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Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures

In the 1930s, a Mono-Named Mannequin Took New York by Storm

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Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures

Forget Ginger Rogers and Joan Crawford. The most sought-after celebrity of the late-1930s was a mono-named socialite called Cynthia. She was invited to the most elite parties, including the posh wedding of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII of England. She received freebies from Tiffany and Cartier. She had box seats to the Metropolitan Opera. She was featured in LIFE. She was also a total dummy.

No, really — an actual mannequin.

Cynthia was a 100-pound plaster clothes hanger designed by a soap sculptor named Lester Gaba. As one of Lester’s “Gaba Girls,” Cynthia was a new type of mannequin designed to be realistic — Cyn had freckles and different-sized feet — while not melting under the sun like wax models did. In order to boost his status as an artist and cement his place in the New York social scene, Gaba began squiring his creation around town as if they were on a date.

As you might imagine, people took notice. It probably didn’t hurt that Gaba was very close friends with Vincente Minnelli (Liza’s dad), so the quirkiness spread to the city's trendsetters pretty quickly. Cynthia was soon a mainstay at galas and dinner parties, where, in keeping with her real-girl status, people tried to chat her up. Gaba would apologize profusely, explaining that the blonde beauty had laryngitis.

Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; See More Photos Here

Sadly, Cynthia met an untimely end when Lester Gaba went off to fight in World War II. Before he shipped off, Gaba decided that his main girl would take a sabbatical to Hannibal, Missouri, to live with his mother and de-stress from the frantic socialite life. Though she was on hobnobbing hiatus, Gaba left his mother explicit instructions to treat Cynthia like the star she was. She was to receive weekly beauty treatments, including styling at the best salon in town. It was there that, tragically, Cynthia slipped from a chair and shattered onto the hair clipping-filled floor below.

According to LIFE.com, newspapers reported Cynthia’s death as if a real person had died in an unfortunate accident. Though Gaba later recreated her and even installed equipment that allowed her to “talk,” he couldn’t recapture the magic. The country’s obsession with the plaster princess was over.

And if you’re wondering how the U.S. managed to get so worked up over such an empty object to begin with, well, Barney’s New York Creative Director Simon Doonan can explain:

“It’s not that big of a leap to go to a window mannequin from The Real Housewives of Orange County,” he told the New York Times in 2010.

C’mon. What does an artificial glamour queen with no brain and nothing to say have to do with... oh.

[via Gothamist]

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MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images
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This Just In
Pablo Neruda's Death Wasn't Caused by Cancer, Experts Conclude
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MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

Pablo Neruda—whose real name was Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto—died on September 23, 1973, less than two years after he was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature. The official cause of death was recorded as cancer cachexia, or wasting syndrome, from prostate cancer. But while Neruda did have cancer, new tests on his remains indicate that the left-leaning Chilean politician and poet didn’t actually succumb to the disease, according to BBC News.

It’s still unclear what, exactly, caused Neruda’s demise. But in a recent press conference, a team of 16 international experts announced that they were "100 percent convinced" that the author's death certificate "does not reflect the reality of the death,” as quoted by the BBC.

Neruda died in 1973 at the age of 69, less than two weeks after a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. Neruda, a Communist, was a former diplomat and senator, and a friend of the deposed politician.

In 2011, Manuel Araya, Neruda’s chauffeur, claimed that the poet had told him that Pinochet’s men had injected poison into his stomach as he was hospitalized during his final days, Nature reports. The Communist Party of Chile filed a criminal lawsuit, and Neruda’s remains were exhumed in 2013 and later reburied in 2016, according to the BBC.

Many of Neruda’s relatives and friends were reportedly skeptical of Araya’s account, as was the Pablo Neruda Foundation, according to The New York Times. But after samples of Neruda’s remains were analyzed by forensic genetics laboratories in four nations, Chile’s government acknowledged that it was “highly probable” that his official cause of death was incorrect.

And now, the team of scientists has unanimously ruled out cachexia as having caused Neruda’s death. “There was no indication of cachexia,” said Dr. Niels Morling, a forensic medical expert from the University of Copenhagen, as quoted by The Guardian. Neruda “was an obese man at the time of death. All other circumstances in his last phase of life pointed to some kind of infection.”

The investigating team says that their analysis yielded what might be lab-cultivated bacteria, although it could have also originated from the burial site or been produced during the body's decomposition process. Test results will be available within a year, they say.

[h/t BBC News]

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Fox Photos, Stringer, Getty Images
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Art
Winston Churchill’s Final Painting Is Going to Auction for the First Time
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Fox Photos, Stringer, Getty Images

While serving as an influential statesman and writing Nobel Prize-winning histories, Winston Churchill also found time to paint. Now, The Telegraph reports that the final painting the former British prime minister ever committed to canvas is heading to the auction block.

The piece, titled The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, depicts the pond at Churchill’s home in Kent, England, which has been characterized as his “most special place in the world.” A few years after the painting was finished, he passed away in 1965 and it fell into the possession of his former bodyguard, Sergeant Edmund Murray. Murray worked for Churchill for the 15 years leading up to the prime minister's death and often assisted with his painting by setting up his easel and brushes. After decades in the Murray family, Churchill’s final painting will be offered to the public for the first time at Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art sale next month.

Winston Churchill's final painting.
Sotheby's

Churchill took up painting in the 1920s and produced an estimated 544 artworks in his lifetime. He never sold any of his art, but The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell shows that the hobby was an essential part of his life right up until his last years.

When the never-before-exhibited piece goes up for sale on November 21, it’s expected to attract bids up to $105,500. It won’t mark the first time an original Winston Churchill painting has made waves at auction: In a 2014, a 1932 depiction of his same beloved goldfish pond sold for over $2.3 million.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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