Sunday, August 21, 2016

250. Forbidden Zones: The Old Brewery, Trump Tower, and the Weeds

     There have always been forbidden zones in New York City – places of danger or places where you aren’t supposed to go.  Today they are ribboned off with yellow tape marked “caution … cuidado … caution …cuidado,” usually to keep us out of construction zones.  Or they are blocked off by wooden barricades to protect the path of a parade, or by signs saying HARD HAT AREA, DANGER, NO TRESPASSING, or by orange cones in front of sidewalk stairs leading down into the dark confines of a basement.  But these are a part of our daily existence as New Yorkers, and therefore not remarkable.  There have been other forbidden zones, more mysterious, more dangerous.

     In the mid-nineteenth century, when the gentile middle class lived in brownstones and Greek Revival homes not far removed from the slums where the “dangerous classes” wallowed in poverty and degradation, the Five Points district, named for the convergence of five streets in Lower Manhattan just a short walk east of Broadway, was considered the worst slum in the city, and in it, the Old Brewery was deemed the worst tenement. The neighborhood had a grog shop on every corner, while from the upstairs windows whores with painted faces called down to drunken sailors in the street.  Pigs ranged, dogs snarled, gangs lurked, children screamed.  Certainly it was no place for respectable citizens.

     The chipped walls of the Old Brewery loomed up like a huge toad splotched with warts across from Paradise Square, a triangle with six stunted trees, bricks and rubble, corncobs and manure, broken glass.  Running beside the building was a dark lane three feet wide known as Murderers’ Alley; another lane led to a large room known as the Den of Thieves, where some 75 men and women lived, crammed in together.  The Brewery was thought to harbor drunks and harlots, real and fake crippled beggars, and thugs for hire.  Into its maze of dark passageways burglars and their loot vanished, while the police feared to follow.  Rumors abounded of nightly killings there, of tunnels and hidden rooms, buried treasures, buried bodies.  If ever, for honest citizens, there was a forbidden zone, it was the Old Brewery.

     Which was why, in the early 1850s, the Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church decided not just to visit this district, but to establish a sabbath school for its ragged and unruly children, and to hold weekly temperance meetings in a mission room.  But this was not enough; a committee of visitation, composed of two respectable and very determined Methodist ladies, began visiting every house and family in the area, and even penetrated the Old Brewery, negotiating its creaky stairs to explore its dark cellars and passageways and attics, where they found prostitutes and drunks aplenty, and families living in squalor, but no nests of thieves, no murderers, no hints of buried bodies.  This was a gutsy undertaking for respectable ladies of that time, for whom good works through a church were the one adventure allowed, and the Methodist ladies were heeding the Biblical command to "go out into the highways and hedges" (Luke14:23), which for them meant the Old Brewery.

     And this was but a prelude to the ladies' real undertaking.  In 1852 they managed to buy the building and demolish it, so they could replace it with the Five Points Mission, a five-story brick building with a chapel, a schoolroom, and low-rent rooms for deserving families -- an enterprise that would be expanded in time and continue until the 1890s.  The Methodists had come to stay, and the forbidden zone was forbidden no more.

     Or was it?  When the demolition of the Old Brewery was under way in 1852, human bones were found in the cellars and within the walls, and some intruders managed to gain entrance into one cellar and dig up something buried there and make off with it.  So maybe the rumors of dark doings in the Old Brewery were not without foundation.

      And what forbidden zones are there today?  What if one looks upward?  That’s exactly what hundreds of passersby were doing on Wednesday afternoon, August 10, on Fifth Avenue in front of the 68-story Trump Tower at 56th Street, which contains luxury shops and apartments, including the Donald’s very own residence.  And what were they straining their necks to see?  The same thing that millions were watching on TV and in videos posted on Facebook and elsewhere: a young man in shorts and a T-shirt climbing up the façade of the towering edifice, evidently using suction cups and a harness to accomplish this amazing feat in broad daylight.  Which is, of course, a no-no; one isn’t supposed to go climbing up towers in mid-Manhattan.  But the climber was already up five stories before the police got a 911 call alerting them, and only when he had climbed 21 stories in all were two of New York’s Finest able to remove a glass panel and reach out, grab him, and pull him into the building, ending what had become a three-hour social media sensation.  

     And who was this intrepid climber?  Stephen Rogata, age 19, of Great Falls, Virginia, who had driven all the way from Virginia, checked into a cheap hotel on the Bowery the night before, then walked into the tower’s atrium, sneaked into a fenced-off area, and began his climb.  And why had he undertaken this stunt?  To get a personal meeting with Mr. Trump.  On Tuesday, August 9, he had explained his motives in a YouTube video in which he said he was an “independent researcher” willing to risk his life for a significant purpose; later he told police he wanted to give the Donald “secret information” relating to how he will govern, if elected.  Once secured, he was charged with felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor trespassing, and taken to Bellevue Hospital Center for psychological evaluation.  He endangered not only himself but others, an assistant D.A. insisted at the time of his arraignment on August 17, since during his climb several items fell out of his backpack, including a laptop computer, which might have injured bystanders on the sidewalk below and emergency responders.  At the arraignment Mr. Rogata appeared through a video link to Bellevue, where he is still under psychiatric care, and where his parents have visited him.  The judge set his bail at $10,000 cash or $5,000 bond.

      This stunt recalls the 25-year-old Frenchman Philippe Petit’s amazing high-wire walk with a balancing pole between the Twin Towers in 1974, when he did eight passes on the wire to the astonishment of the onlookers on the street a quarter of a mile below.  This feat led to his immediate arrest and then his release in exchange for doing a free performance for children in Central Park, where he did a high-wire walk over the Turtle Pond.  An overnight celebrity, M. Petit stuck around over the years to do other less astonishing performances; I saw him several times performing as a mime at Sheridan Square, where he competed for attention with a mixed-race tap-dancing couple, and a woman who sang opera to recorded music.  Whether Mr. Rogata will likewise become a celebrity remains to be seen.  My first impression is less of a death-defying performer than a young man harboring delusions, but time will tell.

     As for the Donald, he was away campaigning to save the nation.  Hearing of the incident, he tweeted, “Great job today by the NYPD in protecting the people and saving the climber.”  But he is no stranger to lawsuits.  Will he sue?  One hopes not.  Mr. Rogata seems like a rather trivial target, and harmless; he should be let alone.

     A forbidden zone of a very different kind has emerged in the reed-choked interior of Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach, Queens, where Karina Vetrano, an attractive 30-year-old woman, went for an evening jog along a three-mile fire trail on Tuesday, August 2, and never came out.  Her parents reported her missing, and her father and the police began searching the area.  That evening her father found her body face down near the trail.  She had been sexually assaulted, and strangled with such ferocity that the killer’s hand prints were visible on her neck.

     The region is known to local residents as the Weeds, an isolated area where homeless people camp, and teen-agers ride illegal all-terrain vehicles and party.  It has long been said in Howard Beach, “You don’t go in the Weeds by yourself.”  The police have offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killer, and the victim’s family have made a novel offer to the killer himself: if he surrenders and confesses, the more than $250,000 they have raised through donations to a reward fund will go to anyone he chooses.  Meanwhile the police have asked men frequenting the area to voluntarily provide oral DNA swabs, so they can compare them with DNA evidence left by the killer and eliminate suspects.  They have received many tips and are following up on several, but so far no arrest has been made.

     The fire trail is lined by tall invasive reeds known as phragmites, which I know well from the nearby Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, where it grows thick like a jungle and can attain a height of 16 feet.  It is almost impenetrable; to clear it so as to create or maintain a fire trail, requires machetes.  Until now, I thought phragmites posed a danger only if, in a dry season, it caught fire; at Jamaica Bay I have seen acres of blackened stubble, and once, in the distance, smoke from a spreading fire.  I have seen phragmites also in a damp area at Van Cortland Park, where there are narrow paths leading deep into it – paths I would just as soon not follow.

     Even before the recent murder, the Weeds at Howard Beach seemed dangerous, for last summer a local resident was found there hanging from a tree, a suicide.   Dog walkers now avoid the area, not to mention runners.  Truly, a forbidden zone, and for good reason.

     My poems:  For five acceptable poems, click here and scroll down.  To avoid five terrible poems, don't click here.  For my poem "The Other," inspired by the Orlando massacre, click here.

     My books:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), my historical novel about a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client, is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

     Coming soon:  Maybe Rose, the quintessential Brooklynite.  Maybe Sailors' Snug Harbor, Staten Island.  Maybe both, but separately, in time.

     ©   2016   Clifford Browder

Sunday, August 14, 2016

249. Wall Street: A Roman Orgy, Greed, and "Bro Talk"

     Wall Street, that citadel of wealth, has always had a bad press.  Back in 1849 George G. Foster, a New York Tribune journalist, in his anonymously published New York in Slices, hailed it as the great purse-string of America, but went on to decry “the million deceits and degradations and hypocrisies played off there as in some ghostly farce.” 

Wall Street!  Who shall fathom the depth and the rottenness of thy mysteries?  Has Gorgon passed through thy winding labyrinth, turning with his smile every thing to stone – hearts as well as houses?  Art thou not the valley of riches told of by the veracious Sinbad, where millions of diamonds lay glistening like fiery snow, but which was guarded on all sides by poisonous serpents, whose bite was death and whose contact was pollution?

Foster knew his Greek mythology and Arabian Nights, but he also knew Wall Street.  And this was in 1849, before the likes of Daniel Drew and Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould – remembered today as robber barons – had hit their manly stride, manipulating and convulsing markets in their lust for riches and their delight in turning Wall Street and foreign markets upside down.

     Of course all that was back in the nineteenth century, before even a hint of government regulation, back when laissez-faire was played to the absolute limit.  And today?  Let’s have a look.

     By “Wall Street,” as I explained in the previous post, I don’t mean just the street itself, but the whole financial community, whether headquartered literally on Wall Street or in some more remote location, including even—to the indignation of New Yorkers – the barrens of New Jersey, that decidedly unimperial hinterland across the Hudson that constantly schemes to entice businesses away from the Empire State, even while insidiously laying claim to the Statue of Liberty and sending us its hordes not of immigrants but mosquitoes.

     So what about Wall Street, in this larger sense, today?  Let’s begin with Tyco International, a security systems company whose CEO and CFO (chief financial officer) were found guilty here in 2005 of stealing more than $150 million from the firm.  And what had Dennis Kozlowski, the CEO, done with these ill-gotten funds?  Here’s a sampling that came to light at his trial:

·      A $30 million Fifth Avenue apartment
·      A $6,000 gold-and-burgundy shower curtain
·      A $15,000 dog umbrella stand
·      Paintings by Renoir and Monet worth millions
·      A multimillion-dollar oceanfront estate on Nantucket
·      $1 million in 2001 to pay half the cost of the 40th birthday party for the second Mrs. Kozlowski on the island of Sardinia, a party featuring helmeted gladiators to welcome arriving guests, toga-clad waiters crowned with fig wreaths, wine served in chalices, and an ice statue of Michelangelo’s David pissing vodka.  (Mrs. Kozlowski later filed for divorce.)

     Born in Newark, N.J., in 1946 to second-generation Polish-Americans who worked for the city, Mr. Kozlowski was a good example, if not of rags to riches, at least of a rise from modest beginnings to dazzling financial success.  Photos of him show a man in his sixties with an oval-shaped head, quite bald, and a hearty grin.  His lavish life style came to symbolize the decadent luxury of high-living Wall Street and hastened his downfall, since videos of the party were shown to jurors, who saw dancing women and near-naked male models cavorting with guests, and a beaming Kozlowski promising guests a “fun week” with “eating, drinking, whatever.  All the things we’re best known for.” 

     Mr. Kozlowsi’s celebrated “Roman orgy” recalls impresario and financier Jim Fisk’s reputed revels with scantily clad Opera House dancers and free-flowing champagne in the late 1860s, except that those revels may never have happened, whereas Mr. Kozlowski’s are well documented.  The famous shower curtain landed him on the cover of the New York Post under the headline “OINK, OINK.” 

     In a 2007 interview he maintained his innocence, arguing that jurors, hearing that he was making $100,000 a year, must have thought, “ ‘All that money?  He must have done something wrong.’ I think it’s as simple as that.”  After serving eight years, he was paroled in January 2014 and now lives modestly in a two-bedroom rental overlooking the East River with a nondescript white shower curtain and wife #3. 

     But there’s more to Wall Street than living high on the hog.  Cliché though it is, how about greed?  In our capitalist economy, it can take you very far.  My post #150, “Wall Street Greed and Addiction” (October 26, 2014), draws on reminiscences of former hedge-fund trader Sam Polk, published as the article “For the Love of Money” in the New York Times of January 19, 2014.  When, at 22, Polk first walked onto a trading floor in Boston to begin a summer internship, he was dazzled – not by a floor of screaming, frenzied traders, as it was not so long ago – but by the glowing TV screens, high-tech computer monitors, and phone turrets of today.  Instantly he knew that this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

     Three weeks after his internship ended, his girlfriend dumped him, saying, “I don’t like what you’ve become.”  But when, now a trader, he got his first end-of-the-year bonus of $40,000, he was thrilled until, one week later, another trader only four years his senior was hired away by another outfit for $900,000 a year, 22 times the size of his bonus.  Envy consumed him, and the thought of how much money was available.  Four years later, at 25, he was making $1.75 million a year, but he began to notice the greed and selfishness of most traders, and realized that, for all his outsized salary, he wasn’t doing anything useful or necessary to society.  So he got out.

     But he was addicted to greed.  He would wake up in the middle of the night, terrified by the thought of running out of money, of later regretting his giving up his one chance to be someone important.  But in time he overcame his addiction and began speaking in jails and juvenile detention centers about getting sober, and doing other public services to help the underprivileged.  The implied conclusion of his story:  Can Wall Street greed become an addiction?  The answer: yes!

     And from the same reformed hedge-fund trader, Sam Polk, came a more recent article in the Times of July 10, 2016, entitled “How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down.”  If the previous post on the difficulties of women wanting a Wall Street career needs confirmation, here it is.  Polk tells of going to dinner with a director and client when he was a bond trader at Bank of America, and hearing the client announce, once the waitress was out of earshot, “I’d like to bend her over the table and give her some meat.”  Polk forced a smile, later fumed because he hadn’t said anything about the comment.  Having heard men objectify women all his life, Polk asserts that this everyday sexism was nothing compared to the “bro talk” he witnessed on Wall Street.  Women have written articles and challenged the norms, but the men have done little or nothing, preferring to be in the “in” crowd, to enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded males.  Success on Wall Street depends on “fitting in,” on becoming one of the guys.  For Polk, Wall Street is not a swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners culture, but a culture of brutal conformity; not to conform is to throw away millions of dollars in future earnings.  Which means, I suspect, that the culture won’t change easily, or soon.

      A personal aside:  I have known since grade school that men talk differently among themselves, broaching matters not mentioned in mixed company.  I learned this when my father took me to his gun club, where sportsmen gathered for trap shooting.  Every once in a while my father would announce to some of his acquaintances there, "I heard a good one the other day."  Then, in a lowered voice so I couldn't hear, he would tell his story to a circle of listeners, who would soon erupt in laughter.  Yes, men at all ages talk differently among themselves.  By my early teens I knew that I could talk books and theater with my mother, and crime, sex, and politics with my father.  But what Sam Polk reports about the "bro talk" of Wall Street seems to cross some hidden line.

     Does the Donald pay taxes?  This is the question posed by the lead article of the Business Section of the New York Times of August 12, 2016.  Of course we don't know, since he hasn't released his tax returns, but the article makes it clear that, as a big-time real estate operator, he could quite legally pay little or no taxes.  Why?  Because the tax code is full of overly generous tax breaks for developers, and he'd be a fool not to take advantage of them.  Which simply supplements my post #157 of December 14, 2014, "Taxes: Who Pays Them and Who Doesn't."  As for who doesn't (mentioned at the end of the post), you might be surprised.

     My poems:  For five acceptable poems, click here and scroll down.  To avoid five terrible poems, don't click here.  For my poem "The Other," inspired by the Orlando massacre, click here.

     My books:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), my historical novel about a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client, is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Product Details 

     Coming soon:  Forbidden Zones.  What places, past and present, have been denied to New Yorkers, and why.

     ©   2016   Clifford Browder


Sunday, August 7, 2016

248. Women of Wall Street

     What I meant to be a single post on Wall Street (again!) got longer and longer, and finally split in two.  So this post is about women on Wall Street.  The next one will be about Wall Street otherwise – not a history, just a quick take on my impression of it today.  It might be more logical to do them in reverse, but let’s face it, these girls kind of grabbed me.  Have you heard of Abby Joseph Cohen?  Or Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin (whom I’ve covered before)?  Or Hetty Green, the “Witch of Wall Street”?  Hang on, here they come. 

     Wall Street is thought to be mostly a male world where financial Titans, or would-be financial Titans, maneuver, scheme, or claw their way to success, “success” meaning a vast fortune, two or three beautiful wives (sequentially), and national or international repute.  But there are women on Wall Street, too, as this post will make clear.  But first, a word of caution: by “Wall Street” I don’t mean just that little street that begins on the west across Broadway from Trinity Church, whose pious chimes sound futilely on the financial brouhaha, and then runs east a few blocks to the East River, where sailing ships once thrust their prows over a busy waterfront jammed with carts and piles of merchandise being received from or shipped abroad.  By “Wall Street” I mean the whole financial community, whether headquartered on Wall Street or not.

     And the women of Wall Street?  Years ago I used to read, in Barron’s, the self-proclaimed leading source for market news and analysis, the semiannual survey of a dozen or so leading analysts of the day, who gave their views on the current and future state of the markets, what securities to buy or sell, and so forth.  To be among the dozen so chosen was certainly an honor, and usually there were two or three women at the top of their field, and often fairly young and attractive.  But my favorite was Abby Joseph Cohen, who is now a partner and senior U.S. investment strategist at – of all places – Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid of my post #158 (December 21, 2014), which she joined in 1990. 

     Abby was no glamour puss; photos showed a woman in her early forties, New York-born and obviously Jewish, with short, curly hair and glasses, a Brooklyn mama (she was in fact from Queens), married, with two daughters.  Nothing stylish about her; she seemed like one of us.  Except, of course, for her Street smarts, meaning Wall Street smarts: her uncanny ability to predict the raging bull market of the 1990s, which won her national, if not international, acclaim.  Alas she was a perennial optimist and bull, and as such failed to predict the disastrous bear market of 2000, and the even more disastrous crash of 2008. 

     Well, who’s perfect?  I liked her anyway; she struck me as being for real, down-to-earth, a sort of Bella Abzug of finance.   And Ladies Home Journal likes her, too; in 2001 it named her as one of the thirty most powerful women in America.  And Abby’s advice today, at age 63?  U.S. stocks are the best place to be; the S&P 500, widely seen as the best indicator of the general market, should end the year at 2100.  That prediction was made in January 2016, with the S&P around 1800; the S&P 500 is now at 2166.  Not bad, Abby; but the end of the year is still far off, and in an election year at that.

     Wall Street has always been male-dominated, but even in Victorian times some women invested on their own.  During the Civil War boom in the North, when the public flocked to Wall Street to speculate in stocks and gold, fancy carriages were seen there with affluent women reclining on cushions inside, while sending a servant to fetch the latest prices.  (No Internet in those days, and no telephone either.)  One wonders how their spouses felt, when they reported dramatic gains in the market.  And one wonders how they fared when the boom, as all booms must, went bust.

     Those women were only investors, but in 1870 Wall Street was astonished when Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin, two fiery feminist reformers of the day, opened a brokerage office and began trading stocks; gentlemen flocked to get a close look at what the press labeled “the bewitching brokers” (they were, in fact, young and attractive).  But how, many wondered, could these two young women do so well on the Street, where so many males went bust?  The answer came when a reporter interviewed them in their suite at the fashionable Hoffman House and noticed a portrait on the parlor wall of Commodore Vanderbilt, the richest man in the country, and under it a framed motto: “To Thy Cross I Cling.”   Old Eighty Millions was obviously giving them tips and advice, until their shenanigans caused him to distance himself, at which point their income plunged, and they moved to less stylish quarters and ceased to be a wonder on Wall Street.  (For the full story of the fiery twosome, see posts #39 and #40, December 23 and 30, 2012, or chapter 14 in my book.)  Hardly an encouraging sign for the future of women on Wall Street.

     But then came Hetty Green (1834-1916), the so-called “Witch of Wall Street,” who was born Henrietta Robinson of a wealthy Quaker whaling family in New Bedford, Massachusetts, from whom she inherited a large fortune.  An only child, in her early years her father and grandfather taught her to invest shrewdly, reading her stock market prices the way other parents read their children bedtime stories.  Suspicious of men eager to marry her because of her growing wealth, in 1867, at age 33, she married Edward Henry Green of a wealthy Vermont family, but only after making him sign a prenuptial agreement renouncing all rights to her money, which shows that she was one smart cookie.  They would have a son and a daughter.

     Moving into her husband’s home in Manhattan, Hetty began investing on her own, devising a strategy she stuck to all her life:
  1.  conservative investments
  2.  cash reserves to see her through market fluctuations
  3.  a cool head during market turmoil
The result: she engaged in real estate deals, bought and sold railroads, in bad times made loans to banks and municipalities, raked in millions.  Had our big banks followed her strategy, the financial convulsion of 2009 would have been much less severe, or maybe wouldn’t have happened at all.

File:Hetty Green cph.3a42973.jpg     But what kind of a woman was Hetty Green?  Photographs show a hefty older woman, full-faced with a solemn look, no frills whatsoever (she was raised a Quaker), always dressed in black, which helps account for her name “the Witch of Wall Street.”  She was stingy too, and it became legendary.  Worth millions, she rode in an old carriage, wore a ragged old black dress and underclothes until they were worn out, lunched on graham crackers or dry oatmeal, never turned on the heat or hot water.  It is said that she once spent half the night searching her carriage for a lost postage stamp worth two cents.  But when, during the Panic of 1907, the city of New York appealed to her for a loan, she wrote a check for $1.1 million and took her payments in short-term bonds.  A widow, in her later years she moved about from one small unheated apartment to another in Brooklyn Heights and Hoboken, New Jersey, hoping to escape the notice of the press and tax collectors.  But in a rare interview she said,

              “I am not a hard woman.  But because I do not have a secretary to announce every kind act I perform, I am called close and mean and stingy.  I am a Quaker, and I am trying to live up to the tenets of my of my faith.  That is why I dress plainly and live quietly.  No other kind of life would please me.”

What kind acts she ever performed has escaped the scrutiny of historians.

     In 1916, at age 81, Hetty Green died at her son’s home in New York, reputedly of apoplexy or stroke after arguing with a maid about the virtues of skimmed milk.  Estimates of her wealth ranged from $100 to $200 million ($2.17 to $4.35 billion in 2016 dollars), making her the richest woman of the Gilded Age.  She is buried with her husband in Vermont.

     Yes, there have been women on Wall Street, and some of them, then and now, have done remarkably well.  On July 29 of this year a financial thriller film entitled Equity opened, showing women not as demeaned assistants or hookers, but as female executives on Wall Street, including a heroine who announces early on, “I like money.”  And who invested in the film, so that it could be made?  Some 25 female investors, many of whom appeared in a photo in a New York Times article of July 24, some of them youngish and attractive, some of them older (it takes time to accumulate money); none of them an Abby Joseph Cohen, much less a Hetty Green, all of them well dressed and stylish. 

     These investors told of what an uphill fight it was for them to succeed on Wall Street.  They had to prove they could do the job before being hired, whereas male applicants got the job so they could prove they could do it.  And there was always the thought that they would marry one of the partners and be gone.  Just as in politics, a woman on Wall Street has to be tough … but not too tough.  And in the 1990s it was understood that, if married, you wouldn’t have a child until you were managing director; today, younger female associates have children, but it may diminish their chances for promotion.  The heroine of Equity is single and childless, but some of the other women in the film have to deal with the problem.  The status of women on Wall Street has improved, said one female investor, but “it still has a long way to go.”

     As for the film, I haven’t seen it, but reviews vary.  Says one, it “proves that the women of Wall Street can be just as cold-heartedly corrupt as the boys.”  Says another: it “invites us to slot its characters into stereotypical frames and then breaks the glass.”  And another: it “tries to draw attention to the struggles unique to being a woman working in the cutthroat financial industry.” 

     So what kind of woman wants to make it big on Wall Street today?  Will she become addicted to money and greed, like so many of the males in the field?  Time will tell.

     My poems:  For five acceptable poems, click here and scroll down.  To avoid five terrible poems, don't click here.  For my poem "The Other," inspired by the Orlando massacre, click here.

     My books:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), my historical novel about a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client, is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Product Details 

     Coming soon: Wall Street, its bad press, greed and addiction, "bro talk," etc.

     ©   2016   Clifford Browder