To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Some notes on Sally Brown, who knows her onions.
The actual origin of the phrase "she knows her onions" isn't known. You run across it now and then but it seems to have appeared in the 1920's along with some other whimsical phrases. It simply means that Sally has common sense and knows what she's about. Scroll down for more.

"She's in a Ziegfeld show".

"She don't get out and walk" - Sally has no need to economize by getting off the bus or out of the taxi before it takes her all the way to where she's going.

"All she gets is forty per" - Forty cents per hour? Forty dollars per week? Don't know.

"You ought to see her lavalier

(Lavalier: (Negligee Pendant): A necklace with two pendants of unequal length suspended from it.)

"She stays out after 'leven, right in the city's whirl,
'Cause she believes that heaven protects the working girl".

"She hates finale hoppers."

(Young man who arrives after all bills are paid.)

and finally,

"She hardly ever dances with a collegiate sheik.
She don’t take any chances – she likes ‘em old and weak.
Never goes on auto dates
Without taking roller skates.
She’s a girl who knows her onions."

I once read an autobiography of Louise Brooks. Sadly, it appears to be out of print. It was funny and readable and had a lot of interesting stuff in it. Apparently in the '20's it was the thing for wealthy older men to pick out a girl, an actress or a chorus girl, to spend lots of money on. It gave him status among his peers if she could show up at nightclubs wearing very expensive furs and jewelry, and being driven in showy cars and so forth. Brooks said that, believe it or not, most of the time those relationships did not involve sex. You can see why the girls would try to keep it on that level if they could. For one thing, reliable birth control was not readily available. If the girl got pregnant, she couldn't keep working and she couldn't count on continued support from her sugar daddy. The law was not on her side in those days, and public opinion certainly wouldn't have been; not like now, when I'm faintly surprised whenever a pregnant celebrity turns out to be married. For another, these girls had to really guard their reputations because they were on a slippery slope anyway. If they were thought to really be prostitutes, they were one step away from standing on a street corner. (Think of Gigi, and how carefully her grandmama and Aunt Alicia guarded her reputation until a contract could be signed with Gaston to provide for her future.) So Sally Brown's perspicacity was revealed in the fact that she was never in a position where a man could compromise her. Apparently that meant giving up good-looking boyfriends her age, but it was a price she was willing to pay.

So it's a cute little piece, and I hope I haven't analyzed it to death. Where did I run across it? Well, that's another story.

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