Red Velvet Swingtime
Janus the Roman god of doorways - - taking the place (temporarily) of Old Jeff, who is away visiting the Jeffersons - - will use this opp to reminisce in January about an actress who gave the performance of her life on Sixth Avenue at the "Trial of the Century" in Jefferson Market Court.
• • Evelyn Nesbit [25 December 1884 - 17 January 1967] was a model noted for her entanglement in the murder of her ex-lover, architect Stanford White, by her husband, Harry K. Thaw. Stanford White, though married, was enchanted by Evelyn, who was a Florodora Girl on Broadway. In a lavish apartment at Madison Square Garden, which he had designed, he installed a red velvet swing. He was aroused by watching Evelyn or other young women swinging. (Nesbit would be sensationalized as "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing" by the media).
• • Harry Kendall Thaw (1871-1947) was the wealthy son of a coal and railroad baron. Evelyn married Thaw on April 4, 1905.
• • On June 25, 1906 Evelyn and Harry saw White at a restaurant (the Cafè Martin) and then ran into him again at Madison Square Garden's roof theatre at a performance of Mamzelle Champagne. During the song, "I Could Love A Million Girls", Thaw fired three shots at close range into White's face, killing him.
• • From Police Headquarters, Thaw was hustled, still handcuffed, to the Jefferson Market Court and from the Jefferson Market Court to the Coroner's office. When the Coroner finished with him, Thaw crossed the Bridge of Sighs to Cell 220, Murderers' Row, of the Tombs Prison.
• • There were two trials at Jefferson Market Court. At the first, the jury was deadlocked; at the second, Thaw pled insanity, and Evelyn testified. (Thaw's mother told Evelyn that if she would testify that Stanford White abused her and that Harry only tried to protect her, she'd receive a divorce from Harry Thaw and one million dollars in compensation. She did just that, and performed in court wonderfully: Thaw was found not guilty. Evelyn got the divorce, in 1915, but not the money.)
• • Evelyn Nesbit died at age 82 in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California. In her later years, she taught ceramics and served as a technical consultant to a 1955 movie about the White shooting, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, in which she was portrayed by Joan Collins. She was also portrayed by Elizabeth McGovern in the movie Ragtime.
• • To commemorate her January 17th passing, read one of the titles she inspired.
• • The Architect of Desire - Suzannah Lessard (White's great-granddaughter)
• • Glamorous Sinners - Frederick L. Collins
• • Evelyn Nesbit & Stanford White: Love and Death in the Gilded Age - Michael Mooney
• • The Murder of Stanford White - Gerald Langford
• • The Traitor - Harry K. Thaw
• • The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing - Charles Samuels
• • The Story of my Life - Evelyn Nesbit Thaw - 1914
• • Prodigal Days - Evelyn Nesbit Thaw - 1934
• • Photo: Evelyn Nesbit, age 15, in 1900
New York Public Library