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Leslie’s On Zee Go Newsletter

“I prefer liberty to chains of diamonds”

— Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 

Flamingo packing
 

Paris continued: Europe was in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave when we were in Paris. The city was absolutely sizzling. I’ve never been so grateful for a hotel with air-conditioning. Our house in Italy has none. I refuse to put it in because well that’s so 21st Century. We crammed quite a lot in in a few short days but the two most magical events (besides the street cheese crepe I devoured) was a private tour of Marie Antoinette’s little “Hamlet,” known as the L’Harneau de la Reine. With a small group, arranged by dear friends I got to do my very best pretending I was Marie. The Petit Trianon (our tour guide assured us they don’t know what that word means!) and her magical garden is so peaceful and magical. To me, place is transportive. I had just finished a book about Madame du Barry, King Louis XV’s mistress and hated by Marie. Du Barry would eventually lose her head the same way poor Marie did, betrayed by a servant/slave (who himself would lose his head – such is revolutions). King Louis XV who ruled for 59 years was not meant to rule, but because of the deaths of his older brother (due to smallpox) and his father Louis got to sit on the throne and had marvelous mistresses like Du Barry and before her Madame du Pompadour. King Louis XV died of smallpox (as did Emperor Joseph I around the same time).
 

Tangent: Du Barry’s jewels were sold at auction by Christies in 1795 – which was Christies first auction! I can’t find out what the jewels were, but they sold for over 8,000 livres – roughly 1 million (francs or livres) in today’s money. Du Barry was, supposedly, responsible for starting the trend of wearing different colored gems together. Before her no one (supposedly) thought to wear their emeralds with their rubies.

Now auctions had been around since at least 500 BC, but the “jewels” being auctioned at the time were wives! I wonder what I would have fetched!
Back to Paris: Next it was a private dinner and tour of the Royal Apartments. We dined in the Salon of Battles. The night was honoring David Rockefeller and his family who was responsible for restoring Versailles amongst their many, many philanthropic ventures. The night was hot! Poor men in tuxedos, but everything was superb and one I’ll never forget.
Champagne?

And We Dine Well

DEFIANCE

So, someone in my family called me “defiant.” So, of course I had to ponder is that a bad thing? I’m assuming not. Let’s look at the definition first. Defiance means “open resistance” (nothing wrong with being straightforward and not sneaky), and “bold disobedience.” I can think of scores of “disobedient” ladies; Joan of Arc (no, she was going into battle), Rosa Parks (no, she was not sitting in the back of the damn bus), Karen Silkwood (no, she was not going to stay quiet about corporate corruption, namely plutonium contamination), Maya Angelou (no, she was going to speak her truth. Side note she was the first African American to become a street car conductor, because she wanted to become one. Just read her “Mom & Me & Mom.” I highly recommend it.), Mabel Stark (no, she would not allow men to tell her a woman could not train tigers), Queen Elizabeth I (no, she would not take a husband).

Other adjectives: bold, cheeky, rebellious. I’m all for that. So, go ahead and call be “defiant.” I like the company I keep.

Defiant – Works for Me
 

ELBA

A highlight of our summer has been our regular trip to Isola d’Elba. Besides being where Napoleon was exiled and escaped from it is a summer destination for many Europeans and very few Americans!!! Five days of reading (three books for me) games of Uno and too much sun damage it is great. This year we had one night of rain and one afternoon of wind and high surf (kiddos loved it) and a firework display right out our window. Some Elba facts: Elba has its own flag, three bees. Napoleon had it made when he spent his 10 months there before escaping. Over the centuries the strategically placed island has been owned by various nations, continually ransacked and its inhabitants made into slaves.

South of Elba is the island Montecristo, yes, the one made famous by Alexandre Dumas père (his son might, probably, will make an appearance in my next book) in his Count of Monte Cristo. There is nothing on the island and it is protected, you can not visit. Though hermits and monks lived there prior to 1500 something. The ruins of the monastery remain.

Little Stretch of Heaven

SMALLPOX

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Researching a disease that has been eradicated by 1979 I stumbled across an interesting woman you all should know. First, smallpox was one scary and often fatal disease. I do NOT recommend googling images. Praise Jesus it is gone. If it didn’t kill you it could leave you blind or infertile (if a male). It was spread by direct contact, through clothing and even bedding of the sick. The first symptoms were fever, a headache and muscle pain. Next came a hideous rash, sores running together, which turned to pustules, scabs and horrible scarring. The sores in the mouth were so violent they prevent one from swallowing anything. And it wasn’t as if you got one or two sores. The entire face, body, etc. could be covered, so much so that people swelled up and were turned a bronze color. If you lived, you usually were frightfully disfigured. In developing a vaccine, a Dr. Boylton would prick a pustule (gross, descriptive word!) and put it in a vial he wore around his neck. He then mixed it with some blood and scratched it into a “victim” who then got the disease but did not scar.

But it was a woman prior to his discovery, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who became a champion of engrafting or variolation, the precursor of inoculating. Born in 1689, this British beauty, known for her intellect, wit and feminist views. She had to sneakily teach herself how to read Latin, against her domineering father’s wishes. She was married to the Ambassador to Turkey who was a real asshole, jealous and miserly they had a bickering relationship. Throughout her travels she wrote many entertaining detailed descriptions of the women of the Ottoman empire, and inspired generations of women travel writers. Herself a victim of smallpox when she was 26, she also lost a brother to the disease. She lost her eyelashes completely and was horribly scarred, so much so that she often she wore a thick mask of silk. In Turkey they had been scratching the vein of folks and putting a tiny bit of smallpox into them to prevent the disease. (It turns out the same had been happening in parts of Africa) Returning to England she was a loud advocate for this practice, trying it on her own two small children. Getting the ear of the Princess of Wales she brought into vogue the idea of what was called variolation. Eccentrically dressed in Turkish inspired outfits she would die of breast cancer at age 73 after a colorful and unusual life. (I’m leaving out a brutal description of a surgery removing breast cancer, not from Lady Mary, that I read in the book “The Speckled Monster.” I’m so glad we live today. Okay, I just have to add a little . . . of course there was no anesthesia, the poor woman was held down by strong men, the doctor took a fork to spear the breast, took out his saw, looped it off, then cauterized it – all within 5 ish minutes. But still!! Sorry – had to add that.)

All this is a roundabout way of me researching the smallpox invasion in France (Paris in particular) and Prussian during the war of 1870-1871 when thousands died.

You Gotta Love the French

 

BUBBLES

Since we, I drank Ruinart champagne at Versaille I thought I’d look up its history. Besides being delicious! It is the oldest house, founded 179 with the first shipments sent January 1730. (I’m thinking Marie Antoinette drank her share)

The founder Nicholas Ruinart, a cloth merchant in Reims. He had an Uncle who was a benedictine monk and (legend has it) friend of Dom Perignon that helped Nicholas with the “wine with bubbles” that the aritocrats were found of. The monk discovered the secret to aging champagne in Roman chalk mines. The Ruinart cellars are said to be the deepest in the world with no vibrations and a constant temperature of 10 degrees celcius. They are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Louis XV, obviously an imbiber passed a decree where wine could be bottled (previously it was in casks. Ruinart jumped on the opportunity, perfect for “bubble wine” and started distributing his elixir.

During WWI most of the place was damaged by those German beer-drinking men.

Burlesque and Pinup Emojis
IIf your BOOK CLUB would like me to visit via Skype, I’m available on the road or when I’m at home. It’s been fun coming into your homes, sending specialty FAN cocktail recipes before for you all to try. email me at [email protected] if you want me to join in on some Fun FAN talking. A questionnaire is on the website to download for your Book club.
And what I’m reading or recently read
for complete list, I have everything on Good Reads
as I can’t remember them all!

BUBBLES

Hmmm, not sure which book to talk about. I can’t say any book gripped me by the throat. I’ve read “Frankenstein,” “Number One Chinese Restaurant,” and “Michelangelo: Biography of a Genius,” to name three. I did discover a new voice. Jordy Rosenberg’s “Confessions of the Fox.” The book made me think, made me concentrate. Very different and not just the subject matter, but the style. Takes place during 18th century London. Jack Sheppard (a real person) a thief and a transgender. Its fact, its fiction, its well written.

July 27th a movie I am acting in “From Zero to I Love You” will be showing at the Harmony Gold Theatre at Outfest in Los Angeles. It’s a romcom and I loved being a part of it. I marry Richard Lawson, a former teacher of mine at the Skylight (and married to Beyoncé’s mama), directed by a Doug Spearman and starring a whole bunch of talent folk.

Louis XV, obviously an imbiber passed a decree where wine could be bottled (previously it was in casks. Ruinart jumped on the opportunity, perfect for “bubble wine” and started distributing his elixir.

During WWI most of the place was damaged by those German beer-drinking men.

I’ll be Looking for my Next Acting Job in September!

See ya between the pages next month . . .

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