by Doran Wittelsbach
B U A Productions
1701 Broadway #347, Vancouver, WA 98663
In the second issue of Bloody Beautiful, Doran Wittelsbach leads us on another journey into the rarified realm of the glories of yesteryear, and showcases those who will not let these orthodoxies remain past. With its silver-embossed cover and included vinyl disc of songs by superb crooner Al Bowlly, as well as tasty numbers by Lillian Harvery & Willie Fritsch, Sophie Tucker, and Fred Douglas singing “Let’s All Be Fairies,” there is plenty to intrigue and edify. Particularly fascinating is material about the artistic duo Mc Dermott & McGough, who live in a self-imposed time warp in absolute resistance to contemporary culture.
"Throw your coat on the lion," Doran Wittelsbach instructed me upon entering his home, and so I draped my sodden raincoat across the back of the rather mild-mannered taxidermied lion guarding the foyer. "He's obviously a relic from a natural-history museum," said Mr. Wittelsbach of his pet, "as he's not roaring for some Hemingway."
I have journeyed to Vancouver, Wash., to track down Mr. Wittelsbach, who is the editor and publisher of Bloody Beautiful, a magazine devoted to urbanity and the debonair life. As we live in an age of gaucheries beyond calculation, Bloody Beautiful's focus falls, with some exceptions, between the years 1880 and 1940, and Mr. Wittelsbach lives what he celebrates.
In an immaculate wool suit complete with waistcoat and spats, Mr. Wittelsbach sits smoking in his favorite chair with an ornate ashtray close to hand. He sports tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses and an Assyrian goatee in which the hair is curled at the tip. He is of indeterminate age and has the flawless pallor of a fellow heliophobe. Indeed, natural light has been banished from his home's interior, and one must glimpse his astonishing collection of Victoriana and gothic revival bric-a-brac through the dim glow from a cast of lamps and the fug of innumerable Benson & Hedges.
By way of a manifesto, Bloody Beautiful is content to list individuals who were "unabashedly themselves, bravely beautiful with no deathbed conversions to mediocrity, religious or secular": Erich Von Stroheim, Cecil Beaton, Charles Addams, Edith Sitwell, Alexander Woollcott, George Sanders, Tallulah Bankhead, etc. There are also a scattering of modern icons: Klaus Nomi , Klaus Kinski and Anton La Vey, the high priest of the Church of Satan.
"I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. La Vey," Mr. Wittelsbach admitted between exhalations. "The confused lump him in with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne. But he was much more like H.L. Mencken or Mark Twain...idealists who raged against bad culture." The two leading figures in Mr. Wittelsbach's pantheon are King Ludwig II of Bavaria (the gloriously profligate patron of Wagner) and John Barrymore. In fact, "Wittelsbach" was Ludwig's family name, and so was adopted by the young editor. As for Barrymore, portions of his wardrobe hang in Mr. Wittelsbach's armoire.
One living person with whom Mr. Wittelsbach is close is the New York artist David McDermott, a radical, raw food dandy who daily spends his life in the early 1900s with his partner, Peter McGough.