Tuesday, March 11, 2008


“La suerte de la fea, la bonita lo desea.”

"The luck of the plain girl the beauty can only wish for – from a medieval Spanish aphorism.

Pandit Ram Gopal (http://narthaki.com/info/profiles/profil29.html) and Uday Shankar (http://narthaki.com/info/profiles/profile2.html) brother of Ravi Shankar, both now dead are considered by
most lovers of the Dance; two of the world’s greatest Hindu classical dancers. Ram Gopal took the Oriental dance to new heights. Son of a Rajput warrior and a fine featured Burmese lady, he danced in pure gold loincloths encrusted with precious jewels.

He was so spellbinding,
that Vaslav Nijinsky (http://www.nypl.org/research/lpa/nijinsky/home.html); unquestionably the greatest classic and modern dancer of all time saw Ram Gopal dance in London and was entranced.

After the performance Nijinsky accompanied by his wife Romola ventured backstage to meet Ramji and talk to him about the mudras and the body movements of Bharatanatyam (http://www.artindia.net/bharata.html).

Then Nijinsky did something unexpected but perfectly consonant with one who would be considered in time as the Father of Modern Ballet. He touched Ram’s leg mu
scles and ran his strong fingers on his hands and face.

“I think I now understand the mechanics of your movements,”” he declared. Ram tried to explain in more detail. This was Nijinsky standing before him. Hundreds of fans and well-wishers waited outside his dressing room in Covent Garden. “Never mind. When will the world ever witness another dancer like Nijinsky?”

Nijinsky ran his eyes slowly towards Ram’s desk. Photographs of Ram and Nijinsky adorned it. His eyes stopped abruptly at the gold-framed likeness of Hedy Lamarr. She was the only woman in the picture gallery. “Who is that vision?” he gasped and reached out to hold his wife Romola’s hands. She and Ram exchanged meaningful looks. For a few moments there was a reverential silence. “Mamushka, who is that Goddess?’ persisted Nijinsky. Ram took the initiative and replied.“

You are gazing at Hedy Lamarr.” “She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. It’s almost frightening. I think she is also a dancer yes?” asked Nijinsky. “Mon Ange, she is Delilah,” said Romola. (Hedy Lammar starred as Delilah in Cecile B. DeMilles’s motion picture "Samson and Delilah” in 1949).

“Ravissant.I will never forget her, ’’ replied Vaslav Nijinsky.

Ram placed her photograph in his hands. Nijinsky continued gazing wordlessly.
Nijinsky died in 1950 of acute nephritis.

(Hedy Lammar starred as Delilah in Cecile B. DeMilles’s motion picture "Samson and Delilah” in 1949).

Twenty-eight years later, Ram Gopal would introduce me to Countess Romola de Pulski, wife and widow of the magnificent Vaslav. She told me that Vaslav insisted on watching "Samson and Delialah" dozens of times. He devoted many hours studying her sinuous dance movements.
For the benefit of those of you who are not balletomanes, Vaslav Nijinsky went publicly mad at the age of 26, a few years after World War One. He stopped dancing and the world has not stopped mourning him to this day. Since then every great dancer has been compared to Nijinsky. No one has ever quite made the grade according to fans and critics.

Pandit Ram Gopal was like a father figure to me. When my youngest children grew out of their teens he told me, “Darling, I feel like a grandfather.”
It is to Pandit Ramji that I owe the awareness of the ethereal and encircling beauty of Hedy Lamarr.

“Garbo had those marvelous bones and an impenetrable enigmatic character. Dietrich was also endowed with marvelous looks. She knew how to play with light. I know them well enough to consider them friends. And yet, there is no one of the dead and living legends of Hol
lywood who even comes close to Hedy Lamarr. She was a natural beauty. The Cosmic forces created her. She is my favorite beauty and will remain so forever.”

I learnt from Ramji that she had a quick and articulate tongue and often fulminated fools with expressions worthy of Oscar Wilde. He had a VHS video and I was able to see most of her films on a 60 inch Mitsubishi screen.

Most importantly when describing her, Ramji concentrated on her intellect; her scientific mind and her natural feel for electronics.

Maybe she should be known as He"a"dy Lamarr: inventor, scientist and electronic pioneer. The actress dimmed when one confronted her technological and scientific achievements. I think her acting career got in the way of intellectual brilliance.

Perhaps she herself was not fully convinced that she was a genius.
She had the example if not the inspiration of Dr. Marie Curie, who was also very beautiful. Fortunately for Marie, she was taken under the wing of Dr. Pierre Curie, who admired and respected her work. He also became her Mentor and husband. They became partners and colleagues, in scientific experiments. Hollywood is the land of illusion.

Nowhere is Maya- illusion more destructive than in that spread of smog and endless freeways. Actors are insecure individuals in search of an identity. Hedy Lamarr did not need one, although it is possible that she may have thought she did. Perhaps she had not found her inner self, or her opponents too powerful. In any case she was unable to affirm herself within the scientific community by hook or by crook.

She and composer George Antheil are credited with one of the key patents that is the foundation modern cell phone communications – especially, secure communications. For more information on the patent check out Spread Spectrum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spread_spectrum). I am not at all surprised that she turned to a musician with a high knowledge of music to solve the problem that even the great Tesla was unable to resolve.

“What is music after all but Mathematics made invisible?” affirmed Leonardo (da Vinci)

While she was struggling to convince the US Navy of the usefulness of changing and hopping frequencies, where was Howard Hughes? This is not meant to be a rhetorical question. He prided himself on his pioneering instincts, his knowledge of Physics and Aerodynamics. He was of no use to Hedy Lamarr. Ever. Perhaps the world over rated him? Worse, he was himself an actor, playing at being the Genius when he had never been one. He was just a willful rich young man with innovative ideas. For all we know, Hughes might even have hindered her scientific efforts. He was psychotic, greedy and a paranoid addict. All those hundreds of starlets, actresses, actors and stars he supposedly fornicated with paint a false portrait. It was unadulterated deceit. They re-inforced the illusion of a fertile body and an endlessly rich mind. Trash and Rubbish. His mind was fried by endless use of uppers and downers and mainlining the best morphine. It would not surprise me if it were concocted expressly for him. By the wartime Forties I think he was so impotent that a vertical splinter on his Willie would not have held it up.

The unmitigated and predictably sexist and narrow mind shown by the US Navy, and all the Armed Forces, is still evident to this day. Just look at the number of sexual assaults on women in the military. No, I am in no way implying Hedy Lamarr was physically abused. But yes indeed, she was used and abused shamelessly. The fact that she “gave” her knowledge”, which all those idiotic and one track minded males had failed to grasp much less understand does not exculpate their reprehensible and unconscionable behavior.
I was not there so I cannot and will not put my hand in the fire if she did indeed give all her electronic and scientific gifts away - out of her own free will and without any psychological or emotional pressure. I have my doubts.

Inventors are a whimsical lot, we are told. Fools they are not.
If she was swayed by emotions for her new country I should like to think that in the silence of the night many years later as she faced her solitude and her hardships, she came to rue her action of noblesse oblige towards uncivilized savages. Incredibly rich corporations (in the billions) in telecommunications now use her inventions.

I met a couple of these men. One was the Finnish Olilla of Nokia. When I mentioned her name in regard to the wireless communication he smiled in recognition.
“We owe her much,” he said. “Why don’t you build a statue in Nokia’s headquarters and set up a two hundred thousand euro award to be known as “The Lamarr Prize in Electronics and Science?” In matters like these I never lack for boldness. Nothing came of it. Years later, Ollilla committed suicide, or perhaps he was suicided. From Nokia there is only a deafening silence.

The other chap is Marco Tronchetti Provera, the former chairman and master of Telecom Italia. Sigh! Patienza! His engineers did not even know who she was.
Life is unjust and unfair. We are all aware of that. We don't have to like it or resign ourselves to this. We must, indeed commit ourselves to changing or making a dent in what seems the inevitability of the injustice.

Even in the 21st century, a woman let us say even a
plain woman could not get ahead without powerful sponsors. They, ca va sans dire would give her a pittance and use their power to marginalize her. If she happens to be a beautiful woman nothing would be done without the de rigueur seduction scene. I refuse to apologize if my cynicism is showing.

What I am about to say may shock some. I don’t give a toss. Hedy Lamarr stood a better chance of developing her knowledge and being richly rewarded for it, in addition to having honors pilled upon her IF she had remained in Austria or Germany, or best yet, Switzerland. The Swiss have very strong copyright laws. Why do you think Einstein deposited all his theories and findings in Berne? He had worked in the Patent Office and he was not only a genius, he was street smart.

I shall cite one example of a beautiful and famous 25-year-old German actress who was singled out by Hitler and created documentaries the likes of which Hollywood could never do. They did create documentaries but ach! She was the first to think up new ways of filming. So, all they could do was imitate her. True, she is still being maligned in the land of Holly, Dolly and Folly, but they are shamelessly still copying her techniques.

She is Lena Riefenstahl.
After World War two she was ostracized. Undeterred, she turned to photography. Her books on the Nouba tribe of the Sudan are spectacular. To die for! Then at the age of 70, she undertook a new career. Underwater filming. Gorgeous, unusual and unique as ever.

I have heard that a couple of movies are being planned or palavered in the US about Hedy Lamarr. Ay Gewaltz! Quelle Horreur! God help us! I think European producers and directors would do a stronger and more erudite portrayal. To say nothing of a far more respectful treatment of the heady Hedy Lammar: Scientist, Inventor, and Pioneer. Let’s get real here. Hedy Lamarr’s life was the stuff of Greek tragedies.

A dear friend, Charles Fernley Fawcett who died peacefully at the age of 92 this February 2, fell in love with Hedy Lamarr in Rome while they were both doing a film with Orson Welles and Errol Flynn. A few months before his death, Charlie told me that her brain swept him off his feet.

She was so much more than just a beautiful woman. Where are the philanthropists who claim a predilection for Science? Bill Gates spent billions vaccinating children in Africa. But thinkers, vaccination does NOT mean those millions of children are immunized. I wonder if Bill Gates even knows about a genius like Hedy Lamarr?
Herr George Soros, you are a cultured and sophisticated European. Would it be too much to ask for a grant to several Universities spread throughout the five continents honoring Hedy Lamarr at long last?

For more information about Hedy Lamarr - there are numerous websites and I recommend them to you.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Nijinksy, the historian Modris Eksteins wrote an incisive chapter about him in a book "Rites of Spring" (c 1990?) about the decadent Modernist "Culture of Death" which seems to have begun shortly before the Great War. That very ballet (after which the book was titled), whose subject was pre-Christian rituals involving human sacrifice, seems to have been an early-warning-sign of the neo-Paganism and inversions of Life and Death (and the conflations of "art" and politics) which overwhelmed the West beginning in 1914, of which Nazi Germany was the most powerful representative in its time, and of which America's "entertainment" industries are the prime movers today.

    Maybe Nijinsky went mad around that time, precisely because he was one of the "antennae of the race", and he couldn't remain sane while seeing what he could see happening
    to the world more perspicaciously than others.

    Regarding Hollywood, as a cinephile I'm not an unreserved scold of everything Hollywood has ever been - but it's sure has hell turned to shite now. And it's no coincidence that many Nazis were not only enamoured, but also instructed by and emulated Hollywood's populist techniques of propaganda. "Populist" is the operative - and most toxic - word.

    And, regarding Lamarr the inventor (of which I had never learned until now; once again your blog is a continuting education for me), that reminds me of another almost uknown story: The "Zeppelin" airship was designed by my great-grandfather, Francis Ball (1869-1936), an inventor and draftsman (and artist, etc) from near Bradford. He tried to sell his airship design to some of the "great and good" (and often insensible and barely sentient) of his own country, Britain, but received refusals from them all - because who the hell was he, the obscure grandson of a woolcomber?
    So he sold his plan to the Turkish government (the Ottoman Empire then), and they in turn sold it to Count Zeppelin who built it and put his name on it. As the Great War broke out shortly afterward, our family kept this a secret since the Turks and Germans had become our enemies. But there you go. Many, or most of the world's great inventions (and creations) are by the unknown or the unremembered.

    And finally, about Soros: Well it's public information that when I worked in Russia in the 1990s my endeavours were financed by his "Open Society Institute", a good idea in principle, but what I CAN say without violating any laws of defamation, is that in my informed opinion, Soros' philanthropic endeavours in Eastern Europe have become so bureaucratised that he has very little personal influence over the details of what actually happens on the ground - and BECAUSE OF that bureaucratisation (paradoxically the same disease which ruined Communist Eastern Europe), the effects of Soros's (perhaps well-intentioned) endeavours ON THE GROUND, where the pedestrians are, have tended to have opposite effects from what he intended.

    Yes I have some respect for Soros. But I fear, that if he authorised a "grant" to honour Hedy Lamarr at several universities, most of the money would dissolve through Soros' bureaucratic agents and mutate into something he never intended - metaphorically, perhaps something like a statue of Britney Spears and some postgrad courses on "The Gendered-Effects Of Inventions In The New Millenium", which in turn some cowboy-capitalist opportunists would use to their own venal advantages in the host countries.

    (So you see, Isabel, when it comes to personal struggles against becoming "cynical", you and I are in the same league.)

    But at any rate. Oh yeah, when I was a boy, when I first saw "Samson and Delilah", I was astonished by Hedy Lamarr, almost to the point of turning into a deer as happened to Acteon when he profaned the invisible sanctuary of the Goddess.
    But thank Goddess, Hedy Lamarr was one of us mortals after all, so I wasn't struck blind or turned into a beast; if anything, seeing a picture of her once again makes me a bit LESS beastly. ;-)


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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