Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Parker’

Partying with Zelda Fitzgerald in the 1920s

November 29, 2012

Every decade in New York, a couple comes along and serves as an emblem for the time.

In the first part of the Roaring 20s, that couple was F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

On April 3, 1920, reunited in New York, they married in a hasty ceremony in front of eight people at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They stayed at the Biltmore Hotel, then the Commodore Hotel, getting kicked out of both for being too rowdy.

They celebrated their eviction by spinning giddily through the hotel’s revolving doors for half an hour. Zelda also earned wild child status when one night she jumped into the fountain at Union Square fully clothed.

“They did both look as though they’d just stepped out of the sun,” wrote Dorothy Parker.

Scott’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, was a hit, and New York’s smart set was dazzled by the young couple. Zelda was particularly taken with the city’s nightlife, according to Nancy Milford’s Zelda: A Biography. In Zelda’s words:

“Girls in short amorphous capes and long flowing skirts and hats like straw bathtubs waited for taxis in front of the Plaza Grill; girls in long satin coats and colored shoes and hats like straw manhole covers tapped the tune of a cataract on the dance floors of the Lorraine and the St. Regis.”

“Under the sombre ironic parrots of the Biltmore a halo of golden bobs disintegrated into black lace and shoulder bouquets . . . . It was just a lot of youngness: Lillian Lorraine would be drunk at the top of the New Amsterdam by midnight, and football teams breaking training would scare the waiters with drunkenness in the fall. The world was full of parents taking care of people.”

Of course, the parties didn’t last. After moving to Paris later in the decade, the golden couple split, and Scott went to Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting, where he died of a heart attack in 1940.

By 1930, Zelda was in a Maryland mental institution. There, she perished a fire in 1948.

A Village speakeasy attracts a bohemian crowd

August 13, 2012

If you think New York packs in a lot of bars today, imagine what it was like in the 1920s.

During Prohibition, 32,000 speakeasies were operating in New York City, twice the number of legal saloons that existed in 1920.

Cousins Jack Kriendler and Charles E. Berns ran one of them: a little basement space called the Red Head, opened in 1923 off Fourth Street in Greenwich Village, then under the dark and grimy Sixth Avenue El.

“The Volstead Act had gone into effect in January 1920, so the illegal club in a tea room was an immediate hit,” states Dorothyparker.com.

After it was gutted by a fire, “the pair moved their speakeasy to a basement at 88 Washington Place at the height of the bootlegging, Jazz Age New York.

“Called the Fronton, it was now a real speakeasy, complete with live music and huge tables.”

Club Fronton had a Spanish theme and catered to artists and writers, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay (below) and Dorothy Parker (above), plus nightlife-loving politicians like Mayor Jimmy Walker.

Police raids didn’t close the Fronton down—eminent domain did. After a year, the property was condemned by the city so the West Fourth Street subway station could be built.

Kriendler and Berns moved to midtown this time. In 1928, they set up a speakeasy at 21 West 52nd Street. The 21 Club was an instant success—and 80 years after Prohibition, still packs them in.

[Above photo: 88 Washington Place today, a condominium residence]

Prohibition-era New York’s favorite madam

December 27, 2009

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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