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True Stories Behind Famous Art, Literature, Music and Film

Maria Bukhonina

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The film Pretty Woman and a famous opera La Traviatta both based on a C19 story of 'a whore with a heart of gold' The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas. Marie Duplessis was a poor but beautiful Parisian who traded in benefactors asshe climbed the social ladder. In 1842 she met Alexandre Dumas, the illegitimate son of celebrated French author of same name, and a laundress. But Dumas was poor and struggling, so Duplessis left him. She fell madly in love with the composer Franz Liszt, but he left her to tour his recitals. She died of Tb at age of 23. Dumas wrote The lady of the Camellias about their love affair, but with himself as a nobleman, and Marie being forced to leave him by his scandalised father. The book, and then a play based on the book, made Dumas's reputation.

(The film Pretty Woman makes a nod to its source when Richard Gere takes Julie Roberts to the opera - a performance of La Traviatta).

Arthur Conan Doyle was a young Scottish doctor with a failing medical practice. The first Sherlock Holmes novel 1887, set in London which Doyle knew nothing of - he relied on London PO Directory to document Holmes navigation of the city. But he came to see himself as a prisoner of Holmes, distracting attention from his more serious writing. Tried to reduce interest by doubling his book fees, but publishers happily paid him.

Finally killed him off by sending him over the Reichenbach Falls. Boy was that a mistake. An avalanche of hate letters arrived in the mail. Angry fans hounded him on the street, and one woman attacked him with an umbrella. Grieving fans wore black armbands mourning SH's untimely death.

Doyle fled to S Africa and the Boer War to escape - he was knighted for his documentation of the conflict.

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A couple of other claims to fame - he was the first person in Britain to get a speeding ticket, and he wrote The Lost World, the precursor to Jurassic Park movies.

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Pablo Picasso had an almost endless chain of lover/muses. First was Fernande Olivier, a beautiful model he met when first moved to Paris in 1904. She lasted 7 years and about 60 portraits. 1912 Eva Gouel, but she died at 30 from Tb. While she was dying, PP started an affair with Gaby Lespinasse. She walked away soon after and married a rich American. 1917 Olga Khokhlova, a Russian ballerina who refused his advances unless he married her. They had a son Paulo. They stayed together for two decades, until she discovered that PP had a 10 year long affair with a young French model, Marie-Theree Walter. They had a daughter Maya. Their relationship ended in 1936 when he met Dora Maar. (Her face is on the woman holding the lamp in Guernica). After 8 years she was replaced by Francoise Gilot, who was 21 to PP's 61. They had two children, Claude and Paloma. She wrote a memoir (in which she suggested that he was mentally unstable). PP was so furious that he disinherited Claude and Paloma. His second wife and last partner was Jacqueline Roque, who met when she was 26 and he 72. PP produced more than 400 portraits of her.

Film Rain Man was not only inspired by one man, it also dramatically changed the guy's life. Kim Peek wasn't autistic, he was a savant. In his case, a walking encyclopedia, calendar and phone book. He could read both sides of a book simultaneously, and retain 90% of what he read. The flip side of this was a host of physical disabilities. He couldn't climb stairs until he was 14. A doctor recommended a lobotomy to 'fix' his personality.

Before Rain Man he was a deeply introverted man who didn't like strangers, wasn't easy to communicate with, and tended to make random loud noises. His only friend was his dad. But then the movie - Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his protrayal, and when the writer barry Morrow got an Oscar as well, he called Kim up to the stage and gave it to him. Kim and his dad then began touring the country, putting on shows where he answered impossibly wide range of questions. The outpouring of public love and acceptance resulted in an amazing personality change. Kim became a bit of a showman, and learned to enjoy being around other people - a trait unheard of in either savants or autistic people. More books on Mind

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