Friday, October 21, 2005

86 Bedford Street

Manhattan > Greenwich Village > Bedford Street
This article was published in The Villager:

From activists and authors to madams and madwomen: The prisoners of Sixth Avenue

By LindaAnn Loschiavo

PHOTO: Texas Guinan at Chumley's [a speakeasy located at 86 Bedford Street in New York since 1928]

Hollywood is embracing an armful of women’s history attached to the crooked elbow of W. 10th St. west of Sixth Ave. In April, “House of D” by David Duchovny commemorated the Women’s House of Detention, which overlooked Village Square (now Ruth Wittenberg Triangle) until the prison was razed in 1973. A movie musical “Hello, Sucker” due out this year revisits the same location during the 1920s with Madonna as diamond-draped “Texas” Guinan, a Village resident and rodeo queen whose speakeasies landed her behind bars at Jefferson Market Jail. Sandwiched between those two premieres, the 30th anniversary of a garden established on that very site was celebrated this April. . . .
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Monday, October 17, 2005

224 West 4th Street

Manhattan > Greenwich Village > Sheridan Square
Greenwich Village Theatre: 1917 - 1930

It was the summer of 1922 and Mae West was about to celebrate her 29th birthday. Hungry for stardom and going nowhere in vaudeville, Mae bit the bait: a chance to star in a play The Ginger Box that could make her a star. According to biographer Emily Wortis Leider, The Ginger Box served up wall-to-wall Mae West. In addition to featuring her as Circe, turning her lovers into swine, it presented Mae West as a Broadway vamp (played to Harry Richman's victim), Mae West singing "I want a Cave Man," Mae West clowning Tommy Gray's "I'm a Night School Teacher," and torching a song whose regretful tone she would later rule out: "Sorry I Made You Cry." Major troubles were afoot, however, and revealed themselves during a two-performance try-out in Connecticut. Also, the flam-flam producer Edward Perkins was perpetually short of funds and vanished, leaving unpaid debts and I-owe-you notes to his cast. Ginger Revue Now a Pepless Stew as Promoter Disappears announced the New York Daily News [August 13, 1922]. Thirteen Equity actors sued Perkins to recover their salaries -- but not Mae, who was to have received a percentage of the box office.

The Greenwich Village Theatre was made famous by female impersonator Bert Savoy who performed in the acclaimed "Greenwich Village Follies" there, an annual revue that was so popular that it moved to Broadway. Located until 1930 on the western side of Seventh Avenue South where Christopher Street kisses West Fourth, it faced Sheridan Square. During the 1920s, the outstanding success of this cultural outpost put Sheridan Square on the map as a mecca for avant-garde entertainment. A fierce financial beast - the Wall Street crash in 1929 - killed this beauty.

Photos show the former theatre as well as the plain-jane that replaced it in 1931.
- love & kisses to Mae West -
Come up & see Mae:


Sunday, October 16, 2005

64 East 34th Street

Manhattan > Midtown > East 34th Street

Bert Savoy [born Everett McKenzie in 1888, Boston, MA] polished his performance persona in Alaska, warming up along the Yukon Trail. When Savoy arrived in The Big Apple, he teamed up with witty Jay Brennan, a chorus dancer. Their vaudeville act consisted of Savoy, bejeweled and lavishly gowned, dispensing witty, girlish gossip about a fictional friend named "Margie" while Brennan played the straight man.
* * One of his taglines was: "You must come over!"
Savoy and Brennan headlined at the Palace and also did a few star turns in John Murray Anderson's Greenwich Village Follies [1920-23]. Savoy's exaggerated mannerisms and suggestive humor were widely imitated, and his provocative, hip-swaying walk was borrowed by Mae West when she made it to Broadway during the later 1920s.
On June 26th, 1923, as the 35-year-old Savoy was strolling with friends in Long Beach, a clap of thunder caused him to exclaim: "Ain't Miss God cutting up something awful?" Seconds later, a dramatic bolt of lightning had struck him dead.
In 1923, at the height of his fame, Bert Savoy was living at 64 East 34th Street, a rundown relic topped with an observatory, a former mansion. His ghost haunts the premises. Source:
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Friday, October 14, 2005

107 West 45th Street

Manhattan > Midtown > West 45th Street

Crowd Sees Club Locked
El Fey Entertainers to Spend the Interim in Vaudeville

[17 April 1925 N.Y. TIMES]

The El Fey Nightclub at 107 West 45th Street, one of the gayest of the midtown nightclubs, was padlocked yesterday at 4:30 o'clock and will remain dark until May 28. The club, operated by "Larry" Fay, was one of the 14 clubs in which, according to agents of U.S. Attorney Buckner, liquor was sold. As Deputy Marshal Hier was driving staples into the front door, while a crowd of several hundred looked on, Frank White who ran the entertainment at the club, said that Texas Guinan, hostess, and the members of the El Fey Follies would spend the idle six weeks in vaudeville. Special efforts were made to ensure the departure of Mecca, the tiger cat mascot of the club, before the padlock was snapped on. . . .
[Note: 1908-1916 this building was home to The Friars, a men's club, which moved to larger quarters.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

201 West 52nd Street

Manhattan > Midtown > West 52nd Street

Famous star and sheik of the screen Rudolph Valentino was feted on the second floor of this building on 52nd Street east of Broadway on Sunday night, July 25, 1926. Helping the Italian heartthrob celebrate the premiere of The Son of the Sheik were James R. Quirk, editor of Photoplay Magazine and Tommy Guinan, who owned the nightspot located here: Playground.
According to The N.Y. Times [24 July 1926]: "In courtesy to Mr. Quirk and appreciation of Mr. Valentino, MISS TEXAS GUINAN will appear with her entire "Mob" in addition to the Playground Review.
Shortly afterwards:
* 23 August 1926: Valentino dies in Manhattan hospital after surgery.
* 13 January 1927: Playground padlocked 6 months for violating Prohibition.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

30 East 55th Street

Manhattan > Midtown > East 55th Street

Polly Adler [1900-1962]
During the 1920s, Russian-born bordello-owner Polly Adler was arrested repeatedly and escaped conviction until the 1930s, thanks to the police precincts that cherished those bribes and kickbacks.
ADDRESS AGONY: Brothels she ran were located in the West 50s near Seventh Avenue, 59th and Madison Avenue, 69th and Columbus Avenue, 77th and Amsterdam Avenue, West 83rd Street, West 54th Street, and (for three years during the 1930s) at 30 East 55th Street. In March 1935, after three of her former call girls were remanded to the Women's House of Detention, Polly soon followed; she scrubbed floors there for 30 days in May and June in 1935.
BESTSELLERDOM: After her release, she settled in California, graduated from college, and penned a memoir with a ghostwriter. A House Is Not a Home became 1953's bestseller. Shelley Winters portrayed the pushy procurer onscreen and the famous title song A House Is Not a Home was composed by Burt Bacharach (with lyrics by Hal David) for the 1964 movie.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Saint Luke's Place

Manhattan > Greenwich Village > Saint Luke's Place

Saint Luke's Place rowhouses [Nos. 5-16] were built in the early 1850s.

* * No. 6: The former residence of "The Night Mayor," dapper gentleman Jim, has a pair of mayoral lamps. In 1932, Jimmy Walker resigned in disgrace and fled to Europe.

* * No. 10: Exterior of the home shown on "The Cosby Show."

* * No. 11: The Masses editor Max Eastman was raided by police here in 1920; psychedelic guru Timothy Leary was raided by police in 1965.

* * No. 12: In 1923, novelist Sherwood Anderson lived here. Later it was homebase for Starr Faithfull, 25, a flapper who lived with her mother, sister, and step-father here. Starr's body washed up at Long Beach, Long Island, instigating an intrigue that dominated Jefferson Market Court and newspaper headlines in the summer of 1931.

* * No. 12 1/2: Once the happy household where Jean Boudin won poetry prizes and civil rights attorney Leonard Boudin won cases, and their daughter Kathy Boudin, who became a member of the Weather Underground. During the 1970s, this intelligent group accidentally detonated a West 11th Street rowhouse and killed several fair Weatherman friends.

* * No. 16: In November 1923, Theodore Dreiser was living in a studio here as he worked on his novel An American Tragedy.