[Ads-l] Antedating "cheesecake" - revealing photographs

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 31 02:03:49 UTC 2019

I posted a piece about "Cheesecake" and "Beefcake" on my blog.

I found an example of "cheesecake" from 1930 that describes the expression as coming from "ship news vernacular":

Dorothy Mackaill, blondely attractive, posing for press photographers . . . . . They skidded in their intentions to get a “cheese-cake picture” . . . .  In case you’re a bit rusty in ship news vernacular a cheese-cake picture is one in which the subject exposes her legs . . . . The tabs eat ‘em up . . . .
[End Excerpt]
The Film Daily, September 11, 1930, page 5.

That description is consistent with the primary origin story, that it was coined by an editor looking at a shipboard photograph of Elvira Amazar from her arrival in the US in 1915.  Barry notes this story on his site, which he says he took from an exhibition at the Museum of Sex in New York City.

The source of that story appears to be a 1953 pictorial, one-off magazine entitled, "Cheesecake: An American Phenomenon," with Marylin Monroe on the cover.  It attributes the Elvira Amazar pics to a photographer named George Miller of the Bain News Services.  I've been able to find three pics taken on that day, and a comtemporary publication of one pic credits Bain, and images of an example of what appears to be an original surviving print has "[copyright] Bain" written on it.  Another print has identifying numbers that synch up with the numbers on the one marked Bain.  In other words, the documentary evidence supports the George Miller story.

And even if George Miller didn't do it himself, it was likely a ship news photographer.  The earliest example of the word, and several early explanations of the word, all attribute its use primarily to ship news photographers, and define "cheesecake" specifically as posing a woman on a ship railing and having her hike up her skirt to show the knee.

Beefcake is from about 1949.  An early example attributes it to the publicity department at Universal-International Studios.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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