Lois Long “Lipstick” and Tables for Two at the New Yorker

On January 17th, 1920, when Prohibition became the law of the land, a new kind of woman was born; a woman who drank, smoked, and (gasp!) danced with members of the opposite sex in illegal watering holes known forever as “speakeasies.” No one, man or woman, described these dens in such delicious detail as The New Yorker magazine’s cabaret-reviewer and resident dancer til dawn, “Lipstick.” “Lipstick,” nom de plume of Connecticut-born Lois Long, was one of the original New Yorker contributors, along with such famous writers as Dorothy Parker, E. B. White, and Alexander Wollcott, and outlasted nearly all of them – her career at The New Yorker spanned nearly 45 years.

At age 23, Long began writing her column, “Tables for Two”,” reviewing nightclubs across the city (most of them situated between 42nd and 60th Streets), with the magazine footing the bill. The Tenement Museum does not cover such expenses for its employees, in case you were wondering. Long, taking over the column from a fellow who called himself “Top Hat,” chose to be known as “Lipstick.” Since her identity was hidden behind the page, she often had a bit of fun with her readers, describing herself as a plump middle-aged woman, or a distinguished gentleman. Long was a broad with a great sense of humor and adventure – perfect for 1920’s Manhattan.

Her nights were filled with jazz, gin, and jitterbugging, and all of it made it into her column, which became extremely popular. According to historian Joshua Zeitz, author of Flapper: Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern, Long’s exploits often found their way to the office: “She would come into the office at four in the morning, usually inebriated, still in an evening dress and she would, having forgotten the key to her cubicle, she would normally prop herself up on a chair and try to, you know, in stocking feet, jump over the cubicle usually in a dress that was too immodest for Harold Ross’ [the founder of the New Yorker] liking. She was in every sense of the word, both in public and private, the embodiment of the 1920s flapper.”

Source: tenement.org

Robert Benchley on Bohemians

“Like the measles, which are so delightful in retrospect because we remember only the period of convalescence and its accompanying chicken and jellies, Bohemia seems to be a state which grows dearer the farther away you get from it.

The only trouble with this pitiless exposé of Bohemia is that I know practically nothing about the subject at all. I have only taken the most superficial glances into New York’s Bohemia and for all I know it may be one of the most delightful and beneficial existences imaginable. It merely seemed to me like a good thing to write about, because the editor might, while reading it, think of a dashing illustration that could be made for it.

And, if I have been entirely in error in my estimate of Bohemia, maybe some real, genuine Bohemian will conduct me, some night, where the lights and good-fellowship are mellow and rich and where we may sit about a table and sing songs of Youth and Freedom, and Love, and Girls, like so many Francois Villons.”

~ Robert Benchley, 1919 from “Vanity Fair Magazine: The Art of Being a Bohemian.”

Pictured Above: Cartoon of Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker.