The forecast is looking very good.
Above: a really nice shot of model and showgirl La Raine Meeres made by famed pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager around 1957. We can't tell you much about Meeres, except that she danced in Cab Calloway's Cotton Club Revue and this shot was made when the show passed through Yeager's base of Miami. Yeager was an early standard bearer for inclusivity, and made a point of working with women of color when few photographers were interested. We'll keep an eye out for more of the marvelous Meeres.
A jazz legend shows her stripes.
Above you see a live concert photo of musical pioneer Jo Thompson, who broke segregation barriers as a jazz performer, particularly in Miami, where she played often and where this image was made by famed photographer Bunny Yeager. Thompson also performed in Detroit, where she was based, New York City, Havana, London, Paris, and other European hotspots. She isn't well known today but she's considered by jazz lovers to have helped pave the way for black performers who came along slightly later, and critic Herb Boyd said about her that she was, “a consummate storyteller whether standing or at the keyboard."
That being the case, we'll highlight a story Thompson occasionally told about Frank Sinatra, the hipster gadabout of the mid-century, who came to see her one night at the Cork Club in Miami. He was with Ava Gardner, and after the show invited Thompson to join them at their table. The Cork, being in the deep south, didn't allow black performers to sit at the tables, let alone with white companions. But Sinatra being Sinatra, the rule crumbled, at least for the night. Thompson greatly appreciated that. And the jazz world appreciated her. She was a trailblazer. She lived a very long time, long enough to receive many overdue tributes, before finally dying just two years ago of COVID-19.
Who asked where have all the flowers gone? Well, we wish these would go too.
The above Technicolor lithograph featuring model Maria Stinger shot by Bunny Yeager is entitled "Aloha," though we have doubts it was shot in Hawaii. Yeager was based in the Miami area, so the image may have been made there. It has a nice, summery vibe, which we think is appropriate as the weather warms (for those of you that actually have winter). Maybe if it gets hot enough Stinger will ditch the flowers. No date on this, but probably from between 1955 and 1960. Want to see more Technicolor lithos? Click here.
A brilliant book ends early and sadly.
The legendary Bettie Page has died in the hospital after a heart attack earlier this week. The photo above, by Bunny Yeager, shows Bettie at her most beautiful and lively, the way she should be remembered.
Legendary 50s pin-up admitted to Los Angeles hospital.
85 year-old former pin-up queen Bettie Page was hospitalized in Los Angeles this week after a heart attack and is critically ill. Page rose to fame as an erotic model during the 1950s, posing for scores of magazines, and appearing in more than fifty short films. She worked extensively with sister and brother publicity team Paula and Irving Klaw, who sold Page’s material from their firm Movie Star News. In 1955, Irving Klaw came under investigation during the U.S. Senate’s Kefauver Hearings, which were a politically motivated attempt to draw a link between pornography and juvenile delinquency. Under pressure, Klaw shuttered Movie Star News, and Page’s modeling career ended.
Page dropped from public view, spent time as Christian missionary, and married twice more (she had wed and divorced twice already). In 1979, Hollywood’s Belier Press reprinted some Page photos from private camera club sessions for which she had posed in 1950. The shots rekindled interest in Page, and in time a full-blown web-cult formed. In 2005 a motion picture entitled The Notorious Bettie Page was released by HBO with Gretchen Mol in the lead role. The film received wide acclaim, and further cemented Page’s legacy.
As one of the first mainstream nude models, Page is credited with helping usher in the women’s movement. At that time frank depictions of female nudity were considered empowering, and Page’s popularity, as well as her special gift for embodying nudity as a natural state, dovetailed with the movement’s goals. Photographer and fellow pin-up Bunny Yeager, who shot the Modern Sunbathing & Hygiene cover above, offered an opinion in 1956 about Page’s appeal: “The first thing I noticed was that for some reason when she’s nude she doesn’t seem naked. [snip] Bettie’s attitude toward her lovely, healthy body is the essence of nudism.”
Today, millions of fans are hoping health returns to Miss Page.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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