Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Standard, April 1900 / Stage-Door Johnny and the Appeal of Broadway

The Standard 554 (1900-04.Standard Press)(D&M)

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Get the full hi-res scan here.

Breaking out of the box?

Today I offer an interesting publication I don't really know too much about (like that's something new), a stage/theater/vaudeville/society magazine called The Standard that merged with what was apparently a similar magazine in Vanity Fair (completely separate, I gather, from the publication that continues to this day by the same name). Today, we might not recognize these magazines as gentleman's magazines, and, indeed, there probably was a wider readership, but the wall to wall pictures of girls says otherwise. Over a century later, our modes of entertainment are very different. This was the age of the the stage - the theater, music halls, vaudeville, and other dramatic entertainments flourished in big cities, and the magazines regarding this night life stepped out of the normal bounds of propriety. Before the explosion of humor, artists models, flapper mags and girlie pulps in the 20s, some of the first magazines to make a habit of putting girls on display, relishing in risque innuendo and stretching the public tolerance for a bit of exposed flesh were the theater and early movie magazines of the previous decades.

Starlets and stage girls sold movie tickets, and they sold magazines, too. The sin centers of Broadway and Hollywood paraded their lovelies across the pages of many publications in a reciprocal arrangement that gave free advertising to entertainment moguls and free models to the publisher. I'll write more about the Hollywood connection and movie magazines later on in this series, but for now I want to do a couple of posts on Broadway-centric publications. Broadway would be immortalized in the late 20s and 30s in a number of girlie pulp titles including Broadway Nights, Gay Broadway, Broadway Follies, and Broadway Night LifeBroadway Night Life, along with New York Nights and Cabaret Stories, a testament to the sex appeal of New York night life. Certainly location is not all that is evoked by these titles but also a wider relationship between men on the town and the girls who entertained them. The chorus girl had a tight grip on the imagination of the American male. Francis Smilby writing in Stolen Sweets about the birth of LVP writes on the subject of the "stage door johnny" in France:

The stage door of the theater was, certainly from the eighteenth century at least, a place where gentlemen of taste, refinement and money could meet pretty girls who, though not social equals, had the advantage of possessing virtue that was indirectly purchasable without being chalked up in the brutal economic terms of the whore; girls with whom some semblance of a relationship could be enjoyed.

During late Victorian times, a prosperous leisured class had time and money on its hands. The entertainment industry, the theater and music hall, thrived, and so did the stage-door johnny. Wives appeared quite happy to be left in sexual peace, and to endure, or indeed accept, there husbands' extramarital affairs. Provided, that is, that they were of an approved social level. A love affair with an equal might rate as infidelity, where as a mere affaire with an inferior - an actress or showgirl - did not endanger the social status of the wife.

Similar arrangements took place in America, too, no doubt. But let's get to some bits from this April 1904 issue of The Standard. The Standard was published simultaneously in New York and London, and the Masthead lists some circulation figures:

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Also on the first page, Dottie Goodyear, stage actress, shows some leg, anything above the ankle was prone to raise some eyebrows:

One characteristic of The Standard is at times artful experimentation with photography, superimposing images on backgrounds is one of the more common techniques, but there is also neat tricks with combining figures and objects of different scale.

Prancing about The Bowery:

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The centerfold uses a similar technique but uses dozens of figures. I imagine putting all these photos together took some doing and skill.

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This photo stands out in the issue for inventiveness with photographic trickery:

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The most common theme among the photographs in the The Standard seems to be chorus girls at play. Just imagine what those girls get up to with no gentlemen around:

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Spanked for flirting with the manager of the company?! Oh my...

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Wash day. Wet t-Shirt contest!!!! Erm...

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A variety of entertainment.

Scrollable Image. There's a photo of Burr McIntosh on the scrollable image. Sometime I'll do a post on his Burr McIntosh Monthly, a very neat magazine that ran from 1903-1910.

Beyond its place as a proto-girlie magazine, The Standard is of interest as stage History. Here's Ethel Barrymore of the famed Barrymore clan as a young woman:

Or here's an actress I've never heard of, I'm assuming from Vaudeville, Josie Sadler, apparently a physical comedienne:

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And if,after reading the publication, you shake your head that I'd call it a girlie magazine (with wall to wall photos of ladies, you'll surely come to the same conclusion), I offer up the ad page as evidence of the readership. I'll clip a few sections out then post a scrollable image with even more.

Cures for STDs and Impotency

I assume this is an abortifacient. The ad pages of the girlie pulps would become one of the few early outlets for women's birth control products. I'll write a little bit about Margaret Sanger's purported involvement with magazines and magazine distributors in the 20s later on in this series on the birth of the girlie pulp.

Whoa, a 110 year old penis pump. Can't say I've run across an ad for such a device in such an old publication before.

A marketing ploy for a new magazine. Every subscription comes with a bottle of whiskey. A home life mag at that, heh heh.

And here is the scrollable image for the whole page of advertisements.

A very foreign girlie mag to the modern reader perhaps, but the little ads in the back haven't changed so much, eh?

Next time here on D&M scans (big thanks to McCoy for the excellent edit on today's issue!), another issue of The Standard from shortly hereafter as well a 1907 incarnation of the publication after it has merged with Vanity Fair.

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