Whew! We've been up to our ears in activity lately. Another one of those infernal newsletters has come due and that always intrudes a bit on my blogging. In the meantime, I have post that's a real conglomeration. In my endless search for photos to use at The Underworld, I frequently come across “keepers” that I feel will someday come in handy for a blog entry. Often, themes will develop if photos are of a similar subject or action. This was going to be a post about awkward public kisses that were captured by a camera, but there really wasn't enough material for that, so then it morphed into one about unlikely, spontaneous, same-sex kisses, but that also wasn't a prolific enough subject. Then there were some strange combination of folks and same-sex smooches... Finally, I just decided to toss all of my eggs into one basket, so here it is!
One memorably spontaneous kiss came in 2002 at that year's Oscar ceremony when Best Actor winner (for The Pianist) Adrien Brody grabbed hold of presenter (and previous year's Best Actress winner) Halle Berry and dipped her as far back as physics would allow and planted a massive smooch on her lips. The youngest-ever Best Actor Oscar-winner raised quite a few eyebrows with that move.Perhaps Brody was just building on a precedent set the previous year when winner Denzel Washington (for Training Day) laid a big kiss on presenter Julia Roberts (the previous year's Best Actress winner, natch!) At least they knew each other rather well, having costarred (not romantically) in The Pelican Brief nearly a decade prior to that. Perhaps he felt he owed her a little something extra for her stringent campaigning in his favor with quotes along the lines of, “I cannot fathom living in a world in which I have an Oscar for Best Actress while Denzel Washington doesn't have one for Best Actor.”
All this lovey-dovey at the podium reached its zenith at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards when Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby won Best Kiss. The kiss in question was a same-sex smooch between Will Ferrell and Sasha Baron Cohen, competitive race car drivers in the film. Upon receiving their award, Cohen (in what was surely a planned incident) started trying to repeat the act on Ferrell. Eventually, they proceeded with it and ended up wallowing on the floor of the stage making out!
Now that “Pandora's Box” has been opened on that front, the trend continues. Even last year at the 15th Annual Critics Choice Awards ceremony, there was a tie between Meryl Streep (for Julie & Julia) and Sandra Bullock (for The Blind Side) and after Streep gave her speech and Bullock was called second, she marked the occasion by lip-locking Streep at the podium.
All this kissy-poo at awards ceremonies is nothing new, though it used to primarily consist of just an embrace followed by a peck on the cheek or, better yet, an air kiss off to one side for the benefit of the cameras. Take this shot of young Tab Hunter in 1955 after winning the first ever Audie Award (named for Audience Awards, culled from voters at movie theaters across the country) as Most Promising New Personality. He gets a no-contact smooch from presenter Miss Rosalind Russell.
Stars frequently find themselves the target of surprise smooches either on the red carpet, backstage or during various receptions and other industry events. When looking at some of these spontaneous actions, it's easier to understand why kisses done in films and television are so carefully orchestrated and choreographed. The real thing is rarely so pretty!
Take the oddball combination of former Hollywood cocksman Kirk Douglas, now living in the aftermath of some severe strokes, and John Travolta, he of the rollercoaster career of ups and downs. In the press room following Douglas' receiving of a lifetime achievement award from The Screen Actors Guild, the thunderstruck veteran actor was grappled by Travolta and kissed squarely on the lips.
Sometimes the impromptu smack will result in the kisser completely missing the mouth of the subject, such as in this shot of actor David Keith and his then-lover Madolyn Smith. (Incidentally, though Keith has continued on as a steadily working actor, I swear it seems like the last time I saw him was when his character hanged himself in An Officer and a Gentleman back in 1982!)
Another mismatched lip lock occurred in 1981 when diva songstress Shirley Bassey attempted to celebrate something or other with a male friend (unidentified, I'm afraid! Anyone know him?) If you close your eyes too early, you can easily miss the target as Miss Bassey found out when she landed in between this guy's upper lip and the bottom of his snout.
Then there were then-partnered Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson, class personified, at the State Opera (!) in Vienna. I'll give them credit for dressing up (hey, they went further than Frances McDormand did at the recent Tony Awards telecast!), but Kid's sudden buss on Anderson's cheek was a fail. She didn't seem to see it coming and seems rather apprehensive and even a bit appalled! Then again, it's a little tough to sidle in for a peck on the cheek when you have to make it past her pneumatic chest...
Speaking of ill-fated romances, this photo may have been a sign that things weren't going to last long for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Captured smooching on the red carpet during arrivals for an Oscar ceremony, she's in the moment and he can't be bothered to close his eyes. In fact, he's looking above and beyond her at something more interesting in the background! Hmmph! It's the couch for you tonight, buddy.
Sometimes it's the lady who comes off as less than interested. During their doomed engagement in the early 1960s, Warren Beatty leaned in to give fiance Joan Collins a fat, wet kiss with his considerable lips and her body language and expression seem to be saying, “Forget it, kid. We're taking the next few hours off!”
Even the most devoted couples don't always master the public kiss. The late Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi do a pretty good job of it here. Devoted lovers from virtual childhood, they had plenty of practice. Her love for him lasted from practically first sight as a young teen right up until his premature death in 2009.
Another long-term couple, one who has been together since the mid-'80s and who usually seems to take pains to avoid public display of affection, is talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey and her boyfriend Stedman Graham. This is a fairly rare shot of them smooching in public.
A once-devoted, but recently dissolved couple consisted of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. Shown here at a rally, the former governor of California seems unable to contort his rather tightly-drawn face into one which can offer up a kiss to his wife. (The rally was called “Remarkable Women Join Arnold.” As we've come to learn, at least one unremarkable woman also joined Arnold!)
Arnie's puss was actually, already by then, starting to resemble another nipped & tucked man, almost four decades his senior, who once planted an awkward kiss on Ms. Shriver. When legendary comic Milton Berle swooped in for the kill, Shriver didn't turn her face towards him or even her cheek. She let him make due with a kiss to the HAIR. Ha!
Berle was an old master at surprise smooches. Here, he's seen giving longtime pal George Burns a slurpy kiss while a bemused Daniel J. Travanti looks on. Berle, who made dressing up in drag part of his comedic repertoire, was nevertheless a major league ladies' man, celebrated and awed for his allegedly gargantuan penis, which he would display for pals and acquaintances at the slightest encouragement.
Even if half the free world was ga-ga over little Frankie Sinatra, Ginger Rogers nonetheless seems quite startled and taken aback by his sudden advances. It's a friendly sort of surprise, though.
Frank had his arms securely fastened about Miss Rogers, so he didn't allow for the opportunity to get a hand from her positioned in “Stop!” mode. Young Christopher Atkins wasn't quite so fortunate when he went to accost famed Italian sexpot Gina Lollobrigida with a smack on the cheek. Her face is saying “Okay, now... Down, boy!” and her head and hand are saying, “Back the hell away from me!” One assumes this was taken at some CBS function as Atkins was then playing Linda Gray's lover on Dallas while Lollo was making appearances on Falcon Crest as the half-sister to Jane Wyman!
Judy Garland was the recipient of a very zealous kiss from comedic actor Danny Kaye during a 1950s event. Here, he seems to be practically swallowing half of her face, which may help explain to why his much-gossiped-about friendship with Sir Laurence Olivier was so special and long-lived.
The decidedly odd pairing of our next match-up is one for the camp history books. Here we have Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw personality Minnie Pearl laying a peck on the cheek of recently-dethroned comic genius, and film and Saturday morning TV star, Pee Wee Herman! The 1991 scandal involving his indecent exposure at an adult movie theater had already occurred by this point (in fact this was Pee Wee's farewell appearance for a long time), so Pearl was actually offering a very welcome show of support to him (though the event was a tribute in her honor.) It was close to two decades before Paul Reubens appeared again as his alter ego in a successful stint on Broadway. A new film starring the character is allegedly forthcoming.
In terms of controversy, few kisses created as much heat as the one that Richard Gere gave to Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. During an AIDS-awareness event in New Delhi in 2007, Gere suddenly made the exuberant decision to pull an Adrien Brody and dip Shetty, kissing her enthusiastically on her cheek. Unfortunately, Gere (certainly a world traveler) either didn't realize or didn't remember that such an act is considered highly objectionable to many people in that country and it ticked off a huge controversy. There was even a warrant issued for the arrest (of both of them!) The matter has never officially been resolved (to my knowledge), but seems to have finally simmered down at any rate.
Will Ferrell, who seems to be willing to do just about anything for a laugh or for shock value, staged a lip-lock for the benefit of the Kiss Cam at a Los Angeles Lakers game. While wearing t-shirts with the team's insignia and downing concession food, Ferrell and fellow actor John C. McGinley pressed their mouths together in mockery of those couples who are singled out during the game to have their romantic moments plastered all over the in-house monitors.
We're not exactly sure what prompted this sudden show of affection between rockers Phil Collins and Robert Plant in 1983. Collins played the drums on Plant's first solo album and appeared with him in concert, so they must have had something to celebrate. Onlookers in the series of snaps veer from amused to confused to outraged.
Sometimes a man-on-man kiss is unkowingly caught by the cameras, such as in this shot of the aforementioned John Travolta giving a special smackeroo to a male companion as they boarded John's private plane. It wasn't a goodbye kiss since they were both getting on the vessel! In fact, Kelly Preston, Travolta's wife, was already on board as well, though that could possibly be the reason for the kiss taking place outside where no one would see... no one except a fast-thinking someone in the vicinity with a camera.
Returning to the girl-on-girl front for a second, there's this exceedingly awkward snap of Zsa Zsa Gabor greeting sister Eva Gabor in the wake of one of Eva's stage appearances. Poor Eddie Albert can only stand in the middle and grin as the two Hungarians close in for a friendly peck. There's just something unflattering about the way Eva's lips are pursed that gives the otherwise innocuous shot an icky sort of feeling.
The Gabor sisters liked to keep their faces nice and taut, a condition that may have impaired Eva's ability to move her mouth easily and sometimes gave them an immobile look. But what's more immobile than an actual wax figure? Wax dummies, frequently produced by Madame Tussaud's Museum, seem to bring out the pursed lips in publicity photos. Here, we have Twilight star Robert Pattinson being snuggled up to by a couple of female fans. Or is it? No. It's his wax figure, though we would be hard pressed to tell the difference!
Likewise, were it not for the real Helen Mirren (sadly photographed at a far less flattering angle than her waxen counterpart) to the right in this photo, one might have believed, with some judicious cropping, that the couple on the left really was Mirren and director husband Taylor Hackford and not Hackford planting a buss on the cheek of his wife's doppelganger.
Sometimes the unveiling of a wax figure brings on an expression of self-love, such as with comedian George Lopez. He found his own likeness cute enough to deserve a friendly peck on the cheek. Honestly, some of these creations are stunningly realistic, this one being particularly authentic. If you took Lopez out of the picture, I'd have bought the photo of the statue as being a shot of Lopez himself!
In this next – and final – shot, your assignment is to figure out which of the three celebrities pictured is the wax dummy. Baz Luhrmann, Nicole Kidman and Karl Lagerfeld are depicted in a two-sided kissfest. The question is a “trick” one. In fact, these are all the real deal! They just look, especially the two on the right, like candidates for a display in the famous Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
I hope you got a kick out of this little melange of mouth-to-mouth. I'll be back soon with more stars and their projects!