In this morning’s lecture on early-20c Greenwich Village bohemianism, I mentioned an even earlier bohemian literary enclave organized around a bar called Pfaff’s, at Broadway and Bleecker. Its habitues included Walt Whitman and his friend, the scandalous actress Adah Isaacs Menken — sometimes known simply as “The Naked Lady” — pictured above.
Digging around Google for an image of Menken to drop into my slideshow, I was delighted to discover a blog I’d never seen before, The Great Bare, dedicated to Menken. It’s maintained by the writers Michael and Barbara Foster, who are collaborating on a Menken bio. You can also learn more about Menken at The Vault at Pfaff’s, which I mentioned in a post last year around this time. The complicated racial dimensions of Menken’s life and performance are engagingly treated by our friend Daphne Brooks in her book Bodies in Dissent.