William Zorach's Jeff Encounter
The late great sculptor and painter William Zorach [28 February 1887 — 15 November 1966] often sketched Jefferson Market since, for years, he lived on West Tenth Street and Greenwich (next to the Cushman bakery and directly opposite the formidable jail doors). Zorach reveals an interesting Prohibition Era secret in his colorful memoir Art Is My Life.
• • 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 — — will be onstage at the Algonquin Theatre [123 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010] on July 19th — 22nd, 2008.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage in mid-July 2008.
• • Source:http://jeffersonmarketcourthouseny.blogspot.com/atom.xml
• • Photo: Jefferson Market and elevated train • • early 1930s • •
New York Public Library