Question: Since I was very young, I've been a big Carmen Miranda fan. How can I reach other Carmen fans, and where can I find related material, artwork, photos or anything else related to her or made in her image? Is there a museum in Rio devoted to her and her career that I can get in touch with?
- Vaughan Williamson,Oakland Park, Fla.
Question: I'm enclosing a picture of a Carmen Miranda head vase that my dad received in the late 1940s. Is it worth anything? Or how can I find out more about it?
- Nancy Drum, Long Beach, Calif.
Answer: There were at least seven Carmen Miranda ceramic head vases made. Some (like yours) have a molded-on multicolored turban with cream-colored jewelry, are signed "Carmen Miranda," and were made by Marti of Hollywood in two sizes, one of which measures 91/2 inches high and is worth $225, and the other which stands 71/2 inches high and has a value of $175 according to the "Encylopedia of Head Vases - With Price Guide," by Kathleen Cole; it is available in a hardcover edition with 976 color photos for $32.90 postpaid from Ace Enterprises, P.O. Box 59354, Chicago, IL 60659.
Carmen Miranda (whose real name was Maria da Carmo Miranda) was born in Portugal on Feb. 9, 1909. As a child, she moved to Rio with her parents, where her father ran a fruit business. Carmen (the "Brazilian Bombshell") was known for her colorful costumes and turbans piled high with tropical fruit, and the flamboyant, exotic and explosive style of the songs she sang (such as "Chica, Chica Boom Chic," "I Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi" and "Mama Yo Quiero") and made famous during the flirty '40s. Carmen's movie role as a South American woman earned her the honor of being one of the highest-paid women in America - she was paid $2 million dollars a year by 20th Century Fox. In 1953, she appeared with Jerry Lewis in "Scared Stiff," which was her last movie. In 1955, at age 46, her career ended, along with her life, when she suffered a heart attack after performing on the Jimmy Durante TV show. She was buried in Brazil.
To inquire if there's a Carmen Miranda museum in Rio, try writing Rio de Janeiro's State Secretary for Tourism, Industry and Trade, Ronaldo Cezar Coelho c/o United World Inc., Grand Central Station, P.O. Box 5173, New York, NY 10163, or phone 212-969-0301 asking for a direct address to reach Coelho in Rio.
A book with rare photos, artwork, costumes and collectible items relating to Carmen and her close friend Sascha Brastoff (who designed her costumes and created artwork in her image, and who dressed and sang like Carmen to entertain American troops during World War II) is the "Collector's Encyclopedia of Sascha Brastoff - Biography, Identification & Values," by Steve Conti, A. DeWayne Bethany and Bill Seay. It is available for $27.95 postpaid from Ace Enterprises, P.O. Box 59354, Chicago, IL 60659.
Question: I have a collection of about 20 gasoline blow torches, all of which are different, and some which are made of brass and others of steel. Who, or where can I write to find out if they have any value?
- Robert Willis, Philadelphia
Answer: Write the Blow Torch Collectors Club (which publishes The Torch quarterly newsletter) c/o Ron Carr, 3328 258th Ave., SE, Issaquah, WA 98027-9173. Enclose photos and a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply or offer. Or phone Ron at 206-557-0634 or 206-462-8603.
Question: Some years back you wrote about a poet who was influenced by his friend Robert Frost. Are his books of poetry still available, and if so, can you repeat his name and address?
- Barbara Thompson,
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Answer: Those books were published in a limited edition, but a new one - "Northering - New and Collected Poems" by Harold Corbin - contains a selection of those poems and others. It is available in a handsome, dust-jacketed, 180-page hardcover edition for $27 postpaid and autographed, from Harold Corbin, 17 Cobble Road, Salisbury, CT 06068. The book includes touching and moving favorites from Corbin's four previous volumes plus 24 new poems).