Vive La France! Vive l’amour Libre! Happy Bastille Day! (And If You’re Enjoying Yourself in a Very “Special” Way in the Company of a Very “Special Friend” You Should Probably Thank the French!)

July 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today is Bastille Day, French Independence Day, which we in the United States should celebrate almost on an equal footing with our own Fourth of July, since we would still probably be British subjects today without the assistance provided by France during our war for independence. King Louie was not, of course, animated by any great love for libertie, egalitie, and fraternitie, but rather by his rivalry with King George, the soon to be insane. And in the grand tradition of “be careful what you wish for, for it might bite you in the ass,” Louie and his Marie were sacrificed for the greater good of France just a few years after what has turned out to be our descent into self-indulgence — excuse-moi — ascent to personal freedom.

And it is in that great American spirit of self-indulgence that we must also pay homage and thanks to the French today for the truly greatest gifts that France has given us: wine; French leave; French kissing; “soixante-neuf” and the “French cigarette” specifically, and oral sex generally; farting on stage as art specifically, and vaudeville theatre generally.

Of course there are those of us, who still possess a shred of moral fibre, who detest the French for these great gifts enjoyed by the rest of us; nowhere more so than in Texas.

Vaudeville, or variety, theater, has long prospered in Austin (as demonstrated by the longtime popularity of Esther’s Follies), and has also been long condemned, though not so much now as in the past, when fibre was something you had for character, not for breakfast.

Back in the summer of 1880, the Austin Statesman was waging moral war on the town’s vaudeville/variety theatres and the base pleasures and blandishments contained within. (My, how far we have come in 132 years, where today our same august fishwrapper lionizes that which is deviant as chic and high art.)

This following particular gem of the pecksniffian art ran in the Statesman on Bastille Day, 1880. So, open that bottle of vino, get nekkid, start groping, and thank the French for all they have given us.

Under the Gaslight.
During the decade just past this city had more than doubled in population and increased in wealth almost unparalleled. It now puts on the airs of a metropolitan city. With the growth we have gained many of the conveniences and advantages only enjoyed in large places but along with these marvels have grown up many of the wonderful and attractive evils that cling to and mar society.

Chief among these evils is the free and easy variety shows, which, with gaudy gold and glitter and sparkling spangles, attract and lure to ruin hundreds of young men. These shows have attractions and peculiar charms eminently calculated to ensnare young men, and once they are drawn into their vortex, escape is almost impossible and they soon go down into the grave overwhelmed with shame and grief. No evil is as powerful in its injuries and effects upon society as the variety shows, and the plot and heroine of “Nine,” one of the most powerful sensational novels of to-day are selected from behind the scenes and from before the footlights of a variety theater. There are two of these establishments in this city and the patronage they receive from the young men is alarming to all who have the welfare of society at heart.

Sightseers are constantly going and coming and it is safe to say that each of the concert halls in this city is visited nightly by over 100 persons. Among the crowd Saturday night the reporter noticed the familiar faces of certain young men who move in the best society in this city. They were sowing their wild oats, but alas, while will the harvest be?

There are several women engaged attempt in carrying around beer and induce those present to drink and treat. Huge fans are suspended from the low ceiling, and are kept in motion by a colored boy. Monday night there were eight performers on the stage, four of them were females. The performance consists of stale jokes and worn out songs interspersed with dances and acrobatic feats. The two end men were about average in their specialties but the other performers were indifferent and the whole play dragged. The actors know and feel that they are there simply to attract the unwary, and the money the concern is to reap is to come through some other source and they are careless as to the effect their parts have upon the audience. The reporter saw one young woman present who is undoubtedly out of her sphere, and lacks a great deal of having that reckless and indifferent air peculiar to variety actresses, and no doubt the slightest act of charity, which is so seldom offered to these women, and a helping hand from those whose duty it is and who are able to help, would save her from the vortex of ruin and place her upon the highway of an honorable life. There are several wine rooms in these establishments where the young men and the girls go to drink wine and beer and it is from these rooms that the money flows to pay the expenses of the establishments. It is in the wine rooms of the variety theater that the clerk, on a salary of 40 dollars per month, spends double the amount, and finally emerges to go to the penitentiary for forgery or theft or to a suicide’s grave. The institutions in this city are well patronized, and the good people of Austin would be astounded to learn by whom. You would be astonished to see faces that are familiar in the upper walks of society, but faces that are destined to be marred and made haggard with debauchery and ruin if they persist in attending these places of resort.

These establishments pay no license, and in conducting their business they use all the peculiar charms and wiles of women to induce men to drink, for it is from the sale of beer, wines and liquors that they derive their profit. The sale of liquors is very large, and seriously interferes with establishments that pay heavy taxes. The proprietors do all in their power to keep order, for it is to their interest to do so, but with all the care possible, the subtle influence for evil cannot be removed, and the injury inflicted upon the morals of young men and upon society at large can not be calculated. We learn that a petition is being circulated asking the city authorities to suppress the variety theaters in this city.

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You are currently reading Vive La France! Vive l’amour Libre! Happy Bastille Day! (And If You’re Enjoying Yourself in a Very “Special” Way in the Company of a Very “Special Friend” You Should Probably Thank the French!) at The Blunderbuss.

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