I cannot be sorry at Mercedes de Acosta's death. I am
only sorry that she should have been so unfulfilled as a
character. In her youth she showed zest and originality. She
was one of the most rebellious & brazen of Lesbians. . . .
I am relieved that her long drawn out unhappiness has at last
come to an end. - Upon her death Cecil Beaton
wrote this as an epitaph in his diary.
Descended from a noble and
proud Spanish family, Mercedes de Acosta's orphaned mother,
Micaela Hernandez de Alba y de
traveled to the United States at the age of fourteen, where
she had fought her case successfully with the New York Supreme
Court for the return of the family fortune that had been
absconded by her sinister uncle.
Ricardo de Acosta, had migrated
from Spain to Cuba, where he supposedly had led a group of
revolutionaries attempting to overthrow Spanish rule. The story
goes that he was arrested, escaped from a firing line,
and fled to New York where he eventually met Mercedes's
mother. He convinced his future wife to remain in the
United States and marry him rather than return to Spain
with her inheritance.
Mercedes des Acosta, along with her parents and
seven siblings, lived in New York City on fashionable
Forty-seventh Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, where
their neighbors included such personalities as former
President Theodore Roosevelt, and the William Vanderbilts.
Mercedes's parents often took part in the genteel, social
activities of the neighborhood.
of her beautiful older sister, Rita also
known as Rita Lydig, were often mentioned in the society
sections of the daily newspapers. She posed for paintings by
several artists--Rodin and Boldini. Malvina Hoffman sculpted
an alabaster bust of her. Her personal wardrobe became the
basis for the start of the Costume Institute at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When Mercedes published her autobiography, Here
Lies the Heart , in 1960, it received excellent reviews,
but sales were slim. Even though the book discusses all
her female friends with no direct reference to their
lesbianism, many readers were
outraged by the
implications. Some of the women mentioned in the book felt
they had been "outed." Garbo snubbed her on the sidewalks of
New York and refused to see Mercedes even when she was on her
death bed. Le Gallienne never forgave Mercedes. When a
friend found a gold wedding band in Eva's attic some ten years
after Mercedes had died and asked what it was, Eva snatched it
away, threw it down a well outside her home, and grumbled, "It
was from Mercedes." If Le Gallienne was in a room and heard
Mercedes name mentioned, she would storm out of a room in
disgust. Le Gallienne told everyone that she thought the book
should have been called "Here the Heart Lies and Lies and
When she died in
1968 she was penniless and living in a tiny, two-room apartment in
New York City. She is buried at Trinity Cemetary
in New York City.