Mom Noir

Note the photo above; I've been aware of it ever since I was a small child. It's a shot of my mother (second from right) and some friends out on the city streets. From other photos of the same folks I'm pretty sure the occasion was New Year's Eve. What year, I'm not sure. My guess is around 1950, possibly the late forties. I think this was taken in or around Boston, Massachusetts. Note the suits, overcoats, ties, bowties and general dressed-up appearance of these people; one party-hardy gal is even wearing a mink coat. My mother's escort, the fellow holding the cigarette at the right with the rather furtive expression on his face, looks like a bluff, Jack Oakie, Hey-buddy-how-are-ya? type. But when I was a child, I thought he looked like a mobster. (Is that a horseshoe pin on his silk tie? Ahhhh, I thought so. A gambler.) This was confirmed for me by the additional presence of the dark, Italianate fellow standing next to Mom, who is with a perky-looking, ankle-strapped young brunette, clearly thrilled to be out.

So who are these people Mom was running with? It's dangerous to stereotype sixty years on by appearance alone, especially since my knowledge of the era is primarily informed by crime dramas, but when I was a kid, sorting through these old photos, half-jokingly (I was never sure), Dad used to suggest that Mom hung out with gangsters. Wow! Mom, young and swell-looking, was a moll. Mom never elaborated on these photos - but she didn't show any interest in tossing them away, either. They tantalized me.

Images of the Adult's Club, c. 1950!

Exhibit "A" in the case against Madeleine Wedge Clark as a mobster's moll is below.


Ah, the Frolics! 3 floor shows nightly and home of the elegant Rhumba Roof and Palette Room. My guess is that the floor shows were inspired by the Carmen Miranda productions of the era: women in halter tops walking about with fruit balanced on their heads, etc. South American dance and music were in vogue at the time - you can see it over and over again in film noir - and I suppose it was inevitable it would be found in Revere Beach, Massachusetts, where this photo was taken, safely housed for posterity in this yellowing cardstock enclosure. (To view another one, click here.)

"A photo? Sure, why not? Th' cops'll never take me in, I'm clean. They can't prove a thing. I'm a legit businessman, see? Besides, I got the Police Commissioner in my pocket. Hey, Mattie, you're wearing them earrings I gave ya. They sure look nice. Can I light ya a cigarette? Oh, ya already have one. Waiter! Another round!" When I was a kid I used to wonder, Who in the hell is this guy? It never occurred to me that Mom had an existence apart from Dad, let alone as the photographic consort of a Brylcreemed older slicker. What always amused me about this shot is the furtive, sideways look and the rather forced smile, like he really doesn't want to be documented in this way but is doing it to go along with the pretty photographer trying to focus the camera while balancing a stack of bananas and oranges on her head.

Sadly, the back of the image is only dated July 31 - no year. But I'm sure this was taken sometime during the heyday of noir, 1945-1955.