Can a wedding cake predict the future of a marriage?
Burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr cuts a wedding cake with new husband Ted Jordan after marrying him at the El Rancho Vegas hotel in Las Vegas. Jordan was an actor who worked steadily during a long career, appearing regularly on Gunsmoke and other series. He later claimed that his wife once had sex with Marilyn Monroe. Actually, Jordan is the source of many stories about Monroe, having dated her briefly. Most of those stories are described as “dismissed by Monroe’s biographers,” but they’re very interesting and you just never know. We spent some years in Hollywood working in publishing, television and movies, and you’d be surprised how many stories that are “dismissed” are actually true. Anyway, enough about Marilyn—this is Lili’s day. You may notice her wedding cake is a bit unusual. That’s because it’s supposed to be a mushroom cloud in homage to her nickname The Anatomic Bomb. The choice was apt—within two years the marriage was blowing up. A divorce filing took a bit longer, coming in November 1958. But St. Cyr certainly looked radiantly happy at the wedding. That was today in 1955.
If there’s such a thing as the most amazing dress ever made, Carroll Baker wore it.
In the summer of 1964, promoting her movie The Carpetbaggers, American actress Carroll Baker attended a premiere at London’s Plaza Theatre in Piccadilly Circus wearing a $28,000.00 transparent dress from designer Pierre Balmain. She had worn it before at the U.S. premiere in June, which means Londoners had an inkling what they were going to see, but what resulted was, well, a circus. The crowd went nuts and the situation devolved into what some newspapers described as a near riot. The above National Examiner, published today in 1972, features Baker wearing what we noticed was a similar but not identical dress. We got curious where it came from, and so we went looking.
Turns out in late 1964 designer Oleg Cassini, entranced by the Balmain dress, designed a similar version for Baker to wear at a promotional event in Las Vegas. The difference is in the placement of the beading—Balmain’s left a v-shaped peek-a-boo, whereas Cassini’s left a diagonal opening across the chest. You can see the difference below. Cassini had built his version of the dress in Baker’s absence using a model of identical size, but it didn’t really fit because bodies have all sorts of differences, even if their crude numerical aspects are ostensibly the same. Baker endured eighteen precarious hours in a gown that was so tightshe couldn’t shake hands without it shifting to reveal parts she wanted to keep hidden. She later wore the dress—hopefully altered—at a premiere of Cheyenne Autumn, and a photo of her posing with a dozen costumed Native Americans survives today in the Associated Press archives.
But the dress wasn’t finished quite yet. The next year immortal costumer Edith Head designed yet another variation on Balmain’s original for Baker to wear promoting the film Harlow. We don’t know where the previous two gowns went, but the Head version, one of several she put together, survived and has appeared in Hollywood fashion exhibitions as recently as 2003. Baker also wore a Balmain (or Cassini or Edith Head copy) during a 1966 troop tour in Vietnam, and the only reason a full firefight didn’t break out among the GIs the moment she unveiled herself is probably because that version had no cut-outs (right).
Extreme publicity stunts were apparently not unusual for Baker. She considered herself a good actress, but felt that she couldn’t become a star in Hollywood without promoting herself as a sex symbol. “I’ve tried just acting,” she once said, “but sex sells at the box office.” As time wore on, she went from threatening to walk off the set of Station Six—Sahara due to the director pressuring her to appear nude to playing unclothed roles in The Sweet Body of Deborah, Così dolce... così perversa, and Paranoia, as well appearing nude in Playboy and Playmen. Nothing like a shrinking bank account to totally reshape one’s morals. In 1966 AP scribe Doris Klein wrote that Baker was “almost too pretty, too much like a slim teenager to play a sexpot.” But Baker became one of the biggest sexpots in the world. Looking at the 1964 Balmain, and the three to six versions that followed, we’d say it was inevitable. France
, Las Vegas
, Piccadilly Circus
, Station Six—Sahara
, Cheyenne Autumn
, The Sweet Body of Deborah
, The Carpetbaggers
, Così dolce... così perversa
, National Examiner
, Carroll Baker
, Oleg Cassini
, Edith Head
, Pierre Balmain
American actress Carole Lombard, née Alice Jane Peters, was known for her screwball comedies, which is why we love her going against type in this smoldering white on black image. Lombard is one of many Hollywood actresses whose time was cut tragically short. She was killed in January 1942 at age thirty-three when a plane in which she was a passenger crashed into Double Up Peak on Potosi Mountain outside Las Vegas.
Two mobsters meet a messy end on the boulevard of broken dreams.
They were known as the Two Tonys—Brancato and Trombino, a pair of wild mobsters out of Kansas City. In May 1951 they robbed the cash room at the mob-controlled Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. They and their three henchmen had been wearing hats, but Tony Brancato lost his mid-robbery, was caught on camera, and from there ended up on the FBI’s most wanted list. Brancato and Trombino were also identified by a mob subordinate who recognized them because he’d been robbed by them in Beverly Hills. The pair were arrested for the Flamingo robbery, but made bail, then promptly headed to Los Angeles. There they shook down a mob bookmaker’s right hand man, which put them on L.A. crime boss Jack Dragna’s most wanted list. But the difference between his list and the FBI’s was that Dragna’s had nothing to do with capture and trial. He ordered the Two Tonys to be killed, and mob shooter Aladena Fratianno, aka Jimmy the Weasel, took on the task. Brancato and Trombino desperately needed money for their legal defense, and Fratianno told them he’d help them take down a high stakes poker game worth $40,000. The Tonys were thrilled and grateful, but the heist was fiction. Instead, in a car on Hollywood Boulevard, Fratianno had two subordinates murder them. The aftermath appears above and below. Today, 1951.
, Kansas City
, Las Vegas
, Flamingo Hotel
, Tony Brancato
, Tony Trombino
, Jack Dragna
, Jimmy Fratianno
, Aladena Fratianno
, Jimmy the Weasel
Hey, Jayne! Catch!
The Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963 brings us Jayne Mansfield in a Bernard Wagner photo that's similar but not identical to another, much more famous poolside shot made around the same time. We’ve posted that one below, and if you look closely you’ll see that while it seems to be the same session, Mansfield’s suit is different, as well as the pool and the hotel in the background (it’s the Dunes in Las Vegas). Of the two, we like the top image better because of the unusual pose. Actually, what we like about it is we can totally see someone tossing her an apple, which she then tries to catch and goes ass over teakettle into the water. Now that would be a shot.
June 9: A good marriage is like a good handshake—there is no upper hand.
June 10: “If it were not for the presents, an elopement would be preferable.”—George Ade
June 11: Every bride is beautiful, and every groom dutiful.
June 12: “A woman and a greyhound must be small in the waist.”—Spanish Prov.
June 13: L.L.D. in some bar associations means a “Long Legged Dame.”
June 14: Marriage, which makes two one, is a life-long struggle to discover which is that one.
June 15: Showers for brides are here, there and everywhere; nearly everyone gets soaked.
Close only counts in horseshoes and h-bombs.
We came across two more postcards celebrating Las Vegas’s distinction as a city from which it was possible to see nuclear test shots. You may remember we posted a couple of similar items in December. These two promote not just Vegas’s dubious proximity to planet-killing nuclear ordnance, but also the venerable Horseshoe Club, a casino owned by Vegas legend Benny Binion. This is the 1950’s we’re talking about, so of course Binion was mobbed up. He started as a thief and killer in Dallas, and ended up with a commemorative statue on Freemont Street (later moved to the Strip). That simple fact probably says more about old Las Vegas than entire books. We’ll get back to him a bit later. No pulp site could be complete without him.
Her aim is true.
Above, a 1964 Japanese promo image for Viva Las Vegas featuring Ann-Margret. We mentioned a while back that hers was the second movie with that title. See a cool promo for the first one here.
The lights never go out in Las Vegas.
What you see here, which we found on the great architecture forum Skyscraperpage.com, is a clipping from the Los Angeles Times showing the glare of an atomic bomb explosion. The shot was taken from atop the L.A. Times Building, and the light is from the 34 kiloton nuclear test codenamed Fox, which took place in the desert near Las Vegas, more than 300 miles away. Of course, the clipping has yellowed with time, but below you can see what the shot looked like originally. There were hundreds of photos of this type made during the heyday of U.S. atomic bomb testing, and with a glance around the web you can find many of them. This one happened today in 1951.
Folies de Paris et de Hollywood introduces readers to the original Dixie chick.
During the 1950s, Dixie Evans billed herself as burlesque’s answer to Marilyn Monroe. By copying Monroe’s style and embedding it in sensual and clever stage performances that showcased her lush physique, Evans became internationally famous, which is why we see her on this cover of the French erotic mag Folies de Paris et de Hollywood from 1954. Inside, Evans invites French readers to imagine her sleeping in the nude, saying, “Marilyn and I are alike. We both sleep without shirts.” Evans is still in the striptease industry today, promoting burlesque-themed events in Las Vegas, where she lives. She's also working toward finding a home for her huge collection of burlesque artifacts, which consists of items not just from her career, but from those of other legendary dancers. Many of the items reside at Emergency Arts, an exhibition space in downtown Vegas, but her goal is to create a dedicated burlesque museum that will safeguard this irreplaceable material in perpetuity. Below are a few striking Folies de Paris et de Hollywood images from this issue for your enjoyment. We’ll have more on this magazine, Dixie Evans, and burlesque in general, down the line. Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen our comprehensive burlesque post from a couple of years back, visit it here.
11:1? We'll take those odds.
Above, a Japanese poster for the original Ocean’s Eleven, with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Sammy Davis, Jr., et.al., in a tale of the ultimate Las Vegas casino heist, which is basically just a flimsy excuse for the boys to sing, joke, drink, and look cool. They're great at all of those, and the movie is great too. It opened in Tokyo today in 1960.
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