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.
Folies de Paris et de Hollywood shows readers where to get their kicks in '66.
Folies de Paris et de Hollywood often published themed issues, and this one—Vedettes du Strip-Tease 1966—is reserved entirely for dancers from Paris cabarets such as Clair de Lune (Moonlight), La Boule Noire (The Black Ball), Moulin a Poivre (The Pepper Mill), La Tomate, and Alain Bernardin’s famed Crazy-Horse Saloon. We love some of the dancers’ stage names (aspiring strippers take note)—there’s Franca Germanicus, Kitty Tam-Tam, Salammbo, Dailly Holliday, cover star Bijoux, from club Sexy, and Bella Remington, who occupies the coveted centerfold position and two more pages later in the issue. We researched all of them, and the only dancer mentioned online more than in passing was Dailly Holliday. She had already appeared on a Folies de Paris et de Hollywood cover from 1962, and was written of in a New Yorker article in October 1966, having apparently moved on from Moulin a Poivre to dance at a club in Montparnasse called Dolce Vita. Kitty Tam-Tam was briefly mentioned in François des Aulnoyes’ book Histoire et philosophie du strip-tease, and Bella Remington’s name appeared in an online list of former Crazy Horse dancers, but those instances hardly count because no actual information was attached. With the exception of Holliday there were no photos out there at all. We’ve remedied that today, and we were happy to do our part for history. We didn’t scan the entire issue, because the dimensions of the magazine meant scanning the pages in two pieces and joining them in Photoshop. But we did manage nineteen of the thirty-two pages before we gave up. All below.
, Folies de Paris et de Hollywood
, The New Yorker
, Histoire et philosophie du strip-tease
, Crazy Horse Saloon
, Clair de Lune
, La Boule Noire
, Moulin a Poivre
, La Tomate
, Dailly Holliday
, Kitty Tam-Tam
, Franca Germanicus
, Bella Remington
, Alain Bernardin
Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer shares his thoughts on dying in the electric chair.
Above is a typically lurid front of Inside News from today in 1964. Sugar Ray Robinson gets a mention in a topside banner, but stripper Candy Wells and killer Jack Ruby dominate the cover. Ruby had fatally shot alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald the previous year. Thanks to television cameras that recorded the event he had no chance at any real defense except to plead insanity, but he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In the article a suicidal Ruby reflects on his pending appointment with Old Sparky. The money quote: “You know, I was the first to ever shoot somebody on TV, and I was the first to have a death sentence handed me with TV cameras on. But if they think I’m gonna be the first guy they see fry in the hot seat on TV, they're nuts." He alsooffered this: “They say it don’t hurt—it’s over faster than a wink, but I don’t think so. I saw a guy get it once. It don’t hurt? Hell when that jolt hit him he jumped so hard he would have hit the ceiling if he wasn’t strapped down.” And one more interesting quote: “Sometimes I feel like a caged freak, like a million people out there are waiting to see me fry.”
What is Candy Wells’ role in all this? She danced at the Carousel Club, the Dallas strip establishment owned by Ruby, and Inside News asks her for insights about her boss. She’s really just an excuse to slip some skin into the story, but she does offer this about Ruby’s suicide threats: “If he said it you can believe it. I don’t know what he’ll do, but I’ll bet my last pair of pasties he’ll do something.” Hah hah, her last pair of pasties. Do you believe she said that? We don’t either. But it’s an interesting article, and the Ruby quotes, if true, are revealing. He was wrong about one thing, though. He said a million people were waiting to see him fry. Actually, because by killing Oswald he ruined the opportunity for the public to get answers regarding the Kennedy assassination from the alleged assassin, there were probably more like one hundred million people waiting for him to fry (for those unfamiliar with the history, a Gallup poll conducted just days after the assassination showed that a majority of Americans believed Oswald was not the only one involved, and that number has only gone up since). But the people never got to see Ruby ride Old Sparky, because he died of a pulmonary embolism related to lung cancer in January 1967.
It promised readers the naked truth but didn’t go quite that far.
Bare was a digest-sized men’s magazine, meaning that it was small enough to fit into a pocket and be carried about unseen. At least, that seemed to be the point. As a bonus, such publications were cheaper to print that standard sized magazines. Bare lasted just a few years, from 1953 to 1955, if the span of issues available online are an indication. You’ll notice its slogan was “The Naked Truth.” There was no nudity, but it did try to titillate. This issue from June 1955 has Evelyn West and Rita Hayworth on the cover, and various celebs and burlesque queens inside. There are also features on Berlin’s racy nightlife, boxer Jack Dempsey’s near defeat by Joe Sudenberg, and the love life of a midget—everything needed to keep an inquiring mind occupied.
, Bare Magazine
, Rita Hayworth
, Orson Welles
, Geraldine Garner
, Joe Sudenberg
, Evelyn West
, Valerie Vernon
, Marie Wilson
, Yvonne Fredricks
, Jack Dempsey
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—Boris Karloff Dies
After a long battle with arthritis and emphysema, English born actor Boris Karloff, who was best known for his film portrayals of Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy, contracts pneumonia and dies at King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, Sussex, England.
1920—Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forms
In Canada, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aka Gendarmerie royale du Canada, begins operations when the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, founded 1873, and the Dominion Police, founded 1868, merge. The force, colloquially known as Mounties, is one of the most recognized law enforcement groups of its kind in the world.
1968—Image of Vietnam Execution Shown in U.S.
The execution of Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem by South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan is videotaped and photographed
by Eddie Adams. This image showed Van Lem being shot in the head, and helped build American public opposition to the Vietnam War.
1928—Soviets Exile Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and co-leader of the Russian October Revolution, is exiled to Alma Ata, at the time part of the Soviet Union but now located in Kazakhstan. He is later expelled entirely from the Soviet Union to Turkey, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov.
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