Every hepcat knows the name of the Peppermint Lounge, famed in 1960s lore. But not as many folks recall that the same space was transformed in the 1970s into the Barnum Room, the only club with transvestite trapeze artists above the dancers.
Traditional Albanian society was not exactly pro-women's rights. Women were expected to marry and produce children, and that's about it. They were forbidden to partake in any "male" activities, such as smoking or wearing a watch.
But there was another option. A woman could choose to become a "sworn virgin," in which case she would become a man in the eyes of Albanian society, allowed to do all the things that men do (including being able to inherit property). The big drawback was no sex or marriage for the rest of their life. The punishment for breaking the vow was death.
SFGate has an interview with one of the last "sworn virgins" in Albania. There's fewer than a hundred remaining. A 2007 Washington Post article also has a video interview with a sworn virgin.
Every election year, politicians seek to invoke a mythical Golden Age, when life was simpler and more wholesome. Take the Edwardian Era in America, for instance, when the moral fiber of the country was still unpolluted--
--and when a drag queen like Julian Eltinge was a top attraction in high society and popular culture alike.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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