Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 23:39:25 -0500 From: "Barry A. Popik" Subject: Hookers; Lizards; Elephants; My boss HOOKERS I owe Tom Dalzell a "hooker." This isn't much, but it's from the San Francisco Chronicle, 26 January 1919, pg. E6, col. 3: Editor The Chronicle--Sir: In your editorial of January 16 on "Senator Borah's Warning," why do you quote that old misapplied and misconstrued phrase, "like a drunken sailor?" Even in these modern progressive, patriotic and prohibition days the U. S. Navy, the Shipping Board and the American merchant marine sailor men sometimes feel the unsavory weight of an expression that was never intended to be applied to them. When the public hears that expression they must, if they would do justice to present-day U. S. seafaring men, harken back to 1762, to the days of grog and canvas and Liverpool crimps and phantom hookers with no home ports. J. D. G., U. S. Navy. Mars Island, January 18, 1919. Hookers in 1762? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ --------------------------------------------- LOUNGE LIZARDS 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: 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 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 partners. 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. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------- SEEING THE ELEPHANT "Seeing the elephant" was one of 19th century America's most popular phrases. RHHDAS A-G has it from 1835. Not cited is the humor magazine, THE ELEPHANT, which began 22 January 1848. I found the phrase in numerous advertisements from 1813. I can't find them all now, but this is from the Otsego Herald, 16 October 1813, pg. 3, col. 2: Now or Never! A FEMALE ELEPHANT. Thirteen years old, upwards of eight feet high, and weighs more than _five thousand seven hundred pounds_, to be seen at JOSEPH GRIFFIN'S in the village of Cooperstown on _Thursday_, _Friday_ and _Saturday_ the 21st, 22d and 23d inst. Those who wish to gratify their curiousity by viewing the wonderful works of nature, will do well to call on either of the abovementioned days, as she positively will be removed the next morning. Perhaps the present generation may never have an opportunity of seeing an Elephant again, as this is the only one in the United States, and this, perhaps, the last visit to this place. (...) This "folk" definition is from THE COMIC ALMANAC FOR THE YEAR 1865, Hollowbush & Carey, Philadelphia, pp. 30-31: Origin of "Seeing the Elephant." Some years since, at one of the Philadelphia theatres a pageant was in rehearsal in which it was necessary to have an elephant. No elephant was to be had--The "wild beasts" were travelling, and the property man, stage director and manager almost had fits when they thought of it. Days passed in the hopeless task of trying to secure one; but at last Yankee ingenuity triumphed, as indeed it always does, and an elephant was made to order of wood, skins, paint and varnish. Thus far the matter was all very well, but as yet they found no means to make said combination travel. Here again the genius of the manager, the stage director and property man struck out, and two "broths" were duly installed as legs--Ned C--, one ofthe true and genuine "b'hoys," held the station of fore legs, and for several nights he played that part to the entire satisfaction of the managers, and the delight of the audience. The part, however, was a very tedious one, as the elephant was obliged to be on the stage about an hour, and Ned was too fond of the bottle to remain so long without "whetting his whistle," so he set his wits to work to find a way to carry a weedrop with him. The eyes of the elephant being made of two porter bottles, with the necks in. Ned conceived the brilliant idea of filling them with good stuff. This he fully carried out; and elated with success, he willingly undertook to play fore legs again. Night came on--the theatre was densely crowded with the denizens of the Quaker City--the music was played in the sweetest strains--the curtain rose and the play began. Ned and the "hind legs" marched upon the stage. The elephant was greeted with round up[on round of applause. The decorations and the trappings were gorgeous. The elephant and the prince seated upon his back, were loudly cheered. The play proceeded; the elephant was marched round and round the stage. The fore legs got dry, with frew (?) one of the corks and treated the hind legs, and then drank the health of the audience in a bumper of genuine "elephant eye" whiskey, a brand, by the way till then unknown. On went the play and on went Ned drinking. The conclusion march was to be made--the signal was given and the fore legs staggered towards the front of the stage. The conductor pulled the ears of the elephant to the right--the fore legs staggered to the left. The footlights obstructed the way and he raised his foot and stepped plump into the orchestra!--Down went the fore legs on to the leader's fiddle--over, of course, turned the elephant, sending the prince and hind legs into the middle of the pit. The managers stood horror struck--the prince and the hind legs confounded--the bozes in convulsions, the actors choking with laughter, and poor Ned, casting one look, a strange blending of drunkenness, grielf, and laughter at the scene, fled hastily from the theatre, closely followed by the leader with the wreck of his fiddle, performing various cut and thrust motions in the air. The curtain dropped on a scene behind the scenes. No more pageant--no more fore legs--but every body held their sides. Music, actors, pit, boxes and gallery, rushed from the theatre, shrieking between every breath: "HAVE YOU SEEN THE ELEPHANT?" ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------- MY BOSS This discussion of hookers, lizards, and elephants inevitably brings me to my work at the NYC Parking Violatons Bureau, and to its the chief judge. In most workplaces, if a woman comes back from a pregnancy leave of absence, you ask her how it was, if it was a boy or girl, how much it weighed, etc. You may not like her and you may not really care, but you ask anyway. A few weeks ago, I came back from an approved leave of absence. I was one of the few judges that day assigned to hearings by mail. In walked the chief judge. He walked right past me, went to the senior judge (my friend--she happens to be a black woman), chit-chatted with her. When doing my third respondent, I spotted a fake repair bill. I walked over to the senior's desk, used the computer, and found that the same plate had ten other disabled vehicle dismissals. I was the only person to catch the guy. I mentioned this, then went back to my seat. And I was thinking--what the fuck am I doing in this place? I was later told that the chief judge always ignores men and chats with women, and not to take it personally. Oh. Maybe I should have said something. HELLO! MY NAME IS BARRY POPIK! I'VE WORKED HERE FOR EIGHT YEARS! UNTIL RECENTLY, I'VE WORKED MORE HOURS THAN ANYONE IN THE ENTIRE AGENCY! AS YOU KNOW, I JUST RETURNED FROM A LEAVE OF ABSENCE THAT YOU APPROVED! UNFORTUNATELY, BOTH OF MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!! I'M DOING FINE, THANK YOU! THANKS FOR ASKING!! Hence, the title of this piece. Oh well. Life goes on.