It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young Hollywood starlet in possession of a lot of residual royalties checks must be in want of media attention. And then that starlet will go cuckoo banana crackers in a sad-but-engrossing kind of way.
I’ve been really worried about Amanda Bynes, you guys. She’s outpacing 2007 Britney when it comes to terrifyingly public emotional and physical descent. Shhh. I know. We are powerless to stop it. All I can do is put on the aesthetic nonpareil What a Girl Wants, watch that inspiring scene in which Daphne (Amanda, duh) and her dad (Colin Firth) bond while vintage shopping at a fictional London market (sort of in the way that romantic couples bond? It’s hella weird upon re-watch) in an exceptional early-2000s smash-cut montage AND TRY NOT TO CRY OVER WHAT ONCE WAS.
Okay, so I don’t actually love Amanda as much as it seems I do. I just really like What a Girl Wants because it’s the perfect balance of terrible and amazing and because Colin Firth. (Like remember Ian, Daphne’s gadabout jack-of-all-trades British kinda-boyfriend who makes out with her in a swan boat? Yes. Great.) It’s just that I, and I’m sure a lot of my generational cohorts, totally forgot about her until she started wearing that wig and talking about vagina murder. And I feel guilty about it, because I sort of feel like it’s our collective fault. We forgot about her, so she made us remember.
If an Amanda Bynes throws a bong from a significant height and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?
So anyway, I naturally got to thinking about other starlets and their inevitable public meltdowns. Britney, of course, and Lindsay Lohan. Poor Amy Winehouse in the “My Blake Incarcerated” days (RIP though forreal). Drew Barrymore was a hot mess in the 80s, before she went back to high school to write that article. And there are many more, going way back.
But who was the Ur-Hot Mess? Who made tabloids worth buying in those dark B.K. days (Before Kardashian)? This movement needs a standard-bearer, dammit. And I’ve decided that the face of this plague is Clara Bow, inspiration for Betty Boop, original It Girl, and possible fucker of domesticated animals.
After what seems like a pretty shitty childhood in Brooklyn during which her family lived at 14 (fourteen!) different addresses over 18 years and her mom died of epilepsy, Clara was discovered in what I can only assume was the pre-television ancestor of that America’s Idol Got Talent Voice show in 1921. The Simon Cowell of that production said that young Clara possessed a “genuine spark of divine fire” (which is sort of nice, so maybe it was the Paula who said it? I only ever watched one episode and it was in 2003 so forgive me). Armed with the spoils of victory and a lot of gumption, Clara went from audition to audition until she was finally cast in a few bit film roles, including a tomboyish part in Grit, which, interestingly, was penned by our sad alcoholic friend Scott (between rounds of wife-wrangling, no doubt).
Clara’s offers got bigger and more frequent, so she moved to Hollywood in 1923 where her career really took off. But like many of today’s starlets, she had daddy issues and wanted to bring her ol’ pops in from New York. Her producers didn’t want that to happen, which I didn’t understand until I read what Ms. Bow later said about their reunion: “I didn’t care a rap, for [what the mean producer guys thought], or my motion picture career, or Clara Bow, I just threw myself into his arms and kissed and kissed him, and we both cried like a couple of fool kids. Oh, it was wonderful.”
Remind you of some other couple we know? Maybe an Electra complex is a real accelerator in the starlet meltdown thing. Is there someone I can tell about this? I’m just genuinely worried about the Fanning sisters. They’re so blonde and wispy.
Anyway, by 1924, she’s a Certified Film Star. She had the all-important combo of earthiness, girlishness, and fuckability that is essential in any ingenue, but she was also one of the first actresses to have it. Remember when everyone was obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence a few months ago because she was so funny and pretty and talented at the same time? I imagine it was kinda like that, only amplified, because around this time, a full 50% of all Americans went to the movies at least once a week. That’s a goddamn lot. So when I say she was a star, I mean it — everyone knew who Clara was, and subsequently, everyone wanted to know EVERY MOTHERLOVING THING about her.
I should also mention that a piece on Clara around this time in Photoplay included this delightfully unsubtle sex allusion: “What is this quivering – pulsating – throbbing – beating – palpitating IT? Undeniably IT is a product of this decade. Indeed, you might say IT is a product of this hour. But what is IT?” So Clara’s production company slapped together a li’l movie called – you guessed it – It, and BOOM, Clara Bow is the world’s first “It Girl.” She was the girl everyone wanted to bone and befriend.
Clara-hunger among the plebians was at an all-time high. At the height of her fame, she was receiving 45,000 letters a month, which is probably the 1920s equivalent of 45 billion retweets. It was easy for the ‘bloids to talk about her supposedly “dreadful” manners and “bohemian” lifestyle and sell a few copies. But it was a hell of a lot easier when she started scandalizing so hard that every shitrag in town was calling her “Crisis-A-Day Clara.” Not as good as “Lindsanity,” but I’ll take it.
Now up through 1930, most Clara-related pearl-clutching had to do with this terrible thing she did called “dating,” wherein she was “seen” with “men” in “public.” Except for one time when she boned a married doctor and Mrs. Doctor subsequently named Clara as the reason for separation. But I mean what starlet worth her salt hasn’t broken up a marriage, right? Right.
In 1930, Clara and her BFF/hairstylist/secretary/ancilla Daisy DeVoe (whose name makes her sound like a cartoon villain and/or burlesque artist) got in a little tiff about cash, as so many stars and their human accessories do. Mo money mo problems, am I right? Things escalated, and while no one knows what really went down, by the end of it Daisy stole away into the night with a satchel full of Clara’s personal papers.
A lesser, clumsier slave-friend might have set Clara’s house on fire or permanently scarred her bankable face or something, but Daisy was no chump. Blackmail was her game. Clara, sensing this, called the fuzz instead of coming up with hush money. This ended up being a huge mistake.
For whatever reason, tabloid press were allowed in the courtroom during the subsequent trial. All those mags that were previously shocked by Clara’s man-dating WENT APESHIT with Daisy’s accusations. Clara Bow was a drunk. Clara Bow spent herself into destitution. Clara Bow did drugs. Clara Bow fucked a lot of men (later, an ambitious biographer would incorrectly say she fucked everyone on the USC football team). Clara Bow fucked a lot of women. Clara Bow had sex in public. Clara Bow participated in orgies. Clara Bow, when without a man, woman, tight end, or orgy, fucked dogs. Dogs, guys. Dogs.
This was actually printed in an actual publication that people actually read. And because she was the “It Girl,” because “it” was really “lots and lots of sexy sex,” because everyone knew who she was and wanted to be her and/or do her, people believed it. When someone’s nickname means “Sex Girl,” it’s pretty easy to believe that she has sex, and with lots of people. And dogs, I guess, though that seems morally and physically difficult.
The public, shitrags in hand, staged a massive campaign calling for her studio to fire her. Which happened. She made a couple more movies with different production companies, but by 1932, the Depression set in, and everything Clara represented — mirth, inhibition, pulchritude, champagne, sparkles — felt somehow inappropriate to people who didn’t have food to eat.
With her career irreparably fucked, she married a guy who became the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. They settled on a cattle ranch and had two kids. So not as bad as you expected, right? Maybe there’s hope for Amanda yet. I mean, sure, Clara checked into a sanitarium in 1949 because she was having hallucinations and belly aches, and yeah, her psychiatrist’s notes reference a mysterious “butcher knife incident of 1922,” and okay, she became severely agoraphobic until her death in 1965.
But Amanda, listen to me. Sister to sister. Take off that wig, pull out those terrifying dimple piercing/implant things. Take a bubble bath. Eat a kale salad. Get it together. Call Britney. She should be your spirit animal. She is a success story. Talk about the fame, and the fans, and the pressure. Listen. Learn.
And then maybe call Colin because I’ve been waiting for a What a Girl Wants sequel a longass time.
Happy Memorial Day, scandal lovers! I hope you’re getting yourself prepped for what appears to be (at least on the eastern seaboard) an historically chilly final weekend in May, because, you know, spring, whatever. Light that grill, thaw those processed meat products, and head on down to your closest Norman Rockwell reallifepaintingtownplace and remember to forget that today is about veterans.
Ok, woah, #sorry, pause, no, I’m not making a blanket statement (though we here at for shame! love blanket statements) about how maybe kinda sorta the last Monday in May has become more of a balls-to-the-wall celebration of all things America, rather than a relatively somber occasion to honor those who died serving in our armed forces, despite numerous flag ceremonies, public addresses, and various local military parades and demonstrations. But let’s be real, when it’s nice outside, anything goes so long as it’s garbed in the red, white and blue. And while no parade is a true parade without the participation of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, this blog at least deals in “history” of “things,” so I will take this opportunity (thank you/you’re welcome) to talk about the true meaning of Christmas Memorial Day.
That, and we talk about sex scandals. And this post so elegantly combines both!!!1! So in honor of both the armed services of the United States of America, and our blog mantra (blantra)— re: the loving recitation of history, warts and all—I bring you a double-header of historical military sexploits.
Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Tom Dooley, and later, Mr. Tom Dooley.
TOM DOOLEY PUTS THE SYPH IN SYPH-IL WAR
So first on the docket is a FUN FACT: Memorial Day was originally conceived in remembrance of the sacrifice of soldiers in the Civil War, with my very own alma mater spearheading the movement in the immediate aftermath of the war. Thus, truly, madly, topically, we come to our first Tom of the day (and I don’t know about the rest of you, but he sure ain’t gonna be the last ifyouknowwhatImsayinIthinkyoudouptopfordrunkbonfiresyesssssanyway).
Thomas C. Dula (pronounced “Dooley” in the local twang) was an impoverished Confederate solider from North Carolina with an early taste for tail—aided, I can only imagine, by his brand loyalty to Dapper Dan pomade. Though his age at the time is unknown, he was apparently nailing the literal girl-next-door, Ann Foster, when she was 14. He failed to put a ring on it, and Ann married a man named James Melton in 1859. Tom and James both fought in the war, and were both taken prisoner, both survived and probably got some sweet scars and sweeter prison tats, you know how it goes.
But as soon as Tom, dat rascal, got back home, he got right back to riding that
But, as Tom knew, one is never enough, so why not keep your dick in the family? Pretty soon he hopped on one Laura Foster’s poontrain, Ann’s cousin.
Laura started to grow some bellyfruit, which was probably Tom’s, and he promised to marry her. So she set off one morning in 1866, apparently to rendezvous for their elopement, but was never seen again. WoooOOOOoooOOOOO!!!! *flashlight waving*
While there are multiple folkloric suppositions as to who did what why, the simple fact remained that Laura was dead, her body dumped somewhere, and Tom probably did it because he had commitment issues, or Ann did it because she was jeal. It was as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.
See, Tom thought Laura had given him the syph while they were riding the bonercoaster, and that was just plain rude. He actually in fact may have caught it from ANOTHER Foster, Pauline, who was treated by the same doctor that testified both Tom and Ann had it, then passed it to Laura. But either way, Tom passed it on to Ann, then she to James, and this is how you get those terrifying charts they have in Health Centers were you just want some goddamn aspirin rather than a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that sure as shit isn’t your hangover. Jesus, kids these days.
Anywho, the novelty of a murder in a relatively small community, combined with all the Sex and the Appalachian Trail stuff going on, made the case supah famous. Tom fled to Tennessee, but was brought back for trail (represented by Zebulon Vance, who is the absolute tits, as far as living Faulkner characters go). Tom testified that Ann had nothing to do with it all (cause that’s love, guys), and though he maintained his innocence throughout, he was executed by the state after two years of imprisonment, in 1868.
Subsequently, a romanticized mythos grew up around the story, with poems and ballads composed even to this day. Because what’s more romantic than boning half the chicks in town, then killing the one you knocked up. America, amirite?
TOM DOOLEY PUTS THE GAY IN MILITARY RE-GAY-LIA (not great, we know)
And on a brief, slightly more reverent note, our second Mr. Thomas Dooley was a humanitarian and author. And an openly homosexual Navy physician.
According to those close to him, while his sexuality was never discussed, Dooley made little or no effort to conceal it, and openly carried on relationships with other men from adolescence onward, even exploiting his appeal to other gay officers in order to receive choice assignments after joining the Navy in 1944.
After med school, Dooley worked in refugee camps in Vietnam, and became a symbol of Asian-American cooperation and humanitarianism, despite having also been a CIA informant. In 1956 he wrote a book about his experiences in Laos in the 1950s, and while on press tour, he was investigated for homosexual activities and forced to resign from the military. He returned to Asia independently, then was forced back to the US by malignant melanoma, dying in 1961.
Openly flamboyant, and also openly and devoutly religious, he was even considered for canonization, received a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, and JFK cited Dooley’s example when he launched the Peace Corps. I mean, there’s no two ways about it—you’re a good man, Tom Dooley.
So yes, we joke a lot, but this piece is dedicated with genuine honor and deepest gratitude to those who gave their lives so that I could live in country where I am both allowed the education which introduced me to history and humor, as well as the freedom to express my opinion without fear. I can never truly thank you.
FOR SHAMERS! I have not posted in a while, but that does not mean this blog isn’t perpetually smoldering in the dark, perverse corners of my mind. For example, only yesterday I was all over my Twitter feed like Woolf on Sackville when I came across this article about EROTIC POETRY published online by The Guardian.
Turns out it’s part of a series by Billy Mills that highlights specific topics in poetry and encourages readers to write their own. Previous topics include religion, chocolate, just about every month of the year, and Poverty. Why it took so long for Mr. Mills to land on EROTICA, I just cannot tell you.
My favorite poem that the article mentions is this anonymous excerpt written in Sanskrit probably sometime around 0 – 1000 AD (large range, I realize):
I like sleeping with somebody different often it's nicest when my husband is in a foreign country, and there's rain in the streets at night and wind and nobody
I could snap all day long to that bit of wisdom. But the article is full of little gems like that, so read away! If you’re in the office, you might want to pull the blinds.
And, if you’re so inclined, write an erotic poem yourself! Don’t be embarrassed. We all want to try. Here, I’ll go first:
You turn the lights off
I take my tights off
We both say let’s get off
And ooh, baby, ooh
We totally do
WELCOME, SCANDALITES, to the FIFTH edition of Search Term Referrals! We’ve been neglecting you, we know. So we thought it was only right to bring you what has become our pedigree: the fucking weirdass shit people type into Google that gets them to our humble blog.
a motswana pussy — And I motswana penis.
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teen slut meme
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schandaal la dolce vita — The Holy Trinity.
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anal sex doing it wrong — Excuse you, we only trade in perfection on this blog. Just head on over to The Daily Mail, thank you very much.
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les orgie de Caligula — Tu es venu le correct blog.
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http://www.sana bloch sexy scandles.com – Naturally this one has inspired us to start developing a line of “scandles” (candles molded into the shape of Anne Boelyn, obviously).
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i love wearing tights and sword – Errol Flynn, did MRG’s post resurrect you?? If so, will you sleep with us even though we’re not underage????/?
carlton fresh prince sweater vest – You welcome.
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is jane seymour a real bitch? – No, she was like the nicest bitch ever, fuck you. Oh, do you mean that slut who judges Iron Chef all the time? In that case, yeah, probably.
charlie chaplin orgies – Obviously orgies in which everyone wears a Furher stache, brings a cane, and DOESN’T TALK.
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hey, i liked it because i’m a quality blog so it’s not my type but you guys are really good tho & i like your hair and your friend’s sweater. i like your version better just saying #sorrynotsorry hahah – How did you find our super secret off-limitz blog diary (bliary)? We wrote that when we were just a mere teenblog, don’t judge us.
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LHB, MRG, KAB, JAF.
I know what you’re thinking. ”You only picked this Marbles lady because you knew you could word play the shit that obvious (and hilarious) surname.” You’re not not right. But I’m also attempting to diversify our artisitic-politico-literary tendencies with a madame who knew how to play “sports.” So, a lady named Marble who knew how to hit a Ball: a perfect for shame! subject. You’re welcome.
Marble moved to San Francisco when she was five, in 1918. She was really good at “athletic” things like softball, and she wasn’t even a lesbian. Her brother thought she should play a more lady like sport, like tennis. And now I’m thinking of McEnroe dressed like a Victorian lady and playing tennis. Once you get that picture in and out of your head and manage to stop giggling, join me in the next paragraph.
Alice picked up a racquet, and then like a couple months later she was one of the best tennis players in the world. Her training was complicated by the fact that when she was 15, she was raped while walking home from practice. To add to an already traumatic adolescence, she also managed to witness her BFF getting run over by a San Francisco street car. Ouch. She overcame that nightmare of a childhood to become one of the top lady tennis players in all of “sports” history.
In her career, she won 18 Grand Slam championships –
(I know you’re confused right now because you’re all “Grand Slam? I thought that was what happens in the game with the stick and the ball that Madonna played in that one movie.” I get it, shhh, allow me to explain: Grand Slam also refers to the top tennis tournaments that happen every year all over the world. They are: the Australian, French, and US Opens, and Wimbledon. They are also sometimes called “the Majors” — which is also reminiscent of America’s greatest sport, but whatever, we’re talking about that
feminine European sport now.)
But let’s talk about how Alice Marble handled balls OFF the court, shall we?
After a stellar amateur career — which in those days involved a lot champagne drinking with movie stars on boats, with, like, cravats and shit — she turned pro. Turning pro meant that you got paid a fudge-ton of cash to go play in “exhibition” tournaments all over the world. (Which I believe also involved a lot of making out with girls in front of Clarke Gable at parties with champagne fountains.) She settled down and married Joe Crowley in 1942. He shipped out to fight in the European Theater shortly after their marriage. But they had managed to do some baby-making and by 1944, she was avec fille, as they say.
Then, a series of unfortunate (and, sure, kind of scandalous) events began to unfold. First, Marble was in a car accident and had a miscarriage. THEN, a little bit later, found out that her husband’s plane had been shot down over Germany and he’d be killed in action.
This was a little much for Alice, and really, who can blame her? She attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, but her old tennis coach Eleanor “Teach” Tennant found her and took her to the hospital. She survived, overcame her depression, and went on to, GET THIS:
That’s right. In 1945, the Allies were all, “Come be a spy for us, sexy tennis star.” And she was all, “Those Nazi bastards killed my husband, you bet your balls I’ll spy for you!” She actually said that she felt like she “had nothing left to lose but my life, and at the time I didn’t care about living.” Which, jeez, ok, a little heavy for this blog. Moving on.
The mission: Seduce a former lover, a Swiss Banker suspected of providing services (of the financial, not the sexual, variety) to high-ranking Nazi Officials, get him in the boudoir and get the deets on his elicit behavior.
Mission accomplished. Especially the boudoir part. She showcased her
boobies talents by playing in high-profile tennis tournaments in Europe, and the Banker sought her out in order to entangle her romantically. This was, of course, exactly what she wanted. She got all sorts of intel on him that she was able to report back to the CIA before the Nazis found out she got — GET THIS — shot in the back! Like, with a bullet!
Miraculously, she survived and then led a pretty normal life after that. She retired to Palm Springs and probably, like, watched Wheel of Fortune and stuff.
I should also add that during her retirement, she worked for DC comics and, according to Wiki, is credited as an associated editor on Wonder Woman, because she wrote the comic’s feature section called “Wonder Women of History” where she told stories of history’s most wonderful women. I really like the idea of Susan B. Anthony drawn as a super hero and I like to think something like that made it into an issue.
And as if fighting Nazis wasn’t enough, she also decided to take on the whole problem of racial segregation in 1950 (she was kind of ahead of her time, even for a white lady) when her African-American colleague Althea Gibson was banned from playing in the US Championship. Marble wrote an open letter published in World Tennis Magazine (not sure what its readership was, so, you know, take this however you want) saying,
If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentlepeople and less like sanctimonious hypocrites. … If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts.
And in 1950, Althea Gibson became the first African-America to play in a Grand Slam tournament. In 1956, she became the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam title.
So maybe you’re like, what’s scandalous about this bitch?? How about the fact that her spy job involved DOING IT with a NAZI COLLABORATOR?!
Maybe it’s a stretch, but she’s still a really cool lady and I bet you’re not not super happy you know about her now.
Balls to the walls. Or wall. What is it?
Today is 72nd anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s suicide. She is known by many, understood by few. Advocater of feminine real-estate, inducer of fear in an unnamed few, Nicole Kidman—a modern enigma. So in honor of her pocket full of stoneshine, here’s a mini-post about one of modern lit’s many sort-of-love-affairs-slash-maybe-kind-of-sort-of-obsessions-which-resulted-in-a-rull-nyyce-piece-of-writing.
Virgingin Woolfy (neé Stephen) was born in 1882, with a silver spoon and a much-derided Roman nose. She was exposed early by her intellectual parents and their intellectual friends to the rest of the Victorian and Edwardian intellectuals and they all just had quite the intellectual time together. Whatever, read about it yourself or something. She was plagued by nervous breakdowns, physical illness, and depressive periods, most likely brought on by genetic predisposition, the early deaths of her parents, and sexual abuse by both of her half-brothers as a teenager. And that’s all super shitty, no one denies that, BUT, she and her sister Vanessa eventually left their old home and bought a house in Bloomsbury, and surrounded themselves with a rising group of artists, writers and generally interesting people. They were (highly creatively) called, “The Bloomsbury Group.” So, hey, not too shabby in the end. In 1912, she married Leonard Woolf, in what was not always an easy, but still a life-long and very close partnership.
I know, I know, you’re thinking: “Where’s the scandal? This is a mini-post—she’s giving us all this background bullshit, and now she’s telling us about a “happy” marriage!?? I might as well just go back to not working.”
WELL HOLD UP SON, GET READY FOR SOME AMOR PROHIBIDO!!!!1!
So in this Bloomsbury Group, there were a number of proper members and those who sort of milled around the outside as friends-of-friends.
*Also, sidenote, let’s just be upfront right now, I think most of the members were way too full of themselves and weren’t actually as interesting as they thought they were (I’m looking at you, Clive Bell), BUT, that in no way negates the fact that I would do any number of horrible things if asked to have been a part of this Collective of A-holes. They pulled one of the absolutely best hoaxes I’ve ever heard about, in which 6 members, including Virginia, blackened their skin and dressed as supposed members of the Abyssinian royal family, and were given a tour of the English Naval fleet at Weymouth, took press photos for newspapers, and bestowed fake military honors on several British officers. Fucking aces.
Anyway, the various hangers on included the writer and professional gardener (she was English, after all), Vita Sackville-West. 10 years younger than Virginia, they met in 1922
at a meeting of the Droopy Eyelid Club and began a tentative relationship. As the poets say, carpe Vita.
Now, Vita was a firecracker—she was sleeping with like errybody, and would continue to do so—but Virginia, as it would turn out, was a lot of talk and pretty little show. They apparently only did the sex twice in their entire relationship. But, the lovechild which resulted is one of the most transcendentally beautiful pieces of writing
an impressionable 20something could have ever come across in a 25 cent book-bin in the English language: Orlando.
And whoooodawgy, those two times must have been some electric sex.
An extended piece of poetic prose, Orlando tells the loose narrative of a boy, beginning during the reign of Elizabeth I, who lives through significant epochs of English history, including the Restoration, the imperialist period, the Enlightenment, the Victorian era, and eventually to the present (as in, the 1920′s). Somewhere along the way, the boy becomes a man, the man becomes a woman, and thus becomes a full human being. As Nina Simone would say, “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new gender for me, and I’m feelin’ exactly the same.”
Packed with sweeping description and intense psychological exploration, it’s a mediation on sexuality, nature, history, authority, autonomy, growth, power, poetry, purpose, and—most importantly—love in all its forms. Oh my Lord but it’s beautiful. And if this all sounds a little too “difficult,” or “pretentious,” or “good,” then just watch the movie with Tilda Swinton, which is fucking gorgeous (and also includes a lot of the humor in the book), and you’ll get the general idea and have only been obliged to give up 2 hours of your time from browsing BuzzFeed rather than like, a day.
Because for serious, y’all, there are few books that have hit ol’ JAF as hard as this one. I have no mind for quotes, but I’ve tended to remember ones from Orlando at various formative junctures in my life. I have never read any other Virginia Woolf, and I don’t really want to, because—again, let’s be real—she was kind of an asshole (and as a fellow asshole, we don’t tend to like sharing our mutual asshole territory), and I don’t really want the purity of this extraordinary piece of writing to be sullied. And don’t hate—I bet most of you are never going to read The Casual Vacancy either.
I’ll just leave you with a quote from Vita’s son, which pretty well sums it up:
“The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.”
Now go grab yourself a cheapass copy, the way Virginia grabbed herself a ladymuse. You welcome.
On this very day in 44 BC, Julius Caesar got shanked by a bunch of his friends, giving us a ton of filmic and literary references for centuries to come, the best of which is obviously the Weiners-George metaphor.
But just because it’s the Ides doesn’t mean I’m going to talk about good ol’ Julie Caesar. It’s been done. If you want that story, watch the Liz Taylor Cleopatra or the Jeremy Sisto Caesar (especially the Sisto, because ain’t no Sisto like Sisto in a metal breastplate).
I’ve got something better for you. He’s blonde, he’s crazy, and he’s fond of whimsy. He’s EMPEROR CALIGULAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!1
First, though, let’s acknowledge that in the metaphorical “sexually scandalous people that history remembers generation after generation throughout time despite the frailty of human memory” conversation (which occurs at dinner tables across this great nation every night, no doubt), Caligula is like THE first guy you mention. Accordingly, let’s acknowledge how restrained we at For Shame have been in not writing about Caligula at all during this two-year blogsperiment. I mean it’s not like we forgot he existed. We just sort of held him in the Scandal Pantheon (Scantheon, hollaaa) with the likes of Misters Jefferson and Kennedy.
But then JAF was like, “I’m a really smart classicist and we should do an Ides of March theme week about Roman emperors!” And I was like, “I watched I, Claudius in high school Latin class and Caligula did crazy shit on it and that’s all I know.” And then poor JAF got the stomach flu last night.
So here we are.
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was born to second cousins (who were each in turn byproducts of many other cousin-marriages down the ancestral line, so maybe keep the genetics in mind as we go here) in Antium in 12 AD. He got the nickname “Caligula” when he was three and following his dad, Germanicus, on some military campaigns. He’d dress in a tiny replica soldier’s uniform. Caliga were soldiers’ boots. Caligula were little soldiers’ boots. Hence the adorable nickname. I’m just including this because it’s actually the only cute thing about our Cal that ever happened, ever.
I could use this space to talk about how and why Caligula got to be emperor, but who actually cares about that shit? You want the crazy. I want the crazy. Let’s get CRAYZAY.
So during the first six months of his reign, Cal is absolutely beloved by Romans in all corners of the empire. He’s granting bonuses and pardoning people right and left, there are lots of slaves and animals being killed in superfun gladitorial combat, Inspector Javert is inspirationally seeking revenge, you get it. The general mood is pretty high on all seven hills of Rome.
Until 37 AD, that is, when Mr. Cal Ligula (also the name of a Staten Island small claims lawyer?) fell seriously ill. You’d think that maybe recovering from a near-death illness might make one kinder and gentler, but lucky for us that DID NOT happen. Instead, Cal started murdering EVERYBODY! “You get an execution! You get an execution! Even my young cousin/adopted son gets an execution!”
Then he went all 2007-shaven-head-Britney and the next four years were straight up insanity. You know what? There’s a lot of CRAY coming your way, so let’s make a couple lists to facilitate.
GENERALLY CRAZY SHIT CALIGULA DID:
· Built and rode a horse across a custom-built two-mile pontoon bridge from Baiae to Puteoli because this soothsayer one time said he had a better chance of crossing the Bay of Baiae on horseback than becoming emperor. This project cost a massive amount of money, lots of men died during the construction, the project added to the growing discontent in the empire, and he HAD ALREADY BECOME EMPEROR when he set out to prove he COULD BECOME EMPEROR. But he sure showed that unimportant-and-probably-already-dead soothsayer.
· Built a pair of giant ships. One was a floating temple to Diana and the other was what I imagine to be the first-century version of that kickass party yacht in Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” video. Except that this one had marble floors and as such weighed 7,400 tons. We all know how that goes.
· Tried to throw Britannia on the pile of Roman-conquered countries, but when his soldiers arrived at the English Channel, he ordered them to stop and collect seashells “as spoils of the sea,” then bring them back to Rome. Some historians think “seashells” was code for ships or something else of the military persuasion, but I think they’re neglecting the innate human desire to make shitty crafts.
· Started dressing as various gods and goddesses at public events, referring to himself as a god, and signing documents of state “Jupiter.” He also had a couple of temples rededicated to himself, which naturally involved removing the heads from sacred statues and replacing them with Caligula heads. And he decided the senators had to worship him as a god. Not the first boss with a god complex though, am I righttttttttttttt?
· Ordered guards to throw a few rows of spectators into an arena full of hungry lions during intermission at a gladitorial event because he was bored. Whereas when I’m bored during an intermission I go to the bathroom and maybe treat myself to a soft pretzel.
· Also enjoyed having prisoners thrown from high towers of the palace during his breakfast. The best part of wakin’ up is DEAD PEOPLE.
· Planned to make his favorite horse, Incitatus (from the aforementioned bridge ride), a consul. But he didn’t end up actually doing it. That’s a myth, you guys.
· Actually made Incitatus a priest. I’m sort of on board with this because I’d like to give a horse my confession. It would be a judgement-free zone and there would be some nice nuzzling at the end.
SEXUALLY CRAZY SHIT CALIGULA DID:
· After spending ALLLL the money left to him by his predecessor (we’re talking hella denarii – like $300+ billion today), opened a brothel in the palace to recoup. But of course he couldn’t have common skanks getting fancy all over the seat of the Roman empire. He needed a classier workforce, so instead he force-hired the wives of senators. But I think they got dental!
· Would inspect guests’ wives at banquets, and if he liked what he saw, have sex with said wives. If he REALLY liked what he saw, he would declare a couple’s divorce without their consent. (Insert “Take my wife” joke here).
· Would, after non-consensually fucking a married woman, discuss her performance with her husband.
· Held orgies, but obviously.
· Attended the marriage of a young officer named Proculus, and, pissed that they didn’t have an open bar, raped both Proculus and his new wife. Let the togae hit the floor.
· Boned a lot of dudes: Romans, prisoners of war, a court fool. He didn’t have a type, ya know?
· Boned all three of his sisters. So maybe actually his type was “similar genetic composition.”
· Maybe impregnated one of them. And according to I, Claudius (which, given the conflicting and crazy stories out there about this guy, is probably not the worst source) (plus Robert Graves was a certified dimepiece) he became obsessed with the idea that his son/nephew would overtake him, so he naturally CUT THE BABY OUT OF HER and ATE IT ohmygoddddddddisturbing.
I think maybe we should end here.
Obviously Cal wasn’t the most popular guy in the world after all of these shenanigans, so there were a lot of murder plots afoot. The one that succeeded — the Praetorian Guard, in an empty passageway, with
the candlestick lots of knives and swords — is notable because even his body guards, who swore a blood oath of loyalty, were over his bullshit.
Cal’s uncle Claudius, who had a stutter and club foot but was a sweet guy in a sour world, was made emperor, and the rest is this 1970s BBC miniseries I keep referencing (and if you aren’t intrigued already, Caligula is played by a young Mr. Ollivander). And there’s another Caligula movie in which you see Dame Helen Mirren’s royal boobs!
So maybe treat yourself on this Ides of March. To a little IDES CANDY. It’s what Caligua would have done (except there would probably be a few more naked corpses and horses around).