MRG here. WELCOME TO PART TWO OF SIBLINGS WEEK!!!!!!!!!1 Below you’ll find a post by my little sister AMG, who studies linguistics at a small East Coast liberal arts college and has been my parents’ favorite child for about the last 17 years or so but I Am Not Bitter About It. Ours is a relationship largely built on Harry Potter, Leslie Knope, and pizza, though, so naturally we’re ride or die bitches. We’ve got a lot in common, so I kind of can’t believe it took two and a half blogyears (that’s 18.5 in people years) for me to realize an AMG post would be a pretty great addition to the For Shame! canon. And thus, Sibling Week was born. And it was good. (Unless you don’t think she’s good in which case it wasn’t my idea it was LHB’s). Take it away, AMG! And don’t mess up my blog. Seriously. I’ll tell Mom.
“Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.”
I know that title pun was weak, and I’m not proud, but in my defense, as soon as I started explaining Margaret Mead’s scandalous life story to my equally smart and sometimes slightly cooler older sister MRG she said “You should call the post Margaret Meat. It would be funny”, and, when I continued talking, she quietly repeated “Margaret Meat” and laughed a little at her own joke. With the best-case scenario pun gone, I didn’t have much to work with.
Margaret Mead is best known for Coming of Age in Samoa, the book made from her PhD research. Coincidentally, and I may be derailing a little here, this is only one letter off from my sitcom idea about a troop of college girls who are still involved in Scout life (Coming of Age in Samoas) which I had to scrap when Samoas were renamed ‘Caramel deLites’.
Anyway, I get why Coming of Age in Samoa is so important. It’s about a culture that’s pretty much the opposite of old-timey (and present-timey) USA, and it really delved into sexuality and the sturm und drang of adolescence and all that other stuff the kids are into. Also, a teen who was disappointed with a punishment or even just a rule from his or her parents could just move into a cool uncle’s house or something and no one would care, rendering my favorite courtroom drama completely obsolete. I get why that’s worth the attention and all, but I just think that Margaret Mead’s scandalous-for-the-1900s-book shouldn’t take away from her scandalous-for-the-1900s self.
Now, give me a second to set the stage for the beginning of Margaret Mead’s scandalous life. In 1923, M&M got married to her high school/college boy-next-door sweetheart Luther Cressman. Very quickly, I want you to remember that 1923 is three years after 1920, the year when Congress finally decided that our womanly hands are capable of gripping pens long enough to check off a ballot for voting.
Memory refreshed? Good. Because that will make it a lot more significant that she kept her own last name. Then again, this is the woman whose parents nicknamed her ‘Punk’.
Anyway, our girl Punk didn’t so much care for wifely duties, so she went off to Samoa to become one of, if I’m using the internet correctly, less than 15 female holders of anthro PhDs. Meanwhile, Cressman awkwardly sat at home until he eventually decided ‘screw it, I’m going to Hogwarts to reevaluate my decision to become a preacher’. (Fun fact: he eventually became ‘the father of Oregon anthropology’. Follow-up fun fact: Oregon anthropology is a thing). Already separated by the Atlantic Ocean, the couple decided to make it official and divorced in 1928. The split could probably be attributed to how Samoa ‘changed her’ or her inability to refuse to respect his space like a normal wife, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it was maybe because of the prolonged affair she’d had with beautiful douchebag linguist Edward Sapir before she left to do her thesis?
I think it’s probably one of those, but my only real experience with ‘marriage’ and ‘relationships’ is reading Sister of the Bride in fifth grade. I mean, it could definitely be the affair thing, because I can see how your wife sleeping with her professor could be a bit damaging to one’s self-esteem. I can also see how it could be demeaning if that guy uses such eloquent language as “son-of-a-bitchiest” to describe the languages he studies for his job because he is a linguist who couldn’t think of a better descriptive word and also broke up with your wife by sending her a letter that pretty much just said ‘so now I’m married to a nice traditional woman who doesn’t make me think stuff UGH what a drag’. And it would also maybe be kind of bad if you heard that your wife, after reading the letter, calmly stood up, facing the scintillating, iridescent sunset bouncing off of Samoa’s beautiful waves, folded the letter over, and then calmly BURNED THE SHIT OUT OF THAT DEAR JOHN EPISTLE LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS, maybe you’d think to yourself, ‘Hm. Was she into that guy? Wait. Is that… bad for our marriage? Hmmmmmmmm.’
But really, who am I to speculate. Our girl Punk held that it was only natural that their union would fall apart, since they were married so young (She was married at 22. In 1923). She tended to refer to it as her ‘student marriage’ in a flippant, Daisy Buchanan-esque way. Cressman’s response to that moniker was to shout ‘You BITCH I LOVED YOU!’ while crying into the tub of ice cream he was eating in an attempt to make the pain go away, probably, maybe.
Margaret Mead waited the appropriate amount of time after divorce to get married again, which is to say she waited a Kardashian marriage‘s worth of time. The next lucky man who got to put a ring on it was the absurdly named ‘Reo Fortune’. He was an intelligent, brooding anthropologist from the Canada of Australia, so I’m about 95% certain that he was actually the love interest in a craptastic YA novel about some mysterious supernatural creature that young girls should not want to date.
They got along pretty well for a while; they even did field research together (anthropology dates! 2cute2deal). Of course, then Reo Fortune (seriously this is a name that could only be bestowed by a truly terrible writer I can’t get over it) decided to be the worst. They were studying the Mountain Arapesh in New Guinea – yeah, I don’t know who they are either, just go with it – and Mead observed and presented that these people were very peaceful- almost war-free. Then, without saying anything to his smart, powerful wife, Reo Fortune decided to wait a year and then tell everyone that actually, his research said that there was war all up in the Mountain Arapesh’s lives. Margaret Mead’s response was probably the classic ‘Yeah? Well my research says you’re a little bitch’ and then bam, divorce. This particular marriage lasted six years – one more than the last time! But there was so little Punk for such high demand – it was Maggie’s God-given duty to keep her marriage game strong. So, not wanting to keep anyone waiting, she married the one and only Gregory Batesman a bit more than a year after brushing Reo’s salty attitude off her shoulder.
Like most fantasy boyfriends, Gregory Batesman was a British man with a dark past – both of his brothers were dead by the mid-20s, one from World War I and the other from public suicide. This meant that proclaimed geneticist William Bateson, Gregory’s father, got to put all of his hopes and ambitions that he was unable to fulfill himself onto one person. Whatever those dreams were, Gregory probably fulfilled them – he got a degree in biology, lectured on linguistics, and practiced anthropology and cybernetics. I don’t even know what cybernetics is, and I paid attention in science class. So let’s just do a quick recap: tortured past, a doctor, British, highly interested in the ways of other cultures, hella genius, travelling with a woman who’s a bit out of place for her time, and really weird fashion sense…
I’m not saying he’s the Doctor, but I’m not not saying he’s the Doctor.
Anyway, he was Margaret Mead’s favorite husband, hands-down. She openly acknowledged that she loved him the most, which makes sense because Time Lords have double the amount of heart to love with. They had a beautiful genius baby together –Mary Catherine – and stayed together for fourteen years. However, Batesman made the decision to separate from her, which I will attribute to the TARDIS calling her Doctor home and if you give me any evidence to the contrary I will hum the Doctor Who theme as loud as is humanly possible. Mead was heartbroken, and stayed friends with him despite the fact that she was still in love with him, which is really sad and hurts me right in my heart bone.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘This can’t be right! When you catch a beautiful peacock like that, you don’t let her fly away!’ Well, my friend, sometimes you have to let your exotic pets free into the wild. One of those times is when that beautiful peacock has been having lesbian sex with another peacock.
Ruth Benedict was another anthropology professor Mead had studied under at Columbia (Oh hey, if I add ‘if you know what I mean’ to the end of that, it’s a pun! What a novel discovery). Clearly, our Punk had a type, and that type was ‘anthropology’, proving that really her only mistress was science.
Of course, Ruth Benedict’s sexual relationship with Mead was more implied than anything, but it was implied by Mead’s own daughter in a memoir, which is more or less conclusive. Furthermore, this wasn’t her only implied relationship with a beautiful, cultured anthropological mistress. Five years after her final divorce, Mead moved in with Rhoda Metraux while they had a ‘professional collaboration’.
hint: it was sex. Sex was the collaboration. Margaret had found something other than just anthropology to fill the hole Gregory left behind, and that little something’s name was Rhoda. Oh, by the way, MRG, remember when I was four and you told me Rhoda wasn’t a real name? Because I remember it, no matter how much you tell me that’s not how it went down. Oh, I remember it. Give me a minute while I cut you a fifteen-year-old slice of humble pie.
Anyway, in letters published with permission from Mead’s daughter, a romantic relationship between the two is very clearly expressed, and when Mead was confronted with the rumor that they had a sexual relationship, she never denied it. Furthermore, while Mead never identified as bisexual, in several instances Mead theorized that one’s sexual orientation evolved with experience, much like a Pokemon.
There’s not much else to say about Margaret – she and Rhoda stayed close until she died in her sleep in 1978 as an adorable old lady at Rhoda’s side, did a ton of really great things for anthropology as a whole, and just generally stayed a badass bitch her whole life. I mean, while she was a professor she held a walking stick and wore – this is not a joke – her “trademark cape” at all times. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking of another certain M.M. right now.
Just some food for thought.
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?
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.
I know what you’re thinking: “Man, I’m real fucking tired of reading sentences on this here blahg that begin, ‘I know what you’re thinking.'”
But counterpoint: I know what you, our dear, sweet acolytes of sin and scandal, are thinking. How can your Aunt MRG, a connoisseur of (read: holder of a useless minor in) architectural history, a maven of mullions, a lover of lintels, an epicure of entablature, completely disregard the EXCEPTIONALLY SCANDALOUS life of the man who changed the face of American architecture 4ever, Mr. Frank Lincoln Lloyd Wright? How?! HOW??!?!
Welp, MRG doesn’t have an answer other than she only recently discovered that good ol’ FLW (which is ALMOST 3LW, GUYS) was REAL ADULTEROUS for a REAL LONG TIME and shit ended REAL BADLY after reading two-thirds of a shitty historical romance novel about it that her mom got for free at the end of a library book sale.
Before we get into it, I just need you to know that I wasn’t joking when I said shit ended badly. This might be the saddest, most emotionally confusing story we’ve ever done or will ever do. Go grab some tissues and cake to absorb your eye-rain and your mind-feelings, respectively. I’ll wait.
Okay, ready? Excellent.
Frankie was born in 1867 in Wisconsin to good, honest, hard-working prairie people. Mommy was a country school teacher and Daddy was a music instructor/itinerant preacher/salesman/smalltime mafioso (one of those is not true, but he was sort of a jack of all trades). Kind, pure, milk-drinking Midwesterners, they were. I’m over-emphasizing this because Midwesternism was really the ideological and aesthetic center of Frankie’s architectural schtick and also the psychological center of his adultery schtick. We’ll get to that.
When Frank was 14, MommyWright had had enough of DaddyWright’s occupational instability and subsequently, his inability to keep the bratwurst and head cheese on the table, and HE GOT SERVED with divorce papers and probably a complimentary glass of milk.
Thus Frank set forth into young adulthood from a broken home, which totally sucks in an almost Greek-tragedy/O. Henry kinda way, because ~*gEt tHiS*~ he wanted to be an architect. He wanted to un-break homes professionally. This is deep shit. So Frank kissed his Ma and his two sisters bye-byes, boarded the next train for Chicago, got a job at a mid-level architectural firm, and started sending checks home.
Frankie was sort of a prodigy. And really, he was the worst kind of prodigy: that pompous, unbelieveably innovative kind that can’t tolerate the what the plebians are consuming because it lacks soul and truth, or whatever. <architectural boner time real quick> In this case, what the plebs loved was cutesy, gingerbready, machine-made gew-gaws and whosy-whatsits that you could order from a catalog and nail on your house, the central structure of which probably came from a pattern book (which was essentially a cookbook, but for houses instead of food). Frank. hated. this. shit. and wanted to design houses that were beautiful and true and born from their surroundings, not ordered from page 52 of this season’s JCrew catalog. </architectural boner time> So he skipped around a couple more firms, working as a draftsman, and eventually settled at the firm of Louis Sullivan, who invented the skyscraper. Cool. Modern. Closer to Frank’s jam. You get it.
Also, around this time he marries Kitty Lee Tobin, who is a JAF-level beautiful ginger whom Frank meets at church (he’s still a good Midwesterner, you know). Believe it or not, she’s also a bit of a snooze. Wants to have babies to pass off to an Irish nanny, embellish hats, maybe prune an indoor topiary or two. Your basic 1890s lady-activities. But she’s nice. Nice and bland.
Professionally, Frank’s also doing ehh, just okay. He and Louis pal around for a handful of years in the way a curmudgeonly-but-talented-and-once-#1 older guy and an ambitious wunderkind are wont to do, but towards the end of his apprenticeship, Frankie designs a bunch of houses in secret. Like, he just has to. He’s an artist. This job has been more challenging than the last few, but he’s like, not growing anymore, you know? So he leaves Louis and sets out to fucking turn the architectural world upside-fucking-down.
He opens his own practice, starts getting commissions, starts doin’ his prodigal thang. And at just the right time: Chicago’s upper crust are reeeeeally looking to separate themselves from the ever-growing population of Muggles that comes with life in a burgeoning industrial city. I mean, this is when and where The Jungle took place. People are falling into meat grinders. Babies are drowning in sewage puddles. City life is becoming real gross, real smelly, and real real.
So the wealthies are like, “DO WHATEVER YOU WANT WITH MY HOUSE AS LONG AS IT’S EXPENSIVE AND NOT UGLY AND NO ONE ELSE HAS IT.” Lucky for Frank, that’s essentially his business plan to begin with. Lucky for us, one of those wealthies, Edwin Cheney, was married to the latest in what’s quickly becoming a recurring ForShame! character type — a stunning, strong, smart, other-positive-adjectives-that-begin-with-S SLAMmotherfuckingPIECE named Mamah. Pronounced like MAY-muh (I don’t like it either).
Mamah Borthwick Cheney was beautiful, had serious conviction, and held two Master’s degrees. TWO. OF. THEM. Basically, she was the anti-Kitty Wright. Well, she did have two kids and tried to play housewife for a while (after she got learned), which was a Kitty kinda thing to do. But she also went to lots of women’s rights meetings in town and did other cool things like translate German texts and stuff. She had intellectual and social and cultural interests outside of her house and family in a time when a lot of women really didn’t, is what I’m trying to say.
Another of her interests was Frank Lloyd Wright’s big ol’ dick.
It was really the perfect storm. In 1903, Edwin Cheney commissions FLW to get architecturin’ on their Oak Park property. But Ed (who, it should be said, seems to have been a pretty good guy) had a traditional 9-to-5 and therefore couldn’t make a lot of let’s-look-at-blueprints-type meetings with Frank. Mamah fucking hated housewifery, had free time, and was more than capable of talking business (gasp). So Mamah and Frank spent a lot of time talking about abstract things like his philosophy and her feminism and real, phallic-shaped things like columns and beams. You see where this is going. Notably, though, both Real History and that novel suggest that they totally didn’t fuck until the house was finished.
Meaning they sat across a desk from one another, having extremely hot brain sex, for YEARS before finally having extremely hot body sex.
Frank respected Mamah, with her feminism and her translationism, as his intellectual equal, and probably missed talking to her (and peeking down her shirtwaist, knowwhatimsayin) on the regular. So a couple years after the house is complete, Frank comes up with the idea to design the Cheneys a garage and also give Mamah neck massages until suddenly they make out and then woops everyone’s naked and then boom, adultery is official.
They manage to keep it a secret for a little while, but pretty soon the extremely bored housewives of Oak Park are gossiping/pearl-clutching/face-fanning at the thought of the douchey architect next door and the amoral feminist around the block boning each other. It becomes even bigger news when Edwin Cheney and Kitty Wright refuse to give their respective spouses a divorce, and Frank and Mamah (celeb name Framah) react BY GOING TO EUROPE TOGETHER INDEFINITELY.
He meets with Very Important Architects and gets a folio of his work published. She meets with authors and starts translating their work into English. They fuck in Paris. They fuck in Berlin. They fuck in Florence. They fuck allllllll over the EU. Eventually, Edwin (who, again, is a great dude considering) consents to the divorce, and Framah return after more than a year. Pearl-clutching is less vigorous. Kitty’s still pissed, though, and makes Frank’s personal and professional life in Chicago a nightmare.
So in 1911 Frank uses his mom’s money to purchase land in the Wisconsin countryside on which to build Taliesin, a home and studio and one of the definitive examples of American architecture. Also, Taliesin means “adulterous fuckpad” in Welsh (no it doesn’t) so it was the site of a LLLLOTT of boning, as it was meant to be Framah’s private retreat from the Oak Park Mean Girls (GUYS just realized Mean Girls takes place in Evanston, which is close to Oak Park. GUYS, Regina George is a Time Lord).
Anyway, it’s an architectural and personal triumph, since Frank thought the affair ruined his rep in America and the house was meant to be a giant, beautiful middle finger to all the nay-sayers. It was his most innovative structure yet and it was built solely for the purpose of continuing the affair that should have ruined his career. Oh Frank, you old so-and-so.
So Framah are fucking blissfully happy now, because they can be together and see their kids and she can keep being an intellectual goddess and he can keep being an architectural messiah and they can keep making out all the time and eating farm fresh Wisconsin eggs and just live a wonderful, quiet, happy, settled life.
Until, that is, MAMAH AND HER TWO KIDS ARE MURDERED WHILE TALIESIN BURNS TO THE GROUND.
I told you it was sad.
I mean, even if you weren’t on board with Framah because of the adultery and the child abandonment, and even if you didn’t care about their attempts to alter the American cultural landscape forever for all time, or that they eventually tried to do right by their respective families, you can still recognize that that shit is sad.
In 1914, Taliesin was almost-but-not-quite finished. Mamah and Frank were living there while construction was wrapping up. Mamah invited her kids to the loveshack for the first (AND LAST, SHIT) time. Frank had to go to Chicago one day to do a little work in his office. “Alright,” Mamah said, over a plate of organic, farm-to-table breakfast sausages made from jolly Wisconsin swine, “not like this is the last time we’ll ever see each another haha kiss kiss BUHBYE.”
Then Julian Carlton, a Barbadian dude who was either a vengeful butler or member of the crew finishing construction on Taliesin, set the house ON FIRE, trapped Mamah, her son, and her daughter in the burning dining room, and murdered all three of them with an axe. Four more employees die. The novel wants you to think that this Carlton fellow just really hated adultery, but that’s dumb, and in reality, no one ever figured out the motive. Your heart hurts as you contemplate the purpose of justice in a world full of madmen.
Frank moves on. He rebuilds Taliesin, starts dating another socialite, Kitty gives him a divorce, he marries said socialite, keeps on building, cements his reputation as the most important American architect there ever was, and generally forgets about Mamah. You wonder if life is just a series of futile actions and useless associations that inevitably end in suffering and loss.
Through hot tears of rage, confusion, and despondency, you choke down a hunk of that cake I told you to have ready. It is salty from your weeping, but still cake. You have channeled Liz Lemon, as I said you would. “Blerg,” you say. “Blerg those fuckers.”
Let’s play a game I use to in lieu of flirting because I don’t know how to talk to men as a result of my crippling social ineptitude, shall we? It will be SOFUCKINGFUN. It’s called “Think of All the Austrian Luminaries of the Early Twentieth Century You Can,” and you win if you: a) don’t immediately run away; and b) can name more than three. Okay, ready? GO!
Sorry, what was that? “You’re fucking weird?”
Well, fair enough.
But just for funsies, let’s pretend you instead said:
“CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, MRG. There was Gustav Mahler, of course, that prolific composer. Oh, and obviously Walter Gropius, head of the Bauhaus School and therefore one of the most important architects of all times. Let’s see…ah, yes, Oscar Kokoschka, the expressionist painter and namesake of the best character on “Hey Arnold.” How many do I need to win your love again? Four? OH DUH, how could I forget Gustav Klimt, painter of sexy shiny blocky nipple paintings, especially that kiss one that’s been culturally ravaged? I WIN! COOL GAME, MRG! Let’s do ‘Top Five Favorite Medieval Flemish Painters’ next!”
Now, obviously this isn’t a game that I actually play. But it’s worth noting that in this hypothetical situation, I would probably definitely already be handing you my bra and mumbling, “HANS MEMLING.”
This is all a very convoluted way of revealing the exceptionally badass subject of today’s post. I should tell you up front that I’m nursing a massive ladycrush on her for a lot of reasons, mainly because she coincidentally (not coincidentally) BANGED ALL FOUR OF THOSE REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT AUSTRIAN GUYS. AND MORE.
Alma Mahler (which I’m sure you, like me, keep reading as alma mater and it’s totally bothering you) lived through a great fucking period in intellectual history. She was born Alma Schindler in late 19th-century Vienna to a famous landscape painter and his operetta-singing wife. And when her artist dad died, her operamom married Carl Moll, who was a co-founder of the Vienna Secession, which was not this kind of secession, but the kind where painters and sculptors and architects hang out and form a new artistic movement together. Once, when LHB and I were abroad and in Vienna for a couple days, we walked right past their headquarters a couple times and said, “Cool Art Nouveau churchy thing, or whatever” and had no idea what we were looking at. Good historically uninformed times.
So what with the artistic genes and the historical/cultural context, Alma couldn’t help but blossom into a certifiable dime-plus-ninety-nine. Also, she was totally serving that 1890s girlishdoll/ladymirth realness that people loved so much back then:
Because stepdad Carl was so involved in the Secession, and because of her aforementioned hotness, Alma flirted, HARD, with lots of important artists, and they sure-as-shit flirted back, laying the foundation for a life of bounteous boning. She was such a great slampiece to so many great men, in fact, that I’m going to have break it down list-style.
WARNING: There were A LOT of sexytimes and therefore A LOT of words follow. I recommend you take a snacks-on-snacks break after every three list items. Don’t ever say I don’t care about your comfort.
1. Gustav Klimt was elected president of the Secession (to Carl Moll’s VP, AWKWAAAARD) in 1897 when Alma was seventeen and he was thirty-five. He was a noted seducer of inappropriately younger ladies, and she was just old enough to start understanding Cosmo’s more directive articles. So of course they fucked. And really, if you’re going to lose your virginity (unconfirmed, but come on) to anyone, shouldn’t it be the caftan-wearing artist friend of the family?
Alma kept diaries during this time but had obviously never watched and learned from Harriet the Spy, because her opera-singing mother found the journal. I imagine that, upon reading the parts where Alma described (in vivid detail, apparently – attagirl) their series of copulation sensations, her mom went apeshit to the tune of “The Magic Flute.” In any case, Klimt was into Alma (LITERALLY) (but figuratively here) and followed the Molls on a family vacation to Italy to try and get a holiday handy or two. But mom and Carl got pissed, forced Gus to leave and never see Alma again, and things ended real quick.
2. In the meantime, Alma’s sexytimes had contributed immensely to her fledgiling studies as a composer/MC. She later said,
“Gustav Klimt entered my life as my first great love, but I was an innocent child, totally absorbed in my music and far removed from life in the real world. The more I suffered from this love, the more I sank into my own music, and so my unhappiness became a source of my greatest bliss.”
This symbiotic ass-helps-art relationship continued through Alma’s next tryst, this time with her music tutor, Alexander von Zemlinsky. The internet says that ol’ Al, though unsightly and kind of a noob, knew “how to arose [sic] Alma’s wakening sexuality with a passion which allowed her never to forget his »virtuoso hands«.” I don’t know what »virtuoso hands« are, but I want them. Maybe in the meantime there are special gloves or something I can use? I’ll look into it and get back to you.
Anyway, Al continues to use his Magical Bionic Sex Hands on young Alma for a couple of years — and he also teaches her how to look into her soul and compose music, or whatever — until all of Alma’s best girlfranz stage an intervention because Al was essentially penniless eye broccoli (Mom sang the breakup aria in the background).
3. This turned out to be a lucky break for Alma, as she met Gustav Mahler in 1901, shortly after dumping Alex the Footfaced. Mahler was the director of the Vienna Court Opera and therefore a big motherfucking deal in the local music scene, especially to an aspiring ladycomposer like our sweet little recognizer-of-sexually-advantageous-situations, Alma. Gus, for his part, wasn’t a slouch either. He was 41 to her 22, and he’d been down Sexy Straβe a few times himself. Enough times to know that when an ambitious and totally DTF ingenue comes your way, you gotta lock it up with a prenup.
Well, not an “I’m a celebrity marrying a golddigging Muggle” kind of prenup, but literally a prenuptial agreement that required that Alma give up her fledgling compositional career and commit to housewifery, because WOMEN, AM I RIGHT. And she signed that shit like she’d get legs, a prince, and a sunset seacruise wedding out of it. DAMMIT, ALMA! You were doing so well.
As Gustav became more and more successful, Alma held up her end of the gender-inequality-perpetuating bargain, popping out two girlchildren, having the schnitzel und spaetzel on the table by five every night, and completely abandoning her independent hopes and dreams. BUT SHE WAS STILL REALLY PRETTY, SO WHATEV.
4. “Whatev” sufficed until the elder Mahler daughter, Maria, died of scarlet fever in 1907 at five years old. Alma was understandably feeling a tish bit blue, so Gus, the prince, allowed her to take herself and that other girlbaby on a spa holiday at Tobelbad. Turned out to be a Tobel-BAD call on his part (nailed it), because while there, Alma met Walter Gropius and banged the shit out of him. And can you blame her? He was totally Deutschehot, in the process of inventing modern architecture, and was about to found the Bauhaus. Shit, I want to go back in time and fuck him myself.
Anyway, for all his talents and charms, Walt was kind of a dumbass and mailed a lube-soaked love letter to Alma. Why does that make him a dumbass? Oh, that’s right: HE FUCKING ADDRESSED IT TO HER FUCKING HUSBAND.
In a way, though, it sort of worked out in that when Gus found out about the affair he had an emotional crisis, realized that he had driven Alma into the arms (not »virtuoso arms«, but still) of a more appreciative man, and turned his anti-happywife campaign right the fuck around. He started allowing Alma to compose again and took an active interest in her music, even getting her published in 1910. But Alma was a shrewd and fickle sexual demigoddess who wanted her terrible husband to PAY. He died of an infection the following year, and I’m not saying she murdered him, but I’m not not saying that she was a magic voodoo priestess for ladyrights.
5. You may be thinking that this opened up the Marriage Canal for sweet Wally Gropius, and you’d be right. But Alma, as we have established, was the best. She knew what was up. She was totally hot and talented, and Wally would be Right There Waiting in a couple years, during which time she’d work on her music and play Susie Slampiece for a few more important Austrian men. Including Dr. Paul Kammerer, a biologist who developed some now-abandoned theory of trait inheritance. You know, “science” shit. He hired Alma as an assistant following Mahler’s voodoo death. So naturally she hit that. It was totes casual until Paul threatened to shoot himself on Mahler’s grave if Alma didn’t marry him. She was an artist consorting with a “scientist.” It was a dalliance. She said “That’s fucking weird.” He said, “Haha yeah you’re right I was just kidding (but I’M NOT KIDDING).” She said, “I’m going to fuck someone else now.”
6. That someone else was a one Mr. Oskar Kokoschka, future VIP of modern art history classes everywhere and a Secessionist painter. If the early-1900s Viennese expressionist art scene was a boy band, Oskar was the one with tattoos, nipple piercings, and a pirate-y goatee. He was the bad boy, reckless, violent, and always banging a new lady. Alma, therefore, had. to. hit. it. And demonstrating once again her highly evolved ladypowers, Alma was able to do what women across this green Earth only dream of doing — she tamed the badass. He basically worshipped her and painted her a lot, which was nice, but the side effect of The Taming of the Dude was he became extremely possessive of her. BOOM, she was outta there. Soon after their breakup, Oskar ordered a life size Alma doll from Munich (link is creepy as shit, FYI) made to her exact measurements, so you can imagine how things went for him until he experienced a kind of life-renaissance as the kooky, illiterate Eastern European lodger in a Brooklyn boarding house in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Also, I know you’re tired, I’m tired, this sexjourney is exhausting, but the Alma Train to Sexualcontentmenttown is just about to pull into the station.
4 (revisited). Alma had had enough of that whole mentally-unstable-lovers bag and gave sweet, patient Wally Gropius a well-deserved booty call. He was serving in WWI, but he still managed to consensually grope her and then really Grope her by becoming lucky Mr. Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius in 1915. Happy happy joy smiles, they had a daughter named Manon, love sunshine butterflies puppies. But then Manon died of polio 😦 and shit got real. Being Groped just wasn’t enough for Alma anymore, so she thought to herself, “What did I do last time my daughter died prematurely? Oh, that’s right…I TOOK A LOVER.”
7. Enter (again, LITERALLY) Franz Werfel, the novelist and poet whom Alma affectionately (not affectionately) called a “fat, bow-legged Jew with bulging lips.” Can’t fight a love like that. She became his muse and also ~*TWIST*~ his baby mama. This was a major WOOPSIE, as she was still married to dear Wally, who assumed that, upon the birth of little Martin Gropius, the kid was indeed his son. Soon, though, either Alma came clean or Wally got wise, but it ended up not mattering so much because little Marty caught some hard-to-spell disease and died at ten months. Which is extremely sad, but damn, Alma would have lost her head like three kids ago had she been living in Renaissance England, amiright?!
Wally was a good guy and knew that Alma was happier with Werfel, so he unGroped her in 1920, at which point she and Franz shacked up for nine years — Alma wouldn’t let him put a ring on it right away. Eventually she did, though, and they enjoyed relatively drama-free wedded bliss until those Nazi guys made it real hard for “fat, bow-legged Jews” like Franz (and also all of the Jews) to live in Vienna. They fled to Los Angeles by way of France and New York in 1938, where Werfel became extremely famous by turning his novel A Song for Bernadette into a big splashy Hollywood picture, and Alma by running a European-style social salon.
There we have it — the exhausting yet exhilarating love life of Mrs. Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel. She’d cooled her jets considerably by the time Franz died in 1946, and my fingers are tired from all of the typing, so I feel safe bringing the sexy portion of this post to a close.
I want to be her (except not dead). She fucked SO MANY artistic dudes while maintaining her own professional interests and never let shit like “vows of matrimony” or “morals” stop her from keeping her eyes on the dickprize. God love her.
No, it’s stupid.
Well…maybe…Alma Mahler, are you there? Are you…God? Sorry, Goddess?
Let us pray: Ladies, we must read, learn, and worship at the altar of Alma Mahler, for she hath willed it so through her coital miracles. Though ye be but mortal, Goddess Alma hath hereunto brought forth a path of girlcrushery, light, and truth, leaving you an aspirational example of hella diva swagger, that ye should follow in Her most enviable footsteps. For She hath trodden in unknowable dales of Austrian artist dick, and She hath conquered. She boned prolifically so that ye may be granted prolific boning. Amen. #nolesbo.
I’m about to drop a TruthBomb on you, For Shame! Faithful, and it’s going to fucking hurt. LHB has barely recovered herself, and she’s known for weeks. I shudder to think what JAF will say. KAB and I are new friends, so she’s probably cool with it.
THE TUDORS HAS BEEN SUPPLANTED AS MY NUMBER 1 FAVORITE PREMIUM CABLE SMUTTY HISTORY PROGRAM.
Shh. Calm down.
I remember all of those things. I do. Which is what makes this so hard. I just…I couldn’t control myself. This whole joblessness thing has turned me into a monster. An online video-streaming monster. I spent a whole month on a Netflix trip, and when I came to, the N just wasn’t enough for me anymore. I needed something else. So I turned to premium cable shows. And that’s where I found it. My new TV drug, The Borgias.
When it premiered last year, I read an article or two about it and dismissed the show as a blatant attempt by Showtime to recapture the success of history/blood/boobs circlejerk model that was The Tudors (RIP 2007-2010 Gone But Never Forgotten). You can’t just fucking put Jeremy Irons in a pope outfit and call it a new show!
But, dear buttons, that was when I was a young, naive little guppy, still in school, writing a thesis and auditing extra classes. I didn’t have time for a new television addiction. I had books to skim and beers to demolish.
Yet now that I am comically un-busy, I have watched this program, this seeming pretender to the Jonathan Rhys-Myers Memorial Sexy Historical Pay Cable Program Crown®, and I have seen the error of my ways.
The Borgias is fucking fantastic for many reasons, so in an effort to be brief and not spoil anything I will summarize, telegram-style: Pope in Renaissance Rome has kids, 3 sons, 1 daughter, a mistress, and an unnofficial wife. -STOP- Eldest son super fucking hot despite Cardinal outfit and curly shoulder-length bob. -STOP- Next son petulant but charming; in command of papal army but shitty at the job. -STOP- Daughter totally pretty and sweet and marriageable. -STOP- Other son unimportant to plot because he’s like 10 and can’t have sex with or kill anyone yet. -STOP- Mistress and wife smart, savvy, respect one another. -STOP- Political intrigue clear and important, but nuanced relationships, personal and divine, are central. -STOP- Phenomenal character arcs. -STOP- Subtle and funny references to Italian Renaissance culture/figures. -STOP- Beautiful costumes and sets. -STOP- Excellent plot development and pacing. -STOP- Lots of butts and boobs, but not too many. -STOP- Appreciate the depiction of my cultural heritage pre-mobs, pre-pizza. -STOP- Did I mention the hot Cardinal son?
So it’s RULL good and I can’t recommend it enough. And much like its inferior stepbrother, The Tudors, The Borgias is absolutely RIPE with based-on-actual-historical-events sexy scandal.
Showtime, you beautiful bastards.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist profiling one of the Borgias after I finished watching the only two seasons that have aired. I’m sort of going through Borgia withdrawal. So today I’m going to focus on the sexytimes of Lucrezia Borgia, the aforementioned sweet and marriageable daughter of Pope Alexander VI, but please rest assured that every fucking one of these mofos was laughably promiscuous and corrupt.
Not much is known of Lucrezia, really, as with most historical ladies. But that’s the way the gender-inequality cookie crumbles, I guess. Historians think she was born in or around Rome in or around April of 1480, but they know she was the daughter of then-Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (the future Pope Jeremy Irons Primus) and his main mistress, unofficial wife, and mother of his four known children, Vannozza dei Cattanei.
Now the actress they have playing Lucrezia on the show, Holliday Grainger, is wonderful at her job, has a great showbiz name, was in Any Human Heart, and seems pretty visually accurate, given contemporary descriptions of Lucrezia. Additionally, I sort of kind of want to be her.
This is a roundabout way of saying that The Real Miss Borgia was the fucking shining exemplar of ideal feminine beauty in late fifteenth-century Italy. She had blond hair that fell past her knees, hazel eyes, big boobs, straight white teeth (which was a BFD in an era before dentistry, mind you), a long graceful neck, and people said that she walked like she was “floating on air,” which apparently was pretty boner-inducing among the cortigiani. Anyway, she was widely renowned for her beauty, mostly because every painter in the Eternal City wanted to get their paws on her, plus her popedaddy could afford to commission a lot of paintings of her. Plus-plus, in a country without a centralized monarchical system (this was when the Italians were still down with all that feuding kingdoms jazz), she was essentially the Princess of Christendom once pops put on the Holy underpants, which made her HELLA marriageable in addition to being HELLA pretty.
Maybe I should pump the brakes here. From your extensive knowledge of Catholicism, you’re probably thinking that this all seems a little…unCatholic. Because of that little priestly celibacy rule. Were Mr. Borgia celibate, Lady Lucrezia would not exist. And even if Mr. Borgia managed to cover up the fact that he was getting his D wet all over Rome, one would think that perhaps he might not want to parade his beautiful daughter around for suitors, or appoint his younger son Giovanni head of the papal armies, or very publicly name his extremely hot older son Cesare a Cardinal. That’s the thing about these Borgias, people. They just don’t give a fuck! Watch the show! Mr. Pope Borgia was like “I am Pope. I have sex. These are my kids. They exist and will get nice things because I said so. Kiss my goddamn ring and bring me a calzone.”
He spake and it was done.
And one day, while he was calzone-grubbing, Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pisaro, cousin of the powerful Duke of Milan, barged into the PopeRoom, and was like “GIMME DAT DAUGHTER.” Such a marriage would be politically advantageous, so the Pope finished chewing and was like, “Blokay” and shipped his THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD BABYDAUGHTER off with this hairy caveman of a dude twice her age.
Naturally this was probably not what happened, exactly, but I like to pretend. Keeps me young. Anywhooo, the show depicts this marriage as terrible and abusive for little Lucrezia. No one knows how it really went, but it is known that fairly soon after the wedding, the Pope really didn’t need this cousin-of-someone-important in the papal court so much anymore, politically speaking. He realized he could use Lucrezia’s hand in mawwiage for more useful alliances were she conveniently not married, so after planning to have Sforza murdered, the big softie had a change of heart. Instead, he summoned his daughter and her cavehusband to Rome for a groundless annulment hearing in front of the entire College of Cardinals.
Sforza, although a Neanderthal, knew he had a good thing going with his beautiful Renaissance trophy wife, and refused to agree to the annulment. That’s when Lucrezia, daddy’s little girl, pulled out the big guns and claimed that the marriage had never been consummated due to her husband’s impotence.
EXCEPT, OH YEAH, SHE WAS SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT. On the witness stand. No one knows who Lucrezia made that little guy with, but she named him Giovanni (possibly after her Neanderhusband) and he went on to be remembered as the Roman Infante.
Sforza, understandably, was pissed. He was being emasculated in front of God, the Pope, and the forty most important men of the cloth in Christendom. So he accused Lucrezia, her father, and her super hot Cardinal brother Cesare (played on the show by up and coming ladyboner insipration Francois Arnaud, whose name is comically sexy) of some kind of incestuous love triangle thing. It was probably a last-ditch effort at saving face, but historians believed for a very long time that the Roman Infante was actually Cesare’s son. Which is icky and most likely untrue, but TOTALLY SCANDALOUS. Now it may seem that Lucrezia did not deserve this divorce, what with being visibly pregnant and really having no case whatsoever, but one of the perks of being the illegitimate child of the Pope is getting whatever the fuck you want, so BOOM, annulment acquired by 1497.
Next, daddy needed a little help from the Neapolitans, so he had Lucrezia marry Alfonso of Aragon, the brother of her youngest brother’s wife (take a second to process it) less than a year after the divorce and a few months after giving birth to her son (and possible son-nephew if the incest thing is true). He died by 1500, and Cesare might or might not have killed him. But probably not. Italians: great at pizza and paintings, not so much at keeping accurate records.
Third time was a charm for Lady Lucrezia, who married Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, early in 1502 (people did not fuck around when it came to getting hitched back then – in frequency or efficiency). By this marriage she’d presumably figured it all out; she popped out a lot of kids for him, but also embarked on a couple long-term affairs almost immediately after the honeymoon was over. First girlfriend flipped back through her 1497 little black book and booty called Francesco of Gonzaga, who’d been her brother-in-law when she was married to Sforza the Milanese Yeti. According to Mother Wiki, their affair lasted a while and was “more sexual than sentimental as can be attested in the fevered love letters the pair wrote one another.” They had to call it quits when Fran got syphilis BUMMER. Lucrezia also boned the poet Pietro Bembo, and their letters have survived. Lord Byron famously called them “the prettiest love letters in the world,” and when Lord Byron gets a woodie from your writing, YOU KNOW shit was hot.
Lucrezia died in 1519 at 39 giving birth to her eighth child, after a life of distinguished boning. Yes, she was essentially a political pawn for her father in the early years, but you’ve got to admire the sexual gumption it must have taken to juggle innumerable lovers (ITALIAN lovers, at that) across marriages, illegitimate kids, and social diseases. Additionally, she might have had sex with her hot brother, and I know incest is bad, or whatever, but………he’s so fucking attractive on the show…let’s just call it a gray area, okay?
So let’s all watch The Borgias, raise a meatball, and pour out some Prosecco in honor of Lucrezia Borgia, who didn’t let Catholicism, conventional gender roles, a Neolithic first husband, or shared genetic material get in the way of her boning spree. Cin cin!
Additionally, I don’t know if I’ve articulated this clearly, but BROTHER HOT ON SHOW.
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.