Anastasia Screamed in Vain

I stuck around Saint Petersburg

When I saw it was time for a change

Killed the Tsar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain.”

Rolling Stones fans will recognize the song as “Sympathy for the Devil”, Mick Jagger’s lopsided tribute to the Prince of Darkness. The event in question was the slaughter of Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family, an execution so horrendous that it could only have been orchestrated by Satan himself. (Or Vladimir Lenin.)

The Killing Fields

It was brutal and diabolical. Eleven people died. Some were killed by gunshot, but the more stubborn and slow-to-die teenagers (who actually seemed bulletproof) were carved up like raw chickens, stabbed until their blood-drenched bodies finally expired. Some historians call it the “most horrific” execution of the 20th century, but that would be an exaggeration, since the 20th century, like all centuries, contained an uncountable amount of horrors. The Nazis, as well as the Communists, were known to massacre families whole, whether it be in gas chambers, or by working them to death in Siberia, or by simply shooting them in the middle of their farm chores, land to be divvied up for the “common good”.

Nonetheless, the Romanovs loom large in our imagination, because they happened to be the royal family of Russia, a dynasty that had been in power for three hundred years, until the Bolshevik takeover. The family killed were: Czar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, their daughters Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia, and their son Alexey who would have been heir to the throne. The servants killed were: Eugene Botkin, Anna Demidova, Alexei Trupp and Ivan Kharitonov.

Romanov Family

Anastasia, the youngest daughter, was just seventeen years old. She was killed last. She is said to have screamed so heart-wrenchingly it was rumored for decades that the more soft-hearted guards may actually have spared her. (They didn’t, but more on that later.)

Sugar & Spice But Not Everything Nice

 Anastasíya Nikoláyevna Románova, the Grand Duchess of Russia, was born on this day, June 18, 1901. Her father was Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia and her mother was Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina and Empress Consort, aka Princess Alix of Hesse, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

It’s a pretty impressive pedigree, and you would think the Tsar’s children would have been extravagantly spoiled, but apparently the Tsarina believed in the same sparseness and discipline favored by her grandmother, the no-nonsense Victoria. The Romanov children slept on hard cots, took cold baths, and were made to do their own housework. The girls were required to produce needlework that was later sold for charity.

Anastasia doing needlework

Anastasia was a feisty and spirited child. According to her governess Margaretta Eager, Anastasia had ”the greatest personal charm of any child she had ever seen.” Her nickname was “Shvybzik” which means “merry little one” or “little mischief”. Apparently she liked the nickname, because well into her teen years, Anastasia would sign her correspondence as “Shvybzik”, rather than her real name. She was also a bit of a tomboy, known to climb trees and get in snowball fights. One observer reported that the young duchess couldn’t be bothered to remove her long white gloves while eating chocolates at the opera house. She was also fond of practical jokes.

Anastasia joking around with false teeth. Picture taken by her father.

During the first World War, the older Romanov women worked as Red Cross nurses. Anastasia and her sister Maria, both too young to for nursing, instead visited wounded soldiers at the hospital in Tsayskoye Selo. To lift the soldiers’ spirits, they played games like checkers and billiards. Some of the soldiers recalled them fondly, especially Anastasia’s contagious lough.

No matter how well-intended these charitable works from the Romanov family might have been, there was no denying the fact that Russia, at the beginning of the 20th century, was a mess. It was one of the most impoverished countries in the world. And many blamed Tsar Nicholas and the aristocracy for that mess.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Modernization and new, labor-saving inventions had not really made their way to Russia yet. Farms were in bad shape. People in the countryside had really rough lives. The harsh Russian climate made for poor crops in general, and the monarchy had failed to implement modern tools of farming. Russia was falling way behind the rest of Europe. In the cities, things were just as bad. There was massive unemployment, and those who were employed worked mostly in dangerous factories, laboring long hours for little pay.

Finally, everyone had had enough.

On Sunday, January 22, 1905, peasants stormed the Winter Palace, home of the royals, in protest. However, that rebellion was squashed by the palace armies, resulting in massive deaths. The rebellion was known as “Bloody Sunday”. Riots then broke out all over the country, but they did no good. The life of the average peasant remained the same, pretty unbearable.

When Germany attacked Russia in 1914, things get even worse. Tsar Nicholas was unprepared for war. (Tsar Nicholas was actually unprepared to rule. His father had died unexpectedly and Nicholas took over the monarchy in 1894 at age twenty-six. Not really young, but he had expected his father to be alive for a few more decades, so he had not given much thought to statecraft.)

Armies, made up largely of the peasant population, were sent to fight. They suffered from lack of everything — from bullets to fuel to food. Millions died. Revolution became inevitable.

Russian soldiers in WWI.

On March 8, 1917, with the men away at war, Russian women decided to take matters into their own hands. Thousands stormed the streets of Saint Petersburg (then called Petrograd) in yet another protest. Their banners said things like, “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland,” and “Supplement the ration of soldiers’ families, defenders of freedom and the people’s peace.”

Female protesters in Petrograd (now St Petersburg) on 8 March 1917.
Women protesters in Petrograd, 1917

The Tsar ordered his army to shoot them – however, by this time even the palace army was fed up with their horrible conditions. In the end, Tsar Nicholas had no choice but to resign and give up his crown.

Dead Man Walking

The Romanov family was put under house arrest and moved around to several locations. At first it wasn’t so bad. They were in palaces and comfortable environments. They still had a certain degree of freedom. But as the Bolsheviks gained more power, there was less regard for the royal family. Finally, they were sent to the dreaded Siberia, in a train with covered windows where they were denied food. Their new residence was in a town called Yekaterniburg. There they lived in a five-room dwelling that was ominously called “The House of Special Purpose.”

In the meantime, things were getting worse in Petrograd. A makeshift government had been put in after Nicholas’ abdication, but the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, were not happy with it. They staged another riot in October, 1917. This time full scale civil war broke out.  On one side were the Bolsheviks – the Red Army. On the other side were the aristocracy – the White Army. Eventually the Bolsheviks, fearing the Whites might gain power and try to reinstate the Tsar, decided it was simply too risky to allow the Romanov family to remain alive.

In the wee hours of the morning of July 17, 1918, the family were awakened and told they were to be moved to another location, as more fighting had broken out in the area and it was no longer safe. They were told to gather their things and go to the basement of the house, then wait for further instruction until their transport arrived.

It was, of course, a lie.

In reality, the Romanovs were going to the basement where they would be executed.

Commandant Yakov Yurovsky, head of the secret police, told the family they must be positioned for a photograph. He brought in chairs for Tsarina Alexandra and also for son Alexey, a hemophiliac who was in bad health. He then told them he was going to get a camera.

Yakov Yurovsky

Instead of fetching a camera, Yurovsky came back with eleven guards, all armed with pistols.  But there was a problem — the assassins were not sober. Before their boss summoned them, they had been sitting in another room downing vodka. Yurovsky was furious, but the mission had to go on.

Yurovsky then informed Nicholas that he and his family had been sentenced to death.

An astonished Nicholas simply replied, “What?”

Historians are not sure whether Nicholas had figured it out. When the family were first escorted to the basement, he had said to his daughters, “We are finally getting out of here.” This could be interpreted as him knowing the execution was inevitable, and “getting out” simply meant dying. Or perhaps he was truly taken by surprise.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

At any rate, Nicholas was lucky. A guard shot him point blank in the chest and he died immediately. The others would have much messier deaths.

One of the assassins aimed for Alexandra, but, half drunk, he missed his aim and shot her in the side of the head.  Next, Maria was hit by a bullet in the thigh. She lay bleeding until a guard stabbed her repeatedly in the torso finally ending her life. Olga was shot in the jaw and Tatiana in the back of the head. Bullets aimed at Anastasia seemed to bounce off.

What the guards would not have realized was that the sisters, and Alexey too, had sown diamond jewelry into their underwear. (They had taken it from the Winter Palace and intended the sell it once they regained their freedom.) Diamonds, being the hardest substance in the world, now became their bullet proof clothing.

Unfortunately, this meant the guards resorted to bayonets. The Romanov siblings were eventually stabbed to death. What should have been a quick, clean execution had turned into an orgy of killing.

The last to die was Anastasia. A guard lunged at her, but, being drunk, kept missing with his bayonet. Finally, the sober Yakov Yurovsky took his gun and shot her in the head.

The entire ordeal was finished in twenty minutes. What had been a three hundred year reign of the Romanov family ended in a bath of blood and clouds of gun smoke. The drunken guards checked pulses to make sure the victims were really dead, then wrapped them in sheets and carried them to the pits where they would be buried.

Fun Facts

  • The Romanov sisters were very close. In fact, they referred to themselves collectively as “OTMA” – meaning Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.
  • Young Anastasia, ever the “little mischief” was seen sticking her tongue out at Yurovsky behind his back.
  • OTMA were reluctant to marry and suspicious of foreign princes.  When they were sent to meet Prince Carroll of Romania, a potential suitor, all four girls went to the beach and got sunburns on purpose. Having a sunburn would render them “unmarriable” in the royal circle, as only a peasant or a gypsy would stay out in the sun.
OTMA in 1913
  • Ironically, while staying in Yekaterniburg, Maria became romantically involved with a young Bolshevik guard named Ivan Skorokhodov, who smuggled in a cake for her birthday.
  • When Maria and Ivan were caught “in a compromising position” the boy was dismissed from his job and sent away to prison.
  • Apparently, many of the young Bolshevik guards found the sisters attractive. Before the assassination, three of them admitted they would not be able to kill the sisters. They, too, were sent away to prison.
  • After the Bolshevik government took over, the name “Romanov” was forbidden. The mere mention of them, or keeping their picture, would result in imprisonment or death.
  • No one ever knew the burial place of the family. This resulted in rumors that they had not really been killed, and especially that Anastasia had been allowed to remain alive. Over the years, many imposters claimed to be the lost Princess Anastasia.
Anna Anderson of Poland (left) claimed to be Anastasia (right) years after the execution.
  • The bones of the Romanov family were discovered in 1979, but they were reburied because it was illegal in the USSR to mention their name!
  • In 2007, long after the fall of the Soviet Union, the bones were dug up again. DNA tests proved that they were indeed the bones of the Romanovs, thus ending the rumors that Anastasia was still alive.
  • A monument to Tsar Nicholas and Prince Alexey was unveiled in Siberia in 2017. Monuments to Nicholas were also erected in St. Petersburg, Kursk, Kaluga, Yekaterinburg, Sochi, Sevastopol, and in Serbia’s capital city of Belgrade.
  • In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, Prince Alexey, and Princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia as New Martyrs for Christ.
The Sainted Romanovs

The Romanov dynasty is still highly respected around the world, and loved by the Russian people. The Bolsheviks fell. So, in the end, we could say the Romanovs gained victory over the Devil. (Or Joseph Stalin.)

Happy Birthday Anastasia! You brought love, vitality and a little mischief to your country, and you will never be forgotten.

Happy Birthday Mick!

 

Happy Birthday to Michael Phillip Jagger, my all-time favorite Rock & Roller!!!

He was born on this day, July 26th, 1943 in Dartford, Kent. He hails from a long line of teachers, but young Mick became enamored with music and singing at an early age.

Believe it or not, he started out as a choir boy,  singing in his local church.  This little tyke got no Sympathy from the Devil — or perhaps he did!

Mick Jagger first met Keith Richards  when they were just little lads attending Wentworth Primary School in Dartford. The year was 1950. The two lost contact as children, but ten years later, as teenagers, they would reunite again in a chance encounter on a train platform in Dartford.  They began a conversation about music. Each had a deep love for rhythm and blues — probably a bit unusual for English kids at that time.  Needless to say, a life long friendship was born.

Jagger and Richards, along with Brian Jones would go on to form  The Rolling Stones, arguably the best ever Rock & Roll band. Their first appearance was on July 12, 1962 at the Marquee Club in London. Their name ‘The Rolling Stones” was taken from a song by  Blues legend Muddy Waters, a favorite of both Mick and Keith.

Years later, they would perform with Muddy himself (in my home town, Chicago! 🙂 )

To date, the Rolling Stones have released 30 studio albums, 24 live albums, 25 compilation albums, three extended play singles, and 120 singles.  The band has been together for fifty six years! (So much for fickle break ups and the questionable longevity of rock bands…)

Reportedly, the relationship between Mick and Keith has not been without its stresses. Best friends are often constant competitors. Keith has called Mick “an unbearable snob”  but also states: “I still love him dearly … your friends don’t have to be perfect.”

Whatever their relationship, no one can deny that these two are an amazing force of musical talent.

FUN FACTS:

  • Mick Jagger became an official “Sir” in 2003 when he received a Knighthood from Charles, Prince of Wales.
  • Yes — he received the Knighthood from Charles because Queen Elizabeth II refused to award him in person! (Sorry Mick, looks like you can only get so “Respectable”.)
  • Mick returned the snub by being absent from the Queen’s 50 -Year  Golden Jubilee pop concert, which commemorated her 50 years on the throne. Ouch!
  • He is an avid supporter of music instruction in schools. His pet projects are The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford and The Red Rooster Programme.
  • He has eight children by five women, five grandchildren, and one great- grandchild.  Some of the Jagger family tree:

  • His oldest child, Karis Jagger, was born in 1970. His youngest to date, Deveraux Octavian Basil Jagger, was born in 2016. Go Mick!
  • Regarding Mick’s Knighthood, drummer Charlie Watts sarcastically commented: “Anybody else would be lynched: 18 wives and 20 children and he’s knighted, fantastic!”
  • He has been immortalized in evolution! A 19 million year old species of long legged pig was named after Mick. In  2014, the “Jaggermeryx naida” (“Jagger’s water nymph.”) was officially christened by the scientific community.

  • Sir Mick is a very wealthy man, with a net worth of $360 million.
  • This rock legend has become the subject of many a pop song. Don McClean immortalized him in “American Pie” as did Carly Simon in “You’re So Vain.” He is the subject of Maroon 5’s  “Moves like Jagger”, Kesha’s  “Tik Tok” and the Black Eyed Peas’ hit “The Time (Dirty Bit)”.
  • He had tremendous respect for his parents, calling his father, Joe, “the greatest influence on my life.” Joe Jagger lived to the ripe old age of 93.
  • Still a fashion icon, Mick was listed as one of the “50 over fifty” best-dressed by the Guardian in March 2013.

Hey Mick, you’re seventy five!  Recently back from tour in Europe and the U.K., “Moves Like Jagger” is showing no signs of slowing down yet!

And finally, here are the Stones performing their 1972 hit  ‘Tumbling Dice’, which contains the best Rock & Roll line ever written —

FEVER IN THE FUNK HOUSE NOW” 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

 

 

 

Anita Pallenberg’s Witchy Ways

 

She was the charming muse of the Rolling Stones, an elusive Ruby Tuesday who, with beauty and charisma, skyrocketed to It Girl fame in the 1960’s and 70’s.  She had notorious love affairs with Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and a number of women. She was a style icon and an international superstar. She was also a black magic practitioner who regularly cast spells and carried strings of garlic to ward off vampires.

“At the center, like a phoenix on her nest of flames… the wicked Anita. She was the most incredible woman I’d met in my life. Dazzling, beautiful, hypnotic and unsettling. Her smile—those carnivorous teeth!—obliterated everything. Other women evaporated next to her.  — Marianne Faithfull

Dazzling Anita Pallenberg died one year ago today, on June 13, 2017.

She came into a chaotic world, born on April 6, 1944 in Nazi-occupied Rome. Her father was a travel agent and her mother a German embassy secretary.  A true child of war, Anita did not meet her father, then serving in the military, until she was three years old.

She was educated in Rome and  sent to boarding school in Bavaria where she was expelled at age 16. After that she traipsed around Europe and New York City where she became a fixture of Andy Warhol’s Factory and began to pursue a career in modeling and acting.

Anita first met the Rolling Stones backstage at a concert in Munich in 1965. Reportedly, the band was terrified of her.

Keith Richards said of her: “Anita Pallenberg scared the pants off me …  She knew everything and she could say it in five languages. You knew you were taking on a Valkyrie — she who decides who dies in battle.”

Mick Jagger claimed, “She nearly killed me.”  Nonetheless, they began a relationship with her.  Anita introduced them to pop culture giants like Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini, influencing their fashion trends and ushering them into the avant-garde world of swinging London.

Anita first became romantically involved with Brian Jones. They fought a lot and the relationship eventually became physically violent. Anita, however, was no victim.  According to Keith: “Every time they had a fight, Brian would come out bandaged and bruised.” Brian Jones, a famous member of the ‘27 Club’,  died at age 27 when he drowned in a swimming pool.

Anita then became involved with Keith. She and Richards had three children together and, although they never married, had a passionate, drug-addled relationship which lasted thirteen years. Anita’s appetites for sex and drugs were legendary, and V Magazine even called her “the woman who out-Keithed Keith.” However, Richards still considered her a friend when he married his wife Patty Hansen in 1983.

The flamboyant styles the Stones began to wear in the late sixties — ascots, floppy hats, jewelry — are credited to Anita’s sense of fashion.

“I started to become a fashion icon for wearing my old lady’s clothes.” — Keith Richards. Reportedly, they wore the same size. Keith said he’d get up in the morning and pull on her trousers.

Pallenberg also influenced the Stones music, singing background vocals and calling for remixing when she thought the sound was not up to par. They respected her opinion and some insiders said she was as much a part of the band as Mick and Keith.

An actress in her own right, she appeared in a total of fifteen films. These included Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger is Dead, Christian Marquand’s Candy, which starred Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, and Roger Vadim’s Barbarella which starred Jane Fonda.

According to Keith, during the filming of Candy, Marlon Brando “kidnapped her one night and read her poetry and, when that failed, tried to seduce Anita and me together.”  Who knows what happened in that little threesome, but Keith did name their first son “Marlon”.  🙂

She also appeared in Donald Cammel’s Performance, which starred Mick Jagger. It was during this filming that Anita allegedly had an affair with Mick.

During this time, Keith was writing Gimme Shelter, a song rife with darkness and apocalyptic visions. He later attributed his pessimism to his own jealousy over the fact that he believed Mick, his best friend, was having an affair with Anita. In short, Keith was not convinced that the film’s sex scenes were mere acting. He called director Donald Cammel “a pimp” and said the movie itself was “third rate porn”.  Pallenberg and Jagger, it should be noted, both claimed there was never any affair. According to Anita:  “I was a one-man girl at the time and Keith was the man for me. I loved him. And anyway, Jagger was the last guy I would have done that with.”

However, when Mick began to date the Nicaraguan born Bianca Perez (who later became Mrs. Bianca Jagger) Anita had many objections.

According to Tony Sanchez, who served as Richard’s personal assistant: “Anita hated Bianca from the start. She was convinced that Bianca was a threat to the Stones and one day she announced that she had put a curse on her  –  she had long been obsessed by black magic.

Anita carried a string of garlic everywhere, to ward off vampires, and in her bedroom kept an ornate carved chest which I found was full of bones, wrinkled skin and fur from strange animals. She also had a mysterious old shaker for holy water which she used for some of her rituals. Her ceremonies became increasingly secret, and she warned me never to interrupt her when she was working on a spell.”

Was it Anita’s witchy ways that catapulted the Stones to fame? How Satanic were Their Majesties, how Sticky were their Fingers and how much Sympathy for the Devil did they really have?

While attempting to break up with Anita in 1978, Keith Richards wrote Beast of Burden, in which a man doubts his own virility and begs for reconciliation with his lover. The Guardian calls the song “a wracked plea for mercy from a broken man.”

Perhaps Keith never should have messed with her.

Tony Sanchez also wrote that Anita was “like a life-force, a woman so powerful, so full of strength and determination that men came to lean on her.”

Although Pallenberg had been solicited several times to write her own autobiography, she never agreed to any publisher’s request.  In 2008 she stated: “The publishers want to hear only about the Stones and more dirt on Mick Jagger and I’m just not interested. They all want salacious. And everybody is writing autobiographies and that’s one reason why I’m not going to do it.”

Too bad. It would have been great fun to read the story in the lady’s own words.

Anita Pallenberg Rock In Peace.

 

 

 

Confessions of an Anglophile on 4th of July

 

british-american-english

This blog was inspired by Tony Burgess’ post Happy Treason Day, Ungrateful Colonists!

Treason day indeed…  Now don’t get me wrong. I love apple pie and freedom just as much as the next guy.  But truth be told, I often do feel like a treasonous American.  All my life I have been an Anglophile and felt a bit out of place here in my home country. I  blame it on Shakespeare. Or more specifically, Franco Zeffirelli. I saw  his Romeo and Juliet movie when I was a little girl.  I then became obsessed with England, Shakespeare, and all things Elizabethan.

rj-costume-ball2

I also blame it on Lewis Carroll, his tales of Alice, powerful queens, rabbit holes and  mad tea parties.

4382428505_6da9eb8e6e_z

 

Oh yeah, and I really blame it on the Rolling Stones!  Once they hit town I was completely hooked, sold, crossed over.  A total traitor to the New World 🙂

Rolling-Stones-live-1972

 

When I was 17 I got my chance to go to the UK for the first time. It was my senior class trip,  a memory I still hold dearly.  First time to see Stonehenge, the Tower and those stoic soldiers who never blink an eye.  First time to ride the Tube and hang out in pubs with scruffy backpackers from all over Europe.   Since then, whenever I could scrape together enough money, I’d hop a plane and head back to England. I still love everything about the place — the gardens, the cobblestone streets. And especially the pretty cottages where I’d love to live one day.

countrycottages

 

I have been fortunate enough to visit the stomping grounds of all my heroes. Oxford, Canterbury, Stratford,  Liverpool, Abbey Road.  Over the years friends have gravitated to me who were just as Anglophilian as myself. We have theories that all of us have lived past lives in England, which I am certain is true.

This always made me feel a bit guilty.  American by birth but British in my heart.  Since the Revolution, other wars (specifically WWI and II) have brought England and the U.S. together, inextricably bound against our common enemies.

When it gets down to core values and principles, maybe we are not really so different after all.  As for me, I will always love America, the land of my birth. But I will also embrace England, the land of my heart, hopes and imagination.

lavendar england public domain

Hope everyone had a safe, sane and fantastic Fourth!