Venus, ah Venus…your lusty pheremonal scent lingers weeklong. Love Goddess has stationed retrograde, about to turn direct at 17 degrees Leo on Friday. Love Goddess is taking her time enjoying the flirtatious and fabulous Leo, glorious, Leo. From the Earth’s perspective, she’s all but stopped. Yet when a planet in motion moves this slowly, everything about her intensifies. Say, what’s cookin’ good lookin’? There’s a whole lotta lovin’ going on!
Venus stationed right on the cusp of my house of Friends, Hopes and Aspirations. I’ve unexpectedly gotten closer to at least three new friends and one golden oldie from way back when just this past week. I bumped into one girlfriend while shopping at the mall (both a Venus and Leo pastime). We’d been meaning to get together, but hadn’t (Venus retrograde). With that recognizable look of shoppers high, she told me that she’d been missing her favorite disease: shopping. Oh yes, I nodded, as I attempted to fight the gravitational force of the shoe clearance rack (and failed). As we giggled our way through the store, appreciatively nodding at the other’s exceptionally good taste, we exchanged numbers yet again. Then, why the heck not?, she spontaneously suggested we go to lunch together and lounge by her pool. Which we did until dusk. Shopping, friends, and a lazy day at the pool; that’s living for Venus in Leo. But ooh those guilty pleasures, now that’s a Venus retrograde worthy topic.
I experienced another delicious moment this morning. After walking around the house in my new shoes, I dug into the NYTimes Style section after only briefly glancing at the front page (I’m a Libra rising, can you blame me?) and came across Before Lindsay or Paris, There Was Mrs. L_fle. If you recall my angst-ridden blogs about the guilty pleasures of celebrity watching you can imagine how utterly surprised and delighted to have my burning soul question furthered as thus:
Hundreds of years before there were glossy celebrity magazines to chronicle the failed marriages and furtive poolside seductions of the attractive and well-born, British society of the 1700s had already given us the fundamental elements of contemporary tabloid culture: an emerging industry of publications dedicated to covering bad celebrity behavior, and an abundance of notorious personalities who were committing it and blabbing about it later – not to mention an increasingly literate readership that was enthralled with it.
Celebrity, gossip aka trash magazines aren’t a new phenomenon – they go waaayyyy back to Mother England, our British roots. It’s not me or America’s loss of soul. Oh my Queen, it’s in my ancestral lineage!
And of course, England, the Queen of Trash Talk! It makes sense, really. When I was in London, I duly noted the superior quality and scathing intelligence of socialite and celebrity gossip. In London, socialites and celebrity are interchangeable so there are many more people to talk about, too. The formula: lineage + wealth or celebrity + wealth = famous & talked about. Those Londoners really know how to elevate the subject to an art form.
QUICK: Name the once-gorgeous superstar who’s been savaged in the press for destroying her good looks, wasting her fortune and ruining her reputation with her “excessive indulgence in love, liquor, lust and laudanum.”
Nope, it’s not that self-destructive moppet on the cover of Us Weekly or that tearful television interviewee bawling to Diane Sawyer. It’s Mrs. B_dd_y, the fallen British society maven whose shocking indiscretions were the subject of a scandalous 1780 publication that was widely distributed among London’s upper and working classes.
Apparently, Mrs. B_dd_y, whose sordid affairs were preserved in a pamphlet called “Characters of the Present Most Celebrated Courtesans Exposed, With a Variety of Secret Anecdotes Never Before Published,” faced stiff competition for the title of 18th-century England’s most debauched socialite.
I read and learned. I learned that once, you didn’t have to be high society to make the talk of the town. The Courtesans, women who had to work for a living, provided a scandal-worthy read for our more pious, serving, wench sisters. (Yep, lil ol’ me or you could’ve made the front page…!) Then there were the stories of highbrow women who fell from grace – and what scullery maid in her right mind wouldn’t get a good laugh and fall off her soap bucket upon hearing about the Madame’s disgrace?
At the other end of the spectrum, pamphlets like “Characters of the Present Most Celebrated Courtesans” were intended for a working-class audience – scullery maids and serving wenches who would have picked it up at lending libraries – though the gentry enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure, too.
Printed on much cheaper paper than The Spectator, these pamphlets trafficked exclusively in the tales of highborn women who had disgraced themselves in public, ensnaring readers with lurid titles like “The History of Betty Bolaine, the Canterbury Miser,” and crude drawings of dissipated women in various stages of physical ruin – the etched equivalents of a bleary-eyed Lindsay Lohan mug shot.
Like today’s celebrity weeklies, “Courtesans” feigned concern and moral acuity (see OK!’s recent description of a Britney Spears meltdown as “heartbreaking”) while reveling in the scandal. Of a Mrs. H_tt_n, “Courtesans” says, “She is expensive in dress, extravagant in the indulgence of her palate, violently addicted to wine and strong liquors which she often drinks to excess, not infrequently to intoxication.” It then reminds its readers that good conduct is “a perfect security to all indelicate or fornicative consequences.”
Don’t you love how the writers speciously protected the names of the fornicators by asking the audience to play a little game of hangman, errÃ‚ fill in the blanks? The Brits really use their heads.
By coincidence one of these exceptional gossip rags survived from way back when. Natural selection did its thing and the strongest, most intelligent trash talker survived. Tatler – and it’s the only magazine I brought home from my London trip. It’s good. It’s dirty. It’s juicy. It’s more than good, dirty and juicy it’s smart, funny and absolutely scathing – along with crass, witty and sinfully fun. What can I say? I know quality work when I see it.
Pray tell…what is your guilty little pleasure?