Friday, March 29, 2013

Chatting Today

Hi, everyone. I’m chatting today for a couple of hours at Loves Romance Café—a yahoo group and would love for you to come and say hello. Follow the link and come and discuss your favorite book or whatever comes to mind. I’ll be there from 1-3 Eastern Time…or 12-2 Central. I’ll be giving away one free book to one lucky chatter so don’t miss out on all the fun!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ziegfeld Girls

Ziegfeld Girls were chorus girls from Florenz Ziegfeld's theatrical spectaculars known as the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), which were based on the Folies Bergère of Paris. And this theatrical phenomenon has had long reaching fame including some very well known actresses. Today the Ziegfeld Girls are known as The Rockettes! Some things are simply timeless.
Perhaps the most famous Ziegfeld Girl during the run of the revues was Lillian Lorraine. Over the years they included many future stars such as Marion Davies, Paulette Goddard, Joan Blondell, Olive Thomas, Barbara Stanwyck, Billie Dove, Louise Brooks, Nita Naldi, Julanne Johnston, Mae Murray, Bessie Love, Dorothy Mackaill, Odette Myrtil, Lilyan Tashman, Claire Dodd, Cecile Arnold, Dolores Costello, Dorothy Sebastian, Iris Adrian and other society and business successes such as Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Helen Gallagher, Anastasia Reilly, and Irene Hayes.

Ziegfeld girl Mona Louise Parsons, was a member of a resistance movement in Holland during Nazi Occupation, working to return down Allied Airmen to England. She was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and became the only Canadian female civilian to be imprisoned by the Nazis, and one of the first women to be tried by a Nazi military tribunal in Holland. Her original sentence was death by firing squad, but the sentence was commuted to life with hard labor. She escaped from her captors.

I was surprised to learn that although a great many future stars got their start with the Ziegeld Girls many others were turned down. A few of these were. Norma Shearer (in 1919 and 1920), Alice Faye (in 1927), Joan Crawford (in 1924), Gypsy Rose Lee (in 1927), Lucille Ball (in 1927 and 1931),Phyllis Haver (in 1915), Eleanor Powell (in 1927), Ruby Keeler (in 1924), Hedda Hopper (in 1913), and June Havoc (in 1927 and 1931) were among the many hopefuls discarded after auditions. The survivors of the chorus lines of the last century are The Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cleo de Merode (1875-1966)
I have always found Cleo de Merode to be a very dynamic individual from her looks to her life’s story. This lady was as mysterious as she was beautiful. I hope you enjoy this installment of my Golden Age actresses. I’d also like to thank for this blog.
Some known facts:

  • Born 27th September, 1875 - Paris* (France) 
  • Died 17th October, 1966 - Paris (France)
  • Real Name Cleopatra Diane de Merode
  • Daughter of Karl von Merode (landscape artist)
  • Dancer and famed Parisian beauty.
  • Famously reputed to have conducted an affair with Leopold II, King of Belgium.

Cleopatra Diane de Merode was born in Paris (some reports say Bordeaux or Biarritz) on 27th September, 1875, the daughter of Austrian landscape painter Karl von Merode - who styled himself Freiherr von Merode (Baron Merode) and claimed descent from the old and noble Belgian family of de Merode. Her mother was a former Viennese actress.

Little is known of her early life except that Young Lulu, as she was affectionately called by her parents, showed an early aptitude for dancing and when she was only seven years of age she began training with the Paris Opera Ballet, making her professional debut when she was still only eleven. But whatever talent she may have possessed in her feet, throughout her life it would always be her great beauty that would be her greatest asset and by the age of thirteen she had already posed for the artists Jean-louis Forain and Edgar Degas.

At sixteen she became noticed for her trademark hairstyle, parted in the middle, pulled back over the ears and wound into a chignon at the back, often worn with metal bands. Soon it became the rage of all Paris. By this time she had grown into a intensely beautiful young woman, with a wasp-like waistline. Her image began to appear on postcards and playing cards which were widely collected. Before long she was the most photographed woman in the whole of France - perhaps even all of continental Europe. When Alfred Grevin opened his exhibit "Behind the Scenes at the Opera" at his waxworks, Musee Grevin, he included a lifesize mannequin of Cleo standing amongst such illustrious company as Gounod and Rose Caron - at the Opers, she was still only a coryphee!

In 1895, Toulouse-Lautrec painted her portrait and the following year the sculptor Alexandre Falguière caused a furore at the Paris Salon when he unveiled his cast of Cleo which depicted her naked. Cleo herself was shocked by the statue, having been unaware of the artist's intentions, and was keen to dispel any rumours that she had posed in the nude and sent the following signed note to the editor of Le Gaulois: "Will you be kind enough to say to the readers of Le Gaulois that I did not pose in the 'altogether' for M. Falguière's statue, as anyone can see by looking at the head. You will give me much pleasure." For a time she removed herself from the limelight, saying she could not appear in public and have everyone stare at her with "that horrid bare statue in their minds."

A new rumour then arose however, which quickly became the talk of Paris - the outrageous suggestion that she had no ears! Out of self-defence Cleo ended her short-lived, self-imposed exile, and was soon seen everywhere, at the theatre, strolling on the boulevards, and driving in the Bois - with her hair brushed up high from her temples to reveal a magnificent pair of ears!

At the end of that year, however, another event occured which was to plague her for the rest of her life. The Belgian King, Leopold II, was in Paris for negotiations over Belgian/French colonial interests, and, to disguise the purpose of his mission, let it be known that he was in Paris to see Cleo perform. Leopold was known to have had mistresses, and the corps-de-ballet of the Opera Ballet at the time was considered to be a den of courtesans. Consequently, the press put two and two together and began to spread salacious and ill-founded stories that the twenty-two year-old ballet performer had become the sixty-one year old Regent's latest mistress. Stories were told of fabulous gifts he had given her, and a special carriage added to his train to allow her to accompany him. The King was nicknamed "Cleopold" because of his supposed infatuation with her.
Cleo and her mother, who up to this time had lived with and jealously guarded her daughter, vehemently denied the accusations, and claimed that the most she had received from the King was a congratulatory bunch of roses. The papers claimed a gift of a fabulous pearl white pearl necklace, and that Cleo was being kept in a magnificent apartment in the most fashionable part of Paris - the truth of her abode, however, was a little apartment up five flights of stairs that she shared with her mother. None-the-less, the accusations stuck and damaged her private reputation, if not her professional career.

The rumours, apparently amused, and perhaps flattered the old King, but not so Cleo, a practising Catholic, who was so devastated by the stories that she promptly left Paris in an attempt to escape the notoriety. She went to St. Petersburg, where she vied with her countrywoman, Liane de Pougy, to captivate the hearts of the Russian dukes and princes. Subsequently returning to Paris she then elected to cash in on her notoriety by accepting an enormous salary to perform at the Folies-Bergere - something which no other ballet dancer had ever done. It showed she had nothing to hide, and it brought her a whole new audience and even wider popularity than she had enjoyed previously. Later that year, the prominent Paris journal 'The Eclair' decided to conduct a poll of it's readers to determine the most beautiful woman in Paris. To help voters decide, an array of 130 photographs were put up in one of the rooms of the newspaper offices which was then opened to the public. When the voting was over Cleo topped the poll, accounting alone for almost half the 7000 votes registered.

In 1897, in company with her mother and the manager of the Folies-Bergere as her agent, she made her first visit to the USA to play for a month at Koster and Blat's in New York. Although her arrival was anticipated with with great eagerness, and her photographs were already selling rapidly in the stores long before she set foot on American soil, the visit was not, ultimately, a success. The press was unkind in reveiwing her performances, praising her beauty but saying that she could not dance or act. On her departure, the Boston Globe summed it up by commenting that "Cleo was what theatrical people call 'a frost' in New York". Never-the-less, she returned to Paris $9,000 richer - more than forty times her regular salary for a month in Paris.

Cleo's mother died in 1899, whereupon Cleo revealed herself to be a strong-willed and determined career woman with an efficient business mind. She was keenly aware of how she could use turn the interest of reporters to her advantage and laid herself unusually open to their questions. She allowed reporters to sit in on her meetings with theatre directors thus allowing them an insight into their business practices and her own professional acumen. When not involved with the serious business of her career she passed her time playing the piano (she was said to be an excellent pianist although she never played in public) and riding her bicycle along the esplanades in Paris.

In the years that followed she became an international star, performing across Europe and in the United States, and often appeared before royalty. When King Chulalenghorn of Siam visited Paris Cleo designed a special performance for him - apparelling herself in a costume of metal filigree with a spire-like headdress of the type worn by Siamese dancers, and dancing in the Siamese style but with Parisian improvements.

Cleo's first visit to England came in June 1902, when she brought a repertoire of national dances for a two week engagement at the Alhambra in London. These were: A Danse Directoire, a Danse Bohemienne, a Danse Grecque, a Danse Espagnol, and a Danse Cambodgienne.

In 1904 she conducted a tour of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and scored a massive success in Stockholm where crowds in the street outside the theatre threatened to prevent her returning to her hotel. On her return to Paris she turned over to the editor of the Figaro some 3000 love letters which she had received from Scandinavian admirers. Many of them were subsequently printed in that journal.

Later in life, as she began to reduce her performance schedule, Cleo's artistic background and temperament stood her in good stead, allowing her to turn her hand to sculpture to supplement her income - crafting little figurines of dancers, shepherds and shepherdesses in the classical style which she then sold, sometimes for quite considerable profit.

She continued to dance, sporadically, until her early fifties when she retired from the professional stage to a villa in the French Atlantic seaside town of Biarritz. There she gave dancing lessons to aspiring hopefuls until she was well into her eighties!

Even in retirement the controversies that had followed her throughout her life would not let her be and in 1950, when the feminist writer Simone de Beauvois (the wife of Jean-Paul Sartre) published her book about infamous courtesans, entitled "Le Deuxieme Sexe" (The Third Sex), among those named was Cleo de Merode. Beauvois described her as the mistress of the former King Leopold of Belgium and intimated that she had been little more than a prostitute. The book also repeated the old claim that Cleo came from peasant stock and suggested she had illegitimately adopted the noble name of de Merode for purposes of self-promotion. Cleo sued, claiming five million francs in damages. She won the case, but the judge found that Cleo had permitted the rumours during the course of her career for their publicity value. Consequently, he awarded her only the paltry sum of one franc in damages, plus an injunction to remove the offending passages from any future editions of the book.

Cleo died in Paris on 17th October, 1966, and was interred at Père Lachaise. In life, she never married, and left no offspring. If the newspapers were to believed, she was, at various times, engaged to, among others: a Russian count; an American millionaire; the Duke of Manchester (allegedly before his grandmother intervened to end the affair); a wealthy French landowner, M. Reldoyen; a young Polish aristocrat, Sigismund Malensky; and even King Leopold himself, after his Queen, Marie Henriette, had died. These rumours, however confidently they were reported in the press, were generally nothing more than idle speculation based on the flimsiest of evidence. By her own account, Cleo only ever had two men in her life. Both of theses affairs were discreet and long-term, and both ended unhappily for Cleo - the first when her aristocratic lover died of typhoid fever, the second, with a Spanish diplomat, when he left her for another woman.

To this day the rumours of her supposed affair with Leopold are still widely taken at face value and she remains famous as the woman who slept with the elderly Belgian king. The truth is, almost certainly, that she did not. In fact, in his memoirs, the French agent, Xavier Paoli, recorded that when he finally met the ballerina after the rumours were already rife, the King apologised to her: "Allow me to express my regrets," he told her, "if the good fortune people attribute to me has offended you at all. Alas, we no longer live in an age when a king's favor was not looked upon as compromising! Besides, I am only a little king."

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Sepoy Mutiny

You know that moment when you’ve you been waiting for something to happen and you’re just about to give up and either move and then BAM what you’d been waiting for has finally happened? That’s exactly what happened to me when I was trying to write “Gabrielle.” A story that is very important to me and I’m so thrilled I’ll be able to share it with my readers when it releases this year.

 I was trying to come up with a storyline for Gabrielle while I was living in England. I’d wanted to write a book for quite some time and I already had my two main characters Devlin and Gabrielle in my mind. What I didn’t have was a vehicle or storyline for them that I thought would capture a reader’s attention. I wanted to do this one right. I was finishing my History degree and flipped on the History Channel just for some noise in the background really. I caught the tail end of a two hour special on the Sepoy Mutiny and what took place at the Bibighar I was able to see enough of this program to 1) have my interest piqued and 2) to be totally horrified and wanting to learn all I could about this historic event. This of course led me to my storyline for Gabrielle and Devlin.

The Sepoy Mutiny took place on 10 May 1857. The Sepoys, who were Indian attacked the East India Company’s army in the village of Meerut. This conflict soon escalated into other skirmishes over the area. This uprising soon became known as India’s First War of Independence. There were many reasons listed as the trigger for the uprising but most agree that the main point of contention was Indian soldiers working for the East India Company were asked to use paper cartridges for the rifles which was believed to be greased with animal fat, namely beef or Pork. Beef was considered taboo as the cow is a revered animal for the Indian religion Hindu and Pork was considered unclean from the Muslim viewpoint.

The Well

The Memorial

One of the most horrifying incidents occurred at the British Garrison in Cawnpore. While all the men were off fighting in the bush many women and children who lived at the garrison were rounded up and held in the Bibighar. The Bibighar was a gathering place for the women and children of the Garrison—a safe place for them to gather and enjoy feminine pursuits. This feminine retreat soon turned into a place of horror. The women were held there for several days while several members of the Sepoy army went about and looked for local butchers. The butchers killed the women and children leaving no survivors behind. After the women and children were massacred in the Bibighar, their remains were dumped down the well of the Bibighar. The Bibighar itself was later torn down by the British, and they placed a small cross at that location to commemorate the victims. The well was filled with earth and bricked over although as the bodies decomposed, the bricks subsided. Later the inhabitants of the city of Cawnpore were forced to pay £30,000 to pay for the creation of a memorial.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Flappers and Flappers Lingo

When most people think of the “Roaring 20’s” Flappers generally come to mind. What most people don’t realize is that these daring women really didn’t come into vogue until the end of the decade. The slang word flapper, describing a young woman, is sometimes to refer to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly. Flappers were a new woman. She flaunted society rules and laughed while she did it! She smoked, drank, danced and voted. A flapper wore her hair short and generally in a stylish bob, wore make-up and attended petting parties. These women were considered brash as they pushed what society deemed acceptable behavior. The flapper disappeared not long after the fall of Wall Street and the start of the Great Depression.

 The Flapper also had her own brand of slang and I thought I’d share a dictionary of such. Some of their slang still remains today with just phrases as “The Bee’s Knee’s” and “The Cat’s Meow.”

Absent Treatment—Dancing with a bashful partner.
Airedale—A homely man.
Alarm Clock—Chaperone.
Anchor—Box of flowers.
Apple Knocker—A hick; a hay-shaker.
Apple Sauce--Flattery; bunk.
Barlow—A girl, a flapper, a chicken.
Bank’s Closed—No petting allowed; no kisses.
Bee’s Knees—See “Cat’s Pajamas”
Bell Polisher—A young man addicted to lingering in vestibules at 1 a.m.
Bean Picker—One who patches up trouble and picks up spilled beans.
Berry Patch—A man’s particular interest in a girl.
Biscuit—A pettable flapper.
Big Timer—(n. masc.)—A charmer able to convince his sweetie that a jollier thing would be to get a snack in an armchair lunchroom; a romantic.
Billboard—Flashy man or woman.
Blushing Violet—A publicity hound.
Blouse—To go.
Blow—Wild party.
Blaah—No good.
Boob Tickler—Girl who entertains father’s out-of-town customers.
Brush Ape—Anyone from the sticks; a country Jake.
Brooksy—Classy dresser
Bust—A man who makes his living in the prize ring, a pugilist.
Bun Duster—See “Cake Eater”.
Bush Hounds—Rustics and others outside of the Flapper pale.
Cancelled Stamp—A wallflower.
Cake Basket—A limousine.
Cake Eater—See “Crumb Gobbler”
Cat’s Particulars—The acme of perfection; anything that’s good
Cat’s Pajamas—Anything that’s good
Cellar Smeller—A young man who always turns up where liquor is to be had without cost.
Clothesline—One who tells neighborhood secrets.
Corn Shredder—Young man who dances on a girl’s feet.
Crepe Hanger—Reformer.
Crumb Gobbler—Slightly sissy tea hound.
Crasher—Anyone who comes to parties uninvited.
Crashing Party—Party where several young men in a group go uninvited.
Cuddle Cootie—Young man who takes a girl for a ride on a bus, gas wagon or automobile.
Cuddler—One who likes petting.
Dapper—A flapper’s father.
Dewdropper—Young man who does not work, and sleeps all day.
Dincher—A half-smoked cigarette.
Dingle Dangler—One who insists on telephoning.
Dipe Ducat—A subway ticket.
Dimbox—A taxicab.
Di Mi—Goodness.
Dog Kennels—Shoes.
Dropping the Pilot—Getting a divorce.
Dumbdora—Stupid girl.
Duck’s Quack—The best thing ever.
Ducky—General term of approbation.
Dudding Up—Dressing.
Dumbbell-Wall flower with little brains.
Dumkuff—General term for being “nutty” or “batty”.
Edisoned—Being asked a lot of questions.
Egg Harbor—Free dance.
Embalmer—A bootlegger.
Eye Opener—A marriage.
Father Time—Any man over 30 years of age.
Face Stretcher—Old maid who tries to look younger.
Feathers—Light conversation.
Fire Extinguisher—A chaperone.
Finale Hopper—Young man who arrives after everything is paid for.
Fire Alarm—Divorced woman.
Fire Bell—Married woman.
Flat Shoes—Fight between a Flapper and her Goof
Fluky—Funny, odd, peculiar; different.
Flatwheeler—Slat shy of money; takes girls to free affairs.
Floorflusher—Inveterate dance hound.
Flour Lover—Girl who powders too freely.
Forty-Niner—Man who is prospecting for a rich wife.
Frog’s Eyebrows—Nice, fine.
Gander—Process of duding up.
Green Glorious—Money and checks.
Gimlet—A chronic bore.
Given the Air—When a girl or fellow is thrown down on a date.
Give Your Knee—Cheek-to-cheek or toe-to-toe dancing.
Goofy—To be in love with, or attracted to. Example: “I’m goofy about Jack.”
Goat’s Whiskers—See “Cat’s Particulars”
Grummy—In the dumps, shades or blue.
Grubber—One who always borrows cigarettes.
Handcuff—Engagement ring.
Hen Coop—A beauty parlor.
His Blue Serge—His sweetheart.
Highjohn—Young man friend; sweetie, cutey, highboy.
Houdini—To be on time for a date.
Horse Prancer—See “Corn Shredder”.
Hush Money—Allowance from father.
Jane—A girl who meets you on the stoop.
Johnnie Walker—Guy who never hires a cab.
Kitten’s Ankles—See “Cat’s Particulars”.
Kluck—Dumb, but happy.
Lallygagger—A young man addicted to attempts at hallway spooning.
Lens Louise—A person given to monopolizing conversation.
Lemon Squeezer—An elevator.
Low Lid—The opposite of highbrow.
Mad Money—Carfare home if she has a fight with her escort.
Monkey’s Eyebrows—See “Cat’s Particulars”.
Monog—A young person of either sex who is goofy about only one person at a time.
Monologist—Young man who hates to talk about himself.
Mustard Plaster—Unwelcome guy who sticks around.
Munitions—Face powder and rouge.
Mug—To osculate or kiss.
Necker—A petter who puts her arms around a boy’s neck.
Noodle Juice—Tea.
Nut Cracker—Policeman’s nightstick.
Obituary Notice—Dunning letter.
Oilcan—An imposter.
Orchid—Anything that is expensive.
Out on Parole—A person who has been divorced.
Petting Pantry—Movie.
Petting Party—A party devoted to hugging.
Petter—A loveable person; one who enjoys to caress.
Pillow Case—Young man who is full of feathers.
Police Dog—Young man to whom one is engaged.
Potato—A young man shy of brains.
Ritzy Burg—Not classy.
Rock of Ages—Any woman over 30 years of age.
Rug Hopper—Young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.
Sap—A Flapper term for floorflusher.
Scandal—A short term for Scandal Walk.
Scandaler—A dance floor fullback. The interior of a dreadnaught hat, Piccadilly shoes with open plumbing, size 13.
Seetie—Anybody a flapper hates.
Sharpshooter—One who spends much and dances well.
Shifter—Another species of flapper.
Show Case—Rich man’s wife with jewels.
Sip—Flapper term for female Hopper.
Slat—See “Highjohn”; “Goof”.
Slimp—Cheapskate or “one way guy”.
Smith Brothers—Guys who never cough up.
Smoke Eater—A girl cigarette user.
Smooth—Guy who does not keep his word.
Snake—To call a victim with vampire arms.
Snuggleup—A man fond of petting and petting parties.
Sod Buster—An undertaker.
Stander—Victim of a female grafter.
Static—Conversations that mean nothing.
Strike Breaker—A young woman who goes with her friend’s “Steady” while there is a coolness.
Swan—Glide gracefully.
Tomato—A young woman shy of brains.
Trotzky (sic)—Old lady with a moustache and chin whiskers.
Umbrella—young man any girl can borrow for the evening.
Urban Set—Her new gown.
Walk In—Young man who goes to a party without being invited.
Weasel—Girl stealer.
Weed—Flapper who takes risks.
Weeping Willow—See “Crepe Hanger”
Whangdoodle—Jazz-band music.
Whiskbroom—Any man who wears whiskers.
Wind Sucker—Any person given to boasting.
Wurp—Killjoy or drawback.