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What is a Vamp?
Does Vamp mean anything as dreadful as a vampire?


   What is a Vamp? - Does Vamp mean anything as dreadful as a vampire?

Do you really know what a Vamp is? An awfully slick looking girl goes by in a tremendously effective velvet gown -- rather inclined to cling ( I mean the gown) and looking rather sinuous ( I think sinuous is the word) and somebody says:

"Regular vamp dress, eh?"

Or you are at a party, or something, and there is a girl, likely to be dark-haired, who is very busy -- mostly with her eyes, but pretty busy in every way making an impression. And somebody says:

"Vamping."

What do they mean?

One naturally turns to Kipling's famous poem, probably that started the rough-house. "A rag, a bone and a hank of hair" -- oh, yes! she is terribly painted there -- and she is painted now, very often when she is called by the short syllable. Kipling surely did hit hard at the lady who goes into the vampire business. But does anybody mean anything quite so bad as that when he says "vamp"?

Is a vamp a kind of diminutive of a vampire -- a kind of soft version of the real thing? Is it like "pash" -- a flippant allusion to the more impressive dimensions of passion?

What does history do to help us? Was Cleopatra a vampire? She was horribly effective in making fools of men. She didn't seem to have any conscience at all. Not a bit. And she landed them every lime. They fell hard.

Of course Delilah was a vampire -- at least Samson would have said no after he lost his hair and everything else with it. Salome probably deserves anything nasty you might say of her. She dressed like a vampire, and danced like one, and she got what she went after -- a man's head. Men have been losing their heads as a result of just such women ever since.

Was Lucretia Borgia a vampire? -- this is getting rather murky, this historic stuff. Lucretia was very wicked. That mightn't make her a vampire. A vampire evidently (there may be a hint here at a solution) is only a certain kind-of a wicked person -- female person.

How about Helen of Troy? -- no, not Helen. She didn't mean it. All the dullest historians say she didn't mean it. She made a lot of trouble, but she didn't start it. It won't do to charge a terrible mess like that to a woman just because the wretched men said it was all on account of Helen.

Then there was Lola Montez. Or you might go into fiction and find Becky Sharpe or any number of other examples of young women -- and even some who were not so young, either -- who had a way about them.

No, according to all this a vampire is no special sort of person; which doesn't help us. Women have had all sorts of tricks and a true vampire, I'm sure, has to be tricky in a peculiar, snaky kind of way.

Maybe, right close to modern times there might be a suggestion. Was Mme. Despina Davidovitch Storch a vampire? Could a woman spy be a vampire, that is, could a real vampirish person be a good spy? The spy might have to vamp some. That, we can understand. Mme. Storch looks too soulful looking to represent the type. Nevertheless, they say spies really have been vampires. And Mata Hari, the dancing girl with the Javanese mother, executed in France for furnishing information to the enemy -- she really did look the part.

Speaking of looking the part, can there be a blonde vampire? Aren't they all brunettes? (Sigh of relief from all the blondes!) Screen vamps are generally dark-haired. Mid dark-eyed, too. But then you can't put light eyes on the screen. There have been perfectly devilish light eyes --

However, this question may, perhaps, have to be left open. Yet there is another. How about height? At least, one screen vamp is not tall -- not very tall. There has to be that sinuous stuff -- you can't fancy a fat vamp. But it may be that vamping can be done on very moderate inches. It depends.

Maybe it depends a good deal on dressing talents. There's a way of wearing clothes -- -not too much of them -- that somehow conveys a vamp impression.

Velvet seems to be under suspicion only when it is worn in a certain way. I'm no fashion writer and I can't describe the way in technical terms. But it gets you. Whether it is the way or the velvet, I don't know. Perhaps a way of walking adds to its percentage -- a certain squirming progress seems to indicate an intention to vamp.

It is all part of a schema to mesmerize -- mesmerizing seems to be a basic part of the system, and every little helps. Yet some vamps, if not some vampires, seem content just to lie in wait. The way some men act when they meet a thunderingly pretty girl in a stunning gown suggests that they have a fixed theory that every girl is a vamp until proved innocent. These men act as if all femininity occupied the vantage point in a spider web. And they act like a fly fussing before he is really entangled.

How could this be written of Mata Hari unless she had mesmeric power? "Six feet tall, her great, luminous, oriental eyes shone from an olive-hued face of rare beauty. Men in legions were at her feet in all the capitals of Europe and always after a dancing season she returned to Berlin to pay a protracted visit to her German friend."

Alas! real vampires often meet with a sad end. Vampire spies certainly have had hard luck when they served the former Kaiser. Mme. Storch, accused as a spy, died before anything could be wrung from her -- and no one accused her captors. Scores of Teutonic women spies have mysteriously died or disappeared. It was called part or the Kaiser's system to see that his women spies died when they had done what was wanted of them -- whether they were captured or not. It sounds like the Lucretia Borgia business, and maybe a state of mind that could plan the ugliest kind of a spy system could plan death as a perfectly ethical incident.

But we are not talking about honest-to-goodness vampires, but rather of the vamp, who is shown in a variety of ways to be different. Just what the difference -- how much the difference is -- is hard to figure out. It may be a matter of figure. The vamp doesn't really want to kill any one. She is just a tantalizing shadow of vampirishness -- playing with the fire, having fun with Fate in a make-believe. That's the only way you can explain the fact that in most respects she doesn't seem to be so very much different from what an old-fashioned world used to call a coquette. Maybe she is just an artistic, modern version of that elemental feminine deviltry that dates back to the beginnings of the world. In fact, she might tell you herself that she doesn't mean anything by it at all. Men are so easy that it's a pity not to put it over.

At the same time I'm bound to admit having been told that vamps make a lot of trouble. But then, that same sort of thing has been said by millions of men since St. Chrysostom.

This article was written by Clive Marshall and appeared in The Fort Wayne Journal on January 19, 1919

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   What is a Vamp? - Does Vamp mean anything as dreadful as a vampire?

What is a Vamp? - Does Vamp mean anything as dreadful as a vampire?