From stripteaser to legal trailblazer.
After being arrested two weeks earlier, topless burlesque dancer Carol Doda was acquitted of obscenity charges today in 1965, along with fellow dancers Yvonne D'Angers, Kay Star, and Euraine Heimberg. The above photo shows her standing outside San Francisco's Condor Club, where the arrest had taken place. The court case marked the legalization of topless dancing not just in San Fran, but helped usher in the practice elsewhere. Doda went on to push the envelope further when she graduated into totally nude dancing in 1969. Three years later the city passed an ordinance prohibiting total nudity in establishments that served alcohol. Such laws remain the norm even today in nearly the entirety of the U.S. Doda continued performing regularly until the 1980s, then opened a shop in San Francisco called Carol Doda's Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique. She died last year due to kidney failure. You can read a bit more about her trial and acquittal here.
Motel owner Gerald Foos spied on his guests for decades. Now his story is set for publication.
The New Yorker magazine's newest online issue features author Gay Talese's biographical account of a man who may be the most dedicated and successful voyeur who ever lived—Gerald Foos, who bought the Manor House Motel in metropolitan Denver in 1966, installed ceiling vents in more than a dozen rooms, and until 1995 watched his guests most intimate moments from an attic observation space. The vents were louvered and angled in such a way that he was invisible from below, and the attic was modified with carpet and reinforcing wood to make him undetectably silent as he lurked above his guests. In this way he observed thousands of couples, singles, and groups having sex, masturbating, arguing, using drugs, showering, using the toilet, and—on one occasion—committing murder.
Foos considered himself a researcher of sorts, and his decades of watching people's sexual liaisons gave him many insights into personal relationships as well as American society at large. All the while he took detailed notes of his observations and thoughts, which he eventually offered to Talese after contacting the author in 1980. Talese has culled those extensive writings for the publication of an upcoming book. The New Yorker article outlining Talese's meetings with Foos, their long correspondence, and the author's visit to the motel to peer through the illicit vents for himself, is long but we recommend a visit to the website to read it. And in case you're wondering, the Manor House Motel was demolished in 2014, so travelers in the Denver area need not worry about being secretly observed. At least at that motel.
Did she or didn’t she?
These two photos showing burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr were shot today in 1951 for a Los Angeles Examiner story about St. Cyr’s legal difficulties. On 23 February of that year she had begun performing at Ciro’s supper club in Hollywood. It was a different type of club for her—it lacked the intimacy of her normal venues, and would sap some of the heat from her act, but the place was world famous and considered by the smart set to be classy. It had hosted Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington. Of late it was facing stiff competition from Macambo’s, a Brazilian themed joint across the street, and owner Herman Hover wanted to make a splash with St. Cyr. He spent thousands refurbishing the stage just for her, and she would be the first burlesque dancer to transition from men’s clubs to L.A.’s most famous supper club.
On premier night celebs such as Ronald Reagan, Nancy Davis, Franchot Tone, Barbara Payton, Lex Barker, Mickey Rooney, and Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron watched her strip down to toned perfection as they ate dinner and sipped drinks. Other celebs that visited that summer included Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. During St. Cyr’s residency she varied her act, but a standard bit wasentitled "An Interlude Before Evening," and involved being helped from her clothing by her maid Sadie before slipping nude into a bathtub. But the nudity was an illusion, the cleverest part of her act, achieved through a combination of lighting, positioning, flesh-colored underwear, and sheer athleticism as she slipped quickly from behind a towel and into the sudsy tub.
On 18 October a group of Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, who were trying to enforce a countywide ban against stripping, arrested St. Cyr and Herman Hover. The charges were the usual slate. St. Cyr called upon celebrity lawyer Jerry Giesler—an event the two Examiner photos at top are supposed to be illustrating—and Giesler proceeded to help turn what was already a media boon for St. Cyr into a full bonanza. Giesler was a showman, and he loved cases that had the potential to increase his fame. He made assorted sensational statements to the press, including one in which he promised to have his client perform her bath routine in the courtroom, and another in which he opined that putting together a jury of peers required empaneling a dozen strippers. He described St. Cyr as merely trying to improve her station in life, just an industrious woman trying to carve herself a piece of American pie. The press ate it up.
The trial was scheduled for early December in the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Giesler kept the jury—which wasn’t all strippers, but at least was mostly female—laughing with his continual antics. He introduced St. Cyr’s rhinestone encrusted bra and g-string as people’s exhibits A and B. He drew diagrams on a blackboard illustrating how different observers' vantage points toward the stage were blocked by St. Cyr's maid. He flustered police officials by making them discuss in detail such such terms as “bump,” “grind,” and “half-bump,” and followed that up by putting Herman Hover on the witness stand and having him demonstrate those moves. The sight of the portly Hover attempting burlesque sent ripples of laughter through the courtroom. Years later Giesler wrote: “I can honestly say I succeeded in having her case laughed into a not-guilty verdict.”
That may have been true, but St Cyr’s icy demeanor was also an important factor. The women found her elegant and remote—the opposite of what they had expected. And the cops did their part for St. Cyr's defense by being terrible witnesses. One claimed that she emerged from the tub completely nude (the normal conclusion to her Interlude, and just as illusory). Another said she wore undies but that he couldsee the outline of her “private parts,” which he discerned in enough detail to determine “were shaven.” The inconsistencies were epic. Some said she caressed herself, others weren’t sure. Another described her towel as “about twenty, twenty-four inches.” In reality it was three times that size. It was as if St. Cyr's dance had dumbfounded the cops.
The confusion has extended even to the present day. For a performance that lasted barely fifteen minutes, it has had an amazing amount of conflicting information attached to it. Columnist Army Archerd claimed St. Cyr was indeed nude that night (clearly wrong, according to multiple testimonies); Sheila Weller’s book Dancing at Ciro’s claims an “all-male” jury (it was mostly female) was taken to Ciro’s to see the act (Giesler tried, but the judge said no); some sources claim St. Cyr performed a reverse strip, beginning nude in the tub and emerging to be slowly dressed by her maid (indeed, that was an oft-performed variation, so it is certainly possible it happened that night). Who's right, and who's wrong? Short of using a time machine to return to October 1951 there's no way to tell.
At the end of the six-day trial the jury acquitted St. Cyr following a mere seventy-eight minutes of deliberations. There had been no indecent exposure. At least not that night. All St. Cyr’s biographers agree on this much—she was shy and regal offstage, but her performancesfreed her to inhabit different characters. Despite her assertions that she always wore at least a g-string and bra, she definitely performed topless on occasion, as shown by the above photo taken at Ciro’s during early 1951.
Sheriff’s deputies had gone to the club already intent upon arresting her based on what they had heard about the act, which may have influenced their testimony—i.e., they didn’t see her nude, but knew she had done it before. St. Cyr admitted in court she knew police were in the audience, thus she was especially careful that night. But what of other nights? Maybe Army Archerd did what columnists do—took an event he witnessed on one night and pretended it happened on a more useful one. Maybe St. Cyr, on occasions when she knew the cops were far away, flashed her audience to generate buzz. It’s likely we’ll never know what really happened, but that merely adds to the St. Cyr mystique. Did she or didn’t she? Only her maid knew for sure.
Chambers offers Japanese fans a double dose of big screen sex.
This nice poster was made to advertise the Marilyn Chambers movies Behind the Green Door and The Resurrection of Eve. Chambers is before our time, but we’ve gotten into her because, well, honestly, it’s because she has great promo shots. Like this one. Or for that matter the one below. That makes her rare among early adult film stars, most of whom have few surviving promos of any quality. We’ve talked about that once or twice before. Chambers was more photographed probably because she was the most important performer of the porno chic era, that time during the early 1970s when adult films played in mainstream cinemas and it was considered cool—in New York at least—to have attended such screenings. During this brief pre-VHS, pre-internet period when porn was consumed in public cinemas with minimal shame, Chambers was a legitimate national celebrity. With the above poster we see that her popularity also extended to Japan. Behind the Green Door and The Resurrection of Eve premiered there, both separately and together, today in 1976.
Virginity wasn’t against the law, but topless dancing was—until she came along.
Burlesque dancer Yvonne D’Angers graces the cover of this Midnight published today in 1967. She was born in Teheran, Iran and reached the height of her fame after a 1965 obscenity trial, a government threat to deport her, a publicity stunt where she chained herself to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and a 1966 appearance in Playboy. There’s surprisingly little about her online—not even a measly Wikipedia page. But she was important within her milieu—she was one of four defendants in the aforementioned obscenity trial, along with Carol Doda, Kay Star, and Euraine Heimberg, and the acquittal legalized topless dancing and waitressing in San Francisco. That decision made San Fran the first city in the U.S. where this was the case.
D’Angers’ main haunt was the Off Broadway on Kearney Street, but she also danced at Gigi’s, which was located on Broadway, and she worked in Las Vegas, in addition to touring the U.S. She was married to Off Broadway owner Voss Boreta, and he was her manager, making her part a client list that included Doda and the topless girl-band The Ladybirds. She was also—though this is not often noted—a college graduate anda painter. She billed herself as being naturally endowed, but both she and Doda were said by people who knew them early in their careers to have been worked on by cosmetic surgeons. The above shots of D’Angers, pre-fame, pre-blonde, versus post-fame, 44D, hanging out with Trini Lopez, seem to confirm those stories. Well have more on D’Angers (and Doda) later.
These two things are called eyes, and if you don’t want to be offended you can do something incredible—close them.
Studio nudes of Susanne Haines have been floating around the web for a while now, and they made us curious who she is. No info was readily available, but after some digging it turns out this obscure dancer has a very interesting story. She born and raised around Sacramento, California, and spent some time in Utah, before winning the Miss Placer County beauty contest in 1963 when she was sixteen. Several years later, as an unhappily married college student, she saw an ad asking for a go-go waitress and took the job to get away from her husband. She was soon earning $72.50 a week serving drinks in a nightclub.
From there it was a short leap to the stage—and a bump in earnings to $450 a week as she peeled for male customers. In May 1969 she was performing at the Pink Pussy Kat in the Sacramento suburb of Orangevale when two sheriff’s deputies entered and found Haines and two other women serving drinks topless. When Haines took the stage and performed a dance number that ended with her completely naked, the cops arrested her along with fellow dancer Sheila Brendenson for indecent exposure and lewd and dissolute conduct. Club owner Leonard Glancy was arrested for soliciting.
That case didn’t reach court until late summer, when it landed before the bench of Judge Earl Warren, Jr., son of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had just retired in June. Glancy had kept the Pink Pussy Kat open by featuring only bikini dancing, and he also cooked up an ingenious scheme of having patrons pay to watch nude dances on closed circuit television, as in the photo just below, since it was only “live” nudity that was legally dangerous.
Early in the trial, Judge Warren Jr. agreed with defense attorney Ronald Sypnicki and D.A. Kenneth Hake that, since there was no film or photos of the offending performance, the only fair thing was to allow the jurors to see it for themselves. That couldn’t happen in the courthouse, so Warren had the jury conducted to the Pink Pussy Kat, where Haines performed nude under psychedelic illumination to songs such as “Israelites” and Jimi Hendrix’s hip shaker “Foxy Lady.” Because the bar was open to regular patrons in an attempt to recreate the normal atmosphere of a nude performance, Haines received raucous applause after each of her numbers.
Asked for comment by reporters afterward, Warren deemed his decision a sound one, saying, “[They] got a better look than we could have given them with just plain oral testimony or by trying to re-create some of these things in the courtroom.” Five days later Warren proved his faith in x-rated field trips by taking another panel to another nudie club during a trial involving stripper Carol Doda. The Haines case lasted for five weeks total.The jury was finally sent to their chambers the second day of October, and after ten hours of deliberation returned with a verdict of guilty on the indecent exposure charge, but innocent on lewd conduct. Warren explained that it had to be guilty on both or innocent on both—if the exposure was indecent the conduct was obviously lewd, or conversely neither was true—and the jury was sent back into their chambers. After another hour of deliberation, Haines and Brendenson won acquittals, as did club owner Glancy on his soliciting charge.
Brendenson quit dancing after the trial, but Haines was ready to get naked again, and Glancy was more than willing to provide a stage. The county sheriff had said he’d continue to jail dancers despite the jury’s verdict, and Haines racked up seven arrests at the Pink Pussy Kat—plus about fifteen others at various venues over the years. But she also was nationally known thanks to the trial and won the title of Miss Nude Universe in 1972, which in turn pushed her earnings as high as $1,000—about $5,700 in today’s money. Fame didn’t deter the morals squads, though. She was arrested for indecent exposure in Oklahoma and this time lost a $5,000 judgment. Later she was arrested for larceny.
Not long after, realizing her life was going in a direction she couldn’t control, she quit show business and became an evangelical Christian. In 1978, under her married name Susanne Haines Register, she wrote an autobiography, a cautionary tale of life in the fast lane entitled—what else?—Take It All Off. She does just that in the four shots below. They were made, like the one at top, around 1969.
Ashley Madison hack could lead down road to serious trouble for important people.
Perhaps you haven’t been following the story, but the marital infidelity website Ashley Madison suffered a security breach in July by a hacktivist group called Impact Team in which all its account records were stolen. At first Ashley Madison’s parent corporation Avid Life Media tried to claim its data remained secure, but it later emerged that Ashley Madison’s client database was completely compromised. For the uninitiated, Ashley Madison hooks up marrieds who want to have affairs, and while most sensible people would think that's a terrible idea, the site had generated millions of clients. Impact Team demanded the site be shut down or all the user records would be published, and yesterday the group made good on that threat and posted 9.7 gigs of records from as many as 32 million users in 46 countries.
Generally, we’re in favor of digital civil disobedience, but this latest raid seems a bit out of character for the various anonymous hacker collectives. At least until you dig a little deeper. Impact Team’s proclamation says in part, “Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See Ashley Madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male.” Exposing mass fraud seems more in line with the usual hacktivist modus operandi, but there’s more. Approximately 15,000 Ashley Madison accounts carry a .gov or .mil web address. Yes, you read that right—more than 15,000 of the accounts go directly back to U.S. military or government IPs. Some even carry a White House home address.
Thus, the moral posturing about sexual infidelity (Impact Team writes, “Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends.”) feels a bit like a smokescreen. In reality, this hack has very likely put a major scare into the political class. Some of the addresses are probably fake (the White House ones are good candidates, because we doubt any White House employees are thatdumb, whereas people who hate the government would be more than willing to spend the time and effort to set up fake profiles). But then some of the addresses most definitely aren’t fake.
The account information is only available so far on the dark web, but we’re very curious to see if anyone follows up on the details of those .gov addresses. There’s no telling who’s at the other end, and we can hardly wait for the denials to start. It's just delicious to think that, after passing all sorts of intrusive laws designed to corral and track internet users, the same politicians could end up being the foxes to a bunch of curious citizens' hounds. Could it actually happen? We have no idea, but we can dream can't we? Stay tuned.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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