100 pounds of trigger pull weight.
Above is reedy Iso Yban, here pictured with a toy machine gun and not much else. Her various bios say she was born in Essen, Germany, but moved to Paris, where she became a dancer at Le Crazy Horse, and as a model posed under the aforementioned name, as well as Yso Iban, Isi Yban, Marlène Funch, Christina Madison, Belinda, et al. This bold shot was made by French lensman Serge Jacques and it dates from the late 1960s.
From chieftain's daughter to chief attraction.
We're back to burlesque today with a photo of the famed Crazy Horse dancer who went by the name of Miss Zabou. Born and raised in Mali, she was the daughter of a village chieftain, and at sixteen became a member of Mali's Le Troupe de Ballet. After a few years she went to Dakar, Senegal for more prosaic work as a hairdresser, and from there moved on to Paris to do the same. Upon visiting Crazy Horse she became interested once more in dance, which we imagine says a lot about either how thrilling Crazy Horse extravaganzas were, or how much more money Parisian burlesqueteers made than Malian ballerinas. In any case, she jettisoned hairdressing, and the beautiful Zabou and her radiant smile became the talk of Paris. We have one more photo of her we may post a little later.
It's a yellow banana occasion—no exceptions, no excuses.
This brilliant photo features the famed French burlesque dancer who billed herself as Maria Tuxedo. She appeared onstage at Le Crazy Horse cabaret, and this image was made there probably around 1968. We think it's amazing. There are other frames from this session, which was shot by Giancarlo Botti, and some of those are even in realistic color, but we like this desaturated look best.
Those of you in the know concerning burlesque have noticed that Tuxedo is channeling Josephine Baker. Baker may or may not have been the first to wear a skirt of bananas, but she undoubtedly was the one who made the look iconic. Ironically, the most famous photos of Baker in this mode don't feature her with real bananas, but rather costuming constructed to resemble them. The shots of her with actual bananas—such as the one you see here—are less famous. But the gimmick was indeed made into something lasting by Baker, and Tuxedo was definitely paying tribute when she wore her ungainly accoutrement. Yet she managed to make it look effortless, which shows yet again that, while beautiful women graced all niches of show business, burlesque dancers were special, aesthetically and athletically. We don't think they get enough credit for being some of the most inspiring figures of the mid-century era. But we always do our best to promote them, particularly in the jawdropping examples we've shared here, here, here, and here.
Everyone in Paris hopes for a glimpse of Nico's velvet underground.
Una ragazza nuda, for which you see two beautiful Angelo Cesselon posters above, was originally released as Strip-Tease, and called in the U.S. Sweet Skin. It was an Italian/French co-production starring Krista Nico, née Christa Päffgen, better known as just Nico, future collaborator with the Velvet Underground. Her supporting cast includes Dany Saval, Jean Sobieski, and American jazz pianist Joe Turner playing a character named Sam (IMDB has him incorrectly listed as playing himself). Basically, the movie is the story of an ambitious dancer who can't catch a break, and takes a job stripping at Le Crazy Horse, the famed Parisian cabaret.
Nico goes through the typical stages of becoming the jaded, empty woman viewers have been taught to expect in movies like these. But what isn't typical is the setting. If you're looking for a film with overwhelming Parisian atmosphere this is the one. Streets, cafés, restaurants, the Seine, the wintry countryside, Hippodrome de Vincennes, and the Crazy Horse (or a fictive stand-in) are all on prominent display, and the stripteaseuses are beautifully showcased. And keep an eye out for cameos from Serge Gainsbourg and Juliette Gréco. We just came back from Paris last year and thanks to this flick we're already trying to figure out how to return.
On a technical level, the direction by Jacques Poitrenaud and cinematography by Raymond Pierre Lemoigne both take advantage of the film's many wonderful settings, but the on-camera performances aren't quite at the same level. Nico is a novice actress at this point and it shows, but her minimal emotional range fits with her character. Joe Turner isn't an actor at all and that shows too, but as the conscience of the film his role also works. Some movies are more than the sum of their parts, and Una ragazza nuda adds up to an excellent ninety-five minutes. It premiered in Italy today in 1963.
Every night in Paris is a treasure hunt.
This “Paris la nuit” themed issue of Folies de Paris et de Hollywood from 1959 has, in addition to the usual dancers and showgirls, a list on the cover of the clubs at which they worked. We already knew some of the places, like The Crazy Horse Saloon and Pigall's, but there are many more, all with amazing names: Boule Blanche, Drap d'Or, Shako, Grisbi, Shocking, Le Sexy, et al. If we had to choose just based on the name we'd go with Shocking. It can't be too wild in 1959, right? Anyway, the list gave us the idea of digging up photos of these venerable entertainment halls, but you'd be surprised how few historical shots exist. We're going to keep working on that. In the meantime, enjoy the photos below of the artists who occupied those stages. They include Dolly Bell, Kitty Tam-Tam, Nicole Dore, Carole Riva, and more.
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.
The greatest tourist attraction for hundreds of miles around.
French burlesque performer Lily Niagara, seen here at Le Crazy Horse saloon in Paris during filming for Alessandra Blasetti’s sex documentary Europa di notti, 1959.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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