This is now the location of the Citicorp Building.
32 JANUARY 2020 I LIC COURIER I www.qns.com
Queen of Hearts
Lola Montez was once
described by a biographer
as “beautiful, intelligent, and
courageous, yet egocentric
and manipulative and ahead
of her time.” Toward the end of her life,she
had a chance encounter with an old friend
Marie Buchanan of Astoria, who provided
her with comfort in her last days and an
escape from the indignity of a likely Potters
Lola Montez, Irish born in 1821,
christened Maria Dolores Eliza Rosanna
Gilbert (Montez – a stage name – she had no
Spanish ancestry) was the child of a soldier
and the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman.
Taken to India as a child by her parents, her
father soon died and her mother remarried.
By 1826 she was sent to a boarding school
in Scotland. Lola would have several brief
marriages. She was childless.
“You must exercise as a wild and
romping spirited girl who runs up and
down as if her veins were full of wine” -
Lola Montez. After taking dancing lessons,
and making a stage debut in London, she
invented a new name and backstory, Lola
Montez, “artistic” dancer. Liberating herself
from the social conventions of her time, she
moved to Continental Europe. Lola was
soon a legend in a century noted for its
outsized adventurers – by taking up with, in
short order, composer Franz Liszt, novelist
Alexandre Dumas and finally the greatest
prize, King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
“Be not afraid of yourself, trust your
soul – dare to stand in the might of your
individuality to meet the tidal currents of the
world” - Lola Montez. Within an astonishing
short time, the king made her the Countess
of Landsfeld, gave her a large annuity and
all but ceded to her control the governing
of five million Bavarians. Dismissing the
prime minister and sponsoring legislation
supporting students and working people, her
actions angered the conservative elite, tore
the country apart and triggered a revolution.
The disgraced king abdicated. Lola fled the
country — with her jewels of course.
“I have never claimed to be famous.
Notorious I have always been” - Lola
Montez. She returned to the stage
with a new act, and to silence hecklers,
supplemented her act with cracking a whip
on stage. Playing a sultry vamp, she traveled
across America (1851) to the gold fields
of California (1853), the mining camps of
Australia (1855) and finally back to Europe
in triumph (1857). At that time, no woman
had traveled those distances. A photograph
of her holding a cigarette is regarded as
the earliest image of a woman smoking.
“I have known all that the world has to
give—all!” - Lola Montez. She transformed
into another act, a serious orator and author
who lectured on style, fashion, and gossip.
Her lectures demonstrated that she was
educated and well-read. But photos and
critics commented that she was aging
rapidly. The public did not know that she
was both penniless and was in the grip of
the advanced stages of illness. A chance
encounter on a sidewalk in Chelsea
reunited Lola with her childhood friend,
Marie Buchanan of Astoria.
“I am tired” – last words of Lola Montez.
A sudden stroke, which all but incapacitated
her, made international news. She spent
her last months with the Buchanans in
residence at the extensive gardens of their
Astoria flower nursery on Newtown Road
and Buchanan, today 29th Street. After she
passed away, the Buchanans hosted her
well attended funeral at their home, paid
for her burial plot and stone, and inscribed
it with her birth name: Eliza Gilbert (1811
- 1861). Warren Buchanan, a great-great-grandson
of Marie Buchanan, recalled that
“as late as the 1950s we toasted Montez by
drinking Bloody Marys at her grave.” From
around the world her fans have made that
grave in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn,
a place of pilgrimage.
“Feel the fire where she walks, Lola
Montez so beautiful, Oh Lola I’m sure that
love, would be the key to all your pains” –
from ‘Lola Montez’ by Danish heavy metal
group Volbeat. A standard played before
thousands of ecstatic fans at all Volbeat
concerts, ‘Lola Montez’ is from their gold
Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies
(2013) album. Ageless Lola, 160 years
after she was laid to rest, still connects to
a new generation.
Greater Astoria Historical Society
LIC Arts Building # Suite 219
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
718-278-0700 / email@example.com
Serving the communities of
Old Long Island City:
Old Astoria Village