Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Al Hirschfeld Foundation Launches Online Exhibition 'CALL HER MADAM'

The exhibit is now live though October 15.



Al Hirschfeld Foundation Launches Online Exhibition 'CALL HER MADAM'

The Al Hirschfeld Foundation has launched its latest online exhibition "Call Her Madam: Sex. Crime & Fun in Polly Adler's New York." Now live at AlHirschfeldFoundation.org/exhibitions though October 15, the exhibition reflects some of the denizens of New York's hottest after-hours clubhouse including Desi Arnaz, Milton Berle, Duke Ellington, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Lamour, The Marx Brothers, Dorothy Parker, Martha Raye, Franklin D. Roosevelt, James Thurber, Jimmy Walker and Walter Winchell.

To call Polly Adler (1900-1962) the most famous madam of the Jazz Age does not do her justice. In those heady days between the world wars, she was one of New York's most celebrated hostesses and an underworld icon, whose swinging parties and deluxe bordellos were patronized by some of the biggest names of the era. Her heyday coincided with Broadway's Golden Age when the Main Stem reigned as the glittering, gritty playground of America's "tinsel aristocracy." Talk-show host and pianist Oscar Levant recalled "Polly Adler's was the meetinghouse for all Broadway in those days." Her customers included the VIPs of Café Society, Hollywood, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, Tin Pan Alley, Madison Square Garden, Tammany Hall, the Friars Club, the Algonquin Round Table and the NYPD.

"Polly opened her first brothel in 1920, at the start of Prohibition. By 1923 her 'speakeasy with a harem' as she called it, had become the city's hottest afterhours clubhouse and taboo hideaway," says Debby Applegate, author of Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age, and guest curator of the online exhibition. "Al Hirschfeld captured many of Polly's pals in his illustrations from those years. This exhibit offers a sample of Hirschfeld's drawings of the colorful characters who made up their mutual social circle."

Go behind the lines of Hirschfeld's art with "The Hirschfeld Century Podcast," nominated as "Best NYC podcast" by the 2020 Apple Awards. A special episode dedicated to the works featured in "Call Her Madam: Sex. Crime & Fun in Polly Adler's New York" will be available starting August 24 from AlHirschfeldFoundation.org/podcasts, iTunes and other popular podcast sites.

Regional Awards



Industry Classifieds


More Hot Stories For You


2022 Horton Foote Prize Awarded to Christina Anderson for THE RIPPLE, THE WAVE THAT CARRIED ME HOME2022 Horton Foote Prize Awarded to Christina Anderson for THE RIPPLE, THE WAVE THAT CARRIED ME HOME
September 22, 2022

Mari Marchbanks (Founder and Executive Director) has announced that the 2022 Horton Foote Prize has been awarded to Christina Anderson for her play the ripple, the wave that carried me home.

Levine Plotkin & Menin, LLP Expands Into Los Angeles and Grows its Team of AttorneysLevine Plotkin & Menin, LLP Expands Into Los Angeles and Grows its Team of Attorneys
September 22, 2022

 Levine Plotkin & Menin, LLP (LPM), a boutique law firm engaged in transactional work in the arts, entertainment and media, announced the opening of offices in Los Angeles.

Now Hiring: Production Manager, Head Audio, and More - BroadwayWorld ClassifiedsNow Hiring: Production Manager, Head Audio, and More - BroadwayWorld Classifieds
September 22, 2022

This Week's New Classified Listings on BroadwayWorld for 9/22/2022 include new jobs for those looking to work in the theatre industry.

Arts Administrators Of Color Network Names Karla Estela Rivera As Executive DirectorArts Administrators Of Color Network Names Karla Estela Rivera As Executive Director
September 22, 2022

Arts Administrators of Color Network has selected writer, performer, activist, and arts advocate Karla Estela Rivera as its Executive Director following an extensive search process. Rivera began her tenure on September 19, 2022. She is preceded in the role by Quanice G. Floyd, Founder and former Director.

TodayTix Group Acquires Secret Cinema Immersive Film and Television Experience CompanyTodayTix Group Acquires Secret Cinema Immersive Film and Television Experience Company
September 22, 2022

TodayTix Group, the global e-commerce leader for cultural experiences, announced that it has acquired Secret Cinema, the London-based entertainment company that specializes in immersive film and television events.