A few days ago I met a real life Windmill Girl.
I came across Jill Millard Shapiro first through her rather wonderful book Remembering Revudeville: A Souvenir of the Windmill Theatre, and then through social media. We got talking and she very kindly suggested I we have a face-to-face chat.
Jill was a performer at the Windmill theatre from 1959 to December of 1963 when she left to have her first child so she is a well-placed, as well as eloquent and engaging spokeswoman and expert-in-chief for the theatre that she called home for a short but clearly formative period of what turns out to have been a very eventful life.
The public engagement element of my job is one of my favourite bits of being an academic. So whenever I’m invited to talk I’ll always try and make it, work and life permitting. As a result last night I was very pleased to be guest speaker at the Lincoln WI.
I’ve visited and spoken to a number of Women’s Institute branches in the last few years and I’ve never had a bad experience, but Lincoln WI are certainly one of my favourites. I’d previously spoken at one of their meetings about two years ago, along with my friend and performer Storme Chaser. Our talk had been about the British burlesque community and its feminist roots. They were a really receptive, fun audience with lots of interesting questions and many of them wanted to have a go with the set of oversize, ostrich feather fans I’d taken with me. I’d even got some them to have a go at doing a glove removal routine to the David Rose Orchestra’s ‘The Stripper,’ much to the amusement of the other members.
My article ‘Spectacular Bodies: The Swimsuit, Censorship and Early Hollywood’ is finally published in the second of two special editions of Sport in History this month entitled Sport’s Relationship with other Leisure Industries.
The article grew out of the paper I gave at the Institute of Historical Research back in 2013 and which featured in their podcast series, available here.
This article explores the mutually beneficial relationship between the American swimsuit and film industries during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Three examples are used: Fatty and the Bathing Beauties from 1913 (prior to regulated film content), Footlight Parade from 1933 (when limited self-regulation had been put in place, but was not yet rigorously enforced) and the Tarzan film franchise (which spans both the second Continue reading