Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Who was Dr. Charlotte Bach? by Francis Wheen

Francis Wheen wrote an excellent biography of Karl Marx back in 1999. He’s a mix of humourist and journalist, like Jon Ronson. Recently this short biography by the same author was recommended to me. The blurb on the back describes it as ‘a gloriously bizarre tale’. Usually you’d read that sort of rave and shake your shoulders and think, I’ve heard that one a hundred times before. But this time it’s true!! This is a gloriously bizarre tale.

If you’re a sucker for cross dressing hoaxers, then this book is for you. From humble beginnings as Hungarian Karoly Hadju, to ‘her’ ultimate incarnation as Dr Charlotte Bach, professor and lecturer on, amongst other things, sexual deviations, she gulled many. To be honest, I found her theory on cross-dressing not so nutty at all.

She claimed that we all secretly in some way wanted to cross over to the other sex, and this caused a tension that gave us our creativity.

You have to see the pictures of her in the book to get the real idea of how kooky this story is. Here is this frumpy looking older woman, done up to the nines in jewels and silks, with her ‘forceful’ personality, delivering lectures on ‘symbology of fetish in homosexual / sado-masochistic rituals (with slides)’. One has to wonder what was on the slides.

Dr Charlotte Back reminds me of one of my kooky teachers at St. Bedes College, Miss Vidion. She looked like a drag queen, acted like an aristocrat, wore bizarre outfits and had many classroom rituals she insisted on (she insisted her seat be wiped clean every time she took a class, and dangled a handkerchief out in front of her, waiting for volunteers.)
A fun book that is truly rich and strange.

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