Friday, May 09, 2008

Opera and Go Go in Memphis

25 years ago today, Memphis strippers and their supporters executed one of the strange and great protests in Memphis' history. During the performance of the Metropolitan Opera's Macbeth at the late Dixon-Myers Hall, they stripped.

The protestors were part of a group called MASH, Memphians Against Social Harassment that had formed after the Memphis City Council passed an anti-nudity ordinance aimed at the city's topless nightclubs. When the Memphis Police Chief, John Holt, announced that he wouldn't enforce the ordinance against the Met, whose production featured a topless Cheryllyn Ross as the witch Hecate, because the "ordinance is not directed to the arts", MASH hatched the topless protest directed at the Met's performance.

Memphis cultural and business mavens, afraid of the embarrassment that the protest would bring to Memphis (although apparently not bothered by ordinance embarrassment) negotiated with MASH to call off the protest. MASH asked for a repeal of the ordinance. The City Council refused, and MASH put its plan into action, apparently with the support of the visiting Met singers.

When the topless singing witch appeared on stage, 20 topless club dancers and supporters, scattered through the audience, bared and illuminated their breasts with flashlights, lighters and candles.

No one was arrested.

A letter in support of the protest from the great Lucius BurchThere were photos taken of the protest by photographers from Newsweek and Time, but I don't know if they've ever been released.

ad that ran in the Commercial Appeal 2 weeks later

Labels: , , , , ,


Blogger Naomi Van Tol said...

Thanks for making "ecdysiast" my word of the day! Or rather, thanks to Lucius Burch Jr. -- they don't make 'em like that anymore.

I remain, sir, prurient and an incitement to carnality.

3:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home