The New York Press, Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 1997, had a cover story called

"Lizards' Lounge."

The RHHDAS has "lounge lizard" from April 19, 1918.

This is from the Milwaukee Journal, 21 March 1917, pg. 8, col. 4:


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:



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

men operates.

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

spike-tailed coat.

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

his activities.

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.