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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 6, 1960

April 6, 2010 |  2:15 pm

April 6, 1960, Mirror Cover

Prudery Not So Very Practical These Days

Paul Coates

    Read a report the other day that a French sociologist named Pierre-Louis Weil sees the western world entering upon an era of prudery.

    He bases it on the belief that sex is beginning to lose its novelty.  That it has become a little more than a commercial force.  And that people now consider Jayne Mansfield and Brigitte Bardot mere satirical creations.

    As a result, Weil maintains, a new Victorian era lies dead ahead.

    Personally, I don't mind.  I'm as much of a prude as the next one.

    But if we regress to Victorian life, a tretorian** era lies ahead.

    For example, the entire field of advertising will be in a temporary state of utter confusion.  No more billboards of a girl in a Bikini extolling the virtues of denture cement.  No more TV commercials of girls in tight-fitting Capri pants undulating through the garden with a sack of Bandini tenderly cradled in their arms.

April 6, 1960, Subway

Yes, it’s another plan for a subway.
    The little nymph in the White Rock ads?  We'll have to get her a decent wardrobe.

    And the Brylcreem commercial?  Where a little dab does it, and the girls start chasing the boys.  That'll have to go.  In the Utopia of Queen Victoria, nice girls don't chase boys -- dabbed or not.

    The business world would be rocked to its very foundations, since ladies are not supposed to work in commerce, and all secretaries would have to be male.  This would bring to an end the traditional romantic involvement of the stenographer and the boss.  Or, at least it certainly should. 

    I know the Victorian age family mostly from the austere proverbs my grandmother carried along with her when she left it.

    Based on them, I predict an end to installment buying (a penny saved is a penny earned).  And all the theories of child psychology will be passe (spare the rod, spoil the child.  Children should be seen and not heard).

    But, selfishly enough, I'm most concerned about the effect  Victorianism will have on journalism.  If ladies and gentlemen are expected to act with propriety, gossip columnists will have to change their style. 

    We might expect something like this from Louella Parsons:

    "My first exclusive!  It looks like the real thing betwixt Miss Deborah Reynolds and boot purveyor Mr. Harry Karl.  Intimates say he's been reading to her from Elizabeth Browning at tea these days."

    And Sidney Skolsky would report:

    "The scam around Schwab's apothecary shoppe is that Dainty Miss Beverly Aadland has her dear mother in a stew, because of her sudden skittish behavior unbecoming to a young lady of quality.  They say she's been cutting out on her chaperon to keep midday tete-a-tetes with a drummer who travels in dry goods and notions."

    Twentieth century Victorianism would surely revive the historic Jimmy Fidler "Open Letter" to erring movie stars.

It Would Go Like This

    And, if I know my Jimmy, it would go like this:

    "Open Letter to Eva Marie Saint.

    "My Dear, Highly Esteemed Young Lady,

    "I address you more in sorrow than in anger.  But a strong sense of duty to the high calling and endeavor which we both respect forces me to inform you that I was deeply shocked and distressed at published reports of your astonishing behavior during a recent public gathering.

    "A gathering, I might add, made up of mixed company!

    "Pray tell me, dear Miss Eva, what demon possessed you that you would employ such a lamentable expression as you did?  You know the term to which I refer, and I would hope that the mere memory of it brings a blush to your fair cheek.

    "Assuredly, it is not feminine for a lady to make public display of her emotions.  However, since you apparently were unable to contain yours, are there not 'nicer' four-letter words you might have selected?  Might I humbly suggest that you utilize such terms as 'Drat,' 'Fie!'** or 'Bosh!'

    "I can only trust that what you said was uttered in a burst of perverse enthusiasm, which you now have come to regret.

    "Your Faithful and Obdt. Servant, James Fidler."

    That's what we can expect if we return to the era of Queen Victoria.  But I don't take too much stock in what this Pierre Louis Weil has to say.  Any Frenchman who considers Brigitte Bardot a mere satirical creation is either very sick, or very old.

    *Jimmy is a staunch defender of our morals.  But he's a slow counter.

**Note: Coates indeed uses the word "tretorian," but I can't find it anywhere--lrh