Hey. Hey you. It’s Halloween. You should be drunk right now. I know I am.
This is the world’s best holiday ever for all time. Do you know why? Because it has absolutely no moralizing behind it, no religious connotations to get people all riled up (Ok, dipshits-who-claim-pagans-might-get-offended: false. In no way is our contemporary candy-toting costume-donning concept of ‘Halloween’ part of the canonical practices of modern neopaganism. It’s not worshiping the devil, it’s not glorifying evil spirits, it’s not going to see fucking Paranormal Activity 3 and pretending you think hand-held camera shit is still scary. It’s a goddamn harvest festival/new year celebration. Read some Golden Bough, get educated and let me finish. Thank you).
Now you don’t normally think sexual scandal when you think Halloween. Unless you count what the coeds are wearing these days an affront to morality YES I DO but otherwise the biggest controversy seems to stem from shitty slasher movies and kids getting drugs in candy. Not sexy.
WELL THINK A-FUCKING-GAIN BITCHEZ, CAUSE I JUST SPENT ABOUT HALF AN HOUR GOOGLING AS MANY PEOPLE CONNECTED TO CLASSIC HORROR AS I COULD REMEMBER. Cause that’s what we’re about here at for shame!—class(ic).
Boom. Salacious bullet points:
Mary Shelly– Wrote Frankenstein, fucking tragically beautiful, read it, tears. Also had SO MUCH premarital sex with Percy Bysshe Shelly, who was already married when they met, and totally stayed married through the conception of two of his and Mary’s three children, a trip to the Continent, and like two years. Mary met Percy when she was 17 and they started banging almost immediately, and when she got preggers, her dad kind of didn’t want anything to do with her, and she and her boytoi were super poor for a while. Then Percy’s wife committed suicide, they got hitched, Mary thought up Frankenstein, had two more kids, moved to Italy, had two kids die, had Percy die, got rull sad, had a bunch of suitors (including WASHINGTON IRVING WHO WROTE THE HEADLESS HORSESMAN SO MANY HORRIFYING CONNECTIONS), then died. Ta-da! That’s somebody’s life in a paragraph.
Edgar Allen Poe – Hey, guess what this guy did. Married his cousin. She was 13. He was 36. Whatever, different strokes.
Wilkie Collins– Great gothic writer, most notable for The Woman in White, which is weird and creepy andkingdofdragsinpartsbuttotallypicks up at the end! He was a big ol’ drug addict who shacked up with a surprising number of women for a guy who had laudanum-induced visions of his own doppelganger that followed him around who called ‘Ghost Wilkie.’ When he was 32, he started living with this
courgar widow named Caroline Graves, but six years later, he left his bangmaid for a much younger slice named Martha Rudd, who he knocked up three times in three years. Girl was fertile. Caroline took out her earrings and told Martha she better back the fuck ahWAY, and that Wilkie had to choose. Turns out, he didn’t actually make an honest woman out of either of them, though he chose Martha for a time, then rekindled his flame with Caroline, two years after she married some lameo names Joseph Clow. But he was also still nailing Martha. Git it Wilkie, git it.
F.W. Murnau– The German expressionist film director who first put the Dracula story on the silver screen in his 1922 film, Nosferatu (turns our Bram Stoker was an ‘upstanding citizen’ and didn’t leave behind piles of dirty laundry for me to shift through). He was a big gay. Like a BIG GAY. He was open about his sexuality in the teens and twenties in Germany, and luckily(?) he died before Hitler came to power, so I imagine his life to have essentially been the musical Cabaret.
William Seabrook– An adventurer and writer of the Lost Generation, he traveled extensively in Africa and lived with various indigenous tribes for extended periods, publishing his findings on their rituals and religious practices. In 1929 he published the first short story in English to mention ‘zombies,’ about voodoo cults in Haiti called The Magic Island. He was also an occultist, alcoholic and a cannibal!!!!!!!1 In 1935 he married fellow writer Marjorie Muir Worthington, a friend since their days chilling in 1920s Paris with Aldous Huxley, Alice Tolkas, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Sinclair Lewis, etc. Why she picked Seabrook out of that bumper crop lord only knows, but they soon divorced after it became apparent his alcohol abuse and sadist sexual tendencies would never allow them to have a healthy relationship. He died of a drug overdose in 1945, before the prions that grow in the brains of people who eat human flesh could turn his lobes into swiss cheese.
The Lon Chaneys– Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr. were two of the best known horror-movie actors of the 20th century. Sr. was a little more discriminating than his son in his choice of B-picture roles, but is arguably most famous for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera. Jr., one of my favorites in the monster-movie tradition, got his big break in the 1941 Wolfman (not that piece of shit with Academy Award Winner Benicio Del Torro), and continued through a long career of z-grade horror schlock. Shit got real with the Chaneys (but not that real, not incestual-sodomy real, don’t worry. I know you were worried). Sr. married his wife, Cleva Creighton, when she was a sweet, applecheeked 16 year old
stripper cabaret singer, because he sort of kind of got her pregnant (there’s a lot of that going on in this post). Their only child was Jr., and 10 years into the marriage, she very publicly tried to kill herself. By drinking straight poison. Sr. promptly took the ring off it, then told his impressionable young son YOUR MOM IS DEAD. But wait, SHE WASN’T ACTUALLY MOTHERFUCKING DEAD, SHE HAD SURVIVED AND MOVED TO ALBEQUERQUE OR SOME OTHER SHITHOLE. When he was an adult, Jr. himself got a d-i-v-r-o-r-c-e, then promptly (as in the same year) remarried, so who knows if it was because he and his wife were driven apart by the rampant alcoholism that eventually killed him, his famously volatile temper, because he found true love, or was having an affair. It certainly wasn’t because he couldn’t have a normal relationship with women because his mother tried to commit suicide to escape her sham of a marriage, and then his father told him she was dead. Yeah, who knows.
(And thank you to the friends and loyal readers over at my mid-sized east-coast liberal-arts college’s improv troupe, who I shamelessly stole the title from. THANKS GUYZ!!!!!1)
Listen. I know. Be quiet. I get it. Our silence is getting old. And we’re sorry. And I promise these lags in posting will become less frequent and less prolonged, and eventually we won’t have to begin every post with an apology. How do you know that we’ll never wrong you again? Well, I guess you can’t know for sure. But just trust that bringing tales of scandalous and historical titty-touching and pepe-pleasuring directly to you is back at the top of our collective to-do lists. Let us begin.
Harry Crosby was born in Boston’s swank-ass Back Bay neighborhood (where I’m going to live when I grow up) in 1898 to kabillionaire parents who set him up with a nice little trust fund and sent him off to all the best schools for blue-blooded beantown boys. In order to escape the “horrors of Boston virgins,” Harry signed up for the Ambulance Corps during WW Uno and was shipped overseas to tote sickies around the Western Front. So in between the Sommes and Verdun, I’m sure he was able to score plenty of Belgian poon. He arrived home in 1919 with a fresh case of PTSD and that characteristic post-war melancholia that made people make art with lots of weird shapes, drink espresso, and fuck as many bitches as they could manage to roofie at the neighborhood speakeasy. Shortly after returning, he decided that what he really needed was some learnin’, so he entered into an accelerated veterans program at a little college called Hogwarts, I mean Harvard, where he cultivated his passion for literature and noncommittal coitus.
When he was 22, his mom arranged for a bunch of his friends and some suitable snatches, I mean matches, to go on an afternoon outing (because apparently in 1920 it was normal for parents to arrange playdates for their grown children.) Mama Croz asked her friend Mrs. Richard Peabody to keep everyone’s hormones under control as their chaperone. I worry about his mother’s judgement because Mary Phelps Jacob (aka Mrs. Richard Peabody) was only 6 years Harry’s senior and also happened to be the inventor of the bra. No big deal. Girlfriend had a huuuuge personality. And young Harold just could not take his eyes off of it. Within two weeks, their love affair had become the talk of Boston society.
It took him, like, a year, but eventually Harry managed to convince the well-endowed Mrs. Peabody to get a divorce from her husband, and he put a ring on it in 1922. Shortly after, they moved, along with Polly’s children, to Paris. Because Paris in the 1920s was a great place to raise a family. And by “great place to raise a family” what I mean is that Paris was where people went when drinking absinth and smoking salvia with a prostitute at an illegal bar in Manhattan wasn’t really doing it for them anymore. Paris was where people went when the bar in H – E – double hockey sticks had to close early because of too much sinning. Paris was where people went to find a sensitive-and-STD-ridden artist/writer/adventurer to inspire/become inspired by through constant sexhaving and cafe claches. Do you get it? Is it clear what I’m getting at? Paris was a motherfucking hotbed of sex, drugs, alcohol, jazz, sex, alcohol, fun, and sex, and more sex.
Luckily, child rearing wasn’t Mr and Mrs Cosby, I mean Crosby’s, primary concern. Instead, it was how many extramarital D/V wetting sessions they were able to fit in between dinner and breakfast Thursday through Sunday each week. They were both known for having a wide open marriage and Harry was known to have had one night trysts with young women who may or may not have been studying for their Bat Mitzvahs. Or taking 7th grade algebra. I’m uncomfortable.
Because of Harry’s charmingly irresponsible use of his trust fund, the loving spouses led an extravagant lifestyle that involved living in lavish apartments and holding “dinner parties” out of their giant bed. They also apparently hosted a party once that involved playing polo on donkeys, stick in one hand, a 40 in the other. (I almost typed “dolphins” and then I thought, “now, that would have been fucking cool.” If only they’d had a little more imagination.) Ernest Hemingway, the most famous alcoholic writer, like, ever, used to say that Harry Crosby could drink anyone under the table. I mean, if Hemingway is saying that, then Jesus fucking Christ, you have a problem, ok? I’ll say no more.
Except that’s not true at all BECAUSE I HAVEN’T EVEN SCANDALIZED YOU YET HAVE I?!?! Well listen the fuck up because it’s about to get all Prince Rudolph up in here, ifyouknowwhatimsayin??
Harry met a girl named Josephine Rotch in Venice while she was shopping for, get this, her wedding dress. (Who would have thought it? Bridal Salons. Great place to pick up chicks.) The two started a steamy affair which continued until her wedding later that year at which point, it stopped. JUST KIDDING. Within, like, 20 minutes, they were transatlantically sending each other depressing love poetry again. Plus Jo kept telegramming him, demanding that the next time he come stateside, he bed her immediately. Girlfriend knew what she wanted.
A consummate gentleman, Harry obliged. In December of 1929, the couple met at a friend’s studio apartment in Manhattan and the next thing you know, Harry is late to a pre-show dinner, his wife gets worried, his friend goes to check on him at the studio, has to break the door down because it’s locked from the inside, bada bing bada boom, Harry and Josephine are lying on the floor, clutched in each other’s arms, with matching bullet-holes in their temples. Awkward.
I know, shit’s whack. It came out that right before, the two had written a bunch of charming poetry to each other and in their diaries about death and love and marriage and dying and blah blah So the whole ordeal was looking like a suicide pact. BUT THEN the coroner’s report came back and it determined conclusively that Josephine had died, like, 2 hours earlier than Harry. Again, awkward. So, kind of up in the air on whether or not shit was consensual is all I’m saying. Needless to say, the suicide/murder-suicide speculations were plastered all over the tabloids – the press had a motherfucking field day with this shit. It was like when they figured out that they could make Brad and Angelina into one word. THAT BIG.
Even though my general tone towards Harry has been a little judgmental, his suicide is considered now to be sort of emblematic of the post-war Lost Generation. And that’s really sad. And makes my throat a little tight. Because while I do think that the expats had some whiny tendencies that I could do without, I have a pretty major hard on for interwar Europe and I actually think they were pretty brilliant people, expressing some very real and legitimate concerns about the world around them.
I know this post is getting ridiculously long, but I should add one thing about Harry’s contribution to interwar Modernism and Parisian art culture: When they weren’t partying til dawn and scamming on hot young things, the Crosbys were busy being the first to publish TS Elliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound – all before they were famous, in a publication that they founded called the Black Sun Press. It was and still is kind of a big deal.
On that note, what have we learned? Having a lot of affairs and being on a lot of drugs all the time might make you kind of unstable and lead to your tragic, yet super famous, demise? Yeah, I don’t know either. Those interwar motherfuckers are so goddam ambiguous.
LHB (with some much appreciated guidance and collaboration and title-writing from JAF)
Okay, I know that we tend to do this post-absence mea culpa thing pretty often, so I’m going to go ahead and surprise you. I’m NOT sorry that it’s been so long since I posted. I’m not NOT sorry, but I’m also not sorry. Understand? GOOD. Because dammit, I am a real person (debatable) with real shit to do (equally debatable). I am not a historical-sex-scandal-blogging machine, here.
But I’m still pretty damn good at bringing you the secks, AMIRIGHT!?
What was so special about young Alan, you ask? Hmm oh I don’t know maybe just uhh Alan was sort of maybe AMERICA’S FIRST OFFICIAL TRANSGENDERED PERSON! Which sort of sounds like Fox’s next reality TV venture. Anyway, you thought we were all old Hollywood lesbians and promiscuous writers, didn’t you? Well consider your expectations subverted. BOOM.
Alan L. Hart was born
a poor black child Alberta Lucille Hart in 1890. Now the going has been, and realistically, still is tough (but FABULOUS!) for the gays and the transgendered here in the good ol’ US of A. And this is 2011. But imagine, IMAGINE WITH YOUR BRAIN WRINKLES, wanting to do a li’l gender swaparoo at the turn of the motherfucking 20th century. Holy crow, that’s a shit ton of anxiety to deal with. Especially when, like dear Alan, this desire manifests pretty early in your childhood and you’ve got supportive parents who let you dress like a boy when you’re visiting the family farm and do boy things like kill animals and eat dirt. When I say they were supportive, I’m not kidding – his grandparents’ obituaries from 1921 and 1924 (when Al was an oily preteen) list him as a grandson. Which is sort of adorable in a really forward-thinking kind of way, but also became real fucking problematic when the Hart clan decided to ship him off to the local school, where he had to start going by Lucille and dressing like a girl again.
Lil’ Lucy/Alan spent the rest of his school days writing essays under the pseudonym “Robert Allan Bamford Jr.,” which is a comically specific choice for a fake name. I would probably have gone with something more badass. Like Don Draper. Or Bert Macklin, FBI. Or just Danger. Now that’s fucking boss. But hey, to each his (or her – I don’t really know how to handle the pronouns while I explain this transitional time and I feel a little red state about it) own.
College was good for Al – he could wear his dude suit full time, and even picked up a slam piece named Eva Cushman. As in CUSHMAN for the PUSHIN’!!!!!!!!1 But in all seriousness, they were in love and transferred from Albany College (now Lewis & Clark) to Stanford together. Al went on to go get his medical degree, too, and was a skosh annoyed when they issued the degree in his lady name. Mostly because if he wanted to get any job anywhere as his man self, his employer might, oooh, I don’t know, check out the cred. And the cred would have a lady’s name on it. Which is why he had to switch back to ladygear for a while after graduating to work at the Red Cross in Philadelphia – once again illustrating that the “post-grad” “job market” in the “real world” is Siberian-motherfucking-cold.
At this point, Alan (who is still going by Robert at night and Lucille by day) is understandably in need of some advice. So he goes to a psychiartist and is like, “Listen dude, I’m really having A TIME. And I think that getting rid of my extraneous lady bits will help me alleviate the situation. Gotta hysterectomy guy you can recommend? And how do you feel about eugenics?” Now you might be thinking that Al’s shrink laughed at him until he and his unwanted uterus slinked off the velvet fainting couch in shame. And given the pre-established early twentieth century cultural context, you’d be right. But Al was one smart tranny. And he talked his very modern psychiatrist into giving the okay to America’s first removal of healthy organs as a result of gender misidentification! YAYYYYY FOR SWEET AL!!!!!!1
That’s right, ladies. Snip snap, bye bye ovaries. Score another one for the dicks.
I just want to interrupt this brilliant prose with an observation: he went from Alberta to Lucille to Robert and then settled on Alan? Couldn’t he have just hit that ending “a” with a little Liquid Paper, gone by Albert from the beginning, and called it a day? I mean, swapping genders seems like a lot of fucking work. Take the short cuts when you can, Al.
Anyway, post-surgery (which – I’m not trying to be gross, really, I swear – but SHIT, that must have been fucking medieval) (and not in a cool JAF way) (more like in a final-scene-of-Braveheart kind of way) Al met a fine woman with a fierce name – Inez, how fucking sexy is that? – and they got MARRIED! And moved to get away from the whole “everyone here knows I was a certified lady until my recent gender reassignment surgery” problem.
But then the shit hit the fan – someone outed Al as recently de-ovaried, and Inez, with her ethnic-ass name, left him soon after. RUDE.
Hey. Shhh. I know you’re a little upset. You’re really rooting for Al. Trannies always finish last. I get it. But don’t worry, because not only did Al go on to marry a fine, probably really open-minded young woman, he also got like a hundred master’s degrees from like a hundred respectable research institutions and became an extremely prominent and well-respected professor of public health. But I think his biggest personal victory came after WWII when hormone therapy got a lot safer and more accessible, because then he could pop some HGH and grow a beard. I don’t know about you, female readers, but if I was a former lady who wanted to be a badass gentleman, I’d be really fucking excited about having facial hair. And getting to use one of those old-fashioned straight razors! And having a dope set of mutton chops a hundred motherfucking years before they were hipster-cool! And being able to wear ascots and shit! AND NEVER HAVING TO SHAVE YOUR LEGS AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!1
We’ve suddenly come to a weird place and I’m not the least bit embarrassed about it.
So here’s to dear, sweet Alan Hart whose manly perseverance eventually led to great personal contentment and probably a lot of very awkward pre-coital discussions. I speak on behalf of all the ladies of the world (you’re welcome, girlfriends) when I say that while we were sad to see little Lucille go, we’re glad that Alan achieved personal peace. And we’re so goddamn jealous of the no leg-shaving thing.