Friday, September 6, 2013

A Century of Vanity, or Wodehouse is Effin' Brilliant

While I'm aware that a magazine called Vanity Fair exists, keely aware of it as a matter of fact, I don't read it regularly. But it does flit by me every now and then and on such occasions I may reach out and hang on for a bit of a whirl. So when a link to Michael Gross's '86 piece on Madonna showed up on Facebook, I took a look around and found myself in the middle of a self-congratulatory retrospective: 100 Years of Vanity Fair.

I took a look around and ended up in 1915, with P. G. Wodehouse commenting on cabarets:
The financier fox-trots round the floor, his brow creased with thought. He is bumped into by another financier, who has not yet completed his course of lessons at the correspondence school of modern dancing. It gives him the idea he has been seeking since dinner. When the music stops, he goes over to the other man’s table.

“Hello, Jimmy!”

“Hello, Clarence.”

“Say, listen, Jimmy, old man, just a minute. I’ve got an idea.”

And then they sell each other the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Seems like only yesterday. To be sure, they don't fox trot anymore, and the Pennsylvania Railroad has long been absorbed into CSX (via Conrail, via Penn Central), but those rich 0.01%ers are still buying and selling the rest of the world as though we were pieces on a Monopoly board.

Who knows what other riches lurk within those pages? Ah, here's a set of 1940s jazz photos by Herman Leonard, Nick Tosches on the Ed Sullivan Show, from '34 John Gunther asks "Has Hitler a Mother Complex?" (ah, Freud), back to Alexander Woollcott on Harpo Marx, and then there's Princess Di.

Happy grazing.

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