3/18/2006

the plot thickens

The view from here.

According to the doorman, the neighbor woman was not alone in her condo when she fell to her death. He'd heard that her sister, and perhaps a "gentleman caller" was there, and what he'd heard was that the woman's sister (who wasn't right in the head) was chasing her around the condo with a kitchen knife. She ran out on the balcony, cried for help, and then tried to climb over to the neighboring balcony to escape her. But, as we know, she didn't quite make it.

He said, she fell "a good ten floors" before clipping a fifth floor balcony with her head. He said it like she might have survived if not for that bit. Like, it was a perfect back-flip, until she hit her head on the diving board. He said there was a lot of gore to clean up last weekend.

Villa Vizcaya


Went to Villa Vizcaya, sometimes called the Hearst Castle of the East, with Pokey this morning, and the big QOTD was: OK, was James Deering, co-founder of Deering Harvester Company, and later VP of International Harvester, gay, or what? Mind you, we didn't show up with this burning question. But after you've looked around the place, well, it just seems odd, the whole idea of it, not to mention its execution. Sort of like if Liberace had been a Chicago Industrialist.

Deering, who never married, had Villa Vizcaya, an Italian Renaissance-style estate overlooking Biscayne Bay, built over a period of just two years, from 1914 to 1916. His favorite epoch in interior decor seemed to be Rococo (Pokey' too--he kept making me say "rococo," with the rolled "r" over and over again, he liked the sound of it so much), and our lovely tour guide kept emphasizing how feminine Rococo furniture was. But while there was never any suggestion that Mr. Deering was himself Rococo or feminine, he apparently suffered from B-12 definciency before it was known as such, and was anemic. Marie Antoinette was mentioned several times (I hesitate only slightly to say "repeatedly") as an inspiration to Mr. Deering.

Pokey and I were giving each other looks, as each room we came to on the guided tour was more Rococolicious than the one that preceded it. But what I found interesting was that all but a couple of the classical male nude statues in the house and on the grounds had their bits covered with a fig leaf. On the Ringling estate in Sarasota this was most assuredly not the case. Ringling let it all hang out. And Ringling wasn't gay. So, hmm. People are funny, aren't they?

Aside from the Rococoliciousness of it all, there were four pieces in the house that may have been clues as to Deering's orientation. Again, not that it's that important, but if cowboys can be gay why not captains of industry, too? So first and foremost in the j'accuse! department: a portrait of him by John Singer Sargent. While Sargent's sexuality isn't known, it is well-known he painted women in their clothes and men out of them. In the portrait Deering is clothed. But still. I consider it Exhibit A.

There were also at least two notable exceptions to the fig-leaf rule: two small bronze replicas of classical male nudes that definitely raised an eyebrow or two, but were glossed over with a brush of the tour guide's hand, a contemptuous chortle, and an "oh, those old things?":


Hmm? Naked satyrs prancing around in the Jungle Room? Or how about this very suggestively posed young Greek muscle hunk here in the atrium?

But the clincher for me was the tapestry in the Renaissance Room:


The Central scene of the tapestry depicts a man wrestling with a lion, and the lion is very clearly sporting a hard-on, as you can see from the detail in the lower right of the picture above. Could it be that Mr. Deerling was actually a Gay Beastialist Chicago Industrialist? We may never know for sure, but the possibility cannot be excluded.

Pokey considers it an open and closed case. I mean, isn't it "queer" that Deering was this big-wig industrialist but was spending all his time traipsing across Europe buying kitschy fire-sale antiques? That he was so obsessed with window treatments? You literally cannot speak of Vizcaya without using the word "exquisite". Which itself is enough to convict.

Not that it matters.

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