Gettin’ Jazzy with it: The ’20s
On April 22, Les Femmes Fatales will take you on a whirlwind journey through the 20th and 21st centuries with Decadent: 100 Years of Burlesque. Before that though, we thought we’d tease you by highlighting each decade, one by one, in the weeks leading up to the show…
…So roll your stockings, bob your hair and pour yourself some bathtub gin because it’s time to get your Charleston on. Welcome to the Roaring Twenties!
The decade begins on an upswing, with WWI (known then just as “War”) having ended and a housing boom underway. People are moving off the farms and into the cities. Mass production and technological advances bring never-before-seen wonders like automobiles and phones to the masses, paving the way for all those melodramatic “Don’t Text and Drive” PSAs that will pop up in your Facebook feed 90 years later.
The economy is thriving and despite prohibition, booze is plentiful, thanks to Al Capone and Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire.
But don’t get too excited, because every awesome bender ends in a hangover and the Roaring Twenties’ bender is no exception. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashes and the Twenties finds itself puking up its guts in a warehouse parking lot while getting beaten by the pimp who stole its wallet. But hey, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. A lot happens before that.
Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights):
Jan. 16: The 18th Amendment goes into effect, making prohibition the law of the land.
Speakeasies and bootleggers immediately pop up everywhere, while young women known as “flappers,” drunk on jazz and actual booze, embrace new-found freedom by shortening their skirts, cutting their hair and posting selfies in Collier’s magazine.
Aug. 18: The 19th Amendment passes, giving women the right to vote. In 2016, they consider giving it back when they see who their candidates are.
April 18: The first home game is held at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and Red Sox. It’s also the first time Yankee fans chant “1918,” although it doesn’t have quite the same cachet as it will in 2004.
Nov. 27: The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade marches through Manhattan, cheered on by 10,000 spectators, 243 of which will be trampled to death the next day at the first Wal-Mart Black Friday Sale.
April 10: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby is published, making Daisy Buchanan a household name, and, for several generations of Boston-area college students, synonymous with date rape and Jaeger-induced blackouts.
Oct. 22: Ernest Hemingway publishes The Sun Also Rises, a novel about horrible people drinking and sleeping their way around Europe, which introduces us to bullfighting and the “Lost Generation,” AKA the 20th century version of the whiny millennial.
May 20–21: Charles Lindbergh makes first nonstop transatlantic flight from NYC to Paris.
Aug. 28: Not to be outdone by C-Lind, Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to South Wales. Nine years later she will disappear while trying to fly around the world. Maybe she should have quit while she was ahead? (Just sayin.)
Nov. 6: Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover elected president. Since there is no late-night TV, it’s up to Dorothy Parker to make the requisite “Hoover? I don’t even know ‘er!” joke.
Feb. 14: In what will become known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Al Capone’s men murder seven rival gang members in a bid to take control of Chicago’s organized crime syndicate, compelling authorities to dub him “Public Enemy #1.”
Capone was convicted of tax evasion two years later, got sent to Alcatraz, went crazy from syphilis and died in 1947 at age 48 of a brain hemorrhage. However, his greatest accomplishment will still be posthumously trolling Geraldo Rivera in the 1986 special, The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault.
Oct. 29: AKA “Black Tuesday.” Wall Street crashes, turning the Roaring Twenties into the Whimpering Twenties and ushering in the Great Depression.
The economic downtown will last until 1939, and if that isn’t bad enough, the 1930s also gives us Hitler, the Dust Bowl and The Wizard of Oz. But I guess that’s a tale for next week, so be sure to check back on Wed.
Stay tuned for info — tickets will be on sale soon!
Originally published at lesfemmesfatalesnyc.com on February 15, 2017.