Mercedes de Acosta. She was notorious for walking the streets of New York in mannish pants, pointed shoes trimmed with buckles, tricorn hat, and cape. Her chalk white face, deep-set eyes, thin red lips, and jetblack hair slicked back with brilliantine (jell) prompted Tallulah Bankhead, actress and beauty, to call Mercedes Countess Dracula. This is really a case of “the kettle calling the pot black.” In reality, Tallulah seems to have slept with the same lesbians as Mercedes: (Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Eva Le Gallienne, and Alla Nazivoa).
“That Furious Lesbian!”
Mercedes had a reputation. One night the painter/photographer, Cecil Beaton, accompanied her to the threatre. Later he wrote in his diary that he sensed people were looking at him and questioning why he was associated with “that furious lesbian.” Mercees often boasted of her sexual prowess, saying “I can get any woman from any man.” There was perhaps justification for Alice B. Toklas’s observation, “Say what you will about Mercedes de Acosta, she’s had the most important women of the twentieth century.”
Enter Alla Nazimova
In 1916, Mercedes met the Russian actress Alla Nazimova who had wowed all the critics with her sensational performances of Ibsen’s heroines. A romantic relationship quickly developed between them
Hello Isadora Duncan
A year later, Mercedes established a long-time liaison with the internationally famous dancer Isadora Duncan.’
Marriage to a Man – (with a woman on the side).
Mercedes married wealthy portrait painter, Abram Poole. This was a somewhat difficult decision and she wrote that she could knot make up her mind.
It was around this time that Mercedes met the young and ambitious actress Eva La Galienne just three days before Mercedes’ s marriage.
She went on her honeymoon with Abraham and then began a five-year romantic relationship with Eva.
Moving to Hollywood: Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich
In 1931, Mercedes met Greta Garbo. It was the beginning of a twelve-year relationship that was hot and cold and unpredictable. They lived together for a time in 1932. They vacationed together and were intimate friends. It was Greta who called an end to the relationship around 1946. A sad poem from Mercedes to Greta:
You belong to me.
Some things just belong to other things;
There is no other way. Why not let us then say,
for example . . . the salt to the sea,
A bird to the sky . . . and you to me!
Greta Withdraws – Mercedes has an Affair with Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was married, but it did not stop her showering Mercedes daily with flowers. Before her departure for Europe, Marlene wrote to Mercedes:
“It will be hard to leave Hollywood now that I know you.”
There is a letter or note where Marlene knew that she would be late for a dinner party hosted by Mercedes, her message is very clear (and sexy).
“My Love. . . . please do eat and go to bed and wait for me there.”