I’m finally back from tour. I haven’t had internet for the last few days so posting was not an option, other than sending a few brief thoughts out from my phone. One of the things that I love about blogging is how you can use it to create different idea colleges from different sources. Above I posted the video for Laurie Anderson’s Only an Expert. The song is pretty self explanatory. We often hold people in high regards due to either wealth or fame without asking too many tough questions. I’ve been reading Hampton Sides’s In the Kingdom of Ice while on the road. In it there are several high ranking cultural figures that are completely batshit insane behind the scenes. Here is a brief look into the life of James Gordon Bennett, the owner of the New York Herald during the late 19th century:
He was “Bennett the Terrible, the mad Commodore, the autocrat of the transatlantic cables,” one biographer wrote; he saw himself as “one of the lords of creation.” A longtime Herald editor later remarked of his boss that he “was a ruler over a domain of romance; he himself at times a romantic ruler. If impulse called he obeyed, and no rule existed but to be broken.
Bennett had a habit of strolling into one of the finest establishments in Paris or New York and snatching the table linens as he proceeded down the aisle, smashing plates and glassware on the floor, to the horror of the dining patrons, until he reached his reserved table in the back. (He never failed to write a check for the damages.) Once after a musical show in Amsterdam, he invited the beautiful lead actress and the entire cast to tour his yacht. Then he quietly slipped out to sea and for several days cruised the Atlantic, essentially holding the cast hostage and demanding repeat performances – all the while attempting to seduce the young starlet. Upon returning to shore, Bennett gladly paid an enormous sum to the Amsterdam theater to cover its losses.
It was difficult to keep track of all of Bennett’s fiercely held likes and dislikes. For breakfast, he insisted on plover’s eggs. He would not allow facial hair to be worn by any man serving on his yachts. He owned hundreds of thermometers and barometers and was fascinated by the slightest change in the weather. He and a doting love for Pomeranians – he kept dozens of them and served them only Vichy spring water to drink. Bennett believed his happy little pooches were such astute judges of character that he would sometimes hire editors, or choose not to, purely on the basis of his dogs’ reactions when the prospective employee walked into the room. (Some job candidates, having learned of Bennett’s odd deference to his dogs, would arrive at interviews with their coat pockets stuffed with morsels of raw meat.) Bennett also had a fetish for owls – he kept them everywhere: living owls, pictures of owls, busts of owls, owls on cuff links, owls on stationery. They decorated his brownstone, his yachts, his country houses. Something about their winking, swivel-headed, nocturnal ways struck his deepest fancy.
This was one of the masters of the universe of that time. What are the masters of our universe up to in their spare time?