DCS: marvel rea

Seventeen-year old Marvel Rea joined up with the Keystone Film Company, landing a spot among the famed Sennett Bathing Beauties, a celebrated group of young ladies assembled by producer Mack Sennett. The Bathing Beauties made promotional appearances for the movie studio and were well received where ever they went. Marvel made her film debut in 1918 alongside Ford Sterling in the Hollywood satire Her Screen Idol. She went on to make over two dozen silent films in a five year period.

Marvel married in 1918, but accusations of physical abuse and rampant drug use by her husband ended the union after just a month.

Just before Labor Day 1936, Marvel was walking alone down 107th Street and Compton Avenue in Los Angeles. Three young men in a red truck slowed down to Marvel’s walking pace. One of the men offered Marvel a ride home. Marvel politely refused the offer. Instead of driving away, the men attacked her. They grabbed Marvel, threw her into the back of the truck and sped off. They eventually stopped at a secluded wooded area fifteen blocks away. The men first beat Marvel then — one by one — raped her. Marvel suffered a seizure during the attack, which startled her assailants. They fled the scene, leaving her as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Marvel lay for four hours until she could gather enough strength to seek help.

The three men were found and arrested by police, charged with kidnapping and assault. All three denied the accusations. In early 1937, the trio of attackers were sentenced to up to fifty years for their crimes. After serving only three years, they were released on technicalities that occurred during their trial.

Just nine months after the brutal attack, Marvel purposely ingested insecticide and took her own life. She was 35 years old.

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inktober52: egg (part 2)

One day, a New York City couple dropped several of their ten children off at an orphanage and left… never to be seen by their abandoned children again. One of those kids was Edith Massey.

Edith wound up in a foster home, where she endured cruel treatment. She put up with it as long as she could. As a teenager, she ran away to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a movie star. She became a barmaid instead. She married a soldier just after World War II, but she grew restless with married life and took off once again. She found herself in Baltimore, tending bar at a hotel. A customer — aspiring film maker John Waters — offered her a role in a project he was working on — an off-beat black comedy called Multiple Maniacs. Edith accepted the dual role of a barmaid and the Virgin Mary in a fantasy sequence. She soon quit her job at the hotel and opened a thrift shop. She also took roles in Waters’s subsequent productions, including her most memorable (and outrageous) performance as “Edie the Egg Lady” in the cult classic Pink Flamingos. Riding her popularity, Edith formed a punk band featuring future Go-Go’s drummer Gina Schock. Edie and the Eggs covered the Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and toured the country, sometimes in support of Waters’s film premieres. Her underground fame grew, as Edith posed for a series of risqué greeting cards. Using her earnings from her acting, Edith opened another thrift store, this one in Venice, California, where she stayed when it got too cold in Baltimore. Edith even appeared in a music video with John Cougar Mellencamp, as well as appearing on the cover of his 1980 album, Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did.

In an attempt to branch out, she auditioned for her first non-John Waters film — Paul Bartel’s Western spoof Lust in the Dust. However, Edith became ill prior to filming and had to drop out. She passed away in 1984 from complications related to cancer and diabetes. Edith was 66. A more unlikely star there never was.

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DCS: william dorsey swann

Almost a century before Stonewall, William Dorsey Swann — known to his acquaintances as “The Queen” — fought for gay rights.

Born into slavery around 1860, William grew up in a tumultuous time in American history. He was freed under Abraham Lincoln‘s Emancipation Proclamation, but the Ku Klux Klan were a rising power in the campaign of suppression. William, one of the first documented Americans to use the term “drag queen,” was a fierce proponent of equal treatment for all people — specifically blacks and more specifically gay blacks. William organized regular drag balls for formerly-enslaved colleagues in secret locations throughout the Washington, DC area. While no laws regarding cross-dressing existed, William was careful to avoid the wrath of local police who looked for any excuse to harass and incarcerate those whom they deemed “different” and “threatening.”

In 1882, police discovered one of William’s lavish gatherings and arrested the organizer for silverware. William was furious. He and other attendees clashed with police, culminating in a violent resistance. The drag balls were often raided by police, resulting in the first documented arrest for charges of female impersonation in 1888. In 1896, William was again arrested, this time for running a brothel, a false charge, and jailed for 10 months. He wrote to President Cleveland requesting a pardon. His request was denied, but, undiscouraged, he continued to be a vocal supporter of gay rights.

William eventually passed the drag ball organization duties on to his brother, who happily continued the traditions. He even designed and created elaborate costumes with William as his inspiration.

William also mysteriously dropped out of history records. It is unclear when exactly he passed away.

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DCS: cicely tyson

After several minor roles in movies and television, Cicely Tyson was recognized for her soulful and passionate role in the 1972 film Sounder. She was honored with Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. From there, Cicely’s career took off. With critical acclaim and more awards, she became an inspirational figure in the field of entertainment. She conquered stage, screen and television, receiving regular accolades from fans and peers alike.

In the early 60s, Cicely dated jazz trumpeter Miles Davis while he was finalizing a divorce. He told Cicely they would marry, but he married another woman instead. Over a decade later, after that marriage had failed, Miles and Cicely rekindled their romance and married in 1981. Due to Miles’ volatile temper and substantial drug use, their marriage was doomed. However, Miles Davis credits Cicely for helping him to end his cocaine addiction, thus saving his life. Cicely and Miles divorced in 1989.

Cicely was discerning about her roles, but that didn’t hinder her. She appeared in a music video at 86 years-old and she won a Tony Award for her performance in A Trip to Bountiful, becoming the oldest recipient of the award. Beginning in 2014, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series five times. She worked constantly — right up until her death on January 28, 2021 at the age of 96, two days after the publication of her autobiography.

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