Leslie’s On Zee Go Newsletter November 2019 (yes I know a couple dates tardy)
“Where all the very finest folks sit in the smoke and nearly choke
And think its peachy.
Oh, Chi Chi
What is it made you Palm Springs’ greatest club by far?
Is it the food? The drinks? The show here?Or there’s no place else to go here.”
– Allan Sherman
I was chatting with my trainer, no doubt trying to distract him from torturing me with burpees and squat walkouts, and we got to wondering just when did this whole “gym” business start. So, here’s a little history of the gymnasium:
A 2,300 Egyptian ruin of a Gym
Apparently, workouts, specifically gymnasiums were “invented” (if ya wanna call it that) over 3000 years ago in Persia (Iran today). They weren’t steel machine, mirrored rooms as we know gyms, but areas designated for fitness. The Greek work “gymnos” means naked! I’m guessing the men were so they could admire their bodies. But sadly, without mirrors. This area were where men (only) trained for the Olympics. There was no equipment but there was javelin throwing and wresting and such. Not sure about the naked part, except they did bath together. Think “Spartacus.” Soon these gyms fell out of favor and it wasn’t until the 1800s in Germany that gymnasiums resurged. Again, it was more an open-air exercise field. And the Germans practiced what those ancient Greeks did, sports, running, javelin, but now with some equipment such as vaulting horses and parallel bars.
In 1840 a French strongman Hippolyte Triat opened (supposedly) the world’s first indoor commercial gym, or club. Eugen Sandow, body builder and showman (6 degrees of separation from burlesque I tell ya. Sandow was handled by Ziegfeld and worked/displayed himself at the World’s Fair). He would open a chain of such workout spaces in Britain in the 1900s, now using free weights. (old photos make his workouts look like circus training).
During the 1900s when schools began to build them for training athletes, nothing for general physical fitness (no juice bars, no pickups)
Then comes along Jack LaLanne in 1939 in Oakland. LaLanne was a proponent of Paul Bragg. It wouldn’t be until the 1960s-70s when the chain gymnasiums were founded. In 1965 Merchant Marine Joe Gold started his Gold’s Gym.
The 1960s also saw the opening of a chain of “figure salons” by Elaine Powers for women. A first. Most exercises included devices like wooden rollers to massage the fat and a vibrating machine to jiggle it off. But here’s the rub, she wasn’t a woman. There was no Elaine. She was the invention of Doctor Richard Proctor who believed women would relate to a woman’s name on the gym. Just to conclude it wasn’t really until the big fitness craze of the 1980s that a 24/7 gym culture took off. So, there you have it. Go burn a calorie!
24 Hour Fitness on the Titanic
Back to Palm Springs
Chi Chi, Palm Springs
‘Tis the season for Palm Springs. I managed another getaway. I wish some of the supper clubs remained like the Chi Chi. Lili St. Cyr performed there in the 1950s (I write a little about it in “Goddess of Love Incarnate. Director Walter Wanger had just shot his actress wife Joan Bennett’s lover and agent the night before he was supposed to see Lili about doing a role in a film. I THINK that’s the story, you’ll have to read Goddess). Other burlesque dancers (six degrees of separation . . .) who performed at the hugely popular and upscale Chi Chi included Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand (“Feuding Fan Dancers”) and Tempest Storm (all of whom I’ve chronicled)
The club opened in 1936 and was located on the main drag at 217 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Along with Lili, other performers include Nat King Cole, Sophie Tucker, Desi Arnaz and his orchestra, Peggy Lee, and Lena Horne. Mae West and her musclemen even performed there in 1959 There were comedians and “Balinese dancing girls and Fijian fire-eaters” all on the circular stage with twinkling stars dotting the ceiling. There were two nightly shows in the 750 seat Starlite Room, and the dining room, the Blue Room held almost 300.
One regular was Howard Hughes who always brought along a starlet and cozied with her on the red leather banquettes. He owned several homes in Palm Springs and would ask one of the Chi Chi employees to clean and “disinfect” his house before he arrived from Los Angeles. Often in the audience was Cary Grant (he owned a home in the Movie Colony (or would) and Frank Sinatra (he too owned a home in the nearby Movie Colony) other Hollywoodites attending shows was Marilyn Monroe, Robert Wagner and wife, Natalie Wood, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Humphry Bogart, Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Ronald Regan, and later Steve McQueen It was the place to be seen. Eartha Kitt recorded her “Eartha Kitt at the Plaza” album at the Chi Chi. Her record company was afraid the Chi Chi was not well-enough known outside Palm Springs and Hollywood.
Many happy mobsters wined and dined at the Chi Chi, including bigshots Sam Giancana and Mickey Cohen. Next newsletter, I’ll share a little about one of Mickey’s girlfriend who lived in Palm Springs. I happened to buy a dress of hers (fits like a glove) from one of my fav Vintage shops in Palms Springs, The Frippery.
There is a rumor that Frank (Sinatra, of course) met Ava at the Chi Chi.
In 1946 owner Irwin Shulman opened a Chi Chi in Catalina, serving up his popular ham steaks, pineapples and Mai Tais.
Then like now the “season” was from Labor Day through July Fourth (when triple digits drove Hollywood on to other retreats.) The Chi Chi closed in 1969 and has been completely demolished. On the site now sits Blaze Pizza and a West Elm store.
That’s the Way We Do It . . .
Hello Vancouver. We flew to British Columbia for the world premiere of “The Polar Express in Concert.” It was fab! Completely sold out in the beautiful old Orpheum Theatre. Built in 1927 it is ornate and originally the largest theatre in Canada with 3,000 seats. It was a vaudeville theatre and later movie house.
The Polar event was an “add on” to the current symphony season. The powers that be are planning a whole spate of events next holiday season. The multi-generational loved it, cheering and clapping and laughing. Many in the crowd seemed very familiar with the film and were quite vocal. Just a reminder, never believe your press.
“hyper-realistic computer-generated children and reindeer, too.” David Germain AP “dead-eyed zombie children – Zadie Smith Manohla Dargis of the NY Times likened Santa’s sack of gifts to a scrotum. I can’t even begin to tell explain that. “creepy ride” Paul Clinton CNN.
Well as they say, a “creepy ride” all the way to the bank Mofos!!!
Bones with Bakin’ Bitch
Coco turned 1. So of course, we had to celebrate. I baked her a dog cake and was instructed by my higher powers (kids) that I was to make a “people” cake. Photo above and it was good.
Three turkeys and one tofurkey later. Grateful and thankful for so much this year. For our health, my brain, the weather, my friends, all of you supporting my work, for the artists and advocates for change and inclusivity and all that feel-good-shit that moves us forward in this world. We go around the table and give our thanks out loud. Someone tried to get one of my little people to say they were thankful for Adam Schiff! (We are but no politics at the table!)
Just remember what William Arthur Ward wrote “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” (Who might you ask is William Arthur Ward. A writer. Of What? I have no idea)
Instead of your typical Thanksgiving menu I thought I’d reprint a menu from the Paris Siege of 1870:
In November things were becoming dire as the Prussians surrounded Paris. The citizenry was allotted 100 grams of fresh meat (usually horsemeat at this point as Paris). 100 grams is roughly 3 ½ ounces.
Voisin, was an utterly chic restaurant, on the corner of Rue Cambon and Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré. Its Christmas menu of 1870 promised heaping’s of donkey head, broth of elephant (recently shot at the zoo. There was no way to feed the animals in the zoo and again Parisians were starving.). Also, on the menu was roasted cat with rat, kangaroo, antelope and wolf. This would be one of Voisin’s last as the restaurant closed not long after.
Kind patrons and friends you smile at this food,
But never ‘til hungry can you tell what is good,
Remember, I pray you, of these kinds of meat,
We were eating to live not living to eat.
Much to be grateful for.
Burlesque and Pinup Emojis
If your BOOK CLUB would like me to visit via Skype, I’m available. It’s been fun coming into your homes, sending specialty FAN cocktailrecipes before for you all to try. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to join in. A questionnaire is on the website to download for your Book Club.
Making Use of My Headless Barbies
I’ve passed my goal of 80 books read for 2019. I’m up to 90. Really enjoyed Lindsey Fitzharris’s “The Butchering Art” all about the advent of sterile surgery in Victorian England. Super fascinating, a bit gory and a great read. An inspirational-type book I read was “To Shake the Sleeping Self” Jedidiah Jenkin’s journey biking (wholly unprepared) from Oregon to Patagonia and the adventures along the way, questioning his deep Christian Faith and coming to terms with being gay and his mother’s resistance to it. Both word a read. I’ve got one more month to up my reading challenge . . .
And what I’m reading or recently read
for complete list, I have everything on Good Reads
as I can’t remember them all!