Can you imagine trying to become a famous actor without your words? What about going from workhouse rags to the most recognizable face in the world? Charlie Chaplin captivated audiences worldwide over an 82-film, 75-year-career that single handedly elevated the medium for which motion pictures were judged.
Chaplin was a do-it-all artist with the most illustrative facial expressions the world had ever seen. He pioneered slapstick antics with emotional depth and created films rooted in social commentary.
He did this mostly through the everyman persona of his one true character—The Tramp. In roles spanning janitors, (ex-)convicts, factory workers, drunks, apprentice assistants and many others—Chaplin portrayed poverty through an uplifting, comedic lens — a style that would resonate with audiences for decades, even as cultural and film styles rapidly changed.
Charlie Chaplin’s legacy is ubiquitous enough for many to have seen his trademark mustache and know he was a silent film comedic actor, but let’s take a closer look at the life and work of cinema’s first true artist.
Chaplin’s upbringing was anything but smooth. His parents’ relationship was unraveling around the time he was born, and they’d become estranged two years into his life. After the split, Charlie’s father was completely out of his life; no financial support or emotional relationship.
Without any assistance, Charlie’s mother supported Charlie and his half brother by making dresses at home and occasional nurse work, but they struggled to make consistent ends meet, which led Charlie to two stays at workhouses before age nine.
To make matters worse, Charlie’s mother, increasingly suffering from what was later thought to be syphilis, was committed to a mental asylum. This landed Charlie and his half brother with their father for the first time ever. Unfortunately for the two young boys, Chaplin Sr. was deep in the throes of alcoholism by that point, and as one would imagine, didn’t treat his sons very well. He would die from cirrhosis two years later at age 37.
Charlie was briefly homeless afterward, until his half-brother returned from the British Navy and took care of him. The tormented emotional cycle continued when his mother was released from the asylum after eight months, only to be institutionalized again in 1905—this time for life (though after making it big, Charlie brought her to California in 1921 to live with him). All the hardship wasn’t enough to stop a young, talented and determined Chaplin from succeeding; just a year later in 1906 he would join Fred Karno’s renowned comedy circuit, quickly becoming a standout performer.
Chaplin wanted perfection. But instead of it hindering his artistic production, it only seemed to accelerate his output—and to several different roles in the film process: composer, director, screenwriter, producer and editor. This in large part was because of his confidence and vision; Chaplin couldn’t have achieved what he achieved without it.
For example, when Chaplin wanted to start directing films, he got his foot in the door by promising to pay Keystone Studio boss Mack Sennett $1,500 (Chaplin’s entire savings) if the films could not be released. Chaplin’s bravado resulted in him directing many of the Keystone films he appeared in (along with a $25 bonus).
Later in his directorial career, while filming 1931’s “City Lights,” Chaplin reportedly made actress Virginia Cherrill do 342 takes for one sequence. He also publicly berated Marlon Brando for keeping him waiting on set of 1967’s “A Countess in Hong Kong” to which Brando would later reference in his autobiography — describing the 77-year-old Chaplin as “probably the most sadistic man I’d ever met” and a “fearsomely cruel man.”
Chaplin may have been a fierce septuagenarian (or just in general), but that’s hardly surprising given his dedication and focus to his crafts throughout his life. Even after sound films emerged in the late ‘20s, Chaplin rebelled, stating his case in the New York Times in 1931:
“BECAUSE the silent or non-dialogue picture has been temporarily pushed aside in the hysteria attending the introduction of speech by no means indicates that it is extinct or that the motion picture screen has seen the last of it. “City Lights” is evidence of this.”
“City Lights” certainly achieved acclaim, but Chaplin couldn’t veil his own denial for long, later admitting, “although City Lights was a great triumph, I was obsessed by a depressing fear of being old-fashioned.”
Chaplin would eventually succumb to his contemporaries with his first talkie: 1940’s “The Great Dictator” — a political comedy-drama satirizing Adolf Hitler which ended up as one of Chaplin’s most commercially successful films. Today it’s preserved in the National Film Registry for its cultural and historical significance.
Food was a theme and interest throughout Chaplin’s career and personal life. Among many, the cafeteria scene in “Modern Times” comes to mind where he eats a ton of food without paying in a second attempt to be arrested and save the orphan girl.
Chaplin was asked to submit recipes to cookbooks throughout his life (mostly for charitable proceeds). Some of his favorites include:
Get the full recipes here.
Being the unprecedented performer and individual he was, Chaplin garnered many triumphs throughout his career.
In 1925, he became the first actor to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, which probably would have been more exciting for him had he not released “The Gold Rush” a month earlier; a film that was a smashing success, grossing over $4.2 million (the fifth-highest-grossing silent film ever).
Chaplin was vocal in saying it was the film he wanted to be remembered by.
Here’s the opening scene to the 1925 film:
But that’s small potatoes compared to Chaplin’s three Oscars. While the only competitive win came for his composition work in “Limelight,” widely thought to be his last great motion picture and a project inspired by his novella entitled “Footlights” — his other two Oscars are as unique as they get.
Chaplin was recognized at the very first Academy Awards for his versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing 1929’s “The Circus.”
Chaplin’s second honorary Oscar came in an even bigger way: in 1972, 20 years after being exiled from the U.S. for being labeled a communist sympathizer (a whole other article in itself) Chaplin was back on U.S. soil, receiving a 12-minute standing ovation for the “incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” This is still the longest standing ovation in Oscar history!
Watch his acceptance speech below:
Chaplin gave the world never-before-seen entertainment but did so through a social commentary that resonated beyond laughs. Chaplin was about the whole process; the music, the laughs, the message, the story and the shot all stood on equal ground. Chaplin — like many of the people we feature at VK Nagrani — lived his life with purpose and tenacity, something we can all use a bit more of from time to time.
Best known for her record-breaking globe-trotting journey and ten undercover days spent in a madhouse, Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Cochrane, lived with a tenaciousness most could only dream of possessing.
Her life should serve as one vivid example on how to take control of life and spend our days exactly as we’d like.
Learn more about the queen of investigative journalism and lifelong badass, Nellie Bly, below.
1. Operated on a No-Bullshit Policy
It’s staggering the amount of people waiting for someone else to take control of their lives. For anyone struggling with personal empowerment, Bly is the poster child of motivation.
She first received attention as a teenager after writing a passionate response to the editor of the “Pittsburgh Gazette” due to a column it ran titled, “What Girls Are Good For,” which based its central thesis arguing that girls are strictly good for birthing and housekeeping. Bly’s heated prose resonated so well that the Gazette’s editor published an ad calling on the writer to identify themselves. When Bly did, she was offered an assignment with the paper.
Later at the Gazette, when she was confined to women-centric topics commonly known in journalism as “pink topics,” she didn’t bite her lip and play it professional. Instead, she quit and went to Mexico, spending half a year as a foreign correspondent reporting on the lives and customs of Mexicans. Her Mexico experiences were chronicled in a collection called “Six Months in Mexico.” Bly was only 21 years old at the time.
While in Mexico, Bly protested the imprisonment of a local Mexican journalist, ultimately landing her on the radar of Mexican officials. Under threat of arrest, Bly fled to the U.S., but didn’t stop criticizing then-dictator Porfririo Diaz about suppressing the Mexican people and controlling the press.
Bly would end up leaving the Gazette a second time after Mexico due to more soft assignments and because, as we know by now, she operated on a no-bullshit policy.
When the male senior staff at the “New York World” first learned of her around-the-world proposal, they wanted to send a man. Bly said she’d work for another paper and beat whatever man they’d send. Bly got her way with the senior staff, and a year later she stood at Hoboken Pier in New Jersey waiting to depart.
2. An Unprecedented Investigative Journalist
Bly’s first assignment at the Dispatch was titled “The Girl Puzzle,” a piece advocating for divorce reform. It impressed the editor enough for him to offer Bly a full-time job. She got started with an investigative series covering the conditions of women working in factories.
She later found herself in Joseph Pulitzer’s “New York World” offices, ultimately taking an assignment to act insane as part of an expose into the neglect and harsh treatment at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Bly was reportedly so convincing in feigning insanity that a roommate of hers at a boarding house (prior to the asylum) refused to sleep in the same room as her. Bly passed the demented test with flying colors and transferred to Blackwell Island and its 1,600 women patients.
While at Blackwell, Bly experienced cruel treatment in the form of ice cold baths, minimally supplied clothing, and sparse meals. Her investigative work, aptly titled, “10 Days in a Madhouse,” led to massive system reform, including cleaner facilities, more funding, and better treatment of patients. It also paved the way for a new kind of journalism that others would (less successfully) mirror.
Eventually, she decided to follow in the fictional footsteps of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg and go around the world in 80 days. By herself. She ended up only taking a record-breaking 72 days to do it. Afterwards, and as a bona fide celebrity drawing high acclaim for all over, Bly would continue covering social justice pieces, including the orphan market in New York, a look into zoo cruelty, and a piece on the homeless. At the end of her career, Bly covered WWI and women’s suffrage.
3. Fashion Sense
Not much is spoke of regarding Bly’s fashion sense, but she displayed it on her jaunt around the world. Bly traveled by herself, and with her main concern being speed, didn’t bring much. In fact, Bly’s luggage would make today’s backpackers look like hoarders. Photos of her from the trip show her holding a bag only sixteen inches wide by seven inches high packed with only the essentials:
Oh, and the most important items, one jar of cold cream and a flask.
As if these life accomplishments weren’t enough, Bly held many patents, including for a 55-gallon oil drum, stackable garbage pail, and an improved version of the milk jar. She also briefly owned a company after her late husband past away and gave her control. A woman in 1907 as president of a company was unprecedented. It’s still uncommon these days.
Though Bly would succumb to pneumonia at age 57, she lived a full life full of assertiveness and excitement. Her story should inspire anyone with passion, but particularly those who don’t know how to channel and direct it into greater life gains.
Be like Nellie Bly: don’t take no for an answer and be fucking fearless!
Keep visiting the VK Nagrani blog for more accounts of truly badass people throughout history.
She’s won 30 Emmys, 20 People’s Choice Awards, and a treasure trove of others for charitable efforts. She was featured on Forbes’ list of top celebrity annual earners, raking in 77 million last year alone. But how did Ellen DeGeneres achieve such iconic status?
Through a unique blend of wit, quirk, kindness and a fearlessness to be herself. Let’s take a closer look at why Ellen DeGeneres is truly larger than life.
1. No Last Name Needed
Ellen’s hosted the Grammy’s, Emmy’s, and Academy Awards. Twice. She’s also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. And arguably most reflective of her icon status—she’s on a very short list of people worldwide (think: Oprah, Bono, Beyonce, Madonna) who doesn’t need a last name for everyone to know the person being talked about. That speaks volumes in itself.
Ellen receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama
It’s also refreshing that she’s the sixth most-followed person on the planet on Twitter. Not because social media followership means a damn thing but because there’s one less person famous for nothing who doesn’t have the world’s eyeballs on command. Like it or not, social media influences the masses, and more Ellens under a spotlight in this world would be pretty fucking all right.
2. “Yep, I’m Gay”
After nearly four seasons being the cute, sweet, girl-next-door bookstore owner Ellen Morgan on the sitcom “Ellen” — DeGeneres’ character came out on “The Puppy Episode” to a live studio audience and estimated 44 million viewers. Of course, viewership was way up because two weeks prior, a Time Magazine cover featured DeGeneres alongside the quotes, “Yep, I’m Gay.” DeGeneres had also publicly come out on Oprah’s show, which aired just hours before “The Puppy Episode.”
It’s easy to remember the good parts of the coming out, live cheers from the studio audience every time a joke or reference was made leading up to the end of the episode, even guest appearances by Oprah and Laura Dern because they wanted to be a part of the moment. However, there was plenty of backlash too, with people claiming she was trying to force her sexual orientation on people. “Ellen” lasted just one more season. Oprah received hate mail, death threats and racial slurs. Dern didn’t work for a year following her appearance as Ellen’s love interest in the episode.
DeGeneres wasn’t the first TV character to be depicted as gay, but she was the first to come out on live TV. Her character wasn’t invisible or negatively portrayed as those in the past. She helped usher in a new, more open era of LGBQT characters on television.
It was a turbulent time to come out. These days we live in a much different era of transparency, but it was Ellen who gave that movement considerable momentum.
3. A Sense of Humor We Can All Learn From
With all that she’s faced and accomplished, it’s easy to forget that Ellen is hilarious, and in a sweet, endearing type of way that’s atypical for famous comedians. When she tore a ligament in her back in 2007, instead of putting her on hold, a decision that would have been completely understandable, she decided to host it from her bed, with guests sitting in the bed next to her.
She opened a televised version of the Emmys following the 9/11 attacks with this apt joke:
“We’re told to go on living our lives as usual, because to do otherwise is to let the terrorists win, and really, what would upset the Taliban more than a gay woman wearing a suit in front of a room full of Jews?”
Some other quotes that perfectly illustrate her witty humor:
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”
“I’m a godmother, that’s a great thing to be, a godmother. She calls me god for short, that’s cute, I taught her that.”
“One time I actually cleaned out my closet so good I ended up on the cover of Time Magazine.”
A true reflection of her character:
“Contribute to the world. Help people. Help one person. Help someone cross the street today. Help someone with directions unless you have a terrible sense of direction. Help someone who is trying to help you. Just help. Make an impact. Show someone you care. Say yes instead of no. Say something nice. Smile. Make eye contact. Hug. Kiss. Get naked.”
On forging your own path:
“Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. Then by all means follow that path.”
And finally, one final observation on the irony of real life:
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.
Read about other inspiring men, women, places, and moments in time, all part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.
Vivek Nagrani – My Two Bits
I have been wondering why Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are so fascinated with colonizing Mars. It finally struck me, real men seem to have already commenced the colonization of Mars. The aforementioned pioneers are simply setting up shop so eventually women can move there and the human population can be saved.
Maybe I am out on my own here, but I just do not see any great male role models. Be it sports, music, fashion, or film, I am lost when someone asks me who I see as a great role model. I have had to revert to the fictional character Bruce Wayne to serve as my muse for what I think a man should be.
I get it, times change and that forces change across the board. However, there are basic elements that have defined masculinity since the dawn of time and will continue for our existence – which may not be that long if Trump gets high on a super size value meal and decides to press the big button on his desk. Thank God he does not realize its just a buzzer that is connected to his favorite fast food joint.
What the hell has really happened? When I look back in time, men learned from their father’s who learned from their fathers. But today’s times are different and today’s youth are on their own. My dad sure as hell never used Tinder or eHarmony to meet women. This leaves a vacant space that where the rules have yet to be established. There are no social norms yet, no rules, no benchmarks for what is considered the right way.
In addition, society has just become accustomed to mediocrity. From product to talent, we live in a world where being average is acceptable. Kids win trophies for “participating” rather than actually winning by excelling. Innovation seems to be limited to the Billionaire Boys Club and the rest find solace in just re-making low hanging fruits. Today anyone willing to video themselves doing stupid shit can become a celebrity. Get a YouTube channel and you are a television star. No one bothers to actually read these days either. What happened to actual talent? Just listen to today’s music. I do not want to sound like a crazy old guy but seriously, WTF is going on?
What really makes me nervous is the future of my eight year old daughter. Not so much for her but more for me. What kind of son in law am I going to be stuck with? So what is it to be a gentleman in today’s time? I sat down and had drinks with a cross section of women to find out what it is that makes a man today. Remember, times have changed and it is important that we are always evolving, but ironically, a lot of the basic traits that defined masculinity in the past seem to be exactly what has been forgotten today.
New/old rules that every man should follow in today’s uncharted times:
1. A man should always open the door for a lady, the elderly and the less capable.
2. A man should actually call when he is seeking the the audience of a woman.
3. A man should take pride in not just what he wears but how he wears it.
4. A man should always be gracious and polite to others… until deemed unworthy.
5. A man should know his limits when it comes to drinking or other recreational drugs.
6. A man should be physically fit or at least make an attempt to stay in shape.
7. A man should be well-groomed. Never over-groomed or under-groomed, just groomed.
8. A man should read at least two books a year (at this point, just reading is sufficient).
9. A man should know how to cook three basic meals and do his own laundry if need be.
10. A man should be able to keep a clean and tidy residence.
“There’s Banker A, who goes to Harvard, Goldman and buys a Lamborghini,” said Mr. Nagrani, 44.
That’s not his usual customer.
“Or there’s the guy who went to community college (his parents had no money),” he said, “but he loved finance and made his way to the top. Our client tends to be that guy. Top of the industry, but he had to earn it.”
And that guy, Mr. Nagrani said, doesn’t like to go with the crowd, even when it comes to his clothes. That’s why, since starting his first full collection in 2013, Mr. Nagrani has offered limited editions, with each item numbered on an inside tag. The pieces are made in factories and workshops in Italy or Peru. Suits start at $1,800, and the shirts range from $350 to $695.
Mr. Nagrani entered the business in 1999, when he formed a partnership with a French factory in an attempt to make the ultimate men’s socks. His plan worked: Esquire declared his product “the best dress socks in the world,” and his clients include Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Mr. Nagrani, born in Pune, India, and raised in Northern and Southern California, sold what he called “junk toys” before his foray into socks. He built the business from there.
As a straight man, do I really have the credentials to discuss what makes a man sexy? After all, that would be counterintuitive, correct? One would agree; however, being in a rather superficial, judgmental, often full of hot air industry, I think we are well versed to provide you with what we believe makes a man sexy. Everyone has their type, but can we assume there is a universal set of traits, behaviors that we can all agree make a man sexy?
Let’s start with the totally superficial, the phenotype or physical characteristics. Be it a chiseled mid-section or a soft belly, to each her own. But the following physical attributes can objectively be included in defining the primitive, sexy male essence.
Now, let us move our attention to demeanor. The way in which a man exists can be even sexier than the physical attributes.
And last but not least, a woman needs to be stimulated mentally just as much as she does physically.
Men and women, as we have come to know, come from two totally different planets. I often think we are actually two separate species. This is never more apparent than in the world of clothing. Women and men approach clothing very differently. The intention, purpose and function of clothing differ greatly between the two genders.
We tend to discourage men bringing their wives or female significant others into the Lodge because women simply do not know how to shop for a man. Women can introduce them to new things, but to actually build a wardrobe for the gent requires a totally different play book. After all, if we left it to men, we would all still be wearing loin cloths.
How women shop
Most women love being “on trend” and “in the know” each and every season. Lord forbids you are caught walking around with last year’s it bags. Shame, shame, shame. As men, we love that you are always on point and we enjoy watching you and your friends keep the economy going. Most women tend to be highly competitive with their peers, often in a very passive aggressive way, but competitive as hell. Women do not ever want their man looking better than them. They can deny it all day long, but the truth is that they do not want their man garnering more attention than them – EVER.
How men shop
Men are basic. Far less complex than our female counterparts, men want everything easy. Having to shop is on par with a two hour dental appointment. It is an excruciating process for men. Men have been spoiled since birth. Mothers start buying their clothes in hopes of making them look “cute” and eventually they delegate the shopping to their significant others. Now, read the paragraph on how women shop. Do you understand where we are coming from? Women do not want you to look better than them yet they want a man who dresses well. And so it goes, “You can’t live with them or without them.”
In the pursuit of the art of genting, it is important to have a basic understanding of any and all things that interest you. More so than not, most men tend not to know the basic difference between scotch, whiskey and bourbon. In this piece, we will give you a basic understanding of the difference, without going into too much detail. Should you wish to learn more, there is this thing called google that yields plenty of information on any topic you wish to learn about.
What is Whiskey or Whisky?
First, the spelling varies based on geographic location. Either way you spell it, it is correct. A whisky is composed of primarily of grain mash. Mashing is the process of hot water steeping that converts grains to a fermented sugar. Whisky’s are aged in Oak barrels without a specific maturation date. You can age from one year on. The grains used can be a mix of barley, wheat, corn or rye. Whisky’s can come from many geographic origins.
VK’s top choice: Hibiki, 17 years, neat
What is a Scotch?
Scotch comes from Scotland. There are 5 main regions that produce scotch. From the Lowlands to Speyside to Islay, each region offers a distinct taste. Scotch must be aged for a minimum of three years and is made primarily of malted barley. Aside from the caramel colouring, there are very few additives. The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495. (Bender, 2005, p. 556) A friar named John Cor was the distiller at Lindores Abbey (the home of Scotch whisky) in the Kingdom of Fife.
VK’s top choice: Dalwhinnie, 15 years, neat
What is the difference between single malt and blended?
Most of us have been led to believe that single malt scotch comes from one batch, one barrel made with one particular yield of malted barley. Sorry, this is incorrect because that would be “Single barrel” scotch. What single malt basically means is that the scotches you are drinking are all from the same distillery. This allows the producer to keep a consistent taste to the end product. In single barrel scotches, each barrel would naturally yield a different tasting product.
VK’s top choice (blended): Royal Salute, 21 years, one cube of ice
What is Bourbon?
Bourbon is a by product of grain mash where the primary grain is corn (51%). There are no minimum aging requirements and it can be made anywhere. Once upon a time, the connoisseur would turn his nose to anyone that would offer bourbon. However, today, bourbons have a come a long way and are very enjoyable.
VK’s top choice: Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel, two cubes of ice