gift of the muses

The Greek word for ‘gift of the muses’ is Musidora. French actress Jeanne Roques used it as her stage name.

image

Beginning in 1915, Musidora began appearing in the hugely successful Feuillade-directed serials Les Vampires as Irma Vep, a cabaret singer, opposite Édouard Mathé as crusading journalist, Philippe Guerande. Contrary to the title, the Les Vampires were not actually about vampires, but about a criminal gang cum secret society inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang.

Irma Vep found here

Les Vampires’ success was due in great part to the character of the head villainess, whose name is an anagram of “vampire,” – Musidora (who occasionally posed naked) virtually defined female beauty for the decade, and her character, identified mostly by her black tights and black mask, slinking down corridors and escaping over rooftops, defined the popular archetype of the super-villainess femme fatale for decades to come

After her career as an actress faded, she focused on writing and producing. Her last film was an homage to her mentor Feuillade entitled La Magique Image in 1950, which she both directed and starred in. Late in her life she would occasionally work in the ticket booth of the Cinematheque Francaise — few patrons realized that the old woman in the foyer might be starring in the film they were watching.”

image found here

The Bonnot Gang was a criminal anarchist group operating in France and Belgium from 1911-12.

They had the dubious honor of being the first to use an automobile to flee the scene of a crime, presaging by over twenty years the later methods of John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde. Automobiles were not yet common so the gang usually stole expensive cars from garages, not from the street.

Bonnot Gang found here

In March 1912, gang member and would-be leader Octave Garnier sent a mocking letter to the Sûreté – with his fingerprints. In those days, the French police did not yet use fingerprinting. On March 25, 1912, the gang stole a de Dion-Bouton automobile by shooting the driver through the heart. They drove into Chantilly north of Paris where they robbed the Société Générale Bank – shooting the bank’s three cashiers. They escaped in their stolen automobile as two policemen tried to catch them, one on horseback and the other on a bicycle.

French bicycle found here

On April 28, police had tracked Bonnot to a house in Choisy le Roi. They besieged the place with 500 armed police officers, soldiers, firefighters, military engineers and private gun-owners. By noon, after sporadic firing from both sides, three police officers put a dynamite charge under the house. The explosion demolished the front of the building. Bonnot was hiding in the middle of a rolled mattress and tried to shoot back until Lépines shot him non-fatally in the head.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 8:10 am  Comments (38)  
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the red rose apology

Jo Attia was France’s most colourful criminal until his death in 1972.

image of Jo (second from right) found here

***He was raised in a convent until age twelve, when he was sent to earn his keep on a farm. Out of the hard grind came the magnificent physique that would become his underworld trademark. But by age sixteen he’d had it with farm life. He headed to Marseilles and joined a gang of youths. Within a year police caught him red-handed in a break-in. He was sent to North Africa with a penal batallion. There he learned to box and to kill, and became a close friend of Marseilles gangster Pierre Loutrel.

image found here

During the war Attia worked with the French resistance force, the Maquis. His main contribution was to confine his thievery to Germans and their French collaborators. But he allegedly also helped hundreds of Jews to cross the border to Spain.

Following the war Charles de Gaulle appointed Jo Attia to the Legion of Honor. Still, a hero’s glory buys no bread. Jo thought of entering the boxing ring, but the first manager he approached broke up at the sight of Attia’s tattoed body. “We’re looking for a boxer,” he said, “not a roadmap.”

magazine cover found here

By chance Attia ran into his old friend from the penal battalion, Pierre  Loutrel who had become one of Paris’s leading crooks, “Pierrot le Fou” (the crazy). He joined Pierre’s gang only to be nearly caught by the police in September 1946. There followed an exchange of fire in the classic Chicago tradition.

Pierre’s gun found here

When the sound of gunfire reached him, Loutrel sprang into his brand new armored Delahay, not to flee, but to rescue his pals. At top speed he swung through the bullet shower at the hotel entrance and jammed on the breaks long enough for Attia to jump in. He then floored the gas pedal and disappeared. The gendarmes were left gaping. Another gang member, by hiding in a water barrel and breathing through a hose, also managed to escape. When the police left the scene, he emerged.

unarmoured Delahaye found here

Their luck ran out a few months later when they assaulted and shot a jeweler. Carrying the take to the car, Pierrot le Fou stuffed his pistol under his belt. It fired, stopping him in his tracks. His partners buried him on an island in the Seine. Attia took over, but some of the wildness had left him and he opened a chain of bordellos and nightclubs.

image from Vee Speers Bordello series found here

In 1949 Attia was sent to prison for four years for concealing a body (that of Pierrot le Fou) and illegal possession of weapons. The prosecutor, charging Attia with murder, had asked for a life sentence. But Attia got off lightly thanks to the intervention of one Colonel Beaumont, whose life Attia had saved during the war. Behind bars in Fresnes in 1952, Jo married the mother of his daughter, Nicole.

***This is an extract from a fascinating book, The Great Heroin Coup by Henrik Kruger translated by Jerry Meldon and found here. If you were intrigued by this, I recommend you click the link and read more. Or buy the book!

I found it when researching French actress Martine Carol who was briefly kidnapped by Pierre Loutrel. He apologised the next day by sending her a bouquet of red roses.


Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 7:12 am  Comments (44)  
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candidates for the chain gang

According to fragments of the Satyricon, Trimalchio threw a hell of a dinner party

Hors d’oeuvres are served . The first course comes on the back of a Corinthian bronze donkey – white olives and black olives are served in equal amounts in panniers on the side of the bronze donkey. He also has served dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy seed and steaming sausages on a silver gridiron with damsons and pomegranate seeds underneath.

“Dormouse Hunt” found here

Ethiopian slaves (the most expensive slave you could buy) pour wine over the guests hands between one course and another. The slaves remove hang nails from his guests’ feet so that they won’t be left behind and thus bring bad luck into the house. Trimalchio has a course made that represents the 12 signs of the Zodiac, again showing his superstitious nature.

Aries the Ram – chickpeas (the ram is a sign of virility and chickpeas represent the penis in satire)

Taurus the Bull – a beefsteak . The bull represents strength.

Belgian Blue Bull found here

Gemini (The heavenly twins) – Testicles and kidneys

Cancer the Crab- a garland (which looks like pincers)

Leo the Lion – an African fig since lions were from Africa.

click to read “Figs and Olives” from marriedtothesea

Virgo the Virgin – a young sow’s udder, symbol of innocence.

Libra the Scales – A pair of balanced pans with a different dessert in each

Scorpio – a Sea Scorpion

Sagittarius the Archer – a sea bream with eyespots, you need a good eye to practise archery.

Capricorn- a Lobster

Aquarius the Water Carrier – a goose i.e. water fowl.

Pisces the Fish – two mullets

As befits his superstitious nature he now goes on to describe the type of people born under various star signs –

Aries the ram – People born under this sign are hard headed but good business men. Scholars and muttonheads  are born under this sign

Taurus the bull- Bull-headed people are born under this sign and those who are self sufficient.

Bull Penis Cane found here

Gemini- Twins are born under this sign, as well as bisexuals

Cancer the Crab-  People born under this sign have many legs to stand on (i.e. are multi talented) and own property on land and sea.

Leo the Lion – People born under this sign are greedy and bossy like a lion.

Virgo the Virgin – people born under this sign are runaways and candidates for the chain gang.

Chain Gang image found here

Libra the Scales – Butchers and perfume sellers (who used scales to weigh the spices in perfume) and anyone who weighs things up are born under this sign.

Sagittarius – Cross eyed people (since Sagittarius looks backwards)

Capricorn – People in trouble who sprout horns in their worry

Aquarius – Bartenders and Jug heads

Pisces- people who spout rubbish in public

more astrological bodywork here


Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 7:31 am  Comments (36)  
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