Hello. Remember me? Good. Because as LHB already mentioned, WE’RE fucking BACK.
And even better for you, I am COMICALLY unemployed, which means that between searching couch cushions, sidewalks, and ornamental fountains for enough spare change to buy an iced coffee (that shit costs A LOT of pennies these days, no?) and desperately applying to ALL OF THE JOBS, I have a little extra time to bring you the sex. Potentially I could become really resentful of that time, and by extension, the blog, and start to associate its success with my joblessness, thereby initiating a brutal spiral of love and despair, turning writing about historical sex from an act of silly glee to an act of self-loathing, but whatevs.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Oh, wait, if you care about Mad Men and didn’t watch the most recent episode yet, first reconsider your dedication to exemplary serial storytelling, and then go watch it and come back. We good? Wasn’t it so sad? Okay.
Today’s li’l tale of seduction and nudie photos (YOU HEARD ME, NUDIE PHOTOS) set in 1960s London is SO RELEVANT RIGHT NOW. Because:
1. Everyone’s favorite corgi reservoir Betty Windsor has been on the throne for SIXTY years and crazies all over Albion are celebrating her DiamondJubileeFuntimeSpectacular™ by watching a bunch of boats on the Thames in a rainstorm. Also, unrelated, but did you know that they officially changed the name of Big Ben to Elizabeth Tower in honor of the DiamondJubileeFuntimeSpectacular™? Stupid. Anyway, Betty was about ten years into her reign when this scandal happened, and she lives in London, so BOOM, RELEVANCE.
2. JAF, myself, and Draperites across the world are mourning two losses this week: another season of Matt Weiner’s magnum opus will conclude (at the same fucking time as the True Blood premiere…shameful, TV schedulers, shameful) following the death of our favorite cash-strapped, bespectacled Joan-kisser, Lane Pryce. By hanging. Sad. Anyway, JAF and I felt it was only right to commemorate both tragedies with a post. Also, the 1960s is when the Mad Men show happens, and Lane is (was…oof) from London. BOOM, RELEVANCE.
3. If you’re an MRG/JAF level Draperite, you’ll see there are three other pretty convincing Mad Men parallels tucked in the story. They are meta-references, because the whole thing is sort of chronologically-contextually referential. We’re so fucking meta, and don’t you forget it. Also I’ll probably just tell you what they are. BOOM, RELEVANCE.
And after 415 words of preamble, we’re ready to begin. Classic MRG. Did you miss me?
Okay, there was once born to a Scottish millionaire and his child bride a daughter named Margaret Whigham. We’re going to call her Peggy, in the spirit of Mad Men, but she’s not like our spunky/dissatisfied copywriter. She’s totes more of a JOAN, you guys!!!!!!!!1
Peggy grew up in New York, but also spent a lot of time abroad, so that her beauty was known AROUND THE WORLD by the people who keep track of shit like that. And girlfriend knew how to use what the good lord gave her; she had “romances” with a lot of famous international playboys and other specials like Ali Khan, Glen Kidston, Martin Stillman von Brabus, Max Aitken, and the 7th Earl of Warwick. (CAN YOU SPOT THE MAD MEN REFERENCE? (of course you can, I linked it) Winner gets a virtual pat on the back. Or what the hell, a virtual BJ.)
But soon it was time for Peggy to settle down. As the child of a millionaire, it was her duty to choose a man to whom she would hand over her immense fortune regardless of her right to it, because you know, vagina. And she chose Charles Sweeny, an American golfer who was super hot. I’D SWING HIS NINE IRON, ifyouknowwhatimean. Anyway, they got married in 1933 and her wedding dress was UNREAL. Then she popped out a couple babychildren, as one does, and they stayed together for a good fourteen years, which is actually pretty respectable given the rest of Peggy’s scandalous love life.
HERE’S WHERE SHIT GETS REAL: About four years before the d-i-v-o-r-c-e (divorce), Peggy fell down an elevator shaft. (Mad Men reference/blowjay number 2!) An. elevator. shaft. She probably would have died had she not awkwardly landed where the cable attaches to the elevator car, but she still cracked her head open. YIKES. According to Wiki, the accident made her lose all sense of taste and smell (con) and also made her voraciously horny at all times (pro). LET THE SCANDAL BEGIN!
She had a bunch of high-profile affairs, usually with married men, once with a man married to Jackie O’s cousin who had access to the White House and had to quit his job after word got out about he and Peg. Then in 1951, she married Ian Douglas Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll. She was his third wife, which probably didn’t bode well, but she was really, really happy, saying:
“I had wealth, I had good looks. As a young woman I had been constantly photographed, written about, flattered, admired, included in the Ten Best-Dressed Women in the World list, and mentioned by Cole Porter in the words of his hit song You’re the Top. The top was what I was supposed to be. I had become a duchess and mistress of an historic castle. My daughter had married a duke. Life was apparently roses all the way.”
Listen, I never said she was modest. And actually she wasn’t in the American version of “You’re the Top,” but she was in the Anglicized version of the song when Anything Goes hit the West End. Don’t get greedy, Peggy, it looks bad on you.
Okay, so by all accounts, things are going great for sweet, humble Peggy. Until, of course, Ian slapped her with a divorce suit so hard that my boyfriend Marshall Erickson would be proud.
See, Ian had discovered a few Polaroids (third and final Mad Men meta reference/blowjay, made even more meta when we continue reading) of Lady Argyll completely nude except for her signature three-strand pearl necklace. A REAL pearl necklace, you dweebs. Not a semen one. Though he also submitted as evidence a few more photos, and these depicted Peg in the same outfit, if you will, “fellating a naked man whose face was not shown.” Fellating is a court-approved way of saying SHE WAS TOTALLY GIVING HIM A BIG OLD BLOWJAY.
And Ian also submitted a little list of dudes he was SURE his ganting (Scottish for horny, I felt it was appropriate contextually) ex-lady wore her special outfit for – 88 dudes in total. So public opinion really turned against ol’ Peggy, especially when the totally fair and impartial judge labeled her fellation-sensations as “disgusting sexual activities.” I think that maybe someone could have used a little bit of Peg’s company in his chambers, if you catch my drift. Anyway, he of course granted Mr. Campbell his divorce, saying that poor horny Peggy “was a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men.”
Then times got hard (in the day-to-day struggles sense, not the penis sense) because she’d been totally publicly disgraced – she’d been a high-society woman, remember. So she was like “WELP, guess I’ll just give the people what they want” and wrote a supposedly salacious memoir which actually just ended up being a series of first world anecdotes and shameless name drops. No one bought it, so she also opened up her fancy London townhouse for paid tours. Blarg.
And it gets sadder: eventually, she was so destitute and so helpless that her kids had to put her in a nursing home, where she died in 1993 after a bad fall. Sad. And she died in penury, meaning she owed a lot of people a lot of cash. Sad sad. And she was buried next to her first husband, who was arguably the love of her life. Happy-sad, which is the worst kind of sad!
But hey, guys, don’t be any of those kinds of sad! Because some fabulous gay (I’m making that up, but it’s really the most likely scenario) wrote an opera called Powder Her Face about the last days of her life that features a totally realistic blowjay scene! Wiki calls it “voracious,” and they don’t fucking exaggerate. I don’t know if I’m sure what a voracious blowjay opera would be like, but I am sure that I want to go to there.
So this week, as we say goodbye to another season of excellent midcentury drama, let’s remember Margaret “I’m gonna call her Peggy, cause of the Mad Men show” Campbell, her bravery, her style, and her willingness to fellate fellows on film. May we never forget. United we stand. Always in our hearts.
AND HERE’S A META THING THAT I DIDN’T EVEN THINK OF UNTIL JUST NOW, YOU GUYS: Her name was Peggy Campbell. Had our Peggy Olson married the father of her adopted child and the world’s biggest shit-eater Pete Campbell, that would be her name. Shh. I get it. Be quiet. Let it sink in. Shh.
Do you like our self-referential title? Yeah, me too.
Greetings from the too-long-absent For Shame ladies. Guess what! We all graduated. We have alma maters now. That sounds sort of like a skin disease or an extra organ.
In a post-graduate effort to reclaim my literary experiences, one of my first acts of adulthood was to choose to read a history book. It is from the first chapter of this book that I got my inspiration and a lot of information for this post. So let’s give credit where credit is due: the first 24 pages of When the Astors Owned New York by Justin Kaplan are totally boss and you should go pick up a copy.
So, have you ever heard of a Waldorf Salad? How about the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel? Or the neighborhood Astoria, Queens? Probably you have because the Waldorf is like the second most famous salad in history. And that hotel is THE fanciest hotel in the world, and that neighborhood is like, you know, a neighborhood or whatever. I’m pretty sure the nanny was from there. No, no, she was from Flushing.
My point is: These salads and buildings and hoods sound familiar because they are named after members of the great American Dynasty, the Astor Family. ASTORia. Get it? And Waldorf is because the original John Jacob Astor (not to be confused with John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt) was from Waldorf, Germany, so a few of his progeny bear the name of his birthplace.
The patriarch immigrated to America in 1784 when things were still really swampy and gross here, and moved to New York City (formerly known as New Amsterdam). You might be thinking that he went into the apple-growing business since that’s all that I thought was going on in New York during that time, but actually he married a cute wench named Sarah and together they built an enormously successful, international fur-trading empire. But because it was hard to run an international fur-trading empire without cell phones, Astor did a sort of last-minute career change (which was really during his retirement in the 1830s) and started buying land in New York. (Check out this map of Manhattan about 15 years before Astor Numero Uno moved to the big city.) He was the first guy to be like, “Investing in New York real estate is smart!” He bought low and he watched the value of his land skyrocket in the last few decades of his life. When JJA died at age 84 (he must have been one of like five people living over 60), he was our country’s first multimillionaire, with a net worth of about 20 million dollars (that’s about $110 billion in the 2006 market). He was making about 1/107th of the entire US GNP. Take that Oprah. But most importantly, Mr. Astor had started one of America’s first “blue-blooded” dynasties.
So here’s where things get scandalous. Two John Jacobs later we get John Jacob Astor IV who’s main occupation, other than making craploads of money in real estate, is being THE baller of turn-of-the-century Manhattan. Remember that at this time even though silent film was at its height the real “celebrity” of early 20th century America was the millionaire. So everything John Jacob was doing, like gambling and drinking, and just being an all-around awesome guy to party with, was covered by the press.
When he was 27, he tried to curb the ol’ bachelor way of life by marrying a lady named Ava Lowle Willing. They had two kids together. One of those kids, the second one, was rumored to have been the bastard of Ava’s lover. Sort of shocking for the time, right? But JJA wasn’t so good at being a devoted husband either and he was probably out on the town getting his D wet all over the place, too. Even though they were both kind of publicly not into each other, New York society folk were appalled when Ava sued Astor for d-i-v-o-r-c-e and accused him of adultery (pot kettle black?).
Because divorce was so taboo, even in 1909, many people believed that if you got divorced, you shouldn’t get another chance at the whole marriage thing. “You fuck up once, too bad,” the religious people said I think. So it was even more fabulously scandalous when less than two years after he and Ava called it quits, the 47 year old divorcee put a ring on the finger of 19-year-old Brooklyn socialite Madeleine Talmage Force. After the engagement, she became the (oh I don’t know, I suck at pop culture) Brittany Spears of her time? People followed that bitch around and took pictures of her, that’s what I’m getting at.
But this isn’t where the scandalosity stops. JJA and Maddie started courting as early as September of 1910, not too long after his d-i-v-o-r-c-e, when he invited her whole family to hang out at his house in Bar Harbor. Which is not not a party that I would have diiiieeeeed to go to. They got married one year later, in September of 1911 and immediately started their honeymoon in Europe.
In Europe, like women are like to do, she got pregnant real fast. Because these were blue blooded American folk and thinking about the future political career of their unborn child, they were all, “This kid needs to be born in America, y’all,” and they nabbed two seats on a brand new ship called the FUCKING TITANIC.
This story just got a little ICY didn’t it. Didn’t think this was the direction we were headed (at too fast of a speed for the vessel of its size) did you??
So, they’re on the Titanic, they eat dinner with some red-headed slut and a really hot poor guy named Zack or Jack or something, and the boat hits an iceberg. JJA is like, “Be calm, bitch, I got this.” He straps his baby mama into one of those totally helpful cork life-jackets and escorts her (like a boss) to lifeboat #4. As he’s helping her onto the boat, he says to the dude with the paddle, “Listen bro, my wife is in a delicate condition, ifyouknowhatimsayinnnn??” The guy was like, “No, man. I mean, yeah, I get what you’re saying, but no you can’t get on the boat. Women and kids only. And by kids, I don’t mean small goats.” So he’s like, “Fine, whatever. Later, toots.”
After that, he supposedly met up with some of his bros (including the Isador Strauss, one of the first owners of Macy’s who was also probably the only Jew on the ship), played some cards, and then, you know, drowned on the fucking Titanic.
But get this: The same newspapers who printed a bunch of nasty stuff about Astor getting remarried, calling him Jack Ass — because his nick-name was Jack and his last name was Astor (which is actually like really clever when you think about it), were all of a sudden printing a bunch of crap about the poor Mr. Astor who saved his bride and blah blah blah. He was, after all, the richest person to die in the sinking. The fuckin media, amirightpeople??
So, like a boss, Madeline became one of the richest women in the country. She got a ton of money outright, and a trust fund, and a trust fund for their kid, and rights to live in the Astor apartment on 5th Avenue as long as she never remarried. She did end up remarrying eventually and moving out of that undoubtedly swank-ass house, but she enjoyed it for four or five years. The newspaper headline when she married her childhood friend read, “Four Years a Widow, She Gives up Income of Millions for Love of Girlhood Friend,” which is kind of sweet and lovely or whatever. And then she got divorced, and then remarried and then divorced. Whatever.
All right. Now let me do the little thing I do where I give the scandalous individual whose story I have exploited a redeeming moment by talking about their accomplishments. Well first of all, even though Astor IV married a girl less than half his age and was a spoiled trust fund baby, the guy was undoubtedly a hard worker and did not just sit on a fortune already built for him, he grew it, too. He built the Astoria Hotel, next door to the hotel his cousin built, the Waldorf Hotel. (It would of course become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.) He was also a science fiction novelist, an inventor, and a bit of an engineer (he helped develop a turbine engine.) And he helped out a little in the Spanish American war too by lending the government his yacht.
But being the snazziest Patriot this side of the Atlantic doesn’t always mean you’ll survive a tragic ship sinking incident that will set the tone for the entire century. But it does mean that you’ll make headlines and have salads named after you. So, you know, win some lose some.
Stay tuned this week as we crank out two more posts before we unleash upon your asses one of our most exciting theme weeks ever!! (I don’t have the go ahead from my colleagues to announce the theme, so one of them will do it in their upcoming posts. It’s REALLY GOOD. I’m serious. Fucking read this week is all I’m saying.)