the column of lasting insignificance: Nov. 13, 2010
by John Wilcock
Recently, John interviewed Leslie Cabarga, author of Topless Summer Love Girls: A Gentleman's Guide to Women, Relationships, and Breasts.
JW: Leslie, your book, Topless Summer Love Girls is an almost overwhelming cornucopia--or maybe "pornucopia" is a better word--of ideas and images. Every page contains another delightful surprise. But would you mind telling me what it's all about?
Leslie Cabarga: Sure, well the book started 20 years ago when I first visited the topless beaches of France and, like most American men, was just amazed that it was all out there; all these tits, and it was all innocent and normal and... free! As a man, I've struggled, perhaps all my life, with some degree of embarrassment over staring at girls and my attraction to porn. Finally I realized that if the majority of men share these interests—which I believe they do—then what is actually typical masculine behavior can't be "wrong", even if it is not approved of by women; or thought to be sexist or objectifying and so forth.
JW: But I also see features in your book on bras and makeup. Even circumcision.
LC: Yeah, I've got some funny articles in there about bras. I say that I hate them because they cover up my view of breasts, but I go on to point out that many doctors now are finding that bras, which cut off lymph gland circulation, are causing breast cancer. Same with the use of make-up containing mercury and toxic heavy metals, that can sicken women over the long-term. Circumcision is a crime against men, although most of us never think about it because most men my age don't have a foreskin. But I point out that while men are often accused of being insensitive, the first caress of the penis is with a knife. So the book gets into some really serious subject matter but doesn't remain serious long. It's full of cartoons and funny illustrations and sidebars.
JW: At first glance what one notices in Topless Summer Love Girls are all the breasts.
LC: I created a fake study of breasts containing all these photos and this made-up information that is presented in totally straight-forward, believable way, and I designed it all to look retro. I created pseudo-scientific names for parts of breasts that actually have never been named before. The weird thing is that although it's all a joke, much of it is really valid. Like I also created about 18 pages (some of them appear in the toplesslovegirls.com website) of breast categorizations in which I identified and named every style of breast I could find. You know how many women have one breast that hangs lower than the other? Did you know it's most frequently the left one? That's actually true. But there's no name for that, so I made one up: "asymmastosis." It's a totally legitimate word! And I created an article that looks exactly like it came from a 1956 newspaper that explains how doctors suspect that the pledge of allegiance causes asymmastosis because the developing girls are putting pressure on the left sides of their chests as they pledge. The end of the article states, "School officials are considering suspending patriotism indefinitely until the matter can be studied further."
JW: No kidding, I thought all that stuff about breasts was real!
LC: Well, I leave it up to the reader to decide what is real and what is clever Photoshop fakery. I was an illustrator for many years—I painted covers for Time, Fortune, Newsweek, Business Week and many others—and I specialized in reviving old 1930s, 40s and 50s illustration styles. For TSLG, I've drawn over a dozen illustrations and cartoons all in different retro styles that most people, I think, would believe to be authentic period pieces. I also created a guy named Ludwig Von Dangler, a kind of poor man's Hugh Hefner, who published "DANGLERS, for the Urban Sophisticate Big Bust Lover." I've created period photo spreads that look like they came out of girlie magazines from the 1950s. They're really funny, they're satires on the naivete of those times.
JW: Well, the book is a feast for the eyes and full of laughs!
LC: Yeah, it is funny throughout. I've got a sidebar called the "20-year transition period" in which a woman suggests that women should just start baring their breasts on the American beaches until all the current pervs die out and toplessness comes to be thought of as normal and unremarkable. At the end of the piece she writes, "So when it comes to rude stares we will have to remain above it all, because remember girls, all true progress starts from the top down."
Topless Summer Love Girls: A Gentleman's Guide to Women, Relationships, and Breasts by Leslie Cabarga is available via the website www.toplessLoveGirls.com
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
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— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
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It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
by John Wilcock
"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."
-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner
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