King of the hill, top of the heap.
Owned by a publisher calling itself Sapho, Folies de Paris et de Hollywood was one of the pre-eminent pin-up magazines of the mid-century period, running from 1947 to 1975 for a total of nearly 600 issues. It also operated under other names, including Paris-Hollywood, and generated another 150 issues. Appearing this week in 1966, this issue of Folies is number 345 and features the usual assortment of showgirl portraits and write-ups. Often the magazine slipped in a model or two from outside the world of Parisian dance, and in this issue a good chunk of pages are given to British pin-ups Cleo Simmons and Penny Winters. We didn't scan all their photos—sorry. This is a big magazine, dimensionally speaking, and every page must be scanned in two pieces and merged in Photoshop—with the centerfold being scanned in four pieces and reassembled—so sometimes we don't get to all of them. But we strive to improve. Speaking of the centerfold, she's unknown to us, as is the rear cover star. If anyone knows them feel free to drop us a line. Twenty images below, and many more Folies to come.
She had nothing to hide on stage, but she certainly did elsewhere in her life.
Liz Renay’s Washington Post obituary called her a “Cult Actress, Stripper and Mobster’s Girl.” That only touches on what she was. She was also an author, painter, streaker, charm school instructor, and convict. The latter designation came when a federal judge sent her up for perjury committed during the gangster Mickey Cohen’s 1961 tax evasion trial. Cohen was Renay’s boyfriend, and her bad taste and unshakable loyalty cost her more than two years on Terminal Island, years she says permanently damaged her prospects in Hollywood. After her release she became a professional celebrity, more famous for her associations and striking blonde appearance than anything she did, with her cult status reaffirmed by such people John Waters, who put her in his film Desperate Living, and author James Ellroy, who included her in his explosive 1995 novel American Tabloid. The sultry shot of Renay at top, pre-blonde, pre-Cohen, and pre-prison, dates from the mid-1950s. The second is from around 1960, and the one below shows her in 1961 entering the courtroom during Cohen’s trial.
, Washington Post
, American Tabloid
, Desperate Living
, Liz Renay
, Mickey Cohen
, James Ellroy
, John Waters
Something about Paris just makes you want to dance.
This issue of Cancans de Paris, which is number 10, hit newsstands this month in 1966 featuring cover star Virginia Litz, someone we saw a while back in Folies de Paris et de Hollywood, but modeling under the pseudonym Arabelle. Litz pops up inside Cancans along with Gloria Paul, Dany Carrel, Sylvia Sorrente, and Uta Levka, as well as Sean Connery and Claudine Auger, who were starring together in Thunderball. We have Virginia Litz on at least one other mid-century magazine, which we'll post a bit later. In the meantime below are assorted scans from today's issue. France
, Folies Bergère
, Cancans de Paris
, Virginia Litz
, Gloria Paul
, Dany Carrel
, Sylvia Sorrente
, Uta Levka
, Sean Connery
, Claudine Auger
, Jeanne Moreau
, Françoise Giret
, Ginette Dupont
, Clara Dundée
, Linda Veras
, Véronique Vendell
, Estella Blain
She paints a memorable picture.
Bonnie Logan, née Bonnie Bakken, was a glamour model of the 1950s and 1960s who as of last year was still making public appearances in her late 80s. She starred inside and on the covers of scores of magazines, including Adam (the U.S. version), Man, Photo-Rama, Knight and many others. When you hear people say women were curvier back in the day, they’re thinking of women like Logan, who had 40-24-37 measurements and had to wear custom bras. During her heyday she also sang, appearing regularly at the Floating Island Lounge in Los Angeles. She moved into burlesque and in that capacity once traveled all the way to Japan, where, strangely, she was once clobbered on the head by a bat-wielding American hater. Of that incident she said, “I wore an elaborate blond wig at the time, and I used to tuck my real hair underneath it. That happened to be where the bat hit me. It probably saved my life.” The sultry shot of her at top comes from a session that provided the cover for the issue of Rapture you see above and right. The magazine is from 1962, which helps us date the photo somewhat, but we're thinking the session occurred a bit earlier, say around 1960.
Lili shows L.A. County who's boss.
We decided to come full circle with Lili St. Cyr. We talked about her famed court case here, showed her on the witness stand here, and mentioned that she beat the rap. You see her above celebrating the not-guilty verdict at the courthouse along with husband Orlando Orsini and mouthpiece Jerry Giesler. Lili walked today in 1951.
This is what I was wearing. Actually, I'm wearing it under my suit right now, if you want a better look.
The Lili St. Cyr saga continued today in 1951, as her trial/media circus for obscenity began at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. You already know the details. Today we just thought we'd share a couple more rare photos. These show St. Cyr on the witness stand displaying a defense exhibit—a photo showing her standard costume when performing “An Interlude Before Evening,” not really a négligée, but more of a bra and skirt combo. Of course, it wasn't what St. Cyr wore at the beginning of the dance that got her in hot water, but what she allegedly wore at the end—i.e. nothing.
Ménard was a star but Baker was a groundbreaker.
Since we recently featured Josephine Baker's Folies Bergère successor Yvonne Ménard it seemed only fair to feature la grande Baker herself. Here she is backstage at the Folies in February 1930. She had been in Paris since 1925 and was by this time twenty-eight years old and one of the most famous performers in France, if not all of Europe.
What are you staring at, chérie? Have you never seen a hat before?
French burlesque dancer Yvonne Ménard is all smiles, and why not? That thing she wears between her legs probably tickles. Ménard also may be smiling because when these photos were taken she was about as famous as a dancer could be. She had started as a nude mannequin at La Cigale, then joined the cast of Folies Bergère as a replacement for a departing Josephine Baker after understudying the great American star during the 1949 season. Ménard was twenty when she took the lead role—the photos above were made backstage at the Folies shortly afterward. One of the acts Ménard developed showed her struggling against the lure of opium. She wore only her famous glittering leaf, and battled dark male figures only to be eventually carried by them into a smoking pit.
Ménard’s performances were a bit different from Baker’s—she couldn’t sing as well, and her dancing was a work in progress, but she would eventually master various flips and aerial maneuvers, which she once demonstrated for a photo feature in Life magazine. She toured the U.S. numerous times, making stops in New York, Miami Beach, and Las Vegas, and also performed in South America. Somewhere in there she made time to appear on the cover of the third issue of Playboy, in February 1954, and writer Georges Tabet said inside the issue, “Yvonne is the crystallization of Paris. She’s got a petit quelque chose—a little something—that you have to be born with. Chevalier, he has it in his smile. Edith Piaf has it in her voice. This one—she has it all over.”
Did she or didn’t she?
These two photos showing burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr were shot today in 1951 for a Los Angeles Examiner story about St. Cyr’s legal difficulties. On 23 February of that year she had begun performing at Ciro’s supper club in Hollywood. It was a different type of club for her—it lacked the intimacy of her normal venues, and would sap some of the heat from her act, but the place was world famous and considered by the smart set to be classy. It had hosted Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington. Of late it was facing stiff competition from Macambo’s, a Brazilian themed joint across the street, and owner Herman Hover wanted to make a splash with St. Cyr. He spent thousands refurbishing the stage just for her, and she would be the first burlesque dancer to transition from men’s clubs to L.A.’s most famous supper club.
On premier night celebs such as Ronald Reagan, Nancy Davis, Franchot Tone, Barbara Payton, Lex Barker, Mickey Rooney, and Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron watched her strip down to toned perfection as they ate dinner and sipped drinks. Other celebs that visited that summer included Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. During St. Cyr’s residency she varied her act, but a standard bit was entitled “An InterludeBefore Evening," and involved being helped from her clothing by her maid Sadie before slipping nude into a bathtub. But the nudity was an illusion, the cleverest part of her act, achieved through a combination of lighting, positioning, flesh-colored underwear, and sheer athleticism as she slipped quickly from behind a towel and into the sudsy tub.
On 18 October a group of Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, who were trying to enforce a countywide ban against stripping, arrested St. Cyr and Herman Hover. The charges were the usual slate. St. Cyr called upon celebrity lawyer Jerry Giesler—an event the two Examiner photos at top are supposed to be illustrating—and Giesler proceeded to help turn what was already a media boon for St. Cyr into a full bonanza. Giesler was a showman, and he loved cases that had the potential to increase his fame. He made assorted sensational statements to the press, including one in which he promised to have his client perform her bath routine in the courtroom, and another in which he opined that putting together a jury of peers required empaneling a dozen strippers. He described St. Cyr as merely trying to improve her station in life, just an industrious woman trying to carve herself a piece of American pie. The press ate it up.
The trial was scheduled for early December in the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Giesler kept the jury—which wasn’t all strippers, but at least was mostly female—laughing with his continual antics. He introduced St. Cyr’s rhinestone encrusted bra and g-string as people’s exhibits A and B. He drew diagrams on a blackboard illustrating how different observers' vantage points toward the stage were blocked by St. Cyr's maid. He flustered police officials by making them discuss in detail such such terms as “bump,” “grind,” and “half-bump,” and followed that up by putting Herman Hover on the witness stand and having him demonstrate those moves. The sight of the portly Hover attempting burlesque sent ripples of laughter through the courtroom. Years later Giesler wrote: “I can honestly say I succeeded in having her case laughed into a not-guilty verdict.”
That may have been true, but St Cyr’s icy demeanor was also an important factor. The women found her elegant and remote—the opposite of what they had expected. And the cops did their part for St. Cyr's defense by being terrible witnesses. One claimed that she emerged from the tub completely nude (the normal conclusion to her Interlude, and just as illusory). Another said she wore undies but that he could "see the outline"of her “private parts,” which he discerned in enough detail to determine “were shaven.” The inconsistencies were epic. Some said she caressed herself, others weren’t sure. Another described her towel as “about twenty, twenty-four inches.” In reality it was three times that size. It was as if St. Cyr's dance had dumbfounded the cops.
The confusion has extended even to the present day. For a performance that lasted barely fifteen minutes, it has had an amazing amount of conflicting information attached to it. Columnist Army Archerd claimed St. Cyr was indeed nude that night (clearly wrong, according to multiple testimonies); Sheila Weller’s book Dancing at Ciro’s claims an “all-male” jury (it was mostly female) was taken to Ciro’s to see the act (Giesler tried, but the judge said no); some sources claim St. Cyr performed a reverse strip, beginning nude in the tub and emerging to be slowly dressed by her maid (indeed, that was an oft-performed variation, so it is certainly possible it happened that night). Who's right, and who's wrong? Short of using a time machine to return to October 1951 there's no way to tell.
At the end of the six-day trial the jury acquitted St. Cyr following a mere seventy-eight minutes of deliberations. There had been no indecent exposure. At least not that night. All St. Cyr’s biographers agree on this much—she was shy and regal offstage, but her performances freed her toinhabit different characters. Despite her assertions that she always wore at least a g-string and bra, she definitely performed topless on occasion, as shown by the above photo taken at Ciro’s during early 1951.
Sheriff’s deputies had gone to the club already intent upon arresting her based on what they had heard about the act, which may have influenced their testimony—i.e., they didn’t see her nude, but knew she had done it before. St. Cyr admitted in court she knew police were in the audience, thus she was especially careful that night. But what of other nights? Maybe Army Archerd did what columnists do—took an event he witnessed on one night and pretended it happened on a more useful one. Maybe St. Cyr, on occasions when she knew the cops were far away, flashed her audience to generate buzz. It’s likely we’ll never know what really happened, but that merely adds to the St. Cyr mystique. Did she or didn’t she? Only her maid knew for sure. Los Angeles
, Beverly Hills
, Los Angeles Examiner
, Dancing at Ciro’s
, Lili St. Cyr
, Bette Davis
, Ronald Reagan
, Nancy Davis
, Franchot Tone
, Barbara Payton
, Lex Barker
, Mickey Rooney
, Fletcher Bowron
, Herman Hover
, Humphrey Bogart
, Clark Gable
, Sheila Weller
, Army Archerd
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Germany Announces Hitler's Death
German radio in Hamburg announces that Adolf Hitler was killed in Berlin, stating specifically that he had fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany. But in truth Hitler had committed suicide along with his mistress Eva Braun, and both bodies were immediately thereafter burned.
1960—Powers Is Shot Down over U.S.S.R.
Francis Gary Powers, flying in a Lockheed U-2 spy plane, is shot down over the Soviet Union. The U.S. denies the plane's purpose and mission, but is later forced to admit its role as a covert surveillance aircraft when the Soviet government produces its remains and reveals Powers, who had survived the shoot down. The incident triggers a major diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
1927—First Prints Are Left at Grauman's
Hollywood power couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, who co-founded the movie studio United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, become the first celebrities to leave their impressions in concrete at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, located along the stretch where the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame would later be established.
1945—Hitler Marries Braun
During the last days of the Third Reich, as Russia's Red Army closes in from the east, Adolf Hitler marries his long-time partner Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker during a brief civil ceremony witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Both Hitler and Braun commit suicide the next day, and their corpses are burned in the Reich Chancellery garden.
1967—Ali Is Stripped of His Title
After refusing induction into the United States Army the day before due to religious reasons, Muhammad Ali is stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. He is found guilty of a felony in refusing to be drafted for service in Vietnam, but he does not serve prison time, and on June 28, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses his conviction. His stand against the war had made him a hated figure in mainstream America, but in the black community and the rest of the world he had become an icon.
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