Reclaiming Louise Brooks’ “Lulu in Hollywood”

March 12, 2024 18 mins to read
Michael Garcia Mujica
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A Journey Through Advocacy and Legacy

In mid-2023, I embarked on a mission to illuminate the overlooked legacy of Louise Brooks on Wikipedia. For ethical reasons, I chose not to intervene directly with edits or publications due to a conflict of interest. My objective was twofold: to cast a spotlight on Lulu in Hollywood and The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing, two of Brooks’s celebrated works that had been neglected.

The original cover of Lulu in Hollywood is as iconic as Louise Brooks herself, with her piercing gaze inviting readers to delve into the storied world behind the silver screen. It’s a window into the soul of an era and the mind of a woman who captivated audiences with her charm and wit, long before Hollywood’s golden age.

While Lulu in Hollywood eventually reclaimed its place in late January 2024—ironically, thanks to the watchful eye of an appropriator who seemed to track my every move—the gem The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing remained unpublished. Discovering one without the other felt akin to unearthing a single earring from a cherished pair: a mixture of triumph and longing.

Grace and poise in motion, this cover of The Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing captures the elegance of Louise Brooks’s instructional prowess. Its straightforward design, highlighting Brooks in mid-step, speaks volumes about the artistry she embodied, both on screen and on the dance floor.

The plot thickened when Thomas Gladysz, masquerading under the guise of Tgladysz~simplewiki, transformed the Wikipedia page for Lulu in Hollywood into a personal showcase.

Gladysz’s venture into Wikipedia editing wasn’t his debut. An earlier account, ThomasGladysz, dating back to 2006, receded into the digital ether, leaving behind a trail of self-serving edits.

The meticulous history of edits on the Lulu in Hollywood Wikipedia page uncovers a pattern. Notably, the user Tgladysz~simplewiki—associated with Thomas Gladysz—features prominently, suggesting a concerted effort to shape the narrative of Louise Brooks’s legacy.

By the dawn of 2024, Wikipedia had affixed an “advertisement” label to the Louise Brooks Society page, created by Gladysz in 2006, amidst a glaring conflict of interest.

Turning our attention back to the Lulu in Hollywood page, which promotes the controversial 2000 release marketed as the “Lulu in Hollywood: Expanded Edition” and advocated by Gladysz, we encounter a version that is clearly defaced and appropriated. The original introduction by William Shawn, the former magazine editor who helmed The New Yorker from 1952 to 1987 and was endorsed by Brooks herself, was swapped out for Kenneth Tynan’s “The Girl in the Black Helmet”—a maneuver emblematic of Gladysz’s bait-and-switch editorial philosophy.

The “Lulu in Hollywood: Expanded Edition” presents itself with a starkly modern cover, a far cry from the classic allure of the original—a change so pronounced it’s been colloquially dubbed the “Defaced Edition.” The cover, a visual controversy, strips the grace of Louise Brooks’s era, while the nod to Thomas Gladysz and the Louise Brooks Society in the acknowledgments sparks debates on the veracity of its grassroots label. This edition’s façade invites scrutiny, with many seeing it not as a revival but as a reinvention that borders on erasure of the icon’s true visage.

Furthermore, Gladysz’s selective emphasis on certain negative reviews, along with the “Appendix: Errata in Lulu in Hollywood” featured in Barry Paris’s 1989 biography of Brooks, appeared more as an indictment than an attempt at rectification, especially within the context of a Gladysz-curated page. Was this an effort to clarify the historical record, or a veiled attempt to cast aspersions on Brooks’s legacy and bill his advocated version as definitive?

A critical eye is drawn to the content within the Lulu in Hollywood Wikipedia page, where the narrative is punctuated by starkly negative reviews and an “Appendix: Errata” that some might say casts undue shadows on Brooks’s literary integrity.

The task of safeguarding Brooks’s legacy, set against the backdrop of Gladysz’s self-aggrandizing edits, was akin to navigating a tightrope amidst turbulent winds. The mission was unequivocal: to ensure the brilliance of Brooks’s legacy was not diminished by the shadows cast by contemporary revisions.

As 2024 unfolded, the challenge of honoring Brooks in the digital era emerged as a delicate balance of reverence and critical oversight. True advocacy demanded finesse from its proponents—gentle, respectful, and unwaveringly focused on fidelity.

This journey, therefore, transcends mere homage. It engages with the complex dilemmas of legacy in an era where history can be reshaped by those seeking personal gain. For Louise Brooks, our commitment endures: to ensure her indelible spirit springs from the pages of history with the same vitality and grace that defined her life and art. With all that said, I hope this article illuminates the true narrative surrounding the appropriation of Louise Brooks’s intellectual properties by the covetous Thomas Gladysz.

Conflict of Interest: Thomas Gladysz’s Involvement

Advocating for the Lulu in Hollywood Wikipedia page was a mission to celebrate Louise Brooks’s literary achievements. However, its quiet publication, written to spotlight Thomas Gladysz, unveils an unethical breach—a glaring conflict of interest so bright, it’s nearly blinding. Instead of celebrating Brooks, it morphs her dignified legacy into Gladysz’s personal launchpad for his advocated rehashed edition of Lulu in Hollywood.

The “Publication history” section on the Lulu in Hollywood Wikipedia page paints a grand narrative of revival, crediting a so-called “grass-roots campaign” by the Louise Brooks Society. However, this term may mislead readers to believe in a broad-based community effort, obscuring the reality that the society’s activities largely boil down to the solo ventures of Thomas Gladysz. This portrayal raises red flags about the potential for manipulative language to inflate individual endeavors, casting a shadow of doubt over the authenticity of the campaign and the impartiality of the Wikipedia narrative.

The unfolding scenario on Wikipedia, under Thomas Gladysz’s direction, bears an eerie resemblance to the manipulative undertones of Titicut Follies. Unlike the passive observer or the diligent curator, Gladysz takes center stage, casting himself in the leading role to promote his favored edition of Lulu in Hollywood. This editorial conduct, paired with his advocacy for Barry Paris’s “Appendix: Errata in Lulu in Hollywood,” rings alarm bells, suggesting not a mere corrective effort but a strategic redirection of Brooks’s legacy. Here, the tactics employed by Gladysz are not unlike those used in “Titicut Follies”—manipulation and control under the guise of stewardship.

Here lies the rub: Gladysz blurs the lines between homage and appropriation, raising the question: When does adulation become appropriation?

The real kicker suggests we need an “Appendix: Errata” not for Brooks’s life or her works but for the Barry Paris biography and Gladysz’s commandeering of the Louise Brooks Society. Authored not by Gladysz but by someone discerning enough to differentiate between genuine tribute and self-promotion. It appears I’ve stumbled upon my next project: writing the errata Brooks’s legacy truly deserves, ensuring the spotlight remains on the star, not an understudy commandeering the stage.

This brings to mind the poignant reflections of Titicut Follies—a film which, through its portrayal of an inmate-organized talent show, reveals the unsettling ways in which an institution’s control can masquerade as benevolence. Despite the talent show being an initiative of the inmates themselves, the documentary exposes how such events, within the confines of the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, could still reflect the institution’s overarching grip. In a parallel act of narrative control, Gladysz, wielding the name of the Louise Brooks Society, has orchestrated Brooks’s Wikipedia presence to crown himself her authoritative voice.

Building on the theme of stewardship versus self-interest, the situation unfolds as a stark reminder of the responsibilities inherent in curating a legacy. Gladysz’s engagement on the Wikipedia page serves as a real-world example, mirroring the manipulative dynamics spotlighted in Titicut Follies. Such comparisons are potent—they push us to reflect on how history is chronicled and who is granted the pen.

Just as Titicut Follies unravels the veneer of care to reveal exploitation, the way Gladysz’s edits cast his voice as the authoritative one on Brooks’s life risks a similar subversion. The authenticity of Brooks’s legacy could be compromised by a singular perspective, overshadowing the diverse voices that should contribute to a communal record.

This confluence of influence and intention on the Wikipedia platform raises pivotal issues about the preservation of legacies in the digital age. It lays bare the need for vigilance and integrity in the face of personal ambition. When navigating the collaborative environment of historical documentation, the question isn’t just about the accuracy of content, but also about whether the spirit of collaborative ethos is being upheld or undermined by individual agendas.

As the discourse around Lulu in Hollywood continues to evolve, it’s essential to keep sight of what’s at the heart of historical preservation: a truthful, multifaceted portrayal that respects the legacy of its subject. This is a call to action for all custodians of history—to ensure that in the process of memorializing the past, we do not allow the lines of fact and fiction to blur, nor the true narrative to be overshadowed by the might of the loudest voice.

Editorial Overreach and Legacy Commodification: The “Soylent Green” of Intellectual Property

Louise Brooks’s legacy, once bathed in the glow of silent cinema’s allure, now stands at a disquieting juncture. The “Expanded Edition” of Lulu in Hollywood, with its radically redesigned cover, marks not just a reprint but a troubling rebranding—Brooks’s classic image swapped for abstract modernity, symbolizing her legacy’s defacement.

The axing of William Shawn’s introduction with Kenneth Tynan’s The Girl in the Black Helmet signals more than a mere editorial swap; it heralds an act of usurpation, a profound repackaging of Brooks’s intellectual property into a narrative as unsettling as Soylent Green.

The inclusion of Thomas Gladysz’s name and the Louise Brooks Society in the acknowledgments reveals his dual role as both advocate and appropriator. It’s a bold strategy to weave his identity into the fabric of Brooks’s work, morphing her legacy into his personal brand—a narrative Soylent Green.

Adding Brooks’s 1977 essay “Why I Will Never Write My Memoirs” to this so-called expanded edition introduces a paradox. It purports to amplify Brooks’s voice but within a framework distorted by Gladysz’s influence. This scenario, eerily similar to Lee Israel’s literary forgeries, reveals a nuanced tapestry of posthumous narrative manipulation.

At this critical crossroads of history stewardship, we grapple with the fine balance between respectful homage and invasive overreach. The line blurs between honoring a legacy and exploiting it for personal advantage.

This editorial maze beckons for an “Appendix: Errata” focused not on typos but on correcting the course—rectifying the missteps that morphed a venerable legacy into consumer fodder. This isn’t about discrediting Brooks’s work but about wresting the narrative back from those shadowing her story with their ambitions.

The road ahead demands our vigilant advocacy to ensure Louise Brooks’s essence pirouettes through history with undiluted grace. Facing the “Soylent Green” of intellectual property, where individual contributions risk being devoured by opportunistic agendas, we stand firm in our mission. We vow to cherish Brooks’s life and artistry, not as mere commodities but as the invaluable cultural heirlooms they truly are.

Kenneth Tynan and the Revelation of Brooks’s Principles

In exploring the nuanced legacy of Louise Brooks, a pivotal revelation emerges from Kenneth Tynan’s profile, “The Girl in the Black Helmet.” Brooks’s candid reflection on the omission of “Why I Will Never Write My Memoirs” from Lulu in Hollywood unveils her deep-seated principles regarding the intertwining of personal history and sexual identity. Her assertion that a truthful account of one’s life is incomplete without an exposition of sexual experiences underlines a profound adherence to authenticity in narrative—a commitment so firm that it led her to exclude the essay from her collection.

Brooks characterized herself as the quintessential Midwesterner, entrenched in a cultural milieu of “sin and guilt,” despite her cosmopolitan sexual education. This background, she argued, inherently limited her capacity to fully express the sexual truths necessary for a comprehensive autobiography. Her refusal to “unbuckle the Bible Belt” is not merely a personal aversion but a philosophical stance on the portrayal of life stories within the constraints of societal norms and her own moral compass.

Tynan’s account illuminates Brooks’s concept of pudeur—a sense of modesty or restraint—driving her to destroy certain personal writings. It wasn’t merely about withholding from public exposure; it was an ethical choice reflecting her belief in the inseparability of sexual integrity from genuine life narration. According to Brooks, the omission is not an act of censorship but an acknowledgment of the impossibility of conveying her true self within the acceptable limits of public discourse.

This introspection invites a reassessment of the decisions surrounding the posthumous inclusion of “Why I Will Never Write My Memoirs” in the appropriated 2000 edition of Lulu in Hollywood. It begs the question: Do these editorial choices honor Brooks’s intent and philosophical convictions, or do they risk contravening the very principles she stood by? The inclusion, while offering readers a glimpse into Brooks’s mindset, also challenges us to consider the ethics of representing a literary and historical figure’s legacy in ways they might have personally eschewed.

Brooks’s perspective, as presented by Tynan, compels us to confront the complexities of legacy curation. It underscores the importance of respecting the subject’s wishes and philosophical stances, especially in matters as intimate and defining as the portrayal of one’s sexual history. In the broader discourse on biographical and autobiographical writing, Brooks’s stance emerges as a powerful commentary on the limitations of post-Victorian narratives to truly capture the essence of personal identity and action.

The stewardship of Brooks’s narrative, particularly through Lulu in Hollywood, invites debate. Editorial choices, like the swapping of introductions and conclusions across editions, question the authenticity of her story’s public presentation. The initial inclusion of William Shawn‘s introduction and Lotte H. Eisner‘s afterword provided context later altered, with Kenneth Tynan’s profile replacing Shawn’s introduction in the controversial appropriated 2000 edition. These decisions not only affect how Brooks’s life is interpreted but also subtly shape her legacy.

Further, the “Appendix: Errata in Lulu in Hollywoodin Barry Paris’s biography adds another dimension, suggesting Brooks’s legacy is in perpetual revision. This ongoing reevaluation reflects the broader challenge of balancing historical accuracy with the complexity of individual lives.

Despite these battles over editorial and interpretive decisions, Louise Brooks’s essence remains captivating and elusive. The manipulation of her narrative, whether through selective editing or the promotion of certain perspectives, ignites a crucial dialogue on historical authenticity, narrative ownership, and legacy preservation in the digital era. Engaging with Brooks’s legacy demands a critical eye and a nuanced understanding of the forces shaping our commemoration of such a complex figure.

The Role of Thomas Gladysz and Editorial Influence

In a rumor mill spinning faster than a silent film reel, whispers abound that Thomas Gladysz is considering an official name change to “Louise Brooks Society”—an audacious move that’s one feather boa away from declaring himself Louise Brooks reincarnate. Yet, in the grand theater of Titicut Follies, where reality and performance blend into a surreal spectacle, this name change not only gets the green light but also earns Gladysz a starring role alongside the superintendent in a production titled Delusions of Grandeur.

Staging a comeback or stuck in a scene? In the grand theater of legacy, some performances demand an encore… or a reality check.

Delusions of Grandeur: The Unlikely Duet of Thomas Gladysz and the Superintendent

Imagine the scene: Gladysz, now “Louise Brooks Society,” takes center stage, not merely content to bask in the reflected glory of Brooks’s luminous legacy but ready to merge his identity with hers. This isn’t just homage—it’s an act of audacious authorship, where the lines between admirer and admired blur into oblivion.

This grandiose rebranding is less a nod to Brooks’s indelible mark on cinema and more a solo performance in the spotlight of digital age fame. Gladysz’s leap into the limelight, snatching a spotlight that might as well have had “Reserved for Louise Brooks” etched into it, doesn’t just raise eyebrows—it practically sends them into orbit. This move begs the question: Is he laying down roses at the altar of Brooks’s legacy, or is this the slickest case of identity heist since the invention of the internet? In the digital age’s hall of mirrors, Gladysz’s homage teeters dangerously close to becoming the most flattering form of flattery: outright impersonation.

In the courtyard of Titicut Follies, where the absurdity of power plays out in morbid dance routines, Gladysz’s proposed name change—and his potential duet with his doppelganger, the inmates organizing the event—sings volumes. Here, the performance is not just about the adoration of Brooks but a complex ballet of influence, identity, and the insatiable hunger for a piece of immortality.

Caught in a moment of delusion and faded grandeur, Norma Desmond descends her staircase, mistaking the glare of police lights for the glow of a movie set—a poignant parallel to Thomas Gladysz’s public persona, often seen as blurring the lines between homage and a personal re-scripting of Louise Brooks’s legacy.

“Delusions of Grandeur” indeed. As Gladysz, or should we say “Louise Brooks Society,” waltzes through the pages of Wikipedia and beyond, we’re left to ponder: At what point does the tribute end and the takeover begin? This isn’t just about preserving a legacy; it’s about claiming it, a move bold enough to make Norma Desmond herself blink in disbelief.

It’s akin to stepping into Desmond’s shoes, declaring, “I am big; it’s the pictures that got small.” Here, though, the “pictures” are Brooks’s legacy, and the stage is the vast, digital expanse of Wikipedia and beyond.

This preference for an institutional façade over a personal byline prompts reflection. Is this a bid for immortality by immortalizing Brooks, or a nuanced strategy, channeling Desmond’s defiance, seeking relevance in a constantly evolving landscape?

In Gladysz’s adaptation, the intrigue lies in the projections at play. While distant from Norma Desmond’s tragic isolation, Gladysz directs in the digital realm, possibly aiming to cement his preservationist legacy by intertwining it with Brooks’s. Yet, in this ambitious quest, the line between homage and overreach blurs, as does the distinction between reality and the silver screen.

Recap: Slicing Through the Editorial Fog in Brooks’s Legacy

Let’s dive into the whirlwind of editorial decisions surrounding Louise Brooks’s Lulu in Hollywood Wikipedia page with a bit more pep in our step, shall we?

Critiques With Claws Out: Auberon Waugh and Lawrence J. Quirk didn’t just review Lulu in Hollywood; they went for the jugular, muddying the waters between Brooks’s life and literature. Waugh’s words in the Daily Mail came off more as moralistic musings, while Quirk’s takedown aimed to unmask what he saw as literary theatrics.

Errata or Character Assassination? Barry Paris’s ’89 bio lists a host of Lulu errors, yet on Wikipedia, it’s paraded like an exposé—less about fact-checking, more about casting doubt.

A Publishing Coup or a Cover-Up? A Publishing Coup or a Cover-Up? Thomas Gladysz and the University of Minnesota Press didn’t simply reissue Lulu in Hollywood; they lobbed editorial grenades, muddying the distinction between Brooks’s written pages and her personal aura. The University of Minnesota Press’s revised edition commandeers the original, substituting William Shawn’s insight with Kenneth Tynan’s profile. A calculated move? Undoubtedly. It presents as a narrative coup wrapped in the trappings of homage.

Battle of the Editions: The throwdown between the original and the revamped Lulu is less upgrade, more upstage. This isn’t just a refresh—it’s a rewrite under the guise of restoration.

Is the Pen Mightier Than Brooks? Each edit, each reshaping on Wikipedia, is a slice into Brooks’s legacy. What’s touted as precision might just be revisionism with a scalpel.

The 2000 Facelift: Illumination or Illusion? The so-called expanded edition adds bells and whistles, but do they dazzle or simply distract from Brooks’s authentic voice?

Legacy Preservation or Legacy Appropriation? Navigating Brooks’s digital legacy is a tightrope act with no safety net. The goal? Keep Brooks’s spirit aloft in the digital canon without letting modern rewrites tether it down.

Keep the dialogue ablaze, the punches rolling, and the focus razor-sharp. In our tribute to Brooks, we must not permit her story to be warped by the pseudo-intellectuals, charlatans, and grifters who masquerade as its custodians.

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