In 1962 my husband, our three
children and I were living on West End Avenue in NY City. Our
floor bedroom windows
overlooked a seedy apartment
building ... The Whitehall. It was just around the corner from where
we lived and had a lot to do with our decision to move. A few years
later I joined a Writer's
Workshop and this was my memory of that time.
me, “off-Broadway” is not a theater production but a massive,
out-dated hotel for transients on New York City’s upper West side.
Hanging from the marquee is a grimy cloth banner that proclaims this
to be “THE WHITEHALL”.
it's just four doors
from the respectability of West End Avenue all
shades of humanity pass through the filth-infested hallways of this
slovenly dressed men in wheelchairs sit
deceptively still in the sunlight. Then a pedestrian walks by and
they spiel off obscenities from mouths twisted with hatred.
maroon convertible purrs to a stop in front of the hotel. Five girls
and the driver, a handsome black man decked out in pink, pile out of the car and stand
around cracking jokes with the men. “Big Boy, you sure can peddle
them white gals”, says one of them.
a police siren pierces the air. The group fades silently into the
building and the street is still. Only the men remain, their faces
closed as they watch the squad car approach. The police rush into the
building and the men place bets on who they’ll pick up this time.
They all lose.
just a family quarrel and the police are still breaking it up as they
drag the couple to the squad car. The man holds his arm, blood
seeping through the dirty towel that he’s twisted around it. “She
used a bottle on him”, say the men knowingly.
so it goes at THE WHITEHALL, the transient hotel where only vice and
corruption find a permanent home.