Do you remember the days before women started to get all into suffrage and employment and shit? Good times, am I right? Those were the days of the 1910s Gibson Girl. The Gibson girl, with her long, curly locks plopped neatly atop her head, sporting her cover-all-but-still-sort-of-erotic-dress was, above all, a LADY. She enjoyed activities like sewing. And having unprotected, post-marital sex. And do you know how how the image of the Gibson Girl got off (ha!) the ground? I’ll tell you. A man named Charles Gibson drew a picture of a woman named Evelyn Nesbit (who ended up not being so into waiting ’til marriage, if you know what I mean) and called the picture “Gibson Girl.”
Yeah. Shit was that simple. He just drew this nice little picture of Evelyn, named it after himself, and a whole generation of women suddenly adopted this one image as the symbol of their collective, cultural identities. Pretty fucked up when you think about it. But then the 20s happened and shit got crazy and the Gibson Girl faded into obscurity. And then a really sad time happened called the 30s. Ah, the trajectories of history.
Yes, ok! We’ll get back to the scandal part because I know you’re just DYING to know what happens. Speaking of which, you know who was DYING to get into Gibson Girl #1, Evelyn Nesbit’s, lacy panties? Architect Stanford White of famed architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White is who. No, literally. He died. Because of getting into her panties. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Evelen Nesbit (sorry she’s not male, but at least she’s white, you racists) led a pretty unlady-like, un-gibson girlian life involving, as you may have gathered from the above teaser-paragraph, a sizable portion of scandalosity. When she was 16, in 1901, she and her mom moved into a tiny apartment on the Lower West Side. Since they were hurtin’ for squirtin’ (that means they needed money, right?), Evelyn convinced her mom to let her go into modeling to help pay the bills. She was really hot. Like really fucking hot. Like, I’m getting a tingling sensation all over just looking at these pictures of her. So, like a boss, she booked work straight away posing for artists and photographers. (She modeled in some of America’s first newspaper fashion advertisements and editorials!) When she first modeled for Charles Gibson, he did a drawing of her profile called “The Eternal Question.” It looks just like a question mark. He was really creative and not at all unoriginal with his titles.
So, right after she settles into modeling life, and starts performing as a chorus girl in big vaudeville shows. So big famous architect and womanizer Stanford White sees her in one of these acts and he’s like, “Evie, come play on my swing.” And she’s like, 16 and she doesn’t know what’s going on, so she’s like, “is that, like, a euphemism for something?” And he’s like, “no, really, check it out, it’s literally a red velvet swing that I like to push girls on while they’re not wearing many clothes slash totally naked. cool?” She was like, “I like swings (because I was a child just a few years ago) but I don’t think so, mister.” So they didn’t really do anything the first time she visited his creepy fucking apartment in a tower overlooking Manhattan, complete with (1) a red-velvet-draped room with a plush swing hanging from the ceiling and (2) a room that had mirrors for walls.
I just threw up in my mouth a little.
Long story short, they see each other for a while, and at the risk of using my least favorite word which starts with a V and ends in an IRGINITY, she loses it to him and later claims in her memoirs that he’s the only man she ever really loved. But they didn’t get married, they just did it a bunch. OH! Did I mention that when this was happening she was 16 and he was 47? Yeah. At least he was under 50, though. Am I right, ladies?!
It gets better still. She’s working as a chorus girl now, she’s like 17, and this major cutie, John Barrymore starts sending her flowers backstage. And he’s her age, so that’s an improvement, at least. But White (who’s creepily acting like a surrogate father) and her mother don’t like Barrymore so they are in cahoots now and send Evie off to a boarding school (run by Cecil B. DeMille’s mom. Weird.) Barrymore proposes but she declines his offer because…
Then she meets another fucking mensch of a man. A real winner if ever I saw one. That Evelyn could really could pick ’em. Henry Kendall Thaw was an abusive kabillionaire motherfucker who carried a pistol around (in case anyone looked at his main bitch the wrong way), was obsessive about the minutia of Evie’s relationship with White, and enjoyed jerking off while whipping women (like Evie) and the occasional pubescent teenage boy. WITH A WHIP. In case that wasn’t clear. Like I said, a great fucking dude. So she married him. Cuz why not?
I’m getting to WHY NOT, so keep your panties on.
So the adorable (disgusting) couple is out for a lovely evening at the Madison Square Garden roof theatre (which White designed, NBD) to see a performance of Mam’Zelle Champagne. During the song “I could love a million girls,” our prince of a man, Thaw pulls out his good ol’ pistol that he was always packing, and shoots White in the face 3 times, screaming either (1) “You’ve ruined my life” or the even more interesting (2) “You’ve ruined my WIFE.” No one knows for sure what he said, but the people who were there swear he said “wife.” This goes back to our Gibson Girl theme which is that bitch was supposed to be emBODYing a certain social ideal of femininity. Not bumpin’ and grinding her pre-marital, 16-year-old BODY all over a 47 year old, if ya know what i mean.
Thaw went to court, plead temporary insanity and got away with it because Evelyn was bribed by Thaw’s mommy to testify that White had raped her and that Thaw was merely avenging her honor. She did it, but never got any of the one million dollah that “Mother Thaw” had promised her. Thaw was incarcerated in a mental hospital in 1906 and then judged sane in 1915 and let go. Like, into the world. Into society. Where people live.
During Thaw’s comically limited time in the hospital, Evelyn had herself a baby. WOOPS! She went to her grave swearing the baby was her husband’s, but I’m going to go ahead and call Bull Shit on that one since he was sort of kind of locked up in a mental institution for the “criminally insane.”
Like many Gibson Girls, Evelyn adapted to the 20s poorly. She did get herself into the talkies performing in a few films alongside her little son (who later fucking won WWII, NBD). But she was never quite the hot little thing that she was during her Gibson Girl Golden Years. Her later life was marked with numerous suicide attempts, an addiction to morphine, and a whole lot of alcohol.
On the bright side, the woman had excellent choice in men, though. And by excellent I mean really horrible.
We want to give a shout-out to reader, sex-scandal-enthusiast, and our main bitch, Lauren for SUGGESTING THIS SCANDAL.