Thursday, April 1, 2010

What's In a Name

What do you name a boler when you plan to steampunk it and make it a haven of sumptuous elegance.  When it is to be our home on wheels, an escape pod, an adult retreat.  A special place for both husband and wife, man and woman, Countessa and mechanic.

My feeling at first sight was that the trailer was a she, perhaps because of the shape, all round and smooth - just a feeling.  One would think logically a woman's name would be appropriate.  But then we found out that the inventor, a Canadian by the name of Ray Olecko, had called it a boler because he thought it looked like a bowler hat. Now Pat was all for giving it a more manly moniker.  Now I was conflicted.  I had a feeling, but you learn in a long term relationship to compromise.

After much thought, and back and forth deliberation between us, I had a eureka moment.  What about naming it "The Gentlemen's Club" or after a real gentlemen's club, but with one provision.  It had to be a gentlemen's club that allowed women.  I know, quite a big order, but I had to investigate.

There is a lot of online information on past and current gentlemen's clubs.  Wikipedia was a tremendous resource of naming possibilities.  The best part was the lists they have set up.  I specifically looked at this one - List of London's gentlemen's clubs  It was wonderful for showing "women admitted as full members since".  Of course, the results were as one would expect, not very promising, or the name of the club that allowed women was one I didn't like.

Then I found a name and club that both Pat and I liked -  "The Eccentric Club".  They began allowing women in 1984, recent yes, but still they were allowing women.  So I decided to look more closely into the details of the club.  The club itself has been around for a very long time, 1781 to be exact.  It has had many incarnations and opened and closed a number of times over the centuries, most recently relaunching in 2008.  It is a firmly planted British establishment for creative thinkers - from the website  :

"for centuries it served as a meeting point for many great and original minds, pioneers of thought in artistic, literary, theatrical, scientific, legal and political circles, providing an amicable environment for their recreational and creative pastime as well as a testing ground for novel and controversial theories and approaches to the issues equally important to British society and all of the mankind" 

I thought - this is it.  Or so I thought....but then I noticed a page link "Are we Gentlemen-Only ?" Of course I had to examine this further before committing ourselves to naming our new home after this club.  What I found amazed and astounded me!

According to this page, women were only officially recognized as members with the relaunching in 2008.  However, during the Victorian period there was one, only one, woman who was unofficially allowed as a member in their hallowed halls.  Her name was Matilda Alice Powles.  The reason she was allowed - she would go dressed as a man.

Matilda Powles (stage name - Vesta Tilley) was a famous male impersonator and music hall singer.  She was very well known and well loved.

Her life is amazing for the period in which she lived.  She had a career, money, she married the man she loved and she even became a Lady.  She died in 1952 at the ripe old age of 88.

I was stunned, and as must be obvious by now, enthralled by her.  She represented men and women with grace, dignity, style and a little quirkiness. 

Needless to say you can guess at the name of our new home..... Vesta Tilley


  1. I love it!
    We now, however, call "male impersonators" Drag Kings.
    I can't wait to see your lovely home away from home!

  2. This is just stunning on so many levels ;) absolutely PERFECT!!!

  3. Brilliant! What *I* love is the process by which you came by the name. I've been a research junkie all my life so I can appreciate it. I think we will become good friends, Contessa!

    But your research has also ended my dilemma regarding dressing streampunk - I shall dress as a man.