Friday, December 23, 2005

Hips, Pips and Strips

Yesterday, after catching the Chronicles of Narnia (I was bored - Pooteewheet liked it. I felt it didn't offer anything new or better than all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies that came before it, and I didn't feel the characters were flushed out very well. They seemed to suffer at the expense of the CGI, specifically trying to give the animals personalities [and the beavers did seem to have more personality than the humans]), Pooteewheet and I hit south Minneapolis and went to the photo display "Hips, Pips and Strips: A Revealing History of Burlesque in Hennepin County" at the Hennepin History Museum. There were actually three displays - one on Aprons, one on post-mortem photography, and one on burlesque.

The post-mortem one - absolutely creepy. Dead mothers posed with their children. Dead children posed with their mothers. Children posed on the floor with their toys after death, children posed for almost school-like photos, eyes wide open, apparently alive, until you notice their mouth is sewn shut. Apparently taking photos of children in poses that mimicked sleeping were so frequently of dead children that it was a serious superstition not to actually take photos of children who were sleeping through the 1800s and early 1900s.

The aprons - somewhat strange, and certainly not something I'd have attended if that had been the only thing there. But my wife was embarrassed about the Mrs. Beasley doll and a picture of a dog dressed in Mrs. Beasley's clothes, because as a kid, she got all wet one day and was forced into Mrs. Beasley's clothes as that's all that was at hand. I had my own Family Affair issues as a child and named my pet rabbit Sissy after the oldest daughter on the show. Probably my first crush.

It was interesting to see the "collector's" aprons. Aprons you collected as remembrances of places you'd been to, like Mount Rushmore or some fishing village, as I just can't imagine anyone wanting to collect those now. And the politically incorrect/racist aprons were a bit disturbing and I post the following apron photo just so my friend Ming can appreciate it. I just can't picture walking into a home where the woman of the house (or man) was wearing this as a conversation piece.

Finally, there was the actual burlesque exhibit. It was almost more an exhibit of Hennepin County theaters than anything else, but the big fact you came away with is that no matter how fancy the theater was, at one time it probably hosted burlesque. It also struck me as amusing that the arguments over burlesque in Hennepin County look to have been as vociferous as the current arguments over banning smoking, and throughout the decades burlesque came and went at various theaters as they were the focus of certain religious groups, politicos with an election to worry about, actual legal problems (full nudity, prostitution, etc.), and financial woes. One of the added features to the exhibit was that you could sit in a little room and watch classical burlesque on a big screen t.v. The dancing was so not the point because the dancing was so very very bad. The following picture is of one of the reviews that tried to separate itself from the others by creating a burlesque show with a variety of body sizes. I'll quote it, so you don't have to squint: "Billy Waton's 'Beef Trust' ladies represented the ideal in female symmetry. One of the last competitive battles the Dewey staged for burlesque supremacy before it folded in 1912 was when the Gayety stole the Dewey's old alumnus, Sliding Billy Watson. The Dewey came right back at them, though, with 'Billy Watson's Beef Trust' a burlesque trick with a ton or more of chorine avoirdupois. It was not long after this that the Dewey gave up and closed."


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Scooter said...

There's a more recent post around going to the Midwest Burlesk Review which you might like as well then.