She was one Man's ray of light.
This is a fantastic shot. One reason it caught our eye is that we've seen other photos with lacy shadows substituting for lingerie, but this one from 1930 may be the originator of the illusion. The person you see is Lee Miller. She was born in 1907 and became a fashion model in New York City during the late 1920s, before traveling to Paris with the intent of meeting the legendary photographer Man Ray. She succeeded and became his muse, lover, and frequent subject, as evidenced by this photo, which is his work.
Miller was widely acknowledged as one of the great beauties of her era, but modeling was not her career goal. Her plan had always been to become a photographer. Thus in addition to the other facets of her relationship with Ray, she also apprenticed for him. After absorbing what he had to share she eventually went on to shoot acclaimed World War II photos, some of them during perilous live combat, and documented the liberation of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps, helping expose Nazi atrocities to the world.
In mid-1945 she was in Munich shooting images of the immediate aftermath of the war and posed for a nude shot in Adolf Hitler's bathtub. Yeah—Hitler. Her son, Antony Penrose, later said of the shot, “I think she was sticking two fingers up at Hitler. On the floor are her boots, covered with the filth of Dachau, which she has trodden all over Hitler’s bathroom floor. She is saying she is the victor.”
The photo was of course controversial, but Miller was a pure artist, always willing to make observers see the world in a new way—through her trained eye. So while the shot at top could be seen as reductive of a complex and accomplished personality, it actually reveals an important aspect of who she was—a daring, multi-faceted woman to whom convention was merely a challenge. And it's an overwhelmingly beautiful shot besides.
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum?
We’re at the penultimate page of the Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963, and as promised last week here’s a great shot from Ron Vogel of an unidentified model getting her groove on. This just cries out to be repurposed as a 12-inch cover or some kind of concert poster, don’t you think? The image actually brings up lots of humorous possibilities, and we were contemplating something along these lines for a subhead: She’s not the only one who loves beating something between her legs. But then we decided that was just too much. We have some class here.
Among the quips this week is one from a person named Barbette. We had no idea who that was, so off to the interwebs we went for an answer. Turns out Barbette was a famous trapeze performer and female impersonator. He was born Vander Clyde Broadway, and in his aerial act performed in full drag only to reveal himself as a man at the end. As his fame grew he worked all over the U.S. and Europe, selling out storied venues like the Casino de Paris, Moulin Rouge, and the Folies Bergère.
His renown extended beyond the realm of performance. He was photographed by Man Ray, cast in Jean Cocteau’s experimental film Le sang d'un poete, was the subject of Cocteau’s essay Le numéro Barbette, and choreographed aerial scenes for Hollywood movies. It’s also possible he was the inspiration for Reinhold Schünzel’s musical comedy film Viktor und Viktoria, which was remade as Victor Victoria by Blake Edwards. Quite a legacy. We aren’t sure if his quip is particularly insightful, but even Barbette had his off days.
Feb 24: “A college girl who eloped put the heart before the course.”—G.S. Kaufman
Feb 25: “Women think about love more than men; that’s because men think more about women.”—Barbette
Feb 26: A woman’s strength is her weakness. She fights by yielding and conquers by falling.
Feb 27: :One group of people who live on love are the owners of drive-in theaters.”—Jack Herbert
Feb 28: “For every man there’s a woman; but the chances are one may get the wrong number.”—He-who Who-he
Mar 1: “Alimony: The high cost of guessing wrong.”—Quin Ryan
Mar 2: Every girl should have a husband, not necessarily her own—Hollywood Code