Prohibition New York City:
Speakeasy Queen Texas Guinan, Blind Pigs, Drag Balls and More
by David Rosen
Prohibition was the most ambitious effort that Christian moralists imposed on wayward Americans. For a century, fierce temperance advocates attempted to use intimidation and saloon wrecking to halt the liquor trade and alcohol consumption. With the adoption of the 18th Amendment, they turned to state power to impose their values. It failed.
Prohibition New York City explores how the Roaring ‘20s was experienced in Gotham throught the life and adventurers of Texas Guinan, queen of the speakeasies.
The book will be a richly illustrated with 75 photos from the era.
The History Press, forthcoming, 2020.
Introduction: The Lure of Transgression
Chapter 1. Party Time
Chapter 2. Speakeasy City
Chapter 3. From Cowgirl to Show Girl
Chapter 4. Party Time in the Wet Zone
Chapter 5. Party Time Downtown
Chapter 6. Party Time Uptown
Chapter 7. Party Time in the Other Gotham
Chapter 8. Sex & Other Pleasures
Chapter 9. Pansy City – 3,729
Chapter 10. Gangland – 3,354
Chapter 11. The Party’s Over – 2,547
Conclusion: Texas Guinan & Legacy of the Speakeasy
Sin, Sex & Subversion: How What Was Taboo in 1950s New York Became America’s New Normal, (Carrel Books, February 2016) ISBN-13: 978-1631440441, ISBN-10: 1631440446
He who transgresses not only breaks a rule.
He goes somewhere that the others are not;
and he knows something the others don’t know.
“New York is not a state capital or a national capital,” E. B. White famously wrote in 1949, “but it is by way of becoming the capital of the world.” In the ‘50s, as London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo recovered from a devastating war, the Big Apple became the capital of the 20th century.
And the city was jumping! The drinking age was 18 years and bars stayed open ‘til 4 am. Celebrated nightspots like the Stork Club, El Morocco and the St. Regis Roof welcomed the big-spenders, while the Village Vanguard, Birdland and Jimmy Ryan’s hosted everyone else. Beat poets, jazz musicians and folksingers were remaking the Village. Alan Freed joined Murray Kaufman, of Murray the K’s “Swingin’ Soiree,” and Douglas Henderson, of the “Jocko, The Ace from Outer Space” show, introducing rock-&-roll to radio listeners. Mixed-race rock concerts took place in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
At the same time, the Foley Square federal courthouse was the scene of some of the nation’s major battles against sin and subversion. It witnessed the espionage trials of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell in March 1951; they were executed in June 1953. Also in ’53, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s held hearings on the threat posed by communist writers like Howard Fast. In ’54 and ’55, Sen. Estes Kefauver held hearings on juvenile delinquency, comic books, pornography and crime.
Sin, Sex & Subversion is an unorthodox historical tale. It argues that during the tumultuous 1950s, sex was as threatening to the nation’s moral order as communism. New York was the epicenter of two “wars“ — a “cold war” waged against subversion and a “hot war” against sin. Today, the once forbidden has become the new normal.
Sin, Sex & Subversion juxtaposes key 21st century moral concerns to episodes fought out in the ‘50s. Each chapter is anchored in the experience of a leading social “outsider,” a person who illuminates the social struggles over moral values then taking place. AEach chapter is grounded in a person who can best be described as an “outsider,” someone who pushed the boundaries of moral order.
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“Rosen takes the reader on a grand and entertaining tour of New York’s underbelly in the 1950s. By turning his incisive lens on the sexy, sinful, and subversive elements of that society he provides a clearer view of our own.”
James F. Wilson
LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
author, Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance
“David Rosen is the heir apparent to The Wizard of Oz, pulling back the curtain exposing America’s political and sexual hypocrisy. Sin, Sex & Subversion reveals how private sexual behavior has been woven into political and social posturing. It is, at once, revealing and highly readable.”
host, “Any Saturday,” WBAI (New York)
author, Fortune In My Eyes
“David Rosen has written an engaging and revealing exposé of the 1950s other New York … who knew? Drawing upon a wealth of research, he weaves together wonderfully illuminating profiles of a dozen or so legendary New York ‘outsiders’ – including Paul Robeson — to tell a compelling story that has never been told. He links defining issues of the ‘50s involving sin, sex and subversion to present struggles, showing how things change and don’t. This original tale is a must read for all New Yorkers.“
editor-in-chief, Black Star News
“Not just about pleasure, but also a pleasure to read, David Rosen’s Sin, Sex & Subversion is voluptuously researched, vigorously written, and vigilantly insistent that the social battles of the Cold War–from sex to racial equality to radical politics–are not vestiges of an antiquated era but rather premised on the exact same inequities we’re struggling with today. Rosen expertly recovers the past, and brilliantly reminds us that we live in an illusion if we pretend the injustices of the 1950s are part of a distant history unconnected to our own present moment.”
author, Perversion for Profit:
The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right
- ISBN-10: 0978252683, ISBN-13: 978-0978252687
The nature of sex scandals has changed since the first days of the nation’s founding four centuries ago. Barack Obama, the child of an inter-racial marriage, is president; Ronald Reagan, a divorcee, was elected president; Thomas Jefferson’s relation with Sally Hemings or John Kennedy’s affairs with Marilyn Monroe and many others are part of presidential lore; and Bill Clinton’s “sex” with Monica Lewinsky was a political and not a sex scandal. Sex and sex scandals have changed as the nation changed and Sex Scandal America considers the social function of sex scandal and how this function has changed since America’s founding.
ISBN-10: 0802131875. ISBN-13: 978-0802131874
Off-Hollywood was originally commissioned by the Sundance Institute and the Independent Feature Project (IFP) and remains the only detailed analysis based on proprietary marketing, performance and financial data.
To Purchase Off-Hollywood, go to Amazon
Sexual Politics in the Age of Obama
Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion
Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, editors.
David Rosen contributed the chapter “Sexual Politics in the Age of Obama,” to this collection assessing Obama’s first term as president.