Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Gals, Two Guitars, & Rare Books

by Stephen J. Gertz

Above, a nightclub-lounge act, two ladies clearly aiming for the  Gina Lollobrigida look. The time: 1955-1958, the years that Fender produced its 3/4 scale Duo-Sonic electric guitar finished in Desert Sand with maple fretboard and gold anodized pickguard, the ax in the gals' hands.

Jeepers creepers, who are these ladies who appear to have been slipcast into their gowns, the contours of their guitars so lusciously conforming to the contours of their bodies, the embodiment of pure, fretted pulchritude?

We don't know. Though obviously a publicity shot the photo is completely without identification.

Yet in a reverie inspired by Gina Lollobrigida in any movie 1955-1961, I imagine them as Belle and Bonita, The Book Sisters, strumming and singing the praises of rare books, the lyrics telling their tale in a stirring medley that begins deep in the Mississippi Delta and migrates to Tin Pan Alley and The Great White Way:

Woke up this morning,
Looked 'round for my shoes,
You know I had them mean ol' rare book blues.
Woke up this morning,
Looked 'round for my shoes.
Boy, you know I had them mean ol' rare book blues.

People tell me
Rare book blues ain't bad.
Ooh, it's the worst ol' feeling
I ever had.
People tell me rare book blues ain't bad.
Boy, it's the worst ol' feeling
Ooh, chile', I ever had.


They'll be swell, they'll be great,
All ancient rare books, color-plate.
Startin' here, startin' now,
Baby, everything's coming up rare books!

Stop the press! Here's the news!
You've got nothing to do but peruse.
Baby, everything's coming up rare books!

To be winning buy that book while a chance.
Head is spinning,
In-san-i-ty's just beginning!

Title page! Colophon!
From the first leaf to last it's a hon!
I can read. I can see.
Has no flaws: Whoopteedee!
To snag that book would be an awesome coup!
Baby, everything's coming up rare books for me and for you!


How much is that rare book in the window?
The one that says First Audubon.
How much is that rare book in the window?
I hope it won't cost us a ton.

We may pool our dough for this rare book
And forget our expenses, like rent.
This book looks so forlorn and lonesome.
We must take it home, heaven-sent.

Yikes, we just had a bold revelation.
The money involved is too swank.
To mortgage the house is of no use;
We'd still have to rob a large bank.


The book I love
Is in your eyes.
A book so rare, I prize.

The book I love...
Is bidding so much more than you

A crime to answer for?
Yet when the hammer fell,
Well, it knocked me to the floor.

I can hardly wait to hold it,
Feel my paws upon it.
How long I have waited,
Waited just to own it
And now that I have found it...


S'wonderful! S'marvelous!
Rare books are made for me.
S'awful nice! S'paradise!
Rare books I love to see!

They've made our lives so glamorous,
Life used to be so sulfurous, scabrous.

S'wonderful! S'marvelous!
Rare books are made for,
Rare books are made for,

Yup, that's the world of rare books: Glamorous for all concerned, a universe of glitz and  glitter with all edges gilt. Rare booksellers dressed in gowns and tuxedos (though generally not at  once), posh collectors wet with money sipping dry martinis to prevent accidental damp-stains to their books, and rare book librarians constantly rubbing shoulders with The 400 in the course of their daily lives. 

Ain't rare books grand?

N.B.: Isn't it about time that rare booksellers hire trade show models to pitch their wares at Book Fairs? If still alive, well-preserved and active, I suspect The Book Sisters can be booked for the occasion. Or, Vanna White, should her current job end its run.

Apologies to Robert Johnson, Stephen SondheimBob Merrill, Hal David, and Ira Gershwin.

Image courtesy of Fretted Americana, Inc., with our thanks.

Anyone with knowledge of the true identity of these gorgeous guitar proto-glam-rock gals are is encouraged to contact Booktryst.

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