A Spanish/Mexican Hacienda made of Sunkist Oranges with an Asian Sign. What the? Since the publication in 1884, Helen Hunt Jackson's novel, "Ramona" has never been out of print. Ramona exposed the mistreatment of Mission Indians by Anglo-Americans. At the turn of the century, many "authentic" tourist traps claiming to be "Ramona's home" or "Ramona's Marriage Place" dotted Southern California. I suspect this is one, and dated 1924. It is still hard to walk a few miles in the state without finding a remaining vestige of Ramona, a woman who did not even exist. The citizens of Hemet, CA continue to perform a play based on the character, it is the longest running outdoor play in the country.
Real Photo Post Card dated 1924, mailed from Pasadena. Collection Jim Linderman
Literally, a Dog and Pony show. The expression once referred to acts held outside a carnival or sideshow. It now means to confuse a someone into thinking a product is necessary or improved, to bamboozle the client. There are more advertising executives than carnival acts these days, but both promise more for your money. (Though this young woman probably took more pride in her work than the folks on Madison Avenue) By the way, the term "dog trainer" (as any trainer will tell you) is a complete misnomer. Dog Trainers train dog OWNERS. Dogs are pretty much born knowing what to do.
"Dog Act and Trainer" Original snapshot c. 1958 Collection Jim Linderman
In 1906, William J. Seymour, the son of former slaves, was learning to preach in Houston when he met Neely Terry, an African-American woman from Los Angeles. She invited the preacher to her own church, an offer he accepted. Soon members of the church he visited were speaking in tongues for some reason, and several weeks later even Seymour was doing the same. Word of this miracle traveled fast among the Black, Latino, White and Asian residents of LA, who gathered in such crowds the porch of the church collapsed forcing them to regroup in a former stable on Azusa Street. Following near "round the clock" preaching, the church was criticized in a front page story in the LA Times titled "Weird Babel of Tongues" and strange happenings were reported far and wide. The members were called "tangled tonguers" and "holy jumpers". There were reports of the blind seeing and members of various languages being able to converse with each other as easily as brothers. One reporter even described the events as a "...disgraceful intermingling of the races...they cry and make howling noises all day...the people appear to be mad...they have a one-eyed preacher who stays on his knees with his head hidden behind wooden milk crates". That would be Rev. Seymour. Such is the "Azusa Street Revival" which is easy to look up, don't take MY word for it... and which eventually withered and splintered only to regroup later as the Pentecostal movement. Curious beginnings indeed for a church which now claims 500 million members, and who distribute bible publications still from Des Moines, Iowa where this bill originated in 1944.
"Two Ways" Two Dollar Bill, Open Bible Publications 1944 Collection Jim Linderman
The Wax Jesse James Gang rustles up some robbin' plans under the glow of a bent-up retro modern lamp. "They were a handsome bunch, who built a Robin Hood atmosphere" according to the reverse of the card. Well...I am not sure about either of these assertions, but the James Gang tale is a familiar one and you can make up your own mind about their fable-like (and physical) characteristics. For a far LESS familiar tale of a similar gang of thieves also based in Missouri, check out The Bald Knobbers, shown here as depicted in the 1919 silent film "The Shepherd of the Hills" who are just as interesting, and at least they took care to hide their handsome faces.
James Gang Wax Postcard c. 1960 Collection Jim Linderman
A real photo post card of Rem Wall and his Green Valley Boys. How my little sister found it for me, I have no idea. When I was a child growing up in Michigan, the Green Valley Jamboree was televised once a week and I never missed it. (There was only one station, and I vaguely remember the boys sandwiched between Sky King and some other moral play disguised as a cowboy story) They were great though, and while the show aired out of Kalamazoo for thirty years (yes, that's right, thirty years) It appears NO TAPE or FILM exists, at least none that I can find. It seems such a shame. Not only because I would love to re-evaluate the music imprinted on my tender brain, but because there is a dynamic at work here which you might find interesting. Note the microphone. ONE. As a soloist performed, he would maneuver his way towards the center. If harmony was called for, several would squeeze in. Emotional highs and lows were expertly created by the team leader moving close or further away. This is why you will see authentic musicians, who have earned their chops playing dives for decades, move their hand mike depending on their vocal skills, the message they would like to impart, the sound they hear in their own head and wish to share. Bass Solo? Get out of the way! Fiddle break? C'mon in Bob! (his real name) The stationary steel guitar was amplified, he's fine in the back. Remard and his boys had a single or two, they've been uploaded on youtube. But I sure wish we had the visuals. If someone finds some, I'll let y'all know.
Rembert Wall and his Green Valley Boys RPPC c. 1960 Collection Jim Linderman
DYMO was founded in 1958. Who can forget that satisfying crunch as a letter was squeezed out? That frightening first check for spelling errors as a long phrase was clipped off? The pride one felt when applying the brown "wood grain" labels to virtually anything within reach? DYMO invented the Embosser and changed anal-retentive organizers forever, including this photographer who took the concept of "caption" one step further.
Anonymous Vernacular Photographs with Dymo Labels 1950-1965 Collection Jim Linderman
Anyone can make a stereoscope photograph, but sometimes the question has to be why. Stereoscopic imaging tricks one's brain into creating depth perception. Ever since the technique was discovered in 1838 by Sir Charles Wheatstone, it has been a slippery slope all the way to Imax and beyond. My favorites are the striking hyper-color stereo slides of hoochie-kootchie girls from the 1950's. (Followed closely by Andy Warhol's Frankenstein in 3-D. While watching I remember reaching out over the head of the person sitting in front of me to catch a piece of dripping liver as it was being thrust towards the audience). The National Stereoscopic Association has an annual convention, and I have actually been to one, but to paraphrase a vintage t-shirt slogan "I went to the stereoscope show but all I got was this creepy relative, four screwdrivers, a leering bartender and a greek waiter"
Set of Four Anonymous Sterescopic image cards, c. 1965 Collection Jim Linderman
Preacher Billy Sunday "ripped it up hot" speaking about vice in Springfield, Illinois in 1909. Sunday (his real name) preached for 1 hour and 35 minutes to a full house. He turned down a $3000 a month professional baseball contract to preach at the Chicago YMCA in 1891. He was against evolution, dancing, liquor, cards, eugenics, government regulation, sexual sin and child labor. He was also very much against the hi-jinks of his three unholy sons and had to pay blackmail more than once to shut up the women they "got straight" with. One other thing Sunday was against was theft...he earned nearly $1000 a day giving sermons at a time when that was roughly equal to a worker's yearly salary. His American Craftsman bungalow was furnished in the Arts and Crafts style, but more telling? It had two safes.
"Coming from a "Billy" Sunday Meeting Springfield, ILL real photo by B.W. Post Peoria, Ill. 1909 Collection Jim Linderman
A charming circa 1900 ink drawing of the "exterternal" Structure of a Bird from an industrious student's biology notebook. Otherwise perfect, I wonder if the misspelled title came after he spent all that time drawing the little fellow, or before. It is a beautiful little bird either way.
c. 1900 Anatomical School Child Drawing Collection Jim Linderman
Wax Jethro Bodine, future Beverly Hills brain surgeon, "Double-Naught Spy" and in one episode big time Hollywood producer "Beef Jerky" drives the wax Clampett family to Beverly Hills. At the time, CBS fancied itself the "Tiffany Network" and the tightly-wound, nose-in-the-air suits HATED the idea of the country bumpkin show...but greed soon won them over. The Hillbillies ruled the airwaves! It was the number one rated show two seasons in a row, and one show alone attracted 22 million viewers. Some trivia? Future Charlie Manson victim Sharon Tate had a recurring role on the series as Jane Hathaway's assistant. Even more amazing, Granny Irene Ryan released a novelty single in 1966 titled "Granny's Miniskirt".
Beverly Hillbillies Postcard c. 1970 Collection Jim LInderman
Two generic Presidents by the one artist listed in BOTH the Guiness Book of World Records AND Ripley's Believe it or Not. That would be the world's fastest artist, Morris Katz (1931-) I used to see him walk around New York City in the early 1980's. He had a television show of his own at the time, "The Instant Art Show" in which he would churn through canvas after canvas while appraisers watched. According to the artist's website, Mr. Katz is still available for Publicity Stunts, Corporate Events and more. Whatever the price, it is a steal. As his website asks "how many of you can say you have seen someone paint thirty-six 8x10 inch paintings in one hour?" The link here shows more of the Morris Katz Presidential series. Seldom a day goes by without a Katz being listed on Ebay. The more common (and by that I mean, THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of more common) are usually palette knife works you can't avoid at flea markets. God willing, Mr. Katz is working on his Obama.
Two Morris Katz postcards, 1967 Collection Jim Linderman
The Voice-o-Graph was produced by Mutoscope, the company responsible for flip book peepshow machines on every midway and in every sin palace. Each customer inserted their coins, chose the speed (45 rpm or 78 rpm) and had five minutes to say whatever they liked.They then waited for their own 6" disc to vend right out of the machine. The mailing envelope, which pre-figures the sleeves we get from Netflix, was an additional 5 cents. This example features "Dane + Myself Singing Comming (sic) around the mountain." I have a few other discs which include "Talking about Seaside Beach" "The Penny Arcade" "Little David" and "Spooky Giggling." The machine even warned you when ten seconds was left (I guess so you could cram in the last verse or slur your phone number) The song here is one of those catchy, cheerful child's songs based on death...it was printed in Carl Sandburg's 1927 "The American Songbag" but was based on "When the Chariot Comes", a negro spiritual. An odd song to sing at the seashore, but it did allow some voice and response, and that does make sense.
Voice-O-Graph 6" disc sound recording c. 1955 Collection Jim Linderman
George Jerome Rozen and his brother Jerome George Rozen Artist Illustrator Twins Pulp Painting Geniuses
A double dose of drawing dynamite! George Jerome Rozen had a twin brother named Jerome George Rozen. No kidding! The twins were born in 1875, one lived ten years longer than the other. Jerome was the first to enroll in the Art Institute of Chicago, Jerome followed a year later and had George as an instructor! Jerome was the first to paint covers for The Shadow, but George did them later. Both were in GREAT demand for their pulp magazine illustrations (as these six examples from my collection should serve to illustrate) These were done by George, who is shown in the dreary black and white photo here, which should also illustrate just why artists were favored over photographs for magazines during the 1930's. However, even though the pair of brothers painted their way through the depression, they could not paint their way through the technological progress of the camera, and not long after WW2 the glory days of pulps were over. Between the two, hundreds of pulp covers, from True Crime to Fictional Science were produced. These are six simply incredible examples of George #1's talent. Never mind they didn't quite come true.
Six Modern Mechanix and Inventions Magazines 1934, 1935, 1936 cover illustrations George Jerome Rozen. Collection Jim Linderman
I said I would never link to music on this blog, but minds are made for changing. Since I moved back to Michigan, I rely on my friend Robert to tip me off culturally. He sent me a great link to a recently rediscovered African-American punk rock band from Detroit called "Death" profiled in the New York Times March 15. It reminded me of my favorite black punk record from Michigan (and how lucky I was to grow up with the Michigan blues...from John Lee Hooker to Jack White, Detroit has always been the home of rock. It comes from the industrial crunch of the auto plants, think Iggy and the Mc5) But I digress. The Algebra Mothers (or affectionately, the A-Moms) were a short lived punk rock group from Detroit with a black lead guitarist and singer named Gerald Collins. Their entire output, sadly, consists of one single, "Strawberry Cheescake" which you can hear on the great KBD website. It was recorded in 1979 and released as a 45 the same year. I sold mine. Roctober.com has an article by James Porter and Jake Austen "Black Punk Time: Blacks in Punk, New Wave and Hardcore 1976-1984" which certainly begs for a major book publisher and major compilation. Jack White? Are you listening?
Every great city has a great museum, but one city IS a museum to the work of one man. Charleston, South Carolina has been the home of blacksmith Philip Simmons his entire life. (A life continuing at age 97) Mr Simmons recently moved to a rest home...at the time of my first visit he was still pounding the anvil, the second time he was passing his skills down. The blacksmith shop was built by a slave who gave it to his son in the late 1800's, who in turn hired Mr. Simmons at age 13. Simmons worked in the shop for 77 years. Well over 200 of his gates, doorways and other ornamental ironwork have been identified, the documentation continues. Some of his beautiful work, along with a map is illustrated at the Philip Simmons Foundation site, they are raising funds to preserve his shop as a museum.
If my calculations are correct, you can click to enlarge, print, cut out and make with your kids.
J.P. Coats thread Spool Pets (four shown) 1930 Collection Jim Linderman
Linus II had a 10 foot double mane and a 16 foot tail. He was owned by W. A. Rutherford of Marion, Oregon, and presumably won many ribbons at the local state fair, not to mention attracting many nickels and dimes from sideshow attendees in the 1880's. Circus sideshow performers with unusual attributes were far from common, but even fewer had four legs.
Original Cabinet Card Photograph c. 1880 by Wendt Collection Jim Linderman
NEW BOOK ON BILBREW COMING SUMMER 2011
ALL MY ESSAYS ON VINTAGE SLEAZE ILLUSTRATORS ARE NOW COLLECTED ON VINTAGE SLEAZE!
New York City was a good place for an illustrator in the early 1950's, in particular one with the obvious but quirky talents of Gene Bilbrew. The comic market was exploding...the Kefauver Senate hearings had yet to dent their sales to vulnerable youth, Mad Magazine was getting off the ground and lurid pulp magazines requiring sexual humor were booming. Demand for less than tasteful "adult" humor was in demand. (Remember "cocktail napkins") In fact, one of Bilbrew's first jobs as an artist was replacing the recently drafted Jules Feiffer in the studio of noted cartoonist Will Eisner, who not only created the well-known comic strip "The Spirit" but also was one of the founders of the institution now known as the School of Visual Arts. This connection led to Eugene's enrollment and the cartoonist began taking his craft more seriously. He befriended famous fetish artist Eric Stanton who was also studying at the school. Soon he has made a connection to no less than Irving Klaw, the now "notorious" photographer of Bettie Page. Bilbrew sold drawings to Klaw and infamous publisher Lenny Burtman, it wasn't long before his work began to appear in racy publications of the 1950's which were sold under the counter near the Port Authority building and by mail order. Many of the drawings from this period are startling, offensive and lurid to the extreme, but were still, technically, not violating the law. Thousand of archetypical men in gray flannel suits passed the sleazy stores every day and many ducked in on their way home. Attention seeking politicians began to harass the shops, and sale through the mail also brought problems from governmental agencies. Drugs, filth, and one imagines the lifestyle of an artist hanging on the deuce, as 42nd street was known, soon took a tole. Most who know of the artist's work believe it began to deteriorate in the early 1960's, but these paperback covers show he was still in control of his quirky talents shortly before his death. They also, as far as I know, are the only examples of his drawings with full color treatment. Soon, legal pressures put most of the publishers he sold to out of business, and when they returned, several years later after legal rights were more or less granted to sleazy book sellers, actual photographs were used to illustrate the covers and illustrators like Bilbrew were in less demand. Bilbrew sunk lower, selling drawings to even more pornographic publishers with no interest in presenting even the facade of art or a professional front. How long after this he passed away is uncertain, but he was living in the back room of a 42nd street bookstore when he overdosed in 1974. Paperback books with Bilbrew illustrations on the cover are fairly scarce. They are nearly 50 years old now, and as you might imagine, if you were reading one while your wife was visiting your in-laws, or if you came across one while cleaning out Dad's stuff...they might not make it to the estate sale.
I have a few more entries in me about illustrators working on the underside of morality. Stay tuned. In the meantime, the 2008 book "Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tinuana Bibles to Underground Comix" by Tim Pilcher and published by Abrams contains a four page profile of Bilbrew. It, like the other books I suggest in posts on Vintage Sleaze, is recommended.
Four Original Paperback books with Gene Bilbrew cover illustations, c. 1966 Collection Jim Linderman