Wednesday, October 17
St. Audrey's Day: Break Out the Costume Jewelry
Today is the feast of St. Audrey (Æthelthryth or Æðelþryð, if you're more familiar with the Anglo-Saxon), who apparently died in AD 679 of a throat tumor, offering it up as reparation for her youthful taste in jewelry. From today's Irish Times, discussing the etymology of the word Tawdry:
Somehow, posterity missed the moral of the story. Instead, traders at the annual fair of St Audrey - on the Isle of Ely - saw a sales opportunity. The event became synonymous with the sale of cheap jewellery and lace, especially as neckwear. The saint's title became telescoped and the rest was etymological history. [...]Ladies, wear your most garish and tasteless necklace today to celebrate!
The best-known Audrey of modern times, ironically, had one of the most decorated necks in cinema history. As Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Audrey Hepburn cut an iconic image with her little black dress, long black gloves, and multiple-string pearl necklace. The look might have been showy, but it certainly wasn't cheap. When a version of her dress (there were three made for the film) was auctioned by Christies in London last year, it raised £467,000 sterling. Mind you, all the proceeds went to charity, so St. Audrey could hardly have complained.
Or maybe you can be more tastefully creative. We recall one time a female friend (name excised to protect the innocent) dressed up as "St. Audrey of Hepburn" for our All Saints Day Party, which wasn't quite what we were expecting when we sent out the invites. But since a) we deeply respect a woman who owns opera gloves and knows how to use them and b) other folks showed up as the Blues Brothers, Brett Favre, and a guy wearing a traffic cone on his head who mixed the drinks, we are not one to complain.
Speaking of ugly neckwear, this reminds me of one of the most bizarre moments in the run-up to the French Revolution. This was the "Affair of the Diamond Necklace" cooked up by con-woman Jeanne de la Motte to swindle the Cardinal de Rohan out of a good bit of cash. This worldly, groveling and rather naive sad-sack used to celebrate his private mass in a chamber painted with overfed mandarins (and a monkey extinguishing a candle with its own flatulence--as if you thought Vosko was bad enough) and occasionally called on that lovable Masonic moral void, the Count Cagliostro, for advice. Cagliostro, incidentally, was a chubby lightweight Sicilian version of Claude-Louis de St. Germain, who ended up as Criswell to the Cardinal's Ed Wood. But without the grave robbers from outer space bit. ("And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future," &c.)
My head hurts whenever I try to sort out the actual details of the scheme, but it involves forged letters purportedly from Marie-Antoinette (signed incorrectly as "Marie-Antoinette de France," sort of like if someone had gotten a letter from Tony Blair signed in crayon as "the Duke of Earl"), lèse majesté, a horribly ugly necklace called a "chandelier" in the slang of the day, and a Marie-Antoinette impersonator, Rohan getting thrown into the Bastille (which was actually kind of comfy as these things go) and somehow the poor queen getting blamed for the worst of it, despite the fact she didn't even want the necklace. Was it really worth cutting the poor woman's head off?
*Audrey Hepburn's beauty is proof for the existence of God, but that says nothing about heroic virtue. You can use a lot of morally neutral or even unsaintly things to prove the existence of a merciful God, like the fact that the Subway Announcers' Union headquarters (MMMMMMNNNNZOOOOOOOINNNNGGGG *crackle* bwhhwhbha hhwhhbmm OutofService on thehdshbahbahhabdabahda 6Train to Bowling Green *crackle*crackle*crackle) has not been struck by lightning.