[Ed. Note: You’re about to read something very special. So unzip your pants and unscrew your favorite flask because For Shame! is bringing you, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME (like a virgin, in case that wasn’t clear), a post by a guest writer! That’s right, it’s our very first guest post and we couldn’t be more excited. Let this be a lesson to all you scandal-lovers that if you’re funny and are amused by sex that happened a long time ago, you too could one day write for this very blog. I’m just saying, dream big, ok? Dream big. Without further ado, a guest post by KAB.]
When you think about the 1920’s, some pretty fly people come to mind: Velma Kelly, Al Capone, Albert Einstein, fucking George Gershwin. But I hope you know that I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say all of these bitches were tame compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre. Said Lillian Gish, just one of their beautiful dirty rich friends, “They didn’t make the 20’s, they were the 20’s.”
Scott wrote a little number called The Great Gatsby, now forever populating Facebook favorite quotes and Tumblr accounts alike. He also had a bromance with Hemingway (to rival Tommy & Ezra’s, I think), peaced the fuck out of Princeton to join the army, and had a dope-ass haircut. Did I mention he lit cigars with 5 dolla bills? Ain’t no thang.
Now let’s talk about Zelda. In an era of (illegally) drunk bitches running around smoking and wearing obscene amounts of fringe, Zelda set the trend. I’m pretty sure they were all little monsters to her Gaga. With their forces combined, Scott and Zelda formed one of the most scandalous, mythified, and seriously fucked up romances of all time. These guys lived fast, drank hard, and were quite possibly the worst sinners since Adam and Eve.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Scott and Zelda met when he was stationed at Camp Sheridan during his I-want-to-be-a-war-hero stint. They hit it off at a little country dance (read: underground Alabama club scene), and Scott immediately has a hard-on. He said that he “fell in love with a whirlwind.” Such a way with words.
And let’s be honest, this chick’s name is Zelda. Tell me I’m wrong, but she has one of the biggest legends of all time. Not to mention girl was voted “Prettiest” and “Most Attractive” in her high school class. Legit as fuck.
So after a brief courtship and at least a dozen handles of gin, Scott built up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage. Zelda was interested in Scott for sure, but at this point Scott was not super successful. I’m not saying she was a gold digger, but she wanted a bit more financial stability to lead her ideal life of sex, drugs, glamour, and a dash of alcohol.
Scott was pretty keen on snatching up this bitch for life, so he hauled ass to St. Paul, wrote This Side of Paradise, and had it published by Scribner’s in a year. This Side of Paradise made critics AND readers blow their loads, so around this point Zelda caved and agreed to marriage. For the wedding, Zelda wore a midnight blue suit and matching hat with leather ribbons and buckles. She had an orchid bouquet. There were no photographs. Jazz age SWANK.
Here’s where the fun starts. Scott was on fire after This Side of Paradise; every post-WWI kid felt like Scott just understood him. What do we do with ourselves after this time of destruction, war, and existential crises? Get shitfaced, obvs.
The Fitzgeralds were the anti-Brangelina of their time. Instead of adopting babies and trying to save the world, they were just hedonistic hot hip things that lived like kings. Everyone wanted to know what they were doing, what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, and what the fuck they did while drunk, which included:
- Jumping into the Plaza Hotel’s fountain fully clothed.
- Riding an open car through the streets of New York City (probs more scandalous than it sounds).
- Getting thrown out of their honeymoon suite for rowdiness. I guess that’s why Scott would later describe their behavior as “sexual recklessness.” Was the kama sutra a thing in the ‘20s? Either way, I’m sure lots o’ blowies were involved. (See LHB? I used blowies!)
And then, outta the blue, Zelda’s knocked up! They go to Europe because they feel like it––EXPATS EY OH. They start in England, but they thought it was boring, so they moved to Italy, which they didn’t like, and were finally satisfied with living on the goddamn French Riviera. When their daughter (Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald, talk about living in Daddy’s shadow) is born, Scott writes down Zelda’s first drugged words after giving birth: “Goofo, I’m drunk. Mark Twain. Isn’t she smart––she has the hiccups. I hope it’s beautiful and a fool––a beautiful little fool.”
Then the dynamic duo and their new baby side-kick returned to the good ole USA where they rented a place in Great Neck, Long Island (English major side-note: the place that would inspire West Egg in Gatsby! Cool story, bro!). You think you’ve been to some crazy ragers in your time? Think again. The Fitzgeralds would have house rules, like asking their guests not to break down doors in search for liquor even if Scott and Zelda, in a drunken stupor, told them to do it. Another rule was a safeguard against guests spending the night even if Scott and Zelda, still in a drunken stupor, told them they were welcome.
Bored again with the USA, they returned to the French Riviera. Scott was busy with his whole writing gig, and Zelda was bored as shit so she found herself a French pilot, Edouard Jozan, to toy around with on the beach. Supposedly the relationship was unconsummated, but that’s boring, and Zelda was not a boring bitch. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions with that one. This is around the same time Zelda called Scott a fairy and accused him of having an affair with Hemingway. To prove her wrong, Scott called up a female prostitute and had sex with her. Why Scott couldn’t have just had sex with Zelda? Good question. Another good question: What the fuck was Scottie doing this whole time?
Scott and Zelda went on a violent streak, and not in the sexily deviant way. While vacationing in the Mediterranean, Zelda threw herself under their car and dared Scott to run her over. Rumor has it that Scott actually started the car. (In all honesty, it would have saved him a headache later.)
Shit gets even shittier. At a party in St. Paul, Scott casually hits on this dancer chick Isadora Duncan. Scott def keeps his dick in his pants, but either way Zelda is not a happy camper. This slut Isadora goes a bit too far, strokes Scott’s hair, and calls him her “centurion.”
And, in what is perhaps an overreaction, Zelda throws herself down a staircase for attention. When the hosts find her, they actually think she might be dead. Thankfully, she recovers to continue a string of mild overreactions to Scott’s flirtatious tendencies, including:
- Stealing all the bling from her rich-ass party guests, putting them in a boiling pot of water, and pretending to make soup.
- Throwing her platinum watch off of a moving train.
- Setting fire to her clothes in a bathtub. (Zelda actually causes two separate fires––one of which burns down an entire building––and then she ends up dying in a hospital fire. Sorry, but crazy had it coming.)
At this point, everyone’s kinda wondering what the fuck is going on with Zelda. She starts to obsessively practice ballet––we’re talking 10 hours a day. Bitch wanted to be perfect (but probably not as much as Nina, amirite?). Zelda was taking dance lessons in Paris and once ran out of her taxi through through traffic in a tutu to make it to her class on time. She also started to burst into inexplicable bouts laughter at meals. Scott and their flapper friends are reasonably concerned.
In 1930, she’s checked into Malmaison clinic outside of Paris, and from then on is in and out of hospitals for the rest of her life. At this point, Scott and Zelda are kind of calling it quits. She writes him letters from the hospital of happier days, he continues to support her financially, but they’re pretty much caput.
Actually, not true, they take one last hurrah vacation to Cuba, but all that’s not well, um, does not end well. Scott drinks his ass under the table and tries to break up a cock fight, and then gets the shit beat out of him. And that’s the last they saw of each other. Try not to swoon.
All right, so they loved each other for a while, then hated each other, then made each other’s lives miserable to the point of insanity, but isn’t that what love is all about? Come on. They even wrote thinly-veiled passive-aggressive accounts of their lives together in books published back to back before they died. That, my friends, is too cute to be forgotten.
Worth a try, amiright?!
For the first installment of Ex-Pats Theme Week, we’ll be turning to everyone’s favorite 20th century lesbians, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas who were, admittedly, not that hot. Or scandalous, if we’re being honest. Explicitly at least. Because even in 1920s hipper-than-austin-tx-during-a-film-festival Paris, to be a lady who was into other ladies was still pretty taboo. But regardless of their scandalosity, Stein and Toklas were the uncontested leaders and organizers of the 1920s expat scene in Paris and no For Shame! ex-pat theme week would be complete without them. So we’ll do the best we can here, and if I have to make up some imaginary lesbian sex dialogues, so be it.
Stein and Toklas met in Paris in 1907 on Toklas’s first day in the big city, and it was love at first sight. This is what Alice wrote about Gerty the first time she saw her:
She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair. She was dressed in a warm brown corduroy suit. She wore a large round coral brooch and when she talked, very little, or laughed, a good deal, I thought her voice came from this brooch. It was unlike anyone else’s voice– deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto’s, like two voices.
Did your heart just melt a little? Yeah, mine too. Bitches be sweet. They were swapping panties from that day until 1947, when Stein died of stomach cancer. During their life together, their home in Paris was the most important Salon for budding writers and artists during Europe’s interwar period.
They collected paintings, they read manuscripts, they sat for paintings, they rejected paintings, they rejected manuscripts, they sold paintings, they stood for paintings, they sat for readings – Stein and Toklas were the artistic and literary barometers of 1920s Western Europe. It is arguable that Thornton Wilder, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso among others are all well known because Stein encouraged and promoted their work and deemed it good. If she had told Hemingway that he sucked and his work was no good, we probably wouldn’t know who he is now. If she hadn’t started buying Picasso’s painting or letting him paint her, or other people, in her salon, he’d just be some Spanish douchebag with a paintbrush and sex problem. Point is, we have these bitches to thank for, like, half the MOMA’s permanent collection, and probably a third of the Penguin Classics. As they say, behind every good artist is a good lesbian.*
To keep this puppy short, let’s just do a good ol’ list of ways that Stein and Toklas scandalized shit up in their time as Europe’s #1 lesbian couple:
- Stein’s book, Q.E.D. (Things As They Are), which was published by Toklas posthumously, is considered to be the first coming out story in history. Pretty big fucking deal if you asked me. It was also the first book to use the word “gay” to mean “homosexual.” And she used it over, and over again. So people who didn’t understand that thought it was just a book about a lot of really happy women.
- Stein’s most famous book, from which you probably read an excerpt in high school, or on an AP exam or something, is called Tender Buttons. WHICH I JUST FUCKING REALIZED IS A METAPHOR FOR CLITORISES!!! How did I miss that all these years? She was the biggest lesbian in the world and her most famous book is called Tender
Buttons. DUH. OF COURSE IT IS. Why didn’t Mr. Snyder, my 11th grade English teacher, tell us that?! In the text, she repeatedly uses the words “snatch” and “box,” (MRG and my favorite vaginal euphemisms, respectively.) That sneaky, sneaky bitch. Tender fucking buttons. You sneaky bitch, Gertrude Stein!
- I just learned this while doing my “research” for this post. Did you know that Stein and Toklas were hard-core political conservatives? Weird, right? Considering they had vaginas, and liked vaginas so much, and were both Jews from the Bay Area. But it’s true. During WWII, they retired to a little cottage in the French countryside and weren’t bothered by Jew Hunters because they had a friend in politics who collaborated with the Vichy government. Wuuttt?? And then, after the war, when their buddy was imprisoned for being a collaborator, they helped to fund his escape! So maybe that wasn’t exactly scandalous, but kind of surprising right? It subverted my expectations, ‘aight?
And now, as promised, an imagined lesbian historical dialogue from For Shame!’s resident thesBian (that’s me), unto you:
Gerty: Alice, TWAT did you think about Pablo’s latest work?
Alice: I TWAT it was rather pedestrian.
Gerty: Really? I was thinking I might SNATCH it up!
Alice: That’s curious, because I would put it in my BOX of things that suck.
* Joke courtesy of good friend and lover of the blog, LP.
My second-tier, private, northeastern university does not cancel class for Veterans Day.
You’re probably outraged. You might be thinking, as you thumb through your pocket constitution and turn your John Phillip Sousa Pandora station down so that you can concentrate better, “Do they hate bravery!? And freedom!? What, do they think democracy is, like, overrated or something?”
Or maybe it’s more likely that you’re thinking, “Yeah, neither does my almost-as-good-as-Dartmouth private, liberal arts college. What gives? It’s NBD!”
Well, think again, asshole, because it IS a B motherfucking D. November 11, 1918 was the biggest D of all the D’s. (That’s what she said.) Eleven o’clock in the morning on November 11 of that fateful year was the moment that Europe’s Great War finally came to its long-awaited end. It was also the moment that, many historians would argue, its second great war began. And now that I’m done hyperbolizing the shit out of Armistice Day (as they call it in the U-Kizzle and its Common-Wizzles), I should also note that November 11, 1918 is of particular interest to us because it marks the beginning of a time period characterized by the mass movement of a lot of attractive and smart, whiny, angsty, and sexually charged young people with ironic mustaches, fountain pens, venereal diseases, and Moleskines, to a little place called Paris. These artistic and francophilic motherfuckers got themselves into a lot of scandalous positions. Literally. And because of that, they are certainly the stuff of For Shame!
And so in honor of Armistice Day, the historical start-date of the interwar shit-show we call the ’20s, we’d like to bring you EX-PATS THEME WEEK. All week, leading up to 11:00 am on November 11 of 2011, (most popular wedding date ever? – there should be a TV special. You’re welcome, TLC!), we’ll be bringing you stories of sex and scandal from some of our favorite ex-patriots. Now, you’re probably thinking, “HOLD THE PHONE BITCHES, you’ve already done like a million of these guys.” And to that, we would blush and reply coyly, “Please! We haven’t DONE a million guys.” But you’re right, we have written about this group of people quite a bit. And you know why? It’s because they’re interesting as shit, they had more sex than, like, anyone in history (and you can tell Genghis Kahn I said so), and the sheer quantity of them makes these lords and ladies an inexhaustible resource for us. I mean, if this blog was only about interwar European scandal, it’d take us a really long time to run out of material.
So even though you’re not going to get out of class to honor the men and women who fight for our country/the men who fought in WWI, make sure you stop on by your local historical scandals blog this week to learn about all the sex people had after it was all over. Because isn’t that what’s really important? We think so.
Listen. I know. Be quiet. I get it. Our silence is getting old. And we’re sorry. And I promise these lags in posting will become less frequent and less prolonged, and eventually we won’t have to begin every post with an apology. How do you know that we’ll never wrong you again? Well, I guess you can’t know for sure. But just trust that bringing tales of scandalous and historical titty-touching and pepe-pleasuring directly to you is back at the top of our collective to-do lists. Let us begin.
Harry Crosby was born in Boston’s swank-ass Back Bay neighborhood (where I’m going to live when I grow up) in 1898 to kabillionaire parents who set him up with a nice little trust fund and sent him off to all the best schools for blue-blooded beantown boys. In order to escape the “horrors of Boston virgins,” Harry signed up for the Ambulance Corps during WW Uno and was shipped overseas to tote sickies around the Western Front. So in between the Sommes and Verdun, I’m sure he was able to score plenty of Belgian poon. He arrived home in 1919 with a fresh case of PTSD and that characteristic post-war melancholia that made people make art with lots of weird shapes, drink espresso, and fuck as many bitches as they could manage to roofie at the neighborhood speakeasy. Shortly after returning, he decided that what he really needed was some learnin’, so he entered into an accelerated veterans program at a little college called Hogwarts, I mean Harvard, where he cultivated his passion for literature and noncommittal coitus.
When he was 22, his mom arranged for a bunch of his friends and some suitable snatches, I mean matches, to go on an afternoon outing (because apparently in 1920 it was normal for parents to arrange playdates for their grown children.) Mama Croz asked her friend Mrs. Richard Peabody to keep everyone’s hormones under control as their chaperone. I worry about his mother’s judgement because Mary Phelps Jacob (aka Mrs. Richard Peabody) was only 6 years Harry’s senior and also happened to be the inventor of the bra. No big deal. Girlfriend had a huuuuge personality. And young Harold just could not take his eyes off of it. Within two weeks, their love affair had become the talk of Boston society.
It took him, like, a year, but eventually Harry managed to convince the well-endowed Mrs. Peabody to get a divorce from her husband, and he put a ring on it in 1922. Shortly after, they moved, along with Polly’s children, to Paris. Because Paris in the 1920s was a great place to raise a family. And by “great place to raise a family” what I mean is that Paris was where people went when drinking absinth and smoking salvia with a prostitute at an illegal bar in Manhattan wasn’t really doing it for them anymore. Paris was where people went when the bar in H – E – double hockey sticks had to close early because of too much sinning. Paris was where people went to find a sensitive-and-STD-ridden artist/writer/adventurer to inspire/become inspired by through constant sexhaving and cafe claches. Do you get it? Is it clear what I’m getting at? Paris was a motherfucking hotbed of sex, drugs, alcohol, jazz, sex, alcohol, fun, and sex, and more sex.
Luckily, child rearing wasn’t Mr and Mrs Cosby, I mean Crosby’s, primary concern. Instead, it was how many extramarital D/V wetting sessions they were able to fit in between dinner and breakfast Thursday through Sunday each week. They were both known for having a wide open marriage and Harry was known to have had one night trysts with young women who may or may not have been studying for their Bat Mitzvahs. Or taking 7th grade algebra. I’m uncomfortable.
Because of Harry’s charmingly irresponsible use of his trust fund, the loving spouses led an extravagant lifestyle that involved living in lavish apartments and holding “dinner parties” out of their giant bed. They also apparently hosted a party once that involved playing polo on donkeys, stick in one hand, a 40 in the other. (I almost typed “dolphins” and then I thought, “now, that would have been fucking cool.” If only they’d had a little more imagination.) Ernest Hemingway, the most famous alcoholic writer, like, ever, used to say that Harry Crosby could drink anyone under the table. I mean, if Hemingway is saying that, then Jesus fucking Christ, you have a problem, ok? I’ll say no more.
Except that’s not true at all BECAUSE I HAVEN’T EVEN SCANDALIZED YOU YET HAVE I?!?! Well listen the fuck up because it’s about to get all Prince Rudolph up in here, ifyouknowwhatimsayin??
Harry met a girl named Josephine Rotch in Venice while she was shopping for, get this, her wedding dress. (Who would have thought it? Bridal Salons. Great place to pick up chicks.) The two started a steamy affair which continued until her wedding later that year at which point, it stopped. JUST KIDDING. Within, like, 20 minutes, they were transatlantically sending each other depressing love poetry again. Plus Jo kept telegramming him, demanding that the next time he come stateside, he bed her immediately. Girlfriend knew what she wanted.
A consummate gentleman, Harry obliged. In December of 1929, the couple met at a friend’s studio apartment in Manhattan and the next thing you know, Harry is late to a pre-show dinner, his wife gets worried, his friend goes to check on him at the studio, has to break the door down because it’s locked from the inside, bada bing bada boom, Harry and Josephine are lying on the floor, clutched in each other’s arms, with matching bullet-holes in their temples. Awkward.
I know, shit’s whack. It came out that right before, the two had written a bunch of charming poetry to each other and in their diaries about death and love and marriage and dying and blah blah So the whole ordeal was looking like a suicide pact. BUT THEN the coroner’s report came back and it determined conclusively that Josephine had died, like, 2 hours earlier than Harry. Again, awkward. So, kind of up in the air on whether or not shit was consensual is all I’m saying. Needless to say, the suicide/murder-suicide speculations were plastered all over the tabloids – the press had a motherfucking field day with this shit. It was like when they figured out that they could make Brad and Angelina into one word. THAT BIG.
Even though my general tone towards Harry has been a little judgmental, his suicide is considered now to be sort of emblematic of the post-war Lost Generation. And that’s really sad. And makes my throat a little tight. Because while I do think that the expats had some whiny tendencies that I could do without, I have a pretty major hard on for interwar Europe and I actually think they were pretty brilliant people, expressing some very real and legitimate concerns about the world around them.
I know this post is getting ridiculously long, but I should add one thing about Harry’s contribution to interwar Modernism and Parisian art culture: When they weren’t partying til dawn and scamming on hot young things, the Crosbys were busy being the first to publish TS Elliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound – all before they were famous, in a publication that they founded called the Black Sun Press. It was and still is kind of a big deal.
On that note, what have we learned? Having a lot of affairs and being on a lot of drugs all the time might make you kind of unstable and lead to your tragic, yet super famous, demise? Yeah, I don’t know either. Those interwar motherfuckers are so goddam ambiguous.
LHB (with some much appreciated guidance and collaboration and title-writing from JAF)
Not that I’m making excuses, but let me make an explanation for my blog absence. My blabsence. And in true For Shame! fashion, it’s going to come full circle, so read hard.
I recently started rehearsals for a play. A play is something that involves people pretending to be other people usually on a stage in front of other people who aren’t pretending to be anybody. It’s something that humanity used to really appreciate before movies were invented. The play is called An Absolute Turkey. It’s a French farce and the story involves husbands cheating on their wives and the wives coming up with clever ways of getting back at them. I’m playing the prostitute. And yes, fuck you, my character has a name, it’s not just “3rd prostitute from the left,” I’m THE fucking prostitute. Literally. You probably didn’t really care about all of that but the point is: rehearsals are taking up a lot of my time so I’m sorry if I made you feel abandoned. Point deux is: this play was conveniently written by a guy named Georges Feydeau whose fondest hobby, to his detriment and to my extreme pleasure, was extramarital D-wetting.
“HOORAY,” said I, “MY NEXT VICTIM AWAITS!!”
Full Circle. BOOM.
So here’s how the D got gooey:
Jorge was the supposed son of novelist/scholar Ernest-Aime Feydeau and whorebag/society beauty Léocadie Bogaslawa Zalewska. I say “supposed” not because he was supposedly a son, but because Léocadie may or may not have been fucking either or both the Duke of Morny and Napoleon III circa 9 months before Georges’ birth. So ever since his fetal days, the scandal fairies were sprinkling their dust on Feydeau junior.
When Georges separated himself from the womb and grew up into a big boy, he knew we wanted to write for the Theaaaahhhtre. He started writing monologues at age 20 and then, like so many young hopefuls trying to make it in the biz (yes, like me, dear god what am I doing with my life), the kid started to get really poor really fast. Luckily, he snagged himself a pretty little lady named Marianne Corolus-Duran, the daughter of the famous French painter. (Funny tidbit: There is a scene in An Absolute Turkey where some of the characters discuss the uselessness of purchasing fine art when you could just buy a painting by an obscure relative of one of the masters – they’re just as good and a whole lot cheaper. While this is, on the one hand, a commentary on the tight-fistedness of Paris’ bourgeoisie, it’s also probably a dig at his father-in-law. Touchee, Georges, touchee!) And Marianne came with enough cash that Georges could afford to take a couple of years off from writing to learn from his betters and perfect his craft.
And by “his craft” what I mean is he spent a lot of time at Maxim’s (a swank-ass restaurant in Paris, famous for the beautiful women that the owner planted in the window seats to lure men into its loins), drinking, gambling, and getting laid by bitches who were not named Marianne.
He did eventually have a great deal of success in show biz and was able to quit his day job as a law clerk. His most popular play in Paris, The Lady from Maxim’s (bet his wife declined her comped tickets to that one) premiered in 1899 and his most popular play for English audiences, A Flea in Her Ear premiered in 1907. Feydeau enjoyed about 2 decades of extreme popularity in France and all over Western Europe. He is now considered, along with Moliere, to be one of the masters of French farce. His work is also considered to be a precursor to Surrealist Theatre, Dada, and Theatre of the Absurd. BFD. Seriously.
But then in 1909, his wife was like, “Your pepe has, like, green bumps and shit all over it and I don’t think I had anything to do with that. Why don’t you move into that skeez hotel down the way and let’s never talk again.” All alone, except for the company of a few venereal diseases, a gambling problem, and his trusty flask, our man moved into a hotel and lived there, wallowing in self pity, publicly shamed by divorce, until 1917 when he was admitted to a sanatorium. Sanitarium is a word that people use instead of “place for crazy people.” It doesn’t mean “a place where things are very clean,” although there were sanitariums that I hope were clean because they were used as facilities for people with TB. But they didn’t really know what germs were then, so I’m guessing not. I’m telling you this because I think it’s a confusing word and it’s not used anymore. And if you were thinking it was the clean place you’d probably be like, “Well that sounds fucking fabulous, what’s wrong with that?” and then you wouldn’t really be getting the story.
So you’re fucking welcome for the clarification.
Apparently, one of those bitches at Maxim’s was carrying around a little bacteria called spirochete which grows into an infection called syphilis which, when untreated, can scramble your brains like eggs at a good diner.
Georges’ last few plays were a series of dark comedies featuring misogynistic portrayals of overpowering females. Resentful much, Feydeau? Now, I’m not saying it’s funny that he died impoverished and alone, locked in the cold, dark cell of some creepy, Alpine insane asylum all because he was in too big of a hurry to remember how to wrap up his junk before The Lady from Maxim’s mounted him…But I am saying that the picture I have in my head of Feydeau cursing his long-since divorced wife, taking a swig of whiskey, and promptly writing in another horrifying female character into a play is a little bit hilarious. Is that wrong?
Maybe. But you know what’s not wrong? The life lesson that you always get at the end of a for shame! post. Here it is:
I want to start this much-anticipated post (HAHAHHAAA – that was a hilarious joke that I made on account of no one has been reading LHB DOES Germany which hasn’t hurt my feelings at all) by giving a special thank you to all of our new followers. To fill everyone in – we got a lil’ free publicity from an internet gal who writes a popular knitting-related blog, so now we have a bunch of new craft-enthusiasts/historical-sex-scandal-lovers reading For Shame! So a big WUDDUP BITCHES goes out to all our knitter-friends!! We’ll be looking for a scandalous crafter to honor you all very soon. And just so we don’t leave anyone out, thank you so much to those of you who are reading the blog because you know us/love us/have been coerced/threatened. Your support is invaluable. Really. My throat is a little tight. I love this blog. We promise not to forget about you when we finally get our coffee-table-book-deal and become super famous.
But enough of that bull shit, let’s make some dick jokes! AM I RIGHT?!?!
First of all, I know what you’re thinking because I’m omniscient. Just like Voldemort and Patrick Stewart from X Men. “LHB, the Romanovs weren’t German. What the heck does this have to do with you DOING Germany?” And to that I will respond, “I know. I get it. Shhhh. Be quiet.” Here’s what happened: I found Konstantin Konstantovitch on the Wiki page of the first subject of LHB DOES Germany and I really wanted to write about him even though he’s a Romanov. So here’s my thinking: As I’ve said many a time, during this period in European history, all them royals were marrying off their children to one another so everybody had a little Schnitzel in them, okay? Even the Russos. So for our purposes, that’s what happened okay? And by the end of the post, I’m sure I’ll find some sort of superficial connection to the Reichland and pretend like it’s way more real than it is in order to make this shit come full circle. So hold onto your lederhosen because it’s about to get historically scandalicious up in HERR.
As the Gods of Wiki tell us, Konstantin Konstantinovitch was the grandson of the Emperor of Russia. As a poet and playwright of some prominence later on in life, he became known by his pen name, KR, which was an abrev. of his transliterated name Konstantin Romanov. As a young boy, he enjoyed frolicking in fields, pressing flowers, writing poetry, watching musical theatre, listening to the music of Cher, dressing up in his mommy’s pearls and wearing her lipstick. So it’s not so surprising when he was sent away to military school he was kinda like, “Well, I’m not really into the whole fighting/violence thing but I don’t think I would HATE living with a bunch of other men in really close quarters for several years of my young adult life.” In the end, military life suited him. Since he got to be around dudes a lot.
Konstantin didn’t get around to marrying until he was 26, which was really old for Russian royalty. The Wiki article says that this is because he was “shy,” but I’m pretty sure in this case “shy” is another word for “gay.” He did finally marry his second cousin, Princess Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenberg (WHO IS GERMAN-ISH, thank you very much), and they ended up having 9 kids together. So he must have either loved her or have had a portrait of Brad Pitt on his headboard throughout their marriage or something because the two of them were great at procreating. The Wiki article on Princess Elizabeth has this to say about the royal couple: “The marriage was a success, although Grand Duke Konstantin secretly kept male lovers.”
Now, I’m no expert on being married since I’m 21 and, you know, in college, but I don’t know that I would call my marriage “a success” if my husband was in the habit of keeping male lovers. Call me crazy!
I’ll get to all of the Duke’s accomplishments later because he was a pretty awesome guy, but for now, let’s talk about how gay he was. Literally. This scandal is a sort of non-scandal scandal because nobody other than probably his wife and small circle of his close friends and lovers knew about his bisexuality during his lifetime. It was many many years after his death when his extensive diaries were published that people found out that this staunchly politically conservative Russian duke, devoted husband and father to nine children, swung both ways. (And one of his kids didn’t die until, like, 2001 so that must have been really awkward for her when daddy’s diaries were for sale at Barnes and Noble. “NEW in Paperback! Your dad liked guys, too!” It’d be weird, right?)
KR called his sexual interest in men his “main sin” and referred to entering male brothels as a succumbing to his “depraved inclinations.” Which, like, come on. So sad, right? Did your heart just break a little? Mine sure did and it’s really small. I mean, it’s the early 1900s and he’s Russian royalty. Europe is going to shit. I think you know where this story is ending for him and a few members of his ROMANOV family. And on top of all that political stress and responsibility, having a family, being a dad, ranking super high in the military, writing poems and plays and being arty, he’s gotta get his club on every night to figure out who he really is inside (his pants). It’s tough shit is all I’m saying. So it’s not surprising that by 1903 he had become a regular at Chez Hott Boyz, the most popular bath-house in St. Petersburg. FACT. You’re welcome.
In 1904 he wrote in his diaries about his encounter with a young man named Yatsko during which he discussed feelings of shame that came with being in la closet in the early 20th century. A long-term relationship developed between the two that he apparently wrote about for a number of years. Being a muckity muck in Russian society, he “befriended” a lot of interesting, arty people. Like the composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky. They enjoyed “playing piano” together.
In September of 1914, KR and his wife were in GERMANY (BOOM) on some sort of spa holiday weekend when a little thing called the World War I started (except they didn’t call it that then). They were taken as political prisoners and then allowed to meet up with the German royal family and then continue on back home to Russia where things were even better! NOT. Five of his six sons fought in the war and his two favorites died in 1914 and 1915 fighting on the Western Front and in the Caucasus theater. This was sort of a blow to their pop and he died of general bad health/a broken heart in 1915. Which turned out to be kind of a blessing, am I right?! His four surviving sons were kidnapped by the Bolsheviks in October of 1917 and later slaughtered with other members of the Russian Royal family. His wife and the rest of his kids managed to flee to Germany and then England and the United States.
A few glowing remarks about the late, cabaret-loving, figure-skating KR. He was a really smart, really nice guy. A good father. A valued member of the Russian artistic, literary, and scientific communities and a leader in early Russian Modernism. He was a patron of the arts and an artist and writer himself. He translated Goethe and Shakespeare into Russian, and he also acted in some of his own plays!
So, what have we learned here today? I think it’s pretty simple: being bisexual/gay when you’re Russian Royalty in the early 1900s has got to be a hard knock life and little Orphan Annie/Jay Z didn’t know shit.
Fuck, there’s a lot of History. Like layers and layers of it. If History was a person, it’d be on The Biggest Loser because that’s how big it is. As a result of History’s obesity, I found not one, not two, but three post-worthy sexually-oriented events during my pre-blogging wiki-athon that I desperately want to divulge. And they’re all kind of related. But I can’t do all of them now! What to do!!??
Let’s retrace our steps to come to a conclusion, shall we? Well, here’s how I usually get started on a post. I have an idea of what I want to write about. Par example: I’m going to Germany with my family on Saturday, so I wanted to do a post about…weiner schnitzel-ing. I wiki-d “List of Holy Roman Emperors,” because I really wanted to make a joke about how that title sounds like you’re saying “Holy shit!” but instead of shit, you’re saying “Roman Emperor.” Like, “Holy Roman Emperor, I stubbed my toe!” Yeah, I know. It’s comedy gold. But I couldn’t find anything great with the HREs, so I thought, “Hey! I’m the WWI nut, why don’t I dig up some shit on my homeboy, Kaiser Wilhelm II and then make some jokes about Kaiser Rolls?” (I know, I’m hilarious. Let’s go ahead and book me my Comedy Central special right now.)
Well, I did that and it turns out that he probably had a lot of affairs with women and maybe one with a dude (playaa), but none of that really got me hot and bothered. So I started clicking on members of his family, whose dicking around landed their royal butts on thrones all over the continent. And that’s where I started to milk the scandal juice.
Ew. That was gross.
I ended up with so much juice (sorry) that I think maybe what I’ll do is turn the fruits of all of this wiki labor into a three-post series that MRG will help me publish when I’m without the internets all of next week. So we can make the scandal juice last a little longer, you know?
Ok, sorry. Juice metaphor done. It’s gross. I get it. I’m over it.
First up, we’ll talk about my favorite kind of scandal…the non-scandal scandal! Like remember when MRG wrote about the Hawaiin King who didn’t want to marry his sister? Well, this is kind of like that except not really.
Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine (worst title ever) was said to be the most bodacious babe in all of Europe in the 1870s and 1880s. Considering 19th century hygeine standards and the lack or orthodontia, generally I would not consider this to be too huge of a feat, but then I saw a picture of her and I turned lesbian for like 10 seconds. So girlfriend looked good, ok? She looked so good that she was proposed to by a comical number of gentelmen. Her wiki article has an entire section called “Admirers and Suitors” and some of them are bullet-pointed because the section was getting too long. White girl problems, am I right?
Notable suitors include: The English Lord Charles Montagu, Henry Wilson – the Massachusetts Senator and later Vice President/sheep herder under US President Ulysses Grant, Duke Konstantin Konstantinovitch, the poet and soldier (and UPCOMING for shame! victim), the future Queen of Romania (the other upcoming for shame! culprit in the LHB Goes to Germany series – yes, we’re calling it that) who said that her beauty was the “thing of dreams” which I’m pretty sure means that she had lesbian dreams/fantasies about her.
Now here’s where the reverse scandal comes in. Two other really important people liked her and her not liking them back created some major royal family drams. First, it was her older first cousin, Will. Who later became Kaiser Wilhelm II. WOOPS!
Here’s how it went down. He was a student, going to University, doing keg stands of Carlsberg and boning mad bitches. You know, what everyone does in college. But occasionally, he’d skip out on the partay and go visit his fam in Hesse on the weekends. During this time his pepe started to get a little hard for his lil’ cuz, Liz. And then he, like, really fell in love with her and proposed marriage. She couldn’t have been more than 16 at the time so when Will came into her room to pop the Q, she was busy hanging up a new Justin Timberlake poster and didn’t see him at first. When she became aware of her cousin, on bended knee, next to her boom box which was blasting an old A*Teens album, she quickly turned down the volume and said, “Omigod…like, that is so sweet, Will, but I’m just not that into it. See you at Christmas.” (I was about to write Thanksgiving and then realized that they don’t do that in Germany. And then I realized that it is hilarious that I felt that part of the story needed to be geographically and historically plausible.)
So, back to the non-imagined part of the story: Bitch said NO to the future German Kaiser. Not cool. He was so heartbroken that he dropped out of school and moved back in with his parents. (Loser.) And Liz’ grandmommy, QUEEN FUCKING VICTORIA, was not too pleased with her.
Then, a few years later, Frederich II the future Duke of Baden, proposed to her and she refused him too. She just wasn’t feeling it apparently, but that made Queen Victoria even madder and made Frederich’s mom, EMPRESS AUGUSTA so mad at Elisabeth that she didn’t speak to her at family functions for years. She probably didn’t even put anything in her stocking at Christmas. Or wooden shoes or whatever the Germans do.
Eventually, Liz fell in love with a Russian Grand Duke Sergei after his parents died and she thought his grief and sensitivity was endearing. Whatever floats your boat, girl. I guess if you’re the Helen of Troy of your day, you kind of get to do who you want. At first when I read that she ended up with some rando, I was like what the fuck, woman!? But then I saw this picture of them and my tiny, tiny heart felt really warm and I imagine that, just like in the animated Grinch, it grew a whole lot bigger.
But then, WHAT?! He was assasinated – I know, assassination is not a non-scandal, that part of the post is over, but you should keep reading because it’s all still very…juicy? Sorry.
Anyway, her hubby died in 1905 when some socialist mother-fucker decided to make some trouble. It kind of broke her heart, so she became the abbess of a Russian Orthodox convent and devoted the rest of her life to philanthropy – which was cut short when SHE WAS MURDERED. What?!?! Yeah. In 1918, WWI finally finito, peace has cum and BAM! Lenin orders the arrest of Elisabeth and her Russo-German royal family and they end up getting thrown down a mine shaft. They survived the fall and then two grenade explosions and then finally died after some douchenozzel threw a large quantity of feiry brushwood down into the pit.
Bet you weren’t expecting that for an ending! I think the moral of this story is simple: Say “aight” when the future emperor of Germany proposes to you because worst comes to worst, you’ll end up living out your days exiled in some castle after a World War is fought and lost based heavily on the poor military decisions of your husband. If you marry for love, you’ll end up a political prisoner, murdered in a mine shaft.
On the upside, she was canonized by the Russian Orthodox church.
You win some, you lose some.