The first time I heard of Lola Montez was from a song by the Danish rock band Volbeat. The song was released as the third single from the band’s fifth studio album Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies. The song is about the famous dancer and Countess of Landsfeld, Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, with the lyrics referencing the spider dance and an incident with Henry Seekamp. Here is the band’s video.
During a September 1855 performance in Melbourne, Lola showcased her soon-to-be notorious Spider Dance. In this version of the Italian Tarantula dance, Lola would pretend to have spiders crawling up her legs so that she could lift her skirts up to scandalous levels, swat them away, and stomp on them. When she took the dance to Australia, she let it all hang out down under and stopped wearing undergarments entirely. The crowd was beside itself, and one critic called it “utterly subversive to all ideas of public morality.”
The video below explains what is known about Lola’s spider dance.
I came across Lola again when I was writing my first dark fantasy book, Tesla St. Vrain, the Power Within. I wanted to combine my steampunk and fantasy elements with historical nonfictional characters. One of them is Lord Byron. At the height of her fame, Lola claimed that she was the illegitimate daughter of the philandering poet. Although this isn’t true, given Lola’s own infamy, it was certainly true in spirit.”
Intrigued, I read more about Lola and her story is so sensational that it appears to be fabricated from the creative minds of Hollywood. She was dangerously beautiful, had a violent temper, and had several notorious lovers, including king Ludwig, Alexandre Dujarier, George Trafford Heald and newspaperman Patrick Hull. The femme fatale concept was invented for her, and some say that she was the inventor of striptease. When the movie “Lola Montes” was released in 1955, it caused a stir in France, being accused of “sinful”.
Although it is not mentioned much in the articles I read about her, she was also an author. Here is an excerpt from her book;
“I expect to win the gratitude of the whole masculine gender by these rules of the art of fascinating. It used to be supposed that this art belonged exclusively to my sex; but that was a vulgar error, which the sharp practice of the men has long since exploded. And it is now well-established that gentlemen spend a great deal more time in inventing ways and means to entrap women and get them in love with them, than women do in trying to win the hearts of gentlemen. Love making indeed seems to be the ‘being’s end and aim’ of man. He appears to think that he was born for no other purpose, and he devotes himself to the business with a zeal and an enthusiasm highly honorable to his exalted genius, and to the immortal station he claims for himself of being the Lord of Creation.”
-Lola Montez, 1858. The Arts of Beauty; or Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet: With Hints to Gentlemen on the Art of Fascinating
One story from when Lola met Ludwig is utterly scandalous, even for Lola Montez. According to this rumor, when the King set eyes on her, he asked if her chest was real or padded. To prove she was au naturel, Lola ripped open her bodice and displayed her breasts to the monarch.
Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). “Montez, Lola” . Encyclopedia Americana.