Mad doctor seeks curvy 1950s strippers and models!

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1959) is one of my favorite movies. And with the zeal (or is it semi-derangement?) of the diehard fan of a truly wacky “cult” film, let me say that I cannot understand if it isn’t one of your faves, too!!

Honestly, what more does a movie need than all this?

A daring young surgeon, Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers), gets into a car accident with his fiancee, Jan (Virginia Leith). She is decapitated, and he keeps her head alive in his lab. While his assistant Kurt (Leslie Daniel) engages in bitter philosophical dialogues with the talkative head, Dr. Bill trolls strip clubs, beauty pageants, and bikini photo shoots looking for a body onto which to transplant Jan’s head. He finds the perfect one in Doris (Adele Lamont), a photo model with a scarred face. But the monster in Bill’s laboratory, a result of botched experiments (played by Eddie Carmel, aka photographer Diane Arbus’s famous “Jewish Giant”), is telepathically commanded by Jan to bring an end to Dr. Bill’s unholy plans…

In its own way, a pioneering chick flick...

In its own way, a deep "relationship" movie...

I’ve tried not to spoil the plot too much for the uninitiated…

The movie was shot in 1959 but not released until 1962. One of the things I like best about Brain is how it takes me on a horny time-traveling journey into the seedy ambiance of mid-twentieth century sleaze life…

The strip club Dr. Bill visits on his quest to find the perfect body for Jan’s head was the Moulin Rouge at 47 W. 52nd Street in New York. At least, we see him at the entrance, looking at a large publicity shot of stripper June Harlow…she’s not in the movie, but her huge cut-out image was in the front of the club.

I've read that June was supposed to be related to the more famous Jean of movie fame.

I've read that June was supposed to be related to Jean Harlow of movie fame.

In the street photo above, the Moulin Rouge entrance is hidden by the sign for Jimmy Ryan’s jazz club. The image was captured by press lensman William P. Gottlieb in 1948 when “The Street” (as it was colloquially known) was a combination of music and jiggle joints. Club Samoa (its sign is just right of the center) was one of the best-known peeler venues. The Street started getting overhauled in the 50s thanks to encroaching real estate interests, and Club Samoa looked like this by 1958, close to the time that Brain was filmed across the road:

Sharon Knight, the name on the marquee, was a well-known headliner of the time, a protege of superstar Lili St. Cyr, who herself danced many times at the Samoa…

You can read all about her in Kelly DiNardo's excellent recent bio, Gilded Lili.

You can read all about her in Kelly DiNardo's excellent recent bio, Gilded Lili.

Here’s the interior of the Club Samoa…

If you wanted to light a lady’s cigarette, you could use this…

I don’t know if the scene where Dr. Bill watches a stripper was shot in the actual Moulin Rouge—I wasn’t able to find a photo of that interior—but wherever it was shot, the sequence wonderfully caught the seediness of that bygone world…

Later, this stripper flirts with Dr. Bill, but their scene is interrupted by another dancer with designs on the conniving medico—and this leads to a catfight!

It is reasonable to assume that this is an authentic depiction of the many catfights that probably did happen during the heyday of strippers on The Street.

It is reasonable to assume that this is an authentic depiction of the many catfights that probably did happen during the heyday of strippers on The Street.

One thing that really irked me when Turner Classics showed this movie last week on March 16th was that their print was one of the more heavily edited of the various extant versions, and newcomers to Brain never got to see Dr. Bill trade quips with the stripper and then duck out when the gals began fighting over him!

The other thing that irritated me is that the discussion between Robert Osborne and director John Landis didn’t scratch the surface of what makes the movie a fascinating treat…

To me, any film that can inspire such a wide range of interesting writing, as Brain does, needs no justification for its designation as a classic!

Adele Lamont (1931-2003) gave an indelible performance as Doris!

Another good pose. Adele Lamont (1931-2005) gave an indelible performance as Doris!

Whatever type of film criticism you enjoy, Brain has inspired it, whether you like your commentary hilarious as at Atomic Monsters, or thoughtful as at Classic Horror, or ironic and analytical as at Postmodern Joan. And by the way, I borrowed the great screen captures from a neat blog called Captured Monsters.

The bizarre bickering between Dr. Bill and Jan’s head is almost like a satire on the heavy-breathing melodramas of the 1950s, where men and women confronted their problems in passionate dialogue. In its own way, Brain is a “relationship movie”!

Jan was played by Virginia Leith, a 20th Century Fox contract player who, in 1955, appeared in the superb glossy thriller A Kiss Before Dying, wherein she was cruelly manipulated by a handsome but creepy Robert Wagner in a fashion no less outrageous than what her character endures in Brain under Dr. Bill Cortner. (Hey! Trivia alert! Wagner’s evil character in A Kiss Before Dying has the same initials as Dr. Bill Cortner! Coincidence, or homage?)

Wagner is brilliantly evil in this movie, and Leith is vulnerable yet steely—as well as gorgeous.

Wagner is brilliantly evil in this movie, and Leith is vulnerable yet steely—as well as gorgeous.

One of the fascinating side issues of Brain is the question of how Leith went from working in 1955 on a major suspense film based on a best-selling novel (A Kiss Before Dying) alongside stars like Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, George Macready, and the fast-rising Joanne Woodward…

…to the low-budget fringe item Brain.

You must understand, I am not putting her down for it; she’s very effective in Brain, and does not condescend to the material. I’m just saying that the pairing of A Kiss Before Dying and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die serves as a commentary on the astonishing ups and downs of the actor’s life.

Kurt, on the left, was played by voice actor Leslie Daniel, who I believe also dubbed beefcake thespian Mark Forest in the title role of 1961's Son of Samson!

Kurt, on the left, was played by dubbing actor Leslie Daniel, whom I suspect on the basis of his distinctive voice also dubbed beefcake thespian Mark Forest in the title role of 1960's Son of Samson!

Artists of any kind are lucky to be immortalized for their work, for any work that lasts and fascinates into the coming years. Leith, as well as Herb Evers (later known as Jason Evers) and Leslie Daniel, and also Adele Lamont and Eddie Carmel, all shine into posterity thanks to their work on this strange manifestation of the cinema consciousness circa 1959!

This behind-the-scenes image from Brain would be well-paired with Diane Arbus's photo of Eddie, "A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx."

This behind-the-scenes image from Brain would be well-paired with Diane Arbus's photo of Eddie, "Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970."

Meanwhile, with Brain having given me a taste of the old days on 52nd Street, I’m ready for a time-travel journey back to the glory days in the 40s, when the late Sherry Britton (1918-2008) was the star at Leon and Eddie, 33 W. 52nd Street! I’m shown to my table…I settle into my chair…and order a beer. Lighting a Lucky Strike, I ask the waiter, “What time does Sherry go on?”

Yep, this is a show I wanna see!

Sherry was named an honorary brigadier general by President Roosevelt for her efforts at boosting the morale of our troops!

Sherry was named an honorary brigadier general by President Roosevelt for her efforts at boosting the morale of our troops!

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I got the William P. Gottlieb image of 52nd Street here, the matchbooks of Club Samoa here, the interior of Club Samoa here, the outdoor shot of Club Samoa here, and the nice color shot of Lili St. Cyr here.

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Lamia and the Slutty King of Macedonia!

He met her in 306 B.C. when he defeated the navy of Menelaus in a quest to take Athens away from the tyrants Cassander and Ptolemy. She was one of the spoils of war, once a flute player, now a hetaira (courtesan) in the circle of Menelaus. Her name was Lamia—named after a demon in Greek mythology who ate children and could take her eyes out of their sockets! That should have been warning enough, but some guys like a challenge…

This 1909 painting by Herbert James Draper depicts the demon in the human form of an indolent ancient Greek prostitute.

This 1909 painting by Herbert James Draper depicts the demon in the human form of an indolent ancient Greek prostitute.

His name was Demetrius I, the future King of Macedonia. When he won Athens, he was saluted as The Preserver; later, when he attacked Rhodes with huge engines of war such as his 125 foot tall siege tower known as “Helepolis” (“Taker of Cities”)—he was dubbed “Demetrius Poliorcetes”—Demetrius the Besieger.

And, as he took cities, Lamia took him

A satiric poet nicknamed Lamia a "helepolis" in the way she conquered Demetrius.

Not that he wasn’t ripe for the taking. He was a paradoxical combination of gross sensualist and dedicated, innovative general. Handsome, impetuous, and bisexual, he could pursue young men to the point where one committed suicide by jumping into a boiling pot of water rather than succumb to Demetrius’s lust when cornered in a bathhouse. But over his lifetime, Demetrius was also married five times, had seven children, and was obsessed with chasing female prostitutes, slaves, and freeborn women.

A military innovator, he designed a 180 foot battering ram that needed 1000 men to move!

Lamia was apparently “past her prime” when Demetrius met her, and the bolder members of his court didn’t hesitate to tease him on this count and call Lamia an “old woman.” Once at dinner when Demetrius was praising Lamia to Demo, one of his other prostitutes, complimenting the dessert that Lamia had presented, Demo replied with more than a dash of snark, “My mother will send you something even better, if you sleep with her, too.”

Though he still had his fun with other hetairae hotties like Demo, Chrysis, and Anticyra, Lamia remained his number one babe. According to our ever-handy historian pal Plutarch: “Her beauty was on the wane, yet she captivated Demetrius, though not near her age, and so effectively enslaved him by the peculiar power of her charms that, though other women had a passion for him, he could only think of her.”

A lamia, according to the mythology, was half-serpent and half-woman, but in the way that myths mutate over the years, it would not be a stretch to say that any lamia, or Demetrius’s own personal Lamia, had more than a little bit of spider in her too…

She apparently was more than willing to blackmail members of the court in order to pay for elaborate banquets for her besotted trick. According Plutarch again (from whom I got most of my info, if not my prose), Demetrius’s courtiers would compare the psychic wounds inflicted by their master’s mistress to the scars left by a lion on the body of a warrior: “Our king bears on his neck the marks of a dreadful wild beast called a lamia.” Demetrius was nicknamed “Mythus” behind his back, meaning “Fable,” because they saw him acting out the fairy tale scenario of a man consumed by a monster woman.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the playwright Aristophanes inferred that the lamia could have a hermaphroditic phallus—like a kind of supernatural, demonic man/woman. Had Demetrius himself ever heard of such a wrinkle to the lamia’s characteristics? It is interesting to ponder, given his sexual ambidexterity…

Plutarch (or Wikipedia, for that matter) does not record the kind of sex that Lamia and Demetrius practiced…but given the heavily symbolic nature of her name (which she probably was not born with, but adopted as her hooker moniker)—and even the joke alluding to her conquering nature as a “helepolis” (what could be more phallic that a siege tower spewing fire and arrows?), it is not too difficult to speculate what stuff might have gone on in the bedchambers of an enraptured Demetrius…

What is certain is that Demetrius I of Macedonia, like other men throughout history, was more than willing to be devoured by a predatory female!

The most infamous example of Lamia’s hold over her Besieger was that she would not go to bed with him at first until he coughed up an outrageous sum…250 talents, which comes to about $415,000, if my calculations of the value of the ancient silver talent (a monetary unit) is correct from my research on the Web.

Actually, I found two versions of this anecdote. According to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Book of Women (another one of the volumes of “esoteric lore” I love to collect, and which introduced me to this story in the first place), Lamia asked for $300,000 and when Demetrius couldn’t afford it (siege towers so eat up a conqueror’s budget!), he put a tax on soap for the Athenians. In Plutarch’s version, Lamia and her hetairae pals apparently said they themselves wanted to buy 250 talents worth of soap (I guess it was hard to scrub away the lingering scents of some of their less appealing clients), and so Demetrius used that as an excuse to rigorously squeeze the citizenry for dough. Once he got the cash, he turned it over to Lamia—$415,000 worth, if my math is right—and if you think modern Americans are pissed off about high taxes, multiply it to the nth power to gauge the Athenian reaction to this outrage.

Well, Demetrius, ole buddy, we hope it was worth it!

These are authentic coins from his reign as King of Macedon (294-288 B.C.)

These are authentic coins from his reign as King of Macedonia (294-288 B.C.)

Maybe Demetrius had developed a taste for the older woman, “yummy mummy” or “MILF” type, from his experience with his first wife, Phila, with whom he tied the knot when he was quite young. The marriage was arranged by Demetrius’s dad, the mighty Antigonus, another brazen general and roaming conqueror to whom Demetrius was very loyal. Phila was much older than Demetrius (how much older I couldn’t determine), but she stuck by him through thick and thin, through his successful campaigns and his failures (there were many of both), through his boy-toys and his lamia ladies. When he finally lost it all and entered the captivity in which he died at fifty-four, she took poison.

It’s not recorded what Lamia thought when her lover no longer had any drachmas for her purse..

A timeless scene: hookers recalling the pleasure of pulling fast ones on their dopier johns.

A timeless scene: hookers recalling the pleasure of pulling fast ones on their dopier johns.

But Plutarch does record one last telling anecdote that reflects the greed of Lamia…

About three hundred years before the time of Demetrius, there was a young fellow in Egypt who lusted for a courtesan named Thonis. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford her, but luckily one night he had a powerful dream in which he imagined himself hooking up with Thonis. When he awakened, he felt as if he’d had Thonis and was thoroughly satisfied. His sticky post-wet dream sheets, no doubt, were proof of that…

When Thonis heard about this, she wanted to be paid for the young man’s satisfaction. (I guess he just had to go and boast about it.) The Pharoah, named Bocchoris, heard both sides of the story from them, and he told the ersatz “customer” to put the gold that Thonis demanded into a dish, and to jingle the coins in front of her so that she could enjoy the sight and sound of it. That, the Pharoah concluded, was all that she deserved in return: “For fantasy,” he declared, “is no more than the shadow of truth.” Bocchoris decreed that Thonis had gotten the equivalent of what the young man had enjoyed.

In some accounts, Bocchoris is also the guy who drove the Jews out of Egypt and into the desert toward Canaan.

In some accounts, mostly likely erroneous, Bocchoris is also the Pharoah who drove the Jews out of Egypt and into the desert toward Canaan.

According to Plutarch, when Lamia heard this story, she felt the Pharoah was wrong, because Thonis’ desire for the money was not satiated by just seeing it, unlike the young man’s pleasure which had been achieved through a dream.

Lamia was probably one of those avaricious types who would look at a potential customer and think, “What is my money doing in your wallet?” (This is the attitude of the more cold-hearted lapdancers of our modern era.)

Anyway, I have the feeling that Lamia didn’t take poison when Demetrius—once at the command of 98,000 foot soldiers, 12,000 horsemen, and 500 galleys—was captured by his enemies and put in prison. Nope…she probably just moved on to the next trick. "A girl's work is never done!"

—————-

I got my pictures from many sources, but the amazing closeup of actress Tandra Quinn turning into a prehistoric monster in 1953’s The Neanderthal Man is a terrific screen capture from the site Music From the Monster Movies 1950-69. She’s also the lady with the spider, a publicity still from the absurd but entertaining cult classic Mesa of Lost Women.)

Best medieval excuse for cheating on your hubby!

Dainty yet deceptive!

I’ve been spending time in my storage space trying to organize some of my books to sell, and I came across yet another of those volumes of esoteric lore that I have always loved to collect…and probably won’t end up selling.

Written with a droll cynicism worthy of an oral interpretation by the late actor George Sanders, Simons’ Book of World Sexual Records (Bell Publishing Co., NY, 1975–or MCMLXXV, as the copyright notice prefers) features not so much nuts-and-bolts statistics but often subjective assessments on the part of the sly author, Mr. G.L. Simons…

For our purposes today, what caught my eye was item #347: “Adultery—Most Snobbish Excuse.”

Let us travel back to the High Middle Ages, the era of the troubadours, those lyric poets who spun songs of chivalry and courtly love…

The troubadours sang of everything from combat to romance...

The troubadours sang of everything from combat to cuddling...

In one of the Provencal narrative poems of romance (the troubadour tradition started in a region of France called Occitania), a wife is accused by her husband of dallying with someone else…

The husband pouts and waits for a reply...

The husband pouts and waits for a reply...

But the lady is up on the latest troubadour sounds, and she’s aware of a song that tells of a cuckold named Gawain, who actually took pride in the fact that his woman surrendered herself in adultery to (in the words of G.L. Simons) “so valiant a warrior as the Red Knight.”

Our cornered cuckoldress thinks quickly…

You can see the wheels turning in her head...

You can see the wheels turning in her head...

“My Lord,” she finally says to her irate hubby (again according to G.L. Simons), “you have no dishonor on that account, for the man I love is a noble baron, expert in arms, namely Roland, the nephew of King Charles!”

Hubby doesn’t know what to say to that! Should he, like Gawain, swallow his penile pride and praise his wife for her good taste in paramours? And should he even, as G.L. Simons notes, “be filled with confusion at his unseemly interference” in his wife’s erotic affairs?

Ah, how silken the web that is woven—and how taut!

One thing’s for sure—if Madame Bovary had used that excuse, the poison might not have been necessary!

In the 1949 film, Jennifer Jones as Emma Bovary flirts with Louis Jourdan as hubby Van Heflin fumes.

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I got the black-and-white public domain images of medieval life from a cool site called Karen’s Whimsy. Pay her a visit!

Dreamy girls of the 60s and 70s…

Sometimes I think the movie actresses of the 1960s spoiled me for the real world women of the 1970s. Then again, the world of the imagination has always appealed to me more than actuality…

These are the kinds of images we were inundated with at the cinemas of the 60s…

The flirty spirit of this photo was gone from the land by 1970...

The friendly, flirty spirit of the "beach movie" was basically gone from our cinema by 1970...

Susan Denberg, well-remembered Playboy Playmate and Star Trek actress...

Susan Denberg, well-remembered Playboy Playmate and Star Trek actress...

Goldfinger left many a lad well-warped for the future...

Goldfinger left many a lad well-warped for the future...

Another Bond girl who infiltrated my psyche...

Another Bond girl who infiltrated my psyche...

These are only a few examples of the pulchritudinous talent that promised so much for the coming adulthood of the male adolescents of the 1970s. (I could do another few more posts on the subject, and I probably will.) But then everything got really serious in the 70s…with the exception of disco later in the decade, of course, which was a nice counterbalance to the gradual accumulation of pretentiousness and political correctness in our culture…

Although the iconic aspects of womanhood (and actresses’ roles) were pretty much wiped away by the advances of feminism in the 70s (that’s what happens when you get rid of pedestals), there were still a couple of performers who got our imaginations humming…

The gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset...

The gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset...

Never got around to seeing this movie, but saw plenty of photos from it...

Never got around to seeing this movie, but saw plenty of photos of Jackie in it...

She has the rare quality of looking both kind and sexy at the same time.

She has the rare quality of looking both kind and sexy at the same time.

Jennifer O’Neill also made an impression on the impressionable…

I was "anti-nostalgia" in my college years. Now, humbled in my fifties, I wonder if I would like it more.

I was "anti-nostalgia" in my college years. Now, somewhat wiser in middle age, I wonder if I would like this film more.

In my early years in New York, starting out as a scribe for the then-flourishing sex magazines of the 70s, living in a residential hotel and paying less than a hundred dollars a month in rent, I used to sit around with my equally cash-strapped friends who were aspiring in their own fields of acting and writing and music, and we’d fantasize about when we made it big (like DeNiro or Pacino, the two cultural gods of our twenties) and could get a yacht and invite “Jackie and Jennifer” to hang out with us…

Even as I write this memory, I’m chuckling…I can still see the inexpensive jug of Carlo Rossi red wine between us on the fading carpet (or maybe it was a half-gallon jug of Canadian Ace beer, a real steal at 99 cents), as we talked about how nice it would someday be with Jackie and Jennifer on the boat…

Of course, no matter how long it would take us to achieve renown and riches, I think we took it for granted that Jackie and Jennifer would still look exactly the same as when we’d first set eyes on them, and they’d be ready and waiting with their bathing suits for our invite to the cruise…

Still, I think in the end I would have preferred a midnight rendezvous with the actress who most impressed me back when I was about fourteen years old: Daniela Bianchi, the girl who seduces James Bond in From Russia with Love.

The absurdity of her running around Istanbul in her stocking feet only makes this photo more endearingly sexy...

The absurdity of her running around Istanbul in her nylon stocking feet only makes this photo more endearingly sexy...

And I never, ever forgot that black velvet choker she wore in their bedroom scene…

I can almost inhale her perfume!

I can almost inhale her perfume!

————–

I got the classic image of Connery and Bianchi from the cool site Cinema Retro. Pay them a visit! They do a great print magazine, a rarity in this age of the Internet.

Doris Day stars in the best butt show of 1958!

I caught up with Teacher’s Pet last night on TCM, a movie I’d seen before and remembered fondly for Doris Day’s sexy performance as a night school journalism teacher who has a romantic clash-and-clinch with crusty older newspaperman Clark Gable.

Doris looks vexed at Mamie Van Doren's butt, but she needn't be...

Doris looks vexed at Mamie Van Doren's butt, but she needn't be...

I’ve never understood Doris’s image as a “virgin” in the movies, because to me she is one of the great “yummy mummy” types, an indelible combination of maturity and simmering sensuality. In this movie, whether she’s standing in front of a blackboard lecturing about pronouns or sitting on the edge of a desk in a tight skirt getting enthusiastic about the future of journalism, she is HOT! Period.

I actually had a German teacher in high school who kind of looked like this...

I actually had a German teacher in high school who kind of looked like this...

Little known trivia (I got it straight from a fan mag of the era): Bob Hope stated with dead-on accuracy that Day had the best behind in the Hollywood of her time and dubbed her “jut-butt.” Although Mamie Van Doren is alluring and amusing too in Teacher’s Pet, playing a cross between a chanteuse and a stripteaser—and although the posters (as witness this Japanese example) make it seem that Gable’s orbs are being boggled by Mamie’s moons—

We're not saying Clark would have turned up his nose at Mamie's shape, but...

We're not saying Clark would have turned up his nose at Mamie's shape, but...

—the fact is that Doris’s derriere is the real focus of the camera’s awed attention in Teacher’s Pet, especially in a scene in her office where she is trying to get Gable to take on an extra-challenging homework assignment, believing him to be a talented student and not already the seasoned and hardboiled reporter he actually is.

Here is a scene worthy of frame-by-frame anal-ysis! (Sorry for the pun, but what do you expect from a porno pro like your Traveler?)

Here is a scene worthy of frame-by-frame anal-ysis! (Sorry for the pun, but what do you expect from a crusty sex mag pro like your Traveler?)

It was amazing, the way Doris walked around the office, and how the light was so perfectly angled to bring out every exciting contour of her caboose. To top it off, Gable kisses Doris at the end of the scene, and right after he leaves, her legs give way beneath her, literally implying a spontaneous orgasm! Oh, I could go on and on about this sequence, and its scenic qualities like how tautly Doris’s skirt stretches across her womanly hips…ye gods! I bet a study could be made to prove that nine months after this movie hit the bijous of the world in 1958, there was a mini baby boom!

Later in the film, Doris combines her curves with comedy when she does a sly impression of Mamie doing her nightclub act. It shows that Doris could have been a great burlesque dancer, maybe one of the greatest, if that had been her chosen mode of expression.

I can’t say enough good things about Doris Day in Teacher’ Pet…but did you already get that impression?

As columnist Liz Smith has repeatedly said, somebody give Doris an honorary Oscar already!

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When I was searching for images for this post, I never expected to find an absolutely perfect screen capture for the scene I wanted to write about—but I did, at a lively blog called Out of the Past, which I’m adding to my blogroll. As soon as I saw it had lengthy reviews of steamy 1960s melodramas like Susan Slade starring Connie Stevens and Troy Donahue (and directed by Delmer Demetrius and the Gladiators Daves), I knew it was my kind of film site.

I found the poster images at the great memorabilia site Posteritati.

Bare-breasted snake beauties of ancient Crete!

When I was about ten years old in 1961, I eagerly awaited the arrival of a movie called Atlantis, the Lost Continent. But it never showed up at my neighborhood theater on the north side of Chicago, and I had to wait until many years later to see it on television.

Movie posters like this really stirred up excitement, unlike the bland ones of today!

Movie posters like this really stirred up excitement, unlike the bland ones of today!

As I look at the screenplay credits, I realize that it was written by Daniel Mainwaring, who authored both the original novel and the script of one of the great films noir, 1947’s Out of the Past with Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer. But I digress…

Atlantis wasn’t a great movie, but it had its thrilling moments, and I also learned years later that the legend of Atlantis was possibly based on a real place called Thera, a volcanic island near Crete. Here is a map showing the relation of Thera, now called Santorini, to Crete, as well as the geological structure of the underlying area.

Plato mentioned the story of Atlantis in his Dialogues, and may have been influenced by stories about Thera.

Plato mentioned the story of Atlantis in his Dialogues, and may have been influenced by stories about Thera.

The Cretan, or Minoan civilization (named after its legendary King Minos), of which Thera was a part, was a highly developed culture way back in the Bronze Age over four thousand years ago. They probably didn’t have giant ray guns as in the Atlantis movie fantasy, but apparently they had good things like advanced plumbing and burgeoning metal industries that gave them a flourishing import business which also brought the Minoans into contact with other great cultures of the era, such as the Egyptians. When the volcano on Thera exploded around 1450 B.C., the Minoan civilization began its decline after a good fifteen hundred years of prosperity. Soon they would be ruled by the warlike mainland Greeks, who had not yet warmed up into the cradle of democracy they would become.

From being a great seagoing power...

From being a great seagoing power...

...the Minoan civlization was eventually laid low by a volcano. This was a 1950 eruption on Thera, now called Santorini.

...the Minoan civilization was eventually laid low by a volcano. This was a 1950 eruption on Thera, now called Santorini.

But in their heyday the Minoans were artisans, merchants, sailors, builders of great palaces such as that of Knossos, and they were also apparently a pleasure-loving people who loved to dance, playfully leap over bulls by grasping onto their horns (!), and were able to live with each other side-by-side in communities with different chieftains, but in relative peace. Most intriguing of all…the Minoans, especially the women, were visionary fashion plates!

Here is an artist's rendition of a Minoan palace scene...

Here is an artist's rendition of a Minoan palace scene...

Yes, that’s right—no bodices. Unmarried females went bare-breasted, and their waists were cinched and their hips emphasized by bell-like skirts that almost resembled the bustles of the women’s fashions of the late 1800s, early 1900s. The Minoan civilization first came to light in the early twentieth century thanks to archaeological discoveries, and one of the artifacts found so reminded people of contemporary French women that she was nicknamed “La Parisiana.”

"La Parisiana" from 4,000 years ago; hmm, she does have that "Belle Epoque" look about her...

"La Parisiana" from 4,000 years ago; hmm, she does have that "Belle Epoque" look about her...

I found the image of the palace on the site of an artist named Thomas Baker who specializes in making exquisite paintings in the old master styles, and utilizing authentic archaeological details when applicable to the subject matter. Here is his image of the Minoan princess Ariadne, waiting at the entrance to the labyrinth under the palace of Knossos. She will give her Greek lover Theseus a sword to battle the deadly Minotaur within, a monster to which Greek youths have been regularly sacrificed; and she will also give him a skein of yarn to unravel as he penetrates the maze, and which will help him find his way out…

The skulls represent the earlier victims of the Minotaur within the maze, a monster who is half-bull, half-man...

The skulls represent the earlier victims of the Minotaur within the maze, a monster who is half-bull, half-man...

According to Baker’s research, the depiction of the Minoan palace scene is extremely accurate (he didn’t paint it himself, but found it in a book about ancient history), right down to the board game called “zatrikio” that the two beauties are playing on the floor.

It makes sense that in a culture where nubile and fertile young women walked around topless, that the major ruling deity was female…an earth mother, sometimes called Britomartis, an all-encompassing Goddess of the land and the sea and the stars, patroness of war and peace, protector of virgins and new births. She could bring earthquakes, but she could also bring the flowers to bloom. In fact, she had a young god of flora who accompanied her on her rounds through the world. And, also known as “a tamer of beasts”–perhaps having as her “significant other” the omnipresent bull spirit known as “Earthshaker,” symbol of the masculine–she was also visualized as a “snake goddess,” even though snakes apparently were not plentiful in the region and that aspect of her cult was probably imported from elsewhere.

Apparently the snakes that were in the region were generally of the harmless variety...

Apparently the snakes that were in the region were generally of the harmless variety...

Even a goddess knows she must keep up her figure training! Talk about a tight-laced waist!

Even a goddess knows she must keep up her figure training! Talk about a tight-laced waist!

It has been said that the goddess was worshipped in many places, from caverns to mountaintops to small dark rooms to the courts of palaces. Needing an escape from 2009, I am right there now, happily lost in the crowd of Minoan men and women, bare-chested but attired appropriately in my fancy headdress and “phallustache,” a kind of loincloth.

Me and my "phallustache." Cute name for a loincloth, right?

Me and my "phallustache." Cute name for a loincloth, right?

I don’t know about grabbing the horns of any bulls and jumping over them, but I like to dance, and hmm, there’s a nice cutie with a pair of fetching C-cups coming my way…glammed up just like a snake goddess, too!

And how do you like this? She tells me her name is Barbie!

I wonder if they have this Barbie on display at the anniversary exhibit at Bloomingdale's in New York City?

I wonder if they have this Barbie on display at the 50th anniversary exhibit of the dolls at Bloomingdale's in New York City?

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I found the image of Barbie at a website for a history course about Aegean art and archaeology that has some interesting links for more information.

Jelena Jensen’s jugs make our eyeballs jiggle!

Besides writing my Horny Time Traveler column for GALLERY magazine, another freelance assignment is doing product, book, and video reviews for another long established title, SWANK. My first Swank Stuff column premieres in the April 2009 issue…

Covergirl Jelena Jensen is one of the Internet's top naturally busty models!

Covergirl Jelena Jensen is one of the Internet's top naturally busty models!

I’ve been working in the adult magazine business since the mid-1970s, so I’ve pretty much seen every variation of pose and model, but without getting all gushy I have to say that this new issue of SWANK has some memorable shots that even got a jaded pornmeister like myself sitting up straight—so to speak. The mark of a good strokebook is its selection and arrangement of interesting pictures that linger in the memory, and from its pictorial of Jelena and her major mammaries to a spectacular six pages of a cutie named Tiziana pouring a glass of milk on herself, this issue is a keeper.

Besides my column, which reviews stuff like an excellent photo book about Steve McQueen and a new collection of classic French erotic postcards, this issue of SWANK has another installment of “Those Were the Lays,” porn actor/historian/activist/raconteur William Margold’s continuing memoir of life in the Golden Age of Smut, as well as columns by XXX superstars Ron Jeremy and blonde phenomenon Mary Carey. There’s also a sensuous short story called “My Big, Fat Greek Stud,” about a girl’s memorable vacation to an Aegean isle. The tale is illustrated by well-chosen explicit photos of cute brunettes being well-serviced by presumably Hellenic heartthrobs (although all we see of the lucky gents are the parts that throb)…

One item I reviewed in Swank Stuff that is of particular interest for all you Horny Time Travelers out there is American Nudes, Volume 1, a new DVD compilation from Cult Epics of classic 8mm films from the 1940s. One of the shorts is called “Asiatic Secrets,” and following are two screen captures from it, made by me exclusively for this blog:

This is from a film shot in the 1940s...

This is from a film shot in the 1940s...

See my column in the April 2009 SWANK for more details about this disc. I feel that a reviewer is a kind of explorer, and it’s my job to get out there and let you know about the interesting stuff you might otherwise miss in the avalanche of your daily distractions. Hell, that’s one purpose of this blog, too!

I'm still recovering from watching this vibrant vixen work her wiles in "Asiatic Secrets!"

I'm still recovering from watching this vibrant vixen work her wiles in "Asiatic Secrets"!

Of course, SWANK is for adults only 18 years and older. So…if you’re of age…check it out!

A massage parlor full of librarians??

One of the advantages of being middle-aged is that some of the horny time-traveling I do can involve things I actually experienced

Last night around midnight, just on a whim, I started looking around on the Web for images of massage parlor signs from 1970s New York. What I found were only signs that were made as props for a Kirsten Dunst/Ryan Gosling movie about the sleazy Times Square of that era—signs which replicated the look but were not the real thing. This photo is from a New York Times article by Jennifer 8. Lee about that movie, All Good Things, which was shooting in NYC in the summer of 2008. Click on the link to read it, and scroll down on the comments too, especially the hilarious one about the guy who walked into a porn shop in 1961 and was hailed by the clerk as “Joe Pork Avenue.”

This movie prop accurately recaptures those old signs...

This movie prop accurately recaptures those old signs...

Anyway, it was hard to believe, but after an hour of frustrated searching I couldn’t find examples of the authentic artifacts, those poorly rendered but strangely memorable signs and awnings that ineptly attempted to depict the temptresses who awaited you inside…

But I did find something else that was good: an old handbill advertising a massage parlor called The Library…a place I visited as a horny twenty-five year old fairly new to Gotham.

This was when New York side streets were full of easily accessible, luscious detours. All you did was walk upstairs...

This was when New York side streets were full of easily accessible, luscious detours. All you did was walk upstairs...

The main, magisterial branch of the New York Public Library was only a block away, and perhaps they were counting on tourists to get confused and wander into “The Library” instead! Well, I wasn’t confused, I knew where the books were and where the broads were, and being habitually low on cash in those days, a sawbuck for a rubdown with no tip necessary sounded good…

It was a rainy day and I was glad to close up my umbrella and seek sensual shelter…

What I mainly remember is that the girl who gave me my massage (I think it was about fifteen minutes long) was from Argentina, and she was tall, slender, and extremely beautiful, so much so that she seemed to clash with the low-rent, though friendly, surroundings. She sure did not look like the hussy in the handbill—though I would have been happy with said hussy! My masseuse was easy-going and had a warm smile, as well as long dark brown hair that came down to the middle of her back. I put my umbrella down and, after fulfilling her request for me to get “completely comfortable” (massage parlor lingo for getting naked), I stretched out on the table…

She wore a one-piece leotard sort of thing, but I don’t remember if she took it all the way off for the massage…

I vaguely recall being able to see out on 43rd Street from the cubicle, but I’m not sure that’s accurate, because those cubicles were usually private places. Maybe my recollection of the rainy day has created a false memory of what the room was like…

But that the girl was sexy and gorgeous was true, because after the rubdown was over, I was so amazed that I had actually paid only ten dollars to spend some time with her that I left “The Library” on a cloud, walking many blocks before I realized that I had forgotten to take my damn umbrella with me! It was one of those long pointy ones, and I had leaned it up against a corner of the room.

Still, I didn’t go back for it…

I think I felt guilty (!) that I had gotten so much pleasure for a mere ten bucks, that I left my umbrella behind as a tip! (Don’t worry, I’ve become more generous in recent years.)

I returned to The Library a couple of weeks later, but alas, it had vanished—gone out of business. I had to settle for the New York Public Library from then on…where, alas, the librarians never wear feather boas! Unless I’ve been going to the wrong branches…

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I found the handbill from The Library at a blog called Copyranter. As the guys handing out those handbills on street corners used to say, “Check it out, buddy, check it out! Free peek! Free peek!”

Pubic hair, handy in a recession?

As a Horny Time Traveler of long standing, over the decades I have accumulated a number of esoteric books about women through the ages. I confess that I usually just dip into these volumes for strange bits of information, rather than reading them in a thorough or systematic way—much like you’d move from eating Hershey’s Kisses to Reese’s Pieces simply on a whim to snack. For me, curious bits of knowledge are kind of like intellectual bon-bons.

I also like pictures of naked women reading books or periodicals…

Hours of naked reading are good opportunities to stretch long legs!

The other day I came upon my copy of History’s Mistress, by Paula Weideger. It’s actually a selection of entries taken from a huge 1885 German book called Das Weib (Woman), which was an anthropological and enthnographic study of females throughout the world. The original author was a gynecologist, tireless researcher, and man-about-town named Hermann Heinrich Ploss (1819-1885). His book was later updated by one of his colleagues, Dr. Maximilian Bartels; it was finally published in English in 1935, with even more emendations by the 1935 translator, Eric John Dingwall. Then in 1985, the feminist scholar Weideger made a selection of the materials and reinterpreted their meanings through a women’s liberationist looking glass. She seemed amused by the boyish enthusiasm of the original researchers, and likened them to adolescent lads in grade school fascinated by dog-eared copies of National Geographic full of images of bare-breasted native girls. Well, whether the scholars of Das Weib were adolescent-minded or not, those still-eminent male researchers were able to marshal a tremendous amount of interesting material between two covers.

On p. 65 of History’s Mistress, we learn a curious fact about the women of the Bismarck Archipelago…an area described in Wikipedia as “a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean and part of Papua New Guinea.”

It seems that according to a researcher named Bassler addressing the Anthropological Society of Berlin, the native women of this area sported very noticeable and thick pubic hair, dyed red, and that…”the women wiped their hands on their pubic hair when they were soiled or damp, as we are accustomed to use towels.”

You'll never think milady's bush is superfluous again!

You'll never think milady's bush is superfluous again!

I bet the devil put them up to it…

A rare medieval image displaying feminine pubic hair. Look closely and you'll see the tendrils on the mound!

An image from 1540 displaying feminine pubic hair, something rarely seen in the art of that time. Look closely and you'll see the tendrils on the mound!

Uh-oh, bad boy…I hope I’m not putting ideas into anybody’s head by unearthing this concept. Let’s pray that in these recessionary times, with much pinching of pennies, this practice is not revived!

But have you checked out the cost of paper towels lately?

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I got the lovely image of a reading girl from Read, Write, Now, another WordPress blog. Check out this link for another nice image of a gal in the buff improving her mind!

Farewell to Gilda and Her Crowning Glory…

Gilda and Her Crowning Glory, a burlesque dancer who started in show business as a child actress in Hollywood for the “Our Gang” comedies in the early 1930s, passed away on February 6th. Although I’ve seen a lot of strippers in old videos, as I am a retro burlesque fan (I like Neo Burlesque too), I don’t recall seeing Gilda do her act. Still, I’ve been familiar with her photos for years.

Her real name was Shirley Jean Rickert.

Her real name was Shirley Jean Rickert.

I probably saw her in the “Our Gang” shorts back in the 1950s when they were popular on tv, but once again, I have no specific memories. Somebody on the Web described her look as something like that of a “flapper,” and her bobbed hair does recall Louise Brooks.

I don’t know who the “Thomas” or “Don” are in the autographs on these Our Gang publicity photos. I found them around the Web…

There were a lot of entries about her on the Internet and in blogs yesterday. One interesting site had this publicity image from a burlesque film she made; I have to check if it’s out there somewhere on video.

I imagine a world where women dress like this all the time...

I imagine a world where women dress like this all the time...

After her stints in the “Our Gang” and the Mickey Rooney “Mickey McGuire” comedies, her film career became a series of bit parts and uncredited dancing numbers in the 30s and 40s. Wisely sensing another outlet for her talents, she became a burlesque performer. Ironically, as reported in the L.A. Times obit, in cities like Detroit in the 50s she would be on tv as “Shirley Jean” introducing to kids the revivals of the “Our Gang” shorts, and at night peeling for adults in nightclubs as “Gilda.” People now look back on the 50s as uptight, but it’s our era that’s really judgmental, because I can’t imagine any television station in 2009 hiring a known stripper to introduce films to children. With all our supposed lack of inhibitions, our society is more condemning and Puritanical than ever. One proof of this is how few of her obits showed her as Gilda, opting instead for pictures of her in Our Gang.

After retiring from stripping in 1959 at age 33, Gilda went back to being Shirley full-time and had different jobs such as bartender, secretary, sales director for a regional theater, and saleswoman for industrial hardware. From what I’ve read, she had a good attitude about life and took her career changes in stride. Although I am not a graphologist, I sense that her unpretentious, straightforward signature on those autographed photos shows a friendly, down-to-earth personality who was appreciative of her fans.

Let’s close with one last shot of Shirley as Gilda, which I found on a great site called Burlesque Babes. I also discovered that Shirley Jean also had her own site. Well, it looks like I gotta track down The ABCs of Love! I wanna see her show.

A rare publicity shot for a stripper—usually, they're much less clothed!

A rare type of publicity shot for a stripper—usually, they're much less clothed. But I like it a lot!