Before We Had A Hillary, We Had A Lola
“The Racy Life of Lola Montez”
“Crazy People Are Fascinating”
Who needs Hillary when you have the Spider Dancer? Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, known as The Tarantula Woman and the Spider Dancer, the most famous Spanish dancer in the world who couldn’t actually dance. She was the inspiration for the expression “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”.
She was born February 17, 1821, in Ireland, raised in India and educated in Scotland and England. She added the “Maria Dolores” herself after going to Spain and inventing ‘Lola Montez’.
Miss Montez, much like HRC, serves as an excellent example of what one can do if possessed of a little drive and ambition, as well as having no aversion to delusory behavior.
Lola’s mother ordered her to marry a creaky old judge when she was only 19. Instead, she eloped with Lieutenant Thomas James to Ireland. Two years later, James took her to Simla, India. He then eloped with another woman and Lola returned to England. It appears Lola was quite energized and vivacious on board the ship as James won a judicial separation on the ground of her adultery
Here are some of the things she accomplished in her short lifetime of forty years; she was an author, had three marriages, committed adultery, bigamy, anarchy, assaults and numerous scandals and was even suspected of murder. She claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron, the daughter of The Carlists who claimed the Spanish throne, the daughter of a Spanish grandee stolen by gypsies.
She became the mistress of musician Franz Liszt, author Alexandre Dumas, and Alexandre Dujarier, who was part-owner of La Presse, Montreal’s French-language newspaper.
King Ludwig I of Bavaria, made her Countess Marie von Landsfeld but the Bavarian aristocracy and middle class refused to acknowledge her. Street riots broke out against her influence and thousands of burghers marched on the palace to demand her expulsion (feel the Bern?). Presented with proof of her background and infidelities, Ludwig gave way but also insisted on abdicating the throne. Lola fled to Switzerland when her Bavarian rights were annulled.
Her performances in Warsaw, Paris and elsewhere. were considered “suggestive.” The Victorians delicately referred to her as “La Grande Horizontele.”
Lola returned to the stage, touring Europe and America, carrying a cowhide whip and a pistol. She was involved in numerous scandals and legal actions. In San Francisco, she gave the first performances of her notorious ‘Spider Dance’. During her dance, she would claim a spider was in her dress and then proceed to disrobe down to her flesh colored body suit.
In Sydney. Australia, a sheriff’s officer followed her on board the ship, Waratah with a debtor’s warrant of arrest; Lola undressed in her cabin and dared the officer to seize her but he left without her.
Lola opened at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne in her Bavarian role; when audiences diminished she began to perform the ‘Spider Dance’. She was denounced by the press but the mayor of Melbourne, sitting as a magistrate, refused a warrant for her arrest. From that moment on, she played to full houses with a ‘rapturous welcome’. She invited miners to shower nuggets at her feet as she danced. The Ballarat Times attacked her notoriety; Lola retaliated by publicly horsewhipping the editor, Henry Seekamp. They went at each other with whips in the main street of Ballarat, and accused each other of assault and libel, He published another critical article about her and she swore out a warrant for his arrest on a charge of criminal libel but failed to appear when the case came up for trial. She had meanwhile been assaulted by the wife of her manager and took a full month to recover. Then she successfully toured Bendigo, Castlemaine, and other Victorian towns, before sailing with Noel Follin, her manager, for San Francisco. Near Fiji, he was lost overboard. Nothing more was heard of him and apparently, no official investigation was made.
Letters discovered after Lola’s death demonstrated that she plotted to gain influence and assistance to “capture” California from the USA, cause it to declare independence and be named “Lolaland,” with herself as Queen. I was unable to find any direct connection between Lola and Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, but I’m still looking.
Lola serves as an excellent example of what one can do if possessed of a little drive and ambition.
Much of the misinformation about her comes from her autobiography. It is filled with distortions and inventions of her life.
Weird delusions and fantasies soon appeared. Lola faded into mysticism and a bizarre version of astrology. She did revive for a short time and wrote a book of her most important beauty secrets (to prevent wrinkles, she suggested tightly binding many thin strips of raw beef around the face, covering it completely – except the eyes. The beef was to remain there until all the “vibrant energy” had soaked in. There was no mention of how long that might take, however.)
And she went on a lecture tour. “Let historical justice be done to the intellect of woman,” she implored. “I am content to leave the history of her heart and moral life, without comment, to defend itself by contrast with that of the other sex.” She didn’t give many lectures.
Around the age of 38-39 (there is a discrepancy in when she was born) she had a schizophrenic collapse, abandoned the West and all her travels, and spent the last two years of her life on the streets of New York as a pauper. She shuffled along, speaking loudly to herself, urging God to forgive her wicked life.
She died of a stroke in a boardinghouse, alone. Lola failed in attempts at a theatrical comeback in various American cities. She arranged in 1857 to deliver a series of moral lectures in Britain and America written by Rev. Charles Chauncy Burr. She seems to have been genuinely repentant but then was showing the tertiary effects of syphilis and her body began to waste away. She died on January 17, 1861 at the age of 40 and was buried in Greenwood cemetery, Brooklyn, as Mrs. Eliza Gilbert.
Her two children, one of whom ran a lamp shade store in California, declined to claim the body. Both were “constrained by the pressures of business” the first one said, which was an interesting perspective since the second was in jail.