When Herr Seidl began his concerts at the Astoria, the subscribers pleaded with him to offend the ears of New York society with no frivolities. After a few nights spent with science and the classics, however, society began to yawn, and it was gently intimated to him that he might “let up ” a bit. So a few nights ago the piece de resistance was Charmion, the “linger longer lingerie” performer of the flying trapeze. Her specialty is to get up on the trapeze in ordinary street costume, and then remove her garments one by one until she stands revealed in the fleshings of an acrobat. At ten-fifteen o’clock the trapeze at the Astoria was properly adjusted to swing about eight feet above the stage, and a soft, padded carpet was laid in case of accident. With a fanfare of music, Charmion tripped on the stage, enveloped in a cloak which covered her from head to foot.
“What has she got under that cloak?” was the supreme question. “If she wears her street costume, then we are to have the benefit of her whole act as given in the music-hall — the display of lingerie and garters and the gradual loss of garments. If, on the contrary, she is already in tights, then we have been tricked, and will see only the ordinary gyrations of a Leona Dare. Then a feeling of disappointment ran through the house, for there stood Charmion arrayed in pink fleshings, a little bodice and trunks of Nile-green silk, and a bunch of roses at her breast. It is only fair to say Charmion shared the disappointment of society that her most effective situations had been eliminated. The Argonaut. [San Francisco, CA] 7 February 1898
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What more could Mrs Daffodil possibly say about a “linger longer lingerie” performer? Except to provide a link to a moving picture made by Mr Thomas Edison showing the young person performing her act. Mrs Daffodil suggests that her readers send the children out of the room before viewing this extraordinary historic footage.
This account by a rather precious young man, shows that the film accurately reflects the young person’s performance:
Among the entertainments presented at the great Vaudeville house that evening was the startling sensation known as “Charmion,” and I was not sorry to see it, even though I had to hold my breath during part of the exhibition. At the risk of relating what a large number of readers must already know, I will describe briefly the act given by the young woman appearing under that title.
When the curtain rose nothing was visible except a trapeze about twenty feet above the stage, and a rope hanging loosely beside it. Presently there entered a woman in full street costume, who inserted one hand nonchalantly in a ring at the end of the rope and was drawn lightly to the trapeze. Here she sat comfortably for an instant; and then, as if by accident, fell backward and hung head down by one leg, bent at the knee.
Her gown and skirts naturally dropped in a mass over her head, leaving the hosiery and minor lingerie in full exposure, with a liberal supply of what was undoubtedly silken tights, but was meant to simulate the flesh of her lower limbs, in full view. For a second she remained in this posture, and then regained her seat on the trapeze, smoothing her skirts into place, with a pretended air of chagrin at what was intended to be considered her accidental fall.
Next, with a bit of pantomime which indicated that concealment of her charms was useless after what had happened, ” Charmion ” stood up on the trapeze and began deliberately to disrobe, in full view of the audience, composed nearly equally of well garbed men and women, and completely filling the house.
She took off first her immense “picture hat,” black with great ostrich plumes, and let it fall into a net spread beneath her. Then she slowly unbuttoned her basque and removed it, exposing some very shapely arms and shoulders. Next came the corset, followed by a delicious rubbing with the hands where the article had closed too tightly around the form. The skirts tumbled to the feet, then the remaining garments, and the woman stood in her long black stockings, blue garters encircling the lower portion of the thighs.
At this stage I noted a special expectancy in the occupants of the front seats — men leaning forward, with outstretched hands — the cause of which, was soon apparent. The fair occupant of the trapeze seated herself, untied her garters and, with a moment of hesitation, cast them, one after the other, into the crowd, where they were seized by the most agile or most lucky of the spectators, and retained as souvenirs. Then came, last of all, the hose themselves, and the actual work of the performer as a trapeze artist began in earnest.
I will do Charmion the credit of admitting that her act was truly wonderful. Suspended first by the insteps and then by nothing, apparently, but her heels, she passed easily from one round of a horizontal ladder to another, backward and forward, hanging head down in mid-air.
But it was easy to see that the marvellous exhibition of skill was not what had drawn the immense audience. It was the risque undressing which had done that. So far as I can learn, she had gone several paces beyond anything in this line hitherto permitted in any reputable American theatre.
For myself I am glad I saw it, though I would not care to see it again. I was like the young lady who consented after some demur to take a ride on a very steep toboggan slide. “I wouldn’t have missed it for a thousand dollars!” she exclaimed to her escort. “Let us try again,” he suggested. “Not for a million!” she responded, with equal fervor.
If such things are to be allowed in metropolitan theatres, I want to “size up,” by that means, the taste of what are called the respectable men and women of my time. But I certainly felt a dizziness in the brain when that corset came off in the presence of a thousand individuals who seemed to represent a fairly average respectability of our women.
I saw young girls of seventeen or eighteen there, middle-aged matrons and several elderly ladies, and I did not detect in a single face the agitation I knew showed in my own. Perhaps I may ascribe my extra nervousness to the neurasthenia from which I had so recently recovered.
A New Sensation, Linn Boyd Porter, 1898
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.