Sunday, August 31, 2008

Distinctly Deep Throaths

A disappearing race of female swallowing marvels and his hopefully renaissance

As our social ecosystem is deeply changing and revolving, several are the disapperaring forms of life as the most peculiar ways of earnig life itself. One of those in dangerous extinction is the sword swallowing practice. If the masculine tradition can still count few dozens of exponents scarcely scattered around the globe, the gentle sex representants seems nowadays much rare.

In the last century, sideshow platforms, variety stages and modest village squares pullulated of this most sexier emanation of burlesque, where the puritan observer, while enjoyng the thrill of the feat, could safely imagine the most forbidden variations on those ladies whose throats housed every size of iron weapon in multiple numbers and shapes, as well as neon tubes, chair legs, scissors spoons etcetera etcetera. Then, with politically correctness of the fairground and his live entertainments, toward the end of last century more reserved variations on the deep throat imagery excited in the most confortable way the imagery of the adult in private silver screen consumptions.

Today’s pleasant renaissance of burlesque and sideshow culture is inspiring a rebirth of ladies talented in modern mouth miracles. The actual leader of the movement, according our modest judgment, resides in England and is Miss Amy Saunders, aka Miss Behave. She is an immensely talented performer, the most perfect cabaret guest, chanteuse and comedienne, and of course gifted in oral oddities.

We leave you today with a gallery of past braveries (a series of portraits selected and graciously stolen from wonderful, to finish with a clip of Amy accomplishing a singular Guinness record.

And now the clip. Well, Guinnes Record. We agree on how vulgar is to suggest the discovery of an artist with a television game appearance, and we wished to offer you a more theatrical piece from Miss Behave's repertory. The even infinite resources of the "net" don't allow us, and we hope you soon see her live in her most appropriately decadent atmosphere.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An angel of another century

Lottie Brunn and the era of shomanship

Another great performer left this world in the last few days. Lottie Brunn was one of the last witness of last century's great shomanship, when mastering an act was a mysterious formula of tantalizing talent, erotic elegance, raucous rythm. And of all the remaining ingredients to make you believe that the performer was part of another world, the ambassador of a kingdom invented to exhilarate you in a happy evening, to then turn into a gentle ghost to wake you the following morning in a regenerate state of grace, to face the ordinary world.
That was Mrs. Brunn, now in the realm of the legend where her brother Francis was waiting before.
They were in a class before stylized rainbow lycras, elaborate face paintings and sophisticated aseptic soundtracks. They were in a class when performing was a matter of personality, smiles, continuous seduction, masterful interaction with a live swing band, and a concept of costumes as going to a court ball twice daily.
Lottie and Francis are now perhaps doing the same up there, very far in the sky, in the same world where this class can last forever: the class of Borra the king of pickpockets; or the gentleman magician Channing Pollock; of the elegant chaotic George Carl; the absurd but aristocratic dancing Doll Family of midgets; the lord of horsemanship Albert Schumann, or Count Basie and his band. An array of smiles, subtle touches of shomanship, white ties, silk dresses, personal lobby photos polished as new shoes, feats of acrobatics or legerdemain presented with the lightness of a joke, to distracted night-club audiences mesmerized for seven long minutes when the world and all is cold wars seemed to stop.
What a century it was. What performers they were.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Donkey on Ice

The unusual comedy art of Karl Kossmayer and his mule (with a new discovery)

One of the most intense circus experiences of my childhood was the act of the “unrideable mules”: in wich a good dozen of spectators is invited to win a prize if able to complete a ring circle on the back of the savage quadrupede, catastrophically ending with the impossible attempts of a quiet but tenacious old man. Later, you could have spent weeks puzzling if he was a genuine spectator or some kind of strange performer.

For me, the image of the little old gentleman, approaching the ring with his program in the hands, pursued by his wife and finishing to lost his pants, was a shock. A contrast between the greatest humor and a feel of unease; a masterpiece on the border between fiction and reality, completely played on the separation line between the shadowy space of the audience and the bright territory of the performer. Was this man from the circus? Nobody could really answer in front of the immense showmanship of Karl Kossmayer. A perfect illusion in which, long before Wharol, everybody was promised five minutes of celebrity. And, slowly during the act, this little character carried to the ring a perfect history of an universal retired middle-class type, life-dominated by his wife’s discipline, and wasting in few second all his life’s boring dignity to reach the impossible world of the clowns.

This was great drama, revolutioning the roles of the theatre far before the avant-gardes. An actor impersonating a spectator who wants to be an actor, without declaring to be acting… Pirandello was nothing, compared to Kossmayer.

Karl Kossmayer (1917-2000), from a great trainers family, started his act in 1928, and with it toured the globe, generating imitators all around the world. His sister Julie impersonated perfectly “the wife”. Starring with the best jugglers, acrobats, clowns, trainers of his time, his act was so strong on the audience that the only place to put it was mostly to close the program.

The act was filmed by the great Jacques Tati as part of his circus movie “Parade”, in 1974 (mostly of the movie critics are still thinking that this perfect act was a Tati’s idea).

And now, our little discovery.
In fact, we have found also an unusual clip. Kossmayer toured briefly in Usa with Holiday on Ice of 1960. That’s it.
They used to put for few minutes a carpeted circus ring on the ice and display the mule act. And the comedy effect was emphasized immensely when Karl repeatly covered on ice the distance between his loge seat and the circus ring, with a masterful catalog of falls and trips. Unfortunately, his American success was short, because, for safety issue, audience members were discouraged to test their skills with the “dangerous” mule. The homeland of rodeos was starting to be politically correct also for the masters of European circus artistry.

I became friend with Karl in his last years, always sharing wonderful times visiting the Monte Carlo Festival.

Today we wants to divulgate his art to the new generations of the world, with a double tribute: his act in the traditional version, from the mentioned Tati movie; and our discovered excerpt of the way he did it on Holiday on Ice, from a forgotten Ed Sullivan special.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Little Tich and Loie Fuller

The pioneer of clown and the ancestor of dance

We already paied our tribute to Litlle Tich, presenting the irresistible film of his "long boots" act, the first recorded comic movie (filmed in 1900) and, according to Jacques Tati "the root of everything is basic in the art of the comic film".
In times of pionnerism in everything (we are around year 1900), Tich had another illustrious contemporary walking the stages: Miss Loie Fuller, who with his "danse serpentine" revolutioned the concept itself of ballet. The fast, modern dynamism of her variety specialty, with elaborated light effects, was captured in various way: the poster art of Chéret, the early photographers, the study on motion of Tolouse-Lautrec itself and finally a certain Mr.Louis Lumiére who was experimenting on the moving image. In fact, Miss Fuller's act was filmed and hand colored as early as 1898.

Then, the encounter.
Miss Fuller was a star. And Little Tich was the king of parody. They even happened to share the same Folies-Bergères stage. So was almost natural for the great little comic to add in his repertory his version of the Fuller's serpentine dance. And, as for the "big boot", this act too was filmed for the posterity even is less known and very short. It is preserved in some movie archives. According our vocation for wonderous novelties, we searched, find it and posted on youtube.

Now, in the following video windows, please compare the two stars: Loie Fuller's original movie by Lumiére of 1898, and the Little Tich's genial version of 1900.

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