Hot Lips

Noted in front of 325 Forest Ave. in Palo Alto, a small hedge of Salvia microphylla (small-leaved sage) ‘Hot Lips’ in bloom — covered in small labiate flowers, some bicolor, some all red, some all white, as in this photo from the net:


Small-leaved (hence the species name microphylla), intensely scented, fashioned into a hedge. A pleasant plant, which it turns out was created by hybridization fairly recently.

A Google street view of the building, an apartment building with offices on the first floor:


The hedge isn’t blooming in this photo. Here’s a photo from the net of a ‘Hot Lips’ shrub, untrimmed, in bloom, with mostly solid red flowers:


Then from the San Francisco Botanical Garden site:

(#4) ‘Hot Lips’ close up

Salvia microphylla (small-leaf sage) is an exuberant evergreen shrub from the Pine-Oak Forests of Mexico with flowers that are entirely red. The cultivar, ‘Hot Lips has flowers that are bi-colored, white with red on the bottom half of the lower lip. It flowers continuously if in full sun, from late summer through fall and can have a spread of six feet. It was first noticed by Dick Turner, in the garden of a housekeeper living in San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, and was brought back as a cutting to the San Francisco Botanical Garden in 1999. Volunteers at the nursery propagated it, and after watching it develop its striking flowers gave it its racy name. Its beauty, hardiness and drought tolerance has made it a winner among growers of Salvia. There are times when some of the individual flowers can be either all white or all red on the same plant. Dick Turner believes this corresponds to the age of the flowering branches.

There are 900 species of Salvia growing all over the world, with nearly 500 in New World alone! All salvias have three similar characteristics: the flower structure is two-lipped, the stems are square and the leaves opposite. Hummingbirds are attracted to Salvias with their bright colors and tubular petal parts holding nectar, where they can sip while hovering above them.

Three senses of the adjective hot are relevant in the development of the expression hot lips: sexually hot, skill hot, and attractive hot. From GDoS

1 in sexual senses, (a) sexually aroused, sexually available [from Chaucer on] …

7 in senses of excellence or skill … (b) very adept, skilful [first cite 1869] (c) of a sportsman, playing well, on top form; also used fig. of any performer or contestant, or in business etc. [first cite 1901]

8 indicative of something positive… (b) attractive, pleasurable, a general term of approval. [first cite 1866]

7 gives rise to (1) the use of hot hands in basketball and other contexts; 1 and 7 together to (2) the use of hot lips for skill in or enthusiasm for kissing (or other oral sexual activities); 7 to (3) the use of hot lips referring to skillful or enthusiastic playing of musical instruments that use the lips; and 8 to (4) its use for referring to especially beautiful lips.

The third of these was spread widely through an American popular song from roughly a century ago. From Wikipedia:

(#5) The Paul Whiteman recording is available here

“Hot Lips” (“When He Plays Jazz He’s Got – Hot Lips”) or “He’s Got Hot Lips When He Plays Jazz” is a popular song written by jazz trumpeter Henry Busse, Henry Lange, and Lou Davis. The song was a number one hit for Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. Henry Busse was a founding member of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, joining in 1918.

Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra recorded the song on June 23, 1922 in New York

He’s got hot lips— When he plays Jazz
He draws out step,— Like no one has
You’re on your toes,— And shake your shoes
Boy, how he goes— When he plays Blues

The next great infusion of hot lips into popular culture comes in the use of Hot Lips — in sense (2) above — as the nickname for a major character in the movie and tv show M*A*S*H. From the Monster M*A*S*H site:

(#6) Loretta Swit in character as Maj. Houlihan

Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan was a fictional character first created in the book M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker. Actress Sally Kellerman portrayed her in the Robert Altman film adaptation (where the character was renamed “O’Houlihan”; however, like many of the M*A*S*H* characters, Hot Lips is probably best known from the television series, where her part was played by actress Loretta Swit. Having the advantage of an 11-year run [1972-83] on television, Swit’s Houlihan became a significantly more developed character than originally portrayed in the film by actress Sally Kellerman, in many ways demonstrating characteristics that would have been almost antithetical to the cinematic Hot Lips.

The character is a highly competent nurse and nurse-manager and fiercely patriotic, but also highly sexed and given to sexual liaisons (many unwise) with men, hence her nickname — originally applied mockingly, but as the character developed over the 11 years of the show, eventually affectionately.

The lipstick-kiss image has been current in popular culture for some time, but became associated with the expression hot lips apparently only as a result of the popularity of the American tv show.

So, for some time we’ve have the lipstick-kiss image floating around; see, for instance, my 2/13/17 posting featuring

a model for AliExpress showing off the company’s Valentine’s Day kiss boxers (and his lean muscular body), accentuated by intensely sexual gazes. In three colors and three poses, but all with his hand in his pants

Eventually we get this image associated with the expression hot lips, with merely an oral or labial allusion. Two examples: the Hot Lips Pizza chain of restaurants in Portland OR; and Charlotte Tilbury’s line of Hot Lips lipsticks.

(#7) Logo for Hot Lips Pizza in Portland OR

(#8) Charlotte Tilbury Hot Lips lipsticks

Introducing my new collection of 16 HOT LIPS Lipsticks, featuring 4 bestselling favorites, inspired by and in collaboration with some of the world’s most inspiring celebrity women, including Miranda Kerr, Nicole Kidman, Salma Hayek, Kate Bosworth, Laura Bailey, Cindy Crawford, Helena Bonham-Carter, Liv Tyler, Emily Ratajkowski, Carina Lau, Poppy Delevingne, Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Kim Kardashian-West.

So, celebrity lipsaticks, to go along with celebrity perfumes, celebrity men’s fragrances, celebrity sports gear and clothing, even celebrity pornstar dildos.

Finally, uses of hot lips in sense (4) above, in websites on beautiful lips — women’s lips, of course, but also a fair number of lists of best male celebrity lips, displays of especially kissable men. Facial beauty is a complex thing, with many features contributing to an overall judgment of beauty; characteristics of the eyes are especially important in these judgments, so here I’ve picked an image of 9 lip-focused photos, with incomplete noses and no eyes or any other facial features:


Turns out that these are all one male celebrity (from a Rachel Durkin Pinterest “Pretty Boys” album). From a posting of mine on male beauty, on this particular paragon:

[someone] who seems to have some fame as a man with a perfect beautiful face, Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester in the tv show Supernatural). In my 8/20/13 posting “Five television hunks”, you can see Ackles in #5; Jared Padalecki (playing his brother Sam Winchester) in #4; and the two paired in #7, where you can compare their faces. My [female teenage] consultants say that Padalecki is really cute, but Ackles is beautiful.

Apparently beautiful even if you just watch his (hot) lips.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: