Monday, August 7, 2017

the 1950's - a sordid little interlude

The men came back from the wars and were supposed to instantly become church going husbands and fathers, up standing citizens and pillars of the "morality" and "ideals" they had fought for.

The United States is one of the most sexually repressed nations on earth even today.

It's OK to snicker behind closed doors with your pals, share a dirty joke in hushed tones around the coffee counter in the office, stop by a strip club on the way home so long as the "little woman" doesn't catch you...

Elmer was decidedly "naughty"-early on he used to show "stag films" on a wall with a 16mm projector in their back bedroom during family get togethers.

Years later my Mother would grumble about him showing a very "nasty" film that featured a white lady and a black man...she watched it, she didn't want to be a "wet blanket"...but I never figured out of the "grumbling" was for show or for real.

Elmer and Fran's house was full of those naughty little treasures people (mostly men) collected in those days-the mule you loaded with cigarettes and then when you wanted to dispense one it would slide coyly out the animals backside; the man in a barrel that when you lifted the barrel would "spring" an enormous erection...lenticular pictures of winking ladies and cootch dancers, "pin up" match books and high ball glasses with girls n sheer nighties and when the glass got wet the nightie vanished...

It was all boys behind the gym kinda stuff-more naughty than nasty but then in those days I didn't know where the nasty stuff was hidden.

We would go on family outings on Sundays and almost every souvenir/novelty shoppe had a section of naughty little mementos-one of the most memorable the ashtray with a lady recling with her legs in the air fanning herself-when you touched the legs or the fan they would actually move-this was so iconic a piece of smut that in the late 1900's they made reproductions of it-you can probably still get one along some interstate even today.

Another similar ceramic "novelty" was the BOOB salt and pepper set...I couldn't imagine why anyone would want one-would you actually put it one the table at Sunday dinner? Pass the pepper boob defied any logic or you paid for a little memento of your trip or bought a bit of tat to take home to your pal and then what?

The obligatory laugh and it goes into the bin-or the high closet over the fridge with the two year old bottle of scotch that you bring down for a drink with your chums and the naughty condiment set can season the snacks?

I suppose it was all harmless fun in those days-women were mostly the object of the jokes-the men had come back from places where prostitutes, strippers and a foreign idea of what Americans would pay money for when looking for fun and recreation had slanted the retail market toward sex.

The GI's brought their girlfriends silk kimonos or other traditional souvenir wares and stashed the sexy goodies at the bottom of the bag for the party pals.

Tourist areas in those days were veritable warehouses of this war era stuff which was either left over or re-imagined for export; Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, The Pike in Long Beach anywhere the carriage trade would tolerate and support it-IT would be available.

At the same time, or somewhere in that timeline, the Marilyn Monroe nude calendar made its appearance and any guy who didn't have one seemed to get one somewhere...Vargas and Petty had been the artists of "that sort" of calendar art- but who wants a painting when you can have the real thing.

Elmer gave my Dad a calendar than I was fascinated by-not for the nudity more for the novelty-it was a lady draped in jewels and filmy fabric but all that was printed on a clear cellophane overlay that could be lifted so one could behold all the wonders that had been hidden.

Playboy was starting to make a buzz...I wouldn't see one till I was about 13 or so-one of the boys I knew stole one of his fathers from under their bed...

In those days it was all airbrushed and the ladies nether regions were as smooth as Barbie-but I wasn't interested in the dewy perfection of some altered, smoothed out centerfold or the bountiful assets of a B movie Hollywood starlet-there was an arresting pictorial of well posed and lit women in copies of Paris Fashions but instead of silk charmuse or peu de sole the dresses were made of clear plastic with coloured accessories-chic, slick, imaginative-it was clear than in order to sell me sex it had to be presented with class.

So at that point I made the connection-the bare breasted showgirls and scantily clad dancers of Vegas and Paris shows were the sisters-in-kind of the naked ladies in transparent fashions-not presented to be laughed at but celebrated, adored even worshiped in a way.

You didn't see that sort of packaging in the joke and novelty aisle-that which was lacking was the more opulent accouterments, the silks, satin's and furs with just a tasteful peek of pink tinted sex.

Jasmine perfume instead of Evening in Paris.

A Pink lady in a delicate glass instead of beer from a bottle.

The movie MILDRED PIERCE does a good job of exposing the differences of high brow versus low class-Vida goes off and works in a Tiki Bar on the pier singing snappy snogs and wearing a grass skirt-I can guarantee to you that the souvenir shop next store had all those naughty little goodies that you saved for the annual office part or celebrations at the Moose Lodge.

The sad moral at the end of this tawdry little tale is that nothing has changed-the coy lady on the ashtray had become "vintage" and a genuine period piece fetches big dollars, The Boob Salt shakers are KITSCH and they too have joined their compatriots on shelves of trendy shops in better districts along with pin up calendars and bare busted women on match book covers...burlesque is over-the sly tease and lavender spotlight that turns dark blue at the climax is a thing of the past except where modern woman have embraced Burlesque and made it an anti-body shaming activity-men now go to see ALL NUDE-ALL LIVE GIRLS, meat on a plate with no garnish served luke warm at high prices.

Nudity has come to television but only on cable channels where the FCC isn't too closely involved-it still costs a hundred thousand dollars if you say the F word on a radio show-ask Howard Stern he's paid his fair share of fines for "vulgarity".

Movies still fight the "R" rating but that's because a PG-13 makes for better box office and its usually violence and language that tips the scales although 2 cowboys in Love on a Mountain almost became X rated not that long ago and few remember that although it was a best picture "MIDNIGHT COWBOY" was also X rated.

This is AMERICA-cowboys are clean, wholesome, patriotic souls like John Wayne-they protect their best friends they don't sleep with them.

I long for the day where the movie opens on a guy waking up in bed who scratches his balls, yawns and climbs out of bed with his meat and 2 veg swinging in the wind and goes off to take a whiz-I don't know anyone who lives alone and drags the sheet with them when they arise to guard the sensibilities of an unseen audience.

OH, by the way-have you looked at a fashion magazine lately-that's where the gritty, edgy cheap sex is now selling-not always but too often...

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