THE MADAMS OF SAN FRANCISCO: An Irreverent History of the City by the Golden Gate by Curt entry

THE MADAMS OF SAN FRANCISCO: An Irreverent History of the City by the Golden Gate

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Funniest comment in this reverent history of parlor-house madams in Frisco one woman's question about ladies of easy virtue: ""Is the antonym uneasy virtue?"" The first madam to open a parlor house (they are distinguished mainly by elegance and plush) was Mrs. Irene McCready, who arrived with a lover in tow but declared herself an Irish Catholic and not a prostitute. A virtuous woman could dispense with the declaration's second half, but Irene was simply underscoring her managerial status. No reformer ever really dented ""the social evil"" in Frisco, particularly in Chinatown where, in 1849, Ah Toy, the lone oriental prostitute for a few thousand Chinese men, sometimes had customers waiting in a line a block long. By 1856 a bawdy-house guidebook, The Illustrated Varieties, which described each parlor-house and girl in complete detail, was hawked, loudly, on most downtown streetcorners. Author Gentry gives the lives and explodes the myths of the town's most famous madams, while wallowing in local color. The last house disappeared in the early 1950's with the advent of the call girl whose only overhead is a telephone answering service. No more oak paneling, gentlemen, no more gilt or red plush, no bouquet of bought red mouths to choose from: just an invisible girl at the end of a wire. Sic transit gloria Frisco, while the Vice Squad occupies Telegraph Hill.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1964
Publisher: Doubleday