Lya DePutti, 1926 Source: thesilentmovieblog.wordpress.com
Lya De Putti, Doris - Flapper Riot Grrls
When this Picture came into my Tumblr stream my heart skipped a beat, but I was not sure exactly why. True, I am a fan of the 20’s flapper girls - their look and spirit, especially the Gibson Girls gone bad. Most of what I knew about these pre-pre-pre riot grrls was from the pulp fiction of the day and a few 1930s screwball comedies.
~ That is until I met Doris.
~ In the early 80s (my formative teenage years) I worked for my father at a condominium complex in Southampton NY. My Dad, being a local police officer -(actually he was the head radio officer so he was in contact with everyone who came into the main street station) - and local boy was in many ways was more readily recognized than the mayor in town. In his daily interactions he met and had business dealings with the gentleman who ran -(and owned?)- a tennis club across from the condo’s I was working at.
~ The gentleman -(forgive me I cannot for the life of me remember his name)- was a dapper individual who was fit as a fiddle and wore tennis whites nearly as often as he actually played. A man of a different age where class and adventure went hand in hand, he had many surprises in him one of which was that he worked as a Wing Walker during the late 20’s and 30’s. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, wing walkers were daring men who flew in acrobatic acts in bi-planes and would perform tricks atop the wings. They performed tricks which included standing on the top wing and hanging on while the pilot performed barrel rolls and jumping between two planes. These tricks were done with little safety gear. My new friend also had his ‘lady friend’ who was always around and obviously someone of great import.
~ This was Doris.
~ Doris was unlike any ‘old lady’ I had ever met, she was physically fit, she moved with grace and sure footed, brass but respectful, her conversations were laced with expletives yet she did not come off as coarse. Doris would always have music playing and eagerly asked what I was listening to on my walkman giving me gently scornful looks with some and gleeful toe taps to others. She did not wholesale dismiss me, but did ask me what I thought of hers and why. I learned a love of Jazz from Doris.
~ Doris also had a large collection of pictures showing great parties on yachts and at air fields all dressed in those silhouette dresses and close fitting hats. Doris also liked her 3 o’ Clock ‘constitutional’, followed by another - ‘I fought hard for this right’ she would tell me. I have always been a curious person and screwed up the courage to ask her about what it was like - ‘Back then’. I figured that I had someone who lived during a time of the films I watched every Saturday afternoon, why not hear her tales. I learned a lot about the music, the rapture of post war(one) freedom- the free love that would inspire 60’s culture, life after the crash and the devil may care rush of speakeasies.
~ Among the photos, bric-a-brac and books were a collection of movie posters going back to the teens and up to the 60’s, Doris worked as a ticket girl at a local movie theater for sometime it seems while she ‘dated’ a dashing airshow performer. Looking through the posters one afternoon while talking I came upon one for ‘The Sorrow of Satan’. I remember it because at the time I was still fearful of my unspoken questions about religion and the constant din from church on the power of Satan. You just did not see imagery like this is the sedate little world of the hamptons. Little was I to know that I would be submerged into macabre collections upon moving to Manhattan
~ The name Lya De Putti stuck in my head because I thought it sounded funny because of my teenage toilet humor - yeah, real sophisticated kid I was.
~ Did my aesthetic start to develop there, in that cluttered but well situated little room, or was it already there waiting to flower with exposure? Thanks Doris, you lived life and still live in my love of stories. I do not know where Doris is buried but Lya De Putti is six feet under at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, I may lay a flower down in memory of both.
Original post from my alt tumblr blog