Previously in the Femslash Friday series: Frenchy and Rizzo, Grease’s butch-femme pairing for the ages.
I’m in Hollywood this week for the Turner Classic Film Festival, as is my yearly custom, and for reasons of both convenience and thematic what’s-the-word-I-want-it-isn’t-congruence-it’s-something-else, I have decided to honor classic Hollywood with this week’s entry. Let us step back to an era where every Friday was Femslash Friday, when only women were sailors, when every bungalow off of McCadden Place had at least fourteen lesbians per square feet, when having sex with Mercedes de Acosta and Alla Nazimova were as mandatory for 1930s-era starlets as having sex with Wilmer Valderrama is today.
Also, after the jump there will be a picture of Greta Garbo hiking topless.
Sometimes it can be very frustrating (frustrating being a relative term, of course, this is not a real problem in the same way that “a raven has stolen my dinner” or “I have hepatitis” is a problem) if one wishes to engage in gay gossip, because there is also the possibility that you will be heterosexually stonewalled. How can you tell if you are being heterosexually stonewalled? Listen carefully for any variations of the following sentences:
“She just liked to wear pants.”
“You think everybody‘s gay.”
“No, they weren’t.”
“You can’t prove that.”
“I’ve never heard that.”
“They were just friends! Men did stuff like that back then!”
And the unassailable “Oh, come on.”
You will almost never hear these phrases about straight rumors — no one dismisses the Hepburn/Tracy myth with “Oh, you think everybody‘s waiting for their alcoholic Catholic lover to finally divorce his long-suffering wife.” It’s giving me a serious case of the Prove It On Me Blues.
All of which is to say, of course, that there will be no room for that here. Today we will only discuss glorious lesbian subterfuge that has been lost to time. Your bibles include The Girls: Sappho Goes To Hollywood (which is SUPER FLAWED and has a massive axe to grind but is also delicious and mostly true) and Scotty Bowers’ impeccable Full Service, which all of you must purchase immediately so that we can talk about it in greater detail.
Here is a picture Mercedes de Acosta took of Greta Garbo hiking topless when the two of them took a six-week mountain retreat together.
To live in such a world. I give you Hepburn in her truest form — as “Jimmy,” her male alter ego (which she displayed briefly in Sylvia Scarlett), a hot dirtbag teen. (Should you care to read more about Hepburn’s complicated gender identity, I recommend this Advocate article as a place to start.)
Look me in the eye and tell me that smoldering, lanky, lithe hunk of butch sat on her hands for thirty years waiting for Spencer Tracy to get it up. Go ahead. Tell me. I’ll wait. In the meantime, why don’t we read this nice little excerpt from a review of Full Service?
Hepburn approached [me] at a party.
“I know your reputation, Scotty. When you get a chance, do you think you can find a nice, young dark-haired girl for me? Someone that’s not too heavily made-up.”
They were friends for the next 50 years, and he now claims he fixed her up with more than 150 women, including one she saw on and off for 49 years.
Now close your eyes and sink gently and gratefully into the past, into a Hollywood swimming with hats and mink coats and strong-shouldered, steel-jawed dykes roaming the magnificently gay landscape. There was such a land once, and mayhap will be such a land again.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.