Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tamara Shayne

Tamara Shayne, great uncle's

Wikipedia entry on Tamara Shayne. Tamara was my great uncle's daughter. She was married to Akim Tamiroff. Tamara was an actress, appearing in films and on Broadway. My mother lived with them for a short time when she first came to Los Angeles in the late 1940's.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1933 Western: The Forest

 Grandpa Duke listed in credits as "Jake," a henchman, in this western starring Randolph Scott.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Facebook Page

I started a FB page on this topic; I think I should have just called it "I Come From Circus Folk" but I didn't realize what the process was, exactly, as I was going through it. So it's clumsily called Duke Lee, Akim Tamiroff, the Gladstone Sisters...oh well. Take a look and feel free to contribute your own links to circus and old time movie history, the west, vaudville, Calfornia history -- especially movie history -- Tom Mix circus, etc.

Wikipedia Entry: Duke R. Lee

Wikipedia's brief bio and filmography on my paternal grandfather Duke R. Lee:
Duke R. Lee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Antique Army Revolver: Sold! Duke R. Lee's Circus Gun

Added on January 3rd 2012: Grandpa Duke looks very much like my father, John (Jack, or "Big D" as we called him) Lee in this photo! 

I was contacted today by someone who bought this revolver at auction. The revolver belonged to my grandfather Duke R. Lee, who was a carny, actor, stunt man, AD, and so much more.  According to the information at the auction site, the revolver belonged to my uncle (deceased) at one time. The retired curator of the Gene Autry museum had bought it from my aunt; (Duke Jr.'s wife.) I never knew of this because, as I commented to the auction winner now in possession of the revolver, that side of the family had always been estranged from the rest of us. Even though I lived with my father, John (Jack) Gladstone Lee, Duke's younger brother, when I was a teen-ager, that side of the family didn't see eye to eye with us.  Black Powder Colt Single Action Army Revolver, Documented to Two Generations of Western Actors

Here's the blurb from the auction site:
According to factory records (copy included) this revolver was shipped 27 March 1876 to H & D Folsom Arms of New York City. Fixed sights, with the one line Hartford address on the barrel, two-line patent dates on the frame, and "45 CAL" on the trigger guard. Matching numbers on the frame, grip straps and cylinder. Smooth one-piece burl walnut grips. Included with the lot is an authenticity letter from a prior owner, who states this arm was the property of Duke R. Lee (1881-1959) and his son Duke Lee (?-1999), aka "Big Duke" and "Little Duke". Big Duke rode with the Buffalo Bill Cody show, the Tom Mix Circus and the Miller Brothers 101 Wild West before making his break into film in 1915. Little Duke also worked as a rider in the Tom Mix Circus, and transitioned to film and television work. Also included are pictures of the Dukes, as well as a copy of Big Duke's filmography.

The revolver sold at auction

My grandfather, Duke R. Lee with revolver. He looks quite a bit like my dad John Gladstone Lee here!

Excerpt of letter from retired curator of the Autry Museum, previous owner of the revolver

Certificate: Revolver

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Esoteric Claims to Fame, Or: My Cousin Was a MIB

Reposted from my Trickster's Realm column for Binnall of America, September 2010

Esoteric Claims to Fame, Or: My Cousin Was a MIB

An item on Lon Sticker’s Phantoms and Monsters about Elvis and his life long interest in UFOs inspired me to write about the time I met Elvis in Los Angles when I was working at the Free Clinic. (see my post on UFO Mystic.) That was one of my brushes with fame, and esoteric in a round about way, since Elvis had a strong curiosity about UFOs and believed in extraterrestrial life.

Another esoteric brush with fame is, I think, waaaaaaaay cool. It concerns Boris Badenov. Yes, that Boris Badenov! Legend has it that the character actor Akim Tarmioff was the inspiration for the spy character Boris Badenov of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Here is what a Wikipedia entry has to say about Akim’s inspiration:
Badenov's name is a play on that of the 16th-century Russian Tsar Boris Godunov ("bad enough" vs. "good enough"). His accent and explosive temper are an homage to Hollywood actor Akim Tamiroff, especially Tamiroff's role in The Great McGinty, a 1940 movie directed by Preston Sturges.

Akim (Mikhailovich) Tamiroff, the Russian born character actor who appeared in dozens of films and television shows was often typecast as a Mexican or Greek, among other ethnic characters. He played spies, cops, thieves; all manner of roles. Among the films Akim appeared in:For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1943, Lord Jim, 1965, Oceans 11, 1960, Topaki, 1964, and dozens more.
Akim was married to my grandfather’s niece, actress Tamara Shayne. My mother lived with them when she was in her late teens (that would be in late 1940s, early 1950s) when she first arrived in Los Angeles from Oregon. I met them once when I was little; I remember Tamara as being stand offish , but Akim was pretty nice, very funny and playful.
Truly, how cool is it that one of the iconic cartoon characters, Boris Badenov, was based on a family member? (Another fun esoteric synchronistic fact: my mother’s name is a variation of Natasha.)

Is it fair to say Boris was a MIB? No, it just sounded good for the title. Boris was short, fat, and hardly MIB like in behavior or appearance. He was an Eastern European/Russian spy, bumbling, the bad guy, created during the Cold War, when the spy business was everywhere. It still is; and actually, we’ve come back around to Russian spies recently, with movies like SALT and the plethora of Russian spies on television shows.
I have other claims to esoteric fame, which I'll write about in future columns.
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Duke Regine Lee

My grandfather (my father's father) was Duke Regine Lee. Actor, stuntman, carny, cowpuncher... a colorful life. He worked as an assistant director on many films, including working with John Ford on several of his films. He appeared in Stagecoach among other films. Wikipedia has a flimography.

Duke R. Lee, my grandfather. Born May 12, 1881, died 1959

Duke appeared in many westerns but he was also a song and dance and ladies man

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Character Actor Akim Tamiroff

Character actor Akim Tamiroff was my married to my mother's aunt, the actress Tamara Shayne. My mother lived with them for awhile when she first came to Los Angeles in her late teens or early twenties.

I met Akim a couple of times when I was little; probably around five or six. I remember him as being very nice, funny and warm. My mother had many stories about Akim and how nice he was to her.

Some links about Akim's bio and filmography:
Internet Movie Database
Best Supporting Actor of 1936 – Akim Tamiroff (The General Died at Dawn) on Movie Over Matter

Akim Tamiroff Actor Images, on Mitra Celebrities