Football / II | Photos by Bill Brandt / Pedro Luis Raota / Georg Oddner / Jecko Vassilev / Gordon W. Gahan

Pedro Luis Raota                                                                                        Football, 1930s
Jecko Vassilev, Bulgaria, 1971                                                                            Georg Oddner, Malmö, 1952
London, 1950                                                                     Bill Brandt, Sheffield, 1950
Gordon W. Gahan, Nazaré, Portugal, 1967

Mr. and Mrs. Woodman | Man Ray / Vladimir Nabokov

“There is nothing softer than your heart.” 
 Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin, 1957

Man Ray, Mr and Mrs Woodman, 1947

Billiard Players (1876 -1933)

Louis Noël van LintThe Billiard Players, 1933
František Tichý,  Billiard players, 1932
James Ensor, Napoleon Playing Billiards, 1903
Charles Edouard Boutibonne (1816-1897)
Honore Daumier, Billiard Players (The Drinker)  
Gustave Caillebotte, Billiards, 1876
 Edgar Degas, Billiard Room at Menil Hubert, 1892
 Cornelis Vreedenburgh, The Bar Of Jan Hamdorff
Paul Gauguin, At the Cafe, 1888   
Vincent van Gogh, The Night Cafe, 1888

Jazz Journal / Fifties and Sixties Covers

Jazz journal, Sidney Bechet, September 1956                              Louis Armstrong, Trummy Young, August 1957 
Jazz Journal, Memphis Slim, August 1964                               Jazz Journal, Thomas "Fats" Waller, May 1954
Jazz Journal, Gerry Mulligan, May 1957                                    Jazz Journal, Art Tatum, August 1966
Jazz Journal, February 1965                      Jazz Journal, October 1967
Jazz Journal, August 1965                                                         Jazz Journal, July 1967
Jazz Journal, Sarah Vaughan, January 1960                             Jazz Journal, Alice Babs, August 1968
   Jazz Journal,  Dave Brubeck, February 1961                     Jazz Journal, Lionel Hampton, November 1961
 Jazz Journal, Count Basie, July 1969                                    Jazz Journal, December 1959
Jazz Journal, March 1960                                         Jazz Journal, November 1965
Jazz Journal, August 1969                                Jazz Journal, March 1967

Backstage at the Latin Quarter / Gordon Parks / New York (1958)

In December 1958, right around Christmastime, LIFE magazine published a 200-page special issue on the glories and absurdities of American entertainment. Such special issues were not exactly rare — LIFE frequently ended the year with a double issue on a grand theme (“The Sea,” “The Bible,” “The Great Outdoors”) — but we’d like to take a moment here and note one article in particular from that 1958 issue, “Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz,” and its extraordinary portraits of showgirls by LIFE photographer Gordon Parks.

Echoing the works of, for example, Toulouse-Lautrec and others who have immortalized entertainers — at work and at rest — through the centuries, Parks’ color pictures are at-once charged with emotion and curiously prosaic. These are, after all, women with a job to do: the fact that they do it in front of avid audiences, while largely undressed, only makes the evident tedium of the work all the more poignant.

But the strength of Parks’ photos, in the end, is not that they offer oblique commentary on the drudgery of labor, or that they somehow reveal something about “show people” that we never knew. Instead, the pictures matter because they’re beautiful — and because they offer, as LIFE noted, “living, breathing proof of the poet’s point that beauty is its own excuse for being.” | 

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