a change is gonna come

So…..I’ve been blogging for over five years now. Many of you have been with me through the loss of Stephen,

two house moves, three holidays with other bloggers,

daisyfae, nursemyra and dolce in Greece

the rise and fall of Corset Fridays, the problem I had with a cyberstalker, my son’s health issues……

The time has come for more change. I’m moving into the castle with queenwilly and The King. And after that we’re off to Portugal to stay in a windmill for 3 weeks. Blogging is going to have to take a back seat for quite a while. I’ll still pop up now and then but things will be sporadic until my return.

Feel free to rummage in my archives while I’m gone. Thanks for all the visits and the comments, nursemyra xx

Published in: on June 28, 2012 at 9:08 am  Comments (111)  
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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…….

sexual relationships shall remain spontaneous

Myles Spires Jr. sounds like a hard man to please. In 1991, his lawyer drew up this contract for Mrs Spires to sign…..

NOT this Myles (Miles Davis found here)

1. Wife shall in no case obtain money from bank accounts of house emergency funds without express permission of the husband

German emergency money found here

2. Wife shall in no case divulge information which concerns marital difficulties, job status or financial information to anyone outside the marriage.

3. Wife shall in no wise attempt to influence status/intensity of relationships that husband has with other individuals outside the marriage.

image found here

4. In public, wife shall in no wise dispute husband on any matters. Matters of dispute should be handled in privacy and with due respect i.e. no profanity or badgering.

5. Wife shall conduct herself in accordance with all scriptures in the holy bible applicable to marital relationships germane to wives and in accordance with husband’s specific requests. Wife shall consult husband as to the applicability of the scriptures.

image found here

6. Wife’s sexual relationships shall remain spontaneous and solely with husband.

It comes as no surprise that Mr Spires, the bishop of an Internet church, and his wife subsequently divorced. He also has a conviction for misconduct while holding the office of mayor. I wonder if the private investigator he paid with misappropriated funds was checking for inapplicable badgering of scriptures…..

baby badgers found here

Published in: on May 18, 2012 at 10:01 pm  Comments (45)  
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the mesmerising dentist

Rachael Weaver uncovers an old Sydney murder case…..

News of the tragedy began with reports of an inquest into the violent death of Henry Kinder on 7 October 1865. Kinder was an official at the City Bank and lived with his young family in a comfortable home on Sydney’s north shore. Originally an Englishman, Kinder had arrived in the colonies from New Zealand with his wife, Maria, two years earlier.

image found here

The evidence presented at the inquest was of a man who was restless and excitable, smoked heavily, was careless about his personal appearance and anxious about unpaid debts. Bertrand, a successful Sydney dentist who saw the Kinders socially every day, deposed that Kinder had been drinking freely, that he had challenged Bertrand to a duel, and that he was jealous of his wife with everyone.

image found here

According to Bertrand and Maria Kinder they had been in the Kinders’ drawing room with Henry Kinder and Bertrand’s wife Jane on Monday evening when Kinder suddenly shot himself in the head. Dr Eichler described having been called in around five hours later to treat a large laceration, which had caused Kinder’s ear to hang away from its proper place. The wound had torn his face open from the jaw to the temple. Eichler described his treatments before offering his opinion that the deceased was an imbecile. Kinder was awake and remained conscious throughout the week, lingering until the Friday when he died.

image found here

The inquest into the death of Henry Kinder caused ‘some sensation’ at the time. But this was nothing compared with the outpouring of public excitement two months later, when Henry Bertrand, his wife Jane Bertrand and Maria Kinder were charged with Kinder’s murder. The sensation surrounding the case arose from the idea of ‘profligacy, and something akin to madness, occurring in a respectable circle’.

the respectability question found here

Those involved were young, good-looking, affluent and fashionable. Their relationships were wildly unorthodox and everyone who had come within their orbit had strange tales to tell. Maria Kinder was invested with a seductive malice and Henry Bertrand with deep eccentricities and charisma. Bertrand’s distinctive traits and peculiar behaviour added greatly to the case’s sense of intrigue, but perhaps most fascinating of all was his professed ability to control others using hypnosis.

image found here

If analysts of the case loved to dwell on Bertrand’s dangerous powers of hypnosis, they were perhaps even more seduced by the idea of Maria Kinder as a femme fatale, whose passions had driven the men around her to insanity and murder. Perceptions of her magnetic sexuality, infidelity, gold-digging and cunning criminality coalesced with stereotypes of the evil woman that were circulating in the sensational popular fiction of the time.

Femme Fatale by Patrick Demarchelier found here

Maria Kinder first met Henry Bertrand as a patient at his Wynyard Square practice, and their relationship quickly evolved into an illicit affair. They did little to conceal it from family and friends, who seem to have looked on with a peculiar level of acceptance. They used Bertrand’s young assistant, Alfred Burne, as messenger and he carried letters between them. 

Wynyard Square c 1938 found here

Shortly after the lovers met, Francis Jackson, another key figure in the case, arrived on the scene. He had been Maria Kinder’s lover in New Zealand and upon meeting again in Sydney, Jackson and Maria Kinder quickly rekindled their affair. During his testimony at the trial he described having orchestrated drinking sessions with Henry Kinder so that he could have his way with Maria when the banker fell unconscious. Meanwhile Bertrand sought to play his rivals, Jackson and Kinder, against each other. He tried to incite Kinder to violence and then threatened to implicate Jackson in Kinder’s death if he remained in Sydney. To get him out of the way, Bertrand offered to pay Jackson’s passage back to New Zealand and Jackson took the money and departed, but travelled only as far as Maitland in regional New South Wales.

Maitland floods 2007 found here

Meanwhile, Bertrand was also plotting against Kinder. He asked his assistant, Alfred Burne, if he knew where a pistol could be bought, and they arranged to purchase one from a city pawnshop. Bertrand turned up disguised as a woman.  The next morning Bertrand asked Alfred Burne to buy a sheep’s head from the butcher. Back at his Wynyard Square surgery he cast his own bullets before testing them out by firing at the sheep’s head.

sheep’s head found here

Just two weeks later Kinder was dead. According to Jane Bertrand’s testimony, she and Maria Kinder had been standing by the window arranging flowers when they heard a shot. They turned to see Kinder drooping in his seat by the piano, a pistol falling from his hand, Bertrand standing over him. Dr Eichler was sent for and arrived a few hours later. Kinder was conscious but sank into a wordless stupor when the doctor told him to put his affairs in order.

flower arrangement found here

The next day, Eichler examined Kinder again and found him much improved. That evening at the dental surgery Bertrand showed to Alfred Burne a phial of white liquid, telling him it was the poison he would use to murder Kinder. On 6 October Kinder died. 

Following the coroner’s inquest into Henry Kinder’s death, Bertrand and Maria Kinder continued their affair. She came to live with Bertrand and his wife, who was sometimes forced to share a bed with the lovers—a salacious detail that generated nearly as much moral outrage as the murder itself. 

Meanwhile, Bertrand received a letter from Francis Jackson attempting to blackmail him by threatening to expose his relationship with Maria Kinder and his involvement in Henry Kinder’s death. Bertrand’s surgery was searched and his diary, a bottle marked poison, a pistol, gunpowder, caps and a tomahawk were seized. Bertrand was charged with murder.

image found here

Despite testimony that she had mixed the poison that had killed Kinder, a charge of murder against Jane Bertrand was dropped. Maria Kinder, likewise, escaped further prosecution due to lack of evidence. Bertrand was tried alone. After deliberating for twenty hours without reaching agreement, the jury was dismissed. A second trial began and was concluded the following day. This time the jury returned a guilty verdict and Bertrand was sentenced to death.

The Kinder Tragedy was described as the greatest criminal case on record in the Australian colonies. Keeping interest in the case alive was the fact that Bertrand had evaded the death penalty. From time to time he was moved to a new prison, and a fresh spate of newspaper articles recalling the case would appear. New Zealand’s Wanganui Chronicle reported in September 1879 that he had been relocated to Darlinghurst, and was ‘considered a valuable acquisition to that institution’. Maria Kinder made the news just once after the trial had ended, in July 1867, when she announced her marriage to a Mr Stanley Williams of Greymouth, New Zealand.

Darlinghurst jail, now the National Art School

By far the greatest rekindling of interest in the case, however, came in 1894 with Bertrand’s release after twenty-eight years in prison. Maria Kinder was dead by then. After a night or two spent at the Hotel Metropole in Sydney, Bertrand left Australia for good. It is believed he went to live under an assumed name in Paris.

Chinese George

George Ernest Morrison (1862 – 1920), also known as Chinese Morrison, was an Australian adventurer and The Times Peking correspondent.

image found here

He was born in Geelong, Victoria, Australia. During a vacation before his tertiary education, he walked from Geelong to Adelaide, a distance of about 600 miles (960 km). Landing at Normanton, Queensland at the end of 1882 Morrison decided to walk to Melbourne. He was not quite 21, he had no horses or camels and was unarmed, but carrying his swag and swimming or wading the rivers in his path, he walked the 2043 miles in 123 days.

image of Geelong found here

Financed by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison was sent on an exploration journey to New Guinea. The men Morrison chose to accompany him were a mixed and mostly comical lot. They included Ned Snow “remarkably short and of such eccentric configuration that, whereas his body seemed longer than his legs, his head appeared more lengthy than either’. There was a Malay named Cheerful (possibly because he was an opium smoker) and another, Lively, who was “curious”.

Mud Men from New Guinea found here

High mountain country barred the way, and it took 38 days to cover 50 miles. The natives became hostile, and Morrison was struck by two spears, one, driven into his head near his right eye, the other deep in his stomach. Retracing their steps, with Morrison strapped to a horse, Port Moresby was reached after many days. On a ship taking him home he blew his nose and shot out a two centimetre splinter of wood. 

image found here

In Melbourne, 169 agonising days after the ambush, a surgeon removed the spearhead that was wedged in the back of his throat. Without anaesthetic the surgeon took the tip of the spear (six centimetres long) through and up the throat and into then out of Morrison’s right nostril.

He sailed for London on 27 March 1884, where he had the second spearhead cut from his abdomen by surgeon Joseph Bell in front of no less than 16 other surgeons. Morrison graduated as a doctor from Edinburgh University two and a half years later. After graduation he travelled extensively in the United States, the West Indies, and Spain. He then proceeded to Morocco, became physician to the Shereef of Wazan, and studied in Paris under Dr Charcot. In Siam, where the British and French were vying for power, he worked as a British secret agent. 

George found here

In 1894 he journeyed from Shanghai to Rangoon. He went partly by boat up the Yangtze River then rode and walked the remainder of the 3000 miles. The journey was completed in 100 days at a total cost of £18. He was unarmed and at the time knew hardly more than a dozen words of Chinese. 

Yangtze found here

In 1899 he went to England, and early in 1900 paid a short visit to his relations in Australia before returning to Peking. The Boxer Uprising broke out soon after, and during a prolonged siege, Morrison showed great courage, always ready to volunteer for every service of danger. Superficially wounded in July, he was erroneously reported as killed. He was afterwards able to read his highly laudatory obituary notice, which occupied two columns of The Times.

Boxer uprising found here

Morrison was a handsome, heroic man of action, much admired by women. In Spain he was captivated by a young girl named Pepita. In Paris he spent all his savings on Noelle and in Rangoon he had an idyllic affair with a Eurasian named Mary. In London, aged 43, he fell heavily for Toni, a 22 year old Hungarian. In Peking, he lusted briefly for Bessie and while visiting Sydney, spent time with a German actress. May, an insatiable American heiress, had him in the shadow of the Great Wall. He was spellbound by her sexuality and described her as the most thoroughly immoral woman. His diary contained an account of her industrious love life:

shadowy Great Wall found here

“May played with herself every morning even after passing the night in bed with a man. Seduced by a doctor, she went to Washington, slept constantly with Congressman Gaines, had four miscarriages, kissed all the way over Siberia by Captain Tremain Smith. Had for days in succession by Martin Egan. Her desire now is to get a Japanese maid to accompany her back to America and to kiss her every morning. In Tientson she had the Dutch consul and Mr Holcombe had her four times in two hours….”

Japanese maids found here

Morrison was dejected when May dumped him but at the age of 53, he married his thirty years younger assistant, Jennie. They had seven happy years together before he died of pancreatitis in May 1920.  

the eternal swirl of penetrability

Alfred William Lawson, Supreme Head and First Knowlegian of the University of Lawsonomy, at Des Moines, Iowa, was in his own opinion the greatest scientific genius of his day. Martin Gardner devoted an entire chapter of Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science to Lawsonomy

image found here

At the base of Lawsonomy, underlying the entire structure, was a theory of physics so novel that Lawson was forced to invent new terms to describe it. 

Lawson conceived of a cosmos in which there was neither energy nor empty space, but only substances of varying density moving toward each other through the operation of two basic Lawsonian principles—Suction and Pressure. The law governing this movement was called Penetrability.

suction image found here

The human body operated by means of thousands of little Suction and Pressure pumps. Air was sucked into the lungs, food into the stomach, and blood around the body. Waste matter was eliminated by Pressure. This “internal swirl goes on as long as the Suction and Pressure terminals are properly maintained.” When they cease to draw and push, the man dies.

pressure cooker cola braised ribs found here

Sex, as might be expected, was simply Suction and Pressure. “Suction is the female movement. Pressure is the male. Female movement draws in from without, and male movement pushes out from within. The attraction of one sex for the other is merely the attraction of Suction for Pressure.”

found here

Within the human brain, according to Lawson, were two types of tiny creatures called the Menorgs and the Disorgs. The Menorgs (from “mental organizers”) are “microscopic thinking creatures that operate within the mental system.” They are responsible for everything good and creative. 

Unfortunately, the Menorgs have opposed to them the destructive, evil activities of the Disorgs (“disorganizes”), “microscopic vermin that infect the mental system and destroy the instruments constructed by the Menorgs.” As Lawson expressed it, “a Menorg will sacrifice himself for the benefit of the body, but a Disorg will sacrifice the body for the benefit of himself.”

image found here

Just after he turned nineteen, Lawson became a pitcher for an Indiana ballteam. For the next nineteen years he worked in professional baseball, both as a player and a manager. Photographs taken at the time revealed a handsome, chiseled face, dark curly hair, high forehead, and dreamy eyes.

image found here

It was during his baseball career that Lawson became corrupted by friends. He began to earn money for money’s sake. Worse than that, he took to tobacco and liquor, and the eating of meat. His health failed. His teeth decayed. Then, at the age of twenty-eight, by a superhuman effort of will, he abandoned all these vices.

His first book, a novel called Born Again was written about this experience. It is one of the worst works of fiction ever printed, but Lawson claimed “many people consider it the greatest novel ever written by man.”

image found here

Soon after he published it, Lawson began a career in aviation. In 1908 he established the first popular aeronautical magazine, Fly. From 1910 to 1914 he edited another magazine called Aircraft, a word he coined himself. He introduced it into the dictionary as editor of the aviation section of a revised Webster’s. 

image found here

In 1919 he invented, designed, and built the world’s first passenger airliner. It carried eighteen people, and although there was considerable doubt as to whether it would fly, Lawson himself piloted it from Milwaukee to Washington and back. In 1920, he built a twenty-six-passenger plane, and made a handsome profit flying it around the United States. It was the first plane to have sleeping berths.

image found here

His books Direct Credits for Everybody, and Know Business, detail the basic tenets of the “Lawson Money System.” He proposed that he gold standard be abolished. “Valueless money” was to be issued, not redeemable for anything. Parades and mass meetings of his followers were held in dozens of midwestern cities;  the largest was in Detroit in October 1933. The floats, carrying plump and elaborately costumed women, were so preposterous that unless there were photographs you wouldn’t believe them. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find any).

Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade found here

In 1942, Lawson purchased the University of Des Moines. The school, which included fourteen acres, six buildings, and dormitories for four hundred students, had been closed since 1929. He called it the Des Moines University of Lawsonomy. Lawson’s opinion of American education was low. “You don’t begin to get bald on the inside of your heads until you start to go to high school,” he once declared, “and you don’t get entirely bald until you pass through college.”

bald head design art found here

He placed a high premium on bodily vigor, and recommended an elaborate set of health rules. He believed in a diet without meat, consisting mostly of raw fruits and vegetables. “All salads,” he once wrote, “should contain a sprinkling of fresh cut grass.” The head should be dunked in cold water upon arising and before going to bed. He also believed in sleeping nude, and changing bed sheets daily.

nude by Modigliani found here

He was against kissing. “Can you think of anything filthier than a man and woman with their faces stuck together and spitting disease microbes into each other’s mouths?” “Alfred Lawson never hated nor harmed a man, woman, or child in his life,” wrote Lawson. “In days gone by when anybody struck harmfully at this writer, he merely took hold of the offender and threw him to the ground to show his superior strength and ingenuity, and then rose with a friendly smile to show there was no hatred in his system whatsoever. “

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 6:47 am  Comments (50)  
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he had his father’s eye for women

Harry Crosby (1898–1929) was an American heir, a bon vivant, poet and publisher. He was the son of one of the richest banking families in New England.

Harry and friend found here

Tired of the rigidity of everyday life, he said he wanted to escape “the horrors of Boston virgins.” Profoundly affected by his experience as an ambulance driver in World War I, Crosby vowed to live life on his own terms.

image found here

He had his father’s eye for women and in 1920 met Mrs. Polly Peabody, six years his senior. Harry reportedly fell in love with the buxom Mrs. Peabody in about two hours, confessing all in the Tunnel of Love at the amusement park. Their open affair was the source of scandal and gossip among blue-blood Bostonians. Polly divorced her alcoholic husband and married Crosby. Two days later they left for Europe, where they enjoyed a decadent lifestyle, drinking, smoking opium, traveling frequently, and having an open marriage.

image found here

Harry worked at Morgan, Harjes et Cie, the Morgan family’s bank in Paris. They found an apartment overlooking the Seine, and Polly would don her red bathing suit and row Harry down the Quai d’Orléans in his dark business suit, formal hat, umbrella and briefcase. As she rowed back home, the well endowed Polly would enjoy whistles and waves from workmen. She said the exercise was good for her breasts.

“The Young Rower” found here

Even by the wild standards of Paris in the 1920s, Harry was in a league of his own. The couple lived a hedonistic life. Harry was a gambler and a womanizer; he drank “oceans of champagne” and used opium, cocaine, and hashish. They wrote a mutual suicide pact, and carried cremation instructions with them.

more of Harry’s photography to be found here

In 1924, Harry persuaded Polly to formally change her first name, as he felt Polly was too prim and proper. They briefly considered Clytoris before deciding on Caresse. Harry and Caresse became known for hosting small dinner parties from the giant bed in their palatial townhouse, and afterwards everyone was invited to enjoy their huge bathtub together, taking advantage of iced bottles of champagne near at hand.

image by Burt Glinn found here

Crosby claimed to be a “sun worshiper in love with death.” He added a doodle of a “black sun” to his signature which also included an arrow, jutting upward from the “y” in his last name and aiming toward the center of the sun’s circle: “a phallic thrust received by a welcoming erogenous zone“.

In Morocco Harry and Caresse took a 13-year-old dancing girl named Zora to bed with them. His seductive abilities were legendary and he engaged in a series of ongoing affairs, maintaining relationships with a variety of beautiful and doting young women.

NOT this Zora (Hurston) found here

His wildness was in full flower during the drunken orgies of the annual Four Arts Balls. One year, Caresse showed up topless riding a baby elephant and wearing a turquoise wig. The motif for the ball that year was Inca, and Harry dressed for the occasion, covering himself in red ocher and wearing nothing but a loincloth and a necklace of dead pigeons.

pigeon ring necklaces found here

Embracing the open sexuality offered by Crosby and his wife, Henri Cartier-Bresson fell into an intense sexual relationship with Caresse that lasted until 1931. Meanwhile, in 1928 Harry found 20-year-old Josephine Rotch. Ten years his junior, they met while she was shopping in Venice for her wedding trousseau. She was dark and intense and had been known around Boston as fast: a ‘bad egg’ with sex appeal. 

image by Cartier-Bresson found here

Josephine and Harry had an affair until the following June, when she married Albert Smith Bigelow. Briefly, their affair was over, but only until August, when Josephine contacted Crosby and they rekindled their love. But unlike Caresse, Josephine was quarrelsome and prone to fits of jealousy. 

In December, the Crosbys returned to the United States. Harry and Josephine met and traveled to Detroit where they checked into the Book-Cadillac Hotel as Mr. and Mrs Harry Crane. For four days they took meals in their room, smoked opium, and had sex. On December 7, the lovers returned to New York. Crosby’s friend Hart Crane threw a party to bid Harry and Caresse bon voyage, as they were about to sail back to France. Josephine said she would return to her husband but instead stayed in New York, writing a poem to Harry, the last line of which read: Death is our marriage. 

refurbished Book-Cadillac Hotel found here

On the evening of December 10, Harry was nowhere to be found. It was unlike him to worry Caresse needlessly so she called Stanley Mortimer, whose studio Harry had used for trysts. Mortimer forced open a locked door, behind which he found Harry and Josephine’s bodies. Harry was in bed with a .25 caliber bullet hole in his right temple next to Josephine, who had a matching hole in her left temple, in what appeared to be a suicide pact. 

A picture of Zora, the 13-year-old girl he had sex with in Egypt, was reportedly found in his wallet. The coroner reported that Harry’s toenails were painted red, and that he had a Christian cross tattooed on the sole of one foot and a pagan icon representing the sun on the other. The coroner concluded that Josephine had died at least two hours before Harry. There was no suicide note, and newspapers ran sensational articles for days.

Harry’s poetry possibly gave the best clue to his motives. Death is “the hand that opens the door to our cage, the home we instinctively fly to.” Harry’s biographer Wolff wrote:

He meant to do it; it was no mistake; it was not a joke. If anything of Harry Crosby commands respect, perhaps even awe, it was the unswerving character of his intention. He killed himself not from weariness or despair, but from conviction, and however irrational or ignoble this conviction may have been, he held fast to it as to a principle. He killed himself on behalf of the idea of killing himself.

found here

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 8:22 am  Comments (53)  
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Captain Marvel

John Whiteside Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons 1914 – 1952), better known as Jack Parsons, was an American rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology.He married Helen Northrup in April 1935.

image found here

“He was an acolyte of Aleister Crowley, an employee of Howard Hughes and a victim of L. Ron Hubbard. Though obscured by wild rumor and sinister presumptions, Parsons’ reputation has survived among devotees of rockets and of magic. His relationship with his mother was intense and possibly incestuous. He has been described as good looking and promiscuous, working his way through the secretarial pool at Aerojet.

still from Secretary found here

Along with his more scientific pursuits, he also tried to create a “Moon Child,” a magic being conjured via mystic ritual who would usher in a new age of unfettered liberty and signal the end of the Christian era and its outmoded morality.

Parsons had no formal education beyond high school. Yet his deep knowledge of explosives, formed through early issues of Amazing Stories and stints with explosive powder companies, earned him a leading role in a small gang performing rocketry experiments at and around Caltech in the ’30s. In those days, rocket science was the province mostly of twisted dreamers, not serious scientists. His gang was not-so-affectionately dubbed the Suicide Squad for the series of alarming explosions they caused on campus. Eventually they were exiled to the Arroyo Seco canyon to conduct experiments in discovering stable, usable rocket fuels. (They discovered plenty of unstable, unusable ones along the way.)

image found here

Then World War II changed things. The U.S. military called upon these smoke-streaked stepchildren of Caltech, hoping to use their crazy rocket gadgets to propel planes into the air in places without adequate runways. Gradually the gang of misfits evolved into the Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Parsons designed new rocket fuel after rocket fuel, and eventually they succeeded in inventing jet-assisted take-off.

image found here

While inventing the castable rocket fuel that made the space age possible, Parsons simultaneously explored the frontiers of inner space, building the other half of his weird reputation. He became enraptured with the writings of the British occultist Aleister Crowley and joined the L.A.-based Agape Lodge of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Crowley’s American lieutenants seized on the charismatic and successful scientist as a potential savior for their movement; he began donating almost all his salary to the upkeep of his lodge brethren. 

image found here

Eighteen year old Sarah Northrup began living with Parsons and Parsons’ wife, Sara’s half-sister Helen Northrup; later, Parsons and Sara became involved in an affair, which caused strife with Helen and eventually led to Helen leaving with another Lodge member, Wilfred Smith, who also had a reputation as a legendary womaniser.

Wilfred Smith found here

After the war Parson’s occult activism attracted the young L. Ron Hubbard into his life and home. The pulp writer, pre-Dianetics, took off for Florida with Jack’s mistress, Sarah Northrup, and most of his money, supposedly to buy boats to bring to California and launch a business operation they’d jointly own. Hubbard never came back. The official Scientology line –unsupported by any evidence–is that Hubbard was sent by Naval Intelligence to break up Parsons’ evil occult sex ring.

Hubbard found here

During his last days Parsons was reduced to working for Hollywood movies, making tiny explosive squibs that mimicked a man being shot. This from someone who once dreamed of blasting man into outer space. Some people regard the 1952 explosion that killed him in his Pasadena backyard lab as mysterious. One close pal, though, didn’t see much of a puzzle. He noted that “Jack used to sweat a lot and [a coffee can in which he was mixing explosives] just slipped out of his hand and blew him up.”

A crater on the dark side of the Moon has been named after Parsons. His last girlfriend, Marjorie “Candida” Cameron went on to become a successful painter and actress in avant-garde films. She is sometimes cited as the inspiration behind the Eagles song “Hotel California”

image found here

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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a roaring pursecutter

Mary Frith or Moll Cutpurse (1584 – 1659) was a notorious pickpocket and fence of the English underworld.

image found here

The other name by which she was known, “The Roaring Girl” is taken from roaring boys. The roaring boys were young men who caroused in taverns, and then picked brawls on the street for entertainment. Born in the mid-1580s, Mary presented herself in public in a doublet and baggy breeches, smoking a pipe and swearing if she felt like it.

Roaring Boys found here

She bred mastiffs and pampered her dogs like children. Each of them slept in their own bed, complete with sheets and blankets and were fed on special food she boiled up herself. Mary had grander ambitions than just a life of petty crime. In 1611 she performed (in men’s clothing, as always) at the Fortune Theatre. On stage she bantered with the audience and sang songs while playing the lute. It can be assumed that the banter and song were somewhat obscene, but by merely performing in public she was defying convention.

Mastiff found here

Mary was arrested for being dressed indecently on 25 December 1611 and accused of being involved in prostitution. She was required to do penance for her “evil living” at St. Paul’s Cross. She put on quite a performance  “weeping bitterly and seeming very pentinent, but it was since  thought she was maudlin drunk, being discovered to have tippled of three-quarters of sack”.

image found here

In 1614 she married Lewknor Markham, the son of playwright Gervase Markham. It has been alleged that the marriage was little more than a clever charade. Evidence shows that the whole thing was contracted to give Mary a counter when suits against her referred to her as a “spinster”. Lewknor probably took a cut of Mary’s earnings in return for her using his name. 

By the 1620s she was working as a fence and a pimp. She not only procured young women for men, but also respectable male lovers for middle-class wives. In one case where a wife confessed on her deathbed infidelity with lovers that Mary provided, Mary supposedly convinced the woman’s lovers to send money for the maintenance of the children that were probably theirs. It is important to note that, at the time, women who dressed in men’s attire on a regular basis were generally considered to be “sexually riotous and uncontrolled“, but Mary herself claimed to be uninterested in sex.

Drag King found here

Showman William Banks bet her £20 that she wouldn’t ride from Charing Cross to Shoreditch dressed as a man. But she did so in style, flaunting a banner, blowing a trumpet and causing a riot in the process. Part of the excitement was due to the fact that the horse she was riding was Morocco, the most famous performing animal in London. Shod in silver, it could dance, play dice and count money. Its most famous trick was climbing the hundreds of narrow steps to the top of old St Paul’s and dancing on the roof.

diving horse found here

However scary Moll Cutpurse may have been in public, the private Mary Frith was rather nice. Her house in Fleet Street, full of dogs and parrots, was always immaculate and surprisingly feminine, thanks to three full time maids. 

image found here

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 8:26 am  Comments (49)  
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