scarlet boots and easy virtue

I was reading an article recently where the author, after being shown around the Hotel Granvia Kyoto by a smiling, bowing Japanese lady was momentarily disconcerted when she concluded her tour by holding up a sign “People with tattoos, and other unsuitable hotel guests, will not be allowed in the pool”. The author suggested it was intended to discourage members of the feared Yakuza though I would have thought a mere sign wouldn’t be much of a deterrent to those guys…..


Back in 18th century New York, the Delmonico*** family were also concerned about running a respectable establishment. No man was permitted to eat alone with a woman in the private rooms, all of which had to have their doors left open and be regularly visited by the staff to ensure that nothing improper was taking place.

Mark Twain at Delmonico’s

Delmonico’s was also famous for its cotillion dinners, limited to 100 subscribers at a time. Mrs Pierre Lorillard Ronalds hosted one of these where guests were required to dress in extravagant costumes. She arrived representing “Music”; her gown was embroidered with the score of an Italian ballet and on her head she flaunted a tiara composed of musical notes grouped around a harp, from jets in which flickered flames that were fed by a gas cylinder concealed by false hair. The reporters next day also drew attention to her scarlet boots encircled by tiny tinkling bells which were identical with those worn by women of easy virtue in Water Street. This upset the conservative Delmonicos greatly.

Mrs Fanny Rolands

But one man appeared to be exempt to their moral strictures.  Colonel D’Alton Mann, was the editor of a notorious weekly magazine, Town Topics, that filled its columns with society scandals. Rumour had it that the most salacious tidbits never made it into the magazine because when the copy had been set up in print, the Colonel would make straight for Delmonico’s with the galley proofs and seat himself at a reserved table near the entrance where he could observe his quarry’s arrival at once.

Colonel Mann

While waiting, he usually ate 6 mutton chops served with liver, kidneys and baked yams, and well irrigated by a bottle of the best champagne. To the amusement of those in his vicinity, he often made appreciative “woof woof” noises.

When the person whom the Colonel was seeking came in, accompanied by his wife or some other guest, the Colonel would tip a page to say he was wanted urgently on the bar telephone. There the Colonel would be already installed with two glasses and another bottle of champagne. “Just the fellow I want to see!” he would exclaim. “I was leaving for lunch when this proof turned up from the composing room. It’s about you, would you cast your eye over it for accuracy?”

Dismayed by what he read, the other would readily agree to ‘lend’ the Colonel £500 in return for which he would be given the galley proof and assured the story would never be published. D’Alton always kept his word and some people even regarded it as a sort of compliment to be considered of sufficient importance to merit his attention.


*** excerpt from Foie Gras and Trumpets by Charles Neilsen Gattey

Published in: on August 18, 2010 at 8:23 am  Comments (43)  
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  1. The one-time chef at Delmonico’s was a Francophone Swiss named Louis Fauchere, better known as “the crazy Frenchman”. He established the Hotel Fauchere in Milford Pennsylvania, and after a spiffing restoration by a pair of gay businessmen, it became one of Master Right’s and my favourite weekend spots when in New York. The Hotel Restaurant is called Delmoico’s, and it still does a mean Lobster Newburg.

    • I love a crazy Frenchman

  2. I feel like an idiot, I always thought mutton chops were just sideburns.

    You can tell that I don’t eat a lot of meat!

    • I don’t eat an offal lot either

  3. I find the tattooed women fascinating and beautiful. I had hoped to have my spreading stomach tattooed trompe l’oeil fashion to resemble a proper ‘six pack’. Alas, the tattooist suggested that a small chateau would be more appropriate…..

    • The women in the image look particularly beautiful don’t they? But not everyone could carry off that look

  4. so michael jackson didn’t invent flaming hair?

    • and neither did Richard Pryor apparently

  5. Hey, easy virtue isn’t cheap you know, those boots cost.

    • Fanny looks like she’d charge a fortune

  6. Improper behavior of hotel guests…

    Well I never!

    The King

    • Wouldn’t happen in this day and age…..

  7. I know the good nurse has a pair of scarlet boots, just without the bells ’cause they don’t need the help in being noticed.

    • You have a good memory RF 😉

  8. Well it’s good to see that Colonel Mann didn’t bilk his blackmailees!

    • A man of honour!

  9. Re scarlet boots and easy virtue, you can’t have too many of either!

    • Well, it does depend on whose virtue….

      • You’ve got a point. This definitely does not apply to any of my nieces, for example

  10. Not a big tattoo person but that image of those women is amazing. I thought it was a dressing gown at first.

    • It’s an amazing amount of work isn’t it?

  11. Ooh… ladies in tatts! Love the intricate designs.

  12. Colonel Mann doesn’t look as though he eats that sort of quantity of food ……

  13. What exactly counts as “improper” – apart from cheating at Scrabble, of course?

  14. Those tatooed women are amazing! How beautiful. If I had body art like that I’d want to live in the tropics so I could go nude all the time.

    I’m still trying to figure out why having flames in your hair is a good idea. . . I have two clients who have suffered burns over a large portion of their bodies. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have your hair on fire.

  15. That’s still true today. I played golf once with a fellow vacationing from a major mid-west city. He stood on the first tee, and didn’t tee off until a waiter brought him out a pint of Chivas Regal, a scotch I was familiar with, because it happens to be my favorite scotch as well.

    Turns out he was a retired editor of the city’s main newspaper. We carried on a general conversation for about ten or eleven holes, at which time I mentioned something about skeletons in the closet, and being in a place where they probably fell out quite frequently.

    I found out he liked to talk after getting lubricated, which I’m sure he didn’t do as editor, and learned some fascinating things about the “movers and shakers” of the city. The only time I stopped him was when he started to mention names, as I really didn’t want him to go there, as my knowing them would put me in the loop. Many, though, would have seen a life behind bars if not for his keeping quite, and my guess is he was paid handsomely for his then ability to keep secrets. The resort we played at wasn’t cheap.

    • Great story Jammer!

  16. That’s a really clever extortion scheme, and really funny that people were flattered that he thought them important enough to bilk. Maybe it’s me, but I just wouldn’t be that flattered.

    • I don’t know that he actually extorted them, but the implication was there. I couldn’t do it either. I do wonder how long an editor would keep his or her job if they had loose lips, considering the things that pop up on their radar.

  17. Colonel Mann looks like he can take some names. Scary picture. Just finished a John Irving book with a main character who was the son of a tattoo artist. It introduced me into the whole “underground” world of those who obsessively tattoo their bodies. Interesting stuff…I guess they steered clear of Granvia Kyoto.

  18. “woof woof”

    I love it!

  19. Some of my best friends are Yakuza . . and black mailing colonels

  20. You don’t see many women with gassy hair these days. Probably liability issues.

  21. Oh this guy knew how to get money from the right people. The pen is truly mightier than the sword.

  22. Mrs Pierre Lorillard Ronalds would have been right at home (or not) at a party we once had where guests were instructed to “come as a song”. While she may have had a touch of exuberance not really seen in the guests that were “tangled up in blue” and dressed like “maniacs” and brandishing knives, I do still believe she would have fit right in….

  23. I’ve been known to wolf down my food but I feel superior in the fact that I at least never barked at my fellow dinners.

    But I may have bitten my date if she asked nicely.

    • I like to be bitten 😉

  24. Love the description easy virtue – I wonder which virtues or whose virtues?

  25. Wow, Delmonico’s, I haven’t thought about that place in decades! What a trip down Memory Lane. Thank you!

  26. Everyone should own at least one pair of scarlet footwear! Hooray for scandal!

  27. I’m more of a “meow meow” kind of girl.

  28. […] we ate a lot of lamb roasts and mutton was considered suitable only for stews. You may remember Colonel D’Alton Mann thought they were a delicacy best paired with a bottle of champagne. Here’s another […]

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