Where I write

Where I write

September 2, 2015

Floradora...the story behind the cocktail

At the restaurant where I work we have a drink on the menu called the Floradora. We've served this drink for a few months now, and one night as I waited for the bartender to mix cocktails to serve, I casually asked, "Why is that drink called Floradora?" She shrugged. "Corporate named it." Huh. I hadn't even wondered why it was called Floradora until that moment. I forgot about it. 

I just love coincidences, don't you? They are like messages from the heavens. A few days later, I was at my writer's group at Barnes and Nobles Bookstore. (Yes it is still in business though my fellow writers and myself worry all the time the doors will shut one day and we will have to meet at Applebee's). I was browsing through a cart loaded with books on sale when I came across one of those old style, hard back, Time Life books. It had big splashy photos of scandalous and horrible crimes committed during the last century. Frankly, I'm embarrassed to say, but it was fascinating to read. 

No the crime isn't the dead polar bear, though it should be. The crime involved this young girl, Evelyn Nesbit, who in this photo is pretending to be asleep on the bear skin. Evelyn was a Floradora girl.
Thanks to the book I happened upon, I learned Floradora was a famous London play, actually a set of plays, that came to Broadway at the beginning of the 20th century. Big deal back then. Who knew? Not me. 

Above are the hot Floradora ladies of the 1900s. Check out those ruffles. The women were what gave the production it's fame and zing. Or should I say, va va va voom! 

My have times have changed. Floradora women needed to be 5 feet four inches and 130 pounds. Nowadays if women are that weight, at that height, they are encouraged to enroll at Curves and eat more kale. Those were the good old days, never mind no penicillin or Internet.  Women could be plump.

Anyway, back to the woman pretending to snooze on the polar bear, Evelyn Nesbit. She had a troubled, impoverished youth, and came to New York City seeking fame and fortune. She was 16, maybe even younger, as her mother added years to her age so she could work. No child labor laws yet. Her looks were popular then, and she was soon given a slot as a Floradora performer.
If there had been reality shows then, Evelyn pictured here would have had her own. She'd have a twitter account. Evelyn's beauty was the talk of New York City. Of course as a popular dancer in a groovy Broadway show, she ran around with some rich, and yes, married men. And you thought scandal was reserved only for 2015 and the Kardashians. 
This rich cad, and famous architect, Stanford White,  lured her into his New York City mansion and had his way with her. Apparently, he was the Christen Grey of the 1900s. With a mustache that is. He was quite the playboy. Stanford here rigged a bedroom, (it had red wall paper in case you needed to know) with mirrors and a swing. A red swing. So Fifty Shades of Grey! Not sure where his wife was when Evelyn was at the mansion partying with this tycoon, perhaps out shopping for parasols and corsets. Or having babies. 

So Stanford drugged Evelyn's champagne. When she woke up in the morning she was no longer a virgin. The despicable act may have even happened right on that polar bear rug. Too bad the bear was dead, or it could have bit Stanford right in the...you know where.

At this point in the story, I'm thinking...management named a drink at the restaurant Floradora? Why not just call it Sex, Drugs and...ladies wearing big hats with feathers. It gets even more juicy.
A few years later, Evelyn our heroine marries this wild and crazy guy, Harry Thaw. She knew she couldn't dance forever and beauty fades.  He was very rich and rather, shall we say, nuts. He liked to whip people. Anyway, he was obsessed with the fact that Evelyn was not a virgin. He hated Stanford White for robbing his future bride of her virginity. Because there is no time period which does not include violence and guns, one June night in 1906, on the top of Madison Square Garden's, he shoots Stanford to death. It was said the play they had all been attending that night was boring. Perhaps if it has been more interesting...

The rest of the story involves courtroom drama, a mental institution, poverty and Evelyn's affair with the famous movie star John Barrymore. Oh and Evelyn even has a child who becomes a fighter pilot.  Quite a story. Except no one, including me, knew this tale of lust and woe where I work. We just thought Floradora was a funny sounding name. 

Now Evelyn would be tweeting everything that happened to her, the red swing, the dancing, the murder. With the immediacy of today's media, what seems so newsworthy fades and is replaced with something else. Just as we all will. So anytime you think you will be remembered after you are dead...guess again. Be nice to your grandchildren so at least they can name in you in old photos. No children? Me either. Oh well, you can fade into obscurity with me. Meanwhile, enjoy the ride.
Curious to see what Floradora tastes like? Here's the recipe. 
Actually, Floradora isn't a top seller at the restaurant. More people order the Blue Hawaiian because, well, it's blue. It's fun to drink blue stuff. 

By the way, Hollywood made a movie based on this story of Evelyn Nesbit. Looks dramatic and oh so 1960s.
It starred Joan Collins. Remember her from when she starred in the television show Dallas? She was rather famous for portraying a rich and devious woman.

Maybe it's time to name a drink Joan Collins. I'm certain one day, in the near future, someone will ask, "Who is Joan Collins?" And no one will remember. 

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