When nature calls and we really need the bathroom, we might cross our legs, like a four year old at nursery school, and somewhere along the way, eventually, we have to pee, or run the risk of soiling ourselves. Betty May would simply cock her leg to mark her territory and she wouldn’t even need to go.
Physically, Betty May is long gone, but she is still here somewhere. Her will, personality, character and integrity is strong enough to penetrate the present time and is still very pertinent to this age and to the women of today. In spirit, Betty May is still alive. And that’s why I’m going to talk about her as if she is still alive and kicking. Kicking hard.
Betty May is the type of woman who doesn’t care what people think of her. At all. This is a woman who has no sense of self consciousness whatsoever. But that isn’t all. She isn’t just a rebel without a cause. She doesn’t do things just because she can. She has no sense of that awful destructive sin of pride. One of the worst. Or are they all named equal? Sometimes it depends on your perspective.
Her autobiography first published in 1929, is entitled ‘Tiger Woman. My Story. The Incredible Life That Inspired the musical, Betty May. Tiger Woman Versus The Beast’.
Who is the beast? Why, the most famous/infamous magician of all, Aleister Crowley. She takes him on and wins. Or rather, she doesn’t bow down to him or give him the time of day. She sees right through him. She knows he is probably just a creep, who couldn’t get girls when he was an adolescent. He may have internalised this, it may have built and built, as things do, into a rage against the female of the species and the obsessive thirst for that Golden and easily obtained Knowledge of ‘how to control women’ (A least half a dozen of his girlfriends had nervous breakdowns, the other half committed suicide) leading inevitably into deeper misogynistic thinking, paranoia and eventually impotency. Therefore, it’s only natural that he may learn other ‘methods’ of potency. i.e. killing defenceless animals.
Oh no, don’t go up against your local muscle bound peers or even your intellectual ones or your morally superior ones, ‘cos you can’t hack it can you Mr. Crowley? Don’t try to better yourself emotionally, mentally, educationally or spiritually to get ‘power.’ Instead, just act like any poorly brought up, ill educated teenage boy from an impoverished council estate…and kill the local moggy. Oh yes, Mr. Crowley, that is so manly. But you can’t even kill it yourself can you? You have to order other people to kill the cat, because you don’t have the stomach. (Please skip the rest of this paragraph, if you’re of a nervous deposition and/or love animals, especially cats) You would then order others to drink the blood of these animals. What a challenge it must have been for you to catch and kill something so much weaker than yourself, eh, Al? How Satan must have loved you for being able to catch and kill a cat. Where is the challenge in kicking a kitten and taking candy from a baby? Taking the wide road has always been incredibly easy, rather sad, and without challenge, and a real attraction to snivelling cowards.
I’m getting ahead of myself, as usual, and, I am in, a rather bad rant.
Ahem, Cough. Let me out. I apologise and compose myself. No, forget that, apologising is a sign of weakness and I take it back but I should state here that Crowley emphatically denied the cat killing/blood drinking incident. He also attempted to censor the book but was unsuccessful. Some people may think, ‘Well if Betty May fabricated some of the story, who’s to say what is truth and what is lie.’ Fair point but this book is a puzzle that needs to be unravelled and perhaps never solved and therein lies the beauty and the intrigue. So who is this Betty May? Why is she The Tiger and why is she connected with Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast, as he liked to call himself?
Betty May was born in 1893 in Canning Place, into abject poverty. She lived with her mother and brother initially, but, her mother, tired of working tirelessly, to ineffectively support two young children, sent Betty and her brother to her estranged husband. He lived in a brothel, an idle drunken slob and that is where Betty and her sibling stayed for some time. That was until her grandfather, her dad’s dad, arrested him and sent him off to jail. He was an inspector and long tired of his son’s lifestyle choices.
After spending the next couple of years in an idyllic existence, in the countryside with an strait laced and aunt and uncle, Betty escaped to London and became involved in the bohemian world of the Cafe Royal. She would only be matched, decades later, in her drinking, dancing and hell raising by her future male counterpart, Oliver Reed.
Whilst also being worldly in other matters, she was strangely innocent in others. She took a steam boat to Paris one evening with a lecher who tried to rape her at the end of the evening. She stabbed him with a pair of nail scissors and fled, ending up on the street, without fare back to England. Homeless and wandering, she inadvertently and rather haphazardly stumbled into a Parisian underworld rather like a French Mafia, called Les Apaches. A tough knife wielding female gang member was set upon her, as a kind of test. She gave as good as she got and then some. Thereafter she was nick named The Tiger.
I have a feeling that much in that last paragraph may be a fictional account in Betty May’s autobiography. She admitted that the book was ghost written but a large part of the resource was taken from articles she had written herself. She said the first part of her life is wholly true, as is the latter, but there are bits in between which aren’t. The continental Oliver Twist section feels contrived and rather romanticized but there is no way of knowing for sure.
So let’s just say, when eventually she escaped the gang and was able to return to London, she meets a man named Miles L. Atkinson, (1888–1917), nicknamed Bunny. He was a cocaine addict who quickly got her into the habit. He went to war in 1914 and was killed in action in 1917, but May was by now a heavy addict. She married again. Her new husband cured her of her addiction, by using the short sharp shock treatment of making her go cold turkey.
By the end of 1918, May had divorced her husband when she discovered he had been unfaithful. Husband number three was Raoul Loveday, an Oxford graduate. They lived in one room and Betty supported them by sitting as an artists model for sculptors Jacob Epstein and Jacob Kramer. Raoul meanwhile wrote poetry and was a bit of a tortured soul, as poets often are. He became bewitched by all things occult and found solace in the teachings of his friend and mentor, Crowley.
May gave her husband an ultimatum and he her. Stay or else, from her. Go or else, from him. They upped sticks and went to Sicily, taking up residence in the sparsely furnished and threadbare Abbey of Thelema. It was here she became cook and bottle washer for Crowley and his cronies, in exchange for sour cheese and bread every day and the most excellent wine she had ever tasted.
Crowley seems to have spent most of his time pouring over books, studying in the library and meditating like a proper old style monk. Apparently there were no orgies or anything remotely satanic going on at the Abbey, apart from the feline murder and the drinking of its blood.
Betty herself is no stranger to the orgy and had partaken of many in her time. She says nothing like that ever happened at the abbey. The worst thing there was the lack of toilet facilities. No basin or lavatory to be seen. Betty even went rock climbing with Crowley on Sunday afternoons, as a special treat and they had a lovely time. Apparently, he couldn’t half climb rocks. He’s beginning to sound more like a benevolent Uncle, with each new piece of information, gleaned.
A few days after the blood drinking incident, Raoul, Betty’s current husband, and one of Crowley’s most obedient male sycophants, died. At first glance, it appears the ritual had something to do with it, but he drank some dodgy spring water that Crowley had warned him not to. Crowley to the rescue, once more. It’s like an Enid Blyton novel. Take these hard boiled egg sandwiches and lashings of ginger ale and have a wonderful time, but remember children, don’t drink the water.
At least his misogynistic view would be in line with Blyton literature. Remember, Betty May, let the boys put up the tent, ‘cos you’re a girl. (I had that said to me as a kid, but without the Betty May bit and the tent). Saying that, Cuddly Crowley did take Betty May rock climbing. That’s not so misogynistic. Oh, he’s such a mass of contradictions.
With Raoul gone, Betty got out of there fast and returned to London. Unlike Raoul, she resisted drinking the water on that thirsty outing out. I say, Betty May, that’s pretty smart…for a girl.
The book fizzles out somewhat and you just get the impression that she’s about to ride off into the sunset for some more wonderful and exciting adventures and perhaps a fifth husband, of which there is rumour. She apparently moved a bit further north in her twilight years, did some charity work for orphans, stopped having orgies (or perhaps not) and died when she was 86 in about 1986, which wraps it up nicely.
The thing is, the book may have been ghost written, it may be fictional in some parts. (I hope it’s the cat bit, ‘cos I love animals, but I only think it’s true, ‘cos I’m not a big fan of Cuddly Crowley and it seems like just the kind of thing he would do. Well, he was the most ‘Wicked Man In Britain’, no wait, it’s worse than that, the world.
Betty May seems like such a natural soul, so innocent and sweet in some ways, apart from the orgies of course, but we all have our little foibles. She is spontaneous and impulsive and responsive with the people she comes into contact with, a prerequisite for orgies, I think, but also for being warm hearted and lovable. Not sure if we can be lovable if we over think things and it’s so easy to over think things. I’m not sure she did a lot of thinking but she got Cuddly Crowley’s number, and that was rare, for after his schooling in the art of pick up, he was reputedly, hard to resist.
Maybe, this scene will sum up what I’m trying to say about Betty May. I think it says something nice about this woman, hell raiser or not.
She works in a hairdressers and has heard a newspaper report that a woman had caught leprosy from a Chinese hair net. Maybe it’s the drugs, paranoia or both but guess what product she has just started unpacking while she was in the hairdressers? Yes, you guessed it, Chinese hair nets. So she runs out into the street and onto a packed bus, tells everyone to keep away from her. Gives the fare to the bus driver and tells him not to touch it because she has leprosy (she doesn’t) and makes a complete spectacle of herself in front of very many people. She may also have been off her face on drugs, but she cares and that’s the main thing, she genuinely cares.