19th-century women went nuts for Franz Liszt, music's first celebrity

Before BTS, Bieber, the Backstreet Boys, or The Beatles, there was Lisztomania: the intense fan frenzy directed toward Hungarian composer Franz Liszt during his performances. The phenomenon first occurred in Berlin in 1841, before the emergence of celebrities as we know them today. Liszt was the first music heartthrob, and the hysteria he induced puzzled medical communities.

If Liszt's music alone didn't stir passions, his impassioned live performances certainly solidified his sexual magnetism. According to a book "The Virtuoso Years" that profiles the composer, women would reportedly swarm him, fight over handkerchiefs and gloves, wear his portrait on brooches, get locks of his hair, and even treasure his old cigar stumps.

Lisztomania was the topic of intense medical fascination. One Munich paper in 1843 speculates that the German city's residents would survive Lisztomania due to their "strong constitutions."

Liszt fever, a contagion that breaks out in every city our artist visits, and which neither age nor wisdom can protect, seems to appear here only sporadically, and asphyxiating cases such as appeared so often in northern capitals need not be feared by our residents, with their strong constitutions.

The Virtuoso Liszt

He was young and handsome with a boyish Timothee Chalamet-type look— and if Timothee Chalamet wrote Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, maybe I'd be fainting too.

Lisztomania is also, of course, the name of a hit Phoenix song.