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Frank Zappa, serial killers and the all-girl dance troupe L.A. Knockers


Members of the dance troupe/cabaret L.A. Knockers getting ready to take the stage at the Playboy Club in Los Angeles in the late 1970s.
 
I’ve learned many things here writing for Dangerous Minds—one that there is always more to a picture than meets the eye. Which is why I took it upon myself to find out more about mid-70s all-girl dance troupe/cabaret act, L.A. Knockers. Their act was a fan favorite in the Los Angeles club scene where you could find the girls performing at The Starwood, The Troubadour, The Comedy Store, The Matrix Theater, and the Playboy Club. The shows curated exclusively for the Playboy Club included a strange sounding sexed-up comedic version of a 1978 medley by The Village People, “The Women” featuring members of the Knockers dressed as John Travolta (in Saturday Night Fever mode), Dracula, Superman, King Kong and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. And that was just for starters.

The members of L.A. Knockers would grow through the dozen or so years they were together and they performed all over the country to packed houses, but most often in Las Vegas and Reno. Knockers’ principal choreographer Jennifer Stace would bring the dance-magic to the group as did choreographer, Marilyn Corwin. Corwin worked her disco moves with The Village People, for the movie, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) and with Frank Zappa during some of his live performances. The Knockers caught the eye of Zappa, who, according to an article published in 1981 in Italian magazine L’Espresso, wanted to take the Knockers on tour with him, a claim that perhaps at first sounded like it had no legs, but it much like the Knockers, actually did. On New Year’s Eve in 1976, Zappa played a show at the Forum in Los Angeles which included members of the L.A. Knockers dressed like babies in diapers and white afro wigs. Hey, even Frank Zappa thought they were cool as fuck, which, without question, they were.

Any story worth reading must include a twist, and this is where the part about the Hillside Stranglers, the horrific serial killers and cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, comes in. Twenty-one-year-old Lissa Kastin, an original member of L.A. Knockers would become Bianchi and Buono’s third victim. In 1985’s The Hillside Stranglers by Darcy O’Brien, the author notes that Kastin was not “an attractive enough victim” for the degenerate cousins who were put off by her “health nut looks” and “unshaved legs.” In some true crime circles, Kastin would be referred to as “the ugly girl” among the Hillside Stranglers’ female body count thanks to a photo used by the newspapers—an image that looked almost nothing like the young, rising star.

Below are some incredible photos taken by Elisa Leonelli which lovingly chronicle the L.A. Knockers’ decade-plus career in showbiz as well as a compilation video of the troupe performing live which you simply must see. Some of the images which follow are slightly NSFW.
 

Original members of L.A. Knockers, Jennifer Stace (left), Lissa Kastin (RIP, center) and Yana Nirvana (right).
 

1978.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.01.2018
09:37 am
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‘Bare-ass naked’: The KLF and the live stage production of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Illuminatus!’


Prunella Gee as Eris in ‘Illuminatus!’ (via Liverpool Confidential)

In 1976, the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool mounted a 12-hour stage production of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was a fateful event in the life of the show’s set designer, Bill Drummond, for reasons he’s detailed in the Guardian: for one thing, it was in connection with Illuminatus! and its director, Ken Campbell, that Drummond first heard about the eternal conflict between the Illuminati, who may secretly control the world, and the Justified Ancients of Mummu, or the JAMs, who may be agents of chaos disrupting the Illuminati’s plans. (Recall that in Illuminatus!, the MC5 record “Kick Out The Jams” at the behest of the Illuminati, as a way of taunting the Justified Ancients—or so John Dillinger says.)

Before they were known as the KLF, Drummond and Jimmy Cauty called themselves the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, appropriating the name for the eschaton-immanentizing hip-hop outfit they started in 1987. Over the next few years, they seized the pop charts and filled the airwaves with disorienting, Discordian hits, until a day came when you could flip on the TV and find Tammy Wynette singing “Stand By The JAMs,” or Martin Sheen narrating the KLF’s reenactment of the end of The Wicker Man.
 

Bill Drummond in Big in Japan, live at Eric’s (via @FromEricsToEvol)
 
After the Liverpool run of Illuminatus!, Drummond rebuilt his sets for the London production, but he suddenly bailed on the show, walking out hours before it was to open. I guess he missed the nude cameo appearance Robert Anton Wilson describes in Cosmic Trigger, Volume I:

On November 23, 1976—a sacred Discordian holy day, both because of the 23 and because it is Harpo Marx’s birthday—a most ingenious young Englishman named Ken Campbell premiered a ten-hour adaptation of Illuminatus at the Science-Fiction Theatre of Liverpool. It was something of a success (the Guardian reviewed it three times, each reviewer being wildly enthusiastic) and Campbell and his partner, actor Chris Langham, were invited to present it as the first production of the new Cottesloe extension of the National Theatre, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen.

This seemed to me the greatest Discordian joke ever, since Illuminatus, as I may not have mentioned before, is the most overtly anarchistic novel of this century. Shea and I quite seriously defined our purpose, when writing it, as trying to do to the State what Voltaire did to the Church—to reduce it to an object of contempt among all educated people. Ken Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe). The thought of having this totally subversive ritual staged under the patronage of H.M. the Queen, Elizabeth II, was nectar and ambrosia to me.

The National Theatre flew Shea and me over to London for the premiere and I fell in love with the whole cast, especially Prunella Gee, who emphatically has my vote for Sexiest Actress since Marilyn Monroe. Some of us did a lot of drinking and hash-smoking together, and the cast told me a lot of synchronicities connected with the production. Five actors were injured during the Liverpool run, to fulfill the Law of Fives. Hitler had lived in Liverpool for five months when he was 23 years old. The section of Liverpool in which the play opened, indeed the very street, is described in a dream of Carl Jung’s recorded on page 23 of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The theatre in Liverpool opened the day Jung died. There is a yellow submarine in Illuminatus, and the Beatles first sang “Yellow Submarine” in that same Liverpool Theatre. The actor playing Padre Pederastia in the Black Mass scene had met Aleister Crowley on a train once.

The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” under the patronage of Elizabeth II, Queen of England, and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by Crowley before I was even born.

 

Robert Anton Wilson (via John Higgs)
 
In 2017, 23 years after they split up, Drummond and Cauty reunited as the JAMs. Instead of a new chart-burning house record, they released their first novel…

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.27.2018
10:08 am
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Aces High: Pan’s People’s sexy, strangely alluring promo for ‘Top of the Pops’ in 1971
01.16.2018
10:07 am
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Pan’s People were the reason so many dads watched Top of the Pops. They would sit and moan and ask daft rhetorical questions about all the acts that appeared on the BBC’s legendary chart show saying things like “You call that music?” or “Is that a man or a woman? Why’s he got makeup on, then?....” while the likes of Marc Bolan, or David Bowie, or Slade lip-synched to their latest hit single. But when Pan’s People came on, these scoffing dads would fall suddenly silent and breath rather heavily as their attention zoomed in on the all-female dance troupe who gyrated their hips to the latest grooves.

Pan’s People consisted of five dancers: Babs Lord, Dee Dee Wilde, Ruth Pearson, Louise Clarke, and Cherry Gillespie. They had formed Pan’s People out of two different TV dance groups: the Beat Girls and Top of the Pops first dance troupe the Go-Jos in 1968. Each of these dancers was exceedingly beautiful and supple and performed, what was for the time, rather risque sets in fashionably arousing outfits. For many males, even those not very interested in music, Pan’s People made Top of the Pops essential viewing.

Pan’s People usually performed their routines to tracks that had charted when the artists (either by being on tour or based over in America) weren’t able to appear on the show. Each week, choreographer Flick Colby had to devise a new routine for the girls to perform. This sometimes led to strange literal interpretations like the time they all danced Gilbert O’Sullivan’s hit “Get Down” to a pack of dogs all because the song had the lyric “I told you once before, And I won’t tell you no more, Get down, Get down, Get down. You’re a bad dog, baby, I don’t want you hanging around.” Sometimes there was no lyric as in this promo made for the show featuring John Barry’s theme music for the Roger Moore and Tony Curtis series The Persuaders.

This little insert film is a strange kind of Ballardian fantasy where gangs of suited-up molls carry out half-remembered rituals that are still tinged with power and meaning. It’s a superbly informative piece of televisual history that captures so much about the culture at the time. It has to be remembered that women wearing trouser suits or dressing like men was outré and still considered shocking. It was a time when casinos and gambling were thought of as dangerous, illicit and deeply exciting. A time when women smoking a cigarillo—or even driving a car on their own—was seen as striking a blow for Women’s Liberation. Nowadays, I guess most young’uns would (sadly) swipe left in search of something far more explicit if one of Pan’s Peoples’ routines appeared on their tablets. “But what do kids know?” as some of those dads asked aloud to no-one, in particular, all those years ago.
 

 
And now, some more choice moments of the fabulous Pan’s People.
 
More fab dance routines from Pan’s People, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.16.2018
10:07 am
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Spank Your Blank Blank: Funky vintage dance step instructions (including the Time Warp!)


Instructions for the ‘Spank Your Blank Blank’ dance. The instructions came along with Chicago-based artist Morris Jefferson’s sole record of the same name from 1978.
 
I’ve always been a bit jealous of people blessed with the gift of being able to dance—if it were possible for a human to have four left feet, I would be that human. And if I do try to bust a move, it’s in the privacy of my own home with the shades drawn just in case. In other words, if you recall the infamous episode of SeinfeldThe Little Kicks” (Season eight, episode four) where Elaine shows off her dance moves, I make her look like fucking Baryshnikov. I do however love to watch practitioners of the art, as well as professionals, strut their stuff in films and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve seen the 1984 film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo more (a lot more) than once. So perhaps in an attempt to help myself as well as anyone else suffering from more than one left foot, today’s post features a large collection of instructions for various vintage dance moves from “The Watusi,” “The Shag,” “The Ska,” and, of course, the disco staple, “The Travolta Point.”

One of my favorite artifacts in this post are the instructions for the so-called “Spank Your Blank Blank” dance (pictured at the top of this post) which came along with Morris Jefferson’s only album of the same name released in 1978. Another gem is a sheet of instructions for “the Time Warp” which was a part of the 15th Anniversary CD UK Box Set for The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1989. Check them all out below.
 

“The Bug.”
 

Examples of four different dance moves; “Rowing the Boat,” “the Popeye,” “the Dean Martin,” and “the Dracula.”
 

“The Zulu Stomp.”
 
More smooth moves after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.08.2018
10:38 am
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‘The Inhibition,’ the ‘frozen’ dance Charles Manson taught Beach Boy Dennis Wilson in 1968
11.27.2017
09:06 am
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via Sunset Gunshots
 
I thought I had long ago digested every crumb of gossip about the Beach Boys-Manson family connection, but one of the Charlie obits I read this week brought a screaming headline from the December 21, 1968 issue of Record Mirror to my attention: “DENNIS WILSON: ‘I LIVE WITH 17 GIRLS.’”

In the interview, conducted the year before the Tate-LaBianca murders, Wilson muses about turning the Manson girls into a group called “the Family Gems,” and says he’s been writing songs with their guru, “a guy named Charlie who’d recently come out of jail after 12 years.” Charlie, Wilson says, also taught him a dance step called “the Inhibition,” a kind of visualization exercise. (Wouldn’t “Do the Inhibition” have made a boss A-side for the Family Gems’ first 45?) From the interview: 

I still believe in meditation and I’m not experimenting with tribal living. I live in the woods in California, near Death Valley, with 17 girls. They’re space ladies. And they’d make a great group. I’m thinking of launching them as the Family Gems.

How did you come to meet up with no less than 17 girls?

It happened strangely. I went up into the mountains with my houseboy to take an LSD trip. We met two girls hitchhiking. One of them was pregnant. We gave them a lift, and a purse was left in the car. About a month later, near Malibu, I saw the pregnant girl again, only this time she’d had her baby. I was overjoyed for her and it was through her that I met all the other girls. I told them about our involvement with the Maharishi and they told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie who’d recently come out of jail after 12 years. His mother was a hooker, his father was a gangster, he’d drifted into crime but when I met him I found he had great musical ideas. We’re writing together now. He’s dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him. He taught me a dance, The Inhibition. You have to imagine you’re a frozen man and the ice is thawing out. Start with your fingertips, then all the rest of you, then you extend it to a feeling that the whole universe is thawing out. . .

Are you supporting all these people?

No, if anything, they’re supporting me. I had all the rich status symbols—Rolls Royce, Ferrari, home after home. Then I woke up, gave away 50 to 60 per cent of my money. Now I live in one small room, with one candle, and I’m happy, finding myself.

Below, at 3:38, the Beach Boys play the Manson and Wilson-penned tune “Never Learn Not to Love” on The Mike Douglas Show.

Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.27.2017
09:06 am
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Freddy Krueger commands you to dance (or else!) on his 1987 novelty record
10.26.2017
07:28 am
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What would be really surprising, in retrospect, is if there had been no Freddy Krueger novelty records at all. But most of us will do much worse things for money. Aside from the Fat Boys’ “rappin’ Freddy” single, “Are You Ready for Freddy,” the big item in the child killer’s slender discography is the 1987 LP Freddy’s Greatest Hits, credited to the Elm Street Group.

The title is misleading, and not just because there weren’t any hits. Freddy’s only contribution to many songs is a joyless cackle that sounds like the devil’s laughter in Chick tracts (“HAW! HAW! HAW!”). The actual lead vocals, usually performed by one Stephanie Davy, emerge from a band that sounds like it has run out of drugs midway through scoring a contemporary Chevy Chase vehicle. Does Freddy get the chance to stretch out, to demonstrate his range, his imagination, or his gifts as an interpreter of songs? Did Freddy and the Elm Street Group keep after, say, “Moon River” all night long, through take after nicotine-stained take, until the song finally opened up like a thousand-petaled lotus long after everyone had grown too tired to think, and a hush fell over the studio as the sun stole over the horizon and the last notes died away because everyone knew they had just played “the one,” the take for all time, and they could still feel it hanging in the air? No. On his recording debut, Freddy mostly says “HAW! HAW! HAW!”
 

 
What can this flawed collection tell us about the artist? Freddy is a Boomer, apparently. Four of the nine tracks are covers of Fifties and Sixties rock hits: Freddie and the Dreamers’ “Do the Freddie,” Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully,” Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” While the latter two selections are obvious enough jokes, the inclusion of “Do the Freddie” and “Wooly Bully” reveals a surprising dimension of Freddy’s character. He wants you to dance!

More Freddy after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.26.2017
07:28 am
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Dancing with death: Vintage erotica featuring women cavorting with skeletons
09.13.2017
11:14 am
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It may seem a bit early for Halloween but if Selfridges think it wise to open their Christmas department in August then I see no reason why not to share some amusingly ghoulish pictures as prep for our favorite time of year—Allhallows Eve.

So, here for our enjoyment and possible edification are some intriguing pictures of women and skeletons. “What’s going on here?” you may ask. Well, quite a lot actually. These vintage photographs and postcards of women dancing and flirting with skeletons are more than mere momento mori or snapshots of ladies at carnivals having a jolly wheeze in the face of death—they are in some respects quite transgressive.

Some of these pictures were intended as, well, shall we say, “educational erotica” giving the viewer a frisson of arousal while at the same time battering them on the head with the salutary warning that the wrong kind of boner could lead to disease and death. Something those Decadent artists used to bang (ahem) on about in their paintings.

The association of sex and death was something that would not have gone amiss with most women, for although the percentage of mothers dying during childbirth fell dramatically in the 19th-century, there was still a staggering number of perinatal fatalities—500 to 1,000 per 100,000 births.

Then again, a few of these pictures seem to show happy young thanatophiles reveling in the thrill of cavorting with their skeleton chums. Lucky old them!

The last selection comes from a series of photographs taken by Joseph Hall of a vaudeville production called Death and the Lady from 1906, which was loosely based on a 17th-century English ballad.

What I take from all these rather fantastic pictures is that Death comes for us all, so it’s never too early to get your costume ready for Halloween…
 
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More of this skeleton crew, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.13.2017
11:14 am
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Meet Anita Berber: The ‘Priestess of Debauchery’ who scandalized Weimar Berlin

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The woman with the shock of dyed red hair, her body wrapped in a fur coat, and a pet monkey grinning and holding tight to her neck was Anita Berber. She danced across the foyer of the Adlon Hotel opened her sable coat and revealed her lustrous naked body underneath. Men leered, goggle-eyed. Women giggled or turned their heads in shock and embarrassment.

Anita Berber didn’t care. She liked to shock. She liked the attention. If she didn’t get it, she would shout and throw empty bottles or glasses on the floor. Smash! Berber was a dancer, an actor, a writer, and a model. She was called the “Goddess of the Night,” the “Priestess of Debauchery,” the very symbol of Weimar decadence, and a drug-addled degenerate. She was all these things and more. And during her brief life, Berber utterly scandalized Berlin during the 1920s. Not an easy task!

The daughter of two musicians, Anita Berber was born in Dresden in 1899. Her parents divorced when she was young, Berber was then raised by her grandmother. By sixteen, she quit the family home for the unpredictable life as a dancer in cabaret shows. The First World War was at its bloodiest height. The daily reports of casualties and death meant people were reckless with their passions. It was then that Berber started a series of relationships and dangerous habits that became her life.

After the War, Berber began her career as a movie actor—starring opposite Conrad Veidt in The Story of Dida Ibsen in 1918 and then in Prostitution and Around the World in Eighty Days the following year. While Veidt went onto become a major movie star with a career in Hollywood, Berber’s career stalled and she became best known for her performances as a dancer, a sultry temptress or a drug-addled prostitute. With her dark bobbed hair and androgynous good looks, Berber created a style that was copied by Marlene Dietrich (who basically stole her act), Leni Riefenstahl who idolized Berber, was her understudy and had a brief intense relationship with her, and Louise Brooks, whose seductive image in Pandora’s Box was a copy of Berber’s. She had relationships with both men and women, seeing no difference in taking pleasures from either sex. Berber married in 1919, then left her husband—a man called Nathusius—for a woman called Susi Wanowski. The couple became a fixture of Berlin’s growing lesbian scene.

Berber enjoyed opium, hashish, heroin, and cocaine—which she kept secreted in a silver locket around her neck. She also had a strong predilection for ether and chloroform mixed together in a small china bowl, into which she scattered white rose petals. Once these were sufficiently marinated in this heady concoction, she ate the petals one by one until she fell into a delicious sleep.

Berber’s louche lifestyle coupled with her fame as a movie star and dancer meant she was the subject of gossip and cafe tittle-tattle. It was said over black sweet coffee she was once kept as a sex slave by a married woman and her fifteen-year-old daughter. It was claimed between mouthfuls of chocolate cake that she wandered through casinos and hotels flashing her naked body. While in the bars, it was overheard that she exhausted her lovers with her insatiable demands for sex. 

Some of these tales were false. Most were true. But all of them kept Anita Berber fixed in the public’s imagination.

In 1921, she met and fell in love with the Sebastian Droste, a bisexual dancer who was known as a performer in Berlin’s gay bars and clubs. They became lovers and married in 1922. They formed a scandalous dance partnership choreographing and performing together in Expressionist “fantasias” like Suicide, Morphium, and Mad House. They also collaborated on a book of poetry and photographs called Die Tänze des Lasters, des Grauens und der Ekstase (Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy). A typical routine went something like this:

In the dance, “Menschen,” or, “People,” we find,

Only two people

Two naked people

Man

Woman

And both in a cage

Hard stiff horrible cages

The two king’s children sang songs

But with tears

The man smashes his cage

Tradition

Society

Convention he spits out.

Which is the kind of nonsense we nowadays associate with the overly pretentious rather than the naturally gifted…but at the time… You can imagine: shock, horror, and spilled sherry.

Berber’s and Groste’s relationship was intense, passionate, and drug-fueled. Because of her considerable use of cocaine, Berber often hurled champagne bottles at the audience if they failed to appreciate her genius. It was inevitable their marriage would not last long and they separated in 1923.

By the time Otto Dix painted his famous portrait of Berber in 1925, the years of drug abuse, frenetic lifestyle, and lack of nutrition was plain to see. The painting looks more like a woman in her fifties than a twenty-five-year-old. The woman who once scandalized Berlin with her androgynous looks, her erotic and seductive dances and her sultry on-screen appearance was no longer so appealing. Berber was out of favor as a younger generation of ingenues took over. She began touring her dance shows. During one such tour in Damascus, Berber became fatally ill with tuberculosis. She returned home to Berlin where she died “surrounded by empty morphine syringes” on November 10th, 1928. Anita Berber was twenty-nine. She was buried in a pauper’s grave and may have been long forgotten had it not been for Dix’s portrait that kept her legend alive.
 
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More photos of the ‘Priestess of Debauchery,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.14.2017
09:52 am
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Vintage burlesque dancers and stripper portraits from the 1960s

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The Internet has a fair selection of vintage images of strippers and burlesque dancers from the nineteen-forties, the fifties, sixties, seventies, and so on. Many are strangely orphaned like most of the kazillions of images out there. Just think, every day there are more images merely uploaded than all of the pictures produced during the 19th century. That’s kind of staggering. Most of these pictures drift unanchored to any connecting narrative.

All of which reminds me of the old Hans Christian Andersen story “The Shadow,” which I’m sure you all know or have at least been told at some point in your childhood. Simply put, it’s the story of a man whose shadow escapes one night and starts living a life of its own. This shadow becomes more and more independent until it is the dominant figure and its original creator, the man himself, becomes utterly subservient. Old photographs are like that. They have their own life which becomes the shadow by which we know or identify the subject’s life. Like these photos of strippers culled from magazine spreads and publicity shots used to tout some gentertainment. We know little about the women who posed for these pictures—or the lives they lived—but we (for want of a better word) identify them by their shadow—which in this case is their photograph.

In a similar way, strippers put on a show that’s only meant to entertain, which sadly some dumb men think is real. As the legendary stripper Toni Elling once said, it’s all about entertainment:

“[T]he idea is to suggest what’s there, not throw off all your clothes and reveal everything. That’s why they call it strip-tease.”

While most of the following are of strippers from the 1960s, I have included a couple of respected burlesque dancers, whose work had considerable influence on both the exotic dancing and stripping worlds.
 
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More exotic dancers and strippers, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.20.2017
11:01 am
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Disneyland’s mega-discotheque Videopolis was the ultimate 1980s dance party experience
05.18.2017
09:47 am
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“Tonight’s your special night for an exclusive premiere of the summer’s newest hotspot—Videopolis. It’s the dancing, dating, party scene you’re going to hear a lot about. The volume’s cranked up, the videos are rolling. And the lighting effects? A real killer! Tonight, you’ll be the first to experience this high-tech, high-energy nightclub phenomenon.”

When the obviously un-cool Michael Eisner became Disney’s C.E.O. he was desperate to appeal to teenagers and young adults. In an attempt to attract edgier teens of the MTV generation Eisner developed Videopolis: an epic 5,000 square foot all-ages discotheque located just west It’s a Small World in Fantasyland, strategically placed in the corner of the park where the loud volume would not disturb the other park guests. This state-of-the-art, $3 million outdoor venue complete with hundreds of neon lights & lasers, 70 video monitors displaying music videos, spotlights shooting into the sky, a snack bar called “Yumz,” and a dance floor large enough hold 3,000 guests opened on June 22nd, 1985. It was constructed in just 105 days using some staging elements from a 1984 Los Angeles Olympics facility. A sophisticated light show slowly lowered from the ceiling, and three camera crews captured dancers and projected them onto two 16-foot screens as computer generated “light sticks” effects were superimposed onto them in real time.
 

 
Imagineer Carl Bongiorno described Videopolis as “the first, the fastest, and the finest… it is the first attraction completed under the new Eisner-Wells team. The fastest construction project we’ve ever completed, and the finest dance facility of its kind anywhere.” To help make the attraction popular and affordable to teens, Disneyland introduced the “Summer’s Night Pass” for just $40 which gave you a Videopolis membership card plus admission into the park every evening after 5pm all summer long. Local 106.7 FM KROQ deejay Swedish Egil gave away prizes such as a $25 gift certificate to Tower Records, a Sony AM/FM Walkman, and free concert tickets to the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. Every night, Videopolis would play “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood during the fireworks show which took place right above the dance floor, offering partying guests a spectacular view.
 

 
Many special videotaped events were held where popular singers like Rick Ashley and DeBarge performed live. A 2-hour TV special titled Disneyland’s Summer Vacation Party aired in 1986 and featured Miami Sound Machine, Boy George, The Bangles, and Oingo Boingo performing live on the Videopolis stage. In 1987 Videopolis had a short run as a TV series on the recently launched Disney Channel. Hosted by Randy Hamilton, the show spotlighted top-notch dancers as well as awkward teens who would interact with celebrity guests such as Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, Tiffany, New Edition, Pebbles, and Janet Jackson.

The Disney dance party’s popularity soared in the late ‘80s surpassing its competition over at Knott’s Berry Farm’s “Club K” which was attracting up to 2,000 teenagers a night. Not all parents approved, and one mother wrote to the Anaheim Bulletin warning of “Punkers in Fantasyland,” claiming that since the dance club opened “It’s Halloween every day” at Disneyland.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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05.18.2017
09:47 am
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