In the 1980s, after a young actress accused her acting teacher of raping her, the dam burst. Former students from as far back as the 1950s reported similar attacks by Professor Pervowitz. He had been an acclaimed teacher and a predatory sadist for decades. He had run weekly ads in The Village Voice. Taught major stars. And, you had to hand it to Pervowitz, he had a psychologically brilliant M.O. He would tell the actor or actress in his sights that they were a genius. But, to prevent jealousy, their “genius” had to remain secret from the other students. Pervowitz was willing to give the budding genius private coaching… ssshhh… to open you up… ssshhh… you are a genius but you are emotionally blocked. I know how to unblock you… ssshhh… now take your clothes off, kneel at my feet and masturbate while repeating – I am your bitch-slut-cunt.”
And, they did it. Many geniuses did it. Male and female did it they – for decades.
The Curse of Frankenstein jump started my interest in all things English, especially English knockers. Puerto Rican girls were sexy but I expected them to be since they wore hot socks and had hair on their cha-chas from birth. English girls were sexy coz they weren’t supposed to be but especially coz they talked good. The fact that a woman could speak like the Queen and fuck like a spic drove me and my friends crazy.
Our obsession reached fever pitch with the Christine Keeler scandal in 1963. We were still sitting on the stoop but were now sitting atop fully descended testicles. We loitered there at night waiting for the next day’s tabloids to be delivered to Rocco’s Candy Store. We smelled the headlines coming over the Brooklyn Bridge then raced each other down the block to get our hands on the photos of Christine and her sidekick Mandy Rice-Davies. These two young women – English women, actually DID IT and didn’t think it was matter for Confession. We punched each other black and blue in debates about which of the pair was sexier. Most of us chose Mandy coz she was a blonde. No lie – no movie or documentary ever came close to capturing the level of interest the Profumo affair held for the pubescent boys of Brooklyn.
By 1984, thanks to AIDS, the no-holds-barred striptease and live-sex shows of the ’70s are gone. I get a primer on the new rules in a desert dump called Wendover, Nevada. You’ll find it a few desolate hours West of Salt Lake City, Utah across the Bonneville Salt Flats. I’m acting in a play in Salt Lake and drive over one night to lose some money.
Wendover, aka Bendover, consists of three crappy casinos smack dab in the middle of the Devil’s rectum. The card dealers don’t even bother to shave. And, they are women! And, they are pimps!
“What the fuck are ya doin’ down here playin’ poker? Go spend your money upstairs. We got some good-lookin’ ladies up there. Anything you want, they’ll do it. Through that door. Mention my name, Cookie.”
1984. I’m in Paris for the first time and having coffee with an American ex-pat lawyer. I timidly begin to ask him if he knows how…
“Stop,” he says, pulling out his yellow legal pad. “You wanna know how to approach a French prostitute. You guys are all the same. Don’t tell me, you read Henry Miller.”
“Uh, yes, but I not only read him, I feel a deep and abiding…”
“Yeah, right, so here’s what you do…”
And, he writes down the appropriate phrases that will signal to a “working girl” that I’m not a diaper-wearing, ax-murderer. Great. With legal paper folded in my pocket, I set off for the Rue St. Denis. It’s where the girls hang out and I do mean, “hang out.” They have so few clothes on there’s nothin’ left to hang in. They drift about the Rue lounging in doorways and smoking in that French way that makes all other smokers look like sissies. If you can’t find what you want on the Rue St. Denis you must be blind. In fact, I see a blind hooker with her guide dog. Who knows? Maybe Rover turns tricks, too. The Rue is the set of Irma La Douce in Technicolor and Smell-O-Vision – more kinds of prostitutes than Heinz has beans. Black. White. Yellow. Red. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. Nurse. Nanny. Housewife. Harlot. Granny. Girl Scout. Honest to God, I see a Granny-Girl Scout in handcuffs! The variety makes me dizzy. The ambiance scares the merde out of me.
When we climbed out of the Times Square subway station, I was mesmerized. I’d been to Coney Island plenty, but this was something else again, something electrifying. It was the lights – up and down and all around, lights neon, fluorescent and incandescent, lights all moving, all colors and all ablaze – even in daylight; lights that outshined the sun. The billboards were alive – a gigantic man blew smoke rings while Mister Peanut tipped his hat. I didn’t know it then but I had been rubbing shoulders with Diane Arbus and Bettie Page, both working in that 1956 Times Square world – a world of bustling strangers. A world of men in hats. Women with handbags. A world that smelled of Howard Johnson, Orange Julius, Nedick’s, popcorn and pussy. I was six and I could smell it; six and I could feel it; six and I could taste it. Times Square was a dirty dangerous place. And, I loved it.
Elvis blasted from the music stores and frigid winds blasted from the air-conditioned theater lobbies. I passed a newsstand and an excited man shouted “Extra!” I passed a doorway and a crazy man shouted “Cocksucker!” I heard the shuffle, scuffle and beat of the footfalls. I heard the horns, hollers and bleats of the cabbies – “Ya got wheels! Use ’em, Mac!” I saw my first “Street Corner Messiah.” He wore a sandwich board and was very worried about God. I was transfixed by him. I wanted to ask him why he was so worried but I was pulled away.
It was the bestest birthday party ever. We saw the Torture Chamber in Ripley’s Believe It or Not“ Odditorium.” Then we visited Hubert’s Museum – a freak show in a 42nd Street basement. It was even spookier and sexier than Ripley’s! We gaped at Hubert’s Cowboy Giant, midget, flea circus and Congo Witch Doctor. We gawped at Princess Sahloo and her sluggish snake. I determined that I would live in Hubert’s Museum as barker, caretaker and flea-wrangler. I would befriend the Witch Doctor, play pinochle with the midget and milk the snake.