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The Miscellany of the Damned

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The universe is a vast octopus whose tentacles reach out in the most surprising directions. Let’s dip our pataphysical wafer into a salty caviar of Jungian coincidences and diabolical irrelevances as we hopscotch into oblivion. Put down your banoffee pie, send an apology note to your chiropractor and let us ride the doomed zoetrope into The Miscellany of the Damned.

The Emperor of Surrealism (and proud owner of an ocelot named Babou) Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was a friend of the greatest figure in 20th Century brassiere development, Caresse Crosby (1891-1970). Carresse was a wild-spirited bra tycoon and an important patron of the arts; she supported (no pun intended) many great artists and writers, including Ernest Hemingway and Anaïs Nin, through hard times and consequently exerted a significant influence on 20th Century culture. Caresse did things in her own peculiar way, gleefully flouting conventions and taking great pleasure in creating a stir; in the mid-1920s she arrived at a ball in Paris wearing only a sheer chemise and a huge turquoise wig. Not one to be outdone, her husband Harry sported a necklace of four dead pigeons and a red loincloth. To jazz up this otherwise dull outfit, he accessorised with a bag of live snakes (we should probably mention that the happy couple had also dyed their skin with red ochre). Crosby is not the only claimant to the title of inventor of the modern bra to have endured controversy: Herminie Cadolle (1845–1926) had to flee France for Argentina due to her friendship with the ‘French grande dame of anarchy’ Louise Michel. Cadolle’s lingerie expertise earned her the role of fitter of bras to queens, princesses and even spies; one of Cadolle’s clients was the infamous spy, double-agent and courtesan Mata Hari (1876-1917).

(Mata Hari: coutesan, double-agent and nomenclature sister to the 'Flying Banana' helicopter.)

The sultry Mata Hari was assigned the code name H-21 by her German spy-master; many years later this designation was also used by an American helicopter nicknamed ‘The Flying Banana’. The most impressive concept for an actual flying banana came in the early part of the 21st Century, when the artist Cesar Saez proposed launching a ‘Geostationary Banana Over Texas’. The project reportedly received $148,000 of official funding, though as far as we know there is still no geostationary banana over Texas (though we’re not sure how one would check, we advise passing vampires to tread carefully in case they slip). Another ‘H-21’ was HMS H21, a Royal Navy submarine that was sold on the 13th July 1926 in Newport in Wales. The other Newport, in Rhode Island in the United States, was once home to the astonishingly rich, and agreeably eccentric, Doris Duke (1912-1993). Duke had a variety of interests and was in her time both a champion surfer and a jazz pianist.

Used to getting what she wanted, when she fell in love with Porfirio Rubirosa, a married diplomat, she paid his wife $1 million to agree to an uncontested divorce.

Her vast mansion Rough Point was lavishly decorated with expensive Turkish carpets, Louis XVI furniture and priceless works of art (she also had an eye for unusual gifts and once bought Rubirosa a B-25 bomber). More surprisingly, it was also home to her two camels ‘Princess’ and ‘Baby’, which she negotiated as a freebie when buying a private jet from a Middle Eastern businessman (with an eye for interior decoration she had a sumptuous bedroom fitted onboard her private Boeing 737). The two camels spent their summers, presumably in a state of some bemusement, wandering the grounds of her manor house; the camels even had their own on tent on the patio by the solarium, to keep them warm. As we sit nestled between the humps of the ‘ship of the desert’ we are brought back to where our journey began, in the company of Salvador Dali: let us consider the camel featured in Dali’s 1936 painting ‘The Sun Table’. What is that you’re asking us? Did Dali ever get this imaginary camel to race his pet ocelot? That is an excellent question and one to which we don’t know the answer: we can guess however that the result would be a close thing, but the camel would be likely to win, but only by a very narrow margin. Camels have a top speed of around forty miles per hour, two miles per hour faster than that of a typical ocelot.

So there you have it, now it’s time to pop off your winkle-pickers, unscrew your little mangelwurzel head and slip into beddy-byes.

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