If you read the State of the Bloggers LHB so eloquently delivered to our little Internet fiefdom earlier this week, you might remember that lately I’ve been “screwing up [her] Netflix algorithms by watching BBC costume dramas from 30 years ago.” This is only partly true, LHB. I know you’re referring to when I watched the lush and lustful 1985 A Room with a View three times in two days recently on our ‘Flix account. I say to you, LHB, that you are erroneous on TWO COUNTS:
1. I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that 2014 minus 1985 equals 29 years, not the 30 years you alleged. Hyperbole! J’ACCUSE!
2. That shit is 100% prime Merchant Ivory melodrama and you know it. BBC can’t even begin to think about touching this (especially after what ITV did to it in 2007 amiright).
I won! Let’s celebrate by learning about a closeted British dude, shall we?
So that aforementioned A+ period drama (which stars a pre-Longbottom Bellatrix Lestrange and a post-Emancipation Proclamation Abe Lincoln and the Dames Superior Maggie and Judi) is AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD WATCH IT. If you don’t believe me, maybe the words “full-frontal,” “hot,” “Brit dudes,” and “skinny-dipping” will change your tune (for the sake of clarity, there is a full-frontal skinny dipping scene featuring hot Brit dudes). Also it’s based on a book, or whatever.
Upon my third viewing, I decided to reread said whateverbook (which is artfully plotted and really very sumptuous and affecting and all that good shit) for the first time since I was like 15 and even more susceptible to novel-induced ladyboners than I am now. And I got to wondering about the mind behind the ladyboners. And then I did some Googling. And here we are.
A Room with a View was written in 1908 by a Welsh-Irish Brit-mutt by the name of Edward Morgan “E.M.” Forster, who was coincidentally GAYER than SLEIGH BELLS. A Room with A View is about conflict between the self and the environment, English primness and continental earthiness, the spiritual and the material. Mostly, though, it’s a big ol’ 200-page metaphor for doing it.
In need of a short, sweet summary? Happy to oblige: Our heroine Lucy Honeychurch (we can all agree this is one of the better fictional names of all time) meets a young, eccentric dish named George Emerson while Under the Tuscan Sun with a bunch of super old British people. George is muscular and blond and makes Lucy feel tingly in her bathing suit places. They spend a lot of time looking at each other meaningfully under the duress of heat and passion and pasta that is Italy. While on a side trip in the country, George very suddenly, assertively, ardently grabs and makes out with Lucy in a dense and verdant meadow. She’s hella confused, because while it felt great, it is also Something That Is Just Not Done. Her chaperone aborts the trip and Lucy returns to Surrey and her pedantic, aesthete boyfriend. George and his dad move in down the road in an-almost-unbelievable-but-not-totally-dealbreaking plot contrivance. Our little filly spends a lot of pages pretending she hates George because society. He spends a lot of time saying things like “I love you” and “Fuck the man.” Eventually she comes around and decides to fuck the man (like in the social expectations sense) and later, after their wedding, fuck the man (like in the George sense). And she lives happily ever after because she lets her own feelings, and not the feelings of the stuffy, boring people around her, decide her fate.
E.M. Forster did a great fucking job exposing how hollow a culture is that asks people to deny themselves any and all pleasure in this novel. He did not do as great of a job in allowing himself any of these pleasures. (So sorry I’m using the word “pleasure” so much). Raised by a difficult and demanding mother, Ed managed to get to Cambridge, where met the Bloomsbury Group and was presumably exposed to real life non-straight relationships for the first time, because pretty much everyone in there was fucking everyone else regardless of gender. Except Ed, that is — he remained celibate until he was 38, but we’ll get there in a second.
Ed (who went by Morgan but I prefer Ed and it’s my blog) went on to write a string of truly groundbreaking and now-canonical novels between 1905 and 1924. Where Angels Fear to Tread, The Longest Journey, A Passage to India, A Room with A View of A Hot Muscular Blond Guy Skinnydipping, Howard’s End, Maurice. All pretty great. All about the condition of being English and uncomfortably fitting into the changing definition of Englishness in the age of imperialism and the rising middle class. Good. Cool. Cool cool cool.
Except Maurice is about a homosexual affair and was published posthumously in 1971. And, along with the discovery of Ed’s diary, which had been locked in a cabinet in his Cambridge dorm, confirmed his homosexuality. Scholars actually call this the “sex diary,” which is coincidentally what my mom called The Carrie Diaries once when I asked what she was watching.
Anyway, did I mention that upon completing A Passage to India in 1924, Ed, who lived until 1970, never published another novel? Once the sexy sex diaries became available, a few Forsterites did some cross-referencing and realized that the start of his decline in work nicely coincided with his 38th year. The year in which he finally allowed himself to bone and be boned in return, if you’ll recall.
At the end of World War I, Ed was working for the Red Cross in Egypt. You know how it goes — a hot, young Egyptian soldier stumbles into your tent with a war wound, you press gauze into his golden flesh, you share a lingering look just as his eyes glaze over from the chloroform. Next thing you know, you’re doing it on a beach. Well, that’s what happened to Ed, anyway. In his sexy sex diary, he only refers to the event as “losing R,” with “R” meaning “respectability.” Sad.
But not too sad! Because after that, Ed had a few flings with dudes! And turns out Ed and I share a proclivity for men in uniform, as he preferred to get fancy with sailors and policemen. In one sexy sex diary entry, he even said “I want to love a strong young man of the lower classes and be loved by him and even hurt by him.” Can’t fault a man (or ladyblogger) for that, ya feel? In fact, Bob Buckingham, a London police officer, became the love of Ed’s life. Which I would be much more effusive about were it not for the fact that Bob was married and homosexuality was still illegal so dating the fuzz was kind of a risky business. Also Ed was 51 to Bob’s 28, which is fine but maybe not ideal from a relationship stability standpoint. Lots of fancy people suggest that Ed lost interest in writing because the marriage plot ceased to have any real truth or catharsis for Ed once he’d fully embraced his sexual identity. I mean why write shit you don’t care about, right? Right.
At any rate, Ed and Bob really beat the odds and lived happily together until Ed’s death in 1970. There was the problem of Bob’s wife and son, of course, but Ed fixed that right up by buying a nice county house in Coventry where they could all cohabitate in a living situation that I imagine some network somewhere is optioning into the world’s next shitty sitcom. By all accounts, Ed and the Buckinghams (the shitty sitcom will be called Buckingham’s Palace, obviously) got on famously, probably especially due to the fact that he paid all the bills and even put them in his will.
Though Ed’s story seems to end much, much more happily than it began, he was as acutely aware in life as he was in his novels that society’s expectations can really yuck your yum. When he was 84 and about to die, he wrote “How annoyed I am with society for wasting my time by making homosexuality criminal. The subterfuges, the self-consciousness that might have been avoided!” Nuts. Double nuts, when you consider how hard it must have been to write li’l Lucy’s sexual and social awakening so motherfucking well, knowing you’d never get to experience the same liberation yourself.
But he did get to write a deliciously homoerotic skinny-dipping scene and call it Literature, so glass half full, y’all!
*(Sorry about the wordplay in the title; I know it’s kind of Forst) (NAILED IT).
Happy Memorial Day, scandal lovers! I hope you’re getting yourself prepped for what appears to be (at least on the eastern seaboard) an historically chilly final weekend in May, because, you know, spring, whatever. Light that grill, thaw those processed meat products, and head on down to your closest Norman Rockwell reallifepaintingtownplace and remember to forget that today is about veterans.
Ok, woah, #sorry, pause, no, I’m not making a blanket statement (though we here at for shame! love blanket statements) about how maybe kinda sorta the last Monday in May has become more of a balls-to-the-wall celebration of all things America, rather than a relatively somber occasion to honor those who died serving in our armed forces, despite numerous flag ceremonies, public addresses, and various local military parades and demonstrations. But let’s be real, when it’s nice outside, anything goes so long as it’s garbed in the red, white and blue. And while no parade is a true parade without the participation of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, this blog at least deals in “history” of “things,” such as the true meaning of Christmas Memorial Day. And we talk also about sex scandals. And this post elegantly combines both!!
So in honor of both the armed services of the United States of America, and our blog mantra (blantra)— re: the loving recitation of history, warts and all—I bring you a double-header of historical military sexploits.
*Also, disclaimer, I apologize that this post in particular is riddled with Arrested Development (Easter) eggs. I’m just so excited to look at fourth season, Michael.
TOM DOOLEY (I) PUTS THE SYPH IN SYPH-IL WAR (not our best, but it’s a holiday after all)
So first on the docket is a FUN FACT: Memorial Day was originally conceived in remembrance of the sacrifice of soldiers in the Civil War, with my very own alma mater spearheading the movement in the immediate aftermath of the war. Thus, truly, madly, topically, we come to our first Tom of the day (and I don’t know about the rest of you, but he sure ain’t gonna be the last ifyouknowwhatImsayinIthinkyoudouptopfordrunkbonfiresyesssssanyway).
Thomas C. Dula (pronounced “Dooley” in the local twang) was an impoverished Confederate solider from North Carolina with an early taste for tail—aided, I can only imagine, by his brand loyalty to Dapper Dan pomade. Though his age at the time is unknown, he was apparently nailing the literal girl-next-door, Ann Foster, when she was 14. He failed to put a ring on it, and Ann married a man named James Melton in 1859. Tom and James both fought in the war, and were both taken prisoner, both survived and probably got some sweet scars and sweeter prison tats, you know how it goes.
But as soon as Tom, dat rascal, got back home, he got right back to riding that
But, as Tom knew, one is never enough, so why not keep your dick in the family? Pretty soon he hopped on one Laura Foster’s poontrain, Ann’s cousin.
Laura started to grow some bellyfruit, which was probably Tom’s, and he promised to marry her. So she set off one morning in 1866, apparently to rendezvous for their elopement, but was never seen again. WoooOOOOoooOOOOO!!!! *flashlight waving*
While there are multiple folkloric suppositions as to who did what why, the simple fact remained that Laura was dead, her body dumped somewhere, and Tom probably did it because he had commitment issues, or Ann did it because she was jeal. It was as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.
See, Tom thought Laura had given him the syph while they were riding the bonercoaster, and that was just plain rude. He actually in fact may have caught it from ANOTHER Foster, Pauline, who was treated by the same doctor that testified both Tom and Ann had it, then passed it to Laura. But either way, Tom passed it on to Ann, then she to James, and this is how you get those terrifying charts they have in Health Centers were you just want some goddamn aspirin rather than a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that sure as shit isn’t your hangover. Jesus, kids these days.
Anywho, the novelty of a murder in a relatively small community, combined with all the Sex and the Appalachian Trail stuff going on, made the case supah famous. Tom fled to Tennessee, but was brought back for trial (represented by Zebulon Vance, who is the absolute tits, as far as living Faulkner characters go). Tom testified that Ann had nothing to do with it all (cause that’s love, guys), and though he maintained his innocence throughout, he was executed by the state after two years of imprisonment, in 1868.
Subsequently, a romanticized mythos grew up around the story, with poems and ballads composed even to this day. Because what’s more romantic than boning half the chicks in town, then killing the one you knocked up. America, amirite?
TOM DOOLEY (II) PUTS THE GAY IN MILITARY RE-GAY-LIA (again, cf ‘holiday.’ )
And on a brief, slightly more reverent note, our second Mr. Thomas Dooley was a humanitarian and author, and openly homosexual Navy physician.
According to those close to him, while his sexuality was never discussed, Dooley made little or no effort to conceal it, and openly carried on relationships with other men from adolescence onward, even exploiting his appeal to other gay officers in order to receive choice assignments after joining the Navy in 1944.
After med school, Dooley worked in refugee camps in Vietnam, and became a symbol of Asian-American cooperation and humanitarianism, despite having also been a CIA informant. In 1956 he wrote a book about his experiences in Laos in the 1950s, and while on press tour, he was investigated for homosexual activities and forced to resign from the military. He returned to Asia independently, then was forced back to the US by malignant melanoma, dying in 1961.
Openly flamboyant, and also openly and devoutly religious, he was even considered for canonization, received a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, and JFK cited Dooley’s example when he launched the Peace Corps. I mean, there’s no two ways about it—you’re a good man, Tom Dooley.
So yes, we joke a lot, but this piece is dedicated with genuine honor and deepest gratitude to those who gave their lives so that I could live in country where I am both allowed the education which introduced me to history and humor, as well as the freedom to express my opinion without fear. I can never truly thank you.
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.