In 1939, the New York World’s fair hosted a display by the NTG Sun Worshippers. It was part of Broadway producer Nils T. Granlund’s Congress of Beauty exhibit. It tapped into the fashion for light therapies, as espoused by the wonderful Madame Alwyn, esteemed medics, Nazi Ubermensch Gertrud Scholtz-Klink and British toff Prunella Stack.
All of Granlund’s colony of sun worshipers were women. The futuristic World of Tomorrow looked a lot like the world of the past: clothed men paying to look at naked women.
It was all good, clean wholesomeness, of course. On April 30, 1939, the $160, 000, 000 New York World Fair was opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who flanked by Boy Scouts declared that America had “hitched her wagon to a star of good will”.
Bring the family, then, to glimpse the utopian rosy-fingered dawn. And take in Jack Sheridan’s “Living Magazine Covers” exhibition, where, for a fee, one could enter and photograph topless models posing in sets designed to look like contemporary magazine covers.
Many came. The Atlantic notes:
Over the course of two seasons, 44 million people attended the fair, catching glimpses of a possible future, and enjoying entertainments from marionette shows and thrill rides to girlie shows and choreographed aquatic extravaganzas.
Granlund (born: Sweden September 29, 1890; died: Las Vegas following a traffic accident, April 21, 1957) was the publicist for Marcus Loew who formed Loews Theatres and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). After running a number of girlie shows at New York’s Mont Carlo and El Fey clubs, operating the vast mob-owned Hollywood, a dinner-and-show club on Times Square, and opening The Midnight Sun night club – a 1942 newspaper report said he had shows running in six different clubs run by six different gangsters – Granlund created the “CONGRESS OF BEAUTY” and “SUN-WORSHIPPERS COLONY”.
He advertised for colonists. A stripper named New Plum, aka Sun Lee, got one of the 20 jobs of “standing around, wearing a fig leaf and looking happy” in Granlund’s “Garden of Eden”. Helen Johnson of Dallas, Texas, was chosen to be Miss Garden of Eden.
Granlund referred to the girls who worked for him, like the English Vera Milton, as “Dumb Doras”. Milton is the vaudeville star who studied the running order for a show and declared: “Hey, here’s one I didn’t rehearse this one”. Which one?” asked a stage hand. “Intermission,” said Vera.
and now for all you retro hounds, a video:
Read: Blondes, Brunettes, and Bullets, by Nils Granlund.