Rough Amusements: The True Story of A'Lelia Walker, Patroness of the Harlem Renaissance's Down-Low Culture
When A'Lelia Walker died in 1931 after a midnight snack of lobster and chocolate cake washed down with champagne, it marked the end of one of the most striking social careers in New York's history. The daughter of rags-to-riches multi-millionaire Madame C.J. Walker (the washerwoman who marketed the most successful straightening technique for African American hair), A'Lelia was America's first black poor little rich girl, using her inheritance to throw elaborate, celebrity-packed parties in her Westchester Mansion and her 136th Street would-be salon, 'Dark Tower'.
In Rough Amusements, third in Bloomsbury's Urban Historicals series, Neihart takes us into the heart of A'Lelia's world-gay Harlem in the 1920s. In tracing its cultural antecedents, he delves into the sexual subculture of nineteenth-century New York, exploring mixed-race prostitution; the bachelorization of New York society; French Balls ("the most sophisticated forum for testing the boundaries of urban sexual behavior"); and The Slide (New York's most depraved nineteenth-century bar). Using A'Lelia's lavish parties as a jumping-off point, Neihart traces the line connecting Davy Crockett's world without women to Walt Whitman's boundless love of beautiful men to A'Lelia's cultivation of the racial, social, and sexual risk that defined the Harlem Renaissance.
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ROUGH AMUSEMENTS: The True Story of A'Lelia Walker, Patroness of the Harlem Renaissance's Down-Low CultureUser Review - Kirkus
The posh and the ruck intermingle in this snapshot of a night late in the Harlem Renaissance.The setting is the Faggots Ball, Harlem's annual drag extravaganza. It is 1930, and the Depression is hard ... Read full review
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A'Lelia Walker adolescents androgyne arms artists baby BEN NEIHART Blanche Dunn Bo Weinberg Bowery brave Carl Van Vechten Caska celebrated champagne cigarette color costume Countee Cullen crowd cultural dance floor Dark Tower daughter deep dozen drag dress drink Dutch Schultz dying effeminate eyes Faggots Ball friends front fucking gang gangsters Geraldyn girl gown hair hall hand Harlem Renaissance Harold Hello Jackman Jennie June Jennie's kiss knew Langston Hughes laughed Lelia lived looking Madame Walker Manhattan Casino mansion married Mayme mother Negro NEIHART never night parties police prostitutes queens rich Richard Bruce Nugent saloon seat shouted smiled society soldiers song sport stop Street talking Tattler tell thought threw told tonight took town turned Villa Lewaro voice W. E. B. DuBois walk wanted watch whispered who'd woman women wrote York young