I know what you’re thinking. “You only picked this Marbles lady because you knew you could word play the shit out of that obvious (and hilarious) surname.” You’re not not right. But I’m also attempting to diversify our artisitic-politico-literary tendencies with a madame who knew how to play “sports.” So, a lady named Marble who knew how to hit a Ball: a perfect for shame! subject. You’re welcome.
Marble moved to San Francisco when she was five, in 1918. She was really good at “athletic” things like softball, and she wasn’t even a lesbian. Her brother thought she should play a more lady like sport, like tennis. And now I’m thinking of McEnroe dressed like a Victorian lady and playing tennis. Once you get that picture in and out of your head and manage to stop giggling, join me in the next paragraph.
Alice picked up a racquet, and then like a couple months later she was one of the best tennis players in the world. Her training was complicated by the fact that when she was 15, she was raped while walking home from practice. To add to an already traumatic adolescence, she also managed to witness her BFF getting run over by a San Francisco street car. Ouch. She overcame that nightmare of a childhood to become one of the top lady tennis players in all of “sports” history.
In her career, she won 18 Grand Slam championships —
(I know you’re confused right now because you’re all “Grand Slam? I thought that was what happens in the game with the stick and the ball that Madonna played in that one movie.” I get it, shhh, allow me to explain: Grand Slam also refers to the top tennis tournaments that happen every year all over the world. They are: the Australian, French, and US Opens, and Wimbledon. They are also sometimes called “the Majors” — which is also reminiscent of America’s greatest sport, but whatever, we’re talking about that
feminine European sport now.)
But let’s talk about how Alice Marble handled balls OFF the court, shall we?
After a stellar amateur career — which in those days involved a lot champagne drinking with movie stars on boats, with, like, cravats and shit — she turned pro. Turning pro meant that you got paid a fudge-ton of cash to go play in “exhibition” tournaments all over the world. (Which I believe also involved a lot of making out with girls in front of Clarke Gable at parties with champagne fountains.) She settled down and married Joe Crowley in 1942. He shipped out to fight in the European Theater shortly after their marriage. But they had managed to do some baby-making and by 1944, she was avec fille, as they say.
Then, a series of unfortunate (and, sure, kind of scandalous) events began to unfold. First, Marble was in a car accident and had a miscarriage. THEN, a little bit later, found out that her husband’s plane had been shot down over Germany and he’d be killed in action.
This was a little much for Alice, and really, who can blame her? She attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, but her old tennis coach Eleanor “Teach” Tennant found her and took her to the hospital. She survived, overcame her depression, and went on to, GET THIS:
That’s right. In 1945, the Allies were all, “Come be a spy for us, sexy tennis star.” And she was all, “Those Nazi bastards killed my husband, you bet your balls I’ll spy for you!” She actually said that she felt like she “had nothing left to lose but my life, and at the time I didn’t care about living.” Which, jeez, ok, a little heavy for this blog. Moving on.
The mission: Seduce a former lover, a Swiss Banker suspected of providing services (of the financial, not the sexual, variety) to high-ranking Nazi Officials, get him in the boudoir and get the deets on his elicit behavior.
Mission accomplished. Especially the boudoir part. She showcased her
boobies talents by playing in high-profile tennis tournaments in Europe, and the Banker sought her out in order to entangle her romantically. This was, of course, exactly what she wanted. She got all sorts of intel on him that she was able to report back to the CIA before the Nazis found out and she got — GET THIS — shot in the back! Like, with a bullet!
Miraculously, she survived and then led a pretty normal life after that. She retired to Palm Springs and probably, like, watched Wheel of Fortune and stuff.
I should also add that during her retirement, she worked for DC comics and, according to Wiki, is credited as an associated editor on Wonder Woman, because she wrote the comic’s feature section called “Wonder Women of History” where she told stories of history’s most wonderful women. I really like the idea of Susan B. Anthony drawn as a super hero and I like to think something like that made it into an issue.
And as if fighting Nazis wasn’t enough, she also decided to take on the whole problem of racial segregation in 1950 (she was kind of ahead of her time, even for a white lady) when her African-American colleague Althea Gibson was banned from playing in the US Championship. Marble wrote an open letter published in World Tennis Magazine (not sure what its readership was, so, you know, take this however you want) saying,
If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it’s also time we acted a little more like gentlepeople and less like sanctimonious hypocrites. … If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it’s only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts.
And in 1950, Althea Gibson became the first African-America to play in a Grand Slam tournament. In 1956, she became the first African-American player to win a Grand Slam title.
So maybe you’re like, what’s scandalous about this bitch?? How about the fact that her spy job involved DOING IT with a NAZI COLLABORATOR?!
Maybe it’s a stretch, but she’s still a really cool lady and I bet you’re not not super happy you know about her now.
Balls to the walls. Or wall. What is it?
WELCOME TO For Shame! Ruins Your Childhood: PART ONE!
Allow me to set a scene for you. A tableau, if you will (will you?): It was a lovely and seasonable night way back in April when Tom and Lorenzo, my gay-uncles-in-my-head, arbiters of fashion, disdainers of the nude platform pump trend, came to my school for a reading. It was magical, all of it. We went out for cocktails after the reading, they asked if any of us write on the regular, someone told them about the blog, I hyperventilated and knocked back my St. Germain martini (and okay, maybe another one, because when you’re nervous, someone else is paying, and your drinks are like 9 beans a pop, you do what needs to be done).
So I was slugging them down like Lucille Bluth because I hate when I have to tell adults about the blog. I’ve told you about my recurring stress dream right? The one where someone finds out about the blog (a boss, a professor, my mom) and is totally scandalized by it and humiliates me (by firing me, failing me, or disowning me). Shit is REAL and RECURRING.
Anywhooooo, I knew that I loved my gay uncles when, after I quickly and sheepishly told them about our little blogsperiment here, they were SO EXCITED and started suggesting all kinds of sexy people for us to write about! And Tom was especially into The Tale of William Moulton Marston and His Polyamorous Sexytimes™, so I felt it was only right to repay his kindness and lack of MRG-shaming by writing this post. So this goes out to you, T and Lo, even though you guys are a really big deal and will never see this probably. God love the gays. Amen and Hare Krishna.
I would also just like to say that after researching all the parties involved in this scandal, I have decided that despite the whole polyamory thing, this story is real fucking cool, especially when it comes to the ladies’ rights situation. You did me right, Tom, you did me real fucking right.
William Moulton Marston, pseudonym Charles Moulton, was quite an interesting fellow. Which is a shitty opening sentence, I know, I get it. But it’s fucking true! So interesting. Although such a cool dude might have gone for a better nom de plume, right?
In any case, you might not know Bill, but you sure as shit know about his two greatest contributions to modern society: the lie detector test and Wonder Woman! Both provide hours of fun for kids of all ages.
And more importantly, both were only developed through lots of inspiration and help from the ladies in Bill’s life, who, oh, by the way, lived in super-swinging, super polyamorous, super scandalous sin with him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Let’s start where things get sexy, shall we? By the late 1930s, Bill is riding high. He’s a psychology professor at Harvard, he’s already invented the polygraph (which some people believe inspired Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth), and he’s married to a sassy and really, really well-educated lady, Elizabeth Holloway Marston. Girlfriend held THREE higher ed degrees. Shit. And that last one, a Master’s in law, was supposed to be from Radcliffe, but Liz was like, um, I don’t fucking need to learn lady-law, I need to learn REAL-LAW. So she went to BU instead, and then landed a Very Important Real Person Job in the executive office of Met Life Insurance. Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
So it should come as no surprise that when Bill mentioned that he wanted to develop a comic book character (because comics, all of which starred muscular men, were crazy popular in the 1940s), Liz said, “Fine, but make her a woman.”
And thus Wonder Woman was born (though Bill wanted to call her Suprema, which sounds like a brand of toilet paper or diet cola). When it came time to draw her, he was like, Hmm, I need a model who is strong and smart yet warm and feminine. WW was, after all, meant to be a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.” Shoot. Bill looked to his left, then to his right, then left again, and was like, OH, MAYBE MY KICKASS WELL-EDUCATED SHE-WARRIOR OF A WIFE WHO GAVE ME THIS IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE MIGHT DO THE TRICK.
And DO the trick she did. Bill took a few…em…liberties in using his wife as a model, but whatever. Girl got her roll on (I don’t really know what that means but it felt right).
But Aunt MRG, you ask, WHERE’S THE SCANDAL?
Ask and ye shall receive, little ones.
Wonder Woman premiers in All Star Comics #8 (keeping it real for all you nerds out there) in December of 1941 to much fanfare, and soon, much success. And with success comes publicity, so Bill consents to an interview in The Family Circle, which in my head is “The Family Circus,” but it’s totally a different thing. Oh, and the interviewer is just this super hot recent Tufts graduate named Olive Byrne who also happens to be one of Bill’s former students, or whatever, it’s not a big deal except OH YEAH HE BONES HER REAL QUICK and then ASKS HER TO MOVE IN WITH HIM AND LIZ.
As in he and his wife, to whom he has been happily married for a decade. Oh, and they just live in a happy little menage a trois until Bill’s death until 1947, naming their kids after one another and shit. Oh, also, here’s something, Liz and Olive continue to live together (you know, for the kids) after Bill dies and are not in a lesbian relationship, but are also not NOT in a lesbian relationship. It’s fuzzy. BUT SEXY, too, NO?
Now, you may be thinking what I thought initially, which is why would such a strong feminist badass ladywoman like Liz stand for sharing her man with another, comparably badass ladywoman? Wouldn’t she demand to have another male companion in return? Or at least demand that Olive not move into the Marston household?
But, as I said before, Sisters Were Doing It For Themselves. And I think that Liz, liberated, modern, strong woman that she was, probably found Olive totally hot and probably wasn’t against a little sexperimenting (I’m sorry, never again) of her own. And hey, according to Liz’s daughter Olive Ann Marston (yes, you read that right) Liz liked having the elder Sisterwife Olive around because Liz could go to her Fancy Real Person Job all day err day while Sisterwife Olive took care of the Marston brood. Oh and just for fun, the brood’s names were Pete, Olive Ann (Liz’s kids), Byrne, and Don (Olive’s kids).
PHEW. The moral of today’s story, kids, is that if you work really hard and are really smart and give your husband really good, lucrative ideas for children’s literature, he might just welcome another woman into your home and you might just get to have lady sex with her. And isn’t that the American Dream, on this Fourth of July Eve, to which we all aspire?
I mean it’s obviously not but I had to mention America because tomorrow is the Fourth and it’s MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 WONDER WOMAN AMERICA BLUE JEANS MENAGE A TROIS!!!