Monday, April 09, 2018

Working on a shoe string

In 1927, Al Capone visited New York City and as was the custom then had his shoes shined whilst having his haircut. Capone was gracious with his tip and gave the shoeshine boy, 23-year-old Jack Hughes, a five-dollar tip. Five dollars was quite a lot in the twenties when the going rate for a shoeshine was a nickel (5c.). As a souvenir Jack kept the gangster old lace and idly wrapped it around his fingers. Soon the frayed lace became a ball and over the next 53 years, that ball grew as the famous and not so famous added their shoelaces - Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Joe DiMaggio, and Sonja Henne among them. By the forties Jack’s shoe lace ball was famous and he decided to add to his celebrity by giving the American public a new sales slogan,

"Pedal habiliment artistically lubricated expeditiously with luminosity and ambidextrous facility for the infinitesimal remuneration of .15 cents per operation."

By the time of Jack’s death in 1980 his ball of old shoelaces weighed 200 pounds and measured 1.5 feet in diameter. It is now acknowledged as biggest ball of shoelaces in the world. And all that from scar face’s cast off shoe ties.

Not a lot of people know this either but phrenology is the science of reading head bumps. Very popular in the nineteenth century, practitioners of the time would feel a patient’s head and depending on the size and shape of the lumps and bumps determine their mental health. The science is still is around but more a curio than a serious medical specialty. You can however buy a china phrenologist’s head, which have become very collectable and used as decoration. The original model for today’s modern replicas was thought to be the most famous libertine, Marquis de Sade.

Back to shoeshine boys, Fats Domino probably has made more reference to feet, shoes and walking in his hits than any other recording artist. Domino has so far been unable to account for this but it is a well known fact on his way to the small recording studio where he cut most of his hits, the fat man had to squeeze past a shoeshine stand in the shared lane to the studio.

Maybe like, William Shakespeare he subconsciously absorbed the image and translated into his artistic works. One reason cited why there are so many references to feet and shoes in the great English Bard’s writing is because Shakespeare had to pass through the cobbler’s quarter of London to get to the Globe Theatre.

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