In 1931, when Waxey met Gypsy Rose Lee in a Manhattan speakeasy, he was 43 years old and married, with three children. He kept his family in a ten-room, four-bath apartment at 590 West End Avenue (paying $6,000 per year in rent at a time the average annual salary was $1,850) and decorated with the help of professionals, including a woodsmith who custom-built a $2,200 bookcase. Five servants catered to their every whim. His children attended private schools, took daily horseback riding lessons in Central Park, and spent summers at their house in Bradley Beach, NJ. He owned three cars, bought $10 pairs of underwear by the dozen, and stocked his closets with $225 suits tailor-made for him by the same haberdasher who outfitted Al Capone. In 1930, Waxey made nearly $1.5 million and paid the United States government just $10.76 in taxes.
Gypsy was just 20 years old at the time and worried obsessively about money—“Everything’s going out,” her mother, Rose, warned her daily, “and nothing’s coming in.” She had just scored her first big break in burlesque, working as a headliner for Minsky’s Republic on Broadway, but the days of starving on the old vaudeville circuit, eating dog food just to stay alive, were still fresh in her mind
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Gypsy Rose Lee's Lower East Side Gangster Boy Friend
from Karen Abbott's new biography