Ronald loves Harry who loves Gaby who just wants a pearl necklace

Ronald Firbank (1886-1926) was already a published author and a fully formed personality by the time he entered Cambridge at the age of nineteen.

Ronald Firbank

“In 1907 he converted to Catholicism, a religion whose ornate rituals, costumes, symbols, and pageantry provided him with a vehicle through which to express his homosexuality obliquely. Firbank visited Rome with the intention of taking holy orders; however, as he later revealed in a letter to Lord Berners, “The Church of Rome wouldn’t have me, and so I mock her.” Accordingly, his fiction is populated with a ribald gallery of homosexual choirboys, lesbian nuns, cross-dressing priests, salacious bishops, flagellants, and self-canonized saints.


His last and most explicitly gay work, Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, appeared in 1926, the same year as Firbank’s early death at the age of forty. The book begins with the cardinal baptizing a police puppy named Crack, and ends when the naked cardinal drops dead while pursuing a choirboy named Chicklet around his church.”


Gaby Deslys (1881-1920) was a famous French dancer and actress of the early 20th century.


“She had many admirers among royalty, most notably Manuel II of Portugal. Deslys became a celebrity following newspaper stories which gossiped about King Manuel’s infatuation with her. Manuel is thought to have given Deslys a pearl necklace worth $70,000 after first meeting her in Paris in July 1909. More gifts soon followed. One was a diamond necklace with black and white pearl drops set in a platinum band. Deslys cultivated a pearl fetish. She collected so many that before she died she said she owned her weight in them.


Her American feature film debut was in 1915 with Her Triumph costarring her dancer boyfriend Harry Pilcer. The film is lost but surviving stills show a scene with Deslys and Pilcer and also the intro card with Deslys’s picture in the credits. Deslys made only two more French silent films in 1918 and 1919, both with Harry Pilcer in the cast, before getting the illness that would take her life.


Her carved and gilded bed, in the form of an enormous swan, was bought at auction by the Universal Studios prop department, and was used in the 1925 film of “The Phantom of the Opera”. In 1950 it was in “Sunset Boulevard” as the bed of Norma Desmond.

According to Beverley Nichols, Gaby spent most of her stage career stalking up and down staircases in the traditional manner. When Ronald Firbank first saw Harry Pilcer dance, he was chasing Gaby up one of her staircases at the time. Firbank was so overwhelmed that he rushed out and bought a huge bunch of orchids which he sent to Pilcer’s dressing room accompanied by an invitation to supper.

“Whether Pilcer ever got the flowers we shall never know; he gave no answer. Whereupon Firbank, with tears streaming down his face, returned to the theatre. Still sobbing, he advanced to the front row and walked slowly along by the side of the orchestra pit, tossing cypripediums and odontoglossums with tragic gestures to the astonished musicians. “

Orchid Mantis found here

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 7:38 am  Comments (38)  
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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. There is a swan-shaped boat in James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, but no bed. I checked out the link to the orchid mantis. It is SCARY!!!

    • But it’s SO beautiful Mitzi!

  2. Ah if only Firbank was writing nowadays, his output would be classed as investigative journalism

    • And Chicklet would be suing the pants off the cardinal

      • There are easier ways to get his pants off.

  3. Ronald Firbank should have known better than to mix crack and Chicklets: bad things were bound to happen.

    And the only pearl necklace I ever gave cost me twenty bucks for fifteen minutes in a cheap hotel.

    • You’ve only ever given one pearl necklace Jammers? Well, life’s not over yet. I think you need to donate a few more

      • Finding a cheap hotel nowadays is way more difficult.

      • Haha… way to sidestep the issue 😉

      • Okay, I can’t afford the twenty bucks.

  4. who wouldn’t want a pearl necklace?

    • Some girls don’t like ’em. That’s ok, more for us.

      • My wife used to sing that song at the top of her lungs when she was younger. Until her brother told her what it meant.

  5. I feel smarter after I read your posts.

    And a little dirty.

    I like that.

    • Let me know if you need a bedbath Rod

      • yes please..I think..

        there’s totally a 70’s porn track playing in my head right now.

  6. “…homosexual choirboys, lesbian nuns, cross-dressing priests, salacious bishops, flagellants, and self-canonized saints.”

    Are there any other types?

    • Naughty novitiates

      • I wrote this before he became a Cardinal after one of his strange pronouncements – – –

        “The Catholic Archbishop Pell –
        Of dangers and sins he does tell –
        Tho smoking is sad,
        If Gay, you’re just bad,
        But boy-loving priests avoid Hell!!”

    • Sounds like a typical Catholic Tuesday

  7. Catholicism… producing unintended results for over 2000 years. It’s why I’m a sucker for girls in plaid skirts and knee socks.

    • I’ve got the plaid skirt but my knees have seen better days 😦

  8. For a minute there I thought you were referring to the Urban Dictionary definition of a pearl necklace- style…

    • Not in the actual post. But in the comments …. well yes, how did you know 😉

  9. Never seems fair when you love someone who loves someone else, eh? If Gaby set her eyes on that orchid mantis, I feel confident she’d have a hat fashioned like it.

  10. I would like this web site to be a tiny, hidden place where I could come, sit down and order an absinthe. Cruel virtual world.

    • Oh I definitely serve absinthe here. Would you like a handful of nuts as well?

      • Only after the green fairy arrives.

  11. Pilcer was quite handsome.

    • Not sure about his mouth though… those lips look a little thin from this angle

  12. This is nearly Harry Potter Fanfic.

  13. Wow, I know chick that will do the pearl necklace thing for $20

  14. Her carved and gilded bed . . . in the form of an enormous swan.

    I didn’t know I could have my bed in the form of an animal, but now it makes so much sense. I want the headboard to be Cher, wearing a giant headdress. Do you think that would be too much?

    1920’s women need cucumbers on their eyes.

  15. There is nothing like a bit of melodrama to help you cope with rejection. I wish I had access to an orchestral pit, instead I just find myself giving impromptu sob stories during the speeches at any major social event….

  16. Very interesting post 🙂
    Good job with the photos

  17. She was like the Mr.T of pearl necklace wearing!!

    I can get into stuff involving hot lesbian nuns.

  18. So it would seem Ronald was also a fan of pearl necklaces, but alas, never got one from Harry.
    You know, myra, you could sell that plot to Hollywood. They are fans of self-flagellation too.

  19. Pilcer, a dancer, chorographer and lyricist, it seems. Google The Gaby Glide.

    A straight male dancer…who’da thunk it?

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