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The Enchanted Quest of Dana and Ginger Lamb

The Enchanted Quest of Dana and Ginger Lamb

Copyright Date: 2006
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    The Enchanted Quest of Dana and Ginger Lamb
    Book Description:

    Best-selling authors, sensational lecturers, documentary filmmakers, amateur archaeologists, spies for FDR--Dana and Ginger Lamb led the life of Indiana Jones long before the movie icon was ever scripted. "We blaze the trail," Ginger said, "and the scientists follow."

    The Enchanted Quest of Dana and Ginger Lambis the first biography of this captivating, entrepreneurial couple. In Southern California, they started married life in 1933 by building a canoe. With only $4.10 in their pockets, they paddled to Central America and through the Panama Canal. Three years later they returned triumphant, bearing a photographic record of the amazing trek that made them famous.

    After releasing their best-selling book,Enchanted Vagabonds, the two became exactly that. They relentlessly lectured for the public and mooned for the media until they were able to fund more exotic voyages to remote jungles and rivers. So convincing were they on the circuit that their most powerful fan, President Franklin Roosevelt, coerced J. Edgar Hoover into hiring the Lambs as spies in Mexico. After World War II they launched their Quest for the Lost City, which yielded another book and documentary.

    Drawing on historical records, the Lambs' books and letters, and recently declassified espionage documents, biographers Julie Huffman-klinkowitz and Jerome Klinkowitz show how the Lambs succeeded in marketing their conquests and films to armchair explorers around the world and how they became, in popular imagination, the quintessential American adventurers.

    As an independent scholar, Julie Huffman-klinkowitz has published widely in genealogy and popular culture. Jerome Klinkowitz is professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa and is the author of several books, includingPacific Skies: American Flyers in World War II(University Press of Mississippi).

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-288-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-1)

    Like everything else they’d done in their lives, Dana and Ginger Lamb made house-hunting a dramatic affair. During the three decades in which they’d become famous explorers and adventurers, their native Orange County, California had turned from a rural idyll into a teeming metropolis. And so it was no surprise that in 1962 they decided to find a new home in a less crowded locale. In earlier days, the pair had sailed from southern California to the Panama Canal in a homemade canoe, hiked deep into the jungles bordering Mexico and Guatemala with no more than they could carry, and...

    (pp. 3-41)

    For people who would reject a life style crafted for them by the efforts of previous generations, Dana and Ginger Lamb could nevertheless be proud of all that their grandparents and parents had accomplished. To be born in California near the start of the twentieth century put them well ahead of America’s demographic movement, as the state’s remarkable growth did not begin in earnest until the Lambs were adults. Dana liked to say his family connection with the region dated even earlier, back to the days when future cities from San Diego to San Francisco were undeveloped ports where descendants...

    (pp. 43-77)

    “Enchanted Vagabonds” had been the theme of Dana and Ginger Lamb’s lectures in the late 1930s and early 1940s. When they resumed their speaking careers for the 1950s, it remained (with “Maya Vagabonds” and “Mexican Carousel”) one of the choices offered for an evening’s program or part of a three-night series. As their promotional copy noted, it presented “The HIGHLIGHTS and INSIDE story of America’s best selling travel book,Enchanted Vagabonds(a Harper ‘Find,’ now in its 18th edition).” In their lecture “The Lambs tell you why and how they made their hazardous, three year, 16,000 mile voyage in a...

    (pp. 79-133)

    Enchanted Vagabondsthrilled tens of thousands of readers in 1938, securing the Lambs’ career as film-lecturers. But one satisfied customer got them into another line of work, involving travel as well as film-making. Adventure, however, was the biggest lure, for the job involved spying. And their boss for these endeavors would be no less a figure than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    That, at least, is how Dana and Ginger liked to put it. Information they provided to theSanta Ana Daily Registerfor a 3 March 1939 story is typical of their publicity from this time. “After returning from a...

    (pp. 135-171)

    The most damning charge possible against purveyors of real-life adventure is that they might be faking it—writing fiction, in other words. Throughout the 1930s, Dana and Ginger Lamb had been praised in press reports and in book reviews for their authenticity, and were well-received on the film-lecture circuit. But when the coming of World War II prompted them to seek a new audience, things had not gone as well. President Roosevelt enjoyed seeing their films and listening to their stories about Mexico, and was sufficiently intrigued by their knowledge of alleged subversive activities south of the border to bring...

    (pp. 173-199)

    WithQuest for the Lost Citypublished and selling strongly, the Lambs were once again in the public eye. From lecture stages across America they beguiled audiences with films of their travels, Ginger running the projector and Dana providing a narrative from the podium. This mode of presentation was at once appealing and practical, for as listeners were treated to a firsthand account from the adventurer himself, the Lambs were absolved from providing a sound-track for their motion pictures. This is exactly how home movies were being shown at the time—in 8-millimeter format instead of the Lambs’ 16-millimeter. The...

    (pp. 201-216)

    In judging Dana and Ginger Lamb’s contribution to American popular culture, there are two eras to consider: the years when they did their major work, and the far different period during which they continued to be read and were, to some extent, emulated. Some of today’s interest in the Lambs is driven by camp affectation. The vivid colors and dramatically poised action of their movie posters, for example, make great decorating touches, and images of Dana in his cut-off jeans and Ginger in her dress skimped out from animal skins add a healthy dose of humor to fantasy. But there...

    (pp. 217-218)
    (pp. 219-250)
    (pp. 251-252)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 253-260)