the names that enchanted France

Jean “Papa” Galmot was born in Monpazier, France in June 1879 and died in Cayenne, French Guiana, August 1928.

Galmot found here

He managed a gold mine owned by his stepfather in the forest of Guiana, making ​​a fortune while striving to improve the lives of its workers and employees. He relieved their poverty by paying them decently, applying labor legislation and creating local scholarships for the poor.

rocket launch in French Guiana found here

Galmot was a pioneer in many areas; an idealist, poet and writer of value. But he was poisoned and died, aged just 49, while working against injustice and for the rights of the citizens of Guiana. He then became the object of a cult. Spontaneously, hearing of his death, the people rose up and a riot broke out in Cayenne.

people of French Guiana found here

Janet Flanner reported on the trial of these rioters

“Indeed, the prisoners’ very names have enchanted the citizens of France. Buckaroos with gentle voices and criminal records are called Mith, Parnasse, Pilgrim, Avril, Mars and even Time. A woman who is said to have aided them in casting stones is a Mlle. Radical, possessor of four children and three professions, only one of which, prostitution, could be acknowledged. The giant Iquy, a deaf fisherman, was Galmot’s mameluke.

image from Mameluke Training Manual found here

An octogenarian named Moustapha is accused of having beaten men to death with his umbrella on the big day. When at home he lives in an inn called The Thirty Knife Cuts. None of the prisoners speaks French grammatically, all refuse to have interpreters, all mix their genders, lie magnificently, are affectionate, polite, and as a means of showing their admiration, call the lawyers and the judge “Papa”.

brass knuckle umbrella found here

Dying, some of them, from tuberculosis contracted in the cold prison where they have waited two years for trial, the accused, attired in evening clothes, green mittens and varnished boots, probably await either the guillotine or Devil’s Island. The giant Iquy wears a sweater embroidered with his motto: “Life is Lovely.”

man in embroidered clothing found here

If the evidence is long, the prisoners remove their boots. Those beheaded would remain in France. Those sentenced to hard labour for life would merely, ironically enough, go back home to Guiana. One can only regret that Conrad died too early to have written of their hearts of darkness.”

image found here

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Comments (51)  
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the aristocrats go gaga

Scopolamine is a drug with a long dark history in Colombia.

image found here

Legend has it that Colombian Indian tribes used the drug to bury alive the wives and slaves of fallen chiefs, so that they would quietly accompany their masters into the afterworld. The tree which naturally produces scopolamine grows wild around the capital and is so famous in the countryside that mothers warn their children not to fall asleep below its yellow and white flowers. It’s popularly known as the “get-you-drunk” tree and the pollen alone is said to conjure up strange dreams.

image found here

Colorless, odorless and tasteless, scopolamine is slipped into drinks and sprinkled onto food. Victims become so docile that they have been known to help thieves rob their homes and empty their bank accounts. Since scopolamine completely blocks the formation of memories, it is usually impossible for victims to ever identify their aggressors.

image found here

There are so many scopolamine cases in Colombia that they usually don’t make the news unless particularly bizarre. One such incident involved three young Bogota women who preyed on men by smearing the drug on their breasts and luring their victims to take a lick. Losing all willpower, the men readily gave up their bank access codes. The breast-temptress thieves then held them hostage for days while draining their accounts.

image found here

In 1929 several Russian emigres in Paris were overwhelmed by the side effects of scopolamine which caused a condition they referred to as gaga-ism

“It seems that Prince Yusupoff’s valet encouraged another valet to put the drug in the tea of the latter’s masters and their guests. The polite poisoning had been going on for months, producing a state of complete stupidity which none of these aristocrats found strange.

aristocrats found here

Memory vanished, general conversation lagged, the two children dropped behind in their studies and became unable to add two and two without exciting comment from their proud parents. Casual guests dropping in for ‘le five o’clock’ were led back to their limousines in a state of complete imbecility, and an aunt fell flat on her face after having sipped a cup of weak Orange Pekoe.

image found here

Also, the unfortunate Comte de Lareinty-Tholozan, who had been imbibing from the scopolamine bottle steadily since the previous November, each day lost a little more sense, according to his admiring spouse. The hilarity among red-blooded mortals caused by these blue-blood disclosures was said to be as good as a revolution…..”

erotic engineering

Porte-jarretelles, known in the US as a garter belt and in the UK as a suspender belt, is a machine of modest dimensions, designed to hold up women’s stockings. Suspended from a belt that runs around the waist are four strips of elastic fabric that reach out to grab both stockings by the cuff.

For a secure connection to be made, however, an intermediary connective device had to be invented, one that could hold a soft, fragile fabric that was sensitive to strong tensile forces. The problem was complex and multifaceted. Stockings made of silk were extremely delicate and would fare badly if attached to a rigid device. Additionally, there is much stretching and friction in that particular region of the human body, not to mention the considerable strain caused by the independent movement of the legs.

The resulting device consisted of a bottom plate covered with elastic cloth; at the tip of this plate sat a small button, over the top of which would slide a gynomorphic steel-wire clasp. The cloth for the clasp came in three colors: white, black, and pink. In deluxe models, a satin ribbon was folded over the mechanism, mainly for aesthetic reasons, but also to prevent overlaying clothing from getting entangled.

This solution was a piece of engineering so brilliant that later connoisseurs of fashion and historians of engineering and technology reasoned that only the greatest engineer of them all—Gustave Eiffel—could have been its inventor. Therefore a story, as unimaginative as it was apocryphal, began to circulate: that Eiffel’s wife suffered from sagging stockings and that the great man, in a moment of marital understanding, sat down at the kitchen table and drew a sketch of a new device—a garter belt designed around the famous slip-clasp.

I found the above information about my favourite lingerie item after typing “Erotic Engineering” into google. It’s an intriguing phrase also encountered here in an article written by John Ryle and published in the Guardian in 1998

The RuPaul lookalike in a lace microskirt plying his trade on the Avenida Augusto Severo in downtown Rio is one of the wonders of the world. His eyelashes are like spider’s webs; his hair, straightened and dyed, tumbles to his shoulders; his decolletage would put Pamela Anderson to shame. And there are others. They are wearing satin hot-pants, leather bikinis and denim cut-offs, carmine lipstick and six-inch heels: all the dress-sense of international hookerdom.

Ru Paul found here

During carnival in Rio, men en travesti are highly visible, on the street, in the pages of glossy magazines, and on the floats of some minor samba schools. There are even carnival groups that parade entirely in drag. These are mostly amateurs, though, out for the day. They would not want to be called travestis, a word that, in Brazilian Portuguese, normally implies a sex worker. For professional travestis the partial inversion of social order that is one of the features of carnival – and the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure that accompanies it – are a year-round phenomenon.

Travesti found here

Hormones and injections of silicone simulate female secondary characteristics. Nips and tucks do the rest. What travestis do not go in for are sex-change operations. Such operations are illegal anyway in Brazil, despite its reputation as the world capital of cosmetic surgery. But this is not why travestis don’t go the whole way; it is because, by their account – and there is no other available source of information – their clients are looking for a sexual partner who is neither male nor female, but a paradoxical combination of the two, a sexual chimera, a fantasy of polymorphous perversity, with the look and feel of the feminine and the penetrative capacity of the male.

image found here

There’s a book about this, just published in Brazil, called Erotic Engineering, an assemblage of photographs and interviews with travestis – and one or two of their mothers. I was sitting on the plane home reading it. It’s a curious book, halfway between a medical text and a chat-show transcript, with pictures to make your eyebrow stud rattle. It certainly kept my neighbour’s elbow off the armrest.

image found here

I don’t miss anything about Tooting

In 2007, Steve Cooper found a new job as an Indian Goddess who thousands of Hindus believed could cure their infertility.

image found here

Pilgrims head to a remote jungle temple to be blessed by Steve, 32, from South West London. He calls himself Pamela but his devotees have dubbed him Prema — Hindi for Divine Love.

Steve was living in a tiny flat in Tooting until deciding on his new career after Indian friends told him he looked and moved just like the ancient goddess. Surrounded by followers, Steve told The Sun: “I love being here. I don’t miss anything about Tooting.”

Tooting (1910) found here

Hindu pilgrims have no doubts about his powers. When we asked Bhanu Barot why she was so keen to receive Prema’s blessing, she said, simply: “Because she is a goddess.”

Another woman, Rekha, said she had travelled for days to be blessed by Steve. She added: “My sister-in-law came here and she got pregnant immediately. I am hoping the same will happen for me after receiving the blessing of the goddess.”

image found here

Steve now follows a strict vegetarian diet and sleeps in a spartan room. He lives among 80 eunuchs at the temple. But some have their doubts that he is equipped to be a goddess. A eunuch called Sudha said: “He is a fake. I checked and he still has a penis.”

Ken and Barbie found here

Traditionally, hijras have had their male genitalia removed through a process known as nirvan (literally, “rebirth”)

The process isn’t ordinarily a pretty one, usually carried out without the aid of modern anesthesia or antibiotics. Hijras are considered to constitute a third sex or third gender in that they are neither men nor women. The term koti refers to males who take a “receptive” or feminine role in sex. They are usually not conflated with hijras, although they often dress as women and act in a feminine manner.

Candy Darling found here

The blessing, or curse, of a hijra is considered unusually potent because of their transgender nature. Hijras have traditionally survived by demanding money from families in return for blessing a newborn child or newly married couple. They also dance and sing and tell bawdy jokes at weddings and festivals.

Divine found here

Castration has always been a feature of the community. Those preparing for castration are called akwa hijras. Those who have been castrated are called nirvan hijras, meaning they have been released from their male gender

Hijras can fall into at least four ”clinical” categories. ”There are transvestites who cross-dress as a fetish; transsexuals who feel they are in the wrong body; inter-sexed males, and cross-dressing gay males. If a person from any one of these joins a hijra group then they are called one.”

Coccinelle found here

24 year old Suman is the leader of a hijra household in Delhi. Each one of Suman’s group claimed to have been born without a penis or testicles. One even lifted her dress to prove she had no genitalia. There was a small hole in her lower abdomen that allowed her to urinate. ”No one here has any sexual organs,” says Suman.

In the state of Tamil Nadu, in south India, the predominantly Hindu transgender community call themselves ”aravanis” and follow Aravan, a character in the Hindu epic The Mahabharata who died a heroic death in battle. At a special festival each year in the town of Koovagam, aravanis ritually marry Aravan, then mourn his death. Tamil Nadu has officially recognised its transgender community and issues ration cards with a special ”third gender” category.

Aravan bride found here

Published in: on September 24, 2011 at 11:04 pm  Comments (52)  
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the Baroness balances a birthday cake

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1875-1927) was known as the Queen of the Dada Movement.

Elsa found here

Her father, a mason, sexually and physically abused her in her childhood. She practiced prostitution, and had numerous affairs with both men and women throughout her lifetime, including the writer Djuna Barnes.

Djuna found here

Elsa married August Endell in April 1901 but by 1903 she had left him for his friend Felix Greve. In July 1909, Greve disappeared from Germany after staging his own suicide. Elsa played a part in the faked suicide, she sent a letter to his publishers accusing them of working her late husband to death. He sailed from Liverpool to Montreal, where he renamed himself. Later, as the Canadian author Frederick Philip Grove, he described staging his death and reinventing himself in his first autobiography. 

Felix Greve found here

It is unclear how Elsa made her way to New York. However, it was there she met and married Baron Leo von Freytag-Loringhoven, the black sheep of his illustrious family, in November 1913. Through her marriage to Leo von Freytag-Loringhoven she became a Baroness but little is known about their relationship. Baron von Loringhoven hurried back to Germany at the outbreak of the war and then, not liking war, shot himself – an act which his wife characterized as the bravest of his life. 

black sheep found here

From 1917 on, she published a fair amount of her mostly Expressionist and sometimes Dada-style poetry in various magazines. She also created “ready made” sculptures and collages from random items she stole or salvaged from the trash. Her most famous “ready made” is the plumbing pipe irreverently called “God”

God found here

By the early 1920s, von Freytag-Loringhoven had become a living legend in Greenwich Village. Often arrested for her revealing costumes and ongoing habit of stealing anything that caught her eye, she “leaped from patrol wagons with such agility that policemen let her go in admiration“. She continued to pose for artists, and appeared in a short film made by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp descriptively titled The Baroness Shaves Her Pubic Hair.

Duchamp and Ray playing chess found here

Margaret Anderson vividly recalls the Baroness’ first entrance into the Little Review’s office: “So she shaved her head. Next she lacquered it a high vermilion. Then she stole crêpe from a house of mourning and made a dress of it. She came to see us. First she exhibited the head at all angles, amazing against our black walls. Then she jerked the crepe with one movement. It’s better when I’m nude, she said.”

Elsa found here

When many of her friends moved to Paris after the First World War, von Freytag-Loringhoven tried desperately to join them. Eventually she returned to Berlin in April 1923 – a time when inflation of the German currency was at its worst. She was reduced to selling newspapers on a street corner of the Kurfüstendamm in the winter of 1923–1924 and was a more or less permanent inmate of several insane asylums. Her outrageous blackmail attempts and demanding propositions to André Gide, George Bernard Shaw, and perhaps other celebrities for living expenses did little to keep her out of trouble. Her notoriously elaborate costumes were not of much help either. In an undated letter to Djuna Barnes, von Freytag-Loringhoven describes an ensemble she wore to the French Embassy in Germany:

Andre Gide found here

“I went to the consulate with a large, wide sugarcoated birthday cake upon my head with fifty flaming candles lit – I felt just so spunky and affluent! In my ear I wore sugar plumes or matchboxes – I forget which. Also I had put on several stamps as beauty spots on my emerald-painted cheeks and my eyelashes were made of gilded porcupine quills – rustling coquettishly – at the consul – with several ropes of dried figs dangling around my neck to give him a suck once and again – to entrance him. I should have liked to wear gaudy colored rubber boots up to my hips with a ballet skirt of genuine gold paper with lace paper covering it (to match the cake) – but I couldn’t afford that! I guess that inconsistency in my costume is to blame for my failure to please the officials?

Cake Head found here

The true circumstances of von Freytag-Loringhoven’s death are still unclear. On December 14, 1927, she died of asphyxiation when the gas in her room at the Rue Barrault was left on overnight.

from male to female in 30 seconds

Hermaphrodism is relatively common among forms of marine life

image found here

Take nudibranchs. These snails-without-shells, also called sea slugs, are true hermaphrodites, having male sex organs on one end, female organs on the other. When these creatures have sex, they line up end to end, sometimes several individuals at a time, creating a kind of conga-line orgy.

alabaster nudibranch found here

Fish equipped with both testes and ovaries are called simultaneous hermaphrodites.

One such type of sea bass spawns about 14 times a day. About half the time, the individual releases eggs; the other half sperm. This fish can switch from one to the other in 30 seconds.

black sea bass (1900) found here

As these sea bass grow older, their female gonads grow larger, causing the fish to release more and more eggs and less and less sperm. This probably increases the species’ reproductive success rate since most eggs get fertilized, but most sperm don’t link with eggs.

black sea bass found here

Other simultaneous hermaphrodite fish grow more male tissue as they age. Usually, these fish keep changing, eventually becoming all male. Fish that change sex completely like this are called successive hermaphrodites. Wrasses, parrotfish, some gobies and several other reef fish are in this group.

tattooed parrotfish found here

Successive hermaphrodites perform sex-change acts in a variety of ways, depending upon the species and circumstances.

In clownfish (those cute orange fish that live with anemones), only the largest female and male of a group reproduce. If this large female dies, her mate becomes a female. Then the largest juvenile in the family moves up, becoming the new male.

clownfish found here

Other fish make more than one sex change. In Japanese reef gobies, a female in a group will become male if the dominant male leaves. If a larger male joins the group, the changed fish reverts to her former female self. This sex change takes only four days.

reef goby on brain coral found here

A two-male species, the midshipman of Northern California, has been studied extensively. Type I males take longer to mature, but grow bigger and develop strong vocal systems for courting.

These males, whose gonads account for only 1 percent of their weight, hum to attract females to their carefully built nests.

midshipman found here

Type II males, however, mature early. Their gonads account for a whopping 9 percent of their body weight. (This would be 16 pounds of testicles on a 180 pound man). And humming to attract mates? Forget it. These males use invasion to get mates, stealing both nests, and the females in them, from type I males.

Hermaphrodite fish are on the rise, thanks to the birth control pill and other natural and unnatural forms of estrogen that have made their way into the water. It is believed that it is the female estrogen hormones released from sewage treatment plants that are responsible for the feminization of wild fish.

image found here

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 7:55 am  Comments (61)  
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a character in the best French tradition

Georges Rème was a notorious and popular French swindler.

“Swindle” epad found here

“His fiction-like feats of escape have earned him the nickname “The Human Eel“. In August 1926, he was taken to a Paris court with ten others but was not handcuffed. When the warder’s attention was distracted, Rème, drawing from his pockets some legal documents which he had picked up, calmly walked out. When challenged by the guard, he waved the papers, replying “Detective Inspector” and passed on. Hailing a taxi, he disappeared.

Moray Eel found here

He was recaptured in 1927 and sentenced to ten years in a Lyonnais prison and ten in exile.

“He said to his advocate, “I doubt if I stay in prison at all. The climate of Lyons does not agree with me. I fancy that my sentence of ten years is an idle theory on the part of the bench.”

Liz Lyons found here

His advocate, in defending him (Rème has already been convicted seventeen times for theft) argued in part that his client was “a character in the best French tradition, on account of his elegance, his imagination and wit. In certain circumstances a man such as Rème has to be invented if he doesn’t exist, because in sad periods he is one of those who help to amuse the masses and distract them from the preoccupations of their mind.”

Preoccupied French citizens found here

Of all the criminals of recent years, only the murderer Landru was more popular at distracting the preoccupied masses, a dozen or more of whom (female) he had previously amused to death in his country retreat.

French murderer Landru found here

The hotel servant girl who found the Condé rose diamond Rème had stolen by biting into its hiding place in an apple belonging to one of the hotel’s guests – was promptly sacked for her dishonesty by the management.

Rose diamonds found here

it all started with a clothesline

Before Philippe Petit’s daring tightrope walk between New York’s Twin Towers, he was preceded by a legion of high wire performers, some more memorable than others. Jean Cocteau described Barbette as “not just a graceful daredevil, but one of the most beautiful things in the theatre.”

Barbette found here

Born in Texas in 1899, Vander Clyde began his career after practicing on his mother’s steel clothesline. He was performing as an aerialist by the age of 14 as one-half of a circus act called The Alfaretta Sisters. After a few years of circus work, he went solo and adopted the exotic-sounding pseudonym of Barbette. From his entrance, when he appeared in an elaborate ball gown and an ostrich-feather hat, to an elaborate striptease down to tights and leotard in the middle of the act, Barbette enacted a feminine allure that was maintained despite the vigorous muscular activity required by his trapeze routine. Only at the end of the performance, when he removed his wig, did he dispel the illusion, at which time he mugged and flexed in a masculine manner to emphasize the success of his earlier deception.

Barbette photographed by Man Ray found here

Following his time as an Alfaretta, Barbette next joined an act called Erford’s Whirling Sensation. This act included three people who hung from a spinning apparatus by their teeth. His solo debut was at the Harlem Opera House in 1919. Barbette performed trapeze and wire stunts in full drag until the end of his act, when he would pull off his wig and strike masculine poses. For the next several years he toured the Keith Vaudeville Circuit, advertised as a “versatile specialty.”

Barbette found here

Barbette made his European debut in 1923 first in England and then on to Paris. He appeared in such venues as the Casino de Paris, the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère.

He became a featured attraction with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus touring London, Brussels and Berlin. It was during an engagement at the London Palladium that Barbette was found engaged in sexual activity with another man. His contract was cancelled and he was never able to obtain a work permit for England again.

Barnum & Bailey Circus 2008 found here

Jean Cocteau cast Barbette in his experimental first film Le Sang d’un Poete (The Blood of a Poet). Barbette appears in a scene in a theatre box with several extras, dressed in Chanel gowns, who burst into applause at the sight of a card game that ends in suicide. He replaced the Vicomtesse de Noailles, who along with her husband had originally shot the scene but were appalled upon seeing the finished film, as the card game/suicide had been shot separately. Speaking of his preparation for the scene, Barbette, who knew he was replacing the Vicomtesse, said:

Comtesse de Noailles found here

“I tried to imagine myself a descendant of the Marquis de Sade, of the Comtesse de Chevigné…and a long line of rich bankers — all of which the Vicomtesse was. For a boy from Round Rock, Texas, that demanded a lot of concentration — at least as much as working on the wire.”

The end of Barbette’s performing career is attributed to a number of causes, including a fall, pneumonia, polio or some combination of the three. Whatever the cause, Barbette was left in extreme pain and in need of surgery and extensive rehabilitation to allow him to walk again. He became the artistic director and aerialist trainer for a number of circuses. Barbette served as a consultant on several films and was hired to coach Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis on gender illusion for the film Some Like It Hot. Barbette created the aerial ballet for Disney on Parade and toured with it in Australia from 1969 through 1972.

image from Some Like it Hot found here

Barbette spent his last months in Texas, living in Round Rock and Austin with his sister, Mary Cahill, often in severe pain. Sadly, he committed suicide by overdose on August 5, 1973.

show me your bottom

In London between 1788 and 1790, up to fifty women claimed to have been attacked by a man who became known as the London Monster.

According to the victims (most of them from wealthier families), a large man had followed them, shouted obscenities and stabbed them in the buttocks. Some reports claimed an attacker had knives fastened to his knees. Other accounts reported that he would invite prospective victims to smell a fake nosegay and then stab them in the nose with the spike hiding within the flowers.

image found here

When people realised that the Monster attacked mainly beautiful women, some women claimed that they had been attacked to gain attention and sympathy. Armed vigilantes set out to patrol the city. Fashionable ladies began to wear copper pans over their petticoats.

image found here

On June 13, 1790, Anne Porter claimed she had spotted her attacker in St. James’s Park. Her admirer, John Coleman, pursued the man, who realised he was being followed. When Rhynwick Williams, an unemployed 23-year-old, reached his house, Coleman confronted him, accusing him of insulting a lady, and took Williams to meet Porter, who fainted when she saw him.

Williams protested his innocence but, given the climate of panic, it was futile. He admitted that he had once approached Porter but had an alibi for another of the attacks. Magistrates charged Williams with defacing clothing — a crime that in the Bloody Code carried harsher penalty than assault or attempted murder

slashed dress found here

Despite the fact that a number of alleged victims gave contradictory stories and that coworkers testified that he had an alibi for the most famous attack, Williams was convicted on three counts and sentenced to two years each, for a total of six years in prison.

His time spent behind bars was not entirely wasted: he fathered a child who was conceived whilst Williams was imprisoned. He later married the mother of his child on release.

In Paris, in 1819, a similar series of attacks took place

Stabbers, or piquers, were attacking women in the streets, cutting their buttocks with sharp rapiers fastened to canes or umbrellas. There was widespread alarm and it was recommended that married women be accompanied by their husbands at all times and those without husbands should wear bottom protectors. 

bottom protector found here

Police agents and private piquer hunters dressed up as women to tempt the villains to attack but they had no luck. Twenty prostitutes were employed as decoys, they were to walk through Paris followed by policemen in plain clothes. In spite of these bizarre promenades no piquer was caught;  even though over 880 francs had been spent on the harlots and their wine allowance.

Paris prostitutes found here

At the same time, the Madchenschneider, or Girl-Cutter, of Augsberg, began a long and bloody career. Again , several women were cut across the legs or buttocks, apparently without motive. A 37 year old wine merchant was caught after a reign of terror lasting 18 years. 

Another series of attacks took place in Strasbourg in 1880, a man in a dark cloak assaulted respectable women in the streets late in the evening, wounding their breasts or genitals with a sharp instrument. When 29 year old hairdresser, Theophil Mary, was finally arrested, he had clocked up 35 victims. 

Strasbourg Cathedral found here

In July 1894, a French youth was arrested for cutting the buttocks of a large number of young girls in broad daylight. The 19 year old was described as a beardless youth with a timid embarrassed manner. He described how he had, ever since the age of 15, felt a high degree of excitement whenever he saw a woman’s buttocks. 

click image above to play

In Chicago in 1906, a manhunt began for “Jack the Cutter” who stabbed the buttocks of seven females in just one day alone. In the same year, “Jack the Stabber” ran amok in St Louis, also stabbing female bottoms. In 1925 the hunt was on for another American attacker, “The Connecticut Jabber.”

In 1977, “Jack the Snipper” was active on the London Underground. Before the London Transport Police put an end to his fun, he had cut 17 skirts from behind, and exposed their wearers’ backsides to all viewers.  

In 1984, according the The News of the World, a very short and stunted man had attacked nine women in Birmingham, stabbing them in the buttocks. In 1985, this pint sized pervert was still at large…… 

image found here

a Proustian moment in time

In a Paris hotel in 1922, two society hosts brought off an amazing coup when they threw a party for Proust, Joyce, Diaghilev, Stravinsky and Picasso.

Diaghilev and Stravinsky found here

The party was a gem of cultural history. The Majestic was second choice as a venue; the Ritz had been discounted because it did not allow music to be played after 12.30am. The menu was chosen to appeal to both the Russian exiles in attendance – caviar and Russian hors d’oeuvres – and to the Proustians within the group, with dishes plucked straight from the pages of his novels – asparagus, boeuf en gelée, almond cake and coffee, and pistachio ice cream.

Cacao Pistachio Florentine and Mint Ice Cream Sandwich found here

The Schiffs might have been the hosts, but Diaghilev was the master of ceremonies. He “netted” Stravinsky and Picasso, who were both involved with the Ballets Russes, but the Schiffs really wanted the two great modernist novelists, James Joyce and Proust, both of whom were notoriously flaky when it came to social engagements.

James Joyce found here

James Joyce eventually rolled through the doors, visibly intoxicated and paralysed with nerves, as the diners were drinking coffee. The Schiffs were delighted, but the evening wasn’t complete until 2.30am, when “a small dapper figure … clad in exquisite black with white kid gloves … entered with an insinuating air“. Marcel Proust had arrived.

Marcel Proust found here

His attendance was a coup. Proust, one-time social butterfly, became a recluse in his final years, too fond of his sickbed-cum-writing desk to leave his apartment. This party was his first outing for a fortnight; he had been too ill to socialise since scorching his throat with a hefty dose of adrenalin, taken, ironically, to give him strength for dinner with the Schiffs.

image found here

On New Year’s Eve 1921, he built up to the evening’s celebrations with typically hysterical panache. “From fear of being unable otherwise to come to you, I have taken drugs in such profusion that it will be a man half-aphasic and especially wobbly on his legs, from vertigo, that you behold,” he wrote in advance to the host. He also asked his maid Céleste to call ahead 10 times to ensure that he was greeted with “a cup of scalding tea“, and that there were no draughts at the venue. In the last year of his life, this hypochondria became so extreme that he requested his morning post to be steamed in disinfectant. 

ducklings in a teacup found here

The inveterate social climber was no doubt tempted out of his bed by the stellar company on the menu at the Majestic. Diaghilev, “the most wonderful Falstaffian character”, impressed the author. He was fascinated by Diaghilev’s turbulence in his emotional life, his desperate, passionate love for sometimes very inappropriate young men, for which he was willing to risk artistic success.

Diaghilev and Serge Lifar found here

As for Picasso: “Although one mustn’t read too much into this, Proust was quite attracted to stocky, not very tall, southern-looking men. The great love of his life, his chauffeur, Alfred Agostinelli, looked like a plumper version of Picasso. So Proust was definitely pro-Picasso, though I don’t suppose Picasso was pro-anyone very much except Picasso.

Picasso found here

Proust’s conversation with Stravinsky had a less-than-auspicious start. Princesse Violette Murat flounced out of the party, looking daggers at him as he arrived. Gossip about her meanness was rife, and she was mortally offended by rumours that one of Proust’s particularly parsimonious characters was based on her. With her strange lack of physical proportions, he once said of her “She looks more like a truffle than a violet

The meeting of the two modernist minds was by far the most eagerly anticipated of the evening and, as a result, there are varying accounts of the exchange between Proust and Joyce. Joyce  was quoted as saying, “Our talk consisted solely of the word ‘no’. Proust asked me if I knew the duc de so-and-so. I said ‘no’. Our hostess asked Proust if he had read such and such a piece of Ulysses. Proust said ‘no’. And so on. The situation was impossible.”

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