Mercedes De Acosta
March 1 , 1893.
New York City
Less than Six degrees of mercedes De Acosta:
From her birth in 1893 , Mercedes De Acosta seems to have been in the right place at the right time. She was the youngest child of a wealthy Cuban family that had been transplanted to Fifth Avenue. Her older sister would grow up to be the great fashion plate/socialite Rita Lydig. When Mercedes was only five years old the great theater producer Augustin Daly spotted her in Saint Patricks Cathedral and begged her parents to let him adopt her. (her mother needless to say declined the offer but did alow him to visit often). Thus from the begginning Mercedes spent a great deal of time in or creating the limelight . Her charm was to be legendary for much of her life.
Alice B. Toklas is remembered as saying : "you cant dispose of Mercedes lightly , she had the two most important women in U.S. , Greta Garbo and marlene Dietrich". Other lovers of Mercedes included the great actresses Alla Nazimova and Eva Le Gallienne and the legendary inovator of dance , Isadora Duncan.. Perhaps because of all this Mercedes is often derided as a star chaser. This derision is often tinged with a heap of jealousy however. In the glory days of Hollwood , folks used to play a "six degrees" connection game (think of the popular "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game of the 1980's) . The less number of degrees it took to make a connection between two people , the more points one got. Truman Capote used to say that Mercedes was his trump card becuse you could connect her so quickly to so many via bed or intellect.
"NEVER SHALL I BE ALL SUBDUED
NOR THE REAL SECRET OF ME UNDERSTOOD;
PASSIONATELY AND VIOLENTLY MY BODY MAY BE POSSESSED,
BUT MY SPIRIT
WILL WANDER ON FOREVER
Thus said the poetic Mercedes of herself. Her intellectual side is unfortuanately often forgotten. Mercedes wore many hats , she was a poet , playwrite , set and costume designer and hollywood scriptwriter. She certainly had her own deep sense of integrity as well and was one of the few to stand up to producer , Irving Thalberg when she felt it was necissary.
Mercedes crossed paths with a delerious crossection of the great minds and talents of the modern era. Rodin , Edith Wharton , Stravinsky , Sarah Bernhardt , Elanora Duse , Picasso , Cecil Beaton , Elsa Maxwell ,and the spiritual guru Krishnamurti. She led many others to these brave new ideas and cronicled all in her memoirs (Here Lies The Heart/1960.)
Mercedes had a great early friend in legendary talent and literary agent/producer Elizabeth Marbury. Bessie Marbury (Mercedes called her "GranPappy")presided over an exciting salon near NYs' Gramercy Park with her lover , the actress turned decorator , Elsie De Wolfe . Marbury was a true genius who pioneered much of the way Broadway does buisness , and fostered talents as diverse as Jerome Kern , Cole Porter , the dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle , H.G Wells . Oscar Wilde , George Bernard Shaw , the great Harlem Rennaissance writer Wallace Thurman and a great portion of the French Academy.
From Marbury , Mercedes learned to search for all that was new and exiting in the world of culture and ideas. Whether it was discovering modernism via Gertude Stein in Paris or wearing trousers on Hollywood boulevard Mercedes was chasing more than skirts.(although she certainly enjoyed skirt chasing as well!) To some she cut quite a comical figure always garbed in Tricorn hats and highwayman capes and pointed silver buckled shoes. But Mercedes seems to have only responded with trancendant grace , remaining kind and loyal to most everyone who crossed her path ( even those who clearly didnt deserve or reciprecate) up to her own death in 1968. It is perhaps this tracendant quality that led her to be a devotee of Krishnamurti
long before America discovered gurus (of any stripe).
Lingering on to the end.....
Sadly ,Mercedes spent much of the last decade of her life alone. Ironicly ,during the 1960's as a whole generation turned on to ideas that Mercedes had written about long before , Mercedes was secluded and in ill health. Mercedes was without the great wealth of her youth ,( she sold the last of her jewelry to pay medical bills)and spent her last years in a small apartment at 315 east 68th street in Manhattan NYC. Many of her former lovers resented her honesty in her 1960 memoirs , and left Mercedes to die alone. Still she tried to get out when possible , and many noted that her spirit remained youthful. Late in life Mercedes befriended a young Andy Warhol and true to form introduced others to his talents. To the end Mercedes was thinking and trying to transend , calling friends on the phone in the middle of the night to discuss lifes meaning and other vexing questions. Truly she was a women who gave much to this century , and like many other noted lesbians of her era she tried to facilitate the promotion of new ideas , art , creativity.
Mercedes De Acosta's Links
Mercedes De Acosta's Links
Another Mercedes Page.:hey the more the merrier!
My Broadway Site.: Bway history.
Amazing Marlene Dietrich Link!.: Devoted to one of Mercedes' great loves! .
Links Garboesque!.: Devoted to another one of Mercedes' great loves! .
Nazimova , Americas first method actress: Yet another lover of Mercedes!
Urban Sophisticates: Devoted to the Jazz Ages cultivation of an elegant homosexual esthetic!
"Gladys Bentley: The bulldagger Who Sang the Blues".: Devoted to the jazz Ages' mos sensational Lesbian performer!
"Gene Mailin And The Pansy Craze.": devoted to the vogue for "Pansy Acts" that swept Broadways speakeasys in the early 1930's.
Book radio: Listen to reviews of new books with authors. (Interview with Gavin Lambert re: Nazimova is fabulous!)
Frameline: Excellent site devoted to Gay/ Lesbian film etc etc.
Planet Out: Comprehensive gay/les. news , entertainment, webcast radio shows and more!
Popcorn Q: Planet Outs fabulous film site with viewable trailers and clips!
In The Life: Website for the popular Gay/les. tv-news magazine.
Q worldwide: Gay/Les site of the Village Voice