Ah, Marlene Dietrich. Her beauty was considerable, but her go-to-hell spirit is the real reason why, 100 years after her birth, she's still equally cherished by lesbians and gay men. This November her fans had a chance to fall in love yet again, with Marlene Dietrich: Photographs and Memories (Knopf, $40), brimming with photos and mementos, including a letter from Dietrich's long-rumored lesbian lover, screenwriter Mercedes de Acosta.
Much of the text was supplied by Dietrich's daughter, Maria Riva. In an E-mail interview with The Advocate--her first ever with the gay press--Riva declined to confirm the legends about Dietrich's bisexual adventures. But she parried our questions with a wit that reminds us why we found her mother so delightful.
A letter from Mercedes de Acosta to Dietrich appears on page 22, with the caption that de Acosta was on the rebound from Garbo and Dietrich was now her lover. Would you tell the story of their relationship?
Allow me to clarify: De Acosta was "the lover," Dietrich was the recipient. Not all lesbian relationships are those of mutual acceptance. The taker and receiver are often unresolved persuasions, romanticized experimentation, sometimes even physical forms of self-punishment excursions. To declare one's sexual preferences does …