Intl. Notebook Sep 18 2019
DANCE HALL NIGHTS
Japanese brochures hearken back to a legendary venue.


It's been a while since we've done anything extensive on burlesque, so today we have something unique—the covers of Japanese brochures printed during the 1950s and 1960s to promote the famed burlesque show at Nichigeki Music Hall in Tokyo. The building that hosted those shows—the Nichigeki Theatre, below—was an architectural wonder located in Yurakucho district near Ginza. The multi-level structure welcomed music acts as well as burlesque, and had its concert stage graced by Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, and Oscar Peterson. But it is remembered, first and foremost, for its fifth floor burlesque hall.

Nichigeki Music Hall's burlesque shows began during Tokyo's grim postwar years in March 1952. It showcased both local dancers and foreign stars, often from the Folies Bergère. The program changed often, and always had evocative names like “Devil Vamp Missile Glamours” or “Aqua Girls Bottom-Up Mambo.” The clientele at these shows was international—largely U.S. soldiers from Japan's occupying forces, and tourists. Indeed the Hall advertised specifically to attract that crowd. Interestingly, the shows were produced by Toho Company, the movie studio behind the Godzilla franchise, as well as quite a few softcore movies.

Frontal nudity in entertainment was illegal in Japan, so Nichigeki's extravaganzas featured feather boas, fans, frilled mini skirts, g-strings, and the like, all designed to dazzle the audience and obscure thedancers' naughty bits. As time went by public tastes veered toward the explicit and attendance at the Hall began to decline. It closed in 1981 and the brilliant art deco influenced building was demolished, another sad architectural loss on a list so long it's pointless to even contemplate it.
 
But at least the brochures survive. They're amazing, front and rear, as you'll see below, with a mix of stunning paintings by Noboru Ochiai, and lovely photos. Make sure you note the titles of the shows. Our favorite: “The Lady was a Stallion,” but “A Snail's Rhapsody” is good too. On a related note, you may want to check out the post we did on archetecturally significant cinemas. You'll see some real beauties there, including another shot of the Nichigeki Theatre. We'll get back to Nichgeki Music Hall's amazing brochures a bit later.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 20
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
February 19
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
February 18
1954—First Church of Scientology Established
The first Scientology church, based on the writings of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is established in Los Angeles, California. Since then, the city has become home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in the world, and its ranks include high-profile adherents such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
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