Miss Fisher Take #2

The second season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was just as fabulous as the first season.  Phryne Fisher wore the most spectacular clothes while going under cover as a fan dancer, keeping a séance under control, investigating the murder of a famed race car driver, helping an Aboriginal prize-fighter to clear his name, keeping her friends safe at a creepy chalet during a snow storm, and much more.  You will not be sorry if you take the time to watch Phyrne in action.  I am thrilled that this show is being renewed for a third season after a public uproar by the fans (they tried to cancel it, but Miss Fisher’s fan base was having none of it). Until you get around to watching this series, feast your eyes on these fantastic pictures:

3 6ea39dda0ee339d0c00cf30407273cd9 Continue reading

Jazz Age Lawn Party 2014

Photo courtesy of boredom.md.com

Photo courtesy of boredom.md.com

I just spent some time pouring over pictures of this year’s Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governor’s Island in New York, and I have to say, I really hate that I missed this one!  Besides the lovely suits and dresses donned by participants, there were vintage vendors, picnicking on the lawns, and entertainment in the form of dancers and big bands.  Basically, it seemed like Gatsby nirvana!  There are some other opportunities to get in on these type of fun events if you missed this party – there are two twenties themed events coming to the North Shore of Massachusetts on July 27th:

Roaring Twenties Lawn Party (Ipswich, MA)

http://www.thetrustees.org/things-to-do/northeast-ma/summer2014-1049.html

Concours d’Elegance (Beverly, MA)

http://www.endicott.edu/Concours.aspx

In the meantime, I am posting lots of pictures to keep you occupied until the real events happen.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Rosecliff: Elegance Personified in Newport

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I spent my birthday in Newport, Rhode Island, touring five of the opulent mansions.  I am glad that I chose not to visit all of them in one day because it would have been far too overwhelming.  I stayed overnight at a charming bed and breakfast in the neighborhood and took my time getting out and about the second day.  While I enjoyed all of the mansion tours, there is one mansion that has captured my heart and that I return to every time I visit Newport – Rosecliff.  I love Rosecliff for many reasons, but its elegance and simplicity are chief among them.   I decided to write this post to share some of my favorite tidbits about this mansion. Continue reading

Bessie Coleman: The First Black Fly Girl

Bessie Coleman

I took some time to watch “Amelia” today, the movie about the brave aviatrix Amelia Earhart.  It inspired me to look up information on another aviatrix who is not as well-known but who was no less brave, Bessie Coleman.  They both started flying around the same time, 1920-1921, but being black, Bessie did not receive the same level of recognition as Amelia.  Her story is just as inspiring –  here are some fast facts about Bessie:

  • The world’s first African-American pilot to receive an international license
  • One of thirteen children born to George and Susan Coleman on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas
  • Attended beauty school in Chicago and worked as a manicurist during the early years of World War I at a barber shop; this is where she started to hear stories about flying from pilots returning from the war
  • Always dreamed of flying; traveled abroad to attend aviation school in LeCrotoy, France in 1920 because no American school would accept African-Americans
  • After studying ten months in France, she was issued a license on June 15, 1921 by the Federation Aeronitique Internationale
  • Returned to the United States in 1921 with the intention of opening a flying school for blacks interested in aeronautics; during her trips she often gave lectures at colleges and churches to encourage young black men and women to enter aviation
  • Participated in many air shows and exhibitions from 1922-1925 to finance her flying career; her death-defying stunts earned her the nickname “Brave Bessie” and she became a barnstormer (pilots who roamed the country renting cow pastures where they put on shows flying low, zooming high above barns, and sometimes even flying through barns) for paying crowds
  • On April 30, 1926, she died during a test flight before a show sponsored by the Negro Welfare League in Jacksonville, Florida. About twelve minutes into the flight, the plane did not pull out of a nosedive as planned; instead, it did a somersault and dropped Bessie Coleman to her death.
  • Although her dream of establishing a flying school for black students never materialized, the Bessie Coleman Aero groups were organized after her death. On Labor Day, 1931, these flying clubs sponsored the first all black air show in America, which attracted 15,000 spectators. She also had a day named in her honor in Chicago and was featured on a commemorative stamp issued by U.S. Postal Service.
  • Famous Quotes: “The air is the only place free from prejudices.” “No one had ever heard of a black woman pilot in 1919. I refused to take no for an answer.”

Primary Resource: Doris L. Rich, Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993).

For more information on Bessie, check out this website: http://www.bessiecoleman.com/default.html

Bessie Coleman 1921

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The Fabulous Phryne Fisher

I have been watching “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”, an Australian program, for the past week, and love does not even begin to describe how I feel about this show.  You know how there are just shows that “get you” as a person (even though I am aware that shows are not people and cannot get anyway… just go with it), well this is that show for me.  It is set in the 1920s and chronicles the adventures of a lady detective known as Phryne Fisher.  As I tell you about Phryne, I will sprinkle pictures throughout this post (I think you will get some clues about why I am obsessed with this show):

Meet Miss Fisher.  I knew she was my kind of woman in the first five minutes of the first episode when she came strutting off the ocean liner as if the world was her personal runway.

Susan Wronka2

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Concours d’Elegance: My Dream Cars

I attended an antique car show on July 28, 2013, at Endicott College. I fell in love with a few of the cars, but the one that truly captured my heart was a red, black, and cream-colored model from the 1920s. I am horrible at remembering the makes and models of cars – I just know I like it when I see it! One day I would love to own one of these beauties; it would be wonderful to take a leisurely Sunday drive along the coast in one these cars. In addition to the car show, I attended a fashion show and took a tour of the Misselwood Mansion. I thought I would share a few of my pictures to inspire you to take advantage of antique car shows happening in your area. Check out the website for more details and photos http://endicott.edu/concours.aspx

Red and Cream Side

Red and Cream Front Continue reading

Women Jazz Musicians

Photo courtesy of doobeedoobeedoo.info

Photo courtesy of doobeedoobeedoo.info

I just finished watching a wonderful documentary called “The Girls in the Band”. It featured solo musicians, all women bands, and even women band leaders with incredible flair and smooth dance moves. Since I was a female drummer from the ages 8 to 18, I have an understanding of what it means to be one of the few women playing an instrument in musical fields mainly dominated by men. Even though I was playing the drums in the 80s and 90s, I was still one of a small number of female drummers. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been back in the 20s to play an instrument and garner any measure of respect for your craft. While there were many brilliant women musicians featured in this documentary, I have chosen to focus on two that actually played during the years which are the focus of this blog – the 1920s.

Valaida Snow was best known as a trumpet player, although she could also play the cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, accordion, clarinet, and saxophone. Talk about multitalented! Beyond playing a slew of instruments, she could also sing and dance. She became so good at playing the trumpet during her concerts in the USA, Europe, and China, that she became known as “Little Louis” after Louis Armstrong. He actually paid her the compliment of saying she was the second best trumpet player besides him. She also toured in Shanghai, Singapore, Calcutta, and Jakarta with a major band from 1926 to 1929. She played successfully throughout the 30s and a few years in the 40s until she was arrested in Denmark by the Nazis and held in a prison. She was eventually released in 1942, but she was never the same again and stopped playing professionally.

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Mary Lou Williams was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. She taught herself how to play the piano when she was six and appeared in public throughout her youth. In 1925, she played with Duke Ellington and his band, the Washingtonians. She was also noticed by Louis Armstrong at Harlem’s Rhythm Club where he reportedly kissed her because he loved her playing so much. In 1927, she married a saxophonist by the name of John Williams and they continued to play together. Over her long career (she died in 1981) she wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded more than one hundred records. She played with such illustrious musicians as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillispie among others.
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Obviously, there is a lot more to know about these talented ladies, but I hope that I have at least stoked your mental fire so that you want to learn more. I would also recommend purchasing the “The Girls in the Band” to see the evolution of music through the lens of women versus men. http://www.thegirlsintheband.com/

The Gatsby Suite at The Plaza NYC

This room just might make me shell out enough money to stay at The Plaza in New York! Check out this gorgeous room inspired by “The Great Gatsby”. Not only was The Plaza featured in the book, but F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were also frequent visitors in their day. Enjoy the pictures supplied by Rue Magazine and the link to a featurette presented by The Plaza http://www.theplazany.com/the-great-gatsby/

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Colorful Lingo from the Jazz Age

Photo courtesy of Karen Bonnano Photography

Photo courtesy of Karen Bonnano Photography

I have been neglecting my blog lately and I feel truly bad about it. But I have a good excuse. I have been researching the 1920s for my novel, and it is like falling down a virtual or literary rabbit hole every time I come across something new. One of the engrossing “rabbit holes” I fell into recently is called “Bright Young Things: A Modern Guide to the Roaring Twenties”. The section that highlights words and phrases invented by flappers made me smile, and in some instances laugh out loud, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites with you:

Appleknocker = a hick

Bank’s Closed = no petting or kisses allowed

Barney-Mugging = love-making

Cake Basket = a limousine

Corn-Shredder = a young man who treads on one’s feet when dancing

Dingledangler = a persistent caller on the phone

Duddling Up = dressing up

Gimlet = a chronic bore

I wish people were this clever with words now. I know, I know – people make up words all the time, but they are rarely this colorful. If you know of any other great lingo from the 1920s, please share it in the comments. I am planning to share more tidbits from my research in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.