Cross-dressing trapeze and tightrope artist Barbette seems to have sprung out of a Jean Cocteau fantasy, but surely was a real person. Exact birthdate and parentage subject to dispute, but somewhere around the dawn of the 20th Century in Texas. Subsequent to highschool, he replaced a deceased woman in the Alfaretta Sisters aerialist circus act. Barbette toured the vaudeville circuit and debuted in Europe in 1923. Barbette's curtain-call wig-ripping-off move was ripped off for Victor/Victoria. [more inside]
A song that many people love and connect with, at least, at every karaoke night ever held. Christina Bianco's impressions of a variety of divas singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" are pretty much spot on.
"Whereas yesterday's Cora Pearl was eccentric, charming and a little cold-hearted, today's Victorian courtesan, La Païva, is straight-up eerie. Like, so eerie that a lot of people thought she was a vampire. My hand to Baby Jesus, people actually believed she was a supernatural being. " Bizarre Victoria shares (what else) bizarre, scandalous, and noteworthy stories form the Victorian era (and more). What do you serve at a country club for fat men? Devil's footprints! Lola Montez: servant whipper, de facto ruler of Bavaria. Empress Sissi and her No Good Very Bad Life. Aristocratic marriage at gunpoint. Public pubic hair trimming. Specialties of the Victorian Brothel. Curing hiccups by setting your shirt on fire. Gilded Age Arranged Marriages.
Elvis rode to fame on one of her covers and Janis got rich on her signature song, but you haven't truly heard Hound Dog or Ball & Chain until you've experienced Big Mama Thornton belting them out. A seminal blues figure who could play the harp with the best of them, she was true original. In her heyday, Willie Mae was a 6-foot tall, 350-pound, gun-toting crossdresser who led a rough and colorful life and took no guff whatsoever. Emaciated but still powerful, she gives a final raw and expressive performance of Ball & Chain and Hound Dog shortly before her death in 1984. [more inside]
The diminutive but intensely powerful Lillian Leitzel was known for her fiery temper, her flirtatious banter, and her ability to spin her entire body in the air while supporting herself by only one hand upwards of 200 times in a row, much like a human pinwheel. She was one of the Ringling Bros. brightest (and most petulant) stars, famously firing and re-hiring her maid several times a day. She married 3 times - (the second marriage ended after she cut off her husband's finger) but her last marriage was to the purported love her life, trapeze artist Alfredo Codona, a master of the triple back summersault off the flying trapeze who also enjoyed success as a Hollywood stunt double . Their passionate (if mercurial) relationship was cut short when, during a performance, Lillian's ring broke, and she fell 45 feet onto a concrete floor. Two days later she was dead. Alfredo, devastated, became reckless and was injured in a fall of his own, cutting short his career. His subsequent marriage to another performer failed, and while meeting with a lawyer to finalize their divorce, he shot her and then himself. Alfredo and Lillian are reunited in death, buried under a marker of their lives and love.
In the Twilight of Modernity and the Silent Film (.pdf) Irie Takako was the most popular actress in 1930s Japan: film scholar Tanaka Masasumi locates the turning point of Japanese modernity in 1933, the year Kenji Mizoguchi's The Water Magician was made, arguing that Irie's transformation from radiant embodiment of moga(modern girl, the Japanese version of the flapper)-hood to suffering beauty in a kimono (.pdf) epitomized modernism's (modanizumu) defeat by nationalism in 1930's Japan. (via Camera Obscura; more inside)
Divas Defeat Goliath! The Digital Divas have been successful in their effort to get Microsoft to cease and desist use of the Digital Diva name.