Born Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert in Ireland in 1818, Montez bounced around from India to England, got married at 19 and quickly divorced. Afterward, she dashed off to Spain where she studied dancing for a few months, then returned to England in June 1843 for her stage debut as “Lola Montez, the Spanish dancer” — though she was neither Spanish, nor much of a dancer. Her signature performance, called the Spider Dance, consisted mostly of her flicking her skirt and shaking her legs as though trying to rid herself of spiders that had crawled into her petticoats. Word of it spread like the Gangnam Style of its day, thanks to the scandalous knee-length dress Lola would wear and her seductive way of touching her leg.
Even though Lola wasn’t particularly talented, her sheer sex appeal won her dancing engagements across Europe, as well as a number of notable affairs, including one with “Count of Monte Cristo” author Alexandre Dumas. Her international notoriety was cemented when she caught the eye of the King Ludwig I of Bavaria who was so immediately taken with her, he offered her a castle in return for becoming his mistress. Of course, Lola wasn’t the kind of woman who would turn down a castle from a king, so she took up with Ludwig and was soon named the Baroness Rosenthal and Countess of Lansfeld. Her diplomatic influence on Ludwig was so powerful, in fact, that his cabinet became known as the Lolaministerium, but her political sway also didn't sit well with other government officials and thus ushered his overthrow in the revolution of 1848, which sent Lola on the run once again.
In the early 1850s, Lola toured the Spider Dance around the United States and Australia, and when she retired her dancing career, Lola took to the stage in a new capacity as a lecturer. The first paid speech she delivered in 1857 (in bustling Hamilton, Ohio) focused on the topic of beautiful women. A year later, Lola published The Arts of Beauty, or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet with Hints to Gentlemen on the Art of Fascination, which included all sorts of delightful tips for making oneself as fetching as possible, including a recipe for increasing bust size:
1/2 oz of tincture of myrrh
4 oz. of pimpernel water
4 oz. of elderflower water
1 gram of musk
6 oz. rectified spirits of wine.
Softly rub the mixture on your bosom for five or ten minutes two or three times a day.
On January 17, 1861, Lola Montez passed away in New York City. The New York Times reported that she “died in poverty,” though the opening of her obituary underscored her uncanny notoriety:
There are few leaders of the newspaper literature of the day who are not familiar with the name of that eccentric, brilliant’, impulsive woman, known as Lola Montez. As a danseuse, an actress, a politician, a courtezan, a lecturer, a devotee, she has occupied a large space of the public attention for many years, both in this country and in Europe. Her career, so strangely erratic, so wonderfully checquered, came to its end on Thursday last.
Not wonder it’s said that she inspired the song “Whatever Lola Wants,” because even though Lola ultimately had little, she certainly got a lot.
This song, and the character Lola, from the musical "Damn Yankees!" were both inspired by Lola Montez.
And this is arguably the best "Lola" song ever written - though it was definitely not inspired by either of our Lola's!