better to be leaving than arriving

This advertisement appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1961 and was reported in Time

FATHER CROWLEY’S LOSS IS YOUR GAIN. 1961 Mercedes-Benz 1905L, air-conditioned. This car is only 3 months old. Save $1,350.

image found here

The Rev. Richard Anthony Crowley, 51, has been reassigned by his bishop to a parish in Springfield, Ill., where a Roman Catholic priest might look a bit out of place in a $6,850, 105-m.p.h. white sports car with green leather upholstery. Last week the Vegas crowd threw Father Crowley a farewell party in the town’s flying saucer-shaped Convention Center.

Las Vegas convention centre (1959) found here

It began at 9 p.m. with an hour-long cocktail party and ended at 3:30 a.m., with the crowd singing God Bless America. In between, while klieg lights stabbed the desert sky, 9,000 guests milled and drank and watched an assortment of 64 entertainers ranging from acrobats and show girls to Stand-Up Comics Shecky Greene and Myron Cohen. The guest of honor, slight, grey-haired and merry as a grig, shook hands, soft-shoed with a bowler hat and sang Harrigan, That’s Me.

Myron Cohen and Phil Spector found here

Father Crowley won his popularity by ministering to show people and by strenuous relief work for the migrant farm workers who abound around Las Vegas. But what won him fame is the Mass that for the past three years he has been holding at 4:30 a.m. for around 500 show people, croupiers and early-bird tourists of the 24-hour town. Crowley held it each Sunday in the Stardust Hotel, which features the “Lido de Paris 1961 Revue,” with 13 bare-breasted girls. Such a broadminded willingness to bring religion to The Strip won him much gratitude: Wilbur Clark, owner of the Desert Inn Hotel, donated a $185,000 site near The Strip for a Catholic church, and an anonymous benefactor gave Father Crowley his Mercedes-Benz.

image found here

Yet does any man of God, though his intentions are good and his boons indisputable, have to seek sinners quite so flamboyantly? Nevada’s Catholic Bishop Robert J. Dwyer gave his answer when he advised Catholics to boycott places of such “filthy and immoral” entertainment. Crowley took it in his stride. Comparing last week’s sendoff “bash” with the modest welcoming reception planned for his successor, he ruefully noted: “It is evidently much better to be leaving Las Vegas than to be coming here.”

cartoon found here


Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge, (1768 – 1854), fought at the Battle of Waterloo

Lord Paget

At a critical stage in the battle, he personally led a charge of 2,000 heavy cavalry. They succeeded in sweeping the French infantry away in disorder, but Uxbridge was unable to rally his troops, who ran on in pursuit and were cut up by counterattacking French cavalry. He spent the rest of the battle leading a series of charges by British light cavalry formations, and had eight or nine horses shot from under him.

Charge of the Light Brigade found here

One of the last cannon shots fired on 18 June 1815 hit his right leg, necessitating its amputation above the knee. According to anecdote, he was close to the Duke of Wellington when his leg was hit, and exclaimed, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” — to which Wellington replied, “By God, sir, so you have”

one legged race found here

After being wounded, Lord Uxbridge was taken to his headquarters in the village of Waterloo, a house owned by a certain M. Hyacinthe Joseph-Marie Paris. There, the remains of his leg were removed by surgeons without antiseptic or anaesthetichis only comment through the dreadful procedure was, “The knives appear somewhat blunt.”

image found here

According to an account recorded by Henry Curling in 1847:

“ Just after the Surgeon had taken off the Marquis of Anglesey’s leg, Sir Hussey Vivian came into the cottage where the operation was performed. “Ah, Vivian!” said the wounded noble, “I want you to do me a favour. Some of my friends here seem to think I might have kept that leg on. Just go and cast your eye upon it, and tell me what you think.”

one legged man boxing one armed man found here

“I went, accordingly”, said Sir Hussey, “and, taking up the lacerated limb, carefully examined it, and so far as I could tell, it was completely spoiled for work. A rusty grape-shot had gone through and shattered the bones all to pieces. I therefore returned to the Marquis and told him he could set his mind quite at rest, as his leg, in my opinion, was better off than on.”

Viktoria, hottest one legged model in the world

M. Hyacinthe Joseph-Marie Paris asked if he might bury the leg in his garden, later turning the place into a kind of reliquary shrine. Visitors were first taken to see the bloody chair upon which Uxbridge had sat during the amputation, before being escorted into the garden, where the leg had its own ‘tombstone’ 

cemetery by Caspar David Friedrich found here

The leg attracted an amazing range of tourists from the top drawer of European society, from the King of Prussia to the Prince of Orange. It was a nice earner for Monsieur Paris and his descendents, all the way down to 1878, when it was the occasion for a minor diplomatic incident.

Prince of Orange found here

Uxbridge’s son visited, to find the bones not buried, but on open display. On investigation by the Belgian ambassador in London, it was discovered that they had been exposed in a storm which uprooted the willow tree beside which they were buried. The ambassador demanded repatriation of the relics to England but the Paris family refused, instead offering to sell the bones to the Uxbridge family, who, not surprisingly, were enraged. At this point the Belgian Minister of Justice intervened, ordering the bones to be reburied. However, the bones were not reburied; they were kept hidden. In 1934, after the last Monsieur Paris died in Brussels, his widow found them in his study, along with documentation proving their provenance. Horrified by the thought of another scandal she incinerated them in her central heating furnace.

bone reliquary found here

Uxbridge’s close family lost several limbs during the Napoleonic Wars: his brother, Major-General Sir Edward Paget, lost his right arm during the Second Battle of Porto in 1809, and his daughter lost a hand tending her husband on a battlefield in Spain.

Uxbridge himself used an articulated artificial leg invented by James Potts, with hinged joints and raisable toes which became known as the Anglesey leg, after his marquessate. One of the artificial legs designed by Potts and worn by the marquess is still extant, preserved at Plas Newydd in Anglesey, as is also a leg of the hussar trousers worn by the 1st Marquess at Waterloo. The loss of his leg did not impede the Marquess of Anglesey’s career – he rose to become a Field Marshal and Knight of the Garter, twice serving as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and twice as Master-General of the Ordnance.

prosthetic toe found here

did the pig woman do it?

We love an unsolved mystery here at the Gimcrack and the Hall-Mills murder is a particularly interesting one. This is an excerpt from an original article by Katherine Ramsland found here

Eleanor Mills found here

On September 16, 1922 fifteen year old Pearl Bahmer had a date with Raymond Schneider, 23. They decided to go for a walk and turned onto De Russey’s Lane, an undeveloped road that would take them near an abandoned farm, in the hope of getting some privacy. In the tall grass Pearl noticed something odd. They walked closer and saw a couple on the ground, a man and a woman, both face up and fully clothed, not breathing.

Hall-Mills bodies found here

They ran to the nearby home of Edward Stryker, where the police were contacted. Both bodies had been shot in the head—the man once and the woman three times. His right hand was extended partly under the dead woman’s shoulder and neck, and their clothes were perfectly in order. Scattered pieces of torn paper, which turned out to be letters and cards, lay between them. A man’s wallet was lying open on the ground and inside was a driver’s license belonging to 41 year old Edward Wheeler Hall of New Brunswick. The torn papers turned out to be love letters that began to tell a sordid tale of secrecy and adultery.

Most of the people in Reverend Hall’s parish knew before it was made official who the unidentified woman was: Mrs. Eleanor Mills, 34, a choir singer and wife to James Mills. Their affair had been rather obvious over the past four years. 

The reverend had grown up in Brooklyn, getting his theological degree in Manhattan. In 1911, he had married Frances Stevens, a wealthy woman who was seven years older than him. She was related to the Johnson & Johnson medical supply founders, and several years into the marriage, she and her brothers inherited around two million dollars. She claimed that she trusted her husband and did not know of the affair.

Frances Stevens Hall found here

James Mills, 45, was the acting sexton at St. John’s and a full-time janitor at an elementary School. Hard-working, but unambitious and of limited intelligence, he had married Eleanor when she was only seventeen. On the night of the murders he arrived home just after 6:00 pm. Later, he sat out on the porch while his wife left the house to make a phone call to Reverend Hall. She came back, and left again, challenging him to “follow her and find out” when he inquired as to her destination. He kept working on the porch until 9:45, then read the paper. At ten thirty, he went to the church to look for his wife, stopping for some soda, and arriving around 11:00. She was not there, so he went home and went to bed. At 2 a.m., he went back to the church and failed to find her.

James Mills and daughter found here

The next morning, without reporting his wife as missing, he went to work. At 8:30, he went to the church and encountered Mrs. Hall, who mentioned that her husband had not come home the night before. He asked her whether she thought that they eloped. He claims that she replied, “God knows. I think they are dead and can’t come home.”

Mills heard on Saturday that his wife’s body had been found. He went directly to see Mrs Hall and her two brothers. One of them, Willie Stevens, suffered from a mental disorder that prevented him from managing on his own, so he lived with his sister and her husband. He was impulsive, explosive, and somewhat reckless, but usually had a sunny disposition. He wore thick glasses and had a heavy walrus mustache.

No one rocks the walrus like Neitzsche

The older brother, Henry Stevens, 52, was a retired exhibition marksman. He lived fifty miles away on the Jersey shore. He claimed to have been fishing when the murders took place, and he was not close with his sister. However, a supposed eye witness to the crime put him at the scene. The prosecutor also claimed later that it would take an expert marksman to place the shots so closely in Mrs. Mill’s head, so he became a strong suspect.

Get your marksman speedloader here

On Sunday, October 8, four people were brought in for questioning: Pearl Bahmer and Roy Schneider (the couple who had found the bodies), and two friends of Schneider’s, Clifford Hayes and 16 year old Leon Kaufman

Roy (NOT Ray) Sch(n)eider found here

On September 14th, Kaufman said he had met Schneider and Clifford Hayes on George Street at 10:30. Hayes had a gun. Pearl was with another man and they disappeared. After searching for them, the other boys walked around. Kaufman left them around eleven and went home.

Pearl said the “other man” was her father, walking off a drunk. They had been followed and abused by the three boys.

The Drunk Father by George Bellows found here

On October 9th, a statement was issued to the press that Clifford Hayes was being charged with the murders, based on a signed statement made by Schneider. It was a case of mistaken identity. He had thought the couple to be Pearl and her companion. 

Shortly thereafter, Pearl Bahmer’s father, jailed for incest, claimed that Schneider was the killer. Then Pearl was jailed for incorrigibility. Soon Schneider confessed to having lied, and the first solid suspect was turned loose.

image of famous corsetier Mr Pearl found here

Meanwhile, two bloodstained handkerchiefs were turned in to the police. One had no identifying marks, but the other was initialed in one corner with the letter S. Another discovery, this one by Charlotte Mills, was a package of love letters from Hall to Eleanor, and Hall’s diary. Mills immediately sold these for $500 to the New York American.

embroidered handkerchief found here

Interrogations were set up for Mrs. Hall, her brothers, and Charlotte Mills. Henry Stevens, the older brother, admitted that the handkerchief with the S on it was his. 

Dr. John Anderson released an analysis of the soil from beneath the bodies, concluding that Mrs. Mills had been shot before her throat was cut, and that they were murdered where they were found. A witness who claimed to have seen three men and one woman murder Hall and Mills came forward: Jane Gibson, better known as the Pig Woman.

Pig Woman found here

Jane Gibson raised hogs and  lived with her son in a converted barn near De Russey’s Lane. She told police that her dogs were barking around nine o’clock that Thursday night and she had seen a man in her cornfield. Mounting Jenny, her mule, she went after him, toward Easton Avenue where she spotted four figures near a crab apple tree. Then she heard a sharp report and one of the figures fell to the ground.

baby mule found here

With reporters eager to hear her story, she provided further details: She had lost a moccasin and at 1:00 a.m., rode back to look for it. As she came near the crab apple tree, she heard a woman crying. She saw Mrs. Hall kneeling next to her husband’s body, sobbing. The Pig Woman vehemently defended her story to all who challenged her.

However, reporters soon dug up some information that put her credibility into doubt: she said that her deceased husband had been a minister, when in fact he was not dead and worked as a toolmaker. The man, William Easton, refused to talk, saying only that she had a brilliant mind. Gibson denied that Easton was her husband.

In November, Jane Gibson identified Henry Carpender as the actual murderer of Hall and Mills. He lived two doors from the Halls, and was their first cousin.

A Grand Jury was convened. After five days and sixty-seven witnesses, no action was taken and the matter was laid over. Although there were assurances from the authorities that the case would still get attention, few believed it. For the next four years, people got on with their lives. Mrs. Hall even went to Europe.

Then, on July 3, 1926, Arthur S. Riehl, who had married Louise Geist, the maid who had worked for the Hall family, filed for annulment. He discovered that she had withheld knowledge about the activities of the family. He claimed she had told Mrs. Hall on September 14th, four years earlier, that Hall had plans to elope with Mrs. Mills. She went with Mrs. Hall and Willie Stevens that night, driven by the chauffeur, and received five thousand dollars for keeping quiet about what she knew. Louise claimed that his tale was a pack of lies.

Arrest warrants were issued for Willie Stevens and Henry Carpender. A hearing was scheduled that took four days; bail was denied for both men as they were committed to go before a Grand Jury. Another investigation was launched, which sought to break down Henry Stevens’ alibi, and which brought forth the testimony of St. John’s vestryman, Ralph Gorsline (rumored to have once had an affair with Mrs. Mills). This man admitted that he had been in De Russey’s Lane the night of the murder around 10:20 p.m. and had heard one shot, a woman’s scream, and then three shots. 

There was also a report from the ranks of the choir that Gorsline had threatened Mrs. Mills to get her to give up the rector, and that he’d been spying on her, along with a woman who wanted the rector for herself.

cup size choir found here

The Grand Jury indicted Mrs. Hall, her two brothers, and Henry Carpender for the murders of Reverend Hall and Mrs. Mills. Stevens was arrested and the four defendants were arraigned.

Prior to the start of the trial, both bodies were exhumed once more and autopsies performed. Two enigmatic statements issued were that Eleanor Mills’ tongue might have been cut out and that Hall was shot while either bending over or kneeling.

Three fingerprint experts testified that the left index finger print of Willie Stevens was on the calling card found at the scene, but the third expert was interrupted by news of the sudden failing state of the Pig Woman. Her physician stated that her blood pressure and rising temperature would make any courtroom appearances detrimental to her health. 

She was not dying, her physician said, but ought not to leave the hospital for several weeks. Meanwhile her own mother was busy undermining her credibility to anyone who would listen, saying that her name was not Jane and that she was a liar.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Dr. Otto Schultz, who had performed the latest autopsies, described what he believed had happened that night, claiming the likelihood that Hall had been struggling to get the gun when it went off, and then announcing that Mrs. Mills’ tongue had indeed been cut out, along with the larynx. He also mentioned that there was a cut in her abdomen, which pointed back to the two undertakers who, without authority, had opened her womb to see if she was pregnant. (First one cut into her, and the other had re-opened the incision to see for himself.)

Then the Pig Woman was brought in on a stretcher as the prosecution’s star witness. The defense seated her mother in front, to see if this might rattle her. As Gibson was brought in, her mother shouted, “She is a liar! Liar, liar, liar!” Nevertheless, Gibson told her story, claiming that Mrs. Hall, Willie Stevens, and Henry Stevens were there on De Russey’s Lane that night. (She seemed to have forgotten that in her earlier statements, she had seen only two people out there with the victims.) She had seen Henry Stevens and another man wrestling with a gun when it went off. Then she told how Mrs. Hall’s detective had warned her to keep her mouth shut.

Simpson immediately moved for a mistrial on the grounds of jury misconduct—they had not paid attention, they were openly hostile, and they had not been properly guarded. He got nowhere with this, so he gave his closing remarks, and while the jury deliberated, he returned to Jersey City, leaving the Somerset prosecutor to hear the decision in his place.

The jury took three separate votes (10-2, 11-1, then unanimous) over the five hours and eight minutes during which they weighed the evidence, before they reached a verdict. They decided to acquit all three defendants

Eventually, Mrs. Hall, Henry Carpender, and Willie Stevens sued the New York Daily Mirror for libel, and it was settled out of court. No one else was ever accused of the crimes. No murder weapon was ever found, and the evidence never led anywhere.

Although this 1922 double homicide is still unsolved, there are numerous theories as to who the killer was:

1) The Ku Klux Klan did it as vigilante justice, because they frowned on loose morals and because they might have posed the bodies in the way they were found.

Ku Klux Clan on ferris wheel found here

2) Mrs. Hall did it by herself, out of revenge.

3) James Mills did it, because he knew his wife was unfaithful

4) Mrs. Hall and Willie did it, with Willie being the killer. It was an accident, using the rector’s .32 caliber pistol, which Mrs. Hall quickly disposed of. Willie also posed the bodies and cut Eleanor’s throat, because when rage overtook him, he didn’t know what he was doing.

5) Ralph Gorsline did it. He was angry with Mrs. Mills for coming on to the rector, and also jealous, since they were said once to have had an affair. He and a woman who wanted the minister for herself often spied on the two, and though he originally denied it, he finally admitted to having been near the crime scene that night when the murder was going down. The day after the police, who suspected he had played a part, questioned him his expensive touring car caught fire and burned to a shell. There seems to be no doubt he knew more than he ever admitted.

6) A jealous rival of Eleanor Mills who wanted the rector’s attention did it. There were others in the choir and in the church who hated Mills for being favored by Hall. A few days after the murders, someone tore out of several hymnals the page on which Hall and Mills’ favorite hymn was printed. The favorite suspect is Minnie Clark, a plump schoolteacher, but there is no evidence against her.

7) Mrs. Hall hired an assassin. A one-time friend of Willie’s, Julius Bolyog, claimed some forty-eight years later that on the day after the murders, Willie hired him to carry two envelopes, each filled with $6000 to two young men in a New Brunswick alley.

8.  Some thug did it to rob them. But why would they cut out Mrs. Mills’ tongue and slice her throat so badly? There was some speculation, a la Lizzie Borden, that a wandering lunatic did it, but such people are generally not organized enough to pose bodies to the point of leaning a calling card against a foot. There is a remote possibility, but it’s very remote.

Lizzie Borden found here

9) Ray Schneider did it. He thought the couple in the dark lane were his girlfriend and the man he had seen her with, which turned out to have been her own father. However, whoever killed them did so at close range, not more than three feet away and probably closer. There was little chance of mistaken identity. He may well have stolen the rector’s watch and money.

10) The Pig Woman did it. The defense made this suggestion as within the realm of possibility, given the many inconsistencies in her story. But she had no motive, no pistol, and no awareness of who the couple was.

The murder remains a provocative mystery.

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm  Comments (36)  
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a trail of dull gold hairpins

Mabel “Nancy” Atherton was a striking divorcee who had sued a previous lover for breach of promise when, instead of marrying her, he ran off with a pretty young actress.

NOT this Nancy (Sinatra) found here

A year later, she in turn was named by Mrs Clara Stirling who sued her husband Jack, Laird of Kippendavie, on the grounds of adultery with Nancy.

NOT this Clara (Bow) found here

Jack counter-petitioned his wife for adultery with his friend Lord “Fatty” Northland, son of the Governor of New Zealand.

The judge Lord Guthrie could scarcely contain himself in the scorching glare of Nancy Atherton’s considerable charms. She was a lady, his Lordship drooled, ‘with gracious manners, the sort of fascination which captivates man indeed’

First to counter these judicial effusions was Nancy’s French maid who told the court she frequently saw her mistress with dashing Jack Stirling on the couch, and found one of his mongrammed handkerchiefs under her pillow. She also saw Nancy in a kimono wrap, her intentions betrayed by a trail of dull gold hairpins scattered in Jack’s bedroom.

French maids found here

Jack not only denied a romance with Nancy, he accused his wife Clara of throwing herself at Fatty Northland when the foursome swanned over to Paris together for the Grand Prix in 1908.

1908 Grand Prix found here

These four, punting by moonlight on the Thames during regatta week at Henley, flitting furtively in and out of restaurants while arranging nightly bedroom toings and froings, danced inevitably towards their own destruction. A divorce was granted to Jack, and Clara lost custody of her two year old son. I learned all this by reading Roger Wilke’s book “Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip“.

But Roger omitted to tell me about the assault charge brought against Clara Stirling’s mother, Mrs Taylor. Because of Fatty Northland’s New Zealand connection, the Taranaki Times reported it in full

Taranaki found here

“Nancy Atherton was plaintiff in a case of alleged assault against 76 year old Mrs Taylor who took out a cross summons for assault. Counsel for plaintiff, Mr Freke Palmer, said the assault took place last Monday. In the past three weeks, Mrs Taylor had been constantly seen near Mrs Atherton’s house and servants had seen her looking in the dining room windows.

image by Bruce Mozert found here

Shortly after 1:00 pm, Mrs Taylor called upon Mrs Atherton and was shown into the drawing room where she asked Nancy a series of delicate questions. When Mrs Atherton refused to answer, Mrs Taylor allegedly jumped from her chair and put her fingers around Nancy’s throat, doing her best to choke her. 

Nancy managed to throw her off and Mrs Taylor rushed downstairs to the dining room when she found the front door was shut. Two servants prevented her from escaping out the window. 

Mrs Taylor alleges she was locked in the house but made no threats and contemplated no violence. After waiting some time, she was frightened by Mrs Atheron’s eyes which blazed like a tiger’s. She opened the window and called to her cabman that she was being held against her will. While trying to escape, two servants pulled and tore at her clothes until they were nearly off.

cat’s eye contact lenses found here

Mrs Taylor was fined two securities of £25.00 each and Mrs Atherton fined £10. They were both ordered to keep the peace for six months.

Another interesting article on the death of Nancy Atherton can be read here

smelling to heaven in bathtubs of champagne

Maury Henry Biddle Paul was a short, plump, chain smoking dandy who pinned a fresh carnation in his lapel each day and worshipped his widowed mother. From his bare, draughty office (where he entertained a string of elegantly frail young men) he telephoned all day to his upper crust contacts, fly zipper open to ‘relieve pressure’.

Image found here

By 1919, when Hearst hired him as Cholly Knickerbocker for the American, Paul was writing columns for three New York City papers under three different names, and making $140 a week. Hearst called him, declaring: “You’re working too hard.” For $250 a week, Paul agreed to write only one column. Eventually, with his Cholly Knickerbocker column widely syndicated, Paul earned more than $100,000 a year, becoming the highest paid society reporter of his time.

image found here

Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton reportedly sent him ruby and diamond cufflinks; hotels showered him with cases of liquor; and there were personal gifts of gold lighters, silver ornaments, jewellery, Aubusson rugs and even a cellophane wrapped station wagon. He took extended holidays with his lover, the illustrator Carl Haslam, and bathed other more casual boyfriends in bathtubs of champagne.

naked human bath tub found here

As a self-avowed snob, he considered himself the high priest of what remained of the old social aristocracy which had been all but obliterated by the rising horde of new millionaires spawned by the ’20s.

In Park Avenue drawing rooms and 52nd Street nightclubs he cut an exquisite figure. Always heavily perfumed, he was in the habit of remarking complacently: “I smell to heaven.” He carried his own special brand of tea in a silver snuffbox to drink in nightclubs. He wore evening scarves by Schiaparelli, delighted in yanking up his pants leg and displaying his solid-gold garter clasps, studded with his four initials. He took up golf once but dropped it immediately, after finding himself in a locker room with a crowd of muscular, boisterous players. “It was too goddamn manly,” he said.

image found here

by hook or by crook

Theodore Hook was an English author who launched a Sunday paper in 1820

image found here

He was a famous practical joker who perpetrated a jest that disturbed and amused all England. This was the famous Berners Street hoax. Berners Street in 1810 was a quiet street, inhabited by well-to-do families and people of social importance. On the morning of November 26, soon after breakfast, a wagon-load of coals drew up before the door of Mrs. Tottingham, a widow living at No. 54. A van-load of furniture followed, then a hearse with a coffin, and a train of mourning coaches.

image found here

Two fashionable physicians, a dentist, and an accoucheur drove up as near as they could to the door, wondering why so many lumbering vehicles blocked the way. Six men brought a chamber-organ; a brewer sent several barrels of ale; a grocer sent a cart-load of potatoes. Coachmakers, clock-makers, carpet manufacturers, confectioners, wig-makers, mantua-makers, opticians, and curiosity-dealers followed with samples of their wares.

image found here

From all quarters trooped in coachmen, footmen, cooks, housemaids, and nursery-maids, in quest of situations. To crown all, dignitaries came in their carriages,—the Commander-in-Chief, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chief Justice, a Cabinet minister, a governor of the Bank of England, and the Lord Mayor.

housemaid found here

The latter—one among many who speedily recognized that all had been the victims of some gigantic hoax—drove to Marlborough Street police office, and stated that he had received a letter from a lady in Berners Street, to the effect that she was at death’s door, that she wished to make a deposition upon oath, and that she would deem it a great favor if his lordship would call upon her. The other dignitaries had been appealed to in a similar way.

London police women found here

Police-officers were despatched to maintain order in Berners Street. They found it choked up with vehicles, jammed and interlocked with one another. The drivers were infuriated and disappointed tradesmen were clamoring for vengeance. Some of the vans and goods were overturned and broken; a few barrels of ale had fallen prey to the large crowd that was maliciously enjoying the fun.

overturned car found here

All day and far into the night this state of things continued, meanwhile, the old lady and the inmates of adjoining houses were in abject terror. Every one soon saw that a hoax had been perpetrated, but Hook’s connection with it was not discovered till long afterwards. He had noticed the quietness of the neighborhood, and had laid a wager with a brother-wag, a certain Henry Higginson, who afterwards became a clergyman, that he would make Berners Street the talk of all London.

Charlotte Bronte’s dolls house found here

A door-plate had furnished him with Mrs. Tottingham’s name, and he had spent three days in writing the letters which brought the crowd to her door. At the appointed time he and Mr. Higginson had posted themselves in a lodging just opposite, which he had rented for the purpose of enjoying the scene. He deemed it expedient, however, to go off quickly into the country and there remain incognito for a time. Had he been publicly known as the author of the outrageous hoax, he might have fared badly.

available here

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 8:37 am  Comments (36)  
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chew on this

Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov (1940 – 2006) was President of Turkmenistan for sixteen years.

image found here

Foreign media criticized him as one of the world’s most totalitarian and repressive dictators, highlighting his reputation of imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which extended to renaming months after members of his family, and recoining the Turkmen word for bread to the name of his mother.

Bread from the Gruesome Body Bakery found here

He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk “Turkmenbashi” after himself, and renamed schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and more family members. In 2005 all hospitals outside Aşgabat were ordered shut, with the reasoning that the sick should come to the capital for treatment. Physicians were ordered to swear an oath to the President, replacing the Hippocratic Oath. All libraries outside of the capital were also closed, as Niyazov believed that the only books that most Turkmen needed to read were the Koran and his Ruhnama.

Ruhnama found here

Memorization of the book was even required for getting a driver’s license. Niyazov told his people that as a result of a pact made between him and Allah, anybody who read his book three times would automatically go to heaven. Then in 2005, Niyazov launched a copy of it into space for aliens to read.

alien tattoo found here

Niyazov banned the use of lip syncing at public concerts in 2005 as well as sound recordings at “musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkem television channels, at all cultural events organized by the state. He banished dogs from the capital Ashgabat because of their “unappealing odor.”

dog found here

In 2008 Niyazov demanded that a “palace of ice” be built near the capital, even though Turkmenistan is a desert country with a hot and arid climate and in February 2004 he decreed that men could no longer wear long hair or beards.


He also banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he believed Turkmen women were already beautiful enough without make-up. Gold teeth were outlawed after Niyazov suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out.

order your gold caps here

The circumstances of Niyazov’s passing have been surrounded by some media speculation. His body lay in state in an open coffin in the presidential palace. Mourners and including foreign delegations passed by the coffin in a three hour period. Many of the ordinary citizens were dramatically weeping and crying as they walked, some even clinging to the coffin and fainting, though rumors were rife that they were “forced” to mourn in this way.

Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 7:23 am  Comments (46)  
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sealing wax and other things

Writer Leo Tolstoy came from a rather eccentric family, with Fyodor Ivanovich Tolstoy (1782 – 1846) being perhaps the most unruly of all his relatives.

His comrades at that time described Fyodor Tolstoy as an excellent shooter and a brave fighter. His wild character, along with his taste for women and card games, gave him frequent cause for arguments with his comrades and higher officers that often ended in a violation of discipline.

image found here

In 1803 Fyodor went on a circumnavigation of the world as a member of the sloop Nadezhda. His behavior on board, where he was unencumbered by official duties, was very unpredictable. He often provoked quarrels with the crew, including the captain himself and played jokes on those that he did not like: for example, once he intoxicated a priest and when the latter lay dead drunk on the floor, Tolstoy stuck his beard to the deck boards with sealing wax. When the priest came to, he was obliged to cut off his beard to free himself.

poppy seed beard found here

On another occasion, when the Captain was out, Tolstoy sneaked into his cabin with an orangutan that he had bought while the ship was moored on an island in the Pacific Ocean. He took out the logbook and showed the ape how to cover the paper with ink. Then he left the orangutan alone in the cabin, drawing on the notebook. When the Captain returned, all his records had been destroyed.

image found here

Similar behavior more than once caused Tolstoy to be put under arrest. Finally, the Captain lost patience and abandoned his passenger during a stop at Kamchatka. From Kamchatka Tolstoy managed to get to Sitka island, where he spent several months among Alaskan natives.

Russian Church in Sitka found here

During his sojourn on Sitka, he acquired multiple tattoos, which he later displayed with pride to curious acquaintances. The afore-mentioned orangutan, which was left on land with Tolstoy and whose later fate is unknown, gave rise to a great deal of gossip in aristocratic circles. According to one of the rumors, during his stay in Kamchatka, Tolstoy lived together with the ape; according to others, he ate it.

Alaskan tattoos found here

Tolstoy returned to European Russia via the Far East in August 1805. He developed a love of gambling and became famous for it during his years in Moscow. He did not hide the fact that he sometimes cheated. According to the memoirs of his contemporaries, he did not like to rely on luck during a game, preferring, by way of cardsharping, to “play for certain”, as he liked to say.

image by Georges de La Tour

Even more famous was Tolstoy’s participation in a number of duels, the reasons for which were often found in card games. It is unknown how many duels he fought, but some accounts state that he killed eleven men altogether. In his early years in Moscow, Tolstoy’s love affairs provided copious material for rumor and gossip in society. He married the gypsy dancer Avdotya Tugayeva on January 10, 1821, but only after having lived with her for several years.

19th century gypsy found here

Tolstoy suffered greatly from the death of his children, especially when his eldest daughter, Sarra, died at the age of seventeen. At the end of his life he  grew devout and considered the death of his eleven children to be God’s punishment for his killing of eleven men in duels.

He carefully noted the names of those he had killed in his diary. He had twelve children, who all died in youth, except for two daughters. As each child died, he would cross out the name of one person he had killed and wrote the word “quit” (repaid). When he lost his eleventh child, he crossed out the last of the names and said, “Well, thank God, at least my curly-haired gipsy girl will live.”

Harvey Keitel in Ridley Scott’s The Duellists

Tolstoy died in 1846, after a short illness, in the presence of his wife and only surviving daughter Praskovya. Before his death he summoned a priest and confessed to him for several hours. He was buried in the Vagankavo Cemetery. His widow Avdotya outlived him by fifteen years but died a violent death: she was stabbed by her own cook in 1861.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 8:41 am  Comments (39)  
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is his pistol better than mine?

Robert Vaughn’s first film appearance was as an uncredited extra in The Ten Commandments (1956), playing a golden calf idolater and also visible in a scene in a chariot behind that of Yul Brynner. In 2009 he wrote a book about his experiences in Hollywood, though I don’t think writing is really his forte.

Young Robert Vaughn found here

“In 1960 I was signed up for The Magnificent Seven, playing alongside Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner. Steve was intensely competitive. It wasn’t enough just to be successful – he had to be more successful than anyone else.

image of Steve McQueen found here

The rivalry between McQueen and Brynner was clear from the start. Steve started knocking on my door around 6.30am, an hour before we were due on set. Our conversations were always along the same lines.

‘Man,’ he would say in that husky whisper, ‘did you see Brynner’s gun on the set yesterday?’

image found here

‘I can’t say I noticed it, Steve.’ ‘You didn’t notice it? It has a fucking pearl handle, for God’s sake. He shouldn’t have a gun like that. It’s too fucking fancy. Nobody’s gonna look at anything else with that goddam gun in the picture.’

Of course, what Steve meant was that nobody would be looking at Steve McQueen.

Two days later, there was another early-morning knock on the door. ‘Did you see the size of Brynner’s horse? It’s goddam gigantic.’

Brynner, Connery and horse found here

This time I had noticed. ‘Actually, Steve, I’ve got the biggest horse of the Seven.’

McQueen shook his head. ‘I don’t give a fuck about your horse,’ he replied. ‘It’s Brynner’s horse I’m worried about.’


On Good Friday, work on The Magnificent Seven shut down and Brad Dexter suggested Steve and I visit what he called ‘one of the finest brothels in North America’.

Having spent nearly a decade wandering LA’s Sunset Strip, I’d met many ladies of the evening. I considered many of them friends, and had made it a rule not to do business with them. But I decided to tag along anyway.

image found here

We were driven to a lavish high-walled hacienda in a quiet district of Mexico City, where the blonde madam welcomed us like visiting dignitaries at an embassy cocktail party.

There were seven girls in the room. In stumbling Spanish, Steve told the madam that all seven should stay ‘because we are the Magnificent Seven’.

It seemed to me that we were just two very drunk Americans, and I wasn’t feeling very magnificent, but I did not object to Steve’s gluttonous suggestion.

image found here

I was flush with both pesos and dollars, having been too sick with an upset stomach in Cuernavaca to spend my daily allowance. So Steve and I adjourned to a room with many large pillows and the seven women.

If you’ve never experienced sex for seven, you’re undoubtedly interested in the salacious details. I can only say that, due to the tequila, we did more laughing than anything else.

Near midnight, I recalled that filming was scheduled for the next day. I said to Steve: ‘Let’s pay our bill and get out of here.’

I was yet to hear about Steve’s famous habit of not carrying money. He replied: ‘Hey, man, could you loan me some dinero?’

image by William Claxton found here

The bill came to something like $700 – pretty big money in the Sixties. I had about $400 on me, along with several hundred pesos, and I offered the whole wad to the madam.

‘I’m paying for three and a half senoritas, including tip,’ I said, hoping for a laugh.

The madam didn’t smile. Instead, she snapped her fingers and a huge hombre entered the room. Fixing a hostile glare on me and Steve, he reached out, grabbed my money, and asked: ‘How you plan to pay the rest?’

I smiled at Steve. He smiled at the hombre. The hombre … he no smile back.

image found here

Suddenly a light seemed to dawn in Steve’s alcoholic haze. Pulling out his wallet, he produced a Diners Club booklet containing coupons for use at restaurants. ‘How about these?’ he asked, pathetically. The hombre moved towards us. Several more mean-looking Mexicans materialised.

On cue, Steve and I spun around and pushed through some swing doors. Steve dashed towards the right, while I ran left down a long hall ending in French doors, and vaulted over a balcony.

image found here

I landed on moist grass, sprang up and ran to the high wall surrounding the villa grounds, where I scrambled up a trellis and flung myself on to the edge of the wall.

Eyeing the 12ft drop to the street below, I saw two bulky Mexicans standing there as if on guard. I dropped to the ground, expecting to be apprehended if not beaten to a pulp.

I stood up and smiled wanly at the two men. They merely smiled, said ‘Buenos noches,’ and strolled away.

The next morning, Steve arrived on the set 45 minutes late and badly hungover.

He’d talked his way out of the brothel by promising to pay the balance in full and to tip generously. His years on the street had served him well.

I’d like to have read Steve McQueen’s version of these two tales, or maybe Robert Vaughn needed a ghost writer to sharpen things up. What do you think, am I being too hard on RV’s storytelling abilities?

surprise sunday

Well I did say I was done with Corset Friday but Scott mentioned that he missed the tingle it used to give him and then I found that the lovely L C Aggie Sith had posted a stunning tribute so I had a root around in my corset drawer for old times sake…..

the arse shot is for queenwilly’s husband to make up for us (almost) always beating him at the crossword

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 9:57 am  Comments (39)  
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