Other madams’ memoirs

Successful madams were either discreet about their business, or, when caught, flipped and threatened to expose customers and protectors. Sally was among the most discreet. When she told stories, they were well crafted in order to hide the truth. Of course, each was an independent entrepreneur who created and followed her own rules, so one madam’s stories never apply completely to those of the others. Nevertheless, the memoirs of other madams provide some useful insights.

  • Polly Adler – Polly Adler, A House is not a Home. (Popular Library, Published by arrangement with Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1953). – said to be the true story of America’s most famous madam – immigrant from Russia (near Poland) to New York, whose clientele included top crime-land bosses, top politicians, top entertainers.
    5 – “During the twenty-five years I ran a house, it often seemed to me that my time was about equally divided between answering questions and avoiding answering them. Customers and cops, reporters and prosecuting attorneys kept me constantly on the receiving end of a fusillade of queries which ranged from the routine to the dynamite-packed, from the naïve to the knowing, from the obscene to the ridiculous…”
  • Bee Davis“Call House Madam.” The Story of the Career of Beverly Davis, as told by Serge G. Wolsey. (The Martin Tudordale Corporation Publishers, San Francisco and New York, 1942; reprinted in 2013). – got her start as a prostitute in San Francisco, then opened houses in southern California
  • Mayflower Madam – Sydney Biddle Barrows with William Novak, Mayflower Madam. The Secret Life of Sydney Biddle Barrows. (Ivy Books, New York, Published by Ballantine Books, 1986).
  • Nell KimballNell Kimball. Her Life as an American Madam. By Herself. Edited by Stephen Longstreet. (The Macmillan Company. 1970) – worked various places, lastly in Storyville, New Orleans until the government shut down this neighborhood in 1917.

Marital complications – how many husbands did Sally marry?

As in many aspects of Sally’s life, her marital history was complicated. OK. Not as many husbands as names, but complicated nonetheless.

I used to think Sally had 8 husbands—this would put her on par with Liz Taylor’s record. (Not that I’m competitive, or anything… ) But maybe there were only 7 husbands, or maybe only six. Then, how do you count annulments in the marriage total? How about marriages that wouldn’t have been legal because they were bigamist? I think we can confirm that at least three husbands thought they were her first; another two thought they were her second.

Then I realized I’d counted husband #1, Mr. Fansler, twice; she’d given him the code name Snyder in her book. So, that left her with only 7.

Then, there’s a good chance that she didn’t actually marry Mr. Goodan (#2), so the total drops to 6. Marriages #1 and #4 were both annulled—does this mean that it’s as if they never happened? That would bring the total to 4.

Now I fear we must subtract two more from the total, because marriage #3 (to Mr. Byham) did notend in divorce or annulment, at least not in San Francisco, where both parties lived. As Mr. Byham didn’t die until 1953, her two subsequent marriages would have been bigamist, so they don’t really count.

Finally, we get to her 1954 marriage to Big Bob Kenna. This happened after Mr. Byham died, so we can add that to the dwindling total of legal marriages. Still, what had started as 8 husbands, is now down to only TWO (legal) husbands!

What’s the fun in that???

Let me re-cap:

1 –Fansler – annulled

2 –Goodan – never happened

3 –Byham – probably didn’t end till he died in 1953

4 – Spagnoli – annulled because she was still married to Byham

5 – Rapp – ended in divorce, but probably wasn’t legal as it was bigamist

6 – Gump – [same as Rapp]

7 – Kenna – ended in divorce (Byham had died, so it was NOT bigamist)