26 April 2012
Menken was a controversial American actress and poet who was a brilliant self-publicist being one of the first to see the promotional potential of photographs in her campaign to make herself famous. She was particularly keen to be photographed with famous literary figures of the day and in risqué attire. The public was shocked in the 1860s with Menken’s short hair and even shorter skirts, and she once gave a press conference lying on a tiger skin, sipping champagne, and smoking a cigarette.
Defying conventional values with shocking behavior was her key to fame and fortune rather than acting ability. Her most famous stage role was that of Mazeppa in which she was strapped to a horse in flesh-colored tights seemingly nude. In fact, removing her cloak in one role she has been said to have performed the first public striptease act ever witnessed in a theater. She may also have been the first woman in American theater to bare her legs.
with Alexandre Dumas
Seeking respect as a poet, Menken cultivated friendships (some romantic) with the likes of Walt Whitman, George Sand, Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, and Algernon Swinburne. However, Menken’s fame did not last, though she was very well known in her time. Dying at the age 33 in Paris of complications of tuberculosis she wrote to a friend, “…, have I not at my age tasted more of life than most women who live to be a hundred ?”
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23 April 2012
She was one of the most famous French actress/courtesans of the 2nd Empire and was known as “Mademoiselle Maximum.” It was said that if you put her on top of Mount Blanc, she would still be accesible. She was voluptuousness in flesh and blood. Her most famous lover/protector was the Duc d’Aumale. Traveling by train to see the Duke, Leonide shared a first-class compartment with some society matrons whose country estates were in the vicinity of the Duke’s chateau.
Each was showing off how well she knew its master. “I’m lunching with the duke tomorrow,” announced one. “We’re having tea with him Saturday,” claimed the next, while a third kept up the round with “ We are invited to dine there on Sunday.” At this moment the train pulled into the station. Leonide rose and said with her sweetest smile, “And I, ladies, am sleeping with His Highness tonight.”
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