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. 

imaginary solutions

Alfred Jarry (1873 – 1907) was a French writer and inventor of a pseudoscience or “science of imaginary solutions” which he called ‘pataphysique. 

image found here

In collaboration with his classmates at the Lycée of Rennes, he wrote Ubu Roi to ridicule a pompous and fat mathematics teacher, Monsieur Hébert. At the age of 18 he moved to Paris to pursue his studies and to write two sequels, Ubu Enchaîné and Ubu Cocu. 

Ubu found here

When Ubu Roi was first presented in 1896 at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, the coarseness of the language and anarchistic tones were too much for the audience, which rose in outrage after the first word, “Merdre!” One reviewer said: “Despite the late hour, I have just taken a shower. An absolutely essential preventive measure when one has been subjected to such a spectacle.”

When he was drafted into the army in 1894, his gift for turning notions upside down defeated attempts to instill military discipline. The sight of the small man in a uniform much too large for his less than 5-foot frame was so disruptively funny that he was excused from parades and marching drills. After five months, Jarry was discharged for medical reasons.

dwarf in uniform in walnut shell coach found here

He then began to frequent literary salons and devoted himself to writing. Jarry’s first book was a collection of prose and verse. It was followed by an unperformable play and a novel, even more obscure than anything he had previously produced. Le Surmâle (The Supermale) was Jarry’s last work. “The act of love is of no importance, since it can be performed indefinitely,” states Jarry in the beginning of the book. The hero of the erotic fantasy is a superman who wins a bicycle race against a six-man team, he has sex 82 times with a women, and experiences the final climax with an amorous machine.

amorous machine found here

‘Pataphysics – the initial apostrophe was deliberate – mixed science, science fiction, technology and art. Jarry defined it as the science of imaginary solutions, “which will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one.” Paul McCartney paid homage to Jarry’s branch of metaphysics in his Beatles song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer from 1969.

image found here

Until his death at the age of thirty-four, Jarry was a familiar figure stalking the streets of Paris with his green umbrella, wearing cyclist’s garb and carrying two pistols. According to an anecdote, once he was asked for a light in the street and discharged a pistol shot instead. He also adopted the gestures of his creation, Ubu, speaking in a high falsetto and always employing the royal “we.” In response to a neighbor’s complaint that his target shooting endangered her children, he replied, “If that should ever happen, madame, we should ourselves be happy to get new ones with you” (though he was not at all inclined to engage with females in the manner implied).

Jarry and child found here

His fortune was soon spent, and Jarry lapsed into a chaotic, Bohemian life. He discovered the pleasures of alcohol, which he called “my sacred herb” or, when referring to absinthe, the “green goddess”. A story is told that he once painted his face green and rode through town on his bicycle in its honour (and possibly under its influence). He lived in a bizarre apartment where each storey had been cut horizontally in half to make double the original number of floors. He lived and died a virgin, and although he hated christianity, he felt compelled to seek God on his deathbed.  It is recorded that his last request was for a toothpick.

roasted chestnuts and bolting butterflies

Papillon was the supposed autobiography of Henri Charrière. Perhaps he based some of his story on this man’s adventures

image found here

René Belbenoit (April 4, 1899 – February 26, 1959) was a French prisoner on Devil’s Island who successfully escaped to the United States. He later wrote a book, Dry Guillotine, about his exploits.

Belbenoit was born in Paris and abandoned by his mother as an infant. His father was unable to raise young René himself, so the boy was sent to live with his grandparents. When René was 12, his grandparents died and he went to Paris where worked at a popular nightclub, the Café du Rat Mort (the Dead Rat) in the Place Pigalle. During World War I, Belbenoit served with distinction in the French Army from 1916 – 1917.

image found here

In 1920, Belbenoit, having stolen some pearls from his employer, the Countess d’Entremeuse, was sentenced to eight years of hard labor in the penal colony of French Guiana, referred to as Devil’s Island. The fact that Belbenoit had had a veteran’s pension let him avoid the harshest work.

Two weeks after his arrival, Belbenoit tried to escape for the first time with another man. They took a raft to Dutch Guiana but were captured and shipped back to the penal colony. During his incarceration, Belbenoit begun to write his memoirs. He kept them in a bundle of wax cloth. He earned some money by selling roasted chestnuts and capturing butterflies.

Spicebush Swallowtail found here

Next Christmas Belbenoit again attempted escape with nine others who had stolen a log canoe. The canoe capsized and they took to the jungle where three of the men were violently murdered. Eventually local Indians who sheltered them gave them to Dutch authorities who sent them back to the French. In the following years, Belbenoit tried to escape two more times and was transferred from island to island.

Chateau D’If prison found here

In 1931, Belbenoit sent a copy of his writings about the prison conditions to a new governor. Before the governor was transferred back to France, he gave Belbenoit a one year permit to leave the penal colony. Belbenoit spent most of the year working in the Panama Canal Zone as a gardener. However, with the permit soon to expire he decided to go back to France in order to argue his case. He was arrested and sent to the island of Royale where he was put into solitary confinement for almost a year.

Panama Canal found here

On November 3, 1934 Belbenoit was officially released – but that just meant he became a libéré, a free prisoner who was still not allowed to return to France. When a visiting moviemaker gave him $200, Belbenoit decided to try to escape once more. On March 2, 1935 he and five others took to the sea with a boat they had bought. When his companions after three days at sea began to argue, he had to pull a gun to force them to continue. When they reached Trinidad, British authorities decided not to give them back to the French. They continued on but sixteen days later ran aground on a beach in Colombia and natives stole their clothing. They reached Santa Maria, where a local general fed them, but also notified the French consul and took them to the local military prison.

Santa Maria found here

A sympathetic local newspaperman helped him to escape in exchange for writing about prison conditions. Belbenoit traveled slowly north and stole a number of native canoes to continue his journey. In Panama he spent about two months with the Kuna tribe and later sold a large collection of butterflies in Panama City. In 1937 in El Salvador he hid in a ship to Los Angeles

Kuna and Embera tribeswomen found here

In 1938 his account, Dry Guillotine, was published in United States. The book attracted the attention of the U.S. immigration authorities and Belbenoit was arrested. He received a visitor’s visa but in 1941 was told to leave the country. Belbenoit traveled to Mexico and a year later tried to slip back into the United States but was again arrested and sentenced to 15 months in prison. After his release, Belbenoit acquired a valid passport and went to Los Angeles to work for Warner Bros. as a technical advisor for the film Passage to Marseille.

image found here

handing it down to an inattentive son

Captain Philip Thicknesse (1719-1792) was an eccentric British author.

image found here

“He claimed he could, at any time, muster ten or a dozen knaves and fools, who would put £100 in his pocket, merely for holding them up to public scorn. The dozen could include a fumigating Duke, ten Lords, a white-headed travelling Parson, three Doctors of Physic, a broken, deaf and lame Sea-Duck, ten thousand five hundred Male Midwives, and about the same number of their silly female customers, a Bulgarian Bath Painter, two hundred Black Legs and a Dancing Master of Ceremonies.

male midwife toad found here

In 1742 he eloped with Maria Lanove, a wealthy heiress, after he abducted her from a street in Southampton and took up residence in Bath with her, taking full advantage of the social whirl of life. In 1749 Maria and his children contracted diphtheria; she and two children died, leaving only a daughter, Anna, to survive. When Maria’s parents died some time later, he spent much time in trying to claim their fortune. Thicknesse then married Lady Elizabeth Tuchet, but she died in childbirth in 1762. His third wife was his late wife’s companion, Anne Ford, whom he married on 27 September 1762. Anne was a gifted musician with a beautiful voice who was well-educated and knew five languages. She gave Sunday concerts at her father’s house, but her ambition was to became a professional actress and, in spite of her father’s disapproval, she left home to enter the stage. The couple spent a lot of time travelling in Europe.

gratuitous “gifted musician” photo by Terry O’Neill

Thicknesse died on one such journey near Boulogne, France, and was buried in this town. In his later life he had become an “ornamental hermit”. In his will he stipulated that his right hand be cut off, and that it should be delivered to his son, Lord Audley, who was inattentive

plush severed hand found here

warts and all

Misia Sert (born Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska; 30 March 1872 – 1950) was a pianist of Polish descent who hosted an artistic salon in Paris.  She married Thadée Natanson, a Polish emigre politician and journalist, who became the editor of a Parisian Dreyfusard journal.

Misia (1947) found here

Thadée started the Revue Blanche. Verlaine, Mallarmé and other famous painters duly gathered. Those who couldn’t paint Misia wrote poems for her. The painters had the privilege of immortalising her miraculous looks, which included a legendary pair of legs and a bosom that kept strong men awake at night thinking.

Misia by Renoir found here

Being published in the Revue Blanche was like getting into a party: you had to know Misia. At a party thrown by Misia’s brother-in-law to celebrate the completion of nine large panels by Vuillard, Toulouse Lautrec was the barman. Misia met Liszt, whom she remembered for his warts, long hair and transvestite travelling companionThree hundred people were present, of whom a large proportion were already famous and all promptly became drunk, since Lautrec’s cocktails consisted of several layers of different-coloured liqueurs. A room was set aside for casualties and ended up jammed with the bodies of Vuillard, Bonnard, etc

Toulouse Lautrec found here

When Natanson was on the brink of bankruptcy, the newspaper magnate Alfred Edwards saved him, on condition that he surrender his wife to him. Misia began living with Alfred Edwards in 1903.

Edwards was a coprophile, among his other charms, but he was also loaded. There were butlers, chandeliers and an endless supply of Louis XVI furniture. Misia played for Caruso while he sang Neapolitan songs, and told him to pipe down when she grew sick of them. Renoir longed to paint Misia with the famous breasts naked, but she would never bare them to him, probably because Edwards was lurking heavily in the adjacent room, ready to exact jealous vengeance even though the artist by that time was an all but total cripple.

Alfred Edwards found here

Misia eventually lost Edwards to the gorgeous young actress Genevieve Lantelme, who had started off as a whore at the age of fourteen. In 1911, Lantelme drowned in the Rhine. The newspapers licked their tabloid jaws over every detail. Referring obliquely to Edward’s bizarre sexual perversion as the cause of the murder, one journalist wrote “An unspeakable idea that I cannot even describe crossed his mind, an idea that he wanted the horrified and indignant actress to put into practice. She struggled and screamed and he threw her body into the water.” Edwards sued for libel and was awarded damages of one franc. 

Lantelme found here

Misia moved on to José-Maria Sert, a colourful, muscular painter of colourful, muscular murals. Sert was a tirelessly fiery Spaniard with enough cash to keep Misia in the style to which she had no real intention of ever becoming unaccustomed.

By 1923 Sert and Misia were both in love with the same girl, Roussy Mdivani, a junior member of the marrying Mdivanis. Roussy was chic as opposed to artistic. She was also young as opposed to old. The triangle lasted for as long as Misia’s pride allowed, plus a bit longer. Then she consoled herself with Coco Chanel, who took her turn to assume the dominant role.

Chanel found here

smoked salmon and a black basque

Keith Waterhouse was a British novelist, playwright and newspaper columnist who was the youngest son of a cleaner and an alcoholic door-to-door vegetable salesman.

image found here

In 1994 one of his secretaries, referred to in his columns as his “flame-haired factotum”, gave an interview in which she claimed: “At 1pm he would expect smoked salmon sandwiches and a bottle of champagne, and I had to put on my black basque, suspenders and strippergram gear.” Her claim for unfair dismissal was settled out of court.

image found here

He was also the writer of this wry little piece

And God said unto Noah, Make thee an ark of gopher wood. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee.

image found here

And Noah said, Sign here, and leavest Thou a deposit.

And the Lord signed there, and left He a deposit.

And Noah was 600 years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

And the Lord said unto Noah, Where is the ark, which I commanded thee to build?

And Noah said unto the Lord, I have had three carpenters off ill. The gopher wood supplier hath let me down – yea, even though the gopher wood hath been on order for nigh upon 12 months. The damp-course specialist hath not turned up. What can I do, O Lord ?

One of these Carpenters is unwell

And God said unto Noah, I want that ark finished after seven days and seven nights.

And Noah said, It will be so.

And it was not so.

And the Lord said unto Noah, What seemeth to be the trouble this time?

And Noah said unto the Lord, Mine sub-contractor hath gone bankrupt. The pitch which Thou commandest me to put on the outside and on the inside of the ark hath not arrived, and the plumber hath gone on strike.

Noah rent his garments and said, The glazier departeth on holiday to Majorcayea, even though I offerest him double time. Shem, my son, who helpeth me on the ark side of the business hath formed a pop group with his brothers Ham and Japheth. Lord, I am undone.

Book a holiday in Majorca here

And God said in his wrath, Noah, do not thou mucketh Me about. How can I destroy this earth if thou art incapable of completing the job that thou was contracted to do?

And Noah said, Lo, the contract will be fulfilled.

And Lo, it was not fulfilled.

And Noah said unto the Lord, The gopher wood is definitely in the warehouse. Verily, and the gopher wood supplier waiteth only upon his servant to find the invoices before he delivereth the gopher wood unto me.

And the Lord grew angry and said, Scrubbeth thou round the gopher wood. What about the animals? Where for example, are the giraffes?

baby giraffe found here

And Noah said unto the Lord, They are expected today

And the Lord said unto Noah, How about the unicorns?

And Noah wrung his hands and wept, saying, Lord, Lord, they are a discontinued line. Thou canst not get unicorns for love nor money.

image found here

And God said, Come thou, Noah, I have left with thee a deposit, and thou hast signed a contract. Where are the monkeys, and the bears, and the hippopotami, and the elephants, and the zebras, two of each kind?

image found here

And Noah said unto the Lord, They have been delivered unto the wrong address, but should arriveth on Friday

And God said unto Noah, Thou hast not made an ark of gopher wood, nor hast thou lined it with pitch within and with-out; and of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort hast thou failed to bring into the ark. What sayest thou, Noah?

And Noah kissed the Earth and said, Lord, Lord, thou knowest in thy wisdom what it is like with delivery dates.

And the Lord in his wisdom said, Noah, my son, I knowest. Why else dost thou think I have caused a flood to descend upon the Earth?

Melbourne Flood 1972 found here

Joanie

Joan Collins has had her ups and downs

With her dark glasses, expensive chiffon dress and designer shoes, the woman in the dole queue could not have looked more out of place among the down-and-outs, deadbeats and drunks shuffling towards the counter.

image found here

When she reached the front of the queue, the clerk behind the desk gave a gasp of astonishment. “Weren’t you Joan Collins?” she asked, her eyes widening.

“I still am,” said she. “Then what are you doing here?”asked the clerk.

“I’m not working at the moment,” said the actress. “I’m resting.”

image found here

As she pondered her next move, Joan remembered how some years previously she had persuaded her sister Jackie, the bestselling novelist, to let her have the film rights to her blockbuster The Stud, the story of a randy London disco manager and his conquests.

Released in April 1978 and savaged by the critics, it took more than £2 million at today’s prices in just ten days – a British box-office record – and went on to become the highest-selling British video ever. 

Still from The Stud found here

A month after the release of The Stud, Joan’s autobiography, Past Imperfect, hit the streets of Britain. It caused an instant sensation, blasting straight into the bestseller lists.

She knew that if the book was to make money it would have to be as spicy as possible, so she included explicit descriptions of even the most reprehensible, embarrassing and tasteless episodes of her life.

image found here

These included sadistic assaults by a homosexual boyfriend when she was at drama school, her abortion of Warren Beatty’s baby, and her startling promiscuity – with, among others, actors Ryan O’Neal and Terence Stamp, and Charlie Chaplin’s son Sydney. She also wrote openly about her marriage to Anthony Newley and his taste for under-age girls.

Anthony Newley found here

Such unashamed honesty was her autobiography’s greatest virtue, but there were some possible anomalies – such as the story of her alleged rape by her first husband, the heart-throb actor Max Reed.

Joan recounted how, on their first date, Reed had picked her up in his huge, flashy, blue American car and instead of taking her out to dinner had driven her straight to his flat in the West End, given her a doctored whisky and coke and a book of pornographic pictures and gone off for a bath.

Joan and Maxwell found here

Joan, who was just 18 at the time, alleged that Reed then forced her to have oral sex with him before driving her home at 3.30am.

She also had a brief affair with Rafael Trujillo, playboy son of the dictator of the Dominican Republic.

Rafael found here

Zsa Zsa Gabor told her that Rafael Trujillo Jr. had been lusting after Joan for ages, and he was renowned for showering his girlfriends with lavish presents.

He had given Zsa Zsa a Mercedes convertible and a full-length chinchilla coat, and he had given a Mercedes to Kim Novak.

Kim Novak found here

Zsa Zsa suggested an assignation with the man she called by his nickname, Ramfis, telling Joan: “It might be worth your while.”

“Joan’s reply,” she later wrote, “was: “I only want to meet him if he gives me a beautiful present.”

“Tactfully, I relayed the message to Ramfis, who said: “Okay, if she wants something, call up Van Cleef and Arpels and order a diamond necklace for her.”

Van Cleef & Arpels diamond zip necklace found here

Joan flew from California to meet Trujillo in Florida – more than 3,000 miles for a one-night stand.

Moored off Palm Beach, they ate a magnificent dinner on his 350ft yacht, eating off gold dishes with gold cutlery, and afterwards they danced.

Then, although Joan did not pretend to any particular affection or even lust for him, she went to bed with him. “Afterward,” wrote Zsa Zsa, “I asked Ramfis if he had had fun with Joan. “I picked her up in my yacht in Miami,” he said tersely. “She was so boring that I put her ashore in Palm Beach”

Palm Beach by Nik Wheeler found here

“I said nothing, having quickly come to the conclusion that the clever Miss Collins had probably taken the diamond necklace and then proceeded to make herself appear to be so boring that she didn’t have to do anything with Ramfis afterward.”

Extract from Joan’s autobiography Past Imperfect

worthy of an Oscar

Oscar Levant (1906-1972) was a concert pianist, composer, actor, comedian, radio personality, television host, and bestselling author.

image found here

In 1932 Oscar married Barbara Wooddell, a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl. Walter Winchell wrote in his newspaper column, “Barbara, who is lovely and nice, is marrying Oscar Levant, who isn’t.” Oscar and Barbara were divorced less than nine months after getting married. Oscar said later that, “Besides incompatibility, we hated each other.”

image found here

In 1939 when Oscar married the movie actress June Gale, Walter Winchell wrote, “Oscar Levant, who knows most of the answers, explained that June Gale married him for his beauty, when everybody knows she married him for his theatre passes.”

image found here

In 1938, after an article in the New York Post declared Oscar to be “the wag of Broadway”, and gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen devoted a New York Journal piece to “Town Wit – Oscar Levant”, the producers of a new radio show called “Information, Please!” hired Oscar to appear as a guest. The response to Oscar’s spontaneous wit during this program that challenged “experts” to answer questions sent in by listeners was so phenomenal that he was immediately hired to be one of the show’s four regulars.

In 1940 Oscar began to perform in what were called “concerts with comments”, where he preceeded and followed his piano pieces with humorous comments often made at his own expense.  In 1947 Oscar was invited to perform for President Harry Truman in the White House. His recital was attended by eight justices of the Supreme Court, various cabinet officers, congressmen, and senators, and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. As the Levants were leaving the White House after the recital Oscar turned to his wife and said, “Now I guess we owe them a dinner.”

Harry Truman aged 13 found here

In 1944 Oscar received a draft notice from the army. One of the army’s examiners asked him, “Do you think you can kill?” Oscar replied, “I don’t know about strangers, but friends, yes.” He was sent back to civilian life. 

His caustic repartee occasionally got him into hot water: one television offering, Oscar Levant’s Words About Music, was yanked off the air in 1956 when he commented on a certain starlet’s conversion to Judaism and marriage to a well-known playwright: “Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her.”

image found here

Among the things that Oscar had a phobia about were any mention of the word “death”, or any word associated with death such as “funeral”, “coffin”, etc.; the numbers 13 and 411 (the hospital room number his mother was in when she died); lemons (which reminded him of the lemon he was awarded in his youth for being the worst dancer at a party); cats (a bad omen); dread of the word “luck” in any connotation, especially when being wished “good luck”; a hatred of the name Sarah (his sister–in–law’s name); and blackbirds (which filled him with terror because they were funereal–looking).

image found here

In July, 1965, Oscar Levant published a volume of random memories titled “The Memoirs of an Amnesiac”. Four weeks after its release it appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. While promoting his book on The Merv Griffin television show, he was asked what he would do if he had his life to live over again. Oscar responded, “I’d talk my parents out of it.”

Some of his more well known quips…..

Of Elizabeth Taylor: “Always a bride, never a bridesmaid.”

image found here

Of Perry Como: “Perry Como’s voice actually comes out of his eyelids.”

Of Debbie Reynolds: “She’s as wistful as an iron foundry.”

Of Grace Kelly: “She just married the first prince who asked her.”

image found here

Of Doris Day: “I knew Doris Day before she became a virgin.”

Of Richard Nixon: “He swings a big mouth and carries a little stick.”

Of Zsa Zsa Gabor: “Zsa Zsa Gabor has learned the secret of perpetual middle age.”

image found here

“Someone once asked me where I lived and I said, ‘On the periphery ‘.”

“I paid thousands of dollars to psychiatrists to forget my childhood.”

“My psychiatrist once said to me, ‘Maybe life isn’t for everyone’.”

“I was thrown out of one mental hospital because I depressed the patients.”

“There is a fine line between genius and insanity, and I have erased that line.”

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.

banned

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)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

the art of letter writing

In the old days before email people seemed to put a lot more effort into their letter writing. Here are three great examples:

Harold Pinter

In his early play The Birthday Party, two mysterious men terrorize a third named Stanley as he cowers in a tawdry English rooming house. In post-absurdist fashion, Pinter denies his audience virtually all clarification of his characters’ histories prompting one frustrated viewer to write:

image found here

“I would be obliged if you would kindly explain to me the meaning of your play. These are the points which I do not understand: 1. Who are the two men? 2. Where did Stanley come from? 3. Were they all supposed to be normal? You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions, I cannot fully understand your play.”

my favourite birthday party boy found here

Pinter replied: “Dear Madam: I would be obliged if you would kindly explain to me the meaning of your letter. These are the points which I do not understand: 1. Who are you? 2. Where do you come from? 3. Are you supposed to be normal? You will understand that without the answers to my questions, I cannot fully understand your letter.”

image found here

Harry S Truman

To Paul Hume, music critic who wrote a disparaging review of Truman’s daughter’s singing performance:

Mr Hume:

I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

Harry S Truman found here

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!


Groucho Marx

To Jerry Wald, producer of Peyton Place

Dear Jerry:

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed “Peyton Place.” As a matter of fact, I CAN tell you. I enjoyed it very much.

image found here

In addition to enjoying the picture, it seemed that the whole evening had been planned by a master hand. My De Soto was whisked away from the front of the theatre so swiftly that I arrived at Romanoff’s in a Buick. There I rapidly got drunk, danced with Audrey Hepburn, looked down (and up) Jayne Mansfield’s knockers, had a fine lobster dinner and spent a good half hour rubbing someone’s legs under the table …. which, on investigation, turned out to be my wife’s.

Jayne Mansfield found here

It was a bang-up evening …. and that’s how I wound up.

Regards, Groucho