Poor JFK. What a hard life. Two of the world’s most beautiful women battled it out over him whenever he wasn’t busy acting as the charismatic and dashing President of the United States, not to mention reign as King Arthur over Camelot. Jackie’s Camelot was seated in Washington D.C., the White House, to be precise. She was certainly an appropriate Lady Guinevere, conducting herself with grace and a unique style that was unprecedented in fashion. When she made her “coming out” appearance, she was dubbed debutante of the year by Hearst columnist, Igor Cassini. Jackie made as strong an impact for her beauty and style, as did Marilyn. Ironically, Jackie and Marilyn shared Irish roots. yet the comparison ends there.
One is the story of a woman and her survival in a world where she was orphaned and exploited by people for her entire career. The other is a woman besieged by nearly impossible and highly constricting social expectations. The one thing these incredibly different women shared was a love for an emotionally void man who cared far more for himself than either of them, or anyone else for that matter. Although she began her iconic life as Jacqueline Bouvier, then Kennedy, the First Lady eventually became known in pop culture as Jackie O, the wife of billionaire shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Although Onassis proved to be another womanizer, the unlikely pair remained married until Onassis’ death in 1975. Jackie was a traditional, stalwart, religious woman who didn’t believe in divorce, even when she suffered the humiliation and loneliness brought upon her by a wayward husband. Somehow Jackie emerged with her dignity intact, too revered in elite, socialite circles to become the target of gossip.
The 1960s Jackie carved out an iconic niche for herself in political and fashion history, inspiring millions of women to wear her box-shaped jacket and skirt sets, jaunty hats perched smartly to one side and short, ladylike gloves. Fashion at that time was in a transition from that of the 1950s housewife in commercial ads: puffy-sleeved dresses and swirling skirts, emphasizing a tiny waistline and accentuated with sensible, two-inch heels. Jackie’s look was fresh and innovative, embracing the trendy 60’s with a dose of finesse. Designers worldwide stole her look and brought it to the catwalks. She is remembered for her contributions to the arts and preservation of historic architecture, her style, elegance, and grace. Her famous pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat became symbols of her husband’s assassination and one of the lasting images of the 1960s.
Jacqueline Bouvier was born on July 28, 1929, to Janet Lee Bouvier and John (Jack) Vernon Bouvier III. Janet and Jack had a troubled marriage resulting from his womanizing ways. The pair were divorced in 1940, an event that devastated the young Jackie who was close to her father. It is possible Jackie was able to tolerate Jack and Aristotle’s philandering because her first male role model demonstrated this very behaviour. Jackie grew up believing men could never be faithful. Jackie lived with her mother, who in 1942 remarried Hugh Dubley Auchincloss, Jr., a lawyer from a wealthy old family. Jackie’s mother’s remarriage created conflict in the family. Although Jackie adored her father she saw less and less of him, especially after her mother and stepfather moved their family to Washington, D.C.
Marilyn Monroe, aka Norma Jean Mortenson or Baker, was an icon unto her own right. She couldn’t have been more opposite to Jackie if she’d worked at it. She was the best-known Hollywood actress in history, a buxom, voluptuous, platinum blonde, with candy apple red lipstick and a penchant for tight dresses and high heels. Marilyn hailed from humble roots and relative poverty. Like Jackie, her childhood was fraught with conflict within her family. She was one of two daughters born to Gladys Pearl Baker Mortenson, a pretty, brunette Irish woman who worked as a film cutter in Los Angeles. Norma Jeane’s uncle, Otis Elmer Monroe, died when syphillis invaded his brain as an infant. Gladys was a divorcee and single mother when Marilyn was born. Her first two children, Norma Jeane’s half-siblings, were Berniece Baker and Robert Kermit Baker. They were kidnapped by her estranged husband. Jasper Baker. Gladys later located them in Kentucky, but soon returned to Los Angeles without them.
Gladys was a paranoid schizophrenic who was hospitalized for many years. Unable to care for Marilyn, Gladys placed her child into the foster system. Norma Jeane’s exit from the foster system was a la marriage at 16 years old to her 20-year-old neighbour, Jim Doughtery. Many years after Marilyn’s death Dougherty would state in an interview, “I wasn’t married to Marilyn Monroe. I was married to Norma Jean Dougherty. I didn’t know Marilyn Monroe. She was a movie star. She was a stranger to me.” According to Monroe, Gladys’ second brother, Marion, committed suicide via hanging upon his release from an asylum, and Marilyn’s great-grand-father did the same in a fit of depression. It would appear that Marilyn Monroe’s life was littered with mental illness and suicide, a grim foreshadowing of her own future fate.
Marilyn was divorced from her third husband, Arthur Miller, when she became involved in a passionate affair with the President. They had met many years before but for both young hopefuls, their careers were foremost in their minds and they’d parted ways. Now it was a decade later and opportunity presented itself for both celebrities. JFK was smitten with the celebrity scene. He enjoyed the company of the Rat Pack, specifically Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra. It was through this circle that JFK became re-acquainted with Marilyn. For JFK, the attraction was obvious. Marilyn was a sexy, glamorous movie star. For her part, Marilyn had been an illegitimate child and never knew her father’s identity. JFK’s power made him appear as a handsome and protective lover, almost a father figure. JFK, on the other hand, regarded Marilyn in the same way he regarded all of his extramarital liaisons: she was a temporary sexual fling, nothing more, even with her celebrity status. Her sex appeal was all that very briefly lured him into her bed. He might have seen her eight times at most but somehow Marilyn made it into something much bigger in her own mind. In spite of her being the world’s sex goddess it mattered little to her that JFK had the unmanly reputation as a “2-minute man”. Marilyn wasn’t seeking sex from the President. She used sex to get close to him. She needed him for a sense of personal identity and security.
So delusional was Marilyn, she often told friends she was going to replace Jackie Kennedy as the First Lady of the United States, going so far as to contact Jackie herself on the telephone to tell her JFK was about to file for divorce. Jackie’s cool reserve never faltered. She assured Marilyn she had no problem allowing the actress to wed Jack but added that the movie star would have to travel to India, live in the White House, care for their children, and conduct many unglamorous duties. Gobsmacked, Marilyn had no retort. Jackie hung up, triumphant. Strangely, Jackie was more affected by the telephone call and by Marilyn Monroe than anyone knew. She was furious with Marilyn’s audacity and humiliated by Jack’s behaviour. Of all JFK’s affairs, the one with Marilyn worried her the most mainly because of the type of behaviour that led Marilyn to contact her on the phone. Marilyn was a loose cannon and seemed capable of anything including revealing details of her affair with the president, bringing public ridicule to the Kennedy family. Yet Marilyn was something of an obsession. Jackie adopted her voice and some of her mannerisms. In fact, to listen to Jackie without knowing it was her, you might think it was Marilyn speaking.
After the telephone call all hell broke loose in the Kennedy household. , Mrs. Kennedy put her foot down squarely on Jack’s head and told him to break off all contact with Marilyn Monroe. Meekly Jack agreed and indeed Marilyn was never able to reach the President on his private line again. Where once she’d spoken to him several times a week now Marilyn found JFK’s line disconnected. She contacted the main White House line and was told Jack was permanently indisposed. Flummoxed, Marilyn managed to contact his brother Robert and ask him to intervene for her. Although intrigued with his brother`s mistress Robert did nothing of the kind, pleased that Jack had come to his senses about the controversial film star. After this dual rejection Marilyn became despondent. She was suffering many losses at that time. Her career was faltering. She worried that she was losing her celebrity as she aged. Ultimately Marilyn took her own life on August 4, 1962. She was 36 years old.
The battle between Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe aka Norma Jeane Baker-Mortensen was over, with Jackie as usual, the victor.
Have you ever wondered why anyone would become involved in espionage? That didn’t really cross my mind until I read about the glamorous red-headed Russian spy Anna Chapman (her married surname). Chapman is the stuff of James Bond films: goddess body, pretty face, Breck Girl hair. She’s the type of spy that makes you believe espionage must indeed be a life of glamour and sex, since clearly both were a part of her espionage repertoire. Lest you think Chapman is merely a prop however, she speaks five languages, has a master’s degree in economics from Moscow University, and her father, Vasily Kushchenko, may be a senior KGB official, although this is unsubstantiated.
Anna is a Russian national who was residing in New York City when she was arrested, along with nine others, on June 27, 2010 on suspicion of working for the Illegalas Program spy ring under the Russian Federation’s external intelligence agency for the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki). Chapman pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. Attorney General (how sneaky) and was deported back to Russia on July 8, 2010, as part of a prisoner swap (must have swapped her with a Playboy Bunny). She met Alex Chapman at a London Docklands Rave Party in 2001 and they married in Moscow. As a result she gained dual Russian–British citizenship, and a British passport. How convenient. one block from Wall Street in Manhattan. Her LinkedIn site profile identified her as CEO of PropertyFinder LLC, a website selling real estate internationally. Anna told him the enterprise was continually in debt for the first couple of years, and then suddenly in 2009, she had as many as 50 employees and a successful business. In late December 2010 Chapman was appointed to the public council of Young Guard of United Russia. According to the organization, she “will be engaged in educating young people,” (in what, they didn’t say).
On January 21, 2011, Chapman began hosting a weekly TV show in Russia called Secrets of the World for REN TV (I swear I’m not making this stuff up). She testified to the closed trial in absentia of Col. Alexander Poteyev that took place in Moscow in May and June 2011 that it was only Poteyev who could have provided the U.S. authorities with the information that led to her arrest in 2010. She alleged she was arrested after an undercover U.S. agent contacted her using a code that only Poteyev and her personal handler could know. The jerk.
Chapman wrote a column for Komsomolskaya Pravda. In October 2011 she was accused of plagiarising material on Alexander Pushkin. The Guardian reported that this added to a negative trend toward her and in September 2011, she had been “heckled during a speech on leadership at a St. Petersburg University“. Students displayed signs stating: “Chapman, get out of the university!” and “The Kremlin and the porn studio are in the other direction!” Chapman’s foundation supported the second International Сonference “The Genetics of Aging and Longevity” in Moscow, where top world aging scientists present their speeches, including researchers who presented the results of experiments using anti-aging drugs on animals. Anna must have picked up that stuff, judging by the look of her body. In 2012 it was reported that Chapman almost caught a senior member of U.S. President Obama’s cabinet in a honeytrap operation wherein the bisexual Chapman plan would have seduced her target before extracting information from him or her.
Officials claimed Chapman worked with a network of others, until an undercover FBI agent attempted to draw her into a trap at a Manhattan Coffee Shop. The FBI agent offered Chapman a fake passport at Starbucks, with the instructions to forward it to another spy. He asked, “are you ready for this step?“, to which Chapman unequivocally replied, “Of course”. She accepted the passport. However, after making a series of phone calls to her father Chapman handed the passport in at a local police station, but was arrested shortly after. After being formally charged, Chapman and nine other detainees became part of a spy swap deal between the United States and Russia, the biggest of its kind since 1986. The ten Russian agents returned to Russia via a chartered jet that landed at Vienna International Airport, where the swap occurred on the morning of July 8. After her deportation to Russia, it was revealed that Chapman wished to stay in the UK and was “particularly upset” by the revocation of her UK citizenship and exclusion from the country. Poor baby. I’m sure she will find someone to take her in.
Actually I think Chapman is pretty cool. She’s too good to believe yet she is real. After her disgraced deportation, she wasn’t jailed or jeered. She tweeted a marriage proposal to Edward Snowden. She became a sexy model in Moscow and the U.S. She was featured on the cover of Maxim, has been interviewed by countless reporters and ended up with her own TV show. “I never pictured myself as a TV star,” she admitted in an interview. Yet she envisioned herself as an international spy. Love it.
Who knows how any human being is fodder for international espionage? Let’s say you’re intrigued enough with Anna Chapman that you are seriously considering a career in espionage. There are interesting steps you may wish to pursue in order to join, say, the CIA:
- You need a university degree in your area of specialization. The CIA seldom recruits actual spies. They tend to need people in many other, far less glamorous occupations.
- You must be able to pass all background checks.
- you must be a U,S. citizen.
- don’t abuse drugs
- don’t gamble
- associate with squeaky clean people
- be physically and mentally fit to the nth degree
- it wouldn’t hurt to have military experience
- You are expected to work for the CIA for the duration of your career.
- The CIA sees itself as one big happy family. You will be placing your work ahead of your real family and will be expected to work in teams.
- The Agency has its own community. The George Bush Center has its own food court, gym, walking paths, clothing stores, recreational clubs and more. (In other words, they want you with them as much as possible…are you starting to feel owned? You should).
- having studies with emphases on international relations, law, technology, political science, history, security studies, economics or finance, mathematics, journalism, and anything requiring analytical skills, are advantageous.
- Learn at least one other language. Languages in high demand include Mandarin,Farsi (Persian), Pashto, Dari, Russian (Anna Chapman offers private lessons if you’re interested), and Arabic.
- learn people skills including how to make people like you. Arrogance, egoism and inflated self-importance will get you fired.
- If you see life in absolutes (“he is wrong, I am right“), then it’s likely you’re not going to be a good choice.
- Be physically fit. You will be put through rigorous physical testing.
- Be mentally fit. You will be tested to your limits in training to see how you handle emotional pressure. In addition, you might be captured and tortured. You never pictured James Bond in that predicament, did you?
- Be prepared to relocate. Often.
- you’ll never be a millionaire…your salary will be a lot lower than people with similar qualifications in the corporate sector.
If you still want to be James Bond (or Anna Chapman) I salute you.
Watch your ass.
Admittedly I have been taking pot shots at Michael Bryant in this blog, perhaps unfairly since the whole Darcy Sheppard thing. You know, the tragic tale where Bryant supposedly dragged Sheppard with his car for several metres, slamming him into a mailbox and finally killing him. On August 31, 2009, Bryant was charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. Days later he resigned as CEO of Invest Toronto, while maintaining that he was innocent of the charges. On May 25, 2010, all charges against Bryant were withdraw when prosecutors cited the cyclist was the aggressor in the incident and that the charges would be impossible to prove or disprove. At least this was the story back then. Here is a youtube video (admittedly it is quite grainy).
In his book 28 Seconds: A true Story of Addiction, Tragedy, and Hope. The story now unfolds like this: According to Bryant his vehicle stalled when he stopped behind Sheppard on Bloor Street. His car then lurched forward from his attempts to restart the vehicle which brought the car close to, or in contact with, Sheppard’s tire. Expert analysis of security camera footage confirmed the car’s headlights dimmed in a manner consistent with this explanation and that the vehicle had a “sensitive and light clutch”. No damage to the bicycle’s rear wheel rim was evident. Witnesses said that Sheppard confronted Bryant and his wife “loudly and aggressively” while they “remained passive.” The car’s next movement resulted in Sheppard ending up on the hood of the car. The car travelled 30 feet, lasted 2.5 second, the car’s speed was between 9 and 13.4 km/h and brakes were applied after 1 second. According to Bryant he was looking down trying to restart the vehicle and applied the brakes when he saw Sheppard on the hood. This was the initial accident, and in all truth that’s what it was at that point; an accident. It was when Sheppard grabbed onto the sideview mirror in an effort to continue his attack, that Bryant’s behaviour turned criminal.
The crown determined there was no evidence Sheppard was seriously injured at this point and there was not enough evidence to justify a separate charge based upon Bryant’s driving. The fatality occurred when Bryant drove away and Sheppard grabbed hold of the side of the vehicle. The car veered into the opposite lanes, Sheppard’s body struck a fire hydrant knocking him off the car and his head hit the pavement. There were witnesses who said it appeared Bryant had attempted to knock Sheppard off the car by striking him against trees and mailboxes. There were also witness reports that Sheppard reached into Bryant’s convertible and grabbed Bryant or the steering wheel. Bryant parked his car around the corner and called 911. Sheppard later died of his injuries in hospital.
Bryant gave TVO an interview with Steve Paikin in 2012 about his book. He looks haggard; grey-haired, slumped and thinner, large bags under his eyes. The cocky politician from previous years is nowhere to be seen. Nonetheless, Bryant opens up. “People want to talk about it. It is very awkward…’oh you’re that Michael Bryant,’ I wanted to talk about it because sometimes, not often, I would go into a social setting and suddenly it was a wake, or a shiva…until somebody makes the first joke it’s just tense.” Here’s a mind-blow: Sheppard was the drunkard who got dragged, but Bryant himself is an alcoholic. Paikin says frankly, “so you were the Attorney General, an alcoholic and as the cliche goes ended up in the gutter sometimes and you managed to do your job.” Bryant responds correctly “there are some people who are high-functioning alcoholics in this world.” I agree with him. I know this to be true. “I had basically someone hold up a mirror to me and it’s when you undergo that rigorous honesty with yourself, and then you see what’s really going on, that’s when one comes to realize you’ve just got to give up.” Talk about opening yourself up to public scrutiny. Bryant’s full admission leaves him with nothing to hide behind. Forrest Gump said it best, “sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”
Obligingly, Bryant reads his account of the fateful 28 seconds to Paikin:
I put the SAAB in reverse. As I was looking back Sheppard hurled his backpack containing a heavy bike lock at us. It went sailing over my head. I put the car in first gear and tried to drive around him. Outraged, he raced toward the front of the car. I remember Susan screaming ‘oh my God’ over and over. Chasing after us, he leapt at the SAAB as if in slow motion, Sheppard landing hip-first to break his fall, the way you see stuntmen as cops do the hood-slide on crime shows [they should clean up that video and make it into a CSI episode] . It made a crunching noise. I felt the impact of a man over 200 pounds landing on my car. He then grabbed the windshield wiper and bent it back towards him. He began pulling himself toward me hand over hand, as if the wiper were a rope. The strength of the man was extraordinary. he seemed almost superhuman [gasp from audience]. His upper torso was now on the hood’s edge of the driver’s side, the car moving forward. He swung around, put his right arm inside the door, his left arm hid around the side mirror. He held up his legs, a feat of some strength no doubt assisted by the adrenaline that I later learned Darcy so often sought. [wtf?] The car suddenly swerved sharply to the left almost 45 degrees. I have no recollection how that happened. He must have grabbed the wheel.[i wonder what Sheppard's account would say to that]. In wrestling for control of the car we crossed to the other side of the street, heading westbound into the eastbound lane. Then he said to me with a crooked grin, after we had stopped for a moment, ‘you’re not getting away that easy.’ [it's all fun and games until Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark shows up], then he started climbing in the car. Susan grew louder and more frantic. ‘No, no, no, stop, stop, stop, stop!’ This was the only physical contact between us. The car remained stopped while the shoving was going on. I was struggling with Darcy Sheppard for control of the vehicle then he was gone. All of a sudden I just didn’t see him there. I didn’t see him fall. I heard a sound, maybe a groan.
He finishes with an abrupt nod.
During the first months after Darcy Sheppard’s death, Bryant was in a daze. One of the conditions of bail was that he couldn’t drive so he bought a bike at Duke’s Cycle on Richmond West. As he walked around the store checking out different models, the room fell silent. When he handed over his ID to take a test ride, the clerk read the name with disbelief. “Yup,” he said to his gobsmacked co-worker, “it’s actually Michael Bryant.” Bryant bought the bike. Stay away from Bloor Street. Toronto Life magazine insists in the months after Sheppard’s death Bryant found himself at loose ends. He filled his days like a 1950s housewife: picking up the kids from school and meeting friends for lunch. The city seemed much louder than it had before. His marriage underwent considerable strain. Once a power couple, Bryant and his wife Susan Abramovitch, avoided public parties. Dressing up and socializing seemed gauche and so they stayed in. Eventually they divorced. Then there was the pesky matter of those criminal charges. Bryant knew Edward Greenspan but he wanted a lawyer who ignored the media. In other words, not a media star. Where does the irony end? He went with Marie Heinen, an amoral defence lawyer who got David Frost, the notorious Brampton pedophile and Michael Danton’s former hockey coach, acquitted of twelve sexual assault charges against him upon children as young as 14. Perhaps there are times you have to make a deal with the devil. Thankfully, not everyone feels that way.
Then people began to come forward to say they saw photos of Sheppard on the news and believed they’d been harassed by him in the past. In six incidents, detailed by Henein’s defense team and later in the court summary, motorists recounted stories of Sheppard violently intimidating them, spitting on them, hitting the windshield with his fists. In some cases, he threw things at their cars or reached inside the open window to grab the steering wheel. Photographs depict a shirtless man with a mohawk reaching menacingly into the car as he clings to the vehicle’s running board were sent to Henein. It was the pictures that persuaded the court that Bryant was not the aggressor, but the victim of an assault. In a courtroom packed with media, lawyers, and friends and family of Sheppard and Bryant, Peck announced his decision. In a detailed, 11-page court summary, he concluded that the evidence brought forward by the defense established Sheppard was the aggressor and the Crown had no prospect for a conviction. The reaction was one of approval and outrage.
A reader of Toronto Life commented “I had a run in with this cyclist years ago…as a witness to his craziness…He ran into a car, on his bike, then after raging at the driver, an older Asian gentleman, for about 10 minutes, he picked up a concrete block and hurled it at the car. He missed me by inches…he doesn’t deserve our sympathy. Our sorrow perhaps…but from reports, this was a common occurrence with him.” Indeed.
Bryant admits the book seems like a PR stunt. Paikin informs him there were many people who disliked him before the incident and no amount of explanation or contrition will convince them otherwise. “Time will tell, right?” Bryant says to Paikin. Paikin dwells on Bryant’s life in politics after the reading. He probes into Bryant’s background and when the time seemed right for him to pursue a political career. Bryant admits the ambition began in his teens, probably the reason he made youngest ever AG at the tender age of 37.
Although after the Sheppard incident he was hired into Ogilvy Renault’s energy department, he left for the post of Minister of Aboriginal Affairs (or AA, ironically). Yes, another connection that got him a secure cabinet position, however Bryant has a background in Aboriginal Affairs ( a PhD) and insofar as the House is concerned, his position is actually a demotion. I believe Bryant is unfulfilled outside of politics. This is his league, it’s what he knows best (that and reckless driving). When McGuilty – oops - Dalton McGuinty offered him Aboriginal Affairs, Bryant is adamant he saw it as an opportunity. If he didn’t have the background I’d say it was an opportunity to get out of the gutter and back into the House. However, knowing his graduate educational background centres around AA presents it as another kettle of salmon.
Bryant remains a media darling, albeit a cloudy one. He isn’t one to shy away from the limelight even when it consists of lemons. McGuinty wasn’t pleased with this behaviour since Bryant was AG. He wanted Bryant’s public persona dampened (although certainly not tarnished). One wonders if McGuinty had an “couldn’t have happened to a nicer politican” moment upon hearing about the Sheppard incident. Meow. If I sat on the Cabinet they’d have to pass me a saucer of milk to shut me up. The book is hard to put down. There are melodramatic moments of course, but Bryant has a knack for keeping his readers’ attention, every bit as much as he captivates the media. Recovering alcoholic notwithstanding, he can’t run too dry. People will lose interest.
Have you ever wondered what happens to child stars who are a public magnet for years then disappear the next? Me, I’ve always assumed famous children, no matter why they are celebrities have untold wealth and live a life of luxury until the day they die. The Dionne Quintuplets however have proven me quite wrong. These five little girls were conceived in 1934 when there was no such thing as invitro fertilization or fertility drugs. The sisters were born just outside Callander,Ontario, Canada to father Oliva-Edouard and mother Elzire (Legros) Dionne. The Dionnes had five previous children, Ernest, Rose Marie, Thérèse, Daniel, and Pauline, who was only eleven months older than the quints. In total, the farming family consisted of ten children, five of whom were infants. The Dionnes also had three sons after the quintuplets: Oliva Jr., Victor and Claude. The five identical sisters were born from a single egg in 1934. They were abused for the beginning of their lives into their teenage years, both by the Ontario government and, they claim by their father.
The Media Circus
The news of the unusual birth spread quickly. Before long, people all over North America were offering assistance. Individuals sent supplies and well-meant advice and one hospital sent two incubators. Oliva, already poor was approached by fair exhibitors for Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition within days of their birth, who wished to put the Quintuplets on display. The parents were persuaded to agree, and although the contract was revoked before it was put into effect, it raised the issue of exploitation of the children. After four months with their family, the girls were made wards of the King for the next nine years under the Dionne Quintuplets’ Guardianship Act, 1935. In the same year the Ontario government had intervened and found the parents to be unfit for the quintuplets (although not for their previous children). The government recognized the massive public interest in the sisters and made them into a tourist attraction.
Across the road from their birthplace, the Dafoe Hospital and Nursery was built for the five girls and their new caregivers. The compound had an outdoor playground designed to be a public observation area. It was surrounded by a covered arcade that allowed tourists to observe the sisters behind one-way screens. The girls were beautifully dressed, their hair curled, and they were provided with a plethora of toys. Meanwhile across the street their siblings, unnoticed by tourists and the media, lived in abject poverty.
The quints were constantly tested, studied, and examined with records being taken of everything. What they were examined and tested for beats me. The Dionne sisters, while living at the compound, had a somewhat rigid lifestyle. Cared for primarily by nurses, the children had limited exposure to the world outside the boundaries of the compound except for the daily rounds of tourists who, from the sisters’ point of view were heard but not seen. They also had occasional contact with their parents and siblings across the road. The quintuplets were allowed to leave the compound only a handful of times. Their parents were allowed to visit but to the girls they were simply two more visitors who had to wear surgical masks to keep from spreading germs. ”We didn’t know each other,” Cecile said. So much for bear hugs and candy kisses.
Approximately 6,000 people per day or, in my opinion the equivalent of a small army. visited the observation gallery that surrounded the outdoor playground. The tourists behaved like brutes towards each other. They yelled, pushed and shoved each other out of the way to observe the children who were a circus attraction. Almost 3,000,000 people walked through the gallery between 1936 and 1943. Oliva Dionne ran a souvenir shop and a concession store opposite the nursery and the area acquired the name “Quintland“. The souvenirs pictured the five sisters. There were autographs and framed photographs, spoons, cups, plates, plaques, candy bars, books, postcards, dolls, and much more at this shop. Oliva Dionne also sold stones from the Dionne farm that were supposed to have some magical power of fertility. The sisters, their likenesses and images along with Dr. Dafoe, were used to publicize commercial products such as Karo Corn Syrup and Quaker Oats, among many other popular brands. They increased the sales of condensed milk, toothpaste, disinfectant, and many other products through their promotions. During the girls’ infancy, nurses would take them to a nursery balcony and show them one at a time to a crowd below, their names written on a card. In the media, the girls’ upbringing was characterized as privileged, with round-the-clock nursing, a swimming pool and playground all their own. But in reality their playground was surrounded with glass that allowed visitors to view them three times a day. A store set up in Quintland generated millions of dollars for the province of Ontario, at times keeping the province from going bankrupt. The Dionne sisters became very famous. Famous, certainly, but not at all wealthy. The girls enjoyed the creature comforts of life and wanted for nothing but all of the profits made from their exhibition went to other people and the government. They never saw a penny.
Show’s Over, Folks
In November 1943, the Dionne parents won back custody of the sisters and everything circus ground to a halt. The entire family moved into a newly built house within walking distance of Quintland. The yellow brick, 20-room mansion was paid for out of the Quintuplets’ fund. Odd. I would have thought the quintuplets fund would be held in trust and used for the quintuplets. Silly me. The new home had many amenities of the time, including telephones, electricity and hot water. this was new and unprecedented luxury for the previous five children. The mansion was nicknamed “The Big House.” (Isn’t that an expression for prison? how ironic). The building is now a retirement home. The nursery was eventually converted into an accredited school-house where the sisters finished their secondary education along with ten girls from the area that were chosen to attend.The quintuplets became emotionally closest to their sister Pauline. This made sense, considering Pauline was born within the same year as the girls. My, my, those parents were busy. While the Dionnes claimed they wished to integrate the quintuplets into the family, the sisters frequently travelled to perform at various functions, still dressed identically.
According to the sisters the parents often treated them at home as a five-part unit, and frequently lectured them about the trouble they had caused the family by existing. Ouch. They didn’t perceive their parents as saviors from Quintland; they their mother was unloving and their father was controlling, even tyrannical. Their parents acted as if “they had been partners in some unspoken misdeed in bringing us into the world [and] we were drenched with a sense of having sinned from the hour of our birth.” The girls later admitted that they all longed to have been born alone rather than as five. They were sometimes denied privileges the other Dionnes received, and were more strictly disciplined and punished. Perhaps life in Quintland was better than they’d realized. “Who could ever count the times we heard, ‘We were better off before you were born, and we’d be better off without you now?'”They also received a heavier share of the housework and farm work and were forced to serve the family dinner. They were unaware for many years that the lavish house, the expensive food and the series of cars the family enjoyed were paid for with money they themselves had earned. In particular the father was resentful and suspicious of outsiders as a result of his having lost custody of his children. In 1995, three surviving sisters asserted that their father sexually abused them during their teenage years. That’s a tricky accusation to prove or disprove, for reasons listed later in this blog.
Let’s sort that one out inside their heads, shall we? They grew up for nine years on display like a circus attraction and were viewed by millions of people. They had no concept of a world outside their own bizarre compound where they were subject to various scientific and psychological tests. Whatever. Their parents are merely visiting strangers in medical masks. Then abruptly the girls are removed from the compound they have known as their only home and moved into a new house with the strangers from across the street who now call themselves mother and father. There is very little media attendance or public interest anymore. Suddenly they’re expected to live just like everyone else, after having had their every want and need catered to for almost a decade. Alongside all of those grievous changes they are treated like house-servants and abused by their father. With the exception of Pauline, who knows how the other siblings treated them?
Word to the Wise
The quintuplets left the family home upon turning 18 years old in 1952, and had little contact with their parents afterwards. Small wonder. Marie, Annette, and Cécile went on to marry and have children however both ultimately divorced. Émilie and Marie both died before reaching middle age, with Émilie dying as a result of a seizure at 20, and Marie dying at 35. In 1997, the three surviving sisters wrote an open letter to the parents of the McCaughey Septuplets, Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey in Des Monies, Iowa, United States, warning against allowing too much publicity for the children. The letter read:
Dear Bobbi and Kenny,
If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives, it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family. We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.
Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.
We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.
Sincerely, Annette, Cécile and Yvonne Dionne
No reply was received from the McCaugheys’.
In 1998, the sisters reached a monetary settlement with the Ontario government as compensation for what was perceived to be their exploitation. Yvonne Dionne died in 2001, and as of May 2013, there are two surviving sisters, Annette and Cécile. The three women lived together in a modest house in a Montreal suburb on the equivalent of $525 (United States) a month in pensions. One of the three remaining sisters, Yvonne, died in 2001 from cancer. The three emerged from decades of seclusion and spent months in the early 2000s digging through their pasts in painfully public ways. They asked the Mike Harris government, where they were born on May 28, 1934, to poor French-Catholic parents they never really knew, and to give them a full accounting of their early years, when they were a bigger tourist attraction than Niagara Falls. They wanted to know what happened to around $1 million that disappeared from a trust fund set up for them when they were taken from their parents’ farm home in Corbeil, Ontario, and made wards of the state. They wanted a public inquiry into the millions of dollars their fame brought to Ontario during the Great Depression when three million tourists visited the rural compound where the world’s first surviving quintuplets were put on display three times a day.
The late Yvonne said, ”we want to find the real truth.’‘ While the Ontario government rejected legal responsibility for the plight of the three sisters, it accepted a moral obligation to help. Premier Mike Harris offered them, but not the survivors of a dead sister, a take-it-or-leave-it offer of $1,400 a month, apiece, for life, if they agreed to drop all claims to future compensation. The three extremely shy women went before the cameras they so dislike to denounce the offer as little more than an attempt to silence them. ”We want justice,” Cecile told reporters at a news conference last week, ”not charity.’‘
When the girls entered the “real world”at the age of ten, they discovered for the first time that other children didn’t live the way they did. Ten little girls who lived in the area attended the former nursery to receive a private education. They were very happy, a fact that baffled the girls, whose lives had gone from one of vaudeville entertainment to that of servant. As the quints aged into adulthood they had no idea how to live, behave, or set goals for themselves. They couldn’t tell the difference in a nickel and a quarter. Cecile married the first man who took her for a cup of coffee. She had five children in five years and then left him. Annette and Marie also married and raised families, and their marriages failed. By the time they turned 60, they were under such emotional and financial stress that they wrote a book with a professional author. Revelations of sexual abuse by their father briefly increased sales (sick society) but the advance of about $37,000 did not last long. One wonders if Oliva Dionne did indeed sexually abuse his daughters, since this “admission” from the girls helped to make the book a success. At any rate, the remaining sisters, Annette and Cecile, continue their quest for retribution from the Ontario government. I hope they get it. Not surprisingly, Hollywood exploited their fame and four movies were made about them in the 1930s, all with happy endings. If only fiction was stranger than truth.
Thursday May 28, 2009 marked the 75th anniversary of the birth of the world-famous Dionne quintuplets. Thursday also marked National Multiple Births Awareness Day. The day was established in 2005 by the organization Multiple Births Canada to coincide with the Dionne quints’ birthdate.
Outrageous, isn’t it? What is going on with airport security? Yes 9-1-1 is a violent, frightening reminder that airport security needs to be extremely careful with who it admits onto airline flights. Most security (so far as I know) do a sensible, decent job. They aren’t out to harm people. They simply want to do their job and prevent tragedy from slipping by them and into the country. At the same time airport security has to field anger and suspicion from the public for doing their job. Not an easy position to be placed in, I’ll agree to that. Watch this video where airport security scan a 9-year-old boy in a dignified manner and playfully tease a younger child by assuring him a scanner doesn’t hurt. This is a dignified airport search. It isn’t odd that the guard is searching children; there are weird people (yes, they live among ug) who hide drugs and weapons on their children to get the stash over the border. Airport security is right to search children in a non-invasive, reassuring manner.
However, airport security around the world is earning a bad reputation in a number of occasions. The video above is outrageous. I’m no fan of Dr Phil but (oh no, not the word but!) this video is worthwhile and so is the woman’s testimony.There is another equally disturbing video that has gone viral. A woman became emotional after a female security guard “inspected” her by feeling her breasts. The woman declared this was illegal and asked for airport police to assist her. No one called them and she became hysterical, weeping and yelling for help. Her husband and son were nearby, but (!) they seemed helpless and didn’t intervene. The son, however, had enough sense to film the entire incident. Airport security reacted by insisting the man stop filming the incident and leave the area. A police officer approached him and made no action against him. It turns out information came forward that revealed the woman had been violently raped years earlier by 5 men and the assault brought back emotional trauma. Whether or not the woman had a traumatic past in terms of sexual assault, what the airport security did was entirely unreasonable. Who hides a lethal weapon between her breasts or in her bra? This isn’t a James Bond movie.
On the security’s side, (I’m NOT defending either of the aforementioned situations), stats from somewhere or other revealed that 90% of people who carried a gun on their person were not searched by airport security and were permitted to attend their flights. I don’t know which airport this was or how many people were involved but egads, that is a scary fact. Hence the reason why airport security is probably trained on an ongoing basis to be ever vigilant about people entering airplanes. And the manner in which criminals smuggle weapons and drugs over the border is nothing less than amazing. Weaving cocaine into wigs and swallowing small parcels of cocaine is not uncommon. It is airport security’s job to prevent these oddities from succeeding.
I am in agreement with careful screening. I want to know the airplane I am on is safe. I want to know the passenger beside me won’t pull out a gun and blow my head off because she doesn’t like my hairdo. I want to know that none of the passengers can hijack the plane at gunpoint and send us into another 9-1-1. These are important responsibilities of airport security and airports. They have to ensure my safety (and yours) whenever I take to flying with friendly spies….oops….I mean skies. However I also want to know that airport security won’t molest my breasts or private or rectal area in case I am carrying more than 3 ounces of a liquid (shampoo, you know, is extremely volatile at high altitudes…as an aside, 3 ounces of a liquid is acceptable, but 4 ounces ….we’re all doomed. Who thinks up this stuff?) I also believe that many people are being unfairly accosted, assaulted, and treated just plain rudely.
Recently my brother went on a flight to some place or other in the States from Canada. (Interestingly, he has never been searched or assaulted in any manner by airport security and he travels frequently for his work). An elderly lady in front of him was being spoken to very rudely by a young, male security officer who was asking her routine questions, yet behaving in a hostile manner. My brother intervened and said politely, “this lady is elderly and unlikely to have a lethal weapon on her person. Also, could you be more polite in speaking with her? She is being cooperative and hasn’t done anything to deserve this treatment.” The security guard snapped back at him in some manner, but he did let the woman go through security right afterward. He even let my brother through. This isn’t to say, however, that the woman being elderly exempts her from security procedures. All we’re asking is for a little more respect. Check this video.
Recently, airport security accused of insulting and laughing at people’s bodies beneath their clothing as they passed through new scanners that allow security to see beneath our clothing (collective gasp). Betcha didn’t know about those scanners, did ya? (Next time you’re passing through an airport, be sure to wear your kinkiest underwear – and gentleman, consider wearing your wives’ pantyhose….we’ll give them something to laugh about). This information was revealed on a Youtube video that went viral by a person who claims to be a former TSA agent. The most outrageous reaction however was that of the airport manager who stated quite stupidly, “everyone has the right to their opinion.” Seriously. That was his idea of good PR. I’d love for someone to turn the tables and force airport security to walk through the scanners, then get laughed at by the entire airport. Serves them right. Nyah nyah. I had to drop this video into my blog – if all of us went through the scanners the way this woman reporter sits on camera, there wouldn’t be a need for body searches.
Here’s a weird fact about TSA training: there is a list of 70 suspicious behaviours passengers make that indicate potentially high risk situations. Many of the indicators, as characterized in open government reports, are behaviors and appearances that may be indicative of stress, fear or deception. Allegedly none of them refer to or suggest race, religion or ethnicity, but one addresses passengers’ attitudes towards security. It reads: “Very arrogant and expresses contempt against airport passenger procedures.” TSA officials said that no single indicator is used to identify travelers as potentially high-risk. Travelers must exhibit several indicators before officers subject them to more thorough screening. On the other side of the fence, Michael German, a former FBI agent who works for the American Civil Liberties Union, stated, “expressing your contempt about airport procedures — that’s a First Amendment-protected right.”
Guarding national security is a fine, difficult line. I’m glad I don’t have that job. I also believe the public has to fight back against airport abuse, whether it is you yourself who is being assaulted, or someone else. Don’t just walk on by when someone is being abused or begging for help. Stop and call 9-1-1 or find an airport police officer. They do not work with the airport security company. The police are real cops – not cop wannabes like security guards (had to get that one in there). Let’s help each other out and force airport security to conduct their job in a manner that is dignified for themselves and the public. We are all in this together.
There are famous porn stars, porn films, and hookers in our midst from decades gone by and current times. The Happy Hooker, Debbie Does Dallas, Monica Lewinsky, and Tracey Lords to name a few, tend to be familiar names. A courtesan, by contrast, was a woman who offered her sexual services in exchange for cash, jewellery, furs, a luxurious life at court, and bedding down with highly powerful men (like the President). However, certain types of courtesans weren’t held as low as whores or hookers, as is mistakenly thought. Prior to the Renaissance, courtesans conveyed information that wasn’t trusted to servants to visiting dignitaries. In Renaissance Europe, respected courtesans played an extremely important role in upper-class society. During this time royal couples led separate lives so aristocratic men and women sought gratification from people living at court. The most intimate companion of a ruler was called the favourite.It wasn’t easy to become the favorite as there was a lot of competition for this role. If you saw the movie Marie Antoinette, Madam du Barry was a perfect example of the King’s favorite. She was a divorced woman, a scandalous social position, and although she was the king’s favorite she was held in low regard by the court society (a fact of which she was blissfully unaware). Marie, as it were, hated her due to her crass nature and questionable reputation, but that’s another story.
Types of Courtesans
In one category was a type of courtesan known as the honest courtesan, who was an intellectual. In the other was a lower class of courtesan. Although the latter was better than an average prostitute, the former was treated equal to women of the nobility. One factor that separated an honest courtesan from the lower class was that her primary source of income was not her sexual role at court. They held a full-time job usually as artists and their court role was a secondary income. Courtesans from non-wealthy backgrounds were charming companionship. They were subject to lower social status, and religious disapproval. This courtesan was solely dependent on her benefactor making her vulnerable. Courtesans serving in this capacity began their career as a prostitute. If the courtesan satisfactorily served a benefactor, that benefactor would pass them to another benefactor of wealth, or set them up in an arranged marriage. In the event that the courtesan dissatisfied a benefactor, she was cast out of wealthy circles, reduced to street prostitution. She wasn’t even able to create designer handbags or sign a Hollywood contract and get rich that way. Sucks (pun).
- payment in gems, furs, cash, financial security
- sometimes they became mistresses to powerful men (until they got old, then they were on their own)
- free room and board at the royal court (depending on how in-demand they were)
- sociopolitical freedom that most women only dreamed of
- they procured significant wealth for retirement built significant court networking
- if living alone, she had a personal servant to do her daily chores and run her errands
- the king’s company
- affordable luxuries
- highly educated - in a time when literacy was unheard of among most people, this was no small feat
- knowledgeable about politics and current events
- able to sing or play a musical instrument
- willing to entertain the court (no, not that way, you) with her musical aptitude
- absolutely glittery and glowing at all times – she had to be bedecked with diamonds, wear white face powder, adorn herself in
- adorned in luxurious expensive gowns and furs
- be able to speak more than one language
- be able to sexually satisfy renowned men or women
- financially able to entertain friends with lavish dinner parties
- willing to forego motherhood for her social and financial status
Some courtesans were educated and raised by other courtesans who were nearing retirement and were willing to pass on their courtesan-ly knowledge to the up-and-comers (pun). They usually charged a price for this education (they charged money for everything), thus ensuring even more retirement equity. From the time a girl was very young (around 7) she was brought to live with a courtesan where she received music lessons, was formally educated, learned to develop perfect posture and a ladylike grace when she walked, was taught makeup and hairstyling efficiency, and as she reached her teens, learned about sexually pleasing a man in bed. Courtesans usually lost their virginity to a client who paid great money for this honor. If her mentor arranged it, she received a significant amount from this payment. Her pupil also learned about her financial worth and not to accept anything less than significant financial sums for her sexual services. Becoming a courtesan was a lifelong pursuit and usually had nothing to do with stepping into high heels and walking the streets in a shabby muskrat jacket and too much rouge. Courtesans were careful not to get pregnant or if they did, they worked hard to cause a miscarriage or obtained an abortion quickly from a trusted doctor. If the courtesan survived the abortion no one was any the wiser. Children were a liability as no one wanted to picture a courtesan as a mother….not sexy. It was rumoured that some courtesans “disposed” of unwanted children but this was rare: murdering a newborn was of course punishable by death. However women who did complete a pregnancy might be fortunate enough to have the illegitimate child of a king or an emperor. Although the child did not have sociopolitical status, often she or he was generally well provided for by the father.
Those from wealthy backgrounds, by birth or marriage, who were acting as courtesans only for the social or political advancement of themselves and their spouses, were treated as equals. They were respected by their extramarital companions, both placing one another’s family obligations ahead of the relationship. Affairs of this sort were short-lived, ending when the courtesan or the courtesan’s spouse received the political position desired. The benefactor was aware of the political or social favors expected by the courtesan, the courtesan was aware of the price expected from them and the two met one another’s demands.
Murder Most Foul
Prior to the Victorian era, courtesans were limited in their apparel by sumptuary laws and were restricted in where they could appear at social functions. Periods of overt religious piety in a city led to persecution of the courtesans. In many cases it led to being executed following public trials that left them appearing to be evil, or power-hungry. Courtesans also betrayed one another in attempts to climb into higher positions of power. There are many cases throughout history where one courtesan tried to supplant the mistress to a king by discrediting her, and divulging secrets that could lead to her being cast aside. However, if a courtesan of “lower status” attempted to replace a courtesan of great power it resulted in the lower courtesan being exiled from the royal court, married off to a lesser noble in an arranged marriage, or murdered.
Out to Pasture
Most courtesans had enough sense to know when it was time to retire: they were in less demand and rather than suffer the humiliation of being put out to pasture, they let it be known they weren’t in the “business” anymore. This saved courtesan face and allowed her to retire with dignity, rather like receiving a gold watch and a good-bye dinner. As with most men in history (and today), men desired younger courtesans, and those who reached middle-age if they were particularly skillful in bed. Beyond that, mandatory retirement was expected or enforced upon her. However, there were many young courtesans who were also rejected at court and by benefactors depending upon their usefulness. There were also courtesans who were able to extend their careers into or past middle age and retire financially secure; is a good example. By the late 19th century, and early in the early 20th century, courtesans enjoyed social acceptance to the extent of becoming a friend to the wife of their benefactor. More often than not, a woman serving as a courtesan would last in that field as long as she could prove herself useful to her companion This, of course, excluded those who served as courtesans but were already married into high society. When referring to those who made their service as a courtesan as their main source of income, success was based solely on financial management and longevity. Many courtesans obtained the position of mistress to a king or a prince early on, but few lasted long, and after serving a prince or king there was nowhere to go but down.
Courtesan Trickery (pun)
One courtesan invited friends and acquaintances to her home for dinner where guests ate off solid gold plates. After dinner the courtesan insisted everyone throw the plates into the river beside her home to demonstrate her wealth. The next morning, she retrieved the dishes from a fishing net she strung alongside the riverbank.
A courtesan was the mistress of an affluent man yet she was happy to entertain clients in the apartment he afforded her. One afternoon he arrived unexpectedly at her apartment and she was forced to push her unfortunate client onto the interlocking brick road beneath her balcony so as to prevent her lover from discovering him. He broke a few bones. She saved her neck.
Sometimes a man who had a contract with a courtesan sought to control this independent woman since he couldn’t marry her. However it was she who brought a man under her sexual and financial control. In order to retain her contract yet keep him at a safe distance, she remained sobre while she got him drunk during dinner, she used secret communications with him which was not allowed in the contract. Keeping him at bay while enjoying his wealth was a favorite ruse of the independent, clever courtesan. In certain eras and cultures, this was held in low status, however this may have been due to the courtesan’s ability to function as an independent woman and not be owned by husband, father, or brother.
Mata Hari - a courtesan, exotic dancer, and accused spy, executed by the French for working as a spy for Germany during the First World War. Madam Mata was 41 years old when she met a violent death in front of a French firing squad, but what a life she enjoyed prior to her execution….almost made that whole mess worthwhile. Margaretha enjoyed a lavish early childhood that included exclusive schools until the age of 13. At 18, Margaretha answered an advertisement in a newspaper placed by Colonial Rudolf MacLeod who was looking for a wife. Margaretha married Rudolf in Amsterdam on 11 July 1895, a significant move as the marriage enabled her to move into the Dutch upper class. The marriage was a disappointment.MacLeod was an abusive alcoholic and blamed Margaretha for his lack of promotion. He kept a concubine. No wonder this dude had to advertise for a wife. However, Margaretha plunged ahead and revealed her artistic name: Mata Hari, Indonesian for “sun” in 1897. In 1899, her children fell ill from complications relating to the treatment of syphilis. Jeanne survived, but Norman died. The couple separated in 1902 and divorced in 1907.
By 1905, Mata Hari began to win fame as an exotic dancer. Promiscuous, flirtatious, openly flaunting her body, Mata Hari was an overnight success from the debut of her act on 13 March 1905. She became the long-time mistress of a millionaire industrialist. She posed as a Java princess of priestly Hindu birth. The most celebrated segment of her act was her progressive shedding of clothing until she wore just a jeweled bra. She wouldn’t remove the bra as she was self-conscious about being small-breasted.Mata Hari was a successful courtesan, who had relationships with high-ranking military officers, politicians (happy birthday, Mr, President….)Her relationships took her across international borders.
In January 1917, the German military attaché transmitted radio messages to Berlin describing the activities of a German spy, code-named H-21. French agents intercepted the messages and identified H-21 as Mata Hari. Mata Hari was arrested in Paris, put on trial, accused of spying for Germany and consequently causing the deaths of 50,000 soldiers. Neither the French or British intelligence produced evidence against her but she was found guilty and executed by firing squad at the age of 41. German documents unsealed in the 1970s proved that Mata Hari was a German agent. She had entered German service, and was instructed that her reports were to be sent to the Agent mission in the German embassy. She was indeed given the code name H-21. Mata Hari wasn’t just well-versed in politics, as was expected of a courtesan. She lived and died by them. Cool.
Madame de Pompadour – was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to her death. She claimed that, at the age of nine, she was taken by her mother to a fortune teller and told she would someday reign over the heart of a king. Her mother believed the prophecy and nicknamed her “Reinette” (meaning “little queen“). At the age of nineteen, Jeanne Antoinette was married to Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d’Étiolles, who provided large financial incentives. on the night of 25 to 26 February 1745, Jeanne was invited to a masked ball at the Palace of Versailles By March, she was the king’s mistress. On 7 May, the official separation between her and her husband was pronounced. She wielded power and control behind the scenes, especially when another of the king’s mistresses, Marie-Louise O’Murphy attempted to replace her. The younger and less experienced Morphyse was married off to an Auvergne nobleman, not a bad deal considering he was rich and she could have been beheaded. Ouch.
Madame de Pompadour had enemies among the royal courtiers. However there were several reasons for her lasting influence over Louis. First, she established a cordial relationship with Marie Leszczyńska, realizing that showing respect for Marie eased Louis’ guilt. The Queen often said “If there must be a mistress, better her than any other.” She put all of her effort into bringing fun into the melancholy life of the King. She threw dinner parties for him and put on plays that exalted him. The royal mistress reminded Louis of her beauty by commissioning paintings that highlighted her exquisite features and hid her ageing looks. Madame de Pompadour is said to have arranged lesser mistresses for the King’s pleasure to replace herself.Although they had ceased being lovers after 1750, they remained friends, and Louis XV was devoted to her until her death from tuberculosis in 1764 at the at the age of forty two. Many enemies were relieved and she was blamed for the Seven Years’ War. Pretty cool considering very few women in history have been blamed for an entire war and especially one that lasted 7 years (is that anything like the 7 year itch?)
Marie-Louise O’Murphy de Boisfaily was one of the younger mistresses of King Louis XV of France. She enjoyed only a short-term run as a courtesan due to her own stupidity. Giacomo Casanova relates that he found her “a pretty, ragged, dirty, little creature” of thirteen years. Struck by her beauty when seeing her naked,he had a nude portrait of her painted, a copy of which found its way to the King, who took her as one of his mistresses. She quickly became a favourite, and, after a miscarriage in 1753 (which apparently deeply affected the King), she gave birth to Louis XV’s illegitimate daughter. After serving as a mistress to the King for just over two years, O’Murphy made a mistake that was common for many courtesans, that of trying to replace the official mistress: she tried to unseat the longtime royal favorite, Madame de Pompadour. This ill-judged move resulted in O’Murphy’s downfall. A marriage was arranged to Jacques Pelet de Beaufranchet. A marriage was the punishment for her poor political move. Interesting.Her husband was killed in action on 5 November 1757. Two years later, O’Murphy married, a widower with three children. O’Murphy gave birth to another daughter, who might have been another illegitimate daughter of Louis XV. This husband died on 24 April 1783. Twelve years later, O’Murphy married again. Her new husband was twenty-eight years younger than her. Demi Moore has nothing on her. This union failed, and after three years, they divorced (another page out of Moore’s diary). O’Murphy never married again. During the French Revolution, O’Murphy was imprisoned because of her royal connections, but she survived the Reign of Terror. She died in 1814 at the age of 77.
Catherine Walters, also known as “Skittles“, was a fashion trendsetter and one of the last of the great courtesans of Victorian London. Her nickname is thought to have originated from her working at a bowling alley (skittles is the game which evolved into bowling.) Walters was rumoured to have had intellectuals, leaders of political parties, aristocrats and a member of the British royal family amongst her benefactors . Her classical beauty was matched by her skill as a horsewoman, for which she was equally renowned. During her life as a courtesan, her discretion and loyalty to her benefactors became the focal point of her career. There were many rumours about her being involved with certain wealthy men of the time, but she never confirmed or denied these rumours. This gave her great weight in the courtesan lifestyle, and made her a sought-after commodity. It also gave long life to her career, and helped her to retire a wealthy woman of society. Well done, old girl.
Madam du Barry
Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry was the last Maîtresse-en-titre of Louis XV of France and one of the victims of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Her true father was not known. At the age of fifteen, Jeanne left the convent as she had ‘come of age.’ Jeanne was then employed as a companion to an elderly widow, Madame de la Garde, but was sent away when her youth and beauty began to meddle in the marital affairs of la Garde’s somewhat middle-aged sonsher. Her beauty came to the attention of Jean-Baptiste du Barry, a high-class pimp/procurer.. Du Barry made her his mistress and established Jeanne’s career as a courtesan in the highest circles of Parisian society. Jeanne could not qualify as an official royal mistress unless she had a title; this was solved by her marriage to du Barry’s brother, comte Guillaume du Barry. Jeanne was a tremendous triumph at court. She wore extravagant gowns of great proportions. With diamonds covering her delicate neck and ears, she was now the king’s maîtresse déclarée. Jeanne was installed below the King’s quarters. While Jeanne wasknown for her good nature, she grew unpopular because of the king’s extravagance towards her. Her relationship with Marie Antoinette was contentious. The princess defied court protocol by refusing to speak to du Barry. Madame du Barry furiously complained to the king. During a ball on New Year’s Day 1772, Marie Antoinette threw into the air these words for du Barry to take or leave, “there are many people at Versailles today,” the last time the two would speak. Following the death of Louis XV, du Barry was exiled and suspected of financially assisting émigrés who had fled the French Revolution. The Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris accused her of treason and condemned her to death. On the way to the guillotine, she collapsed and cried “You are going to hurt me! Why?!” Terrified, she screamed for mercy and begged the crowd for help. Her last words to the executioner were: “One more moment, Mr. Executioner, I beg you!”. Madame du Barry was beheaded by guillotine. Her corpse was disposed of in the Madeleine Cemetery, where many victims of the Terror, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, had also been buried.
Mary Boleyn (the other Boleyn girl)
Mary Boleyn was the elder sister of English queen consort Anne Boleyn. Mary was one of the mistresses of Henry VIII. It has been rumoured that she bore two of the king’s children, though Henry did not acknowledge either of them. Mary Boleyn married twice: in 1520 to Sir William Carey, and secretly in 1534 to William Stafford, a commoner and a soldier. This secret marriage to a man so far beneath her station angered both Henry VIII and her sister, Queen Anne, and resulted in Mary’s banishment from the royal court; she spent the remainder of her life in obscurity. At some point, Mary became Henry’s mistress. The liaison was never publicised, and Mary never enjoyed the fame, wealth and power that Henry’s earlier mistresses enjoyed, which was usual for other acknowledged mistresses in France and other kingdoms. Although Mary was alleged to have been more attractive than her sister, Anne seems to have been more ambitious and intelligent. When the king took an interest in Anne, she refused to become his mistress, being shrewd enough not to give in to his sexual advances. Henry was determined to marry her. Mary and her husband remained social outcasts, living in retirement in a house which was owned by the Boleyns. After Anne’s execution, their mother retired from the royal court, dying in seclusion just two years later.
As Canadians we have a lot to be proud about in terms of living in a wonderful country like Canada. The best country in the world, in fact. Where else can you retire on nothing and still be taken care of (see my previous blog Ridiculous Retirement Advice). However the stats for the average Canadian as a person are considerably less impressive:
- the average male is slightly overweight (think of that ugly beer belly many middle-aged men sport) and only earns $30,000 a year
- Many Canadians spend $2,000 on fast food and/or restaurants annually yet they save zero for retirement (again, that relates to my previous post if you are interested in the no-frills retirement option)
- the average Canadian is $112,000.00 in debt …. watch cbc a living wage instead of minimum wage
- Canadians spend more on booze than fresh fruits and vegetables
- these stats don’t jibe with the fact that most Canadians have graduated from college or university
- most people are happy with their economic situation
- if you live in a house larger than 1,900-sq.-feet, contribute anything at all to your RRSPs and don’t have a mortgage, you’re doing better than most
- The average household debt, including mortgages, credit cards and personal loans equates to a monthly payment of about $1,140 …. watch canada’s growing debt
- There’s no evidence that we have a retirement crisis since overall Canadians contribute 30% to their RRSPs
- If your family brings in more than $68,000 a year, you’re doing better than average
The average household rake in between $68,000.00 and $86,000.00, but that is only if both spouses are working. It is the combined salaries that raise the household income from a single person (on average only $30,000 to $40,000) to these higher amounts. Usually those who are university educated fare far better financially. An individual can make as much money annually as a combined household income with 2 adults who haven’t graduated from a post-secondary institution.
The stats seem rather disparaging to me, personally but in comparison with the United States they really aren’t so bad:
- In 2006, the median annual household income rose 1.3% to $50,233.00
- The real median earnings of men who worked full-time, year-round climbed between 2006 and 2007, from $43,460 to $45,113
- For women, the corresponding increase was from $33,437 to $35,102 watch thomas sowell – gender bias and income disparity – a myth?
- households with an income exceeding $60,000, had two income earners
- The educational attainment of the U.S. population reflects that the vast majority of the population has completed secondary education and a rising number of college graduates outnumber high school dropouts.
- As a whole, the population of the United States is spending more years in formal educational programs
- an average per person of more than $43,000 in debt
- the American mortgage debt works out to over $60,000 in housing debt for every adult in the country
- the average debt for every adult in the United States is $113,360
- Average credit card debt per household with credit card debt: $15,956
You’re no better off if you skip to the States to try to capitalize on lower-income taxes as a senior retiree. Stats seem to bear this out. The numbers sound abysmal but apparently if you fall in that range somewhere, you’re doing okay. It seems the average Canadian and the average American have a lot in common. Who knew?
Although I’ve pretty much been doom and gloom about Canada’s ongoing recession, job losses, and the European euro crash, I found some interesting (and hilarious) non-investment retirement advice in MoneySense Guide to Retiring Wealthy that has lifted my spirits. I always wondered what happened to people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t invest a cent for their retirement. I know people in the latter situation, if you can believe it. One family blows their money at the racetrack every week (how they can afford that while living on a government-funded seniors’ pension, God only knows). The other is a young man who is more than capable of holding down a job, yet he works the welfare system and collects every month because he doesn’t like work. No, seriously. There just seem to be people like that in the city, don’t there? They learn barely legal loopholes and they live on us while we live on … us. But I digress….
I am reading the updated 2012 edition of MoneySense and found, on p. 58, the most hilarious retirement advice ever. Now the book states it can help you to retire wealthy, however it seems to have thrown in a codicil here for people who just want to retire, wealthy or not. It presents the no-frills retirement option:
- rental property with utilities
- no car – public transport only
- no cable, internet, etc
- 3 meals a day
- no extras – even a bottle of booze every week
- it didn’t mention food and clothing banks or soup
kitchens…consider those your luxuries
- it didn’t mention begging or busking …
consider those your optional additional income
If you can live happily under these rigid conditions (and some people can) the total amount required to save for your retirement is: zero. Seriously. Where does the money come from to finance the aforemementioned, you say? 3 very solid government systems: OAS (Old Age Security), GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan). It is not true that CPP and OAS are in danger of vanishing. Poppycock. Those rumours have been swirling around since the 1970s but the two systems are still paying out annually to ever senior in Canada. watch the canada pension plan with malcolm hamilton
This provides a couple with a combined income of approximately $24,000.00 annually, every year. I do not know what a single retiree is given but I do know (and I quote) “you won’t have to live on cat food.” watch 88 year old stand up to harper government
While it’s reassuring to know that if, for some tragic reason, you wind up on skid row, that you will still be cared for financially, it just rips me that you can plan for a basic retirement by investing nothing. I cannot stop snickering over that one. Can you imagine watching a commercial like that? So for all of you very laissez-faire types who have been late to the investment party, or who may never make it, relax. You live in Canada. Let the elderly Americans eat cat food…or to COIN a phrase…let them eat cake. watch make your money worth more
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