M is For Lola Montez
If she'd been around now, Lola Montez would probably have had her own reality TV show. As it was, she had some celebrity lovers, including composer Franz Liszt and King Ludwig of Bavaria. And she did this thing called the Spider Dance...
In 1855, she decided to tour Australia. After a successful Sydney season she sacked her cast without paying them and boarded a ship for Melbourne. The sheriff boarded to try to bring her back and she sent him a message from her cabin that she'd taken off her clothes and he was welcome to come in if he liked. He didn't like. The actors went unpaid and Lola went to Melbourne. After a single performance(the Spider Dance?) the police wouldn't let her do another one, so it was off to the goldfields, where she got a bad review from a Ballarat newspaper. These days, a celebrity with bad reviews would take to Twitter or Facebook to complain but Lola found the editor, Henry Seekamp, in his local pub after work and beat him with a horsewhip till he had to run away to escape her.
After that, tickets sold like hot cakes and the miners threw gold nuggets on stage.
No publicity is bad publicity, it seems.
I don't have any criminals starting with N on my list, so will go straight to O.
O Is For Arthur Orton - the Tichborne Claimant
Imagine, say, Orlando Bloom disappearing. His mother puts an ad in the paper pleading for help in finding him. She gets a reply from John Goodman, who says he's her son - and she believes him!
In 1853, slim, attractive Roger Tichborne had a quarrel with his family and sailed off to South America, never to be seen again. Years later, in 1866, his mother, now widowed, advertised for help in finding her precious boy, whom she believed must still be alive. She had a reply from Wagga Wagga in NSW, from a butcher called Arthur Orton, an Englishman who had lived there for thirteen years.
Roger's mother met him in France. He was overweight, farted a lot and didn't look or act remotely like Roger, but the poor woman wanted to believe. She gave him a generous allowance, but after she died he decided that was not enough. He wanted it all - title, money and estate.
Thus began a long court case against Roger's family, which he ended up losing and going to jail.
It wouldn't have happened today, not in this connected world - and a DNA test would settle the issue immediately, if nothing else did.
Still, it makes an entertaining story!
If you have enjoyed these stories, why not check out my publisher's web site, for Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and other great books?
Tomorrow: P Is For Alexander "Cannibal" Pearce
Q Is For Quirky Aussie Law