Accidentally shooting people is the Hearst!

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.

I’d have an orgy there. Am I right, people?

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 is a picture of Hearst in college.  He funded the development of an online social network that became extremely popular but caused him to fall out with his best friend.  Wait…

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?

Marion Davies looking hott with two t’s.

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:

  1. I should probably get my act together and see Citizen Kane.
  2. JAF is going to kill me.
  3. No matter how much fun it looks like all those pretty people are having at the Globes tonight, none of them have ever partied as hard or as fabulously as media mogul and party god, William Randolph Hearst.

Except for Lindsay.  But I doubt she’s invited to the Globes anymore.

LHB


In Like Flynn? More like……huh, no that actually works fine.

One of the miracles of autumn/having MRG’s brain is that if you picture male models in each of those sweaters, this very bland photo becomes EXTREMELY EROTIC.

Ah autumn. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and men in spectacular knitwear. Of crunchy leaves and pumpkin-flavored foodstuffs that shouldn’t be pumpkin flavored. Ol’ MRG fucking loves the fall, and as such, she couldn’t think of a better way to welcome Autumn 2012 than to regale you with the story of an Old Hollywood swashbuckler’s FALL from grace and public popularity.

Nailed it.

Errol Flynn WAS. A. MAN. It’s probably not (but full disclosure, definitely is) a coincidence that “virile” and “Errol” contain similar ear-sounds when spoken aloud. At the very least, he was the manliest man ever to have to consistently wear tights at work. And if we’ve learned anything on this year-and-a-half blogride of sin and scandalosity, it’s that he who possesses much sexual gravitas gets into much sexual trouble. And thankfully, our Errol, that lean, blond, thinly-mustachioed, vaguely elfin mansteak, didn’t exactly break the looks-and-lewdness mold.

Errol was born in Tasmania, which is sort of cool in that I didn’t think people lived there, to seafaring native Aussies with hereditary ties to the country’s original convict population. This genealogy may prove important later. Young Errol started on the path to sexual badassery by boning inappropriate partners early and often; he was expelled from his fancyschmancy boarding school for fucking the on-campus laundress when he was FIFTEEN. Well done, young man.

If you stare into the eyes for 20 seconds, this photo has sex with you. True fact.

He bopped around the English and Australian movie business through the early 1940s, until he, like so many naive young girls with a dream and a cardigan, headed to LA to try to make it in Tinseltown. And make it he did, namely through the use of his aforementioned superior face genes and also his athleticism, the latter of which made him exceptionally good at that most red-blooded genre of choreography: cinematic swordfighting. If you had a buckle, young, lithe, tights-wearing Errol could swash it better than just about anyone else in town. Plus he very much looked like a gentle pirate or a strong-jawed coistrel. And that shit NEVER hurts. Plus the buildup to that that whole World War II thing really upped the public demand for medievalish/buccaneery movies (you know, nostalgia for the present, escapism, what have you), so Errol really was The Suitably Historical Looking and Sword-Confident Man For All Seasons.

Mother Wiki tells me that his most high-profile films were probably The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Captain Blood. I’ve never seen any of these but I imagine they taught a lot of boys how to be men and a lot of other boys that sometimes it’s okay to feel tingly about men. Also, you may be thinking that the nature of these roles and Errol’s face share quite a bit of crossover with a one Mr. Cary Elwes, Farmboy/Dread Pirate of my Heart, and YOU’D BE RIGHT. Pro tip: Mel Brooks called Cary “The Next Errol Flynn” while filming Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which was the #1 movie I rented from our local library (because SOMEONE wouldn’t let us go to Blockbuster) (MOM) from 1996-2003. In this way, I’m pretty sure I discovered an up-and-coming Dave Chappelle. You’re welcome.

Anyway, think of how you felt about Cary in The Princess Bride (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about WE ARE DONE), multiply it by about 1,000, and then maybe that’s sort of how people felt about Errol in his prime. He was extremely hot, perfectly suited to the trends of the moment, and also had an accent. Understandably, Errol fucking killed it in both the box office and the BOX office, ifyouknowwhatimean (I mean he made a lot of money and fucked a lot of ladies, because “box” is a euphemism for vagina).

ERROL COULD FILL MY QUIVER, HEYOOOO.

It was your classic money-cash-hoes occasion, and Errol ROSE TO IT, my friends. ROSE2IT. First, he coined the phrase “I like my scotch old and my women young,” which is more golden than an autumnal sunset (just like that, she brings it right back to Topicaltown, BOOM). Then he possibly made out with Olivia de Havilland, who was extremely beautiful and talented (and has excellent genes because SHE’S STILL ALIVE AT 96). Possibly had nasty, slappy, angry hate sex with Bette Motherfucking Davis. Also possibly/probably boned Carole Lombard (the future Mrs. Clark Gable), Marlene Dietrich, and Dolores Del Rio. All that’s speculative. But Errol DEFINITELY fucked a lot of non-famous Muggles, because DUH. You would too.

Errol was Hollywood’s most bankable and bangable leading man through the 1930s and 40s, which is impressive enough, but CONSIDER THIS: his career was COMPLETELY FINE after HE WAS TRIED FOR STATUTORY RAPE IN 1943!!!!!!!!!!!1

I like to call this the Beautiful Face-Major Fuckup-Career Resilience Paradox. For a more modern example, please see R&B singer Chris Brown.

So here’s the long, icky, rapey story: Errol very quickly becomes notorious for his hedonizing, womanizing, boozing, swashbuckling, generally participlizing lifestyle upon his move to Hollyweeeeeird, but in a charming, “aw, Errol, you rascal” kind of way. By 1942, he’s got nine genre-specific films under his belt and a closet just for all the bras women are throwing at him. In short, our boy’s MADE IT.

And what better way to celebrate the height of your personal, professional, and sexual success by luring two 17-year-olds with some wine coolers and stories about backpacking through Europe? The answer is SO MANY BETTER WAYS. But here we are.

Now, I should also mention that the facts are weirdly fuzzy and vary from source to source. Even the victims’ names get mixed up a lot in different records. But young Betty Hansen and Peggy Satterlee both reported that Errol inflicted some not-okay touching upon them, so I’m just going to do my best here, because #GYRWYM (that stands for “gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” the #YOLO alternative I’m trying to popularize).

Here are Peggy and Betty comparing notes before the trial.

OKAY. So Errol supposedly met young Peggy one night and invited her on his yacht, The SS PoorDecisions, for a little trip to Catalina Island. I hope you’re remembering that seminal episode of Laguna Beach in which the kids camp on Catalina one night and Stephen pretends to be a bear and scares Kristin who DOES NOT think it’s funny. Anyway, Errol decided to call Peg “J.B.” for “Jail Bait,” because he was nothing if not an accurate nicknamer. You can imagine what happened next: Peggy drank a few Zimas, Errol touched her face a lot, and next thing you know, obligatory boat rocking-no knocking joke.

A mere week after Peggy reported this rapefest below deck, Betty Hansen came forward and alleged that Errol had met her at a party a few weeks earlier and danced his tried-and-true Bartles and Jaymes tango to loosen Betty up. She got trashed and threw up, and he stayed late to “help her clean up,” which I never knew was a euphemism for fucking. But I sort of like it? No I don’t. Do I? No. Right?

So from the previously mentioned extremely spotty records on this felony trial, it seems as though these two victimized (but let’s be honest, a little…adventurous) ladies brought suit on Errol jointly in LA county court.

I cannot fucking believe I made it this far without making a sword/dick joke. Is this growing up?

As you can imagine, this case was SO FUCKING BIG. About as sensational as a sensation and as scandalous as a scandal could be, partly (completely) due to Errol’s fame and reputation. Evidence was pretty heavily stacked against him, so of course HE GOT OFF. I mean he got off when he boned them, but also when he was acquitted of all charges.

How, you ask? Easy. His lawyer made sure the jury was stacked with nine examples of Errol’s fanbase: lonely, marginally pretty housewives. On the witness stand, he was sort of like, “Oh me, I just love pretty women, like you jurors! I’m such a lovable rascal. Did you notice I’m wearing tights in a lot of my movies? I’d like to sire children with any or all of you. Tell me more about your sewing projects.” BOOM, acquittal. Why don’t more defendants tamper with juries these days? Works like a charm.

Anyway, here’s the best and most illustrative thing about this trial: the press, eager to slander anyone, started spreading the phrase “in like Flynn” as a euphemism for easily/indecently gaining access to something (something like oh I don’t know, A TWEEN’S VAG). Errol was so indefatigably charming and endearing to the public that IT TOTALLY BACKFIRED because HE USED IT HIMSELF! FULLY aware of the sexual implications. God love that rapey, enchanting motherfucker. And years later, he tried very hard to title his autobiography In Like Me, which which I would have bought ALL of the copies of.

You never fucking learn, do you?

Errol’s career didn’t really suffer from the trial, but rather from negative public opinion when he didn’t enlist during WWII (sidenote: not his fault, he wanted to, didn’t pass the physical, remarkable considering sword choreography prowess which you’d think the Army could use somehow). By the early 50s he’d really embraced a late-Kerouacian diet of cake and whiskey, resulting in alcoholism and weight gain.

But Errol, the scalawag, the rapscallion, had to go out with an inappropriately younger bang: at the age of 50, he met and fell in love with a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD whom he planned TO MARRY and with whom he planned to move to Jamaica. Very, very unfortunately, Errol died of a heart attack in 1959 before he could really love or marry his little island childbride. Sad.

NOT, HOLY SHIT ERROL FLYNN WAS REALLY GROSS, YOU GUYS. But also really good at wearing the tights and handling the swords and having the face. So it’s even?

MRG


Old Hollywood’s not-so-Chosen-One.

Mr. and Mrs. American Gothic were tigers in the sack!

Enough of all this Euro-scandal, am I right?  Let’s cross back over to the right side of the pond where the condoms are thinner and the divorces are sweeter, and talk about some good, ol’ fashioned American sex-having.

For today’s post, For Shame! returns to one of our most frequent haunts, the Old Hollywood.  Full disclosure: this post is not written our resident moving pictures expert, the lovely JAF.  Today’s tale of scandal is written by the least-knowledgeable-about-movies for shame biddy, LHB.  So don’t expect me to educate you on the finer things like “film” or “art.”  This is strictly about illicit interactions between snatches and ding dongs from the days of yore.  Got it? Good.

Hmm…I…Never mind.

Paulette Goddard was born Miriam Shapiro Blumenberg Rosenthal Yaskowitz in Crown Heights, NY.  JUST KIDDING.  She didn’t have that big of a nose.  But she was named Marion Pauline Levy when she came out of her mother’s treyf vag in 1910 in Queens, NY.  This little babushka is only, like, the third Jew we’ve written about on For Shame! and I’m so excited about it, my mezuzah is tingling.

I wouldn’t be that broken up about having a creepy uncle get me into the Zeigfeld girls.  They look like they’re having so much fun!

Paulette’s parents got d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d when she was a youngin’ and papa Levy ran away without so much as a “Shalom, y’all.”  The little harlot, I mean, starlet, grew up to be a very pretty lady and her great uncle (not weird at all) helped her get some gigs as a fashion model and then later as a Ziegfeld girl in the Ziegfeld Follies.  After that, she did a lot of stage acting in NYC, while attending high school in Manhattan.  But then in 1926 (when she was SIX-fucking-TEEN), she married an older business man who made his living cutting down wood.  They were divorced 4 years later (because of impotency issues? – I‘m trying to make a wood joke, I don’t know how, I’m floundering, help me?) after she moved to Hollywood in 1930.

Let’s recap: she’s 20 years old, already divorced and living in the land of movie milk and honey. I’m 21 and I haven’t even been married, let alone divorced yet!  Jesus Christ, Get with it, LHB!

Goddard in Modern Times, looking fierce and, as MRG noted, oddly contemporary.

Anyway, now it’s the ’30s and she’s living in Hollywood and acting in as many pictures as her boobies can get her cast in and living in sin with our favorite star of the silver screen, Charlie Chaplin.  S’right!  Bitch was shacking up with the most famous Nazi-impersonator this side of the Bering Strait.  And he never even put a ring on it!  I know what you’re thinking.  “BFD, LHB.  People do anything in California. They marry prostitutes, they get famous for making sex tapes, they run for office when all they’ve ever done is star in action movies and father illegitimate children.”  Well, you are right of course.  But I haven’t finished my story yet, so sit the fuck down and get ready to be scandalized.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the year 1939 but it was kind of an important one.  It came after 1938 and just before 1940.  You probably remember it because that’s when Germany invaded Poland.  It was also the year that both Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released!  Goddard was considered for roles in both – 3rd flying monkey from the left in Oz and Scarlet O’Hara in Wind.  FINE I ADMIT IT.  That wasn’t exactly true.  She was never considered for the role of the third most important flying monkey THAT WE KNOW OF.

But she was one of the last two actresses considered for the part of ScarOHar in the immortal (and super-duper racist) Gone with the Wine, I mean Wind, along with Vivien Leigh.  And guess why she didn’t get the part!!!  The producers wouldn’t touch her because of her questionable marital status with Mr. Chaplin!  Which is kind of bull doody because Vivien Leigh was living with Laurence Olivier and both of them were married to other people who refused to divorce them.  Apparently in the eyes of the movie-gods, choosing not to marry someone because you’re against the whole institution is a way sinner-y-er than being married and living with and boning someone else who is also married.

Do yourself a favor and go buy yourself a copy of All Quiet on the Western Front, read the shit out of it and tell me it’s not one of the most powerful books you’ve ever read. I hear it’s on sale at a Borders near you.

But Paulette got over it and still had a great career (including starring in the original 1939 The Women) and managed to marry a couple more people.  Which is ALWAYS GOOD.  AM I RIGHT LADIES?!?!  She and Charlie split after filming The Great Dictator together in 1940, but were still BFFs forevs.  She married Burgess Meredith in 1944 and then got a schmivorce from him in 1949.  Then she married the true love of her life, Erich Maria Remarque, in 1958.  When he died in 1970, she inherited his vast collection of modern art.  (HOW JEALOUS AM I?! SO JEALOUS.)  She went on to become one of the richest bitches in the NYC social scene and Andy Warhol’s best friend.  She died after a short illness at age 79.

Moral of the story: If you want to be cast in the most famous movie of the century, have your boyfriend put a ring on it before your headshot gets thrown in the trash because the studio thinks you’re a slut face.

LHB


Orson Welles – Brilliant Visionary; World Class Pimp.

Many people may call me crazy for thinking that Orson Welles is one of the most bangable people to ever grace God’s green earth. But it wasn’t only this youthful undergrad who found herself trapped by the seductive powers of his radio-ready dulcet tones, his truly revolutionary brilliance that he brought to stage, screen, and Spartan, or his sensuous lips.

The lips, THE LIPS.

No, I was not the first. In fact, even after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds in his late years of manic-depressive self-exile, Welles had a lotta lays, 3 wives, multiple “possible” children, and died in 1985, many years before I could have had the chance to entice him with my feminine wiles and nab the title “wife numba 4.” Shit ain’t fair.

But for the sake of brevity, I will generally focus on his better known bangs rather than all the rumors and (sadly) skip over the man’s insane ego/intelligence.

Orson Welles was born beautiful, I’m convinced.

Smouldering, even at 14.

By his mid-teens he was a 6-foot slab of man steak that the ladies clearly wanted to sink their teeth into. He started early at age 17, when he first met the Latina bombshell Dolores del Rio,  even though she was mad older. They didn’t actually start a recorded affair until 1938, but I bet there was some hanky-panky, or at least a good deal of eye-fucking.

With a name like Dolores, it has to be good.

Note her glassy-eyed look of love. So in awe of his genius/receding hairline.

He got married first at 19 to Virginia Nicholson, who he had met working in radio, then promptly put a baby in her belly. This child, though a lady-baby, was named Christopher. Go figure. I haven’t gotten to the part in This is Orson Welles where he explains that one. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) while he was married to Virginia, Orson was slaying just about every “up and coming” (HA!) young actress in New York. He was making a name for himself by, you know, revolutionizing theater and radio and scaring the living poop out of America by saying aliens invaded New Jersey (Fortunately? Naw, just kidding NJ, God love ya. New York’s waste has gotta go somewhere.).

After years of marriage and about a bazillion affairs, Virginia and Orson divorced, leaving Orson legally free to immediately shack up with a bunch of slam pieces amongst the jetset of 1940’s Hollywood (Including going public with Dolores, and making her get her own divorce in 1941. Guess she thought that stallion could be tamed…). But the most sizzling by far was Rita Hayworth. Yeah, that one. Long considered the sexiest woman of her age (or any age), Orson was attracted to her for obvious reasons. But also she was a real sweetheart, and from reading the letters sent between them it was clear they loved each other. Orson once wrote to Rita, like a love-sick teenager:

You are my life — my very life. Never imagine your hope approximates what you are to me. Beautiful, precious little baby — hurry up the sun! — make the days shorter till we meet. I love you, that’s all there is to it. -Your boy, Orson”

Fun Fact: Beautiful people don't smell bad when they smoke.

Balls. I mean, I’d be happy if anybody wrote that to me, let alone Orson Welles.

Even while they were going through the process of divorce, he still cast her in The Lady from Shanghai, and their chemistry is off the fucking charts. Rita once said she “couldn’t take his brilliance any more,” and Orson similarly said of their marriage that he could never make her as happy as she made him. That, and I mean, he kept doin’ it with a lot of girls, so I’m betting that was a factor.

The ol' Ball and Chain.

 

 

But some of Orson’s best work came out of that holy union, including Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, both considered two of the greatest films of all time for their innovative storytelling and visual design, massive scope yet intimate character study, and the fact that they were pure American poetry (Yeah, I did just say that.). Unfortunately from here on, because Orson’s foray into Hollywood was neither economically successful nor critically well-received, his career began to take the downward turn that from which he would never recover (which is why the last thing Orson ever did was the 1985 animated Transformers movie, and it best known even to our parent’s generation as “that guy from the wine commercial”- quote, my mom.). This did not mean the man didn’t continue a brilliant output of work, such as his proto-surrealist adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, excellent adaptations of The Merchant of Venice and Othello, and the just plain sick-nasty espionage classic, Mr. Arkadin, not to mention his acting turns in classics like The Third Man, Touch of Evil, and The Stranger. But who remembers that shit? We remember the fact that he ballooned to the size of a baby elephant and hid away in the Italian mountains for like, ever.

I mean, I'm still on board.

WHICH brings me to Orson’s third wife, Countess Paola Di Girifalco, or better known as the actress Paola Mori. They were married in 1955, but estranged by the 1960s and never actually divorced. After that, Orson had basically slowed down doin’ the nasty, but he still managed to make it in 1966 with the greatest piece of Eastern-European ass since Russia decided its newest export besides vodka, literature and sadness was gonna be models, Oja Kodar. She stuck with him for the last 24 years of his life, and I’m betting they were a pretty good match for each other, and bitch even built him a monument . What?? Anyway, he cast her topless in a lot of shit, so that’s what matters. Thanks bro, I’ll drink to those.

It's not "F for Fake" with her...

Orson died never having won true recognition for his work (and also having never met me, but we’ve established that already), but is finally now experiencing a great popularity—mostly among baby-boomer film snobs and hipsters, but hey, we’ll take what we can get. Hopefully now he can also be recognized as the Master of Bone that he was—far better than any Oscar. You know why? ‘Cause an Oscar’s not gonna seduce you like those lips would.


Mercedes de Acosta: Lesbian to the Stars.

Well, folks, it’s that time again.  We’ve brought you stories of turn of the century Ireland and racist America and now it’s time to turn to Old Hollywood.  Actors and actresses, poets and intellectuals of the post Great War era were really into having sex.  And generally not with people they were married to.

Today, we’ll turn to one of the most overlooked lesbian sexual adventurers of the Old Hollywood era.  Actually, she was one of the only out-of-the-closet-and-proud-of-it Lesbian socialites around in the 1920s and 1930s.  So good for her!  Am I right?!  Anyway, we’re talking about the Cuban/Spanish-American playwright and intellectual Mercedes de Acosta.  I suppose it really isn’t fair to call her a sexual adventurer, because while she did have relationships with a lot of famous actresses, she did fall pretty hard for her most famous lover, Greta Garbo.  She was on again off again with the silent film star for a really long time, like almost 15 years.

Young Mercedes de Acosta

But before Greta were three of old Hollywood’s most adored pretty ladies.  The first two weren’t that famous and you’ve probably never heard of them.  Alla Nazimova and Tallulah Bankhead were their names.  The third was the first really important modernist dancer of the 20th century, Isadora Duncan.  She was really well-known for her use of long, flowy scarves in her dancing.  And even more famous for the  freak-accident involving a scarf and a car door that culminated in her (comically?) ironic death.  (Was that wrong?  I’m sort of sorry.)  She was also famous for embarking on a number of adventurous sexcapades.  In fact, it was our research into Isadora Duncan that led us to the tantalizing subject of this post because before the whole scarf debacle, she had a steamy affair with the far more scandalous Mercedes.

After Mercedes married Abram Poole in 1920, she started having affairs left and right with Hollywood starlets, writers, dancers, and pretty much anyone in that swanky 1920s/30s scene.  You know the type. Notables include Edith Wharton, Pola Negri (wife to designer First-name-not-important Valentino), ballerina Tamara Platonovna Karsavina, the supposed greatest stage actress of the 20th century, Katharine Cornell, and get this…Marlene Deitrich.  Yeah.  Girl got what was hers.  (According to my favorite reliable resource, wikipedia, Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein’s long time partner, was not a fan of Mercedes, but admitted that she’d be hard to get rid of since she was intimately acquainted with the most important women in the US — Garbo and Deitrich.)

Most magical of her numerous affairs was by far her long and rocky relationship with Greta Garbo, who she called the love of her life.  It was apparently miss fancy-pants Garbo who called the shots in their relationship and would go months without writing, driving Mercedes a little crazy.  Greta finally called the whole thing off after almost 15 years in 1944.

But here’s where shit got scandalous.

Dying of a brain tumor and hurting for cash, Mercedes wrote an autobiography in 1960 called Here Lies the Heart in which she told about all of her affairs with famous women from back in the day.  But these ladies were still around and they were not so into broadcasting the lesbian relationships of their past.   And she lost a lot of friends.  And by a lot, I mean all of them.  Everyone stopped talking to her.  People wouldn’t buy her book.  She died poor and alone at the age of 75.

But she died a proud lesbian, which is what she sort of stood for throughout her whole life.  And good for her, because she spent most of her young, scandalous life dealing with a bunch of pussies who couldn’t get their shit together for long enough to even approach the threshold of the closet.

So good for you, Mercedes.  Garbo can suck it.  Am I right?

LHB