Happy 107th Birthday to the World’s Oldest Barber, Anthony Mancinelli

Read the story of our first visit with Anthony, in 2012.

It’s been said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

If that’s so, Anthony Mancinelli, recognized as the world’s oldest barber by the Guinness Book of World Records, has been not-working for the past 95 years.

That’s right, Mancinelli, who turned 107 on March 2, 2018, has been barbering since 1923, when he was just 12 years old. Calvin Coolidge was president, and barbers still offered such services as bloodletting (with leeches), wart removal and cupping. There’s no longer a demand for those services, but Mancinelli still has the tools he used back in the day and he is happy to show them to the curious.

“I used to have a bottle of leeches on my counter, and I would put them on people’s skin to drain blood,” Mancinelli told The New York Times in 2010. “In those days, while giving a haircut, I would put a leech over a black eye to bring down the swelling, or on the arm of someone who had high blood pressure because the thinking was their pressure might drop.”

Mancinelli was born in 1911 near Naples, Italy, and eight years later sailed to the United States with his family, arriving in New York on September 11, 1919. Because an aunt lived there, the Mancinellis settled in Newburgh, New York, just eight miles from New Windsor, where Anthony currently resides.

“This country gave me an opportunity to do everything in life,” said Mancinelli. “It’s up to the [individual] to take up something, to do something to make things better for themselves as well as the country. This country gave me all the opportunities in the world to do it.”
So how did he get into barbering at such a young age?

With his father, a felt worker, supporting a wife, seven sons and a daughter on just $25 a week, young Mancinelli announced that he was going to go out and get a job.

“My father said, ‘What kind of a job are you going to get?’,” said Mancinelli. “‘Well, I’m going to deliver morning papers, then I’ll deliver afternoon papers, then after that, I’ll see if I can get a job to learn the barber business.’

“I went to the one of the barbershops here, and I asked ‘[the owner] if he would teach me the barber business. He said yes, so I stood with him and I learned the barber business… His name was Joseph Turi.

“I don’t know why I chose the barber business, but I thought it was a good profession, so I said, ‘I’ll try it out and see how I like it.'”

In those days, Mancinelli arose at 4 a.m. to deliver the morning paper and then came home for breakfast before heading off to school. After school, he delivered the afternoon paper, after which he would spend a few hours at the barber shop. Finally, at 8 p.m., he would head home, where his mother had an evening meal waiting for him, after which, he said, “I would go right to bed!”

That’s a pretty grueling schedule for anyone, but considering Mancinelli was 12 years old at the time, it’s especially impressive.

Having served an apprenticeship and learned his trade, Mancinelli opened his own shop in 1930; he was just 19 years old.
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Rose Marie: 90 Years a Trouper

Rose MarieVery few performers have ever managed to carve out a nine-decade career in show business, but that’s just what Rose Marie (Baby Rose Marie, to Cladrite Radio listeners) has done—and she’s still going strong. Since launching her career at the ripe old age of four (she had a weekly radio program that was broadcast nationally before Shirley Temple was even born), Rose Marie has enjoyed success in vaudeville, radio, records, motion pictures, Broadway, and television.

A delightful new documentary, Wait for Your Laugh, documents Rose Marie’s amazing life and career, and we’re delighted to share a very lightly edited transcript of a telephone conversation we recently had the pleasure of enjoying with her. Buckle your seat belts; it’s a delightfully wild ride. As you’ll soon see, Rose Marie is as sharp and as funny as ever.

Cladrite Radio:  I have a lot of things I’d like to talk to you about.

Rose Marie:  First of all, let me ask you a question.

Cladrite Radio:  Sure.

Rose Marie:  Did you see the movie [Wait for Your Laugh]?

Cladrite Radio:  I did!

Rose Marie:  What’d you think of it?

Cladrite Radio:  I loved it. I thought it was great.

Rose Marie:  What’d you like about it?

Cladrite Radio:  I’m very interested in the popular culture of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, in addition to …

Rose Marie:  That’s my era.

Cladrite Radio:  It sure is. I have an online radio station that features music of that era. I play some of your records on the station.

Rose Marie:  Oh, nice.

Cladrite Radio:  When I got the chance to interview you, I was so excited. I’m a fan of your music, and I grew up with you on TV as well.

Rose Marie:  I know, everybody says that. It makes me feel so old.

Cladrite Radio:  Oh, well, I’m not so young myself.

Rose Marie:  I’m 94, wanna bet?

Cladrite Radio:  You’re doing great. You’re probably doing better at 94 than I am at 59.

Rose Marie:  Okay.

Cladrite Radio:  I wanted to ask you about the documentary. Whose idea…

Rose Marie:  I’m very happy to tell you. I’m very proud of it. I love it. I’m so proud of [director] Jason Wise, I can’t stand it. I think he’s a genius. I think he’s going to be one of the biggest men in the business in a couple years. I think this will introduce him to everybody. I think he’ll even be bigger than Steven Spielberg.

Cladrite Radio:  I’ll bet he wouldn’t mind that a bit.

Rose Marie:  Oh, he’s wonderful. You have no idea. You don’t know how particular he is. When we decided to do this thing, I kept everything from the time I was three years old. Postcards, pictures, film, anything I had, I kept. When he talked about doing the documentary, he says, “Let’s talk.” I said, “I have everything in scrapbooks. Why don’t you just go through everything?” I emptied out my house, and I mean he cleaned me out of everything. He put it in that documentary. Just a genius.

Cladrite Radio:  All the materials that we see in the documentary, the film clips we see and some of the programs and promotional materials and various things that are included in it…

Rose Marie:  All mine. All mine that he dug up out of my house.
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Splish-Splash: The Esther Williams Interview

The always lovely (even when damp) Esther Williams was the Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies for May (we say was because, well, the month’s almost over, and her movies were being featured on Thursdays, of which we’ll see no more before the arrival of the hot and sticky month of June).

So we thought it an apt time to share with the Cladrite community an interview we did with the divine Ms. Williams some years ago on the occasion of the publication of her memoir, The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography.

Enjoy! But wait at least an hour after eating before reading this Q&A.

An Interview with Esther Williams

In the 1940s and ’50s, Esther Williams was one of the brightest stars in MGM’s galaxy and she’s still going strong today. Her movies, with their memorable Busby Berkeley-choreographed aquatic extravaganzas, remain hugely popular today in revival houses and on cable television. And now, with the publication of her autobiography, Williams shares candid tales of her life as Hollywood’s “Million Dollar Mermaid.” We chatted with Ms. Williams about a wide range of topics, from her husband Fernando Lamas‘s sometimes philandering ways to cross-dressing in Hollywood. It was a conversation as lively and open as her book, The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography.

As we read your book, it struck us that you’ve have had a life filled with extreme highs and lows. There have been so many wonderful chapters in your life, but so many sad and tragic events as well.

Fernando Lamas and Esther WilliamsIt’s the idea that you’re smiling underwater—doing the impossible!—and then going home to a life that’s unraveling around you…I was struck with it, too. You know, writing your autobiography is therapy. You get in tune with a lot of things you thought you’d forgotten.

Fernando [Lamas] had asked me years ago not to be in the movies or television or do interviews anymore; as I say in my book, he asked, “Can you stop being Esther Williams?” And I said, “Well, that’s an interesting idea; I’ve been her for a lot of years. Let’s see how I do without her.”

And when Fernando died in 1982, the thing I noticed about the death of a life partner, especially one as difficult as Fernando was—when they go, you’re out of a job! The first person that called me after he died was Shirley Maclaine, who is my friend, and she said, “Well, Esther, you can finally get out of the house.” And I thought, Oh, Shirley, you tell it like it is. I’m so very fond of her.

Katharine HepburnAnd then Barbara Walters called. And I said, “Oh, Barbara, I haven’t been photographed in 20 years!” The one thing that Katharine Hepburn said that really made sense to me is that good thing about the talk shows is that people get to watch you rot. And I said, “I’ve been rotting in private!” And she said, “I’ve seen you at parties and you don’t look like you’re rotting to me. I want you to come and do one of my specials.” I said, “I’m not going to look good next to Jane Fonda or Sally Field.” And she said, “I won’t put you next to Jane Fonda and Sally Field; I’ll put you in the middle segment—we’ll put Mr. T before you and Howard Cosell after you, two of the ugliest men in the world.” And I said, “Oh, then I’ll do the show—of course!” [laughs]

Early in the book you detail a clinical experience with LSD. Later, you reveal that you were the victim of a rape at the hands of a family friend when you were a young woman, that your older brother died a tragic death when he was just in his teens. Was the book a form of catharsis for you?

You know, we seem to acquire, as we age and deal with various diminished capacities, an ability to articulate our feelings. To say, “No, no, you don’t understand. It wasn’t that way; it was this way.” And what happened to me is that, when I would go through the problems of day-to-day living, it was always wonderful to go to the studio and dive into that wonderful water. The water was very healing for me, and it remains so even today. I’m in my 70s. I had a knee replaced not so long ago and was going through physical therapy, and it hurt, you know? They’ve got to bring the muscles along, and it hurts.

So I said to Mark, my physical therapist—he came to my house to work with me, and he didn’t know how to swim—I said, “You’re $60 an hour, Mark. And you hurt. I don’t want to be hurting anymore; I’m going to get in the pool. And I tell you what we’ll do—we’ll call the $60 a push, because that’s what I’ll charge you for your swimming lesson. And I got him swimming, and he loved it.

What an opportunity for him, to receive a swimming lesson from Esther Williams! That’s a rare treat.

Artur RubensteinI thought it was worth the $60! Candy Bergen rang my doorbell one day and said, “I want [her daughter] Chloe to learn to swim.” And I said, “If you wanted her to learn to play piano, would you ring Artur Rubenstein‘s door?” And she said, “I don’t care if she plays piano, but she’s got to learn to swim.” And I said, “Yes, that’s true. Because that can save her life. Piano won’t ever save her life.”

Are you pleased—or perhaps surprised—by the rise of women’s athletics? Would you ever have imagined the sort of attention that’s been lavished on the U.S. women’s soccer team or the Olympic basketball players and gymnasts?

And synchronized swimming! It’s an Olympic sport now. Yes, it’s very exciting.
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The Cladrite Interview: Lesley M. M. Blume

We’re going to take it easy until Monday (as should you—happy Thanksgiving, everyone!), but we’re pleased to open this holiday weekend with the first installment in a new recurring feature, The Cladrite Interview.

And we’re doubly pleased that the subject of our inaugural interview is the charming and talented Lesley M. M. Blume, author of Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By, a delightful collection of words, practices, attitudes, and traditions from recent decades that Blume feels (and we generally agree) should never have been allowed to fall by the wayside or out of the mainstream.

Inspired by her column of the same name at the Huffington Post, Let’s Bring Back is a breezy trip back in time that proves refreshing indeed for those of us drawn to the past, who wouldn’t necessarily change places with our parents’ (and grandparents’) generation, but do have an appreciation for the lives they led.

The book also features contributions from such notables as designer Kate Spade; filmmakers James L. Brooks and Nora Ephron; media icons Arianna Huffington and Ted Koppel; interior decorator Jonathan Adler, chef Daniel Boulud and others.

And found in the pages of Ms. Blume’s delightful volume are, we’re pleased to say, our own pet bring-backs: the use of the word “pictures” to refer to movies, and telephone exchanges, whose evocative qualities are sorely missing in today’s telephone listings (mind you, we didn’t contribute to the book; Ms. Blume came up with those on her own—we were just glad to learn she agrees with us).

We asked Ms. Blume about her relationship with the past, whether she feels life was necessarily better then than now, and how her appreciation for relics of days gone by impact her life today.

What initially sparked your interest in life as it was once lived?

I’ve always been a history-oriented person. When I was a kid, other little girls dressed as Cinderella and Snow White for Halloween; I always wanted to be Cleopatra or Queen Elizabeth. Let’s Bring Back is just a natural extension of my personal life. I wear a lot of vintage clothing and hats, collect vintage books, listen to music on records players, and prefer dinner parties to status updates.

Do you consider yourself to be a nostalgic person, in the sense that, as Merriam Webster puts it, you yearn “for a return to or of some past period”?

I don’t yearn for a return to the past. I am very happy being a 21st century woman with a full range of opportunities available to me. Even my icon, Diana Vreeland, another incurable nostalgist, had to admit to the advantages of living in the era of penicillin. But I do wish to preserve certain rituals and adornments as we move into a digital age. Let’s Bring Back is about cherry-picking the best the past has to offer, and bringing those elements into the future with us.

Would you, if given the opportunity, opt to live in another decade, another era, and if so, which one?

The 1940s, when the world emerged from despair into hope again. It also marked the beginning of modernity as we recognize it today. It must have been a fascinating point of transition to experience.

Merriam-Webster’s primary definition for “nostalgia” is “the state of being homesick.” Does the past feel like home to you?

In some ways, yes. But in others, not at all. If any of us woke up in another decade, we’d feel like aliens. I don’t think we really realize the extent to which we’re creatures of our own times.

Are you more strongly drawn to a past you experienced, or those decades that preceded your birth?

I’m more interested in what came before me. Aesthetically speaking, I don’t really give a hoot about the ‘80s or ’90s, although Mad Men rekindled my interest in my early childhood in the 1970s. So many of the design elements in the show’s sets and costuming—not to mention social rituals—were still very much a part of the landscape when I was a kid. So that show seriously resonated with me.

Do you live what you consider to be a vintage lifestyle? How does this manifest itself?

A vintage lifestyle is one that honors the integrity of objects and pastimes from bygone eras, instead of casting them aside for the sake of pursuing novelty. This can arise from creating a physical world of vintage objects around you, or simply have a vintage mindset. So much of vintage lifestyle is about attitude and one’s manner. So, yes, I very much live a vintage lifestyle.

If you could pick one example from your book to, with a snap of your fingers, immediately bring back into use, which would it be?

Discreet voices. I hate hearing people’s one-sided cell-phone conversations.
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