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Read Aleister Crowley’s dirty, dirty 666-word sex poem ‘Leah Sublime’
02.07.2017
09:37 am
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Leah Hirsig photographed in front of a portrait of her done by Aleister Crowley. The painting was done at Hirsig’s request for Crowley to paint her as a ‘dead soul.’
 
Aleister Crowley published his poem Leah Sublime in June of 1920. The poem has been called one of the most obscene pieces of literature ever written by Crowley—or anyone else for that matter—in which he describes his sexual exploits with one of his “Scarlet Women” Leah Hirsig.

Born in Switzerland in 1883, Hirsig was a high school teacher in the Bronx before she and her sister Alma worked up the courage to approach Crowley—who was living in New York at the time—in 1918. Crowley and Leah had an instant, combustible attraction to one another and spent most of their first visit together passionately kissing. During the sister’s second visit to Crowley, he requested to draw Leah in the nude—something he had never done. It would be one of many times Crowley would draw Leah’s portrait including one occasion where the aspiring occultist requested that he paint her as a “dead soul.” Here’s more from Crowley himself on his early meetings with Leah as told by author Lawrence Sutin in his 2002 book Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley:

The “little sister” (Leah) reminded me of Solomon’s friend, for she had no breasts… She radiated an indefinable sweetness. Without wasting time on words, I began to kiss her. It was sheer instinct. She shared it and equaled my ardor. We continued with occasional interruptions, such as politeness required, to answer her sister in the rare intervals when she got out of breath.

 

 
By the time 1920 rolled around Crowley and Leah—who was now going by the mystical name of “Alostrael,” were routinely participating in obscene ritualistic sex romps involving, among other things, a goat, which helped Leah earn her “Scarlet Woman” title. She also played an instrumental part in the formation of The Abbey of Thelema in Cefalù in Sicily—an occultist utopia of sorts where Crowley’s followers could attend “The Collegium of the Spiritum Sanctum” (or College of the Holy Spirit), participate in rituals and other cult-like activities. As a testament to how vilified Crowley was, he was thrown out of Italy by Hitler’s sidecar, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.  Crowley would eventually end his relationship with Leah, her allegiance to the Great Beast remained intact. She would later move to France where she supported herself working as a prostitute before moving back to the U.S., and marrying William George Barron with whom she had a child in 1925. Shortly thereafter Leah went back to her old job teaching school.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.07.2017
09:37 am
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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…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.21.2016
10:55 am
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Androgynous aerial acrobat & 1920s female impersonator, the great ‘Barbette’


Vander Clyde as the captivating ‘Barbette,’ early 1920s.
 
Vander Clyde (aka “Barbette”) was born in Texas around 1898. Though there is some dispute about Clyde’s actual date of birth, there is no debate about how the influential Vaudeville acrobat and female impersonator was to artists such as Jean Cocteau (who wrote an essay in 1926 based on Clyde’s alter-ego as a female impersonator called Le Numéro Barbette). It’s even said that Clyde’s incredible transformative abilities helped inspire Blake Edwards’ gender-bending 1982 film, Victor/Victoria.

As a young child, perhaps as young as eight, Clyde attended a local circus with his mother in Austin and was so moved by the show (especially the aerial acts), that he later confessed to his horrified mother that he intended to run away and join the circus and become a “wire-walker.” Clyde didn’t make good on his threat and instead stayed home and got a job picking cotton for several years so he could earn enough cash continue attending circus shows. After graduating at the top of his class at the age of fourteen Clyde would develop his self-taught aerial skills by using anything he could including the clothing line in his backyard. Shortly after he graduated and according to the 2012 book The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville he responded to an ad in Billboard Magazine placed by the “World Famous Aerial Queens” a group from Italy known as the “Alfaretta Sisters.” Tragically one of the sisters had recently died and the act was desperately looking for a replacement. However the job came with a catch.

The surviving members of the Alfaretta Sisters insisted that one of reasons their act was so popular was because people preferred to watch women swinging around on a trapeze rather than a man. So in order to get the gig Clyde would have to dress up like a girl. Which he happily did. It wouldn’t take long before Clyde would launch his solo career dressed in drag as “Barbette.” When his show premiered in New York at the Harlem Opera House in 1919, The New York Dramatic Mirror (now there’s a publication I’d love to see come back, wouldn’t you?) called Barbette “not a bad looking girl at all” and praised his “thrilling stunts.” The magazine also noted that at the end of Barbette’s act that Clyde dramatically removed his wig stunning the audience to silence.
 

 
In 1923 Clyde took to the stage of the Folies Bergère, a cabaret music hall located in Paris dressed in full drag as Barbette. During the show Clyde performed incredible acrobatic stunts such as walking a high wire and dangerous trapeze-related tricks. Clyde’s appearance was so convincing that it left people to ponder the ambiguous performer’s true sexual identity. Members of the French avant-garde community were captivated by Clyde’s portrayal of Barbette including one of France’s most influential creative minds the great Jean Cocteau, who was allegedly linked to Clyde romantically. Cocteau was so taken with Barbette that he commissioned surrealist photographer Man Ray to take a series of photographs showing Clyde’s metamorphosis into the ethereal, androgynous Barbette.

In 1938 Clyde contracted pneumonia which led to his early retirement from the stage though he would continue to work with up-and-coming circus acts as well as on films by Orson Welles and the legendary multi-talented producer and director, Billy Rose. I’ve included some remarkable photos of Clyde as Barbette and some images from his shoot with Man Ray. If you’d like to learn more about Clyde he is the subject of a fantastic looking book called Wildflower: The Dramatic Life of Barbette—Round Rock’s First and Greatest Drag Queen. Though there is no nudity, some may be considered NSFW.
 

Vander Clyde as ‘Barbette.’ Photography by Man Ray.
 

‘Barbette’ on the trapeze.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.16.2016
10:28 am
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Disturbingly lifelike gender-bending mannequins
10.10.2016
12:47 pm
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Pierre Imans’ ‘lesbian’ mannequins that were featured in an exhibit called the ‘Streets of Paris’ in 1920.
 
In the early 1900s, a mannequin cost about $15 and it was around that time that Parisian artist Pierre Imans’ unconventional mannequins started to appear in windows around Paris. Imans would not only create the first mannequin of color (that was modeled after the great Josephine Baker) he also created a pair of lesbian mannequins (pictured above) that were part of an exhibition at the Moulin Rouge called the “Streets of Paris” back in 1920. While Imans’ creation were probably not so shocking for the far-ahead-of-their-time, progressive Parisians (Paris was the place everyone was getting their kinkly BSDM wear from during that time after all), they were still rather unconventional when it came to their appearance.

Imans’ mannequins drew somewhat from an Art Nouveau perspective and their forms had elegant modern lines and chiseled features. Many of Imans’ mannequins also possessed a sort of asexual look with the male mannequins having rather feminine features while his female models sported short masculine haircuts and menswear-inspired clothing. Even Imans himself didn’t care for the use of “labels” and preferred to operate under title of “sculptor” often using the phrase “Les Cires de Pierre Imans” or “The waxes of Pierre Imans” to describe his business. So revered was the Frenchman that upon the third exhumation of Saint Marie-Bernarde “Bernadette” Soubirous (or St. Bernadette whose initial claim to Catholic fame was seeing an apparition of the Virgin Mary eighteen times) Imans was called upon to create a wax imprint of St. Bernadette’s face and hands so that the body would not show signs of decay where it remains to this day on display in a crystal coffin in Nevers, France.

To enhance his already spookily realistic mannequins the talented French master sculptor would use real hair for his models including eyelashes and eyebrows, glass eyes and teeth made of porcelain. Vintage creations by Imans’ sell for thousands of dollars and even promotional photographs of Imans’ mannequins sell for a tidy sum of cash on various auction sites such as eBay. I’ve included a variety of images from Imans’ vast catalog (that spanned more than three decades) of his more intriguing mannequins for you to stare at while waiting for them to actually move, below. 
 

 

 
More mannequins after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.10.2016
12:47 pm
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Photos from the early 1900s of the mysterious ‘Hula Hoop’ girls of the Ziegfeld Follies
07.29.2016
11:14 am
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A Ziegfeld Follies girl and her hula hoop. Photograph by Alfred Cheney Johnston, early 1900s.
 
Sometime around 1917 the photographs of Alfred Cheney Johnston caught the eye of Florenz Ziegfeld the founder of the glamorous Ziegfeld Follies. The Follies were a musical and vaudeville revue that featured beautiful women clad in glamorous gowns as well as more risqué attire. At times some were partially nude. Johnson struck a deal with Ziegfeld to become the official photographer for the Follies and would go on to photograph Ziegfeld’s girls in various poses and stages of dress and undress for advertisements or lobby posters to help entice patrons to come on in and see the show.

Though it sounds like Johnston had landed the greatest gig ever, according to his job description he was only allowed to photograph Ziegfeld’s girls with no more than an exposed thigh for it to be commercially viable. But that didn’t exactly stop Johnson from taking nude photos of the gorgeous girls of the Follies for over fifteen years.  His provocative images were quite the “hit” for all the right reasons. I recently came across photos taken by Johnston of some of the Ziegfeld girls posing with hula hoops and while many of them are far too risqué to post in a family publication (you can see them here if you’d like), I was able to find quite a few that I know you will enjoy oggling.

Apparently nobody is quite sure what inspired Johnston to use the hula hoop as a prop but I for one am glad he did as they are wonderfully whimsical time capsules that defy explanation. The hula hoop most of us remember playing with came to be in 1958, although the history of a similarly-sized hoop dates back as far as ancient Egypt when in order to develop agility men would use a hoop to play a game using sticks, the objective was to control the hoop between them. Mind blown.
 

A Ziegfeld girl with her ‘smoking doll.’
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.29.2016
11:14 am
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Fierce vintage fetish wear from the 1920s and 1930s
07.21.2016
09:56 am
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A metal bra and chastity belt by Yva Richard (modeled by Nativia Richard), 1920s.
 
My DM colleague Tara McGinley recently posted some fantastic vintage images of kinky boots—and as I share her admiration for rule-breaking women and fashion I thought many of you would enjoy seeing some more provocative images from the 1920s and very early 1930s taken in Paris of models donning the latest in French fetish wear.
 

Animal print panties with a tail by Diana Slip, 1920s.
 
At the time there were only a small number of companies that were actually making the clothing that catered to the robust bondage loving, whip and chains-wearing fans that enjoying living out their fantasies in the clubs of Paris and in the privacy of their own home. If people were getting their freak on in an iron bra and matching chastity belt (pictured at the top of this post) it probably came from France. Two of the pioneering companies that were feeding the fetish community with their playthings were Yva Richard and Diana Slip.

Yva Richard was the husband and wife duo of L. Richard and Nativa Richard. Getting their start sometime in the early 1920s, Nativia was not only the talented seamstress making Yva Richard’s signature risque lingerie, but she also modeled much of the companies cheeky creations and would routinely appeared in Yva Richard’s popular mail-order catalog from which the kinky couple sold everything from masks to iron restraints. The Richards’ biggest competition back in the 20s was Diana Slip—a fetish wear company run by Léon Vidal. Vidal’s collection while very much marketed to purveyors of kink had a slightly more sophisticated air and was not as overtly deviant as Yva Richard’s designs.

The arrival of WWII and the subsequent occupation of France in the early 40s pretty much put the kibosh on the booming fetish business and both companies as well as others closed up shop. I’ve included some incredible examples of what both Yva Richard and Diana Slip were designing for their fetish loving French fans that I’m sure will get your blood pumping. If they don’t, you might want to get that checked out.

If this kind of thing is your thing (I don’t judge and neither should you) the French book Yva Richard: L’âge d’or du fétichisme features a large collection of photographs that chronicle the history of the French fetish wear pioneers. That said, some of the images that follow are NSFW.
 

Diana Slip, 1920s.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.21.2016
09:56 am
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‘Sex’ an ‘adult’ magazine from the 1920s
07.18.2016
09:32 am
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The cover of Sex magazine, December, 1926.
 
Sex was a monthly adult-oriented magazine published in the U.S. back in the mid-to-late 1920s that featured racy and often nude photos of women and men that also took on hard-hitting topics such as “Are all beautiful chorus girls dumb?” and “The reason gentlemen prefer blondes.” Ah, the roaring 20s—when the biggest problem faced by society (according to Sex magazine) was trying to figure out how girls operate.
 

‘En Guarde!’ an image from Sex magazine, 1926.
 
Back in 1926 and 1927 Sex only cost a quarter and while I’m sure that some folks claimed to find the publication of interest due to its “articles” I’m quite sure that it was the gorgeous, dreamily captioned portraits of nude and semi-nude women and men that helped sell the magazine’s classy take on erotic photography. Of the images that follow there are two that note the names of the models—one turned out to be a celebrity of sorts back in the 20s named Orville Stamm who was known as the “Boy Hercules” and “Strongest Boy in the World.” In 1917 and at the age of seventeen Stamm shot to fame for his Vaudeville shows of strength such as being able to support a stand-up piano (along with its player) on his stomach while in a “crab position.” Zowie. Vintage images from the magazine follow and as the magazine is called “Sex,” most are NSFW.
 

1926.
 
More ‘Sex’ after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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07.18.2016
09:32 am
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‘Legs & Attitudes’: Vintage French leg fetish magazine from 1930
01.14.2016
01:49 pm
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Jambes Et Attitudes or
Jambes Et Attitudes or “Legs and Attitudes” a French leg fetish magazine from that was published in Paris around 1930
 
Fetish magazines started popping up around Paris in the late 1920s and some of these very first titillating publications glorified women’s “jambes” or legs.
 
Jambes Et Attitudes or
A leg fetish model from Jambes Et Attitudes
 
One of these magazines was called Jambes Et Attitudes which when translated to English is the equally super-hot sounding, “Legs and Attitudes.” The magazine was published in Paris for about a year starting around 1930, and contained photos that were supposed to give you the impression that the images you were looking were candid - which they clearly are not. But they are incredible to look at (and slightly NSFW), which is what you should do right now. If this subject interests you, vintage copies of Jambes Et Attitudes can be found out there for anywhere from a hundred to a few hundred dollars a pop.
 

“Penning a Friend” from Jambes Et Attitudes
 
More legs and additional attitudes after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.14.2016
01:49 pm
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Magical vintage photos of Hollywood Boulevard becoming ‘Santa Claus Lane’ in the 1920s and 30s
12.18.2015
11:19 am
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Actress Mary Pickford affixing a
Actress Mary Pickford affixing a “Santa Claus Lane” sign on Hollywood Boulevard, 1928

The tradition of holding a Christmas parade on Hollywood Boulevard started 1928 as a way to encourage shoppers to spend money at the various businesses along the Boulevard of broken dreams. Known as the “Santa Claus Lane Parade,” the event also gave movie stars a vehicle to promote themselves and their latest pictures by featuring their glamorous head-shots in the middle of giant wreaths or riding in a car along the parade’s almost four-mile route.
 
The Marx Brothers in the Santa Claus Lane Parade, 1938
The Marx Brothers in the Santa Claus Lane Parade,1938
 
Claudette Colbert, Santa Claus Parade, 1932
Actress Claudette Colbert posing with her wreath along the Santa Claus Parade route, 1932
 
The parade took a break during WWII but then returned in 1945 and continued under its original name until 1978 when it was renamed the “Hollywood Christmas Parade” which is still happening every year. The massive metal trees lining the boulevard were over ten-feet tall, as were the equally huge Santas that dwarfed onlookers during the entire month of December. I’ve got a nice selection of captivating images from the early days of Santa Claus Lane that will hopefully give your spirits a much needed lift, as they did mine.
 
Santa Claus Lane Parade float, 1931
Santa Claus Lane Parade float, 1931
 
The first Santa Claus Lane parade, 1928
The first Santa Claus Lane parade, 1928
 
Santa Claus Lane Christmas tree, 1930s
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.18.2015
11:19 am
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High Diving Horses
10.08.2009
04:09 pm
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image


High diving horses were a regular attraction in Atlantic City in the 1920s. On one hand, it’s a shame that television and the Internet have “saved” us from weird entertainment like this. On the other hand, it’s really not. Oh for an America where you could watch horses getting flung off diving boards while noshing funnel cake.

Nowadays, this whole bag of nonsense strikes me as punk rock meme-reworkable a la pirates, ninjas, unicorns. Sadly, no video remains.

Here’s an essay though.

Posted by Jason Louv
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10.08.2009
04:09 pm
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