03 May 2012

Why Is Maria Riva Still A Punching Bag?

I haven't heard of Richard "Bugs" Burnett, a columnist at Montreal Gazette's blogs whose bio touts him as a maple-flavored Michael Musto. I don't know of John Banks either, one of Dietrich's boys during the '60s and '70s--figuratively and literally, apparently beginning his service to Dietrich at the tender age of 15. Burnett, however, gave me a thorough introduction to Banks in an article just published called "How one night in Montreal changed the life of Marlene Dietrich." Clearly, the presumptuous title should have been "How one night in Montreal changed the life of John Banks," but Dietrich's name naturally has more SEO clout.

Misleading title aside, Burnett extracts a lot of details from Banks, including a beautiful photo of Dietrich and Banks together, who remind me of Catherine Deneuve and Pierre Clementi in Belle de jour. More intriguing are Burnett's choice of authoritative biographers, Charlotte Chandler and David Bret. I've covered Chandler a bit after having read her Dietrich bio and still have yet to read Bret's, who has at least made his presence known, but I'm well aware that both biographers are of ill-repute if you take Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin's newsletters as gospel (Bret here; Chandler here). Of course, those who read enough of my shtick must know that I enjoy the apocrypha as much as the torah and welcome all. In fact, I still have hopes of writing about Dean Goodman and Erik Hanut's books, which I read many months ago.

Back to Burnett, while I find his favored biographers a surprising choice, his silence on Maria Riva's book--the Song of Songs as far as Dietrich tomes are concerned--strikes me as strange. Instead of citing Maria's book, Burnett quotes Banks' recollection of Maria enabling Dietrich's alcoholism. Maria admitted to being Dietrich's handmaiden but never her Hebe! Sometimes, I wonder whether some Dietrich fans still have it out for Maria. Burnett expresses his fandom throughout his article--especially the introduction--and in an earlier article he wrote that mentioned Banks. I've been meaning to post a lengthy look at all the times Dietrich fanboy Steven Bach poked fun of Maria's weight in his book, and I have been keeping my eye on the vitriol that some (or one?) DataLounge poster(s) spew(s) Maria's way, too. Do any of you still have these kinds of feelings about Maria? Feel free to air them out here!

I'll just request that if any of you know more about John Banks, please educate us in the comments section in between your rants. So far, I've learned that he was a bartender at Le Mystique, the oldest gay bar in Montreal until it closed in 2009. As least its Angelfire site remains, which may very well be the last Angelfire site standing. Seriously, I hope someone salvaged its NOSTALGAY exhibit. Establishments like Le Mystique remind me of the Hollywood gay dive that I never had a chance to visit--Spotlight, which looked like Skid Row on poppers from the street but must have been brimming with history within its doors.

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