Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

28 September 2016

Mommy Dearest Rides A Bike

Last year, I wrote about someone who was a BMX rider before there was BMX--or, at least, before anyone coined the term "bicycle motocross".

The moves of this rider could put those of even some of the most accomplished BMXers, never mind hipsters on fixies, to shame.  And said rider made those spins, twirls and climbs with a grace unmatched by just about anyone else--decades before David Mirra or Ryan Nyquist were even born.

This rider's unique style was partly a result of her training.  All right, I let it slip that the rider was a woman.  Moreover, she was at least twice the age of most BMX riders when she made those moves.

Lily Yokoi's best-known (at least to mainstream American audiences) performances were on episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show and another variety show called The Hollywood PalaceThe latter, which aired on 9 October 1965, was hosted by none other than Joan Crawford.

It's easy to assume that show was as close as Ms. Crawford came to a bicycle--unless you've seen this:




Of course, it's easy to dismiss that photo as staged or retouched.  For one thing, it doesn't have a very natural look. (Then again, "natural" wasn't considered a virtue when that image was made.)  For another, the image appeared among other photos of major Hollywood stars on or with bicycles. Those luminaries include Bing Crosby (and his sons in their letter sweaters), Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman (they were married then), Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. 

I am talking about the 1946 Schwinn catalogue.  Why was there such an emphasis on glamor ?  My guess is that in the first post-war year, people wanted to be dazzled after the austerity that resulted from the war and the Great Depression that preceded it.  The "lightweight" bikes of that year, such as the Continental, seemed to emphasis their "European-ness", which was equated with elegance and sophistication.  In contrast, the wide, swooping curves, wide tires, lush chrome and flashy paint of Schwinn's (and other American bike makers') 1950s cruisers seemed baroque.



But I digress.  Turns out, "Mommie Dearest" wasn't just posing for a one-off photo.  While there are no accounts of her doing audaxes or races, she apparently got around on her bike.  Whatever her riding style, hardly anybody looked better!



As I understand, she was not the only Hollywood actor or performer who was riding in those days.  Some rode just because they liked it; others pedaled off the stresses and frustrations of working, as Jimmy Stewart would after spending hours in a wheelchair, with a fake cast on his leg, for Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Rear Window.



 

7 comments:

  1. General Jimmy Stewart always WAS a flyer!

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    Replies
    1. Steve--Indeed he was.

      Look at that photo: The man definitely has style, and it's all his!

      Delete
  2. For a gold mine of photos of Hollywood movie stars on bikes, all the way back to the silent era, check out ridesabike.com .

    Leo

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    Replies
    1. Leo--Thanks for the link. I am amazed I didn't know about it until now!

      Delete
  3. One thing about all those movie stars on bikes is that bicycles would be used frequently for people to get around the huge movie studio lots. The lots could be pretty expansive, and bikes were a quick and easy way to get around. So there are tons of these publicity type photos - they're fun to see.

    ReplyDelete
  4. One thing about all those movie stars on bikes is that bicycles would be used frequently for people to get around the huge movie studio lots. The lots could be pretty expansive, and bikes were a quick and easy way to get around. So there are tons of these publicity type photos - they're fun to see.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Brooks--I didn't think of that, but it makes sense. I guess they were using bikes in the studios the way they have been used in large factories and warehouses.

    Leave it to the film studies prof to point that out!

    ReplyDelete