|Sex Files||Sep 2 2011|
Virginia McManus, who you see above having a smoke, stars on the cover of this September 1959 Confidential because she transformed from a New York City teacher into an expensive Manhattan call girl. Her fame was typically short-lived in the tabloid universe, but it was hardly usual in its details. McManus was a child prodigy, scion of a well-to-do Chicago family. She moved to New York when she got a job as a substitute biology teacher at Brooklyn’s William Maxwell Vocational High School. But the job didn’t pay well, and she had a difficult relationship with her parents that precluded asking for money, so McManus made the decision to sell sex.
She was arrested for prostitution in October 1958, but acquitted of the charges. The arrest did nothing to deter her—quite the contrary, she gave up teaching and became a full time lady of the evening, eventually partnering with a woman named Beatrice Garfield, whose midtown Manhattan apartment was their base of operations. In February 1959 police raided that apartment and found a nude McManus entertaining two businessmen. This time she was convicted and served three months in New York’s Women’s House of Detention.
In Confidential, she reveals that half the women in her jail were lesbians, and that confinement actually made their lives easier, at least in terms of hooking up without public scorn and legal risk. She was making an important point, but of course it read like something right out of a sleaze pulp novel, and the public ate it up. McManus, understanding the financial opportunity being presented, wasn’t long in writing a book. That book, entitled Not for Love, was published the next year and explained how a child prodigy who could read the Bible at age three and earned a Master’s Degree in literature became a hooker.
There were several fascinating passages: she admitted that prostitution had been an easy transition for her because she had always been promiscuous, writing, “I had been able to go to bed with five men, all complete strangers, without guilt or horror or even as much revulsion as I had anticipated.” She described some of the other call girls, and how their emotional fragility led to depression and drug abuse, and revealed that, “Inwardly, I hadn’t changed a bit. These “girls” have not matured into adult women, despite the nature of their activities.”
The book was an instant bestseller, and for a time the erudite McManus was everywhere. The woman who spoke so frankly about her experiences in the sex trade, and who had written that, "My father was a shadowy figure in my life, scarcely distinguishable from any other big man with a hat and cigar," was a case study for everyone from Freudians to feminists. But this was New York City, after all, where there were so many scandals and so little time. Eventually, she was pushed from the front pages, the bestseller list, and finally from memory. Today, save for a few copies of her book that appear on auction sites, little trace of her exists in the historical record.