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    The Russian Waitresses/Seductresses of Constantinople

    The styles of dress that these sirens (see my previous post) adopted  varied from restaurant to restaurant, but were of course always designed to enhance their appeal. 

    In one place they would flaunt their Russian boldness: “white Caucasian jackets, high black boots, thin scarves around their hair and heavy makeup.” 

    In another, they cultivated a softer, decadent seductiveness, as the famous singer Vertinsky promised in his nightclub Rose Noire: “the serving ladies will whisper to the clients the poems of Baudelaire between the courses.  They are to be exquisite, select, delicate and to wear each a black rose in their golden hair.  (Note:  If the hair is not naturally gold, it will be made so).” 

    Some wore dainty white aprons that made them look like soubrettes in light comedies, an impression that they augmented with their shyness and apologetic manner. 

    The reactions to them from Constantinople’s population fell along predictable lines, but was strong in any case. 

    A group of thirty-two widows of Turkish noblemen and high officials sent a petition to the governor demanding the immediate expulsion of “these agents of vice and debauchery who are more dangerous and destructive than syphilis and alcohol.” 

    The British ambassador to Turkey, Sir Horace Rumbold, explained wryly in a letter to Admiral de Robeck, the British High Commissioner, that the “little Princess Olga Micheladze” from Russia plans to marry “one Sanford, a nice quiet fellow in the Inter-Allied Police . . . He has money.” 

    A tourist visiting from Duluth, Minnesota, gushed that the owner of a restaurant “is an escaped Russian grand duke, and all the waitresses are Russian princesses of the royal family.”  The latter “were pretty and flirted terrifically.  I asked one if she spoke any English and the answer, with a quaint accent, was, ‘Sure, I know lots American boys’.”

    A cartoon in a local British newspaper showed a Turk asking a Russian woman:  “Parlez-vous français, mademoiselle?” to which she replies “No, but I know how to say ‘love’ in every language.” 



    French cartoon entitled “Everything is More Expensive in Pera”:

    “Client to the Russian waitress:  --What! Ten pounds for this meal? . . . although it is true that the sum includes your charm . . .”

    (Le Journal d’orient, December 30, 1921, p. 1)


    (To be continued)

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