Lorena and the crazy man who loves

Abdala Bucaram was President of Ecuador for six turbulent months.

Bucaram (on right) found here

In an effort to take attention away from a growing list of scandals and corruption allegations, Bucaram began to do what he did best – be himself. It started with the release of his music CD titled “A Crazy Man Who Loves”. Continuing to exploit the media, Bucaram shaved off his trademark moustache on live TV.

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Alas, he had but one moustache to shave for his country, so he followed that up by inviting another famous/infamous Ecuadorian, Lorena Bobbitt, to have lunch with him at the national palace. Bucaram and Bobbitt both became godparents of the baby daughter of an Ecuadorean singer in the port city of Guayaquil. It isn’t known whether the cutlery included knives that day.

Lorena found here

President Bucaram not only attended the World Banana Queen contest, he grabbed the microphone and crooned to the winner, surrounded by scantily clad contestants. By this time, many in Ecuador had thought Bucaram’s antics had gone past comedic and into the realm of lunatic. When he slandered an ex-president by comparing him to a “burro” (donkey), he didn’t help matters. His public apology – not to the politician, but to donkeys – just made things worse.


Mr Bucaram cast a long shadow after he was stripped of his office on the grounds of mental incapacity in 1997 and the fabulous stories – of banknotes stuffed into rubbish bags and paintings removed from the walls of the presidential palace in the dying hours of his administration – began to come out. With demonstrations in the streets and the economy in shambles, the Ecuadorian Congress impeached Bucaram on the grounds of “mental disability” and he quickly flew to Panama to escape looming corruption charges.

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In 2005 he returned to Ecuador after eight years in exile. First he descended from a helicopter into a pre-prepared adoring crowd (though not, as was his habit 20 years ago, in a Batman suit). Then he burst into song. Finally, he mounted a horse, declared himself “as crazy as ever”, and trotted with his lieutenants across a public park to Guayaquil’s waterfront, looking, in the words of a local lawyer whose office windows gave him a front-row seat, “like Attila and his Barbarian hordes”.

Gerard Butler as Attila the Hun found here

musical tales

In this lovely old book about musicians and food, Charles Nielsen Gattey relates some interesting anecdotes.

“In his impoverished youth, Irving Berlin was employed as a waiter cum pianist in a shabby Bowery restaurant. Visitors would later be taken there during tours of New York, and guides would point at an ancient, ill-treated piano in a corner and allege that Berlin had composed some of his best tunes there.

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Drawn to the place by a fit of nostalgia one evening when he had become famous, the composer sat at the piano and began to play. Just then, a coach arrived and unloaded its sightseers. “This historic place is where Berlin wrote his immortal melodies on that very piano. Listen, the song that Bowery bum is playing is one of his, though if he heard how he’s murdering it he’d turn in his grave.”

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The pianist Paderewski displayed his sense of the ridiculous when replying to an invitation to perform after a dinner party being given for King George V and Queen Mary. He had asked for a fat fee which she agreed to pay, adding in her letter

“Please accept my regrets for not inviting you to the dinner. As a professional artist, you will be more at ease in a nice room where you can rest before the concert.”

The great pianist wrote back: “Dear Duchess, Thank you for your letter. As you so kindly inform me that I am not obliged to be present at your dinner, I shall be satisfied with half my fee.”

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Yet another clueless member of high society issued a thoughtless invitation to the Spanish violinist Pablo Sarasate

“Dearest Maestro, how lovely to have you back in town. Can you dine with us tomorrow? P.S. Please don’t forget to bring your Stradivarius!”

Sarasate replied “Delighted to see you. I most certainly accept your invitation to dinner tomorrow. P.S. My Strad does not dine.”

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Published in: on September 4, 2010 at 7:01 am  Comments (48)  
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louis louis louis

Louis Jullien was a French conductor and impresario who popularised promenade concerts in England through the 1840s and 1850s.

Louis Jullien

On entering the theatre, he would mount a red dais and swivel round so that his audience, especially the female members, could see how magnificent he looked. His glossy black moustache was described as ‘a startling novelty’ and he was renowned for waiting until he was on stage to don his conductor’s gloves which a servant presented to him on a velvet cushion.

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When conducting Beethoven, he used a jewelled baton and when the funeral march movement of the Eroica Symphony was played, he changed his white kid gloves for black ones.

Near him on stage was a throne of gilt and red velvet. At the end of a piece (which he would conduct facing the audience instead of the orchestra), he would collapse dramatically upon it to demonstrate the emotional and physical effort he went to.

Russian State Throne

Altogether Louis had 36 Christian names including two Thomases and one Thomas-Thomas, as his godparents consisted of an entire orchestra, the members of which all claimed the privilege of passing on their names at the christening.

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This excerpt published in a British magazine in 1880 paints a vivid picture of his personality

“In the year 1847, the management of the Drury Lane theater of London was assumed by a very eccentric and grotesque creature. It would be unfair to dismiss him as a mere charlatan;however empirical his proceedings, he was his own chief dupe. He was crazily vain, disorderly,tawdry and vulgar but he was humane; he was ingenious after a fashion; he was enterprising beyond all reasonable bounds; he possessed much natural wit; and he was animated by an enthusiasm unquestionably genuine, for all its comical and crackbrained modes of expression.

He possessed a certain instinct for new combinations of sound and delighted in orchestral uproar of a prodigious sort. He had a garden-roller dragged over sheets of iron to simulate the roar of artillery; pans of red fire were lighted at intervals so that while the sense of hearing was assailed by the strangest clangor and hubbub, the eyes and nose might be no less amazed by the flash and glare and pungent fumes of nitrate of strontium”

Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 7:04 am  Comments (36)  
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a claque of youths

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***Nero did not fiddle as Rome burned, the fiddle had not yet been invented. But he did consider himself an accomplished lyre player and singer and when in his twenties, gave a public recital. He worked hard at rehearsals and was prepared to suffer for his art. To reduce his weight and improve the quality of his voice, he underwent enemas and severe diets. Some days he ate only chives preserved in oil, and never consumed apples as he felt they harmed his vocal chords.

The concert took place in Naples in a large amphitheatre. The programme was very lengthy and the performance dragged on and on. No one dared show any sign of boredom or dissatisfaction as his spies were everywhere observing faces for a lack of enthusiasm. Nero had packed the amphitheatre with a claque of 5,000 youths to make sure he had a good reception. He was reportedly so pleased by the rhythmic clapping of the Alexandrian sailors that he sent across to Egypt for reinforcements.

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No one was allowed to leave before the end and several babies were born during the performance. People tried desperately to escape. Some climbed the wall at the back and risked the long drop to the ground. Others collapsed in a heap and feigned death, hoping to be carted off for burial.

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Nero, thrilled by the tumultuous acclaim, embarked on a series of repeat performances over several days. The concerts were finally brought to a close by a small earthquake that destroyed the theatre.

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*** from Classical Music’s Strangest Concerts by Brian Levison & Frances Farrer

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 8:06 am  Comments (50)  
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Lennon in her living room

Rosemary Brown was a widow with two children, struggling to make ends meet when John Lennon appeared in her living room in 1984.

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John  was not the first famous musician to contact Rosemary, Liszt had been doing so since she was seven. He often accompanied her shopping and was knowledgeable about cheap bananas.

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Rosemary Brown, a Medium from Wimbledon, London, claims that John first arrived in spirit form in her living room in 1984. Since then he has dictated over two dozen songs to her. She says, “He is taller than I always imagined him in this life. I seem to see him as he looked at the height of the Beatles early success – he looks to be in his late 20s or so, he is clean shaven, fresh-faced, doesn’t wear glasses.”

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Mrs. Brown also observes, “What has most surprised John is that there is a continuing process of learning and evolving on the other side He told me that the afterlife is very much a continuation of this life. You pick up where you left off. You don’t suddenly change or know everything.” He also told her that he still loves Cynthia, his first wife; that he wants his son Julian to record the songs he has dictates to Rosemary and that he is now against the use of drugs.

image by Ronald Traeger found here

Rosemary is not the only medium to commune with John in the afterlife. Bill Tenuto of San Diego had this to report

It also seems that parties are held on ‘the other side’. John held a party in which a number of late personalities appeared, including Clark Gable and Carol Lombard. John’s spirit said, “… Carol Lombard was there, and I took to her. I want to tell you, I really took to her. We are capable of having sex over here…we do the same thing that you do except without the body. We love sex as much as anybody who’s got a body. The sensations are a bit different, with an interplay of energies that take place when we have sex. We don’t concern ourselves with Planned Parenthood since spirits can’t propagate a baby spirit.

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Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 8:28 am  Comments (38)  
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flirting with secular perversions

Don Carlo Gesualdo was a 16th century nobleman and composer of madrigals. At the time his music was considered almost heretical and obscene which brought him to the attention of some pesky clergymen.

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The Vatican issued an edict that Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, “although divinely talented and of regal family lineage was apparently flirting with secular perversions and a lurid internal conflict setting decency and morality at the feet of carnal desires.”

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Nowadays Gesualdo’s vocal compositions have faded from musical memory. What did not fade however were the notorious scandals, the incestuous affairs, the fits of rage, the orgies and the suggestion that young Gesualdo would routinely murder those who sought to depose him or, who in some way, failed to meet with his satisfaction.

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In 1586, Carlo and his cousin Donna Maria were married. This marriage was her third and his first, and apparently prospered initially with the newly-weds living more like lovers than a wedded couple. They were sexual exhibitionists and their loud, often flamboyant sexing became the topic of numerous rumors and local folklore.

oops.. wrong Donn(y) Mari(e)

However, although a fun recreational hobby, Gesualdo’s first love was not of women nor of sex, but rather of music; regardless of his highly debatable talent, or lack thereof. Eventually, it became evident to Donna Maria that her husband was simply too interested in composing and she sought romantic compensation from others.

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Upon hearing of her duplicity, Gesualdo decided to personally end her affair with Fabrizio, the Duke of Andria. He and his men surprised the couple in bed together and stabbed the Duke 27 times, once for each month that had been the approximate length of the affair. Lady Donna Maria’s fatal wounds were confined “almost exclusively to those parts of her body which she ought to have kept honest.”

Fabio NOT Fabrizio

The local governor was so fearful of Gesualdo’s potential for murderous rage and psychotic mania that he declared a jurisdictional ‘misstep’ in the circumstances surrounding the Gesualdo affair and immediately cleared Don Carlo of all charges. Much to everybody’s surprise, the prince then married again in 1595.

Almost immediately, upon returning from an extended honeymoon with his new bride, his life erupted in salacious and unsettling rumors. There were accusations that Gesualdo had taken a male lover in Ferrara, that he routinely beat his wife Lenora, and, most notably, that amidst all of this turmoil and violence, Lenora and her brother were engaged in a constant incestuous love affair.

From this time on until his death, Gesualdo’s behaviour became increasingly bizarre. He resorted to flagellation, employing teams of young men to beat him three times a day, ‘during which he was wont to smile joyfully’. He even made it into medical textbooks: ‘The prince was unable to go to stool without having been previously flogged by a valet kept expressly for this purpose‘.

Towards the end of his life, Gesualdo became more and more restless. He spoke often of his past murderous tendencies to anyone who would listen, or who was brave enough to be alone with him in closed quarters. On September 8th, 1613, Don Carlo Gesualdo, who had been living in a self-imposed exile was found dead. When questioned about the circumstances by which his wife  found her husband, Lenora responded only with what was recorded as being “maniacal laughter.”

Lenora Claire NOT Laughing Lenora

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 8:02 am  Comments (36)  
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Muttersöhnchen

Piano-playing, Harvard-educated Putzi Hanfstaengl was Hitler’s foreign press secretary.

image of Putzi and British PM found here

Putzi excitedly told Adolf about the hypnotic effect of college cheering sections at U.S. football games and, at the piano, demonstrated the “buoyant beat” of U.S. brass bands. Recalls Putzi: “I had Hitler fairly shouting with enthusiasm. ‘That’s it, Hanfstaengl, that is what we need for the movement, marvelous,’ and he pranced up and down the room like a drum majorette.” The “Rah, rah, rah!” refrain of Harvardmen, by Putzi’s account, became the thunderous “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!” of the Brownshirt demonstrations.

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An accomplished pianist, art dealer and amateur historian, Hanfstaengl looked down his cultural nose at Hitler. Not only did the man resemble a suburban barber on his day off; he could not tell a Caravaggio from a Michelangelo. Worse, he seldom paid his debts, loved to stuff himself with pastry and whipped cream, sat delightedly through three showings of King Kong. Hitler, says Putzi contemptuously, was a Muttersöhnchen (mamma’s boy).

Caravaggio or Michelangelo? (rhetorical question)

“I felt Hitler was man who was neither fish nor fowl, neither fully homosexual nor fully heterosexual,” he explained. “You can drink very weak tea, or very thin absinthe and you can suffer from very diluted sex inversion.”

Putzi was one of the many who believed that Hitler suffered from syphilis.  At the time of his supposed infection it was still thought that the pox could only enter through a flaccid penis, so men who practiced coitus interruptus would achieve some measure of safety.

One of the “cures” used on Hitler by his personal physician, syphologist Dr Theo Morrell, was the application of leeches to his head to alleviate buzzing in his ears.

Emo Hitler found here

He also gave him Homoseran, derived from human placenta and capsules of Mutaflor which contained bacteria cultured from the faeces of a vigourous Bulgarian peasant, after which, for a time, he felt better.”