I call this move “the giraffe.” Nice, right?
Judging by all available evidence, burlesque dancer Miriam Kartis spent her entire life in this position. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but she must have really liked it at least, because look—there she is below striking a similar pose. She’s one of the thousands of burlesque dancers who don’t have an online presence today, so we can’t tell you anything about her except that most of her surviving photos were shot by famed Austrian lensman James Kriegsmann. We’re guessing around 1960 on these.
It must be jelly ’cuz jam don’t shake like that.
We got curious about Nai Bonet, who we’d never heard of until last week, and after taking a stroll around the internet discovered she was pretty famous in her day and even released a 1966 single for which you see the sleeve above. The song is called “Jelly Belly,” with “The Seventh Veil” on the flipside. Bonet teaches fans to do her trademark Jelly Belly dance, which we can only imagine led to many sprained backs in mid-century America. But maybe you want to try. The instructions are in like Danish, but here’s the gist:
1: Clap your hands together and gently bow…
2: Put your hands over your head and I’ll show you how…
3: First you inhale (pull your tummy in)
4: Then you exhale (push your tummy out)
5: Hips go up…
6: …and down
7: Tummy round and round…
8: Shoulders shivering…
9: Everything a-quivering.
And presumably it's rinse and repeat at that point. For extra inspiration you can hear "Jelly Belly" here. Just remember—if you pull something, rest it, apply ice, and dream up a much better story about your injury than you were trying to get everything a-quivering.
Everybody wanted a piece of Candy.
She was born Juanita Dale Slusher, but danced under the much more palatable name Candy Barr. This shot dates from the mid-1950s, when she was beginning to enjoy success on the nationwide dance circuit after a dubious beginning as a teen hooker and star of a porno film at age sixteen. Along with recognition on the dance circuit came trouble, and she would have numerous legal run-ins, including drug charges, an arrest for shooting her abusive husband, and time as a fugitive in Mexico. She was involved with West Coast mobster Mickey Cohen, and became friends with Texas gangster wannabe Jack Ruby. Barr really deserves a more detailed treatment, considering how quintessentially pulp her life was, so we’ll try to get back to her very interesting story a bit later.
Documentary double feature takes Japanese viewers on a tour of Western vice.
This Japanese poster promotes a double feature of the English language productions West End Jungle and World of Flesh. Both are fake documentaries, the first set in London’s Soho district, the second in Hollywood. They take viewers on a trip through the underworld of burlesque shows, prostitution, clip joints, orgiastic private parties, and general illegal or barely legal tomfoolery, with stentorian voiceover and an air of dire warning. But only World of Flesh has Baby Bubbles, and this is an important fact. Bubbles, aka Corky Dunbar, aka Elaine Jones, can’t possibly be done justice by a photo, but if one can come close it’s the shot below showing her in the midst of her trademark gag—spinning her tasseled breasts in opposite directions. Bubbles danced before we were born, but World of Flesh has made us fans. Even our girlfriends loved her (although we must admit, they’d never seen the boob spinning trick before and it made them burst into hysterical laughter, which means maybe they loved the absurdity of the act more than its artistic merits). Anyway, Bubbles appears for an amazing three or four minutes early in World of Flesh, aka Hollywood’s World of Flesh, and she is a must for fans of mid-century burlesque. But if time is too precious to locate the movie, most of her segment is available on YouTube right here. And now we’ll stop, because after seeing her, you won’t care what we have to say.
, West End Jungle
, World of Flesh
, West End Jungle
, Hollywood’s World of Flesh
, The Mandrake Club
, Baby Bubbles
, Corky Dunbar
, Elaine Jones
, poster art
, movie review
And now, ladies and gentlemen, my next feat will be to make several career-killing mistakes.
Above is a 1957 promo photo of American dancer/singer Rose Hardaway, who came from nowheresville Arkansas and achieved international stardom that saw her perform on the glittering stages of New York, London, and Paris. Unfortunately, she also spent a lot of time in tabloids, district courts, and eventually federal prison, but perhaps we’ll get to that later. Instead, as a bonus, below is the sleeve of the 1960 album she made with The Sammy Lowe Orchestra It’s Time for Rose Hardaway, which has one of the great covers of the period.
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.
A Lilly blooms in New Orleans.
Often mistaken by casual observers for Lili St. Cyr because of their similar names and looks, Lilly Christine, née Martha Theresa Pompender, was known in burlesque as the Cat Girl. Where Lili St. Cyr projected a regal beauty, Lilly Christine fashioned herself as a feral animal, grimacing and stalking her way through famed routines such as “Harem Heat” and “The Voodoo Dance,” performing to the sound of tribal drums and showing off the bellydancer-like control she had over her six-pack abs. You can get a sense of all that from the photos below, which come from a series shot at Leon Prima’s 500 Club in New Orleans, where Christine enjoyed her greatest fame. Strangely, though she was quite a celebrity, today she has only a modest online presence, and no uploaded video at all. Hopefully, someone out there will one day digitize a film and put it online, because she probably needs to be seen in motion to be truly appreciated. Lilly Christine died in 1965 at age forty-one and was born today, ninety years ago.
A very bad end to a very bad night.
The above mugshot shows burlesque queen Bettie Page after being arrested in Hialeah, Florida. In response to an emergency call, police arrived at a local residence to find Page in the front yard battering her former husband Harry Lear. We can’t help but note that if Florida’s Stand Your Ground law had been on the books back then, Lear could have simply shot Page dead, no muss, no fuss. But Florida had a semi-sane legal code at the time, so when the police arrived they hauled her off to the precinct. That was in the wee hours today in 1972.
The case of the missing genitalia.
Published this month in 1966, this issue of the French pin-up magazine Folies de Paris et de Hollywood features the usual assortment of burlesque queens from Parisian cabarets, except with their private parts airbrushed away even more drastically than usual. But it was flirting with an obscenity charge to show pubic hair in French magazines in 1966, so the editors had little choice, though we suspect pubes may have been accepted in art circles. Not sure about that.
It’s a bit amazing to us that the editors can find so much to say about each of these dancers, literally paragraphs of info about Gladys, Lisette, Penny, Ursula, et. al., their habits, their ambitions, their likes and dislikes. We wonder if one of those dislikes was encountering men at their shows who were armed with all this biographical information: “Ursula, I tell you, we are truly peas in a pod, because I love being kissed on the backs of my knees too! Quelle coïncidence!” Fifteen scans below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—Rasputin Survives Assassination Attempt
Former prostitute Jina Guseva attempts to assassinate Grigori Rasputin in his home town of Pokrovskoye, Siberia by stabbing him in the abdomen. According to reports, Guseva screamed "I have killed the Antichrist!" But Rasputin survived until being famously poisoned, shot, bludgeoned, and drowned in an icy river two years later.
1967—Jayne Mansfield Dies in Car Accident
American actress and sex symbol Jayne Mansfield dies in an automobile accident in Biloxi, Mississippi, when the car in which she is riding slams underneath the rear of a semi. Rumors that Mansfield were decapitated are technically untrue. In reality, her death certificate states that she suffered an avulsion of the cranium and brain, meaning she lost
only the top of her head.
1958—Workers Assemble First Corvette
Workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolls off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.
1950—U.S. Decides To Fight in Korea
After years of border tensions on the partitioned Korean peninsula, U.S. President Harry Truman orders U.S. air and sea forces to help the South Korean regime repel an invasion by the North. Soon the U.S. is embroiled in a war that lasts until 1953 and results in a million combat dead and at least two million civilian deaths, with no measurable gains for either side.
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