Monday, February 11, 2008

More speculations on "Eustace Tilley," a dandy name

Ever since hearing about this year's cover illustration contest, I've been doing a lot of "eusless" speculation on the name, Eustace Tilley, the fictional and enigmatic icon of The New Yorker magazine. I'm a sucker for research and speculation when a tantalizing mystery ensues. The curiosity started when, whilst researching dandy, Eustace Tilley for purpose of my entries, I ran across another famous Tilley of the same era. "Vesta Tilley" was the stage name of an English male impersonator, singer, actress and comedienne who was wildly popular with audiences of both men and women, both in England and the United States. In fact, her first stage appearance in NYC was as a dandy: that uberly-refined male stereotype of the likes of Beau Brummell and Count Alfred D'Orsay. Born Matilda Alice Powles, she was the wife of Walter de Frece, the son of a theatre owner. "Tilley" was borrowed from her nickname, short for Matilda, and "Vesta" referred to a brand of household matches (wax vestas) in the day. Grecian and Roman words and names such as Vesta and Eustace were the retro-vogue during Victorian and Edwardian eras, along with neo-Greco fashion and design. But the High Hat era was flapping and streamlining into eclectic stylisms of Art Deco and Arts and Crafts by the 1920's. Aside: in Roman mythology, Vesta is the virgin goddess of hearth, home, and family. And Vesta Tilley was a fire-starter when it came to igniting applause, laughter and admiration.

I can't help but suspect that art director and painter of the Eustace Tilley profile, Rea Irvin, as well as Corey Ford, who named Eustace Tilley — and Johann Bull, artist of the running inside-joke Tilley cartoons — surely knew of, and had seen Vesta Tilley act and sing onstage in New York...prior to The New Yorker's and Eustace Tilley's conception. And so, just possibly there might be a conscious or unconcious osmotic, creative connection made in his creator's mind concerning Tilley as Eustace's surname. It seems there were all kinds of ingenious, wonderful and silly spoofs and puns going on within those early issues of the magazine, and Eustace was in on the act. A dilly of a Tilley. Meanwhile, back in London, Frece, a.k.a. Vesta Tilley had retired just 5 years prior to the February 17, 1925 debut (i.e., the February 21st issue) of The New Yorker, 'ere the subsequent addition and naming of Eustace Tilley as a regular feature by the August issue. Vesta Tilley's New York and London performances would still have been fresh in the minds and hearts of New York's worldly, theatre-going well-to-do, walking down Park Avenue...and the working class, too, which reportedly adored her. I don't doubt that there would have been immediate recognition of Vesta's stage-surname and mental images of her dandy-characters upon seeing the name of the magazine's dandy coined as Eustace Tilley.

My research bone was urged on through Emily Gordon's EMDASHES responsive blog posting, Eustace Tilley Inspired By Famous Male Impersonator?, penned after her reading of my previous Monkey Sox postings. Some further conversation ensued. Googling on, I found a picture of the original Tilley cover model.

Historically, dandies must have been a dime a dozen, or maybe a dollar a dozen, since they apparantly frolicked through their own pockets and the purses of any willing others for the sake of clothes and good times. Something like the Japanese geisha, dandies were, although in a lesser sense, "being art" through exteme refinement and impeccibly good taste. Irvin went for the crème de la crème, and chose "dandy of dandies," Alfred Count D'Orsay as his profile model for the inaugural cover. Nobody quite knows what the cover's image signified for either magazine or city, or even why it was selected. The profiling character was christened with the Eustace Tilley moniker, evidently, after he came to life and started running The New Yorker's production from the inside cover. Ooh, Eustace Tilley. You go, beau. You and your bad-buttocked ego. (I do feel a song coming on!)

According to Wikipedia," Ford borrowed Eustace Tilley's last name from an aunt — he had always found it vaguely humorous. 'Eustace' was selected for euphony, although Ford may have borrowed the name from Eustace Taylor, his fraternity brother from Delta Kappa Epsilon at Columbia College of Columbia University."

In addition to being a nickname for Matilda, Tilley is also a surname. It is "euphonically" (ha!) similar to "silly," or "thilly," with a lithp. Ok. Lisp. Which makes it sound even thillier than Tilley. A bit effeminate, affected and/or foppish, too (although fops and dandies claim some differentiation). Not to mention that the stylish and bohemian lesbian fringe of the 20's had adopted the dandy's fancy duds and monocle as their own gender-bending sex symbolism. The monocle identifies Eustace Tilley, who peers though his quizzing glass at a rather social pink butterfly. Or perhaps the butterfly is peering at the dandy. Monkey Sox can't help but be reminded of the Chinese philospher, Zhuangzi's dilemma illustrating "the transformation of things", when he asks to the effect, "Am I a man dreaming I'm a butterfly, or am I a butterfly, dreaming I'm a man?" Ah, through her looking glass, Monkey Sox (albeit, straight monkey that she is) views dear, supercilious Eustace as a Pinnochio dreaming he's a real man dreaming he's a pink butterfly dreaming he's a man... . But I digress.

Where I live, in Central Florida, there is a distant small town which sports a derivative spelling of Eustace (Ευσταχυς or Eustachys): it is spelled, Eustis. In high school band, our son used to play a horn called the euphonium. And so I knew the prefix, "eu" means "good," and "well" even to the extent of "beautiful" or "pleasant" (as in the lovely sound of the euphonium). The name, Eustace means "good grapes," or, carried out beyond the literal, "bountiful harvest." So, euphonically, and phonetically, because of similarity in sounds, our warped family has long made it a habit to make pun with the name of Eustis by re-naming it "Useless, Florida." That is, along with "Weirds-dale" (Weirsdale), "Where's Waldo?" (Waldo), "Tittiesville" (Titusville), "Tampax" (Tampa), "Tampon Strings"(Tarpon Springs), and other town-names here which are funny enough without further ado.

I digress (again). So... "monkeying around" as usual, I've found that when rolling the name around on tongue and in mind, "Eustace Tilley" can easily be transformed into "Euthleth Thilley," and punned into "Useless Silly" or "Useless Dilly." Which would be apt summation of what the dandy figure represented—a lampooned and, by the 1920's, outdated male stereotype. As mentioned above, what Eustace Tilley represented, was uncertain from the beginning, according to Louis Menand in his fascinating article, Mystery Man: The many faces of Eustace Tilley featured in The New Yorker's February 2005 issue (Portfolio). The magazine, itself, he tells us, didn't have a distinct direction or purpose at its inception. Tilley almost lost his airs over that, but as luck had it, said randy beau stayed on his high horse, reaching world fame, even though his fashion-ho image continues to be lampooned and bandied about to this day (just view the contest entries!). And great googley graffitage! What a true super-dooper trooper! Monseiur E. Tilley has even managed to turn ridicule about, 360 degrees to his advantage, making himself even more illustrious in a center-of-attention kind of way by faux-zenfully resigning to his fate through promoting such $acrilege. What pluck! What marketing chutzpah. $heer genius. Yes, the dear dandy really does possess a set of low-hanging spherical objects. Thilley Monkey Thoxth thinketh that ith juth too whimthically fun (methinks she's having another literary euphemism).

Monkey Sox Fashion Statement for February 2008: Yo. Eustace Tilley. Call home. Ya'll keep putting on" the Ritz, if you know what I mean. Snap! Somebody really o'tta put some musicology on those blush-swanky cheeks.


Monkey Sox's entries are in the Eustace Tilley Contest Flickr pool:

Thilley Monkey

Eustace Tilley IV

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 2008

Hitch About Town

and in her set, I Play With Eustace Tilley

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Choices: The Quandry

Poetry (Cinquain) and Digital Art copyright DW Bender


Two things
Have come to me,
Although I never asked:
Resolve to live in solitude...
And you.

DW Bender
Cinquain (Published in Haiku Harvest: 2000-2006)

Illustration Friday Theme: Choices
Title: The Quandry
Medium: Digital Manipulation with Fractals and Filters
Cateogory: Abstract
Font: Segoe Print

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Beach Blanket

sorting seashells,
Grandpa is sorting through
his younger days

DW Bender
Haiku, February 6, 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Eustace Tilley Impersonates Vesta Tilley, Famous Male Impersonator

change of clothes
my husband turns into my mother
in a dream

DW Bender

Victorian gentleman's costume drawing of artist and dandy of dandies, Alfred Count D'Orsay, Irvan's model for Eustace Tilley:

Perfumes bear his name, as he was also a celebrated parfumeur. Click for D'Orsay in 3-D...a plaster statuette of the Count, probably as perfume advertisment.

Eustace Tilley as Vesta Tilley for The New Yorker, 2008 (spoof):

Tilley wearing monocle:Vesta Tilley as 'Burlington Bertie' of Bow:

Coincidental surname? Vesta Tilley, a famous and very popular (and happily married) English male impersonator, often played a dandy, singing and acting in theaters in New York.

More on Vesta/Eustace Tilley at my "I Play With Eustace Tilley" set at Flickr.

More info on Vesta Tilley on BTinternetand Wikipedia.

Interesting related excerpt from a book by Laurence Senelick, The Changing Room.

(Edit 2-10-08)Emily Gordon of EMDASHES—the New Yorker Between the Lines, writes a bl'article on Monkey Sox's Eustace-Vesta Tilley, "Eustace Tilley Inspired By Famous Male Impersonator?"

Chorus on the playbill in which Vesta Tilley sang this 'dandy' number:

"He has the latest thing in collars, the latest thing in ties,
The latest specimen of girly girls with the latest blue blue eyes,
He knows the latest bit of scandal, in fact he gave it birth,
But when it comes to getting up of mornings, he's the latest chap on earth."

"The Latest Chap on Earth.," written and composed by EW Rogers & performed by Miss Vesta Tilley.

A stage star in England and the United States for over 30 years, one of her most famous dandy-characters was "Burlington Bertie of Bow." When she came to the US for the fist time in 1912, she performed "The Piccadilly Johnny with the Little Glass Eye: "The most perfectly dressed young man in the house" (of which, 'eye' would refer to the dandy's monocle.

Edited February 9, 10.

Yesterday's Tea, or Tea for the Tilleyman

morning frost—
into the heat of tea seeps
the whiteness of milk

DW Bender
Haiku, 2008

Well, isn't this just too silly. Silly, thilly, Tilley.Flickr member, dyetochange asked, "any way to make a tea stain eustace? that might be neat too :)" Always up for a challenge...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tea Stain Doodles - Treebunny

not awake
nor asleep...scent
of spring

DW Bender
Haiku, Febrary 2008

Joined a tea-stain doodle group on Flickr, of all things, for Rorschach-doodling my mind into creativity:

Mixed media: tea stain, pen and ink, conte pencil on presorted, ink-stamped envelope half

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sketchbook Tales: The Natural Evolution of Art and The Artist

Please click image to enlarge and view)

Illustration Friday Theme: Tales & Legends
Artist: Debra Woolard Bender
Title: Sketchbook Tales: The Natural Evolution of Art and The Artist
Medium: Digital, redrawn from a child's drawing
Materials: Paint Shop Pro 9; Font: Ravie; painted using mouse
Category: Children's Art

the monster in my closet
what does it wear in winter
I wonder?

DW Bender, 2002
Haiku published in "Haibun by Contemporary Writers"

Web-browsing tremendously inspiring artworks produced by young children, I happened upon the intriguing site of artist/illustrator, Dave Devries: "The Monster Engine". Dave asked the question, "What would a child's artwork look like if painted realistically?" A cartoonist, he tried fleshing out monsters drawn by his young neice. Now, he does demonstrations for elementary school age children from their drawings to help them learn more about art, and sometimes to help them deal with their fears. Check out his Gallery. He even has a short online movie on what he does and why.

As a mother, grandmother and general admirer of children's artwork (and having once led a school art class for 4th graders), I was fascinated, and had to try a redraw version myself from a child's skeletal sketch. And although a child's artwork surely needs no redrawing, it is a fun challenge. Consequently, because this image is the product of what I'd been working on all afternoon, it has become my entry for this week's Illustration Friday theme: "Tales and Legends" - well, this may be farfetched, but it's not actually a well known legend, even among artists, that every piece of art becomes real, taking on a life of its own. Especially when the sketch is put away in the closet, and lights are turned off for the night. Of course, children naturally and rightly sense such things, before they become too worldly and stop believing in monsters and tooth faeries and fish tales. The five-legged, two-tailed kittycatosaurus in my Illustration Friday submission is such a tale...and so is the mythical book made only of imagination, 0's and 1's.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eustace Tilley IV

This ended up being the last entry for the New Yorker Eustace Tilley Contest; a bit farfetched from a parody on the iconic Tilley, but thinking of Murakami as perhaps the most weirdly iconic in today's pop culture. I found the PSP tool which I used to use for drawing in Version 9's vector-pen tool. I thought it was gone. It's hard to control the drawing using it, but I really liked using it in years past. Without the New Yorker font, instead of copy-pasting from an online image of a past issue, I decided just to put in a decent-looking font for titles and info.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My First Entry for The New Yorker's Eustace Tilley Contest 2008

This is my first entry for the New Yorker's Eustace Tilley Contest 2008. The deadline is the January 24, just a couple days from now. All contestant entries can be seen in the contest pool at Flickr. There are some amazing and funny parodies on the iconic cover. I hardly expect to win with my rough cartoon, but I wanted to enter for the challenge of coming up with something appropriate and fun.

In the process, I learned much about 'Eustace Tilley,' a character created and named for the New Yorker by Corey Ford. The cover portrait was rendered by Art Editor, Rea Irvin [August 26, 1881 — May 28, 1972] for the first isssue (February 21, 1925). The famous M. Tilley appeared annually on every February issues' cover until 1994. While Ford's memoirs, The Time of Laughter indicate the surname, Tilley was that of a maiden aunt, I can't help but note the likeness of the fictional foppish dandy and his surname to that of the famous Vaudevillian male impersonator, singer and comedianne, Englishwoman, Vesta Tilley [May 13, 1864 – September 16, 1952]; she was likewise immaculately suited in top hat, high collar, ascot, vest, overcoat, monocle, spats, etc.,...for at least one of her popular characters. Her finely-tailored style was so impeccible and admired that she became a trend-setter for the latest in male fashion. I've learned quite a bit about this other chic Tilley and about the "dandy" fashion of that day, as well:

Vesta Tilley had often performed onstage in New York at vaudeville halls such as Tony Pastor's and the Murray Hill Theatre. In 1903, she appeared in New York for "Undercover." The following year she returned to New York, playing the cross-dressing Lady Molly. Highly paid for a woman in her day, it is said "the taste, wit, and social observation of her act transcended vulgarity"; in fact, her successful independence as a female in theatre inspired and helped to pave the way for other would-be working women. When her husband entered politics, Vesta Tilley retired. She was in her mid-fifties, just 5 years before The New Yorker made its debut.

Interestingly, by the 1920's some lesbians, including artist, Romaine Brooks (1874-1970) and her circle, adopted the tailored attire of the dandy as their own; hat, spats, bobbed hair and all, and sported the monocle as a recognizible symbol. In fact, a popular Paris nightclub owned by Lulu de Montparnasse, catering to the lesbian community was named, "The Monocle."

It's just my wild imagination's way of association, but probably too wobbly an association to make anything substantial of. Yet, I can't help but wonder if Corey Ford (and perhaps Rea Irvin) had not seen Vesta Tilley perform as a stylish Edwardian fop in the preceding and recent years, influencing the choice of surname. At the very least, cosmopolitan 'men about town' as they were, the two would have been very aware of Vesta Tilley, and of course, the adoption of the dandy and monocled cross-dressing fashion by the female fringe; in the latter instance, perhaps it would have been too controversial to acknowledge such an inspiration in print, whereas a picture paints a thousand words. And a thousand speculations.

Monkey Sox: Introduction

Note: As of next week, I'll be posting my Illustration Friday submissions here on Monkey Sox. Previous submissions (December 2007-January 18, 2008, can be viewed in the archives of My Hermitude (now reserved as my woodblock printmaking blogsite). View comments on "Socks," the submission for the IF theme, "Plain" may also be found there.

(Please click image to enlarge and view)

Illustration Friday Theme: Plain
Artist: Debra Woolard Bender
Title: Socks
Medium: Digital
Materials: Paint Shop Pro; painted using mouse
Category: Painterly (Style: expressionism)

chill morning—
we all go to dancing
on the roof of Hell

DW Bender
haiku, January 2008
alludes to a haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1763 -1827):

yo [no] naka wa jigoku no ue no hanami kana

in this world
over Hell, we promenade,
gazing at flowers


2 versions: