Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Jimmy Walker’

A haunted speakeasy in a Greenwich Village alley

April 29, 2013

12gaystreetJimmywalkerCrooked little Gay Street looks like the perfect place to open a speakeasy.

So it’s hardly a surprise to learn that one existed here in the 1920s.

Called the Pirate’s Den, the illegal bar was run out of number 12, a Federal-style house built in 1827—back when Gay Street was just a slender stable alley in up-and-coming Greenwich Village.

See the metal arch placed in front of the building? It supposedly marked the bar’s basement entrance.

Gaystreet1894Located near other Village speakeasies, such as Julius’ on West 10th Street and the Red Head on Sixth Avenue, the Pirate’s Den was more of a tourist trap than a place for locals.

“[It featured] clanking chains, clashing cutlasses, ship’s lanterns, and patch-eyed buccaneer waiters,” writes George Chauncey in his book Gay New York.

Twelve Gay Street isn’t only known for its liquor joint rep. After the Pirate’s Den closed down, Mayor Jimmy Walker, a notorious partier and playboy, moved his showgirl mistress here, turning the house into kind of a second Mayoral home.

Could he be the mysterious figure in a top hat and tails, dubbed the Gay Street Phantom, who is said to creep around the stairs at night?

“The historic Gay St. property, on the corner of Waverly Place, is rumored to be inhabited by a restless spirit who walks the creaking floorboards at night,” states a 2009 New York Daily News article.

[Top photo: Streeteasy; bottom, NYPL Digital Gallery]

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.