ECCENTRIC LIKE PEGGY GUGGENHEIM
Peggy Guggenheim, byname of Marguerite Guggenheim, (born August 26, 1898, New York, New York, U.S.—died December 23, 1979, near Venice, Italy), American art collector who was an important patron of the Abstract Expressionist school of artists in New York City.
Peggy’s father was Benjamin Guggenheim, a son of the wealthy mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim, and one of her uncles was Solomon R. Guggenheim, who founded the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Benjamin died in the Titanic disaster in 1912, and his daughter came into her fortune in 1919. Unhappy with her bourgeois existence, she married the writer Laurence Vail in 1922 (divorced 1930) and adopted a bohemian lifestyle. She moved to Paris in 1930, and in 1938 she opened a gallery to exhibit and sell modern art. In 1942 she opened another art gallery, Art of This Century, in New York, and many of the artists she supported received their first one-man shows there. Among the important painters she sponsored were Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Hans Hofmann.
After World War II Guggenheim moved to Venice, where she settled in an 18th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal. There she displayed some of her art collection to the public, and in 1979 she donated the collection to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which owns the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Known as the Guggenheim Collection, this donation contains many masterpieces of modern painting and is still on display in Venice.
DISTINCTIVE LIKE GRACE JONES
Grace Beverly Jones OJ (born 19 May 1948) is a Jamaican model, singer and actress. In 1999, she ranked 82nd on VH1's 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll, and in 2008, she was honored with a Q Idol Award. Jones influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s and has been an inspiration for artists including Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Solange, Lorde, Róisín Murphy, Brazilian Girls, Nile Rodgers, Santigold, and Basement Jaxx. In 2016, Billboard magazine ranked her as the 40th greatest dance club artist of all time.
Born in Jamaica, she and her family moved to Syracuse, New York, when she was 13. Jones began her modeling career in New York state, then in Paris, working for fashion houses such as Yves St. Laurent and Kenzo, and appearing on the covers of Elle and Vogue. She worked with photographers such as Jean-Paul Goude, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, and Hans Feurer, and became known for her distinctive androgynous appearance and bold features.
SENSITIVE LIKE JANE BIRKIN
Jane Mallory Birkin, OBE (born 14 December 1946) is an English-French singer and actress. She attained international fame and notability for her decade-long musical and romantic partnership with Serge Gainsbourg. She also had a prolific career as an actress in British and French cinema.
AMBITIOUS LIKE HEDDY LAMARR
Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress and inventor who pioneered the technology that would one day form the basis for today’s WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems. As a natural beauty seen widely on the big screen in films like Samson and Delilah and White Cargo, society has long ignored her inventive genius.
In the late 30's she secured her ticket to Hollywood where she mystified American audiences with her grace, beauty, and accent. In Hollywood, Lamarr was introduced to a variety of quirky real-life characters, such as businessman and pilot Howard Hughes. Lamarr dated Hughes but was most notably interested in his desire for innovation. Her scientific mind had been bottled-up by Hollywood but Hughes helped to fuel the innovator in Lamarr, giving her a small set of equipment to use in her trailer on set. While she had an inventing table set up in her house, the small set allowed Lamarr to work on inventions between takes. Hughes took her to his airplane factories, showed her how the planes were built and introduced her to the scientists behind the process. Lamarr was inspired to innovate as Hughes wanted to create faster planes that could be sold to the US military. She bought a book of fish and a book of birds and looked at the fastest of each kind. She combined the fins of the fastest fish and the wings of the fastest bird to sketch a new wing design for Hughes’ planes. Upon showing the design to Hughes, he said to Lamarr, “You’re a genius.”
In 1940 Lamarr met George Antheil at a dinner party. Antheil was another quirky yet clever force to be reckoned with. Known for his writing, film scores, and experimental music compositions, he shared the same inventive spirit as Lamarr. The two came up with an extraordinary new communication system used with the intention of guiding torpedoes to their targets in war. The system involved the use of “frequency hopping” amongst radio waves, with both transmitter and receiver hopping to new frequencies together. Doing so prevented the interception of the radio waves, thereby allowing the torpedo to find its intended target. After its creation, Lamarr and Antheil sought a patent and military support for the invention. While awarded U.S. Patent No. 2,292,387 in August of 1942, the Navy decided against the implementation of the new system. The rejection led Lamarr to instead support the war efforts with her celebrity by selling war bonds. Happy in her adopted country, she became an American citizen in April 1953.
Meanwhile, Lamarr’s patent expired before she ever saw a penny from it. While she continued to accumulate credits in films until 1958, her inventive genius was yet to be recognized by the public. It wasn’t until Lamarr’s later years that she received any awards for her invention. The Electronic Frontier Foundation jointly awarded Lamarr and Antheil with their Pioneer Award in 1997. Lamarr also became the first woman to receive the Invention Convention’s Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. Although she died in 2000, Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the development of her frequency hopping technology in 2014. Such achievement has led Lamarr to be dubbed “the mother of Wi-Fi” and other wireless communications like GPS and Bluetooth.
CURIOUS LIKE ISABELLA BIRD
Isabella Bird was born in Yorkshire County, England, in 1831. She was a sickly girl but had a forward-thinking doctor who prescribed travel as an antidote to the insomnia and blues she suffered after an 1850 operation. She traveled by steamer to the eastern United States and Canada, and upon returning, published her first book, The Englishwoman in America. She hated the title, but the gig—travel, then write—felt like a fit.
In 1875, after living in Hawaii for a time, she published Six Months in the Sandwich Islands. Her third book, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains in which she details her time in the American West—and in Estes Park—in a series of notes to her younger sister Henrietta, was an international bestseller that let her spend the rest of her life exploring and reporting.
Between then and her death in 1904, she traveled to and wrote about the people, cultures, and mysteries of countries spanning from India and Tibet to Kurdistan and Turkey. And her contributions to the world—not just stories of exotic locales but also humanitarian work, including helping Scottish workers and setting up a school for missionaries and nurses in Africa—earned her induction into England’s Royal Geographic Society and the respect of armchair adventurers around the world. And yet, until a couple of months ago—and despite being a Colorado mountain resident for nearly two decades—I’d somehow managed, through my own apathy and silliness, to avoid reading Bird. Truth is, I probably would never have cracked A Lady’s spine if a happy circumstance hadn’t thrown us together.