May 22nd, 2023
GORGEOUS CAST PORTRAITS FROM TOD BROWNING’S ‘FREAKS’ (1932)
Freaks has earned its place in history as one of the all-time great cult films, though it wasn’t always beloved. The film was reviled by both critics and audiences upon release in 1932. It was a career-killer for Tod Browning, who had previously been a Hollywood golden child with a string of Lon Chaney hits under his belt and who had just come off the enormous success of Dracula.
The film shocked audiences with its use of actual sideshow “freaks” as actors:
Among the characters featured as “freaks” were Peter Robinson (“the human skeleton”); Olga Roderick (“the bearded lady”); Frances O’Connor and Martha Morris (“armless wonders”); and the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Among the microcephalics who appear in the film (and are referred to as “pinheads”) were Zip and Pip (Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow) and Schlitzie, a male named Simon Metz who wore a dress mainly due to incontinence, a disputed claim. Also featured were the intersexual Josephine Joseph, with her left/right divided gender; Johnny Eck, the legless man; the completely limbless Prince Randian (also known as The Human Torso, and mis-credited as “Rardion”); Elizabeth Green the Stork Woman; and Koo-Koo the Bird Girl, who suffered from Virchow-Seckel syndrome or bird-headed dwarfism, and is most remembered for the scene wherein she dances on the table.
The film had only a short cinema run in the United States before it was pulled by MGM due to audiences’ revulsion. It was not even allowed to be shown at all in the UK for thirty years.
Some argue that the film was a crass exploitation of the mentally and physically challenged, while others believe the film is sympathetic to the disabled stars and was therefore an empowering vehicle, showcasing their struggle. It has remained controversial to this day.
Thanks to the excellent blog Decaying Hollywood Mansions, we have this stunning gallery of promotional cast photos from the film, featuring the unusually beautiful stars of Tod Browning’s 1932 masterpiece.
Licenses and Passports of Celebrities
The Krystal Counter Code: A 1954 Fast Food Server Guide
In 1954, Krystal Company presented a breezy educational film detailing how staff at its Krystal restaurants should behave and dress. Founded in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on October 24 1932, Krystal was keen to embrace the staff, aka ‘The Krystal Family’, and have them do things ‘the Krystal way’. This was ‘The Counter Code’.
Zelda, who we see in the lead photo, was breaking rules. Tutored in the Krystal way to ‘act natural’, she soon stowed her cigarette, set her disagreeable eyebrows free and her unblinking gaze on producing the great American burger; fighting the good fight against salmonella and starvation. Zelda’s not smiling in the portrait because she’s not sure about cameras and the kind of men who operate them and process amateur film in their home basement darkrooms. But she’s a happy girl and ready to serve.
All shots are delivered in a before and after fashion. We’d like to see the after that followed the ‘before and after’, say, a year later. But there’s an element of mystery with all fast food, so let this be no exception.
Vintage Puffy Stickers
HAPPY HARVEY MILK DAY - Harvey Milk, Activist and Politician, Led a Revolution for LGBTQ Rights
Overlooked History is a Teen Vogue series about the undersung figures and events that shaped the world.
BY LEXI MCMENAMIN
JUNE 7, 2021
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to hold public office in California. Elected in 1977 to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was assassinated at age 48, in 1978, by an ex-coworker, barely a year into his first term as an elected official. Ten days before his assassination, Milk recorded himself saying goodbye in case this grim scenario ever played out. “I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbing,” Milk said in the tape. “Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment, at any time, I feel it’s important that some people know my thoughts, and why I did what I did. Almost everything that was done was done with an eye on the gay movement.” Politics
Milk had real clarity about what it might mean for him to become a martyr to this cause: “All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” His barrier-breaking has undoubtedly played a role in the strides the LGBTQ+ movement has made since the 1970s, and served as inspiration for how marginalized communities can build solidarity.
“I have no doubt that, had he lived, and had he survived the AIDS epidemic, I have no doubt that he would have been in [Pete Buttigieg’s] position, for instance,” Lillian Faderman, author of Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death, told Teen Vogue. “I know he would have run for statewide office... I’m sure he would have run for federal office. He was hugely ambitious, and he should have been, since he was so charismatic. I think he would have been an icon not for his martyrdom, but because he was so eloquent and so charismatic, and he would have been in the public eye, and not just in San Francisco.”
Born on Long Island in 1930 and raised in a tight-knit Jewish community, Milk knew from a young age that he was gay, but spent much of his adult life figuring out how out of the closet to be. Milk lived several lives before moving to San Francisco full-time in 1972: He was in the Navy, worked in finance, was a teacher, and was even a Republican, volunteering on Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.
“Harvey Milk offers us a story of political transformation over the life course,” said Marc Stein, a historian of LGBTQ urban history and a professor at San Francisco State University. “[He] had contact with the early gay movement of the 1960s [...] but he distanced himself from it and rejected the idea of being out and proud in the pre-Stonewall era, and was pursuing a business career. But then, like so many, he was really transformed by everything going on in the country in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”
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