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.
Rare perennial blooms on crime book cover.
Not long ago we shared some covers from the Milanese publishers Longanesi & Co., and the lure of those for us was the presence of U.S. model Virginia Gordon on two of them. Here's another Longanesi offering—James Kieran's translated novel Come Murder Me—with burlesque legend Lilly Christine reclining on an ottoman. Longanesi published this in 1957.
Tempest and Co. Show their skills in Japan.
A few days back we shared a poster for the burlesque documentary Japanese Nights. You seemed to enjoy that, so today we're back with another rare and beautiful promo. The text ピンクショウ translates to “Pink Show,” and since Tempest Storm's name appears at top, we're guessing she was the featured dancer. We suppose theoretically this could be a Japanese poster for her U.S. documentary Teaserama, but we doubt it. We think this was put together later exclusively for Japan. Too bad we can't watch it to confirm that theory, but at least we'll always have the art. Speaking of which, check out more Japanese burlesque posters here, here, here, and here.
When the lights go down the stars come out.
This beautiful poster with a statuesque dancer front and center was made to promote a documentary on burlesque, a Japan-only release with no western distribution or title, called 日本の夜, which basically would translate as “Japanese Nights.” The central figure is Gypsy Rose Lee, and the movie was filmed in 1962 by Keiji Oono—not in Japan, but rather largely at Le Lido de Paris, home of the legendary Bluebell Girls. Le Lido still exists, though it's moved from its original 1946 location. If it's anything like the poster, with singers and geishas and glittering comet trails, we'll be visiting on our next trip to Paris.
Nana gives Turkey something to be thankful for.
We don't often find stuff from Turkey, but we ran across this item and thought it was worth a share. It's the cover of a pop culture magazine called Peri Kizi, which translates into English as “fairy,” as in a mystical creature from ancient folklore. The reason this caught our eye is because the cover star, billed as Nana Aslanoglu inside the magazine, is famed Lebanese born bellydancer and impromptu Rome stripper Kiash Nanah, who was also known as Aïché Nana. The photos feature her sporting a top added by censors, sadly, but the images are still quite nice. Almost forgotten in this millennium, Nanah was quite the sensation in her day. What did we mean by impromptu Rome stripper? Check here, uncensored.
This book strips everything off—logic, subtlety, humor, character development...
Strip, Wench... or Die! This one had us at strip. Plus it was cheap, a mere five bucks. And you get what you pay for sometimes, because this was really bad. Basically, Rip Austin is an insurance investigator posing as a rep for the local strippers union in order to look into the death of a dancer. He finds himself involved in an organized crime scam, and soon more strippers are dying. But not before they get naked and he manages to fall into bed with a few. Typical passage:
Naked women were hardly anything new in the life of a loving rounder like Austin, but he was hardly used to having one come to the door of a fashionable mansion in broad daylight. He looked at the massive mounds of her breasts—huge but beautifully formed with nipples that jutted upward with almost virginal audacity.
We get it—it's not supposed to be taken seriously. But it should at least be written in engaging fashion. Author Gene Cross, aka Arthur Jean Cox, obviously didn't give a shit about this as long as he still got paid. In that way he's a bit like a stripper himself. But again, at least the book was only five bucks. And there's a character named Kooky Marsh, which we think is kind of cool. And the cover has a rare image of a beautiful burlesque dancer (who we once used third from the bottom of this post). Those are the sum total of the book's merits. Oh well. Onward and upward.
You ever had a vision Cyr itself into your brain?
This nude image of burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr brings to mind classical paintings. At least it does to us, but since it isn't a painting, we guess it's just porn. Funny how that works. The shot appeared as Cabaret magazine's centerfold this month in 1957 with a logo and text, but we wiped it to get a clean image. Wiped her pubic hair too. Actually, that wasn't us. We are tireless in our retouching efforts, but that's part of—or actually, isn't part of—the original image. But if you ask real nice maybe we'll give her a big ole bush, just for fun.
Can we finish this up? I'm pooped.
Did U.S. burlesque performer Rosita Royce actually volunteer to be a stool for a bunch of pigeons? More to the point, how much pigeon stool did she have to wash off after the shoot? But she was probably used to it. Doves were her trademark, and she danced on stage with them, as well as with other types of birds, and posed for many photos thus accessorized. In burlesque a gimmick helped dancers to stand out. Baby Bubbles had her counter-rotating breasts. Lilly Christine had her abs of steel. And Rosita Royce had birds. In show business sometimes you have to get a little dirty.
My hands are registered as lethal weapons. Just imagine what the rest of me can do.
Burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr, looking lovely and shiny in this rare promo photo, practices an unusual brand of martial arts. Basically the way it works is she strips and everyone nearby falls stunned to the floor. It's a lot harder to master than it sounds. Mid-1950s on this image.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle
commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
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