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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pick up those chestnuts!

Pope Alexander VI was quite the party animal and a grave embarrassment to the Church.


“He has a unique record among the popes for the public prominence of his illegitimate children and the blatancy of his amours in the “Sacred Palace”. With his 12 bastard children, including Cesare, Juan, Lucrezia and Jofre, and his numerous mistresses, the “Vatican was a brothel” with a debauched papal court. Alexander VI was a sexual pervert, and lurid stories were bandied about by the intellectual underworld of Rome.


“Once he became Pope Alexander VI, Vatican parties, already wild, grew wilder. They were costly, but he could afford the lifestyle of a Renaissance prince; as vice chancellor of the Roman Church, he had amassed enormous wealth. As guests approached the papal palace, they were excited by the spectacle of living statues: naked, gilded young men and women in erotic poses. Flags bore the Borgia arms, which, appropriately, portrayed a red bull rampant on a field of gold. Every fete had a theme. One, known to Romans as the Ballet of the Chestnuts, was held on October 30, 1501. The indefatigable Burchard describes it in his Diarium. After the banquet dishes had been cleared away, the city’s fifty most beautiful whores danced with the guests, “first clothed, then naked.” The dancing over, the “ballet” began, with the Pope and two of his children in the best seats.


Candelabra were set up on the floor, scattered among them were chestnuts, “which”, Burchard writes, “the courtesans had to pick up, crawling between the candles.” Then the serious sex started. Guests stripped and ran out onto the floor, where they mounted, or were mounted by, the prostitutes. “The coupling took place,” according to Burchard, “in front of everyone present.” Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the Pope greatly admired virility, and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity. After eveyone was exhausted, His Holiness distributed prizes- cloaks, boots, caps, and fine silken tunics. “The winners”, the diarist wrote, “were those who made love with the courtesans the greatest number of times.”

image by Franz von Bayros

His death was not such a grand and exciting affair. Johann Burchard was the man who dressed and prepared the Pope’s body for burial.

“With the help of three others, I took hold of the bier and moved it so that the pope’s head was close to the altar. There we shut the bier in behind the choir. The Bishop of Sessa, however, wondered if the ordinary people might not climb up to the body there, which would cause a great scandal and perhaps allow somebody who had been wronged by the pope to get his revenge. He therefore had the bier moved into the chapel entrance between the steps, with the pope’s feet so close to the iron door that they could be touched through the grill. There the body remained through the day, with the iron door firmly closed.

At four o’clock on that afternoon when I saw the corpse again, its face had changed to the color of mulberry or the blackest cloth and it was covered in blue-black spots. The nose was swollen, the mouth distended where the tongue was doubled over, and the lips seemed to fill everything. The appearance of the face then was far more horrifying than anything that had ever been seen or reported before.

Later after five o’clock, the body was carried to the Chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre and placed in its coffin next to the wall in a corner by the altar. Six laborers or porters, making blasphemous jokes in contempt of his corpse, together with two master carpenters, performed this task.

Chapel Santa Maria

The carpenters had made the coffin too narrow and short, and so they placed the pope’s miter at his side, rolled him up in an old carpet, and pummeled and pushed it into the coffin with their fists. No wax tapers or lights were used, and no priests or any other persons attended to his body.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (37)  
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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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sin on a tiger skin

British novelist Elinor Glyn, coined the phrase The “It” Girl about Clara Bow and wrote the erotic potboiler “Three Weeks”

Written in six weeks, it eventually sold some 5,000,000 copies, and featured a wildly romantic Balkan queen who greeted her lover from a reclining position on a tiger skin with a red rose between her teeth. The book was boycotted in Boston, blasted from pulpits, and celebrated in an anonymous ditty:

Would you like to sin

with Elinor Glyn

on a tiger skin?

Or would you prefer

to err

with her

on some other fur?

image of Eartha Kitt found here

With her red hair, green eyes, and powder-white face, she drew men in Paris and London like so many iron filings. When she was 26, four house-partying young gallants threw each other into a lake at 3 a.m., competing for her favors. This intrigued a longtime socialite bachelor named Clayton Glyn, who decided Elinor was just the girl for him.

image of Elinor Glyn found here

For the honeymoon at Brighton in 1892, Clayton hired the public baths for two days so that his “Lorelei” could “swim up and down alone, naked, her long red hair, which when uncoiled reached her knees, trailing in the water behind her.” But in a short two years all the romance had gone from their marriage.

image found here

Hollywood “discovered” Elinor Glyn in 1920, when Famous Players-Lasky offered her $10,000 and traveling expenses to write an original scenario  and to give the stars—Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino and half a dozen others—her pointers on the art of love.

image of Valentino found here

Coming from the tiger skin lady, these views were strangely staid (“Touching ought to be reserved entirely for the loved one”) and sometimes cynical (“It is wiser to marry the life you like, because, after a little, the man doesn’t matter”).

During the eight years previous to her death in 1943, checks were doled out to her by her bankers, and she was free to dabble in her pet enthusiasms, automatic writing and reincarnation. She was quite certain that she had roamed the palace of Versailles during a previous existence, but apparently no one thought to ask her about her plans for the next incarnation.

The image above came from here. It really doesn’t have anything to do with Elinor Glyn but it puts me in mind of palaces and reincarnation and I thought you might like it too

“Jessie Clarke, a Melbourne social worker, daughter of diplomat Herbert Brookes and his wife, Ivy, herself the daughter of former Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, dressed up for the Centenary of Victoria celebration ball in 1934, marking the colony’s foundation. Her head-dress represents Yallourn Power Station, her cloak shows Victoria’s irrigation scheme, and her crinoline is painted with scenes of Melbourne.”

Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 7:27 am  Comments (34)  
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the prince of the assassins

Hotel Pimodan found here

Dr Jacques Joseph Moreau and his friend Theophile Gautier were the driving force behind the setting up of Le Club des Haschischins in 1844 which met every month at the Hotel Pimodan on the Ile St Louis. The order was under the command of a ‘shiek’ called the Prince of the Assassins. This role was played by Dr Moreau himself, who would distribute green hashish paste among his assembled “assassins.”

image found here

Gautier wrote about the experience here

The doctor stood by the side of a buffet on which lay a platter filled with small Japanese saucers. He spooned a morsel of paste or greenish jam about as large as the thumb from a crystal vase, and placed it next to the silver spoon on each saucer.

The doctor’s face radiated enthusiasm; his eyes glittered, his purple cheeks were aglow, the veins in his temples stood out strongly, and he breathed heavily through dilated nostrils.

Dr Purple and his team found here

“This will be deducted from your share in Paradise,” he said as he handed me my portion.

Already some of the more fervent members felt the effects of the green jam: for my part, I had experienced a complete transformation in taste. The water I drank seemed the most exquisite wine, the meat, once in my mouth, became strawberries, the strawberries, meat. I could not have distinguished a fish from a cutlet. That strange visitor, hallucination, had come to dwell within me.

Strawberry meat found here

Little by little the salon was filled with extraordinary figures, such as are found only in the etchings of Callot or the aquatints of Goya; a pêle-mêle of rags and tatters, bestial and human shapes; at any other time I should have been uneasy in such company, but there was nothing menacing in these monstrosities. Only in a grin of good humor could one discover the uneven fangs and pointed teeth.

Courtyard of Lunatics by Goya found here

One of the club members, who had not taken part in the voluptuous intoxications, in order to survey the phantasma and prevent those of us who believed we possessed wings from leaping out the windows, got up, opened the piano, and sat down. His two hands plunged together into the ivories of the clavier and a glorious chord, resounding forcefully, silenced the clamor and changed the direction of the drunkenness.

read about turkey parachuting here

A veil was torn away from my mind’s eye, and it became apparent to me that the club’s members were none other than Cabalists and sorcerers who wished to sweep me to my doom.

Then vertigo enveloped me completely; I became mad, delirious. I was overcome with despair, for, in lifting my hand to my skull, I found it open, and I lost consciousness.

skull cake found here

The dream had ended. The hachichins each escaped separately to their houses, like the officers after Malbrouck’s funeral.

As for myself, I went down that stairway which had caused me such tortures with a light step, and several minutes later was in my own room, in full reality; the last, lingering mists of the hashish had disappeared. My reason had returned, or at least that which I call reason, for want of a better term. My lucidity would have been just sufficient to grasp a pantomime or vaudeville, or to make verses rhyming in three letters……

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 7:27 am  Comments (34)  
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do you want beaver with your nuncheons?

What did you have for breakfast today? If you lived in 19th century England you may have eaten this Sunday menu from Breakfast, Luncheons and Ball Suppers

Fried skate and shrimp sauce

Curried pig’s feet

Breakfast cakes

Potted anchovy

Devilled hot meat

Hot buttered toast


The author, Major L, also tells you how to boil an egg

“A new laid egg takes longer to boil than one which has been laid some days, and if you wish the white set it should be put in boiling water four minutes and a half. If you prefer the white running all over your plate, and dropping all over your dress on the way to your mouth, let it boil three minutes and a half.”

“Nuncheons” was the name given to a meal break for manual workers. “Bever” (pronounced as beaver NOT as bever-age) meant much the same thing –  a light meal, possibly a lump of bread, a gobbet of cheese or some seed cake, always served with something liquid, usually beer or ale.

Raincoaster’s beaver recipe

Gabriel Tschumi was Master Chef to three monarchs – Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.

In his autobiography, Tschumi recalled that for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee banquet 24 chefs were brought over from Paris to help with the cooking and that the younger apprentices in the royal kitchens attempted to grow their moustaches to resemble those of their French superiors. The book reproduces the recipe for Côtelettes de bécassines à la Souvaroff, served by Tschumi at King Edward VII’s coronation banquet in 1902. This consisted of snipe cutlets covered in brandy, pâté and breadcrumbs, placed in a pig’s caul, and served with beans, truffles, mushrooms, and a Madeira and truffle sauce.

Pig’s caul (and duodenum, uterus etc.) found here

Tschumi doesn’t dish the dirt on any of the royals but he does reveal a snippet about Queen Victoria’s eating habits.

“Towards the end of her life she was not a large eater. Rumour had it that her breakfast was usually a boiled egg, served in magnificent style. According to the upper servants, she used a gold egg cup and a gold spoon, and two of her Indian servants, in their showy scarlet and gold uniforms, stood behind her chair in case she wanted anything.”

image by Banksy found here

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 7:01 am  Comments (42)  
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