100 pounds of trigger pull weight.
Above is reedy Iso Yban, here pictured with a toy machine gun and not much else. Her various bios say she was born in Essen, Germany, but moved to Paris, where she became a dancer at Le Crazy Horse, and as a model posed under the aforementioned name, as well as Yso Iban, Isi Yban, Marlène Funch, Christina Madison, Belinda, et al. This bold shot was made by French lensman Serge Jacques and it dates from the late 1960s.
From chieftain's daughter to chief attraction.
We're back to burlesque today with a photo of the famed Crazy Horse dancer who went by the name of Miss Zabou. Born and raised in Mali, she was the daughter of a village chieftain, and at sixteen became a member of Mali's Le Troupe de Ballet. After a few years she went to Dakar, Senegal for more prosaic work as a hairdresser, and from there moved on to Paris to do the same. Upon visiting Crazy Horse she became interested once more in dance, which we imagine says a lot about either how thrilling Crazy Horse extravaganzas were, or how much more money Parisian burlesqueteers made than Malian ballerinas. In any case, she jettisoned hairdressing, and the beautiful Zabou and her radiant smile became the talk of Paris. We have one more photo of her we may post a little later.
It's a yellow banana occasion—no exceptions, no excuses.
This brilliant photo features the famed French burlesque dancer who billed herself as Maria Tuxedo. She appeared onstage at Le Crazy Horse cabaret, and this image was made there probably around 1968. We think it's amazing. There are other frames from this session, which was shot by Giancarlo Botti, and some of those are even in realistic color, but we like this desaturated look best.
Those of you in the know concerning burlesque have noticed that Tuxedo is channeling Josephine Baker. Baker may or may not have been the first to wear a skirt of bananas, but she undoubtedly was the one who made the look iconic. Ironically, the most famous photos of Baker in this mode don't feature her with real bananas, but rather costuming constructed to resemble them. The shots of her with actual bananas—such as the one you see here—are less famous. But the gimmick was indeed made into something lasting by Baker, and Tuxedo was definitely paying tribute when she wore her ungainly accoutrement. Yet she managed to make it look effortless, which shows yet again that, while beautiful women graced all niches of show business, burlesque dancers were special, aesthetically and athletically. We don't think they get enough credit for being some of the most inspiring figures of the mid-century era. But we always do our best to promote them, particularly in the jawdropping examples we've shared here, here, here, and here.
Everyone in Paris hopes for a glimpse of Nico's velvet underground.
Una ragazza nuda, for which you see two beautiful Angelo Cesselon posters above, was originally released as Strip-Tease, and called in the U.S. Sweet Skin. It was an Italian/French co-production starring Krista Nico, née Christa Päffgen, better known as just Nico, future collaborator with the Velvet Underground. Her supporting cast includes Dany Saval, Jean Sobieski, and American jazz pianist Joe Turner playing a character named Sam (IMDB has him incorrectly listed as playing himself). Basically, the movie is the story of an ambitious dancer who can't catch a break, and takes a job stripping at Le Crazy Horse, the famed Parisian cabaret.
Nico goes through the typical stages of becoming the jaded, empty woman viewers have been taught to expect in movies like these. But what isn't typical is the setting. If you're looking for a film with overwhelming Parisian atmosphere this is the one. Streets, cafés, restaurants, the Seine, the wintry countryside, Hippodrome de Vincennes, and the Crazy Horse (or a fictive stand-in) are all on prominent display, and the stripteaseuses are beautifully showcased. And keep an eye out for cameos from Serge Gainsbourg and Juliette Gréco. We just came back from Paris last year and thanks to this flick we're already trying to figure out how to return.
On a technical level, the direction by Jacques Poitrenaud and cinematography by Raymond Pierre Lemoigne both take advantage of the film's many wonderful settings, but the on-camera performances aren't quite at the same level. Nico is a novice actress at this point and it shows, but her minimal emotional range fits with her character. Joe Turner isn't an actor at all and that shows too, but as the conscience of the film his role also works. Some movies are more than the sum of their parts, and Una ragazza nuda adds up to an excellent ninety-five minutes. It premiered in Italy today in 1963.
Every night in Paris is a treasure hunt.
This “Paris la nuit” themed issue of Folies de Paris et de Hollywood from 1959 has, in addition to the usual dancers and showgirls, a list on the cover of the clubs at which they worked. We already knew some of the places, like The Crazy Horse Saloon and Pigall's, but there are many more, all with amazing names: Boule Blanche, Drap d'Or, Shako, Grisbi, Shocking, Le Sexy, et al. If we had to choose just based on the name we'd go with Shocking. It can't be too wild in 1959, right? Anyway, the list gave us the idea of digging up photos of these venerable entertainment halls, but you'd be surprised how few historical shots exist. We're going to keep working on that. In the meantime, enjoy the photos below of the artists who occupied those stages. They include Dolly Bell, Kitty Tam-Tam, Nicole Dore, Carole Riva, and more.
Folies de Paris et de Hollywood shows readers where to get their kicks in '66.
Folies de Paris et de Hollywood often published themed issues, and this one—Vedettes du Strip-Tease 1966—is reserved entirely for dancers from Paris cabarets such as Clair de Lune (Moonlight), La Boule Noire (The Black Ball), Moulin a Poivre (The Pepper Mill), La Tomate, and Alain Bernardin’s famed Crazy-Horse Saloon. We love some of the dancers’ stage names (aspiring strippers take note)—there’s Franca Germanicus, Kitty Tam-Tam, Salammbo, Dailly Holliday, cover star Bijoux, from club Sexy, and Bella Remington, who occupies the coveted centerfold position and two more pages later in the issue. We researched all of them, and the only dancer mentioned online more than in passing was Dailly Holliday. She had already appeared on a Folies de Paris et de Hollywood cover from 1962, and was written of in a New Yorker article in October 1966, having apparently moved on from Moulin a Poivre to dance at a club in Montparnasse called Dolce Vita. Kitty Tam-Tam was briefly mentioned in François des Aulnoyes’ book Histoire et philosophie du strip-tease, and Bella Remington’s name appeared in an online list of former Crazy Horse dancers, but those instances hardly count because no actual information was attached. With the exception of Holliday there were no photos out there at all. We’ve remedied that today, and we were happy to do our part for history. We didn’t scan the entire issue, because the dimensions of the magazine meant scanning the pages in two pieces and joining them in Photoshop. But we did manage nineteen of the thirty-two pages before we gave up. All below.
The greatest tourist attraction for hundreds of miles around.
French burlesque performer Lily Niagara, seen here at Le Crazy Horse saloon in Paris during filming for Alessandra Blasetti’s sex documentary Europa di notti, 1959.
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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