guilty of many carelessly written sentences

Olga, the Baroness de Meyer (1871 – 1930/1931) was an artists’ model, socialite, patron of the arts, writer, and fashion figure of the early 20th century. She was the wife of photographer Adolph de Meyer and was rumoured to be the natural daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.

image of Olga found here

To many individuals who observed Olga’s early life the most distinguished familial connection was her relationship with Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII. Though officially her godfather, the British royal was known to be one of Olga’s mother’s lovers and, consequently, suspected of being Olga’s actual father.

King Edward visiting Marienbad found here

However, other potential fathers have been identified. A strong candidate was Stanislaus Augustus, 3rd Prince Poniatowski and 3rd Prince of Monte Rotondo, a former equerry of Napoleon III, whom Olga reportedly resembled and with whom the newlywed Duchess Caracciolo reportedly eloped on 1 September 1869, the very day her arranged marriage with the duke took place.

image found here

Olga married Marino Brancaccio in 1892, and divorced him in 1899. Artist Jacques-Émile Blanche, a family friend, called it “a short and most dramatic union“. A month later she married Adolphe de Meyer, a celebrated artist and photographer. This was a marriage of convenience, as the groom was homosexual and the bride was bisexual; some sources went to far as to identify her as a lesbian.

Baron de Meyer found here

The de Meyers were characterized by Violet Trefusis—who counted Olga among her lovers —as “Pederaste and Medisante” because, as Trefusis observed, “He looked so queer and she had such a vicious tongue“. Olga also had an affair with Princess de Polignac, the well known Singer sewing-machine heiress and arts patron.

Known for “her elusive combination of childlike innocence and soigné charm” and described as “tall and slender, with Venetian red hair”, Olga de Meyer was muse and model to many artists. Though British novelist George Moore was unimpressed by her beauty. As he commented to an admiring friend, “By Jove, you’re all after the girl, a fine Mélisande for the stage, with her beautiful hair down to her heels. She’s paintable, I admit, but as to one’s daily use, I should rather have the mother than the daughter. Too slender for me … you know my tastes.”

image of long hair found here

She worked briefly as a society columnist for a Paris newspaper in the 1890s. As Mahrah de Meyer, a name she adopted on the advice of an astrologer, she wrote one novel, the autobiographical Nadine Narska. The New York Times condemned the novel as “morbid, exaggerated and guilty of many carelessly written sentences”, while The Dial called de Meyer’s book “a miscellaneous mixture of paganism, diluted Nietzsche, and the doctrine of reincarnation“.

paganism image found here

Known as a female amateur fencing champion, Baroness de Meyer competed at tournaments in Europe and the United States in the early 1900s. The last years of Olga de Meyer’s life were not pleasant ones. As an observer wrote, “Nervous, drugged, surrounded by ambiguous friends and accompanied by a too-conspicuous husband, Olga became frankly spiteful. Scandal-mongering had eliminated the last of her respectable friends, and people visited her only because they could be sure to find a pipe of opium or a sniff of cocaine”.

more lovely stereoscopic images here

Olga de Meyer died in a detoxification clinic in Austria in 1930 or 1931. 

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

a new dawn for the dowdy doppelganger

Dawn Langley Simmons (1937-2000) was born Gordon Langley Hall, the illegitimate son of Vita Sackville-West’s chauffeur.  

image of Gordon before becoming Dawn found here

“Jack Hitt, a journalist who grew up in Charleston across the street from Mrs. Simmons and wrote about her for GQ magazine, remembered her as a figure with a piercing stare, a pillbox hat and ”a Dippity-Do hairstyle, a dowdy doppelganger of Jackie Kennedy.’

image found here

Mrs. Simmons was a person around whom legends swirled. She lived in a grand house filled with antiques and a hidden garden. She was said to have had a coming-out party for two of her dogs, who were displayed on velvet cushions in the living room, dressed in chenille, long gloves and pearls.

image found here

Mrs. Simmons was born with an adrenal abnormality that caused her female genitalia to resemble a male’s and was thus raised as a boy. She always maintained that she was — unequivocally — female. In his late teens, Mr. Hall emigrated to Ontario, where he worked as a missionary, teacher and midwife among the Ojibwa Indians, according to his book about his experiences, ”Me Papoose Sitter”. He also wrote books about Princess Margaret, Jacqueline Kennedy and American Evangelism.

image found here

Moving to New York in his twenties, Mr. Hall met the actress Margaret Rutherford. She and her husband, Stringer Davis, were so enchanted with Gordon that they adopted him.

Stringer and Margaret found here

During that time Gordon also befriended the painter Isabel Whitney, who left him $2 million at her death in 1962. He moved to Charleston, settling into a faded 1840 house on Society Street in the Ansonborough section, which had a large gay population. He became friendly with Charleston’s grandes dames, restored his house and filled it with Chippendale furniture, mirrors said to belong to George Washington, and bed steps said to have been owned by Robert E. Lee.

image by Joan Perry found here

Then in 1968 Gordon underwent a sex change operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and became Dawn Pepita Langley Hall. The following year she married her 22-year-old black butler, John-Paul Simmons. The publisher of ”Dawn: A Charleston Legend” was quoted as calling it the first documented interracial marriage in Charleston’s history. A bomb threat forced the couple to move the wedding from a Baptist church to the bride’s home, and the gifts were destroyed by a firebomb.

image found here

In England, Miss Rutherford was reported to have said, ”I am delighted that Gordon has become a woman, delighted that Dawn is to marry a man of another race, and delighted that Dawn is to marry a man of a lower station, but I understand the man is a Baptist!

John the Baptist found here

Soon, Mrs. Simmons appeared to be pregnant. Then in 1972, she began strolling with a baby carriage bearing a little girl whom she called Natasha. In 1974, after a period of turbulence in which she accused her husband of selling her belongings to buy whisky, the family moved to Catskill, N.Y. Some time later, Mr. Simmons was confined to a mental institution near Albany. 

Dawn died in September 2000. Her daughter asked that she be remembered as the family woman she was, devoted to her children.

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 menagerie of three

Bryher (1894 – 1983) was the pen name of the novelist, poet and magazine editor Annie Winifred Ellerman.

Bryher found here

Her father was John Ellerman, who at the time of his death in 1933, was the richest Englishman who had ever lived. He lived with her mother Hannah Glover, but did not marry her until 1908. During the 1920s, Bryher was an unconventional figure in Paris. Her circle of friends included Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach and Berenice Abbott. 

James Joyce by Berenice Abbott found here

In 1918 she met and became involved in a lesbian relationship with poet Hilda Doolittle (better known by her initials, H.D.). The relationship was an open one, with both taking other partners. In 1921 she entered into a marriage of convenience with the American author Robert McAlmon, whom she divorced in 1927. Both Bryher and H.D. slept with McAlmon during this time.

Hilda Doolittle found here

That same year she married Kenneth Macpherson, a writer who shared her interest in film and who was also H.D.’s lover. H.D., Bryher, and Macpherson lived together and traveled through Europe in what the poet and critic Barbara Guest termed as a ‘menagerie of three’. In Switzerland, overlooking Lake Geneva, the couple built a Bauhaus-style style structure which they named Kenwin. They formally adopted H.D.’s young daughter, Perdita. In 1928, H.D. became pregnant with Macpherson’s child, but chose to abort the pregnancy. Bryher divorced MacPherson in 1947, she and Doolittle no longer lived together after 1946, but continued their relationship until Doolittle’s death in 1961.

Kenneth Macpherson found here

Although Bryher’s and Macpherson’s marriage lasted for twenty years, both Macpherson and Bryher had many extra-marital affairs. Bryher was lesbian but Macpherson was distinctly bi-sexual. After spending a few months in New York in 1935, Macpherson eventually based himself there to focus on writing and photography. It was during this time that he met Peggy Guggenheim, the wealthy American art collector, who instantly fell in love with him.

Peggy found here

By 1947, Macpherson was spending much of his time in Switzerland and Italy. He bought a home on Capri, “Villa Tuoro”, which he shared with his lover, the photographer, Algernon Islay de Courcy Lyons. In 1965, he retired to Tuscany to work on a book about Austrian doctor, Elisabeth Moor. Moor was Capri’s doctor from 1926 until the early 1970s and was one of the island’s more colourful characters.

Capri found here

For a daughter of the Austrian emperor’s hairdresser, born in 1885 in Vienna, the prophecy of a career in medicine would have been a most unrealistic scenario, requiring not only talent and a strong determination, but also a rebellious spirit. 

son of the last Austrian Emperor found here

She was one of only two women admitted to the medical school, the other being her Jewish girlfriend, whose cousin was one of her first lovers. Her memories from medical school recall more lovers than courses. At the age of 24 she was deeply in love with an 18-year-old Swiss painter, Gigi Moor, whom she subsequently married shortly before obtaining her medical degree. 

She gave birth to a son, but she and her husband maintained an open marriage, with Gigi having an affair with a German cellist and our heroine falling madly in love with a Russian tenor. Elisabeth always boasted that a woman cannot know what real love is if she has not made love with a Russian. After the war she had another child with Gigi in Switzerland, and they subsequently moved to Italy. Her emotional needs seemed satiated by the two children and many lovers, and her marriage subsequently dissolved.

My favourite Russian found here

After the divorce she left Switzerland and arrived at Capri, her favorite place from previous visits. She was poor as a beggar, with two barefoot children, one dress and nothing else, not even underwear. But a license to practice medicine assured her independence.

Why should one care about the memories of an egotistic “impossible woman” whose life was so disorderly? Graham Greene’s preface offered no explanation except his admiration for this small square creature with eyes as blue as the windows of the cathedral of Chartres, big teeth and wild electric hair as alive as a bundle of fighting snakes. She was a woman who was tough and demanding, who frequently bullied her patients. But when she departed, she left a vast emptiness among the inhabitants of the island of Capri. 

snake hair bag found here

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 8:59 am  Comments (51)  
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a ring of wandering birds

Perhaps, like me, you thought that youth culture began after the Second World War. Jon Savage tells us otherwise:

Beginning in Germany during the early 1900s, the Wandervogel—literally, wandering birds—rejected the onset of the materialist, consumerist, mass-production society in favor of researching folklore and tramping around the countryside. After the Great Crash of 1929, Germany’s economy went into meltdown and youths were disproportionately hit: Half a million adolescents wandered round the country in hopeless vagabondage. 

image found here

One of the most bizarre groupings was discovered by the investigative journalist Christine Fournier in Berlin during 1930, who called them “Ring” youth gangs and typified their attitude with the phrase “a hatred of society.” A year after the Crash, there were about 14,000 feral kids between 14 and 18 living rough in the outskirts of Berlin (a district that was circled by a “Ring” of avenues, hence the term).

image found here

Homeless and adrift from adult society, these kids organized themselves into gangs with bloodthirsty—often Indian-derived—names like Blood of the Trappers, Red Apaches, Black Love, Black Flag, and Forest Pirates. They supported themselves through crime: petty burglary, theft, larceny, and prostitution, both male and female.

image found here

This was fairly standard-issue stuff for juvenile delinquents, but what was extraordinary about the Ring youth gangs was their sheer number and the sophisticated savagery of their social structure. In the late 1920s, they had consolidated into one large federation with geographically zoned groups (e.g., the South Ring, the East Ring) led by a “Ring Bull.”

By the early 1930s, they had established elaborate codes of behavior. Prospective members had to go through sexual rituals—a pagan “baptism” often involving public intercourse or masturbation—before admission. The initiation ceremony almost always degenerated, according to Christine Fournier, into a “drunken binge, a mad orgy.” She called it “a spontaneous return to barbarism.”

human orgy art found here

In 1932 French journalist Daniel Guerin, on a visit to Germany, encountered a wild gang near Berlin. They looked like Wandervogel but “had the depraved and troubled faces of hoodlums and the most bizarre head coverings: black or grey Chaplinesque bowlers, old women’s hats with the brims turned up Amazon-fashion, adorned with ostrich plumes and medals.”

image found here

He also noted “handkerchiefs or scarves in screaming colors tied around the neck, bare chests bursting out of open skin vests with broad stripes, arms scored with fantastic or lewd tattoos, ears hung with pendulums or enormous rings, leather shorts surmounted by immense triangular belts daubed with all the colors of the rainbow, esoteric numbers, human profiles, and inscriptions.

image found here

Guerin thought they were “a strange mixture of virility and effeminacy,” and worried that “those who would know how to discipline these masquerade Apaches could make real bandits out of them.” Some did become Nazis—like Winnetou, a prominent Ring Bull. But others went underground: They continued to live free, wandering and harassing Nazis wherever they could.

image found here

The Nazi regime had been at its weakest in the industrial heartland, the Rhine-Ruhr region, and in the early war years neighborhood gangs in those cites began to form with the express intention of avoiding Hitler Youth service. They were given the generic name of Edelweiss Pirates—like the Ring gangs, they had taken edelweiss badges as their insignias—and had fabulous names like the Shambeko Band (Düsseldorf) or the Navajos (Cologne).

insignia found here

Inevitably, the Edelweiss Pirates came into conflict with the Hitler Youth, and when they did, they would clobber them. In 1941, it was noted that “they are everywhere. There are more of them than there are Hitler Youth. And they all know each other, they stick close together. They beat up the patrols, because there are so many of them. They never take no for an answer.”

Hitler Youth found here

As the war went on, the regime’s desire for control escalated, as did the opposition to it. In Cologne, a large group of Edelweiss Pirates hooked up with escaped concentration-camp prisoners, deserters, and forced laborers in a program of armed resistance that culminated with the assassination of the local Gestapo chief. The Nazis publicly hanged 13 Pirates in the city center, including the 16-year-old leader of the Navajos, Barthel Schink.

image found here


I dream of Genia

Queenwilly alerted me to this story about Eugenia Falleni via the Sydney Morning Herald from the archives at Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum 

Eugenia found here

The case of a transgender husband, Harry Crawford (Eugenia Falleni) convicted of murdering his wife had 1920s Sydney society in thrall, writes Tim Barlass.

By all accounts, Annie Birkett died a horrible death. Her charred body was found in open land near a flour mill in Chatswood, with cracks to her skull that could have formed through intense heat or by violence.

see larger image of Annie Birkett here 

Photographs of Mrs Birkett recently obtained by the Justice & Police Museum reveal her to be a refined and attractive woman, described later by one witness as ”very ladylike, a very quiet reserved woman never seen under the influence of liquor”.

But when she disappeared, Crawford told others that she had ‘‘cleared out with a plumber”, that she was a heavy drinker and that he had seen her a couple of times since then in Sydney.

It was not the victim that gave the case such notoriety in 1917, but her transgender husband, Harry Crawford, who was eventually convicted of her murder. 

Eugenia found here

On 19 February 1913 at the Methodist Parsonage in inner city Balmain, claiming to be a widower aged 38, Crawford went through a marriage ceremony with Annie Birkett, a widow of 35 with a 13-year-old son. Annie set up a confectionery shop in Balmain, evidently unaware that her husband was not a man, while Harry continued as a peripatetic manual worker.

Now Adriano Zumbo makes confectionery in Balmain

In 1917, after Annie had apparently threatened to report her husband to the authorities for his deception, the couple quarreled and Annie disappeared. Her body was discovered in October that year, partially burned and with cracks to the skull, in a forested picnic area near the Lane Cove River, but it remained unidentified for over two years. In the meantime, in September 1919, Harry Crawford underwent another marriage ceremony with Elizabeth King Allison, a spinster.

Spinster found here

Also in the intervening time, Annie’s son had alerted the police to his mother’s prolonged disappearance; the body of Annie was exhumed and identified, and Harry was arrested on 5 July 1920. At the time of his arrest, while living with Elizabeth in a house in Stanmore, he asked to be placed in the women’s cells and requested that his wife be not apprised that he was not a man. Among male clothing in a locked leather suitcase, police located an ‘article’, later exhibited in court, made of wood and rubber bound with cloth in the shape of a phallus or dildo.

image found here

At Falleni’s preliminary hearing and trial for murder at Darlinghurst courthouse in October 1920, the ‘Man-Woman case’ created a press sensation, with the accused appearing in the dock first in a man’s suit and then in women’s clothes. Falleni pleaded not guilty to the murder, but her alleged immorality in passing herself off as a man was made much of in the popular press, which portrayed her as a monster and a pervert.

Chief Justice Sir William Cullen in his summing up said: ”It would almost seem incredible that two people could live together for three years without Mrs Birkett discovering that an imposition had been practised …”

female johnny depp impersonator found here 

She was convicted and condemned to death, but her sentence was commuted to detainment at the Governor’s Pleasure. When released from Long Bay Prison eleven years later in February 1931 she became the proprietor of a boarding house in Paddington, Sydney. On 9 June 1938 she stepped off the pavement in front of a motorcar in nearby Oxford Street, and died of her injuries the following day.

Paddington Reservoir Oxford Street found here

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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gravy first, then meat

In 1998, The Independent published this interview with Daisy de Cabrol, Madame La Baronne

Daisy, the Windsors and Fred found here

At 83, Madame La Baronne remains sprightly. She talks at a hundred miles an hour with an almost preposterously posh accent and uses charmingly old-fashioned words such as “automobile”. Lunch is like taking a trip back in time. It is also proof that Madame La Baronne still knows how to entertain in style. She has hired a lady from the village to cook up a three-course feast and the wine is served from grand crystal decanters. She rings a little bell at the end of every course to summon her manservant, then scolds him in English for the heinous crime of bringing the meat in before the gravy.

antique crystal dog decanter found here

Her husband, Fred de Cabrol, who died in July 1997, was also from a wealthy aristocratic family. The couple bought their house in Grosrouvre in 1950. In the bathroom, the toilet is strangely but skilfully hidden under a table which is attached to the wall at one corner and swivels out of the way when nature calls. The piece de resistance, however, is the barn, which has been transformed into a grand sitting-room. A sculpture of a deer sits atop the huge fireplace. On a beautiful cabinet sits a glass case filled with multi-coloured stuffed birds. On the walls there are numerous deer heads.

Budapest Hall of Hunting found here

The Cabrols were friends of  the Windsors whom they met at a dinner party in Paris. In 1947, they received an invitation to stay at their house on the Cote d’Azur. “We were astonished to find such luxury after the deprivation of the war,” she recalls. “Even at that time, two years after the war, people didn’t eat much, but they had so much food and there were fresh sheets every day.” The Cabrols would often go to the Windsors’ renovated windmill at Gif-sur-Yvette to the south of Paris for Sunday lunch. She also recalls singing “Clair de Lune” with the Duke, sword dancing after dinner and the Cabrol children entertaining the Windsors by playing the guitar.

image found here when I googled Gif-Sur-Yvette

In her scrapbook is the cover of a French magazine with a photo of the Windsors arriving at one of her balls. It was held at Paris’s Palais des Glaces and took three months to prepare. Charlie Chaplin was one of the guests. The Begum Aga Khan turned up in a flouncy feathered number and a young Madame Mitterand was on the organising committee. The composer Henri Sauguet wrote some music especially for the evening, Nancy Mitford composed sketches and everybody skated on the ice.

Begum Aga Khan found here

There are also invitations for receptions given by the Queen, to the wedding of Princess Grace of Monaco, Maria Callas’s autograph and a poem by the French society hostess Ghislaine de Polignac, entitled “Advice to a foreigner on how to succeed in Paris”. It ends with the line “C’est chez Pam qu’on va B—–R” which translates as “For a F–K, you go to Pam’s”. The Pam in question is the late American ambassador to France, Pamela Harriman.

Pamela Harriman found here

“There were three or four balls a year, mainly in the spring,” Madame recalls. “Nobody would ever dream of socialising in Paris after the Grand Prix horserace at the end of June. People who stayed in the city after that would close their shutters to pretend they had gone away.” Many of the balls were costume affairs. To one, she went disguised as a tree. To another, as the wife of Louis XIV, and once her husband dressed up as French ceramicist Bernard de Palissy and she as one of his plates.

Palissy plate found here

The dreaded Elsa Maxwell, who had a vitriolic gossip column in America and served as the Windsors’ social secretary, was also fond of the Cabrols, as was Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. They once went on holiday with him and the actor Douglas Fairbanks on his yacht. “We travelled from the Riviera to Greece, but Niarchos refused to stop the boat for us to bathe. Every day, there was a huge tin of caviar, but after eight days, it became a bit of a nightmare. Nobody can eat caviar for eight days in a row!”

Icon Caviar found here

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 9:16 am  Comments (43)  
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