Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Great Gay Loves: A Valentine's Week Celebration! Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Okay, now that I've got my silly and cynical side satisfied with yesterday's video blog, I can help us all jump into a delicious celebration of Great Gay LOVES!

Alice B. Toklas (left) and Gertrude Stein (right)
The most famous lesbian couple in the world of their time!

On her first day in Paris in 1907, Alice B. Toklas, 30 years old, from San Francisco, met Gertrude Stein, who was 33.

From 1912 until the end of Gertrude Stein's life in 1946, they lived together, hosting an incredible Paris salon (gathering) of soon-to-be world-famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald and painters like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque!

Gertrude Stein was also famous for her cubist writing style. She wrote books (like "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas")

And she even wrote the libretto to an opera, "Four Saints In Three Acts."

Here's Stein's "Love Song of Alice B." from "A Sonatina Followed by Another" (1921)

I caught sight of a splendid Misses. She had handkerchiefs and kisses. She had eyes and yellow shoes she had everything to choose and she chose me. In passing through France she wore a Chinese hat and so did I. In looking at the sun she read a map. And so did I. In eating fish and pork she just grew fat. And so did I. In loving a blue sea she had a pain. And so did I. In loving me she of necessity thought first. And so did I. How prettily we swim. Not in water. Not on land. But in love. How often do we need trees and hills. Not often. And how often do we need birds. Not often. And how often do we need wishes. Not often. And how often do we need glasses not often. We drink wine and we make, well we have not made it yet. How often do we need a kiss. Very often and we add when tenderness overwhelms us we speedily eat veal. And what else, ham and a little pork and raw artichokes and ripe olives and chester cheese and cakes and caramels and all the melon. We still have a great deal of it left. I wonder where it is. Conserved melon. Let me offer it to you.

With all that, maybe Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were MOST famous for being themselves - being an OUT lesbian couple in a time when that was beyond rare.

What a great love!

I found "The Love Song of Alice B" as well as a super article on Gertrude Stein in "The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most influential Gay Men and Lesbians, past and present" by Paul Russell (pgs. 27-30) The link is to a newer edition than mine, so the page citation may have changed, but it's a wonderful resource.


Tricia said...

Hi Lee,
Colleen over at Chasing Ray did a great review of the new picture book biography of Gertrude Stein that includes Alice and her importance in Gertrude's life. You may want to link to it for readers who are interested.
I've read it and think it's terrific!

Here's the link!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Tricia, Thanks for pointing that out - Colleen made a great find with that picturebook! I can't wait to read it.