For this act you better get your folding money ready too.
This is an item you see other places around the internet, but we like it enough to post it anyway. It's a foldable table tent of Lilly Christine made around 1956 for the dual purpose of promoting one of the world's most famous burlesque dancers, and serving as a price list for drinks. This was made for Leon Prima's 500 Club in New Orleans, and a glance at the other side reveals that the price list was short: all drinks—$2.55; repeat drinks $1.55. Does that strike you as pretty steep for 1956? Us too. Plugging that into the old currency converter we get a 2022 price of—holy shit!—$27.28 for that first drink.
Prices like that will certainly keep the riff-raff out. The back of this particular table tent was written on by a guest (see below). It's dated October 10, 1956, and declares: Lilly is a really beautiful and sensuous creature and an “artist” (quotation marks in original). It also says her harem gave a sensational performance too, and since her harem was male that strikes us as a nicely enlightened comment for the time. We'd think most customers would be dismayed seeing muscular hunks up there with the object of their lust, but not this person.
You'll also notice the table tent advertises a second act named Carrie Finnell. We bet you've never heard of her, but she was an early—if not original—burlesque dancer who was born twenty years before Christine and had carved out an impressive career on the live stage, first as a Ziegfeld Girl, then as a peeler. You see her here checking to make sure her right boob is still where it's supposed to be.
The legend goes that Finnell was famous for the gimmick of the world longest striptease, which involved removing an article of clothing each week to higher and higher admission fees. It lasted fifty-four weeks. That's a lot of clothes, but then Finnell was a lot of woman. It's also a lot to pay, whether you take the entire multi-week journey or show up just for the finale, but since Finnell mainly danced in Cleveland we're betting the drinks weren't $2.55. So that's something, at least.
It's interesting, don't you think, that in the 500 Club a lifetime ago you had nights of gender equality (female and male erotic dancers on the same stage) and body equality (Finnell)? It's amazing the things that were done long before anyone thought to get exercised about them. We've cleaned up the table tent a bit from the form in which we found it, but it's still a bit worn, so we thought we'd give you Lilly—unfolded, unbent, uncreased, and incomparable—below. And of course we have plenty more of her in the website, so feel free to look around. She'll be back. That's a promise.
Whatever it is that girl put a spell on me.
Yes, we know. We've mixed and matched Jimi Hendrix. The line about putting a spell on him is actually from “Purple Haze” not “Voodoo Chile.” Doesn't matter. It fits. Above, returning for yet another engagement at Pulp Intl., is legendary burlesque dancer Lilly Christine, aka The Cat Girl. These shots were made, as were the last we shared, at the 500 Club in New Orleans, where she performed regularly. In the final one, in case it isn't clear, she's drinking or pretending to drink out of a gourd. After which... maybe she spit liquid all over herself to make her skin all slippery and gleaming. Not that something like that would turn us on. But it would some people. In any case, these photos are interesting not only for Christine's outfit and gyrations, but because they show a bit of the crowd, and the presence of two female heads gives an indication of how co-ed burlesque shows were back in the day. Women wanted to see erotic spectacles too, and we can only imagine they left highly impressed. The guys, meanwhile, we're sure left highly inspired. And when those two reactions meet! Sparks fly in the coital bed. That's what burlesque is all about. Yes, it's an art form, but it's an art form designed to give you a boner. Don't let anyone tell you differently. See plenty more burlesque imagery here.
A Lilly blooms in New Orleans.
Often mistaken by casual observers for Lili St. Cyr because of their similar names and looks, Lilly Christine, née Martha Theresa Pompender, was known in burlesque as the Cat Girl. Where Lili St. Cyr projected a regal beauty, Lilly Christine fashioned herself as a feral animal, grimacing and stalking her way through famed routines such as “Harem Heat” and “The Voodoo Dance,” performing to the sound of tribal drums and showing off the bellydancer-like control she had over her six-pack abs. You can get a sense of all that from the photos below, which come from a series shot at Leon Prima’s 500 Club in New Orleans, where Christine enjoyed her greatest fame. Strangely, though she was quite a celebrity, today she has only a modest online presence, and no uploaded video at all. Hopefully, someone out there will one day digitize a film and put it online, because she probably needs to be seen in motion to be truly appreciated. Lilly Christine died in 1965 at age forty-one and was born today, ninety years ago.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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