Monday, January 31, 2005

Old Moviemania

Blogfather and close-personal-acquaintance Bill Sherman has a posting on his blog about the previously pondered 1930 circus comedy Rain or Shine. Only thing Bill misses in his take on this early Capra talkie is the fact that circus fat lady Ethel Greer, who gets two pieces of screen time early in the movie (and is nearly forgotten by movie's end when the circus has been decimated by a fire), is quite a cutey. Claims to be six-hundred pounds in the film, and I don't doubt it one bit. Now I wanna re-watch the Hope & Crosby flick Road to Zanzibar (which also has Miz Greer playin' a fat lady), and, fortunately for me, it's gonna be shown April 22nd on Turner Classic Movies as part of the cable net's month of April Fool comedies. (Also noted for that month: the Marie Dressler reducing salon comedy, Reducing, which is scheduled for April 29th and also sounds intriguing.) Plenty of time to sign up for TCM, gang. . .

Friday, January 28, 2005

“Running Untamed Through Her Enlarged Anatomy”

Recently in my capacity as librarian of the Dimensions On-line website, I received a series of twelve jpgs. from the South American FA artist, Jay Tee. The graphics were done to accompany a story Jay had already submitted to the Weight Room Story Archives, "Jasmine’s Secret," a weight gain fantasy that I'd edited and tweaked for the writer. English is not his first language, so some of Jay's constructions can be quirky, to say the least. As an editor, I try to correct for grammar and clarity without undermining the writer's own unique voice. It's not a precise science, but to date I haven't heard any complaints from Jay indicating that I've ruined any of his stories.

But, to be honest, I prefer Jay's comic art graphics to his writing (and prefer both to his photo morphs: a form of FA fanta-sizing that generally leaves me cold), and I was thrilled to see the panels he'd concocted to illustrate his tale. He does a five-panel series of his magically fattened heroine moving through her apartment naked that's remarkably assured and sexy. Makes me hope he gets the rest of his story illustrated, but – as with so fanta-sizer projects that are essentially being done for free – I wouldn't blame anyone if these initial twelve graphics were all we got. (A couple of years ago, when Jay was running his own site, I helped by editing a Jay Tee comics adaptation of one of my WG stories, "Body Switch." Unfortunately, we only got into the first few pages of the story before the project fell apart. I still mourn the fact that I never got to see the characters as they ultimately become in that tale.) In any event, if you haven't checked Jay's work out yet, I'd recommend doing so: he also has a Yahoo tribute group featuring much of his fat-positive artwork. It's also worth combing through. . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Yahoo Luvs Ya, Baby!

Say whatcha will about the Yahoo clubs, but looking at the speed with which the recently established Seven Hundred Pound Club's membership has swelled (880-plus members in less than a week!) definitely says a lot about the irresistible attraction of a gorgeous SSBBW. . .

Saturday, January 15, 2005

“Just Begin to Laff And You’ll Grow Fat!”

Over on the Dimensions Weight Board and in those Yahoo Groups devoted to collecting images of cartoon weight gain, there's been recent discussion of a DVD bargain that's available at Best Buy: a two-disc set of Betty Boop toon that includes an entry in the 1930's cartoon series that's much cherished by FAs, "Betty Boop And Little Jimmy." One of a set of later period Boops that co-starred comic strip characters from the era like "Henry" and "The Little King," the toon featuring Jimmy Swinnerton creation "Little Jimmy" is arguably the snappiest in what most fans consider to be a series of lesser works. Boopianados more typically prefer the earlier, more surreal/sexy entries like the two toons featuring Cab Calloway numbers, "Old Man of the Mountain" and "Snow White."

In "Little Jimmy," our heroine is shown exercising in the attic, while her kid pal Jimmy looks on; when an accident with a vibrating machine threatens to turns the curvy Betty disastrously thin, she sends Jimmy out to find an electrician to stop the machine. (Nobody thinks of the more obvious solution because it's, you know, a crisis!) A good deal of the middle footage is wasted by scenes of our dawdling young man wandering the streets, but when he returns and accidentally unplugs the machine, we see the horrifying results. Our gal is about one inch away from a stick figure (yes, I'm sure the Drawn Together gang were recalling this in their "Toots Gains Weight" storyline). When she gets a gander of her ungainly form in the mirror, she starts laughing uncontrollably. Happily - for the FAs in the audience, at least - the more she laughs the larger she grows. The cartoon ends with both Betty and Little Jimmy happily dancing and laughing, still ballooning as they do so. . .

I've loved this cartoon for years: it's the first thing that inspired me to buy a full boxed VHS set of Boop cartoons that was released back in the nineties, but once I got it I happily rediscovered the joys of cartoons that I only had a vague memory of watching on the old b-&-w teevee as a boy. Like most cartoons produced for the movie theatre in the 30's and 40's, the Fleisher Betty Boops were made for more than just a kid audience – and they have a lotta innuendo in 'em. Watching these classic toons as an adult, I saw gags that I know I missed as a kid. . .

With the taped boxed sex on the shelves at home and a still working VCR, I had mixed feelings about buying yet another set of Boop cartoons – especially a budget edition that isn't authorized by the company that owns 'em. I've bought cut-rate collections before and viewing 'em can be like watching fish in a dirty aquarium. But several FA toon fanatics whose opinion I respect (R.V. Gleason, BeakerFA) insisted that the picture quality on this budget set (courtesy of Platinum Disc Corporation) was a-okay, so I ultimately decided to spring $5.99 for it. Yesterday a.m., while I was waking up with my first two cups of coffee, I thought I'd put in a disc and watch a few entries while I slowly roused myself into work mode. I stuck volume two of the series into the DVD player (took a few seconds to figure out which disc was which since the boxes and discs weren't so labeled – but Vol. One contains twelve cartoons, while Two only has eleven, so I worked it out from that) and prepared to entertained.

Nothing happened. My Sylvania player whirred and loaded, then refused to play the disc.

I ejected the disc, cleaned and tried again. Again: bupkiss. Frustrated, I put in the first volume and got the same results. No glee chorus of chirpy males singing the opening theme song; no perky Mae Questal singing; no Bimbo; no Koko the Clown; no Grampy; not even that goddamned waste-of-film cute pup Pudgy. No. . .

Betty. . .


Very disheartening. But at least I've still got my VHS boxed set, right? So caveat emptor all you bargain-hunting Boop fans out there.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Question Thrown Out Into the Aether

Perambulating around the web recently, I came across a piece of information that I'd long been puzzled about. It starts with Kenneth Anger's two books of Hollywood historical exposes, Hollywood Babylon. In the Babylon, Anger does a chapter on Liz Taylor, focusing on her history of yoyo dieting: at one point, just to be snarky, he prints a photo from an old b-&-w circus movie that depicts what has to be the circus fat lady coming into view. "Sideshow Liz?" Anger asks in a caption, though, of course, the former Mrs. Richard Burton never came close to approaching this voluminous femme's size. For years, I've wondered where this image came from – and who the seen-from-behind performer was, and, recently, while googling Depression Era fat ladies for my Carnivale posting, I found the answer.

The still's from Frank Capra's 1930 circus comedy, Rain or Shine, an early sound film by the legendary movie director. The fat lady in question is Ethel Greer, an actress who portrayed circus performers in other movies as well (she can also be seen in the Hope & Crosby buddy comedy, Road to Zanzibar). Unfortunately, I've so far been unable to uncover any frontal photos of Miz Greer, and since Rain of Shine doesn't appear to be on tape or DVD (rather odd when you consider that it's a work by a director as historically significant as Capra), there are no screen caps available to my knowledge.

Looking up circus fat ladies with the first name of Ethel, though, I find "Jolly Ethel," a well-known sideshow performer of the period, also appeared in movies (e.g., The Mighty Barnum) during the same time. Are Ethel Greer and Jolly Ethel the same woman? I wonder. If that's the case, I have a decent sense of what this faceless figure in Hollywood Babylon II looked like, since Jolly Ethel's photo can be found on the web (see: Shocked & Amazed's gallery). Can anybody out there confirm or deny this?

A QUICK ANSWER: After seeing the above, the redoubtable BeakerFA writes to tell me that Ethel Greer and Jolly Ethel were indeed two different women. Apparently, Rain or Shine includes a couple of sequences featuring the former, incidentally, which do more than simply utilize her as background fodder. I've definitely got to see that movie. . .

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

What’s A Carnivale Without A Fat Lady?

HBO's evocative carnie fantasy, Carnivale, started its second season this week, and, while I'm a fan of the show, which has an enjoyable Twin Peaks-indebted creepiness to it (Lynch actor Michael J. Anderson helps in this department, in addition to being one of the most entertaining speakers of carnie talk on the show), I still can't help asking whenever they actually open the flaps of the tent to show the titular carnival's ten-in-one show, "Hey, where's the fat lady?" A good Depression Era carnival definitely needed a good-sized fat lady as a part of the attraction: in an era of wanting, the super-sized performer would've been even more magical to the rubes. Yet while a few of the female performers that we've seen in the series lady Lily, zaftig cootch dancer Dora Mae) are thankfully fuller sized than your average teevee show actress, none of 'em approach the grandeur of a genuwine sideshow fat lady.

I've heard via the grapevine that the show has been casting for a fat lady this season – perhaps to replace the performers lost in a season one finale fire? – but the season's first episode, at least, gives no hint whether this rumor is true or not. It'd be great if it was: though most of the show's "freak" performers only receive limited air time in comparison to the rest of the cast, they're almost always in the background at least. And you know there are plenty of attractive super-sized actresses out there who'd look wonderful in the role. . .

Friday, January 07, 2005

“196: My Dress Still Fits!”

Last night, while I drove the P.T. Cruiser through the cold ice-over landscape to pick up two dinner orders from Avanti's Italian Restaurant, I warmed myself up with a little Candye Kane in the CD player. It could've been one of several discs in our collection, but this night it was Swango, which opens with one of the blues diva's statements of purpose "200 Lbs. Of Fun." A jump blues number done with big band, the song finds our heroine proudly asserting that big is beautiful:

"I've got enough for everyone: 200 pounds of fun."

Most of the bisexual BBW's albums contain at least one size acceptance anthem (my personal fave is Diva La Grande's opener "You Need a Great Big Woman") attesting to the sexual glories of fat womanhood. And looking at the bodacious Miz Kane, it's hard to argue with her. Fat and proud – and a damn fine cabaret blues singer, too – her major recorded output currently is at five albums, with a sixth (White Trash Girl) promised for Spring. I'd particularly recommend her debut Home Cooking and Swango (in La Grande, her backing band isn't always equal to her singing). But all of her releases are worth a listen if you at all share a hankerin' for the sexier side of da blues. . .

Monday, January 03, 2005

Oh, To Live In Belleville!

Got to view Sylvain Chomet's animated feature, The Triplets of Belleville, over the holiday weekend, and already I've been avidly pushing this strange French-Canadian cartoon to my FA friends. The story of a kidnapped cyclist and the aged grandmother who leaves their country home to find him (in the company of the most believably neurotic dog you'll ever see in a cartoon), the largely non-verbal cartoon is awash in marvelous fat imagery. Belleville, the city where our missing cyclist has been carted, is a caricaturized America – even the Statue of Liberty that we see in the city harbor is super-sized and holding onto a burger – but it's not a vicious caricature. Instead, we regularly see massive women, men and kids (one with a tee-shirt emblazoned with an "I Love Fat" heart logo) going about their business, happily unconcerned about their size. Easily offended national chauvinists – the ones who'll scour foreign works for an anti-American put-down just so they'll have the opportunity to indulge in their own xenophobic insults – will probably see every massive femme waddling in the background as a slam on "fat-&-greedy Americans." Me, I saw a lotta delightful cartoon imagery. . .