Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hoping SAK Doesn't Stand For Something Bad

A fraternity, perhaps?  Quite discolored and damaged RPPC---but strangely, one can make out shadowy trees in the background.  SAK a Druid order?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I Would Rest Contented

 Season's Greetings, folks

Monday, December 16, 2013

Signage from Belize




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Are Family


    The woman: strange, far-reaching elegance. The father: more than a few JFK genes, but slightly cruel.  The child: quizzical future tastemaker and problem-solver.  The doll: shows an odd, friendly, sentience--if not outright perspicuity.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Picture by Brose, '27

Found this 8x12 ink and gouache portrait a while back in a pile of junk.  I've subsequently worked bits of it into some of my own computer-based art.  Besides liking flapper subject, I find the piece a paradoxical testament to how 'good' something completely inept can be.  Are good and inept ever really that far apart?  A friend of mine says one could write an excellent  Ph.D. dissertation in two weeks if one had to.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Knock Em Dead, Mrs Dempsey

I've been saving up these priceless press pix for some special occasion--one that never comes.  So have decided to go ahead and post them now.  Too much toxic 'white-out' beauty to hide away from view.

The glamorous woman in both photos is Hannah Williams (1911-73), Broadway stage actress and singer.  Her one and only big performing moment seems to have come when she debuted the song, "Cheerful Little Earful" in Sweet and Low (1930).  (Lesbian hottie Libby Holman starred and recorded the title song in characteristic raunchy-deluxe baritone.)  No big career for Hannah, however, but a man-magnet nonetheless--the second of her three husbands being the world-famous heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey.  After a much-publicized bust-up, Dempsey divorced her in 1943.

Top photo is fabulous in its own tawdry way, of course, with the vamp herself and (unknown) bisected man.  (Those old news photo editors and re-touchers knew what they were doing.)  But the second has to be one of my favorite news pix of all time: so much vaunting weirdness in a single image.  Caption notes how the photo has figured in the divorce trial:  "Jack Dempsey's lawyer offered this as divorce suit evidence, saying it shows Benny Woodall, Mrs. Dempsey, and Woodall's sister, in a night club."

What more to say?--except that scrawny Benny has that fabulous 1940s "cad" look down pat; Mrs. D. (on his lap?) resembles the cat who ate the canary, and the sister----oh my god, the sister.   Bears no resemblance to Benny whatsoever, but instead looks like some very obscure, opium-eating English Romantic poet of the 1820s or 1830s. A sort of wispy-greasy Coleridge/Keats hairstyle, which combined with white high-collared shirt and brilliant receding hairline makes her just the sort of tubercular dreamboat you'd want to go tramping the Lake District with.  No wonder the lady in profile who is looking through a window--reflected in the mirror (?)--behind the threesome is staring.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From the Argentine

Beautiful, frightening photo; 
a girl with arachnid arms.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Hat Made of Hair

Anna Held, Polish-Jewish singer-dancer-actress (1872-1918) made world-famous in the 1890s by her lover, the impresario and Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfield.  According to Wikipedia, "He set about creating a wave of public interest in her, by feeding stories about her to the American press, such as her having had ribs surgically removed. By the time Held and Ziegfeld arrived in New York, she was already the subject of intense public speculation. When she finally performed, the critics were dismissive of her, but the public liked her."

Held became a millionairess, but didn't live long enough to enjoy it.  After a heroic stint entertaining the French forces on the Western Front--sometimes very close to the front lines--she died at 46 in 1918, a victim of Kahler's disease, now known as multiple myeloma.

Held converted to Roman Catholicism in her early years in Paris.  (She and her family--her father was a glove-maker--had ended up there in 1881 after fleeing a series of antisemitic pogroms in Poland.)  Held later refused to acknowledge her Jewish background.  Photos, like the one above, convey a louche yet indubitable charm.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pink Lips, Cravat (Melvyn Douglas)

Glorious technicolor photo of Melvyn Douglas--1930s leading man, notable as Greta Garbo's lover in Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka (1939).   Was, by numerous accounts, an "outstanding anti-Fascist".  More on that later......   Go, Melvyn.

Friday, October 25, 2013


....make the world go round.  What I covet here: haberdashery, haberdashery, haberdashery.  Plus the coats with the thick dark stripes.  Was also thinking today it might be cool to start smoking a pipe. 

In NYC--but alas in a no-pipe-smoking hotel room.  Masses of people everywhere.  Saw a scowling lady on a park bench who might possibly have been Jeanette Winterson. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Two Lisbons my stepfather Turk used to call them.  Actually this is a Dutch postcard--from the 1940s, it looks like.  Very much 'designed' by the photographer, what with all the chiaroscuro etc.  Interesting to wonder, given Dutch provenance, if the darker of the two models is Indonesian,  lending a soupçon of colonialist titillation to the whole giggly/perverse ambiance.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Mysterious Contest

Nice pictorial linen card from Belgium, early 1900s.  A chopping contest of some sort?--logs, I guess--except the 'logs' look more like cylindrical zucchini.  Contestants being hydrated with pink lemonade, proffered by wing-men in plimsolls.  It's all so terribly exciting.  Who will win?  I'm 60 today.

PS 10/20.  From the Who Knew Department:  A kind reader tells me the men here having the wood chopping competition are Basque.  (I can definitely see it in the costumes now it's pointed out.  Something about the red cummerbunds.....)  The artist here, José Arrue (1885-1977), turns out to be a fairly prominent Basque artist, as Wikipedia reveals.   He also seems to have been a competent matador.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We Entered Without Fanfare

Still working on Lolita with the undergraduates.  Yesterday had to explain Nabokov's joke re: the spinster-teachers who live across from Humbert at one point, Miss Lester and Miss Fabian.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Red Dust Dream-Chum

A recent get: the dramatic ovoid clouds framing the boy make a sort of eye-rhyme with the painted cloud backdrop in yesterday's post.   Something else to notice--though it's hard to say if it improves or damages the composition: the way the bottom of the boy's shirt lines up almost perfectly with the horizon line, the place where the dry brush terrain ends in the distance.   Was this alignment planned?  Or was it just an accident that happened to make the photo look planned?   And here's the obvious aesthetic question: however achieved, does the line-up make the photo look too planned?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Contain Multitudes

I confess--had to do quite of bit of dust-and-scratch removal on this tintype.  The subject's coat had been gravely scratched at some point.  Shame because it's a glorious image, one made ever more so by painted 'breaking rollers' in the background, and the curiously sack-like boulders at the gentleman's feet.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lead Balloons & Cigars

As We Age.....the balloon stabilizers become all the more desirable.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Something Rum Here

But I do like the effect of the partial outlining of the figures.....   Breezy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Bounder and Bounderess in Love

The colorful Roe Wells and Lele Daly: made for one another.  (But only for a short time.)   She made a practice of marrying rich old men; he, rich old women.  The handsome Wells, president of the Donut Corporation of America, was known as the Donut King.   When he married Lele Daly in 1941, he was a recent widower--his previous wife, the 70-year-old heiress, Emily Gilchrist Wells, had died only 16 days before.  Lele Daly seems, in turn, to have been a real-life 'Black Widow.'  She had 6 husbands, almost all of them wealthy and superannuated; but owing to various scandals and disasters, she died in penury.  Her husband before Wells, as caption notes, was Marcus Daly II, heir to the Anaconda Copper fortune.

Wells and Daly's marriage was brief; disenchantment set in quickly, as each discovered the other not quite as wealthy as imagined.  She divorced him after a few months, claiming he had beaten her, and promptly married her 5th husband: Richard Franklin Ford, a rich Standard Oil executive, described as "no spring chicken" in the American Weekly.  Lele apparently wore 'gray organza and a shocking pink feathered hat' to her nuptials.  See Michael Gross's highly entertaining book, 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building--for more on Roe and Lele.  Yes, in their brief season of wedded bliss, the devilish pair lived in that fabled Manhattan building--home to Bouviers and Rockefellers and assorted other footpads.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

From a Doll Hospital in Florida

Have been on a little newspaper photo-archive binge this week: one outcome this classic B&W.  Is it possible to photograph doll parts without the result being a surrealist Atget/Max Ernst/Hans Bellmer cliché?   I don't know and I don't care.

Actually the bonus jackpot here is found on the photo back--a pasted-on clip of the article for which this was the illustration.  Teaching Lolita this week and I can't help but think that Nabokov must have invented the homicidal name of the Florida lady doll-doctor: Carmen Smotherman.   (I'm sure she was a lovely person but she does have a slightly criminal look to her.)  Charlotte Haze reincarnated, perhaps, and plotting how to take her long-postponed revenge on Humbert Humbert?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thank You, Boys---

---for being you.  Club My-O-My a drag club in Miami---in the 1950s? 1960s?  Whenever: doing this takes balls.

Marvelous piece in the new New Yorker about 80-something Edith Windsor, the successful plaintiff in the recent Supreme Court case that resulted in the reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Gay marriage.  Unique.  Unusual.  Here to stay.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Never Danced a Jig in His Life

Here's a real oddity I found at the last Vintage Paper Fair: a postcard that is also a jigsaw puzzle.  It shows no evidence of ever having been used as such: the pieces, though they do tempt one to the minor violence of pulling the whole thing apart, seem never to have been separated. 

But what's really odd: the drawing style here.  That two-pronged grey thing the man has over his arm is obviously a coat, but the more you look at it, the more it comes to resemble two big pieces of pipe or rubber tubing--or indeed a huge dissected blood vessel or a magnet or an oversize grey salami from the Twilight Zone.  The man's left shoulder is equally peculiar: volumetric, suggestive of Dickon Crookback malformation.  Strange little boot-shoe.  I could go on.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chinatown Hand-Tinted

Chinese children in San Francisco, ca. 1905.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Devil I Will!

Cool ad for a toy, 1907.  He is standing on a larger version of the item suspended on the string.  Not a slingshot, I think, but some sort of proto-yoyo?

PS from 9/26/13:  A delightful message from postcard fan informs me (I should have looked this up) that "a diabolo is not a proto-yoyo but a discrete toy (which enjoys enduring popularity with backpackers of the long-beard-and-colourful-pants ilk)."

Thank you, Charlotte!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fashion Week Is Coming

Part of a set (I have three) of traditional costumes of Sardinia.  Exquisite headgear on the man especially.  Not a beret, not a tricorn, not a Phrygian cap, but a lovely Miro-esque blob.   An abstract hat.  The lady looks ready to wrassle.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Gender Trouble

....or maybe just some Radical Faeries?  Some of the cavemen seem to be wearing prehistoric gym socks and bunny-scuffs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Long and Short of It, Plus Blimp

Two versions of the same sight gag, separated by twenty or thirty years-- English and Spanish.

Put them side by side (not possible with this blog template) and you get an Art Nouveau "M".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Speak, Memory

Attractive anon- ymous photo of parents (presumably) and three daughters: certainly the four females here look very much alike.  Impossible to tell, though, about the dad.  As one's eyes move from right side of image to left--present to past, as it were--the figures fade out (via overexposure).  By the time we reach the father he is a mere clownish blur, with only suspenders, legs, and freakish gigantic hands in focus.

If the photograph is an allegory, I'm not quite sure what it's an allegory of.  The historic (and apparently irreversible) feminization of the modern human subject? 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lettuce Be Married

"But the week’s big US story is the legalization of gay marriage. We’re seriously thrilled. It’s a real new world order. The cat is finally out of the bag. (Has in fact come out of the bag as a transgendered feline-American with eight small, dialectically engineered digital nipples.) The horses, tails swishing up a storm, have finally left the barn. The cow’s jumped over the moon and is getting an awesome mani-pedi before hitting the clubs. The pigs – always fabulous – are redecorating their poke in bright orange and pink mid-century modern. (Let’s get rid of that awful greasy entrails-and-slop-covered sofa, shall we?)"  ---"Rah, Rah, Cheers, Queers,"  London Review of Books, 29 August 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

1950s Curtain Fabric Also Great

In the third snap, that is.  As you can see: in a spirit of acquisitive solidarity I feel compelled to celebrate fellow happy collectors the world over. 

A Classic

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Very Clockwork

A nice touch here: the 'period' copy of Joy of Cooking on the left.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Most remarkable about the classic Polaroid: how the the format makes the world look at once exquisite and exhilarating, but also penetrated somehow with a kind of sinister 'burn'.   Some subliminal color/mood incoherence.

What happened after this was taken?  Note tiny fellows in corner, on another pole, practicing for the mass electrocution of innocents.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Petites Déesses

No wonder I was bewildered by the card I posted on July 10 under the title 'Child Goddess.'  I was confusing that card with this one.  (In my addle-pated defense: the two tiny models do look alike.)  What had happened, I wondered aloud, to all of Baby Artemis/Diana's accoutrements? etc. etc.  Very maundering and unsatisfactory and pointless (my post).

I still don't know who the little girl in the other card was meant to represent.  In the card to the left, which turned up in a pile of pc's I was organizing a few days ago, however, it's impossible to mistake the subject.  As in a Renaissance emblem book, all of the identifying motifs are here--to the point of allegorical overkill.  Ah, semiosis: it's flooding out my circuits. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Behold the Wrestling Team

Two well-muscled choices from Saturday's Vintage Paper fair:

The top card here a Tuck 'Oilette' (hand- tinted card) showing two German wrestlers--ahem-- deep in the throes.  (Tuck was a renowned British postcard publisher, best-known for photo portraits of royal family and views of historic English beauty spots.   But they seem to have had a side business going in Germany too.  In kink.)

Given the subject, I find the image strangely beautiful and arresting---the delicate hand coloring of the knee braces quite extraordinary, likewise the peculiar (watchful? suspicious?) gaze of the fellow in green shorts.
As for the group photo: cheesiness rules.  (Someone has penciled 'the wrestling team' on the back.)  For some reason these flabby fellows do not inspire confidence.  Did they ever win a match?   One wonders.  Second guy in on the right has a disconcerting resemblance to Anthony Weiner.

Note suspenders in both images.  How on earth, while wrestling, to keep everything up?  Socks, prehistoric sweat pants, pecker, etc.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yours Till Butterflies

Total gorgeousness!  As promised, went to Vintage Postcard /Photo Fair yesterday, and found a cache of things worth looking at many times.
I'll post some more of the best this week.   For some reason RPPCs stood out at this fair.  To be continued ....

Friday, August 2, 2013

Child With Lace and Father

Tomorrow is the day!  Vintage Paper & Postcard Fair at Golden Gate Park.

One will be plunging in on the early side.  And this picture?  Talk about eye contact.  The man has those dark rings under his eyes one sees in photos of Peter Lorre, Sal Mineo, Paul Auster....

...sometimes Raymond Burr, too.