Friday, January 26, 2018

London's Female Shoplifting Mafia of Yesteryear...

The voluminous fashion of the 1880's
 We think of the corsets and voluminous petticoats of the 1800’s as painfully limiting to the women who wore them. But a group of female gang members in 20th century London would be inclined to disagree. Enter the “Forty Elephants”, also the “Forty Thieves”, an all-female gang that terrorized London and the surrounding area over two centuries and were responsible for the largest shoplifting operation ever seen in Britain between the 1870s and 1950s.

 1872 Illustration: "A Female Shoplifter"
While many of the male gangs of the era were violent “smash & grab” thieves and crooks, the Forty Elephants was a group of tightly organized and efficient crime cells operating across London and the surrounding area.

They wore specially tailored clothing that would allow for easy stashing of expensive items in high end retail stores. Women were traditionally afforded a fair amount of privacy while shopping, which the elephants took full advantage of, making their exit with thousands of pounds worth of stolen merchandise.
Florrie Homes, 40 Elephants member, was a gangster's girlfriend
before turning to crime herself. 

They travelled in small groups and as security personnel were distracted by inexperienced thieves, the elephants gang would have  come and gone without the shop owner even knowing they had been hit. While posing as maids or housekeepers, the ladies robbed countless houses and often blackmailed wealthy men who had fallen prey to their seduction.

Named after the district in which they operated, Elephant and Castle, the ladies gang was also said to be known for their distinct “elephant-like waddle” when leaving the scene of the crime. The gang was in existence from at least 1873 to the 1950s and over seventy direct members of the gang operating in the 1920s and 1930s have been identified.
Alice Diamond, ca 1912

In the early 20th century, the gang was lead by Alice Diamond, aka “Diamond Annie” or “the Queen of the Forty Thieves”. She was known for her punch, made memorable by her fist full of diamond rings.
Lilian Rose Kendall, better known as The Bobbed Hair Bandit

Notable for the gang’s longevity and skill in avoiding police detection, the Forty Elephants would use their earnings to throw lavish jazz age parties and enjoy luxurious lifestyles normally unattainable to women of modest birth.
Gangster Ada Johnston

The Forty Elephants became so infamous in the West London area that their mere presence near shops would bring alarm. Too famous for their own good, the women were eventually forced to target smaller towns nearby, bringing empty suitcases with them on their journeys that would come back filled with goods.
Elephant & Castle, London, in the early 20th Century

Once a member was initiated into the 40 elephants, she was involved for most of her life, many of them starting as young as 14 and continuing into old age. Even if they were captured, they were never sentenced to more than 3 years in prison.
Gang member Maggie Hughes

The Forty Elephants did not specialize in violent crime, but they protected their turf fervently and would demand a cut from anyone who was deemed to have overstepped into their territory. Gang member Maggie Hughes, infamous for running from a store with a tray full of 34 diamond rings, was arrested after stabbing a police man in the eye with a hat pin.
An unverified photo of a girl gang, speculated to be the 40 Elephants

As security became much tighter in the 1950’s and shoplifting became a much riskier endeavor, The Forty Elephants eventually faded away, but not without leaving a legacy of terror in the hearts of many a London shopkeeper. 

Now, forget this life of dishonesty and infamy ... and go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
And to make this a legitimate Pink Saturday
blog hop post ... here's something surprising and pink!
Pink Oreos! Made in Japan. I do hope they are cherry flavored! 
Be sure to check out all the other participants in Beverly's Pink Saturday
Blog Hop by clicking Here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Manhattan's Legendary Maxwell's Plum ...

Advertisement for the sumptuous Sunday buffet at Maxwell's Plum
The most 1980s restaurant ever, a riotously overdecorated Art Nouveau/Deco/Etc. pleasure palace that “reminded some of Maxim’s in Paris”.  New York’s Plum did not survive the 80s

Maxwell's Plum, the flamboyant restaurant and singles bar that, more than any place of its kind, symbolized two social revolutions of the 1960's - sex and food.

Warner LeRoy, the owner of the 22-year-old establishment on First Avenue at 64th Street, likened its demise to that of an affair that had gone on too long, in the end losing its spontaneity and adventure. 

Maxwell's Plum opened in April 1966, at a time when largely residential First Avenue was undergoing a commercial boom of restaurants and nightclubs. The restaurant's outlandish Art Nouveau decor - kaleidoscopic stained-glass ceilings and walls, Tiffany lamps galore, a menagerie of ceramic animals, etched glass and cascades of crystal - was an immediate hit, and before long it was serving more than 1,200 customers a day. Habitues included such celebrities as Richard Rodgers, Cary Grant, Bill Blass, Barbra Streisand and Warren Beatty. The sprawling bar became a favorite watering hole for the ''swinging singles'' set. 
Mr. LeRoy, the son of famed Hollywood film producer Mervyn LeRoy, was no less theatrical than his restaurant. He paraded around the dining room, his 230-pound frame enveloped in screaming paisley-patterned suits. In fact, it was at Maxwell's Plum in the late 1960's that Mr. LeRoy met an airline stewardess named Kay O'Reilly, whom he eventually married.
 Warner LeRoy, owner of Maxwell's Plum, NYC
In the early 1970's, Maxwell's Plum received four stars, the Times's highest rating, from Craig Claiborne, the newspaper's food critic. The wide-ranging menu featured everything from hamburgers and chili con carne to Iranian caviar and stuffed squab. In its last 10 years, its Times rating slipped to one star, then went back to two. Since 1985, the 175-seat Restaurant had suffered an identity crisis as chefs came and went and the menu lurched from traditional American to flashy California cuisine, then to continental, Pacific Northwestern and French.
In 1985,  the revolving door of chefs began at the Plum. Mr. LeRoy recruited two leading California chefs, the husband-and-wife team of Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, both from Spago, the influential California-style restaurant in Los Angeles. They lasted less than a year. In 1987, a young star from Seattle, Kathy Casey, was brought East to transplant her eccentric interpretation of Pacific Northwestern cooking. She lasted only three weeks, shortly after she tried serving triangular hamburgers to tradition-bound Maxwell regulars. The last casualty was Geoffrey Zakarian, an alumnus of Le Cirque and the ''21'' Club.
 One of the Plum's stunning Tiffany windows, 
purchased for $28k by Donald Trump
Maxwell's Plum did not survive the 80s. Due to changing tastes and weak reviews that a succession of chefs could not remedy, LeRoy closed it in 1988, announcing that he wasn’t having fun anymore.
"A restaurant is a fantasy—a kind of living fantasy in which diners are the most important members of the cast." -” Warner Leroy
He sold the First Avenue building for a nifty sum, while Donald Trump plunked down $28,000 for one of its Tiffany glass windows. At the same auction, the Tribeca Grill acquired the Plum’s large island bar.

Hope you've been inspired - please visit the other participants of Beverly's Pink Saturday blog hop.

...and then go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
Maxwell's Plum is not to be confused with that other famous Manhattan "Max" hot spot - 
Max's Kansas City - THE nightclub for the hip and jet set crowd of the 70's and 80's.
An average dinner table at Max's Kansas City - Paul Morrissey (far left)
dining with Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin and Tim Buckley. 1968.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Millionaire's Row Barbed Wired Mansion ...

The once ornate staircase that leads to the crumbling mansion, is cracked and falling apart. The old, sculpted gardens have been over run with weeds, surrounded by fences of razor sharp barbed wire. Its once grand spires and turrets overlook a landscape of forbidding housing projects and the desolate lots of one of America’s most notorious and violent cities. We are standing outside the imposing, former home of Gottfried Krueger, once one of the grandest mansions to be found in Newark, New Jersey. But today, it lies abandoned, slowly decaying like a latter day Manderlay.

Gottfried Krueger was an immigrant from Germany, who made his fortune brewing beer. As the millions of immigrants flowed from Europe into America, mostly through Ellis Island, the demand for old English style ales was replaced with a demand for lighter, European lagers. Krueger was one of the many, wildly successful brewers that flourished meeting that demand. His beer was the first in America to be sold in cans, and by 1875, Krueger was producing over 25,000 barrels a year.

With his new found wealth, Krueger decided to build a grandiose, opulent mansion on what is today the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Court Street. Back then the boulevard was known as High Street, a two mile long grand avenue, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Haussmann’s Paris. Grand homes made of marble and granite graced a wide boulevard lined with graceful oak trees, that flowed like a river of wealth through Newark, itself a blossoming city, thriving on booming industry that followed the North’s victory in the Civil War.
But of all the mansions on High Street, none were as luxurious as the Krueger home. It had forty rooms, the first privately owned elevator in New Jersey. Archival photographs show the mansion’s opulent Louis XIV interior, its stained glass windows, and leather embossed walls glittering with mother-of-pearl wainscoting.

Five stories high, it was topped with a copper domed turret, that dominated the skyline. Its medieval spire would have been at home atop a castle from Kruger’s native Rhineland

But business would eventually come to a halt for Krueger family. Faced with the twin perils of anti-German sentiment during World War I, and Prohibition, Krueger Beer would swiftly disappear from the hotel bars and beer halls of the North East.
In 1958, Louise Scott, owner of a beauty school, purchased the mansion. She ran the school out of the lower floors, whilst she lived in the rooms above. Scott’s school thrived, and she is thought to be the first female African-American millionaire in New Jersey.
 Louise Scott (above) and (below) the first graduating class of the 
Scott School of Beauty, 1960

But when Scott died in 1982, the imposing mansion passed to the City of Newark, where it has laid abandoned ever since.

In many ways, the fate of the Krueger-Scott mansion mirrors the declining fortunes of Newark itself. Once a thriving, industrial city, the gradual loss of its manufacturing bedrock saw the city swiftly deteriorate into one of America’s most impoverished and violent cities. Rampant unemployment and crime came to a bloody head in 1967 with riots that brutally descended into all out street war, with twenty six people killed.

As more and more professional and working classes fled the city, an onslaught of drugs, crime, and one of the highest murder rates in the US saw forbidding housing projects replacing the many grand Victorian town houses of the past.
The Krueger mansion however was slowly allowed to crumble to pieces. Today it lies vacant, its once lavish interiors, ravaged by looters and vandals.

Ambitious plans to turn the empty mansion into a cultural centre celebrating Newark’s African-American heritage came to nothing, despite millions being spent on shoring up the decaying building. Eventually, the City Council, fighting a desperate war on poverty and crime, refused to spend any more money on the project.

Ever since, (arguably) perhaps the most beautiful mansion ever built in New Jersey has gradually fallen apart, being slowly reclaimed by nature. Today it rests as a silent sentinel on hilltop, over looking a city that has shared its same sad fate. 

Heave a little sigh for days gone by and check out Beverly's Pink Saturday blog hop to visit the other participants this week.

- and then, go make something beautiful!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥

The once lavish Kreuger home - the pride of Newark

The grand entrance foyer

 The sumptuous music room where famous artists 
played for theKreuger's family and guests

Friday, January 12, 2018

Everything Old is New Again ...

How would the gods and characters of antiquity portrayed in classical paintings look if they appeared alongside us in the modern world?
Alexey Kondakov, an artist based in Kiev, Ukraine, created a series of Photoshopped images that answers this question.
His "2 Reality" series puts classical paintings into settings we experience every day, be it the subway, the creepy highway underpass, or the local lunch hang-out.
It's interesting to consider how our impressions of these gods change given their new context.
They may seem elegant or royal in a painting in a museum, but when superimposed into recognizable parts of modern life, some of them begin to look like drunken revelers.
The ongoing series, titled ("The Daily Life of Gods," is mostly set in Kiev and you can see the figures created by different artists many years ago using public transport, sitting at bars, napping in public places, eating at local joints, or selling flowers.
These new settings show them in a completely different color!

Thanks to Beverly, for hosting "Anything Goes" at her Pink Saturday Blog Hop. Click to visit the other participants in this weekly blog hop!

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan 
 Artist Alexey Kondakov, Kiev, Ukraine, artist of "The Daily Life of Gods"