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.
I’m not in a good place right now. I just feel like I should tell you that before we get started. You know, “journalistic integrity.” I’m not going to get into it, but LHB is on a wonderful dream vacation in the land of efficiency and modern art and pretzels and men wearing thick-rimmed glasses, I finished watching Arrested Development for the first time last night and subsequently there is a hole in my chest, and Stand By Me has been on TV all weekend, which is A) one of the best coming-of-age movies ever made and B) really fucking depressing and beautiful now that I’m not eight years old anymore and the dramatic irony of River Phoenix’s death has sunken in. Remember the last scene of the movie? When sweet River says, “Not if I see you first?” My throat is so tight.
Obviously, I’ve got a lot of
white girl problems feelings. But that’s fine, because so did EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY!!!!!!!!!!1
If you follow us on the Facebook, you may recall that we gave you a special treat in honor of our 10,000th hit. We let one of YOU choose the subject of our next post! You’re fucking welcome. And dear Kate, one of our Bath buddies, she of the fierce clothes and lovely flaxen hair, suggested we look into the life and sexy times of Miss Edna. So we did. Kate, thank you for a fantastic suggestion and for generally being such a good bitch. And for letting LHB and I come over and watch True Blood with you and JAF every Thursday night.
Edna was so sexy for so long that it was impossible to isolate just one scandalous incident, so we’re going to DO them all. Brace yourselves.
Miss Millay was from Rockland, Maine, which coincidentally is where the asylum that inspired Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is located. You know, the whole last section with the “I’m with you in Rockland” anaphora bit (Listen, I’m an English major going into my senior year. In May I’m going to hate myself and my life decisions. Indulge me.)
Anyway, dear Edna and her two sisters were raised by her mommy, who moved from town to town in Maine with a big ol’ trunk full of literary classics, struggling to stay above the poverty line. As a result of the lack of food/preponderance of good books, Edna was wicked smaht and good at writing poetry from a young age. She published her first and maybe best poem, “Renascence,” when she was like 19 or 20. What was I doing last year, when I was 20? Fucking working at an ice cream store. Prior to this she’d also been published in several national anthologies and won a couple of poetry awards. Again, I was working in an ice cream store. Choices.
All these accolades must have provided Edna with some kick-ass personal statement fodder, because girlfriend got accepted with a capital A at Vassar when she was 21 in 1913. She was kind of oldish to be starting college, but none of her lady friends seemed to mind since she made out with most of them. THAT’S RIGHT, y’all. Edna, like many young coeds, probably indulged in a few too many skippies during her first year and started kissing the ladies. And then also probably had lady sex with them. Just saying. One of those ladies was Edith Wynne Matthison, who went on to become a noted silent film star. By “noted” I mean “I’ve never heard of her but Wikipedia says she’s famous so she was probably really important.” I sort of wish they’d stayed together because “Edith & Edna” would look real fucking cute on a civil partnership celebration invite, am I right?
But Edna had bigger fish to fry. She went on a little trip to Paris, got knocked up by a French violinist, got a li’l abortion, and came back to the US of A. She moved to the Village, where, like many young ladies who move to the city, she said “HEY WORLD, I’m here, I’m bisexual, get used to it.” She also started writing prolifically to keep herself afloat, and then started boning a lot of dudes, including Floyd Dell, a fellow writer who said she “had a mouth like a Valentine.” Which is sweet, but also doesn’t make any fucking sense. Anyway, Floyd, the poet Witter Bynner, and Edmund Wilson, a VIP in the New York literary/critical world of the 1920s (just ask F. Scott), proposed marriage to her, but girlfriend was an Independent Woman. Also I’m thinking she wasn’t ready to commit to the penis just yet.
Plus her career was really taking off, and a ladywriter in this time really needed to keep her game up if she wanted to be taken seriously. She won the Pulitzer in 1923, which was like, the biggest big fucking deal ever. I guess from there she decided that she could settle down with a nice man or woman and have babies or a lot of cats, depending.
Well score one for the dicks, because Edna married Eugen Jan Boissevian that same year. He’d been married to Inez Milholland, one of Edna’s friends and possible fuckbuddies in the Village. Interesting. Anyway, they were married for twenty-six years, but really took that whole “love, honor, and cherish” thing with a big ol’ grain of salt, in that they both had a lot of extramarital sex with a lot of extramarital partners. Specifically Edna. Old Euge liked to do chores and shit, he was profeminist, and sort of a pussy (obviously imagining Tobias Fünke right now), so I’m thinking she was really cleaning up in the adultery department.
Her most scandalous affair was with George Dillon, whom she met in 1928 after she gave a reading at the University of Chicago. He’d just graduated and was twenty-two to her thirty-six. To which I say, WERQ, woman. And because I never miss an opportunity to use 1920s slang or to colloquialize historical exchanges:
EDNA: Well hello there, fish.
YOUNG GEORGE: Aw, I’m no fish. Your poetry is just the berries, plus you’re a real Sheba.
E: Oh, applesauce!
YG: Let’s go beat our gums somewhere else. Come get some giggle water down at the gin mill with me, doll!
E: As long as you don’t mind this handcuff I got!
YG: Horsefeathers! You’re a real bearcat, aren’t you? Listen, I got my breezer outside. We’ll go to the juice joint and get some hooch and skip the light fantastic, whaddaya say?
E: Cash or check?
YG: I have no idea what the fuck we’re saying.
E: Me either. Let’s have sex, though.
And that’s exactly what they did. Edna ended up writing fifty-two (!) sonnets about George in a work that she called Fatal Interview published in 1931. They had a rocky relationship, and although the juicy details haven’t survived, I think it’s safe to say that Edna wasn’t taking any shit from her boylover. I’ve never read anything in Fatal Interview, but just the title sounds fucking sexy. I’m not NOT looking it up on my library’s online card catalog right now. And hey, despite their little tiffs, Edna was one professional bitch and helped young George translate some Baudelaire in 1936, presumably after their relationship had ended. Although let’s face it, nothing reignites an old flame like a nineteenth-century French literary critic, so there was probs some boning going on too.
Anyway, from there Edna’s love life sort of took a backseat to her involvement in political things, like protesting the Sacco and Vanzetti case and Fascism and what not. You know, “current events.” She started writing propaganda verse for Uncle Sam, but that fickle motherfucker had deadlines, and Edna couldn’t handle that. She was an ARTIST, dammit. So she stopped writing for a while, and never really picked it back up. I like to think she went back to having sex with inappropriately younger partners, but I can’t confirm that.
Ultimately, Edna died after suffering a fall in her sweetass upstate New York farmhouse in 1950. She caught a lot of flack for being a Romanticist in a time when Modernism was all the rage. But you know what’s always in style? BONING.
So here’s to Edna St. Vincent Millay, a fierce, sexually curious bitch, and Kate, the For Shame friend who brought her sexploits to light.
But honestly, probably the sexiest Edna of all time, right? Shit, she subverted that name real hard.