Sunday, March 30, 2014

120. Exiles in New York, part 2

     This post is the second about exiles in New York.  It will deal with the Scarlet Sisters and a dragon lady.

The Everleigh Sisters

     Exiles of a rather special kind were two sisters who came to New York and in 1913, using the name Lester, bought a brownstone at 20 West 71st Street and resided there for many years.  Neighbors had no idea who Minna and Ada Lester really were: the Everleigh sisters who from 1900 to 1911 had run the fanciest brothel in the country on the near South Side of Chicago.  As they told it, their father was a prosperous lawyer in Kentucky who had sent them to private schools and given them lessons in elocution and dancing, following which they married two brothers named Lester and left them after a year, Minna complaining that her husband was a brute who tried to strangle her.  They then joined a traveling theatrical troupe, performing in melodramas as they toured the country, until, in Omaha in 1898, they came into an inheritance that let them quit acting and launch a new venture: a bordello to accommodate visitors to the Trans-Mississippi Exposition opening there that year.  According to the sisters, they were strictly madams and had never offered their charms to the patrons.  When the exposition closed and business fell off, they took their earnings and moved to Chicago to establish the fanciest bagnio on the continent, which they were sure would lure customers from far and wide.  There, from 1900 to 1911, the Everleigh Club on South Dearborn Street flourished as the most luxurious and profitable house in the country, patronized by men of great wealth and pliant   morals, of whom there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply.

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Ada in 1895.  She achieved the wasp waist.
     Such was their story, prior to coming to New York as the Lester sisters.  But in many respects they had stretched the truth, even mangled it.  The 1870 census reveals that they were the daughters of a farmer named James Montgomery Simms of Greene County, Virginia.  That they attended private schools and had lessons in elocution and dancing I find doubtful.  Feminists have hailed them as liberated women of their time, which they certainly were, but recent scholarship suggests that they were never married.  Stranded by a theater company in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1895, they opened a brothel there, then opened a second one for the 1898 exposition.  Portraits commissioned by them in 1895 are suggestive, and publicity for the 1898  exposition includes a print showing Minna posing in a corset on an ornate brass bed and looking much less like a hard-nosed madam than a seductive courtesan offering her charms to whoever could afford them.  Just how two respectably raised young Southern ladies transitioned to this profession remains a mystery that even their nephew, with whom I once corresponded, could not explain.

File:Minna Everleigh 1895 portrait.jpg
Minna in 1895.  Just a madam??? 
The Everleigh Club, 2131 and 2133 South
Dearborn Street.
     What is not in doubt is their having operated the luxurious Everleigh Club in Chicago and its immediate success.  The club had twelve soundproof parlors (the Gold Room, Moorish Room, Red Room, etc.), an art gallery featuring nudes in gold frames, a dining room, a ballroom, a music room where a “professor” fingered the keys of a $15,000 gold-leaf piano, and even a well-furnished library where, to the sisters’ surprise, some of their patrons settled down comfortably with a book, probably glad to be away from their wife and kids.  There were silk curtains, damask easy chairs, oriental rugs, mahogany tables, gold cuspidors, and perfumed fountains, and in the girls’ rooms upstairs, luxurious divans, gilt bathtubs, and warbling canaries.

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The Japanese Throne Room, as shown in the brochure.

File:Everleigh Club - Blue Bedroom.jpg
The Blue Bedroom, as shown in the brochure.

     The Everleigh “butterflies” had to be attractive and healthy, free from drugs and drink, adept at small talk, and experienced but ladylike.  The patrons had to dress and act like gentlemen; rowdy behavior was not tolerated.  To get in, they needed a letter of recommendation from an existing client or an engraved card, and once in they had to spend freely, sometimes as much as $200 or even $1,000 a night; the club was no place for the budget-minded.  The sisters were said to gross $15,000 a week, a generous amount of which went to corrupt aldermen and state legislators to guarantee their continued operation.  Among their reputed guests were J. Edgar Lee Masters, Theodore Dreiser, Ring Lardner, and Prince Henry of Prussia, the Kaiser’s brother.  In 1905, when Marshall Field II, heir to his father’s vast department store fortune, died of a gunshot wound, allegedly while cleaning a gun at home, rumor had it that he had been shot by a girl at the Everleigh Club, following which the sisters had the body smuggled out to his residence, or he himself, unaware of the seriousness of his wound, managed to get home by himself.  This story some have dismissed, while others even today deem it credible.  Yet another theory is that his death was a suicide.

     What happens when the census taker comes to a whorehouse, especially the plushest one in the nation?  Because I once did considerable research on the sisters, in preparation for a biography that I later gave up on, I can answer precisely, having combed the census records of 1900 until I found the entry for 2131 South Dearborn.  When the enumerator called on June 6, 1900, Minna gave her age as 29 and Ada as 26, thus shaving 5 and 10 years off their ages respectively.  As for the twelve “boarders” counted, not one confessed to being over 29.  And their occupations?  Artist, bookkeeper, cashier, seamstress, dressmaker, dry-goods clerk, milliner, saleslady, actress, cashier, and cook, plus one blank, probably the most honest answer of the bunch.  Did the census taker know he was being lied to?  Almost certainly , this being the city’s red-light district, with numerous “boarding houses” with only female boarders. 

     The Everleigh Club achieved national, even international, fame, but in time all good things come to an end.  Anti-vice crusaders had long campaigned to close not just the Everleigh Club but the entire Chicago red-light district, but the Club’s reputation, and the sisters’ generous pay-offs to  local politicians, had protected it.  Then, in 1911, the sisters published a brochure entitled The Everleigh Club Illustrated, describing the club and illustrating it with photographs of its sumptuous interior.  The brochure came to the attention of Mayor Carter H. Harrison, who took offense at it and ordered the police chief to close the Club once and for all.  Having amassed a fortune, the sisters accepted his decision and threw a wild closing-night party to end things with a bang.  They then sold the place, traveled a bit, and in 1913 moved to New York, taking some of the furnishings with them.

     Many people come to New York in search of opportunity and excitement, but the Everleigh/Lester/Simms sisters came to it for a quiet retirement and theater.  And so, having left their glory days behind in Chicago, they lived quietly on West 71st Street for years, attending theater, joining some women’s organizations, presiding over a poetry reading group, and visiting relatives in Virginia once a year.  Perhaps the only one who knew of their past was Charles Washburn, a Chicago Tribune reporter whom they had known back in Chicago, and who would visit them once a year to share a bottle of champagne and reminisce.  Drawing on information gleaned from these sessions, in 1934 he published Come into My Parlor: A Biography of the Aristocratic Everleigh Sisters of Chicago, a readable but undocumented biography that presents uncritically whatever they told him and is therefore not too reliable a source.  When Minna died in 1948 at age 82, Ada sold the brownstone and went to live with her nephew, James W. Simms, in Charlottesville, Virginia, taking with her some of the furniture from the Everleigh Club – “beautiful furniture,” the nephew assured me later in a letter.  She died there in 1960 at age 96.  When we corresponded in 1981, Mr. Simms assured me that his aunts, whom he had visited in New York, were “two of the kindest, most caring people I have ever known.”

     And how did I first hear of the “Scarlet Sisters” and their posh establishment?  The way any son of the Midwest would have heard of them: discreetly, from his father, in the absence of any women.  Long after their Club had been closed, its legend was passed on from father to son for decades. 

Dragon Lady

     The next exile to be mentioned here was a woman who cast an exotic spell not easily resisted.  According to those who had dealings with her – diplomats, generals, statesmen – she was the brainiest, sexiest, most charming, and most ruthless woman they had ever encountered: Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

     The daughter of Charlie Soong, a wealthy Chinese businessman and former Methodist missionary, she had been raised a Methodist and educated in this country, graduating from Wesleyan College, and so spoke fluent English and had a good grasp of American society.  As the wife of Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang, with whom she had a long but stormy relationship, she was viewed and celebrated here as the First Lady of China, especially when Japan invaded China in 1937, and even more so after we went to war with Japan in 1941.  Indeed, she and her husband, the Generalissimo, were embraced by us as the heroic leaders of China in the war against Japan, with little awareness of their opponents, the Chinese Communists.  If the Generalissimo, standing stiffly in official portraits with his chest bemedaled, struck us as a Great Stone Face, distant and reserved, his wife exuded charm and used it skillfully in enlisting support for her husband.  From first to last, svelte, well-tailored, and possessed of a seductive smile, she was into politics up to her lovely ears.

     Her fame in the U.S. peaked in 1943, when she came to this country to get more support for the Chinese Nationalist cause.  She drew crowds of thousands, appeared for the third time on the cover of Time magazine, and became the first Chinese national and second woman to address a joint session of both houses of Congress.  There was then great sympathy for China, our wartime ally long ravaged by the Japanese invaders, and she personified that ally, masking her husband’s authoritarian ways with her charm and her talk of democracy.  The Methodist church in Evanston that I then attended was especially supportive of her, a fellow Methodist, there being many Methodist missionaries in China, and the daughter of our local Congressman told a group of us of meeting and talking with her personally.  What I chiefly remember of her account was how, when Madame Chiang dropped something, she quickly picked it up herself, not wanting others to do it for her.  Needless to say, the girl was absolutely charmed by Madame Chiang.

With the Generalissimo, Roosevelt, and Churchill in Cairo, 1943.
The Generalissimo rarely left China, but this conference was important.

     After the war things changed.  The Nationalists, locked in a losing civil war with the Communists, were compromised by corruption; some of the money meant for the war against Japan had gone into the pockets of the Chiangs.  When, in desperation, Madame Chiang came again to our shores to plead her husband’s cause, she was not as well received; her presence, in fact, was an embarrassment.  When the Nationalists lost the mainland in 1949, she and her husband went with them to Taiwan, where they continued their struggle against the Communists.  When the Cold War developed, they regained favor in this country as allies against the Soviets and Communist China, inaugurating a relationship that would have many ups and downs.

     My own attitude toward the Nationalists and Madame Chiang changed when, in Evanston in 1950, I met a longtime friend of my mother’s, the YWCA’s official observer at the U.N. in New York, who viewed the Chiangs as despotic and corrupt.  She told of a conversation with Madame Pandit, Nehru’s sister and India’s ambassador to the U.S., who recounted a meeting with Madame Chiang.  Madame Chiang had stressed the importance of appearance; every morning, when she was dressing, Madame Chiang said she thought about what she would be doing that day, whom she would meet, and what impression she wanted to make.  For her, clothing and appearance were an integral part of politics.  Madame Pandit felt a bit overwhelmed by this unsolicited advice, and one suspects that Madame Chiang considered Madame Pandit just a bit dowdy.  (How any woman in a sari could be dowdy I can’t imagine; personally, I find saris superbly elegant and attractive.)

     As the Grande Dame of Taiwan, Madame Chiang made several trips to the the 1950s to lobby the U.S. government against admitting Communist China to the U.N.  As the Generalissimo’s health deteriorated, control of the Nationalist government passed to Chiang Ching-kuo, his son by a previous marriage.  Madame Chiang and her husband had no children of their own, and she was not on good terms with his successor.  When the Generalissimo died in 1975, Madame Chiang left Taiwan and established herself in New York in an Upper East Side apartment overlooking Gracie Square, and on an estate on Long Island.  Though she lived here in semi-seclusion, when Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988, she returned to Taiwan to support her old allies, but her influence had waned and she soon returned to New York.  Here she was guarded by a team of black-suited bodyguards who cleared the lobby of her apartment building whenever she entered or left.  She received few visitors, grew flowers, did calligraphy and drawings, read.  Though hard of hearing as she aged, she was still quick-witted and read the Bible and the New York Times every day.  She died in her apartment in 2003, age 105, having lived in three centuries, and is buried in New York State.

     The Everleigh sisters lived quietly here, seemingly without regrets.  How Madame Chiang felt while residing here, now wielding a pen and brush, when she had once manipulated statesmen and generals, I do not know.  Surely she nursed some bitterness toward this country, once her staunch friend and ally, whom she blamed for the loss of China.  She was a fascinating woman, a nest of contradictions, an enigma.  We won’t see her like again.  Regrettably, she never wrote her memoir.

     A note on Chester Kallman:  A viewer of this blog informs me that he briefly knew Kallman (post #119) in Athens in the 1960s or early 1970s.  Invited for dinner, he and two friends arrived at Kallman’s apartment to find Kallman unprepared for guests … at least, dinner guests.  After a delay Kallman emerged from the bedroom, disheveled and “quite messed up,” with two burly and surly young men.  Embarrassed, Kallman explained that he had forgotten about the dinner date and asked his guests to come back the following evening.  Kallman, it seems, had a liking for “rough stuff” from the junior ranks of the military junta then in power.  The guests returned the following evening and a good time was had by all.  But I hold to my personal conclusion that Kallman’s life was not, on the deepest level, a happy one.

This is New York

File:Naked Cowboy in Times Square.jpg
Kris from Seattle

     Coming soon:  Two more posts on Exiles in New York: a pianist with five Steinways; an anarchist with a compact; a future emperor; a renegade priest with a talent for seduction and debt; a would-be proletarian who loathed the capitalist U.S.; and a keeper of the flame with orange hair.

     ©  2014  Clifford Browder

Sunday, March 23, 2014

119. Exiles in New York, part 1

     This post and the next are about exiles in New York City.  Some of them chose to live here, others couldn’t wait until conditions – usually political – changed, permitting them to return to their homeland.  Some learned English, others did not.  Some loved New York, some tolerated it, and some were never comfortable here and got away as soon as they could.  Admittedly, for most foreigners, New York requires an adjustment, being fiercely modern, fast-paced, noisy, and congested.  On the other hand, it has been the preferred destination of many who were separated from the land of their birth.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse in 1933.
     A renowned author and pioneer commercial aviator, Saint-Exupéry came to New York on the last day of 1940, not wishing to live under the Nazi-allied Vichy regime of Marshal Pétain, which had come to power following the disastrous French military defeat and collapse.  He spoke no English, but French-speaking American friends fed and feted him and found him and his wife Consuelo, who had followed him here, twin penthouse apartments on Central Park South.  (A very posh address.  It pays to have friends with connections.)  When one of those friends saw a figure in his doodles, she suggested that he turn it into the protagonist of a children’s book.  This would be a radical departure for Saint-Exupéry, the author of serious and sensitive works about aviation and travel, but the idea took hold and he started writing what would become his best-known work, Le Petit Prince, an illustrated children’s book to be read as well by adults.

File:Littleprince.JPG     Another American friend, Silvia Hamilton, saw him regularly for a year and encouraged him in his writing until at last, in April 1943, the manuscript  was finished.  Rushing off to rejoin the Free French Air Force in North Africa, the author tossed a rumpled paper bag onto Hamilton’s entry table, containing the 140-page draft manuscript and drawings, the pages replete with corrections as well as coffee stains and cigarette burns.  The finished work has been called fabulistic, abstract, ethereal; it is anything but realistic and makes no direct reference at all to the war in progress.  In it a pilot stranded in a desert meets a yellow-scarfed young prince fallen to earth from a tiny asteroid.  The prince tells of visiting various asteroids and describes the inhabitants of each: a king who thinks he rules the entire universe; a businessman counting the stars he thinks he owns; a drunk who drinks out of shame at his drinking; and so on.  “Grown-ups are so strange,” says the prince.

     Published in New York in French and English in 1943, Le Petit Prince was Saint-Exupéry’s last work.  Though he was really too old, the Free French let him fly.  While on a reconnaissance flight on July 31, 1944, his plane disappeared in the Mediterranean, presumably shot down by a German plane.  The plane’s wreckage was found only sixty years later, though his silver identity bracelet was discovered snagged in a fishing net off Marseilles in 1998.  Meanwhile Le Petit Prince, not published in France until 1946, has been translated into 250 languages and sells over 1.8 million copies a year.  The author’s self-imposed exile in New York was fruitful in the extreme.  I urge anyone who hasn’t read the work to do so; it is charming, provocative, unique.  In fact, I recommend all his works, especially Terre des hommes (in English, Wind, Sand, and Stars, though I prefer the French title by far).

 André Breton

     The rise of fascism in Europe and the outbreak of World War II brought many European artists and intellectuals to these shores, many of them to New York.  “Tête léonine,” said a fellow graduate student at Columbia, when I mentioned the poet André Breton as a possible dissertation subject, and it’s true that Breton usually wore his hair fairly long, giving him a somewhat lionlike appearance.  The founder and arbiter of Surrealism, Breton was drafted into the army in 1939 and demobilized following the French defeat in 1940.  No friend of Vichy, he left his beloved Paris for Marseilles, and from there by boat in 1941 managed to reach Martinique, where the Vichy authorities informed him that there was no need for Surrealism in Martinique, and interned him for a while.  Released, he then managed to reach New York, where he found many of his Surrealist comrades, founded the Surrealist review VVV, and with Marcel Duchamp organized a Surrealist exhibition.  He evidently supported himself by taking a broadcasting job, probably one related to the war effort, even though, like Saint-Exupéry, he never bothered to learn English or, so far as I know, any foreign language.  An intellectual for whom ideas were vital entities to espouse and fight for, he exuded as always an undeniable charisma that drew others to him, and a quarrelsome streak that drove some away.  No opinion of his was tepid or wishy-washy; a celebrant of heterosexual love and the surreal, he was determinedly anticlerical and fiercely homophobic.

     Though he had long since broken with the Communist Party, where he never felt at home, in New York he had yet to renounce the tenets of dialectical materialism.  Knowing this, the art critic Meyer Schapiro invited two intellectuals of his acquaintance, one a dedicated Marxist and the other a critic of Marxism, to a debate for Breton’s benefit.  During the debate Breton listened intently but said not a word, as the critic of Marxism gained the upper hand.  After that, Schapiro told me long ago, André Breton never again mentioned dialectical materialism.  His distancing from Communism and its tenets was complete and final. 

Peggy Guggenheim wearing mobile earrings by Alexander Calder (courtesy private collection)
Wearing Alexander Calder earrings.
     Hosting Breton and other exiles in New York was the wealthy art patron Peggy Guggenheim, a niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, founder of the museum that bears his name.  She had taken an active interest in Surrealism in the 1930s and in a very short time amassed a significant collection.  Now, on West 57th Street in wartime New York, she opened a museum/gallery called The Art of This Century Gallery, of which only the front room was a commercial gallery.  She was married at the time to the Surrealist artist Max Ernst, who found the marriage a convenient way to gain entry to the U.S., but by her own admission she had a sexual appetite for men that matched her appetite for art.  Photographs reveal a woman neither plain nor memorably beautiful, but she had money and influence and chutzpah (she was, after all, Jewish), and many an artist enhanced his career by obliging her in this regard.  A 1942 photograph taken in her New York apartment shows herself posing with no less than fourteen renowned artists of the time – not all of them necessarily her lovers – including Breton, Ernst, Leonora Carrington, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, and Piet Mondrian.  It is a curious photograph, with some of the subjects facing right, some left, and only a few looking squarely at the camera.  Only Peggy Guggenheim could have assembled in one spot such a clutch of avant-garde talent, most of them in wartime exile.

“Group photograph of ‘Artists in Exile.’” In Peggy Guggenheim’s New York  apartment, 1942. Front Row: Stanley William Hayter, Leonara Carrington,  Frederick Kiesler, Kurt Seligmann. Second Row: Max Ernst, Amedee  Ozenfant, Andre Breton, Fernand Leger, Berenice Abbott. Third Row: Jimmy  Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, John Ferren, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian.
Front row: Leonora Carrington, 2nd from left.  Middle row: Max Ernst, far left; Breton in
middle; Fernand Léger, 2nd from right.  Back row: Peggy Guggenheim, 2nd from left;
Marcel Duchamp, 2nd from right; Piet Mondrian, far right.
     It was not Peggy Guggenheim who enlisted Breton’s affections in New York, but Elisa Claro (née Bindorff), whom he met in a French restaurant on  56th Street in 1943 and married in (of all places!) Reno, Nevada, in 1945, she becoming his third and final wife.  He traveled with her to Canada in 1944, and the following year they visited the Hopi reservation in Arizona, where they observed Hopi rituals and Breton added kachina dolls to his art collection.  Accompanied by Elisa, in the spring of 1946 Breton returned to Paris to resume his Surrealist activities and rambunctious ways, as inclined as ever to provocation and controversy.  His former Surrealist comrades Paul Eluard and Louis Aragon, now ardent Communists, dismissed him as irrelevant, since he had not participated, as they had, in the Resistance.  Which didn’t prevent him from advancing as always the Surrealist cause and exploring what he would term Magical Art.

W. H. Auden

Auden in 1939.
     The English poet and man of letters W. H. Auden, already well known in England as a leftist writer and intellectual, came to New York in January 1939 with his friend the writer Christopher Isherwood, the two of them entering the U.S. with temporary visas but intending to stay.  Auden and Isherwood, age 32 and 35 respectively, had known each other since boarding school, and in the 1920s had left strait-laced, homophobic England for the freedom of Weimar Berlin.  There Auden had remained for nine months and Isherwood for years, the chief attraction being a seemingly inexhaustible supply of boys available and eager for sex.  In the 1930s Auden worked in England as a schoolteacher, essayist, reviewer, and lecturer, but in 1937, when he did volunteer work for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, he became disillusioned with politics and disgusted with war.  It was this experience, above all, that prompted him to quit England for America, where he hoped to resolve the doubts, both political and personal, now plaguing him.
Chester Kallman

     When the two newly arrived English writers gave a reading here, two college students from Brooklyn College sat in the front row and winked and smiled provocatively.  One of them, Chester Kallman, showed up at their lodgings the next day to interview them for the college newspaper, causing Auden to remark sourly, “It’s the wrong blond!”  But Kallman, with an ample supply of Brooklyn chutzpah, persisted with the interview, and by the end of it Auden’s interest had kindled.  In fact, he was smitten; they soon became lovers.

     The New York literary scene was to Auden’s liking and he remained here, but in April 1939 Isherwood, sensing that the East Coast would be Auden’s turf, went to California, where he would settle down and cultivate the West Coast as his own.  When war broke out in September, Auden informed the British Embassy in Washington that he would return to Britain, if needed, but was told that for his age group only qualified personnel were wanted.  In spite of this, there would develop considerable resentment in Britain that Auden and Isherwood had absented themselves when Britain, following the fall of France, stood alone against Germany and endured the horrors of the Blitz.  Auden, on the other hand, viewed the wartime sloganeering, speechifying, and committee-joining fervor of British intellectuals as irrelevant to the war effort, and as potentially damaging as fascism at its worst.

     In 1940-41 Auden lived in a ramshackle brownstone at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights in an experiment in communal living launched by his friend George Davis, a brilliant fiction editor recently fired from his job at Harper’s Bazaar because of his total lack of self-discipline.  Experiments in communal living were nothing new in America, but nineteenth-century endeavors had proven impractical, since the free spirits involved were better at talk and philosophizing than at managing money, doing the dishes, and taking out the trash.  Nothing daunted, Davis assembled in the brownstone on Middagh Street a number of his authors and acquaintances, including Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears, Jane and Paul Bowles, Gypsy Rose Lee, and others – such a concentration of creative talent, seasoned by the presence of an acclaimed stripper recently turned author, that it spices the mind.

Carson McCullers
     Auden was not noted for neatness – wherever he lived, he left papers and cigarette ashes strewn about – but in this crowd he was by contrast the perfect bourgeois, imposing regular meals and regular working hours for all.  He wrote out cooking and cleaning schedules, lectured his housemates when they used too much toilet paper, and announced at dinnertime, “There will be no political discussion.”  He and Carson McCullers, who had just achieved literary fame with the publication of her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, developed a warm teacher-student friendship beneficial to both – a remarkable achievement, given Cullers’s neurotic hang-ups and hard drinking.  At Davis’s invitation Gypsy Rose Lee joined the party so he could help her work on a novel, The G-String Murders, which in time became a best-selling mystery.  She alone of the residents had both money and common sense.  Her maid came with her but was unable to cope with the accumulated dirty clothes and dishes, empty bottles, and cigarette ashes and stubs. 

     Visiting this curious artists colony were Anais Nin, who christened the brownstone the February House because several of the occupants had birthdays in February, and Thomas Mann’s daughter Erika and son Klaus.  (Auden had married Erika to give her a British passport, but by mutual consent the marriage was never consummated and they lived apart.)  The novelist Richard Wright and others also dropped in.

     Amazingly, the residents of the February House all managed to get some significant work done, but their love life was often less than satisfactory.  George Davis happily cruised the Brooklyn piers, but Carson McCullers pined futilely for the Swiss journalist and world traveler Annemarie Clarac-Schwarzenbach, a friend of the Manns, while Auden yearned stubbornly for Chester Kallman, who after two years, being young and adventurous, informed Auden that from now on he would range freely in search of sex.  Deeply wounded, Auden, who wanted a stable relationship, managed to maintain his friendship, albeit sexless, with Chester.  Auden’s friends never could grasp why Auden clung to a younger partner whom they considered in every way his inferior, but they apparently failed to grasp that desire is not wise or prudent or practical; it simply is.  Auden and Chester Kallman each offered the other something that he needed, something beyond sex; the relationship ended only with Auden’s death.  How Auden squared his sex life with the Anglican faith he had returned to in 1940 I do not know.  He seems to have been troubled by his sexuality, as Kallman was not.

     Inevitably, communal living in the February House began to fray on the nerves of the participants.  Fed up with her housemates’ drinking and slovenliness, Gypsy bowed out first, soon followed by McCullers, whose boozing and late hours had impaired her fragile health.  Irked by Paul Bowles’s noisy sex games with his wife and loud partying, Auden and Britten expelled the offender, but Britten and Pears then also left the house and America, returning to wartime Britain.  Soon afterward Auden too moved out, convinced of the need for a balance between bohemian chaos and bourgeois convention that the February House obviously could not provide.  George Davis stayed stubbornly on until the house was demolished in 1945; in time he would marry Kurt Weill’s widow, Lotte Lenya, and work hard promoting Weill’s work.  The story of 7 Middagh Street, Brooklyn Heights, brief but stellar, has justifiably been called a true mingling of the sublime and the ridiculous; it is well told in Sherill Tippins’s February House (Houghton Mifflin, 2005).

     When Auden was called up for the draft in 1942, the U.S. Army rejected him because of his avowed homosexuality.  For several years he taught at Swarthmore College and in 1945, unknown to Auden at the time, he was considered for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on the basis of his volume For the Time Being, but lost out to Karl Schapiro because of his alleged Communism (he had never joined he Party) and his aloofness from the war.  Then, in March 1945, he applied to join U.S. Army as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey in Germany, and became a major as a “bombing research analyst in the Morale Division,” interviewing civilians in the devastated cities of Germany.  Significantly, neither his wartime disgust with war nor his homosexuality seems to have been a problem, and the prospect of a steady and substantial salary was surely an enticement.  The thought of Auden in uniform is, to put it mildly, arresting.  (The Strategic Bombing Survey, by the way, studied the effects of bombing on both Germany and Japan and concluded that 10% of the bombs hit their target.  One wonders, then, where the other 90% ended up.)

The later Auden.
    Auden became a U.S. citizen in 1946 and continued to live in New York, making a living as a writer, teacher, lecturer, and librettist.  Reading his poetry, he practiced a low-keyed delivery, despising the sonorous and inflated tones that often plague poets when they read.  In 1948 his long poem The Age of Anxiety won the Pulitzer Prize.  From 1953 on he shared houses and apartments with Kallman, though later he would summer in Europe.  Time took its toll on both of them.  Auden’s aging face grew fissured from his steady smoking, and svelte, young Chester became a middle-aged man who drank far more than was good for him.  When Stravinsky asked Auden to do the libretto for The Rake’s Progress, Auden, hoping to reclaim Chester through the steadiness of work, enlisted his support and sold him to the composer as a collaborator.  Occasionally Kallman would show some poetry of his own to a friend, who was invariably struck by its intensity.  One suspects that Kallman secretly resented being in the shadow of an acclaimed man of letters, but he published three volumes of his own poetry and in collaboration with Auden became known as a librettist. 

     Auden’s literary reputation has had its ups and downs.  While a poet friend of mine praised him to the skies, I found him a bit too ironic, detached, intellectual, preferring the Celtic word jungle of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, impenetrable as that jungle can be.  By the time of his death in 1973, Auden was recognized as a literary elder statesman.  He died in Vienna of heart failure and is buried in Kirchstettin, a town in Austria where he had owned a farmhouse.  

     Just as Auden once went to Berlin for boys, so Kallman went to Athens for the same, moving his winter home there in 1963.  He is said to have been generous to his young male lovers.  He died suddenly in Athens in 1975, age 54, and is buried there in the Jewish Cemetery, far apart from Auden.  Some sources say that, mourning Auden, he died of a broken heart, but I find this fanciful.  On a deep level his life was not a happy one, but perhaps I'm being judgmental.

     A note on WBAI:  The loyal staff, whose devotion is commendable, profess optimism about saving the station, but the desperate appeals for donations go on and on and on.  I never thought the award-winning news program would vanish, but it did.  The substitute news program likewise vanished, replaced by fund-raising specials, then came back, and now has vanished again.  Inconsistency in programming is sure to drive listeners away -- listeners like me, a longtime supporter of the station.  I hear Gary Null’s one-hour program at noon on weekdays, though he warns that he may be eliminated, because of his criticism of the current management.  I hear Richard Wolff’s weekly economics program at noon on Saturday, though I’ve got his message fully by now (capitalism is bad, socialism is the answer).  And I hear Thom Hartmann’s 5 p.m. program weekdays, though his self-promotion annoys me, as does his constant replaying of segments, often up to three or four times within two days.  But that’s it.  I find it very easy to turn from WBAI to WNYC, and that is the crux of the problem.  (Apologies to those unfamiliar with WBAI and its travails, but I feel a need to chronicle its endless downward spiral; unique, it is in danger of disappearing forever.)

This is New York

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                                                                       Bob Jagendorf

   Coming soon:  Exiles in New York, part 2.  The Scarlet Sisters, a Dragon Lady, an anarchist with a compact, diverse others.

     ©  2014  Clifford Browder

Sunday, March 16, 2014

118. How New Yorkers Have Fun

     New York has always been fun city, a place where people came to have a good time, to live it up, maybe to get just a bit wild.  And the locals have always liked to have fun, too, and in the Big Apple the possibilities were – and are -- endless.  But what exactly is “fun”?  The dictionary says “what provides amusement or enjoyment,” and in distinguishing it from words like “game” and “play” says that fun “implies laughter or gaiety, but may imply merely a lack of serious or ulterior purpose.”  Okay, I’ll go along with that, though I may stretch the definition just a bit.

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                                                                                                        lldar Sagdejev

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                                                                  David Shankbone

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                                                  Bureau of Land Management

Having fun today

     I asked several of my friends what they do, or what they have done in the past, to have fun.  The answers varied quite a bit.  For instance:

·      Cook a dinner for friends you’ve invited over.
·      Museums and concerts.
·      Hiking.
·      A good book.
·      A congenial bar with a good piano player.
·      A dinner out.
·      A disco with loud music and dancing.

     No, not a single orgy; sorry to disappoint.  My friends don’t go for orgies, or if they do, they won’t admit to it.  But don’t worry, we’ll get around to some wild stuff later.  If some of these are on the quiet side, without laughter or overt gaiety, I still include them as fun, quiet fun, but bars and discos offer noisy fun, too.  One friend, by the way, reported that he didn’t have fun anymore, though he’s never struck me as glum.  Here now are some notes on the examples of fun listed above.

     As regards bars, one gay friend mentioned The Monster, a gay bar in the West Village on Grove Street at Sheridan Square with a bar/piano lounge at ground level.  He described it as having three personalities.  The pianist often plays show tunes from shows from the storied past, to the delight of the older gays present (personality #1).  But he also plays tunes from recent shows, to the delight of the younger gay set (personality #2).  And #3?  For that you go downstairs to the dance floor, where Hispanic males dance up a storm.  The bar has been going since 1970 and is definitely a fun scene.  One of the online reviews by a man from Brooklyn tells how his girlfriend wanted to take him out to a fun gay bar for his birthday and chose The Monster on a recent Sunday night.  “We happened to be thrown into a sea of fun bartenders and staff that were hosting an underwear party that night.  What a blast we had.”  And if his girlfriend was one of only three women there, everyone seemed to love her.  His conclusion: “Will definitely be back!”  Which sounds like a real New York scene.

     Though it’s in my neck of the woods, I’ve never been to The Monster, so I’ll mention instead a gay disco that Bob and I went to in the late 1960s and 1970s, when discos were all the rage.  It was a mafia-run joint in the West Village, with the inevitable thug at the door to keep the non-gay element out.  Inside you were obliged to have a drink first at the bar, before proceeding to the dance floor in back.  And what a dance floor it was!  Male and female couples (rarely mixed) bouncing and jiggling to ear-splitting piped-in music while strobe lights flashed splashes of color that made you think you were on an LSD trip, while a male go-go dancer in a bikini exposed his pulsating charms.  It was wild, it was crazy, it was fun.  At first some of the lesbians fooled me; they really looked like men.  But Bob and I decided that two things gave them away: the voice (if they spoke), and the line of the jaw, always slightly more delicate, less rough-hewn than a man’s.  Otherwise, you’d never have known the difference.  But all that was long ago. 

    I also mentioned a good dinner out.  Quiet fun, but fun nevertheless, and very New York.  New Yorkers like to dine out and have the choice of cheap, moderate, or very expensive and exclusive restaurants, and every ethnic variety conceivable.  Over the years Bob and I have patronized Italian, French, Spanish, German, Irish, Chinese, and Thai restaurants, with special emphasis on Italian and Chinese.  For a really good meal Bob and I used to go to Gargiulo’s, an old family-run Italian restaurant on West 15th Street in Coney Island, but a few blocks from the boardwalk.  Founded by the Gargiulo family in 1907, when the great amusement parks were flourishing, in 1965 it was bought by the Russo family, who have run it for several generations.  Under the Russos the restaurant has greatly expanded, adding extra dining rooms to accommodate weddings and celebrations, and a huge parking lot across the street offering valet parking to patrons coming from all over the city.  (Bob and I were probably the only ones who came and went by subway.)  The expansion was no doubt all to the good, though it did eliminate a brothel discreetly situated next door, passing which, as we approached the portals of culinary Elysium, somehow added spice to the adventure.  Gargiulo’s is famous for classic Neapolitan fare, but to sample it you have to observe their dress code: no shorts and, God knows, no bare feet.  This may be Coney Island, but it’s a very special Coney Island, catering to middle-class families of taste.

The main dining room, circa 1970.
     Dining often in the high-ceilinged main dining room, Bob and I acquired a favorite waiter, Giancarlo, who looked after us with care.  My preferred dishes: as an appetizer, mozzarella in carrozza (mozzarella cheese on toast), then fettuccine alfredo, and for dessert, cannoli (fingerlike shells of fried pastry dough with a sweet, creamy filling).  I couldn’t begin to describe these dishes; I can only say each was delicious, exquisite, unique.  Though meat dishes and seafood were available, we learned to settle for pasta, which Gargiulo’s does superbly.  As veteran New Yorkers, such a meal was the evening’s entertainment; there was no thought of doing anything else, except the long subway ride home the length of Brooklyn, most of it above ground, looking at the dark borough’s lights, and savoring in memory the dishes we had just enjoyed.  When we saw other guests – a few – rush through their meal and dash off to some other engagement, we were amazed; what could possibly top a dinner at Gargiulo’s?

     When you have a favorite restaurant, you experience more than just food.  It becomes, in fact, a ritual.  Bob and I would go to the New York Aquarium at Coney Island on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when there were very few visitors, to renew our acquaintance with penguins, walruses, and sharks.  Then we would walk along the boardwalk and, on a clear day, see the sun set over the ocean, en route to Gargiulo’s, where we would arrive shortly after 5 p.m., among the first of the diners to appear.  Always we asked for Giancarlo, who would greet us warmly and guide us to our reserved table.  Then, as the dining room filled up, we had the fun – yes, fun – of watching middle-class Brooklyn on a very special family night.  Three, even four, generations of an Italian American family would arrive, some of the elderly in wheel chairs, the grown unmarried kids dining of necessity with the family, the young women, sometimes blond, in stylish black dresses or pants suits, and the little kids invariably more elegant than their parents.  Only a restricted menu was available, so as to lighten the work of the staff, since they would be going to midnight Mass.  But if we asked Giancarlo if canoli, not on the menu, were possible, he would reply with a sly smile, “For you, yes,” and canoli would appear.

     Giancarlo wasn’t the only staff member we bonded with.  One of the Russos, Anthony, whom Bob remembers as long ago behind the coat check counter, now helps run the restaurant and welcomes patrons table by table with a hearty greeting.  And once we saw Lula, one of the staff in her late forties, come out of the kitchen to greet some longtime patrons and friends, and she seemed so open and friendly that we flashed a smile in her direction.  That was all she needed to come over and greet us, total strangers, and exchange a few warm words.  After that, with management’s approval and blessing, I would always go into the huge kitchen, hunt her up among the sinks and cutting boards and pans, and say hello and thank her – and through her all the staff – for the superb dinner we were having.  She always responded with the warmest smile and thanks.

The Gargiulo's staff.  Lula on the far right, with
Anthony standing next to her.

     Dining on less festive occasions had its advantages, too.  When we arrived at 5 p.m., the waiters would still be sitting at a table near the entrance to the kitchen shelling peas.  And with them was Father George Ruggieri, a handsome Jesuit in his fifties who was a renowned marine biologist and, for many years, the director of the Aquarium, but also a longtime patron and friend of the restaurant.  Though we shared two enthusiasms with him – the Aquarium and Gargiulo’s -- we never spoke to him, but he struck us as an  urbane, sophisticated gentleman, an impression reinforced by the greetings that other arriving guests gave him, including numerous women young and old who in a steady stream flocked to his table for a bit of conversation and charm.  The waiters and their peas had by now disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Father Ruggieri to hold sway alone at his table with poise and geniality, as at ease here as in a marine laboratory.  He died in 1987 and for us Gargiulo’s hasn’t been quite the same since, though his portrait adorns the wall of the dining room where he was often a guest.  But today Gargiulo's, having survived Hurricane Sandy, is still offering superb Neapolitan fare to diners of taste.

     A brief final note about dining out in New York.  If, having made a reservation, you arrive at a restaurant, find a long line, and are made to wait twenty minutes or more, never go to that restaurant again; it’s probably “in,” probably “hot,” and coasting on its reputation.  New York abounds in restaurants.  There’s probably just as good a one within easy walking distance where a reservation is a reservation and you’ll be seated promptly. 

Having fun yesterday

High-wheeled bikes in the 1880s.  Notice the
three-wheel bike to accommodate the lady.

     Yesterday – by which I mean the nineteenth century – offered many possibilities for fun, but with a distinct class difference.  The well-bred middle class often gathered in the living room to play parlor games and sing.  Tame by today’s standards, admittedly, and even then some were a bit more adventurous.  If rendering “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” or “Silver Threads among the Gold” wasn’t quite your idea of fun, in the years following the Civil War a whole range of activities appeared.  For hardy males the velocipede, an import from France in the late 1860s, opened vistas of healthy endeavor, while causing neophytes not a few bruises and fractures.  Then, circa 1876, came the high-wheeled bike that made the sport popular; cyclists’ clubs proliferated.  In time, ladies too were able to cycle, though the ample garb of the time posed problems. 

     Archery and lawn tennis were also popular in the 1870s, being thought refined games appropriate for both sexes of “the educated and refined classes.”  Archery required more skill than exertion, and many women  excelled in it, striking handsome poses in the process.  Ladies playing lawn tennis held the trains of their long skirts and were not expected to run for the ball, which was patted gently back and forth over a high net stretched across the lawn; overhand serves and smashes at the net would have been though unmannerly. 

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The hurly-burly of lawn tennis in the 1880s.

The most genteel of games.
     Coming from England, croquet was welcomed by some as an alternative to lawn tennis’s “hurly-burly.”  Esteemed above all in the game were grace in holding and using the mallet, easy and pleasing attitudes in playing, and gentlemanly and ladylike manners.  Young ladies were allowed to cheat, since gentlemen were thought to find such indiscretions charming.  And since croquet permitted the sexes to mingle innocently, it facilitated courting, as couples socialized and flirted freely in full view of parents and neighbors. 

     Was the fun of those days inevitably and oppressively constrained by  notions of gentility?  Not always.  In 1866 The Black Crook, a hodgepodge of an extravaganza mixing melodrama, spectacular stage effects, and ballet, burst upon the New York theatrical scene and proved an instant success.  The plot is too complicated and too absurd to merit recounting; suffice it to say that it involved a villain’s pact with the devil, a kidnapped heroine, a hero aided by a fairy queen, and finally – after five and a half hours – a happy ending.  What appealed to audiences were the special effects: scenes rising out of the floor, fairies soaring in the air, shimmering stalagmites and stalactites in the fairy queen’s crystal grotto, a hurricane in a mountain pass, Satan’s sudden appearances, and gilded chariots dropping from the clouds.  But what appealed even more – especially to the male contingent – were a Grand Ballet of Gems featuring two hundred shapely female legs daringly exposed in flesh-colored tights, and a Pas de Demons with four leotard-garbed women, skirtless, who, possessed by the devil, danced devilishly. 

The finale, where Amazons defeat the forces of evil.

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Lydia in all her glory.  
     Ministers and newspaper editors inveighed against this incarnation of Sodom and Gomorrah and its “ancient heathen orgies,” but the public flocked.  Old men leered from the front-row seats, and riffraff of the lower orders peered down from the gallery, but high society came to the theater as well, some of the women in décolleté just as shocking as that of the performers.  While solid ranks of the godly held aloof, it was obvious that times and morals were changing; what high society did today, the middle class would probably do tomorrow, its younger members in the lead.  The Black Crook was repeatedly revived and imitated; from it, in time, came both the Broadway musical and burlesque.  And when Lydia Thompson and Her British Blondes burst upon the city in 1868, the performers wearing short tunics and tights that displayed their legs, the girlie show of later times was beginning to take its familiar form, with emphasis more on bodily charms than on talent.  And it was all being pioneered in Babylon on the Hudson.

     What other fun was available?  Baseball had appeared before the Civil War, was played during the war by soldiers eager to relieve the boredom of camp life, and spread nationwide thereafter.  This was strictly a man’s game, but healthy and orderly, and it would soon be professionalized, with rival clubs contending and spectators paying a fee to watch.  All in all, it was acceptable to respectable society.

     What was truly abhorrent to the genteel middle class were certain pastimes of the desperate classes, those legions of unwashed, unchurched, or Romanist masses, drink-ridden and riot-prone (and mostly, needless to say, Irish), who existed in uneasy proximity to their betters in the city.  Cockfighting was common among those masses, with spectators betting on either of two contenders, who then lunged and stabbed at each other till the loser was a bloody and demolished mess of feathers, and the victor bled copiously, minus an eye or two; the loser was then tossed on a heap of dead fowl in a corner, and the next fight began.  Also widespread was the rat pit, where scores of spectators sitting on pine planks or standing around a sunken pit watched as packs of rats, often collected by the neighborhood youngsters, were released, to be attacked by trained terriers, while the audience bet on the number of rats the dogs would kill.  The spectators were mostly working class, with some male gentry thrown in.  Clearly, this and cockfighting were the dark side of fun.  To suppress them, in 1866 the reformer Henry Bergh founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) here in New York and, with solid middle-class backing, began eliminating lower-class blood sports.

Here, to judge by the top hats, the gentry seem to prevail.

     Another kind of fun condemned by Victorian gentility were the pretty-waiter-girl saloons especially in evidence along Sixth Avenue, Broadway, and the Bowery: taverns offering some kind of vaudeville on a curtainless stage in back, with “waiter girls” in short skirts and tasseled red boots who joined the audience in sing-alongs and then, during intermissions, plumped themselves down among the spectators and solicited customers for carnal encounters in private rooms upstairs.  Flocking to them were males of all classes, though sporting gents of the middle class found the fancier  establishments safer, if not quite respectable.  The most popular of these concert saloons was Harry Hill’s, on Houston just east of Broadway, where clean-cuffed professional men – judges, lawyers, doctors -- mingled with boxers, politicos, and gamblers, and danced and drank with the local demimondaines, under the strict surveillance of the host.  Ever vigilant, Hill suppressed any threatened violence with vigor, and provided a private room where patrons could sober up, so as not to be attacked by thugs outside.  

A rambunctious night at Harry Hill's.

     As for full-fledged brothels, the city had every kind, from the lowest waterfront joints to palatial uptown establishments catering to an exclusive and well-heeled clientele.  Periodically some minister from the provinces would come to the city, visit one of them warily, then rush back to sermonize his flock on the utter and unrestrained turpitude of Sodom and Gomorrah on the Hudson.  Which, inevitably, brought more customers to the establishment in question.

Crazy fun

     We’ve had a glance at quiet fun, noisy fun, and dark fun; so what about wild, crazy, madcap fun?   New York has always harbored plenty of it, but I’ll focus on a peculiar variety that I term fitness fun.  This is what Bob’s and my friend Dyan, a nurse, does, when not looking after others.  It’s crazy stuff that I didn’t know existed, all of it right here in this city.  Aside from attending a no-pants party with her boyfriend, Dyan has done the following:

·      GORUCK drills, marches, and water push-ups in the harbor off Brooklyn.
·      A Color Mob 5k race where she ended up splotched with many colors and looking like a piece of abstract art.
·      The Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course where survivors who run the course without being touched by zombies can then become zombies and try to contaminate others.

     So what is this all about?  It’s about keeping fit.  GORUCK is an organization that stages challenging military-style programs for civilians staffed by Special Operations combat veterans.  Civilians who volunteer for the program can select one of several options that vary in length of time and distance.  They join a team, carry heavy rucksacks, do military drills, and learn survival skills.  Dyan chose GORUCK Light, which involves a mere 4 to 5 hours and 7 to 10 miles.  (GORUCK Selection, the most challenging option, involves 48+ hours and 80+ miles!)  She did physical drills that included carrying heavy packs and the American flag through the streets, then crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to do push-ups in the harbor there.  This is fun? you may ask.  Maybe not for you or me, but for Dyan, yes, though she also calls the experience awesome.  She’s a real fitness freak, and adventurous to boot.

Photo: GoRuck water push-ups!
GORUCK water push-ups.  Dyan is the blonde.

    Color Mob 5k stages five-kilometer races where runners of all ages get splattered with wild colors as they run, then party at the finish line with music and beer.  You are advised to wear clothes you want to have colored permanently, since some of the colors will never completely wash out.  The runners aren’t timed; everyone is a winner.  Coming back on the subway, their clothes all splotched with colors, Dyan and her friends were quite a spectacle.  When a woman asked if she could photograph them, they said yes; she then sent them a copy of the photo.  This, at least, sounds like fun – good, honest, wild, crazy fun.

Photo: A friendly New Yorker took our pic on the subway yesterday and texted it to me today with a really sweet note. I heart NY!
Coming back in the subway from Color Mob.

     Walking Dead Escape was staged on the evening of October 12 last at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86, West 46th Street and 12th Avenue, Manhattan.  The museum features the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a veteran of World War II and Vietnam that is now a National Historic Monument.  Walking Dead Escape participants were invited to climb, crawl, and slide through an obstacle course on the Intrepid that included overturned buses, while trying to avoid being touched and contaminated by zombies.  Or you can choose to be a Walker (zombie), or just watch as a spectator.  When Dyan and her friends finished the course, they became zombies and then were professionally made up, their faces smeared to look like zombies, following which they spent several hours trying to touch and contaminate others.  At the end, the contaminated zombies were taken into quarantine and subjected to a fake execution, since there is no cure for the zombie virus.  Again, pretty strenuous fun, but fun nonetheless.  For Dyan and her friends, at least.  I’m not sure I’d care to dodge overturned buses or be smeared to make like a zombie. 

A smeared face makes you a zombie.

     Note on Kitty Genovese:  In vignette #13 I discussed the Kitty Genovese case of 1964, which a New York Times article presented as a shocking instance of New Yorker indifference to a murder witnessed by many neighbors who chose not to get involved.  Drawing on online sources, the vignette refuted the Times account, which misrepresented the whole event, since many alleged witnesses never heard Kitty Genovese’s screams, and some neighbors did indeed notify the police, who failed to respond in time.  One viewer of this blog just sent me a clipping from The New Yorker of March 10, 2014 (pp. 73-77) that confirms the account of my sources, adding some relevant details.  Anyone interested in the case, and the legend of New York apathy it inspired, should have a look at the article.  Legends die hard, but sometimes they do finally get put to rest.  Since her death occurred just fifty years ago this month, the March 2014 issue of the AARP Bulletin, which addresses Golden Oldies like myself, has also revisited her murder and the Times’s coverage of it and reached a similar conclusion.  (To access the vignettes, click on July 2012 in the Archive.)

This is New York

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Thomas Altfather Good

     Coming soon Exiles in New York.  A Dragon Lady, a future emperor, two madams in discreet retirement, a prince-begetter, an icon of queerness, and many more.

     ©  2014  Clifford Browder