playtime in Burgundy

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy hosted the party of the century in 1454.

On one table, there was a church with bells, stained-glass windows, and a working pipe organ and choir, which provided musical interludes throughout the evening as well as a silver ship filled with rose water.

image found here

A larger table was far more elaborate. Eight-and-twenty musicians, baked in a giant meat pie, accompanied the interludes of the church choir on the previous table. In addition, the towers of a castle squirted orange punch into its moat. A trick barrel could give either sweet or sour wine: “Take some, if you want!” was written on the scroll of a man standing nearby.

image found here

There are no dimensions or proportions mentioned in the chronicles, but it is a reasonable assumption that with the exception of the meat pie, all of these “entremets” (as they were called) were scale models.  Five more “entremets” adorned this same table: a tiger fighting a serpent; a wildman on a camel; an amorous couple eating the birds that a man was beating out of a bush with a stick; there was also a jester on the back of a bear and a ship floating back and forth between cities.

image found here

Elsewhere in the hall, a living lion was chained to a pillar protecting a statue of a nude woman who served “hypocras” from her right breast. Above the lion, it was written, “Ne touchez a ma dame.”

Dishes (Entremets) that were intended to be eaten as well as entertain can be traced back at least to the early Roman Empire.

The cook to Amadeus VIII described an entremet entitled Castle of Love in his 15th century culinary treatise Du fait de cuisine. It consisted of a giant castle model with four towers, carried in by four men. The castle contained, among other things, a roast piglet, a swan cooked and redressed in its own plumage, a roast boar’s head and a pike cooked and sauced in three different ways without having been cut into pieces, all of them breathing fire. The battlements of the castle were adorned with the banners of the Duke and his guests, manned by miniature archers, and inside the castle there was a fountain that gushed rosewater and spiced wine.

edible castle found here

Published in: on January 31, 2010 at 7:10 am  Comments (36)  
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shades of shame

My father was a plasterer by trade and he built the home I grew up in. He actually made the cement blocks himself, and he and my mother laid them together, on weekends and after work. It took two years to build and another ten before they adopted first my brother and then me. My mother had plenty of time to decorate.

image found here

All rooms were wallpapered in patterns that would induce a migraine if I were to still live there. The lounge had four walls of embossed yellow daisies and one feature wall of black paper with penny farthing bicycles racing across the top of the piece de resistance – a pale blue and white fireplace shaped like a cloud and sprinkled with micadust.

image found here

The summer I turned 13 I begged to be allowed to paint my bedroom wall. Long nights were spent discussing this preposterous idea, my mother objected strongly, my father not so much but in the end I gained a hollow victory. Hollow because my father chose the paint, I believe it was called shocking pink.

image found here

I can’t recall how long I endured those walls but I think it was 1974 when I defied my mother and covered them with posters. My favourite was from a movie I’d never seen starring a dark and brooding boy called Mark Frechette

image found here

“Mark Frechette, the actor who seemed to carry into his private life much of the tortured soul he portrayed in Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film, Zabriskie Point, is dead at age 27. He was the apparent victim of a bizarre accident in a recreation room at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, where he had been serving a sentence for a 1973 Boston bank robbery.

image of Daria and Mark found here

Frechette’s body was discovered by a fellow inmate early on the morning of September 27th pinned beneath a 150-pound set of weights, the bar resting on his throat. An autopsy revealed he had died of asphyxiation and the official explanation is that the weights slipped from his hands while he was trying to bench press them, killing him instantly. A source in the county DA’s office, which is investigating the incident, termed the circumstances “a little strange,” especially since the bar left no mark on Frechette’s neck.”

The video is a little long but it’s an interesting glimpse into the past. Daria Halprin lived on, married and divorced Dennis Hopper, and now involves herself in creative arts therapy. I still haven’t seen Zabriskie Point.

What happened to your teenage pinup crushes…..?

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 7:54 am  Comments (50)  
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t shirt friday 29.1.2010

thanks to YnB for my troll nursie and syncopated eyeball for the Astro Boy T. Synchy has joined in t shirt friday this week – do we have any other players?

Yes! Sledpress is in and Sabrina

and now we’ve got gnukid, YnB and healingmagichands too

Published in: on January 29, 2010 at 8:24 am  Comments (40)  

not that Melba, not that Jackie

Jackie Curtis was a transgendered film star, poet and playwright.

image found here

“Jackie Curtis is not a drag queen. Jackie is an artist. A pioneer without a frontier”, Andy Warhol said of his associate. One of her plays was Glamour, Glory and Gold, which also starred Candy Darling, Melba LaRose and Robert De Niro in his first appearance on stage.

image of Jackie and David found here

Apart from acting, Curtis also wrote poetry and sang. The poem, B-Girls, much of which is based on his observations of people who visited Curtis’ grandmother’s Bowery bar, Slugger Anns, led to his inclusion in the 1979 book, The Poets’ Encyclopedia.

‘I’m not a boy, not a girl,” Curtis maintained. ”I am not gay, I am not straight, I am not a drag queen, I am not a transvestite, I am Jackie.” Tall and athletically built, he didn’t try to act especially feminine when dressed as a woman, and he repeatedly affected a macho image modeled after James Dean.

image of jackie and divine found here

Curtis is named in Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wild Side” which was about the ‘superstars’ Reed knew from Andy Warhol’s studio The Factory. The verse speaks of his drug addiction and fascination with James Dean: “…Jackie is just speeding away – Thought she was James Dean for a day… then I guess she had to crash, Valium would have helped that bash”

image found here

Her friend and actress Melba LaRose went on to become the Artistic Director of NY Artists Unlimited,*** a non-profit theatre company that brings professional theatre productions to under-served audiences. In this entertaining interview she recalls the days of Glamour, Glory and Gold.

image found here

Dan Sullivan said I was “Jean Harlow down to the leaden voice and incipient pot belly.” And Candy was reviewed as a woman: “This is the first impersonation of a female impersonator I have ever seen.” It wasn’t until “Give My Regards to Off-Off-Broadway” that anybody knew Candy was a man.

image found here

Jackie went all over town trying to find ’30s costumes for the show and ended up raiding the closets of his Grandmother Slugger Ann – who ran the bar Slugger Ann’s on 2nd Avenue, his aunt, and his mother. On opening night, we burst onto the stage and heard Slugger bellow from the audience, “They’re wearing my fuckin’ clothes!!!”

image found here

Jackie could often be found at his grandmother’s bar, in whichever gender. His doctor said it was amazing how his body survived going back and forth so many times with the hormones. I remember when he called and was on his way to visit me in LA, a friend said, “Aren’t you going to dress up?” I said, “For Jackie? Are you kidding? I don’t even know what sex he’ll arrive in.”

***NY ARTISTS UNLIMITED is dedicated to taking professional theatre to under-served audiences. The company focuses on works that evoke dignity of the individual and sanctity of the human spirit. A multicultural nonprofit touring company, we travel self-contained to NY’s inner city neighborhoods as well as to remote regions of the Northeast. Audiences are composed of people who, because of economics, geographical location, disability, age, and the like, cannot afford tickets or gain access to thought-provoking entertainment.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 7:37 am  Comments (31)  
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the prince of the assassins

Hotel Pimodan found here

Dr Jacques Joseph Moreau and his friend Theophile Gautier were the driving force behind the setting up of Le Club des Haschischins in 1844 which met every month at the Hotel Pimodan on the Ile St Louis. The order was under the command of a ‘shiek’ called the Prince of the Assassins. This role was played by Dr Moreau himself, who would distribute green hashish paste among his assembled “assassins.”

image found here

Gautier wrote about the experience here

The doctor stood by the side of a buffet on which lay a platter filled with small Japanese saucers. He spooned a morsel of paste or greenish jam about as large as the thumb from a crystal vase, and placed it next to the silver spoon on each saucer.

The doctor’s face radiated enthusiasm; his eyes glittered, his purple cheeks were aglow, the veins in his temples stood out strongly, and he breathed heavily through dilated nostrils.

Dr Purple and his team found here

“This will be deducted from your share in Paradise,” he said as he handed me my portion.

Already some of the more fervent members felt the effects of the green jam: for my part, I had experienced a complete transformation in taste. The water I drank seemed the most exquisite wine, the meat, once in my mouth, became strawberries, the strawberries, meat. I could not have distinguished a fish from a cutlet. That strange visitor, hallucination, had come to dwell within me.

Strawberry meat found here

Little by little the salon was filled with extraordinary figures, such as are found only in the etchings of Callot or the aquatints of Goya; a pêle-mêle of rags and tatters, bestial and human shapes; at any other time I should have been uneasy in such company, but there was nothing menacing in these monstrosities. Only in a grin of good humor could one discover the uneven fangs and pointed teeth.

Courtyard of Lunatics by Goya found here

One of the club members, who had not taken part in the voluptuous intoxications, in order to survey the phantasma and prevent those of us who believed we possessed wings from leaping out the windows, got up, opened the piano, and sat down. His two hands plunged together into the ivories of the clavier and a glorious chord, resounding forcefully, silenced the clamor and changed the direction of the drunkenness.

read about turkey parachuting here

A veil was torn away from my mind’s eye, and it became apparent to me that the club’s members were none other than Cabalists and sorcerers who wished to sweep me to my doom.

Then vertigo enveloped me completely; I became mad, delirious. I was overcome with despair, for, in lifting my hand to my skull, I found it open, and I lost consciousness.

skull cake found here

The dream had ended. The hachichins each escaped separately to their houses, like the officers after Malbrouck’s funeral.

As for myself, I went down that stairway which had caused me such tortures with a light step, and several minutes later was in my own room, in full reality; the last, lingering mists of the hashish had disappeared. My reason had returned, or at least that which I call reason, for want of a better term. My lucidity would have been just sufficient to grasp a pantomime or vaudeville, or to make verses rhyming in three letters……

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 7:27 am  Comments (34)  
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don’t acosta my sista

The de Acosta sisters had more than their fair share of beauty and brains. Aida was the first woman to fly a powered aircraft solo, doing this after taking only three flying lessons.

Aida flying in 1903

“On June 29, 1903 in Paris, at the age of nineteen, Aida de Acosta charmed Brazilian pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont into showing her how to operate his personal dirigible. Santos-Dumont was the toast of Paris at the time, frequently flying his dirigible downtown to his favorite restaurant and parking it on the street while he had dinner. Acosta flew Santos-Dumont’s aircraft solo while Santos-Dumont rode his bicycle along below, waving his arms and shouting advice”

Her sister Rita was regarded as the ‘most picturesque woman in America’ and was photographed, sculpted and painted by many famous artists.

“She also wrote one novel, Tragic Mansions (1927), under the name Mrs Philip Lydig, a society melodrama described as “emotionally moving and appealing” by The New York Times.

In 1921 Rita announced her engagement to Reverend Percy Stickney Grant, rector of the Church of the Ascension. Their wedding plans were broken off in 1924 when Bishop William Manning refused to authorise the marriage.  Rev. Grant died shortly afterwards, leaving his personal fortune to the woman he had hoped to marry, and she spent large sums of money on fashion, art, furniture, and other objects to overcome her grief. She died of pernicious anaemia at the Gotham Hotel shortly after, at the age of 54. Her personal wardrobe became the basis for the start of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

image by Gertrude Kasebier found here

Perhaps the most well known of the de Costa sisters was author, poet, screenwriter, playwright and costume designer Mercedes.

Her mother, a descendant of the Duke of Alba, raised her as a boy, calling her “Rafael” and dressing her in boy’s attire. After the death of her father in 1907, however, Mercedes’ mother became concerned about her lack of femininity and dispatched her to a convent school in France, from which she was removed after an incident involving two nuns who were apparently lovers.

image found here

In 1929, she moved to California, where she met Greta Garbo and almost immediately became her lover. The affair with Garbo was an intense and stormy one, and Acosta frequently found herself in rivalry for the aloof Garbo’s affections, with men as well as women. Indeed, one of the more curious of these triangulations, one that lasted for over two decades, involved Acosta, Garbo, and photographer Cecil Beaton, who, though for the most part homosexual, was nonetheless obsessed with the enigmatic screen idol.

image of Cecil Beaton by George Hoyningen-Huene found here

After a highly emotional split with Garbo in 1932, Acosta began an affair with Marlene Dietrich, which lasted, on and off, for the rest of the decade, although she continued to be Garbo’s lover intermittently through those same years.

image found here of Marlene photographed by Mercedes

Other lovers of Mercedes included the great actresses Alla Nazimova and Eva Le Gallienne and the legendary inovator of dance , Isadora Duncan. In the glory days of Hollwood , folks used to play a “six degrees” connection game (think of the popular “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game of the 1980s) . The less number of degrees it took to make a connection between two people, the more points one got. Truman Capote used to say that Mercedes was his trump card becuse you could connect her so quickly to so many via bed or intellect.”

image of Truman Capote found here

Published in: on January 26, 2010 at 7:27 am  Comments (43)  
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cousin thomas was a poodle

The Amazing Criswell was famous for his wildly inaccurate predictions

image found here

Criswell married an eccentric former speak-easy dancer, named Halo Meadows. His wife spent a great deal of time sunbathing; she also had a poodle named “Buttercup” which she was convinced was the reincarnation of her cousin Thomas.

Criswell was longtime friends with actress Mae West, once predicting her impending rise to the position of President of the United States, whereupon she, Criswell and George Liberace, the brother of showman Liberace, would ride a rocket to the moon. West used Criswell as her personal psychic, as well as lavishing him with gifts of home-cooked food, dropped off via chauffeur. Additionally, West was known to sell Criswell her old luxury cars for $5. For her 1955 album The Fabulous Mae West, she recorded a song about the psychic, titled, appropriately enough, “Criswell Predicts.”

image found here

Criswell authored several books of predictions, including 1968’s Criswell Predicts: From Now to the Year 2000. In this book, the author claimed that Denver would be struck by a ray from space that would cause all metal to adopt the qualities of rubber, leading to horrific accidents at amusement parks. He also predicted an outbreak of mass cannibalism and the end of planet Earth, which he set as happening on August 18, 1999.

His second book “Criswell Predicts Your Next Ten Years!” was released in 1969. “Why should you feel lonely when you have a trillion counterparts?” Criswell admonishes the reader in his foreword to Your Next Ten Years. “Do the other trillion feel as lonely as you? Are you fair to them?” This work is a combination of fashion tips, financial forecasts, amazing labor-saving devices, spicy gossip and gloomy tales of impending social collapse.

His friend Mae West was famous for the delivery of her one liners. Her play “Drag” was banned from Broadway as was her radio play “The Garden of Eden” where she purred the line “Oh, Adam — mmmm, come over here with your little ways and wiggle them into my heart.”

Diane Arbus had this to say after her photographic session with Mae

“When at last you come up and see her you know you are in the presence of a lady. Resplendent and familiar, she smiles between her superb teeth and rolls her eyes heavenward…. “Men are my kind of people,” she says. “I want them absorbed in me. … The man I don’t like doesn’t exist.

But the world of Mae West is not entirely physical. Her psychic eye has been opened. She has seen visions … “I knew,” she says, ” that in some marvelous way I had touched the hem of the unknown. And being me, I wanted to lift that hemline a little bit more.”

mae west images found here

Published in: on January 25, 2010 at 7:05 am  Comments (35)  
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Julian Eltinge*** was once one of the most famous and popular actors in America.

Praised as hypermasculine off-stage and delicately feminine on, his two sides seemed to negate each other sexually, and he displayed an ethereal asexuality. In 1904 Julian came to New York City to perform in Mr. Wix of Wickham. His star quickly rose with his vaudeville success, giving Eltinge the chance to play many cross-dressing roles, including performances in blackface, as a Spanish dancer, and as blushing brides.

image found here

Julian Eltinge went to great lengths to develop an off-stage persona that would counter his on-stage alter ego. Consider the splashy datelines from newspapers of the era: “Eltinge Hurt in Collision”; “Julian Eltinge Whips A Critic in Pittsburg”;

image found here

“Eltinge Wins Battle at Sea: But Swordfish Causes Injuries to Impersonator”. The fish battle was elaborated with the following commentary: “The 190-pound marlin got in several rapier-like thrusts which caused the famed female impersonator to undergo an intestinal operation.”

An account of Eltinge in an bar fight was as common as a review of one of his performances with one publication proclaiming, “Julian Eltinge Isn’t Effeminate When He Gets His Corsets Off”

image found here

A cartoon of Eltinge preparing for the stage shows his dresser Shima, himself a sort of star for being the man who transformed Eltinge, helping the cross-dresser with his corset. “The little Japanese chief’s duty is to pull the corset strings until the 38-inch Eltinge waist comes down to feminine requirements. The reason Shima carries the butcher knife is that sometimes the strain under which Eltinge labors while masquerading as a woman in corsets becomes too great and it is necessary to get out of his ‘harness’ before he faints.”

Women were so enthralled by his performances that he established the Eltinge Magazine which advised women on beauty, fashion, and home tips. In 1911, Eltinge opened one of his most famous shows, The Fascinating Widow at New York’s Liberty Theater.

The success of this show led producer A. H. Woods to give Eltinge one of theatre’s highest honors, having a theatre named for him. A year to the day that The Fascinating Widow opened, Woods opened the Eltinge Theatre on New York’s 42nd Street designed by noted theater architect Thomas W. Lamb. After serving as a legitimate theater for many years, it became a notorious burlesque house and was shut down during a “public morality” campaign in 1943.

Eltinge theatre found here

By the 1930s, the female impersonations that he had built his career on had begun to lose popularity. Eltinge resorted to performing in nightclubs. Crackdowns on cross-dressing in public, meant to curb homosexual activity, prevented Eltinge from performing in costume. At one appearance in a Los Angeles club, Eltinge stood next to displays of his gowns while taking on his characters. He died on March 7, 1941 following a show at a New York nightclub.

image found here

***Check out the Julian Eltinge Project for more on this fascinating man

Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 4:59 am  Comments (25)  
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corset friday 22.1.2010

Gnukid has decided to join in!

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 9:52 am  Comments (56)  
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do you want beaver with your nuncheons?

What did you have for breakfast today? If you lived in 19th century England you may have eaten this Sunday menu from Breakfast, Luncheons and Ball Suppers

Fried skate and shrimp sauce

Curried pig’s feet

Breakfast cakes

Potted anchovy

Devilled hot meat

Hot buttered toast


The author, Major L, also tells you how to boil an egg

“A new laid egg takes longer to boil than one which has been laid some days, and if you wish the white set it should be put in boiling water four minutes and a half. If you prefer the white running all over your plate, and dropping all over your dress on the way to your mouth, let it boil three minutes and a half.”

“Nuncheons” was the name given to a meal break for manual workers. “Bever” (pronounced as beaver NOT as bever-age) meant much the same thing –  a light meal, possibly a lump of bread, a gobbet of cheese or some seed cake, always served with something liquid, usually beer or ale.

Raincoaster’s beaver recipe

Gabriel Tschumi was Master Chef to three monarchs – Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.

In his autobiography, Tschumi recalled that for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee banquet 24 chefs were brought over from Paris to help with the cooking and that the younger apprentices in the royal kitchens attempted to grow their moustaches to resemble those of their French superiors. The book reproduces the recipe for Côtelettes de bécassines à la Souvaroff, served by Tschumi at King Edward VII’s coronation banquet in 1902. This consisted of snipe cutlets covered in brandy, pâté and breadcrumbs, placed in a pig’s caul, and served with beans, truffles, mushrooms, and a Madeira and truffle sauce.

Pig’s caul (and duodenum, uterus etc.) found here

Tschumi doesn’t dish the dirt on any of the royals but he does reveal a snippet about Queen Victoria’s eating habits.

“Towards the end of her life she was not a large eater. Rumour had it that her breakfast was usually a boiled egg, served in magnificent style. According to the upper servants, she used a gold egg cup and a gold spoon, and two of her Indian servants, in their showy scarlet and gold uniforms, stood behind her chair in case she wanted anything.”

image by Banksy found here

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 7:01 am  Comments (42)  
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