Sunday, March 3, 2013

You Turn to Molasses Before You Turn to Salt

Mid-century American history defines much of our social response to date. With particular attention paid to mid-century American art and photography, and in general, a changing attitude towards women with power, and important beyond, women as equals. How the new "freedoms" were achieved is well documented, in both objective and subjective philosophies, and today's contribution is to fall right in rank.
Mid-century America. The middle of America in its farming boom, midriffs now more meddling than ever, Hollywood in the middle of it's noir phase; all things adding up to the whole lot of nothing we have today. But we do have very distinct sexual attitudes that mid-century America had the audacity to invoke, and Terri Higgins, then Las Vegas dancer cum glamor model, busts through the door with quiet precision.

Bigger breasts became bigger in America, after experiencing heavy exposure in England a full ten years earlier, and Vegas-native Terri (or Terry) Higgins used not only her bust to get to the point: the point that a look could cause hysteria, real and talking to yourself uncontrollably-type hysteria, maybe participate in a homicide, as seen at right in a shoot from Nugget in February, 1959. She taught us that less is more, and when you have so much more, even less is more. The youth in her youth, when her blonde was more lemon than custard, her come-hither more curiosity than beckoning flame, her brow more neighborhood sweetheart than spell-casting nymph. 

Witness two covers below, from 1960-1961, illustrate purposefully how exacting, how pinpoint, and how cold this chick could eye a man up right up to a little warm notion, stepping up then to a sweaty anticipation, and finally, spontaneous combustion.
Tonight Vol 1 No 6, 1961 / Cloud-9 Vol 1 No 5, 1960
A terryfying Terrific figure, 40-23-37, and eyes like a thousand tiny knives on track in the unseen magnetism we can not help but exude. Higgins had the rare gift, and powerful allure, to overwhelm her audience in a way not many (if any) before her had even the notion to consider. Maybe Irish McCalla, maybe Eve Meyer. But at a time when a woman's world was less about vacuuming, and sucking in it's many guises, really, Terri told mid-century America that women can start to take it instead with their own two hands, taking without needing to be told to first. 

A sense of ownership ignites while the commandeering ensues in absolute silence. 
Showcase, 1960, No 1 - June Wilkinson on cover. 
Not only was Higgins well-endowed, so one market could be tackled, her hesitance to make a goofy, post-War pinup clown face, with all the exaggerated expressions (sorry Betty, but no one makes those faces when they're at the beach..), helped her keep true to the upper echelon of the B-movie version of men's entertainment. For the classy guys who listen to jazz records with their dates at home because they couldn't afford to pretend to afford a steak dinner (Playboy). These guys picked up Adam magazine, and listened to wash-tub bands with the rest of the stags in the herd.

Burlesque was tipping its hat as it left, but hardcore pornography was still a decade away, so on the heels of smiles a plenty and before the "if I'm not satisfied soon I'll hurt you" attitude of modern porn, we have gals like Terri, keeping the door to the past locked but keeping the key in her possession. Just as she kept hungry eyes in possession of her own. Even with the tendency to look below the neck of a naked somebody, I keep transfixed in gaze, and know there's no chance of victory in this staring contest.   

Percentage-based, Higgins probably smiled no more than 10% of her time infront of the camera. She managed a few winces, but they really were no more than that. It's this quality which keeps her floated above so many others, and she worked it well before anyone else. It's not a look of discomfort on display, I think, but perhaps it's gathered contentment in the lavender scent of a too-bubbly bubble bath without laughing, without feeling guilty, without surprise, and with so much allure, the foundation of the industry. Only one person of late can I presume to be her successor: 

Terry Higgins, you curves are missed, and few will impact as yours have. You kept your gaze razor sharp, and caked enough mascara on those steely blues to create a mid-century American noir masterpiece. You culled your eyes from Picasso and your bouffant from Monroe. The look hurts, Killa....please may I have another?
Sir! Vol 21 No 1, Sept 1964

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