The New York Press, Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 1997, had a cover story called
The RHHDAS has "lounge lizard" from April 19, 1918.
This is from the Milwaukee Journal, 21 March 1917, pg. 8, col. 4:
RID BROADWAY OF "LOUNGE LIZARDS"
New York--As a result of the murder of Mrs. Elsie Cavan Hilair, a pretty
Brooklyn matron, the police of New York city expect to start a novel crusade.
They intend to clean out of Broadway all "lounge lizards," "parlor snakes"
and "tango pirates," names given young men who, apparently without visible
means of support, lounge around the "lobster palaces" and dance.
Indications were that such a man strangled Mrs. Hilair after luring her
to the Martinique hotel so that he could rob her of $2,500 worth of
diamonds. It is the jewel thief type that the police are after.
The police believe that there are more than 100 young men in this city
who "hang out" in the lobster palaces and live by cajoling wealthy women out
of their jewelry or by blackmailing them. (...)
This, another take on the same story, is from the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, Sunday Magazine, 8 April 1917, pg. 4:
THE "LOUNGE LIZARD," A PARASITE BORN OF
THE NEW YORK TANGO TEA RESORTS
Investigation following murder of Mrs. Elsie Hilair
reveals blackmailing activities of professional
"escorts," many of them ex-convicts, who prey
on weak-willed women--How the crew of dancing
UNDER dank stones covered with fetid mosses and benath decaying logs the
wood lizard is born, a repulsive reptile. In the cloying warmth of the New
York tango parlors, with its sickish-sweet atmosphere, another variety of
lizard has its habitat: the "lounge lizard," also a repulsive reptile.
The wood lizard is as old as the world--the lounge variety is a
development of the past three years. The latter variety is a parasite which
preys on weak-willed women. He is known to the New York police also under
the names of "parlor snake," "slippery chameleon" and "tango pirate."
When the afternoon tea dance craze swept the East it brought with it the
"lounge lizard." At first he was difficult to isolate, but he is readily
recognized now, with his slickly parted hair, his tight-fitting trousers and
While the police have had a general idea of the activities of these
parasites, it was not until the murder of Mrs. Elsie Hilair in a downtown New
York hotel a few weeks ago that complete details of their work have become
known, The woman was found strangled in bed and much valuable jewelry had
been stolen. It was learned that for nearly two years Mrs. Hilair, the wife
of a well-to-do Brooklyn man, had been a habitue of tango tea resorts,
unknown to her husband, and it was while following up clews in the case that
the police were enabled to make a detailed study of the "lounge lizard" and
In most of the afternoon dance resorts of New York professional dancers
are employed to look after unescorted women, shoppers usually, who drop in
for tea and an hour or so of dancing. The professionals usually wear white
or pink carnations and, under direction of a "hostess," or official
introducer, select their partners. Their fixed salary is about $1.50 a day
(This is 1919--ed.), but in most "parlors" they are allowed to receive tips
from the women to whom they have been devoting their terpsichorean talent.
One tip will occasionally amount to more than a week's salary. In other
places the men are not permitted to take tips, but are allowed to eat and
drink at the expense of the women guests, and they receive a percentage of
the money spent under their guidance.
Not all of these professionals are "lounge lizards," however. Some are
satisfied with the "honest craft" which is obtained through the means
outlined above. Others are blackmailers.
The work of the tango lizard is done in this way.
He arrives at the parlor--there are hundreds of them scattered around
Greater New York--early in the afternoon. The lights are low and perfume has
been sprayed in all corners of the room. Couples are gliding over the floor.
About several tables are unescorted women watching the dancers and keeping
time with their feet. Obviously they are anxious to dance, but they have no
Soon the lizard selects his victim. He makes himself as entertaining as
possible, and after the dance, heads her to a table, at the same time nodding
to a waiter. A cocktail is ordered. Dance follows dance, and usually
cocktail follows cocktail, until the woman, probably the wife of a
substantial citizen, realizes the hour and prepares to go home. The bill is
called for and on this occasion is usually paid for by the "lizard."
The woman departs, in many cases announcing that she had such a
delightful time that she will be sure to return. The "lizard" is waiting for
her. By the end of the second day he usually has gained the confidence of
his victim to such a degree that she is in his power to an extent not
realized by the woman. Then the blackmailing begins.
When the bill for refreshments is brought the "lizard" remembers that he
has forgotten to bring his money with him. So embarrassing, you know?
Usually the woman, without any further suggestion, offers to lend him $10 or
$20, as the need may be. He accepts it as a loan, to be repaid tomorrow.
The woman is never allowed to pay a check. There is usually change coming
back and the "lizard" has uses for the money.
The next day nothing is said of the loan. The man has apparently
forgotten all about it and the woman hasn't the nerve to ask for the money.
Later on the tango lizard gets bolder.
Sounds like a male "Rolex girl."
There is a film now playing called FOREVER TANGO.