Corsets in Chicago

Thanks to daisyfae, while in Chicago we stayed at the almost-too-hip-for-its-own-good-hotel, The Wit. Floor to ceiling windows on the 24th floor with gorgeous views of architectural delights. And two televisions back to back in case we wanted to watch different channels from the bed or the couch. Actually, I think we only turned the tv on once, most of our down time in the room was spent playing banagrams, sleeping and taking corset photos. We discovered  daisyfae’s pretty turquoise number on St Mark’s Place, NYC and my red leather lace up came from a vintage store in Chicago’s WickerPark.

 

the suite even came with its own chaise lounge

Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 2:36 am  Comments (46)  
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corset friday nyc

Hey, it’s Friday and we managed to get a corset shot done in time! Head on over to daisyfae’s to see her version. We’re having a ball in NYC, chasing the sweltering heat away with frozen margaritas and two hour siestas every day. Thanks to everyone who’s been leaving Chicago suggestions in the comments. I’m not sure we’ll fit everything into the four days we have there but we’ll try…..

Published in: on July 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm  Comments (35)  
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start spreadin’ the news…..

….. I’m leavin’ today.

Yes, my much anticipated trip to New York starts today. Daisyfae and I will be hanging out in the Big Apple for a week or so, hoping to catch up with unbearablebanishment, alonewithcats, shrinkrap and renalfailure whilst eating and drinking our way around Manhattan.

There may be an occasional joint blog post like we the one in Seville in 2008

or the one we did in Lesbos  in 2010 with the lovely Dolce

Then it’s on to Chicago – a city I’ve never been to before. Hopefully that’s when we’ll catch up with Rassles. If you’ve got any tips on things we really should see or do while there, leave them in the comments. See you all soon.

the romance of travel

Edward Wortley Montagu (1713 – 1776) was an English author and traveller.

image found here

In spite of Mr Wortley’s incurable habit of travelling, or because of it, he was equally addicted to matrimony, though he was as much a wanderer in this activity as in any other for he married, first a washerwoman, and then, bigamously, Caroline Dormer.

washerwoman found here

Nor did his thirst for domesticity content itself with these two ladies, for he deserted Miss Dormer for a Nubian girl, and, as well, eloped with Miss Ashe. His death took place at Padua in 1776, and he no doubt left several inconsolable widows.

Nubian mummy found at this fascinating site

Louis de Rougemont (1847-1941) was also a traveller, but not quite as adventurous a one as he claimed to be

Louis found here

“De Rougemont” was born Henri Louis Grin in Paris, France. He left home at the age of sixteen. He became a footman to the actress Fanny Kemble, servant to Swiss banker de Mieville in 1870 and butler for the governor of Western Australia, Sir William Robinson. In that job he lasted less than a year.

Fanny Kemble found here

He tried various ventures with very little success. He worked as a doctor, a ‘spirit photographer’ and an inventor. He also married and abandoned a wife in Australia.

spirit photography found here

In 1898 he began to write about his invented adventures in the British periodical “The Wide World Magazine” under the name Louis De Rougemont. He described his alleged exploits in search of pearls and gold in New Guinea and claimed to have spent thirty years living with Indigenous Australians in the Australian outback. He claimed that the tribe with whom he had lived had worshipped him as a god. 

Larapinta Dreaming found here

Various readers expressed disbelief in his tales from the start, for example, claiming that no one can actually ride a turtle. De Rougemont had also claimed to have seen flying wombats. The fact that he could not place his travels on the map aroused suspicion. Readers’ arguments in the pages of London newspaper, the Daily Chronicle, continued for months.

Flying Wombat found here

Rougemont said he could not specify exactly where he had been because he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with a syndicate that wanted to exploit the gold he had found in the area. He also refused to talk about Aboriginal languages he had supposedly learned. 

Then it was announced that a certain F.W. Solomon had recognized De Rougemont and identified him as Louis Grin who had presented himself at Solomon’s firm as an entrepreneur. Grin had collected tidbits for his exploits from the Reading Room of the British Library. 

more great libraries here

Grin tried to defend himself by writing a letter to The Daily Chronicle, in which he expressed his consternation that anybody would confuse him with Louis De Rougemont. The Wide World Magazine exploited the situation and prepared a Christmas double issue. Sales of both papers soared. De Rougemont himself disappeared from the public view.

In 1899 Grin travelled to South Africa as a music-hall attraction: ‘The Greatest Liar on Earth'; on a similar 1901 tour of Australia, he was booed from the stage. In July 1906 De Rougemont appeared at the London Hippodrome and successfully demonstrated his turtle-riding skills. During World War I he reappeared as an inventor of a useless meat substitute. He died a poor man in London on 9 June 1921.

turtle riding a jellyfish found here

smiling has been outlawed

On Saturday I went to the Motor Registry to renew my licence. A very pleasant young Asian woman pointed at a chair and asked me to assume the position for “the taking of photo please”. I sat down and gave my best don’t-arrest-me grin to the camera. “Please to not do that” she said “smiling has been outlawed”.

So, no smiling in New South Wales then. Even when you look at these delightful entries for the Gimcrack’s Inaugural Cat Competition. Please cast your vote in the comments. And yes, you may vote for your own cat (entrants names are visible when you hover cursor over the photo – click to enlarge)

Published in: on July 12, 2011 at 8:31 am  Comments (44)  
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rancid cheese, nettle soup and whisky

Not so long ago, the oldest patient at the Gimcrack died. He was 104 at the time, still with all his faculties intact. When he was interviewed by a local paper the previous year, he put his longevity down to a glass of whisky a day and an overriding interest in horse racing. “Everyone needs a hobby” he said.

image found here

Thomas Parr arrived at his great age by a different regime

Parr was said to have been born in 1483 near Shrewsbury, possibly at Wollaston. He joined the army around 1500 and did not marry until he was 80 years old. He had two children, both of whom died in infancy. He existed and even thrived on a diet of “subrancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey

Milk Bottle Chandelier ($2112.50) found here

When he was about 100 years old, he supposedly had an affair and fathered a child born out of wedlock. After the death of his first wife, he married a second time at the alleged age of 122 to Catherine Milton who presented him with a child.

world’s oldest father (?) found here

As news of his purported age spread, ‘Old Parr’ became a national celebrity and was painted by Rubens and Van Dyck. In 1635, the Earl of Arundel brought him to London to meet Charles I. Charles asked what Parr had done that was greater than any other man, and the latter replied that he had performed penance (for his affair) at the age of 100.

image found here

A post-mortem was performed on Parr’s body. No apparent cause of death could be determined, and it was assumed that he had simply died of overexposure. A modern interpretation of the results of the autopsy suggest that Thomas Parr was probably under 70 years of age. It is possible that Parr’s records were confused with those of his grandfather. 

Henry Jenkins was said to have been 169 years old at his death

Jenkins’s age was investigated by Ann Saville, who lived near him in Bolton-on-Swale. Several of the other villagers were about a hundred, and they said he was an old man even when they were children. He could remember historical events from ancient times. And he was often consulted by lawyers about traditional land rights.

Jenkins’ Memorial found here

One of the lawyers told how he went to see Henry Jenkins in his cottage. Outside was an old man. The lawyer asked him a question, and the man said to go inside and see his father about it. In the cottage was an aged “wreck of humanity” nodding by the fire. He was too old to understand the question. “Ask my father”, he mumbled, pointing to the back door. Out in the yard was Old Jenkins, aged 166. He was busily chopping wood, and looked younger than his grandson. His mind was perfectly clear and he told the lawyer all he wanted to know.

Wood Chopper found here

Ann Saville asked him the secret of his long life, and again he was clear. Drink plenty of tar-water and nettle soup, he advised, wear flannel next to the skin and eat simply – bread and cheese, raw onion and cold meat. Old Jenkins could never read or write. Up to the age of 161 he worked every day in his garden or doing odd jobs. For some time he was butler in the house of a local lord. The date of his service there is recorded, giving proof* of his great age.

Nettle Soup with Seared Scallop & Candied Orange Peel found here

*Take with more than one grain of salt

Lemonade Ley

Thomas John Ley (1880 — 1947) was an Australian politician who was convicted of murder in England. It is highly likely that he was also involved in the deaths of a number of people in Australia.

image found here

The Australian Minister for Justice became known as the Hanging Minister because of his enthusiasm for the death penalty. In fact, the evidence suggests that he was a serial killer.

Ley was a millionaire in his 60s. He had a mistress and owned properties across fashionable London. As a young man, he lied about his age, raising it so that he could marry a wealthy older woman named Lewie Vernon. When it came to social status, Ley was unstoppable.

Fashionable London 1920s found here

Not only did he lie about his age but he lied his way into the NSW Parliament. In 1917, he campaigned against the evils of alcohol and called himself ‘Lemonade Ley‘, as if he were the scourge of the publicans. And the voters fell for it. But once he got inside he sold them out. In fact, ‘Lemonade Ley’ was in the pay of a brewing company.

Lemonade Pie found here

By the mid-1920s, Ley was riding high, revelling in the privileges of a conservative politician. Appointed Minister for Justice, he earned hatred from both sides of politics with his brutal enthusiasm for capital punishment. State Labor leader Jack Lang wrote of Ley, “There were many times in the NSW Parliament when we believed he was not only mad, but bad.

Hanging coffins found here

By 1925, Ley had his ambitions trained on the prime ministership of Australia and targeted the Federal seat of Barton. Ley’s campaign was to have deadly consequences for the man who held the seat, Labor’s Fred McDonald. He tried to bribe McDonald so that McDonald would effectively run dead in the election.

Fred McDonald found here

A defeated McDonald pursued Ley with allegations of bribery. But the wealthy Ley retaliated by threatening to ruin him with a defamation suit. McDonald backed down, he apologised and even, it was claimed, signed a document exonerating Ley. Then McDonald changed his mind. He would charge Ley with bribery after all. This placed Ley in a very sticky situation. But on 15 April 1926, his problem – Fred McDonald – simply disappeared.

Fred McDonald’s body was never found. Another politician, Hyman Goldstein,  fell prey to T.J. Ley some months later. Ley had set up a company to rid Australia of prickly pear, the weed that threatened the nation’s farmers and graziers. Goldstein had invested heavily in a business scheme of Ley’s to manufacture poison but he didn’t realise just how poisonous the scheme – or scam – would become.

Read how Australia eradicated prickly pear here

The Prickly Pear company went bust. Ley had stolen the funds and spent the shareholders’ money on a holiday with his mistress. Shortly after, Hyman Goldstein left his Coogee home at twilight for a stroll up on the cliffs. But he never came home. He was found later at the bottom of Coogee cliffs, stone dead.

Coogee cliffs found here

Under pressure to disappear, Ley beat a hasty retreat to England. Stanley Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, assisted by writing letters of introduction for Ley to take with him. He left behind his long-suffering wife Lewie and took along his mistress Maggie Brook instead.

As the years passed, Ley grew fat and rich. But then, sexual jealousy brought him unstuck. Ley became so delusional that he accused Maggie of having an affair with John Mudie, a barman half her age. Mad with jealousy, he paid to have Mudie kidnapped and killed.

When Mudie’s body was discovered in a chalk pit, the media went into a frenzy, with eager journalists digging up every last detail of Ley’s public life back in Australia. It had the sex angle: he had wealth, he had a mistress, he had a wife, he’d been a politician and he was a murderer. Front-page news right through the trial.

Ley denied the charges to the end. At the last minute, his death sentence was commuted on the grounds that he was insane. A petition from Australia probably helped his cause. The ‘Hanging Minister’ escaped the gallows.

Roof of the Gallows by Laszlo Baranyai found here

jesus wants me for a sunbeam

Earlier this month I read John Julius Norwich’s history of The Popes. It’s rather dry but this passage about two cardinals battling it out for the papal tiara made me laugh.

papal tiara found here

“Cardinal Roland Bandinelli was elected by a large majority. He made the usual display of reluctance then bent to receive the mantle. Cardinal Octavian dived forward, snatched the mantle and tried to don it himself. A scuffle followed, the mantle was lost and the chaplain produced another (presumably for just such an eventuality), which Octavian managed to put on back to front before anyone could stop him.

There followed a scene of scarcely believable confusion. Wrenching himself free from furious supporters of Roland who were trying to tear the mantle forcibly from his back, Octavian – whose frantic efforts to turn it the right way round had only resulted in getting the fringes tangled round his neck – made a dash for the papal throne, sat on it, and proclaimed himself Pope Victor IV.

papal throne found here

That was in 1159. Several pages later I read that in 1292 when Pope Nicholas died, it took 27 months to elect his successor.

Pietro del Morrone was an 85 year old hermit whose only qualification was that once, appearing briefly at the court of Gregory X, he had hung up his outer cloak on a sunbeam. He lasted as Pope Celestine V for five months, then wisely announced his abdication, the only one in papal history to do so. 

adopt a hermit from here

The architect of this abdication was Benedetto Gaetani who is said to have introduced a secret speaking tube into Celestine’s cell through which, in the small hours of the night, he would simulate the voice of God, warning him of the flames of hell if he were to continue in office.

(click to enlarge) lifted from tetherdcow.com

the Russian view of hobbyists

The title says it all. Found here

“normal, cheerful John” found here

It is known about John Travolta that before he has become a collector, he was a normal, cheerful lad that did all with appetite: ate, rescued and loved his wife Kelly Preston. But once upon a time Travolta has bought a plane – a small storm trooper, which initiated the hasty disease.

more felt celebrities here

Travolta liked the new toy so much, that he has decided to collect the flying machines. The storm trooper was followed by the reactive “Golfstrim”, then “Boing-707″, all in all now he possesses 7 planes! Imagine how much space this collection occupies!

Travolta’s jets found here

And how much money it costs? Last year Travolta ordered to install in each of the airsheds the extremely sensitive cameras and the security system, the central board of which is set into the back of his bed.

more unusual beds here

Robert De Niro’s collection is not so extravagant – it’s just the collection of hats. But, first, there are plenty of them – approximately 500.  Secondly, they are thrown about in disturbance all over the house.

hat found here

De Niro says that it is done deliberately – it’s easier for him to choose the cut, corresponding to his mood. De Niro’s collection is “active” – now and then he puts on one of his hats and wears it. But the most interesting fact is that all of his wives and girlfriends assure that when De Niro puts on one of his hats, his image transforms thoroughly.

Russians are also very fond of cats apparently. They have a museum devoted to the promotion of this love. 

GREAT! Our Museum’s cats were so glad to taste this unusual toy! Very funny for people and very interesting for cats. You can play with your cat and your cat play itself when you are not home (VERY IMPORTANT).

Two mean points:

Cat Dancer can be used as a wand to play with your cat. Just lead and they will chase, leap and run in circles.

Cat Dancer Compleat includes a soft mounting patch to affix Cat Dancer to a wall or other vertical surface so your cat can play when you are not home.

COMMENTS:

“Nordic Track for Cats” – New York Times

Irresistable (sic) exercise machine for fat cats” – The Milwaukee Journal

“…Spontaneous cat aerobics.” – London Daily Mail

“Two paws up!” – Whiskers and Sherbet

The best cat’s idea for lonely day” – MOSCOW CAT MUSEUM

image found here

They also have a “Woman and Cat” Beauty Contest. Elena from Moscow was a top contender but my vote goes to the goth girl with the baleful blackie.

image found here

If you have a feline friend of your own, enter his/her photo in the inaugural  Gimcrackery Cattery Competition. I’ll post a prize to the winner. I can’t guarantee it will have two mean points or deserve an accolade such as a “Nordic Track for Cats” but it could enliven the conversation at your next dinner party…..

Email photos to : rocky5@hotkey.net.au

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm  Comments (50)  
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no people like show people

I wish I’d been around when Pete Collins was presenting his “You’ll Never Believe It” shows. Luckily Don Stacey was and he wrote about it here

I saw it at the Croydon Empire theatre but cannot tell you what the bill comprised of since my father did not buy the show’s printed programme. Instead, he bought me a signed photograph of the show’s giant attraction, Lofty, a Dutchman born in 1897 whose real name was Albert Johan Kramer. He was nearly six feet tall by the time he was seven, and eventually grew to nine feet three and a half inches. He married the sister of the Swiss midget Seppetoni, who partnered Lofty in his stage appearances. 

image found here

Lofty was quite a character. In his prime he weighed thirty-two stone and every item he wore had to be specially made for him. On tour in Britain, he liked nothing more than to stroll into the famous Thirty Shilling Tailors and order half a dozen suits and a couple of overcoats. A typical breakfast for him was six plates of Scotch porridge, followed by eight kippers, two pounds of grilled sausages and half a dozen tomatoes, topped off with a dozen bread rolls and eight cups of black coffee. During the deprivations of war in Nazi-occupied Holland, he shrunk to eleven stone. After the Liberation, it took one and a half years to regain his normal health. 

A visit to his town by Bostock and Wombwell’s Circus introduced Pete Collins to his first sideshow, with a Fat Lady, Tattooed Man, Indiarubber Man and other attractions of the time. Pete forged a career with what became billed as “The Strangest Show the World Has Ever Seen”. His telegraphic address was “Incredible, London”, and those two words summed up his link with some of the strangest acts the world has known.

image found here

A chance meeting in a barber’s shop with a French robotic performer led him to form a show beginning with Lofty and Sepetoni, the 23 inch high midget, Madame Fifi the educated pig, Radiana, an electrical machine which performed conjuring tricks, Elroy the armless artist, and Rene Mazie, the Mechanical Man, Lemo the tame lioness trained by Prince Mercado, and other artistes like Professor Cheer, the Man with the Xylophone Skull

Radiana found here

Fifi the pig developed a hankering for greasepaint sticks and was eventually banished to a pen rather than her trainer’s dressing room. A theatre manager’s son was attacked by Lemo the lioness when the boy ventured into her dressing room, and endured 16 stitches in his scalp as a result of his injuries. 

image found here

I have a programme in my collection for December 1948, when Collins presented Fredel (“Is he Man or is it a Wax Dummy?”); Elroy the armless artiste; Crotchet, the Mad Musician; Stuthard, “the Incredible Canadian”; the Man with the Xylophone Skull; the Bespalys with their Unbreakable Doll; Lofty and Pippi, “the famous midget from Olympia, London”; and Mushie, the forest-bred lion which ate a steak from Ellen’s forehead twice nightly

James Elroy filleting fish with his feet found here

In its 17th year of touring, Collins presented Katja, the tallest woman in the world (eight feet four and a half inches in her nylons, and weighing 33 stone) and The World’s Fattest Family (weighing in at half a ton); along with Radiana, the ‘machine that shaves a man with an ordinary razor'; Nemec and Violet’s frog contortion phantasy; Hans Vogelbein’s comedy brown bears; and a Fakir Show that included “The Living Fountain” (a man who could drink 30 glasses of water and spout plain and fancy fountains); “The Human Ostrich”, who swallowed a lighted neon tube containing 10,000 volts; and “The Painless Wonder”, who allowed flaming arrows to be shot at him and exploded a bomb on his chest.

Katja found here

Many were the fascinating acts shown or discovered by Pete Collins. There was Thea Alba, the “Woman with Ten Brains”, who could write ten different things at the same time, she was also able to converse in twenty-five different languages. Monteerrat Alberich could paint pictures, not with a paint brush, but with an ancient typewriter. He presented a genuine Flea Circus on stage, a Human Gasometer and a bed of nails fakir, Amir Rahvis, who had been a London income tax official before taking up his more “restful” occupation. And let’s not forget Rayo (Austrian Rudolf Schmid), a yoga who created a sensation by staying in a bottle for a year.

image found here

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