This is really embarrassing. We were not planning on being MIA for so long, we swarr. I mean, we didn’t plan it all, obviously. And to be perfectly honest, we don’t even have very good excuses. Just the usual ones–“real life,” “grad school,” “jobs,” all of Friday Night Lights is on Netflix, you know, the usual. (TEXAS FOREVER!!!!)
But we really missed you guyz. Like, 4 real. It’s more than just my dad and JAF’s medievalist college friends who follow us now. I mean, there are at least, like, 100 of you, which I think makes us like a pretty big deal on the internet. The point is, we’re sorry. We can be better. And we’re back now with a New Years resolution to blog the shit out of 2014. Or the eleven months that are left of it, I guess. There are so many sexual scandals of yore untold (by us in an irreverent manner and borderline plagiarized from Wikipedia.) Plus we’ve got a theme week or two in the works that we think you’ll be pretty excited about–like new panties every other paragraph excited.
In light of the recent State of the Union Address, we thought we’d do a little State of the Bloggers to vaguely fill you in on our deeply interesting personal lives. If you’re totally uninterested in that, feel free leave us now and stay tuned for, like, a real post.
We’ll start with MRG who’s moved west, but only mid-way, to the great city of Chicago. In Chicago, she’s earning her Masters in Historic Preservation. Girl talks the talk and walks the walk, amiright? She spends her spare time screwing up my Netflix algorithms by watching BBC costume dramas from 30 years ago, and enjoys consuming pizza and beer. Some things never change.
I, LHB, have settled, for the time being, in Northern California, where I work as a fundraiser at a theater company. In my spare time I, too, watch television on the internet (great minds), drink Malbec and tell people that I’m going to the gym but then am like “Oh you know it’s getting late–I’m not feeling grea–yeah I have a thing I forgot abou–” and then more Netflix and more Malbec and so on and so forth. I very much enjoy snacks.
JAF is back in the America. She got tired of all the “culture” in “Europe” so she’s stateside now, “teaching america’s youth how to hopefully not be drains on our society.” (That last one is a direct quote.) It’s important work, you know? She still looks like Meryl’s sexier younger sister and has excellent taste in movies. I mean “film.”
KAB is similarly occupied shaping the minds and hearts of the future. She’s in western New York, braving polar vortexes in order to chase children around playgrounds and teach them about “sharing.” KAB FINALLY got on the Downton Abbey train (no, it’s not a real train, it’s a metaphor–how cool would that be, though?!) and when she’s not drooling over Matthew, she’s applying to graduate school.
And that’s all she wrote folks.
Stay tuned for what ideally will be a 2014 filled with unoriginal dick jokes and pictures of hot actors in costume dramas.
Bonjour, mes amis. Puetetre vous etes pissed off at moi parce-que mon terrible francais et le non posting a la blog pour un long time.
I get it. I’m sorry. Unemployment, depression, employment again, busy again, commuting, 7th grade French. The usual story. Let’s move on.
Disclaimer: I’m like 2.5 glasses in, and I FEEL GREAT.
Today, we’re going to talk about a lady named Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. But you might know her as the lady who wrote the novel on which the popular 1958 movie-musical starring Audrey Hepburn Gigi was based. Oh, no? You’re not a movie musical person? You didn’t grow up watching 1776 and The Music Man whenever you had a free minute after you finished all the homework you loved doing? No? Just us?
[And also LAUREN too, probably — she’s the Suggest a Scandal-er who’s getting a shout out today because of her Bad-A, spot on, and really, let’s be honest, inspiring suggestion.]
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was known, eventually, as “Colette.” Sort of like Madonna and Beyonce. She is an SBW* for many reasons, but (for me at least) the main one is this: She lived (as a functioning, conscious adult) in Paris during not just La Belle Epoch, not only the 20s, not merely the Vichy regime — but ALL THREE. She got to be one of an extremely limited number of people who died with memories of and significant cultural contributions to three at once uniquely beautiful, terrifying and distinct eras of French, NAY, European history. Pretty fricken cool if you ask me.
But not only did she live through and remember these time periods, she also had a boatload of sex during them. And isn’t that what’s important, after all?
We think so.
Let me just share with you the first four sections of her Wikipedia Index to give you a sense of the kind of charlatan (THAT WAS A HARD WORD FOR ME TO SPELL IN MY CURRENT STATE) we’re dealing with here.
- Early life and Marriage
- Music Hall** Career, and Affairs with Women
- Second Marriage, affair with Stepson
- Third Marriage
Not to copy Wikipedia’s format (which I so often do), but I think we should start with Marriage Numero Uno, which joined (legally speaking) the lady in question to a “literary…degenerate” who went by “Willy.” Colette wrote her first novel, Claudine, using “Willy” as a pen name. The novel was so shocking, so dirty, so scandalous that Willy started to earn his “degenerate” epithet. He was also sleeping with a lot of prostitutes, which helped, too.
Eventually, Colette started to tire of that, and left her husband for greener pastures. These pastures came in the form of the music halls** of le Belle Epoch Paris — you know, like, the Moulin Rouge, (that movie with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, and Nicole whatsherface). Colette and a woman who went by the name of “Missy” (which is sort of saucy and erotic, for whatever reason) became a duo. And by duo, I mean they wrote and performed in an act that ended in a smooch, which caused a pandemonium that only police intervention could quell. They were practically the Amy and Tina of their time.
Oh, and they also were lovers who did it a lot and lived together. But after their riot-inducing performance at Paris’s most notorious house of sin, they weren’t able to live together openly. Even though it was Paris, Gerty and Alice hadn’t quite settled there, so them Boston marriages weren’t cool yet. But the two did still get busy widdit (and each other) off and on for about five more years, which is like an eternity in early 20th century Parisian leztime.
Meanwhile in 1912, Colette marries her second husband, Henri de Jouvenel, a newspaper editor. At this point (just to give you a little perspective) it’s the WW1 time frame and she is 39 years old. Henri has a really hot stepson named Bertrand, and they start to all live together (as a big, happy, effed up family) in 1920. It’s hard to imagine because it’s kind of a fat-kid name, but trust me, Bertrand was a looker, ‘specially when he was 16. (Yeah, I said it.) But it was at age 16 that he began a steamy, smoldering, super hot, hollywood movie-inspiring ro-MANCE (although I’m not sure one was every made) with none other than his 47 year old step mother. Many people believe that Colette’s famous novel Cherie (starring Michelle Pfeiffer and a hot guy whose name I don’t know) is based on her relationship with her stepson. BUT, it seems like they didn’t actually meet until about half of the novel was published already — so probably she was having a different affair with some other hot young thing when she was writing it. That’s the soundest logic there is.
Their affair was majorly on the DL due to the fact that Colette was married to the father of her lover. (Who vommed in their mouth a little just then? Whatever, get it, gurl.) But as soon as Henri found out that his son was boinking his wife (so the story goes) he packed his bags and left. It was a huge scandal in Paris — even the French, the inventors of fellatio were like, “Not cool, lady.” The scandal was over the 1920s equivalent of Page 6. But, I mean, think of the timeframe: this is when all the cool kids were there, so EVERYONE would have been talking about it in between the absinth binging and the trips to Gertrude Stein’s house. Colette was like, “Please don’t go. I ‘love’ you” to Henri. But despite that rock solid argument, he left anyway. A few hours later, Bertrand moved his fine ass into her house and they continued their affair.
Eventually that petered out, and Bertrand started shacking up with Martha Gellhourn (which marks the second time that Nicole Kidman has casually come up in this post so far. Coincidence? No. One. Will. Ever. Know.)
But I’ve focused too much on the scandalous things Colette has done. Well, I suppose that IS the point of the blog, so maybe I haven’t focused too much on it, but there are some aspects of Colette’s life that we need to honor and not just be entertained/turned on by. For starters, she left behind over 50 published works written over about a 50 year career as a writer and sex haver. Much of her work was autobiographical and dealt with much darker relationship/sexual issues than had ever been discussed in literature before — let alone by a woman. During the Vichy occupation of France, she was a baller at helping her Jewish friends, most notably husband number 3 who she hid in her attic Anne Frank-style throughout the war. And during the Great War, she converted her husband’s estate into a hospital and received the Legion of Honor in 1920 for her work there. OH, and did I mention that she discovered Audrey Hepburn? Like, literally, she just saw her walking through a hotel and was like, “She’s my Gigi.” So, I think it’s safe to say that we have her to thank for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (not to be confused with The Breakfast Club, which I ALWAYS do) and Sabrina. She was also the first woman in French history to receive a State funeral.
It’s women of the past like Colette who remind women of today to get out there and get what’s theirs. Even if it’s their hot, teenage stepson. AMIRIGHT, PEOPLE?
*Strong Black Woman, what have you never read this blog before?
I know what you’re thinking. “You only picked this Marbles lady because you knew you could word play the shit out of 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 and 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?
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll recall that I have moved from my wintry collegiate home of Western New York to a new, far away land. A place where Subarus and Farmers Markets abound, and where the term “harvest” no longer refers to seasonal gourds or early 17th century Puritans. If you’re thinking Northern California, congratulations, you win a prize. It’s a gluten-free cupcake.
Although NoCal (makes it sound like it’s good for you) is now one of the crunchiest places on the planet, it didn’t used to be that way. In fact, back in the good ol’ days, it was just as swanky as the hanky pankiest of American cities. (Like Reno or Cleveland.)
And what made the land of vegans and gays and vegan gays so scandalous back then, you ask? Guys like William Randolph Hearst is what. You probably remember him from APUSH as the creator of “yellow journalism.” And as the leader of our country’s first media conglomerates, he bought dirt, spun it into scandal and sold it faster and harder than Taylor Swift could fall in love, break up with someone, and write a top 40 hit about it. He was THAT good.
So good that Bill found himself in the middle of a scandal or two himself, earning him early 20th century northern California’s most prestigious award: “most hanky in the panky.” This is not an award that will be given at tonight’s Golden Globes, although I think we all know who it would be be going to if it wasn’t a totally fictional thing that I just made up.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to just add another tier of Award Season relevance to the already decadent scandal cake we’re baking here. Mr. Hearst was known for throwing the best parties in California, and he partied mostly with a bunch of Hollywood moving picture actors and producers in a castle that he built about half way between LA and Frisco. It’s actually still standing and it’s called “Hearst Castle.” (I haven’t been there because it costs like $25 to get in, but supposedly it has like THE best private art collection in the world). The building was designed by architect Julia Morgan and has a pool that looks like it belongs at a Vegas hotel. But what’s really important about it is that A LOT of Hollywood big shots (who had a lot of awards probably — you’re welcome, relevance) went there to have orgies.
Yeah, you heard me. Orgies. Like the kind at, like, Bacchae temples in ancient Rome. Although probably instead of like pouring wine all over each other, it was like High Balls and G&Ts.
This was not particularly surprising considering the frivolity of Hearst’s early adulthood. He was born and raised in San Francisco but after prep school in New Hampshire, he attended Harvard, like any millionaire’s son. Even though he was in a fraternity and a Finals Club (JUST LIKE IN FACEBOOK THE MOVIE), he didn’t finish (ALSO JUST LIKE FACEBOOK THE MOVIE AARON SORKIN IS A COLOSSAL DOUCHEBAG) on account of being expelled for throwing beer parties in Harvard square and sending chamber pots to professors. (Kids! Amiright?)
Turns out though, Bill didn’t really need that education shit anyway. He just bought, like, all of the major newspapers in the country, made bank, and started partying with celebrities instead of college kids. Sounds good to me, amiright ladiezz?
I should also add that while doing all of the illicit party throwing and media moguling, when he was 40, he met and married Millicent Wilson, a 21 year old chorus girl who was the daughter of a brothel owner. HOTT. About 15 years and five sons later, Hearst started an affair with actress and comedienne Marion Davies. Hearst and his wife separated (she moved to Manhattan and founded the Milk Fund), and he shacked up with Davies until his death. He was super possessive of her supposedly (even though he was the one with a spouse on the other coast), especially since she used to go steady with none other than silent film star, Charlie Chaplin.
So possessive in fact, that he might have dialed M for MURDER ifyouknowwhatimsayinnnn. Allow me to elaborate. One fateful night in 1924, Hearst’s yacht was BUMPIN’. Among the guests were Davies (obvi, she was probably pouring the Jager bombs), Mr. Chaplin, and one Thomas Ince, noted film producer and screenwriter. Hearst, convinced that Davies was screwing around on him, invited his girlfriend’s ex just so he could keep tabs on them. Later in the evening, he caught Davies and Chaplin together and, enraged, went to find his pistol. He returned and shot his lover’s lover (ew) only to find out that it wasn’t that freak mime, Charlie, but his buddy, Tom Ince, who joined them on the yacht to celebrate his 42nd birthday and wasn’t actually doing anything compromising with the lady at all.
What actually happened is that after leaving the yacht because of a bad case of the acid reflux, he probably died of a heart attack. BUT the story of Hearst mistaking Ince for Chaplin is an old Hollywood legend and it’s so scandalous, I had to share it. And it’s so juicy it could have been a movie (so that ties nicely into the award season theme I’m awkwardly pushing). OH WAIT IT WAS A MOVIE. Starring Kirsten Dunst so it was probably terrible.
Speaking of movies based on the lives of real people: I’ve never seen it (don’t hate me JAF), but the “best movie of all time,” Citizen Kane is based loosely on the life of William Randolph Hearst. And, yes, you’re doing the math right, Hearst was still around when the film was released and he used a yacht-load of cash trying to prevent that from happening. While he failed, at that and at keeping it off of literally everyone’s “Best movies of all time” list, he and his muckity-muck friends were able to make sure it played at very few theatres. Fun fact, that’s why it kind of tanked in the box office.
I think what we’ve all learned here is that:
- I should probably get my act together and see Citizen Kane.
- JAF is going to kill me.
- No matter how much fun it looks like all those pretty people are having at the Globes tonight, none of them have ever partied as hard or as fabulously as media mogul and party god, William Randolph Hearst.
Except for Lindsay. But I doubt she’s invited to the Globes anymore.
LHB here about to make a big statement, sure to incite a frankenstorm of “opinions” from all you boys and ghouls. (And I’m not even talking about that tired seasonal pun that I just made but I love that shit, too, so shut up.)
Okay, here it is, straight from me to you: Halloween is the greatest holiday in all the land. Admittedly, All Hallow’s Eve has got some stiff competition; Christmas with its one day of presents, Chanukah with its 8 days of socks, and let’s not forget Ramadan; who doesn’t love fasting for weeks at a time?! I know I do! But for realz y’all, Halloween is not just my favorite holiday, it is objectively the greatest holiday in the Universe and by the transitive property of the time and such of the science things as this, October 31 is the greatest day of the year. It involves candy, scary stories, fabulous costumes, candy, glitter, more candy, PUMPKINS, Butterfingers, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and candy.
But cozy on up to the fire and let me tell you the true meaning of Halloween. (I love it when I sound like the wise person at the end of a Christmas movie.) Halloween is really about imagination. I mean, isn’t it? It’s about believing that the itchy poly-blend poodle skirt that came in that creepy plastic bag that looks like it has been opened before will really make you feel like you’re in Grease. It’s about letting your 12 year-old daughter go to her elementary school’s Halloween carnival dressed as a vampire (even though it’s going to be kind of awkward since the other girls have already figured out the dressing-like-a-slutty-fill-in-the-blank thing) because when a kid wants to be a vampire, you let her be a vampire. (I was way ahead of my time.) It’s about really believing that you’re a princess for just one night while all of your neighbors try to make you fat.
And this whole believing you’re somebody else for a night thing is actually really important. Because there’s a point somewhere along the line where kids stop using their imagination on a daily basis. It’s not cool anymore, you know? But somehow, as if by magic, one day every year, on Halloween, playing pretend is cool again. For everyone! And this annual act of widespread collective imagining is, like, really fucking special.
Joshua Abraham Norton, known to his peers as “Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I” never stopped being really good at using his imagination. For today’s Feature (sure, let’s call it a feature) we’re going to talk about a dude who embraced the spirit, the true meaning of Halloween, throughout his every day life. I’m sorry, no: he didn’t do much that was sexually scandalous. That’s why it’s a feature, mmK? But he is perhaps history’s greatest pretender and so today seems like the perfect day to holler at our boy.
I know this intro has been excruciatingly long as it is, but I should add one more thing: this “scandal” was “suggested” by our resident web-expert (wexpert) DMK, who saw a link to the emperor’s wiki page on Reddit a few days ago. (Reddit is a website that is apparently a big deal amongst people who understand the “Internet.”) But anyway, we kind of fell in love with Norton and we hope you will, too.
Norton was born in England in 1815ish (no one really knows…mysterious, huh?) and shortly after his birth, moved with his Jewish mother and gentile padre to South Africa where people were real tolerant of diverse marriages. HAHHAA. When his dad died in like 1850ish, he inherited $40,000 which was like, a BOATload of cash back then, and moved to San Francisco. He played the real estate market for a little bit and wound up with about $250,000 to his name. (He was still going by plain old Josh Norton at this point, for those keeping track.)
Then, something bad happened in the Orient. China had a severe famine and placed a ban on rice exports. That shit was cray for California because they were all, “Shit, where our rice at?” But Mr. Norton, business man, that he was, got wind that a ship with a bunch of Peruvian rice was on its way to California. He bought up all the rice and was like, “DAMN, IMMA MAKE A FORTUNE” because obviously the price of rice in SF had skyrocketed.
But then, as shipments go, several other boatloads (literally) of rice showed up in SF harbor like the day that he signed his contract with the Peruvian rice ship captain.
So, Norton was SOL as they say. He had the rice people tied up in litigation for a long-ass time, but eventually higher courts ruled against him so he filed for bankruptcy and left California for several years, licking his wounds.
No one really knows what he was up to during that San Francisco hiatus of 1858-1859.
But when he returned, he was a changed man. First thing he did after he unpacked his newly aprehended sword and scepter was to issue documents to all of the Bay Area’s major publications and civil offices declaring himself “Emperor of these United States.” The whole press-release (if you will, will you?) went like this:
At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.
NORTON I, Emperor of the United States
Later on in his imperial career he added “Protector of Mexico” to his title. Which, I gotta say, I think is nice. Cuz, you know, he cares.
He seems to me like a sort of real-life Don Quixote. So much so that I wonder if Cervantes had time traveling capabilities and just straight up stole this shit. Like, no one really knows if he was insane or just had the most powerful imagination in history. (I’m a subscriber of the second opinion in both this case and with DQ.)
As good ol’ Wiki points out, even though his tenure has emperor was marked by his debatable insanity, Norton was also kind of a visionary. His declarations involved demanding the formation of a League of Nations, the construction of a bridge connecting San Francisco and the East Bay (hello, we have that now), an under-water tunnel connecting the bays (we have that, too), and he forbade religious conflict. And he once stopped an anti-Chinese riot by positioning himself between the rioters and the the railroad-builders (the Chinese people) and recited the Lord’s prayer until the meanies GTFO’d. I mean, don’t you kind of love him now?
He printed and distributed his own currency, which local businesses honored as real money. Those local businesses included some of the fanciest, schmanciest restaurants of the day. Because he was dressed to the nines all day e’ry day, so it’s not too surprising that he was dining with San Francisco’s best. Norton’s daily garb included a royal blue uniform complete with gold epaulets and a beaver hat. The uniform was given to the Emperor by the US Army. On purpose.
That’s my favorite thing about this guy; people fucking loved him. And maybe it is the sort of thing where, like, every town has its kook. (Sidenote: My hometown had a homeless cross-dresser who pretty much became a tourist attraction. Seriously, I think he was in guide books.) But I think there was something a little more special about the emperor. Once, a police man had Norton apprehended and sent to a mental hospital without his consent and San Franciscans went ape shit and got him out of there real fuckin’ fast.
When Norton died in 1880, the SF Chronical reported:
“Norton I, by the grace of God, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life.”
San Franciscans were so enamored with him that he sold imperial bonds at 7% interest and people bought them! And then when he died, the newspapers talked about his reign as emperor. I mean, people, I think we’re talking about the largest act of communal imagination, of collective pretending, in all of history here!!
So tonight, if you don’t have any better ideas, dress up as the impoverished, fiercely beloved fake emperor of San Francisco, and do some really good pretending. That is, after all, the true meaning of Halloween.
Just please don’t dress like a prostitute.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “LHB, how do you even know about Dude week? You didn’t even write one of those hilarious intros. Poor KAB and MRG had to do all of them.” First of all, listen to yourself, you sound like a bitch. Second, I have a great excuse this time. And no, it’s not “finals are hard” or “I’m graduating.” This time, I moved. States. Coasts, actually. And you know what happens when you move? You ask your boyfriend to deal with Comcast and then he puts it off for three weeks and then you never have internet. It’s really fun. I’m being sarcastic. It fucking sucks. But it makes you really productive and good at, like, setting up your house. I also started reading a book but then we got cable so I was like, “Fuck that.”
Now, you may have read the title of this post and been a little suspicious. “Isadora?” You thought to yourself, “They’ve already written about this slut. I’m going to go read some other less funny blog.”
You know what I say to that? I’d say that you’re really sounding like a bitch today. But you would also be correct if not a little bit of a bitch. We have written about Isadora before. Twice, actually. Once in our first Lesbian post ever (we were so young!), and then once in KAB’s guest post before she came over to the dark side.
The thing is, Isadora’s so scandalous she deserves a post of her own. She didn’t have two children out of wedlock, numerous lesbian and non-lesbian affairs, and a death that English teachers could use to teach ninth graders the concept of irony to merit peripheral sentences in posts about other people. So today, Isadora Duncan, you’re going to get your own post. People only dream about this kind of publicity. You’re welcome.
Going into this post, I was trying to find a Californian in honor of my move. (For Shame! loves relevance.) I was shooting for sort of the Gold-Rush, frontier-era Californian, but I was having zero luck (if you have an idea, please suggest it.) But then MRG did some research on the “internet” and was all, “Isadora Duncan is from San Francisco.” And I was like, “REALLY? OK!” And now here we all are.
Isadora Duncan left northern California pretty early to become a slut in Chicago. I mean, a dancer. She joined a company in Chicago that eventually brought her to New York. But, in the big city, she felt limited and repressed. Americans just “didn’t get her.”* Eventually, the dancer Loie Fuller, who also was “misunderstood”* by Yankee bumpkins showed up at Duncan’s studio and was all, “Girlfriend, let’s get your ass to Paris.”
Fuller was a famous American dancer and actress, known for the way she used flowing silk costumes when she danced. But she spent most of her time in France because they didn’t hate fun as much as they did in the States. (Side note for theatre nerds: she was also a pioneer in stage lighting and held numerous patents for the “technology” and “science” behind making colored gels.) No doubt her love of billowy costumes rubbed off on Isadora, who is known for her use of long scarves in her choreography. (We’ll come back to that.)
But more importantly, IsaDORA did a lot of EXPLORING ifyaknowwhatimsayin’. She had a lot of sex with a lot of people is what I’m saying. Let’s start with the two baby-daddies, shall we? (DISCLAIMER: I should say that I don’t believe any of her affairs were particularly scandalous because she was in Paris and she was an artist and it was the early 20th century, so everyone was all, “Eh, whatever.”)
The father of Isadora’s first child, Dierdre, was famous English scenic designer Edward Gordon Craig. What? Never heard of him? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, fun fact: Baby-daddy numero uno was an illegitimate child himself! Runs in the family, I suppose. I might do a post on him at a later date, so that’s all I’ll divulge for now…
SO, they did it and had a kid. And then four years later, she did it with Paris Singer (yes, son of sewing machine magnate Isaac Singer) and had a son named Patrick. Three years later, when Pat was three and Dierdre was seven, the kiddos (along with their nanny) were on their way back from meeting Mommy for lunch at some swank-ass Parisian cafe, when their driver stalled the car. (Driving was really hard then.) The driver got out to hand-crank the engine, but forgot to put the parking break on and the car, along with the Duncan kids and the nanny, rolled into the Seine! And they drowned!!
Shit just got real, didn’t it?
Duncan was still with Mr. Singer at this point, but after the accident she left him in order to recuperate on the Italian coast with one of Europe’s most famous bisexuals, Eleonora Duse. Isn’t that what you would do? Eleonora had just come out of a two-year lesbian relationship with THE famousest lesbian this side of the Atlantic, feminist writer Lina Poletti. So, when Eleonora and Isadora were sitting in a tree, everyone was like, “They must be K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
In 1922, a good long time after her post-drowning tryst with the Italian actress, Isadora met and married the Russian poet, Sergei Yessinin who was 18 years younger than her. Get what’s yours, girl. Unfortunately, she only got what was hers for like a year or so, before he was like, “I need to go write about my feelings,”* and went off to Moscow to commit suicide.
Isadora didn’t skip a beat before shacking up with our favorite Lesbian to the stars, the ex-lover of Greta Garbo, Mercedes de Acosta. They wrote each other really nice and kind of explicit letters for a number of years. Most of them involve nipples, but this one doesn’t:
Mercedes, lead me with your little strong hands and I will follow you—to the top of a mountain. To the end of the world. Wherever you wish. (1926)
A year later, in 1927, Benoit Falchetto, a hot mechanic picked Isadora up in his Amilcar to go for a ride, in more ways than one. The 50-year-old dancer turned to her friends before she left and said, “Je vais à l’amour,” which translated into English means something like, “I’m going to go have sex with this hot mechanic now.” On the drive, her scarf got tangled in the open spoke wheels of the early 20th century automobile and broke her neck! And then she died!
Wanna know why she was wearing a scarf? Probably you remember from earlier in the post when I was talking about flowy fabric but I’ll remind you: It was her thing. She practically trademarked scarves. She danced with them, she played with them, she wore them on car-rides. Bitch LOOOOVED scarves. And then they fucking killed her. Watch out, people. Your favorite clothing items will turn on you when you least expect it. It’s only a matter of time.
But here’s what’s really cool about Isadora Duncan. Aside from the fact that the woman could not have cared less what people thought about her (she had illegitimate babies and affairs with lesbians, and was a known communist, and wore that ridiculous tunic around all the time), she was also kind of the undisputed founder of modern dance. When she started dancing, dance was either ballet or, like, vaudeville showgirl type stuff. When expressionist theatre and art and modern literature all started to take off in the early 20th century, dance was about to be left behind. But her innovations in style and technique elevated dance to the status of art.
No small FEET. (Because in dancing you have to use your feet.)
*Indicates direct quote.
Apparently that title is a little wordplay on the battle cry from the Chronicles of Narnia (thanks, MRG). I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read or seen it. But that’s not going to stop me from shamelessly exploiting the dark and sexy secrets of its author.
Clive Staples Lewis, whom you know as C.S. Lewis, and whose friends called him Jack (weird story about that, read his Wiki page), was the beloved Irish author of every British kid’s third favorite fantasy/sci-fi children’s literature series, the Chronicles of Narnia. Now, I’ve never read the Chronicles of Narnia, probably because no one ever forced me to, and I thought reading was stupid until my dad read HP1 aloud to my sister and me, BUT Narnia holds a special place in my heart because after the movie came out (which I also neglected to see) a bunch of people came up to me and told me I looked like the older girl in it. And who doesn’t love being mistaken for a milky-skinned celebrity archer?! Since then I decided I love me some Lions, Bitches, and Closets or whatever.
But now that I know C.S. Lewis was a kinky motherfucker (LITERALLY) (not his mother, that would be gross), I like him even more. But not enough to watch those books.
So, Jack has an idyllic Irish childhood for about a decade. Goes without saying that he’s not Catholic. But then when he’s ten his mom dies of cancer, and his father becomes awkward and distant. Parent-issues, you know. Let’s fast forward a few years: there are some shamrocks, rainbows, gold, leprochans, he probably decides he loves reading, writing, making up stories, normal Irish writer’s childhood (Yeats shit right here) whatever, blah blah, then BAM 1914, War in Europe.
He waits three years before enlisting because he’s at Oxford and, you know, fragile. While he was training in 1917, he bunked with this guy named Edward Courtnay Francis “Paddy” Moore. The two pals made a pact that if either of them were killed in the war that other would take care of the dead guy’s family. Paddy died in 1918 on the front like right before the war ended, and C.S. Lewis kept his promise. He took care of Paddy’s family all right. He took care of them real good. And hard. He took care of Paddy’s mom particularly well. He fucked his mom is what I’m saying.
First, though, Jane Moore (no relation to Demi), TWENTY SIX YEARS HIS SENIOR, (although you’d think they were related based on their taste in the Ashtons of their perspective generations), the widowed mother of Paddy Moore, took care of Jack. But literally, I mean she took care of him. He was injured in April of 1918 by an ill-fired British shell and since his Dad was, like, weird and distant, Mama Moore came to visit him in the hospital where she would probably bring him cookies/handies.
After the war, the 21 year old stud set up house with the forty seven year old fox. In 1930, they eventually moved into The Kilns (the name for Jack’s house, because British people love naming houses). Jack would introduce her as his Mother (gross) to friends and told a buddy of his via a letter (what people used before iPhones) that he considered her one of the most important people in his life. Which I guess is really sweet or whatever. They lived there, “taking care of each other,” until the late 40s when Jane started to get sick from, you know, being really fucking old. She moved into a nursing home and suffered from dementia until her death in 1951. Jack visited her every single day. I mean, whatever, that’s sort of perfect and wonderful I guess. It’s Nicholas Sparks shit, for sure. MRG loves that.
For a while there was some wishy washy inconclusiveness among C.S. Lewis’s biographers regarding whether or not Jack was really truly sleepin’ with Mama Moore. But eventually everyone was kind of like, “Yeah, they were doing it.” George Sayer, who knew Lewis for a really long time, at first said that the relationship was just a loving one that came out of Jack’s need for a mother figure. But then a few chapters later, he was like, “Nevermind.” Actually, what he said was…
I have had to alter my opinion of Lewis’s relationship with Mrs. Moore. In chapter eight of this book I wrote that I was uncertain about whether they were lovers. Now after conversations with Mrs. Moore’s daughter, Maureen, and a consideration of the way in which their bedrooms were arranged at The Kilns, I am quite certain that they were.
Doesn’t that make it seem like they had some secret passageway between their rooms or something??? I LIKE IT.
After Jack’s “mom” (lover) (ew, I’m sorry I said that) died, he married this hot and smart divorcee with a couple of kids. She died pretty young and he ended up raising his step sons on his own. So, you know, he was really mean and ugly.
Now we come to the point in the post where we ASSess WHAT WE’VE LEARNED. First of all: I think I can safely say that CS Lewis was a solid dude. He spent his life taking care of people who needed him, first his mom/girlfriend, then his non-children children. And that’s, like, a really nice thing. Especially when during your downtime you’re busy creating our generation (and other generations’) most cherished fantasy series. After Twilight.