La Dolce Vita Striptease

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“La Dolce Vita,” Federico Fellini’s film that came to define the liberated era that inspired it, began with an impromptu striptease in a Roman trattoria fifty-one years ago. In November 1958, Peter Howard Vanderbilt threw the 24th birthday party for his friend, Venetian countess Olghina di Robilant at Rugantino.

The party was an uneventful until an Armenian dancer (and assumedly uninvited) Aïché Nana ran to the dance floor, started dancing by herself, pulling down her suspenders and stripping. The police commissar attending the party ordered his men to throw her out and made the photographers hand over their film. However, one of the photographers, Tazio Secchiaroli, held onto his photos of the striptease, and next morning Rome woke to the headlines about “Roman orgy at Rugantino’s”.

Thus was born the famous “orgy” sequence of La dolce vita, where Nadia Grey celebrated her divorce with a striptease scene. The role of paparazzo in the movie was inspired by Tazio. Although Fellini was not present at Rugantino, his star Anita Ekberg was. Today, Rugantino’s trattoria is transformed into a McDonald’s.

The Kremlin Bombarded

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Unlike most photographers, she was as famous as her pictures. Margaret Bourke-White was an institution, and personification of the formative years of LIFE magazine. The images she captured are memorable enough on their own: a line of flood victims in Kentucky stretched in front of a billboard braying prosperity; Gandhi at the spinning wheel.

In July 26th 1941, she became the right person at the right place as the German bombardment of the Kremlin began. She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow–she was dispatched there because one of the Life editors, Wilson Hicks, believed that Germany would invade the Soviet Union soon.

Although the Soviet officials had announced that their soldiers would shoot anyone spotted with a camera, Bourke-White was granted an exception. On the night of July 23rd, she went up the American embassy roof where the Soviet air wardens couldn’t see her. At one point, a bomb exploded nearly, blowing every window of the embassy. Bourke-White had the sense to seek the shelter just seconds before.

The above most picture showed the spires of Kremlin silhouetted by German Luftwaffe flare, with the antiaircraft gunners dotting sky over Red Square. The second showed the Kremlin lit up by flares from anti-aircraft shells and seven Nazi parachute flares which provided light for German bombardiers.

All during her stay in the USSR, Bourke-White tried to photograph Stalin; she had been refused the opportunity on her earlier visits. When Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s adviser, reached Moscow on July 30, he found Bourke-White already there. The second time he met Stalin on July 31st, he got the permission for Bourke-White to photograph the meeting too.

Sophia Loren on LIFE magazine

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LIFE always realized the sales value of a little sex. Seldom did an issue of Life miss the opportunity to include partially clad women, sometimes under cover of a story on Hollywood or thinly veiled as a fashion piece on the season’s swimwear. Though this practice opened the magazine to criticism from some fronts, its impact on sales was undeniable. However, in September 1966, the photo of Sophia Loren—the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt’s favorite model—wearing a negligee made the cover. It caused many Life readers to cancel their subscriptions.

During the 1960s, Loren was one of the most popular actresses in the world, in 1964, she received $1 million to act in The Fall of the Roman Empire. Despite the failure of her films to generate sales at the box office, Sophia Loren was a darling of studios, and worn some of the most lavish costumes ever created for the movies. The above photo was taken on the set for 1964 film Matrimonio all’italiana, starring Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.

Gala at La Scala

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Alfred Eisenstaedt is known for his picture of an unknown couple kissing on the Times Square during the VJ Day. However, as he admitted, this image was not Eisenstaedt’s personal favorite. That honor goes to the above photo of a young woman in a box seat at La Scala opera on the New Year Day, 1934. Always a master of candid photography, Eisenstaedt was looking for the telling detail to place in the foreground of his image. “Suddenly,” he said, “I saw a lovely young society girl sitting next to an empty box. From that box I took another picture, with the girl in the foreground. For years and years this has been one of my prize photographs. Without the girl I would not have had a memorable picture.”

Editors at Die Dame, who had assigned Eisie to the opera, did not feel similarly. They never printed the picture.

Picasso and Guernica

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The Spanish Republican government had wanted a heroic piece to showcase the modern Spain at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Pablo Picasso turned his commission into anything but. Under his brush, the tragic bombing of Gernika, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, into a nerve-wrecking elegy of individual suffering and an embodiment of peace.

Fully of hidden images, allegorical figures and meaningful gravitas, Guernica depicted suffering people, animals, and buildings wrenched by violence and chaos. At its unveiling at the World’s Fair, David Seymour (Chim) was on hand to photograph the artist in front of his work as it received its first public showing (above). Chim proved more amenable to the piece than his contemporaries who was widely criticized the painting. The German fair guide called it “a hodgepodge of body parts that any four-year old could have painted.” The Soviets, who favored realistic imagery, didn’t like it either. Leftists and communists, the very people who it championed, attacked the painting as devoid of any politics and that it expressed suffering rather than optimism. In Spain, it was declared to be “antisocial and entirely foreign to a healthy proletarian outlook.”

Picasso’s artist friends however realized the importance of the painting very early on. His muse Dora Maar frequented the studio in the Rue des Grands-Augustins to make a photographic record of the entire creative process. Along side the painting, the Museo Reina Sofía holds Marr’s twenty-eight photos showing Picasso at work. A tapestry copy, less monochromatic than the original with strong several shades of brown, was donated to the United Nations by the Rockefellers. On February 5, 2003 a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work as the Bush Administration objected to it being in the background while the American diplomats argued for war on Iraq.

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Ticker-Tape Parades

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Fresh off their 27th World Series win, the New York Yankees will take a victory lap through lower Manhattan this morning. It will be their record-setting ninth trip down the so-called “Canyon of Heroes,” the skyscraper-lined stretch from the island’s southern tip to City Hall. And if past ticker-tape parades for sports champions are any guide, they can expect to be showered with up to 50 tons of confetti and shredded paper.

The stock ticker — a machine that tracked financial data over telegraph lines and stamped it on strips called “ticker-tape” for the sound the printing made — had barely been around two decades before Wall Streeters realized that throwing its ribbony paper out the window was a fun way to celebrate. They first did it on October 29, 1886, inspired by the ceremony to dedicate the Statue of Liberty. The practice was still a novelty ten years later, when the New York Times reported that office workers had “hit on a new and effective scheme of adding to the decorations” at a parade for presidential candidate William McKinley by unfurling hundreds of ticker-tape reels out the window.

By 1899 two million people turned out to make Admiral George Dewey, hero of the Battle of Manila Bay, the first individual honored with a ticker-tape parade. Former President Teddy Roosevelt got one in 1910 upon returning from his African safari. But it wasn’t until 1919, when Grover Whalen was made New York City’s official greeter, that ticker-tape parades took off: from 1919 to 1953 he reportedly threw 86 of them, many at the urging of the State Department. The luminaries he feted in his early years included Albert Einstein in 1921 — the only scientist ever honored with a ticker-tape parade — as well as the U.S. Olympic team in 1924 and Charles Lindbergh in 1927. By then, of course, the tradition had spread: thousands of Chicagoans showered boxer Gene Tunney with paper that year when he arrived in the city to defend his world title; Boston and St. Louis have also held ticker-tape parades, though New York remains their epicenter.

However, all were not happy. A 1904 letter to the editor urged the New York Times to speak out against the “evil” practice, suggesting that parade horses spooked by falling ticker tape might plow into the crowd on the sidewalk and cause “disaster.” A few years later, an overzealous reveler reportedly neglected to tear the pages out of a phone book and instead threw the whole thing out the window; it struck a passerby and knocked him unconscious. By 1926, New York Stock Exchange officials had grown concerned about the cost of tossing miles of ticker tape out the window any time someone important came to town: they considered buying confetti to distribute to employees but decided against it. In 1932, another irate Times letter-writer demanded that lobbing paper be “promptly and strictly banned,” to be replaced by tossing flowers or waving handkerchiefs, the more dignified customs of “civilized cities” in Europe and South America.

In 1945, V-J Day prompted the most lavish ticker-tape parade in history–5,438 tons of material were flung on New York City’s streets. On Aug. 14, 1945, three thousand street-sweepers worked through the night to clean it up, only to have their efforts undone when the merriment continued the next morning. A few months earlier, General Dwight Eisenhower and the Allied Forces were celebrated at the same canyon. The April 20, 1951 parade honoring ousted General Douglas MacArthur was the biggest parade thrown for an individual. [Above, photo by Mark Kauffman].

Queen Elizabeth (and her uncle Edward while he was still Prince of Wales) and Pope John Paul II received a ticker-tape parades  and so did the Yankees, the Mets and the Rangers. The Apollo 11 astronauts were also honored, but by this time, the Stock Exchange was upgrading to electronic boards, leaving them little use for ticker tape, and the parades dwindled. There were only a handful in the 1970s and 1980s. John Glenn saw a fete in 1998 honoring him for becoming the oldest person to go into space, at age 77. Coming 36 years after his first one, it put him in an elite club of multiple-parade honorees, including Amelia Earhart, Dwight Eisenhower, and Charles de Gaulle. Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, a polar explorer, had three ticker-tape parades. That is a record for one individual.

[Excepted from Laura FitzPatrick’s article in Time Magazine].

Wrong_Way_CorriganNew York Post cover, featuring the tickertape parade to honor “Wrong-Way Corrigan”.

Filibuster

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Sometimes “democracy’s finest show” sometimes “tyranny of the minority”, filibuster is used in many political systems across the world─including the U.K., Canada, Australia and France, but they require members to actually enact the filibuster (i.e., actually do the endless talking) so they are used very rarely. But in the U.S. Senate, however, the mere threat of it can stall the legislature, which somehow makes it the only legislative body that requires a three-fifths majority to bring bills to a vote. So how did it all began?

In 1806, Vice President Aaron Burr believed that a procedure for limiting/ending debates was improper. It was the long accepted practice of the gentlemanly Senate back then to allow each member sufficient time to speak before a vote. However, no one invoked a filibuster until 1841 over the issue of the firing of Senate printers. It lasted six days, but later that year Kentucky Senator Henry Clay’s banking bill was filibustered for 14 days. The procedure slowly got out of control and in 1917, President Wilson called for a cloture rule to cut off debate. It was first invoked two years later to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. [Originally, the cloture was by two-thirds, but in 1975, it was reduced to three-fifths, now the magic number 60.]

In 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jimmy Stewart’s one-man filibuster further popularized the practice. Four years earlier, Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long read the Constitution, plays of Shakespeare and even recipes for oyster dishes for 15 hours to prevent a New Deal employment bill. But the longest uninterrupted filibuster on record belongs to South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who stopped a vote on a 1957 civil rights bill for 24 hours and 18 minutes–from 8:54 p.m. on August 28 and to 9:12 p.m. the next evening, he subjected the fellow senators to a long and hot summer night. “He read these monotonously, even listlessly from the lectern,” The New York Times reported, “so that the classic phrases might have been so many items from the telephone directory.” Above, Senator Thurmond holds up his speech, which contained the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Washington’s Farewell Address, and other historical documents.

The previous record holder was Wayne Morse, an independent from Oregon who four years before had filibustered an offshore oil bill in 1953 for 22 hours and 26 minutes, without sitting down. Thurmond, on the other hand, did several times but his theatrical grandstand was approved by many Southerners, and empathized even by his political nemeses. Sen. Paul Douglas of Illinois, a staunch liberal and supporter of civil rights, poured Thurmond colleague a glass of cold orange juice. Yet, Thurmond’s filibuster never stood a chance of derailing the bill. Most of his Southern colleagues were reluctantly willing to swallow the ineffective bill (Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson watered it down to get it passed), but it passed two hours later in a 62-15 vote. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 proved ineffective and it would take a much stronger measure, the 1965 Voting Rights Act–this time Johnson lent his full support.

The most effective effort to end a filibuster was that of Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia who attempted to end a 1987–1988 Republican filibuster against a campaign finance reform bill through a procedure that had last been wielded in 1942: he directed the Senate sergeant-at-arms to arrest absent members and bring them to the floor.

Edward and Wallis with Hitler

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In 1936, Edward VIII abdicated to marry the woman he loved, a divorcee Mrs Wallis Simpson.However, the Guardian claimed that the king’s decision was due to Mrs. Simpson being a Nazi sympathizer and this was totally unacceptable to the prime minister at the time, Stanley Baldwin. The former Austrian ambassador, Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, who was also a second cousin once removed and friend of George V, believed that Edward himself favoured German fascism as a bulwark against communism.

In 1941, while they were holidaying in Florida, the exiled former king and his consort, now the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor, were spied upon by the FBI on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These FBI files, written in the 1940s and now released under America’s Freedom of Information Act, detailed that the Duchess might have been passing secrets to a leading Nazi with whom she was thought to have had an affair and that His Majesty’s Government had known for the fact for some time.

Following Edward’s accession, the German embassy in London sent a cable for the personal attention of Hitler himself. It read: “An alliance between Germany and Britain is for him (the King) an urgent necessity.” In October 1937, the Windsors visited Nazi Germany, met Hitler at his Obersalzberg retreat (above), dined with his deputy, Rudolf Hess, and even visited a concentration camp. The camp’s guard towers were explained away as meat stores for the inmates. The visit was against the advice of the British government and during the visit the Duke gave full Nazi salutes.

At the outbreak of war, the duke served as a military liaison officer in Paris. Hitler made an abortive attempt to bring Edward and his wife to Nazi-sympathetic Spain, and greatly alarmed, the British establishment finally packing the duke off to the Bahamas from 1940-45. Deeply disenchanted by the society that had spun him, the Duke made his Nazi sympathies explicit, once telling a journalist that “it would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown”. In another break from his usual unassuming boyish behavior, he remarked, “After the war is over and Hitler will crush the Americans. We’ll take over. They (the British) don’t want me as their King, but I’ll be back as their leader.”

After the war, the duke and duchess returned to France. He died there in 1972, while the Duchess lived on until 1986.

You, too, can kiss off Carter

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In ’76, Democratic nominee for president, Jimmy Carter criticized detente and claimed he would drive harder bargains with Leonid Brezhnev than Gerald Ford had done. Ronald Reagan, who was contesting the Republican nomination, said the same thing, only more vociferously. Going into a defensive crouch, Ford passed up a chance for a strategic-arms pact that year and may have cost himself the election. Jimmy Carter won the election, but continued the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks started by the previous Republican administrations.

SALT II was a nuclear arms treaty which attempted to reduce all categories of delivery vehicles on both sides to 2,250. SALT II helped the U.S. to discourage the Soviets from arming their third generation ICBMs. An agreement was reached in Vienna on June 18, 1979, and was signed by Leonid Brezhnev and Carter. This opened a “window of vulnerability”, opposed by many hawks from the both sides of the aisle in Congress. [Sidenote: in response to the refusal of the U.S. Congress to ratify the treaty, then a junior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, met with the Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko, “educated him about American concerns and interests” and secured several changes that neither the Secretary of State nor President could obtain.] Carter had to appease the conservatives with 200 MX missiles in 4600 silos costing the government $33 billion.

Six months after the signing, the Soviet Union deployed troops to Afghanistan, and in September of the same year, senators including Henry M. Jackson and Frank Church discovered the so-called “Soviet brigade” on Cuba. In light of these developments, the treaty was withdrawn by Carter from the Senate consideration. When the 1980 Presidential Election came, the Reagan campaign made devastating use of the above photograph of Carter embracing Brezhnev at the summit meeting where the arms pact was finally signed, adding a caption, YOU, TOO, CAN KISS OFF CARTER. The irony here was that when the pact was signed inside the ornate Hofburg Palace in Austria, the hearty embrace between two leaders symbolized a new Soviet-Western rapprochement for millions of television viewers around the globe.

The SALT II’s terms were, nonetheless, honored by both sides until 1986 when the Reagan Administration withdrew from SALT II after accusing the Soviets of violating the pact.

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A Nazi Funeral in London

The extraordinary photo above captured in April 1936, showed the funeral of the German Ambassador Leopold Von Hoesch, with the people clearly giving the Nazi salute on the balcony of the Germany Embassy on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking The Mall. This photo was unearthed for the Discovery Channel programme: ‘Wartime London with Harry Harris’, a London cab driver and historian who has driven a taxi for two decades.

The Grenadier Guards and Nazi soldiers march together down The Pall Mall carrying a swastika-draped coffin; well-liked by most British statesmen, von Hoesch was considered as the best hope for enhancing the Anglo-German relations during the early 1930s. He was a career diplomat but no Nazi; he would even be disturbed by this display of Nazi pageantry at his funeral — he frequently feuded with Hitler over disarmament and vocally denounced Hitler’s invasion of Rhineland. If it were not for this untimely death, it was most likely that he would have been recalled.

Von Hoesch was replaced by his nemesis, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who lasting legacy in London was to transform the German Embassy into a grandiose building that would convey some of the portentous glamour of the Third Reich. The 6-9 Carlton House Terrance, the then embassy within the sight of the Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office, was renovated with Albert Speer himself flying in from Berlin and designing staircase inside made from Italian marble donated by Mussolini. No. 7 was used as a base to house German military attachés and the headquarters of the Nazi espoinage machine in London.

The Germans were kicked out at the outbreak of war, and the building was stripped of its Nazi fixtures before it was rented to the Royal Society in 1967. There are still signs that this was once a Nazi residence, including the border designs of swastikas on the floor of one public room. A memorial to Giro, von Hoesch’s dog which died in 1934 when he made a fatal connection with an exposed electricity wire, was also buried here. Its grave on the front garden to No 9, with the epitaph “Giro: Ein treuer Begleiter” (“Giro: A true companion”), remains Great Britain’s sole Nazi memorial, situated somewhat inappropriately in an area filled with monuments to heroes of the British Empire.