A Passion For Fashion

By Beth Schwartzapfel

Published October 20, 2006, issue of October 20, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The day Liz Goldwyn discovered two burlesque costumes at a New York flea market, a sequined light bulb went off above her head. Though still an undergraduate at the time, Goldwyn, granddaughter of legendary movie producer Samuel Goldwyn, knew a thing or two about dresses; she had helped establish the fashion department at the auction house Sotheby’s. The costumes, she told the Forward, “were incredible; the handiwork was as intricate as on the couture dresses I was studying and working with at Sotheby’s.” And so began a fascination with burlesque that has culminated in Goldwyn’s new book, “Pretty Things.”

First, however, came Goldwyn’s senior thesis, a series of self-portraits for which she dressed in burlesque costumes with period wigs and makeup. (She was a photography major at New York’s School of Visual Arts.) Upon realizing that many of the burlesque queens of the 1930s and ’40s were still alive, she decided to start interviewing them. From these interviews, the documentary “Pretty Things” was born. The film, which Goldwyn wrote and directed, debuted on HBO in 2005. The book is a closer look at what Goldwyn calls the “last generation of American burlesque queens.”

Burlesque, Goldwyn is quick to point out, comes from the Latin burlare, to laugh or make fun, and early burlesque was less striptease than political satire. One of the characters she profiles is the burlesque queen Zorita, who in 1941 protested the politics of a club owner — a “Nazi bastard,” in her words — by mooning the audience with swastikas painted on her derrière. More generally, Goldwyn said, when New York teemed with such immigrants as her grandfather, whose limited English stood in the way of enjoying what Broadway had to offer, burlesque had broader appeal. Its mix of artistry and irreverence — to say nothing of its sequins — shines on in “Pretty Things.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.