Some Minor Characters’ Biographies
Born 1880, Charleston, North Carolina, the fourth of seven children and the only one to live to adulthood. His parents had been slaves; after the civil war they moved to Charleston from the Winter family’s Georgia plantation where they’d been born. His mother, Matilda, worked as a laundress; his father Elijah as a rubbish collector until he died of tuberculosis when Arlen was six. His mother took the family to New York and settled in Harlem, where she found work as a dishwasher in a night club. She took her young son with her and Arlen was transfixed by the nightly cabaret. He became a favourite of the musicians and was given an old trumpet, on which he soon developed a virtuosic skill. By 1910, he was the most celebrated jazz trumpeter in New York.
When the United States entered the first World War, Arlen joined the 369th, the all-black infantry regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters. In April 1918 the entire regiment was assigned to the French Army and fought at many important battles, earning a reputation for great bravery. Arlen was one of only a handful of foreign soldiers to have been awarded the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military honour. During the war the 369th’s regimental band became famous throughout Europe, introducing the new jazz music. After the War, Arlen and other musicians settled in Paris or London, becoming wealthy, feted and integrated into society in a way that was impossible in deeply racist America.
Born 1872, a descendent of the Count Laski (1527-1605), in whose honour Giordano Bruno debated at Oxford, and who later became the patron, in Poland, of Dr. John Dee. He produced some of the first “talkies,” and helped to make Hollywood the international centre for film. His collaborations during the 1930’s with the writer and director Valentine St. John Vere have become classics.
Born 1875 in Dublin, the illegitimate scion of an old Anglo-Irish family. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he began a life-long friendship with Aleister Crowley. After university, they shared rooms in London, and together joined the Order of the Golden Dawn. Jarlath’s mentor in the Order was Theodora Damory; in 1905 he married her niece Maggie. Jarlath was regarded by many as the greatest portrait painter of his time, though he caused a scandal with his exhibition, in 1907, of paintings of prostitutes and drug addicts. He also became known for his travels in remote parts of Asia investigating native magical practices, and for his pioneering use of psychedelics.
Born 1884. One of the first “it” girls, and a great-granddaughter of the Earl of Sesley, her choice of acting as a profession shocked society although not her famously eccentric parents. Her early career was crowned by her notorious nude scene as Lady Macbeth in 1910, while pregnant with Alice. She was for many years the mistress of the Duke of Marlborough, and it was rumoured that he was the father of at least one of her children.
Born 1891. After the War, he joined the Foreign Office; in 1925 he was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament. He served without any distinction whatsoever until 1952, when his predilection for wearing nappies and being spanked was the subject of a sensational exposé by the Daily Mirror. Although his wife Cecily was suspected of having poisoned him, his death in 1953 was ruled an accident.