Monthly Archives: January 2019

A Most Beautiful Suicide

Shortly before 10:30 am, May 1st, 1947, 23 year-old Evelyn McHale bought a ticket to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building. Ten minutes later patrolman John Morrissey, who was directing traffic below, noticed a white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the building then heard a crash. Evelyn had stepped out on the parapet, jumped, cleared the setbacks and landed on the roof of a United Nations limousine parked on 34th Street, some 200 hundred feet west of Fifth Avenue. Robert Wiles, a sometime cabbie and “photography student” saw the commotion and rushed across the street where, standing on the sidewalk only a few feet from the car, he took his iconic photo of Evelyn just four minutes after her death.

Photo by Robert Wiles

Still clutching her pearl necklace with her gloved hand, Evelyn looks disarmingly placid and composed—as if she was simply asleep. Around her, however, the broken glass and crumpled sheet metal of a car roof shows how brutally destructive her 1040-foot jump was. Wiles, perhaps inadvertently, managed to capture in a single photograph both grace and beauty as well as and horror and death. The image remains as haunting and affecting as it did some 60 years ago. Wiles’ photo was first published as the “Picture of the Week” in the May 12th, 1947 issue of Life Magazine. It was reprinted in a number of photography annuals and several Best of Life anthologies.  Wiles would never publish another photo. (text by Codex99)

Police observe the body minutes after her jump

Police remove Evelyn’s body

33rd St. Observation Deck

Evelyn with her nephew Bobby 1945

Evelyn Francis McHale

The Amazing Ericofone

The Ericofon is a one-piece plastic telephone created by the Ericsson Company of Sweden and marketed through the second half of the 20th century. Because of its styling and its influence on future telephone design, the Ericofon is considered one of the most significant industrial designs of the 20th century. It is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In Sweden, the Ericofon is known as the cobra telephone for its resemblance to a coiled snake.

The Ericofon was designed in the late 1940s by a design team including Gösta Thames, Ralph Lysell, and Hugo Blomberg. The two major components of the telephone, the handset and the dial, are combined in a single unit. This one-piece design anticipated the evolution of the typical cordless phone and cell phone by several decades. Serial production began in 1954. Early models were sold only to institutions, but in 1956 production for the open market began in Europe and Australia.

When it was introduced on the U.S. market, the Ericofon was available in 18 colors, but after transfer of production to North Electric, the number of colors was reduced to eight. A small number of phones with clear and metallic finishes were produced for special promotions. The most popular and widely produced colors were bright red and bright white. Other colors included various pastel shades of blue, green, and pink. The phone was never produced in black.

God Bless Lili St. Cyr

Willis Marie Van Schaack (June 3, 1918 – January 29, 1999), known professionally as Lili St. Cyr.                  Tall, beautiful and statuesque Lili St. Cyr was the queen of burlesque throughout the 40’s and 50’s when burlesque/stripping was considered lewd and immoral, however Ms. St. Cyr’s reputation was that of a quality and high-class performer. Lili would make her name by offering elaborate stage shows w/ just a hint of actual nudity. Her most famous show, one that would be copied by tons of other performers, centered around Lili in a bathtub discreetly covered by bubbles.

While performing in 1947 at Ciro’s nightclub in Hollywood (billed as the “Anatomic Bomb”), St. Cyr was arrested and taken to court by a customer who considered her act lewd. St. Cyr insisted to the jury that her act was refined and elegant. As St. Cyr pointed out, what she did was slip off her dress, try on a hat, slip off her brassiere (there was another underneath), slip into a négligée. Then, undressing discreetly behind her maid, she stepped into a bubble bath, splashed around, and emerged, more or less dressed. After just 80 minutes of deliberation St. Cyr was acquitted – and became even more famous/infamous.

St. Cyr tried an acting career in the 50’s – financed by Howard Hughes. Small roles as harem girls or strippers (Norman Mailer’s Naked and the Dead) didn’t provide much artistic input for Lili, so she went back to what she knew best – burlesque.

Lili called it a day in the 70’s opening a lingerie business called “The Undie-World of Lili St. Cyr” and retired to her Hollywood apartment -“A quiet life with just some cats”. She eventually passed away at the age of 80 in 1999.