Sunday, October 13, 2019

Vintage Burlesque Dancers

Showgirls of the '90s - the 1890s

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

I've always been fascinated by early photography. A hotbed of photographers was in my neighborhood around Union Square, New York City. There even were photographers in my building. It was "early Hollywood," and when the filmmakers developed what we know as "Hollywood" ca. 1910, they came from the area around 5th Avenue and 14th Street. So, while the vintage photos of old-time showgirls here are 100 years old or older (with a few exceptions), they have a connection to the present day.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

The practice back in the day was for photographers to pose burlesque dancers in various classical scenes. So, you get pictures of ladies dressed up in scenes from mythology, such as Cupid, or in scenes from old plays.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Some of the shots are scandalous even for modern times, so those are cropped so as not to offend anyone.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Some of these shots are taken from old postcard collections. Others come from "coffee table books" released by publishers such as Gustave Pellet. The models were often taken from the nightclubs of late nineteenth-century Paris.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

However, New York, San Francisco, and a few other cosmopolitan cities in the United States also had their share of showgirls. Burlesque came to the United States when Lydia Thompson brought her troupe, the "British Blondes," to New York City stages in 1868. These models are the next generation from that original group.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
This appears to be from the 1920s, with the model sporting a classic flapper hat.
Dr. Charles H. McCaghy, professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has collected many of these photos and is considered the dean of old burlesque photos. His collection is the Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance from Burlesque to Clubs.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
This one also is from the 1920s.
Not a lot is known about these photos. Even the names are sometimes unknown. I've added the names whenever I could.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Jennie Lee.
Burlesque is believed to extend back to 17th-century Italian theater. It was used as an interlude between acts or shows. The word derives from the Italian "burla," meaning a joke, ridicule or mockery.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque was featured in London from the 1830s to the 1890s. Some London theaters, including the Gaiety and Royal Strand Theatre, eventually featured it as the main event rather than just one of many acts.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Eliza Blasina.
Burlesque died out in both England the United States early in the 20th Century. However, it remained one of the most popular attractions in Paris into the 1940s and beyond. German soldiers during the occupation made it a point to visit the Folies Bergère and other shows featuring burlesque.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Louise Montague.
Among other things, these photos show how standards of female beauty have changed over time. For instance, the ladies usually are more voluptuous than later models.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

The models also often wear garb that is usually associated with men. Ladies of the day would wear dark skirts with hats on the street. A woman going out in a form-fitting outfit was unheard of. So, these models were very free-spirited.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Australian swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman.
Even one-piece swimming suits were cutting-edge around the turn of the 20th Century. The idea was to hide the female form as a form of modesty.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Josie Gregory.
So, the practice in these photos is to not show the models in their normal clothes, but dressed in what at that time would have been considered outlandish fashions. For instance, Mexican costumes that probably weren't seen on the streets in Mexico, either, were popular.
Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Leontine.
But, for the most part, the women were in showgirl outfits in pastoral scenes created in the artist's studio.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Vernona Jabeau.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Miss Farrington.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Rose Hamilton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Gussie Crayton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Elvira Viola.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Nellie Page.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Ida Florence, "The California Prize Beauty."

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Eliza Weathersby, as Gabriel, in Rice & Goodwin's opera bouffe, "Evangeline," probably during a performance at Boston Museum, 1877.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Carrie McHenry as Jako in Bohemian Gy-url [sic], Colville Opera Company.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Pauline Hall.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Ella Chapman.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Miss Darcey.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Minnie Marshall.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Alice Atherton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Jessie Barlett-Davis.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Sylvia Gerrish.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Gracie Wilson.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Jennie Dickerson.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Viola Clifton.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Adah Richmond.

Burlesque dancers of the 1890s randommusings.filminspector.com
Clara Davenport.

2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Troggs, "Wild Thing"

It's Groovy, Man

Wild Thing randommusings.filminspector.com
The Troggs with Muhammad Ali.
I don't really have any purpose behind pages like this other than to show legendary acts doing their things. In this case, it is The Troggs doing "Wild Thing." Call it a fan page, whatever.


Some things just need no explanation. Either you're in the mood for some groovy old tune or you're not. Here's your chance if you are.

"Wild Thing" was written by New York City-born songwriter Chip Taylor. While it was first recorded by The Wild Ones in 1965, the  1966 cover by the English band The Troggs was the big hit.

Wild Thing randommusings.filminspector.com

"Wild Thing" by the Troggs reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1966 as the British Invasion hit third gear. The song peaked at No. 2 in Britain, showing that the Americans had better taste for the groove thing at that time.

Wild Thing randommusings.filminspector.com

"Wild Thing" is ranked #257 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was an influence on garage rock and punk rock and continues to influence music to this day. You may be familiar with comedian Sam Kinison's classic 1988 rendition of "Wild Thing," so let's include that for comparison. The video includes cameos by the immortal Rodney Dangerfield and Jessica Hahn, among others. If you're a metal-head, you'll recognize the guys playing with Sam, but let's just say "Tommy Lee" and leave it at that.


Whatever happened to The Troggs? Well, it turns out that they're still together, but with a completely different lineup than in the 1960s (original guitarist Chris Britton still sits in occasionally). Lead singer Reg Presley, unfortunately, passed away on 4 February 2013 (aged 71).

Viva The Troggs!

Wild Thing randommusings.filminspector.com


2019

Monday, September 16, 2019

Then and Now: First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC

14th Street at First Avenue, Manhattan

First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, in 1962, randommusings.filminspector.com
First Avenue at 14th Street, 1962.
A city is more than its buildings, and in this entry of my "then and now" series we are going to show why. Even when the streets and buildings stay the same, a few decades leaves a lasting impact on the people that live, work, and shop in them. I saw the above street scene from 1962 and it reminded me of the world that was. There are several subtle things in it that showed its age, and yet it seemed strangely modern as well. That is, the scene is the same as I think of it today, and yet there are enough telltale signs of when it was taken that are evocative of that time which you would not see today. So, I decided to do a comparison of First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, from 1962 to 2017.

First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
First Avenue at 14th Street, November 2017 (Google Street View).
The 1962 photograph was just an average street scene, and with those, it is always difficult to know what the photographer had in mind. There is nothing really distinctive about this location - no historic buildings or new construction or nicely framed apartment houses that might suggest what the photographer had in mind. For my purposes, that is perfect, because it just shows a random city spot which removes any "special" nature of the spot. This is just where ordinary people lived and worked and carried out their mundane affairs. In this blog, that's what we're interested in, not tourist snapshots of the Statue of Liberty. This spot was fairly easy to find because of the subway station, which turns out to be the First Avenue station (BMT Canarsie Line) for the L-train. That station opened on 30 June 1924. The buildings in the background are all the same - after almost 60 years! - and a few differ only in the color of their paint. So, we definitely are in the correct spot.

First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The west side of First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, November 2017 (Google Street View).
Now that we've marked off the buildings as unchanged - which I find fantastic in Manhattan, but that's the reality - let's see what has changed. The telephone booth is gone, probably removed in the early 2000s as cellphone usage took off. The A&P has been replaced by a CVS. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was at a peak in the early 1960s, but the growth of other food sources gradually ate away at it (sorry) until it finally ceased supermarket operations in November 2015. Back in 1962, drug stores generally were little places on the corner where you bought cough medicine and got your prescriptions. Now, they include big grocery sections - which suggests the replacement of A&P by CVS is not as big a change as appears at first glance. Of course, CVS charges premium prices for its groceries, but in Manhattan, it would be hard to tell the difference between "normal" prices and "premium" prices in the rest of the country.

First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The northwest corner of First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, November 2017 (Google Street View).
In 1962, the building on the corner (at the extreme left of the photo) was a branch of the Union Square Savings Bank. While the bank is long forgotten, and, in fact, savings banks are pretty much forgotten these days, there is one very prominent remnant of this bank.

The old Union Square Bank building at 15th Street and Union Square, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
The old Union Square Savings Bank building at 101 East 15th Street, NYC (aka 20 Union Square East), November 2017 (Google Street View).
That bank on the corner of 14th Street and First Avenue was a branch of the bank which was first established in 1905 on Union Square East. That building is still there and was protected by the Landmarks Commission on February 13, 1996. It is kind of a kitschy building in my opinion with its Corinthian columns, but, back in the day, banks went to great lengths to create an image of permanence and timelessness (if they only knew...). The architect was Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., so he knew something about massive stone structures. That building is now the Daryl Roth Theatre, which gives a "postmodern theater experience." So, while the Union Square Bank branch on the northwest corner of First Avenue and 14th Street is now yet another pharmacy (right next door to the CVS, which tells you something about modern life), the bank itself has left something to remember it by.

First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, randommusings.filminspector.com
Looking back at the spot where the original photo was taken, this is the northeast corner of First Avenue at 14th Street, NYC, November 2017 (Google Street View).
One other thing leaps out at me from the 1962 photo. Notice the men - they are wearing hats, including the man in the phone booth. That still was the style in 1962, long after John F. Kennedy's inauguration supposedly (according to common lore) made going bareheaded fashionable. Men wearing hats did not disappear at that time in 1961 but (as this photo proves) remained the norm well into the 1960s. There is one man without a hat in the distance, but I am guessing that he is one of the drivers of the two cars which appear to have locked bumpers and which may be why the photo was taken (or, he may just be crossing the street with the woman beside him). These are subtle changes from current times, for sure, but the subtle often reflects underlying societal changes that are massive.

I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Ordinary street scenes from the past tell a lot about the people of the time and how those residents have changed over time. Please visit some of the other pages in this series!

2019