"It's not the college degree that makes a writer. The great thing is to have a story to tell. "
-- Polly Adler
Polly Adler was born in a small town in Russia in 1900, and made her way to America at the age of 14, just before the outbreak of World War I. The war stopped her family from joining her.
Polly worked in clothing factories, sporadically attended school, and eventually began to keep company with theater people. At the age of twenty, Polly Adler opened her first bordello and became a madam. It is so difficult for me to fathom this former "shtetl maidel" becoming a madam...and a successful and rather well-known one.
She officially "retired" from prostitution in 1944.
At the age of fifty, she went to college, and shortly after, with the help of a ghost writer, wrote her memoirs, "A House Is Not A Home."
My mother owns a paperback version of this book and throughout my years of growing up, it always caught my eye because of its name. The title became a catch phrase in my family, and was an important value that was taught to us.
#1: Polly Adler's business card
#2 Her famous autobiography, the book I remember from home
#3 Polly Adler -- has that seductive, sultry look with those dark glasses
#4 Polly Adler -- does this woman look like she ran a brothel? Not. At. All. She reminds me of Shirley Booth, who played Hazel.
Polly Adler's real name was PEARL ADLER.
Death notice in Time magazine June 22, 1962:
Died. Polly (real name: Pearl) Adler, 62, longtime (1920-45) Manhattan madam whose garish parlors were a house away from home for those who found the scarlet parrot on her business card an invitation to expensive pleasure; of cancer; in a Hollywood hospital. At Polly's midtown bordello, amid Louis XVI, Egyptian and Chinese furnishings, and a Gobelin tapestry of Vulcan and Venus "having a tender moment," Racketeer Dutch Schultz took his ease, barking orders to henchmen from under a silken canopy, while in nearby rooms Social Registered patrons reveled, and off-duty cops romped. In retirement, tiny (4 ft., 11 in.), dark-haired Polly wrote a bestselling memoir (A House Is Not a Home) that helped enrich the idiom ("There's no shaking off the press"), completed two years of college, where one of her professors coined a rich one of his own: "The problem is, Miss Adler knows nothing about syntax."