Yesterday was the seventh birthday of my art work The Tattooed Lady! She made her debut on the 22nd May 2015 as part of the launch exhibition at HOME Manchester and since then has appeared at other art events dispensing
temporary tattoos (you can find out more about her on this blog). As a birthday treat I thought I'd
explore the history of the mysterious woman whose photo I used as inspiration for the painted section of my penny arcade machine and
share her dark and forgotten story. She was an enigma to me until recently, but her story is unforgettable.
So get comfortable, take a deep breath, and read on as we explore the tumultuous history of a tragic showgirl star...
A tale of love and regret:
As one of the stars at the Ziegfeld Follies, Imogene was riding a wave of notoriety and fame. She had become one of it's most popular showgirls, sparkling and shimmying every night in her Erte costume and her effervescent personality could be felt far beyond the stage.
The columnist Mark Hellinger had once quipped, "Only two people in America would bring every reporter in New York to the docks to see them off. One is the President. The other is Imogene "Bubbles" Wilson." Frequently spotted around town in the best restaurants and night clubs, she had earned a reputation as a party girl and how the press adored her! 'Bubbles rhymes with troubles' yelled the headlines!
It was 1922, and Imogene was a jazz baby living as a fashionable and daring young thing. Yet she had arrived in New York under very different circumstances just a few years earlier.
A small and thin child with few belongings, Imogene had made the long journey from Kentucky to the Big Apple to live with her older sister Mabel. She had chosen to leave behind the foster home that her father had put her in after her mother had died, and in doing so had changed the course of her life.