Norm’s La Cienega Coffee Shop Faces Demolition

The Norm's at 470-478 La Cienega Boulevard, near the Beverly Center.

The Norm’s at 470-478 La Cienega Boulevard, near the Beverly Center.

The Los Angeles Conservancy just posted the following on their Facebook page, and with both cities of Los Angeles’s and West Hollywood’s track records on tearing down cultural landmarks, we took notice.

“We just learned that the new owners of Norms La Cienega have a demolition permit for the iconic Googie coffee shop at 470-478 La Cienega Blvd. The Conservancy and our Modern Committee submitted a local landmark nomination for Norms late last year that the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission will hear tomorrow (Thursday). We don’t anticipate the new owners acting on their demo permit today, but just in case, if you’re in the area, please keep an eye on it. If you see anything happening – such as the removal of the signage (fence going up, big equipment, guys in hard hats), please call the Conservancy immediately at (213) 623-2489. We’ll keep you posted.”

This particular Norm’s was built in 1957 by architects  Louis Armet and Eldon Davis and is a great (and increasingly rare) example of “Googie” design, which was once a commonplace style used in diners and coffee shops.

Already the comments posted below the posting were gearing up for a fight. “How many of those who want to save this place actually ate there?” asked one online commentator. “Maybe they’d still be in business. Save the building for what? Who will compensate the owner?”

These are very valid points. When an object or location has outlived its usefulness, shouldn’t it be replaced, especially in a busy city that continues to thrive and grow?  Places have life spans, just like people do, and people do not live forever.  Norman Royback opened his first restaurant in 1949 at Sunset and Vine and the chain grew to become a staple in L.A. The chain remained in the family until 2014.

To answer the above-mentioned commentator, I personally have eaten there numerous times and the place was always hopping, so I don’t feel bad for the developers who bought the property. When a location is already considered something of a cultural and stylistic landmark, why would you buy it in the first place if you’re not in the restaurant business? Clearly they planned to tear it down from the beginning, regardless of how well it was doing.

The so-called Googie style is a distinctly Los Angeles-based futuristic style, developed in the mid-1940′s and continuing through the mid-1960′s, inspired by car culture, jets, the Atomic Age, and the Space Age. Many examples of Googie architecture have been demolished over the years, and while this might be good news to those who want everything in Los Angeles to look like the same bland, culturally stale breadbox, this is after all a tourist town.

When most of the shops lining Rodeo Drive can be found in local shopping malls in Peoria or Cincinatti, why would tourists bother coming here? The answer is simple: to see the things they can’t see at home. Movie and TV stars. Sunshine and warm weather in the winter months. And the rapidly-dwindling list of pop cultural landmarks where people like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and any number of other celebrity once frequented. And if there is no Chateau Marmont, forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, or Formosa Cafe to see in Hollywood Babylon, then why come here at all?

To learn more about this issue check out the Los Angeles Conservancy website.

Take That, Anita Bryant! Gay Marriages Performed in Miami-Dade County

Same-sex couples and their attorneys in Miami celebrate Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel’s decision to lift the legal stay she had placed on her July decision declaring Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. EMILY MICHOT MIAMI HERALD STAFF.

Same-sex couples and their attorneys in Miami celebrate Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel’s decision to lift the legal stay she had placed on her July decision declaring Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. EMILY MICHOT MIAMI HERALD STAFF.

Today, Monday, January 5, 2015, is a very special day for Florida. Miami-Dade County has become the first place in Florida allowing legal recognition of gay marriage, half a day before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state. Same-sex couples are now able to marry in 36 states and Washington D.C. The ruling also means gay marriages performed outside Florida will be recognized in Miami-Dade.

While the event itself is of great social importance, the location itself –Miami-Day County–holds a special meaning to gay rights activists who remember the seventies, and the struggles taking place on a socio-political level at the time.

Armistead Maupin, photographed by Chris Turner in 2009.

Armistead Maupin, photographed by Chris Turner in 2009.

Armistead Maupin, the celebrated author of the Tales of the City series, posted a special message on his Facebook post today. “Thirty-eight years ago, on stage at the Castro Theater, I read Michael Tolliver’s coming-out Letter to Mama for first time in public,” he wrote. “That event — the ‘Moon Over Miami’ benefit — raised money to fight Anita Bryant’s hateful anti-gay ‘Save Our Children’ campaign in Miami-Dade County. Today in Miami-Dade gay couple,s were legally married for the very first time.

“Thirty-eight years. That’s how long it took. But justice prevailed at last.”

While some who remember the pre-Stonewall era expressed amazement at the progress that has been made over the past four decades, others are looking forward to the day when we can willingly value love above prejudice without the need for a federal judge’s order.

Be Still, My Rapid Heart TV!

Journalist, film historian, and all-around raconteur David Del Valle.

Journalist, film historian, and all-around raconteur David Del Valle.

Our very own David Del Valle–journalist, film historian, and all-around raconteur–has written a few articles for West Hollywood Wives, but his misadventures have gone beyond the written page (and web page) and made it big on the small screen.

His first love has always been movies, beginning with the horror films he fell in love with in childhood, and branching out all over the map from there. He recently began a new column in Chris Alexander’s Delirium magazine, along with his regular Camp David column on the Films In Review website. In the 1980′s David hosted his own talk show on cable called The Sinister Image, on which he interviewed cult figures ranging from film directors Curtis Harrington and Russ Meyer to actors like his close friend Vincent Price. Recently, David teamed up with director and producer David De Coteau to host a series of movies streaming on De Coteau’s Rapid Heart TV channel.

1313WICKEDSTEPBROTHERRapid Heart Productions offers a dazzling array of eye candy, ranging from De Coteau’s original movies like Voodoo Academy 2 and Wicked Stepbrother (which might not have won many Oscars but won many, many fans with their scantily-clad cast members) to a bevy of vintage cult and genre spectacles grouped together into several collections hosted by David Del Valle and featuring names like Camp Grindhouse, Sinister Image, and Ghoul, Please!

The Ghoul, Please! collection includes horror flicks like Tower of Evil, Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s swansong, Trog. The Camp Grindhouse collection includes a campy selection of titles like Airport ’77, the Bette Davis howler Dead Ringer, and the rarely seen The Gay Deceivers.  Del Valle’s intros offer up informative tidbits about the feature you’re about to watch. His comments about 1969′s The Gay Deceivers is particularly interesting since he was a friend of one of the film’s stars, Michael Greer (and has written extensively about him for West Hollywood Wives).

Check out David’s introductions as well as the cinematic splendor offered up by Rapid Heart. And during the holidays, what could be better than staying home and watching some fun movies and some hot guys?


David Del Valle introducing The Gay Deceivers.

Here’s to the Lady Who Lunched: Goodbye, Elaine Stritch!

Broadway icon Elaine Stritch.

Broadway icon Elaine Stritch.

I’d like to propose a toast: to the lady who lunched, who occasionally chewed scenery, and who was a character actress with great character but also great dignity, great honesty, great fears she faced, and great star power. She was more than a broad from Broadway, she was a Lady of the Theatre in the proper sense, a student of finishing schools and also the University of Hard Knocks.

The unforgiving microphone: recording "The Ladies Who Lunch" on the cast recording of "Company" proved harrowing for Stritch who flubbed her way through take after take. The next day she nailed it and the song became her signature tune.

The unforgiving microphone: recording “The Ladies Who Lunch” on the cast recording of “Company” proved harrowing for Stritch who flubbed her way through take after take. The next day she nailed it and the song became her signature tune.

I saw her perform live and she was at one with the stage, a zen exercise in which the lines and lyrics didn’t matter. She could have stood on stage and read the Hong Kong telephone directory aloud and literally no one in the theatre would have cared. It was a chance to bask in some good old-fashioned star quality.

Having worked in talent agencies in Los Angeles and Chicago I have met some of the most beautiful men and women in the world, I have known some very recognizable names, and had the pleasure to know a great many hardworking actors and actresses whose work is solid and who are consummate professionals. But you can spot a class act like Elaine Stritch a mile away and as the old cliche goes, they don’t make ‘em like her anymore. “Everybody rise!”

Poised to Shatter the Glass Ceiling: Meet Marlo Bernier!

Triple-threat actress-writer-director Marlo Bernier.

Triple-threat actress-writer-director Marlo Bernier.

When Jared Leto was nominated then won the Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Actor for his performance as a transgender character in Dallas Buyers Club, reactions to Leto’s being cast in the role were mixed throughout the mainstream and transgender communities.

Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee further diluted any positive message his film might have offered when he was quoted by Time magazine asking, “Is there any transgender actor? To my knowledge—I don’t know one…I’m not aiming for the real thing. I’m aiming for an experienced actor who wants to portray the thing.”

Whether it was the case or not, Vallee’s quotes were taken by many as signs of Hollywood laziness and an apparent refusal to leave the comforts of a studio office in search of talent outside of a limited A-list circle. Not only are there transgender actors and actresses out there, but some of them also possess a vast array of experience in the acting field, not to mention talent.

One of them is Marlo Bernier.

Once upon a time there was an actor named Mark Bernier, who found success as a working actor on stage and screen. And, as Bernier has previously joked, “My career just wasn’t tough enough, so I woke up one morning and decided to change my sex.” Bernier’s personal story is a little more complicated than that, of course, but making the transition from Mark Bernier to Marlo laid the foundation for a groundbreaking new television pilot called Myrna, a dramedy based “with some theatrical license” on Bernier’s own life and experiences.

As she explains, “Myrna is a show about an actor who, after a modicum of success both in front of the camera and on the stage finally comes face to face with their true identity and makes the life-altering decision to transition from male to female.”

Television programs have often used humor to win over an audience, while still making a point regarding social change or understanding. Producer Norman Lear’s groundbreaking body of work is an obvious blueprint: shows like All In the Family, Maude, Good Times, and One Day at a Time brought people from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences into mainstream American homes, using humor to deliver the basic message that underneath the surface we’re all the same. Whether it was lower middle-class Archie Bunker or upwardly-mobile George Jefferson, recently-divorced Ann Robinson or the struggling-to-make-ends-meet Evans family, the characters on these shows illustrated our common bonds, becoming members of our collective family.

Marlo Bernier as Myrna Michaels.

Marlo Bernier as Myrna Michaels.

And now Marlo Bernier wants us to welcome Myrna Michaels as an addition to that family. Bernier co-wrote the script and will play the title role alongside a gifted ensemble cast. The script is funny, heartfelt and thoughtfully written. While many sitcoms choose laughs over heart—or vice-versa—and paint their characters in stark black-and-white contrasts, Myrna paints its characters in varying shades of gray. Not all the characters are always likable, and they aren’t meant to be, because they are realistic human beings with foibles and frailties, living within a story arc allowing them room for growth.

“I can’t speak for the community, I can’t speak for fifty people. I can speak for me,” Marlo takes pains to emphasize. “I always hope that my work will help society or help people understand, or at least make people be compassionate. That’s all I ever ask. If you can’t fully get it, could you please attempt compassion? I know transsexualism is not easily understood. It’s not easy for me, either.”

Her Myrna compatriots, cast and crew members, are all in agreement that this is an important story to tell and one delivered using the proper tone.

“There has never been anything like this before, ever, in the history of films or television,” says fireball actress Alexandra Billings, one of the show’s co-stars. “There is no such thing as a television show whose central character is transgender.”

That’s why Bernier & Co. have teamed up with Brad Wyman’s brand-new online crowd-sourcing platform Fanbacked.com in order to raise the budget to shoot and deliver the pilot episode.  You can find the Myrna TV show page here at greenlight.myrnatvshow.com. The fundraising video features Bernier briefly discussing Myrna. “It’s not just about a boy who is a girl,” she explains to viewers. “It’s about the human connection. And ultimately it’s about all of us striving to be who we really are.” Even the show’s theme song, a jazzy, sophisticated score composed by Regi Davis (a friend and colleague of Marlo & Co.) which plays in the background of the video, hints at the level of things to come.

“We need a voice,” Billings said, “because the only time we’re represented on television or on film is when we’re sick, getting ready to be sick, or dying…This is an actual group of people who live on the planet. These aren’t cartoons, they’re not stereotypes.”

Having moved past the typical man-in-a-dress routine we’ve now graduated to something with a little more depth. “It’s time that we started telling our own jokes, don’t you think?” Marlo asks rhetorically, giving a clue what to expect from the show’s writing. Instead of being maudlin and delivering its message with a heavy-handed sermon, it’s got bite, humor, and subtlety. Above all it wants to entertain its audience.

“I only ever wanted to assimilate,” says Marlo. “I’m not Dame Edna, I’m not a drag act.” And the character Myrna is dealing with the same emotions, realizations and milestones in the course of the show’s storyline.

myrnabanner

Bernier’s offscreen journey has been every bit as interesting as Myrna’s onscreen one. Born a heterosexual male on the East Coast, Bernier made the choice to pursue acting.

“When I came to L.A. I had a decent amount of experience, primarily theatre. It’s there I cut my teeth, and yes, I was known in Baltimore. I wasn’t a celebrity, but people knew my work and kept hiring me. I did a lot of work at AXIS Theatre, which was at the time a cutting-edge theatre company. I did good work with other companies, too, but I did a lot of my work at AXIS.

“I was Taft-Hartleyed into SAG on my first film job in 1977. I was eighteen years old. I worked with Alan Arkin and Richard Jordan and Shirley Knight and Donald Pleasance and Ted Shackelford in a movie-of-the-week when there were only three channels to choose from. That’s how old I am!”

“I did a guest star role on Homicide: Life on the Streets. I did an indie film. I worked for John Waters, I did Cecil B. Demented. When I came here I had my SAG card and didn’t have that struggle to overcome, but it was almost two years to the day before I booked my first job [here]. There’s a long wait in line. I booked a guest star in the second episode of the first season of Cold Case with Kathryn Morris. It was a great role. Paris Barclay directed me, a famous director, now the president of the DGA. They booked me on a week and I think I shot three or four days. I did Alias, I did Las Vegas.”

“One of the last things I did, I worked for David Fincher on Zodiac. I was on IMDB credits a year before the film was released and it was right before the premiere and I had a new agent. I said, ‘Can you get me into the premiere?’ And she said, ‘Okay, I’ll see what I can do.’ All of a sudden she goes, ‘You’re not listed on the IMDB anymore.’ I’d been cut. And I still get residuals, which is the oddest thing ever. You see me in the background but you don’t see my mouth move. It’s possible I’m in the director’s cut or something. I know I’m not the only person in Hollywood to ever get cut, but I needed that one really badly.”

But that’s showbiz, baby. And as they say, where one door closes, another one opens, and that’s where Myrna fits in. Making the transitions from male to female, from actor to actress, and from onscreen-performer to writer, director and producer, Marlo has had to grow in many unexpected directions.

“I made a decision at the beginning of my transition to step out from in front of the lens because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore,” she admits. “Not because I wasn’t capable of doing it technically, but I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is the reason I’m directing and writing now.’”

Making the segue into writing, she co-wrote a couple of indie film scripts before the idea for Myrna started to take shape. Transitioning from male to female requires far more than hormones and or, surgery; it involves a shift in attitudes, acceptance and self-acceptance, and a coming-to-terms with your place in a sometimes harsh world.

In real life Marlo has a therapist, one who has been with her throughout her transition. “She’d ask me every once in awhile, ‘Well, what kind of woman do you hope to become, or do you envision for yourself?’ And at first I just couldn’t answer the question because…I don’t think any of us, regardless of where we come from or what our philosophy is or whatever, have answers for everything. I think it takes time and we grow with it. But it finally dawned on me what my answer was: ‘What kind of a woman will you become?’ And I said to her finally, ‘The same kind I was as a man: kind. That’s what I hope to be, just kind.’”

And that realization also helps to define the character of Myrna who finds the transition from male to female sometimes pales in comparison to the transitions from addict to sobriety, from emotional basket-case to fully-rounded human being, from child to responsible adult.

Marlo’s background as a performer long-since prepared her for everything she and Myrna have to face. “My mantra is, ‘Deny nothing, invent nothing, tell the truth,’” and she quotes John Cassavetes when she says, “We as artists must be willing to risk it all.”

To check out the Myrna TV show fundraising page on Fanbacked.com and hear Marlo discussing the project in her own words, click here.

 

Behold, Franz Szony’s Homage to “Maleficent”

"CAST BY SPELL!" photographed by Franz Szony, modeled by Deven Green.

“CAST BY SPELL!” photographed by Franz Szony, modeled by Deven Green.

Walt Disney’s Maleficent (starring Angelina Jolie as the title villainess) just opened in movie theatres and in anticipation of the film photographer Franz Szony created the image above in its honor.

Entitled “CAST BY SPELL!” the image was captured using black paper, smoke grenades and a curtain rod. Maleficent was “played” by model Deven Green.

“Maleficent has been my favorite animated character since I was a child,” Szony wrote on his Facebook page. “It seemed the perfect time to create a piece of art in homage to the 1959 Marc Davis animation. Using black paper, smoke grenades and silk, I transformed the fabulous Deven Green into this incredible villain.”

Szony’s photographic studio at The Brewery just east of downtown L.A. has proven to be one of the most popular stops in the twice-annual Brewery Artwalk. Sightseers visiting his loft space were dazzled by the baroque tableaux on display there and at a recent exhibition of his work at the Archangel Gallery in Palm Springs.

The Reno native relocated to Los Angeles within the past year and has already built up a sizeable following among art devotees, not to mention clients in the fashion world. To see more of Szony’s photography, check out his Instagram page and his official website. You can also find him on Facebook.


A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “Cast By Spell!” (Credits at the end of the film.)

Stonewall Activist, Drag King Storme DeLarverie Dead at 93

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Storme DeLarverie

Storme DeLarverie, a lesbian activist who took part in the New York Stonewall riots in 1969 that started the gay rights movement in the United States, died Saturday at a Brooklyn nursing home. She was 93.

Born in New Orleans in 1920 to a black mother and a white father, DeLarverie “was born into adversity and lived in adversity her whole life,” said Lisa Cannistraci, a longtime friend and one of her legal guardians. In 1969 she was among those who fought against a police raid in the Stonewall 1969 riots.

In a 2010 profile, the New York Times wrote, “Her life has been flamboyant, boundary-breaking, the stuff of pulp fiction.

“Friends say she worked for the mob in Chicago. The drag-queen group she performed with decades ago, known as the Jewel Box Revue, regularly played the Apollo in Harlem (she dressed as a man and the men dressed as women). She was photographed by Diane Arbus. She carried a straight-edge razor in her sock, and while some merely walked to and from the gay and lesbian bars in the Village, friends said, she patrolled.”

Peter Frank of the Bronx LGBTQ Community Services Center called DeLarverie “a fierce woman who stood up for our community on countless occasions.”

In recent years, DeLarverie suffered from dementia, and was the subject of a 2010 article in the New York Times.

storme-willard59Friends mourned the fact that many young members of the LBGT community had never heard of her and were unaware of her place as a gay rights pioneer, but DeLarverie herself seemed not to mind. She had a positive message of empowerment for the up-and-coming generation of queer youth. “Just be themselves, like they’ve always been,” she said. “They don’t have to pretend anything. They’re who they are.”

Did the U.K. Department of Education Kill a Mockingbird?

mockingbirdA change in the British literary curriculum has caused an outcry both in the U.K. and stateside.

British Education Secretary Michael Gove made the decision that the English literature list for a British national exam needs to be more English, so he is swapping American books in for British ones. While the formal lists have not yet been announced, a number of professors and other education experts have already lamented the loss of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Harper Lee’s seminal To Kill a Mockingbird.

The changes to the lists focus specifically on a standardized test known as the GCSE, the General Certificate of Secondary Education. The new GSCE syllabus for English literature is scheduled to be published later this week.

Many authors and academics noted the thematic parallels between the Education Department’s actions and the themes of the books that are getting the ax. The Crucible uses the Salem witch hunts as a metaphor for McCarthyism. To Kill A Mockingbird teaches lessons about tolerance and diversity.

In a statement, the U.K. Department of Education insisted that no books have been actively banned, and they took pains to state that teachers are free to add additional books to their in-class teaching if they so choose. The lists are merely guidelines intended to insure students are exposed to (according to a statement from the U.K. Department of Education) “a wide range of literature, including at least one Shakespeare play, a 19th century novel written anywhere, and post-1914 fiction or drama written in the British Isles.”

Conspiracy theorists may be reading a lot into the changes proposed by the U.K. Department of Education, but it just goes to show that—whether in the U.K. or the U.S., supplementing one’s formal in-class education with reading and educating oneself on one’s own is always a good idea. With the ongoing debates regarding the content of American schoolbooks and education guidelines in both public and private schools here, this latest brouhaha stresses the importance of education, that knowledge is power and access to learning is imperative to human growth and understanding.

 

Harvey Milk Honored With U.S. Postage Stamp

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Today, May 22nd, is Harvey Milk Day in California, and what better way to spend it than by attending a press conference at the White House unveiling the new U.S. postage stamp honoring Harvey Milk?

Milk, who would have turned 84 today, was the first openly gay politician elected to office in California. He was shot and killed on November 27, 1978 at the age of 48 by a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is now the first openly gay elected official to be commemorated on a postage stamp.

Mike Pierce (left) and Jim Knight purchase Harvey Milk stamps from the Castro post office on May 22, 2014. Photo: Kurtis Alexander, The Chronicle

Mike Pierce (left) and Jim Knight purchase Harvey Milk stamps from the Castro post office on May 22, 2014. Photo: Kurtis Alexander, The Chronicle

The unveiling took place at the White House at 3 pm EST and featured remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative John Lewis, Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman, and other distinguished guests including the Co-Founders of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk (Harvey Milk’s nephew) and Anne Kronenberg.

The Harvey Milk Foundation worked with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for seven years to honor Milk with a stamp.

“Harvey Milk is a hero to millions of people who believe in freedom and justice for LGBTQ people, and for everyone,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “He always liked to say, ‘I’m Harvey Milk and I am here to recruit you.’ Now his drive to engage more people to the movement for positive change will be immortalized in a forever stamp.”

Harvey Milk was the subject of a bio-pic, simply titled Milk, released in 2008. Directed by Gus Van Sant from a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, the movie garnered two Academy Awards (winning Best Screenplay and for Sean Penn as Harvey Milk for Best Actor). This latest honor adds visibility for Milk’s legacy and helping a new generation learn how far LGBT rights have progressed in the past thirty-odd years.

 

Audrey Hepburn’s 85th Birthday

Audrey Hepburn: Everybody's Huckleberry friend.

Audrey Hepburn: Everybody’s Huckleberry friend.

Today, had she not died in 1993, Audrey Hepburn would have been 85 years old. The star of the classic films Funny FaceBreakfast at Tiffany’s, and My Fair Lady, she was more than simply an actress. She parlayed her celebrity status into charity work, trying to make a real difference in the world.

Born on May 4, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium, she grew up in Amsterdam as a Dutch citizen. Recognized as Hollywood royalty in her adulthood, she was in fact born a Dutch Baroness; she would later renounce the title upon acquiring American citizenship.

As Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

As Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

She began her career at a time when movie stars were voluptuous and looked like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, or Debbie Reynolds—all-American women with curves. By comparison Hepburn felt she was gawky, flat-chested, not beautiful enough; but she possessed great charm and poise, which meant she was perfectly cast as a wayward princess in Roman Holiday, for which she won the Oscar. The film’s startling message was that not every faerie tale ends happily ever after, a totally new concept in American movies.

But then, Hepburn was not born an American. She endured great sadness in her life. Her father abandoned the family, and she and her family endured great hardship during World War II; her slimness throughout her life didn’t come from diet and exercise, or anorexia, as some gossips suggested, but from childhood malnutrition. She and her family nearly starved to death due to wartime deprivation.

Remembering the aid she and her family received after enduring the German occupation during the war, Hepburn became actively involved with UNICEF, starting in the 1950′s, and in the late 1980′s then-President George H.W. Bush appointed her a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF. Her work on behalf of the organization was made easier by her multi-linguality—she was fluent in English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish and German. She was used to being photographed for magazine layouts and by paparazzi, but now she could use those photographs to bring attention to the famine and poverty she witnessed firsthand in her travels.

Her deep compassion for children came from her own deprived childhood.

Her deep compassion for children came from her own deprived childhood.

She reported what she saw to world leaders, governments, and the international media in an effort to bring aid to those in need across the globe. After visiting Sudan (in which civil war cut off food aid) in April, 1989, she stated, “I saw but one glaring truth: These are not natural disasters but man-made tragedies for which there is only one man-made solution—peace.”

She also brought attention to the problems facing Somalia, which was ravaged by internal strife and an ongoing drought. “I walked into a nightmare,” she admitted. “I have seen famine in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, but I have seen nothing like this—so much worse than I could possibly have imagined. I wasn’t prepared for this.”

Though she died of cancer in January 1993, her service for children continues today through the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Audrey Hepburn Society, and through the many people, inspired by her example, who have gotten involved in public service on a local or global scale.

Today's "Google doodle."

Today’s “Google doodle.”

In honor of Audrey Hepburn’s birthday today Google has headed their main page with a “Google doodle” bearing her likeness.