Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Zelda Fitzgerald: the first flapper
Zelda Fitzgerald was a spoiled brat.
Her daddy was one of the most richest and prominent men in the South, so Zelda basically got away with doing whatever she wanted.
The teenage beauty smoke, drank, stayed out with boys all night, and spoke her mind freely, much to the shock of proper society.
When future literary superstar F. Scott Fitzgerald first saw her at a dance in Montgomery, Alabama, he was a goner. So was every other guy in the room.
The flirtatious southern belle fell madly in love with Scott, who was a soldier at the time. But being the snotty princess she was, she refused to marry him until his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was released in 1920.
Their rock star marriage shook the nation.
Whatever money came out of the success of Scott's novels was used towards designer clothes and outrageous, extravagant parties.
The two lovebirds splashed drunkenly in public fountains, rode on top of taxis, passed out in busy streets, and basically got kicked out of every single respectable establishment in New York City.
Their intoxicated shenanigans amidst prohibition were splashed all over the tabloids.
“Spinach and champagne. Going back to the kitchens at the old Waldorf. Dancing on the kitchen tables, wearing the chef’s headgear. Finally, a crash and being escorted out by the house detectives.”
-Zelda Fitzgerald, describing her life in the 1920s.
The 20-something beauty had short hair, wore short dresses, powdered makeup on her face, and carelessly flung long beads over her outfits. As a result, millions of young women around the world, desperate to be as cool, followed suit. The media deemed them "flappers."
Scott chronicled their adventures in his books, basing almost every female character on his dazzling wife.
Zelda even began writing stories herself, which were excellent. But in order to sell them, she had to put her husband's byline on them, revoking her credit. The smitten wife was not bitter, however, because in the 1920s, this was simply how the world worked.
Life for the wealthy young couple was far from perfect, however.
Scott's alcoholism was spiraling out of control. He became increasingly mean to Zelda and he began sleeping around.
His hero and close friend, Ernest Hemingway, publicly despised Zelda, and told anyone who would listen that she was the downfall of her husband's brilliant career.
Desperate to escape her wretched homelife, Zelda began pursuing ballet, a hobby she enjoyed as a child. Despite being told starting a dance career in her late 20s was absurd, Zelda practiced for hours every single day and enlisted the help of famous instructors.
But even though her talent was flourishing, her mind was not.
Perhaps due to her massive unhappiness and stressful life, Zelda began slipping into uncontrollable madness.
Zelda was finally admitted into a sanitarium in Paris for schizophrenia in 1930. Although she remained married, Scott had no intention of being faithful. He moved to Hollywood and the couple never got back together.
During her stay in the mental health facility, Zelda wrote autobiographical stories and painted ballerinas as a way to ease her suffering.
Sadly, she never regained enough sanity to be released.
In 1948, Zelda was locked in a room, awaiting electroshock therapy, when her mental health facility caught fire. It started in the kitchen and made its way to every single floor, at rapid speed.
Unable to escape the locked room, Zelda perished into the flames.