Happy Christmas in July, you guys! I have something nice for you. Because you’ve been so good.
MRG got you a bisexual, cross-dressing, opera-singing, nun-banging, murderous-ten-times-over BADASS BITCH. I know, I know. It’s what you’ve always wanted.
If that sounds like I just made this person up at some type of bespoke historical figure shoppe (million dollar idea, you’re welcome), I get it. It seemed too good to be true when my little sister, AMG, who is way smarter and funnier than I am (but it’s okay because I am just as special in other ways) and who might grace us all with a guest post in the near future, casually told me about her. But it wasn’t too good to be true. Instead, IT’S JUST TOO GODDAMN GOOD.
Julie d’Aubigny was and continues to be a next-level goddess of womanhood the likes of which have never appeared on this blog. I know I throw that g-word around a lot when a strong historical lady gets hers, but this time it’s serious. She was a pistol for the ages. She is to not-giving-a-sweet-fuck what Isis, Frejya, and Bhuvaneshvari are to their respective mythologies. She is the human manifestation of that #YOLO thing the kids do. She is everything.
And luckily, she was born (in 1670 in France) to one of those dads who maybe wanted a son real bad but instead of ignoring his girlchild he, like, still loved her. And he bestowed upon her the required education for both genders. Daddy, Gaston d’Aubigny, was the secretary to the Grand Squire of France under Louis XIV and therefore was partly responsible for the all the king’s stables, pages, and most importantly, the royal partay fund. And this is the goddamn Sun King — it’s not like he’s throwing a low-key potluck just for the girls once every couple years. Thusly, Julie’s dad was pretty well connected and had a measure of power. As a hobby, he was also a master swordsman. Whereas my dad likes to do crossword puzzles and some light woodworking.
So by the time she blossoms into young womanhood, Julie can dance, she can sew, she can read multiple languages, and oh yeah, she can kill you real good with a rapier. And it’s not that she was good at swordplay for a lady — she was just fucking good. She also liked to dress up like a boy, accost and embarrass the shit out of another boy, and then reveal her ladyness. At a young age, Julie knew her way around a dagger. And around a dick.
In her teens, she seduced her dad’s boss, the Comte d’Armagnac (and because his name is hard and he was in charge of the king’s horses, he shall heretofore be known as The Mane Man). The Mane Man, though he was an adult fucking his employee’s 16-year-old daughter (think of the HR paperwork!), was also kind of a good dude in the beginning. He undoubtedly expanded her knowledge of military weapons and strategy and also her knowledge of how to do sex. Most importantly, he introduced her to the court of the Sun King.
If ever there was a diva in need of a venue, it was Julie d’Aubigny. Mane Man, soon sensing the potential error in bringing a gender-bending, sword-confident, underage hottie with a thing for embarrassing dudes at their own game to the most public and socially narrow place in the country, decided to marry Julie off and deflect attention. This was A Thing Men Could Do. Not long after her marriage to Monsieur Maupin (of whom little is known and few fucks are given), Julie and Mane Man called it quits. It’s probably likely that Mane Man was terrified of a) what Julie could to to his entrails and b) word getting out that he’d dated a woman with “talents” and “opinions,” so he invented a position in the French countryside for Maupin, assuming Julie would dutifully follow her new and uncharismatic husband. You know what they say about assuming. It’s a dumb fucking thing to do.
See, Mane Man’s plan really backfired on him. As a married woman, Julie really didn’t have to worry about the moral and social expectations that the court had for marriageable girls. And her husband, being a Toby Flenderson-type, was essentially powerless when it came to sexual politics. In the Maupin marriage, not only did Julie wear the pants, she had one of those giant MTV Cribs-style, apartment-sized closets full of pants. Pants on pants on pants. So naturally, when Mr. Maupin packed up the U-Haul and headed for the hills, Julie didn’t go with.
Instead, Julie. Went. WILD. Slapping shopkeepers? Check. Publicly taking the piss out of aristocrats? Check. Boning a fencing master wanted for murdering someone in an alley? CHECK.
Julie and her new slice, Serannes, Bonnie-and-Clyded their way through Paris, and when trouble found them, headed to Marseilles, where Serranes claimed he had the means to support them. He fucking lied. Rather than immediately impaling her lover, though, Julie, ever resourceful, essentially enslaved him as one half of a song-and-sword duo to pay the bills. Did I mention that our Jules was a fucking gifted contralto? She was. It was also around this time that Julie picked up that cross-dressing thing again, because the swordplay part of their act required ease of movement, and seven layers of petticoats are not so conducive to that sometimes/all the time. A cross dresser with the voice of an angel — maybe it’s a Julie thing.
Anyway, the pair were the talk of the town before long. The plebians ate that shit right up. And of course, because Julie was an Inigo Montoya-level swordist and wore pants, those same plebians thought she was a dude. Rumor has it that one night a crowd was so raucously convinced that she had a dick, Julie ripped open her shirt, showed them her tits, and said “Who’s the dick now?!” Or something like that.
Of course, a bold and beautiful ingenue of the stage and sword was going to be bored by her murderous, less-talented boyfriend. In fact, Julie was pretty bored by men altogether. She was just better than them at pretty much everything. But she still wanted to get hers — an Earth-goddess still needs to get her rocks off. And as we’ve established, our sweet JuJuBee gave zero fucks about social strictures or propriety. Julie looked around, noticed that women were a large group of people she hadn’t tried to seduce, and went for it. Bless her.
And here’s one of my favorite stories I’ve come across during this 2.5-year blogsperiment. Julie, somewhere in the middle of her lady-fucking rampage, fell in love with a cute blonde. Blondie’s parents, of course, were terrified of the Amazon who kept sending their daughter home flushed and extremely satisfied, so they decided the best course of action was to ship her off to a convent. That’s how Jules came to bone a nun. A self-proclaimed wife of Jesus. Yes. Of course, it became hard for them to meet, let alone plan liasons, so Julie took these Six Easy Steps to get her lover back:
1. She took Holy Orders herself.
2. She made sure she was assigned to the same convent as Blondie.
3. She waited for an elderly nun to die, then disinterred her.
4. She placed the body of said nun in Blondie’s bed.
5. She set the convent ON FIRE.
6. She and Blondie stole away into the night and never fucking looked back.
Turns out even that John McClane-like endeavor bored our Julie, and she broke up with her nunpiece a couple months later but stayed on the lam. Since body snatching and arson and kidnapping are crimes, Jules was tried in a Marseilles court in absentia and condemned to death by fire (eye for an eye, I guess). So Marseilles was no longer a great place for her to be, and she hopped from Paris to Orleans to Poitiers and back to Paris again, renewing her vaudeville-vagabond-crossdressing-disco-spectacular. Life’s a fucking hustle, man.
Along the way, Jules was doing her best Victor/Victoria in Villeperdue when a young roustabout in the audience realized she was a woman despite her pantaloons. Supposedly he accosted her by shouting, “Pretty bird, I’ve heard your chirping. Now let me see your plumage!” which is nothing if not a tightly constructed metaphor. Julie responded in the only way she knew how: by challenging him and his two best friends to a goddamned duel in the middle of the show. In the scuffle, Jules ended up putting her sword straight through the dude’s shoulder and out the other side, at which point he was like “Okay, ouch, sorry, geez.” Julie then dropped the mic and took a nap.
She still had a conscience, though. Hurting that defenseless manchild weighed on her, so the next day she asked the hotelier who she’d stabbed. Louis-Joseph d’Albert de Luynes, the son of a duke and therefore some kind of viscount. This made Julie feel bad but also made her see the glistening mountain of francs that could be hers if she played her cards right. When one of Lou’s squires visited Julie later that night to convey his master’s apologies for saying all that nasty shit to her, Julie was like, “I’ll deliver my response in person. With my vagina.” She boned him that night and many more nights. Extortion turned to love. They continued to bang for decades in like a friends-who-fuck-and-also-sort-of-love-each-other-but-keep-it-casual kind of way. Think about how much game you need to have to get a guy you RAN THROUGH WITH A MOTHERFUCKING SABER and HUMILIATED PUBLICLY to fuck you forever. This is real history.
And did I mention all of the above shit happened within four years? Yeah, on our timeline, Julie is 20. Really makes college feel like a waste.
Naturally, Julie’s career as a vaudevillian segued into the chance to sing in the Paris Opera. La Maupin, as she was called (going by her noodle of a husband’s name is probably the most heteronormative thing about her) was soon a bonafide opera star, and brought real-life badassness to notably badass roles like Athena, Dido, and Medea. It was like the opposite of method acting.
By now you’ve deduced that our Jules was also a bit of a wild card when it came to her temper, so it should be no surprise that she once whacked the shit out of a fellow actor in a dark alley with a wooden cane because he was creeping on one of her actress friends. When he showed up at work with two black eyes and a limp, he said he was beaten and robbed by four street youths. Julie, hearing this, said “HAHAHAHAA,” and handed the guy his pocket watch and empty wallet in front of everyone.
And of course, given that she and Lou had a loving and VERY open relationship, Julie fucked a lot of her co-workers. Both tenors and sopranos, if you catch my drift. Just once, Jules fancied a lady who gave her the ol’ I-just-wanna-be-friends, which led Julie to attempt suicide. She really only had one speed, our girl.
I know you’re all getting tired here, but I have just one more Julie story, I promise! Also, what the fuck guys, she’s amazing, I want to talk about her forever, you should want to know everything there is to know about her, etc. etc.
Okay, so Julie’s operatic fame led to her reintroduction to court life, which of course led to her being invited to a ball. And Julie just wanted to dance. Really get down. And she couldn’t twerk in a heavy dress, so she of course wore a full-on cavalier’s uniform. Much pearl-clutching ensued, because not only did she not hide the fact that she was a woman in manpants, she also openly danced and MADE OUT WITH the belle of the ball. In the middle of the Sun King’s dance floor. Je SCANDAL!
Belle-of-ball’s suitors were shocked and immediately directed a collective “Not cool, bro” Julie’s way in the form of a duel invite. Apparently talking things out was not a viable resolution method in seventeenth-century France. Julie had been outnumbered by a bunch of dudes before and was probably bored, so she agreed. They got a-fighting right there in the middle of a waltz and Julie defeated all of them handily. Mr. Sun King himself, pissed that Julie diverted the groveling masses away from him, reminded her that he’d recently instituted a law against dueling. Julie was sent away thinking that this might be the end of the road for her. You don’t piss off the Sun King. He could actually have you killed for sitting without his express permission. True fact. One would imagine that killing three dudes in the middle of his nice party might not fly.
UNLESS YOU’RE FUCKING JULIE D’AUBIGNY MAUPIN, WARRIOR PRINCESS.
The next day, after preparing to hear that she was going to die, Julie got a message from the King that essentially said, “You’re pretty that thing you did was funny I like seeing people die I guess my no-dueling law can just apply to men.”
And Julie celebrated by moving to Brussels and becoming mistress to a goddamn Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and opera-ing on the side until she died in 1707.
Except I’m pretty sure she’s not dead because goddesses are immortal.
Happy Birthday America! I know we haven’t graced the pages of the interwebs for quite some time, but it’s because we’ve been waving flags, camping out and having picnics, and celebrating various reasons to be proud of our country (well, except that last one, but you know what I’m getting at).
So on this, the fourth day of the month of July, we’re taking the opportunity to bring you not the scandal of a founding father or an illustrious politician, but rather the epitome of the actual idols in America: a celebrity athlete.
BUT WAIT, I know you’re thinking there’s a disconnect between the social progress made by our nation in the past week, and the inexplicable hero-worship of someone who tosses balls for a living. WELL HOLD ON PATRIOTS, CAUSE IT’S ABOUT TO GET SCANDALOUSLY PROGRESSIVE UP IN HURR. And regular scandalous too, don’t worry.
For you see, on this day in 1910, Jack Johnson, an African American heavy-weight boxer, knocked out his white rival, Jim Jeffries, sparking race riots across America.
The bout was deemed the “Fight of the Century,” in which formerly undefeated Jeffries came out of a six-year retirement to fight Johnson, the current heavy-weight champion. The total winnings (split 75/25) were equivalent to over two million dollars in today’s spacebucks, and tickets to the 20,000 seat sold-out spectacle were being scalped for almost triple their original price. President Taft and Arthur Conan Doyle had been approached to guest-referee. The match was held in Reno in 110 degree heat, and scheduled for three 45-minute rounds. Jeffries had very little interest being the representation of the white race in taking down this troubling black upstart, and originally refused the fight multiple times, but was eventually persuaded (I’m assuming by that two million dollars, but, hey, I could be wrong). All in all, it was a B-fucking-D.
Racial tensions were running high, and no alcohol (normal) or guns (psst, lame) were allowed within the arena. By the fourth round, it was clear that the older Jeffries was going to lose, but the blood sport continued for another eleven rounds, with Jeffries being knocked down twice, and nearly KO’d. However, the NYTimes remarked at the time that never had a fight been so one-sides, but that Johnson had fought fairly throughout.
Here would be a nice moment to pause and give a bit of background on Jack Johnson. The son of former slaves from Galveston Texas, he could read and write, which was plenty scandalous for the time. Well, that, and HE LOVED DATING WHITE LADIES. AND PROSTITUTES. OPENLY.
He reportedly had so many biddies on rotation in and out of his hotel room, that a keen-eyed reporter once asked him how he did it, to which Johnson replied “eat jellied eels and think distant thoughts.” And I mean, come on, are we gonna blame them? The man was beautiful.
According to Johnson, though no record survives, he first married another African America woman named Mary Austin, back in Texas in 1898, though it appears they separated by 1902. He then took up with a black prostitute from Philly named Clara Kerr, who lived with him in California until she ran off with his friend, taking most of his clothes and jewelry. He tracked them down in Tuscon and had Clara arrested for burglary, but apparently they reconciled and started living together. This lasted until he couldn’t find any money-making fights, and she up and R.U.N.N.O.F.T.
During a fight tour of Australia, he had a fling with white Alma “Lola” Toy, which scandalized the Sydney press. From this point on, while he did not exclusively see white women, he said publically said he would never marry another woman of color because of the heartaches he had suffered with Mary and Clara. I mean, that’s kind of like saying you’ll only eat apples because you ate two rotten oranges… Whatever dude, just pick some better fruit next time.
When he returned to America in 1907 he took up with Hattie McClay, a white prostitute from Manhattan. Their relationship was plagued by societal outrage–hotels refused to admit them, and several matches and even a parade were cancelled because Jack was travelling with a white woman who he referred to as “Mrs. Jack Johnson” (though they were never legally married). By 1909 they were separated, but continued to bang on the sly until 1911, when Jack paid Hattie $500 for the return of all their steamyass correspondence. A tale as old as time, true as it can be, barely even friends, because one is a prostitute, not-so-unexpectedly.
He next started seeing Belle Schreiber, another woman of easy virtue at an exclusive, all-white brothel in Chicago. At least five women were fired by the madams there for sleeping with Johnson, but Belle hung on and became Jack’s new main lay. Even during his first legal marriage, Johnson and Belle continued to play bang-around-the-rosie, ’cause, you know, why not? Now Belle was a tenacious little miss thang, and much like a bad penny (though come on, she’s at least a six or seven), just kept comin’ back. More on that later.
Ahem, so, after that lengthy bonerlude, back to boxing.
For years, Johnson predominantly fought other black boxers, eventually becoming the World Colored Heavyweight Champion, and gaining the nickname, “The Galveston Giant.” While whites would fight black boxers, the World Heavyweight Championship was reserved for whites only. In 1902, Joe Gans became the first African American World Lightweight Champion, and finally in 1908, Johnson was able to fight against the white Tommy Burns, beating him with a knockout after fourteen rounds. So there’s just a lot of “issues” going on around here.
Johnson was troublingly vocal and proud of his physical prowess, and I would go so far as to maybe even call him a bit of a, howyousay, “dick.” But then again, if you’d grown up in a society where you’d been constantly made to feel worthless because of the color of your skin and not the content of your character, you’d probably be a bit of a dick as well. For one thing, he was open about his penchant for not just white laydays, but laydays in general. He verbally taunted his opponents of all races, in an out of the ring. He loved cigars and fur coats and opera and fast cars and tailored suits, and really just all the finer things. He was once pulled over for a speeding ticket for $50, gave the officer a $100 bill and told him to keep the change because he (Johnson) would be returning at that speed.
Straight up, Jack, straight up.
Thus, racial tensions are running high on that July 4th in Reno, with people calling for a “Great White Hope” to knock Johnson out. The 1910 match with Jeffries was supposed to be Johnson’s great takedown, and instead, we’ve got a black boxer who refuses to be defeated, is flamboyantly proud, hyper-masculine, dates white ladies, and has just knocked out the former reigning world champion. HnnnnnnnnnnnghI’msouncomfortablewiththissituation.
The fight triggered huge riots that night in more than 25 states, with whites taking to the streets in protest just as African Americans were heading out to celebrate. Eight blacks and five whites were killed, and hundreds were injured across the country.
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.! S.! A.!
Johnson became even more famous, and continued his wildass partying and pastyladyboning. In 1909, he’d met a white, wealthy, socialite divorcée named Etta Terry Duryea. They married in 1911, but the union was not a happy one to say the least (cf the “dick” moniker). Johnson regularly physically abused Duryea, who suffered severe depression and took her own life in 1912. *teethsuck* THEN, less than three months later, Jack married Lucille Cameron, who was, yes, you guessed it, also of the Caucasian persuasion. Heyyyyyy.
This marriage was deemed to be in violation of the Mann Act, which said you couldn’t transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. Supposedly Lucille was a “prostitute,” and apparently Johnson was “black,” but you know, we may never really know the details. Either way, Lucille refused to press charges and the case was dismissed. Though about a month later, Jack was charged for the same thing with, waitforit, BELLE SCHREIBER!!!1! Boom, full circle.
He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but, like many good Americans, skipped over to France when shit got a little too real stateside. He and Lucille lived in Europe, South America, and Mexico until 1920, when he surrendered to federal agents and in fact ended up only serving 355 days out of his 366 day sentence. Hey, look at that leniency!
Sidenote: Around about this time, Johnson opened a swank night club in Harlem, which he sold in 1923 and which would then become the famous Cotton Club.
Jack kept up his philanderin’ ways, and Lucille eventually divorced him in 1924. The next year, he married Irene Pineau, who stuck with him till he died in 1946, and who, as far as Wikipedia tells me, was not a call-girl.
So there you have it! Jack Johnson: ladylover, barrierbuster, kindofadick, American.
Also, a special thanks to my friend, DCH, whose blog History’s Hotties, was a big inspiration for MRG, LHB, and myself to have our own blogbaby (blayby). She first wrote about Jack Johnson before it was cool. You can read her post here.