Virginie Brasi, née Rubinson, wished to take the veil after converting to Catholicism in 1981. She had a change of heart going through Cambodia. In a passing moment in June, she heard a song on the radio as she moved through haunting ruins in Phnom Penh. Beneath the high, nasal wail of the country’s old opera, she heard an ancient grief, something spoke to her, that faint tinkling of bells, from her childhood. She found herself swerving into the path of a farmer and his carabao: she stopped the car. It was the tinkling of the bells at Central Park Zoo, approximated in the sunlit, dying fall of the soothing Khmer sounds. For a moment, she wished she were Buddhist. 

Diane Arbus, née Nemerov (1923-1971) was a photographer and a granddaughter of furriers, the Nemerovs of Russek’s Fifth Avenue. Like Rubinson Fur Emporium, Russek’s Fifth Avenue boasted progeny of cultural significance—in Russek’s case, Diane Arbus and her brother, poet Howard Nemerov.

Rubinson Fur Emporium was often confused with Russek’s Fifth Avenue, another fur emporium also owned by Russian emigrés. Rubinson Fur Emporium became a major investor of the movie world, under the guidance of its peripatetic heiress, Virginie Brasi, until Virginie was disowned for betraying her forefathers by converting to Roman Catholicism. See Virginie Brasi

Chaya Sophia Chazanov Rubinson, also known as Madame Rubinson, began in the New York theater world as seamstress then set designer Cassandra Chase. She caught the eye of an investor in the 1933 Broadway flop, Mrs. Ida McKinley Gives Her Regards, a one-woman show. Synopsis: the epileptic widow of the fallen president gives a long and excruciating monologue while crocheting slippers as she talks her dead husband, who is in paradise. An avant-garde performance, it climaxed in an abrupt and completely unexpected seizure onstage, bringing down the house, literally, as people left the theater to avoid the “stark, vulgar display of rabid melancholy and unbearably extended, high-pitched, squealing sounds of mourning,” so the Times reproved. Despite rave reviews from a few discerning people in Brooklyn, the show shut down after twenty-four hours (to the relief of the ingenue actress, Sylvie Plato, who reported in an interview that “it was not just my vocal cords that were at stake, my fingers w...

Underwood & Underwood, maker and distributor of stereo cards and other visionary equipment, was founded in 1881 by brothers Elmer and Bert on Sesame Street in Ottawa, Kansas. At one time Elmer and Bert were “the largest publishers of stereoviews in the world with ten million views a year.” Take that, Instagram! See Brownie camera.

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ELVIS AARON PRESLEY

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