Prohibition-era New York’s favorite madam

Polly Adler was born in Russia in 1900 and immigrated to New York City when she was a teenager. But hers is no typical Ellis Island kind of story.

After toiling away in a Brooklyn corset factory, 24-year-old Adler found a more lucrative gig: supplying prostitutes, liquor, and an all-night party to top entertainers, politicians, and gangsters.

Adler created clubhouse-like brothels at different locations through the 1920s and 1930s. She ran a house of ill repute in the Majestic Apartments on Central Park West, as well as at other luxe addresses on the Upper East and Upper West Sides.

The famous and important of both sexes (Dorothy Parker was a regular) hung out and mingled. Mayor Jimmy Walker, Joe DiMaggio, and Dutch Schultz reportedly enjoyed the sexual services.

Adler was arrested more than a dozen times, exiting the madam business in the mid-1940s. She attended college, wrote her memoirs, and died in 1962 in Los Angeles.

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One Response to “Prohibition-era New York’s favorite madam”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    My first serious girlfriend dragged me to see the Polly Adler movie, House Is Not A Home, that aired in 1964-65(?) and played at the Loew’s Sheridan in the Village (no longer there) right across from St Vincent’s Hospital. In the balcony I was surprised to see a few women sitting there alone and occasionally joined by a man who would sit next to them for a few moments, get all flustered, than quickly run away. I saw a few men sit next to the woman until I quietly pointed this out to my girlfriend, who shook her head and said, “Don’t you know anything? He’s getting a handjob from her….” I felt very dumb and foolish like I should have known that. But you know what? I made sure I went back a week later to see the film on my own and got the best handjob I ever had, for 50 cents I think, and all thanks to Polly Adler. What a madam she turned out to be! Thanks for bringing that memory back.

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