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WHEN WOMEN RAN FIFTH AVENUE

GLAMOUR AND POWER AT THE DAWN OF AMERICAN FASHION

The illuminating stories of these unexpected tastemakers are both complementary and well contextualized.

An investigation into three women who oversaw New York City department stores between the 1920s and 1970s.

“In the early twentieth century, department stores were a land of glamour and possibility,” writes Satow, author of The Plaza. By the 1920s, the majority of sales staffs in such stores were women, while supervisors were mostly men, who “treated their female underlings with condescension and paternalism. At Filene’s, for instance, saleswomen were required to refer to male bosses as ‘dad.’” The author focuses on three women—Hortense Odlum, Dorothy Shaver, and Geraldine Stutz—each of whom, against overwhelming odds, came to lead a different Manhattan department store. Organized chronologically in three parts, the book refers to each woman by her first name and includes chapter titles like “Fashion Is Spinach,” “Hortense Goes Shopping,” and “Dorothy’s American Look.” In 1924, when she was 33, Dorothy started at Lord & Taylor in the comparison-shopping department. By her second year, she oversaw fashions and interior decorations; the following year, she was appointed to the board of directors, almost unheard of for a woman. In 1928, she curated the largest collection of Art Deco furnishings ever exhibited in the country. “Dorothy’s efforts blurred the lines between art and commerce….She proved that department stores could rival galleries, and even museums, as cultural arbiters.” In 1945, “steely-eyed” Dorothy was named Lord & Taylor’s president. A decade earlier, meanwhile, despite never having held a job, Hortense, a suburban wife and mother, was hired at now-defunct Bonwit Teller. Within a year, she ran the store, serving as its president between 1934 to 1940. Subsequently, in 1957, “theatrical and brilliant” Geraldine, a former fashion editor at Glamour, took the helm of Henri Bendel, which she ran, with great aplomb, through the 1970s.

The illuminating stories of these unexpected tastemakers are both complementary and well contextualized.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9780385548755

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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TANQUERAY

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

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LOVE, PAMELA

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

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The iconic model tells the story of her eventful life.

According to the acknowledgments, this memoir started as "a fifty-page poem and then grew into hundreds of pages of…more poetry." Readers will be glad that Anderson eventually turned to writing prose, since the well-told anecdotes and memorable character sketches are what make it a page-turner. The poetry (more accurately described as italicized notes-to-self with line breaks) remains strewn liberally through the pages, often summarizing the takeaway or the emotional impact of the events described: "I was / and still am / an exceptionally / easy target. / And, / I'm proud of that." This way of expressing herself is part of who she is, formed partly by her passion for Anaïs Nin and other writers; she is a serious maven of literature and the arts. The narrative gets off to a good start with Anderson’s nostalgic memories of her childhood in coastal Vancouver, raised by very young, very wild, and not very competent parents. Here and throughout the book, the author displays a remarkable lack of anger. She has faced abuse and mistreatment of many kinds over the decades, but she touches on the most appalling passages lightly—though not so lightly you don't feel the torment of the media attention on the events leading up to her divorce from Tommy Lee. Her trip to the pages of Playboy, which involved an escape from a violent fiance and sneaking across the border, is one of many jaw-dropping stories. In one interesting passage, Julian Assange's mother counsels Anderson to desexualize her image in order to be taken more seriously as an activist. She decided that “it was too late to turn back now”—that sexy is an inalienable part of who she is. Throughout her account of this kooky, messed-up, enviable, and often thrilling life, her humility (her sons "are true miracles, considering the gene pool") never fails her.

A juicy story with some truly crazy moments, yet Anderson's good heart shines through.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 9780063226562

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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