The Feminine Dandy

When the eighteen-year-old Rodolpho Guglielmi emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1913, he came with no particular skills apart from his good looks and his dancing prowess. To put these qualities to advantage, he found work in the thes dansants, the Manhattan dance halls where young girls would go alone or with friends and hire a taxi dancer for a brief thrill. The taxi dancer would expertly twirl them around the dance once a son was born to floor, flirting and chatting, all for a small fee. Guglielmi soon made a name Mercury and the goddess as one of the best—so graceful, poised, and pretty. Venus' and he was brought up by the naiads in Ida's

In working as a taxi dancer, Guglielmi spent a great deal of time around caves. jn his featureSi it women. He quickly learned what pleased them—how to mirror them in was easy to trace subtle ways, how to put them at ease (but not too much). He began to pay resembIance to hlsfather and to his mother. He was attention to his clothes, creating his own dapper look: he danced with a caIled after them too oor corset under his shirt to give himself a trim figure, sported a wristwatch his name was (considered effeminate in those days), and claimed to be a marquis. In 1915, Hermaphroditus. As soon

, 111.1 i .i r ii i as he was fifteen, he left he landed a job demonstrating the tango in fancy restaurants, and changed hh natvye Mls and Ida his name to the more evocative Rodolpho di Valentina. A year later he where he had been brought moved to Los Angeles: he wanted to try to make it in Hollywood. uP, andfor the sheerjoy of traveIIing visited remote

Now known as Rudolph Valentino, Guglielmi appeared as an extra in , 6

pIaces. . . .He went as far several low-budget pictures. He eventually landed a somewhat larger role in as the cities of Lycia, and the 1919 film Eyes of Youth, in which he played a seducer, and caught on to the Carians, wh° women's attention by how different a seducer he was: his movements were dweI1 nearby In this region he spied a pooI of water, so graceful and delicate, his skin so smooth and his face so pretty that when dear that he collld see right he swooped down on his victim and drowned her protests with a kiss, he to the bottom. ... The seemed more thrilling than sinister. Next came The Four Horsemen of the water was Iike crysta1, and ApocaIypse in which Valentino played the male lea^ Julio the p^yticy and became an overnight sex symbol through a tango sequence in which he se- grass that was aIways duced a young woman by leading her through the dance. The scene encap- green. A nymph sulated the essence of his appeal: his feet smooth and fluid, his poise almost [SaImaciss dweIt there. . . . often she wouId feminine, combined with an air of control. Female members of the audi- gather f[owers, and it so ence literally swooned as he raised a married woman's hands to his lips, or happened that she was shared the fragrance of a rose with his lover. He seemed so much more at- engaged in this pastime when she caught sight of tentive to women than other men did; but mixed in with this delicacy was the boy Hermaphroditus. a hint of cruelty and menace that drove women wild. As soon as she had seen

In his most famous film, The Sheik, Valentino played an Arab prince him, she Ionged to possess him. . . .She addressed

(later revealed to be a Scottish lord abandoned in the Sahara as a baby) who him. "Fair boy you sureiy rescues a proud English lady in the desert, then conquers her in a manner deserve to be thought a god. Ifyou are, perhaps that borders on rape. When she asks, "Why have you brought me here?,"

you may be Cupid?. . .If he replies, "Are you not woman enough to know?" Yet she ends up falling there is such a girl [engaged to you], let me enjoy your in love with him, as indeed women did in movie audiences all over the love in secret: but if there is world, thrilling at his strange blend of the feminine and the masculine. In not, then I pray that I may one scene in The Sheik, the English lady points a gun at Valentino; his rebe your bride, and that we sponse is to point a delicate cigarette holder back at her. She wears pants;

may enter upon marriage together." The naiad said he wears long flowing robes and abundant eye makeup. Later films would no more; but a blush include scenes of Valentino dressing and undressing, a kind of striptease stainedthe boy's cheeks for showing glimpses of his trim body. In almost all of his films he played some he did not know what love was Even blushingbecame exotic period character—a Spanish bullfighter, an Indian rajah, an Arab him: his cheeks were the sheik, a French nobleman—and he seemed to delight in dressing up in jew-

colour of ripe apples, els and tight uniforms. hanging in a sunny orchard, ikepaintedivory oriike In the 1920s, women were beginning to play with a new sexual free-

the moon when, in eclipse, dom. Instead of waiting for a man to be interested in them, they wanted to she shows a reddish hue be able to initiate the affair, but they still wanted the man to end up sweep-

beneath herbrightness. . . . them off their feet. Valentino understood this perfectly. His off-screen Incessantly the nymph demanded at least sisterly life corresponded to his movie image: he wore bracelets on his arm, dressed kisses, and tried to put her impeccably, and reportedly was cruel to his wife, and hit her. (His adoring arms round his ivory neck. public carefully ignored his two failed marriages and his apparently nonex-

"orlshallrim away and istent sex life.) When he suddenly died—in New York in August 1926, at leave this place and you!" the age of thirty-one, from complications after surgery for an ulcer—the

Salmacis was afraid: "1 response was unprecedented: more than 100,000 people filed by his coffin, yield the spot to you, stranger, I shall not many female mourners became hysterical, and the whole nation was spell-

intrude," she said; and, bound. Nothing like this had happened before for a mere actor. turningfromhim, pretended to^meanwhile ^Mnking There is a film of Valentino's, Monsieur Beaucaire, in which he plays a total himselfunobservedand fop, a much more effeminate role than he normally played, and without his alone, strolled this way and usual hint of dangerousness. The film was a flop. Women did not respond that on the grassy sward, to Valentino as a swish. They were thrilled by the ambiguity of a man who and dipped his toes in the lapping water_then his shared many of their own feminine traits, yet remained a man. Valentino feet, up to the ankles. dressed and played with his physicality like a woman, but his image was

Then, tempted by the masculine. He wooed as a woman would woo if she were a man—slowly, enticing coolness of the waters, he quicklystripped attentively, paying attention to details, setting a rhythm instead of hurrying his young body of its soft to a conclusion. Yet when the time came for boldness and conquest, his garments. At the sight, timing was impeccable, overwhelming his victim and giving her no chance Salmacis was spell-bound.

She was on fire with to protest. In his movies, Valentino practiced the same gigolo's art of leading passion to possess his a woman on that he had mastered as a teenager on the dance floor—

nakedbeauty, andher very chatting, flirting, pleasing, but always in control.

eyes flamed with a briH^^ Me that of the Valentino remains an enigma to this day. His private life and his charac-

dazzling sun, when his ter are wrapped in mystery; his image continues to seduce as it did during bright disc is reflected in a his lifetime. He served as the model for Elvis Presley, who was obsessed mirror. . . . She longed to with this star of the silents, and also for the modern male dandy who plays embrace him then, and with difficulty restrained with gender but retains an edge of danger and cruelty.

her frenzy. Seduction was and will always remain the female form of power and Hermapgroditus,clapping warfare. It was originally the antidote to rape and violence. The man who his hollow palms against uses this form of power on a woman is in essence turning the game around, employing feminine weapons against her; without losing his masculine identity, the more subtly feminine he becomes the more effective the seduction. Do not be one of those who believe that what is most seductive is being devastatingly masculine. The Feminine Dandy has a much more sinister effect. He lures the woman in with exactly what she wants—a familiar, pleasing, graceful presence. Mirroring feminine psychology, he displays attention to his appearance, sensitivity to detail, a slight coquettishness—but also a hint of male cruelty. Women are narcissists, in love with the charms of their own sex. By showing them feminine charm, a man can mesmerize and disarm them, leaving them vulnerable to a bold, masculine move.

The Feminine Dandy can seduce on a mass scale. No single woman really possesses him—he is too elusive—but all can fantasize about doing so. The key is ambiguity: your sexuality is decidedly heterosexual, but your body and psychology float delightfully back and forth between the two poles.

I am a woman. Every artist is a woman and should have a taste for other women. Artists who are homosexual cannot be true artists because they like men, and since they themselves are women they are reverting to normality.

—PABLO PICASSO

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