I’ve never seriously considered getting a tattoo, but maybe the title of this website entry would be the one. I can’t seem to get more than two or three entries along on this site before Aldo Nadi’s name pops up. Keeps happening. However, the motivation for today’s article comes from an external source, so let me lay blame where it truly belongs. Carl Borack, this one’s on you.
Now, I’ve been working on an article strictly about Carl’s career in the sport for quite some time. A few times I’ve tried to get my head around it so that I can do my small part in cataloging something of his truly astonishing impact on US fencing, but I have yet to get it settled into a direction I’m happy with. I’ll get there, but it’s taking longer than I usually need to shape up an article. It’s coming, Carl.
In the interim, I’ll say that I’m fortunate to be on the receiving end of frequent emails that Carl sends out to friends detailing some tidbit of fencing history. Often, they include photos of International teams that he has been on either as a competitor or as cadre, as he has many times been Team Captain or some other important position for US fencing at major competitions. The pictures included in a recent email were a bit different and it turned me on to an article I’d not previously been aware of. It’s out of Look Magazine from the 1930s. If you’re not familiar with Look, you may know about its nearest competitor, Life Magazine. They were similar in format and content. Life may have been a little more, something, maybe classy, maybe just with higher production values or a bigger budget. Life lasted longer, also. But Look is a fun source for interesting articles from days of yore, and I enjoy the marketing style from the period. Big, colorful, full page spreads advertising scotch whisky or the new model of Edsel are just fun to look at. Madison Avenue in its heyday.
Carl sent out a couple of images under the header “Aldo Nadi – 10th publication of Look Magazine published in 1937”. He had me at “Aldo”. The images were some snapshots from a two-page spread about Maestro Nadi. Some of you reading this might not be surprised to know that after seeing Carl’s email I immediately opened a couple of new tabs on my computer – one for Wikipedia and the other for Ebay. The first was to try and track down more specifics about the 10th issue of Look Magazine. Thank you, Wikipedia, for having information like this readily available for me to glean necessary specifics to make my Ebay shopping more manageable. Armed with a publication date, I fed that into the Ebay search window and came up with a bunch of available back issues. Here’s the cover:
The July 6, 1937 edition of Look Magazine. All this could be yours for ten cents. That was then. Now? It’s a bit more.
So many fun articles inside! I’d be interested to look through the pages even without a fencing-related article, but its inclusion gives me a semi-supportable justification to spend a few dollars to nab a copy for myself. After a few days of patience the mail service dutifully delivered the magazine to my doorstep and I was able to dig in. The thing that jumped out at me is that the tone of Look is decidedly different than Life Magazine. The captions and writing in Life are more formal and erudite. Or maybe they just hired better writers. Look seems to try to inject a little sensationalism onto the page with articles like this one:
There’s another page about fighting with Tigers so they don’t bite off your arm, but I think this gives you the overall idea.
The answer to the question posed here seems to be a resounding “no” based on my experience with today’s amusement parks. How many had to die before the question was truly settled?
They’re all a bit much and fun to read in 2019. But let us stop with the beating around the bush. There’s Aldo Nadi pictures to look at!
In 1937, Aldo Nadi and his wife were living in New York City and Aldo had his own salle d’armes the Aldo Nadi Studio. He’d come across the ocean at an uncertain time in Europe to make a splash in the New World. And, within carefully defined limits, he did. Not the first (nor the last) European to come to the US with the intention of turning the country into a fencing powerhouse, Nadi had the ego to imagine being the catalyst for that change but the intelligence to realize after a short time that the country was too damn big to be manageable in that way. So he settled for making what progress he could in New York and writing his book, “On Fencing”, published in 1943. But certain advantages that Nadi had in being the latest greatest European fencer to grace these western shores were his movie star good looks and a flair for publicity. That was all he needed to crack his way into a variety of articles and newsy gossip columns which kept his name and likeness to the fore. The notion of a fencer being the subject of gossip columns may seem a stretch, but Nadi arrived in the US famous and single, and moved between relationships rather fluidly among the upper class of New York until settling down with his wife, Rosemary. Perhaps ‘settling down’ is a little too definite. By many accounts, marriage didn’t entirely erode Nadi’s waywardness. Anyway, here’s page two:
It almost reads that ‘fighting with your wife is good for your figure”, although that may not have been their intent.
Since I couldn’t resist doing a little more digging about Aldo Nadi and the publicity he attracted, here’s an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec. 16, 1936, when Nadi was still a single fencing celebrity and attracting female companionship like handsome and dashing 1930s film stars did:
Do girls still go “all agog”? Is that still a thing? I don’t think that’s still a thing. But it does add a new take on the various titles that could be attributed to Nadi. Along with everything else, it seems he was also a “he-beauty”. Not for nothing were the ladies swooning! But Rosemary won that war and she was no slouch as a fencer herself.
My thanks to Carl for pointing me in the direction of the Look Magazine article on Aldo Nadi. Like most things that I start out on, I’ll eventually find a means to rabbit-hole down some well into topics relevant and topics not-so-much. This one seems to have a bit o’ both. But let’s end on one additional piece of cultural education from Look Magazine, circa 1937. I think we can all learn something here. Just don’t ask me what exactly we’re learning.