This is what the well-dressed starlet/model/whatever is wearing lately:
Dresses that leave so little to the imagination seem to me to have almost nothing going for them except their power to shock (then again, perhaps the men in the crowd would disagree). And we’ve grown so accustomed to the display of more and more skin that such things have lost some of that power, so it’s necessary to escalate to get the requisite effect.
As in long ago Rome:
In lifestyle Roman actors did not enjoy a good reputation and their morals challenged even the decadence of Roman society. Their performances could be lewd, highly sexual and offensive, even going as far as to appearing naked on stage and engaging in sexual acts. They could also be highly critical of the political status quo and so ran the gauntlet of emperor and senator…Far from being great dramas most Roman plays were whimsical, more mimes and pantomimes; the classics we know and respect were in the minority…in the Imperial period a number of women emerged as famous actresses, earning reputations as infamous as their male counterparts…Over the years a number of actors became quite influential, counting among their friends men of high standing within Roman society.
And musn’t forget the ill-fated Weimar Republic:
Apart from the new tolerance for behaviour that was technically still illegal, and viewed by a large part of society as immoral, there were other developments in Berlin culture that shocked many visitors to the city. Thrill-seekers came to the city in search of adventure, and booksellers sold many editions of guide books to Berlin’s erotic night entertainment venues. There were an estimated 500 such establishments.
The Weimar Republic and decadence—makes me think of the Sally Bowles character in the musical “Cabaret,” which itself was a somewhat-cleaned-up version of the real Weimar goings-on. Sally was based on a British actress and writer by the name of Jean Ross, who lived with writer and playwright Christopher Isherwood in Berlin in the 30s (just as Bowles did with the highly fictionalized Isherwood character in “Cabaret”).
Unlike the apolitical Sally, Ross was a lifelong Communist, and possibly even an undercover agent for the Comintern. She latter married the British Communist journalist Claud Cockburn, one of whose three journalist children from his third marriage was Counterpunch’s leftist editor Alexander Cockburn.
As I was writing the above paragraph, I thought, “Why am I following this strange trail?” And then I found that someone else had done much the same, although his journey led in still another direction to a completely unexpected connection: Claud Cockburn’s daughter from his first wife (Ross/Bowles was his second) was married to Flanders of the British comedy team Flanders and Swann, favorite performers of my youth, and not especially decadent at all:
Make of it what you will.