the aristocrats go gaga

Scopolamine is a drug with a long dark history in Colombia.

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Legend has it that Colombian Indian tribes used the drug to bury alive the wives and slaves of fallen chiefs, so that they would quietly accompany their masters into the afterworld. The tree which naturally produces scopolamine grows wild around the capital and is so famous in the countryside that mothers warn their children not to fall asleep below its yellow and white flowers. It’s popularly known as the “get-you-drunk” tree and the pollen alone is said to conjure up strange dreams.

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Colorless, odorless and tasteless, scopolamine is slipped into drinks and sprinkled onto food. Victims become so docile that they have been known to help thieves rob their homes and empty their bank accounts. Since scopolamine completely blocks the formation of memories, it is usually impossible for victims to ever identify their aggressors.

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There are so many scopolamine cases in Colombia that they usually don’t make the news unless particularly bizarre. One such incident involved three young Bogota women who preyed on men by smearing the drug on their breasts and luring their victims to take a lick. Losing all willpower, the men readily gave up their bank access codes. The breast-temptress thieves then held them hostage for days while draining their accounts.

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In 1929 several Russian emigres in Paris were overwhelmed by the side effects of scopolamine which caused a condition they referred to as gaga-ism

“It seems that Prince Yusupoff’s valet encouraged another valet to put the drug in the tea of the latter’s masters and their guests. The polite poisoning had been going on for months, producing a state of complete stupidity which none of these aristocrats found strange.

aristocrats found here

Memory vanished, general conversation lagged, the two children dropped behind in their studies and became unable to add two and two without exciting comment from their proud parents. Casual guests dropping in for ‘le five o’clock’ were led back to their limousines in a state of complete imbecility, and an aunt fell flat on her face after having sipped a cup of weak Orange Pekoe.

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Also, the unfortunate Comte de Lareinty-Tholozan, who had been imbibing from the scopolamine bottle steadily since the previous November, each day lost a little more sense, according to his admiring spouse. The hilarity among red-blooded mortals caused by these blue-blood disclosures was said to be as good as a revolution…..”

Eugene’s raisin

The first maitre d’hotel at Maxim’s was Eugene Cornuché.  He prided himself on pleasing his clientele and saw to it they could order almost any dish. When one man shouted angrily that there was a beetle in his soup, Cornuché put the insect in his mouth and swallowed it, assuring the complainer that it was only a raisin. An American cotton millionaire asked for, and was brought, a naked girl resting in an ambrosial pink sauce on a silver platter.


He encouraged glamourous women to come to the restaurant every night. Haitian beauty Jeanne Duval arrived carrying her tiny pet dog in her jewel encrusted chastity belt. Caroline Otero fandangoed on the tables, Liane de Pougy wore emerald rings on her toes; and men flocked to be seen with them.


Of Caroline Otero, it was said that ‘her spectacular breasts preceded her by a quarter of an hour‘. The writer Collette described them as ‘elongated lemons, firm and gloriously upturned at their lovely tips’.

Caroline and Liane both boasted that they owned the choicest jewels in France, and it was agreed that they should bring their collections one night to Maxim’s and allow its habitués to judge. Caroline was the first to arrive, laden from head to foot. Her victory seemed certain as the only part of her left uncovered was her face.


Liane appeared dressed entirely in black velvet without a single jewel. Behind her came her personal maid, who removed the coat she was wearing and, in the words of an onlooker, resembled an illuminated Eiffel Tower. As abounding applause proclaimed her the winner, a raging Caroline rushed towards the winner and had to be restrained by the ever ready urbane Monsieur Cornuché.


“In 1913, Jean Cocteau said of Maxim’s: “It’s an accumulation of velvet, lace, ribbons, diamonds and what all else I couldn’t describe. To undress one of these women is like an outing that necessitates three weeks advance notice, it’s like moving house.” Other famous guests of that time period were Edward VII and Marcel Proust.

window dressing inspired by Proust

Maxim’s was also immensely popular with the international elite of the 1950s, with guests such as Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Porfirio Rubirosa, Max Ophuls, and Barbara Hutton. When the restaurant was renovated at the end of the decade, workmen discovered a treasure trove of lost coins and jewelry that had slipped out of the pockets of the wealthy and been trapped between the cushions of the banquettes.


Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 10:49 am  Comments (40)  
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sealing wax and string

You may think the fashion of breasts enlarged by various means is relatively new, but that is not the case.

In The School for Fashion published in 1800, Madame Thicknesse related the true story of a girl about to be married who fainted at a party. A number of women eagerly flew to her assistance, and upon loosening her gown to give her more air, were shocked to see a beautiful pair of wax breasts tumble out on to the floor.

Anita Ekberg disdained wax

In the early 19th century, ladies who did not need an enlargement bought a special corset called a ‘divorce’. It was designed to separate what the hand of the Creator had brought into the most graceful union…. a piece of steel or iron, of a triangular form, gently curved on either side… covered with soft material… placed at the centre of the chest to divide the breasts. The idea was to push the breasts apart to prevent the appearance of cleavage.

Elaborately carved whalebone was often used as a separator. It would be inserted in a panel down the centre of a corset such as the one below

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To facilitate the lacing of their corsets, many women had a lacing bar installed in their boudoir. It was a horizontal bar positioned high enough above her head that she could grab and hang from it. This position lengthened the body and narrowed the waist so tighter lacing was possible.

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Often a ‘perineal strap’ was included with a corset. This was used to attach sanitary napkins but also as a way of preventing exploration.

No need for a perineal strap here

Even Tom Cruise’s ex, Mimi Rogers, likes a bit of corset action. Here she is in a yellow and black combination that holds her assets up nicely

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Lacing is not restricted to body corsets. BME have many interesting variations including this leg lacing effect which would make it all but impossible to break into a run

For a completely different take on corsetry, check out Ira Sherman’s Impenetrable Devices.

Many of Sherman’s pieces are, in fact, “prostheses” created around a humorous social concept. These are worn on the body, and may be shockingly intimate. The devices have names like Bear Trap Corset (below), Saber Tooth Speculum and Intimate Electric Fence. They are mostly steel and brass, with some electrical wiring and small mechanical parts.

Published in: on December 24, 2009 at 7:51 am  Comments (23)  
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