The Flanagan Memo - Re: Memories of Lash and Gypsy, it is Minnesota State Fair time again.
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Ah, the State Fair is booming. Sadly, I am missing it this year, but have wonderful memories of the way it was.
I spent a lot of my newspapering life at the fair, covering everything from Princess Kay of the Milky Way to major smashups on the track in the days when auto races were the big draw. When I started, they still had horse racing on some afternoons, particularly harness racing.
In those days, the Royal American Shows, known to all as the Midway, used to feature some big names -- Gypsy Rose Lee, for example. She was "Queen of the Strip Tease" and, yes, that is what she supposedly did at the fair, flanked by her female retinue of "Royal American long-stemmed beauties," of course.
So, in an interview at her folksy trailer on the fairgrounds, I asked her where she looked for her "Stems" and what qualities they needed to have.
She was cordial and replied, "Well, honey, it is really easy. They have to be tall, at least 5 feet 7 inches, and not carry too much heft, you know. And I do the rest of it. Each one of my girls wears padding -- from her neck to her ankles. Strategically, you know."
I did, but I didn't.
"You are tall enough," she continued. "With a pad here and there, you wouldn't be half-bad. ... How would you like to join the show?"
It was an offer I should have considered.
As for Lash LaRue, I survived a dare from the king of the biggest whips you have ever seen. Lash, who used to star in western movies, wanted to whip a cigarette from my mouth. The photographer with me on the job, the late, great Earl Seubert, was all for it. I was dubious, but I agreed, closed my eyes and tried not to shake or shiver.
Zap! Lash whipped it. But I still love the State Fair, so go.
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In writing about all of the buildings we need to preserve and improve, I forgot a big one -- the Minneapolis Armory on Portland Avenue, between 5th and 6th Streets.
Fortunately, a reader didn't. Stephen M. Dent wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that the Armory be turned into "a food emporium" to show off the foods from the Upper Midwest. Now, that is a good idea!
Regularly, I hear from reader Alvin Easter, a movie fan, who always has an idea or two. He thought 2009 should have included a salute to the 50th anniversary of "Ben-Hur" starring Charlton Heston, by projecting it in 70mm on a large curved screen with full stereophonic sound. He thinks it would surpass most films made today. Sadly, we don't have a theater that is properly equipped, but we have the restored theaters -- the State, the Orpheum and the Pantages, to name three gems on downtown Hennepin Avenue.
And then, if I can repeat myself -- there is the mighty Uptown.
Oh, one of these days!
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Autumn is coming and what you will be needing is a good book, right?
Two I will recommend are "Wishing for a Snow Day," by Peg Meier, and "The Song Is You" by Arthur Phillips. Both are native Minnesotans, although Phillips lives in New York. He is one of the three talented children of Felix and Anne Phillips; a brother is a journalist in Washington, D.C., and a sister is a movie producer in London. Arthur's previous works include the bestseller "Prague" and his newest is a love story you will like.
Meier is an unforgettable former Star Tribune writer who digs back into history to engage us. Her latest volume is about childhood and what it was like growing up in good, old and sometimes very cold Minnesota. It will be another big hit.