Harry The Hipster

by John Holbo on December 18, 2010

Here’s a nice photo from the Library of Congress, in the William Gottlieb collection:

[Portrait of Toots Thielemans, Adele Girard, and Joe Marsala, Onyx, New York, N.Y., ca. 1948] (LOC)

They have a series of New York in 1948 photos up just now. Ooh, this one’s nice.

Hey, let’s listen to Harry the Hipster while we’re at it.



Chris Bertram 12.18.10 at 8:15 am

Very appropriate you should post these, John, in what are the very last days of Kodachrome. (We’re already done in Europe, Americans have until the 31st, then no more processing, ever.) Don’t they look fantastic?


maidhc 12.18.10 at 9:44 am

I think Jerry Lee Lewis got a lot of his act from Harry the Hipster.

Apparently “Who Put the Benzidrene in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine?” ended his career, but it was a great way to go out.

Some really nice photos there.

Too bad about Kodachrome, but I have to admit the last time I bought any was over 10 years ago.

My father took a lot of slides of NYC, and I’ve been scanning them over the last year. Since I haven’t been there in ages, my view of the place has taken a Kodachrome cast which this only reinforces.

The pictures of 52nd St. at the height of the bebop revolution are mind-boggling.


John Quiggin 12.18.10 at 11:17 am

@Chris. Wow, I didn’t realise film processing would stop so soon. I never used Kodachrome and am not a real photographer, but it seems as if LPs have lasted much better



Chris Bertram 12.18.10 at 11:33 am

@JohnQ No, not film processing as such – at least not yet – just Kodachrome. The Kodachrome process is much trickier than either standard colour print (C41) or transparency (E6). Something like Fuji’s Velvia (E6) is just much easier and cheaper to process and lots of labs can do it, so Kodachrome has been pushed out. If it were economic, some third party would step in (as they have with Polaroid), but Kodachrome requires a level of industrial investment that acts as a barrier to that. (And, of course, you can still do black and white at home – as I do – with very inexpensive chemicals and equipment.)


Tom T. 12.18.10 at 5:00 pm

Channeling James Lileks, John H?


HP 12.18.10 at 7:36 pm

Tom T: Way back in the halcyon days of blogging, pre-9/11 and the rise of the warbloggers, Dan Perkins used to link approvingly to Lileks, making the point that though he didn’t agree with Lileks’ politics, he had a great eye for mid-century pop-culture ephemera.

It would certainly be a shame if Decent Human Beings became too embarrassed to appreciate pop culture just because of the association with the likes of Lileks.


BlaiseP 12.18.10 at 7:58 pm

For those who enjoy vintage photographs, there’s nothing like Shorpy


John Holbo 12.19.10 at 2:16 am

“Channeling James Lileks, John H?”

Did Lileks do some Harry the Hipster appreciation that I missed?


John Holbo 12.19.10 at 2:22 am

I haven’t read Lileks for years, so, if I’m plagiarizing him with this post, then I plead ignorance.

If, on the other hand, you are just putting all of mid-century pop culture on some sort of Lileksorum Prohibitorum, then I’m with HP: that’s nuts.


Tom T. 12.19.10 at 5:08 am

I didn’t say a thing about Lileks’ politics. It’s just that maybe half of his Bleat website for however long now looks entirely like this post, so it’s a natural comparison. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


John Holbo 12.19.10 at 5:31 am

Oh, ok, it’s sad that the man has such toxic politics that I would feel offended by the mere comparison. I read Lileks back in 2001 and, truthfully, it got me started with blogging. I just loved the Bleat. But I just can’t take his politics anymore. It’s just too awful.


MMTP 12.19.10 at 2:24 pm

Sure the photo is great but I feel traumatised by H the H’s ludicrous gurning. Couldn’t you have posted a clip of Art Tatum instead?


John Holbo 12.19.10 at 3:27 pm

Well, I’ve just obscurely decided that you are probably the better for suffering the trauma, MMTP. Them’s the breaks!


r. clayton 12.20.10 at 1:00 am

I call shenanigans. There’s no way Toots Thielemans needs an instrument case that big.


John Holbo 12.20.10 at 7:00 am

“I call shenanigans.”

I’m sorry, I think the statute of limitations on shenanigans is only 60 years, in New York state. It ran out in 2008 for this particular pic.

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