an awfully seeley dinner

We’ve been talking about classic old restaurants quite a lot lately at the Gimcrack. Here’s yet another New York institution from a bygone era.

In 1903, Cornelius Billing celebrated the completion of his $200,000 stable by holding a horseback dinner at Sherry’s. Thirty livery stable nags were coaxed one by one into the freight elevator and taken up to the grand ballroom on the fourth floor, where the host and his guests mounted them and dined off tables fastened to the animals’ withers. They drank champagne through rubber tubes connected to saddle bags hanging on the horses’ flanks.


Earlier, Sherry’s had been the scene of “The Awful Seeley Dinner” which scandalised New York and for a time tarnished the restaurant’s reputation. According to one source, hootchy-kootchy dancer, Little Egypt, was served naked in a pie. Rachel Shteir maintains she wore at least a semblance of clothing but it was something gauzy and diaphanous.

This raucous bachelor party for P T Barnum’s nephew, Herbert Seeley, was broken up in the wee hours of the morning by crusading policeman, Captain Chapman. The Seeleys brought him to trial before a police board for “conduct unbecoming to an officer of the law”. The trial of course was a media circus full of descriptions of what Little Egypt, whose real name was Annabel Whitford,  did or did not wear.

Annabelle Whitford 1894-1895

You can read more about her at this interesting site relating the history of sex in cinema. Did you know the first silent stag film was made in 1915? A Free Ride depicted a wealthy man having sex with two female hitchhikers by the side of the road.

And then there was Annette Kellerman…..

Australian-born swimming and diving champ Annette Kellermann (billed as “the Diving Venus”) had already gained attention for advocating the scandalous-at-the-time one-piece bathing suit. She caused a further stir when she was seen naked with her flowing hair under a waterfall – she was the first major female star to appear nude on screen.

Annette Kellerman being arrested for indecent exposure

At least she didn’t pop out of a pie…..

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 7:58 am  Comments (33)  
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33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Its been awhile since I had to mount anything during dinner. Yeah, my life is that boring.

    • You could take up taxidermy…?

  2. I always have an inexplicable feeling of amazement that there is so much sex in books, films and art prior to my birth. WHY? It seems each generation has major delusions about those preceeding.

    BTW, let’s bring back that excellent term “hootchy-kootchy.”

    • Did you watch Carnivale Queenie? There’s hootchy kootchy dancing in that….. I’ve got the series on dvd if you haven’t seen it.

  3. …I got nothing… brain no worky… Naked chicks in pies though, sounds sweet!

    • Better check for bone(r)s before you munch on down

  4. I can’t wait for ‘gauzy and diaphanous Friday’.

  5. thank

  6. Re: A Free Ride. The decades peel away but the fantasies don’t change much, do they? I’d actually like to see that. (Purely from a historical standpoint, of course.) I wonder if it’s online anywhere? If you need me, I’ll be over at Google…

  7. They must have drawn straws for who got to drag her to the wagon.

    • Yeah the woman in the background got the short straw and she’s not happy about it

  8. Old silent pornos are great. I remember one featuring a character named Judge Humps. He knew how not to spoil a good jazz, let me tell you.

  9. cool stuff, But I can’t help but note that the men drooled over these women but rarely got arrested for encouraging/paying/supporting the so-called nakedness…only the women. sigh!
    Thanks for the link to sex and movies should be fun.

  10. Did they serve horse radish? Sorry, Nurse. Still on that first cup of coffee . . .

  11. Eating on horseback is way more difficult than you think. Poor ponies.

  12. The photo of Annette Kellerman being arrested…hilarious! And it brought back memories of SALLY Kellerman, as Major ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan, being shown to be a real blonde in the shower scene in M*A*S*H.

  13. I wonder if there was any space for the four-and-twenty blackbirds?

    • That was a whole separate pie Kyk

  14. I wish they would make the stag films silent again – can’t stand those artificial groans and banshee screams.

  15. That Annette didn’t go quietly, apparently. That picture doesn’t look like most arrests I have seen.

    I just can’t see what the appeal of having dinner on horseback was. Glad I wasn’t the busboy who had to clean up the ballroom. Makes you put a whole new interpretation of “ball room”, since my mama used to call those things the nags emit “Horse balls”

  16. Now those men loved their horses.

    • But not in a biblical way

  17. Diaphanous is more intriguing than naked …… everything in order ……. please.

  18. Believe it or not, that’s how I get all of my free rides! Only I prefer using motel rooms.

    Call me a prude, but that’s how I roll.

  19. “a free ride” Even back then porn folk knew how to title a movie.

  20. That horse meal sounds rather smelly

  21. Who needs four and twenty black birds when you can have one nudie dancer!

  22. Do you know the fine art of belly dancing Nursemyra? If so maybe there could be an upcoming video Friday!

    • I took belly dancing classes for a year in 2006. It’s really good exercise but the routine was rather complicated… don’t think I can remember it now

      • Somehow I knew you’d have done it!

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