Monday, October 29, 2007

Meet Me for Bellydancing at Le Souk

I'm going tomorrow to see oriental belly dance by Princess Farhana and the lovely Leela. Won't you please come? No cover, and only a $15 food/drink minimum. I've reserved a table--for me and YOU? Email me to RSVP. Click the "View my profile" link to the right and it will bring you to my email contact. Last time I went to a belly dance club, the audience danced after the show!

8 p.m., Oct. 30, Le Souk, 47 Ave. B, between E. 3rd & 4th Streets, NYC. Live Arabic music featuring Maurice Chedid and Ensemble, plus a sneak preview of "Tumbao" and experimental fusion dance by Nadia Moussa Dance Theater.

Bad Girls Found Partying in Brooklyn

Here I am, bangin' on again about Mae West, but this time it's not my fault. Mae went to the same Halloween party I attended on Saturday night.

Here's Mae with Brooklyn's own "Found in Brooklyn" blogger, styling a rakish 1890s mini hat (all photos by David Kaplan):
"Found in Brooklyn" recently featured me as a guest blogger! Check it out: Gleaning Pebbles in Kensington.

A few other bad girls made an appearance on Saturday night. Here's Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday (a.k.a. Nichelle Newsletter blogger):

There's me, dancing like a fool on the right and ignoring the shameless bad girl cop who's drinkin' a beer and dancing with the prisoner she's supposed to be guarding:
And here's that same cop dancing with Billie:
Finally, here's Amy again, with the Mad Hatter and a Harajuku girl. To be honest, I don't know if Harajuku girls are bad girls, because I've never been to Japan. But I'm adding this picture here because all three of these party people are so extremely good-looking!

Friday, October 19, 2007

You Decide: Paris Hilton or Mae West?

I've pretty well established by now that I've got a big crush on the bad girls of history, women like Mae West and Catherine the Great. But that raises the question of who's a bad girl today.

The automatic response, of course, would be that Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are modern bad girls. But are they?

Here's what Paris Hilton had to say for herself on "Larry King Live" after she was released from jail earlier this year: "It was one of the happiest days of my life. Like -- it's hard to even describe. It was so exciting even just being in the fresh air and looking up at the sky and the stars and being outside and then it was just pandemonium and then as soon as I saw my mom I just ran to her to give her a hug."

Paris Hilton, booking photo:

And here's what Mae West (who also served a few weeks of jail time in the 1920s, on obscenity charges for writing a play called Sex) had to say about being a bad girl, in an interview with The Guardian in 1979, just a year before she died: "I was a bad girl with a good heart. I don't think things have changed so much. It's still a man's world, with men making the rules that suit them best....You've gotta have plenty of self-esteem, nerve, and be bold in life. I've been liberated all my life. I always did what I wanted to do. I was an original."

Mae West, 1927 jailbird:

OK, I think Mae West could have shown Paris Hilton a thing or two about being a bad girl. But, dear reader, I'm interested in your comments. What is a bad girl, exactly? And who's the bigger bad girl, Paris or Mae?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Craigslist Courtesan Seeks SW$M

Right around the time I was writing Reviving Skittles, Part 6, a friend sent me the following exchange between two anonymous writers on, New York. I think it's disturbing and funny, especially in light of what I wrote in Part 6 about Lord Hartington's offer to Skittles, proposing a financial transaction rather than marriage. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought courtesans were a thing of the past. Looks like I was wrong.

The anonymous Craigslist courtesan wrote:

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly
beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy.
I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at
least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that
a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm
overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could
you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200
- 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to
central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an
investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am,
nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars,
restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side
so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to
offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous
girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker,
doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out?
Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE

Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way.
Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it.
I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match
them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and

it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial
PostingID: 432279810

And here's the answer she received:
Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about
your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.
Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill;
that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a
crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you
suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my
money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money
will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my
income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting
any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning
asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation
accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot
for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in
earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy
and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to
"buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you
think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go
away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple
as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I
wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful"
as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe
that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found
you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we
wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way.
Classic "pump and dump."
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease,
let me know.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reviving Skittles, Part 6: An Unsuitable Attachment

Catherine Walters may have been Victorian London's most sought-after courtesan, but the greatest love of her life was a man out of reach. It was a question of class: Spencer Compton Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington, later the 8th Duke of Devonshire, believed from the start that a public life with Skittles would have been social suicide for him, and he never changed his opinion about that, no matter how much he loved her.

I couldn't find any hard evidence of how Skittles and Lord Hartington met, but my guess is that because they were both horse lovers, they probably met at a hunt or on Rotten Row one day when Skittles was out riding. And I can further conjecture that Skittles was openly flirtatious with Hartington, which felt deliciously unfamiliar to him, and that he fell for her quickly because she was a beautiful and fun girl, unlike any woman from the aristocratic and repressed circle who shared his privileged background. Skittles’ open coquetry combined with a mysterious sense of hidden secrets, creating a seductive tension that was hard to resist, and Hartington didn’t.

In turn, Skittles liked Harty Tarty, as his friends called him, because he was so different from the dockworkers and sailors she knew from her early Liverpool days. He was a shy and shuffling bachelor politician of 26 when they met, very sweet in private, and his fear of other people's opinions might have seemed of little importance at the start, and certainly not a fatal flaw.

In addition to being a lumbering and well-read Englishman, very much of his time and place, Lord Hartington was a man who hid his more delicate sensibilities beneath a gravely impenetrable exterior. His portrait shows him to have a long face with a narrow and sensuous nose, thoughtful eyes that droop at the corners, and a surprisingly lush lower lip peaking out from his full Victorian beard. Educated at Holker Hall, the family’s lonely house in the northern county of Cumbria, and then at Trinity College, Cambridge, he entered Parliament in 1857 and was destined to hold a variety of posts including Lord of the Admiralty and chief secretary for Ireland before becoming leader of the Liberal opposition in 1875.

In short, Hartington was a cultured man with an impressive pedigree, and Skittles fell in love with him. And he, in his own way, fell in love with her. She got under his skin, making him excited and confused whenever he saw her. He might resolve to be cool and controlled before one of their trysts, but then there she would be, smiling up at him, and he looking down into her bright upturned face and feeling a sudden surge of passion.

Queen Victoria believed that Hartington's calm nature had a stabilizing influence on her fast-living son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, but more familiarly known as Bertie. What the queen didn’t know was that Hartington, like many Victorian men expected to display a virtuous purity they could hardly bear, had his down-and-dirty side, and it was Harty Tarty himself who first took Bertie round to Skittles’ Mayfair salon in the 1860s, when she was generally accepted as the queen of her profession. She numbered quite a few royals and several princes among her lovers, including the crown prince of Germany, a Russian prince who gave her a miniature phaeton and a matching pair of Viennese chestnut ponies, and so of course she welcomed the 20-year-old Prince of Wales, who became a frequent visitor to her Sunday afternoon parties of baccarat, an illegal yet popular card game. Skittles played her part well--she was a professional, after all, and knew just how to act the perfect sex kitten--and there was something in Hartington's animal nature that made him proud to share his girlfriend with Bertie.

Hartington was Skittles’ first big affair when she was young, however, and despite her party girl ways, she had vague hopes that it would end in marriage. Those hopes rose when her lover took her to balls, parties and the Derby Day horse races. He also provided for her, paying for her house off Grosvenor Square. Surely, her tender affection and gaiety would bring him around, and she knew he felt protective of her. He worried about the life she led, about the emotional risks she took on by being with so many men.

But Hartington's affair with Skittles was only one small part of his life. They rarely spoke of politics, for example, a subject he much preferred to talk about with his other mistress, Lottie, the Duchess of Manchester, who was very much interested in Hartington’s political career even though she was married to someone else. Her marital status did not trouble Hartington, as his previous romantic relationship had been with another married woman, the Countess of Waldegrave.

Indeed, according to historian Patrick Jackson, who winnowed through some 200 letters from Hartington to Skittles, while Skittles spent most of her time in London, Hartington traveled often. “His annual itinerary was the traditional one of his class: London in the spring season, living at Devonshire House in Piccadilly; shooting on the Bolton Abbey estates in Yorkshire in August and September; and during the rest of the year extended visits to the family houses at Chatsworth, Hardwick, Holker Hall in what is now Cumbria, where Hartington had spent a secluded childhood, and Lismore in Ireland,” Jackson writes.

With two women in his life, Hartington felt no qualms about Skittles’ other relationships, though she revealed them to him in detail. If anyone was jealous, it was Skittles. In one letter, Hartington wrote, “There are a lot of people here but I don’t look at any of them because Skits says I mustn’t.” If anything, Hartington encouraged Skittles to pursue other men. In another letter, he wrote, “It is very nice of you to say you are so fond of me but you know there is somebody you like better. Have you seen him lately?”

She was his “darling little Skitsy” or “poor little darling child,” and he spoke to her like she was his baby girl--“Cav loves oo and nobody else”--and he was her big daddy. As she worked with a governess to improve her English, he praised her efforts with this: “I am sure you will learn very quick if you take pains, for you are a clever little child when you like.”

Not only was Skittles his baby girl, she was also a prostitute by trade, and beneath Hartington's social class. True, he found her hard to resist, and they stayed together for years. But he would never marry her.

Instead, he offered her a down payment of £2,500 for a house and an allowance of £400 a year. In late 1861, he wrote, “Sometimes I think that it would be better for you if you could forget me because you are too good to be left in the world all alone so much, and some day you ought to find someone who will take care of you for the rest of your life…which I am afraid I shall never be able to do.”

Coming soon: In Part 7, Skittles gets angry at Huntington for dumping her and chases him down, with disastrous consequences.