Ziegfeld Follies Girls Rare Photographs by Alfred Cheney Johnston ~ 2011 Auction Results

Alfred Cheney Johnston photograph of Ziegfeld Follies Girl Dorothy Graves.

Alfred Cheney Johnston photograph of actress Barbara Stanwyck.

Ziegfeld Follies Girls Rare Photographs by Alfred Cheney Johnston ~ 2011 Auction Results

A treasure trove of vintage photographs, shot by Alfred Cheney Johnston, of Jazz Age nudes, actresses, and Ziegfield Follies Girls was discovered in a Connecticut estate, and put up for auction in 2011. 

MERIDEN, Conn. – An extraordinary archive of Alfred “Cheney” Johnston (1884-1971) glamour photos of Jazz Age beauties, as well as important artworks from the renowned Ziegfield Follies photographer’s personal collection, will be was auctioned on April 16, 2011 at Nest Egg Auctions‘ gallery in Meriden, Conn.

Johnston’s personal photo archive, which was bequeathed to a neighbor 40 years ago and has remained in the same family ever since, includes dozens of beautiful nudes that were considered very daring for their time. 

Johnston was a trailblazer in celebrity photography and rose to the top of his profession with his stunning pictures of showgirls, film stars and rising starlets – among them Barbara Stanwyck, Clara Bow, Paulette Goddard, Gloria Swanson and Julie “Catwoman” Newmar. Johnston’s ability to put his subjects at ease resulted in stylish portraits whose artistic quality has withstood the test of time.

“Many of Cheney Johnston’s now-classic photos were donated to the Library of Congress and will never again be in private hands. This only heightens the rarity and desirability of the photos in our upcoming auction,” said Nest Egg auctioneer Ryan Brechlin. The 11- by 14-inch glamour prints, each created by the master’s hand, carry individual estimates ranging from $100 to around $2,000.

See all the photos, with bid amounts:

The Ziegfeld Girls photos start at lot #340 thru #420.

Florenz Ziegfeld put his name on his famous theatrical productions, The Ziegfeld Follies, a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. [Wikipedia]

A wonderfully illustrated history of the Ziegfeld Follies is here.

Bubbles Darlene – The Burlesque Stripper Who Shocked Havana

Darlene Bubbles was billed as the World’s Most Exciting Body.

Newspaper interview quotes:

” Her real name was Virginia LaChimia. ” — [It is often misspelled as LaCHINia, which does rhyme with Virginia.

” Every summer she goes home to Minnesota, where she went to the Edison High School in Minneapolis, and vacations at a cabin she owns on Prior Lake, where she always swims minus a suit or even a bikini. 

Streetswing’s page on Bubbles says:

  • Bubbles started her career at Chicago’s Rialto Theatre … she was also billed as “The Dancer That Shocked Havana“.
  • She also performed as Vikina and Sheri Darlene.

Bubbles had photo spreads in several men’s magazines, and tons of other press. She was talented at self promotion as well as dancing.

Javas Bachelor Pad has this great essay  about strippers up on their page, titled “The Off-Stage Shenanigans of Strippers” by Franklin L. Thistle from AdamVol. 3 No. 8, February 1959. It tells about Bubbles’ Havana escapade that made her “The Dancer That Shocked Havana”:

She staged a one-woman revolt against falsies in Havana by strolling down the main street dressed in only a revealing transparent raincoat and black panties…

Bubbles casually strolled along busy downtown Prado boulevard wearing only a transparent raincoat. Police booked her on the charge of indecent exposure… That evening when Bubbles showed up for work, the club was jammed and people were lined up for blocks waiting to get in.” [Also here.]

There are lots of pix of Bubbles Darlene online, here, and plenty pf other sites.

She’s also pictured in the book Pictorial History of Burlesque from A to Z, if you can get your hands on a copy.

  • Received this email from a fan of Bubbles Darlene who knew her ‘back in the day’ – thanks Harold, for writing in and sharing your memory:

“… my name is harold / age 79 / time span-1944 to 1950- lived at 18th and maple-louisville,ky-across the street was the club neon – during that time various burlesque appeared – one was bubbles darlene – she visited our store daily for cokes snick snack.  i was 16, my three brothers, what a thrill see bubbles every day and she was wonderful to us …”

“… we visited cuba 12/05 and we learned on the famous dance-brought back good me memories, a most wonderful summer-like a movie… i had heard that bubbles is deceased – if not is there a current name and address – it would bewonderfull to tell somone what a beautiful-gracious lady was to us.” regards harold

I did find a comment on a blog, dated 2007, that stated Darlene had passed away ”a few years ago”, and had been disfigured in a bad car accident. Sad. [Source]

Lady Zorro Sexy Burlesque Stripper Vintage Photos

Her real name was Sheila Alberta Bowater.

Get by with a little help from my friends…

A reader kindly posted a helpful comment to my original bio-less Lady Zorro post.

Here’s the comment that led me to find out a little about Lady Zorro’s hard life. On October 11, 2009, Alex wrote:

“… John Waters mentions a dancer named Zorro on page 75 of his book, Crackpot. He writes,”She’d stomp around the stage naked after removing her cape and mast, sneer at the audience with pure contempt, and snarl, ‘What are you lookin’ at?’ — Could it be the same lady? …”

John Waters goes on to compare Lady Zorro’s looks to ruggedly-handsome actor Victor Mature. After seeing their photos side-by-side, I’d have to say he’s right — and that there must have been only one Lady Zorro!

Here are some quotes from John Water’s book, CRACKPOT, which was reissued in 2003 with updates from the author. Sadly, he informs us that Lady Zorro is no longer with us. I hope her daughter does write the book that John encouraged her to write.

You can read some pages of CRACKPOT on google-books here.

In the NY Times review of John Water’s 2010 memoir ROLE MODELSTom Carson writes:

An initially sprightly tour of Baltimore’s dive bars (“the good ones have no irony about them”) sets up reminiscences of two local legends: a lesbian stripper who styled herself Lady Zorro and a Native American named Esther Martin, who ran a derelicts’ bar called the Wigwam “like an iron-fisted Elaine’s.” But then both women’s grown children tell him about their upbringings, packed with hair-­raising episodes of selfishness, booze, abuse and neglect.

From reviews for the John Waters book ROLE MODELS:

Waters also talks about personalities from his hometown of Baltimore. One of them was the stripper known as Lady Zorro, whom he describes as “[having] a real rage she brought to the stage, which added a demented hostile sex appeal. An angry stripper with a history of physical and sexual abuse with a great body and the face of a man. Now there’s a lethal combination…Zorro was so butch, so scary, so Johnny Cash. No actual stripping for her at that point [at the end of her burlesque career]; she just came out nude and snarled at her fans, ‘What the f*** are you looking at?'”.

You can find the book on Amazon — be sure to click the Look Inside link to read the chapter on Lady Zorro (page screen shots below). — Role Models / Amazon

She’s been around the block…

Here’s Lady Zorro’s obituary, from the Baltimore Sun, 2-08-2001:

Sheila A. Bowater, 63, dancer on The Block
Sheila Alberta Bowater, who danced at clubs on The Block, died Feb. 1 of cancer at her daughter’s home in Tigard, Ore. She was 63 and had lived in Charles Village for nearly 40 years until moving to Oregon in 1999.
Appearing as Lady Zorro and attired in a mask, cape and a wide-brimmed hat, she danced at the Oasis and the Two O’Clock Club on The Block beginning in the early 1960s.
“She was the friend of the great names on The Block — Blaze Starr, Pam Gail and Julius Salisbury,” said her daughter, Eileen Carrico Murche. “All the people on The Block knew her. When the clubs closed, her friends came back to our house to continue the party.”
Before retiring in the 1970s, Miss Bowater appeared in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., and in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and London.
In retirement, she and friends followed the Maryland thoroughbred racing circuit. She also prepared meals for elderly neighbors in the 300 block of E. 28th St., where she resided.

More info tidbits from John Waters including a bizarre photo of Lady Zorro in her later years.

More memories of Baltimore’s The Block — here — and here.

THE BLOCK, circa 1961 [Source]
Baltimore’s Gaiety Burlesk sign with the kicking girl. 

Miss White Fury and Her Twin 44s ~ Vintage Burlesque Stripper Photos

Miss White Fury and Her Twin 44s ~ aka Patti Kelly / Patti Moses

Miss White Fury ~ tassel twirling was her specialty!



Miss White Fury— aka Patti Kelly, but she was usually billed as “Miss White Fury and her Twin 44’s.” Her parents, Rusty and Dusty Farnham worked in Vaudeville and early radio. “Miss White Fury” performed all over the country in theaters and clubs from 1953 to 1983. Coralie Jr. was her agent, and tassel twirling was her specialty.”

  • See her today: Miss White Fury appears in the new Burlesque history documentary film Behind the Burly Q.
Interviewees include: “White Fury – who painted herself with buckets of paint and lit her tassels on fire.” [Source]
Miss White Fury, camera shy Blaze Starr (Governor Earl Long’s mistress) and Tempest Storm (“Teaserama.” 1955 with Bettie Page) contribute poignant stories of life on the road. Economic hardships of the depression motivated many of these performance pioneers, in an era  before Woman’s Lib.” [Source]
White Fury, The Girl With the Twin .44s” did a flaming tassel dance that, in one ill-starred rehearsal, burned off her eyebrows. [Source]
  • See more promo photos on the Burleskateer blog, where the author tells us Miss White Fury was also known as Patti Moses.

There She Is — On the Cover!

She’s profiled in, and on the cover of, Jane Briggeman’s Burlesque: A Living History [Amazon]
I remember, in the late 50s, all those burlesque joints down there. Big neon signs “Appearing Now! White Fury and Her Twin 44s!” And there’s a twenty foot high cardboard blonde with huge breasts staring down at you. — Tom Russell