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Alice Denham: the mistress of all the bad guys in the Village

  • The writer slept with all the figures of the golden age of the New York Village
  • The exception was Norman Mailer, the great alpha male of the place, who left with the desire
  • His memoirs, recently published, portray a unique moment in Literature… and sex
the mistress of all the bad guys in the village
the mistress of all the bad guys in the village

The New York Village of the 50s was the effervescent capital of the world: the world, as wrong as usual, did not know, but they knew it well who lived in the Village and that was enough for them. They had built a magnet atmosphere that attracted young people from anywhere to find themselves , that is, to lose everything they could, clinging to the feeling that they are young forever if youth reaches you in the right place. Young people like Alice Denham for example, a girl from Washington in permanent war with parents who wanted to control every movement and decided to escape with her boyfriend to New York and make the miracle of reaching what had been the horizon to start over or start real .

He had written a thesis, shooing yawns, about Eliot’s plays, had read everything that had produced the new American narrative, The Naked and the Dead of Mailer, From Here to the Eternity of Jones, All Styron, That of Salinger that So much was talking about and how effectively portrayed the desires of a generation: escape from school and home but without leaving the city, do not commit the slip of becoming an adult and proselytizing it, saving all children who enter the tall stems of the rye would not notice the crack they were heading to, the dull maturity of schedules and obligations and platforms filled with people with a decided vote.Alice and her boyfriend disembarked in the Village, where the books were cheap- five dollars the hardcover, 50 cents the paperbacks-the rents too, the dinners anywhere were not a luxury, there were private parties in almost every building.

A golden age not only for arts and letters, but also for everyday life: the war had been left behind and the nuclear threat planted in the consciences the certainty that at any moment everything could go to hell, so you better not stop too much to regret your luck. It was seen in the streets that it was a waste not to be young, a misfortune, a stigma. Naturally, the overflowing youth of that time changed the parameters of some institutions such as marriage, which also transformed concepts such as love. Before the hippies put on the medal of free love, those from the New York Village -without the need to sign any manifesto- practiced free love -for the old, an oxymoron; for young people, a redundancy – endowing the neighborhood with one of its great charms:There was no place in the world where there was more sex without the need for an economic transaction.

There went to an Alice Denham who, in addition to studying Eliot and writing stories, fell into the disappointment of love when his partner went with another . And, as the blemish of the mora with another is removed, take advantage of the strength of disappointment to learn to live alone and unchain and move forward without moving from where it was, because it was precisely where it was possible: you could go ahead without moving too much. Slender and photogenic as she was, she made a living as a model: she posed for publicity photographers and in sessions of amateur photographers that swarmed everywhere, it is not known if to improve their results or as a method a little coarse to meet people. Wrote a story about a girl who once, only once, accepts money for sex, published it and began to gain the attention of writers and artists who until then saw it as another of those chocolates that went to the private parties of the consecrated so that the consecrated ones continued elevating their pedestal with the admirations of young people who did not know if They wanted to be like them or just be near them.

It is from there that the memories of Denham , translated by the great JL Moreno Ruiz -that he does not fear in his notes to correct a few errors to the author, which says for example that Fiesta de Hemingway narrates the death of Manolete, a sign that I had not read it-, they start filling up with celebrities . Do not deceive yourself: it is the onomastic index of the book Sleeping with bad guysone of its essential attractions, although when the work is read, it ceases to have weight if the person who wants to take Alice Denham to bed is a Norman Mailer that everyone calls Mr. Macho – and who founded the Village Voice to reproduce the criticisms that they did his novels, and he became very depressed because Hemingway did not answer his mailings-or a James Jones who after succeeding with From Here to Eternity would not produce anything comparable but he appears in Denham’s book (edited by Huerga & Fierro) as a master of cunnilingus.

Denham, of course, knows how to take advantage of the impressive legion of mythical names he crossed or had to seer – an affair with James Dean, a love-hate relationship with Philip Roth, luncheon-filled lunches with Gore Vidal, parties in which Norman Mailer’s wife wants to rip his face off before tearing off his clothes – but for the book works, so that her testimony is something more than a tiresome cavalcade of gossip, the author knows how to use all that atmosphere of the Village to build an enveloping character: that of the narrator herself, the writer-model girl who looks at a world of high-paid male alphas, contesting an imaginary scepter that leaves Hemingway vacant, and that despite its glorious sales, its appearances in magazines and radios and televisions, are so weak that a small negative note in any publication gets that their security melts and they go into depression.People you interview onNew York Times and is greeted with respect by the doormen of their buildings and waiters, but you need to go to the bathroom to mourn without anyone seeing them because a newspaper reporter from Kansas or Minnesota puts insalubrable repairs to their latest productions.

Denham insists that many of them, when she approached them without nonsense or wanting to start any fatiguing procession, but with the clear things and the prompt invitation to “let’s go to my apartment”, were left unsettled because a pin-up entering was within their possibilities and desires, but that a writer did the same thing they were inhibited. So it happened with a Don Juan of the time, now a forgotten writer, who comes to tell him, to explain why he is already naked and hungry does not get an erection, that he is not used to the girl he goes to bed with write better than him. It may seem an exaggeration, perhaps it is, the scene is of course exquisitely ridiculous, but what matters is that in the portrait of the Don Juan himself, Denham knows how credible enough that the very ridiculousness of the situation works as a mirror of that star type paid for itself: the caricature is often the best way to make a hyperrealistic portrait.

On the other hand, Denham has to give many explanations to make it clear that he was going with the men with whom he was leaving out of the sheer need to satisfy an appetite, not to climb the literary hierarchy to-in fact he leaves with the will to Mailer, who is the one who could have helped her the most, for the simple and colossal fact that Mailer does not wake him up. That attitude, of course, often spoke of her as an “easy girl”: those who had been hit by the door in their noses used to say it and, despite the atmosphere of freedom in the Village, still considered that a man who changed often as a couple was a donjuán and a woman who did the same could only be a whore.

Alice Denham became one of Hefner’s Playboy girls , as a model she earned much more than as a writer, although she collaborated with magazines and wrote advertisements. In fact, it is the only case in the history of Playboy in which the author of a text illustrates it with his own photos. The story was so good that the Doubleday publishing house immediately wrote to him asking if the author was not accidentally writing a novel: they were interested in her.
Philip Roth met him at the party to present a novel: he was already the author of the splendid Goodbye, Columbus and seemed the natural aspirant to occupy the scepter that neither Mailer, nor Truman Capote, nor the erased Salinger had held true after of Hemingway’s death. This way of referring to the authors as if they were boxers or racehorses is very typical of the world of Literature, something perfectly banal and dispensable, but it abounds in these pages. “I felt when he looked at me like he was nailing me with acupuncture needles”, He says. One night they go to dinner, then they go to bed, and Denham writes: “The sexual friends had taught me important things for my writing, but that was not the reason why I wound up with them: I liked to live my body, Enjoy it, sex was my great adventure. Manhattan was a river of men flowing to my door ». After which comes a long conversation with Roth in which Denham interrogates him for some secrets of his novel and the conversation ends with a paragraph dedicated to the sexual encounter: most of the readers of the book will surely look for those paragraphs that culminate the Denham talks with his lovers, but the best part of the book is conversations.

The book can also serve to categorize the cocks of a generation of American writers from Denham’s adjectives : Jones’s very thin, Roth’s brave, Gaddis’s formidable and so on… But Alice’s memories Denham, whose novel My Darling from the Lions enraged his entire family and his next work, Master, became a little succes d’estime , are a splendid document of a dizzying years – the 50s and 60s of the last century – that They also produced a few masterpieces of twentieth century narrative.


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