Friday, January 29, 2010

Drunk History

Witness history as it's never been told before: Drunk.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brothel pricing Chicago circa 1900

The Everleigh Club was a high-class brothel which operated in Chicago, Illinois from February 1900 until October 1911. It was owned and operated by Ada and Minna Everleigh.Opening of the Everleigh Club

Prior to relocating to Chicago, the Everleigh sisters toured brothels in many cities, trying to find a location which had "plenty of wealthy men but no superior houses." They were directed to Chicago by Cleo Maitland, a madam in Washington, D.C., who suggested they contact Effie Hankins in Chicago.[1] After buying Hankins's brothel at 2131-2133 South Dearborn Street, they "fired all the women and completely redecorated the entire building with the most luxurious appointments available. Silk curtains, damask easy chairs, oriental rugs, mirrored ceilings, mahogany tables, gold rimmed china and silver dinnerware, perfumed fountains in every room, a $15,000 [equivalent to $369,205 in 2007][2] gold-leafed piano for the Music Room, mirrored ceilings, a library filled with finely bound volumes, an art gallery featuring nudes in gold frames—-no expense was spared. While the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson thought the $57 gold spittoons in his café were worth boasting about, the patrons of the Everleigh Club were obliged to expectorate in $650 gold cuspidors."[3] The Everleigh Club was described by Chicago's Vice Commission as "probably the most famous and luxurious house of prostitution in the country."[4]

Prior to the opening of the Everleigh Club, Ada was responsible for recruiting talent for the club. She started by contacting her former employees in Omaha and spreading the word through brothels across the country. She conducted face-to-face interviews with all the applicants.[5] The brothel opened on February 1, 1900 with little fanfare, and turned away many of the clients who initially appeared because the Everleigh Sisters did not deem them suitable for the clientèle they were seeking. Once the club was open, Ada, who was quieter and more reserved than her sister, took on the responsibility of making sure the club was kept up to standards. She oversaw cleaning and renovations.[6] Ada was also very much taken with the gold leaf piano in the Club and once claimed she rejected a suitor because he disapproved of the piano.
The club's heyday

The clientèle of the Everleigh House included captains of industry, important politicians and European nobility and royalty. Among their clientèle were Marshall Field, Jr., Edgar Lee Masters, Theodore Dreiser, Ring Lardner, John Warne Gates, Jack Johnson, and Prince Heinrich of Prussia.
The Everleigh club's Japanese throne room

By 1902, the club expanded and the sisters were making donations to the First Ward Aldermen, "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and Michael "Hinky-Dink" Kenna to ensure their continued leeway. After the Club was closed, Minna Everleigh claimed in testimony that she "always entertained state legislators free in the club."[7]

On March 3, 1902, Prince Heinrich of Prussia visited the Club while in the United States to pick up a ship built for his brother, German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Although the city had sponsored numerous events for Heinrich, his main interest was a visit to the club. The sisters planned a bacchanalia for the visiting prince, including dancing, dining and a recreation of the dismemberment of Zeus's son. During one of the dances, a prostitute's slipper came off and spilled champagne. When one of the prince's entourage drank the champagne, he started the trend of drinking champagne from a woman's shoe.[8]

On November 22, 1905, Marshall Field, Jr. suffered a gunshot that would prove to be fatal. Although newspapers reported it was an accident and occurred at his home, there is some evidence that he was shot by a prostitute at the Everleigh Club.[9]

The club employed 15 to 25 cooks and maids.[10] Gourmet meals featured iced clam juice, caviar, pheasants, ducks, geese, artichokes, lobster, fried oysters, devilled crabs, pecans and bonbons. There were three orchestras, and musicians played constantly, usually on the piano accompanied by strings. Publishing houses would publicize new songs by having them played at the Everleigh Club. The house was heated with steam in the winter and cooled with electric fans in the summer.
Standards at the brothel

The Everleigh sisters had standards for their employees:

* "To get in, a girl must have a pretty face and figure, must be in perfect health and must look well in evening clothes."
* "Be polite and forget what you are here for. Gentlemen are only gentlemen when properly introduced.... The Everleigh Club is not for the rough element, the clerk on a holiday or a man without a check book."
* Their employees had to come to the house of their own free will; the Everleigh sisters would not deal with pimps, panderers, white slavers, or parents eager to sell off their daughters.
* Girls needed to prove they were 18 years old and undergo regular exams by a doctor.
* Drug use was grounds for terminating a girl's employment.

This led to many prostitutes desiring employment with them, as the girls would have a safe environment to work in, good accommodations, and better clientèle. When Everleigh House opened, admission was $10 (the equivalent of $246 in 2007[2]), dinner was $50, a bottle of champagne $12. Private time with one of the girls was another $50. The prices only went up from there, so that it was difficult for a caller to leave without spending at least $200. A decent working wage at the time was $6 a week.
Closing the brothel

Following a 1910 Vice Commission report that noted there were nearly 600 brothels in Chicago, Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr. ordered the Everleigh Club to be closed on October 24, 1911.[11] The sisters retired with an estimated million dollars in cash (the equivalent of almost $22,000,000 in 2007[2]) and traveled in Europe before eventually changing their name back to Lester and settling in New York City. When their brothel business closed, Ada was 45 years old and Minna was 47 years old.

Minna, always the more outspoken of the two, responded philosophically, stating "If the Mayor says we must close, that settles it.... I'll close up shop and walk out with a smile on my face."[11] And so they did. She later stated "If it weren't for married men, we couldn't have carried on at all, and if it weren't for cheating married women we could have made another million."

Shortly after the brothel was closed, Everleigh testified against Chicago aldermen "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and "Hinky Dink" Kenna. Although Everleigh announced she would make her testimony public, threats by "Big Jim" Colosimo to kill Minna and her sister if the testimony were made public kept her silent. Nevertheless, Chief Justice Harry Olson of Chicago's Municipal Court released her testimony which outlined the schedule of graft due to the aldermen in return for allowing operations to continue in the Levee District.

The building which housed the Everleigh Club was eventually razed in July 1933. Today, a public housing project stands on the site.

* Abbott, Karen (2007) Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul. New York: Random House ISBN 9781400065301
* Asbury, Herbert (1940). Gem of the Prairie. New York: Knopf.
* Hermann, Charles H. (1945) Recollections of Life & Doings in Old Chicago: from the Haymarket Riot to World War I; by An Old Timer (Charles H. Hermann). Chicago: Normandie House; pp. 240 ff.
* Hibbeler, Ray (1960) Upstairs at the Everleigh Club. Volitant Books
* Kanin, Garson (1980) Smash. New York: Viking
* Masters, Edgar Lee (1944) "The Everleigh Club" in: Town & Country, April 1944
* Wallace, Irving (1965) The Sunday Gentleman. New York: Simon & Schuster
* Wallace, Irving (1988) The Golden Room
* Washburn, Charles (1936) Come Into My Parlor: a biography of the aristocratic Everleigh Sisters of Chicago. Knickerbocker Publishing
* Wendt, Lloyd; Kogan, Herman (1943), Lords of the Levee: the story of Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink, Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., pp. 320–322 (reissued under title Bosses in Lusty Chicago, 1967 by Indiana University Press, Bloomington ISBN 0253201098; reissued as Lords of the Levee, 2005 by Northwestern University Press, Evanston ISBN 0-8101-2320-7)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adam’s Family Jewels

Adam’s Family Jewels
by Tibor Krausz

Keep that Bible out of reach of children.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and He took the bone of Adam’s penis and made him a woman.”

Er, wait, wasn’t it from one of Adam’s ribs that Eve was created?

Not according to Ziony Zevit. A professor of Semitic languages at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles Zevit posits that the Hebrew word tsela (literally “side,” but traditionally translated as “rib”) employed in Genesis refers in fact to Adam’s member.

Zevit, author of the forthcoming What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?, argues that, etiologically, “rib” doesn’t make much sense in a story pregnant with sexual innuendo; nor is there precedent in ancient Near Eastern mythology for it to feature as an instrument of creation. Instead,tsela was likely a euphemism for the baculum, or “penis bone,” found in the males of most mammals. The Bible uses various euphemisms for male genitalia but never a specific word: two of them, “bone” and “flesh,” in the pertinent verse may be double entendres when Adam welcomes Eve as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).

Despite macho boasts of having a “boner,” there’s of course no bone in the human male’s reproductive organ. According to John Kaltner, Steven L. McKenzie and Joel Kilpatrick’s recently published compendium of titillating biblical tidbits, The Uncensored Bible, where Zevit’s suggestion receives prominent treatment, the authors of Genesis believed that the human male lacked this specific part of his anatomy precisely because the first man’s had been removed to create Eve.

We already know that the authors of the Bible are hardly trustworthy in matters of biology. Leviticus, after all, attributes only four, not six, legs to insects and appears to classify bats as birds. But Zevit’s interpretation also indicates that scripture isn’t nearly as chaste as we’re normally led to believe.
Buy the book.

Buy the book.

Books like The Harlot by the Side of the Road (1997) by Jonathan Kirsch and The X-Rated Bible (1999) by Ben Edward Akerley have done much to shed light on scriptural ribaldry. The Uncensored Bible, written by a pair of Bible scholars at Memphis’ Rhodes College and a satirist, now furthers the cause with additional examples of sexual escapades unearthed by scholars from beneath the ambiguous expressions and euphemisms of biblical Hebrew. The new hypotheses come with varying degrees of plausibility (Was Joseph a drag queen with his “coat of many colors”? Did Ishmael molest Isaac?), yet on the whole they ensure the Bible is more risqué than ever. Notwithstanding Bible-thumping puritans who claim scriptural authority for their censorious prudery, the Good Book is replete with lewd metaphors, sexual innuendo, and outright obscenities, often starring some of the Bible’s most famous characters.

To win the hand of Michal, King Saul’s daughter, the young David must prove his manliness by performing posthumous circumcision on a hundred slain Philistines. The episode recalls the ancient Egyptian practice of keeping dead enemies’ manly appendages as trophies of war. In a memorable putdown elsewhere, the Prophet Ezekiel derides Egyptians as priapic fornicators whose “emissions are like those of horses” (Ezk. 23:20).

In court we swear to tell the truth with a hand placed on the Bible. But in the book itself, Jacob, nearing death in Egypt, asks Joseph to swear an oath not to bury him there by “put[ting] your hand under my thigh” (Gen. 47:29). Earlier in Genesis, Jacob wrestles with God, who touches “the hollow of his [Jacob’s] thigh” (32:25). “Thigh” happens to be a biblical euphemism for male genitalia; it’s from Jacob’s “thigh” or “loins” that his numerous offspring sprang. The practice of swearing an oath while touching one’s or someone else’s testicles was common in the ancient Near East (Abraham also orders a servant to do just that in Genesis 24:2). Its linguistic memory survives in our word “testify”—testis being the Latin both for “witness” and the male generative gland.

Far from being embarrassing anachronisms in a timeless tale, the naughty bits do much to enrich biblical stories by affording us insight into the beliefs and ideas of ancient Israel. As literary depositories of antiquity’s customs and beliefs, the biblical texts are fascinating documents. It’s when antiquated religious prescriptions and practices are treated as an enduring moral authority that trouble starts. Taken together, the Bible advocates a rather curious set of “family values.”

Take incest. Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters couldn’t have perpetuated the human race without it. And while early Israelites prized virginity, they also considered it a mark of hospitality to offer their wives and daughters to male guests for complimentary sexual services, just as it was a father’s right to sell his daughter to be a “maid servant” (Ex. 21:7).

In the famous story of Sodom, Lot, the nephew of Abraham, volunteers his virgin daughters to placate randy Sodomites seeking to “know” his male guests—two angels in disguise, as it happens. Later, while he’s in a drunken stupor sheltering in a cave after God’s destruction of Sodom, Lot is raped by these same daughters to “preserve the seed of our father” (Gen. 19:32).

Deuteronomy, meanwhile, prescribes the amputation of a woman’s hand for grabbing a man’s family jewels, or “secrets”—even those of an attacker as she comes to the rescue of her husband (Deut. 25:11-12). A biblical scholar, Jerome T. Walsh, has argued that the text in fact stipulates another punishment: the shaving of the offending woman’s pubic hair to shame her. Either way, incapacitating an attacker in a tried-and-tested method would seem preferable to letting your husband perish lest you overstep the bounds of propriety. Not by the lights of the Bible, though.

Not even the most devout can afford to interpret the Bible too literally—selective reading is inevitable. Yet many people still think that without the Bible (and religion in general), we’d all be morally adrift in a sea of licentious barbarism. Judging from many a biblical passage, the reverse is true: sexual civility requires ignoring scripture.

The biblical books were products of their times. Across the barren lands of the ancient Near East, fertility cults proliferated and erotically-charged fecundity was a mainstay of creation myths. In a Sumerian epic of the third millennium BCE, the water god Enki fertilizes the land with his ejaculate. Not to be outdone, the Egyptians’ hermaphroditic sun god Atem generated lesser deities through masturbation.

In Genesis too, fertility is a divine gift, and infertility a curse. The Creator’s first words to Adam and Eve are the instruction to “be fruitful and multiply” (1:28). Soon, God also promises Abraham to make him “exceedingly fruitful” (17:6) and orders him to seal their covenant with circumcision—in other words, to tamper with his reproductive organ.

One of my favorite scholarly theories is that the prototype for the idolatrous Israelites’ Golden Calf may have been Apis the Bull. Often represented with an enormous wiener in line with the phallic-centrist norms of the time, the Egyptian idol was the centerpiece, so to speak, of a popular cult that incorporated a 40-day festival, during which female worshippers would expose themselves before his statue in hopes of divinely-assisted conception—a kind of frenzy which, I guess, would help explain the intensity of Moses’ rage at Mount Sinai.

And let’s not forget Onan. An enduring byword for masturbatory tendencies, this son of Judah is condemned to death for “wast[ing] his seed.” But he wasn’t masturbating, an act that is never directly addressed in the Bible; he was engaging in coitus interruptus, which “was displeasing to the Lord” (Gen. 38:9-10), with his dead brother’s widow out of fraternal obligation. In the end, it’s elderly Judah himself who unwittingly impregnates his daughter-in-law when she tricks him into taking her for a prostitute, thereby siring the grand dynasty that leads to David (and thereon to Jesus). Some family values.

It’s time to face up to it: Just as the unadulterated originals of popular folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were often sadistic, scatological and pornographic (no, Prince Charming didn’t wake up Sleeping Beauty with just a kiss), so too the Bible is no innocent bedtime story. It isn’t a fount of moral clarity, either.