The Other Lady Gagas
What does the pop star have in common with an ancient Babylonian, a French-Irish noblewoman, and a fictional flapper? Her name.
The pair arrives at a small house in Bloomsbury packed with revelers and—to the delight of fame-hungry Gaga—the leading lights of the gossip press.
"Look!" whispered Gaga rapturously, "there's Bobby de Bootlace; he's 'Mask' of The Morning Headline. And there's Dodo d'Organdie; she's 'Flâneuse' of The Evening Eavesdropper. That's Bunloafe she's talking to; he does that priceless page every week in The Sunday Shocker! How glorious! They're sure to put us in!"
The party is a Dionysian romp, with guests who could be extras in the "Bad Romance" video. There's "a flabby fellow wearing a leopard's skin and a gold bracelet" who gives a dance performance "assisted by an immensely tall emaciated girl with her lips painted black." There's "an exquisite in exaggerated dress-clothes and a crash-helmet … introduced to me by Gaga as 'Toto.' " Everywhere, there are homosexuals:
Here was a cocktail-bar, from behind which "Bobo" in person, attired as a merchant skipper, dispensed refreshment to a perspiring mob of boys and girls in rather too elaborate fancy-dress, most of the latter showing a curiously unimaginative preference for trousers. On the counter sat a massive maiden in a cavalry officer's mess kit, whom everybody addressed as "Colonel," and next to her a fresh-faced lad dressed as a bride, complete with veil and orange blossom. He was just down, so Gaga informed me, from the University, but had already one distinction in the mostly brightly youthful circles as a dress-designer whose creations in satin pyjamas were "simply super"!
The story ends with Gaga stretched out on a floor strewn with cigarette butts, "her arm round the waist of a young heavy-weight in horn-rims, dressed as a baby. They were listening to a hollow-eyed girl in a ballet-skirt and a man's opera hat who was singing a mournful song with the refrain, 'It's terribly thrill-ing to be wicked.' "
Punch's Lady Gaga surfaced at least one more time, a couple of years later, in a small item in the magazine's Oct 14, 1931 issue. By this time, we gather, Lady Gaga has graduated from the London demimonde to international movie stardom. In a short dispatch bylined to "Lady Gaga Gate-Crasher, Lord Turnstile's daughter," she explains her decision to retire from the silver screen: "Shortly after my début on the talkies I was inundated with letters of congratulation from millions of my public. This sort of thing is always upsetting to a girl of temperament, so I cancelled a number of contracts with Ellstree and Hollywood and am going into seclusion for a while." The title of the piece: "Why I Have Entered A Convent."
Jody Rosen is Slate's music critic. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images.