Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pink Saturday - Naked Ladies

Beverly at the blog How Sweet the Sound has a great idea! It's Pink Saturday. Post about something pink, on Saturday. Here are the rules if you want to Get Pink!

When we arrived home from our southern vacation, the Naked Ladies were still blooming on our hillside, although blossoms were beginning to fade in the harsh California heat. These tender bulbs show their leaves in the late spring, which fade to nothing, and then in late August the flowers' bare stems shoot up and these huge, delicate pink lily-like blossoms appear.

These flowers were here when we bought the house - we moved into the house in late September, and so we didn't learn of the Naked Ladies until the following August. Imagine our surprise when they suddenly popped up and bloomed.

"Naked Lady" is the common name for the tender South African bulb Amaryllis belladonna.

Seeing this flower, and thinking about its common name reminded me of a book I'd read recently. And it's the same pale pink as the flower.

The book is called "Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens" and it's by author Liz Goldwyn. I heard her interviewed on NPR, and had to buy it. Goldwyn, granddaughter of famed Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn, became interested in Burlesque after finding some second-hand costumes. Fascinated, and eager to learn more, she began interviewing former dancers, costumers, and others involved in Burlesque entertainment.

Photo of performer Titian Dal from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Burlesque was far more than just a bunch of strippers taking off their clothes onstage. Goldwyn provides an overview about the beginnings of this form of entertainment, which included comedy acts as well as dance acts; its evolution to racier and racier material, and its eventual decline due to combined forces of changing technology and changing social morals. Goldwyn profiles some of the Burlesque Queens, or superstars of the art form, including Gypsy Rose Lee and Lili St. Cyr.

Photo from Los Angeles Public Library Digital Image Archives, also appears in the book

She also introduces us to performers that she actually met and became friends with, giving us a look backstage. She reveals how girls created their routines; the gimmicks each was known for, and trade secrets - such as how performers knew when it was safe to "flash" a little more skin without getting arrested.

The book is wonderfully illustrated, with photos of the era from the collections of the former dancers, and with shots of some of the garments in Goldwyn's collection. She also has a treasure trove of sketches, notes, and scrapbook ephemera and costume accessories from the archives of designers and costumers that created the costumes, New York's Rex Huntington and Los Angeles' Gussie Gross.

Look at this fantastic set of sketches! In the heyday of burlesque, costumes were so glamorous that women attended shows along with men, just to check out the latest glittering fashions.

Goldwyn discusses the intricate and complex construction of stripper outfits. All the costumes were custom-fit, and composed of multiple pieces. The fastenings, in the years before velcro, needed to be well-placed and functional so that items could be easily removed, yet sturdy enough to withstand several performances per day. Performers spent several hundred dollars on a single costume - in those days, one costume often cost an entire month's wage. The book includes letters between performers and costumers as they discuss costumes on order - or how well a new outfit worked out.

The costumes included netting, hand-beading, feathers, sequins. Horsehair was used to increase the stiffness in skirts, and applique work was sewn over fishnets and net body-suits. Goldwyn also reveals one costumer's solution to making it easier for strippers to twirl tassels on their pasties - swivel fishing hardware sewn into the base of the tassels!

Another inside look into this fascinating world is from photographer Robert Adler, whose show "Burlesque" appeared in a San Francisco gallery this spring. As a young man in Philadelphia during the '70s, Adler went backstage at the Troc burlesque theatre, at first for an assignment, but then returned to photograph dancers and the world backstage. His photographs show burlesque at the point of its decline, after Goldwyn's fabled queens had retired. Mr. Adler has kindly allowed me to post one of his photos here.

Photo Copyright Robert Adler

I love the poignancy of his images, the everyday quality of life backstage contrasting with the tawdry beauty of the spotlight onstage. In his photos, the dancers are at once alluring and beautiful, and relaxed and casual, putting their hair in curlers, waiting to go onstage, doing what people do every day at work. Visit his website and view the entire slide show - it's terrific!

All those naked ladies!! There they are, carrying their silken pink petals so proudly held on those slim and unadorned stems.

Hmmm....Amaryllis Belladonna sounds like a great name for a stripper - don't you think?


Grandma Faith said...

Very interesting blog; I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

Ah, the power of feminine beauty.

Anonymous said...

Love the beautiful "Naked Lady" flower bloom! Your blog is so varied! Love it!

And, thanks for you comment on my blog!


Abuela Beauty said...

Hi G!!
"Naked Ladies" interesting..I´ll back to read more!

Happy Pink Saturday!!
Besitos desde Argentina


Barrie said...

What entertaining info about the entertaining industry.
Happy Pink Saturday!

Gabriela said...

Happy Pink Saturday!

These PINK flowers are amazing!

~ Gabriela ~

Anonymous said...

Oh, this post is wonderful. Your Amaryllis belladonna is stunning - I can only grow these inside during the winter, but I have never saw one pink in color.That sketch book is beautiful, so full of history - it inspires me to start a journal just for pink. Thank you for this delightful Pink Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Glennis, this is such an interesting post. I loved reading about the book and the industry. Thank you for leaving the link - it was quite interesting, too.

Happy Pink Saturday - that bloom is gorgeous. What a wonderful surprise to discover in your new home..

Mo..."Mo's Cottage" said...

I learded something today...thank you for the interesting post....the books are great...
I also love your Pink blooms just beautiful...
Mo :-)

Virginia said...

Very interesting post.The flowers are beautiful.
Happy Pink Saturday!
Blessings, Virginia

bj said...

Oh, I loved your Pink post today.
I did a posting on GYPSY ROSE LEE last is somewhere in my archives. My dad was in the hospital during WW1 and she came to see all the injured troops...she gave my dad an autographed picture of her and he kept it til the day he died at 83.
My brother has the photo and lives far away from us so I couldn't get a picture of it.
Did you see Natilee Wood's movie,
"GYPSY"? It is one of my all time favorites!!

Oh, and if you will go to, you can order a calendar. They are really pretty!

Just A Girl said...

You always have the most interesting, intrigueing posts. I love the naked ladies and the costumes.
Have a fun pink day!

SmilingSally said...

Informative post. Happy Pink Saturday!

Jason, as himself said...

Yet another fascinating and well written post!

And with the words "Naked Ladies" I'm sure you're going to get a lot of extra traffic!

Anonymous said...

Happy Pink Saturday G
Thank you for coming and stopping by my post. May I ask you if you had trouble viewing it? It seems with Apple some folks can't view many items.
Love your post, and I might just have to go and pick up that book!!
Have a great day
Claudie from Canada

Jessica said...

I'm so glad you came by today....great post!


Stephanie ~ Angelic Accents said...

The feminine mystique! Too funny about the new name for a stripper!!

Big TX Hugs,
Angelic Accents

Suzie Button said...

I love your pink book! Those sketches are just fantastic! Happy Pink Saturday!

artis1111 said...

I planted some of those and I just got 3 up this year. Pinkness to you . Kathy

Tricia said...

I have never seen the pink naked ladies. Here, in Alabama, we have a red lilly that looks like that and we call it a Johnny Jump Up. It just jumps up with a warning with a beautiful red lilly.

onlymehere said...

I've never seen this flower before, it's beautiful!

Marina Capano said...

Hi! Happy pink saturday! what a nice pink post! so cute
visit me anytime...



Vanessa Greenway said...

Very nice post! Lovely pictures! Have a great day, Vanessa


Super interesting post and the naked ladies bloom is breathtaking.

Dawn said...

The flower is very pretty. I am sure it was a pleasant surprise to see it bloom for the first time.

The background you shared about the book was interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

take care,

Mrs. G. said...

What a most beautiful post! We naked ladies are lovely creatures aren't we.

KatCollects said...

Great post and beautiful flower. Happy Pink Saturday!

Nikki via The Scarlett Rose Garden said...

We had the naked ladies too! I had never heard of them called that before.
This book looks like a fab one to add to my collection.

Thank you SO much G for the info on my "rope" chair. I will have to look more into, but I'm pretty sure that's what it is!

Tristan Robin said...

wonderful post and photos! I've always loved the old burlesque queens (and those who were merely strippers in waiting).

I'm going to search out this book! Thanks for posting!