Onorata Rodiana, crossdressing female mercenary of the Italian Renaissance

As I’ve said here before, if you look at enough pictures of a distant time, you start to feel as if you’re actually there…

The year is approximately 1430 A.D., and I find myself in an encampment of mercenaries in Lombardy, in Northern Italy. In this era, the city-states of this nation hire paid soldiers to protect their powerful commercial interests, the riches brought back from trade in places like the Orient; it is cheaper (and safer to life and limb) to hire warriors than to have a standing army of citizens.

This is Paolo Uccello's 1456 "The Battle of San Romano."

This is Paolo Uccello's 1456 "The Battle of San Romano."

The men who hire and organize the bands of soldiers are known as condottieri, which means “contractors.” But one of the condottieri is a remarkable gal named Onorata Rodiana. If you think the 1950s kept women at home, multiply their plight by a hundred when it comes to the Renaissance years. It was hard enough to get out of the house and learn to read, much less become a sword-wielding Amazon on horseback. And I can think of only one actress could have played Onorata with the appropriate feistiness and femininity: the Cuban-Mexican star of 1960s Italian spectacles, Chelo Alonso:

This is Chelo as a gypsy in Terror of the Red Mask.

This is Chelo as a gypsy in Terror of the Red Mask.

Suddenly the night air is thundering with the hooves of horses, and through the brush comes Onorata and her men. She is dressed in the armor and uniform of a male. But those are the eyes of a magnificent female that flash in the torchlight as she dismounts and takes off her helmet, then goes into her tent for food and wine. She started as one of the soldiers, but rose in the ranks to have her own band of warriors.

If only I could give her a foot massage after her long day of plunder and pillage, as these mercenaries are wont to do! I would be satisfied with that…

Crouching in the dark behind a tree, I munch on some bread and drink a jug of wine I pilfered from a sleepy soldier, and think back to what I’ve heard about how Onorata found herself in this line of work…

Even more remarkable than her soldiering is that she was an accomplished artist first, a painter of murals, in these days when the rigors of artistic apprenticeship and training are so great that few males can ever achieve the skill and renown to get commissions. It’s not like 2009, where you can put a few blotches on a canvas and call yourself an artist.

Miss Rodiana is from the small Northern Italian town of Castelleone in the province of Cremona. The facts of her apprenticeship are not recorded, but in 1423 she was hired by the “Tyrant of Cremona,” Gabrino Fondulo (think Basil Rathbone if you like classic Hollywood, Christopher Walken if you like modern films), to do a fresco in his palace. But in the middle of the work, as she toiled on the wall painting, a sleazy courtier attempted to take liberties with the beauteous, vivacious Onorata, and she stabbed him to death when it became clear there was no other way to protect her virtue. Disguising herself in male attire, she fled to the mountains, where she found refuge with a band of mercenaries. “It is better to live honored outside my homeland, than dishonored within it!” she is recorded as having said (according to the 1590 book Storia di Castelleone, quoted in Germaine Greer’s The Obstacle Race, a book about female artists). The fellowship of the soldiers, and this new profession, appealed to her adventurous spirit.

This medieval painting shows horsewomen on a serious rampage!

This medieval painting shows horsewomen on a serious rampage!

The tyrant tried Onorata in her absence and condemned her, vowing to flush her out no matter where she hid. This was rather difficult, since she apparently was quite a canny crossdresser, and her soldier pals were quite loyal in hiding her. And remember, your style of headwear can make identification difficult.

Imagine Onorata's—or Chelo Alonso's—eyes peering out at you from this helmet!

Imagine Onorata's—or Chelo Alonso's—eyes peering out at you from this helmet!

But then the tyrant realized Onorata was the only one he wanted to complete that fresco (unless that was his rationalization for giving up the hunt), so he eventually put out the word that she was pardoned and she could come back and finish the painting.

Which she did.

And thus began a career that now encompasses two disciplines: artistic and military. She paints a fresco for some patron, then goes back to the boys for some pillage and plunder. The condotierri, who were businessmen as much (if not more than) warriors, frequently switched allegiances since they fought for money rather than patriotism, so Onorata probably has the opportunity to wear a number of different male outfits. However, I couldn’t find it recorded for how long she kept up the crossdressing; once she became a commander herself, she may have dressed with more of a feminine flourish. At least, I’d like to think so…

Maybe this is what Onorata looked like in those rare, stolen moments between palette and pike.

Maybe this is what Onorata looked like in those rare, stolen moments between palette and pike.

I look over at Onorata’s tent. Against the torchlight, I see her shadow as she undresses. What is her love life like? I haven’t found anything about it. Would she be up for a foot massage? Although the wine has gone to my head, I have the feeling that, alas, I might end up on the wrong end of a sword if I dare to sneak over and say hello…

So I return, however reluctantly, to 2009…

Back at my computer, I learn that in 1452, after a thirty year career of art and soldiering, Onorata and her band helped defend her hometown, Castelleone, against the Venetians. The invaders were successfully repelled, but Onorata was mortally wounded. It is recorded that she died within sight of the house where she was born. “Honored I lived, and honored I shall die.”

I guess the only reason this was never made into a movie (as far as I know) is that it would be hard to make a mercenary sympathetic, no matter how dramatic her story. The condotierri and their troops messed with their minds of the people who hired them, played one group against the other, switched sides, prolonged regional wars, all for profit and pleasure. True, it was a rather tough time to be alive, and you had to protect yourself, but these guys were no saints, and Onorata Rodiana chose to become one of them. Also, no examples of her work, or pictures of her, seem to have survived from that era, and she has been largely forgotten.

Except by travelers like yours truly, propelled by horniness and curiosity about the Eternal Feminine!

The queen of the Amazons leading her ladies into battle...

The queen of the Amazons leading her ladies into battle...

And, of course, as a cigar-chomping international film producer (in my mind), I’m always looking for vehicles perfect for Miss Chelo Alonso, even though at 75 she’s been long retired from film!

Chelo smolders in Morgan the Pirate. You can find her on DVD in Goliath and the Barbarians, also with Reeves.

Chelo smolders in Morgan the Pirate. You can find her on DVD in Goliath and the Barbarians, also with Reeves.

Yes, this is a gal who never made enough movies! (And well worthy of a foot massage or two!!)

Punishment can be sweet when the punisher is perfection!

Punishment can be sweet when the punisher is perfection!

————-

I got the images and info for this entry from various sources, but one essential place for all lovers of tempestuous female cinema talent is WOmWAm. This vast and entertaining site has great pix of Chelo Alonso, but that’s only the beginning. I’m adding WOmWAm (which stands for Women Doing Things to Men) to my blogroll.

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Jean Harlow, forever sexy…

How nice it must have been during a cold winter night during the Great Depression to be able to slip into a neighborhood bijou and watch Jean Harlow light up a screen with her matchless combination of earthy sexiness and well-timed wisecracks.

This was one of Harlow's earliest hits.

This was one of Harlow's earliest hits.

annex-harlow-jean-hold-your-man_01

Their first meeting in Gable's apartment is a classic of flirtation.

I caught Hold Your Man a couple of weeks ago on Turner Classic Movies. A comedy-drama, I thought it works best in the first half, when Harlow and Gable have some priceless dialogue. You can just feel Harlow’s body as she walks around in the form-fitting dresses, and stands with a gentle insolence with her hand on her hip. Then the movie turns more dramatic and too sentimental. Still, I could see how just looking at Jean on the big screen could have taken an audience on a mini-vacation from its woes.

happy!

I can well imagine what Cagney's lap must have felt like with Jean on it: happy!

Harlow’s platinum blond hair and slinky outfits had women across the country adapting the look for their own. You can get a sense of what New York felt like in Harlow’s prime when you look at the paintings of Reginald Marsh, who populated his canvases with images of Harlowesque types striding through the tumult of New York City, whether on the streets, the beaches, the dance halls, or burlesque stages.

The late Reginald Marsh matchlessly captured the feisty women of 30s and 40s New York in his paintings and etchings.

Marsh himself seems to long for the beauties who stride through his canvases.

The reason why Jean Harlow is so sexy still is because she makes us laugh. Even though we can’t get her to sit down on our individual laps, she gets a real physical response out of us–a physical release–when she evokes our laughter. A beautiful woman with a warm-hearted sense of humor (as opposed to the cutting kind) is the most alluring of all females. And Jean was very generous, even democratic, in the distribution of her charms through the medium of comedy.

Hmm. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, I can imagine her sitting on my lap, too…

jean_harlow-102

Scandalous flappers of the Roaring 20s…

If you look at enough pictures online of the wild girls of the 1920s, the flappers, you start to imagine yourself at one of their parties. At least, I do…

World War One had been pretty bad on everyone. It was time to let loose...

World War One had been pretty bad on everyone. It was time to let loose...

The term “flapper” is erroneously said to have originated from the flapping sound these girls’ unbuckled galoshes made when they were walking around, an image depicted by a popular artist of the time, John Held Jr. Yes, you read that right–unbuckled galoshes, worn so inelegantly in rebellion against the decorum of the earlier generations of their mothers, the more straight-laced (yet curvaceous) women personified by the Gibson Girls of the early 20th century.

...but Gibson Girls knew how to play their men!

...but Gibson Girls knew how to play their men!

The femme fatale assumes the guise appropriate to her era.

The femme fatale assumes the guise appropriate to her era.

In fact, the term flapper was in use as early as 1912 or 1913 in Britain, referring to baby birds flapping their wings and attempting to fly out of the nest long before they were capable of actual flight. It was a metaphor for feisty young girls.

In reality, human flappers of the 1920s were quite capable of flight of the alcohol-swilling, drug-taking, and erotic varieties. F. Scott Fitzgerald said the perfect age for a flapper was about nineteen, and he was one guy definitely qualified to say so, since he immortalized the scene in his fiction.

Flappers smoked openly. Cigarettes were called "gaspers," for obvious reasons.

Flappers smoked openly. Cigarettes were called "gaspers," for obvious reasons.

The death and devastation of World War One had left the younger folks with a bitter aftertaste that made both guys and gals want to live as if there were no tomorrow. Females threw off the restrictions of corsets and long clothes. By 1926-27 hemlines were inching above the knee. Some women actually rouged those knees. Makeup, once the tool of actresses and floozies, now became the province of all women except the elderly. They wore Cupid’s bow lipstick (preferably kissproof) and dark-rimmed eyes. Long hair was cut, or “bobbed” or “shingled.” It had to be short for the girls to wear the round, tight “cloche” hats that were popular. Breasts were squished into flatness with bands of cloth to give a boyish figure. Waistlines dropped below the hips. Girls looked boyish but were decidedly not masculine; they flirted and “necked ” (all action above the neck), or flirted and “petted” (below the neck, but not necessarily under the skirt). Alcohol was outlawed in those days of Prohibition, so these daring flappers drank from hip flasks that they kept in their gartered stockings. Or they went to speakeasies, those illicit hidden saloons, and danced the Charleston, the Shimmy, or the Black Bottom. They wore filmy underwear like camisoles, and panties known as “step-ins” instead of the rigid corsets of a generation earlier. If they absolutely had to slim down synthetically, they wore girdles of a fabric called Lastex. They wore stockings rolled up to the middle of their thighs. The liberation of women meant new markets for commercial exploitation, and new markets (as for hosiery) propagated more liberation.

There was a new freedom to women's bodies under their skimpy dresses.

There was a new freedom to women's bodies under their skimpy dresses.

Flappers smoked cigarettes in public (their mothers hadn’t), often with cigarette holders, and they didn’t go for the perfumed brands made especially for them but preferred the same tough stuff that men liked to enjoy. So tobacco manufacturers also had a good reason to promote the cause of the flapper.

This is a clever item that I wish would come back in vogue. "Do you have the time, sweetheart?"

This is a clever item that I wish would come back in vogue. "Do you have the time, sweetheart?"

In their defiant attitudes, the flappers seem to the modern sensibility (or at least, to mine) a little like today’s punk or goth girls, but without the tattoos or piercings and certainly without quite the same amount of sexual license. It’s hard to ascertain just how much actual sex (in the penetrative sense) took place back in the 20s between flappers and their “flaming youths” as their men were called. But there was lots of necking and petting, and that counts too.

No doubt about it, though, flappers must have been damn shocking. At least the free-love hippie chicks of the 60s had paved the way for goth girls of the 90s and 2000s, but the flappers must have seemed to spring almost out of nowhere, and some of the more staid minds of the Roaring 20s were truly boggled by their antics, judging by the documents of the time.

Now, this is one of the very first Varga (or Vargas) girls, a painting of silent movie star Olive Thomas.

A somewhat idealized version of the real Olive Thomas...

A somewhat idealized version of the real Olive...

The painting hung in the office of her lover, impresario Flo Ziegfeld, who gave the world a vision of American beauty in the “Ziegfeld Girls” who populated his Broadway revues The Ziegfeld Follies. The last movie Olive Thomas made was called The Flapper, in 1920, the title of which introduced the term to the broader American public. She died a horrible and slow death that year after ingesting her husband’s syphilis medicine…whether by accident or by suicide has never been definitively known. It was an early Hollywood scandal. (Read more about it at the excellent site Bright Lights Film Journal.) She was a wild, outspoken, hard-living flapper when the lifestyle was just beginning. She apparently could swear like nobody’s business, too.

Those eyes reveal the defiance within the curly-topped sweetheart.

Those eyes reveal the defiance within the curly-topped sweetheart.Olive looks ready to raise a little hell! A skill she apparently had in real life.

She only lived to be twenty-six.

She only lived to be twenty-six.

These flappers liked to have “cigarette parties’ and “petting parties.” The latter don’t sound too much different from the “make-out” parties we had during my adolescence in the 1960s.

Well, maybe I can find a couple of hot flappers to have fun with me, as I spend a little time back here in the 20s. Somebody feisty and up for fun—perhaps the movie superstar of the time, Clara Bow?

A shot from her lost 1927 film, Round House Rosie!

A shot from her lost 1927 film, Round House Rosie!

I love the boxing gloves and high heels and rolled stockings on her. And two crossed ribbons on her insteps. Yeah, I have a feeling Clara is my kind of flapper…she’s even bringing a blond friend along for extra fun. (Rumor has it Clara once dated Bela “Dracula” Lugosi!)

"You gotta meet this time traveler guy...a little weird, but fun!"

I have an inkling that the petting party is about to begin!

Feisty female captive of ancient Rome…

203 B.C.

The Romans have been fighting the Carthaginians for decades. The city of Carthage, on the tip of North Africa (where Tunisia is today) has been a great seafaring power in the Mediterranean for hundreds of years. Under their commander Hannibal, they have delivered serious defeats to Rome. But the tide turns…

Here is Carthage in its early days, filtered through the imagination of the great British painter.

Here is Carthage in its early days, filtered through the imagination of the great British painter J.M.W. Turner.

Also in North Africa are Western and Eastern Numidia (today these countries make up modern Algeria). Syphax, lord of Western Numidia, was once an ally of Rome, but he comes under the spell of Sophonisba, the daughter of another high Carthaginian commander. Syphax marries her and switches his allegiance to Carthage.

Massinissa, lord of Eastern Numidia, allies with Rome. The Romans attack Syphax’s camp in the middle of the night, burning it, driving his soldiers into the open, where they are slaughtered. Syphax flees to Cirta, his capital city in Western Numidia. The Numidians were famous as horsemen. The pursuit of Syphax is exciting to imagine…Massanissa follows him and takes Syphax and Sophonisba captive.

At the palace of Cirta, Massinissa falls in love with Sophonisba and takes her as his wife. Syphax, having lost everything, is humiliated and despondent. The Roman commander, Scipio Africanus, takes Syphax to task for his treachery of switching loyalty from Rome to Carthage, but Syphax tells her he was bewitched by Sophonisba, as Massinissa will be too.

Who was Sophonisba–innocent beauty or cunning temptress? The stories, legends, and history vary on this point.

There is also a legend that Massinissa knew Sophonisba before Syphax when, in his youth, he was a hostage of Syphax. Massinissa loved Sophonisba and had to endure watching her become Syphax’s wife. Only later would he recapture her for his own…

Scipio orders Massinissa to give up Sophonisba so that she may be taken to Rome in chains for display in the parade celebrating his triumph over the Carthaginians. Massinissa is not willing to withstand Rome like Syphax did, but he does not want Sophonisba to be degraded in that way. He tells her to take poison and die an honorable death as a royal princess of Carthage. She does not hesitate–this is the core of her legend–and the story of her death becomes the subject of countless paintings over fourteen hundred years later, as well as operas and dramas.

Massinissa gives Sophonisba a funeral worthy of a princess, and because he proves in this extreme way his allegiance to Rome, he is given the crown of a now-unified Numidia, both the former Eastern and Western kingdoms–a monarchy which he holds for more than a half century until his death at age ninety. Syphax, however, is taken to Rome for display in Scipio’s triumphal parade, and there dies of grief.

Lots of drapery, lots of drama...

Dutch Baroque painter Nicolas Regnier's version

Dutch Baroque version by Nicolas Regnier

Massinissa looks more of a schemer here, not much of a romantic.

Massinissa looks more of a schemer here, not much of a romantic.

A mellow Miss S., rendered by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli

Georg Pencz's version makes the princess look like a guy in drag...

Georg Pencz's version makes the princess look like a guy in drag...

As skilled as all these depictions are, they suffer from a common tendency of European art–the costumes depicted were those of the time of the artist, not of the subject. This approach, ironically, was also used by Hollywood in the 1960s, when women in historical or period films would sport contemporary hairstyles and makeup. I recently saw The Cincinnati Kid, set in Depression-era America, with Ann-Margret and Tuesday Weld sporting the ‘dos of the 60s. Very annoying.

Likewise, I want to see a more authentic Sophonisba. I only had one actress in mind if I were to show you a photo. I saw the following image at a memorabilia show a few months ago, but it was too expensive to buy. Then this afternoon, on a fantastic site I discovered called Dr. Macro, which features gorgeous scans of cinema photos, I found and recaptured it…like Massinissa recaptured Sophonisba. (I’m adding Dr. Macro to my blogroll too for your ready reference and personal ease of horny time travel.) My choice for the role of the Carthaginian princess, then, is the late actress Marina Berti (1924-2002), seen here in her great character as the slavegirl Eunice in 1951’s Quo Vadis (now available in a new, gorgeous DVD edition):

In fact, her character in Quo Vadis takes poison to save her honor much like Sophonisba did.

In fact, her character in Quo Vadis takes poison to save her honor much like Sophonisba did.

I think you will agree that this is a woman who, in the words of the Roman historian Livy, could make a king “become the slave of his captive!”

————

I looked through many sources for this journey into history clouded with legend. One that was particularly helpful, besides Wikipedia, was Roman History Books and More. It goes on the blogroll too!

Girlie mags: a sexy doorway to the past!

As I explained in the “Who I Am” page, I write a column called The Horny Time Traveler for the adults-only publication GALLERY. The first column is available on the stands in the February 2009 issue, #147.

Covergirl Karin occupies eight stunning pages of this issue!

Covergirl Karin occupies eight stunning pages of this issue!

The concept of the column is that I travel back in time and give myself and the readers a glimpse of a different year by showing them excerpts of vintage girlie magazines, the less explicit adult periodicals of earlier eras. I start off by giving a summary of the major events of a particular year, everything from politics to entertainment to sports to crime, and then I review the articles and the captions on the girlie photos and convey through my summaries a little bit about what women and men, and the sexual culture of the time, were like. I keep it sexy and informative, as befitting my own tendency to be both horny and scholarly. In the first column, I take my readers on a visit to 1957 through the pages of the March issue of MODERN MAN and the April issue of CABARET.

Through this magazine, we visit the fleshpots of 50s Tijuana and the old burlesque nightclubs of Chicago.

Through this magazine, we visit the fleshpots of 50s Tijuana and the old burlesque nightclubs of Chicago.

If you’re 18 (or 21 in some states) and interested in a little “horny time traveling,” check out GALLERY and my column. I give you a peek at yesteryear’s beauties as well as the sights, sounds, and even aromas of the past–through CABARET, we get a sense of what it’s like to eat an enchilada while watching a hot Mexican stripteaser!

GALLERY, as edited by David J. Evans, is a great mix of sensual and explicit erotic photography, celebrity journalism, and of course, Horny Time Traveling. I hope you check it out soon, and let me know what you think about the column by leaving a comment here on this blog.

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By the way, if you want to see some cool vintage men’s mag covers, check out the website Poseur, where I found the scan of CABARET’s cover.

Joan Collins sizzles across the centuries!

In lieu of actually learning about physics to create a time machine, I have found alternate methods to transport me at least in spirit to other ages. One of my favorite modes of transport is the vintage movie poster.

If the movie were made now, she would have a sword bigger than his.

If the movie were made now, she would hold a sword too, and bigger than his.

Although the reviews were negative, I thought Richard Egan was quite good in this film. I don’t have to tell you which part he played.

If they made the movie now, she would be holding a sword bigger than his.

It's alarming that they gave him such a tiny dagger here. Subtext alert?

Still, it could be debated whether posters like this transport me back to fifth century B.C. or 1959, when the film came out. But in the final analysis, does it really matter?

The point is to take a vacation from 2009, and meet busty girls in skimpy costumes.

Or, out of them. But paintings are better for that, as this nineteenth century depiction of Esther demonstrates.

The Toilette of Esther, by Theodore Chasseriau, 1841

The Toilette of Esther, by Theodore Chasseriau, 1841

Don’t you think it’s crafty how the artist included the toes, for all the foot fetishists out there?

Kim Novak and her cleavage lead me to the 18th century…

There is something I find fascinating about the concept of the scholar who is attracted to vice.

Indeed, that is how I view myself. Erudition and sleaze are two of the most essential components of a well-rounded life.

I make no pretentions to a great intellect, but I have spent many enjoyable hours in the realms of esoteric volumes.

Likewise have I lolled in the precincts of the prurient–the strip club, the whorehouse, and the dungeon.

I read an article recently in the New Yorker that implied that Samuel Johnson, that ultimate 18th century English man of letters, was also addicted to what is known as the “English” vice–being restrained and whipped by his beloved (who was a married woman at the time).

Good man.

Wearied from my time travels in the last week to ancient Greece, Renaissance Rome, 1930s and 1960s Hollywood, and the Middle Ages, I settled last night for perusing Wedeck’s “Dictionary of Erotic Literature,” (Philosophical Library, New York, 1962) while imbibing ginger ale and chomping bridge mix. (I also have a weakness for Bachman’s Brick Oven Flame-Baked Butter Twist Pretzels.) One of Wedeck’s entries spirited me back to the 18th century as I read of one Peter Motteux (1663-1718), pioneering English journalist (but born in France) who started one of the first magazines in Britain, translated Don Quixote, and probably died of autoerotic asphyxiation in a “bawdy house”.

As images of movies like The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders with Kim Novak…

This 1965 movie was a delight for a thirteen year old, as you can well imagine.

This 1965 movie was a delight for a fourteen year old, as you can well imagine.

…and 1963’s Tom Jones with Albert Finney and Diane Cilento popped into my brain…

I saw this movie when I was mere sprout of 12...

I saw this movie when I was mere sprout of 12...

…not to mention Linda Darnell in the lead role of Forever Amber…a movie I have yet to see, but whose stills have intrigued me for years…

Linda Darnell in her prime was like Popeye's spinach to the libido...

Linda Darnell in her prime was like Popeye's spinach to the libido...

…I savored this poem of Motteux’s, which I now share with you:

————

Man is for woman made,

And the woman made for man;

As the spur is for the jade,

As the scabbard for the blade,

As for digging is the spade,

As for liquor is the can,

So man is for the woman made

And the woman made for man.

As the sceptre’s to be swayed,

As for night’s the serenade,

As for pudding is the pan,

And to cool us is the fan,

So man is for the woman made

And the woman made for man.

Be she widow, wife, or maid,

Be she wanton, be she staid,

Be she well or ill arrayed,

Whore, or bawd, or harridan,

Yet man is for the woman made

And the woman made for man.

——–

There is something sly about this poem, something of the grog house and drunken lechery in its mix of ominous and homey imagery of various cohabitations (the scabbard and the blade, the pudding and the pan). I like it. I think it would go well with a pint or two of Guinness.

And, of course, Kim Novak.

"You tempt me to debachery, sly sir! Lead the way!"

Stella Stevens, eternally luscious…

I was thinking of the Granada Theatre tonight, a grand old movie palace (over 3400 seats!) on the North Side of Chicago where I grew up. I saw many movies there as a teenager in the 1960s, like The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman and Torn Curtain with Paul Newman.

It was demolished in 1990 for a bland apartment building.

It was demolished in 1990 for a bland apartment building.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it was torn down. How well I remember a rainy Saturday in 1963 when my younger sisters and I joined the long line of kids that snaked its way down the block waiting to get into a double feature of King Kong vs. Godzilla and…Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor.

Also starring Stella Stevens.

Jerry Lewis, as absent-minded Professor Kelp, was understandably rendered befuddled by such beauty...

Jerry Lewis, as absent-minded Professor Kelp, was understandably rendered befuddled by such beauty...

The flick was on Turner Classic Movies the other night, and I watched it for awhile. I’ve seen it a few times over the years, and I find it alternately funny and cringe-inducing. Goofy, klutzy, but somewhat lovable Professor Kelp turns into the slick and sleazy Buddy Love, the Hyde to his Jekyll, and he becomes so uninhibited in his Bryclreemed hostility, combative insecurity, and artless pseudo-suavity that you feel for the guy even as he spits out one insult after another to the woman he most wants to impress–Stella’s character of “Stella Purdy.”

The colors of the movie make Stella look like she's made of candy...

The colors of the movie make Stella look like she's made of candy...

Watching the film the other night, I was struck by a scene where Professor Kelp imagines Stella morphing from this dress into a variety of boner-inducing outfits. First she looks like a classy Hollywood star in a goddess-like gown…then she’s in a little tennis outfit…and then she’s dressed in red and leaning against the wall like a paperback floozy. I couldn’t help but wonder what my budding pubescent mind made of that parade of stimulating images…

Tonight I read a very good interview with Stella by Tony Macklin on the site Bright Lights Film Journal. She relates how when she was doing a love scene with Bobby Darin in Too Late Blues, he got a big erection. This photo from the interview makes me feel like it’s me in the scene. See how easy it is to time travel in a horny fashion?

Be sure to read the interview with Stella. Your private parts will be time-traveling, too.

Be sure to read the interview with Stella. YOUR private parts will be time-traveling, too!

How movies can warp us. I wasn’t ready for the reality to come. There were no fluffy “coeds” like Stella on the campus where I went to college in 1969. The atmosphere was definitely not candy-colored, girls didn’t wear their hair with two ponytails, and in fact you were lucky if the girl with whom you partook of the “Sexual Revolution” still shaved under her arms. But Stella as “Stella Purdy” remains a potent daydream that takes me and my erection back to another era.

User Genial23 posted this haunting shot on Flickr...

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The above shot of the Granada being demolished was posted by user Genial23 on Flickr. Back in the day, I remember sitting on the main floor watching a movie with my arm around my date and looking up at those boxes and wondering what it would be like if we could go up there to neck…but we never did.

On the Web, you can see what the talented Stella Stevens is up to now, or read the sad story of the destruction of the Granada, which is where I got the photo at the top of this entry.

Phryne shows naked assets, wows jury…

Athens, 340 B.C.

Phryne, one of the most famous and beautiful of the hetaerae (high-class, highly educated courtesans, aka prostitutes), is on trial for her life–and your Horny Time Traveler has managed to sneak into the court to witness her judgment before a stern jury of city fathers. Her crime? Displaying her fantastic beauty in the nude at the religious festival at Eleusis that honors the sea god Poseidon. Her action was taken as an affront to the goddess Aphrodite.

Actually, Phyrne had posed for a famous statue of Aphrodite

Actually, Phyrne had famously posed for a famous statue of Aphrodite...

I can’t believe the shape she’s in. After all, Phryne was born in 390 B.C., and she’s packed decades of tough-minded living (and lucrative whoring) on that frame. I move forward for a closer look.

Phryne gave the philosopher Diogenes a freebie, because she admired his mind...

Phryne gave the philosopher Diogenes a freebie, just because she admired his mind...

Charged with the capital offense of profaning the ceremony at Eleusis, she’s defended by one of her lovers, the golden-tongued orator Hypereides. Despite the fact that she charged him one hundred times the going Athenian rate for nookie in that era (100 times 1 drachma), he’s unstinting in her defense. But it’s not going well, until suddenly Hypereides gets an inspiration. Whipping off Phyrne’s clothes, he displays her fabulous body to the graybeards.

Although she was stunning, it wasn't just her nudity that frazzled the oligarchs...

Although she was stunning, it wasn't just her nudity that frazzled the oligarchs...

I hope nobody notices me standing behind a pillar! I’m fidgeting so much–Phryne is so gorgeous I have to restrain the urge to give her a tip, like a topless dancer back in 2009. Well, she probably would only be puzzled by a piece of paper with the face of a president who won’t be born for almost two thousand years…

I guess you don't want to get on the bad side of a powerful courtesan!

I guess you don't want to get on the bad side of a powerful courtesan!

But my fantasies are getting ahead of me. Instead, I listen to Hypereides’ impassioned speech, punctuated by the audible anguish of Phryne. The orator is not only boggling the jury’s head with the sight of Phryne’s bod (and it’s rumored that her unseen private parts are even more beautiful than everything else), but they are starting to feel just a little bit afraid, I think–after all, someone who looks so good is obviously on very good terms with Aphrodite, and perhaps it would be a wee bit dangerous to condemn her to death. When she is finally exonerated, she tearfully thanks the oligarchs, working her way through the crowd, pressing their hands. I remember seeing a stripper work her way through an audience like that once.

A Roman copy of Praxitele's Aphrodite at Knidos. The original is now lost...

A Roman copy of Praxitele's Aphrodite at Knidos. The original is now lost...

After the trial, I realize I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to hook up with Phryne. It would be like trying to hook up with an A-lister in my own time. Hey, Phryne’s extremely wealthy, and she’s got plenty of customers–everybody from her lawyer Hypereides to the penniless Diogenes to the master artist Praxiteles. It was Prax who made that very famous statue of her as Aphrodite at Knidos that supposedly made the goddess quip, “When did that sculptor ever see me naked??” Maybe I just don’t know what I’d say to Phryne, or maybe I’m just not up to haggling for a discount if we don’t have much chemistry. If she doesn’t like someone, like the King of Lydia, she asks an outrageous price. I heard he had to levy a tax on his populace to make up all the dough he spent on Phryne! Because when he met her price, she gave him what he wanted. That’s her credo: “You pay, I’ll play.” That’s a pro.

Maybe my night with Phryne is better left to fantasy.

Meanwhile, I take a walk outside of town to cool off and whaddaya know? I run into this cute gal just sitting by a stream.

There's something about her eyes that tells me she could use a few laughs...

There's something about her eyes that tells me she could use a few laughs...

I don’t know ancient Hellenic (or modern Hellenic, for that matter), but it’s funny how you can communicate with a few gestures and funny faces. Is she human or a wood nymph? Hey, it doesn’t matter. What ‘s really nice is that she seems to agree with what the playwright Sophocles, who was stuck on a younger courtesan in his later years, once said:

“Hear me now praying, goddess, nurse of youths,

And grant that this my love may scorn young men,

And their most feeble fancies and embraces;

And rather cling to gray-headed old men,

Whose minds are vigorous, though their limbs be weak.”

I'll have to come back to ancient Greece for another blog post soon!

I'll have to come back to ancient Greece for another blog post soon!

Afterward I went back to my own time with a smile on my face, and it didn’t cost me a drachma!

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The first painting of Phryne at Eleusis is by the Polish painter Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902); Phryne in the Areopagus is by Jean-Leon Gerome; Phryne solo (and looking like she wants to kick my ass) is by Boulanger; and the nymph is by Siemiradzki.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 3:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Gina Lollobrigida prepares for a swim…

Today I’m in the 1950s somewhere, and somehow I’ve popped up on the veranda of Gina Lollobrigida’s hotel room. The power of Horny Time Traveling has propelled me through the fourth dimension to witness the wonderful sight of this Italian superstar of mid-20th century international cinema getting ready for a swim.

If you grew up in the 1960s, you salivated at some point or other over Italian movie goddess Gina...

If you were a teenager in the 1960s, there's a good chance you salivated at some point over Italian movie goddess Gina...

Useful factoid: Gina (who turned 81 last year) showed off her perfect feet in a languorous sunbathing scene in the suspense movie Woman of Straw, an unjustly neglected mid-60s thriller starring Sean Connery and Ralph Richardson.

Maybe when Gina gets back from the beach, I can brush the sand off her toes?

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I got this great shot from a message board at a site called Bellazon. There are scores of great Gina pix there.

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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