Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Eight Pounds Of Beads

In north-central Wisconsin, about 5 miles north of the small town of Couderay, is the Hideout of Al Capone. This is a tourist attraction, not too bad as some of these things go, but no Taj Mahal. This actually was Al Capone's summer getaway - his lake home, if you will. There is just enough reality in the exhibits to overcome some of the tackiness - I mean, this was HIS place, furnished more or less as he had it, with just enough criminal history to make it a little sinister. (Just how many bodies are in the muck at the bottom of the lake?) Some of it verges on the ridiculous (Al Capone's dog's kennels! Al Capone's BIRD HOUSES!) but hey - He was Al Capone - not Alfred the Great! In some of the out buildings are "historical" displays of miscellany from the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's.

Most of it is antique store stuff, put together with an emphasis on quantity but nothing special - until THE DRESS appears. In a glass case, the guide points out a "Smithsonian Quality" flapper dress. It is simply stunning. It's like finding a Crown Jewel in a Cracker Jack box. It is the classic flapper dress, similar in shape and construction to a full slip, but the fabric is a dusty rose pink, with silvery patterns woven in the material. The guide says that the dress weighs eleven pounds. This is not a big dress. As I examine it closer, I see that what I thought was part of the fabric's pattern is really beadwork - tiny beads, thousands and thousands of very small, pearlescent adornments, in a lacy filigree. What seamstress spent months on this dress? What “Jazz Baby” wore it to what soiree? With whom? If the dress fabric weighs about three pounds, that leaves about eight pounds of beads. Eight pounds of lost glory, stuck in a cheesy Wisconsin tourist trap.

It seems that Al Capone's horrible legacy left at least one thing of beauty.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Comica said...

Ah, the roaring twenties...
I wish I could've seen such a beauty as this dress you're describing!

Blogger Tykho said...

Oh, I wish I could go see Al Capone's Hideout and the dress! It's just a little bit too much out of the way on our roadtrip. It's just my kind of strange, out of the way but beautiful tourist spot that takes you places in your head. I love that kind of flapper dresses.

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