Tips for dating Amazons—the sword-wielding kind!

These days we hear a lot about strong and aggressive modern women being “Amazons.” Believe me, a few hours of Horny Time Traveling amongst the ancient Amazons (the sword-wielding kind) have made me realize that today’s gals are strictly Amazon Lite.

Yet, if this lady was your date—

"Fighting Amazons" by Franz von Stuck

Hey, that's a centaur in the background. She fights CENTAURS, fer cryin' out!

—you’d be ready to tiptoe through the eggshells.

There is so much contradictory stuff written about the Amazons, and who they were, and if they really existed, and where they were from, that after awhile, the only thing that matters is that they do exist, fervently and vividly, in people’s imaginations.

So, maybe they were from Libya, or from what is now Turkey, and maybe they fought the Greeks in the Trojan War. Maybe they did lop off their right titty so that it wouldn’t get in the way of their javelin-throwing and archery (although artists of Amazons tend to leave in a full rack; aesthetics win out)…

Not exactly a civilized domestic dispute with the little woman...

Not exactly a civilized domestic dispute with the little woman...

Hercules tangled with the Amazons when he had to do penance to the gods for murdering his entire family (what? our Hercules?). He had to snatch the “Girdle of Hippolyte” from the Amazon queen it was named after, and it wasn’t just a walk in the Acropolis…he had to kill her to get it. (Boy, they really refurbished this guy’s image through those Steve Reeves flicks!)

Reeves' dignified acting style exemplified the noble Hercules—not the nasty one!

Reeves' dignified acting style exemplified the noble Hercules—not the psycho one!

Even when dead, these feisty femmes cast a spell. For example, Penthesilia was an Amazon warrior who was killed by the great Greek soldier Achilles before the gates of Troy. When he went to strip the armor from her fallen body (a custom of the winners), he fell in love with her! Kind of reminds me of the detective falling in love with the portrait of a dead girl in the 40s film noir Laura.

A feller named Tischbein did this painting.

A feller named Tischbein did this painting.

Do you notice that perky right tit? Well, maybe Penny specialized in swordplay over archery…

Anyway, before I take any trip into the past, I do research. I’d heard that Amazon society was what is known in academia as an “alien other,” meaning it was the opposite of the typical society of its time—in other words, the Amazon men (sounds like an oxymoron) did all the domestic things, and the Amazon women were the fighters, and politicians, and hunters. It was a kind of Bizarro, gender-role reversal version of what the world was really like. But, I figured, if I had to do a little cooking or cleaning to have the pleasure of a scrumptious Amazon riding me to climax, I was prepared for it…

Might be kind of interesting to have sex with a gal after she just got back from fighting Trojans...

Might be kind of interesting to have sex with a gal after she just got back from fighting Trojans...

Yeah, I thought, might be kind of sexy to watch my personal Amazon (since Penthesilia, alive or dead, was already Achilles’ date) dismount and stride into our tent for a nice foot massage after she slew a few ornery Hellenes…

Wait, is she already getting ready for the next battle? Fie on these multi-tasking minxes!

Wait, is she already getting ready for the next battle? Fie on these multi-tasking minxes!

Still, I’m glad I didn’t just rely on a few Web articles for my facts. I went to my storage space, full of various obscure “sexual history” texts that I’ve accumulated over my pseudo-scholarly life as a “man of erotic letters,” and I discovered some strange stuff in a tome entitled The Many Facets of Love (W.H. Allen, London, 1963), a well-written work of popular history by the prolific romance novelist Barbara Cartland. I quote from p. 69:

“The Amazons had a curious habit of breaking the leg or the arm of the captives they took in battle. This was not only to prevent their escape but because the Amazons believed that the genital member of the body would be strengthened by the deprivation of one of the extremities.”

Uh-oh…and it’s a thousand against one…poor…male…namely…ME!!

Do those thunderous hooves portend the snapping of my puny femur?

Do those thunderous hooves portend true love or a nasty limp?

Barbara Cartland concludes: “When reproached for the limping gait of one of her slaves, an Amazon queen replied, ‘the lame best perform the act of love.’ ”

Hmm, I thought, better check this out further. And I learned that the Amazons even prepared their male children for a good love life in the future by cutting off one of their hands or legs.

Hey, thanks Mom!

So what are my tips for dating an Amazon? Either bring your own splint…your own hook…or don’t do it!

A modern example of Amazon art.

A modern example of Amazon art.

Better yet, maybe just find a girl to date in Atlantis! It’s easier to reach now that it’s only buried under sand, instead of lost in the middle of some damn ocean!

As long as you don't maim me, Queen Antinea, you can crush me with your love!

As long as you don't maim me, Queen Antinea, you can crush me with ALL your love!

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In doing this post, I discovered a fantastic artist I had never heard of before: Franz von Stuck. Check out a gallery here. I found the sculpture of a golden Amazon on horseback here. And Queen Antinea of Atlantis was portrayed by the sadly underused Israeli actress Haya Harareet in Edgar G. Ulmer’s strange 60s epic Journey Beneath the Desert, available on home video. Her most famous role was as Esther in Ben-Hur.

And a shout out to my friend Phil Leibfried, an expert in that lost civilization specialist Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the author of She. A few months ago, when I first started this blog, Phil suggested I do something about the Amazons, so here it is at last. Check out Phil’s book about Haggard here.

Happy birthday, Chelo Alonso!

Chelo Alonso, the Cuban-born dancer and actress who became a star of 60s European sword-and-sandal films with her steamy dancing and femme fatale antics, turns 76 today. She was born April 10, 1933. As far as I know, she lives in Italy now. She married a film producer back in the 60s and then phased out her film career.

But what a memorable career it was! Check her out in Goliath and the Barbarians with Steve Reeves; Son of Samson with Mark Forest; or Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops with Gordon Mitchell, all readily available on DVD. Nobody was better at playing a feisty barbarian princess or evil queen. When Chelo comes on-screen, you’ll eagerly surrender to the allure of her blazing torches, slashing swords, or crocodile pits.

Last night I was with some friends and we were watching an Italian tv documentary that showed her behind-the-scenes on the set of Goliath and the Barbarians. As sexy as she is when she plays sultry for her scripts, these candid clips that showed her laughing and smiling with co-star Reeves as Reeves gets playful “instructions” from their elderly, gentlemanly director on how to kiss her were even more transcendently beautiful! Many actresses are called “legends” and “goddesses” but for most the term is just not true. But Chelo does not disappoint. In that behind the scenes footage, she also did a dance on a table, and then stepped with her bare foot on a guy’s hand so he could help her to the floor, while balancing herself with her own hand on his balding head! She did it with the fluid effortlessness of a woman who knows she really is some kind of goddess…or at least that some men want to watch her act like one!

These are a few of my favorite Chelo pix, which can be readily found all over the Web. Your life will not be complete unless you see her at least once in a movie! So don’t delay, put “watch Chelo Alonso movie” on your Things to Do List today!

Happy birthday once again, Chelo, you are forever our queen!

"Your queen, hmm? Then fetch me a soda..."

The Greek Slave: naked, chained, but forever pure…

Every fan of cult or schlock cinema has heard of the “nunsploitation” genre, dramas which purport to expose the sleazy activities and atrocious lusts that over-active imaginations desperately hope run rampant inside cloistered religious institutions…

Many of these films were made in Europe, in countries long under the sway of the church and hence far more susceptible to the resentments that foster rebellious genres like nunsploitation. Interestingly, the genre is also big in Japan, even though that’s not a Catholic country; one explanation is that it’s used there as a underhanded way for the East to puncture the pious bubble of the Western nations whose missionaries tried to convert the Japanese to Christianity…

But America has its own tradition of nunsploitation, which goes back to the early part of the nineteenth century. Anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment, expressed by “nativist” groups like the Know-Nothings, set the stage for the 1836 publication of Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a purported memoir of a young woman’s sexual and emotional mistreatment at the hands of nuns and priests in a Canadian convent. It became a huge bestseller, but it turned out that Maria’s story was completely fabricated by her guardian, an anti-Catholic activist, and a group of ghost-writers, all of whom ended up fighting over the profits of the book. It was revealed that Maria was mentally defective and emotionally unstable due to a childhood injury (she apparently rammed a pencil into her ear), and that she had never been in the convent she was supposed to have written about. Left destitute and discredited, she drifted into obscurity, had a child, married a man who left her, and died at the age of 33 in 1849 after being thrown in jail as a pickpocket.

Even though her story was shown to be fabricated, the book went on to sell 300,000 copies by the time of the Civil War, and as recently as the 1970s, her sensational “claims” have been republished and presented with an aura of legitimacy in modern editions.

Maria Monk appears to have been the perfect victim for predatory men.

The thing that’s interesting is how this trashy book became so widely read in the very strait-laced America of the 1830s. Obviously, its supposed concern for hypocritical outrages made its muted pornography acceptable to genteel readers; though not explicit in the manner of modern smut, I imagine that its restrained intimations of illicit sex behind convent walls were enough to make many readers stir moistly in their breeches or petticoats.

A few years later, in 1847, a statue of a female nude called The Greek Slave became very famous in America, and made its creator, Hiram Powers, the most acclaimed American sculptor of his day.

The slave is a Christian girl captured by the Turks, stripped, chained, and presented on the auction block. Her demure posture and forbearing expression balanced out the obvious titillation factor of this lovely presentation of alluring feminine flesh…

Here was the sculptural equivalent of Maria Monk, a girl still chaste in her heart despite her predicament, her sexually oppressed image presented for the polite delectation of the masses. The sculptor explained what he meant by his creation:

“As there should be a moral in every work of art, I have given to the expression of the Greek slave what trust there could be still in a Divine Providence…with utter despair for the present mingled with somewhat of scorn for all around her. She is too deeply concerned to be aware of her nakedness. It is not her person but her spirit that stands exposed, and she bears it all as Christians only can.”

…with somewhat of scorn for all around her.” (My italics.) Was this a slip of the pen? Did Powers not realize the scorn of the Greek slave could be for the crowds that paid admission to view her? Well, obviously the irony was lost on most people of the time. It became a visual symbol for the abolitionist movement to wipe out slavery in America…and ministers urged their congregations to view the statue at exhibitions. Countless miniature reproductions were sold, and often stood under glass in parlors across the nation.

Personally, I like this sculpture very much, and have ever since I first saw it in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (there are a number of copies of it in different locations); but I knew little about it until I decided to research this post. Despite the verbal sincerity and tremendous skill of its sculptor, it nonetheless strikes me as prurient as it is exquisite; but I don’t hold its prurience against it. Prurience is a part of life, and we deny its hold on our minds at our peril…

We must rather be careful not to wallow in prurience to the exclusion of other things in life.

Even today in America, many prefer their prurience with penitence, or at least the upwardly striving narrative of triumph over adversity in the sleazeball zone. For example, modern memoirs about strippers usually depict them as girls eager to better themselves, often stuffing themselves with education, so that they may rise above their profitable but lowly status in the naughty and nasty lapdance trenches to spiritually triumph as 21st century century equivalents of ever-pure Maria Monks or ever-untouchable Greek Slaves.

People, and not just in America, seem to want to believe that no matter what a woman has experienced with that miraculous vessel of complex cultural symbolism, her naked body, that she remains good at heart.

From stripper and peepshow girl to Oscar-winning screenwriter—how much more uplifting can you get?

From stripper and peepshow girl to Oscar-winning screenwriter—how much more uplifting can you get?

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Writing this post took me to interesting sites, where I got various facts and illustrations. For more information about the Greek Slave and Maria Monk in particular, with links to further material, go here. I found John Absolon’s color painting of the Greek Slave exhibited at London’s Crystal Palace here.

Gentlemen act like asses around girls with guns and glasses!

The British actress Peggy Cummins (born 1925) is best known for her role as the sociopathic sharpshooter in the 1949 film noir Gun Crazy. Although I haven’t seen that film recently, I can still remember her ferocious femme fatale energy in it…

Actually, of the three shots above, the one I find most interesting is the third one, because it shows the emotionally penetrative power a fatal woman can exercise without a gun…the power they have all too often in the lives of normal men—i.e., not men on the run from holding up banks, like the characters played by Cummins and John Dall in Gun Crazy

The power to simply overwhelm men by manipulating masculine need

I haven’t seen Gun Crazy lately because I actually find it depressing. About a year ago I bought a DVD copy, and I still haven’t opened it. I identify with John Dall in that shot above…replace Peggy Cummins with a stripper soliciting a lapdance, and you have a photo-portrait of your Horny Time Traveler, a man who respects and fears the allure of the charismatic woman, whether she be psychologically healthy or twisted…

I was thinking about Peggy, who enjoyed a career from the late 40s to the 60s, because I saw her the other night in The Late George Apley, wherein she plays a headstrong (but charming, not abrasive) Boston girl in 1912…

In the latter film, she rebels in a fairly respectful way against the loving stodginess of her father, and he ultimately gives his seal of approval to her love for a young literature professor who—horror of horrors!—is not from Boston…

Not a great film, but an enjoyable one, and Peggy was feisty and intriguing. Apparently she got this part (according to Robert Osborne’s intro on TCM) when 20th Century Fox decided to replace Cummins in the coveted lead role in 1947’s highly anticipated costume drama, Forever Amber (a film I still have yet to see). Osborne said the studio felt she looked too “young” to play the ambitious 17th century wench Amber, but I wonder if that was reason…maybe Cummins would have been a little too intense in the role, perhaps too richly real? Linda Darnell, no slouch herself in the allure department, replaced her, but after seeing Cummins in both Apley and Gun Crazy, I gotta wonder what coulda been…

She also made an intriguing mystery thriller called Moss Rose in 1947, in which she played a Victorian chorus girl. I saw this a few years ago on a tape somebody made for me from a tv broadcast. I don’t think it’s on DVD yet…I remember it was twisty and atmospheric, and I wish I could remember where I put the cassette so I could rewatch it!

A part Peggy would have been wonderful in would be that of the unpredictable, manipulative, yet ultimately poignant prostitute in an adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s trilogy of short, interconnected novels about London lowlife about 1930, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, one of the finest books I’ve read in recent years…it tells the story of a doomed triangle between a would-be writer/waiter, a streetwalker, and a barmaid. Hamilton was the author of the plays on which the classic films Gaslight and Rope were based, but I think his novels are even more impressive. Check out his novel Hangover Square, too, which was made into a good movie which nonetheless was not very faithful to the book.

Anyway, the point I finally want to make is this. These fine actresses of yesteryear like Peggy Cummins immediately get me scrambling over to the computer to find out what else I can see them in. I don’t feel that way at all about contemporary actresses, although I am somewhat curious to see what January Jones and Christina Hendricks of AMC’s Mad Men do apart from that show…

I think part of the problem is that the films today just don’t have the kinds of rich stories that pull me in and make me want to plunk down twelve bucks for a ticket. So it’s not just that I prefer the actresses of long ago, but that the stories they were presented in are more to my liking in their variety, their tone, and their subject matter. Or maybe it’s the promotion of today’s films; maybe the stories are just as good, but the advertising doesn’t make me feel intrigued enough to find out. There is no alluring ballyhoo to pull me into the theaters…unless I’m supposed to be intrigued by an actress’s upcoming film because People magazine says she’s “dating” some football stud-muffin or riding some rock star schlong.

All I know is that after watching Peggy in The Late George Apley, I wanted more. And here’s a nice leg shot that I found, to keep me entertained until I turn up more of her films…

Just a healthy dose of good old-fashioned cheesecake!

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I found the great screen captures of Peggy and John, and Peggy sharp-shooting, at writer Chris Orcutt’s interesting site; and Peggy’s leg shot at the always vivid Starlet Showcase.