spreadeagled

Recently I saw Tabloid, Errol Morris’ great documentary about the antics of Joyce McKinney.

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Joyce was an ex beauty queen who came out of the Appalachians to join the Church of the Latter Day Saints (better known as the Mormons) and who, after failing to get off with Wayne Osmond, began a relationship with a certain Kirk Anderson.

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When Kirk was sent to London to spread the word of God to the heathen English, Joyce and her friend Keith May hired a pilot and a bodyguard and followed him there. McKinney and May then kidnapped Anderson, threatening him with replica guns, bundling him into a car and taking him to a rented cottage, where he was held captive for three days. Whilst there … well, this is how the London Evening News of 23 November 1977 reported the committal proceedings at Epsom magistrates court:

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A young Mormon missionary told today how an ex-beauty queen kidnapped him and then made love to him while he was chained to a bed in a lonely cottage.

Kirk Anderson, 21, said the girl, Joyce McKinney, and her friend, Keith May, tied down his arms and legs with leather straps, padlocks, chains and rope, so that he was spreadeagled.

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May then left the room while Miss McKinney tore off his blue silk pyjamasThe chains were tight and I could not move. She proceeded to have intercourse. I did not want it to happen. I was very upset.’

That’s the essence of the story and you can probably understand the media meltdown that resulted. You’ve got most of what you need for a decent tabloid sensation: an attractive young woman, a serious young man, kinky sex, and a wacky religion. But more than that, Ms McKinney herself was sensational. She spoke in a Southern drawl that was fabulously exotic in itself and she had no apparent inhibition, absolutely no sense of reticence at all.

Joyce and friend found here

‘Kirk has to be tied up to have an orgasm. I co-operated because I loved him and wanted to help him. Sexual bondage turns him on because he doesn’t have to feel guilty. The thought of being powerless before a woman seems to excite him. I didn’t have to give him oral sex … I did do it at his request because he likes it.’ 

carrot top found here

But before her trial could start Joyce donned a red wig and disguised herself as a member of a mime troupe jumped bail, and fled to America, via Ireland and Canada. The tabloids went wild. Without the sub judice restrictions, they were able to print all the salacious details they’d acquired of her career in soft-core porn and every last piece of tittle-tattle that had accumulated around this extraordinary woman.

She spent five weeks in hiding then resurfaced at the Hilton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, dressed as a nun. No extradition warrant was issued. William Hucklesby, the detective who led the inquiry, said: “My own view is that we were well rid of her.”

Sophia Loren found here

Fast forward to 2008…….

A middle-aged blonde calling herself Bernann McKinney made headlines this week when five identical puppies were created using an ear from her dead pitbull. Reports from Seoul, explaining that Ms McKinney had paid £25,000 for the procedure to create five genetically identical replicas of her pet in the first transaction of its kind led to furious speculation about her true identity. At first she denied it, but later Joyce admitted to being the woman who once loved a Mormon so much she would have skied down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up her nose.’

image by Vargas found here

If you have 12 minutes to spare it’s worth watching what happens when Joyce makes an impromptu appearance on stage while Errol Morris is being interviewed at a film festival. QueenWilly, I know you and The King will want to see this little gem (and read the comment left by “truthteller” here)

shark or seagull for dinner dear?

A 25 year old Chinese steward on a British ship during World War 2 spent a remarkable 133 days adrift on a life raft

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Poon Lim shipped out as a second steward on the British merchant ship Ben Lomond. The ill fated vessel was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat on November 23 1942. The ship was sinking rapidly, so Poon Lim leaped over the side. His first concern was simply to stay alive. After struggling for two hours he saw a life raft several hundred feet away. He swam to it and climbed aboard.

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The timber raft was 8 ft. square. Tied to it were some tins of British biscuits, a large water jug, some flares, and an electric torch. By allowing himself a few swallows of water and two biscuits in the morning and in the evening, he estimated that he should be able to stay alive for at least a month.

To keep his body in shape, he swam routinely twice a day when the sea was quiet. He used the ocean swimmer’s looping stroke as he circled the raft, always keeping his head above water, his eyes open for sharks.

Australian Whale Shark found here

He took apart the electric torch to get a wire, which he made into a fishhook then spent days shaping the metal, using the water jug as a hammer. The tough hemp rope that held down his almost exhausted supplies of food and water served as a fishing line.

He used a piece of biscuit for bait. After finally catching a fish, he cut it in half with the edge of the biscuit tin and ate the raw flesh, using the remains as bait to catch his next meal. 

More British Biscuit Tins to be found here

About the end of the second month on the raft, he spotted sea gulls. Hoping to catch one, he gathered seaweed from the bottom of the raft, matted it in bunches and moulded it into a form that resembled a bird’s nest. By this time he had caught several fish, which he baked in the sun to improve their taste. Some he ate and some he left next to the nest, so that they would rot and the stench would attract the gulls.

seagull chick found here

When he finally saw a gull flying towards him, he lay still so it would land. As the gull attacked the fish, Poon Lim grabbed it by its neck. A fight ensued, which he won, but only after he was the victim of deep cuts from the bird’s beak and claws.

Next he set out to catch a shark. He used the remnants of the next bird he caught as bait. The first shark to pick up the taste was only a few feet long. He gulped the bait and hit the line with full force, but in preparation Poon Lim had braided the line so it would have double thickness. He also had wrapped his hands in canvas to enable him to make the catch. But the shark attacked him after he brought it aboard the raft. He used the water jug half-filled with seawater as a weapon. After his victory, Pooh Lim cut open the shark and sucked its blood from its liver. Since it hadn’t rained, he was out of water and this quenched his thirst. 

Basking Shark found here

On the morning of the 133rd day, April 5 1943, he saw a small sail on the horizon. He had no flares left, so he waved his shirt and jumped up end down in an effort to attract the crew’s attention. The craft changed direction and headed for him.

The three men in the boat, who spoke Portuguese, took him aboard. They gave him water and dried beans before starting up their motor to head west to Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. He had crossed the Atlantic.

Activists in Belem found here

Poon Lim was able to walk unaided. His total weight loss during the drift was 20 lb. He received numerous honours. King George VI presented him personally with the British Empire Medal, the highest civilian award.

Kylie’s got one too

creeping scoutmaster

Paul Lynde was an actor, comedian and regular guest on Hollywood Squares.

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He served as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, opposite Agnes Moorehead’s Endora, a woman he referred to on more than one occasion as “one of the all-time Hollywood dykes”. Lynde himself is among the gayest celebrities the world has ever known. Chronically cranky, sarcastic and mincing, his career was defined by his voice work as Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web, and as the wisecracking centerpiece on television’s Hollywood Squares.

Agnes Moorehead found here

In 1965, Lynde was vacationing in San Francisco with his 24-year-old companion Jim Davidson. As a prank, up in their hotel room Davidson made frantic flapping gestures as if to suggest he could jump from the balcony — and while doing so, he slipped and fell to his death. Two police officers standing on the street below saw the whole thing. They comforted Lynde, who remembers: “They said, ‘Don’t worry, Paul, we saw it all. If you need us, we’ll be here. We’re not going to let them wipe you out with this.’ They knew it looked strange: he was younger than I was, he was good-looking, and why was he there with me? Why did he jump? Why did he fall?”

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After Bewitched was cancelled, Lynde was selected as a game show panelist. He didn’t offer “dirty” answers on The Hollywood Squares, he delivered kinky, bitchy responses. He was a regular during its second week in 1966 and joined full time in the fall of 1968. Less than a decade later, he left the show after the National Enquirer claimed an “insider” revealed Lynde was fired because of his drinking problem. The source revealed documentation of Lynde’s nastiness and implied that his alcoholism created a problem for costars. Even though these facts were common knowledge, Lynde sued the Enquirer for ten million dollars, chiefly to find out who the insider was. The case was summarily dismissed, but it ushered in a new era of tabloid litigation. Some of Lynde’s famous quips during Hollywood Squares include:

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Q: According to the old song, “At night, when you’re asleep, into your tent I’ll creep.” Who am I?

A: The scoutmaster.

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Q. Do female frogs croak?

A: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q: Paul, can you get an elephant drunk?

A: Yes, but he still won’t go up to your apartment.

Q: Prometheus was tied to the top of a mountain by the gods because he had given something to man. What did he give us?

A: I don’t know what you got, but I got a sports shirt.

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Q: Is Billy Graham considered a good dresser?

A: No, but he’s a terrific end table.

Q: When is it a good idea to put your pantyhose in the microwave oven for two minutes?

A: When your house is surrounded by the police.

Mantyhose found here

Q: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?

A: Make him bark.

Q: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics. What is the other?

A: Tape measures.

Q: Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?

A: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q: Paul, in ancient Rome, bakers were required by law to bake something into each loaf of bread. What?

A: A Christian.

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Q: What is a pullet?

A: A little show of affection.

Q: According to the French Chef, Julia Child, how much is a pinch?

A: Just enough to turn her on.

Q: Who are more likely to be romantically responsive. Women under thirty or women over thirty?

A: I don’t have a third choice?

Supposedly Paul Lynde was the inspiration for a gag which made its way into the movie Groundhog Day. After a drunken high speed chase through the San Fernando Valley one night, Lynde crashed his car into a mailbox. When the cops rushed the scene with their guns drawn, Lynde lowered his window and ordered a cheeseburger with no onions and a large Sprite.

One night in January of 1982, Paul missed a dinner appointment with a group of long-time friends. Concerned, they rushed to his home on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills. He was found naked and dead, surrounded by amyl-nitrate poppers, an inhalant used primarily by gay men to enhance sex. His death was ruled a heart attack.

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sash boys are safe

Elsa Maxwell* was an American gossip columnist known as the Hostess with the Mostess. She wrote several books including the memoir this excerpt is from

Elsa and Maria Callas found here

“Much as I dislike to mention a distasteful subject I cannot gloss over the shocking increase in homosexuality that is apparent today. Thirty years ago, lesbians and sash boys were almost unknown to the majority of people. I call them ‘sash boys’, because they always go about as though waving a sash in their hands and because I prefer that euphemism to the commoner terms I do not care to use. Perhaps I was more naive at the time, but I never saw a woman who was an obvious Lesbian until I went to Europe. Of course there were homosexuals in theatrical and artistic circles, but outside that one rarely, if ever, encountered one. Now it is like a contagious disease, spreading here, there and everywhere.

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The incidence of homosexuality always has been greater in some countries than others. It varies in time and place. I believe in England it can be attributed in some measure to the general custom of sending boys to boarding-schools at an early age and confining them in this unnatural environment during adolescence. But there are so many confusing and contributing factors to the disease that it is difficult to isolate one particular cause. I have seen scores of thoroughly normal men and women turn to perversion in their forties or fifties simply through boredom, or idleness, or dissatisfaction.

Mr Sulu became bored

In a large measure, women are greatly to blame for the increase in homosexuality. They are unconscious carriers of the germ. For older women, particularly those who are rich and manless, whose husbands have died or who have never married, the homosexual is the complete answer. 

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A further carrier of the germ is the mother caught up by an almost incestuous love for an only son, whom she constantly keeps beside her, pampering him and denying him the normal friendship of other women. Little do such mothers realise the perverted prison to which they condemn their beloved sons.

nursemyra’s eldest son

A number may say, ‘How can you take up this attitude when you know very well a number of these men are among your friends and acquaintances?’ It is quite true. I am guilty of contradiction here. But I just cannot apply the same rules to genius. It may be morally indefensible but I feel there must be one law for the especially rich in mind and another for the remainder.

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Until last year dressmakers and interior decorators were holding their position on the social roost in Paris. Now I see a change; there are signs that their prestige is on the wane, in a word that they are slipping from their favoured niche. People are growing a little bored with them. And something of the same thing is happening, in Paris at least, with the sash boys. At my last party out of four hundred there were only nine present.

To my mind, it is in the power of women to stop the spread of homosexuality, to set up a barrier to their effete, lavender decadence by no longer courting and coddling their presence in their homes and at their parties. A dearth of hospitality will achieve a quicker death to homosexuality than any act of Parliament.

Most chroniclers of Elsa Maxwell’s life claim she was a lesbian. She lived with Dickie Gordon-Fellowes for nearly fifty years.

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*from a review by Brooks Peters found here

ready red rooster


I’m about to go to the Blue Mountains for 6 days. It’s very very cold up there but I’m hoping my default colour of red will help keep me warm. This is a new corset, but in taking these photos today I was reminded why I gave up doing the corset friday blog posts – it looks like every other red corset I’ve uploaded over the years. And because it’s winter in Sydney, I’ve kept my red velvet trousers on too. See you all in a week!

Published in: on June 19, 2011 at 9:13 am  Comments (41)  
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what happened to Percy and Jack?

Percival Fawcett was an archaeologist and explorer who disappeared around 1925

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Fawcett’s first expedition to South America was in 1906 when at the age of 39 he travelled to Brazil to map a jungle area at the border of Brazil and Bolivia at the behest of the RGS. Whilst on the expedition in 1907, Fawcett claimed to have seen and shot a 62 feet long giant anaconda, for which he was widely ridiculed by the scientific community. He reported other mysterious animals unknown to zoology, such as a small cat-like dog about the size of a foxhound, which he claimed to have seen twice, or the giant Apazauca spider which was said to have poisoned a number of locals.

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In 1925, with funding from a London-based group of financiers called The Glove, Fawcett returned to Brazil with his elder son Jack for an exploratory expedition. He had studied ancient legends and historical records and was convinced a lost city existed somewhere in the Mato Grosso region, a city Fawcett named “Z.” 

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Fawcett was a man with years of experience traveling with all the necessities, things such as canned foods, powdered milk, guns, flares and of course a sextant and a chronometer for gathering latitude and longitude. His travel companions, both chosen for their health, ability, and loyalty to each other— were his oldest son Jack Fawcett and Jack’s long time friend Raleigh Rimell.

Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmel found here

The last communication from the expedition was on 29 May 1925, when Fawcett telegraphed his wife that they was ready to go into unexplored territory. A final letter, written from Dead Horse Camp, gave their location and was generally optimistic.

Many presumed that local Indians had killed them. Both of the younger men were lame and ill when last seen, and there is no proof they were murdered. It is plausible that they died of natural causes in the Brazilian jungle. During the following decades, various groups mounted rescue expeditions without results. They heard only rumours that could not be verified. In addition to reports that Fawcett had been killed by Indians or wild animals, there was a tale that Fawcett had lost his memory and lived out his life as the chief of a tribe of cannibals.

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On 21 March 2004, the British newspaper The Observer reported that television director Misha Williams, who had studied Fawcett’s private papers, believed that Fawcett had not intended to return to Britain but rather meant to found a commune in the jungle based on theosophical principles and the worship of his son Jack.

Theosophist Madame Blavatsky found here

Before Jack’s birth in Ceylon, Buddhists and soothsayers had predicted that he would be born on the Buddha’s anniversary, May 19, 1903, one month later than the expected date of birth. They also predicted that Jack would have a mole as birthmark on his right foot, unusual toes, and that his eyes would have an “obliquity,” all of which turned out to be exactly what happened as per Fawcett’s article for the Occult Review. Thus, Fawcett believed the prophecy that his eldest son was a reincarnated spirit destined to become some kind of messiah. Fawcett wanted to deliver his son Jack to the “Earth Guardians” of the Great White Brotherhood…… 

unusual gecko toes found here

part angel, part demon

After reading Andrew Barrow’s heartfelt memoir about the short life of his younger brother I did a little googling to find out more about him. Among other things, he’s also the author of this obituary for the poet Philip O’Connor

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“As thin as a skeleton, his face already eroded, his smile never calm, he lived off doughnuts and Woodbines, ogled at women and spoke in cryptograms, spoonerisms and jingles, delivering sentences backwards and falling about in drunken exhilaration.

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Philip O’Connor’s life had been full of folly from the beginning. Born in Leighton Buzzard in 1916, delivered – he claimed – by the King’s physician, and encouraged by his mother, a fallen gentlewoman of mixed Asiatic, Dutch and Burmese blood, to consider himself descended through his father from the last King of Ireland, O’Connor had a disorderly childhood. Taken to France as a baby, he was abandoned at the age of four with Madame Tillieux, matronly proprietor of a patisserie in the seaside resort of Wimereux near Boulogne. Two years later, his mother returned to claim him and was met with violent protests. “Non!” screamed young Philip, scurrying to Madame’s black skirts. “Ce n’est past Maman, t’es Maman. ‘Suis Francais.”

Wimereux found here

Back in England a few years later, O’Connor was again adopted, this time by a one-legged bachelor civil servant who wore size 13 boots and owned a small wooden hut on Box Hill near Dorking. In circumstances unthinkable in today’s suspicious climate, here the dreamy little lad and his shy misogynist guardian set up house.

NOT this one legged man (found here)

By the time he left school, O’Connor’s megalomania or messianism was already pronounced: “The word ‘fool’ had fastened itself sharply, hissingly on my tongue.” Autocratic bad temper, omniscience and almost epileptic exhibitionism had become his trademarks.

O’Connor’s extreme outsider status was reinforced in his late teens by a longish period tramping across England – an experience which formed the basis for his book Vagrancy published in 1963. His time on the road was followed by a six-month stay in the Maudsley Hospital, where he was diagnosed as the youngest schizophrenic in the ward. He then bounced, or fell, back into Fitzrovia and into a marriage with the daughter of a Scottish lawyer, whose inheritance he was to squander on pate de foie gras and percussion instruments.

Gene Krupa found here

The marriage ended after five years and O’Connor embarked upon a number of other relationships, fathering an unknown number of attractive and intelligent children, in whose upbringing he was to play little part.

Some of his wives and girlfriends attempted to tame him and at various times O’Connor earned a living by pushing an old man round Salisbury in a bath-chair, wielding the lights at the Bedford Music Hall in Camden Town, and as an operator on the continental telephone exchange. In this last role, he boasted that he had eavesdropped on a private conversation between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

bath-chairs found here

Along the way he took up with a woman who earned her living taking baths with older men, then improved his lot by marrying a wealthy woman who financed a high-living fling that ended when her money and her sanity ran out. (After she tried to kill him, she was confined to a mental hospital and Philip O’Connor went on to other lovers.)

In material and emotional terms, O’Connor’s life was stabilised by his meeting at the age of 51 with the young, beautiful and beguiling American Panna Grady, whose self-effacing generosity to artists and writers in her New York apartment in the Dakota building had been on an epic scale. O’Connor began a love affair which was to last for the rest of his life.

Panna Grady and friends (including Andy Warhol) found here

O’Connor and Grady never married, but they created an atmosphere of strange fastidiousness around them in which O’Connor’s hisses and cackles were matched by a neurasthenic fear of the sounds and movements of others. This private world hedged in by Grady’s antique screens and Chinese tapestries was rarely penetrated or understood by others, though O’Connor could on occasions be an exhilarating host. Reluctant to shake hands – he was more likely to extend a dangling finger – he had considerable skills as a cook, dabbled interestingly with chickens but was just as likely to offer visitors a glass of boiling rum as a tumbler of the best champagne.

It could be argued that Philip O’Connor never grew up. Most of his life he avoided responsibility for others and himself. He was, said Stephen Spender, “part angel, part demon”.

In his own words, he “bathed in life and dried myself on the typewriter“.

Lego Vintage Typewriter found here

love nest with an altar

Aimee Semple McPherson was, in the words of one reporter,  the “evangelist with pulchritude.”

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At 17, she married a fiery Pentecostal preacher, Robert Semple, and went on the revival circuit bringing people across Canada and the U.S. to Jesus. In 1910, the couple went to China as missionaries; while serving there her husband died of malaria just one month before the birth of their daughter, Roberta.

Robert Semple found here

Aimee returned to the United States where she married Harold McPherson, a grocery clerk. Shortly after the birth of their son, Aimee, with her new husband in tow, resumed her career on the revival circuit. In 1918 she became a media superstar. She wore Paris gowns, dyed her hair blond, wore jewelry, makeup, and put on performances that can only be described as spectacles. For one, billed as Sister Aimee preaching on the consequences of breaking God’s law, she entered the church on a motorcycle in a police man’s uniform, driving down the center aisle to the pulpit.


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Her services became known for divine healing, where repentants would walk without crutches, regain lost eyesight, heal broken bones, and leave their wheelchairs to walk. Although her first manifestation of divine healing occurred in Corona, New York in 1917, it was not until she had the attention of major city newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, that many people nationally learned of such phenomena occurring in her services. The critics had a field day but thousands flocked to her services.

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Sister Aimee’s main weakness was men. Since her own church’s rules prohibited divorce, Aimee found herself in a quandary. What to do with her husband and what to do for romance?

On May 18, 1926, Sister Aimee was reported missing while swimming in the ocean off Venice beach in Los Angeles. Members of her congregation went into the waters where she disappeared, with one person drowning and another dying of exposure. Not a trace of her body could be found. Police investigated hundreds of leads, including a ransom note, signed by “The Avengers” and demanding $500,000 for Sister Aimee’s safe return.

the most beautiful Avenger found here

Five weeks later she turned up in Mexico, telling a fantastic story of having been kidnapped and held captive. The shack where she claimed that she was held could not be found. There was also no satisfactory explanation for the fact that she disappeared in broad daylight in a swimming suit, but showed up fully clothed, right down to her corset. Her story stretched credulity and an investigation found that instead of being kidnapped Aimee had spent an idyllic month with Kenneth Ormiston, a married, agnostic radio engineer for her church station. 

Mexican shack found here

The scandal was national news. Yet, amazingly, Sister Aimee survived, in part by positioning herself as a repentant sinner. In fact, as repentant Sister Aimee she achieved even greater success. In 1931, 40-year-old Aimee eloped with 30-year-old David Hutton, Jr., a singer who met her while playing the role of Pharoah in one of Aimee’s biblical spectacles. However, the happy couple was married only a few days when Hutton was named as defendant in a breach of promise suit. The court eventually ordered him to pay $5,000. On hearing the decision, a shocked Aimee fainted and fell, fracturing her skull.

most beautiful pharaoh found here

She bobbed her hair and started drinking, dancing, and wearing short skirts. In her early years she had preached against such things. Her choir director, Gladwyn Nichols, and the entire 300-member choir resigned because of her lifestyle. Sister Aimee indulged in a series of somewhat more discrete affairs in an out-of-the-way apartment. Among her lovers was a ghostwriter she hired to do her autobiography and a young comic named Milton Berle. He later described her apartment as a love nest with a homemade altar in front of which she engaged in sex with him.

Milton Berle and RuPaul found here

Aimee was still in the bedroom. “You’re not a very religious man, are you, Milton?”

I didn’t know how to answer her. “Well, not the way you are.”

“I know what you mean,” she said, “I work in the area of religion, but I think of myself more as a scientist and a crusader.”

“Why did you ask about me?”

“I was just thinking,” she said, and the light went out in the bedroom, “that unless you were really interested, perhaps a visit to my Temple could wait for a cooler day.”

The door opened, and there was Sister Aimee in a pale blue negligee, her braid undone and her blond hair hanging down around her shoulders. There was a soft flickering light, candles perhaps, somewhere behind her in the bedroom, enough to show me that she wasn’t wearing anything underneath. “Come in” she said.

It was candles all right. Two of them on the night table by the bed, which she had already turned down. They were burning in front of a silver crucifix that stood before a triptych panel of the scene on Calvary. That started my nerves going again, but I solved the problem. I decided not to face that way when we got into bed.

We never got to the Four Square Gospel Temple.

And we didn’t get there two days later, when she called again. This time, she just sent the chauffeur to bring me straight to the apartment. We didn’t even bother with lunch.

When I was dressing to leave, she stuck out her hand. “Good luck with your show, Milton.”

What the hell. I couldn’t resist it. “Good luck with yours, Aimee.”

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smell my belly button

Recently I read Joshua Davis’ charming book “The Underdog” which details his dream of being best in the world at something. He competes in arm wrestling, bullfighting, sumo, backwards running and the Sauna World Championship

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“Would-be contestants had to submit a doctor’s letter months in advance.  The doctor’s letter was required because the competition sauna was hot enough to kill you. No American doctor in his right mind would have authorised us to essentially cook ourselves so we needed to find another way of getting the letter.

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John obtained letters for all of us from a Dr Ed Point (R.P.) of the Point Medical Clinic. The R.P. after Ed Point’s name signified that he was a board certified “Renaissance Physician”.The clinic’s other staff included a urologist named Peter Stickler, a dermatologist named Mark Wartly and a gynecologist named Seymour Lips.

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I picked up a copy of “Saunas: A Collection of Works” which contained an essay about “löyly“, the essential principle or essence of the sauna. The author, Giles Ekola, informed his readers that löyly could not be translated into any language and absolutely must not be translated as steam. He called it vaporized moisture that is in a process of drying which sounded a lot like steam to me. 

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However, he did help his readers to pronounce the word. He coached me to say “ler” and then “lew”. This exercise “makes it possible for the non-Finnish-speaking persons to lose their fear of the word, to accept it as a gentle friend and to pronounce and possess it as their own easily and readily.” It sounded like he wanted to have sex with the word.

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At dinner that night we went over the Finnish words we knew. John only remembered three phrases, one of which he warned us never to use.  “Smell my belly button” was, according to John, the single worst thing you could say to a Finnish person.

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From an interview Joshua did with Failure Magazine:

Of the five different competitions you recount in the book, which one was most frightening?

There’s the frightening you know and the frightening you don’t. Bullfighting was the frightening that you know. You can imagine a bull. You know it has horns and you have a sense that it’s very dangerous. That was scary because I had all sorts of assumptions and pre-established fears of what it was going to be like. But once I was in the ring I felt relatively comfortable. The process of dancing with a bull came to me intuitively.

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In terms of the fear I didn’t know it was definitely the sauna contest in Finland. I knew it was going to be hot but when I got in there I felt like I was going to die. If I stayed in that sauna another 30 seconds I would have passed out, and if they didn’t drag me out I would have expired. I had steam burns all over my body. When I was sitting in the sauna I was thinking, “This is really, really stupid.” The burns took two weeks to heal.

Are these unusual contests more commonplace in America or foreign countries?

In “The Underdog” I make the argument that these contests are idiosyncratic to America, but I’ve changed my mind. Since the book was released I’ve been getting email from people all over the world telling me about unusual competitions. At underdognation.com I have 50 or so contests listed and I am adding more every week. The Finns are particularly crazy. They have the Sauna World Championship, the cell phone chucking contest, bog soccer and ice swimming.

image found here

Published in: on June 13, 2011 at 4:07 am  Comments (42)  
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“Mighty Mannequins, Batman!”

Joan Rhodes had a difficult start in life but that didn’t stop her making a name for herself in the circus

Joan Rhodes found here

Billed as “The Mighty Mannequin”, 5ft 7in tall, gorgeous and spectacularly costumed, she was known as “The Strong Lady of Variety”. During her 15-minute act she would bend steel bars, break 6in nails and, most famously, rip copies of the 1,000-page London telephone directory in half and sometimes quarters. At the age of 15 she could lift a baby elephant, and the highlight of her act was getting a crowd of men up on stage with her to have a tug of war. The men always lost.

baby elephant found here

She was born Joan Taylor in London in 1920. She was abandoned by her parents when she was 3 and put into a workhouse after the police were called to find the neglected children — she had two sisters and a brother — drinking drainwater. Rescued by her grandparents, she was eventually sent to board at a convent in South London but was expelled for pulling off a nun’s veil.

image found here

Lying about her age, she began to develop her considerable powers of physical strength and started performing feats on Tower Hill and Villiers Street, passing a hat among the spectators for her wages. By her late teens she was a familiar figure in the Soho district where she mixed easily with a bohemian set. She began a lifelong friendship with Quentin Crisp, and in later life she was his weekly Scrabble partner.

Quentin Crisp found here

In 1949 she answered an advertisment in The Stage which read “Freaks wanted”. The advertisment was for the famous Pete Collins’ Would You Believe It? show, a production noted for its performing odditiesShe got the job and, changing her name, became Joan Rhodes “the Mighty Mannequin”.

Joan Rhodes found here

“One of the dates we played was the Hackney Empire,” she later recalled, “On the bill with me was Elroy the Armless Wonder, Mushie the Lion (who ate steak off a lady’s chest) and Johnny Vree, whose idea of fun was throwing a golliwog around on stage.”

With her personality and looks Rhodes attracted attention wherever she appeared. King Farouk of Egypt sent her tiger lilies every night and asked her if she would like to break one of his beds. Nothing, however, could have been more bizarre than her meeting with James Battersby, the notorious British Fascist and supporter of Hitler. “He was a fan of mine,” she said, “and one day he invited me to tea after a matinée at Stockport. I had no idea of his views, and he suddenly blurted out, ‘You will marry me and be the mother of the strongest Aryan child in the world.’ I dropped my teacup and fled.”

King Farouk found here

Asked the secret of her success as a strongwoman she said: “I always made a point of being dainty. It’s like getting into a temper. If you are furious enough, you can tell yourself you will do something and then you can.

After retiring from the circus she still performed verses, one of which pre-dated Jenny Joseph’s poem about being an outrageous old woman: “I shall wear green and gold! When I am old! And paint my nails and colour my hair! And not notice when people stare”.

Published in: on June 11, 2011 at 12:58 am  Comments (36)  
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