Tag Archives: Karen Abbott
ROW Check in!
The To Do List:
- Finish First Draft of Women’s Fiction Piece – Write at least 4x week and complete 4-10 pages at least each day.
- Read On Writing by Stephen King– First book of my Catch up on Craft Initiative
- Read 2 Fiction Books a Month– I have 3 books going right now, so I need to skedaddle!
- Prepare for Summer Vacation – Joe and I are planning a road trip out west in two weeks, so I will need to get blog posts prepped ahead, stock up on sunscreen, do the laundry that is mounding in my closet, and corral all the camping gear up in the next weeks.
- Read Suze Orman’s Women and Money– I’s working on my savings!!! *jingles piggy bank*
- Be a Role Model and Cheerleader in my ROW80 Sponsor Role
I’ll completely fess up that the whole page count goal and specific titles to read did not happen. Not for lack of want, but just other interferences. You might let me off the hook if I told you I led 4 full day trainings, made two trips out of town and worked a 15 hour day to complete a Fine Jewelry reticketing project. Basically when I got home, I ate and then fell asleep on the couch in my work clothes.
I promise to have new pages to show by the next check in. If I don’t, you have permission to publicly flog me.
What I Did Accomplish:
- I was reading! I finished both Blessings by Anna Quindlen and Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich. Got 2 entries in my library’s adult summer reading program! Made great headway on These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf and started American Rose by Karen Abbott!
- Also managed to cross off one more thing on the Summer Bucket List! Joe and I visited Niagara Cave in Harmony, Minnesota!
Look how excited I am!!!
Excuse me, your flow rock is invading my blog post…
- I am working on blogging ahead so when Joe and I are on vacation you won’t forget me! I’ll be able to read and comment from my phone easily enough, and with 5 hours in the car, I’ll have time to hit up more blogs, which means more ROW cheerleading!!!
- Other big news for the week is my fangirl dreams came true when New York Times Bestselling author Karen Abbott agreed to do an interview with me on my blog! I would love for you guys to pop over and meet her; she’s been fabulous to work with! Plus, she’s offering a FREE copy of her new book American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee! Leave a comment here and enter to win!
Your turn! How have you kept busy this past week?
I’ve been hinting at it for weeks now. And the day is finally here! I’m so pleased to welcome New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Abbott as a Featured Writer on the Happiness Project.
Karen is author of the historical nonfiction hits, Sin in the Second City and American Rose. Now, I’m a big fan of history as it is, but if you ask me, Karen has some of the coolest stuff around illustrating her research and her passion for this genre! Her websites are some of my all time favorites! There’s KarenAbbott.net, SinInTheSecondCity.com, and AmericanRoseTheBook.com. Just look at her book trailer for American Rose! She’s got blurbs from authors Kathryn Stockett (The Help) and Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.)
Before I reach total fangirl overload, I better let you meet Karen for yourselves.
They approached my friend, author Mike Dash, who writes really fantastic, incredibly researched historical narrative nonfiction. They needed another blogger, and he very kindly suggested me. I really enjoy writing for them. It gives me a chance to explore little pockets of forgotten history that would probably never work as a full-length book.
Erik was really generous with his time and insights, telling me anecdotes that had never been published before. For example, Gypsy’s memoir contains a scene in which her mother accidentally shoots a cow while they’re camping. Erik implied that it wasn’t actually a cow at all but someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time… And talking with June Havoc was like time traveling back to the 1920s. The first time I met her she was 96 and had been bedridden for years; I couldn’t imagine how frustrating it must’ve been for someone who had been dancing since the age of two to lose the use of her legs. She had her white hair done up in these little pigtails and was eating her favorite snack of Oreos and milk. She was still gorgeous but fierce; I had the feeling that, if she were so inclined, she could leap up from that bed and strangle me with her bare hands. She shared many stories about her relationship with Gypsy–they were sort of death bed confessions. I was the last person to interview her before she died, and it was truly an honor.
I found this joke while researching American Rose. When NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia called burlesque “entertainment for morons and perverts” he was referring not only to striptease, but also to burlesque comedy. Here’s an example of a typical burlesque joke (warning: it’s neither lewd nor funny!)
Karen Abbott is the author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose, both New York Times bestsellers. She is a featured contributor to Smithsonian magazine’s history blog, Past Imperfect, and also writes for Disunion, the New York Times series about the Civil War. A native of Philadelphia, where she worked as a journalist, she now lives in New York City with her husband and two African Grey parrots, Poe and Dexter. She’s at work on her next book, a true story of four daring (and not entirely scrupulous) Civil War spies who risked everything for their cause.
Leave a comment before Thursday, 5pm CST, and winner will be announced on Friday’s post!
Oops, there’s Vic Shaw, guess the party’s over! See you in the comments section!
For more fun, check out Karen’s interview with Beauty and the Book owner, Kathy Patrick! They go vintage shopping together! Learn how to make your own Gypsy Rose Lee outfit!
Allow me to transport you back in time to the early 1900’s when cities were just sprouting up around the country all vying to make a name for themselves. And the charming Everleigh Sisters, Minna and Ada, were in search of a place to set up shop. So begins our journey into New York Times Bestselling biography, Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul.
Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history–and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago’s notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club’s proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh “butterflies” awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot’s earnings and kept a “whipper” on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.
Not everyone appreciated the sisters’ attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters’ most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”——the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America’s sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, “Hinky Dink” Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott’s colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nation’s hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America’s journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.
If we’re going to be discussing a book about brothels, we’ve got to set the tone a little. Maestro, la musique!
Due to an increase of work travel I’ve had, I picked up this historical gem at my library (who will be hosting it as part of their Chapters Book Discussion, but not until May 2012 and I couldn’t wait that long to read it). So, I grabbed the audio copy and let the daring, and need I say, revealing story of the Everleigh sisters unfold.
We’ll start at the beginning. Ada, the elder sister, though she’d never say and lied for many years about the truth of her age, was the quiet and intelligent brains behind the brothel. She was relied upon to always have just the right words to use when interviewing wishful new courtesans, making deals with the police, and escorting gentlemen out of the club when their checkbooks became sparse. Minna dealt with promotion of the The Everleigh Club, disciplined the harlots when necessary, and mingled in the parlor with “her boys.”
What the Everleighs, also known as The Scarlett Sisters, set out to do was never before seen or heard in any levee district of its time. They traveled to all the top brothels and spoke to the best madams. They listened to the advice of those who had come before them, and then they shaped it into the destination of choice for all men of money, including royalty.
They chose a two-story house in the middle of the Levee District of Chicago, an already notorious town for it’s moneymakers and fine tricks. Every room was lavishly decorated. Rich fabrics, fresh florals, a gold piano. Fountains of the god Dionysus, whom the sisters felt a close kinship to.
Every man who entered went through more security checks than current airport scans. The Everleighs requested bank statements from their guests, and charged scandalous rates that offered them their dream’s desires. They catered to big shots like Marshall Field Jr., Lionel Barrymore, and even the Prince of Prussia.
As for the girls, the Everleigh club was not one to house aging, pick-pocket queens with too much rouge and fishnet that barely concealed. Minna and Ada made sure their courtesans wore evening gowns, ate gourmet meals, were seen by a physician, and even received an education while living in the mansion. Minna dubbed them “the Everleigh Butterflies” as she was so fond of the creatures’ ability to transform into something beautiful.
Of course there were bound to be bad apples and snafus in the road to pleasure infamy. Before the Everleighs came to town, the Levee District was run by Madam Vic Shaw, an overly-plump sourpuss who bribed “butterflies” to share information, plant evidence, or come to her club instead. Twice Vic Shaw tried to pin murder on the Everleigh’s, and with one dead body of retail heir, Marshall Field Jr., things looked bleak.
But Shaw wasn’t the only problem. With the rise of human rights issues brought about by the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, reformers were now demanding change against “white slavery.” Newspaper stories and court trials flared up speaking of kidnapped girls, sold girls, raped and forced to pay for debts that shouldn’t be their own. Women would do well not to leave their homes and families unescorted and to never partake of the drink, lest they be drugged and wake up finding themselves far from home in one perverted prison.
But the Everleigh sisters did not run that kind of brothel. They actually agreed with the raising of the legal age for consent from 13 to 16. And they made sure their courtesans would want for nothing, keeping them paid well above their competitors so that these women might be able to support those that depended on them. Minna and Ada gave explicit directions about what to eat and when to eat, keeping their butterflies looking as young and healthy as possible.
Despite their field of business, Ada and Minna were incredibly smart businesswomen. They kept up with current events, who the competition was, and they were trendsetters. One example that you may have heard of is sipping champagne from a shoe? It became custom at all the noteworthy venues of Chicago’s 1900’s after one Everleigh Butterfly lost her shoe dancing on the table for the Prince of Prussia. When one of his men picked up the shoe that had tipped his champagne glass and spilled inside it, he cracked a joke and sipped the bubbly out of the shoe, proclaiming himself most fortunate to drink from the shoe of such an exquisite dancer. Soon every man at the party was tearing off the shoes of the nearest courtesan and pouring their champagne inside them to drink.
As for the author, Karen Abbott lives in New York and credits “sixteen years of Catholic school, a tenure that gave her a freakishly photographic memory, a tendency toward rebellion, and a finely tuned sense of guilt” to helping her write this book. Her website is full of fascinating links to all things burlesque and history. Her second book, American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare, The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee picks up where she left off, in the roaring 20’s and looks equally titillating. I highly recommend checking out the book’s trailer on the page I linked to. I’m giddy with excitement. I’m definitely adding this title to my “to read” selection.
What’s your opinion? Do the Everleigh Sisters sound like colossal businesswomen or strumpets of the night? Would you want a chance to go back in time and meet an Everleigh Butterfly? Would you drink champagne from a shoe?
I love hearing from you! What’s on your mind?
***And be sure to tune in again on Friday for the Life List Club’s First Ever Milestone Party! All contributors are giving away some awesome prizes to commentors, sharing our progress on our goals, and we want to hear what life lessons and accomplishments you’ve achieved so far! Be there or be square, my pretties!***