Video of the Week: “Song for Lilly Christine” by Big Rude Jake revisited

As I head off this morning for my third BurlyCon experience, I leave you with this video that I’ve shared before (but I have a feeling you won’t mind too much). Timothy arrived in LaFitte, Louisiana in the fall of 1956 to begin filming Bayou. He had an unusual assignment from the film’s producers – he had to learn to “dance real wild.” In New Orleans he asked a cab driver to help him out. The cabbie took him straight to Leon Prima’s 500 Club in the French Quarter. A stunning, statuesque burlesque dancer by the name of Lilly Christine, billed as “The Cat Girl,” was performing there. Tim returned to the club every night for a week to watch her dance. I’m sure he needed little persuasion to conduct this kind of research. After all, it was for the good of the film, right?

This is a beautiful gallery of stills accompanied by the awesome tune Song for Lilly Christine by the one and only Big Rude Jake. Enjoy!

Video of the Week: “Song for Lilly Christine” by Big Rude Jake

As I head off this morning for my second BurlyCon experience, I leave you with this video that I’ve shared before (but I have a feeling you won’t mind too much). Timothy arrived in LaFitte, Louisiana in the fall of 1956 to begin filming Bayou. He had an unusual assignment from the film’s producers – he had to learn to “dance real wild.” In New Orleans he asked a cab driver to help him out. The cabbie took him straight to Leon Prima’s 500 Club in the French Quarter. A stunning, statuesque burlesque dancer by the name of Lilly Christine, billed as “The Cat Girl,” was performing there. Tim returned to the club every night for a week to watch her dance. I’m sure he needed little persuasion to conduct this kind of research. After all, it was for the good of the film, right?

This is a beautiful gallery of stills accompanied by the awesome tune Song for Lilly Christine by the one and only Big Rude Jake. Posting will probably be sporadic for the next five days or so. Enjoy!

Pic of the Day: “Ambush” revisited

Better late than never, today’s pic comes to us from the Kung Fu episode “Ambush”. It first aired on April 4, 1975. While waiting with his gang to track down a stash of silver, Timothy’s grumpy outlaw Bix Courtney decides to be just plain rude to blind preacher Serenity Johnson (John Carradine).

Ambush - 1975

Carradine, father of series star David Carradine, is a legend in his own right. He made his acting debut at the age of 19 on the New Orleans stage and never looked back. His craggy features and stentorian voice can be seen and heard in everything from James Whale‘s The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and John Ford‘s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) to Ted V. Mikel‘s The Astro-Zombies (1968) and Al Adamson‘s Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970). From the sublime to the ridiculous, indeed. He even sings the title tune of Coleman FrancisNight Train to Mundo Fine (aka Red Zone Cuba). You’ll never forget it – no matter how hard you try. A lesser actor’s career never would have survived such atrocities. Carradine emerged triumphant and never stopped working, right up until his death in 1988.

 

Video of the Week: Lilly Christine, The Cat Girl

This week’s video only peripherally involves Timothy, but trust me, you’ll thank me later. When he was in New Orleans filming Bayou (1957), he was told he needed to learn to “dance real wild.” He went to the 500 Club every night for a week to watch the infamous Lilly Christine do her Cat Girl routine. And thus, his immortal “crazy Cajun dance” was born.

If I have burlesque on my mind, it’s because I’ll be driving up to Seattle today for my very first BurlyCon! It promises to be quite the adventure, and posting here may be a bit sporadic until next week. I just wish Miss Christine was still around to join us. Tragically, she passed away after a bout of peritonitis in 1965 at the age of 41.

Quote of the Week

Previously unbeknownst to us, Romeo Carey, upon his first visit to the [Dead Flowers] exhibition in Philadelphia, revealed the origin of one of Timothy Carey’s signature “dances,” first devised for the camera in Bayou (1957, directed by Harold Daniels, re-released in 1961 as Poor White Trash), and revisited in other noteworthy Carey performances such as Beach Blanket Bingo (1965, William Asher) and The World’s Greatest Sinner. Arriving in New Orleans to shoot Poor White Trash, Carey apparently asked a cab driver for a recommendation as to where he might learn a distinctive Cajun dance. He was promptly driven to Leon Prima‘s 500 Club on Bourbon Street, where he witnessed The Cat Girl [Lilly Christine], considered the most publicized Burlesque performer of her time, and rendered the experience into one of his most characteristically eccentric performances.

Lia Gangitano, “Afterword and Acknowledgements,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/VoxPopuli, 2011)

Artwork by Scott Ewalt

Artwork by Scott Ewalt from the Dead Flowers exhibition at Vox Populi, Philadelphia, 2010

Timothy’s Bayou dance, with music by Honeyboy Slim and the Bad Habits

Quote of the Week

Tim Carey, 27

Not at All Shy.

His Publicity man said of Tim Carey: “He needs a press agent like he needs a hole in the head. He’s his own best advance man.”

Carey, an unsophisticated 27, is at the Ambassador East to beat the drums for Bayou opening tonight in the Monroe Theater.

Carey is an actor—off as well as on. He’ll tell you: “We were shooting this picture in New Orleans. I told the cabby I had to learn to dance real wild. He took me to the French Quarter.”

It was there, Carey says, that a girl named Lilly Christine at “The 500 Club” did a special dance. They billed her as “The Cat Girl.”

Carey watched her every night for a week. Later, he recalls:

“In New Haven, they put me on the stage to help whip up some interest in Bayou. They hollered when I did the dance.”

Carey admits the picture’s producers censored parts of his dance. He says modestly: “It out-Elvises Elvis.”

George Murray, “Loop Movies,” Chicago Daily News, January 15, 1958

The 500 Club in New Orleans, starring Lilly Christine

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is actually a newspaper article about Tim that deserves to be reproduced in its entirety. It’s one of Mel Heimer’s My New York columns, from the Simpson’s Leader-Times of January 18, 1958.

MY NEW YORK

by Mel Heimer

I don’t want anyone out there to question my bravery ever again. I’ve just finished meeting Tim Carey and I’m still on my feet, still punching, still snarling all right, you guys, who’s next?

Timothy is this year’s Jayne Mansfield, male division. Ol’ Plain Jayne has slowed down a little now and no longer does anything short of murder to get her name in the publick printes. However, Timothy – “Hollywood’s wild man” – has taken up the slack.

He’s a big, black-haired Brooklynite of 24 [sic; he was actually pushing 29 at the time] who is, I am told, an actor. At least, he’s made pictures and currently is in Paths of Glory. Stanley Kubrick, its director, says of the wild man that he may be a clown offstage but he’s “an artistic giant” when you point the camera lens his way. Kubrick, of course, doesn’t have a detached viewpoint, so you’d better go see the picture and make up your own mind. I’ll go when I get my breath back.

“I’m in this other picture Bayou, see,” Timothy plunged in, smoothing out his Italian silk suit carefully, “and I do such a sensuous dance that it had to be censored. How about that? I got the inspiration for it from Lilli Christine, the burlesque ‘Cat Girl,’ who I saw dance in the 500 Club in New Orleans. It’s supposed to be an artistic dance. Hah, hah. It’s pure burlesque. Bayou‘s a good picture but you can’t understand most of the actors. Now Paths of Glory is a different kind of picture. It’s bold. You might say it’s brazen. Women get a spiritual cry out of it.”

Tim fingered his thick gold wristwatch.

“I’ve seen Paths of Glory 10 or 15 times. I think I’m very good in it. I was oh, kind of subdued in it. I liked the scene where I killed the cockroach.

“We were playing French soldiers and Ralph Meeker saw a cockroach on the table and said bitterly ‘Look at that cockroach; tomorrow we’ll be dead and he’ll be alive.’ So I slammed my hand on the cockroach and said ‘Now you got the edge on him.’

“I’m very good with snakes. I’ve got two, a 10-foot python named Zsa Zsa and an eight-foot boa constrictor called Emily. I hope they’re females. You can’t tell with snakes, you know.

“This friend of mine has a snake farm in Maryland and the first time he showed me some of his pets, I was enticed, you might say. I did a bit with a snake in the Oasis Club on Western Avenue, Los Angeles, and 30 people ran out of the joint. Snakes are all right. Once a snake is civilized, he’s no harm at all.

“I did a snake scene at a personal appearance in Hartford, Conn., and had trouble getting a girl to help. I mean, I didn’t want to get my mother for it. Got one, though. My snake-farm friend flew in from California to help out. He brought me a big python. Smuggled it on the plane by wrapping it around him.

“We registered the python at the Statler in Hartford as ‘Pete Cajun’ but it was disappointing; the hotel people didn’t bat an eye. Later I rode through the town with the python around my neck. I guess I might say I threw dignity to the winds.”

There was a lot more of this but maybe you should know some of Timothy’s background. He was expelled from five schools and joined the Marines at 15.

Billy Wilder, the director, who had had some unsettling experiences with Tim when the wild man was trying to break into films (Tim came into Billy’s bathroom at 4:30 a.m. when the director was getting ready for an early day’s work – and promptly asked him for a job, enraging Wilder so he slashed his chin), ran off the set when Tim turned up to act in East of Eden.

“I beat up James Dean in that picture,” Tim said thoughtfully. “It was a wonderful experience. In The Killing, I shot a racehorse. My mother wants me to be a priest.”

Tim’s the man who lasted a week with a Columbia, S.C., ballclub (he’s never played ball) by telling the manager he was a good pitcher but had a sore arm. There’s a studio in Hollywood that put up a sign reading “Let’s Make the Best Pictures Here But Let’s Make Them Without Timothy Carey.”

Tim is working on three projects: (1) to out-dance Elvis Presley in Macy’s window, (2) to kidnap Marilyn Monroe (“with her permission, of course”), and (3) to steal an Oscar.

“However, I’m pretty conservative now,” Tim concluded pensively. “I’m writing screenplays and I want to direct. Then I want to retire. Maybe I’ll go back to 79th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to live. I’ve always been very proud of Bay Ridge.”

Tim's interview with Mel Heimer, 1958