrote "Things You Do to Me" for the late, great Sam Cooke.  He soon began performing with his then wife, Cher and the duo "Sonny and Cher" became a huge hit with such songs as "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On." He later was instrumental in Cher's solo career with the writing of songs "Bang Bang" and "You Better Sit Down Kids."  Bono co-wrote "She Said Yea" for the Rolling Stones and he solo recorded another song he wrote named "Laugh At Me" that rose to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100.




As their popularity continued to rise, they became stars on their own variety show on Sunday evenings called "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" that ran on CBS from 1971-74.  It was during that show that their daughter, Chastity was introduced to the world.  In 1974, Sonny and Cher's marriage faltered and the show ended.  Cher's music career continued to flourish after their divorce.  Sonny's life began to change direction. Sonny continued doing some acting doing small roles on television including "Fantasy Island" and "Love Boat" He also played a mad bomber in "Airplane II: The Sequel" and in the horror film "Troll"  He poked fun at himself on an episode of "The Golden Girls."  Sonny would eventually open two restaurants in the Palm Springs, California area. After having some difficulty with City Hall on zoning and other issues, Sonny decided to run for mayor.  He was successful when he was elected in 1988.  He soon aspired to a higher challenge in politics when he ran for the U.S. Senate.  He lost in the primaries but waged another campaign for a congressional seat in 1994 that resulted in him becoming Congressman Sonny Bono.  Sonny became very effective and was popular on Capitol Hill.  He remarried for the fourth time to his wife, Mary and they had two children.  While in office, Sonny championed the restoration of the Salton Sea that brought national attention.  He became good friends of Newt Gingrich and would often give Newt advice on dealing with celebrity status.  Sonny Bono remains the only member of Congress to have scored a #1single on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Sonny was married a total of four times.  He had a daughter to his first wife, Donna and was married  twice after his marriage to Cher.  Sonny and his wife, Mary became interested in Scientology even though Sonny was of the Roman Catholic faith.

While vacationing on the Nevada side of the Heavenly Ski Resort, Sonny decided to take in some snow skiing on January 5, 1998.  While traveling down the slope, Sonny veered off course and hit a tree that proved to be fatal.  His wife, Mary claimed that Sonny was addicted to prescription drugs that caused the accident.  However, no drugs were found in his system during the autopsy and Sonny's mother and several friends disputed Mary's claim.

Congressman Sonny Bono's funeral program at prayer card
The 62 year old Congressman Sonny Bono's funeral was held on Friday, January 9, 1998 at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Palm Springs, Florida (program pictured) under the direction of Wiefel's & Son Funeral Directors.  Among those who paid tribute to Sonny was his former singing partner and wife, Cher along with then Governor of California, Pete Wilson and the Honorable Newt Gingrich.  The funeral was nationally televised on CNN.  Gingrich said of his friend and colleague "In some way, Sonny was a living beatitude.  He walked up, you looked at him and you thought to yourself, "This can't be a famous person.  He smiled, he said something, and then you said to yourself, He can't be a serious person.  Four jokes and two stories later, you were pouring your heart out to him, he was helping you solve a problem, and you began to realize this was a very hard working, very thoughtful man who covered up a great deal of his abilities with his wonderful sense of humor."

Following Sonny's funeral mass, the funeral procession carried his remains to the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California to his place of rest after he was given military honors.


 Sonny's epitaph reads "And The Beat Goes On"

Friday, January 3, 2014

Remembering Conrad Nicholson Hilton December 25, 1887 - January 3, 1979

His autobiography "Be My Guest" is required reading for anyone going into the hotel management
business and his name is synonymous with quality and comfortable stay while traveling.  The man is non other than Conrad Nicholson Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.  He spent six decades building one of the world's foremost business empires.

Hilton was born in San Antonio, New Mexico.  His dad was an immigrant from Norway and his mom was of American German descent.  As a young boy, Conrad helped his father who owned and operated a general store. He developed his entrepreneurial spirit during that time.  He attended the New Mexico Military Institute known as Goss.  He then attended the St. Michael's College (now known as Santa Fe University of Art and Design).  At an early age, Conrad took an interest in politics and became a Republican representative in the first New Mexico Legislature.  He then served two years in the US Army during World War I.  While in the service, Conrad's father was killed in an automobile accident.  Throughout his life, Conrad was a devout Catholic.  He often said that his mother was a huge influence on his life and always encouraged Conrad and his seven siblings on the
importance of prayer.

Conrad had plans of buying a bank during the oil boom.  Instead, he acquired his first hotel (Mobley Hotel) in Cisco, Texas in 1919.  The hotel was hugely successful.  Using his entrepreneurial spirit, Conrad continued to buy and build hotels in Texas.  Among them were the Dallas Hilton in 1925, Waco Hilton in 1928 and the El Paso Hilton in 1930.  He decided to expand his hotel empire outside of Texas in 1939 by opening the Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Soon came the great depression and Conrad was forced into bankruptcy and sold many of them.  Even though they sold, Conrad was retained as a manager and regained control of eight hotels.  He continued to develop and acquire hotels from California, Chicago, New York that included the famous Waldorf-Astoria and formed his company known as Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1946 followed by Hilton International Company in 1948.  He eventually expanded to 188 hotels in 38 U.S. cities.

Over Hilton's life, he received numerous degrees from universities.  He published his autobiography in 1957, "Be My Guest" and the book is still used today for training hoteliers.

His belief in the importance of charity and his duty to aid people in need led him to create what became one of the world's largest humanitarian funds, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Hilton's autobiography and funeral card
He also founded the Conrad N. Hilton College that is a hospitality school at the University of Houston.

On Conrad's personal side, he was married three times including his second wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor.

His empire has now expanded to over 2000 hotels and properties around the world.

Conrad Hilton died at the age of 91 on January 3, 1979 in Santa Monica, California from natural causes.
Hilton resting place

A Mass of the Resurrection was held in the St. Paul The Apostle Church in Westwood, California (prayer card pictured) on January 5, 1979.

He was laid to rest in the Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas, Texas and his epitaph reads "Christmas is Forever."

Hilton epitaph "Christmas is Forever"

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remembering Ricky Nelson May 8, 1940 - December 31, 1985

The Words of Rick Nelson

Did you ever wanna go
Where you've never been before?
Did you ever wanna know
Things you've never known before?

I'll take you there with me
And maybe then you'll see
It's easy to be free.

Did you ever wanna fly
Over rainbow skies so high?
Did you ever wonder why
People tell you not to try?

I'll take you there with me
And maybe then you'll see
It's easy to be free.

I stood and waited where the river runs
It felt so good to feel the morning sun
And after all
is said and done
I'm free.

Did you ever wanna go
Where you've never been before?
Did you ever wanna know
Things you've never known before?

I'll take you there with me
And maybe then you'll see
It's easy to be free
It's so easy
To be free.

These words penned by Rick Nelson appeared on Rick's funeral program following his death on December 31, 1985 following a plane crash that ended the lives of seven people including Ricky.

Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson was born into a show business family and performed for the majority of his life as both an actor and musician.

His father, Ozzie Nelson was America's first Eagle Scout and quit practicing law to perform in his own band.  His mom, Harriet Hillard was a singer and screen star and Ozzie and Harriet were married in 1935.  The couple had two sons, young Ricky and his older brother, David.    Ozzie and Harriet performed on a radio sitcom called "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" and in 1949, the two sons joined them until the program was transferred from radio to television in 1952 that became a popular television program as well as a full length feature, "Here Come the Nelsons."

Rick also took a liking to music and made his first recording while attending Hollywood High School.  He talked his dad into letting him record the song "I'm Walking" for an episode of the television show.  The song became an instant hit as well as the flip side of the record "A Teenager's Romance" that rose to #2 on the charts.  His music career continued to flourish when he signed with Imperial Records and recorded the #1 hit song in August of 1958 titled "Poor Little Fool."  In addition to his music and young television career, he also decided to try his talents as a movie actor.  He appeared in the western classic "Rio Bravo" with John Wayne, Dean Martin and Walter Brennan and "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" with Jack Lemmon.  He also had a role in "Love and Kisses" featuring Jack Kelly.  On Ricky's 21st birthday, he changed his name from Ricky to Rick.  The name Ricky stayed with him during his lifetime because of his popularity on the popular television show.

He began to change his music genre to country music and soon became a pioneer of the country-rock sound.  His career remained somewhat stagnant until he recorded "She Belongs to Me" written by Bob Dylan and included members of the Stone Canyon Band.  He also recorded "Travelin Man."  His final hit was "Garden Party" that reached #6 on the charts.

On Rick's personal side, he was a talented athlete and played football in high school.  He was also a brown belt in karate.  In 1961, Nelson began dating "Kris" Harmon, daughter of football legend Tom Harmon and sister to actor and former college football player, Mark Harmon.  Eventually they married and had four children that all became successful actors and musicians. In 1975, their marriage ended in divorce.

Unfortunately, Rick became a regular user of marijuana that led him to stronger drugs and became dependent upon them during his adult life.

Rick Nelson's funeral card
On December 30, 1985, Rick and his band played in Guntersville, Alabama.  The following day they were scheduled to perform at the Park Suite Hotel in Dallas, Texas for a New Years Eve show.  They boarded the plane that was a 40 year old DC-3 and crash landed at 5:15pm in a hayfield 135 miles east of Dallas.  Killed were Rick, his fiancé, Helen Blair, four band members and a member of his road crew.

More than 1000 people attended his funeral on January 6, 1986 (funeral program pictured) at Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills that only seated 275 people.  (Rick's remains were not present because of delay in transportin
g him back to California.)  Among those who paid tribute to him were his daughter Tracy who said "I remember his grace, his gentleness.  He was the kindest man you ever met.  The man had class.  He was an artist.  He was wise. And he loved ice cream.  Pop wouldn't want you to be sad."  Comments were also made by his brother, David. His sons performed "Easy to Be Free."  A message of condolence was read by President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.  Those attending the service included Col. Tom Parker of Elvis Presley fame, Angie Dickinson and Connie Stevens.

He was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Remembering Charles L. "Sonny" Liston May 8, 1932 - December 30, 1970

One of the headlines read "O Unlucky Man" " Fortune never smiled on Sonny Liston, even when he was champ."

Such was true in the life of Charles "Sonny" Liston, formerly the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, whose life was far from the illustrious title he once carried.

Sonny's true date of birth isn't known although the date of May 8, 1932 was the one used for U.S. Census purposes but he was believed to be older than the date shows. He was born into a sharecropper  family who farmed land  in St. Francis County, Arkansas.  Sonny was one of 25 brothers and sisters and it is believed that Sonny was the youngest son.  He grew up in an abusive relationship.  The scars left on Liston's body were still quite visible
throughout his life. His mother left some of her family when Liston was young. He tried to earn money during his childhood by selling pecans from his brother in law's tree. When he earned enough money, he left his abusive father to reunite with his mother and other siblings in St. Louis.  Liston attempted school but quit because of the ridicule from the other children for being illiterate.  He also couldn't find a permanent job because of illiteracy.

Sonny soon turned to crime.  He joined the gangs and became quite known to the St. Louis Police Department for his illegal activity that included muggings and robberies.  He was known by the law enforcement as the "Yellow Shirt Bandit" because he was always wearing his favorite yellow shirt.  In 1950, Liston was caught following a violent robbery and following his conviction, was sentenced to five years in prison at the Missouri State Penitentiary.  He also served a prison sentence for assaulting a police officer.  He never complained about his time in prison and often said that he was guaranteed three meals a day.  While in prison,  a man who worked in the prison by the name of Fr. Alois Stevens suggested that Liston try boxing and eventually aided Liston in getting an early parole.  It was during this time that Liston's talent as a fighter became quite apparent.


Sonny had a brief amateur career (less than a year) as a fighter having won several fights including several Golden Gloves competitions.  He signed his professional boxing contract in September, 1953.  As a professional fighter, he had an illustrious career with a record of 50 wins (39 by knock out) and 4 losses.  He was exceptionally powerful and was known for his crushing left jab and left hook.  It was early in his professional career that he was nicknamed "The Big Bear"  His professional career was marred by several confrontations with law enforcement.  He became the #1 contender for the heavyweight title.  The peak of Liston's career came on the night of September 5, 1962 when Liston and heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson fought for the title at Comiskey Park in Chicago.  The fight lasted 2 minutes and five seconds when Liston KO'd Patterson.  It was the third fastest knockout in a world heavyweight fight  and the first time a champion had been knocked out in the first round.  A rematch took place on July 22, 1963 in Las Vegas and Liston prevailed once again.

Liston's heavyweight title lasted less than a year when he met up with a young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali in Miami, Florida.  Clay prevailed in a one sided fight.  They fought once again in 1965 and Ali won with another knockout.

Sonny Liston's final fight came in June, 1970 against Chuck Wepner and Liston prevailed when the match was stopped. Wepner suffered a broken cheekbone and nose and received 72 stitches.

Sonny Liston was married to his wife Geraldine in 1957 and was the stepfather to a girl and boy.  He was remembered as a gentle and caring man to his wife and stepchildren.

He had a brief acting career that included an appearance in the film "Head" that featured "The Monkees."  His life was featured in a film titled "Phantom Punch" that starred actor Ving Rhames as Liston.    He also appeared in a novel "The Cold Six Thousand" and "Blood's a Rover."  A wax model of Liston appears on the sleeve cover of The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."  He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991, 21 years following his death.

In 1971, Liston was negotiating a fight with the Canadian boxing champion, George Chuvalo.  On January 5, 1971, Sonny's wife Geraldine returned from a trip when she noticed a foul odor when entering her home.  She entered the bedroom and found Sonny slumped over the bed.  His body was in an advanced state of decomposition.  It was determined that his death occurred December 30, 1970 that was estimated from the newspapers and milk bottles at the front door.  Following the investigation, it was determined that no foul play was involved and his death was ruled a heroin overdose.  Because of the condition of his body, the official ruling was lung congestion and heart failure.  Many continue to  question the cause of his death today and believe it was a coverup.  His life ended as sadly as it began.

Liston's memorial program
Charles "Sonny" Liston's memorial service (program pictured) was held on Saturday, January 9, 1971 at the Palm Mortuary Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Over 700 people attended his service that included many Hollywood personalities.  Among those in attendance were Ed Sullivan, Ella Fitzgerald, Jerry Vale, Nipsy Russell, Doris Day and Rosey Grier.  The Inkspots sang "Sunny" and the Rev. Edward Murphy, a Denver priest who helped rehabilitate Sonny eulogized him and music included the song "You'll Never Walk Alone"  A large list of honorary pallbearers include Redd Foxx, Buddy Hackett, Sammy Davis Jr. and George Foreman.

 Following the 45 minute service, a funeral procession that included Liston in a silver casket was escorted down the Las Vegas strip to Paradise Gardens Cemetery.  His wife Geraldine remarked "Sonny had always said if anything ever happened to him, his fond wish would be that he go down the Strip for the last time."

Liston's resting place

He rests at Paradise Memorial Gardens (pictured) in Las Vegas and the epitaph on his bronze marker is "A Man"






Thursday, December 26, 2013

Remembering Mary Martin December 1, 1913 - November 3, 1990

"Thank you all for the spirit of my life.  It will never end, because when I go, I'll be swinging up there on a star."   -Mary Martin

These are the words of "the "First Lady of Theater."

Mary as Peter Pan
Mary Virginia Martin originated many leading roles during her career from her portrayal and award winning performance of "Peter Pan" to her "Best Leading Actress honors as Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific" and Maria in the "Sound of Music"

Mary was born in Weatherford, Texas where she describes a very secure and happy childhood.  Her dad was an attorney and her mom was a violin teacher.  She had an instinctive ear for recreating musical sounds at a very early age.  As a child, she had a photographic memory and could easily remember the lyrics to songs.  She often sang outside of the courtroom while waiting for her father.  Her first solo performances were held outside of the fire hall.  She loved going to movies where she watched the individual performances of actors and actresses and attempted to mimic them.

Mary in the Sound of Music
During Mary's high school years, she dated Benjamin Hagman.  She soon found herself in Nashville, Tennessee where she attended a finishing school.  She became homesick for her family and her boyfriend, Hagman.  She returned home to Texas and talked her mother into allowing her to marry Hagman at the age of 17.  The result was a son, actor, Larry Hagman.  Eventually the two separated.

She soon became interested in the world of dance that she continued to perfect and would eventually teach.  She moved to California and continued her dance training in the Franchon and Marco School of the Theatre and eventually opened her own dance studio.  She also performed as a singer.  She got her first job while auditioning on a national radio network.  She sang "Indian Love Call" and one day impressed the famous Oscar Hammerstein that was a huge break in the beginning of her successful career.

Her initial years as a performer were a struggle.  She changed her last name from Hagman to Martin.  Her Broadway debut came in 1938 when she was cast in Cole Porter's "Leave it to Me!" Her rendition of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" became a sensation that catapulted her career.  She then appeared in South Pacific where she was awarded a "Tony" and eventually as Peter Pan.  She also performed alongside Robert Preston in "I Do!I Do" and was nominated for another Tony.

Mary Martin appeared in nine films between 1938 and 1943.  She much preferred her roles on television rather than in film.  She received many accolades including the Kennedy Center Honors, Donaldson Award, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award.  She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She was also honored with a Peter Pan statue in her hometown of Weatherford, Texas.  An autobiography was written of her life called "My Heart Belongs."

Mary Martin was the victim of colorectal cancer that eventually took her life on Nov. 3, 1990 at the age of 76.

Mary's program signed by her friends
In her honor, the Mary Martin Celebration of Life was held on January 28, 1991 in The Majestic Theater in New York City (program pictured) where she often performed.  Among those who honored her were her great friend and fellow actress, Helen Hayes along with President Ronald Reagan, Carol Channing, Carol Lawrence and Bernadette Peters.  Florence Henderson sang "My Favorite Things" and "A Cockeyed Optimist" and spoke of Martin by saying "Her unique magic has been a source of wonder.  She makes us believe in the magic of the theater and of ourselves."  Carol Channing sang the song that made Mary famous "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

Mary's resting place
Taken from her memorial program is Mary's Creed

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend to all-the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up-and laugh-and love-and lift

Mary Martin was laid to rest beside her second husband Richard Halliday in the City Greenwood Cemetery in her hometown of Weatherford, Texas (photographed below).