MY MOTHER-A RACKETEER’S WIFE


How could I have known 15 years ago?  Back then I had but a fingerbowl of resources, a blue chair, a desk, and a typewriter.  Everyday I wrote into the flame of discovery looking for my mother.  My notebooks were sketches of a  woman I never knew.   The absence of the most ordinary information, like where she grew up in Newark, what sort of neighborhood, what her father did for a living, what schools, she attended, and later on, what experiences she had modeling in New York.

The closest I got was by reading John Robert Powers, The Powers Girls,  about the modeling agency he started in 1923.   He assigned unemployed Broadway talent to his advertising agency to promote American products.  According to John he was the innovator of the modeling agency concept- beautiful women and men will sell products, the public never would have thought of buying.

I found her name in the index, Lucille Casey, and she joined the agency when she was 16 years old.   John groomed the models; they were assigned disciplinary perfection in dialect, manners, appearance, character, and intellect.  Powers Girls married anyone they wanted.  They were invited to all the important society events, they were given card blanche at the Stork Club, and the Morocco and they were transported to celebratory city functions. They met men of all means, character, and class.

After I read the book, I thought about what my father used to say,  ‘Your mother could have had any man in the world, but she picked me. Don’t you make the same mistake. “  That is a complex summons for a teenager to understand.

I sat in the blue chair and waited for flares of information to come down to earth.   After two years, I had very little to fill one page.  My mother’s history was lost, her friends had vanished, or would not talk to me.  She did not leave a diary.  Her photo album as a model was all I had.  What could I see in those eyes, and smile?   I gave up the search, and switched over to my father. The government documented his daily activities, and what they didn’t hear or see, was exploited in newspapers, documentaries, and books.

There was one woman who was alive, that knew intimate details of my mother, because I had met her, and she made it known to me she knew. That was Meyer Lansky’s wife, who went by the name Teddy.  Women have a distinctive look when they are withholding secrets.  Teddy always had that look when she brought up my mother.  I told her I was writing about my father and mother and she said, “Let them rest in peace.”    I didn’t take her advice.

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