Three-hundred pound Dave Cohn knew flesh, and not only because he had so much of his own. The first "Heavy D" took ten percent of the biggest names in burlesque. He had the best stable in the business, and it all operated out of a dingy room on the 5th floor of a 17-floor elevator building on West 46th Street. This was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but the building has continued to market flesh of a sort…today it is gussied up and houses the headquarters of Actor's Equity. Several steps from the now squeaky clean Times Square and in the middle of the "Theatre District" but still in my mind the Minnesota meat market…three short walks from Hell's Kitchen, now known as "Clinton" and two blocks from Bettie Page's apartment. The old neighborhood.
At one time big Dave booked 75 strippers a week. If things got hot in New York (as they tended to for his clients) he booked them over the river in Jersey. Need a broad to grind in an Oklahoma carnival tent, a late hours club in Florida for gangsters, a businessman's stag party in Scranton? Dial Dave at LO-ng Acre 3-4035, he'll pick up the phone himself. Dave's dames were in demand all over the country.
His clients were not only some of the biggest names in the burly business, they were also the most buxom…some extreme buxom, and they set them loose to get some air for a price.
Jennie Lee the Bazoom girl. Tempest Storm, actually a Georgia girl named Anne Banks with moneymakers bigger than any southern fruit. If they didn't have knockers, they had a gimmick. Jessica Rogers stripped with birds in cages over her tits. Zorita danced with a snake. Edy Selwin danced with monkeys. Winnie Garrett and her thousand dollar rhinestone strip dress. Irene the Body. Denise Renault. Tina Christine. Gloria Marlowe. Scarlet Kelly. Lyn Paige. They all gave big Dave his cut. If "Dolly Dawson" wasn't drawing big, he changed her name to a better one. He represented "Scarlet O'Hara: The Irish Lassie with the Classy Chassis" and "The Wow Girl." He had "Sally Sweet" of New Orleans, who started as an acrobat at age 14 but was soon stripping like an adult.
His tools were fountain pens, exclusive contracts, an ashtray to stub out his butts and the telephone. He had no trouble making the rent.
Dave didn't have a romantic interest in the talent. He never married and it was strictly business. He started peddling girls during the 1930s and supplied the Minskys with hoofers. Dames came to Dave in droves and he eyed the talent like a horse trader. If they needed advice, he had it. Change your hair color. Walk this way. Let them hang and shake, Peacock. He expected his talent to "be able to walk to music" and not with "two left feet." He sent his women where "the public want's strippers…and I mean the nice public, not the morons." Dave thought wives should see the show too "if they want to hold their husbands" and paid the cover.
He opened an Los Angeles office on Third Street during the war to scope out talent in the sunny state. West coast talent.
They weren't all strippers. Dave handled Dolly Joyce and her vent dummies Cutie and Jerry. He had one Johnny Dove. He'd take straight men, "clean" dancers and comics, but he preferred the broads. He would book them into "The Hi-Way Casino" in Fall River or "Frank's Casanova Club" in Buffalo. Any act capable of filling a seat and paying his cut was welcome, or he farmed them out to Milt Shuster, his partner, who had additional contacts from Maine to the West Coast.
He placed "Tirza" into Club Fernando and Trudine into the Club Ha Ha. The 2 O'clock Club in Baltimore. It was endless.
At night, the few Dave found to sleep, Dave slept and dreamed of the perfect body.
By Jim Linderman An Excerpt from the Forthcoming Publication TIMES SQUARE SMUT
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