Sex Files Sep 2 2011
MCMANUS ABOUT TOWN
Making ends meet in New York City.

Virginia McManus, who you see above having a smoke, stars on the cover of this September 1959 Confidential because she transformed from a New York City teacher into an expensive Manhattan call girl. Her fame was typically short-lived in the tabloid universe, but it was hardly usual in its details. McManus was a child prodigy, scion of a well-to-do Chicago family. She moved to New York when she got a job as a substitute biology teacher at Brooklyn’s William Maxwell Vocational High School. But the job didn’t pay well, and she had a difficult relationship with her parents that precluded asking for money, so McManus made the decision to sell sex.

She was arrested for prostitution in October 1958, but acquitted of the charges. The arrest did nothing to deter her—quite the contrary, she gave up teaching and became a full time lady of the evening, eventually partnering with a woman named Beatrice Garfield, whose midtown Manhattan apartment was their base of operations. In February 1959 police raided that apartment and found a nude McManus entertaining two businessmen. This time she was convicted and served three months in New York’s Women’s House of Detention.

In Confidential, she reveals that half the women in her jail were lesbians, and that confinement actually made their lives easier, at least in terms of hooking up without public scorn and legal risk. She was making an important point, but of course it read like something right out of a sleaze pulp novel, and the public ate it up. McManus, understanding the financial opportunity being presented, wasn’t long in writing a book. That book, entitled Not for Love, was published the next year and explained how a child prodigy who could read the Bible at age three and  earned a Master’s Degree in literature became a hooker.

There were several fascinating passages: she admitted that prostitution had been an easy transition for her because she had always been promiscuous, writing, “I had been able to go to bed with five men, all complete strangers, without guilt or horror or even as much revulsion as I had anticipated.” She described some of the other call girls, and how their emotional fragility led to depression and drug abuse, and revealed that, “Inwardly, I hadn’t changed a bit. These “girls” have not matured into adult women, despite the nature of their activities.”

The book was an instant bestseller, and for a time the erudite McManus was everywhere. The woman who spoke so frankly about her experiences in the sex trade, and who had written that, "My father was a shadowy figure in my life, scarcely distinguishable from any other big man with a hat and cigar," was a case study for everyone from Freudians to feminists. But this was New York City, after all, where there were so many scandals and so little time. Eventually, she was pushed from the front pages, the bestseller list, and finally from memory. Today, save for a few copies of her book that appear on auction sites, little trace of her exists in the historical record. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 22
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
February 21
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
February 20
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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