Friday, June 15, 2018

"Oh, No ... They Didn't!"

In true fashion of the era, Victorian scandals were as prim as they were preposterous.

The Queen was no exception.
Her reign nearly ended before it began thanks to an accusation. No doubt a ploy to discredit Sir John Conroy, Victoria made veiled accusations targeting a lady-in-waiting who’d recently presented a swollen abdomen. . . and had been most recently traveling alone with the manipulative controller.

Adamant of her purity, Lady Flora Hastings humbled herself to the court’s suspicions and, to her great humiliation, submitted to an examination by the royal doctor.

Her diagnosis of liver disease proved Lady Hastings was, in fact, not with child. Further, it confirmed to Queen Victoria’s adversaries that she still was one.

The 'baby scandal' wasn’t the only scandalous plot that backfired.
 Mathilde Kschessinskaya
He called her “that nasty little swine,” with good reason.

In regards to her ballet, choreographer Marius Petipa could appreciate —perhaps even admire— Mathilde Kschessinskaya. She was Prima Ballerina of the Imperial Ballet. It was a title no Romanov could secure on her behalf. And, it seemed, no one could strip her of.

Though not for lack of trying on Petipa’s part.

He repeatedly casted her. Each role was cruelly revised with intensified choreography.
 Marius Petipa
But still, she rose every occasion until Petipa discovered a young dancer.

When Olga Preobrajenska seized the coveted role in La Fille Mal Gardee, Mathilde sought to sabotagee Petipa and his production. A unique aspect of the particular ballet included live chickens. 

During the first act, Matilde freed the fowl from their coops.

At the resounding first note of music, they flailed onto the stage.
Following tradition, the show went on, ending in thunderous applause, from an audience enchanted with the notion of live poultry on the stage.

And yet another scandal was averted and the victim of a ruse was vindicated.
 Actress Lily Langtree
Actress Lillie Langtry had many a dalliance. Perhaps no lover was more famed than Edward, the Prince of Wales.
 She may have been a married woman, but she took her title of official mistress most seriously. Once Langtry arrived at a costume party wearing an identical costume to that of the one Edward had donned for the event.

He was not amused, and Langtry was not impressed by his tantrum. She promptly dropped an ice chunk down the back of his shirt.
Of all the etiquette to abide by in Victorian society, kissing in public was the height of impropriety.

Therefore, when Thomas Edison released the first on-screen kiss in 1896, the 23-second reel shocked viewers.
 This footage is often confused with another kiss scene, mistakenly credited by some as cinematic appearance of a kiss — it was, however, filmed in 1900 in Edison’s new glass-topped studio in New York City, and was quickly banned in most theaters. The two lovers remain anonymous.

According to Brain Pickings, “the act of kissing was referred to as ‘sparkin’ if it took place indoors, usually the parlor, or ‘spoonin’ when performed outdoors, in a secluded spot far from the public’s eye.”

 Harry Houdini
Few knew the true genius of Harry Houdini’s illusions. He’d made a name for himself mastering impossible handcuffs, locks, and safes. No one knew better of their limitations.

With such knowledge, it’s surprising he entrusted a safe, of all things, with love letters from mistresses.

His widow discovered them, of course. Imagine after the lighthearted marriage they'd shared! After Harry told her that magic “is something that happens when we’re together.” After years of keeping his secrets. . .

It was her turn to have a trick up her sleeve.
                                                                        Harry and Bess Houdini
Rather than seek out audience and submit the correspondence for newspaper publication, Bess Houdini invited the “other women”
to tea at her home. After their visit, each prepared to take her leave. But not before accepting a parting gift, her letters.

And then, to talk About Russia With Love!

“Quite cross about it,” a young Queen Victoria had no more sat down to dinner than tsarevich Alexander II arrived with his entourage of 70. Finally. A telegraph had alerted her to his delay. She ranted in her diary of “What a contretemps!”

Her vexation soon dissipated. The apparent heir’s agreeable company wouldn’t allow for it. Nor would his appearance fail to charm. For Alex was dashing and a lady’s man.

And in spite of being mother to a nation, Victoria was still a young woman.
 Queen Victoria and Alexander II
Together, they swept across the dance floor until three in the morning, Alex claiming an inappropriate number of dances.

The Grand Duke flirted in French and in a whisper only she could hear.
Victoria offered Alex a seat in her opera box. Behind the curtain, the besotted royals cared not of their breach of decorum.

However, Alex could not be ruled by his heart when he was meant to rule. Tsar Nicholas refused for his son to submit to that of a prince consort.

Following a farewell dinner in his honor, the lovers danced.

Spellbound, she wrote, “the Grand-Duke is so very strong, that in running round, you must follow quickly, and after that you are whisked round like in a Valse, which is very pleasant […] I never enjoyed myself more. We were all so merry; I got to bed by a 1/4 to 3, but could not sleep till 5.”

Throughout her reign, Victoria carried on several romances. Her marriage to Prince Albert shadows other dalliances. Still, there is another scandalous love. . . Only, it is more of a tender Victorian love story.
  Photographs of Queen Victoria and John Brown
Known as Prince Albert’s favorite servant, no doubt, the relationship with his sovereign assumed from a felt need. In light of her grief at the death of beloved Albert, Scotsman John Brown struck a playfulness. The banter between them livened her spirit.

With time, Victoria promoted “the most trusted, the most dear friend” to be her personal servant.

Even his billet changed to be the room adjoining hers. Scandalous but not surprising considering

John was charged with keeping her secrets as well as insuring her safety.

Contrary to the well-preserved correspondence with the prince, the royal family expunged much of what transpired between the queen and her servant from record. A forbidden affair, no matter how platonic, would do the crown no favours.

Always though, there will be the ring.

The Highlander gifted Victoria with his mother’s wedding band which Queen Victoria wore to her grave.
Well, I have to call a halt to the fun and get back into the studio. But, we'll get together for a good bit of gossip and 'ear-bending' in the near future!

And be sure to check out all the other fun offerings on today's Beverly's Pink Saturday blog hop!

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan


Friday, June 1, 2018

Cuddle Up to That Typewriter ...

 Her name is Ulla-stina Wikander.
She is from and lives in Sweden.
She is an embroidery and cross-stitch artist.
I believe the photos speak for themselves.
As always on Enchanted Revelries, you can click an image to enlarge 
it and examine it more closely!  

Thanks to Beverly for hosting "Anything Goes" on her Pink Saturday blog hop. Just click to see all the other participants' Pink Saturday offerings!

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
 Swedish Embroidery and Cross-Stitch Artist Ulla-stina Wikander

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Dark Cloud of Joy

It's surely no coincidence that the birthday of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson falls on National Tap Dance Day! 
Perhaps the best-known African-American in vaudeville (then and now), Bill Robinson left us a confusing hodgepodge of legacies. His life was a mass of contradictions perhaps best exemplified by his stage handle: “The Dark Cloud of Joy.” On the one hand, he is called by African-American scholar Donald Bogle “the quintessential Tom” for his cheerful and shameless subservience to whites in motion pictures. On the other hand, Robinson was in real life the sort of man who, when refused service at an all-white luncheonette, would lay his pearl-handled revolver on the counter and demand service. An illiterate, he was to become the unofficial Mayor of Harlem and one of the richest and best-known African Americans in the country. Even the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song “Mr. Bojangles” which everyone assumes is about him, isn’t. (The song is about a hobo; Robinson was a class act in top hat and tails).
He was born Luther Robinson in Richmond, Virginia in 1880. A perhaps apocryphal story has him beating up his brother William, two years his junior, until the latter allowed him to appropriate his name. (The real Bill was forever after known as “Percy” – it must have been a sound drubbing.) The boys were orphaned around 1885 under mysterious circumstances, and raised by their grandmother and various foster parents. Robinson was a latchkey kid, largely shifting for himself, earning his own way by shining shoes, occasional theft and dancing for tips on streetcorners. He got his famous nickname after stealing a beaver hat from a local merchant Lion J. Boujasson, whose name no one could pronounce.

In 1892, he hopped a freight train for Washington, D.C. with a white friend named Lemuel Toney (who later went on to become Eddie Leonard, a major blackface star in minstrelsy and vaudeville). His first professional gig was the part of a “pickaninny” role in the show “The South Before the War” which toured the northeast. By 1900, he had made his way to New York. The following year, he won a prestigious dance contest at a Brooklyn theatre against a man named Henry Swinton, then considered the best dancer in the business. In the audience were the likes of Eubie Blake and Walker & Williams. He began to work with various partners and rapidly became one of only six African-American acts booked regularly on the Keith circuit. In 1902 he teamed up with a successful comedian named George W. Cooper, laying aside his dancing to become the comic foil for a period of 12 years.

When the team broke up in 1914, Robinson approached a big-time manager named Marty Forkins with a unique proposal. At the time in vaudeville the “two black rule” was in full force; African Americans were seen on stage only in pairs. Robinson proposed to become the first black solo act. In addition to being socially groundbreaking, the move had the virtue of being a very good gimmick, a must in vaudeville, and so the two forged ahead.

Robinson rapidly rose to become one of America’s best loved entertainers. His act was an amalgam of little steps and moves he had copped from others, then stitched together into a sequence that was greater than the sum of its parts. He worked his alchemy by rehearsing and performing the act so much that he could do it in his sleep, and then “selling it” through the sheer force of his infectious personality. His smile was called “a beacon”. He would intersperse his routines with little jokes and remarks, such as the famous “Everything’s copasetic!” (a word, incidentally, which Robinson invented). In 1918, Robinson introduced what was to become his signature bit, “the stair dance”, stolen of course, but thereafter irrevocably his. By 1923, he had reached the number two spot on the bill at The Palace (or next to “next to closing”) – the highest spot to which he could aspire given the prejudices of the times.
As vaudeville began to wind down, Robinson was one of the lucky and talented few who not only kept working, but who actually became more famous. He starred in a number of revues, such as “Blackbirds of 1928” and “The Hot Mikado”, performed in top nightclubs in Harlem and elsewhere, and co-starred in numerous movies with the likes of Will Rogers, Lena Horne and – most famously – Shirley Temple. A variation of his stair dance can be seen in the Temple-Robinson vehicle The Little Colonel (1934).
Robinson used his power and influence to break new ground for African Americans on several fronts: he was the first African-American solo act in vaudeville; he refused to wear blackface; he fought for (and achieved) the racial integration of countless social and cultural events in the north and the south; he was the first African American in a Hollywood movie whose character was responsible for safeguarding a white’s life.

Like all the top vaudevillians, he was an obsessed workaholic, either practicing or performing constantly, sometimes doing five shows a day by choice. He said that he danced best when totally exhausted; it took the edginess off his performance. He wore out 20-30 pairs of tap shoes a year-roughly one every two weeks. It is said that he literally danced himself to death. After a series of heart attacks, the doctor advised him to quit in 1948. Robinson maintained that though he had trouble walking, talking sleeping and breathing, when he danced he felt wonderful. He died a few months later.
 Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
(May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949) 

Now, go make something beautiful!

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥ 

In Illinois, a police dog trainer is threatening that legalizing marijuana in the state will lead to the euthanization of police K9 dogs — and an Illinois Sheriff is agreeing with him. This is a horrible attempt to use animal cruelty to stop marijuana legalization. 

No matter how you feel about the legalization of marijuana, I'm sure we all can agree that the murdering of police K9 dogs has nothing to do with the discussion.

I just signed the petition, "Prevent Illinois from Killing Their Police Dogs." I think this is important. Will you sign it, too?

Here's the link: CLICK HERE



Friday, May 18, 2018

A Fantastical Life and Faery Tale Existence ...

“Don’t touch. And don’t eat what you touch unless you want to die” are the first words you’ll hear upon entering Lotusland, the exotic, 37-acre kingdom of plants tucked away in the quiet town of Montecito, California. Its roots run three owners and 135 years deep, but it’s the touch of its final, failed opera singer patroness, Madame Ganna Walska, that makes the legacy behind its pink walls so magical…
Our story starts when “Madame” was just 19, and plucked from a crowd by the Czar and declared the most beautiful girl at a ball. Back then she was just Hanna Puacz, your run-of-the-mill Polish gal from a humble family. But when she caught the Czar’s eye, he immortalised her beauty in a commissioned portrait:
She was the perfect cocktail of charisma, beauty, and wit, and quickly rose to the top of society with a new name: Madame Ganna Walska. “Madame” in reference to her budding opera career, “Ganna” as a variation of “Hanna,” and “Walska” because, well, it sounded like “waltz” and she just loved to dance.
She collected plants, and husbands. You could say the plants stuck around longer.  Madame accepted numerous marriage proposals and in total had six husbands, including a Russian count, a yogi, a playboy conman and the inventor of an electromagnetic “death ray”.

When she wasn’t playing ‘femme fatale’ and enjoying the high life that her first marriage had introduced her to, a good chunk of her time was spent in pursuit of a career as an opera singer.
The only problem was– Madame Walska couldn’t sing– or at least, if she could, no one was aware of her talent due to a crippling case of stage fright. In 1918, she performed in the Italian opera Fedora before an audience in Havana, Cuba which included fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The reception of the performance is described in the designer’s biography:
In 1925, The New York Times headlines of the day read, “Ganna Walska Fails as Butterfly: Voice Deserts Her Again When She Essays Role of Puccini’s Heroine” (January 29, 1925).

Ganna’s fourth husband, Harold McCormick played a vital role in continuing to promote her career, and his promotion was so adament, in fact, that it inspired much of the screenplay for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, in which the mysterious tycoon loses all his power and instead focuses his energies on his wife’s hopeless opera career.
 Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander in the film "Citizen Kane,"
directed by Orson Welles, 1941, photo: © 1941 RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
While she might not have had the “X Factor”, Ganna’s attentions (and wallet) were always oriented towards supporting the arts, and in 1922, she bought Paris’ Theatre des Champs Elysées following her divorce from McCormick. She claimed she bought the theatre (and a French chateau) with the fruits of her own investments, as opposed to those of her ex-husband’s.

“Love comes and goes on its own accord, like a fever,” Madame once said, “Nothing can stop it, nothing can prolong it either…My reputation was entirely my own creation for self-defense… I was considered to be an exceptionally level-headed woman, a thousand-headed monster, a hard working machine.”
Madame became quite a fixture on the Parisian society scene, and for a brief spell, had a go at launching her own Parisian cosmetics line. She was heartbroken when the impending First World War forced her to leave Paris for America.

But it was in America that she would find would finally find her calling and begin to shift herself out of the media spotlight that left her exposed to public ridicule and tabloid punchlines


In 1941, she bought her Santa Barbara estate from the herbology-obsessed Gavits family, who paved the way for her whimsical embellishments with their dramatic, Italianite landscaping. With the encouragement of her last husband, a yogi known as “White Lama,” she put her energy into what would soon be known as Lotusland, her true creative chef d’oeuvre.


Ever the francophile, she installed a number of the statues brought over from her French chateau, but it was also important for her to weave in elements of her Buddhist religion into the garden. Upon purchase she actually intended to turn it into a monastery called, “Tibetland,” but in the wake of WWII, the US government refused visas to the mountain monks she had hoped to bring over.

One of the gardens is dedicated to lily pads and lotuses, the latter of which give the estate its namesake. The aquatic flower symbolises personal growth and strength in Buddhist tradition, two qualities that would prove very important to Madame.

 The areas are often referred to as “garden rooms,” and categorised rather eclectically; some by country (the Australian), some by plant (Bromeliad) others by colour (i.e. the Blue Garden). This wasn’t just landscaping, but the creation of living, breathing stages.

Madame took many cues from the park “follies” structures popular during Paris’ Belle Epoque, like the tremendous astrological clock surrounded by topiary beasts. She proudly dabbled in telepathy, the zodiac, and was also a big fan of Ouija boards. (For what it’s worth, her sign was Cancer.)

Then there’s the Water Garden, with its aquamarine pool and giant clam fountains of her own design:

Later, when she smuggled her Polish family members out of Europe during the Second World War, she would dedicate an entirely new pool to her niece (complete with a faux beach and dangling pelican sculpture).
There’s also a formal theatre garden made up of rows of hedges and populated by a collection of 17th century stone figures called “grotesques.” They’re dwarfish characters from plays by the likes of Molière, and carved by the French artist Jacques Callot. They also tend to pop up out of no where…
Tremendous shards of blue-green glass emerge from the paths like emeralds, which Madame called jewellery for her garden and salvaged from an LA glass manufacturer. “She was wealthy,” confided a friend to a journalist, “but she was always thrifty, no matter how successful she became.”
The peripherary of the Japanese Garden teases you with stone lanterns called “Ishi-Dōrō” for as far as the eyes can see…
 The Insectary Garden is home to butterflies, a tremendous copper cage with doves, and a far-reaching trellis of lemons that Madame called her  “Victory Garden,” which was planted for the veterans of WWII. Today, its harvest serves certain food banks of Southern California.
For the most part, her elegant wardrobe, from her costumes to self-titled “Ganna Walska” perfume, are stored in Los Angeles. She had an excellent eye for both costume design (although the talents of Erté and Lanvin helped a lot).
 But every once in a while her treasures make an appearance at the old Montecito estate…
She loved grand entrances. Each pathway was meant to feel dramatic, with its rows of agave or palms…her motto was the French phrase malgré tout, “in spite of everything,” because she’d been through so much in love, death, and war over the years.
And just as you begin to feel lost in what feels like a very chic Jumanji, you’ll reach the pink main house. It’s at the heart of the garden, and meant to transport you to the sun-baked hills of Mexico…
Not much has changed today, and one type of cactus at its feet is actually extinct in its native Mexico. But that story isn’t uncommon at Lotusland, which has become one of the world’s most precious sanctuaries for rare plants.
 In fact, it’s one of the only places in the world where so many dangerous breeds can be at home. “The U.S. federal government,” says Gress, “has made it one of few holding grounds for plant contraband” (yes, that’s a thing). It’s a kingdom of exotic misfits, with the spirit of the most colourful and resilient of them all, Madame, at its helm.
When all was said and done, you could say that Lotusland was the true love of Madame’s life, and she lived until the age of 96 in the company of her 3000 darlings (aka plant varieties). One of her last grand gestures to the estate was the auctioning off of $1 million worth of her jewellery in the 1970s in order to finance the installation of  (you guessed it) a garden of 500 cycads.

Luckily for us, Madame bequeathed the gardens to the public upon her death, and you can make a reservation to visit it here

Now, go make something beautiful!

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥ 
  Dorothy Comingore in "Citizen Kane" playing Susan Alexander a thinly
disguised  portrait of Madame Ganna Walska