The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer President Tom Schlafly
The Munich Oktoberfest began in September this year, specifically on Saturday, September 17th. Although this world-renowned beer festival named for October has actually started in September for as long as I can remember, such wasn’t always the case. The original Oktoberfest, a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, took place on October 12, 1810 and was thus appropriately named. In the two subsequent centuries both the concept of marriage and the scale of Oktoberfest have morphed considerably.
Several states, including most recently New York, now officially allow people of the same sex to marry legally. At the same time, dozens of other states, including Missouri, have prohibitions against same-sex marriage enshrined in their constitutions. Oktoberfest, meanwhile, has grown from a celebration to which 40,000 guests were invited (admittedly a pretty large wedding reception by anyone’s standards) to the largest fair in the world, attracting more than six million visitors annually, who collectively consume more than seven million liters of beer. (I note for the record that I was included in these statistics in 1997.)
Another important celebration coinciding with Oktoberfest, and probably overlooked by at least 5,999,999 of the six million revelers this year, was Larry Schlafly’s birthday. Alert readers (ARs) may recall that I have discussed Larry in a previous column. For the benefit of those who don’t recall, he was a professional baseball player who played for the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, among other teams. As I learned from a book titled Larry Schlafly: Federal League Pioneer by an AR named Bruce Roth, Larry was born near Port Washington, Ohio on September 20, 1878. According to AR Roth, his “greatest claim to fame was his role in helping to convert the Federal League to a major league in 1914.” I also learned that Larry Schlafly was a model family man who taught Sunday School. In that regard, he would have been unlike many of today’s athletes, not to mention lots of politicians, such as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund.
Larry would also have been quite different from Ludwig I of Bavaria, whose wedding reception evolved into today’s Oktoberfest. Although the marriage of Ludwig and Therese produced eight children, it was complicated by Ludwig’s affair with an Irish dancer and actress named Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, who adopted the stage name Lola Montez. Using this sobriquet, she performed as a so-called “Spanish Dancer” and was later named Countess of Landsfeld by her loving Ludwig. Following the Revolution of 1848 Ludwig lost his throne and Lola lost her title of Countess, prompting her to decamp to the United States.
In March of 1853 Lola Montez came to St. Louis and performed at Field’s Varieties’ Theatre. According to one account, she lived up to her reputation for “un-Christian behavior by raising her skirts far too high in performing her famous Spider Dance.” She later had an altercation with Joseph Field, the proprietor of the theatre, in the course of which she reportedly thrashed him with her riding crop and then broke his nose with a candlestick.
ARs with a taste for kinder and gentler entertainment may want to attend the performance of The Courthouse Steps at The Sheldon on Tuesday, October 25th. These same ARs may recall that this is the troupe of singing lawyers for whom I write lyrics, more information about whom can be found at www.courthousesteps.com. Unlike Lola Montez, we’re non-violent, preferring to inflict wounds with musical parodies, not blunt instruments like the characters in a game of Clue.
As the lyricist for the Courthouse Steps, I’m honored that we’ll be on stage in a venue that has hosted some very distinguished performers over the years in a neighborhood (Grand Center) that has an international reputation for excellence. I would add that St. Louis’s celebrated cultural achievements aren’t limited to the performing arts. Consider, for example, the critically acclaimed Milles Fountain across from Union Station.
This magnificent work by Swedish sculptor Carl Milles was originally titled “The Wedding of the Rivers” to represent the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. A public outcry soon arose because of the nudity of the male and female figures, respectively representing the Mississippi and the Missouri. In order to appease the critics, the name of the fountain was officially changed to “The Meeting of the Waters.” If Missouri won’t allow people of the same sex to get married, it certainly isn’t going to allow two bodies of water to do so.