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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

844,739

There are 844,739 ways to eat a hamburger at Waffle House.  –  statistic of dubious authenticity which used to grace Waffle House menus

Waffle HouseSome people may think it strange that one of my favorite restaurants is the diner chain, Waffle House.  But honestly, there is very little not to like about it.  Obviously, it ain’t haute cuisine, but it doesn’t claim to be; one of the company’s slogans is “good food fast”, and that’s what it delivers:  inexpensive diner-style food of consistent quality, prepared quickly and in generous portions, and served 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round.  In fact, Waffle House restaurants are so consistent that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses them as a quick means of assessing the severity of a natural disaster:  if the local Waffle House is open and serving a full menu, the damage to the area is relatively mild; if open but serving a limited menu (because it’s running on a generator and/or food shipments could not reach the location) the damage is severe; if entirely closed the damage is catastrophic.  But the reasonable prices and palatability of the fare aren’t even the best things about Waffle House; that would be the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered an employee of the place who was unpleasant, curt or surly; the atmosphere is always relaxed and welcoming, and that usually affects the customers as well.  To be sure, not everyone enjoys conversations with strangers as much as I do, but I suspect anyone who isn’t a dedicated misanthrope prefers waitresses and cooks who are not only attentive to their needs and responsive to requests, but seem genuinely interested in ensuring that their guests have a positive experience.
Waffle House map  I don’t like eating alone, so when I’m forced to (as I often am while on this tour) dinner can become little more than a refueling stop for my body.  But when I’m alone and hungry and see that familiar yellow sign that looks like a completed Wheel of Fortune puzzle, it will more often than not be the place I choose to stop.  You may laugh if you like, but one of the things I found most annoying about the first leg of this tour was the complete lack of Waffle House locations; this map shows a few in Arizona and Colorado, but they must’ve been hiding ‘em from me because I sure could’ve used one the night I was as hungry as a bear and discovered that for all its size and supposed sophistication, they apparently roll up the freaking streets in Denver at 10 PM.  In June.  Barely an hour after dark.  That would never happen in the realm of Waffledom; it’s nearly impossible to drive more than half an hour in any populated part of the southeast without encountering one…and if the one you find isn’t open, you’ve got bigger things to worry about than your appetite.  Obviously, I don’t eat there every night; I like variety too much to do that, and I like Waffle House too much to risk making myself sick of it.  But the first night I was in Memphis I landed there, and I’ve chosen it several times since then.  And I find it extremely comforting to know that for the rest of my tour, there will usually be one somewhere close at hand. FY10 OP13 Menu Master

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I don’t believe I have to give it away for free no matter how many district attorneys and politicians say I do.  –  Norma Jean Almodovar

Peeping Toms

Keep in mind that the subject of all this state snooping, prying and pompous posturing is consensual adult sex:

[Utah] police…found the man in charge of a state-run polygamous trust in a motel room with a suspected prostitute…and prosecutors say he has since failed to appear as a subpoenaed witness at the woman’s trial.  Bruce Wisan…has not been charged with any crimes…and…the 26-year-old woman…did not appear [in court] either…[so the] judge…issued a $2,000 warrant for her arrest…[prosecutor Scott] Cowdell said the woman could have been tried in absentia if Wisan had appeared…[and] he is prepared to force Wisan to…explain his absences…

Surplus Women

A “sadistic” construction worker murdered a 55-year-old woman with a Stanley knife before mutilating her body…Nicolae Patraucean, 20, strangled Rivka Holden and slit her throat before dismembering her body…Ms Holden, who worked as a prostitute, was found dead on March 16…

Meanwhile, in Michigan:

…25-year-old Charles…Oppenneer’s decapitated body…[was] found in a park last [week]…his…[pregnant] girlfriend, [Brooke] Slocum…could not be located…on Slocum’s computer, police found e-mail exchanges with a local man named Brady Oestrike…[who planned] to meet the couple at…the park where Oppenneer’s body was subsequently found…and pay them for sex…investigators saw him leave his home in a car, setting off a police chase…[which] ended when Oestrike’s car crashed into a [concrete] barrier.  Police found him…dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head…they found Slocum’s body in the trunk.  An autopsy determined that she had been strangled…Oestrike often traveled to different states…for his…church…as a missionary…

Sex, Lies and Busybodies Emma Livry

I’ve often pointed out the similarities between “art” performers and sex workers, but this is an interesting parallel I hadn’t heard of:

…[The legendary ballerina] Emma Livry…was…[critically] burnt when her costume was set alight by the open flames of stage lighting…the French government had introduced legislation years before…which required costumes to be treated with flame retardant chemicals…[but] a number of dancers had refused to wear the treated tutus because the chemicals made their skirts dingy and stiff, spoiling the ethereal effects they went through years of punishing physical training to achieve…After [her accident but before her death by infection]…someone asked Livry if her opinions…had changed.  She…maintained that she still would not wear them if she were ever able to return to work.

Dancing in a stage production [is much] like performing in an adult film…Risks are taken and sacrifices are made for a chance at success.  That success [is] a slim possibility, and even if it is achieved it lasts for a very short window of time…Like Emma Livry’s distaste for stiff skirts spoiling her illusion of weightlessness, I dislike the idea of being forced to use barrier protection when the accompanying friction impedes my ability to deliver the best performance possible.  If members of the French government had listened to the dancers they were trying to protect, they could have explored options like moving the lights two feet forward or enclosing them in cages…

End Demand

The petty absurdity of social engineering:

…A new [“end demand”] campaign is distributing beer mats to bars and hotels with the [lurid tale] of a 15-year-old survivor of human trafficking.  She [claims to have been] forced to have sex with 15 men a day before she escaped.  The Immigrant Council of Ireland, supported by a European Commission [grant] project, is trying to [frighten]…young men [out of hiring sex workers]…

First They Came for the Hookers…

If prohibitionists really want to “rescue” sex workers, why do they keep trying to stop us from getting other jobs?

A German single mum who has worked as a nurse caring for disabled people for 17 years has been fired after her bosses discovered that she had taken a job as an erotic model to make extra money.  Lisa Burger, 38, had worked for the evangelical church owned care home…since she was 21, and after struggling to make ends meet had also taken on jobs as an erotic model wearing sexy underwear for catalogues.  But…when she also agreed to do a porn movie…her employers were told about it…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (TW3 #31)

Still think prostitution laws don’t affect you?

A Zambia Reports reader sends in a complaint about the Zambia Police and their patrols in search of prostitutes in the mining town of Solwezi… “I was shocked to be awaken on 24th July 2014 by…police officers in my room…at a named lodge to be told they were looking for prostitutes…Does it mean every woman they find in a lodge or guest house is a prostitute?  If they found a man in bed with his wife, because they are at a guest house or lodge they will take away his wife as a prostitute?”…

Monsters Reginald Anthony Klaiber

The original title read “Man stabbed in back”:

A transgender 15-year-old girl was stabbed in the back aboard a [Washington, DC] train…Reginald Anthony Klaiber, came up to the group…and insulted the victim’s appearance, asking why she was wearing a wig and commenting on [her clothes]…Klaiber was apprehended after witnesses pointed him out to police…

Challenge

Other than the fact that one of three editors felt the compelling need to interject such outrageous inanities as the word “consensual” in scare quotes (referring to sex work) and phrases like “[sex workers] seek independence from pimps, traffickers and intimidating customers“, this article isn’t really too bad:

…Maxine Doogan…dreams of a future when she won’t be treated like a criminal and could earn a little respect in the city that launched the fight for sex worker rights 41 years ago.  Calls by Bay Area sex workers for decriminalizing…prostitution have been spurred anew following the FBI seizure of [MyRedbook]…the battle…has lost ground in recent years in the face of the increasing influence of religious conservatives, continued opposition by [neo]feminists and the [pretended] link made by law enforcement between prostitution and sex trafficking of children and immigrants…

License To Rape (TW3 #340)

The San Diego DA says it’s better for women to be raped and innocent people jailed than for the public’s rapidly-diminishing opinion of cops to be further damaged:

[San Diego] District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis keeps a list of law enforcement officers that her prosecutors do not trust as witnesses…and…will not say how many people are on the list or which agencies employ them.  The so-called Brady Index is a closely guarded secret that includes officers and deputies with a track record of lying or other misconduct that could undermine credibility…[reporters] sought the information in advance of a civil trial requested by a woman…who was [sexually assaulted]…by…Anthony Arevalos…her lawyers allege San Diego police command staff knew about…Arevalos and did nothing to stop him from preying on young women…

How egregious a liar does a cop have to be before prosecutors won’t believe him?

Dominating the News (TW3 #342)

A woman was arrested [for "abusive behavior" on Wednesday] after posting a photograph on Twitter of chancellor George Osborne at her flat when she worked as a madame…Natalie’s home was also searched last year…after she tried to publish her memoirs…Of course this could all be coincidence.  Or perhaps more proof…that our police are being used to protect politicians’ reputations rather than catching criminals?

Traffic Circle

Tanzania’s envoy in Beijing…refuted claims that sex workers from Dar es Salaam are tricked by human traffickers into travelling to China…He refuted claims that some are hoodwinked into believing that there are hotel jobs or hair saloon work that pays handsomely in China…He said some women fall into trouble for overstaying their welcome…or for engaging in illegal activities.  He said that the women…rush to the embassy [and claim to have been "trafficked"] when trouble knocks on their doors…

Drawing Lines moral problems

Burlesque performers:  you can deny your connection to sex workers all you like, but society is going to treat you like us anyway so you may as well fight alongside us:

A troupe of circus performers has been refused a business account after bank managers described their skimpy burlesque costumes as a “moral problem”…Joshua Morris set up “Circus Uncertainty” earlier this year and applied for a business bank account with Santander so he could get grants to fund work with terminally-ill children…The performers are baffled by the decision as there is no nudity in the family-friendly act…

No Difference

This is only on procedural grounds and the law will probably be rammed through again, but a victory is a victory:  “The constitutional court [of Uganda] has declared the passing of the anti homosexuality bill into an act as null and void…on grounds that [it] was passed without the required quorum…Court also awarded the petitioners 50% of the costs of the suit…

The Missing Word

The word “trafficking” was included in the accusations [and used by protesters], but the court’s decision says it did not exist in the eyes of the State:

A Greek court’s decision to acquit local farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they dared to ask for [six] months of back pay has sparked outrage…Four of the strawberry pickers were badly injured in the attack…Media investigations showed the migrants to be working in subhuman conditions without access to proper hygiene or basic sanitation…

The Widening Gyre (TW3 #419)

Behold the results of the mental illness I call lawheadedness:

The barriers police set up months ago in [Cincinnati] to curb prostitution were removed…one day after residents asked for damages and a restraining order against the city…police [pretended the roadblocks] would stop johns from picking up prostitutes along West McMicken Avenue…resident Vanessa Sparks…said once the barriers started blocking her neighborhood, public transportation was no longer close by, and her friends and family were afraid to drive through the area to her home…Attorney Peter Stackpole represents the city…[and pretends that]…the lawsuit…”lacks merit”…

Property of the State 

Jennifer Goodall of Coral Gables [Florida] was informed [by]…letter…that because she decided to attempt vaginal delivery before agreeing to cesarean surgery in her fourth pregnancy, her prenatal care providers intended to report her to the Department of Children and Family Services [and] seek a court order to…perform cesarean surgery on her “with or without [her] consent” if she came to the hospital…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (TW3 #426)

Lawheads are mystified their proclamation didn’t “abolish prostitution”:

Indonesian police…fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters at the… “Dolly” red-light district, where workers are refusing…government orders to close shop. Around 300 protesters…tore out and set alight a sign erected by the Surabaya city that read:  “This area is free from brothels and prostitution”…”We reject the instalment of this sign here.  And after Ramadan, we will operate as normal.  We refuse to shut down,” said head of Dolly’s workers’ forum Ari Saputro…Hardline Muslim groups have threatened violence if brothels continue to operate beyond the end of Ramadan.

Whatever They Need To Say (TW3 #429)

I’m sure his sending miscreants to threaten to burn them alive had NOTHING to do with it:

Tangail…mayor Shahidur Rahman Khan Mukti has come up with a most intriguing theory explaining why more than 600 sex workers left the Kandapara brothel in a single night.  If he is to be believed, these women…[all suddenly] decided to quit the work they have been doing for years.  What motivated them all of a sudden into deciding, and collectively too, to go for a change of profession is not explained…

The Widening Gyre (Traffic Updates) 

Perhaps the “sex traffickers” got sick of her melodramatics?

A missing…teenager who disappeared more than two weeks ago has been found alive and safe…Anji Dean, 17, [has] been returned to her family…[despite claims she had been "sex trafficked", cops found] Dean [alone] at a mall…Earlier [that]…day, a woman known only as Jennifer…told [reporters] she had spent several days with Dean and was trying to help her…[the girl's mother denied her agency and competence, claiming earlier] “She can’t be doing this on her own, so we’re really, really afraid for her”…

Tour Diary:  Week Nine

Here’s the video SWOP Chicago did while I was there:

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Tour Diary: Week Nine

LOTR ChicagoIt’s a good thing I approve of polyamory, because Chicago did her best to win my heart from St. Louis last week.  But while St. Louis seduced me with her Southern charm, Chicago was a bold, brassy dame who swept me off my feet and refused to take “no” for an answer.  From the time I arrived until the time I left she kept me busy nearly every waking hour; I was actually concerned that I wouldn’t be able to finish TW3 #430 on time, and indeed a lot of it was finished Friday night in Cleveland and I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM, a mere four hours before publication!

I had at least one event every single day, and on several days I had two.  I’ve already mentioned my dinner with Cathryn Berarovich on the night I arrived; the next day I had my first reading in an actual bookstore, Bucket O’Blood, which as you can probably guess from the name specializes in horror.  The owners were lovely and welcoming, and among the attendees was Reason‘s Zenon Evans, who was in town visiting friends.  Then on Monday I went to breakfast with one of my “Angel” level patrons, and had dinner with Aspasia Bonasera; after dinner we went back to her home and I got to meet her wonderful mother, who welcomed me as family.  We spent the rest of the evening talking, and at 1 AM I reluctantly returned to the hotel for much-needed sleep.  On Tuesday I didn’t have to start quite so early, but I finished just as late; after my presentation for Liberty On the Rocks (which was attended by Mark Draughn, Serpent Libertine of SWOP Chicago, sex-positive writer/podcaster Eric Barry and prominent criminal defense lawyer Joe Obenberger) Serpent recorded a short video in which I was interviewed by Cathryn.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had to go to the Fox TV studio downtown to be interviewed remotely for a short segment on The Independents, a libertarian show on Fox Business Network; that evening I gave a presentation at SWOP Chicago to a very respectable crowd.  The group was much smaller at my book reading Thursday night for Uncharted Books, but I’m equally happy to read to small groups as large ones because I think I win new allies to the cause at every event, no matter how small, and obviously I have more one-on-one interaction in small groups.

By the time I left Chicago on Friday I was quite enamored of her and plan a return visit as soon as possible (though based on what I’ve been told, NOT in the winter).  Still, it’s a good thing I didn’t stay longer because I was absolutely exhausted!  After resting for a night in Cleveland I moved on to Pittsburgh, but my experiences there will have to wait until next week; Chicago needs a column all to herself. SWOP interview 7-22-14

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Family Curse

Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.  –  Alexander Pope

In January of 2003, soon after I had bought my country property, a spotted dog showed up while we were putting up the shop.  She was in heat, the neighbor’s dog Stampy (yes, he was named for Bart Simpson’s elephant) paid court to her, and she started spending her nights under our house.  At first I referred to her as “Stampy’s lady friend”, which was soon shortened to “Lady” when we decided to let her stay.  When it was time for her to whelp I started shutting her in the shop at night (we set up a wooden frame with blankets for her), and she had eight puppies in the wee small hours of March 10th.  Within a few months, though, we knew something weird was going on; Lady would amble off with the pups into the woods and come back with one fewer than before.  She lost three that way; we’ve never been sure if she was doing it on purpose because she sensed something was wrong with them, or if it was just the way of things, but I wasn’t going to let it continue.

Accordingly, I established the procedure we followed thereafter: Lady and the pups could never be loose at the same time.  When she was out alone she was fine, and when the pups were out without her that was fine too.  But if she got loose at the same time as they did, the whole pack would take off and not be seen until very late at night (or, in later years, even the next day).  When they were all together it was like the pack instinct took over, and their normal obedient ways cast to the winds.  And whenever it happened I would never sleep well until they were home safe.  There was plenty to worry about; this area is full of predators, and while they were more than a match for coyotes there are also cougars, rattlesnakes and other dangerous animals.

On top of all that, there was the epilepsy.  Oreo had it worst; she started having grand mal seizures after her first year, and eventually died from them.  But Stampy, Jr and Caramel also had it in less severe form; Stampy had petit mal seizures from time to time, and though Caramel never had any obvious seizures she would often have episodes where she seemed upset or frightened of something the other dogs didn’t notice, most likely some feeling inside her.  After Oreo died, we were down to just the three, Lady, Stampy Jr and Caramel; one of the others had been given away, and Damsel met with some accident before she turned one and never came home.  By this point, we had the grim joke that Lady was under a curse; four of her pups had met with unknown dooms, one had perished from a chronic illness and the remaining two seemed marked.

But as the years rolled by, my fears abated somewhat; it seemed the remaining three would live out normal lives.  Except for that strange thing about not being able to let them out at the same time, they were friendly, affectionate, obedient dogs; Lady went everywhere with Grace, and was probably the best-known dog in the whole county.  And though Stampy (the largest of the three at 40 kg) was an accomplished coyote-killer, with humans he was amazingly docile.  He and Caramel had been inseparable since birth, and though she often gave him grief over taking up too much space in the doghouse, he was very protective of his little sister.

Then just a year ago, the curse seemed to return with a vengeance.  They were all getting on in years; the vet figured Lady had been about a year old when she had the puppies, and they were now ten.  Like many large dogs, Stampy had become arthritic; we were giving him medicine that seemed to ease his pain, but he had still slowed down considerably.  And though Caramel (who only weighed about 30 kg) had no such symptoms, she rarely wandered far from her brother.  Neither of them hesitated, though, when one day last July a lone coyote wandered  near where Grace was working, in broad daylight; Stampy and Caramel gave chase and Lady got so agitated she managed to break her leash and follow…trailing a long length of leash into the woods and ignoring Grace’s commands to stop (as was typical when the three were loose together).  When Grace told me what had happened my heart sunk; I knew a long leash dragged into thick woods was a death-sentence.  We searched for hours, and then Grace drove around the whole area calling her for days, hoping against hope she would hear her barking and could go to her aid.  It was no use; we never saw her again, and I only hope the coyotes got her quickly because the alternative is too awful to contemplate.

Last winter seemed especially hard on Stampy; even with the medicine he seemed constantly in low-level pain, and began to move more slowly and awkwardly.  Still, he greeted me every morning with wagging tail when I came outside to let them off of the porch for the day.  But on March 21st, just eleven days after his eleventh birthday, I saw him for the last time; the others were back from their morning run long before noon, but Stampy was not with them.  We called his name repeatedly; again, Grace drove around looking for him.  And again, it was no use.  Maybe he attacked another animal he was no longer young and strong enough to defeat; maybe he just went off to die as animals sometimes do.  But as with his mother, it was the uncertainty that was the hardest part.  Death, as the Bard said, will come when it will come; it’s not knowing a friend’s fate that’s unbearable.

After losing her lifelong companion, Caramel just wasn’t the same; she seemed to grow old overnight, and no longer went off the porch much unless she was following one of us.  Grace noticed that she was cleaning her bottom a lot more than she used to, and fussing with it as though it bothered her; of course neither of us thought much about that at the time, but it sprang immediately to mind when Grace called me on the first leg of my tour to tell me that she had stopped eating and seemed to be straining every time she went to poop.  The vet discovered an intestinal blockage and some swelling, but even after enemas and antibiotics her appetite and bowel movements failed to return to normal.  Grace discovered the only thing that would tempt her to eat was pure meat, but even then she wouldn’t take enough to really sustain a dog her size.  By the time I got home on June 28th she was badly emaciated, like a recently-rescued stray; I cried that night, because I knew what was coming.  We took her back to the vet first thing the following Monday, and an examination revealed the underlying problem: cancer of the anal glands, and in a fairly advanced state.  I held her as the vet did what needed to be done, and the last of her doomed line went peacefully to sleep in my arms.

When we lost Lady last summer, something kept me from writing about it; the same thing happened when we lost Stampy in March.  But this time it was different.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that with Caramel at least, I absolutely knew she was dead, whereas with the others there was no real closure.  Or perhaps I realized deep down that they would all follow one another into the Beyond as closely as they had followed one another in life.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I’ve lost three dear friends in much too short a time, and though it’s hard to type this through my tears, I felt their loyalty deserved the only memorial I know how to give them.  Requiescat in pace, pups; the curse at last is done.

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Cathryn and me at the Everleigh Club site 7-19-14Up to this week, the pace of my tour has been relatively sedate, with more downtime than appearances.  But as of Saturday that changed; Chicago will be a whirlwind, and the number of quiet days from here to at least Charleston will be in the minority.  So even though last week in Memphis and Nashville was rather quiet, I wasn’t all that concerned; it gave me time to catch up on some writing so I won’t be caught flatfooted before the end of August.

Since my book is self-published, most large bookstores won’t carry it on their shelves; however, independent stores can do as they like so a few have agreed to stock Ladies of the Night.  Before leaving Memphis last Monday I stopped in at The Booksellers at Laurelwood to sign their copies, and was pleased to hear that one had already sold over the weekend.  If you’re in Memphis, call them to see if they have any left!  That night I had dinner with one of my “Angel” sponsors in Nashville, and this morning I’m having breakfast with another in Chicago.  I also had dinner and visited with activist Cathryn Berarovich in Chicago on Saturday night; the picture is us in a grassy lot where the Everleigh Club, Chicago’s busiest and most elegant brothel, used to stand.  And on Friday night in Indianapolis, I had dinner and a long discussion with a criminologist who is preparing a study of violence against sex workers in criminalized and legalized systems.

My one public event in Nashville was a presentation at Liberty On the Rocks; since the space was rather noisy and the group relatively small we opted for a discussion-group style event rather than a lecture followed by questions.  Though I felt as though the format was a bit more chaotic than I prefer, the attendees seemed pleased with the outcome and one even wrote about it.  There’s a small footnote to that event which emphasizes the reason I’m out here and gives me hope for the future:  when I left, I felt like getting some ice cream so I stopped at a small parlor on the next block which was still open.  As I walked out and was eating my cone on the sidewalk, a young woman (university age) asked which flavor I’d bought, and she and her boyfriend and I struck up a conversation.  When I told them who I was and why I was travelling, they expressed enthusiastic support for the cause, wished me luck and asked for a card to read the blog.  I think their attitude is more common than the prohibitionists want to admit; in twenty years, young people will view repression of sex work in the same way young people now view attempts to suppress gay rights: as a weird, incomprehensible thing people used to do which has no valid place in a civilized society.

Here’s my tour schedule, which is still in flux; check back when I’m getting close to you for details of local appearances.  If your city isn’t on the list, but it’s within about four hours’ drive of another city which is on the list, just send an email asking me to visit.  Your request will have even more impact if you can suggest a specific place I could do a book reading or give a talk, and it’s virtually assured if you can actually make the arrangements yourself (in other words if it’s your store, club or whatever).

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Defense counsel:  So you entered the house based on a lie?
Cop A.B. Beck:  Yes.
Defense counsel:  And this is your policy for domestic violence warrants?
Cop A.B. Beck:  Yes.

Usually I’m very conscientious about recording where I saw a given item first, but I’m afraid I lapsed in the case of today’s first video.  Weird Al Yankovic has released a new video every day this week to promote his new album, and so many people have tweeted them I lost track of who went first; this one was my favorite, and I think you’ll find it appropriate.  The second video (which I’m sure everyone with BDSM experience will appreciate) was sent me by Libertine Video, everything above the first was provided by Grace (who also gave us “how about now?”), and the links between the videos were contributed by Radley Balko (“fascism”), Amy Alkon  (“God”), Walter Olson (“pig”, “colony” and “police state”), Teller (“centennial”), Jesse Walker (“nightmares”), Aspasia (“not Florida”), Rick Horowitz (“terrorist”), and Popehat (“caste” and “records”).

From the Archives

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I do not mind what she does as long as she comes back to me in the end.  –  George Keppel

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII of the United Kingdom, had an interest in women which is notable even by the promiscuous standards of noblemen.  Naturally, among his dalliances were a plethora of professionals, among them Skittles and La Belle Otero.  His first semi-official mistress was Lillie Langtry, whom we discussed in May; today I’ll introduce you to the last (and longest-lasting) lady to hold that position, from three years before his coronation until the day he died.  She had a number of things in common with Lillie: an ability to get along with their royal patron’s wife, Princess (later queen) Alexandra; a gift for discretion so highly-developed that many people to this day don’t realize (or else deny) that they were whores; and most importantly, a similar motive for taking up the profession.

Alice Frederica Edmonstone was born on April 29th, 1868, the daughter of Sir William, 4th Baronet Edmonstone, and his wife Mary.  Sir William was a retired admiral, and Alice (the youngest of nine children, all but one girls) grew up in Duntreath Castle on Loch Lomond, the home of her family since the 14th century.  Her childhood appears to have been wholly unremarkable; none of the short biographies I consulted have anything at all to say about her personal life before June 1st, 1891, when she married George Keppel, son of the 7th Earl of Albemarle.  But while her husband was of a good family with a long history of service to the Crown, he had very little money; had the two of them been content to raise their daughters quietly in the country his income would have sufficed, but both of them loved city life.  It was expensive to keep up with London society in those days, and since Alice was strikingly beautiful (with an hourglass figure, alabaster skin and thick chestnut hair) the two of them soon hit upon a simple plan: she would take on wealthy lovers whose income would finance their lifestyle and provide George with business connections.  He wasn’t her pimp, not exactly; she found her patrons and charmed them with her own abilities.  George’s contribution was to stay out of the way and provide her with the appearance of respectability.

The historian Victoria Glendinning wrote that Alice had the “sexual morals of an alley cat…sexual faithfulness to her husband wasn’t a value to her.”  But this is merely the ignorant attitude of an prudish amateur.  Cheating “alley cats” hide their affairs from their husbands; Alice planned hers with George.  Nor was he a weak cuckold sitting alone at home while his wife wandered; he also had many affairs, with Alice’s full knowledge and approval.  Her daughters later described their parents’ marriage as a “companionship of love and laughter”, and though this certainly could be taken as a biased view, it must be pointed out that the Keppels remained happily married for 56 years and died within two months of one another; though there is some speculation that Violet (born 1894) may have been the daughter of a lover, Sonia (born 1900) strongly resembled George, so there is little doubt that he was her father.  Though their relationship may seem strange to those outside of the demimonde, I’m sure every sex worker reading this will recognize it; they loved and trusted each other, and sex with others had no effect on that.

Alice’s first arrangement, with Ernest Beckett (later the 2nd Baron Grimthorpe), began less than two years of her marriage; it is Beckett who is believed to be the biological father of Violet.  Next was Humphrey Sturt, the 2nd Baron Alington.  There were a few others in the second half of the ‘90s, but on February 27th, 1898 she met “Bertie”, and the rest is literally history; within weeks she had replaced his previous mistress (the indiscreet Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick), and she remained with him until his death in 1910.  The arrangement was extremely lucrative for the Keppels: though Edward was notoriously stingy (by courtesan standards) with direct payments, he enriched them indirectly in several ways.  First, he gave her part ownership of a rubber company, from which she made £50,000 (about £3 million today); he also had his own top-notch financial advisers manage her investments, and got a high-paying job for George.

Even before she met the (then) Prince, Alice had acquired the reputation of being one of the most talented hostesses of her era.  She was intelligent, witty, well-informed and never unkind or intemperate, and she brought these characteristics and others into her role as royal mistress.  She was so discreet she even hated people to mention her relationship with the King a quarter-century after his death, and she was the only person who could bring him out of the black moods he often fell into.  These traits made Queen Alexandra actually fond of her, thus smoothing what could otherwise have been an extremely difficult relationship:  His Majesty insisted on having Alice in his entourage practically everywhere he went.  This was not only for her companionship; she was noted for her wisdom and political judgment, and the King depended on her advice.  Furthermore, so great was her skill at conversation he often employed her to feel people out on delicate topics, or to let his opinion be known without making an official announcement.  The reverse was also true; when ministers or other officials wanted to further explain opinions with which Edward disagreed, Alice could present them to him in such a way that he would at least listen without getting angry.

But despite her influence, she was unable to convince the King to cut back on his smoking and heavy eating, even after his health began to fail.  When he was dying in May of 1910 he asked for her to come to his deathbed, but apparently that was too much for the Queen; as soon as he lost consciousness she ordered the doctors to get rid of Alice, who reacted with uncharacteristic loss of composure.  She became so upset and hysterical, in fact, that she had to be removed by the guards; from that point on she was no longer welcome at court.  Alice had developed genuine feelings for Edward over the past 12 years; furthermore, she was by this time 42 and had become a bit plump, so she was no longer able to function as a courtesan.  She and George decided it would be best to leave London for a while, so they spent two years travelling in the Far East (ostensibly for their daughters’ education).  Upon coming home they bought a new house and returned to society, albeit more quietly; Alice also helped run a hospital in Boulogne during the First World War.  In 1927 they bought the Villa dell’ Ombrellino near Florence and lived there the rest of their lives except for 1940-1946, when the Second World War forced them to return to the UK; they stayed in the country for a time, but then moved into the Grosvenor Hotel in London in spite of the Blitz.  By the time they returned to Italy Alice was terminally ill with cirrhosis; she died at the age of 79 on September 11th, 1947, and George followed her two months later.

Famous harlots do not usually have interesting descendants, but Alice Keppel is an exception.  Her elder daughter, Violet, became involved in a torrid lesbian affair with the poetess Vita Sackville-West; apparently, Alice’s sexual liberality stopped short of That Sort of Thing, so Violet was induced to marry Denys Trefusis and break up with Vita.  Violet became a novelist and her affair appears in fictionalized form in a number of works, notably Virginia Woolf’s Orlando; she subsequently had other lesbian affairs, but because she learned to be discreet about them after Vita her mother had no objection.  The younger daughter, Sonia, married Roland Cubitt and had a daughter, Rosalind, who in turn married Bruce Shand and bore a daughter, Camilla, less than two months before Alice died.  When Camilla grew into a young woman she met and became involved with a great-great grandson of her great-grandmother’s most famous patron, but because he needed to make a political marriage, she instead married a cavalry officer named Andrew Parker Bowles.  The tendency to be a royal mistress, it seems, runs in families, though unlike her famous ancestress the Duchess of Cornwall eventually married her Prince of Wales.

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