the taming of the shrew

Shrews have a very high rate of metabolism and therefore need to devour enormous quantities of food. To be impressed by the appetite of a shrew you only have to capture one and try to keep it fed. You will soon weary of any attempt to catch enough worms, grubs and insects to satiate it and will have to resort to teaching the shrew to eat dog food and ground meat.

Elephant Shrew found here

C. Hart Merriam, an American mammalogist, once confined three shrews under a glass tumbler. Two of them promptly attacked and ate the third. Eight hours later only a single shrew, with a slightly bulging stomach, remained.

fat shrew found here

Gerald Durrell wrote about his delightful encounter with a shrew here

I witnessed an extraordinary comedy that almost seemed performed for my own special benefit. On the tree-trunk where I was sitting, out of the undergrowth, up over the bark, there glided slowly, laboriously and regally a giant land-snail, the size of an apple.

image found here

I realised that as the snail was making its rather vague progress along the trunk it was leaving behind it a glistening trail, and this trail was followed by one of the most ferocious and bloodthirsty animals, for its size, to be found in the West African forest.

image found here

Out on to the log strutted a tiny creature only as long as a cigarette, clad in jet-black fur and with a long slender nose that it kept glued to the snail’s track, like a miniature black hound. It was one of the forest’s shrews, whose courage is incredible and whose appetite is prodigious and insatiable.

Wedgwood black cigarette jar found here

Chittering to himself, the shrew trotted rapidly after the snail and very soon overtook it. Uttering a high-pitched squeak, it flung itself on the portion which protruded from the back of the shell and sank its teeth into it. The snail, finding itself unceremoniously attacked from the rear, did the only possible thing and drew its body rapidly inside its shell. The muscular contraction of the snail was so strong, that as the tail disappeared inside the shell the shrew’s face was banged against it and his grip was broken. The shell, having now nothing to balance it, fell on its side, and the shrew, screaming with frustration, rushed forward and plunged his head into the interior, in an effort to retrieve the retreating mollusc. However, the snail was prepared for his attack and greeted the shrew with a sudden fountain of greenish-white froth that bubbled out and enveloped its nose and head. The shrew leapt back with surprise, knocking against the shell as it did so. The snail teetered for a moment and then rolled sideways and dropped into the undergrowth beneath the log. The shrew meanwhile was sitting on its hind legs, almost incoherent with rage, sneezing violently and trying to wipe the froth from its face with its paws.

frothy minted sake found here

The whole thing was so ludicrous that I started to laugh, and the shrew, casting a hasty and offended glance in my direction, leapt down into the undergrowth and hurried away……

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 8:36 am  Comments (62)  
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mixmaster blong jesus christ

In 1980, journalist Richard Shears flew to Espiritu Santo, the largest island in the nation of Vanuatu. Back then these Melanesian islands were known as the New Hebrides. The islands were administered by Britain and France in what was known as a condominium.

Vanuatu waters by Ben McDarmont found here

“Consequently, some people spoke French, other English. The original inhabitants adopted Bislama, a type of pidgin English. They also used a picture language that seemed to combine a bit of English and pidgin, resulting in a brassiere being described as “basket blong titty”.

image found here

A toothbrush was “broom blong tut” (brush belonging to tooth), a helicopter was “Mixmaster blong Jesus Christ”. 

image found here

At the time of Shears’ visit, the condominium had two police forces and two jails. Foreign visitors who fell foul of the law could elect to be tried either by the French or British system. Most preferred the French because the gendarmes served wine with meals. 

Gendarme by Owen Franken found here

A telex Shears received from the London Mail’s Foreign Desk read “CANST CONFIRM URGENTEST PRINCE PHILIP LAUDED AS GOD BY JUNGLE TRIBE STOP”. He showed this to anthropologist Kirk Huffman who agreed that it was true:

image found here

The villagers’ belief seems to centre on a trip that the Queen and Prince Philip made in 1974 to Vanuatu aboard Britannia. Tannese legend has it that during a reception in the capital Port Vila, the Duke shook only the hands of men from Tanna. This news reached the residents of Yaohnanen, who were waiting for a gift in return for a pig they had given to a British officer some years before. The tribe sent a letter to Port Vila, asking where their gift was and inquiring about the Duke. In response the British delivered a framed portrait of the Duke, and the worship began.

image found here

All his correspondence, newspaper clippings about him and his portraits are kept in a hut that has become a shrine. Children are taught about a god who lives in England and will one day return.The chief of Yaohnanen, said: “We know he is a very old man, but when he comes here he is going to be young again, and so will everyone else on the island.”

image found here

Published in: on June 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm  Comments (47)  
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balloon riots

The first public demonstration of a lighter-than-air machine took place in 1783, in Annonay, France, when Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, two brothers who owned a paper mill, sent up an unmanned hot-air balloon.

early balloon found here

After their success, the brothers went to Paris and built another larger one. On September 19, 1783, in Versailles, the Montgolfiers flew the first passengers in a basket suspended below a hot-air balloon—a sheep, a rooster, and a duck.

Miss Dietrich with her duck in a basket found here

On August 27, 1783, Jacques Alexandre César Charles launched the first balloon inflated with hydrogen gas in Paris. Unlike the Montgolfier balloon, his hydrogen-inflated balloon was closed to contain the gas. The sphere ascended from the Place des Victories in Paris to a height of nearly 3,000 feet (914 meters) and came down some 15 miles (24 kilometers) away where terrified peasants attacked and destroyed it.

image found here

A flying craze arose in France and Scotland with James Tytler, Scotland’s first aeronaut and the first Briton to fly, but a year after the invention of the balloon, the English were still skeptical, and so George Biggin and ‘Vincent’ Lunardi, “The Daredevil Aeronaut”, decided to demonstrate a hydrogen balloon flight at the Artillery Ground of the Honourable Artillery Company in London in September 1784.

Lunardi found here

Lunardi first tried to obtain permission to go up from the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital. However, somebody else had already beaten him to it – a Frenchman, de Morel, who had made the first attempt with a whimsical hot air balloon shaped like a Chinese temple. This monster declined to leave the ground, which disappointed and infuriated the spectators; in their rage they destroyed the balloon.

image found here

In Lunardi’s case, because the 200,000 strong crowd had grown very impatient with delays in fully inflating the balloon, the young Italian had to take-off without his friend Biggin, but he was accompanied by a dog, a cat and a caged pigeon. The flight travelled in a northerly direction towards Hertfordshire, with Lunardi making a stop in Welham Green, where the cat was set free as it seemed airsick.

flying cat found here

The 24 mile flight brought Lunardi fame and began the ballooning fad that inspired fashions of the day—Lunardi skirts were decorated with balloon styles, and in Scotland, the Lunardi Bonnet was named after him, and is even mentioned by Robert Burns in his poem ‘To a Louse’, written about a young woman called Jenny, who had a louse scampering in her Lunardi bonnet.

balloon bonnet found here

Lunardi went on to build larger and better balloons decorated with Union Jacks, in which manner he ‘wished to express his respects and devotion to everything which the word “British” stands for’. His faithful friend Biggin and a Mrs Letitia Sage, an actress, were to have accompanied him on a trip from Moorefields, but the lifting capacity of the balloon was poor, so Lunardi started alone. Soon afterwards he had to come down again, near Tottenham Court Road, because the envelope turned out to be leaking. The well-tried patience of Biggin was finally rewarded later that year when, on 29 June, he was able to ascend himself, accompanied by Mrs Sage.

Letitia Sage found here

Mrs Sage was described as Junoesque, and apparently weighed in at over 200 pounds. On the day she wore a very low cut silk dress, apparently to aid ‘wind resistance’. Her fellow passenger was the dashing George Biggin, a young and wealthy Old Etonian.

no wind resistance found here

Unfortunately the balloon was overloaded. (Afterwards Mrs Sage blamed herself because she hadn’t told Lunardi her weight and he’d been too polite to ask). Lunardi seemed to have no qualms about stepping out and letting the apparently inexperienced Mr Biggin take to the air with Mrs Sage. Unfortunately in his haste to depart, Lunardi failed to do up the lacings of the gondola door. As the balloon sailed away over Picadilly the beautiful Mrs Sage was on all fours re-threading the lacings to close the door. Apparently the crowd assumed she had fainted and was perhaps receiving some kind of intimate first aid from Mr Biggin.

daisyfae had to lace me into this corset in Chicago 2011

In fact she was coolly re-threading the lacings to make the gondola safe again. In due course the two of them were lunching off sparkling Italian wine and cold chicken, occasionally calling to people below through a speaking trumpet.

The flight followed the line of the Thames westwards finally landing heavily in Harrow on the Hill where the balloon damaged a hedge and gouged a strip through the middle of an uncut hayfield, leaving the farmer ranting abuse and threats. The honour of the first female aeronaut was saved by the young gentlemen/boys of Harrow school who had a whip-round to pay off the farmer and then carried Mrs Sage bodily, in triumph, to the local pub.

Later there was much speculation at Mr Biggin’s club as to whether he had been the first man to “board” a female aeronaut in flight…….

the fully qualified tantric lama

Recently I was reading about Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969), described as an anarchist, occultist, opera singing late bloomer. What a fabulous woman. Here, Janwillem Van De Wetering reviews a biography of her…..

image found here

“Setting out on this review, I feel a slight tremor of fear. Alexandra David-Neel, a bourgeois Parisian, became a fully qualified tantric lama in Tibet when she was 52 years old. Tantric Buddhism has been known to follow the left-handed, or demonic, way.

image found here

Do I dare to discuss a magic entity that is calmly gazing through the screen of my word processor, wearing a rosary necklace of 108 pieces of human skull, an apron of carved human bones, and holding a phurba, the higher-sphere crystal dagger that kills ghosts but may also seriously disturb or even switch off the regular flesh-and-blooded, by penetrating our astral bodies?

image found here

Mme. David-Neel was a compulsive traveler, an explorer, a feminist, a prolific and internationally popular writer and an acknowledged authority on Buddhist ritual. Her stay at Kum Bum monastery in Amdo Province made her familiar with spells. She did cause a sudden thunderstorm out of the blue to frighten bandits off while traveling across the arid highlands of the ”roof of the world,” she did warm herself by tumo, or ”pit of the stomach,” meditation, making flames embrace her when she ran out of fuel and food in deep snow, and on a lower spiritual plane, she did carry a modern automatic seven-shot pistol that she fired at least once, aiming at a brigand who tried to steal her last tin spoon.

museum near the monastery found here

Fortunately, she didn’t kill him. Practicing Buddhists try to avoid taking life. David-Neel did eat meat products, though, including the soles of her boots, and in a drafty tent at 50 degrees below zero she slurped maggoty stew cooked by a substance-abusing butcher. David-Neel traveled in a time when Britain ruled not only waves but also mountains. The British secret service was wary of the mysterious Frenchwoman who hobnobbed with Oriental princes and high lamas in palaces and fortresses where political plans were hatched.

image found here

She endlessly milked money out of Philip Neel, her hardworking husband. Showing a prudish image to her royalty-paying public, she hid an affair with a stagehand, a live-in relationship with a fellow artist in France and an invitation to be seduced on her future husband’s yacht in Tunisia. Perhaps, if we may follow her biographers’ hint, she participated in tantric sex, the free-for-all physical activity in which masters and disciples partake in order to raise their spirits toward detachment. She disapproved of this ”promiscuity of embarrassments,” but then, you see, she wasn’t really there, she was just hiding in a hayloft. (She peeked.) She had a violent temper that very few – indeed, only Aphur Yongden, her faithful associate, and, in her old age, her secretary, Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet -were able to handle.

homes for sale in Tunisia here

Calling herself a rational Buddhist, she tried to live well, taking a hot bath every day (a coolie carried the bathtub), eating gourmet meals (she never cooked herself), riding good horses and being carried by sturdy bearers. When Lhasa, the political and spiritual capital, couldn’t be reached that way, she walked, crawled, lived on boiled water and dirt, became seriously ill, begged, and pretended to be a servant to her servant (who later became her adopted son and companion, Lama Yongden, a source of much jealousy to her husband). She reached the forbidden holy city, the first foreign woman to ever do so.

Lama Yongden found here

In 1928 Alexandra legally separated from Philippe, but they continued to exchange letters and he kept supporting her till his death in 1941. Alexandra settled in Provence, and continued to study and write till her death at age nearly 101.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 8:57 am  Comments (46)  
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I’ve grown accustomed to her style

When Kirstie Alley split from her husband Richard Parker, Tricky Dicky added up his sums and realised he needed a lot to make ends meet

Parker and Alley found here

“Our lifestyle became lavish around the time Kirstie obtained her Cheers series in 1987. Money was no object throughout our marriage. Respondent and I maintained 13 vehicles. We enjoyed private tennis lessons, personal trainers and almost nightly masseuses.

Moose Masseuse found here

We travelled in private jets or chartered the luxury bus used by the Prime Minister of Canada on his campaign tours. When we flew to New York we would generally go directly from the airport to the FAO Schwartz store, which opened after hours exclusively for us. We enjoyed lavish frequent shopping sprees wherever we travelled.

more FAO Schwarz images here

Our holiday accommodations were extremely luxurious. By way of example, when in Italy we rented a villa in Florence and also a villa adjacent to Lake Garda, with a complete staff including caretaker, cook, chauffeur, bodyguards and nannies. When we travelled to Florida we recarpeted, refurnished and relandscaped the houses we leased, even on a short term basis, and usually leased two fully staffed adjacent properties at a time. 

villa on Lake Garda found here

When it came to our children, no expense was spared. In addition to giving our daughter Lillie a life size baby giraffe rocking horse, at a cost of $10,000, we also built our son, True, a down-scaled exact replica of a working lobster boat. Kirstie and I were famous for our parties which included petting zoos, camels, chimps and performers. Formal dining tables would be set up on the property for the children, including formal crystal place settings

image found here

At Halloween we hired a 150 piece marching band and six cavalrymen on horseback shooting blanks to commence the activities. One time we flew in a special puppeteer that we had seen and admired in New York’s Central Park. We flew “Santa Claus to the Stars” (the same one the White House uses) to our property each year and generally spent up to $40,000 on Christmas gifts.

image found here

I now desire to maintain a lifestyle commensurate to that which Kirstie and I had enjoyed during our marriage and am requesting sufficient support to accomplish same…….

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 9:27 pm  Comments (55)  
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the pugilist poet

Arthur Cravan (born Fabian Avenarius Lloyd on May 22, 1887) was known as a pugilist, a poet and a larger-than-life character.

image found here

“Cravan was born and educated in Lausanne, Switzerland, then at an English military academy from which he was expelled after spanking a teacher

image found here

He set out to promote himself as an eccentric and an art critic, though his interest was showing off a striking personal style rather than discussing art. To a degree, Cravan was a charlatan as well as a genius. He staged spectacles and stunts with himself at the centre, pulling down his pants in public and once acting on the front of a line of carts where he paraded his skills as a boxer and singer.

After the First World War began, Cravan left Paris to avoid being drafted into military service. On a stopover in the Canary Islands a boxing match was arranged between Cravan and the reigning world champion, Jack Johnson, to raise money for Cravan’s passage to the United States. Posters for the match touted him as “European champion.” Johnson, who didn’t know who he was, knocked Cravan out solidly, noting in his autobiography that Cravan must have been out of training.

Jack Johnson found here

His style involved continuous re-invention of his public persona, and outrageous statements and boasts. As the nephew of Oscar Wilde (his father’s sister, Constance Mary Lloyd, was married to Wilde) he even produced hoaxes—documents and poems—and then signed them “Oscar Wilde”. In 1913 he published an article claiming that his uncle was still alive and had visited him in Paris. The New York Times published the rumor, even though Cravan and Wilde never met.

On the page and in person, Cravan paraded himself as “the poet with the shortest haircut in the world.”  Penniless most of the time, he drank in dive sports bars in the Bronx and slept rough in Central Park. Marcel Duchamp invited Cravan to a conference at Grand Central Palace. His lecture caused a sensation: drunk and undressing, he cussed out an audience who called the cops, shocking the Greenwich Village avant-garde.

Marcel Duchamp found here

It was in New York that he fell in love with the poet Mina Loy. They moved to Mexico together and married in 1918. The couple planned a trip to Argentina but did not have enough money for both of them to book passage on the same vessel. Loy took the trip on a regular ship and Cravan set out alone on a sailboat. He never arrived in Argentina and it is presumed that he died, aged 31, in a storm at sea. Mina gave birth to their daughter, Fabienne, in April. She spent a year searching for him, and decades fantasizing his return. Although theories abound, the mystery of his disappearance has never been solved. 

Mina Loy found here

guilty of many carelessly written sentences

Olga, the Baroness de Meyer (1871 – 1930/1931) was an artists’ model, socialite, patron of the arts, writer, and fashion figure of the early 20th century. She was the wife of photographer Adolph de Meyer and was rumoured to be the natural daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.

image of Olga found here

To many individuals who observed Olga’s early life the most distinguished familial connection was her relationship with Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII. Though officially her godfather, the British royal was known to be one of Olga’s mother’s lovers and, consequently, suspected of being Olga’s actual father.

King Edward visiting Marienbad found here

However, other potential fathers have been identified. A strong candidate was Stanislaus Augustus, 3rd Prince Poniatowski and 3rd Prince of Monte Rotondo, a former equerry of Napoleon III, whom Olga reportedly resembled and with whom the newlywed Duchess Caracciolo reportedly eloped on 1 September 1869, the very day her arranged marriage with the duke took place.

image found here

Olga married Marino Brancaccio in 1892, and divorced him in 1899. Artist Jacques-Émile Blanche, a family friend, called it “a short and most dramatic union“. A month later she married Adolphe de Meyer, a celebrated artist and photographer. This was a marriage of convenience, as the groom was homosexual and the bride was bisexual; some sources went to far as to identify her as a lesbian.

Baron de Meyer found here

The de Meyers were characterized by Violet Trefusis—who counted Olga among her lovers —as “Pederaste and Medisante” because, as Trefusis observed, “He looked so queer and she had such a vicious tongue“. Olga also had an affair with Princess de Polignac, the well known Singer sewing-machine heiress and arts patron.

Known for “her elusive combination of childlike innocence and soigné charm” and described as “tall and slender, with Venetian red hair”, Olga de Meyer was muse and model to many artists. Though British novelist George Moore was unimpressed by her beauty. As he commented to an admiring friend, “By Jove, you’re all after the girl, a fine Mélisande for the stage, with her beautiful hair down to her heels. She’s paintable, I admit, but as to one’s daily use, I should rather have the mother than the daughter. Too slender for me … you know my tastes.”

image of long hair found here

She worked briefly as a society columnist for a Paris newspaper in the 1890s. As Mahrah de Meyer, a name she adopted on the advice of an astrologer, she wrote one novel, the autobiographical Nadine Narska. The New York Times condemned the novel as “morbid, exaggerated and guilty of many carelessly written sentences”, while The Dial called de Meyer’s book “a miscellaneous mixture of paganism, diluted Nietzsche, and the doctrine of reincarnation“.

paganism image found here

Known as a female amateur fencing champion, Baroness de Meyer competed at tournaments in Europe and the United States in the early 1900s. The last years of Olga de Meyer’s life were not pleasant ones. As an observer wrote, “Nervous, drugged, surrounded by ambiguous friends and accompanied by a too-conspicuous husband, Olga became frankly spiteful. Scandal-mongering had eliminated the last of her respectable friends, and people visited her only because they could be sure to find a pipe of opium or a sniff of cocaine”.

more lovely stereoscopic images here

Olga de Meyer died in a detoxification clinic in Austria in 1930 or 1931. 

accordions and gin

Moura Zakrevskaya, variously Countess Benckendorff and Baroness Budberg (1891 – 1974) was the daughter of an eccentric tsarist nobleman. He was so obsessed with the pyramids that he built a replica – which still stands today – on his Ukrainian estate.

Moura found here

“Her first husband (murdered while she was away in Russia) was a minor Estonian noble. She gained the title of ‘Baroness’ through her second husband. He was soon discarded but the title never was

She met British diplomat and spy, Bruce Lockhart, in Petrograd after travelling there alone to try to secure family property amid the turmoil. She later followed him to Moscow, where both were arrested by the authorities.

Bruce Lockhart found here

The legend maintains that Moura secured her own release from the Lubyanka by offering the commandant sexual favours. Whatever the truth of this, she brought food and books to Bruce Lockhart until he was exchanged for a Soviet agent held by the British. 

Lubyanka prison courtyard found here

In 1934 their relationship was further mythologised by a Hollywood film. “British Agent” was directed by Michael Curtiz, of Casablanca fame, and starred Leslie Howard as Bruce and Kay Francis as the enigmatic Moura.

Kay Francis found here

Bruce Lockhart’s departure left her alone and penniless in Moscow. She found work with Maxim Gorky and soon became his secretary and lover. Through Gorky, Moura came to know both Lenin and Stalin, and she remained part of his entourage until his death in 1934. 

image found here

Towards the end of this period she was spending increasing time in London, establishing herself as a fashionable hostess and a star of the Russian émigré community. The press began to mention her as a friend or “companion” of H. G. Wells.

H G Wells found here

This relationship worried the British authorities. In its early days espionage was closely connected with literature. W. Somerset Maugham had been sent to Russia in 1917 with the ambitious mission of keeping Russia in the war and preventing the Bolsheviks coming to power.

W Somerset Maugham found here

The Moscow Embassy had already warned that Moura was “a very dangerous woman“. Worse, she had once presented Stalin with an accordion. Her file recorded: “She drinks like a fish. She can drink an amazing quantity of gin without it showing any apparent slow-up in her mental processes.”

image found here

The ageing Wells offered in London what Gorky had offered in Moscow: security and an entrée to society. Moura’s own explanation was that the attraction was sexual – Wells’s skin, she said, smelled of honey – though she refused to marry him or even remain faithful.

watch a great honey badger video here

She was under surveillance by MI5 as a possible spy for over thirty years yet they never managed to find her guilty of anything.

Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 7:53 am  Comments (47)  
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queer stories of a queer craze

In 1898, R J Stephen wrote this article –  TATTOOED ROYALTY: Queer Stories of a Queer Craze for The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine.

image found here

“What wonder, then, that tattooing is now the most popular pastime of the leisured world? For one of the best-known men in high European circles, the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, is most elaborately tattooed. And Prince and Princess Waldemar of Denmark, Queen Olga of Greece, King Oscar of Sweden, the Duke of York, the Grand Duke Constantine, Lady Randolph Churchill, with many others of royal and distinguished rank, have submitted themselves to the tickling, but painless and albeit pleasant, sensation afforded by the improved tattooing needle, aided by the galvanic current, the genius of the artist supplying the rest of the operation.

Lady Randolph Churchill found here

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, like his cousin Alexis of Russia is another elaborately tattooed man; but even his decorations, and those of other profusely tattooed men, fall short in point of quantity when compared with those marks upon the body of that Greek gentleman who was exhibited not long ago at the Royal Aquarium, whose body was completely covered with fine tattoo work, every square inch of it.

world’s most tattooed man found here

Professor Riley’s work is pronounced to be the finest in the world. The present fancy for being tattooed, according to Professor Riley, mainly exists among men who have travelled much; while ladies have also taken a strong liking to this form of personal decoration, which, from a woman’s point of view, is about as expensive as a dress, but not so costly as good jewellery. In place of spending her spare time posing in front of the camera, or reclining her head in the dentist’s chair, or placing herself resignedly in the hands of her hairdresser, or for the purpose of passing her time in the “off” season, the lady about town now consents to be pricked by the tattoo artist’s needle, and to have her forearm or shoulder adorned with a mark such as this – a serpent holding its tail in its mouth – a symbol representing eternity.

image found here

Tattooing has its humorous side. A lover who once felt a passionate love, got the artist to imprint a single heart of charming and delicate outline, coloured in all the blushing tints, with the name of his loved one stamped thereon. Three years later he followed the artist to London, and, seeking him out, with face pallid, the light of his eye almost gone out, and looking utterly miserable and careworn, he requested that the tattooer imprint under that same symbol, in bold, big letters, the word “deceived”.

A well known army officer had tattooed over his heart the simple name of “Mary” with a lover’s knot, but six months afterwards the same gentleman had the uncanny word “traitress” tattooed underneath.

An English actress had a butterfly tattooed on her fair shoulder, the initials of her fiance, “F.V.” being placed underneath. Not long afterwards she also came back and had the “F” converted into “E” and the “V” into “W”, the letters reading “E.W.” She eventually married “E.W.” and to this day “E.W” thinks his initials were the first tattooed on her arm.

image found here

Professor Riley is at the present time engaged in etching on a man’s back Landseer’s famous picture “Dignity and Impudence”. He is also outlining on the chest of a Scotch baron a copy of Constable’s famous etching, “Mrs. Pelham,” after Sir Joshua Reynolds, the original of which fetched, at Christie’s, the record sum of 425 pounds.

Dignity and Impudence by Landseer found here

While most people are pleased to go through the performance of being tattooed just for the fun of it, many approach the tattooer with a serious object in view. Eschewing all fancy designs, they choose frequently their own name and address as an aid to identification in case of accident

Stargate address tattoo found here

Tattooing spread among the upper classes all over Europe in the nineteenth century, but particularly in Britain where it was estimated in Harmsworth Magazine in 1898 that as many as one in five members of the gentry were tattooed. There, it was not uncommon for members of the social elite to gather in the drawing rooms and libraries of the great country estate homes after dinner and partially disrobe in to show off their tattoos. As well as her consort Prince Albert, there are persistent rumours that Queen Victoria had a small tattoo in an undisclosed ‘intimate’ location. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, not only had a tattoo of a snake around her wrist, which she covered when the need arose with a specially crafted diamond bracelet, but had her nipples pierced as well.

Lady Churchill and Winston found here

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 7:58 am  Comments (48)  
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oh isn’t he gorgeous?

George Raymond Wagner (1915 – 1963) was an American professional wrestler best known by his ring name Gorgeous George.

Gorgeous George and Betty found here

At 5’9” and 215 pounds, Wagner was not physically imposing by professional wrestling standards, nor was he an exceptionally gifted athlete. Nevertheless, he soon developed a reputation as a solid worker. In the late 1930s, he met Elizabeth “Betty” Hanson, whom he would eventually marry in an in-ring ceremony. When the wedding proved a good draw card, the couple re-enacted it in arenas across the country. Around this same time, Vanity Magazine published a feature article about a pro wrestler named Lord Patrick Lansdowne, who entered the ring accompanied by two valets while wearing a velvet robe and doublet. Wagner was impressed with the bravado of such a character, but he believed that he could take it to a much greater extreme. 

image found here

Betty (George’s wife) told how he got the name Gorgeous George. In the early 1940s he had a wrestling match at the Portland Oregon Armory. As he walked down the aisle to the ring, there were two mature women on his right. One of the women loudly exclaimed: “Oh, isn’t he gorgeous?” That word struck a chord with him and he immediately decided he would be “Gorgeous George.” As Elsie Hanson, Betty’s mother, was a skilled seamstress, George asked her to make him some resplendent capes that would accentuate his new persona. From then on George wore those capes in all his matches.

photo by Stanley Kubrick found here

Gorgeous George was soon recruited to Los Angeles by promoter Johnny Doyle. Known as the “Human Orchid,” his persona was created in part by growing his hair long, dyeing it platinum blonde, and putting gold-plated bobby pins in it. Furthermore, he transformed his ring entrance into a bona-fide spectacle that would often take up more time than his actual matches. He was the first wrestler to really use entrance music, as he strolled nobly to the ring to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” followed by his valet and a purple spotlight.

George and Jeffries found here

Wearing an elegant robe sporting an array of sequins, Gorgeous George was escorted down a personal red carpet by his ring valet “Jeffries,” who would carry a silver mirror while spreading rose petals at his feet. While George removed his robe, Jeffries would spray the ring with disinfectant which George referred to as “Chanel #10″ (“Why be half-safe?” he was famous for saying) before he would start wrestling.

image found here

Moreover, George required that his valets spray the referee’s hands before the official was allowed to check him for any illegal objects, which thus prompted his famous cry “Get your filthy hands off me!” Once the match finally began, he would cheat in every way he could. Gorgeous George was the industry’s first true cowardly villain, which infuriated the crowd. His credo was “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!”

image found here

His first television appearance took place on November 11, 1947 and he immediately became a national celebrity at the same level of Lucille Ball and Bob Hope (who personally donated hundreds of chic robes for George’s collection) while changing the course of the industry forever. No longer was pro wrestling simply about the in-ring action; George had created a new sense of theatrics and character performance that had not previously existed.

Bob and Lucille found here

By the 1950s, Gorgeous George’s starpower was so huge that he was able to command 50% of the door for his performances, which allowed him to earn over $100,000 a year, making him the highest paid athlete in the world. His most famous match was against longtime rival Whipper Billy Watson on March 12, 1959, in which a beaten George had his treasured golden locks shaved bald before 20,000 delighted fans at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens and millions more on national television.

image found here

Advanced age and extended alcohol abuse had taken their toll on his body and as his wrestling career wound down, Wagner invested $250,000 in a 195-acre turkey ranch built in Beaumont, California, where he used his showman skills to promote his prized poultry at wrestling matches. He raised turkeys and owned a cocktail lounge in Van Nuys, California, which he named “Gorgeous George’s Ringside Restaurant”.

Gelatin turkey found here

Published in: on March 18, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (55)  
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