Saturday, December 31, 2011

Scandalous Women in London Part Deux - The Lion in Winter & Enchanted Princesses

A family Christmas becomes a family at war. Henry II, not so young as he was, invites his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitane, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, to spend the festive season with him, his mistress Princess Alais, and her brother, the young King Philip of France. Will Henry name who is to be his successor as King of England? Their yuletide celebration turns into a combat zone of deceit, betrayal, bitter power games and scabrous wit.

"I am excited to be directing the London premiere of a famous play about a power struggle full of sexual politics and political sex, with two such brilliant actors as Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley." - Trevor Nunn

I had no idea when I decided to attend the matinee of The Lion in Winter that it was the London premiere! I had just assumed that there was a London production soon after the Broadway one.  Although given that the Broadway production was a bit of a flop, perhaps I was a bit optimistic.  Still, the movie was very successful, so I was very surprised to find out that this was the first production in London.  And what a theatre to be in! the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, one of the most beautiful in London.  I was lucky enough to score a really good seat in the Royal Circle for 20 pounds just before the Thursday matinee.  It was an impulse purchase, I had planned to buy a ticket for the evening's performance but changed my mind when I got to the box office.

Although I have seen the film starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn more times than I can count, I have never seen a stage production of The Lion in Winter, not even the Broadway production which starred Laurence Fishbourne and Stockard Channing at the Roundabout here in New York. The movie is one of my favorite films, and I was afraid that the play and the actors would not measure up to the movie.  Well, I should have worried about the play given that James Goldman, the playwright, adapted his script for the film. However, it was in the performances, that the show fell short.  Joanna Lumley, who I had previously only known from Ab Fab and The New Avengers, was actually quite good as Eleanor of Acquitaine.  A little low energy at first, but her performance grew as the play went on.  Robert Lindsay, on the other hand, seemed to be channeling Peter O'Toole.  He not only looked a bit like him, but also sounded like him, it was a bit odd. If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn that it was Peter O'Toole on stage.

The biggest disappointment for me were the sons. Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, and Nigel Terry's performances are seered into my memories. I couldn't help remembering their line readings while watching the play, which does a great disservice to the actors who were doing their gallant best on stage, but it was just impossible for me not to compare them and find them a bit lacking. I did adore the actress who played Alys, and the scene between her and her brother Philip, a shame that they cut that scene out of the movie. It gives Alys more shades to play than just the mistress, and we get to see a bit of their relationship. In the film, it's hard to remember that Alys and Philip are brother and sister. Although it fell short of my expectations, I am glad that I went to see the production.  Trevor Nunn did a very good job of staging the play, and the set was gorgeous, and given that I saw it only two weeks before Xmas, it felt appropriate!

The day before I had gone to see the Enchanted Princess installation at Kensington Palace.  The Palace right now is going through a great deal of renovation, so only a few of the rooms were open.  I haven't been to Kensington Palace since my semester abroad in college, so just walking up to the Palace was fascinating. Right now, it's covered in a lot of barbed wire but I did get a little giddy when I saw the statue of William III outside. The Enchanted Princesses exhibition features the 7 Princesses who made Kensington Palace their home, Princesses Mary and Anne (later Mary II and Queen Anne), Queen Caroline, Princess Charlotte, Princess Victoria, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.  While the installations were interesting, particularly Princess Mary, I found the experience a bit lacking particularly in relation to Princess Diana and Princess Margaret.  It's more of a sight and sound experience, with clues left so that you can guess which room relates to which Princess.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, or perhaps my experience was colored by the fact that I just gotten off the plane that morning, and the weather was cold and rainy.  Plus there were no bathrooms available inside the palace, just the porta-potty outside! 

I wish there had been a guidebook specifically done for the exhibition the way that Hampton Court Palace did a special HELLO! magazine issue for Henry VIII's wedding to Katherine Parr (how I wish I had bought that issue!).  However, I did find the gift shop exciting, particularly the Queen Victoria china which I'm dying to own every piece of.

Five Year Old Feminist: Why Do Girls Have To Buy Pink Toys & Princesses? (Video)

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Ron Paul: Women Who Are Sexually Harassed At Work Should Quit Their Jobs

Ron Paul says he didn't write the bigoted Ron Paul newsletter. So did he write his books? Someone went out and bought one of his books and, surprise, it was full of racism, homophobia and sexism:

In his 1987 [re-issued in 2007] manifesto "Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution after 200-Plus Years," Paul wrote that AIDS patients were victims of their own lifestyle, questioned the rights of minorities and argued that people who are sexually harassed at work should quit their jobs...

In a passage first flagged by the Houston Chronicle in 2007, Paul then claimed that sexual harassment should not be a violation of one's employment rights.

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Scandalous Spotlight: Almina, Countess of Carnarvon

Thanks to the success of Downton Abbey, which is filmed at Highclere Castle, attention is now being focused on Almina, Countess of Carnarvon, wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (he who famously bankrolled Howard Carter's expedition to Egypt which ended with the discovery of King Tut's tomb).  Now two new biographies have been published about Almina, the first by the current Countess of Carnarvon entitled: LADY ALMINA AND THE REAL DOWNTON ABBEY, published just this week by Crown Publishing in the States (just in time for the new series of Downton Abbey which premieres soon on PBS).  The 2nd is by William Cross and entitled THE LIFE AND SECRETS OF ALMINA CARNARVON

Almina was born Almina Wombwell in 1876.  Her mother Marie Boyer was French, her father a respectable banker.  While her sisters all married well, Marie married a ne'er do well, younger son of a baron named Captain Frederick Wombwell. The couple seperated after Freddie apparently was caught stealing from Marie's parents. Marie soon made the acquaintance of Alfred de Rothschild, the man widely believed to be Almina's father.  Even her unusual name Almina was a combination of her parents names. However, although he doted on Almina and left her a fortune, Alfred never openly acknowledged Almina as his.  Almina grew up to be beautiful, vivacious and a little bit spoilt.  Petite, she was blessed with the curvaceous figure that was then fashionable, Fiona Carnarvon describes her as a "Pocket Venus," throughout the book. Her 'god-father' Alfred doted on her, lavishing her with expensive presents, no doubt to make up for not claiming her as his own.  Although a bachelor, he never married Almina's mother, even after her husband died.  Apparently he liked his freedom too much, plus Marie was Catholic.

In 1893, Almina made the acquaintance of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon.  The Earl was deeply in debt and needed a wealthy bride, Almina was looking for respectability.  Although she had been presented at court, the knowledge of paternity was like a dark cloud, even with her large dowery.  The Earl landed a huge £500,000 dowry (equivalent to £25million in today's money), which was used to finance his later discovery in Egypt.They each got what they wanted when they married on June 26th (the Earl's 28th birthday) of 1895 at St. Margaret's, Westminster.  At the age of 19, Almina was now the chateleine of Highclere Castle, as well as the Earl's other properties.

I bought Fiona Carnarvon's book on the day it was published and I find it riveting. While her book deals with a great deal of social history, detailing how an Edwardian household was run, the different roles of the servants, aspects of Edwardian society, Cross's book seems to take a more salacious tone. Just from reading the web-site , he seems to have a less rosy colored view of Almina. According to a recent article in The Daily Mail, Cross claims that Almina had an affair with her husband's best man, Prince Victor Duleep Singh, the son of the deposed Maharajah of Lahore, and that her son, the 6th Earl of Carnarvon was a product of this affair.  What this means of course, if it could be proven and I don't see anyone taking a DNA test anytime soon, is that the current Earl is not the real Earl.  Given that Prince Victor and his wife were childless, I think the changes that he is the father of 6th Earl are also slim. Although Prince Victor was of mixed race, there was a very good chance that if Almina had been pregnant by him, the child would have dark or tan skin.  How was she going to pass the baby off as the Earl's if that had happened? It boggles the mind. Was she going to claim the baby died? Or given it away secretly? I can't imagine that Almina would have taken such a risk, given her own background.

According to Cross' biography (which I have not read, my information comes from the reviews that I have read of it), the marriage between the 5th Earl and Almina was a marriage of convenience.  Even Fiona Carnarvon believes that the marriage was one of cash for a title, although she writes that Almina was deeply in love with her husband when they first got married. However, even if that were true, Almina would still have been required to provide the heir and the spare if possible, before discreetly seeking comfort elsewhere. Even if the Earl was, as Cross claimed, undersexed, that doesn't mean that he wasn't capable of fathering children with his wife. Heck, Oscar Wilde was gay, and still managed to father 2 children with his wife! Cross also writes that the Earl had a passion for photography, nude photography that is, commissioning 3,000 nude photos from a photographic studio, which makes him no different that a lot of aristocrats at that time. They may not have married for love, but they certainly spent a great deal of time together, traveling to Egypt many times form 1906 until his death. They were united in their passion for the Earl's discoveries as he went from a relatively small dig to the final discovery with Howard Carter. When she wasn't in Egypt, Almina used her prodigious energy as a political hostess, helping to get her brother-in-law Aubrey Herbert elected to Parliament, and giving speeches up and down the country to various women's groups. In January 1918 Sir Alfred de Rothschild died, leaving Almina almost everything - his house in Mayfair, a handsome tax-free legacy and fabulous pictures, objects and furniture.  A portion of her new fortune went to fund her husband's last expedition to Egypt with Howard Carter.

Almina remarried her 2nd husband, not long after the Earl of Carnarvon died in 1923 (his death was considered to part of the Curse of King Tut's tomb). Her 2nd husband was Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Onslow Dennistoun.  According to Christopher Wilson's article in The Daily Telegraph, Dennistoun owed his promotion to his wife Dorothy's liaison with the Army's Quartermaster General! Dennistoun and Almina met in Paris in 1920, 3 years before her husband's death.  Almost immediately, Almina set him  up in a smart cottage. Apparently Almina also used him for money-laundering purposes. She often sold jewelry and works of art that she had inherited from her god-father, and she used Dennistoun's bank accounts to hide the money from the tax man! Almina also apparently was having an affair with a man by the name of Tommy Frost who was also sleeping with Dennistoun's ex-wife Dorothy!

In 1925, Almina was part of a scandalous court case.  Her husband's ex-wife, Dorothy Dennistoun sued her husband for the alimony that he claimed that he couldn't pay at the time of their divorce.  Apparently, Dennistoun had promised to provide for his ex-wife in the future when he had the money.  When Dorothy heard that he had married the Dowager Countess of Carnarvon, who had been left a fortune by her 'godfather' Alfred de Rothschild, she thought she had hit pay dirt.  Almina was not about to give up any of her money to her husband's ex-wife. She convinced her husband to take the matter to the courts.  During the trial, Dorothy claimed that her husband forced her to sleep with the Quartermaster General to further his career.  Dennistoun basically claimed that his wife was a slut and couldn't be trusted.  Under oath, Almina admitted to adultery, and her money-laundering scheme.  Nobody, least of all Almina, came out smellling like a rose when the case was decided.  Although the jury decided in favor of Dennistoun, the case cost Almina more than 400,000 pounds, more than what it would have cost her to make Dennistoun's wife go away.

Cash-strapped, Almina decided to open a high-society nursing home.  During the war, like Downton Abbey, Highclere had been turned into a hospital.  Almina had spared no expense hiring the best doctors and equipment, decreeing that each wounded officer should have his own room, with down pillows and linen sheets. She believed in the importance of comfort, warmth and cosseting. But even before that, Almina had discovered a talent for nursing when her husband suffered a horrific car accident in 1901 in Germany.

Unfortunately, it turned out that she had no head for running a business, finding it difficult to present her patients with a bill.  Eventually the nursing home, according to Evelyn Waugh, became a place where high-class women could discreetly obtain an illegal abortion. Then at the age of 70, she became involved with a much younger man, who worked as heating engineer.  It was the last straw for her son, the 6th Earl, who gave her up to the IRS, calling her a "scheming swindler" (they were never close).  In her lifetime, Almina had gone through the equivalent of 50 million pounds, much of it no doubt going to pay for the Earl's expeditions to Egypt (they made yearly trips to the country, and the Earl started his own excavations in 1906), the upkeep on Highclere, taxes etc.  One has to wonder if her son's sour grapes came more from the fact that his mother managed her own money, rather than turn it over to him to manage.

Almina's last years were spent in obscurity and poverty.  She died at the age of 93 after choking on a piece of chicken, an ignominious end to a once glamorous life.

Highclere Castle today

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mary Phelps Jacobs and the Modern Brassiere

“I can’t say the brassiere will ever take as great a place in history as the steamboat*, but I did invent it.” – Mary Phelps Jacobs (1891 – 1970).

Imagine you are a 19 year old debutante in 1910 about to attend a ball. You put on a fabulous couture dress from Paris, only to discover that your corset cover is sticking out over the top of your sheer evening gown. What is a girl to do? Well, if you are Mary Phelps “Polly” Jacobs, you throw off your restrictive corset cover and have your maid fashion help you fashion an undergarment out of two handkerchiefs sewn together with pink ribbon and cord. Voila! You have created your own bra! The new undergarment was soft and light and conformed to the wearer better than a corset which had a tendency to create a uniboob. Polly’s new undergarment complimented the fashions of the time which were less restrictive than the previous Victorian fashions which required women to be trussed up like a chicken to get into them. When she showed her friends her new design, they, of course, all wanted one. Before she knew it, Polly was in the bra-making business. It wasn’t until a stranger offered her a dollar for one of her contraptions, that she started thinking that she could really make some money from it.

Nothing in Polly’s background suggested such a ground-breaking achievement. She was born into a world of power and privilege if not wealth, amongst her ancestors was William Bradford, the 1st Governor of the Plymouth colony, another was a General Walter Phelps, who commanded troops in the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam. Her family was well-off, but certainly not in the same league with the Astor’s or the Vanderbilt’s. Polly once wrote that her father had been raised, as she put it, "to ride to hounds, sail boats, and lead cotillions," and they divided their time between a house in New York, an estate in Connecticut and one in New Rochelle, NY. She went to the best schools (Chapin, Rosemary Hall), danced at cotillions, and even met King George V in 1915 at a garden party in London. When it came time to marry, it was to another blueblood, Richard Peabody, whose family had settled in New Hampshire in 1635.

Polly Jacob didn’t actually invent the brassiere. There had been attempts as far back as the 1860’s to create an alternative to the tyranny of the corset. Parisian corset maker Herminie Cadolle in 1889 invented a two-part garment much like a bikini but her design seems to have been known mainly to her customers. Later in 1893, Marie Tucek patented the first bra, her device included separate pockets for the breasts and was fastened by hook and eye closures, but she apparently failed to successfully market her invention.

Polly was the first to patent an undergarment named 'Brassiere,' which derived from the old French word for 'upper arm'. Like the bras that most of us wear today, her design had shoulder straps that attached to the bra’s upper and lower corners, but it also had wrap-around laces which tied in the front, allowing the wearer to wear gowns that were cut low in the back. It was wireless so it didn’t offer much in the way of support. In her application, she noted that her invention was “well-adapted to women of different size” and was “so efficient that it may be worn by persons engaged in violent exercise like tennis.” She received her patent in 1914, the same year that she married Peabody.

It was an invention whose time had come, not only was the fashions less restrictive but during WWI, the U.S. Government requested that women stop buying corsets to conserve metal. Polly named her new company the Fashion Form Brassiere Company which was located on Washington Street in Boston. There with a staff of two, Polly began manufacturing her wireless bra. While Polly managed to snag a few orders from department stores, her business never really took off. Her marriage to Peabody was also failing. They had two children, but Peabody came back from the war with two unfortunate hobbies: drinking and watching buildings burn. Polly fell hard for another blue-blooded, hard-drinking WWI vet named Harry Crosby. Their affair scandalized New York and Boston society but Polly didn’t care. Her office space provided cover for her trysts with Harry. In 1922, Polly divorced Peabody and quickly married Harry, who had no taste or interest in conventional business. Since he had a generous trust fund, he discouraged her from working and convinced her to close the business. Later, she sold the patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500 (about $20,000 today). Warner’s then went on to make over $15 million dollars with the design over the next 30 years before they eventually phased out the design.

After their marriage in 1922, Polly (now renamed Caresse thanks to Harry) and Harry moved to Europe were they led a “mad and extravagant life,” filled with drugs, drinking and numerous affairs on both sides. Their decadent lifestyle lasted until Harry’s murder/suicide with his young lover, Josephine Noyes Rotch in 1928 (and that’s a whole other scandalous story!). Caresse continued her writing and publishing work with Black Sun, the publishing company she had founded with Harry. During its years of operation, it published everyone from D.H. Lawrence, Archibald MacLeish, and Henry Miller to Ezra Pound.

In 1937, she married Selbert Young, a retired football player and sometime actor who was 18 years younger, and moved to Washington, D.C. where she opened an art gallery and started a magazine called Portfolio. After her third marriage collapsed, she spent her final years in Rome, where she planned to create an artist colony. She died in Rome in 1970, at the age of 78, but she lived long enough to see the bra go through a number of transformations (although unfortunately not Victoria’s Secret million dollar bras!). How ironic that something that was meant to liberate women, was later seen as a symbol of oppression!

*invented by another ancestor Robert Fulton

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another Senior Denied Voter ID In GOP Controlled Tennessee

This makes at least four elderly Tennesseans (aka, likely Democratic voters) who have recently been denied voter IDs -- that we know about! Undoubtedly there are more.

Unless this barbaric GOP voter ID law is quickly ruled unconstitutional, hundreds of thousands -- of likely Democratic voters -- may be turned away at the polls in 2012. But that's exactly the GOP's point:

A 93-year-old Tennessee woman who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor’s office, says she won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades after being told this week that her old state ID failed to meet new voter ID regulations.

Thelma Mitchell was even accused of being an undocumented immigrant because she couldn’t produce a birth certificate: Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers’ license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.

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99% Choir Carols at Bank of America: Deck the Jails with Wall Street Bankers (Video)

Deck the Jails with Wall Street Bankers, Fa la la la La la la la”:

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Scandalous Women Gift Guide: GemFatale

Recently I was contacted by Samantha Blakeney (love that last name!) who has a new jewelry line based on Scandalous Women throughout history.  Would I be interested in mentioning her line on the blog? Heck yeah! What a fantastic idea, and why didn't I think of it? Oh right, I have no artistic talent beyond writing and acting.  However, lucky for us all, Samantha does! So far the women featured are Lucrezia Borgia, Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary.  She is also working on a few modern versions of Marie Antoinette's necklaces (one a pearl necklace that she gave as a gift and a replica of the infamous "Diamond Affair" necklace), Mata Hari, Elizabeth Bathory, and a couple of others.

You can take a peek at  And readers of Scandalous Women can receive a 10% discount.  Just mention the coupon code "scandalouswomen" when you order.

The Borgia Poison Necklace

Birds of a Feather necklace

Friday, December 23, 2011

Draft Hillary 2012 Robocalls Running in Battleground States (Audio)

According to Shaun Dakin, an anti-robocall advocate, Run Hillary 2012 has now made calls in New York, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Colorado.

It appears to be the first formal 2012 campaign function undertaken by an ostensibly pro-Hillary group -- not counting the occasional fundraising email from a Clinton ally asking for money to help her retire her 2008 campaign debt.

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Newt Flashback: Hillary's A Bitch (Video)

via Mother Jones

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Racist & Homophobic Excerpts From The Ron Paul Newsletter, Ewww

The New Republic offers a few grossly BIGOTED tidbits from Ron Paul's extremely racist and homophobic past. Paul says, oh, but that was a long time ago. Not long enough. These are direct quotes from the Ron Paul Newsletter:

“A Special Issue on Racial Terrorism” analyzes the Los Angeles riots of 1992: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began. ... What if the checks had never arrived? No doubt the blacks would have fully privatized the welfare state through continued looting. But they were paid off and the violence subsided.”

The November 1990 issue of the Political Report had kind words for David Duke.

This December 1990 newsletter describes Martin Luther King Jr. as “a world-class adulterer” who “seduced underage girls and boys” and “replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration.”

A February 1991 newsletter attacks “The X-Rated Martin Luther King.”

An October 1990 edition of the Political Report ridicules black activists, led by Al Sharpton, for demonstrating at the Statue of Liberty in favor of renaming New York City after Martin Luther King. The newsletter suggests that “Welfaria,” “Zooville,” “Rapetown,” “Dirtburg,”and “Lazyopolis ” would be better alternatives—and says, “Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house.”

A May 1990 issue of the Ron Paul Political Report cites Jared Taylor, who six months later would go onto found the eugenicist and white supremacist periodical American Renaissance.

The January 1993 issue of the Survival Report worries about America’s “disappearing white majority.”

The December 1989 Ron Paul Political Report contains entries on a “new form of racial terrorism,” cites former Congressman Bill Dannemeyer’s claim that “the average homosexual has 1,000 or more partners in a lifetime,” and quotes Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in the third person.

There's lots more . . .

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Millions Leave GOP & Democratic Parties

It's not voter apathy, it's voter disgust:

More than 2.5 million voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the 2008 elections, while the number of independent voters continues to grow.

A USA TODAY analysis of state voter registration statistics shows registered Democrats declined in 25 of the 28 states that register voters by party. Republicans dipped in 21 states, while independents increased in 18 states. The trend is acute in states that are key to next year's presidential race. In the eight swing states that register voters by party, Democrats' registration is down by 800,000 and Republicans' by 350,000. Independents have gained 325,000.

Registered Democrats still dominate the political playing field with more than 42 million voters, compared to 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents. But Democrats have lost the most — 1.7 million, or 3.9%, from 2008.

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Matt Damon: 'A One-Term President With Some Balls Would Have Been Much Better'

Quote of the Day

"[A] one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of this country, much better. . . People are literally without any focus or leadership, just wandering out into the streets to yell right now because they are so pissed off. Imagine if they had a leader."

Matt Damon rips President Obama in Elle magazine: A president with ‘some balls’ would have been better: Actor also weighed in on Occupy Wall Street protests, arguing Obama’s lack of leadership has contributed to Americans’ overall discontent.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

HBO's Sarah Palin Movie: Game Changer, First Trailer

Julianne Moore looks more like Sarah Palin than Tina Fey.

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Poll: Dissatisfaction With All Presidential Candidates Rampant

More than ever, we need "None of the Above" on the ballot:

Gallup: Is there any candidate running who you think would make a good president, or not?

Yes - 48%

No - 46%

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Chris Christie: 'Cry Me a River!' Obama 'Frittered Away' 2 Years with Democratic Congress (Video)

On MSNBC's Morning Joe: He has no idea how to use executive power. To stand up and udder (sic) his name in the same breath as Teddy Roosevelt? Are you kidding? And for him to sit there and say some of the things … that he said, it’s time for us to step up... Step up our game… it’s time to meet the moment? Well you know what Mr. President… We have been waiting for you to meet the moment for 3 years! So meet the moment!. . .

[T]he President had a democratic congress for the first two years and he frittered it away. He frittered it away… And then all the sudden now he is complaining his Presidency is not a success because he has had a year, a year, of Republicans? ..I mean cry me a river already… lead …and do your job!

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Egyptian Women Revolt (Video)

Outraged Egyptian women pour onto the streets to demand a little decency:

"The reason for the protest is the picture and the video that was published by news services around the world, and it showed us to what extent the military council has no qualms about trampling on the women of Egypt and the girls of Egypt, and has no qualms about beating them up and stripping them naked," Islama Thabet told the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile in a speech in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Egypt’s “systematic degradation of women” and said “women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago.”

Clinton said women had been mostly shut out of decision-making by Egypt's ruling military and by big political parties. . . . "Women protesters have been rounded up and subjected to horrific abuse. Journalists have been sexually assaulted. And now, women are being attacked, stripped, and beaten in the streets," she added. "This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonours the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people."

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Poor Baby' Billionaires Feel Like Persecuted Minority (Video)

The 'persecuted' billionaire bankers are now defending themselves and attempting to 'reclaim' the pejorative 'fat cat' as merely a term that means productive. The fat cats are feeling persecuted and looking for a little sympathy. Calling their critics "imbeciles" might not be the best way to go about it.

Naturally Jon Stewart steps up to defend the poor persecuted billionaire bankers:

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Ron Paul Rises In Poll. GOP Establishment Weeps.

Anti-war and pro-marijuana legalization Ron Paul has moved to the head of the deranged class of GOP candidates. For the many of us who are sick to death of America's dysfunctional elections, this one is at least entertaining, in a twisted, repulsively sick way.

Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa. He's at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.

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Scandalous Women in London: The First Actresses

Since I still had a few vacation days left this year, I decided to hop a plane to London for a few days, to see some friends but also to see 2 exhibits that I didn't want to miss.  The first one was the Enchanted Princesses exhibit at Kensington Palace, the 2nd was The First Actresses exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on Charing Cross Road.  The National Portrait Gallery is hands down my favorite museum in London, and The First Actresses exhibit didn't disappoint.  It was a tad expensive, 11 pounds, and the exhibition wasn't huge, but as a former actress, I found it fascinating to see the portraits of women I had only read about in theatre history.  There were many women whose portraits I had never seen before including Moll Davis, the other actress who had the privilege of sharing Charles II's bed for a brief time.

From the web-site:  The First Actresses presents a vivid spectacle of femininity, fashion and theatricality in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Britain. Taking centre stage are the intriguing and notorious female performers of the period whose lives outside of the theatre ranged from royal mistresses to admired writers and businesswomen. The exhibition reveals the many ways in which these early celebrities used portraiture to enhance their reputations, deflect scandal and create their professional identities.

Intriguing no?  The exhibition mentions the fact that, in the beginning, actress and prostitute were seen as synonymous.  Indeed, many of the early actresses had aristocratic protectors, Elizabeth Barry & The Earl of Rochester, Nell Gwyn & Charles II, Dorothy Jordan & The Duke of Clarence.  Also many actresses including Elizabeth Farren, ending up marrying their lovers, albeit after their wives had died and the heirs had already been secured.  Elizabeth Farren married the Earl of Derby, and Lavinia Fenton, the Duke of Bolton. 

Looking at the portraits, one can see the rise of celebrity culture.  Just as today, photographers like Annie Leibovitz are known for their celebrity portraits, artists like Reynolds, Gainsborough and Romney painted all the leading actresses of the day.  And then there was the celebrity memoir, many of the leading actresses of the day wrote books about their lives which were eaten up by the public.

This lovely actress is Dorothy Jordon (1761-1816), one of the foremost comic actresses in London in the 18th century.  Born in Ireland, Dorothy was also the mistress of the Duke of Clarence (the future King William IV), and the mother of his 10 illegitmate children, the Fitz-Clarences.  For 20 years, she was not only his mistress but she also supported him and their children, since his civil list allowance did not cover his extravagant lifestyle.  After the death of Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Prince Regent, died in childbirth, the Duke dumped Dorothy and married a German princess in order to secure the line of succession.  He and Queen Adelaide had no children who survived, paving the way for Queen Victoria.  When Dorothy went back on the stage to support herself, after he left, he took her children away.  What a prince!

This is Lavinia Fenton (1708-1760) who played Polly Peachum in the first ever performance of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.  Lavinia became the mistress of the Duke of Bolton, and then married him after his wife's death.  Not bad eh?

This beauty is Mary Robinson (1757-1800), also known as Perdita after the role that she played when she met the Prince of Wales (future George IV).  She was briefly his mistress, but the relationship was fleeting.  Mary eventually gave up acting to write poetry and plays.  Mary had a long affair with Banastre Tarleton who didn't really treat her well. Unfortunately she is not as well known as she should be.  ALL FOR LOVE by Amanda Elyot is a historical fiction novel about Mary Robinson.

This is one of 2 portraits of Nell Gwyn (1650-1687) that are in the exhibition.  The 2nd portrait was just recently attributed to her.  I admit that I have a fondness in my heart for Nell Gwyn.  Apart from his Queen, Catherine of Braganza, and his sister Minette, I think Nell is the only mistress who truly loved the King for himself and not for what he could do for.  She never demanded a fancy house or jewels for herself, the only thing that she demanded was that their children be cared for, and given the same titles that his other bastards were given.

Ah Sarah Siddons (1755-1831), the Meryl Streep of the late 18th and early 19th century.  There are several portraits of Sarah in the exhibition.  She came from a theatrical family, her parents were actors, and her siblings also went on the stage, the most well known being her brother John Philip Kemble.  Mrs. Siddons was not a success when she made her debut in London as Portia in Merchant of Venice and a few other roles. Whether it was nerves or lack of experience, she was soon sent packing.  In fact, she spent several years in the provinces after her disasterous debut, honing her craft until she finally came back in triumph several years later.  While Dorothy Jordon,Peg Woffington and Frances Abington were known for their comedic roles, Sarah was a tragedienne bar none.  One of her most famous roles was that of Lady Macbeth.

There were several other actresses included in the exhibit including women who were known more for operatic roles than acting, although most actresses of the period were expected to be able to sing a little as well as dance.  They also had to provide their own costumes!  One of the actresses included in the exhibit is Elizabeth Inchbald who gave up the stage to write plays.  She was well acquainted with William Godwin, and was not happy when he hooked up with Mary Wollstonecraft and then married her.  The exhibit explores the "breeches" roles that were so popular in the 17th & 18th century.  These roles allowed women the freedom to go on stage dressed like men, but it also caused a stink because they weren't covered up!

I had no idea how many actresses at that time extended their careers by picking up the pen.  I wish some enterprising theatre producer would devote a season to reviving one of Mary Robinson or Elizabeth Inchbald's plays, even if it was just in the staged reading format.

While I was at the museum, I also made a pilgrimage to see Mary Wollstonecraft and Emma Hamilton's portraits in the museum.  One of the displays concerned Princess Charlotte of Wales and the future Queen Victoria.  While looking at the portraits of Queen Victoria, I was struck by how much Prince Andrew's daughter Princess Beatrice looks like her.

Here's a portrait of a young Queen Victoria

And here's Princess Beatrice.  They look like twins right?

Yes, I know that Princess Beatrice is a direct descendent of Queen Victoria, but none of the Queen's children or grandchildren have quite the same uncanny resemblance. I spent a good deal of time in the Victorian and Edwardian galleries looking at the faces.  My favorite room is the one that has the notorious rivals William Gladstone & Benjamin Disraeli hung right next to each other!

Afterwards, I went to the National Cafe for the Lady Hamilton tea which included a plum Bellini.  Unfortunately they served the tea, not using loose tea, but with a tea bag! Considering the tea cost me a whopping 21 pounds, I thought it a bit much.  On a lighter note, the scone with clotted cream was awesome!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Women on MSNBC Discuss Newt's Sexism (Video)

Meghan McCain, Alex Witt, Goldie Taylor and Erin McPike on MSNBC discuss Newt Gingrich's disturbing sexist attitude toward women, including Michele Bachmann.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Scandalous Romance - Caroline Flack & Harry Styles

All of London has been abuzz over the news that Xtra-Factor presenter Caroline Flack, 32, is dating Harry Styles, 17, member of the boy band One Direction.  Opinion has been divided with some people giving Caroline the high-five, and others who want to stone her the market place.  The big issues, the 15 year age gap, and the fact that Styles is 17 (which is legal in Great Britain).  The couple met a year ago when Styles appeared on the X-Factor but the relationship apparently didn't start until this past October when the couple were caught kissing on camera.

You have to wonder if people would be so icked out if Styles were 18 or even 21.  Since he can't legally drink or vote, the idea that he's dating a woman in her thirties boggles people's minds. Caroline is quoted as saying, "What is hard for me to get my head around is people saying its disgusting. I don't think it is.  I shouldn't have to worry about what I do. But people aren't accepting of big age gaps."  Well Caroline, actually they are, if the roles were reversed.  If Caroline were 17 or 18, and Harry were 32, no body would probably blink an eye.  It doesn't help, that like Justin Bieber, Harry looks like he's just barely hit puberty. (Another older woman, director Sam Taylor Wood has been involved with actor Aaron Johnson since he was 18, and she was 41.  Perhaps the fact that they are now engaged and have 1 child, and another on the way, makes them a little less salacious).

Before you go thinking that Flack is some kind of 21st Century Mrs. Robinson, apparently Styles pursued her, which is pretty cheeky if you think about it. At first, she apparently didn't take him seriously, thinking he was just being flirty, but eventually she just decided that she liked him so, so what? Of course people are wondering what a 17 year old and a 32 year old could possibly have in common. Well, for one thing, both are in the entertainment business.  She's not likely to get upset at the fact that he's constantly off touring and promoting his band's CD, when she's equally as busy with her career. And since she's been in the business for awhile, no doubt she has some sage advice, but it could just be that they have fun together.

One has to wonder what Style's mother feels about all this? Is she outraged or is she perhaps happy that her son is dating someone who isn't using him for fame? Most of the girls his own age that he meets are all fans (who have issued death threats against Flack).  Chances are this relationship will run it's course but Flack has taken a huge risk by being in this relationship.  Her people have already told her that it could cost her a great deal of work. In the end, the bad publicity may be the very thing that kills the romance as both discover that it's not worth all the derision.

In 1920, the French writer Colette published her story of Cheri, a young man who has a relationship with a courtesan who is 25 years older.  Despite both their contention that the relationship is casual, they fall in love,  although they know they can't be together.  Things haven't changed very much since then have they? While George Clooney continues to date even younger and younger women, and nobody blinks an eye that Warren Beatty and Michael Douglas are 25 years older than their wives, for a woman to date a younger man brings up all kinds of issues for people.

So what do you think? Is Caroline Flack brave or foolhardy for dating a guy who is not only 15 years younger but still a teenager? Is there still a stigma against women dating much younger men?