Sunday, March 9, 8870

Sol Bloom (1870-1949) - Snake Charmer

Sol Bloom (March 9, 1870 - March 7, 1949) was an entertainment and popular music entrepreneur who billed himself as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man" and served for many years in the United States House of Representatives.

The son of Polish Jewish immigrants who moved to San Francisco while Sol was still an infant, he was introduced to the production side of theater business in his early teens, graduated to theater manager and staged boxing matches that featured "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. Seeking more spectacular shows to stage, he sailed for New York and to Paris for the Exposition Universelle (1889), where he was most impressed with the dancers and acrobats in the "Algerian Village" very loosely representative of France's Algerian colony.

His major success, at the age of 23, was in developing the mile-long Midway Plaisance for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. The Midway Plaisance offered enticing games and exhibitions presented by private vendors, removed from the somewhat icy Beaux-Arts splendor of the official exposition, ranged round its "Court of Honor". Reassigned to Bloom by the Exposition's committee, which had initially conceived of it as part of the Department of Anthropology entrusted to a Harvard professor, the "Midway" became a hugely successful crowd-pleaser that introduced the term "midway" to American English. In the "Street in Cairo", the North African belly dance was reinvented as the "hootchy-kootchy dance" to a tune made up by Bloom, "The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid" sung for a century by young boys to the lyrics "O they don't wear pants on the sunny side of France." Bloom neglected to copyright his tune, picked out on a piano at a preview for the Press Club of Chicago.

Bloom's entrée to the fair had been eased by Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who was assassinated days before the Exposition closed. Bloom found useful connections among Chicago's tough First Ward Democratic party bosses, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and "Hinky Dink" Kenna. Soon he had a position as Chicago branch manager of M. Witmark & Sons, the largest publisher of sheet music in the United States, and by 1896 he was publishing under his own name, introducing photolithographs to make the scores more visually appealing. In 1897 he married Evelyn Hechheimer and settled down in a then-fashionable district on South Prairie Avenue, making himself known as "Sol Bloom, the Music Man". At the turn of the century he was awarded the first musical copyright of the new century, to much fanfare; it was "I Wish I Was in Dixie Land Tonight," by Raymond A. Browne.

In 1903 he moved to New York, where he dabbled in real estate and enlarged his chain of music departments in department stores throughout the country. In New York he sold Victor Talking Machines. He switched his political connections to New York's Tammany Hall, to the extent that when the Representative of New York’s 19th Congressional District died in 1920, he was invited to run, and gained the normally-Republican "Silk Stocking District" by 145 votes. He continued to represent the district until his death in 1949.

In Congress he was in charge of the George Washington Bicentennial (1932) and the U.S. Constitution Sesquicentennial Exposition (1937). He chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1938. A strong supporter of Zionism, he was a delegate to the convention in San Francisco that established the United Nations. The first words of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, "We, the Peoples of the United Nations .." were due to Bloom.

He represented the US at the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in London in January 1946. He called his success in persuading a majority to vote, against their instructions, for the new United Nations organization to take over the finances of the earlier United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration "the supreme moment" of his life.


[The first Little Egypt - Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, a.k.a. Fatima, who danced to The Streets of Cairo, a.k.a. The Snake Charmer's Song]

The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid is a well-known melody in the United States. Alternate titles for children's songs using this melody include "The Girls in France" and "The Southern Part of France."

Purportedly the original version of the song was written by Sol Bloom, a showman (and later, a U.S. Congressman) who was the entertainment director of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It included an attraction called "A Street in Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun, which featured snake charmers, camel rides, and a scandalous dancer known as Little Egypt.

Songwriter James Thornton penned the words and music to his own version of this melody, "Streets Of Cairo or The Poor Little Country Maid." Copyrighted in 1895, it was made popular by his wife Lizzie Cox, who used the stage name Bonnie Thornton.

The oldest known recording of the song is from 1895, performed by Dan Quinn (Berliner Discs 171-Z).

The first five notes of the song are similar to the beginning of a French song named "Colin Prend Sa Hotte" (1719), which in turn resembles note for note an Algerian or Arabic song titled "Kradoutja."

The song appears frequently in cartoons when something that is connected with deserts, Arabia, Egypt, belly dancing, or snake charming is being displayed.

The song was also recorded as "They Don't Wear Pants in the Southern Part of France" by John Bartles, the version sometimes played by radio host Dr. Demento.

As with many songs often sung by children, there are wide variations to the common lyrics.

Variant #1
Oh the girls in France
Wear their whiskers in their pants
And the things they do
Would kill a Russian Jew
And the clothes they wear
Would freeze a polar bear.
Do what your mama says
And do what your papa says
But don't split your pants
Doing the Hootchy Kootchy Dance

Variant #2
Oh the girls in France did the hokey cokey dance
Singing Annie put your fanny close to mine:
Oh the girls in Spain did the very, very same
Singing Nellie put your belly close to mine.

Variant #3
There's a place in France where the naked ladies dance.
With their long blond hair and the boobies in the air.
There's a hole in the wall where the men can see it all.
The way they shake is enough to kill a snake.

Variant #4 (Common in Britain)
There's a place in France where the naked ladies dance.
and the men play drums
on the naked ladies' bums !!

There are alternate endings of the final verse, including:
* But the men don't care 'cause they're in their underwear
* But the men don't care 'cause they like to see them bare
* But the men don't care 'cause they chew their underwear
* But the men don't care 'cause they smoke their underwear

Variant #5 (Common In United States)
There's a place in France where the naked ladies dance.
There's a hole in the wall where the boys can see it all.
But the cops don't care 'cause they're in their underwear.

Variant #6 (Glaswegian version)
Does yer maw drink wine, does she drink it aw the time?
Does yer da drink gin, does he drink it oot a tin?
Does she git a funny feelin' when her heed's hit the cielin

Variant #7 (Common in Canada)
In the Land of Oz, where the ladies wear no bras,
But the men don't care, 'cos they wear no underwear.
And the kids don't mind, 'cos they leave their clothes behind.

Variant #8 (Also common in Canada)
In the Land of Oz, where the women wear no bras,
And the men play drums on the naked ladies bums,
Along came a genie with an artificial weenie.

Variant #9 (Also Common in Canada)
In the Land of France where the ladies wear no pants
And the men wear glasses to see their asses.

Variant #10
There's a place in France where the naked ladies dance
And the dance they do was created by Magoo.
But Magoo couldn't dance so they kicked him in the pants
And the pants he wore cost a dollar forty-four.

Variant #11
There's a place on Mars where women smoke cigars
And men wear bikinis and children drink martinis
Every breath you take is enough to kill a snake
When the snake is dead you put roses in his head
When the roses die you put diamonds in his eys
When the diamonds crack you pour mustard on his back

In France there is a popular song that immigrants from Algeria brought back in the 1960's called "Travadja La Moukère," which uses the same exact Hoochy Coochy tune. Its original tune, said to have been based on an original Arab song, was created around 1850 and subsequently adopted by the Foreign Legion.

In Israel, a popular song for the festival of Purim is "Shir Hasrisim" ("Song of the Ignorants"), written by Natan Alterman. The song pokes fun at the story of Esther, by using silly, almost childlike descriptions of the villains of the Purim story (Ahasuerus is a Baby, Haman is a drunkard). The tune used is most likely a folk tune among the local Arab population.


[Farida Mazar Spyropoulos]

Little Egypt was the stage name for two popular belly dancers. They had so many imitators, the name became synonymous with belly dancers generally.

Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, (c. 1871, date of death unknown), also performing under the stage name Fatima, appeared at the "Street in Cairo" exhibition on the Midway at the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893.

Ashea Wabe danced at the Seeley banquet in New York in 1896, enjoying a fleeting succès de scandale.

In 1893, at the Egyptian Theater on the World's Columbian Exposition Midway in Chicago, Raqs dancers performed for the first time in the United States. Sol Bloom presented a show titled "The Algerian Dancers of Morocco" at the attraction called "A Street in Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun, which included Spyropoulos, though she was neither Egyptian nor Algerian, but Syrian. Spyropoulos was billed as Fatima, but because of her size, she had been called "Little Egypt" as a backstage nickname.

Spyropoulos stole the show, and popularized this form of dancing, which came to be referred to as the "Hoochee-Coochee", or the "shimmy and shake." At that time the word "bellydance" had not yet entered the American vocabulary, as Spyropoulos was the first in the U.S. to demonstrate the "danse du ventre" (literally "dance of the belly") first seen by the French during Napoleon's incursions into Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century. Today the word "hootchy-kootchy" generally means an erotic suggestive dance and is often erroneously conflated with the group of dances originating in the Middle East that we now call bellydance.

Subsequently, several women dancers adopted the name of Little Egypt and toured the United States performing some variation of this dance, until the name became somewhat synonymous with exotic dancers, and often associated with the Dance of the Seven Veils. Spyropoulos then claimed to be the original Little Egypt from the Chicago Fair. Recognized as the true Little Egypt, she always disliked being confused with Ashea Wabe, after Wabe's performance at the Seeley banquet.

Ashea Wabe became front-page news item in 1896 after she danced at a swank Fifth Avenue bachelor party for Herbert Seeley. A rival dancer falsely reported that Wabe was going to dance nude and the party was raided by the vice squad.

The raid brought some amount of fame to Wabe. She was hired by Broadway impresario Oscar Hammerstein I to appear as herself in a humorous parody of the Seeley dinner. She might have then been forgotten except for a series of photographs taken by Benjamin Falk.

The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company released three short reels in 1897 with a dancer billed as Little Egypt.

Little Egypt is a highly fictionalized 1951 film about the legendary World's Fair dancer, produced by Universal International, and starring Rhonda Fleming in the title role.

Rock and Roll tunesmiths Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller penned a song entitled "Little Egypt" that was a 1961 hit for The Coasters. In the song, Little Egypt is depicted as a burlesque dancer/stripper, wearing "nuttin' but a button and a bow."

Elvis Presley performed the Lieber and Stoller song in his 1964 film Roustabout, and included it in his legendary 1968 TV special Elvis.

Ray Wylie Hubbard mentions both Tempest Storm and Little Egypt in the title track of his album Snake Farm when discussing the singer's girlfriend Ramona who works at a reptile house.

Hank Williams Jr. mentions Little Egypt in his song "Naked Women and Beer."

[8871 Zemlinsky / 8870 Bloom - Snake Charmer / 8868 Joplin]