follow us in feedly
Lucifer, Satan & other Devils: The Occult art of Rosaleen Norton, the Witch of Kings Cross

08nortonwitch.jpg
‘Lucifer and the Goat Mendes.’
 
The most notorious witch in Australian history was an artist named Rosaleen Norton (1917-79) who scandalized her ultra-conservative homeland with her outrageous bohemian lifestyle and strange occult beliefs during the 1950s.

The press dubbed Norton the “Witch of Kings Cross”—a low-rent artists’ quarter and red light district in Sydney, New South Wales. They claimed she was an evil Satanist who revelled in perverted Black Masses and unnatural orgies with her sex-mad coven. It was true Rosaleen (Roie to her friends) liked sex with both men and women. She enjoyed sex and saw no shame in admitting that she did. She also practised sex magick and made no secret of its powers. But Rosaleen was no Satanist. She was a pagan who followed her own particular belief in Pan.

From earliest childhood Rosaleen felt she was different—and felt compelled to prove this indeed was the case. As her friend and biographer Nevill Drury later recalled:

[Rosaleen] revelled in being the odd one out, purporting to despise her schoolmates. She argued continuously with her mother. She ‘hated’ authority figures like headmistresses, policemen, politicians and priests. She had no time at all for organised religion, and the gods she embraced - a cluster of ancient gods centred around Pan - were, of course, pagan to the hilt. She regarded Pan as the God of Infinite Being.

~snip!~

Pan was undoubtedly a rather unusual god for a young woman to be worshipping in Australia. But then Roie was different. And she was different in an age when it was quite a lot harder to be different than it is now. She was bohemian, bisexual, outspoken, rebellious and thoroughly independent in an era when most young ladies growing up on Sydney’s North Shore would be thinking simply of staying home, happily married with a husband and children. Roie was not afraid to say what she thought, draw her pagan images on city pavements, or flaunt her occult beliefs in the pages of the tabloids. To most people who read about her in newspapers and magazines she was simply outrageous.

Rosaleen was certainly outrageous. She was expelled from school for drawing pictures of vampires, pentagrams and demons during art class, which were claimed to have terrified her fellow classmates. In 1952, when a collection of her work was first published in book form as The Art of Rosaleen Norton three of the images contained therein—“Black Magic” (which depicted Rosaleen herself having sex with a panther), “Rites of Baron Samedi” and “Fohat” (which depicted a demon with a large muscled snake for a penis)—caused such offence that the publisher was prosecuted for obscenity and the pictures removed from all future printings. In America the book was deemed so pornographic that all imported copies were destroyed by custom officials.

Worse was to follow in 1955 when a woman named Anna Karina Hoffman was arrested for vagrancy. When questioned by police, Hoffman claimed she had participated in horrific Satanic black masses organized by Rosaleen. It was this accusation that led the tabloid press to dub Rosaleen the “Witch of Kings Cross” and promulgate the series of trumped-up news stories about her lurid (s)excesses.

However, the following year, one of her lovers, the highly respected composer Sir Eugene Goossens was arrested by Australian customs for attempting to bring some 800 pornographic images into the country—many of them marked “SM” for “sex magick.” The ensuing investigation by officials was heavily detailed by the press. It destroyed Goossens’ career and further denigrated Rosaleen’s character.

Still Rosaleen continued on her own way—painting pictures, following her own religious beliefs, enjoying a varied and active sex life and even dropping LSD to “induce visionary states” to enhance her awareness as an artist.

It was this visionary aspect which was at the heart of Rosaleen’s art:

From an early age she had a remarkable capacity to explore the visionary depths of her subconscious mind, and the archetypal beings she encountered on those occasions became the focus of her art. It was only later that Roie was labelled a witch, was described as such in the popular press, and began to develop the persona which accompanied that description. As this process gathered momentum, Roie in turn became intent on trying to demonstrate that she had been born a witch. After all, she had somewhat pointed ears, small blue markings on her left knee, and also a long strand of flesh which hung from underneath her armpit to her waist - a variant on the extra nipple sometimes ascribed to witches in the Middle Ages.

~snip!~

Roie’s personal beliefs were a strange mix of magic, mythology and fantasy, but derived substantially from mystical experiences which, for her, were completely real. She was no theoretician. Part of her disdain for the public at large, I believe, derived from the fact that she felt she had access to a wondrous visionary universe - while most people lived lives that were narrow, bigoted, and based on fear. Roie was very much an adventurer - a free spirit - and she liked to fly through the worlds opened to her by her imagination.

Roie’s art reflected this. It was her main passion, her main reason for living. She had no career ambitions other than to reflect on the forces within her essential being, and to manifest these psychic and magical energies in the only way she knew how. As Roie’s older sister Cecily later told me, art was the very centre of her life, and Roie took great pride in the brief recognition she received when the English critic and landscape artist John Sackville-West described her in 1970 as one of Australia’s finest artists, alongside Norman Lindsay. It was praise from an unexpected quarter, and it heartened Roie considerably because she felt that at last someone had understood her art and had responded to it positively. All too often her critics had responded only to her outer veneer - the bizarre and often distorted persona created by the media - and this was not the ‘real’ Roie at all.

Today no one would I doubt if anyone would bat an eyelid at Rosaleen’s lifestyle or beliefs—which shows how much our world has evolved. This year marks the centenary of her birth which should bring a new assessment of her life and work and introduce a new generation to the artist behind Australia’s most notorious witch.
 
06nortonwitch.jpg
‘Black Magic.’
 
09nortonwitch.jpg
‘Self Portrait with Occult Animals and Symbols.’
 
More of Rosaleen’s art, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
This incredible fetish photo history book will have you tied up for months!

dtfghyfhfg
 
It’s amazing when you consider what we might now view as quaint, familiar photographic imagery was once a serious no-no. We’ve all seen photos of Betty Page bound and gagged to the point where it’s no more shocking than a LIFE magazine cover image. When John Alexander Scott Coutts aka “John Willie,” publisher of the original Bizarre magazine and the author/ artist of the iconic art comic The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline started, excuse me, basically invented fetish photography as we now know it, it was a punishable crime.

Possibilities!, a massive 472 page coffee table book of John Willie’s photos, published by J.B. Rund’s Belier Press is the be-all, end-all last word from the world’s greatest expert on the subject.

Belier Press has been in existence since 1974 and the publisher’s own story is as interesting as the subject of the books he puts out. J.B. Rund was a young teen running around in the original rock ‘n’ roll era (1955/56) looking for second hand rock ‘n’ roll 45s to buy cheap from juke box distributors in Times Square. One of these stores also had “adult books” and this is where the author first saw a John Willie photo. The afterward of this book goes into great detail about this discovery period and the history of Belier Press. Belier Press has published all kinds of books, not just fetish photography, though I can say that the first time I ever saw a photo of Betty Page was on the cover of Belier’s Betty Page Private Peeks volume two. He also put out R. Crumb’s Carload o’ Comics, The Complete Fritz The Cat, all of the reprints of the Irving Klaw catalogs (Bizarre Katalogs), Eric Stanton and Gene “Eneg” Bilbrew and other fetish artists in Bizarre Komix (24 volumes!), The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline and the recent deluxe reprint. An amazing run.
 
hjghgd
 
Possibilities! has more than 1,360 photographs basically giving a visual history of John Willie’s fetish coming of age and, in fact, the birth of what we take for granted now as an art form, a style, a distinctive look and feel all which can be traced back in these photos to something that sparked excitement in one man’s mind (and loins) and the fact that he wasn’t afraid to act on that idea, even though for all he knew he may have been one of the only people on earth to feel this way.
 
jhtriubk
 
John Alexander Scott Coutts (or JASC as the author refers to him) was born in 1902 in Singapore, the youngest of four children of William Scott and Edith Ann Spreckley Coutts. His father, wanting to go into business for himself moved the family to St. Albans, Hertfordshire, a northwest suburb of London in June 1903. As a very young child Coutts was drawn to a particular type of children’s fantasy literature called “Fairy Books,” where he developed an attraction for “damsels in distress” and the want to rescue these damsels. At around this time he also showed a talent for drawing.

To quote the author:

At about the age of puberty he became aware of another attraction—for women in high heeled shoes—which had a strong sexual connotation for him. In his fantasies John wanted these women in high-heels to be tied-up (in order to rescue them?).

In September of 1921 Coutts entered Sandhurst (the Royal Military Academy), graduating in 1923 with a commission as Second Lieutenant and joined the Royal Scots regiment. In 1925 he married Eveline Stella Frances Fisher, a nightclub hostess who he decided needed “rescuing.” They were married without the required permission of his regiment and against his the wishes of his father (who cut him off), so he moved to Australia in late 1925 or early 1926. The marriage disintegrated soon after. One day in 1934 Coutts stumbled upon McNaught’s, a shoe store on King Street that had a sideline catering to shoe fetishists. He also discovered in that establishment the existence of a weekly British magazine called London Life.

London Life was, as Rund puts it:
 

...a weekly British magazine that openly dealt with a range of fetishes, but in a conservative manner that would seem quaint by today’s (lack of) standards. Suddenly John Coutts realized that he was NOT alone!

 
At this point he was introduced to a locally based organization for shoe fetishists, possibly called “The High-Heel Club,” run by a retired ship’s captain who went by the name “Achilles.” He then met Holly Anna Faram around 1934, a woman that shared his his interests in bondage & high heels. She became his first model, and his second wife.
 
dyvfhkjhg
 

“Coutts was frustrated by the refusal of London Life to print any of his letters on the subject of bondage and arrived at the conclusion–in 1936 or ‘37–that he could produce a superior and more liberal publication, which in 1946 would come to called Bizarre.

In the decade in between coming up with the idea of Bizarre magazine and getting the finances to put that project together, he came up with the idea of selling high-heeled shoes, though he actually wanted to market his photographs of women wearing those shoes and not the actual shoes themselves. But it didn’t work out that way.
 
fhjvhcxtvh6b
 
In 1937 Coutts got access to “The High-Heel Club” mailing list and started his career as a photographer. He also acquired the right to use the name “Achilles.” At first, using the list, he offered rather pedestrian photos of women wearing high-heels. He then added Holly Anna Faram who turned out to be an amazing model and started offering bondage poses, but in a veiled manner. Like many artists, writers and musicians Coutts was not a good businessman and not very good with money, a problem that would follow him throughout his life.

Early in 1938 he placed a series of ads in London Life magazine for his sexy shoes, charging what he felt would be too much for any potential customer (wanting to push his more reasonably priced photos instead) and naturally people started to order them. Now he had to do something, or return the money. So Coutts added shoe maker/designer to his list of accomplishments. He also put the money together to make his dream magazine but World War II broke out and that ended that dream, at least for a while.

In 1940, John Coutts volunteered for service in the Australian Army (listing his religion as “Pagan”). In 1945 he decided to move to America to once again attempt to bring his Bizarre dream to life. At the end of that year he travelled to Canada on a merchant ship to subsidize the trip. In Montreal he found a printer that not only had an allotment of paper (remember this was wartime), but was willing to take on the job. At that moment both “John Willie” and Bizarre were born.
 
dfbkjgnl
 
As far as Coutts’ new name was concerned and what it meant—“Willie,” of course, being British slang for the male sex organ—but “John Willie” was also a Cockney rhyming slang term for a little boy, so ummmm… take your pick! At last he was on his way. Willie moved to New York City in 1946 or ‘47, trying to work on Bizarre with not a lot of luck. He postponed publishing after four issues and started again in 1951. He sold the magazine to a friend in 1956 after publishing 20 issues. He also did business with infamous fetish photographer and mail order dealer Irving Klaw, famous for his Tempest Storm and Betty Page photos, bondage photos, fetish cartoon serials and of course, the photos by John Willie. Klaw made two color full length films (Teaserama and Varietease) which survived and can be seen on one DVD from Something Weird Video.
 
fsdgjksjfdhivt
 
To quote Rund again:

In April of 1961, after moving to Los Angeles, Coutts/Willie was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, followed in May by a confrontation with a Postal Inspector concerning his photographs. He then decided to put an end to his activities as “John Willie” and destroyed all of his negatives as well as his mailing list sending this announcement to his customers:

“On this occasion I will forgo the usual editorial “WE” (which is more businesslike) and instead, as this is the last letter you will ever receive from me I am reverting to “I”. I got sick (it happened very suddenly) and had to undergo a major operation (of course I’d have no insurance). As a result, there will be no more “Gwendoline,” and the whole business will be closed as of June 25th. (I have a few weeks grace—I hope.) I would like to inform you that on that date everything, but everything, including the mailing list will be destroyed… It’s been nice to have known you and I wish you the very best in your games of fun and nonsense.”

This was followed by a quotation from John’s favorite book (his “Bible”), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from which he had also quoted at the beginning of each issue of Bizarre: “Ah, with the grape of my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in a Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.”

 
hrgsfsxdfswa
 
John Alexander Scott Coutts passed away on August 5th 1962, at a doctor friend’s house in Scottsdale Arizona, on the same day that Marilyn Monroe died.

Little could Coutts have known the impact his art and life would have on the future of human sexuality. This impact is mostly due to Bizarre magazine and his The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, both of which have been documented. According to author and publisher J.B. Rund:
 

The former (Bizarre) in the disappointing reprint of the magazine. The Latter (Gwendoline), together with a substantial amount of previously unpublished and uncollected artwork, in The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline, (Belier Press, 1974 and 1999). And to a lesser extent, as a photographer, which heretofore has been poorly and disrespectfully done. The present work will expand on this other talent, and provide an extensive—but not a complete—record of his prodigious output in that medium.

 
dfhgtrjgy
 
fgjcne
 
The photos in the book are culled almost completely from just two sources, the author/publisher’s personal collection and that of the Kinsey Institute. It’s separated into three huge sections, geographically (Australia, New York, Los Angeles) which match his life’s timeline and it’s just incredible to see it all in one massive artistic survey. The notes, introductions and afterward are riddled with the most minute details that seem to leave no stone unturned. If you have even the slightest interest in pop culture, photography, women in distress, art, bondage, or the history of alternative culture, then you owe it to yourself to own this book—the only one you’ll ever need on this subject. Trade edition available from Belier Press for $70. Deluxe limited edition of 150 numbered copies each in a custom made cloth slipcase containing an ORIGINAL print of a photograph taken by John Willie in Los Angeles circa 1958-61, a different photo in each book, plus reproductions of two previously privately circulated photographs taken by Willie in Sydney circa 1938 (not in the book). Plus John Willie Speaks–John Willie Sings!?!, an audio CD, just under forty-eight minutes, consisting of a monologue from Within A Story, his only known speaking part in a motion picture from 1954, and excerpts from the only known interview with Willie from 1961-62, excerpts from A Bawdy Recital–Poems, songs and stories performed by John Willie in 1962. Whew! A serious bargain if you ask me, as only Belier Press could whip up.
 

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
An unexpected William S. Burroughs/Beatles connection
01.16.2017
08:57 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
William S. Burroughs
Paul McCartney


 
We all know that author William S. Burroughs is one of the “people we like” on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover, but did you know that Burroughs was actually around when Paul McCartney composed “Eleanor Rigby”? Apparently so. Over the weekend, I noticed the following passage in the book With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker by Victor Bockris:

Burroughs: Ian met Paul McCartney and Paul put up the money for this flat which was at 34 Montagu Square… I saw Paul several times. The three of us talked about the possibilities of the tape recorder. He’d just come in and work on his “Eleanor Rigby.” Ian recorded his rehearsals. I saw the song taking shape. Once again, not knowing much about music, I could see that he knew what he was doing. He was very pleasant and very prepossessing. Nice-looking young man, hardworking.

The connection here was, no doubt, author Barry Miles. Miles started the Indica Bookshop in London with McCartney’s financial backing. Miles states in his book In the Sixties that Burroughs was a frequent visitor to the shop. When the Beatles started their experimental label Zapple, with Barry Miles at the helm, the idea was to release more avant garde fare, such as readings by American poets Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautigan and comedian Lenny Bruce. McCartney set up a small studio that was run by Burroughs’ ex-boyfriend, Ian Sommerville, who also lived there, and this is why Burroughs would have been around.

It’s always thought that John Lennon was the far-out Beatle, but it was in fact Macca who was the one obsessed by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and Morton Subotnick, not Lennon (he got there later, via Yoko).
 

The “Eleanor Rigby” section from ‘Yellow Submarine.’

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Probes’: Chris Cutler’s podcast is a free course in contemporary music
01.13.2017
11:31 am

Topics:
Art
History
Music

Tags:
Chris Cutler


Chris Cutler in Toronto, 1987 (via some old pictures I took)
 
The English percussionist Chris Cutler has been a member of Henry Cow, Pere Ubu, and Art Bears, to name just a few of his bands. He played on the Residents’ Eskimo and Commercial Album, founded Recommended Records (now better known as ReR Megacorp), and pioneered the use of electrified drums.

Cutler is also a scholar and theoretician of music, and his podcast Probes considers the present state of the art in relation to two crises, one having to do with the collapse of tonality, the other with the mechanical reproduction of sound. If that makes it sound boring, understand that Probes really amounts to a free college course in music appreciation and history. Broadcast by Ràdio Web MACBA, the online radio station of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Probes illustrates Cutler’s lucid analysis with excerpts of records from his wide-ranging collection. Each episode is accompanied by a transcript and another PDF with the episode’s playlist and, when relevant, bibliography. This month’s episode “traces the immense impact Indian instruments and aesthetics had on both thinking and playing, across all forms of western music from Messiaen and La Monte Young to John Coltrane and the Beatles.”

Here’s Cutler introducing the series at the beginning of the first episode:

If you had asked anyone in the eighteenth century what music was, you would have met with broad consensus; music came in three basic forms then – as it had for at least six hundred years: church music, art music, and what we now call folk music – all three of them pretty closely integrated, with many of the same melodies migrating back and forth between them.

If you asked the same question today you’d be met with a tortuous attempt at an abstract definition, which would still fail to contain the vast mass of activities – and the diverse aesthetics – now aimed at our ears. Indeed, claims for music today have expanded to include not only anything that you can hear, but kinds of silence too.

Should we take this to imply that a once integrated culture is slowly degenerating into a chaotic and unregulated marketplace? That would certainly be the political reading. But actually I think something more interesting is going on, something quite unusual. What we are living through is a paradigm change. We just can’t see it because life is too short and such events normally take centuries to work through.

But here’s the argument: for the last hundred and twenty years or so, music and musicians, at least in the industrialised world, have been struggling to come to terms with two catastrophic and destabilising upheavals. The first is the collapse of tonality, which principally affects formal composition and art music; the second the brute fact of sound recording – which has so far utterly transformed everything it has touched.

To find an historical precedent for this, we would need to go back at least 700 years – to the last time European music had to deal with the emergence of a new memory technology. Then it was writing; today it is sound recording.

Memory has this power because it stands at the root of all systems of conscious communication. Without memory, music could not be produced or reproduced, circulated or understood. And different forms of memory will engender different forms of music – that is the underlying thesis of this series.

Cutler on The Residents, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
A totally sexist guide of ‘How to Succeed with Brunettes’ produced by the U.S. Navy in 1967


Marlene Dietrich, as ‘Bijou Blanche’ in a feminine version of a Navy officer’s uniform from the 1940 motion picture ‘Seven Sinners.’
 
Before you watch this sixteen-plus minute training video put out by the Navy in 1967, you’ll need a little background on this vintage piece of sexist “how to.”

How to Succeed with Brunettes’ is one of nearly 3000 training films produced by the U.S. Navy during the 1960s that range from topics such as “good hygiene” to how women enlisted in the military should “conduct” themselves around their male counterparts. It’s also said that the film was lampooned by the television news program 60 Minutes in its early days and that the show even presented the Navy with a “faux Oscar” for How to Succeed With Brunettes for being the most “unnecessary” and “fiscally wasteful” film on record for the time. For you see, back in 1966 it was tax dollars that covered the $64,000 tab for creating this cringe-worthy film.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Farting Monkeys, Devilish Imps, Grotesque Beasts and other Bizarre Creatures

Bolten02.jpg
 
A good imagination beats any psychedelic drug. Take a look at these drawings by 17th century Dutch artist Arent van Bolten featuring weird, grotesque hybrid creatures—part human, part cat, part dragon, part demon, part who the fuck knows….?

The last part is a fair description of what we do know about Arent van Bolten—which is little more than birth, marriage and death:

He was born about 1573 in Zwolle. In 1603 he there married Brigitta Lantinck. They had eight children. Some of them established themselves as solicitors in Leeuwarden where Brigitta Lantinck’s sister had married but remained childless so that the children of van Bolten became her heirs. Arent van Bolten must have died about 1625, for he is still mentioned in 1624, whereas in 1626 we read only of his widow.

Even his death date is uncertain as some put it up as far as 1633—which may have come as a surprise to his wife if she was already a widow in 1626. Apart from this slim entry we know he was a silversmith by profession, was in Italy 1596-1602, and left behind “a great deal of silverware and plaquettes.”

He may well have been one of those craftsmen who themselves made both the model and the finished article and perhaps even the original design which was not the normal practice at this time.

Van Bolten sculpted religious and rustic scenes and knobbly weird bronzes of “squat, ponderous” mythological beasts. It is for the latter that he is now best known—in particular his 400+ drawings of surreal and grotesque creatures compiled by an unknown collector circa 1637 which are currently held by the British Museum. 

It’s unknown what Van Bolten’s intention was in creating these rather fabulous beasts but the drawings do reveal the eye of a man who was a sculptor rather than a painter. His line relishes building up the layers, curves, depths, and organic growths rather than just offering a mere representation. Van Bolten’s grotesques have a solidity that makes it appear we could actually touch them.
 
Bolten03.jpg
 
Bolten04.jpg
 
More of Arent van Bolten’s beasties and grotesque creatures, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
These creepy, shitty Presidential wax museum figures can be all yours
01.10.2017
08:53 am

Topics:
Art
History
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
presidents
wax statues
wax museum


 
Terrible wax museums rule. Granted, good wax museums are really cool, I’ve got nothing bad to say about superior artistry or the skillful evocation of a likeness, it’s just that awful wax museums deliver different kicks, a more what-the-fuck kind of experience. Just up Clifton Hill from the actual falls area of Niagara Falls, Ontario there’s a really tacky entertainment district, which, among other gloriously, unabashedly garish attractions, boasts an incredible concentration of comically inferior wax museums. My absolute favorite, the Criminals Hall of Fame, closed down a couple of years ago, and I really wish I knew what became of its inventory (apart from its Hitler figure, which was brazenly stolen right from its case in 1999).

No need to wonder about the inventory of The Hall of Presidents and First Ladies Museum. It wasn’t in Niagara Falls, but judging by photos of its collection, it’d have been a good fit. The Gettysburg, PA institution just closed in late November—how someone could fail with a historical attraction in Gettysburg, I’ll refrain from speculating—and its figures and other ephemera are going up for auction. The collection is exemplary—exemplary for why I adore cheap wax museums. Everything about the likenesses is just off, some in subtle ways, but plenty are just marvelously, unmistakably wrong. It is truly regrettable that this place closed before it had a chance to “honor” Donald Trump.
 

Allegedly, this is JFK.
 

Per the auction catalog: “Very fine President John F. Kennedy plaster sculpture head.” Very fine indeed. Also evidently AX CRAZY.
 
More wax Presidents after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
All you need is war: The Beatles vs. Hitler in the most fucked-up movie ever made
01.04.2017
02:02 pm

Topics:
History
Music
Stupid or Evil?

Tags:
The Beatles


 
If you thought the movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was bad—and it is—here’s something that will really curl the toes of your Beatle boots.

All This And World War ll mashes up archival WW2 film footage with gung-ho Hollywood war epics and then tosses in a weird mix of rock stars covering Beatle tunes for its soundtrack. It manages to achieve a soul-deflating awfulness while occasionally allowing little worm like glimmerings of brilliance to ooze through the sprocket holes. Had it not been produced by 20th Century Fox, it might be mistaken for a long lost underground film directed by dadaist acidheads with a lot of rock and roll musicians for friends.

When it was released to theaters in 1976, ATAWW2 lasted all of a couple of weeks (critics hated it, audiences stayed away) before being pulled by Fox and buried forever. It has never appeared on VHS or DVD. Rumor had it that Fox had destroyed every existing print and negative of the movie (not true, but they probably should have). Even bootleggers found it close to impossible to unearth a copy.

Thanks to YouTube, it’s now possible to see this extravagantly misguided experiment as it lands on your screen with a sickening thud. An experiment that proves that if you put enough monkeys in an editing room and give them enough time and stock film footage they will create “something” that approximates a movie even if it’s no more than the cinematic equivalent of throwing shit against the wall.

I’m sure we can all argue which juxtapositions of song to images work, which ones are silly in the extreme or just plain irredeemably bad ... or all of the above. Helen Reddy singing “Fool On The Hill” as clips of Hitler unspool on the screen gets my vote for the movie’s maddest moment. Or is it Rod Stewart singing “Get Back” to footage of masses of goose-stepping Nazis? Or The Bee Gees singing “Golden Slumbers” as bombs drop on London and buildings explode in a maelstrom of smoke and fire? I don’t know. The film offers so many choices that my bad taste meter never left the red zone. And frankly, that alone is enough for me to recommend this anal wart of a movie.

Watch this thing, after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Secrets of the Striptease Queens’

00stripq1.jpg
 
Reporter Jack Griffin went in search of the “Secrets of the Strip Tease Queens” sometime in the early 1950s. He visited Minsky’s Burlesque Theater on State and Van Buren, Chicago, to find the answer. There he met with stripper Bobbi Bruce who told him:

“Honey, I guess you can sum up this business in one sentence. You grab as much sex as the law is allowing at this time, and throw it across the footlights as hard as you can.”

Griffin described Bobbi’s answer as:

“...one of the simplest and clearest descriptions of the strip tease business ever made.”

Too true! As to what the law would permit at this time law, well according to Carnival magazine’s “Guide for Strip-teasers” the law in Illinois “means Chicago, and Chicago means let ‘er rip.”  The limit on what a stripper could or could not take off was entirely “on the club owners’ discretion.”  Added for emphasis: “Chicago club owners’ are hardly noted for discretion.”

But back to Griffin who notes that “Strippers are”:

...a clannish group of well-developed girls, are loath to talk with outsiders about their art or their personal lives.

That may come as a surprise to some of the gentlemen who have dropped into neon emporiums where beer is dispensed at 75 cents a bottle and entertainers mix with the customers while other girls wiggle out of their clothing on the runway behind the bar.

But if they will hark back to that expensive evening, they will discover the girl’s conversation consisted chiefly of, “Daddy, you’re cute,” and “It’s time for another drink.”

The girls from the bump and grind circuit have found from long experience that most men who ply them with personal questions, usually accompanied with a leer, are mental Peeping Toms. Besides, they have heard all the questions before and consider them very dull.

But our intrepid “perspiring” reporter asked enough questions to appreciate a stripper takes her art seriously. Sometimes performing five or six shows a night, seven days a week, which meant these women were in no mood for “much of anything except going home—alone—and going to sleep.”

Strippers, Griffin points out, are like well-trained athletes. Booze and late nights “play havoc with a person’s body, and a stripper’s body is her business.”

Bobbi Bruce (aka Bobbi Blue) worked as “a hash slinger” before making enough from her tips to quit her work, rent a studio with full-length mirror and spend seven months perfecting the sexiest way to shake off her clothes.

Burlesque performer Michelle Marshall told Griffin another secret of the stripper’s art:

“They call it strip tease and that’s what you’ve got to do. If you don’t tease, then the strip don’t mean a thing.”

When this article first appeared most strippers were members of the American Guild Variety Artists. Some were also signed-up with the Burlesque Artists Association. The minimum union salary for stripping back then varied by state but was somewhere between $90-$100 a week. The more upmarket the club, the better the money.

Those new to the business could make around $150 a week. The top dollar for burlesque stars like Lili St. Cyr went as high as $3,500 a week.

Read more about the ‘Secrets of the Strip Tease Queens,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Wigs, waxing and song: Meet the drag pioneers of the 1920s ‘Pansy Craze’


Francis Renault, famous female impersonator from ‘The Pansy Craze.’
 
Some of the most popular stage shows in New York and San Francisco in the 1920s and early 1930s routinely featured a wide variety of talented representatives from the gay community. In addition to live vaudeville house performances there were also a large number of extravagant soirees that featured drag costume competitions and attendees, regardless of their sexual orientation, would often arrive decked out in gender-bending fashions. It also wasn’t unusual for these kind of affairs to be covered by mainstream newspapers and wasn’t particularly considered to be an unacceptable practice. As a matter of fact, one of the era’s biggest stars, the great Mae West was an avid supporter of homosexual actors and in addition to penning the controversial play The Drag (which attempted to define the role of a homosexual man in society) she actively often provided roles to them in her productions. West’s shrewd timing of The Drag also played upon a popular movement that was a part of this wonderful time in New York and San Francisco known as “The Pansy Craze.”

Men who enjoyed bringing their inner drag queen to life during The Pansy Craze were called “Pansies” (as well as “fairies”). The Pansy Craze was HUGE and shows featuring female impersonators were attended by thousands of people who packed into bohemian clubs in Greenwich Village and drank like sailors despite the fact that prohibition was then in full effect. One of the city’s highest paid performers during the 1920s was Gene Malin who also went by the name “Jean Malin.” Malin also put out a couple of albums and had a bit of a hit with his tongue-in-cheek tune “I’d Rather be Spanish than Manish.” He was a champion of the gay community as well as one of its most celebrated members. Sadly, Malin was killed in a freak car accident after errantly putting his car into reverse sending it plunging into the water off a pier in Venice, California at the age of 25.

Another star of the Pansy Craze was “Rae Bourbon.” Born Hal Bardell, Bourbon was once a part of the boozy-sounding drag stand-up duo “Scotch and Bourbon.” Rae spent a lot of time in the slammer on charges of “lewdness” and “impersonating a woman” during his career and would often write to Vanity Fair magazine asking the publication to send him money in order to make bail. Toward the tail end of the Pansy Craze, Bourbon stepped away from the stage and did modeling work for Weill’s, a department store in Bakersfield, California. In the ad for Bourbon’s appearance he was billed as “Mr. Rae Bourbon” a “popular actor and female impersonator.” Apparently in the 1920s nobody thought it was that weird or that controversial to have a man modeling women’s clothing in the window of a department store on a Saturday. (And that’s because it really isn’t.) Bourbon also produced a number of racy albums before ending up in prison after being convicted of being an accomplice to murder after falling on hard times in the 1960s.

Though I could probably break this post into a series as there as quite a few notable historical “pansies” I’d like to jaw about, I’ll leave you with a few interesting tidbits on Francis Renault, a female impersonator who had a penchant for pricey clothing and jewellery. Born Antonio Auriemma (or perhaps Auriema) in Naples, Italy in 1893 his family moved to the future gay-friendly east coast destination of Providence, Rhode Island when he was young. Renault would perform in 43 different countries as “Francis Renault” and his drag image of Francis even appeared on the cover for the 1913 sheet music to Irving Berlin’s At the Devil’s Ball. As I mentioned, Renault was a huge connoisseur of designer duds and in a magazine ad for a show featuring a performance by him it was said that he would be wearing $5000 dollars worth of costumes straight from the couture houses of Paris. It’s probably important to note that this kind of figure was astronomical for the time and this kind of stocked closet would be worth somewhere in the range of $65K in modern times. Zowie. I’ve included numerous photos of the famous pansies I’ve featured in this post as well as some of their recordings for you to check out below.
 

 

Rae Bourbon (far right) and Mae West (center).
 

Rae Bourbon.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 186  1 2 3 >  Last ›