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Nude Dancer Trapped Wealthy Men in Scandal: Lewis Lapham

"Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt's Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York," by Richard Zacks. Source: Anchor via Bloomberg

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The trouble started when Herbert Barnum Seeley invited a couple of dozen upper-crust pals to a stag party at Sherry’s, New York’s snootiest restaurant. He also hired Little Egypt to perform a nude couchee-couchee dance.

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On an informant’s tip, a police captain raided the place. Denying any wrongdoing, the guests ejected him, and when the newspapers caught wind of the scandal, they attacked the city’s constabulary for ruining a harmless private party by entering without a warrant.

After Little Egypt gave an interview saying she loved to dance nude, public opinion turned, and the wealthy men were tarred as deviants defiling the elegant Sherry’s.

The police captain was tried and acquitted.

Theater impresario Oscar Hammerstein hired Little Egypt to play herself in “Silly’s Dinner,” a new show starring a comic police captain, a drunken guest and the seductive dancer.

I spoke with Richard Zacks, author of “Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York,” on the following topics:

1. Prostitutes Abound

2. Police Corruption

3. Tenderloin

4. Reformer Roosevelt

5. Naked Little Egypt

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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend Best and Greg Evans on film.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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