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Ultimate Americana: Portraits of sleazy 70’s motels
07:00 am



Mike Mandel is best known in the art world as one half of Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, the guerrilla artists that terrorized the Bay Area in the 1970s with their scathing billboard “advertisements” featuring flaming oranges and mushroom clouds. At first glance, the strange installations were graphically cohesive enough to blend in with the warm, modern scenery—the exact sort of scenery Mandel captured in his motel photography. Traveling across the country for this or that art project, Mandel started out collecting postcards from sleazy little motels, but eventually started taking pictures himself, taking the viewer on a sort of ghostly tour of long-gone 70s design and road culture.

...traveling throughout the country, my girlfriend at the time, Alison Woolpert, and I would stay at some, shall we say, “economy” motels. We pulled into one in Texas on a wintry night and upon waking in the morning we realized that the sheets had not been changed after the visit of the previous motel guest. When we indignantly complained to the owner he shot us back a dirty look, “What do you expect for five dollars?” What we did expect was that no matter how shabby, beaten down or forgotten a motel might have become, there was always a motel postcard to be had: a memento of a one night stop, a promotional calling card, a free mailable note card to report back on the progress of a vacation to those back home.

We would often take the back roads, sometimes follow old Route 66, and we would find those sad, forsaken motels that had been sucked almost out of existence by the newer corporate chains situated just off an exit ramp on the newer highways. We bypassed Motel 6, Travelodge and Howard Johnson’s. After all, their postcards were usually just the same design with a different address. But we’d go out of our way to stop at every independent motel we could find in hopes of finding a postcard that would be even more banal than the one we had just found down the road.

To the modern eye, everything looks retro and trashy (especially if you’ve ever stayed in a motel that hasn’t redecorated since this period), but the complete lack of human subjects gives the series a stark, tidy effect. I’d imagine a hotel could get some serious kitsch-seeker traffic if they tried to decorate like this today. Stay in a cheap, sleazy shithole and be “ironic.” What a great country we live in, eh?



More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The pornographic propaganda that was used against Marie Antoinette

Recently, the “newsish” website Gawker ran a nasty little expose on the CFO of a major media company, who had allegedly attempted to purchase sex from a porn star. Many readers were livid, citing an invasion of privacy, or even perhaps a whiff of homophobia in the story (the CFO and the porn star were both men). Gawker argued that their mission has always been to dig up dirt on the rich and powerful, and though there was some debate on whether or not the subject of their story was rich and powerful enough to constitute such focus, they argued the story constituted public interest before eventually retracting it with apology.

The scandal sparked a debate, with Jeet Heer over at The New Republic arguing that such nasty tactics aren’t productive praxis for class war:

The Condé Nast executive is seen as a legitimate subject for attack because of his wealth and class privilege. What the adherents to Gawkerism rarely consider is whether tabloid gossip is really the best tool for fighting a class war.

Unfortunately, Heer completely overlooks the fact that historically, gossip, libel and denigration have been an integral aspect of class war, and the tabloids have usually been the medium of dissemination. Just ask Maria Antoinette, for whom the libelle—a smutty little tabloid in the form of a political pamphlet—proved an incredibly effective piece of political propaganda. These were not sophisticated political tracts—they often simply depicted Antoinette in pornographic situations—orgies, incest, lesbianism—everything you could imagine. Sometimes the purpose of these cartoons was to actually accuse Antoinette of such acts, but often they were simply a form of degradation.

The cartoon above features Antoinette with the Marquis de Lafayette, a politician and general who fought alongside against England during the American Revolution. Considered a military hero, he was appointed to the National Assembly by the King, and though he remained a royalist, he sympathized with Revolutionary values and attempted to institute them politically. As a result, he was distrusted by both the revolutionaries and the monarchy. There is no evidence that he had an affair with Antoinette; the cartoon is actually intended to illustrate Lafayette’s allegiance to the crown. His “steed” is a pun, as the French word for “Austrian” is very similar to “ostrich,” and Antoinette was often referred to as “Austrichienne,” or “Austrian Bitch.”.

You may find the tabloids gauche, you may find their targets undeserving, you may even argue that we live in a more civilized time—a time when tabloids should be retired in favor of more dignified debate and politics; but if you’re wondering whether or not tabloids are effective in class war, I’d remind you that the road to the guillotine has always been paved with smut.

Marie was often depicted in lesbian trysts, generally assumed to be Yolande de Poligna or Princesse de Lamballe. The text reads, “I now breathe only for you, a kiss my beautiful angel.”

In a subtler comic, Marie stepping from Versailles to safety, bearing the King and Prince on her back, giving the French people a view up her dress in the process.
More 18th century political smut after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Bizarre Cold War documents: Weird vintage nuclear test ‘participation certificates’
11:50 am


Cold War

Operation Gnome, New Mexico, 1961
The world owes Flickr user Kelly Michals a debt of gratitude for saving these marvelous “participation certificates” from oblivion. Michals has put together an extensive Flickr album to house more than 100 of these amazing and weird documents of the Cold War. You might think of nuclear testing as an activity associated with, say, 1954, but these documents cover a startlingly wide time span, from 1951 into the early 1970s, at least that I found.

In a way, these items are a bit like fallout shelters, an optimistic and probably futile gesture in the face of the most hopeless situation you could imagine, nuclear bombs created to wipe out entire continents. The nuclear tests had amusing names like Operation Milkshake and the documents have something of the naive artistic value of the CB radio calling cards we highlighted a couple weeks back.

There are a lot more of these at Michals’ Flickr album, so do go there and have a look. All of the images on this page, you can see a larger image by clicking on it,

Project Ranger, Nevada, 1951

Frenchman Flats, Nevada, 1953

Operation Teapot, Nevada, 1955
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Trollface Hitler in a Fedora,’ Hitler in dorky short pants and other photos banned by the Nazis
06:36 am



Adolf Hitler, wearing a fedora, and looking remarkably like the Internet “trollface” meme is but one of several photos published in the new book The Rise of Hitler Illustrated that were purportedly “banned” by the Nazis for being unflattering to Der Führer.

Vintage Everyday reports that the photographs are from an early propaganda pamphlet titled Deutschland Erwache (Germany Awaken) written in the 1930s that Hitler later disliked. An English soldier found the photos and his family hung on to them for years. Now the photos are available for the world to see what a dork Hitler looked like in short pants.

“It keeps das hair dry in der shower.”

Hitler banned this picture of his ‘steely glare’ fearing it made him look stupid. It did.

“Hitler despised this ‘undignified’ picture of him in short trousers.” His knees must be so cold.


Not Hugo Boss’ best work.
More Hitler hijinks after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Meet David Weinstein, the 18-year-old kid who opened Live Aid
06:02 am


Bernard Watson
Live Aid

David Weinstein (a/k/a Bernard Watson) on stage at Live Aid
On July 13th, 1985, Live Aid, the largest concert event ever staged, was held. Taking place at stadiums in both London and Philadelphia, the charity concerts were broadcast to a global audience. The performers, some of the biggest rock and pop stars of the day, helped raise millions of dollars for the starving people of Ethiopia. Amidst this massive event, filled with star-studded performances and reunions of rock royalty, is a small story about a kid from Florida, who through sheer determination found himself on stage in Philadelphia, opening Live Aid.
Live Aid poster
David Weinstein was eighteen years old and had recently graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School when he took a trip during the summer of 1985. Leaving with his acoustic guitar, a Texaco gas card, and not much else, David made his way northeast in his Oldsmobile. He visited friends in Maine and New Jersey, though the main purpose of his trip was to travel to Pennsylvania to try to convince Bill Graham, the legendary concert promoter and organizer of Live Aid in Philadelphia, to let him on the bill. David attempted to achieve such a seemingly impossible goal simply because he liked the idea of the concerts and wanted to be a part of it. Before he left, he recorded a demo tape of a few of his original songs at his school’s studio. As the tape started rolling, David uttered these words: “Dear Mr. Graham, I would like to begin the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia with this song.” Doug Burris, David’s music teacher, who was recording the session, picks up the story:

I asked him what was going on and he informed me that that’s exactly what he was going to do. Knowing that David was a little unorthodox, spontaneous and driven, I did not ask any further questions, said ‘Ok,’ and finished the session.

One of David’s songs, “Interview,” includes the line, “I’m going to get lucky or I’m going to die trying.”
David waits
David waits for his big break.

I recently spoke with David, and he told me that he arrived at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia ten days before Live Aid would take place, looking for Bill Graham. He managed to worke his way into to the area where the stage was being built, and it was there that he spotted Mr. Graham. “That’s Bill Graham,” he said to himself, “That’s the man I came to see.” Unsurprisingly, Graham asked him who he was and what was he doing there. David explained his intentions and handed over his demo tape. A day or two later, Graham came out to the parking lot where David was camped out in his car. Graham said he liked the material, but that David’s singing and guitar playing needed work. Undeterred, David asked if he could play for him, right there in the parking lot. Graham left, but a few hours later, someone brought a prime rib dinner out to him—surely a good sign. Graham came out again, this time bringing along a reporter from Rolling Stone, and David played Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do.” Afterwards, Graham said, “I’ll get back to you.” Incredibly, David did indeed get the nod from Mr. Graham, and would kick off the U.S. edition of Live Aid. When David called Mr. Burris to tell him that it was actually happening, his music teacher didn’t believe him and advised that he see a psychiatrist. But David wasn’t delusional, and soon Mr. Burris and members of the Weinstein family were on their way to Philadelphia.

More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Rock starts: Your favorite rock stars when they were children
12:04 pm

Pop Culture

rock stars as kids

Nick Cave
This morning, my husband sent me the above baby Nick Cave photos for a chuckle (talk about a “bad seed” wonk wonk). For whatever reason, it became my mission, dear Dangerous Minds readers to find even more photos of rock starts (that was a typo, but I’m leaving it) as children. So, yeah, this what I’ve spent my morning doing. YOU’RE WELCOME.

We were all babies once, you know!

Debbie Harry (who turns 70 on July 1!)

David Bowie

Dolly Parton

Brian Eno

Kathleen Hanna
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Furious idiot rails at NBC affiliate for changing its peacock logo to the ‘colors of gays’
10:37 am


low IQ bufoonery

If you were paying any attention to the news on Friday, the big day when the Supreme Court handed down its decision banning state-level curbs on gay marriage, thus making gay marriage legal in all 50 states, it seemed that everything was coming up rainbows, from the White House and Niagara Falls to Disney World and One World Trade Center, and that’s not even mentioning approximately 57% of the user icons on my Facebook feed, and I’m betting yours as well.

Of course, the ruling elicited, in addition to unmeasured outpourings of joy and exultation, plenty of expressions of feckless, petulant resistance from those who are not on board, or not on board yet, with the concept of gay marriage. Starting with the Justices themselves, Justice Scalia just about blew a gasket, claiming that now the United States “does not deserve to be called a democracy” (?!) and Chief Justice Roberts, curiously, wrung his hands over the fact that the “the proponents of same-sex marriage” had “lost, and lost forever ... the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause.”

As if it were the responsibility of oppressed people to go without their fundamental rights so that ........ bigots can have some kind of edifying teachable moment? That’s the best I can do with it. Today it was reported that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is now insisting that county clerks in Texas have the right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples if the clerk has a religious objection to same-sex marriage, which frankly ushers in a bizarre new chapter in legal theory (“I’m sorry, I can’t serve you alcohol at this bar, I’m a Muslim…...”).

Anyway, of all the spittle produced in behalf of monolithically hetero weddings, my favorite is probably the bit of outrage produced by Don Stair, most likely a resident of Arkansas, who, confronted with images of celebratory rainbows everywhere, decided to reach out and let a local TV affiliate know that he disagreed with their choice to join the bandwagon and switch to a rainbow logo. The problem is, the channel in question was KARK, an affiliate of NBC, and their logo is a rainbow peacock, exactly the same as it has been for literally decades.

Here was Stair’s message, on Facebook, as displayed by KARK:

(Screenshot via KARK 4 News on Facebook)
With admirable economy, KARK responded to its viewer’s outrage in the following manner:

The NBC peacock logo has actually been around since 1956, predating even Ellen DeGeneres, the Village People, Stonewall, and Dan Savage. Soon enough, some of KARK’s more liberal viewers joined in to make fun of Stair:




via Addicting Info

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Top Secret: The goofy retro ‘undercover’ fashion guide for East German secret police spies
07:44 am


East Germany

“Ostalgie” is a German portmanteau of “Ost,” meaning “East,” and “nostalgie,” meaning “nostalgia,” because yes—many former East Germans remember life under communism quite fondly, and for a variety of reasons. There’s obviously some sentimentalism regarding one’s youth, (oppressive government or not, people like to reminisce on their salad days), but there was also distinctly East German culture, community, art and aesthetics. Combine all that with low unemployment and the absence of destitute poverty, of course people will miss some aspects of the lives they led on the other side of the Wall. This is not to say there isn’t an ambivalence to Ostalgie; for example, I doubt anyone much misses the Stasi.

The Stasi—the East German secret police and intelligence service—were notoriously covert, despite their massive numbers. In 1989, they employed 91,015 full-time agents and 173,081 informants—that’s 1.6% of the population of a country of 16.1 million. Now all the information on the Stasi has been declassified, and you can actually look at their materials in the utterly fascinating book, Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives. You can see documentation of training, raids and spy equipment, but my favorite part is the extensive collection of fashion recommendations for undercover agents.

There is a strange Ostalgie to the comically retro hair and clothes, but the sheer exhaustiveness of fashion represented is amazing. Some—like the above—actually manage to look like a farcical cartoon of a spy, an impression I assume didn’t resonate as such in East Germany. Others—like the one below—actually mimicked tourists, which is arguably even more conspicuous than a flashy fur coat. It’s when the looks are less ostentatious, though—reservedly classy ladies, hip youths clad in blue jeans and leather jackets, work uniforms etc.—that the photos feel truly ominous; these are people you’d never pick out of a crowd, people you’d never even notice. They might even be—and probably were—your neighbors.



More from the top secret Stasi “look book” after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Exotic dancers of the 1890s
01:52 pm


exotic dancers

I love these photographs dated around 1890 of popular burlesque performers in their heyday. What you notice immediately is how different they look from today’s standards of exotic dancers. No breast implants, collagen injections, butt implants, lip injections, cheek implants, liposuction and this damned list could go on and on…. Of course those options didn’t exist back then, so who really knows if any of these women would have opted to surgically change themselves.

I just dig these specific women who are totally comfortable in their own natural skin whilst celebrating their beauty, femininity and sexuality. They’re refreshing.




More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Documenting madness: Female patients of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum

Among the early pioneers of photography in the 1800s was a middle-aged English doctor called Hugh Welch Diamond, who believed photography could be used in the diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill. Diamond first established his medical career with a private practice in Soho, London, before specializing in psychiatry and becoming Resident Superintendent of the Female Department at the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum in 1848—a position he held until 1858. Diamond was an early adopter of photography, taking his first portraits just three months after Henry Fox Talbot licensed his “salt print” process for producing “photogenic drawings.” As a follower of “physiognomics”—a popular science based on the theory that disease (and character) could be discerned from an individual’s features or physiognomy—Diamond believed photography could be used as a curative therapy.

In documenting madness, Diamond was following on from his predecessor at Surrey County, Sir Alexander Morison who had produced a book of illustrations by various artists depicting patients at the asylum called The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases in 1838. Diamond believed the book was not scientific as the drawings were mainly illustrative interpretations of what the artist saw and could therefore veer towards caricature. He believed that the camera was the only way in which doctors could document illness without taint of prejudice:

The Metaphysician and Moralist, the Physician and Physiologist will approach such an inquiry with their peculiar views, definitions and classifications—The Photographer needs in many cases no aid from any language of his own, but prefers to listen, with the picture before him, to the silent but telling language of nature.

Between 1848-58, Diamond photographed the women patients at Surrey County, taking their portraits against a curtained wall or canvas screen. He became convinced he was able to diagnose a patient’s mental illness from their photographic portrait and then use the image as a therapeutic cure to sanity—the idea being the patient would be able to recognize the sickness in their features. As evidence of this, he cited his success with one patient who he had used the process on:

Her subsequent amusement in seeing the portraits and her frequent conversation about them was the first decided step in her gradual improvement, and about four months ago she was discharged perfectly cured, and laughed heartily at her former imaginations…

Convinced he had found a possible cure to mental illness, Diamond presented a paper “On the Application of Photography to the Physiognomic and Mental Phenomena of Insanity” to the Royal Society of Medicine in May 1856, in which he explained his theories. While many scientists and doctors saw the merit in Diamond’s propositions, they were eventually dismissed as “pseudo-science,” “snake oil” and “quackery.” However, the belief in physiognomy as a form of scientific empiricism was developed by police detective, biometrics researcher and inventor of the mugshot, Alphonse Bertillon, who devised a system of anthropometry for classifying criminals. This was later dropped in favor of fingerprinting and later DNA.

Diamond’s ideas on the diagnostic and curative nature of photography have long been discredited, however, he is now best remembered as a pioneer of psychiatric photography.

During his time at Surrey County, Diamond was able to document most of the female patients as the asylum was a public institution, which meant the patients had no rights to privacy. It’s interesting to note that when he left Surrey for a privately run asylum in Twickenham, Diamond was not permitted to take patients’ portraits. The following is a selection of Diamond’s portraits of the patients at Surrey County Asylum, more can be seen here. Alas, I was unable to find details to the identities of the sitters or their illnesses.
More portraits after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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