Friday, December 7, 2018

Biggest Movie Star Missteps: Bill Murray could have starred as The Santa Clause and Arnie in Die Hard

Hey movie fans, here is a series of infographics about actors who have turned down iconic roles in some of the most popular films.. They provide you with some background on why the various actors turned down the role and how it affected their careers and the price they paid financially.  I hope you find them entertaining and enjoyable.

- Joanne

This series of infographics for Betway Casino  reveal the costliest decisions ever made by some of Hollywood's most famous film stars when it came to turning down iconic roles.

Looking back on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s hard to imagine anyone else but Ian
McKellen donning the h
at and robes of Gandalf. However, early in production, the role was
offered to the original James Bond, Sean Connery. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t get his
head around the script and passed up one of the most beloved franchises in film history.
led to him taking a role in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was pegged
to be the start of its own franchise. We all know how that went
while it made a decent
amount of money worldwide, it was critically panned and is widely credited as the r
Connery decided to quit acting altogether.


Movie Star Missteps include:

  • Bill Murray didn’t see himself as Santa – Tim Allen is now synonymous with the role of cynical dad-turned-Santa, Scott Calvin, but it was originally written for Murray, everyone’s favourite curmudgeon. After clashing with the filmmakers when shooting another Christmas classic, Scrooged, Murray was in no rush to take on another holiday-themed project, plus he didn’t rate the humour. After a brief appearance in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood the same year as The Santa Clause was released, Murray’s next large role was in Wes Anderson’s critically-acclaimed sophomore movie, Rushmore. Anderson has gone on record to say Murray’s salary for the movie was ‘around $9,000’ showing that, while the beloved actor has a knack for choosing quirky movies that interest him, he’s not as financially savvy as he is picky. Misstep Cost: $29,991,000  

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger missed out on McClane – Schwarzenegger was the favourite to be cast in the role of John McClane when Die Hard was originally being offered around. However, with the script still not completed when he was approached, Arnie wasn’t willing to take a risk. By the time everything was ironed out, Bruce Willis had stepped up to fill the iconic white vest. One thing’s for sure, it would have been a different movie entirely with the Austrian Oak taking on the role. Nakatomi Plaza would need much bigger air vents, for a start. Schwarzenegger starred in Red Heat, an altogether different brand of action film, alongside James Belushi in the same year. Despite being relatively well-received, it never made as lasting an impact as the McClane character would achieve, and also made Arnie around 10 times less money than if he’d agreed to trust in the potential of what is now considered the greatest action movie of all time. Misstep Cost: $72,000,000
In a classic case of backing the wrong horse (or spy in this case) Brad Pitt turned down the
opportunity to become Jason Bourne for the chance to star opposite Robert Redford in
2001’s Spy Game. While
the latter was well received, it
s barely even on the radar when
compared to the value of the Bourne franchise.
The physicality and intensity that Pitt brings to roles made him a no
brainer to play the ex
CIA assassin. However, despite early misgivings fr
om action fans, Matt Damon stepped up
to deliver the visceral action that the series is now famous for. While Pitt isn’t exactly
struggling for work
the payout from the Bourne series would certainly have made him a lot
more comfortable.


In a classic case of backing the wrong horse, (or spy in this case), Brad Pitt turned down the opportunity to become Jason Bourne for the chance to star opposite Robert Redford in 2001's Spy Game.  While the latter was well-received, it's barely even on the radar when compared to the Bourne franchise.

The physicality and intensity that Pitt brings to roles made him a no-brainer to play the ex-CIA assassin.  However, despite early misgivings from action fans, Matt Damon stepped up to deliver the visceral action that the series is now famous for - the payout from the Bourne series wold certainly have made him a lot more comfortable.


Legally Blonde was a career-maker for Reese Witherspoon, but it also represents a terrible misstep for Applegate, who was the original casting choice.  Afraid of being typecast as a ditsy blonde stereotype, she turned the movie down in favour of time-travelling comedy Just Visiting.  The fact that you're unlikely to have heard of the latter, which ended up being a financial disaster to the tune of $19m in losses, should give you an idea of the magnitude of the error.  Applegate herself has admitted that it was a "stupid decision" and looking at the amount of money she passed by, we'd be inclined to agree.


Emily Blunt's decision not to appear in Marvel's Cinematic Universe as one of the central characters must keep her up at night.  Certainly, the role of Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff had led to Scarlett Johansson frequently appearing on lists of top-paid actors instead.  The fact that Blunt's decision was due to scheduling conflicts with Jack Black's updated version of Gulliver's Travels makes the whole thing even more galling.  While her voyage to Lilliput performed reasonably well at the box office, it was critically savaged and isn't a drop in the ocean compared to the payday Johansson continues to enjoy to this day.


Twilight author Stephanie Meyer had Browning in mind when casting for the movie trilogy began. However, the young Australian actor had just finished a project and wasn't ready to jump into a franchise that she thought would jeopardise her studies, leaving the door open for Kristen Stewart to swoop in and land her big break alongside a sparkly Robert Pattinson.  The next role Browining took on was in the 2009 movie The Uninvited, a remake of a Korean horror movie that didn't receive the best reception and also didn't bring in a fraction of the amount as the Twilight saga.  While she has been working regularly ever since, she must wonder, 'What if . . . ?'


Not many people would say no to Steven Spielberg, but Bardem did just that when he was offered a large role in the 2002 sci-fi epic, Minority Report.  He claims this was due to him being uncomfortable with an English-speaking role, which would have been a linguistic challenge for him at the time.  But that would make more sense if the film he chose instead, Johm Malkovich's The Dancer Upstairs, was in his native Spanish, but it wasn't.  Maybe it's more a case of him being picky with parts than wary with words.  This led to Colin Farrell being fast-tracked to Hollywood stardom while Bardem, who had already been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar at the time, spent the next few years in smaller features before his stunning performance in No Country For Old Men made him a household name.  While it could be argued that Bardem took the more principled route, the truth is that the movie he went for instead didn't make much more at the worldwide box office than Farrell was paid to chase Tom Cruise around for a couple of hours.


When people think of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series the first thing that comes to mind is, inevitably, Johnny Depp's rum-swilling, Keith Richards impersonation Captain Jack Sparrow.  However, we might have seen a more outrageous portrayal if the first choice had said"Alrighty-then".

Jim Carry turned down the opportunity to step aboard the sea-faring franchise to focus on his upcoming project, Bruce Almighty.  While it is considered one of his better mid-career comedies, his time playing God cost him the opportunity to rake in hundreds of millions from the House of Mouse.


Looking back on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's hard to imagine anyone else but Ian McKellen donning the hat and robes of Gandalf.  However, early in production, the role was offered to the original James Bond, Sean Connery.  Unfortunately for him, he couldn't get his head around the script and passed up one of the most beloved franchises in film history.

This lead to him taking a role in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was pegged to be the start of its own franchise.  We all know where that went - while it made a decent amount of money worldwide, it was critically panned and is widely credited as the reason Connery decided to quit acting altogether.


Most people would jump at the chance to appear in a ground-breaking trilogy of movies that pushed the boundaries of storytelling, special effects and action sequences.  Particularly if the other option was light-hearted steampunk western.  But not Smith.  Despite being the favourite to lead the cast of The Matrix, he took a gamble and said no, riding into s sunset of shame with Wild Wild West.  He has since claimed that Keanu Reeves did a better job in the role of Neo than he could have at the time, but it's still hard to image he doesn't regret turning down the opportunity to kick ass and take names in a leather trench coat.  Especially when he made less than a quarter of the money for his choice to portray a cringeworthy cowboy.

W. Tw.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The trouble with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"

Let me be honest.  I don't like the words to the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."  I have absolutely no problem with the delightful melody.  The music is lively and fun to sing.  However, it's the lyrics that I find troublesome.  First, a little background to the song.  It was composed by two Americans, Broadway songwriter John Frederick Coots (1897-1985) and Haven Gillespie (1888-1975), a Tin Pan Alley composer and lyricist.  Gillespie, a native of Kentucky, wrote the lyrics during the depths of The Great Depression.  Although it garnered more royalties for him than anything else he had ever written, he avoided listening to it.  The popularity of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" was bittersweet for him because it brought back memories of his deceased brother, who had died around the time the tune was published.

Haven Gillespie

The familiar words to the song read as follows:

You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry
Better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is comin' to town
He's making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is comin' to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows's when you're awake
He knows when you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Here's why I object to the lyrics.  The words present Santa as some kind of an Orwellian Big Brother, a stalker watching a child's every move - "He  sees you when you're are sleeping.  He knows when you're awake.  He knows if you've been good or bad . . . "  Furthermore, the words teach children that they should behave because they are being watched and that if they are naughty, they will not receive any presents.  Their motive for good behaviour is to be rewarded by material gifts from Santa.  It appears that there is no motive for good conduct when there are no presents.

Yes, I know the song is a Christmas favourite and that it's extremely popular.  It has been recorded by a myriad of artists including Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, The Crystals, Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, the Jackson 5, The Carpenters and Michael Buble.

Photo attribution 

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town" was first sung in November of 1934, on Eddie Cantor's radio show.  It became an instant hit.  According to author Ace Collins in his book Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas, "Within twenty-four hours of its radio debut, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" had sold more than thirty thousand records and sold more than a hundred copies of sheet music."

The earliest known recording of Santa Claus is Coming to Town was that of banjoist Harry Reser and his band.  The recording was made on on October 24, 1934.  It was also recorded by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra for Victor Records.

In his book. Ace Collins states that "when the song was released, few noted the subtle message created by "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."  They viewed it as "little more than a morality play set to music.,"  "Some even latched onto it as a new take on The Golden Rule," writes Collins, "and as a wonderful way to keep their kids in line."  After all, George Orwell's 1984, was not published until June of 1949.

I may be accused of nitpicking or of being too politically correct.  "What's wrong with a holiday ditty that makes people smile?" I will probably be asked?  It's harmless, I will be told by some.  Well, I'm no killjoy.  I love the spirit of Christmas, but I also believe that words matter.  The lyrics to Santa Claus is Coming to Town make an impression on children.  I am certainly not suggesting that the song should be censored or banned.  I just think that it's important for parents to sit down and discuss it with their children at Christmastime.

- Joanne

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Who should be captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been without a captain for almost three years now - since February 9, 2016, when Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators in a blockbuster 9-player deal.   Phaneuf was named the 18th captain of the Maple Leafs on June 14, 2010, at a press conference held by former Leaf general manager Brian Burke  Phaneuf succeed Mats Sundin, who left the team after the 2007-08 season.

Since the departure of Phaneuf, who now toils for the Los Angeles Kings, the Leafs have been rebuilt into a real contender for the Stanley Cup.  The time is approaching for the storied franchise to choose a new captain., a leader whom fans can picture hoisting Lord Stanley's Jug.

So, who should be the captain of the Blue and White.  My vote goes to John Tavares, although he is not my favourite Leaf player.  Mitch Marner, who wears No. 16, is my favourite because he is skilled and fun to watch.  However, Tavares has displayed the leadership qualities necessary to be a captain.  He also has the experience required for the job, having been captain of the New York Islanders for five seasons.  Here's how his teammate, defenceman Morgan Rielly, described Tavares. as quoted by Rosie DiManno in the Toronto Star.

He not quiet, he talks.  When it comes to his leadership, he leads by example on the ice and just the way he leads his life.  He appears to be very comfortable in a new environment an that's a good thing.

John Tavares

There are other players who deserve consideration for the captaincy - Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau and Morgan Rielly come to mind.  They don't stand out the Tavares does.  Matthews is a franchise player, but he is still only 21 years old.  His chance will come.  John Tavares is ready now.

In his short time with the Leafs, Tavares has shown that he knows how to handle all the media glare  that goes with being a Maple Leaf.  He seems comfortable in the spotlight.  He has also stepped up during Auston's Matthews absence due to injury.

I understand why the Leafs didn't want to appoint Tavares captain right away.  It is understandable why they would want to wait until he played a number of games with the Leafs.   Tavares is already one of three alternate captains, along with Patrick Marleau and Morgan Rielly.  I hope that in 2019, his "A" will be replaced by a "C."

- Joanne

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Gord!

His name is synonymous with timeless songs about trains and shipwreck, rivers and highways, lovers and lonliness.  His music defind the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and '70s.

- From Lightfoot, a biography by Nicholas Jennings

A Canadian music legend turned 80 years old today.  He was born Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. on November 17, 1938 in Orillia, Ontario.  He is well-known internationally as a great folk-rock and country singer and he is arguably Canada's most outstanding songwriter.  His music career has covered more than five decades.  His songs have been recorded by such acclaimed artists as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley. Glen Campbell, Eric Clapton, Peter, Paul and Mary, Anne Murray, Herb Alpert, Barbra Streisand and John Mellencamp.

In the March 14, 1974 edition of Rolling Stone, Lightfoot's singing was described by Stephen Holden as "almost crooning - a style which understates and redeems the rhetorical and sentimental conventions intrinsic to formal songwriting."

The lyrics to Lightfoot's "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," send shivers down my spine.  The song is a chronicle of the construction of the railway across Canada in the 1880s.  It was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for a television special entitled 100 Years Young,  The show was broadcast on January 1, 1967 to mark Canada's centennial year.  Over fifty years later, on July 1, 2017, Lightfoot performed the same song at Canada's 150th birthday celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

On September 8, 2002, Gordon Lightfoot suffered a serious abdominal hemorrhage.  Thankfully, after a long stay in a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, he recovered.  Gord is a survivor and he's very resilient.  On September 14, 2006, he suffered a minor stroke during a performance and lost the use of two fingers on his right hand.  For a short time, he used a substitute guitarist for the more complicated guitar work.  Bu 2017, however, he had regained full use of his right hand.

As you can tell, I am a big fan of the man.  Aside from his music, another reason I like Gordon Lightfoot is that is a staunch Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  He was selected celebrity captain of the Leafs for the National Hockey League's 75 anniversary season in 1991-1992.

Yesterday evening, Lightfoot performed a birthday concert in his hometown, at the Orillia Opera House.  According to the Orillia Sun, the "full-house audience broke into Happy Birthday" before he could even say hello.  "Welcome to my birthday party," Gord proclaimed.

Today, on his 80th birthday, Lightfoot performed at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.  It was his 80th show of 2018.  He informed Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun that he has no plans to retire and that he plans to go out on tour again in the spring.  "I started doing this in 1965," he told Warmington with a laugh.  "I feel blessed to be still doing it (but) it is true I almost didn't make to 80 it a few times."


* In 1970, Gordon Lightfoot was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.  He became a Companion of the Order in 2003.

* In 2010, Lightfoot was the victim of a hoax when a journalist reported on social media that he had died.

* In November of 2012, Lightfoot performed at the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto.

* On December 19, 2014, Lightfoot married for a third time to Kim Hasse.

* On October 23, 2015, a bronze sculpture of Gordon Lightfoot was unveiled in Orillia.  The name of the statute is "Golden Leaves: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot."

SOURCES: The Canadian Encylopedia, Wikipedia, Orillia Sun online, Toronto Sun

- Joanne

Monday, November 12, 2018

Macron is right about nationalism

French President Emmanuel Macron

When I was in high school, I was taught that the four main causes of World War I were nationalism, militarism, imperialism and the alliance system.  A century after the end of that deadly war, the concept of nationalism is being vigorously debated, because an avowed nationalist, Donald Trump, is President of the United States.

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, also known as the Great War or "the war to end all wars."  It was not "great," nor did end all wars.  World War I was one the most tragic and bloody conflicts that that humanity has ever known.  The war was sparked on July 28, 1914 when a  South Slav nationalist assassinated Franz Ferdinard, the heir to the Austro- Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie.  The assassination took place in the city of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzogovina, then occupied by Austria-Hungary.  The assassin, Gavrilo Princiip, a young Bosnian Serb, was strongly opposed to Austro-Hungarian dominance.

 Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible for the assassination and immediately declared war.  On August 3rd, Germany then declared war on France.  On August 4th, Germany invaded Belgium, causing Britain to declare war on Germany.  The United States, however, did not enter the war until 1917.

In the summer of 1914, young men from Britain and its then-colonies, including Canada and Australia, eagerly signed up for war.  Many lied about their age.  They wanted to serve "king and country" and they sought adventure.  They also believed that it would all be over by Christmas.  That didn't happen.  The war dragged on for over four years and many would never see their homes or families again.  Others returned, but they were wounded either physically or psychologically. or both.  The survivors were never the same.

The reparations against Germany set out in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles (he most important of the treaties that ended World War I) were very harsh.  They punished the Germans severely and destroyed the German economy.  Sadly, this led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Flash forward to November 11, 2018.  At a rain-soaked Armistice ceremony at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned Trump and other leaders about the perils of nationalism.  He denounced nationalism as a "betrayal of patriotism." and he warned against "old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death."  Macron forcefully defended a global order based on liberal values.  He stated that the millions of soldiers who perished to World War I "fought to defend the "universal values of France" and to reject "the selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests."  Patriotism, he declared. is "exactly the opposite of nationalism."

Macron is concerned that a new wave of nationalism threatens to engulf the world.  He expressed fear that "old demons are coming to the surface"  and that dangerous ethnic and religious hatred will be unleashed.  It is those "demons," he warned, that lead to global warfare.

President Macron's words were a stern rebuke to U.S. President Trump and his "America First" movement, as well as to Russian President Vladimir Putin and others.  He is concerned about their go-it-alone attitude and their unwillingness work together for the sake of all nations, not just their own.

Was Macron right about nationalism?  First of all let us establish that nationalism and patriotism are not the same thing.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nationalism as "devotion to the interests of a certain country and a belief that it is better and more important than other countries."  It defines patriotism as simply "love or devotion to one's country."

While patriotism is devotion and allegiance to one's country, nationalism is much stronger.  Extreme nationalism leads to jingoism and warmongering.  A true patriot does not proclaim "my country, right or wrong."  That is the mentality of an Archie Bunker..  A true patriot is willing to criticize one's country and recognize its wrongdoings and weaknesses.  A true patriot seeks improvement of one's country and tries to protect its interests.  Nevertheless, a true patriot will not put those interests ahead of the interests of humanity.

- Joanne

Monday, November 5, 2018

Midterm Elections: Test of America's character

Tomorrow's U.S. midterm elections will truly be watershed vote.  These historic midterms will be a test of the character and decency of the American people.  Will Americans be governed by fear, anger and hatred, or will they rise above it?  I want to believe that Americans are better than that.  I want to believe that their  exceptional natures will prevail.  Donald's Trump's America is closed to the world.  It is isolated from the rest of humanity.  It is an America where armed guards are placed in schools and places of worship.  It is an America of great inequality, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  It is an America where billionaires get tax breaks.

I could go on and on about why I abhor Donald Trump's polices.  I could go on and on about the spineless Republicans who will not put their country above partisan politics, but the issue in this election is not partisan.  It is one of basic decency and civility.  Donald Trump's vile policies must be stopped at the ballot box.  He is encouraging racism and anti-immigrant sentiments.  His attitude toward women is absolutely reprehensible (This is a man who bragged about groping women).  He also refuses to take seriously the threat of climate change.  However, the main reason Trump should be reigned in tomorrow is that he is encouraging and abetting far-right authoritarianism around the world.

If Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, then Donald Trump is the Great Divider.  He is most at home at his rallies, where he can let loose with his true feelings.  That is the real Trump, not the Trump who pays lip service to unity, decency and civility in his scripted speeches.  No, the real Trump is not the one who reads nice words from a teleprompter.  It is the one who turns around and calls the media the "enemy of the people" and encourages chants such as "lock her up."  It is the one who indulges in juvenile name-calling.

It is almost impossible to change the mind of a hard line Trump supporters.  The man himself once bragged that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and "not lose any voters."  The Trump fans who attend his rallies, with their red caps, seem to be in a cult-like trance.  It's very disconcerting to watch them.  That is why the voters who make the difference will have to be moderate Republicans and independents.  They will have to be economic conservatives who reject Trumps's hateful immigration policies and what he has done to the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.  They will have to be women of all political persuasions who are appalled by Trump's misogyny and racism, not to mention his dubious business dealings and his relationship with the wealthy, powerful Russians who interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

All I can say is that I hope that most American voters will not fall for Trump's lies or his fear mongering.  So many people in the United States are without health care.  Some many are hampered by pre-existing conditions.  Shouldn't Americans be debating that topic?  Instead Trump has been trying to instill fear in the American people.  He wants them to be afraid of his caravans of "illegal aliens" from Central America.  That's Central America, not another planet.  The last time I checked, Central America was located on Earth and its people were human beings.  They are fleeing the violence in their own countries.

Since I am a Canadian, so I do not have a vote in these misterms.  However, the result will affect the people of my country and around the world.  That's why I'm so concerned.  I hope and pray that tomorrow Americans will reject Trumpism and that this will be the beginning of the end of one of the darkest periods in the history of the United States.  Tomorrow's midterms are indeed a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.  America, the world anxiously awaits your verdict.

- Joanne

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jean Kennedy Smith at 90: The last of a generation

Jean circa 1953

Jean Kennedy Smith is the last surviving child of Rose and Joe Kennedy.  Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy married on October 7, 1914.  Jean is the eighth of their nine children and is known for her diplomatic career and her philanthropy on behalf of the disabled.

Joe and Rose on their wedding day in 1914


Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., born July 25, 1915, was the eldest of the Kennedy children.  Joe Jr. died at the on August 12, 1944, while serving as a World War II land-based patrol bomber pilot.  He was killed when his plane exploded over the English Channel during a top secret bombing mission. His body was never found.  He was 29 at the time of his death.

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, the second eldest, was born on May 29, 1917.  He became the 35th  President of the United States in 1961 and was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  At the time of his assassination, he was 46 years old.

Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy, born September 13, 1918, was the third child and eldest daughter.  She had mental disabilities and behavioural problems.  When she was 23, Rosemary's father arranged for her to have a frontal lobotomy.  It left her incapacitated and she spent the rest of her life in an institution.  She died on January 7, 2005 at the age of 86.

Kathleen Agnes "Kick" Kennedy, born February 20, 1920, was the fourth child and second daughter.  While her father was U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., Kathleen met English politician William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington (known informally as Billy Harting).  They married on May 6, 1944.  Hartington died in combat in Belgium on September 9, 1944..  Kathleen was killed in a plane crash while flying to the French Riviera on May 13, 1948.  She was 28.

Eunice Mary Kennedy Shriver, born July 10, 1921, was the fifth child. In 1953, she married Sargent Shriver, the U.S. Ambassador to France during the administration of Lyndon Johnson.  Eunice was a pioneer for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. In 1962, she founded Camp Shriver on her farm in Maryland.  It evolved into the Special Olympics in 1968.  She died on August 11, 2009 at the age of 88, just two weeks before Ted's passing.

Patricia Helen  "Pat" Kennedy, born May 6, 1924, was the sixth child and fourth daughter.  Pat was an advocate for the literary arts. In 1954, she married English actor Peter Lawford with whom she had four children (They divorced in 1966).  Pat died on September 17, 2006 at the age of 82.

Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, the seventh child, was born on November 20, 1925.  In June of 1968, Senator Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles after winning the Democratic primary there.  He was 42 at the time of his death.

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, born February 22, 1932, was the youngest of the fabled family.  Senator Kennedy died of a brain tumour on August 25, 2009   He was 77 years old.


Jean is the only one of the nine Kennedy siblings to have reached the age of 90.  She was born Jean Ann Kennedy in Boston, Massachusetts on February 20, 1928 (She shares the same birthday with her elder sister Katleen, although they were born eight years apart).  Jean was educated at Manhattanville College (then a Sacred Heart school) in Purchase, New York.  It was there that she became friends with Ethel Skakel, who married her brother 1950, and Joan Bennett, who married Ted in 1958.

Jean became heavily involved in her brother Jack's political career.  She worked tirelessly in JFK's 1948 Congressional campaign, his 1952 Senate campaign and his 1960 presidential campaign.  She also supported Bobby's career.  In 1968, she was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when he was assassinated.

On May 19, 1956, Jean married Stephen Edward Smith.  The marriage took place in a small chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  In a 2017 interview with Dotson Rader for Parade magazine, Jean stated that she met her husband in New York City.  He was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but he had a home in Brooklyn.  When asked if it was love at first sight, Jean replied, "It was on my part.  It was maybe slower on his.  He was very attractive and fun.  He got along with my brothers, so we had a great time."

The couple had two biological sons.  Stephen Edward Smith Jr. was born on June 28, 1957.  Their second son, William Kennedy Smith, was born on September 4, 1960.  They also adopted two daughters: Amanda Mary Smith (born April 30, 1967) and Kym Maria Smith (born November 29, 1972).  Stephen Smith Jr. is an attorney and William Kennedy Smith is a physician whose work involves the rehabilitation of landmine victims.

Wedding photo of Jean Kennedy and Stephen Smith

In 1960, Stephen Smith became the political strategist and finance chairman for the successful presidential campaign of his brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy.  He was also Robert Kennedy's campaign manager during his 1968 presidential run.

Stephen Smith in 1963

In 1974, Jean founded Very Special Arts (now known as VISA), an international organization on arts and disabilities.  VISA is a non-profit organization with the purpose of advocating for the participation for the disabled in the arts.  It is affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C.  Jean has travel worldwide in support of VISA.

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Jean as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.  She held that post during the historic process in Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement.  In 1994, Jean advocated for granting of a United States visa to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.  She was criticized for this, although the Kennedy family claimed this influenced the IRA's decision to declare a ceasefire.  Ted Kennedy wrote in this memoir, True Compass, that "Jean was convinced that Adams no longer believed that continuing the armed struggle was the way to achieve the IRA's objective of a united Ireland."

In September of 1998, seven months after the Good Friday Agreement, Jean retired as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.


* The patriarch of the family, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., suffered a stroke in December of 1961.  He died at home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts on November 18, 1969 at the age of 81.  His wife, Rose, passed away on January 22, 1995, also at Hyannis Port.  Rose lived until the age of 104.

* In 1991, Jean's son, William Kennedy Smith, became the defendant in a well-publicized rape trial.  He was charged with sexual assault and his accuser was Patricia Bowman, a woman he met while at a bar in Palm Beach, Florida with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy and his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy.  Smith was acquitted of all charges.

Dr. William Kennedy Smith

* In 1998, Irish President Mary McAleese conferred honorary citizenship to Jean in recognition for her service to the Republic of Ireland.

* Jean's husband, Stephen Smith, died of lung cancer on August 19, 1990.  He passed away at home in Manhattan at the age of 63.

* On February 15, 2011, Jean received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour, from President Barack Obama.for her work with VISA and the disabled.

*  In October of 2016, Jean Kennedy Smith published a memoir about her life as a member of the Kennedy family.  It is titled The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy

* Jean Kennedy Smith lives in a stylish duplex on Manhattan's East Side.

Jean Kennedy Smith

-  Joanne

Monday, October 22, 2018

12 Features of a Neighbour's House That Can Devalue Your Home

The following infographic describes 12 features of  a neghbour's house that can devalue your home.  It provides a list of maintenance issues, the percentage of their effect on the value of your home and the effect of their value on the average UK home. (Note: This infographic was issued by a British company and its financial statistics are in British pounds, as are its other statistical information.).  It also features graphics on the five most costly features of a neighbour's house and reasons why you have difficulty selling your home.

I hope you find this infographic informative and useful.  Please keep in mind that it contains facts and tips that are relevant to homeowners everywhere, not just UK residents.

- Joanne

-130K Neighbours by Powertools2U.

An Open Letter to John Tory, Mayor of Toronto #4

This is is the fourth and final installment in a series of open letters to Mayor John Tory regarding the serious issues facing the city of this fall's municipal election.  The election will be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Dear Mayor Tory,

Today is voting day.  It marks the end of a very lacklustre and confusing municipal election in Toronto.  Sadly, Premier Doug Ford marred the election by his uncalled-for interference.  He shouldn't have cut the number of councillors so close to election day.  His actions threw many people for a loop and confused many voters.  I wish you had been more passionate in your opposition to Ford's move.  I'm not saying you should have screamed and shouted.  I doubt that would have changed Ford's mind.  I'm just saying that you should have been more forceful in standing up to his bullying tactics. 

Mr. Mayor, you have a commanding lead in the polls.  You are expected to win handily over your closest rival, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto's former chief planner.  According to a Forum Research Poll taken on October 9th, you have 56 per cent support.  Keesmaat has 29 per cent and other candidates have 15 per cent.  I must say, I was disappointed that you declined to have a one-on-one debate with Keesmaat.  Obviously, as the front runner, you were playing it safe.  Yet, I can't help but feel that voters were deprived of the opportunity to see the two of you face each other.  At any rate, she kept you on your toes a bit.  The campaign was sleepy enough, but without Keesmaat, it would have been a real snoozefest.  North America's fourth largest city deserves much more than that.

One of the reasons you were elected four years ago was that Torontonians were sick and tired of the circus surrounding the late Rob Ford.  Voters wanted a mayor who was dignified and who would not embarrass them.  This time, you are not campaigning to replace Rob Ford.  If you are re-elected, as expected, you will have another four years to guide Toronto in the right direction and to produce some results more quickly and efficiently.  This is a great city, but there is far to much homelessness and poverty.  More affordable housing and a downtown relief line arre urgently needed.  If voters reward you with four more years as mayor, I hope you deliver - for Toronto's sake.



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

2018 World Series Quiz

Major League Baseball's postseason has begun and we are on our way to the October Classic.  Here is a quiz to test your knowledge of the World Series.  


1.  Which player has won the most World Series rings?

A.  Mickey Mantle

B.  Joe DiMaggio

C.  Yogi Berra

D.  Babe Ruth

E.  Lou Gehrig

2.  How many has Tommy Lasorda managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to victory in a World Series?

Tommy Lasorda
A.  Twice

B.  Never

C.  Once

D.  Three times

E.  Four times

3.  What Los Angeles Dodger pitcher recorded 29 strikeouts in the 1965 World Series between the Dodgers and the Minnesota Twins.

A.  Wally Bunker

B.  Don Drysdale

C.  Claude Osteen

D.  Sandy Koufax

E.  Mudcat Grant

4.  To date the New York Yankees have won the most World Series with 27 victories.  Which team has won the second most World Series?

A.  Boston Red Sox

B.  San Francisco Giants (previously the New York Giants)

C.  St. Louis Cardinals

D.  Los Angeles Dodgers (previously the Brooklyn Dodgers)

E.  Pittsburgh Pirates

5. Which of these teams has never won a World Series?

A.  Seattle Mariners

B.  San Diego Padres

C.  Washington Nationals

D.  Milwaukee Brewers

E.  All of the Above

6,  Which pitcher has thrown the only perfect game in World Series history?

A.  Whitey Ford

B.  Don Larsen

C.  Roy Halladay

D.  Cy Young

E.  Tom Seaver

7.  Who hit the first pinch-hit home run in a World Series?

A.  Joe DiMaggio

B.  Mickey Mantle

C.  Yogi Berra

D.  Stan Musial

E.  Bobby Thomson

8. When the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series in 1979, what was their theme song?

A.  We Will Rock You (Queen)

B.  We Are Family (Sister Sledge)

C.  Get Down Tonight (K.C. & The Sunshine Band)

D/  Takin' Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)

E.  Celebration (Kool & The Gang)

9.  In 1990, the Oakland Athletics were heavily favoured to win the World Series.  The defending champion A;s won 103 games to finish atop the American League West division.  Yet, they were defeated soundly in a four-game sweep.  What team defeated Oakland in the 1990 World Series?

A.  Cincinnati Reds

B.  New York Mets

C.  St. Louis Cardinals

D.  Montreal Expos

E.  Philadelphia Phillies

10.  Who is the first Black manager to lead his team to a World Series victory?

A.  Dusty Baker

B.  Frank Robinson

C.  Ron Washingon

D.  Cito Gaston

E.  Hal McRae

11.  Which manager(s) has led his team to a World Series championship the most times?  (Note: the ones with the slash between them have won the same number of times).

A.  Sparky Anderson/Miller Huggins

B.  Joe Torre/Walter Alston

C.  Connie Mack

D.  Tony La Russa/John McGraw/Bruce Boschy

E.  Joe McCarthy/Casey Stengel


1. C

Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra won 10 World Series rings during his years with the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1963. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio earned 9 World Series rings.  Catcher Bill Dickey was on the roster of 8 World Series victors, as was Phil Rizzuto, Frankie Crosetti and Lou Gehrig.  Mickey Mantle played on 7 championship teams, as did Babe Ruth.

2.  A

Tommy Lasorda managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series championships.  Under Lasorda's stewardship, the Dodgers won the World Series in 1981, defeating the New York Yankees four games to two.  They won again in 1988, defeating the Oakland Athletics four games to one.

3.  D

Sandy Koufax
Left-handed pitcher Sandy Koufax recorded 29 strikeouts in the 1965 World Series.  Koufax, who is Jewish, did not pitch in Game One of the Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.  After losing Game Two, he pitched a four-hitter in Game Five and a three-hitter in Game Seven.  He finished with a remarkable 0.38 ERA.and was chosen World Series MVP that year.

4. C

To date, the St. Louis Cardinals have won the second most World Series with 11 victories.  The Boston Red Sox have won 8 championships - 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007 and 2013, The New York Giants have won five World Series, and the San Francisco Giants have won three times since the team began playing in California at the beginning of the 1958 season.  That's a combined total of 8 World Series wins.  The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series once(1955).  Since playing their first season in L.A. in 1958, the Dodgers have won five World Series - 1959, 1963, 1965 1981 and 1988. That's a total of six World Series championships.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have also won five World Series - 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979.

5. E

All of the above.  None of the teams listed have ever won the World Series.  Milwaukee Brewers franchise began in 1969, as did the San Diego Padres and the Washington Nationals.  The Seattle Mariners franchise in 1977.

6. B


On October 8, 1956, Don Larsen pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in Game Five of the World Series.  Larsen needed just 97 pitches to complete the game and the Yanks won the game by a score of 2-0  and went on to win the World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to three.  Larsen's perfect game was the only no-hitter of any kind ever pitched in postseason play until Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies on October 6, 2010 in Game One of the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds. (Halladay's only flaw was a fifth inning full-count walk.  Larsen's perfect game remains the only perfect game in World Series history.

7.  C

Yogi Berra became the first player to hit a pinch-hit home run in the World Series in Game Three of the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Yogi hit the home run off Dodgers' pitcher Ralph Branca.  It is interesting to note that in a 1951 National League playoff, Branca allowed a walk-off home run to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants.  That home run was nicknamed the "Shot Heard 'Rond the World" and the Giants won the NL pennant.  They were defeated by the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series.

8.  B

Sister Sledge

When the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series in 1979, the team's theme song was We Are Family by Sister Sledge.  That year, the Pirates defeated their American League opponents, the Baltimore Orioles four games to three.

9.  A

The Cincinnati Reds of the National League upset the heavily-favoured Oakland A' in the 1990 World Series. 

10.  D

Cito Gaston
Cito Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series championships in 1993 and 1994.  Gaston is the first Black to manage a World Series winner.  To date, he is the only one who has accomplished this. Venezuela native Ozzie Guillen is the only other minority manager and the only Lation-American skipper to won a World Series (Chicago White Sox in 2015).  If the Boston Red Sox or the Los Angeles Dodgers should win the Fall Classic this year, another minority manager will be added to the list.  Alex Cora of the Red Sox.was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico.  Dave Rogers of the Dodgers was born in Japan to an Asian mother and a Black father.

Cito Gaston's Blue Jays defeated the Atlanta Braves in 1992 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.  The 1992 World Series marked the first time the October Classic was played outside of the United States and the fist time it was won by a team not based in the U.S.

11.  E

Casey Stengel

It's a tie between Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.  Both managed seven World Series championship teams.  Connie Mack managed five winners.  Joe Torre and Walter Alston managed four.  Sparky Anderson, Miller Huggins, Bruece Bochy, Tony La Russa and John McGraw managed three.

- Joanne