The Ross Sisters, Pictures of Lily, Tom Hagen’s Trip, Calling Your Daughters like They’re Pigs, And Having A Crush on People Who Are Probably Dead

She's been dead since 1929
She’s been dead since 1929

The video below, from the 1944 movie “Broadway Rhythm,” gives me Big Feelings. It’s difficult to fit them all in one headline. There’s probably a German word for a sexual feeling one gets about an image of a person who was alive when the image was captured but is most certainly dead now, and who was under 18 when the picture was taken but who looks older because everyone looked older back then, what with Hitler and Pearl Harbor and all.

Let’s say that word is Minderjährigabertotenjetzlust, and that doesn’t even cover everything.

A group of actors wants to rent a farmer’s barn for a show, and the farmer promises to lower the rent if the troupe lets his daughters perform. He pig-calls his daughters — Aggie, Maggie, and Elmira Ross — and they proceed to perform the shit out of the song “Solid Potato Salad,” complete with a mind-bending proto-Cirque du Soleil dance break (2:26).

The music in the dance break is something I and many of my friends have heard for years. It is the background music for Tom Hagen’s trip to Hollywood in “The Godfather,” where Don Corleone’s Kraut Mick consigliere tries to persuade studio head Mr. Woltz to give Johnny Fontaine the big part.

But the dance break music is not “Solid Potato Salad” but 1942’s “Manhattan Serenade” by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra:

Interestingly enough, Woltz is reluctant to give Fontaine the part that will make him a star because Fontaine ruined the underage starlet Woltz was both grooming for stardom and bedding for kicks.

“And then Johnny Fontaine comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm, and she runs off,” fumes Woltz. “She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous. Now you get the hell out of here.”?

The Ross Sisters were 18, 17, and 15 when “Broadway Rhythm” was filmed*. They toured Europe afterward but didn’t catch on despite their obvious talent.

I watch the contortions these young women are capable of and think: You are going to Hell.


An attraction to the dead, of course, is called necrophilia. But an attraction to someone you think is alive but who it turns out is dead is something else: And who needs a German word when you’ve got The Who?

Being attracted to someone you didn’t know was dead or who wasn’t dead when the footage was taken that made you attracted to her in the first place is known as the Pictures of Lily Syndrome, so eloquently articulated by Mr. Pete Townshend.

“Pictures of Lily” is a 1966 song by the Who, in which a young man seeks comfort in a handful of photographs given to him by his father.

But the lad falls in love with Lily, so his dad has to tell him that “she’s been dead since 1929.”

Songwriter Townshend likely wrote “Pictures of Lily” about stage actress and royal mistress Lily Langtry, who died on February 12, 1929.


We can speculate about how appropriate it is for a father to share masturbation material with his son, or we can just acknowledge that most people’s first exposure to pornography is from the purloined stash of a family member. Mightn’t the shame of masturbation be lessened if it didn’t have to be associated with theft? Mightn’t search engines be confused by all these odd keywords + Pete-Townshend, no stranger to winding up in the wrong place online?

I am glad you came with me on this voyage of discovery. Next time you watch “The Godfather,” think of how different “Quadrophenia” would have been if Jimmy were riding Khartoum instead of a Vespa.

*two of the Ross Sisters are still alive, but you’re still going to Hell.

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Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist


  1. I watch a ton of old movies – Turner Classics is my favorite station – and many crush objects are regularly exposed, only to be majorly tempered by the fact that many of these actresses were dead BEFORE I WAS BORN (or, alternatively, dead by the time I’d heard of them/seen them in action). It’s decently-sad, and a German word would be perfect for this situation…

    …or so the Germans would have us believe.

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