Monday, March 25, 2013

Mata Hari, her Daughters and her Granddaughters

Mata Hari, her Daughters and her Granddaughters

(and her mom, too!)

In getting my class together for today's undergrads (Class w/Adjunct Proff: texting, sexting, sleeping and whining-about-grades, three credits), I came across a reference that Prince Clemens von Metternich used tons of waltz-crazy girls as part of his spy network at the Congress of Vienna.  Here's how they operated: they'd get a dance with a diplomat from, say, Prussia, Saxe-Colbert or someplace else that doesn't exist anymore, whirl them around the dance floor, let 'em get a good whiff of their perfume and maybe a little squeeze in here or there (but oh, not THERE), and these career diplomats would start spilling secrets left and right, especially if the girl was particularly beautiful and just not all that into him.  This is why Austria came out of the Congress of Vienna owning most of Europe and all of the Beer-'n-Schnitzel franchises after Wellington gave Napoleon the boot (with his Wellingtons, presumably) after Waterloo (the battlefield in Belgium, not the kick-ass water park in San Dimas in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure").  

Margaretha Geertruida
M'greetZelle McLeod
That got me to wondering: have women ever before or since then used their womanly-wiles to spy for their countries?  And that lead  me to that complete spy-babe of all time, Mata Hari.

First of all, Mata Hari was just her stripper-name; her real name was... is stuck under her picture over there.  Second, she wasn't Balinese --she was Dutch, born and bread in Friesland in the Netherlands, and even lived for a while in the town of Sneek (how appropriate), until the high school headmaster started flirting with her like crazy (dirty old bugger!), whereupon she moved to The Hague (known as the only city in the world whose name is preceded by a capitalized, definite article.  Look it up in your 5th grade grammar book).

The Hague was later referred to by Mata as The Disappointment, so she answered an ad in The Newspaper from a lonely Dutch soldier in Java (yes, that Java, where your stupid gourmet latte-chino is grown) who really wanted to get married (hey, this was before O.K. Cupid).

The Marriage was also later referenced as The Disappointment, because our lonely Dutch soldier insisted on keeping his Tuesday night poker game going --that, and keeping his native mistress out in the 4-room, two floor, hardwood floored garden shed --so Mata did what any other hot, young, away-from-home-for-the-first-time cutie would do: take a bunch of classes at community college.

She was in the stacks when they had this group shot taken
The class was hoochie-dancing-Java-style, and Mata was the best of all her classmates, even the Javanese trampy-mean-girls!  Soon, Mata Hari was wowing them at the local karaoke-bars that didn't seem to mind that all she did was strip during the song and didn't even make an attempt to lip-sync.  She and her now total douchebag husband moved back home to the Netherlands, but not before giving both their kids syphilis that they (the kids) eventually died from.

Mata then moved to Paris, divorced the douchebag, and worked in a grotty little circus, where she rode horses under the big-top and rode circus roustabouts in her trailer at night.  One of these boyfriends suggested she go into the fast-forward, cutting-edge field of soft-core porn, so that's what she did for a while.

Which one of you perverts stole my thong?  Honestly...
But her first love was still hoochie-dancing.  To further that artistic pursuit and bring in a wider, more respectable clientele, Mata Hari cleaned up her act a bit, added a chorus-line of fully clothed dancers who were all chosen for the single quality of being hot-but-not-hotter-than-Mata, added some more veils and bling, and presto!  she was sharing double-billing with that other exotic foreign import on Parisian strip-club stages, Josephine Baker.

Sure, Sistah Jo is an exotic beauty of negritude, but hey, I'm Dutch!
When World War I (the prequel to WWII, a.k.a. The (next) War to End All Life Wars) broke out, the Netherlands were neutral, so Mata Hari could pretty much go all over Europe with her hoochie-coochie act, which she did, until Scotland Yard got suspicious of all her trips through that perennial vacation-destination, Falmouth, England (Falmouth England's motto: we're no Falmouth Massachusetts!), and a super-studly inspector, Sir Basil Thompson, had her detained, questioned, interrogated and --get this --placed under house arrest at the Savoy-freaking Hotel in London while Sir Basil... investigated her, right-o Basil, me old son!
I totally WAS investigating
her... movements --wait, no.
During the course of those dates --ahem, interrogation sessions, Mata Hari let it slip that she was working for the French spy-gendarmes, which our pal Sir Basil totally believed, but couldn't keep his big mouth shut about their "interviews," especially in his creepy-British-old-dudes club, where all  the help worked for the German spy-polizei.  What happened next is fairly predictable, that is if you've ever read a spy novel while waiting for your effing-plane to board after NINE  HOURS  DELAY  in  PHOENIX which has the WORST AIRPORT  in the whole effing-WORLD.  Thank you for letting me vent.  Ahem.  This is what happened next:

The German spy-dudes sent a coded telegram to their ambassador in England, saying how helpful Secret Agent H-21 had been.  The only problem is that the British knew that H-21 was Mata Hari, and furthermore, they had already broken that "secret" German code, so they handed it right over to their friends in France.  The French then poured a couple of glasses of a particularly ironic bottle of  Bordeaux, said several witty, ironic, yet sadly existential phrases, arrested Mata Hari, took several more pictures of her in her hoochie-costume, stuck her in front of a firing squad, gave her one of those wicked-nasty French cigarettes, a blindfold, a kiss on each cheek, offered her dependents free national healthcare, a flat in Arras, three paid weeks vacation in Nice, and then shot her because even the French don't like double-agents.  Those meanies!
Shoot me! No more of those nasty cigarettes!

HOWEVER: historians (and even Adjunct Proff) want to know if those crafty Germans sent the message, etc., etc., knowing full well that the British had it all figured out (they had Agatha Christie working for them at the time), in order to have the French do the dirty work for them by tricking them into executing their own highly effective secret agent?  If you're at all like me (and you'd be much happier if you were), you'd want these questions answered.  The trouble is, the Krauts who cooked up all this plot-and-counter-plot are all dead, and nobody left anything written about just what Mata was up to when she wasn't shaking her money-makers, so I guess we'll never know for sure.

So, any other famous female spies?  Well, during the same war, the Germans executed an English nurse working in occupied Belgium, Edith Cavell.  Her cover-job was a nurse, and even though she was ruthlessly questioned about it at her trial, there is no evidence whatsoever that she danced the hootchie-cootchie --although she really could rock a naughty little nurse uniform.
Be a big boy and
bend over for me
Ethel Rosenberg: now there was a spy for ya.  She and her hubby, Julius (no relation to the Orange Julius at the mall) were scientists who worked on super-secret atomic bomb stuff.  When they were caught and tried for selling atomic secrets to the Soviets, the press coverage was as intense as the coverage Angelina Jolie's red-carpet couture choice gets these days.  It also unleashed a nasty bit of American antisemitism because the Rosenbergs were Jewish (surprise!) --so much, in fact, that their defenders claimed that they were innocent and that the Atomic scientific establishment in the USA just blamed "da Jews" that worked for them, instead of manning-up and admitting that any physics grad student could build an atomic bomb.  Once the Soviet Union imploded, their spy-guys, the KGB, leaked documents that proved the Rosenbergs really were their spies.  Sometimes, the anti-spy-guys gets it right.

We'd like the kosher last meal.
My favorite female spy?  When I was a lad, I went out clubbing in Moscow on a night in January when Moscow was still the capital of the Soviet Union and still had this killer bar, Uncle Sam's Bar and Grill, that was in the ground floor of the old U.S. Embassy.  I got to drinking with a Marine named Clayton Lonetree who was, besides being a Marine and mostly Apache, the boyfriend of this super-beautiful Russian co-ed at the U. of Moscow.  What he didn't tell me, his newest drinking-buddy from the States, was that he let her have the run of the place after their... study sessions.  That one little Russian Natasha had so much unsupervised access to confidential diplomatic shit that the KGB basically had to hire extra analysts to figure out the meaning of all the information she came back with.  Clayton Lonetree got an express trip to the Brig at Fort Pendleton, which is where he belongs because he stuck Adjunct Proff with his bar-tab that night at Uncle Sam's.
I must say, in my defense,
that she was smokin' hot.

So, pretty women everywhere, take heed: if you use your charm, beauty, wit and general off-da-hook hhhhhooooottttnnneeessssssssss to be a spy, you could be killed for your trouble like Mata Hari, Ethel Rosenberg and Edith Cavell.  Far better to use your feminine wiles for more traditional aims, like husband-hunting, job-hunting, all-access-backstage-getting, ruling the free world, and occasionally crying your way out of a speeding ticket.  Sure, there have been successful female spies, but we don't hear a whole lot about them because... because spies are supposed to be secret.  And however much fun Jennifer Garner looks like she's having on "Alias," remember: if you're a spy, you have to associate with total dickheads like Sloane.  And you can't hang-out with your friends as much as you want to.  And your college professors get on your case for cutting their class.  And you get SHOT  AT  at least 5 times per episode!  And I'm really glad Julie got me into watching "Alias;" now, if only she hadn't gotten me as far into Downton Abby as she did, I'd probably be a happier fellow today.

There's a spy here somewhere... I bet it's Bates!

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