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Posts Tagged ‘Elton John

Spy vs. Spy…

For most of the latter half of the 20th century, the United States and the Soviet Union were leading adversaries in the nuclear arms race known as the Cold War. Seemingly no potential advantage was to be overlooked, regardless of sector or industry. This was true in technology and espionage as well, and, in the 1960s, the CIA found a marriage of the two which could have been a potential game-changer.

That innovation? A bionic spy cat named the Acoustic Kitty.

According to former CIA agent turned author Victor Marchetti, the CIA had developed a way to, literally, wire a cat so that it could be used in espionage missions. The CIA surgically implanted a power supply into the cat, as well as wires going into its brain and its ears. A microphone was layered into its ears and an antenna through its tail. The implanted device was able to determine when the cat was aroused or hungry and suppress those urges, allowing it to carry out its mission — cuddle up to some Soviets and listen to their conversations. The entire operation, from start until its end, cost the government somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million and took about five years to develop.

In testing, the CIA discovered that the Acoustic Kitty had a fatal flaw. A surveillance van drove up to the test subjects and released the cat, which again according to Marchetti, made its way across the street unnoticed. Unnoticed, that is, by an oncoming taxi cab, which struck the cat, killing it immediately.

The CIA decided to drop the spy cat program soon thereafter.

From kindred spirit (public broadcasting guy who does a daily email/blog) Dan Lewis, whose Now I Know is always a treat.

***

As we beef up our bionics, we might recall that one cat did make it through: on this date in 1979 Elton John became the first Western pop star to play a live concert in what was then the Soviet Union, as he performed in Leningrad, kicking off a hugely-successful Evil-Empire-wide tour.


Elton behind the (Iron) Curtain

Written by LW

May 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

The man who made the clothes that make the man…

 Nudie Cohn, perched on one of his 18 custom cars (source)

Nuta Kotlyarenko immigrated to America from Kiev at age 11, and bought into the American Dream big time.  After kicking around the country as a shoeshine boy and a boxer (and indeed, he claimed, as a companion of Pretty Boy Floyd), Kotlyarenko– by then, “Cohn”– and his wife opened a New York lingerie store, Nudies for the Ladies, specializing in custom-made undergarments for showgirls.

In 1947, after relocating to Los Angeles– and taking “Nudie” as his given name– Cohn persuaded a young, struggling country singer named Tex Williams to buy him a sewing machine with the proceeds of an auctioned horse; in exchange, Cohn made clothing for Williams.  The creations were so popular that Nudie opened a North Hollywood store to feature his chain-stitched and rhinestone-studded creations.

Over the years, Nudie gave dozens of performers their signature looks, from Elvis’ $10,000 gold lame suit to the costumes of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  But his specialty was country (and country rock) singers: e.g., Porter Wagoner (a peach-colored suit featuring rhinestones, a covered wagon on the back, and wagon wheels on the legs), Hank Williams (a white cowboy suit with musical notations on the sleeves), and Gram Parsons (the suit he wears on the cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers album The Gilded Palace of Sin, featuring pills, poppies, marijuana leaves, naked women, and a huge cross).  John Lennon was a customer, as were John Wayne, Gene Autry, George Jones, Cher, Ronald Reagan, Elton John, Robert Mitchum, Pat Buttram, Tony Curtis, Michael Landon, Glenn Campbell, Hank Snow, and numerous musical groups including “that little band from Texas,” ZZ Top.

Nudie with The King in “the Suit” (source)

Nudie died in 1984; the store (which remained open under the management of his daughter) closed in 1994.  But his work remained prized–  Porter Waggoner reckoned, just before he died in 2007, that he had 52 Nudie Suits, costing between $11,000 and $18,000 each (and worth by then much, much more).

And Nudie’s legacy remains strong.  His glittering garments were a bright stab at the conformity of their times… and set the precedent (if they didn’t in fact lay the foundation) for the Culture of Bling that has erupted out of Rap and Hip Hop into life-at-large.

For more wonderful photos of Nudie, his creations, and his cars visit Nudie (“the official site”) and check out the wonderful pictorial essay at The Selvedge Yard.

As we smile at the irony of a clothier named “Nudie,” we might wish a tuneful Happy Birthday to James Henry Neel Reed, better known simply as Henry Reed; he was born on this date 1884, in the Appalachian Mountains of Monroe County, West Virginia.  Reed was a master fiddler, banjoist, and harmonica player whose repertoire consisted of hundreds of tunes, performed in several different styles.  But beyond his importance as a performer, he became, in effect, the Ur Source for academic research into the history of U.S. fiddle music.  (Learn more about Reed, and hear him play, at the Library of Congress’ Henry Reed Collection.)

Henry Reed (in street clothes), 1967 (source)

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