Saturday, October 30, 2010

Krystal Ball the Hungarian Tempest

The main character in my novel is based on the incredibly magnetic woman I met that fateful winter night in 1975 when I hired myself into a dance hall.  

(A digression: Cosmopolitan thought of me for the undercover assignment because I'd done a similar stunt for them some 4 years before. I dressed up as a man and infiltrated males-only establishments in New York, culminating in a trip to the Yale Club locker room. It helped that I was tall and thin; the unisex trend also helped so that in some cases all I had to do was sweep my hair back in a ponytail and glue on sideburns; and I was always accompanied by an actual male as a foil. I probably looked either gay or, at best, metrosexual. But no one ever suspected I was a girl.)

On this night I was dressed as a slut. Kristal was the only other dance hall hostess (I use the word "hostess" advisedly) who would speak to me, I suppose because I was new and, therefore, competition. It was clear pretty fast that I didn't know the ropes, so I wasn't that threatening. But I was young, and on my shift there were a sad number of fossils who didn't know what else to do with themselves. Hope for some client to turn up and pick you, dance with you if he's a gent, and then repair to a table in the darkness where you finish him off under the table.

"I don't do nothing like that," Kristal told me. "I don't touch it, never. Those others have no respect for themselves. And I make more money than they do."

I had never heard the term "dry hustler" before. It wasn't even in the slang dictionary. It may well be that Kristal made it up. It is for sure in the lexicon now.

I'll continue recounting my "research" adventures in future blogs.

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