May 03, 2012

Ancient Stories

“Society does not severely punish those who sin severely, but those who sin and conceal not cleverly.”
~ Judge Learned Hand

A scandal has been reported in New York’s newspapers about a woman named Anna Gristina who has been accused of “connecting people”.  
You’re surprised there is prostitution in New York? You always thought that was against the law, like brokers stealing customers’ accounts and calling it vaporizing. But, unlike the boys (and probably some girls too) involved in the evaporation of $1.6 billion of other people’s money at old MF Global, Madam Gristina had to be handcuffed in court.
There’s something old school about this story, a story about the oldest profession, or the commerce of selling sex, or in today’s jargon, connecting people. We may despise or admire them, but from Aspasia of Athens, companion of Pericles, to . . ., they are part of the story in history.
Many years ago, at a party in Los Angeles, I met an interesting woman. If I recall correctly, her father had been German, her mother Spanish, she, born in Manila. I watched how she scanned the room, not like an aspiring wanna be, more like an accountant keeping track of available merchandise, all the while engaged in a lively conversation with me in German.  I had no idea who that woman was, then. 
She was called Madam Alex or Madam 90210.  This I found out when one night her neighborhood was inundated with helicopters, police cars and a full SWAT team all pulling up in front of her house, armed and ready for business.  She was arrested, thrown in prison, arraigned and released on one million dollar bail. The papers called her the Mayflower Madam of the West Coast.  Friends called her The West Coast’s answer to Madame Claude who according to my friend Asterix “…ran a true Spanish college of ladies of “little virtue”, as they say in French where they use a lot of quite tender expressions like “cocottes”, “dames de petite vertu”, “hétaïres”, that don’t seem to exist in English, do they ?”.
Madam Alex's legal name was Elizabeth Adams.  The gossip vine smoked with the rumor that she knew the sexual secrets of the city's most important men. Really?!  Today, it can be told who Madam Alex’s clients had been – the public ones anyway.
Back in the Gilded Age there were houses of ill-repute or to be put in more prosaic terms, whorehouses. Yes, in New York, and across America. The best of them in New York were located in Murray Hill.
In 1910, JP Morgan built a townhouse (still standing) right on the edge of Murray Hill and right around the corner from his own house, for his mistress Mrs. Adelaide Douglas.
The house built for Mrs. Adelaide Douglas by JP Morgan today the Guatemalan Consulate to the United Nations.
She of course was never under suspicion of anything but perfect goodness. The fact that he built her a mansion, with a back entrance where he could come and go discreetly, did not disturb anybody’s sleep.
Timing is everything.

Lovely weekend 


Anonymous said...


Mary said...

O, I enjoyed our lunch today. Thank you for your company.

K. Bradshaw and the old Doheny gang said...

Thanks for the memories!

frenchtoast said...

Oh yes, I remember this story circulating about Madam Alex in the Malibu Colony. Many a light had gone out!

Charles said...

Dames de petite vertu. Yes, I like this. And I salute Madame Claude. Thanks for the post.

Alan said...

Those where the days my friends...

Anonymous said...

All the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.

your gaggle of fans said...

As far as we’re concerned, we prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.

the other Will said...

So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time. ~Will S.

Anonymous said...

God gives and God takes away.