This globetrotting Irish woman was known for her particular style of dancing, but known also for her notorious love affairs. She landed for a time in a small town in North America, and befriended the 7-year-old daughter of boarding house owners down the street, whom she taught and encouraged. The daughter became very famous herself, known as the Nation's Darling. Who was the woman and her protégé ?
#116562. Asked by Datsmeharse. (Aug 07 10 10:25 AM)
Irish wowman: Lola Montez|
Her protege: Lotta Crabtree
One of the more colourful characters of the 19th century was Lola Montez (c. 1818-1861), who claimed to be a Spanish dancer, although she was actually Irish. She was best known for her "Spider Dance", a sort of tarantella which involved shaking rubber tarantulas out of her clothing in such a way as to provide generous views of her person. Among other exploits, she became the mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her a countess; she was the virtual ruler of the country until she was ousted during the revolution of 1848.
During a rare quiet period in her life, Lola lived in the Gold Rush country of California. She gave dancing lessons to a miner's daughter, Lotta Crabtree (1847-1924), who later became one of the greatest stars of the American stage. Interestingly enough, Lotta was noted for her Irish dancing, at least some of which she seems to have learned from Lola. Lotta also sang Irish songs and played the banjo. However, this would not have been what we now know as Irish banjo. The banjo at this period was the five-string banjo played in minstrel style (which we now call "old-timey"). Lotta's career as a child performer began with tours of the mining camps. Irishmen made up a sizeable fraction of the miners, hence Irish entertainment was very popular.
Born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree in 1847 in New York City to John Ashworth Crabtree, a bookseller and Mary Ann (Livesey) Crabtree, an upholsterer, both of English stock, Lotta was exposed early to the life of the theater and it's inhabitants in San Francisco when her father left New York in 1851, looking for gold. She and her mother followed him in 1852 only to find that he wasn't at the docks to meet them. They moved in with friends and soon Mary Ann involved them in a circle of actors which included the Chapmans, child actress Sue Robinson and many other popular actors of the 19th century. It was then that Lotta was first enrolled in dancing classes.
The following year, 1853, word arrived from John Crabtree to join him in Grass Valley, CA where he had it in his mind to run a boarding house for the miners (being that he hadn't struck it rich himself). Just two doors down from their boarding house, the infamous actress and Countess of Landsfeldt, Lola Montez herself had set up housekeeping. Mary Ann became acquainted with her and soon little Lotta, who adored Lola, became her protégé and was allowed to play in her costumes and dance to her German music box. Soon, though, the family packed and moved again to Rabbit Creek (La Porte) forty miles to the north and once again set up a boarding house.
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