Pierre Arnold Bernard (1875-1955) had an abiding interest in Tantra
“Known in the popular American press as “Oom the Omnipotent,” Bernard became notorious throughout newspapers and journals as a spiritual leader and philosopher as well as a philanderer, seducer of women and purveyor of scandalous indecencies.
Wily con man, yogi, athlete, bank president, founder of the Tantrik Order in America and the Clarkestown Country Club …the remarkable “Doctor” Bernard was all of these.
In 1904, Bernard established a clinic in San Francisco where he taught his own versions of self-hypnosis and yoga, which eventually became known as the “Bacchante Academy.” Even then, Bernard had become something of a scandal in the California press, who charged that the Academy “catered to young women interested in learning hypnotism and soul charming by which they meant the mysteries of the relations between the sexes”
Teaching Hatha Yoga downstairs and offering secret Tantric initiation upstairs, his Oriental sanctum quickly became an object of scandal in the New York press: the notorious “Omnipotent Oom” was charged with kidnapping and briefly imprisoned, though the charges were later dropped. “I cannot tell you how Bernard got control over me or how he gets it over other people,” said one of the alleged kidnapees, Zella Hopp, “He is the most wonderful man in the world. No women seem able to resist him.” The press reported “wild Oriental music and women’s cries, but not those of distress”
Apparently, Bernard also believed that for certain individuals (particularly overly-repressed women of the Victorian era) more drastic surgical measures might be needed to liberate their sexual potential. Sexually unresponsive women could be helped by a form of partial circumcision in which the clitoral hood was surgically removed, an operation believed to improve female receptivity by exposing the clitoral gland to direct stimulation.
One of the wealthy men associated with Bernard was Ed Browning, better known as Daddy Browning.
Real estate multi-millionaire Edward West Browning married Nellie Adele Lowen in 1915. He built a 24 room Manhattan penthouse for them that included an interior aviary, a miniature lake stocked with Japanese goldfish, and a turtle and frog garlanded fountain that spewed the colors of the rainbow. In 1918 Nellie adopted three-year-old “Little” Marjorie, and in 1920 five-year-old Dorothy “Sunshine.” But by 1923, Adele had had her fill of Edward, and she ran off with a dentist, taking Little Marjorie with her. Divorce followed.
Browning tried to make up for the loss by providing Sunshine with ponies and miniature railways. For transportation she selected a peacock-colored, stretch Rolls Royce “equipped with a 4 foot high motion picture screen.” The child, however, still suffered from loneliness and Edward placed adoption ads in 1925: there were 12,000 applications from which he chose 16 year old Mary Louise Spas. The adoption was later annulled as it was discovered she was 21.
To assuage his failure at marriage and adoption, Edward became active in sponsoring youth-oriented dancing clubs and high school sorority dances where he met Frances Belle Heenan, a tenth grader. She was described as buxom, with a peaches and cream complexion. “Peaches is the Cinderella of my heart,” he said. Thirty-seven days later, on her sixteenth birthday, fifty-one-year-old Daddy married Peaches.
Daddy doted on Peaches, spoiling her with a four and one-half carat diamond ring and Fifth Avenue shopping rampages. There was much activity after their marriage, including social engagements and a stroll along the Long Beach boardwalk with their pet African Honking Gander on a red ribbon leash. But six months after the marriage, Peaches left Daddy, claiming abuse.
Court room details of Peaches’ assertions of Daddy’s excessive eccentricity, included contact with the “Love Cult” High Priestess of Oom, sandpapering shoetrees at night, prowling and barking on all fours, and placing at the end of his lit cigar a white tablet that produced a large snowflake.