All Writing & Content © Nick Kushner Unless Noted Otherwise
An aspect of Manson's Grotesk Burlesk live performance as well as the lyrical imagery in The Golden Age Of Grotesque was that of the Absinthe laded Parisian nightlife in late Nineteenth century France. The nightlife was often depicted by the late Nineteenth Century artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who gained his fame by designing posters for the Moulin-Rouge and the popular female club performers of the era such as Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert and May Belfort, whom Manson adopted part of his performance from. Fascinated with the nightlife, decadence and lesbianism, he forfeited his bourgeoisie lifestyle to indulge in the Parisian nightlife, at one point living in a brothel, and used it for his artistic inspiration. Toulouse-Lautrec was himself deformed, as a dwarf, and when confronted with the often grotesque and unflattering manner he portrayed his models in he often replied that such a portrayal was a reflection from the disposition he was most familiar with, given his own.
The following is an excerpt from the book The Tragic Life Of Toulouse-Lautrec in regard to performers and aspects of the Parisian nightlife depicted by Toulouse which elements of the Grotesk Burlesk were adopted from:
"One of his two favourite café-concert was Les Décadents in his old street, the rue Fontaine. The place was well named; opened in early 1893 it was, after a series of particularly narrow escapes, closed eighteen months later when it staged a revue of such glaring indecency that even the lax censorship of the time could no longer turn its back. It opened again in 1895 and featured among other attractions the English Dancer May Milton and the Irish singer May Belfort. The English girl was heavy-faced, pale, expressionless after the manner of her kind, but her dancing, academic, restrained and graceful, seems to have won her some favor in a city which had tired of high kicking and was growing bored with serpentine wriggles; she was also a protégé of Jane Avril, then becoming a power with the café-concert managers, and was nicknamed "Missaussi" because of Jane's invariable request that she might include in a party "Miss aussi".
"May Belfort, whose portrait he painted more than once and for whom he also made a poster, was perfectly in keeping with the tone of the establishment. She was one of the few women regulars at the Irish-American Bar, where Toulouse-Lautrec sketched herwith the barman and his broken coachmen friend, Tom, and was probably the most striking of all his many models. Her "act" at Les Décadents was simple but effective; she appeared on stage dressed as a baby, wearing a yellow nightdress with wide white ruffs at the wrists, her long black ringlets falling from a large and highly ornamental white nightcap and carrying in folded arms a black kitten. She stood demurely amd motionless before her audience and mewed in half-babyish, half-kittenish lisping voice : 'I've got a little cat, I'm very fond of that', and so on in an appropriate nursery-rhyme style.
"This performance seemed never to tire the hard-bitten revelers of Les Décadents as it had seemingly never tired those of the Jardin de Paris and half a dozen other places before that; they roared with laughter, applauded, shouted the everlasting chorus of "I've got a little cat" and we altogether charmed.
"I've got a little cat,
I'm very fond of that."
"The audacity of such a turn in a sophisticated café-concert was perhaps enough to ensure its success, but the true explanation of the May Belfort rage dwelt in the contrast, known to all present, between the sight they were offered nightly - the baby clothes, the demure pose, the childish voice and words - and the private life of the singer - not very private indeed, since it began the moment she stepped from the stage and was notorious even in such company. This knowledge gave a fine spice to her masquerade - as did her occasional use of bold black eyes, the only feauture she permitted to move during her song - and it is this revelation of evil in disguise that Toulouse-Lautrec caught with uncanny skill..."
Cissie Loftus, 1895
"Very different was [Toulouse-Lautrec's] treatment of Cissie Loftus . His lithograph... shows her mimicking the male singer of popular songs: the mouth widely askew, the jaunty angle of the bowler hat, the careless pose of the swinging cane, the busy sideways stride up and down the stage, all present in a few lines of a typical Toulouse-Lautrec take-off, a mimic of a mimic."
May Belfort, 1895
"The true explanation of the May Belfort rage dwelt in the contrast... between the sight they were offered nightly - the baby clothes, the demure pose, the childish voice and words - and the private life of the singer... It is this revelation of evil in disguise that Toulouse-Lautrec caught with uncanny skill."
From The Tragic Life Of Toulouse-Lautrec.
|Live performance of Para-noir and a Cissie Loftus newspaper/magazine cover
Another facet which the performance of Para-noir is evocative of are the conjoined, Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, which their performance, dress and even hair style is paralleled with Manson's twins during Para-noir. The twins themselves were stage performers who most notably were featured in the movie Freaks which Manson has often stated being a fan of.
The following is an excerpt from the site Phreeque.tripod.com :
"Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in Brighton, East Sussex, England on February 5, 1908 to a young, unwed barmaid, Kate Skinner. They were 'adopted' by their mother's boss and midwife, Mary Hilton. The sisters were pygopagus twins - conjoined at the hips and buttocks. They shared blood circulation and were fused at the pelvis but shared no major organs. Soon after acquiring the twins, Mary Hilton was exhibiting them all over the United States and Europe. They were required to call her 'Auntie Lou' and her current husband 'Sir'. Along with her sixth and final husband, Meyer Meyers, Mary Hilton kept the twins concealed from public view and gave them rigorous training in singing, dancing, piano, violin, clarinet and saxophone. They lived with the Meyerses in a mansion in San Antonio, Texas until the early 1930s.
"Details of the sisters' early lives are sketchy, since 'true life' pamphlets handed out at their shows presented a false childhood. However, according to the sisters' autobiography, written in 1942, Mary Hilton's successive husbands were physically abusive. (Mannix describes the Hilton sisters as happy, well-adjusted women, while Bogdan paints their early lives as a horrific cycle of abuse and exploitation. The truth is probably somewhere in between.) When Mary died, her husband and daughter took over the sisters' act. It was not until 1931, when the sisters filed a lawsuit against their management, that they were awarded independence. They left the sideshow circuit, which they hated, and joined Vaudeville, with a show called The Hilton Sisters' Revue.
"In 1932 the twins appeared as themselves in the movie Freaks, which dared to pose the question of whether or not conjoined twins can have a love life. In the case of the Hilton sisters, the answer was yes - they were notorious for their many affairs and allegedly had a strong desire to outdo one another in the area of dating. Because the sisters shared sensations, as suggested by the film, they developed an ability to 'separate' themselves from one another mentally.Daisy also dyed her hair blonde because she disliked being called by her sister's name."
"We don't mind having people stare at us. We're used to it. We've never known anything else."Daisy Hilton
|Still frames from the mOBSCENE video which shows siamese beauties sewn together, evoking the shape and moves of a disturbing spider.|
Marilyn Manson interview for Face, May 2003.
I look down and realize I've got my foot in a bear's mouth. I hurriedly take a seat, only to find it's actually a pair of conjoined lambs.
'I made them,' says a dark figure. Marilyn Manson lurks in the shadows, candlelight illuminating his one blue eye. 'I'm doing something similar with two women in my new show.'
You're creating Siamese twins?
'No, sewing.' Like all the best Antichrists, Manson has a sense of humor
|Two versions of the witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth. Stage, costumes and make-up: Gottfried Helnwein, 1995|
|Video captures of Manson from mOBSCENE with stocking clad female rotating leg swastika apparatus behind|
The Hot Girls Of Weimar Berlin
"There were three types of celebrations in Berlin. A masquerade involved elaborate disguises with the dramatic components of the unmasking. At the costume ball, one strove for the most imaginative costumes. The masked balls simply demanded formal attire with an exotic mask of half mask. Every night allowed a different identity if one so desired, for liaisons with satyrs, clowns, and occasionally generous older gentlemen.
"There is great freedom when one is wearing a mask."
Marilyn Manson, in an interview for Face, May 2003.
"Burlesque, vaudeville, cabaret - it all had the same purpose, to take people's minds off things; the idea of your life being entertaining in itself. Sometimes it's about a concert, sometimes it's about placing a gramophone horn in a women's vagina. Or painting an elephant black or setting a piano on fire".
"We set forth to the Dome of Berlin at dusk and I felt like I was in my own painting, 'The Death of Art.' Helnwein and I created a living installation with two disabled nude women as families stopped their picnics to stare. Of course we documented this for future viewing. But it didn't begin there... ."
|Left ; crime scheme photo of Sharon Tate's murder. Right ; Color print of Sharon Tate's crime scheme police photo|