A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 25, 2004
Superman; Superstar; Supermodel
New York City is just "super." It all began with Superman, followed by Superstar and Supermodel.


"Superman" was born in Germany in the 1890s, when Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about his "Uebermensch." In 1903, George Bernard Shaw produced his Man and Superman, a comedy and a philosophy.

The June 1938 Action Comics contained the debut of Superman, by Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joseph Shuster (artist). Superman fought for truth, justice, and the American way, all in a town called Metropolis, where he would leap tall buildings in a single bound. Metropolis could be nowhere but New York.

In May 1939, Detective Comics debuted Batman. Batman fought to save Gotham City.

We also have Spider-Man. No other city is blessed with so many superheroes.


After Superman, athletes and movie stars couldn't be just stars. They had to be "super" stars.

Andy Warhol's factory included an Ingrid Superstar, and perhaps this influenced the popularity of "superstar" in the 1960s.

14 April 1966, Village Voice, pg. 18, col. 2:
Andy Wahol's new discotheque seems to be an attempt to instill permanence into a private joke. (Col. 2 continuation--ed.) ...a girl named Ingrid Superstar.

"Superstar" would be extremely popular in the late 1960s. After seeing a Las Vegas billing of "Tom Jones: Superstar," Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice called their new musical Jesus Christ, Superstar.

Here are some superstars, both pre- and post-Warhol.

2 August 1936, Los Angeles Times, pg. C2:
News and Gossip of Stage and Screen: Super Stars to Appear in County Fair

5 December 1936, Washington Post, pg. X19:
The All-American Football Team of 1936 - Chosen From the Nation's Super-Stars

24 May 1953, New York Herald Tribune, section 4, pg. 1, cols. 5-7:
James Stewart, Last of the Super-Stars
(Continuation on page 3, column 8--ed.)
James Stewart,

14 January 1957, New York Times, pg. 39:
Still Thrives in Tell Corn Country; Chamberlain Superstar in First Year in Kansas Five

6 July 1968, Rolling Stone, pg. 16, col. 1:
Last week Tiny Tim sat in a plush Beverly Hills office remembering what it was like before he became a Super Star.

16 February 1969. New York Times, pg. D31:
"Opera's new superstar" -- Newsweek.
(Beverly Sills --e d.)

Henry Aaron, quiet superstar
by Al Hirschberg
New York: Putnam (1969)

28 March 1970, New York Times, pg. 34:
"Jesus Christ" is the name of a new rock opera scheduled for production in London's St. Paul's Cathedral with the full approval of the cathedral's dean, who called a single release from the opera "a desperate cry" that is "entitled to some response."

The song, called "Superstar," has a plaintive chorus that asks: "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed?"


Anthony Haden-Guest wrote an article about supermodels for New York magazine in the early 1980s, but the term was known before then. Carol Alt had believed that the word "supermodel" was first used to describe her in this article.

Janice Dickinson's shameless self-promotion will be discussed first, and then I'll just present the facts.

No lifeguard on duty:
the accidental life of the world's first supermodel
by Janice Dickinson (1955-)
New York: Regan Books

From the Sunday New York Post, 18 August 2002, pg. 57, col. 1:
GISELE, Naomi, Kate -- none of you would be where you are now without Janice Dickinson.

In "No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel," the pioneering princess of high fashion describes how she set the standard for debauchery -- and invented the term that's now a household word.

"Monique begged me to slow down. 'Who do you think you are?' she asked in her thick French accent. 'Supermon?' 'No,' I said. 'Supermodel.' And lo and behold! I'd coined a phrase!"

6 October 1942, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 21:
"Super" Models Are Signed for Fashion Show

So you want to be a model!
by Clyde Matthews (Dressner -- ed.)
Garden City, NY: Halcyon House
Revised edition 1948 (original edition 1943)
Pg. 256:
She will be a super-model, but the girl in her will be like the girl in you -- quite ordinary, but ambitious and eager for personal development.
(In another edition, this second-to-last page is Page 237. The "model of tomorrow" is discussed -- ed.)

21 March 1967, New York (NY) Times, pg. 47, col. 4:
Twiggy's favorite answer is "I dunno," which seemed as good an answer as any to such press conference questions as, "What's it like being a super-model?"

19 May 1967, Salisbury (MD) Daily Times, pg. 13, col. 2:
And the girls (Miss USA pageant -- ed.) here have some definite ideas on how the supermodel (Twiggy -- ed.) would fare as a contestant.

February 1968, Glamour, pp. 128+:
19 SUPERMODELS -- their disciplines, their makeup, their fetishes and the inside qualities of feeling and spirit that give their beauty its characters, its SUPERSUCCESS.
(The 19 "supermodels" include Cheryl Tiegs, Verushka, Lisa Palmer, Peggy Moffitt, Susan Murray, Twiggy, Susan Harnett, Marisa Berenson, Gretchen Harris, Heide Wiedeck, Irish Bianchi, Hiroko, Anne DeZagher, Kathie Carpenter, Jean Shrimpton, Jean Patchett, Benedetta Barzini, Claudia Duxbury, and Agneta Friedberg -- ed.)

7 January 1970, Chicago Daily Defender, pg. 20:
New York Designer Turns Super Model
(Penny Bogan, from Harlem -- ed.)

17 January 1971, Washington Post, pg. 204+:
And timelessly glamorous supermodel Wilhelmina, another judge, took pains to warn Nikki away from making modeling her whole life.

17 February 1971, Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal, pg. 13, col. 4:
Super-model Peggy Moffitt - who shot to fame when she faced the cameras in Rudi Gernreich's topless swimsuit - swoops into a room, grins ear-to-ear, laughs from the gut, then snaps into semi-humorous talk that reeks sagacity and proves compulsions can be channeled effectively.

PHOTO CAPTION: Super-model Peggy Moffitt in one of Rudi Gernreich's recent crisscross swimsuits for Harmon Knitwear.

June 1972 Vogue, cover:
Naomi Sims, Super Model

2 February 1974, Newark (Ohio) Advocate, Family Weekly, pg. 17(?), col. 1:
Sunny Griffin (left), a super-model known for her perfect girl-next-door face, says that often people don't even realize she's a model unless she's had 15 minutes with her makeup bag of tricks.

5 February 1974, Chicago Tribune, pg. A1:
The supermodels:
Bold, bright and
beautifully black
(Naomi Sims, Pat Cleveland, Beth Ann Hardison, Norma Jean Darden, and Billie Blair -- ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWorkers/People • Sunday, July 25, 2004 • Permalink

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