The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood.Secret sirens
Fresh dirt on the lesbian amours of Garbo, Dietrich, and Hollywood's golden girls
The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood * Diana McLellan * L.A. Weekly Books * $25.95
If you have genealogy software, you might want to use it while reading this entertaining chronicle of lesbian interconnection in Hollywood. First, plug in these names: Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Mercedes de Acosta Mercedes de Acosta (March 1, 1893 – May 9, 1968) was a Cuban-American poet, playwright, costume designer, and socialite best known for her lesbian affairs with Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Alla Nazimova, Tamara Karsavina, Eva Le Gallienne, Isadora Duncan, Katharine , Alla Nazimova, and Tallulah Bankhead. Then add a laundry list laundry list A popular term for a long list of Sx, diseases, or etiologies that share something in common–eg, differential diagnosis of acute abdomen of their lovers, female and male, which will include a number of repeats. Pretty soon, you'll have an unimaginably gnarly (jargon) gnarly - /nar'lee/ Both obscure and hairy. "Yow! - the tuned assembler implementation of BitBlt is really gnarly!" From a similar but less specific usage in surfer slang. sapphic family tree.
To McLellan's credit, she's somehow been able to both unearth and untangle all these liaisons. Rather than considering one woman at a time, she tells their stories together as an interwoven in·ter·weave
v. in·ter·wove , in·ter·wo·ven , inter·weav·ing, inter·weaves
1. To weave together.
2. To blend together; intermix.
v.intr. Hollywood history, beginning in the silent era with actresses Nazimova and Natacha Rambova (who married Rudolph Valentino) and ending rather pitifully with the deaths of Dietrich and Garbo in the early 1990s.
Along the way, there are famous lesbians and bisexuals galore, including actress Eva Le Gallienne Noun 1. Eva Le Gallienne - United States actress (born in England) (1899-1991)
Le Gallienne , dancer Isadora Duncan, and comic Patsy Kelly. The first two were among the conquests of the suave poet-playwright De Acosta, a lesbian gladiator gladiator
Professional combatant in ancient Rome who engaged in fights to the death as sport. Gladiators originally performed at Etruscan funerals, the intent being to give the dead man armed attendants in the next world. of the first magnitude; the latter was Bankhead's all-purpose companion. As Kelly reportedly once told author Boze Hadleigh, "Tallu didn't just enjoy stimulatin' conversations.... And whatever milady desired, I was glad to provide--in quantity!"
One of the less glamorous but more fascinating appearances is by anarchist Emma Goldman, briefly a lover of Nazimova. McLellan speculates that Goldman, who had been trained as a nurse and midwife in Vienna, must have specialized in "vulvular massage," a then-respectable treatment for soothing women's "hysteria." McLellan suggests that Goldman's "massage" was, in effect, Nazimova's "Sapphic initiation." The heart of the book is the long-held secret of Garbo and Dietrich's own love affair, which McLellan says occurred while they were filming G.W. Pabst's 1925 film The Joyless joy·less
joy Street in Berlin. For the next 60 years, even though they shared other lovers, the two women would pretend they had never even met. Only some cinematic sleuthing Sleuthing
See also Crime Fighting.
detective in Ngaio Marsh’s many mystery stories. [New Zealand Lit.: Harvey, 520]
tough solver of brutal crimes. [Am. Lit. combined with certain revelations from Dietrich herself convinced McLellan otherwise.
Although a bit flowery and repetitive, the book's a hoot and a compelling read. A few of today's Hollywood lesbians may be out and loudly proud, but they'll probably never seem as sexy as the ones who kept their "dirty" secrets so well and so long.
Kort is working on a biography of Laura Nyro for St. Martin's Press.
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