NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS

Hard as I try – which isn’t all that hard as the first really hot day of the year forces me to strip most of my outer garments, threatening to scorch my recording studio tan – I can’t find Modigliani or his lover in the jumble of near identical rotting masonry and head instead towards perhaps the most famous inhabitant of Père Lachaise Cemetery, even more so than Jim, located halfway down Avenue Transversale Number Three…

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.

Which – despite the hype – I have to say is something of an anti climax.

Sure, the tomb is imposing, the Jacob Epstein sculpture of an Egyptianate winged angel with its balls chopped off makes a striking impression, but the whole effect is vastly diminished by the glass screen that ‘protects’ the piece from the thousands of lipstick kisses that used to adorn the monument. But perhaps the biggest insult of all is the big, white, ugly Maire de Paris stickers on each corner with the immortal words,

INFORMATION AU PUBLIC

PLEASE, RESPECT FOR THIS MEMORIAL.

OUT OF RESPECT FOR THIS GRAVE, PLEASE

DO NOT SULLY BY ANY MARK.

THE CLEANING FEES ARE EXCLUSIVELY

PAID BY THE FAMILY.

Thanks for your visit.

Hardly a fitting testament for a wordsmith of such legendary whit, this sinful court jester who famously confessed to being able to “resist anything but temptation…” And who decided that the kisses should be wiped off anyway? Does lipstick erode Hopton Wood stone? To whom in any way associated with the tomb does this offend?

Not Oscar I’m quite sure.

Our old friend Aleister Crowley reappears at this stage of the story, unsurprisingly in conjunction with the missing angel bollocks. When the monument was finally installed in 1912 French officials took exception to the size of the balls, which they had covered in plaster. Eventually a compromise was reached and in 1914 a bronze plaque in the shape of a butterfly was placed upon the testicles, which was then duly unveiled by Crowley.

Epstein was furious and refused to attend the unveiling, but a few weeks later whilst sitting minding his own business in a Parisian café, Crowley appeared wearing the butterfly around his neck to inform Epstein that the statue had been returned to its natural state.

This wasn’t the end of the story however, because someone nicked the knackers in 1961. It is said that the cemetery manager used them as a paperweight, but whatever the truth, they are now lost, the monument more homogenised than homoerotic behind its kiss-proof screen.

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