Monday, January 12th, 2009
THIS WEEK’S PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
1861: the notorious countess Lola Montez dies in New York; 1899: a small boy defends himself in a San Francisco courtroom.
January 17, 1861
Countess Lola Montez — in Memorium
As was undoubtedly marked on your calendar, San Francisco’s patron saint Emperor Norton died last week, January 7, 1880.
But his was not the only January passing worthy of note. Ten days later (and nineteen years earlier), we lost perhaps the most notorious personage ever to grace the streets of our fair city.
I speak, of course, of Countess Lola Montez . Yes, that’s the one — “whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”.
You already know Lola’s story, of course. You don’t? The breathtakingly gorgeous Irish peasant girl with the soul of a grifter and the heart of a despot? How she — with a few sexy dance steps, a fraudulent back story involving Spanish noble blood and the claim of Lord Byron as her father — turned Europe upside down and provoked a revolution in Bavaria?
Still doesn’t ring a bell, hmm? Well, Lola’s whole story is a little too large for this space. She’d already lived about three lifetimes’ worth of adventure — and burned through romances with personalities from King Ludwig the First to Sam Brannan — before conquering Gold Rush-era San Francisco with her scandalous “Spider Dance”.
If you missed the Sparkletack podcast about this amazing character, you might want to rectify that little omission.
After her European escapades, Lola found that freewheeling San Francisco suited her tempestuous eccentricity to a T. Brandishing the title of “Countess” — a Bavarian souvenir — she drank and caroused and became the absolute center of the young city’s attention.
It’s said that men would come pouring out of Barbary Coast saloons to gawk at the raven-haired vision sashaying through the mud with a pair of greyhounds at her heels, a white cockatoo perched on one shoulder, and a cigar cocked jauntily from her lips … and do I even need to mention her pet grizzly bears?