William Zorach's Manhole Encounter
• • William Zorach writes: There was Frank Harris [14 February 1856 — 27 August 1931] living on Washington Square, whom I enjoyed visiting. I always found him in bed dictating to his secretary, a handsome redhead. He gave me a set of his Life of Oscar Wilde. I never got a chance to read it, it was lifted from our bookcase so quickly. I remember Frank Harris going into Jefferson Market Court and exposing detectives who enticed young girls, often innocent ones, and then arrested them for prostitution.
• • We faced the Jefferson Market Jail door where the wagons brought in the night's haul, and below us would be the bail-bond lawyers waiting to bail them out.
• • We used to see a manhole cover just outside the jail lift up. A man would stick his head out and whistle and a boy would rush a bucket of beer over from the corner saloon. This went on for years — — and then one day a prisoner escaped through the manhole and that stopped the flow of beer.
• • William Zorach's reminiscence inspired an interlude in "Courting Mae West" [Act I, Scene 4] when Mae West is being held in Night Court and her newsman-boyfriend wants to gain access and get a scoop. Suddenly, he observes a manhole cover just outside the jail lift up. . . .
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• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" — — based on true events when Mae West was tried at the Jefferson Market Police Court on Sixth Avenue — — will be onstage at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010] July 19th — 22nd, 2008.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.
Courting Mae West
• • Photo: Mae West's trial took place in this courthouse • • 1920s • •