Today is Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Robert Redford played burn out with Don Drysdale

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Dear Ken: Can you provide some background on Robert Redford? What was his first movie role? Where did he grow up?

Redford, 73, was born the son of an accountant in Santa Monica, Calif., and he went to high school in Los Angeles where he played on the same baseball team with former Dodger ace Don Drysdale. He was a pitcher for the University of Colorado before studying painting and then acting in New York. His first film role came in the 1962 movie “War Hunt,” set during the Korean War. Redford worked mostly in episodic TV in the early 1960s before getting good roles in the mid-1960s in such films as “Inside Daisy Clover” and “Barefoot in the Park.” Believe it or not, he has only made about 30 movies since his monster success, 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Since then, he has been a major star and also an Oscar-winning director. His 1988 film “The Milagro Beanfield War” failed at the box office but stands up as a wonderful movie. The environmental conservationist has a son and two daughters by his first wife. Last July he married German painter Sibylle Szaggars, his longtime girlfriend. Redford founded the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Channel and owns a restaurant, Zoom, in Park City, Utah.    Dear Ken: What is Angie Dickinson doing these days? Wasn’t she married to composer Burt Bacharach?

North Dakota’s Dickinson, 78, made “Mending Fences” for the Hallmark Channel last year. Most famous as “Police Woman’s” Sgt. Pepper Anderson, she has made about 50 films. She was wed to Bacharach from 1965 to 1980, and they had a daughter, Nikki, born with Asperberger syndrome, who died three years ago at age 40. 

Dear Ken: Who plays Flo in all of those Progressive Auto Insurance commercials on TV?

That is actress Stephanie Courtney, 40, who has worked in TV a lot the past 12 years. Her credits include “Mad Men, “Cavemen” and “Sons of Tucson.” She is a member of the famed Groundlings Theater (her husband is the lighting director) in Los Angeles, regularly performing in their sketch and improv shows. The stand-up comic has performed at the Aspen Comedy Festival. Of Flo she has said, “Nobody is naturally that perky! They'd strain something. I'd say at times Flo is like my mom when she's at her most chipper.”

Dear Ken: What can you tell me about one of my favorite singers, Jerry Vale?

Born Gennaro Luigi Vitaliano in The Bronx, Vale, 78, was a shoeshine boy in a barbershop who loved to sing as he shined shoes. His boss enjoyed it so much that he paid for Vale to take music lessons. By high school, Vale began to get some dates in local supper clubs and that eventually led to a recording contract with Columbia Records. Today, he and his wife of more than 40 years live in Palm Desert, Calif. Vale wrote his autobiography, A Singer’s Life, in 2000.

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