the man in the mustard coloured suit

Lydia Stahl was a secret agent who worked for Soviet Military Intelligence in New York and Paris.

Lydia Lunch (not Lydia Stahl) found here

She was born Lydia Chkalov in the south of Russia, married a landed baron in the Crimea, divorced him in Constantinople, took her degree of master of arts at Colombia and her doctor of law at the Sorbonne, was a polyglot who spoke English, French, German, Russian, some Finnish, and a few of the little Russian dialects, and had prepared a thesis in Confucuian culture from original sources. 

Confucius found here

In general, her spy work sounded like a dull post graduate course in French land and sea armament figures and French economic policy. As part of her lighter spy work, she also had a lover, Professor Louis Martin, code expert for the French Ministry of the Marine. He decoded in several languages, was a tall white faced, red haired, middle aged scholar whose chief complaint during the seventeen months he was in jail before being tried for espionage and acquitted on a technicality, was that the French jail contained no dictionary in Sanskrit.

French spy found here

Professor Martin lived for five years in a modest Left Bank Paris Hotel. For a man who was a spy, or even for a man who was not, the professor’s clothes were extraordinary: he affected a Wild West sombrero and vivid mustard coloured suits which made him noticeable to the whole neighbourhood, including the corner policeman. Although he supposedly spoke eight living languages, in all those five years he seldom said a word to anyone in the hotel.

image found here

Though working for the Russian government, Lydia was sold out to the French government by a Finnish counterspy working for the Germans.

image found here

Published in: on October 11, 2011 at 7:54 am  Comments (46)  
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don’t let your husband go bike riding alone in San Francisco

Cordelia Botkin was the star of a sensational and lurid murder case in 1898

image found here

Thirty-year-old John P. Dunning had a good life with a comfortable marriage, a young daughter and a job with the Associated Press bureau in San Francisco. However in September 1895, John Dunning’s life would take a dramatic turn when, while taking a leisurely bicycle ride, he spotted an attractive woman sitting on a bench.

image found here

The estranged wife of  Welcome A Botkin, Cordelia Botkin was already 38 years old but still possessed a powerfully seductive charm. During the next two years, Dunning became a frequent guest at the Botkin house on Geary Street. Besides cheating on his wife, and on occasion Cordelia Botkin, Dunning began to drink and lose money at the racetrack. In early 1898, Dunning’s employer, suspecting embezzlement of company funds, fired him. His wife and daughter returned to Delaware to live with family while Dunning moved in with Cordelia who now resided at the Victoria Hotel on Hyde Street.

Hyde St San Francisco found here

Cordelia was thrilled to be living under the same roof with her lover, but her joy was short-lived. Dunning received a reporting assignment to cover the Spanish-American War. Before leaving San Francisco, Dunning had bad news for Cordelia: he missed his wife and daughter. When he completed his assignment, he would rejoin his family in Delaware. The affair was over. Cordelia did not take the news very well. In her mind the affair was not over, not by a long shot.

image found here

Mrs. Dunning began receiving anonymous letters mailed from San Franciso, letters referring to her husband’s affair with an “interesting and pretty woman.” The letters were signed, “A Friend.” In August, Mrs. Dunning received an anonymous note signed, “With love to yourself and baby. Mrs. C.” The note was accompanied by a Cambric handkerchief and a box of chocolates.

chocolate sushi found here

After dinner on August 9, 1898, Elizabeth passed the mystery box of bonbons around to family and friends. A few of those gathered that evening passed up the chocolate while Mrs. Dunning and her sister, Leila Deane, helped themselves to several pieces. That night, everyone who ate the candy became sick. Mrs. Dunning and her sister, having eaten so much of the chocolate, became violently ill.

On August 20 Leila Deane died. The next day Mrs. Dunning passed away. Both women had suffered extremely painful and agonizing deaths. John Dunning, still overseas when he received the news, arrived back in Delaware ten days later. When he saw the anonymous letters, including the note that had come with the chocolates, he simply said, “Cordelia.”

NOT Cordelia Winterbottom found here

The uneaten chocolates were analyzed by a chemist who reported that they had been spiked with arsenic. Autopsies were not performed on the bodies because the physician in charge erroneously believed that the victims’ prolonged vomiting had cleansed their bodies of the poison. When presented with the basic facts of the case, a coroner’s jury ruled that the two women had been poisoned to death by the arsenic-laced candy which had been mailed from San Francisco.

arsenic poisoning found here

Police officers, bearing the key evidence—the candy, the paper it had been wrapped in, and the anonymous writings—boarded a train for San Francisco. The leading investigator, I.W. Lees, had been appointed chief of the San Francisco Police Department the previous year. An innovator, in 1854 Lees became the first American police administrator to regularly photograph arrestees. As a result, the San Francisco Police Department had a large rogues gallery. 

image found here

Because the suspect vehemently proclaimed her innocence, Lees was forced to solve the case the hard way, by conducting a detailed, painstaking investigation. He began by tracing the arsenic to the Owl Drug Store where a clerk had sold arsenic, in June of 1898, to a woman meeting the description of Cordelia Botkin. Lees then questioned an acquaintance of the suspect who told him that Mrs. Botkin had expressed concern about having to sign her name when purchasing arsenic. Lees also spoke to a physician who had been asked by Cordelia to describe the effects of various poisons on the human body.

Owl Drug Store found here

Searching Mrs. Botkin’s room at the Victoria Hotel, he found wrapping paper, bearing a gold seal and a company trademark, that had enclosed the chocolates in the candy box. From this he learned that the bonbons had been purchased from the Haas Candy store. A sales clerk remembered the customer because the woman had wanted half a box as she planned to add her own, homemade chocolate. The clerk’s physical description of this customer matched that of Cordelia Botkin.

image found here

To identify the person who had addressed the mailed package, and penned the anonymous letters as well as the note that accompanied the candy, Lees questioned document examiner Daniel T. Ames, considered the preeminent handwriting man in the country. When Ames analyzed and compared samples of Mrs. Botkin’s handwriting with the questioned documents, he confidently announced that she, to the exclusion of all others, had written the questioned material. Two other document examiners brought into the case agreed with his findings

Bill Gates’ handwriting analysis found here

Amid intense media coverage, the Botkin trial began in early December. Five hundred spectators were lined-up outside the courthouse door. Having pled not guilty, Cordelia Botkin, sat stiffly at the defense table dressed in black , holding a white lace handkerchief. She showed no emotion when the prosecution put John Dunning, a narrow-shouldered man with thinning hair, on the stand. Dunning admitted having an affair with the defendant as well as three other women in San Francisco. 

The defense had no choice but to put Cordelia Botkin on the stand, a move that thrilled the press and the millions of people following the case. Cordelia did not deny that she had purchased arsenic, explaining that she had used the poison to clean a straw hat. Following Botkin’s stint on the stand, the defense rested its case. 

hat cake found here

After four hours of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict: guilty, on two counts of first-degree murder. Cordelia could have been sent to San Quentin Prison to serve her sentence, but the judge, worried what would happen to her there, sent her to the county jail in San Francisco where, in exchange for sexual favors, Cordelia would come and go as she pleased. A few months after sentencing her, the judge saw Cordelia shopping in downtown San Francisco.

While Cordelia shopped, her lawyer appealed her conviction. The appellate court’s overturning of her murder convictions, led to a second, less sensational, trial. Once again, on the strength of the handwriting testimony, Cordelia was convicted and sentenced to life. Cordelia was transfered to San Quentin. On March 7, 1910, at the age of fifty-six, she died. The official cause of death: “Softening of the brain, due to melancholy.”

image found here

yet another French swindler

Alexandre Stavisky was a solemn fellow who got up promptly at nine to start swindling, whose table jokes fell flat before his ministerial guests, and who, though forced for business reasons to have mistresses, loved only his wife.

image found here

“He began his humble career in 1906 by failing as a cafe singer. In succession, during the next nine years, he failed at managing a nightclub, illicit gambling dens, a nude review, a tinned soup company, an electric ice box company, a shyster brokerage desk, and drug running. 

image found at nude review

In the 1930s he managed municipal pawnshops in Bayonne but also moved in financial circles. He sold lots of worthless bonds and financed his “hockshop” on the surety of what he called the emeralds of the late Empress of Germany — which later turned out to be glass.

Empress of Emeralds found here

In 1927, Stavisky was put on trial for fraud for the first time. However, the trial was postponed again and again and he was granted bail 19 times. He probably continued his scams during this time. One judge who claimed to hold secret documents was later found decapitated.

image found here

Faced with exposure in December 1933, Stavisky fled. On 8 January 1934, the police found him in a Chamonix chalet agonizing from a gun wound. Officially Stavisky committed suicide but there was a persistent speculation that police killed him.

image found here

Fourteen Parisian newspapers called it suicide and eight did not. The distance the bullet had traveled led Le Canard enchaîné to propose the tongue-in-cheek theory that he had “a long arm”.

The scandal brought in a remarkable range of personalities from politics, high society and the literary-intellectual elite of Paris. Mistinguett was asked why she had been photographed with Stavisky at a nightclub; Georges Simenon reported on the unfolding affair and Stavisky’s ex-bodyguard threatened him with physical violence; Colette, referring to the inability of any of Stavisky’s high-placed friends to remember him, described the dead con artist as “a man with no face”

Colette found here

party preferences

Which of the following parties do you think sounds like it was the most fun? This Parisian ball……

“At a costume ball in Paris in the 1920s Lucien Daudet appeared as Spectre de la Rose. At the end of the evening the effete Daudet was stark naked. The guests had plucked the rose petals his devoted mother had sown onto his tights, and eventually the tights disappeared along with the roses. Jean Godebska came as a house of cards and his friend Radiguet as a shooting gallery while the Princess Soutzo was a Christmas tree. 

Princess Soutzo found here

Jean Hugo attended as a waiter carrying a large tray. On it was perched the Maharani of Kapurthala, disguised as caviar. Hugo was somewhat tipsy and let the tray drop. When the maharenee almost fell to the floor, the maharajah was heard to mutter, “In India he would have been put to death at once.”

Maharani found here

The Duchess de Gramont organised an entrance that represented the beheading of John the Baptist. Dressed in the black costume of an executioner, she appeared carrying  a platter with a wooden head of John the Baptist that looked suspiciously like the party’s host. As Salome, the Prince de Chimay covered his face with veils but liberally exposed the shapely legs he was so proud of. Hiding all evening in a bedroom like children at a costume party, they missed Marie Laurencin as Malade Imaginaire attended by a friend dressed as measles, with red spots painted on his face.

Le Malade Imaginaire found here

Or would you prefer to attend P Diddy’s soiree?

On Thursday, August 29th, 2002 – P. Diddy and Guy Oseary celebrated the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards with a post party in New York City’s exclusive Cipriani’s. “It was top shelf and caviar all the way” said one guest. 

image found here

Attending celebrities received a gift basket valued at over $25,000 which included an exclusive Surf Camp t shirt and a week at Surf Camp. The drawback was the “party policy,” which included an amusing–some might call it obscene–set of guidelines re: scuffed shoes, haircuts, and clothing (though someone should have told Puffy that Mr. Dolce’s partner spells his surname “Gabbana”). “Pull out the flyest shit in your closet” Puffy said. “Women must be waxed, pedicured and manicured to the hilt.”

$32,000 manicure found here

And one final instruction….. P.S. Do not disturb the sexy.

click to enlarge or read at the original source here

a venerated place

Many of the world’s cultures recognize more than two genders. The notion that there are those of us who do not fit precisely into either a male or female role has historically been accepted by several groups (excerpt from this article)

Among Native Americans, the role of third, fourth, or even fifth genders has been widely documented. Children, who were born physically male or female and yet showed a proclivity for the opposite gender, were encouraged to live out their lives in the gender role, which fit them best. The term used by Europeans to describe this phenomenon is Berdache.

Berdache found here

The berdache could adopt the clothing of women, associate and be involved with women, do the work normally associated with women, marry a man and take part in many spiritual ceremonies of the tribe. The Arapaho of the plains believe the role existed due to supernatural gifts from birds or animals.

image of Arapaho men (1898) found here

Parents would watch a child who seemed to have a tendency toward living as berdache and would assist him in pursuing it rather than discouraging him. Berdaches excel in weaving, beadwork, and pottery; arts associated almost solely with the women of the tribe. One notable attribute of the berdache is that the work of these people is greatly prized both within and without the tribe. 

image by Robert Freeman found here

Although there is much fluidity in alternate gender behavior, a berdache reaches some absolutes when it comes to adopting biological female roles. This limitation has not eliminated attempts at mimicking such female biological processes such as menstruation and pregnancy. The Mohave alyha were known to have gone to great lengths to simulate mock pregnancies. They would self induce constipation and then “deliver” a stillborn fecal fetus. Appropriate mourning rites and burial were performed with the involvement of the alyha’s husband.

Indian burial platform found here

One of the most entertaining stories associated with the adoption of female dress and attitude comes from a  famous berdache, We’Wha. In 1886, she went to Washington DC to meet President Grover Cleveland accompanied by anthropologist and debutante, Matilda Coxe Stevenson. Because she passed easily as a woman, she was allowed into the ladies rooms and boudoirs of the elite. She delighted in telling the Zuni upon arriving home that “the white women were mostly frauds, taking out their false teeth and ‘rats’ from their hair.”

image found here

There are some characteristics of the sexual practices of berdache, which differ from those of other same sex relationships. Berdaches almost always observe an incest taboo which involves the avoidance of sex with another berdache. One explanation for this is that sexual partner of the berdache must, by nature, be masculine. This belief is consistent with the emphasis on the gender aspects of the role rather than the sexual aspects. It also dovetails with the information on berdache marriages to masculine men. In these unions, the berdache is considered a wife and is valued by the husband not only for the domestic duties the berdache performs, but also for the socially acceptable homosexual relationship.

image found here

Berdaches frequently are available for sex with both unmarried adolescent boys and married men who occasionally seek out same sex partners. Because of this, female prostitution is not needed. Traditional berdaches were also available as sexual partners during hunts and in war parties. This was yet another reason why they were welcomed on these excursions.

Sioux War Party (1907) found here

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 10:58 am  Comments (45)  
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